Friday, April 20, 2018

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for April 20, 2018


It's time for the weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with The Handmaid's Tale, The Expanse, Lost in Space, Prospect, uproars involving ConCarolinas and WorldCon 76 as well as the usual mix of awards news, writing advice, interviews, reviews, con reports, crowdfunding campaigns, science articles, free online fiction and much more. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Comments on season 2 of The Handmaid's Tale:

Comments on season 3 of The Expanse

Comments on Prospect

Comments on the new Lost in Space:

Awards:

Writing, publishing and promotion:

Interviews:

Reviews:

Crowdfunding:

Con reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Double-Cross (In Love and War, Book 8) by Cora Buhlert


Release date: March 28, 2018
Subgenre: Science fiction romance, Space opera

About Double-Cross:

 

Once, Anjali Patel and Mikhail Grikov were soldiers on opposing sides of an intergalactic war. They met, fell in love and decided to go on the run together.

Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eke out a living on the independent worlds of the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.

When they are hired to retrieve a shipment of bootleg medical nanobots, it seems like a routine job at first. But it quickly turns out that they are not the only ones who are after the nanobots. And their client has an agenda of her own.

This is a story of 5100 words or approx. 20 print pages in the "In Love and War" series, but may be read as a standalone. 

 

Excerpt:

 

The independent rim world of Kyusu was infamous for its pervasive cloud cover and its constant, never-ending rain.
Landing on Kyusu was dangerous because of the low visibility. Yet its spaceport was one of the biggest on the rim. For Kyusu was also a major hub for both legal and illegal trade along the galactic rim.
The capital Shusaku was a neon-drenched maze of skyscrapers and open air markets offering literally any legal good in the galaxy and most of the illegal ones, too, provided you knew where to look.
A man and a woman strode side by side through the neon labyrinth that was Shukasu, their movements perfectly synched, indicating close companionship.
The man was tall with pale skin, striking blue eyes and long black hair that he wore tied back in a ponytail that was now dripping wet. He was clad in a long back synth-leather coat, the collar of which he’d pulled up against the rain. This was Captain Mikhail Alexeievich Grikov, formerly of the Republican Special Commando Forces, now wanted as a deserter and traitor.
The woman by his side was a good head shorter, with brown skin, sparkling dark eyes and black hair tied into a straggled braid. She was clad in utility pants and an electric blue tunic, topped by a poncho of transparent plastic as protection against the steady downpour. This was Lieutenant Anjali Patel, formerly of the Imperial Shakyri Expeditionary Corps, now wanted as a deserter and traitor.
They’d met on the battlefield of the eighty-eight year war between the Republic of United Planets and the Empire of Worlds, fallen in love and decided to go on the run together. Their flight had brought them to the independent worlds on the galactic rim, the only place in the galaxy where they could live in relative safety, far from the forces of the Empire and the Republic both that pursued them, determined to bring them to heel.
And now their flight had brought them to Kyusu, while their work as mercenaries had brought them to the rain-drenched markets of Shukasu.
Anjali looked up. Before her loomed two towers of stacked up freight containers, covered over and over in neon ads, many of them rendered in the boxy characters of the old script of Shukasu. A makeshift bridge stretched between the two towers, also covered in ads.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” she asked Mikhail, “Because I’m cold and soaking wet and not really keen on trudging through the rain for another couple of hours.”
“The pharmacist we interrogated said ‘the Open Market’. So unless you’re losing your touch…”
“I’m not,” Anjali replied.
The guy had practically peed himself as soon as he saw the dagger with the Shakyri crest at her wait. And afterwards he’d been only too eager to talk. He’d talked like the proverbial waterfall, confessing to every single substance of dubious legality he’d ever sold in his shop. No intimidation necessary, the problem was getting him to stop talking.
“…this should be the place.”
Anjali was still doubtful. “There are dozens, probably hundreds of markets all over the city. How can we be sure that this is the right one?”
In response, Mikhail pointed upwards at the makeshift bridge that stretched between the two towers. It was emblazoned with the words “Open Market” in Standard or rather what the Republicans insisted on calling Standard in their infinite arrogance.
“I’d say that’s a pretty big hint.”
Anjali still wasn’t convinced. “And how do we know that this is the Open Market the guy at the pharmacy was talking about? After all, the place where we found the pharmacist was also called Open Market.”
“Public Market,” Mikhail corrected.
“Same difference.”
“Not if you’re Kyusan, apparently.” Mikhail flashed her a quick smile. The rain pasted a few stray hairs to his forehead. “What’s the matter? I thought you liked markets and shopping.”
“I do,” Anjali said, “But not for days on end and not in constant rain.”
She tried to look dignified in spite of the downpour, but instead she only managed to look like a drowned kitten.
“And besides, we still haven’t found a decent Rajipuri spice merchant in this swamp. Let alone a clothing, jewellery or weapons merchant.”
To Anjali, the quality of a market was directly proportional to the number of Rajipuri merchants to be found there. And the many markets of Kyusu really sucked in that regard. Though she should probably grateful there was no jewellery merchant, cause that would only encourage Mikhail to buy her things they couldn’t afford and that weren’t appropriate for a mere peasant like her anyway.
“We did find a shop that sold bootlegs of Rajipuri vid dramas,” Mikhail reminded her, “You liked those.”
“I just want to know whether they’ll hang Roshani for that murder she didn’t commit or whether she’ll be saved at the last possible minute.”
“She’ll be saved, of course,” Mikhail said, “And then there’ll be a big song and dance number. Isn’t that how those stories always go?”
“Not always,” Anjali said. She’d tried to introduce Mikhail to the joys of Rajipuri vid dramas, but so far he failed to get it, “When I was a kid, we watched a vid drama where the heroine Chandara was actually hanged for a murder her husband committed. Okay, so maybe the fact that the drama was called Trial and Execution should have tipped us off, but it was still a shock. My sister Lalita was in tears for days.”
Mikhail flashed her a quick smile. “What about you?”
“I fantasised about breaking Chandara out of prison and making sure that bastard husband of hers was hanged instead.”
Mikhail winked at her. “You would have pulled it off, too. If Chandra…”
“Chandara.”
“…had been real. But now let’s get on with the mission, so we can go somewhere warm and dry and watch some of your new bootleg vids.”
“Maybe we could first stop at one of those noodle bars that are everywhere,” Anjali said, “Cause a bowl of hot noodles sounds heavenly just now.”
Mikhail nodded. “Sounds good. First mission, then noodles, then home.”

 

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Apple iTunes | Smashwords | Google Play | Scribd | Playster | DriveThru | 24symbols

 

About the In Love and War series:

 

About Cora Buhlert:

Cora Buhlert was born and bred in North Germany, where she still lives today – after time spent in London, Singapore, Rotterdam and Mississippi. Cora holds an MA degree in English from the University of Bremen and is currently working towards her PhD. 
Cora has been writing, since she was a teenager, and has published stories, articles and poetry in various international magazines. She is the author of the Silencer series of pulp style thrillers, the Shattered Empire space opera series, the In Love and War science fiction romance series, the Helen Shepherd Mysteries and plenty of standalone stories in multiple genres. When Cora is not writing, she works as a translator and teacher.

 

Website | Mailing list | Twitter | Google+ | Instagram | Pinterest | YouTube | Mastodon

 

 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Murder on the Titania and Other Steam-Powered Adventures (The Adventures of Captain Ramos and Her Valiant Crew, Book 1) by Alex Acks

 Release date: April 1, 2018
Subgenre: Steampunk mystery

About Murder on the Titania and Other Steam-Powered Adventures:


Captain Marta Ramos, the most notorious pirate in the Duchy of Denver, has her hands full between fascinating murder mysteries, the delectable and devious Delilah Nimowitz, Colonel Geoffrey Douglas (the Duke of Denver’s new head of security), a spot of airship engineering and her usual activities: piracy, banditry and burglary. Not to mention the horror of high society tea parties. In contrast, Simms, her second in command, longs only for a quiet life, filled with tasty sausages and fewer explosions. Or does he? Join Captain Ramos, Simms and their crew as they negotiate the perils of air, land and drawing room in a series of fast-paced adventures in a North America that never was.

Murder on the Titania and Other Steam-Powered Adventures includes 4 novellas and a short story about piracy, banditry, burglary, jail-breaking, several brilliant bits of detective work and all manner of otherwise lawless hijinks performed by the valiant Captain Ramos and her crew.

Murder on the Titania: Colonel Geoffrey Douglas, the Duke of Denver’s new head of security, is drawn into a high society murder mystery on the Airship Titania. None of the passengers are quite what they seem, including the mysterious young woman who always turns up where she is least expected.

The Curious Case of Clementine Nimowitz (and Her Exceedingly Tiny Dog):
A simple burglary goes horribly awry when Captain Ramos and Simms stumble across a dead body, a small dog and the deceased’s heirs, the noisome Morris and the rather too interesting Delilah.

The Jade Tiger: a mysterious woman enlists Captain Ramos’s aid in getting her revenge on her former employer and Captain Ramos finds herself doing an unintentional good deed.

The Ugly Tin Orrery: Captain Ramos and her crew embark on what appears to be a perfectly ordinary train robbery, only to be drawn into the Duke of Denver’s political machinations via a strange metal artifact. Throw in a spot of jail breaking and an encounter with the lovely Delilah, and it’s all in a day’s work for Captain Ramos and Simms.

The Flying Turk: The Airship Titania is entering a new era and welcoming its first automaton pilot. Or, perhaps not. Captain Ramos and Simms are back aboard the Titania for a heady mix of murder, robbery, peeved scientists and oblivious peers, with a spot of engineering thrown in.


Excerpt:

 

The Ugly Tin Orrery:

The lantern wobbled faintly, caught by the low thrum of the engine, boilers banked and waiting. The lantern was also at an odd angle relative to the ceiling.
This was due to the fact that the Engine, fondly called Diabola, currently sat at a severe twelve percent grade. The commonly used tracks through the Rocky Mountains rose much more gently; such steep grades were limited to hidden ramps cut into the side of the mountain.
It wasn’t the most comfortable of angles for a person to work at, let alone rest, but Marta Ramos managed it with the ease of long practice. She watched the lantern through slitted eyes, her feet, clad in black leather cavalry boots, propped on a weapons locker. Thanks to the boilers, the air inside was close and heavy. She had her linen sleeves rolled up, revealing slim brown forearms pocked with shiny pink-white scars. Her normally wild, curly brown hair was pulled tightly into a braid that had been coiled into a bun and secured with several pins far thicker and sharper than those traditionally seen in a lady’s hair.
“Captain?”
“Hm?” She glanced up at the tall man framed in the doorway, head ducked and shoulders hunched to keep from bumping the ceiling. In silhouette his face looked strange, thanks to his carefully tended gingery muttonchops.
Meriwether Octavian Simms—known by preference as simply “Simms” to friend and foe alike—stepped fully through the doorway and poked at her feet until she dropped them from the locker. “Lights sighted on the ridge. They should be heading up the incline in about five minutes or so.”
“Excellent.” Marta stood, adjusting to the strange tilt of the floor with ease, and pulled on her coat. Scarlet velvet, the frock coat was both her signature and her one bit of flash. If she was to commit acts of robbery across the Rocky Mountains, she wanted her marks to know that they’d been seen to by a true pirate. “Do you have the new calculations from Masterson?” She took the slip of paper he offered and read it over quickly. Elijah Masterson had taken over the more annoying duties of engineer from her, thankfully freeing her up for the more interesting work of the actual raid.
“Don’t know why you don’t just do them yourself.”
“We won’t be a one ship operation forever.” She nodded and returned the slip. “No math errors this time. We’ll hit the rails properly.”
“You’re certain?”
“When have I ever led you wrong?” She flashed him a grin and popped open the weapons locker. Saber, machete, three pistols, were briefly checked and soon all arrayed on her person.
“I seem to recall an occasion near the Duchy of Missoula that involved jumping entirely over the rails…”
She waved a hand. “Technicality. No one had bothered to tell me we were running seven tonnes light. I’ll not be held responsible for that. My calculations were perfectly sound.”
“Took two years off my life and an inch off my height.”
“The height you can afford. You’re a monstrosity. Don’t tempt me to do it more often.” Captain Ramos was quite tall for a woman, enough so that it made most men uncomfortable. Simms topped her by a few inches; some found that comforting before it was made abundantly clear that he was her lieutenant, not the other way around.
She handed Simms his own set of weapons, snapping her fingers at him when he tried to wave off the machete. “Required, Simms. Do stop complaining. It doesn’t suit a man of your years.” She sincerely doubted that any Infected would be encountered on a train, but stranger things had happened in her lifetime. She preferred to not be surprised, all told, and she’d found that it was always best to have a diverse array of tools, whether for engineering a solution or fighting off a ravening horde of Infected.
“My advanced years, yes, not much more advanced than yours.” He hung the heavy, thick blade from his belt.
“Always advancing, never in retreat.”
“Lights even with our position, sir!” the lookout, Gregory Kinzer, called back.
“Excellent, Mister Kinzer.” Captain Ramos took up her hat and slapped it onto her head. “Mister Cavendesh, sound the general alarm!”
“Aye, sir!” Amelia Cavendesh caroled back from the front of the engine. She had once confided in Marta that her original goal had been to gain acclaim as an opera singer. While she had never been entirely clear what had scuttled that ambition, she was still quite dedicated to the cause of keeping her voice in training.
A moment later the lights dimmed, power rerouting entirely to the engine itself as the generators labored, spinning up the automated coal conveyers and bringing the boilers back to full roar. The brass alarm bells pealed down the length of the engine, alerting the crew to secure themselves immediately.
Simms slammed the weapons locker shut, secured it, and hurried to the front, Marta hot on his heels. In the short hall between aft rooms and the cab, the rest of the crew had secured themselves to walls with leather harnesses there for that purpose. Marta and Simms slipped into the last two open spots, hurriedly buckling themselves in place.
 


Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Apple iTunes | Smashwords | Indiebound


About Alex Acks:

Alex Acks is an award-winning writer, geologist, and dapper AF. Angry Robot Books has published their novels HUNGER MAKES THE WOLF (winner of the Kitschies Golden Tentacle award) and BLOOD BINDS THE PACK under the pen name Alex Wells. They’ve written scripts for Six to Start and been published in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Daily Science Fiction, Shimmer, and more. Alex lives in Denver with their two furry little bastards, where they twirl their mustache, watch movies, and bike

 

Website | Twitter


Monday, April 16, 2018

Blood Lore (The Medici Chronicles, Book 2) by Erme Lander

Release date: April 15, 2018
Subgenre: YA Fantasy

About Blood Lore

 

You are always welcome to come home… aren’t you?
“The saw rasped against bone and Mika clenched her jaw as her own teeth remembered the red stained ivory sliding beneath them. A crack of powerful muscles and the marrow laid bare. Ears back, eyes hooded - watching. She knows the man will die on the table.”

After five years of hard study, Mika has achieved the rank of Journeyman Medici. Few know that she is a girl pretending to be a boy in the male dominated world of Ackbarr. Far fewer know of the animal concealed beneath her skin.

Searching for any knowledge of her kind, she is determined to travel back to Cassai. The forests of her childhood are seductive, calling to the memories buried deep within but she discovers that her world has moved on without her. Or maybe it never was as she remembers.


The events in this book take place about five years after those in “The Lion of Ackbarr.”
Book One of The Medici Chronicles

 

Excerpt:

 

Sweat dampened her hair and she flicked it out of her eyes with a swing. Droplets sparkled in the light as they fell. He was going to die. Another glance at Belindros told her that he knew it too. Face set, he worked on regardless. Sellon was panicking. He had to be asked to pass the instruments, scrabbled for the unexpected.

The atmosphere chilled. Jamari checked the man’s pulse and shook his head. The man’s whimpers were becoming less, his eyes closing. She knew that look. The look she’d seen so many times on prey as her jaws had closed on them. He was giving up, too much pain, not enough blood left inside. A final sigh, the shiver running over his skin. She stood up, letting go.

Jamari checked his pulse, pulled back a half closed eyelid to check then looked over to Belindros. Wordless he stepped back, shoulders slumped. Sellon looked bewildered at the change of pace, not realising what the others knew already.

Belindros’ voice was quiet as he said, “Clear up and throw a bucket of water over Damaris so he can help. Then you can have the rest of the afternoon off.”

***

The attendants dealt with the dead body much to Mika’s relief. She couldn't have coped with the cooling lump of flesh and the smells that said that it was already decaying. Damaris woke spluttering and groggily helped wipe the table down as they collected the instruments to be scrubbed.

The daylight when she went outside was too bright. She stood, staring at the wall in front of her. The other two had muttered something about going to the tavern, she’d left them without a word. A man had died in front of her and she had the rest of the day off. Time to think about the shivers that ran down his skin, the whimpers and sigh as he gave up. She didn’t want to think. Tears gathered and she brushed them away with a shaking hand. She rushed blindly down to the bottom gates, through the markets with people going about their daily business.

The guards at the gate waved and shouted greetings at her that she couldn’t answer. Past the docks where the man had worked, the silhouettes of the warehouses sharp against the sun. Shouts from the workers assaulted her ears, the smells of human habitation too strong for her sensitive nose.

She ran into the farmland surrounding the city and at the first decent cover she could find she stripped and crouched naked, panting her distress. Tears forced themselves from between her eyelids. She didn’t want to think. A moan escaped her and she allowed her other side to escape. She stretched, yawned and became something other than Mikon the journeyman.

 

Amazon.com | Amazon UK

 

About Erme Lander:


More frog than princess, Erme Lander lives in Gloucestershire, England.
My hobbies when not reading books are dancing, motorcycling, playing my accordion and karate, although not all at the same time. And daydreaming. I’ll daydream in the bath, on the sofa, in bed at that time in the night when all decent folk are snoring and allow the images to pass over my brain. But I’ve never actually written them down, until last year when a certain vampire wouldn’t leave me in peace. I’m still dealing with the fallout...


Website | Facebook | Pinterest

 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Scylla and Charybdis by Lindsey Duncan

 Release date: April 15, 2018
Subgenre: Space opera

About Scylla and Charybdis:

 

Anaea Carlisle, raised on an isolated space station populated solely by women, believes the rest of the universe has been plunged into anarchy and ruin by an alien-engineered disease known as Y-Poisoning.  On a salvage mission, she helps rescue a hypermental named Gwydion who challenges everything she thought she knew.

Forced to flee the station with Gwydion, Anaea finds herself in an inexplicable, often hostile world, permanently divided between the Galactic Collective and the Pinnacle Empire.  She longs for some place to call home, but first, she’ll have to survive …


Excerpt:

 

Anaea stepped cautiously, feeling her way where the lights had died, stunner in her hand. She strained in the darkness, drawn taut by unformed hopes and fears of what she might see. The mask shielded her from contagion, but not attack. It also trapped a few strands of dark auburn hair in her field of vision; she puffed them away with a shallow breath.
Wrecks like this weren’t common. Small ships, following the hyperspace corridor – to what end? To escape the ruins of civilization? The women of Themiscyra had fled here over a century ago, but they had done so in a colony ship, with the resources to build, to thrive, and to conceal themselves from the criminals that had survived the fall. For decades, isolation had been Themiscyra’s only protection from greed and desperation.
Why come out here with nothing?
Anaea had thought she was prepared for her first salvage mission, but training in a simulation when she knew friendly faces waited just beyond the door was nothing like trying to navigate the unfamiliar corridor. She had applied for the salvage team five months ago and been surprised when she was accepted. They must have needed people.  She was even more surprised that a wreck had been spotted during her posting.
She tried to picture the ship from the outside, imagine how long this corridor was and how much further she had to travel. She remembered seeing it swell on the shuttle's viewscreen, as dull and pitted as an asteroid. The scroll of diagnostics, too much information and not enough, including the ship manifest and roster.
There had been nineteen people on this ship, the White Hound. That left seven women and ten men who might be alive. Any of the men could be mad with the disease, lashing out at anyone who neared. Anaea reached the dining room door and checked the panel, breath quivering in her throat. It had sealed itself: the chamber was vented to space. She moved on.
The door of the recreation area opened as she approached, releasing a smell that made her choke. It wasn’t biological, she realized; it was the stale bread odor of burnt electronics.
Beyond that, she was almost blind. The chamber’s far wall must have staved inward, knocking over equipment and supports. She started to climb over the hillock of metal, then hesitated. Surely no one could have survived this.
She spotted a human-sized silver tube, battered, but intact. Half a label indicated it was a virtual reality chamber. She guessed it was sealed to prevent the user from distracting others in the room - but what could keep out could also keep in.
She climbed, slid, pushed her way to the tube. A weights apparatus lay across the tube door. She laid her hip against it and pushed. The shrieking of metal made her flinch.
The sound almost masked the rhythmic thump from within the tube. Anaea gasped and redoubled her efforts, jamming her body against the piece of equipment. It slid free, knocking her back.
The person inside the tube must have shoved against the door. It swung open, and someone tumbled on top of her, muscle, flesh and weight.
Anaea screamed and jerked her wrist up, firing the stunner by instinct. The energy discharged above her, a spangle of starlight in the wreckage.
The person rocked forward as detritus rained down. She realized that, without thinking, whoever it was had tried to protect her.


Amazon.com | Amazon UK


About Lindsey Duncan:


Lindsey Duncan is a chef / pastry chef, professional Celtic harp performer and life-long writer, with short fiction and poetry in numerous speculative fiction publications.  Besides her forthcoming novel with Kristell Ink, her contemporary fantasy novel, Flow, is available from Double Dragon Publishing.  She feels that music and language are inextricably linked.  She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio


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