Showing posts with label Guest Blog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guest Blog. Show all posts

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Hell Bound - Andrew Weston, Book Tour

The author of Hell Bound (released this Halloween), is on a blog tour! Thanks for guest blogging, Andrew Weston!

So who is he? What is Hell Bound?  Is Daemon Grim coming for us? Below are his own hellish answers, an excerpt, and a book giveaway link! 

First, who is Andrew P. Weston?

Andrew P. Weston is Royal Marine and Police veteran from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with his wife, Annette, and their growing family of rescue cats.  An astronomy and law graduate, he is the creator of the international number one bestseller, The IX, and also has the privilege of being a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the British Fantasy Society and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.  When not writing, Andrew devotes some of his spare time to assisting NASA with one of their remote research projects, and writes educational articles for and Amazing Stories.   Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon Author

What is Hell Bound?
Hell Bound is part of the Heroes in Hell universe, which is a series of shared world fantasy books, within the genre Bangsian fantasy/horror, created and edited by Janet Morris and written by her, Chris Morris, C. J. Cherryh and others. The first 12 books in the series were published by Baen Books between 1986 and 1989, and stories from the series include both Hugo Award winners and Nebula nominees. Janet continued the series through her own publishing company – Perseid Press – from 2011 onward with, Lawyers in Hell, followed by five more anthologies and a novel since then.

The shared world premise of Heroes in Hell (also called The Damned Saga) is that all the dead wind up together in Hell, where they pick up where they left off when still alive. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy states "In the long series of shared world adventures begun with Heroes in Hell, Hell becomes an arena in which all the interesting people in history can come together to continue the relentless pursuit of their various ends.” Brian Stableford commented that the series "adapted the backcloth of Dantean fantasy as a stage for violent adventures with ironic echoes of infernal comedy.

Hell Bound is simply an extension – a continuation of an ever expanding theme. It follows the exploits of Satan’s chief bounty hunter, the Reaper, as he hunts down fugitives from injustice. Of course, with some of the most infamous souls in all history up to no good, you can only imagine the problems that can and do arise.

When devising the character of Daemon Grim, I thought one of the best ways of integrating him – and indeed his entire crew – into the already established universe, was to ensure their “solo’ adventures run in tandem with what’s happening in the anthologies. So, Grim was introduced to us in Doctors in Hell, where we found him on a special mission to recover something very precious to His Infernal Majesty. Hell Bound begins at the conclusion of that very same mission. The next anthology will pick up several months after Hell Bound. Hell Hounds – the next solo novel – commences where that anthology ends, and sets the scene for the next HIH adventure.

Hell Bound (Heroes in Hell) Blurb

In hell, none of the condemned believes they deserve to be there. And that’s fine, so long as they’re not foolish enough to try and do anything about it. For those that do, there’s always Satan’s Reaper–and chief bounty hunter–Daemon Grim.

Feared throughout the many layers of the underverse, no one in their right mind dares to cross him.

However, when Grim discovers that someone has attempted to evade injustice, and seems hell-bent on gaining access to ancient angelic artifacts proscribed since the time of the original rebellion in heaven, circumstances point to the fact they may be doing just that.

The question is...why?

Thus begins an investigation that leads Grim throughout the many contradictory and baffling levels of the underworld, where he unearths a conspiracy that is not only eating its way like a cancer through the highest echelons of Hellion society, but one which threatens the very stability of Satan’s rule.

As you can imagine, Grim’s response is bloody, brutal, and despicably wicked.

Hell Bound – In hell, everyone can hear you scream...


​​Order now via Amazon Hell Bound 
This is the US centric link, but many global Amazon's have it to

Or try this Rafflecopter giveaway (link)

Novel Book Tours

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lord Lysis is fighting in GdM's Battle-Off; please support grimdark heroes!

Image modified with permission from Raymond Swanland for GdM.

"Lysis carved into their ranks with Ferrus Eviscamir, its blade slicing only their bones, invisible to metal and flesh and incapable of being parried or blocked...." 
Grimdark Magazine's Battle-Off competition has begun (Aug 2015), and excerpts are rolling in. Please support your fellow Grimdark authors!  Short (<1000 word) entries of epic grim fantasy await your feedback and voting! Please support me and other grimdark authors. The list of entries is just being populated now on Grimdark Magazine's website.

Lords of Dyscrasia's excerpt is battling...

Please support Lord Lysis! (Read & Vote)

Praise for Lords of Dyscrasia:
Black Gate Review of Lords of Dyscrasia - "Lindberg is the real deal, a gifted writer with a strong command of language, and a soaring talent that stretches beyond the verbal: he illustrates his novel with his own wild and weird and excellent drawings. If you like action-packed dark fantasy with bizarre settings, an original premise and clever twist, then add this one to your Must Read List." - Joe Bonadonna, Black Gate contributor and Author, 2015 

ForeWord Clarion Reviews, 5 Stars for Lords of Dyscrasia! "...Outside of the works of Poe and Lovecraft, there are few, if any, novels comparable to [Lords of Dyscrasia]... Beowulf comes to mind both for its epic quality and bloody action... The pace is nearly breathless... Lindberg, who also created more than 50 illustrations and the cover for this book, makes the majority of current popular fantasy fiction read like recipes by comparison. Lords of Dyscrasia is highly recommended, though not for the faint of heart., 2011

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Death Panel Explains Why Going To Hell Is Welcome At Anytime (Doctors in Hell roundtable interview)

Death Panel: (center) Janet E Morris; (top) Jack William Finley, Chris Morris; 
(middle) Bill Snider, Nancy Asire; Joe Bonadonna;
(bottom) Andrew Paul Weston, Richard Groller

Death Panelists, when is it O.K. to go to hell?

Some authors from the Doctors in Hell anthology convened for a death panel to decide your fate. Your affliction needing help?  Well, you heard about the recent release of this book but realized it is #18 in the Heroes in Hell series... is it okay to jump in now?   You are a bit timid to jump into death, so why not have the tour guides explain your worries away?  Below is a FAQ with common answers highlighted!

DIH authors (death panelists indicated with initials): Janet E. Morris (JEM), Chris Morris (CM), Andrew Paul Weston (APW), Nancy Asire (NA), R.E. Hinkle, Richard Groller (RG), Matthew Kirshenblatt, Bill Snider (BS), Joe Bonadonna (JB), Paul Freeman, and Jack William Finley (JWF)

Click here for my review of the book.

FAQ about Hell for new readers (click to jump-to answers): 

1. What is the general premise of the Heroes in Hell series?

JEM:  Hell really exists.  There were 613 original commandments, binding on every living soul even if they aren't Christians or Jews, and ignorance is no excuse:  break one and you go to hell.  So everybody does, almost: everybody who was anybody broke some commandment or other while on earth.  And here they are, sometimes in a part of hell where they belong, sometimes where they don't.  The wort and best from all of time make the same mistakes in hell that got them here:  character is destiny, Topside or throughout the Underverse.

RG: Bangsian Fantasy of the highest order - Hell is a real place where characters continue to live their lives. They come from across the length and breadth of time and history to interact. You can have Julius Caesar, Napoleon and Genghis Khan at the same table having a conversation. All of time and history is your palette - what incredible pictures can be made with the right imagination. What adventures can be wrought, while suffering the torments of a well-deserved damnation? As a backdrop for virtually any philosophical, social, political or sociological interactions, to include re-fighting wars and re-imagining history, Hell is the certainly the laboratory of the mind.

NA: It seems nearly everyone who has ever lived ends up in hell, no matter the time of their life or death.  In Satan’s hell, operating on Judeo/Christian laws and dictates, there are over 600 commandments that can be broken, even if the sinner has no knowledge the specific commandment existed.  In the other hells, ruled over by their various gods, the punishments meted out may or might not resemble those of Satan’s hell.  Naturally, whoever ends up in hell is punished by any means, from eternal frustration to actual torture and death.  In Satan’s hell, death is hardly permanent since the soul is reconstituted and returned to its hellish existence for further torment.  The series deals with various characters and their responses to their damnation.

2. What flavor of Hell/Afterlife is in scope (Valhalla? Naraka? Hades? Duat? Jahannam? Dante’s?)?

BS: This Hell, encompasses all Hells, Dantean, Jungian, Abrahamic, Babylonian, Eastern - if there was a designation for a Hell, then the Heroes In Hell series can include it.  There is no Hell too big, or too small to fit within these halls; hallowed as they may not be, they can all fit amongst those who dance to the tunes that are sung by those who continue to fall.  Hell is not just a place name, it's where we keep our notions of who we are and where we are destined to end up, should we ever be so inclined as to journey there.

APW: It’s whatever flavor takes your fancy. That’s the wonderful thing about the shared universe aspect, hell has many layers and circles, and they morph and transmute into whatever’s required to ensure its denizens or new arrivals suffer. As the saying goes...If you’re in need, the underworld knows and will ensure you plead before you bleed :)

CM: All the below (above). As well as the classic hells of literature Hell is comprised of hells as numerous as its residents. What makes hell so fascinating is that everybody – readers and writers and characters alike – bring some idea what the hot place is like. Often we follow souls who presume their hell experience will be informed or shaped by their peculiar racial or religious or social expectations, only to have their preconceptions painfully turned against them. So all hells imaginable, and some that beggar imagination, are on tap and ready to serve multitudes of hapless penitents as well as more deserving transgressors.

 3. Doctors in Hell is #18 in the series… should I start with this?

JB: Of course you can. I think it’s a lovely place to start your season in Hell. When I first jumped into the original Baen Books series (now out-of-print) I started after the first few volumes and had no problem riding along. And when Perseid Press rebooted the series in 2011 with all new editions and all new stories, I started with “Rogues in Hell” which was published after the first book, “Lawyers in Hell.” Then I read the third edition, “Dreamers in Hell” before going back to read “Lawyers in Hell.” By then I felt comfortable and familiar enough to write for “Poets in Hell,” and now “Doctors in Hell.” Got all that? Like I said earlier, each volume is pretty much stand-alone and any place you enter Hell is a good starting point. Just jump in and hang on.

JEM: Welcome to Hell. Want to start with Doctors in Hell?  Go right ahead: you'll meet new characters, Andrew Weston's Grim and the man who might once have been Jack the ripper...  The first two stories will orient you, as they always do.  If you want more of Shakespeare and Marlowe, read Dreamers and Poets.  If you're curious about Erra and the Sibitti, read Lawyers and Rogues.  We never numbered the volumes in the 20th century at Baen; we've stopped numbering them now.  Everyone knows enough about hell to quickly become oriented.  If you fall in love with Bat Masterson...  he appears in Lawyers, Rogues, Dreamers, Poets, and Doctors -- come to think of it, those are ALL the 21st century shared universe books.  If you crave a 21st century Heroes in Hell novel, read Michael Armstrong's Bridge Over Hell.  Or go right from Doctors in Hell to the forthcoming Hell Bound, where Andrew Weston's Reaper and Dr. Cream will scary you silly.

NA: I believe it is best to start with Lawyers (#13).  The series, Heroes in Hell, was resurrected with Lawyers and gives a good start to the neophyte reader.  The hellscapes are laid out, the rules governing the hells set forth, and the major characters are introduced, along with their backgrounds and why, despite their confusion and outright denial as to being eternally damned, they respond to the various levels of torture.  Life in New Hell City and environs shows how various levels of damnation are experienced, how serving (for example) Satan in various capacities, grants certain individuals a hellish existence far above that suffered by other souls.  The following anthologies will be easier to dive into given exposure to the events in Lawyers

BS: There is the modern incarnation, and there is the classic incarnation: The modern starts with Lawyers in Hell (book 13) and provides the starting point of the reboot of perdition.  The classic sets a stage bright and shiny and full of possibilities for mayhem.  However, all that being said as that has already been read, each book is well suited to standing alone, as the stories draw their own power, from that which is written from the bone.

4. How stand-alone are these themed issues?

JWF: As a rule of thumb, I’d liken the series to a TV series in that each story stands one it’s on like a TV episode but are loosely link and more or less chronological so you can start anywhere but you get a bit of a bonus if you start early and read things in order. You don’t have to do that to enjoy it or to get it, but it had to things if you do. On the other hand you won’t be totally lost if you don’t.

JB: Each volume is pretty complete. Unlike many other shared-world series, the books in the “Heroes in Hell” saga were “designed” to be novels written by diverse hands. While storylines may continue from one volume to another, each book stands on its own. Plots and storylines change from book to book, but more often than not our main characters are always on stage, although we do introduce new characters from time to time. In “Doctors in Hell,” we are now dealing with plagues ravaging throughout Hell, sent from Heaven Above to further punish the Damned. The premise/theme is laid out in the first two stories, written by Janet Morris and Chris Morris. From there, we contributing authors each write stories about what happens to our characters and how they deal with this infernal epidemic. The beauty of this series is that there is no death in Hell: the Damned are already dead. However, should a character be “killed” in Hell, he or she ends up in the Mortuary, where Hell’s Undertaker may do a little fiendish make-over on them before sending them back out in to Hell. This is called Reassignment.

CM: Hell’s themes are stand-alone only in that they provide a story arc or for a volume’s spectrum of stories, a way of wrangling our writers’ ideas and focus into a collection of tales that cohere as a group due to attention paid by all to the title “theme,” in this case “Doctors.” But a story’s doctor could be any ol’ doc, like Doc Holliday, Dr. Schweitzer, Pasteur, Freud, Teller…hmmm. And of course we’re bound to have a doc or two in any of the other Hell volumes, so the themes aren’t constraining but meant to be helpful to our contributors who might need a little push.

RG: That depends entirely on the author and whether or not they are following a long term or short term story arc or are writing a stand-alone story. Some of us have written within several arcs simultaneously, so our stories will touch upon events that occur over several volumes, while others might write a story meant to only coincide with events in a single volume. Some borrow existing characters with permission of the creators and interweave them with their own characters and have either dialog or story background to talk to key "theme related" events.  My Doctors in Hell story is actually a long arc story.  Its genesis was in Crusaders in Hell (Heroes in Hell #5 back in 1987) where Janet and Chris Morris wrote a story entitled "The Nature of Hell" about time perturbations in Hell. I borrowed some characters, added new, and picked up a story arc which at the time no other Hell author had chosen to write within (besides Janet and Chris). This culminated in "Island Out of Time" in Lawyers in Hell, "BDA" in Rogues in Hell, and "In The Shadowlands" in Doctors in Hell. The stories in Lawyers and Rogues would up generating a series of other short stories by other authors who then chose to write within the time perturbation arc.

5. Should I expect elves, orcs, or wizard schools?

APW: Definitely not. This is a walk on the twisted and positively maniacal side of life. And while you might find dark humor from time to time, it’s the kind that will chew you up, spit you out, and split its sides laughing as you burn. NOT the place for pixies, elves, or schools for aspiring wizards.

JB: To paraphrase a good friend of mine: “Oh, no, my Precious. We don’t wants no filthy elves, no stinkin’ orcses, and no slimy schools for hateful wizards. No, we do not.”

No elves!
CM; Expect demons of many sorts, waiting to seize upon the frailties, fears, lusts, foibles and passions of the countless teeming damned. Satan has legions of demons. These monstrous agents of damnation are exquisitely conceived and designed for the task at hand and embody – and disembody on occasion – whatever elements will leverage the Infernal agenda. Satan’s delight however is to elicit and expose demons lurking within the most unassuming souls, once more to underscore and demonstrate the inferiority of Creation’s proudest achievement – man.

JWF: No. Think something a lot more like The Outer Limits or Twilight Zone than your standard epic fantasy. I think Speculative Fiction is much more accurate than fantasy in this case, a lot of thought provoking stuff, more art film than summer block buster. There are quite a few mythic heroes sprinkled here and there but the standard is historical figures, a Wold Newton/League of Extraordinary Gentlemen sort of thing leaning far more heavily on real life historical figures rather than fictional ones.

Gustave Dore - Inferno
RG: No. Orcs or elves by definition would not be allowed unless perhaps Satan is creating them Golem-like to torment some poor wretch who perhaps has a phobia. But not a as characters. Fantasy characters of someone else's creation do no belong in hell. Hell is for all the inhabitants of history. Characters from traditional religious imagery (i.e. devils, demons, angels, archangels, etc.) are fair game, to include mythological creatures. You have Old Dead and New Dead. New Dead are from the more modern eras. Old Dead include ancient Greeks, Norse, Egyptian, etc. and all the Hellish visions and creatures extant from those cultures. The Damned get the Hell they deserve. Perhaps a wizard school if it existed in history. But not Hogwarts. In my story "BDA" we had the Gnostic Catholic Church of Hell, Aleister Crowley's order of magick practioners from the Ordo Templi Orientis, in Hell continuing their search for the Summun Bonum or "Great Work".

BS: Expect what will be, nothing less, nor nothing more.  Expect demons, devils, creatures of mayhem, dark imaginations, corners of the void that never hath seen the sprinkle of day's light, nor the balm of air unburnt by Hell's own infernal machinations.  This is not your mommy's world of fantasy; this is Hell, and tonight, we dine on gore.

6. By movie standards, is this rated PG-13, R, or something else?

BS: Well, as it is an anthology series, it's a bit of all three.  Some stories are not so spluttery, not so daring; and some will leave your eyes and jaws wildly staring!  The things we do in Hell, are something we've come here to tell; it's a variety of stories, with a little bit of skin, and a whole lot of sin.  Truth be told, the overall game is bold, and the Devil is in the details along with his vicious hold.  So, to answer the riddle, to give it a giggle, the answer is … yes.

JWF: Probably something else, but not much that’s so hard “R” or NC-17 that it’s likely to scare anyone off. You take 15-20 writers and give all of them more or less free reign within the setting as long as they tell a good story it can be hard to label or give a general rating to things. The only thing I remember being told was not to be gratuitous, if the story calls for violence or for something to be gruesome then do that but only because the story requires it. There isn’t much visceral-for-visceral-sake. It’s very much a story-first environment, let the story affect the readers. If it needs a lot of flashy violence or graphic content that’s not inherently necessary to tell a give story, it’s probably not going to meet the quality standard. If the story needs that to work it’s patched on like a badly made quilt, it’s not a very good story. Not all stories work for all people, that’s just the nature of the beast, but they do maintain a pretty high quality standard around here.

NA: If the movie is true to the series, I can’t imagine it would be rated anything but an R.  There is enough bloodshed, sexuality, torture and other unsavory happenings to keep it from being rated PG-13.  I might be old school, granting that most kids who can attend a PG-13 movie have probably seen more blood and guts that I did when I was their age.  It would, of course, depend on how exact the movie representation followed the events in the series’ short stories.  Graphic blood, torture and the like might be a bit too much for a PG-13, but kids these days have seen movies that seem to delight in gratuitous violence.

7. Authors, recall when you when you first experienced this Hell – what advice can you draw from that to aid new readers?

BS: Depth, breadth, scope of the working environment - the stories, the variety, the characters available to play with, but brief pitter patters through the historical course, there are no limits to the directions that one can fly; no end to the imagination, no blinders for one's inner eye.  The canvas upon which to write, is writ from a panoply of possibilities, a paragon of potential that the ends of the underworld stretches from one mind thought to another, with no end possible, as imagination never reaches its end, until after it has done so.

APW: I did my homework. This is a well-established and critically acclaimed universe. It has rules. There are certain things characters can do, and other things they can’t. There are gray areas that can be stretched. Keep that in mind as you begin to read and venture into the mire. And of course, as you wade deeper, try to spot how the various characters and story lines add value to the overall whole. I know from experience this is what the contributors try to do, as it helps the Heroes in Hell universe to remain fresh as it evolves along new and exciting paths.

8. A special message from Satan herself: A brief history of Heroes in Hell

JEM:  Heroes in Hell, the series, didn't seem at first like a threat to my life as I'd known it -- but let me warn you, hell changes lives and stretches souls. The first volumes, done in the 20th century for Baen Books, seemed like a great place to get out your aggression and frustrations: your hell story could be as dark as you liked, you could set it in any historical hell from any culture, or in our "melting pot" of New Hell.  We had a helluva good time.  Two stories (one from Heroes in Hell and one from Rebels in Hell) were Nebula Award finalists in the same year; one of those two subsequently won a Hugo award.  Then the trouble really began...  I stopped doing these, and let the century turn.  I forgot how all-consuming hell can be. In the 21st century, I rebooted Hell:  a new take on hell for a new century, some writers from the old series, mostly new talent.  You could write or read these without having read the 20th century books. All hell books stand alone atop your own psyche's view of immortality.  They still do.  Start anywhere; the cohesion in each volume makes it stand alone.  If you want to start with Lawyers in Hell, when the re-boot began, do that.  Or start with Doctors in Hell:  read hell forward or backward or upside down -- it's still hell.  It still unsettles minds and makes hearts skip beats.  Have fun, walking on hell's wild side.

"Hell really exists."

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Heroika Roundtable - hosted by author Terry Ervin

Roundtable Discussion with 4 Dragon Hunters (link)

Terry W. Ervin II is an Ohio-based author (like myself) who writes fantasy and science fiction and is an English teacher by day. He recently hosted four of the 17 authors (a.k.a. dragon hunters) from Heroika: Dragon Eaters. A paperback giveaway is in progress via Goodreads (see below). For now, please join the discussion and learn more about the art of killing serpents!

4-of-17 Dragon Hunters:

A. L. Butcher is the British author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles series and several short stories in the fantasy and fantasy romance genre. She is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet and a dreamer. When she is grounded in the real world she likes science, natural history, history and monkeys. Her work has been described as ‘dark and gritty’.

Mark Finn is a fantasy and science fiction, essayist, and playwright. He is recognized as an authority on the Texas author Robert E. Howard and has written extensively on that subject.In 2007 he was nominated for World Fantasy Special Award: Professional.

Seth (S.E.) Lindberg lives near Cincinnati, Ohio working as a microscopist by day. Two decades of practicing chemistry, combined with a passion for the Sword & Sorcery genre, spurs him to write graphic adventure fictionalizing the alchemical humors.  

He co-moderates a Goodreads- Sword & Sorcery Group and invites you to participate.  

Cas Peace is a fantasy and non-fiction writer from the UK. She’s also a singer/songwriter, horse-riding instructor, cactus grower, and dog lover.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Dragon Eaters by Janet E. Morris

Dragon Eaters

by Janet E. Morris

Giveaway ends July 21, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

S.E. Lindberg Interviewed by AL Butcher

Alex Butcher (a.k.a A L or Alexandra), authors fantasy fiction for adults. She kindly interviewed me this February, which is my official first interview! 

I am trying to corner AL Butcher for a counter-interview, to get her take on Beauty In Weird Fictionshe has an interesting milieu regarding Magic-Elf-Eroticism that would be great to learn more about.  

Actually, our stories will appear together this May in HEROIKA -- DRAGON EATERS (pre-order link). Check out this anthology of Heroes hunting their legendary foe across centuries!

HEROIKA -- DRAGON EATERS is an anthology of heroic fiction 
Edited by Janet E. Morris, featuring original stories by:

Heroes throughout history stalk their legendary foe: the Father of Alchemy entombs his own magic; dragons must not kill dragons; even a patron saint struggles when confronted by the mighty Wyght Worm; Hunting dragons, getting there is half the battle; mankind’s fate lies in a man, a child, and a dragon; holy warriors write their legend in the blood of dragons; the love of the innocent meets a dragon’s heart; one dragon hunter finds out the truth about feeding on dragon’s blood; one woman and two wolverines seek a dragon’s egg; cross the water and stop a new plague of dragons before it’s too late; bounty hunters pit their dirigible against a dragon and a flying castle; seven enemies unite to kill an ancient legend; In the bayou stews more than storm and alligators; remnants of the human race face their ultimate challenge in the bleak Arctic; when dinosaurs return, a squad of Rangers goes from dragon hunters to hunted. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Grimdark's 1930 and 1980 Roots - Hyperborea Guest Blog

“You Are A Grim Hero”;

 topical highlights of Grimdark’s history (Zothique, Fighting Fantasy)

April 2015, guest post by S.E. Lindberg on Hyperborea Blog – Francesco La Manno 

Many "Grimdark" fans seem young enough to miss some of this history. Thanks to Francesco La Manno for inviting me to discuss it. Wish I could read Italian to enjoy his other posts! BTW, the article is in English :).

As “Grimdark” matures and gathers traction, readers seem interested in defining its scope.  Many blog posts already cover the topic of “What is Grimdark,” including posts from champion Mark Lawrence (author of Prince of Thorns). This post will not try to disambiguate the boundary between overlapping/similar genres, but it will highlight a few books/topics that aficionado’s and newcomers should enjoy: 

1)  1930’s Grimdark/Sword & Sorcery: the oft-overlooked Clark Ashton Smith

2) 1980’s Grimdark/Sword & Sorcery: the origins of Grimdark stem from Game’s Workshop’s Fighting Fantasy series

Read more on: 

Hyperborea Guest Blog

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The IX, by Andrew Weston - New Release

Perseid Press has a great portfolio of Historical Fantasy and Fantasy Fiction including The Heroes In Hell Series and Sacred Band of Stepsons.  Below is the announcement for their most recent offering, a new take on the legendary missing Ninth Legion (available now):   

If you like your science fiction fast paced and gritty, full of realistic action and dark humor in the face of overwhelming odds, then The IX is definitely the epic for you. 

Fans of Julian May’s “Saga of the Pliocene Exiles,” Robert Heinlein’s “Have Space Suit, Will Travel”, and Jerry Pournelle's “Janissaries Series” will love this tale. It combines the divergent elements of the past, present, and future, and blends them together into a slick and stylish package that will leave you breathless and hungry for more. 

The Must Read Science Fiction Adventure of 2015. Sometimes, death is only the beginning of the adventure...

Arden, home to a culture that has existed for thousands of years and which spans dozens of worlds. Regardless, their sophistication cannot prevent calamity at the hands of an unstoppable nemesis. Known only as the Horde, this enemy has proven relentless. They have not only stripped the outer colonies bare, but now threaten the existence of the entire Ardenese way of life.

Realizing there is nothing they can do to prevent the inevitable march toward extinction, the Ardenese governing body comes to a drastic decision. They gather together at their capital city, Rhomane, and place their remaining genetic heritage in a vast underground ark, in the care of an advanced AI construct called the Architect. Its mission? To use Rhomane’s dwindling reserves and safeguard their race by reaching out across time and space toward those who might be in a position to help reseed a devastated world at some time in the future.

Soldiers from varying eras and vastly different backgrounds find themselves snatched away from Earth at the moment of their passing and transported to the far side of the galaxy. Thinking they have been granted a reprieve, their relief turns to horror when they discover they face a stark ultimatum:
Fight or die! Despite a host of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, this group of misfits manages to turn the tide against a relentless foe, only to discover the true cost of victory might exact a price they are unwilling to pay.

Andrew P Weston is a military and police veteran from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with his wife, Annette, and their growing family of rescue cats. A criminal law and astronomy graduate, he is a member of the British Science Fiction Association and British Fantasy Society, and is a contracted writer of both fiction and poetry for several publishing houses and a growing number of well established magazines. 

In his spare time, Andrew assists NASA on one of their research projects, and amazingly, still finds the time to submit regular educational articles for Amazing Stories and When not writing, Andrew enjoys holding his breath, being told what to do by his wife, and drinking Earl Grey Tea whilst dressed as Captain Jean Luc Picard. Make it so...


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Art, Beauty, and Fantasy Fiction: An Interview with Janet E. Morris

I have been fascinated with many Horror/Fantasy writers' view on the themes of "Beauty" and "Art" (see essay Undercurrent of Dark Muses in Weird Fiction ). In short, Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, R.E. Howard...even Edgar Allen Poe...wrote essays/letters in which they professed their fiction as being Art with a level of Beauty. For them Beauty was defined more of an emotive-experience rather than something "pretty" or related to "sex/gender." These authors are interestingly (a) all men, and (b) rarely wrote about heroines, or from the female perspective.  

Via the Sword & Sorcery Group on Goodreads-com, I engaged author Janet Morris (JEM) about these themes. JEM has pushed people's expectations of sexuality and the role of women in fantasy fiction since 1976; she has since published more than 20 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris (including the Sacred Band of Stepsons of the Thieves World series; she also created and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell).  She is still writing, recently contributing to Writing Fantasy Heroes: Powerful Advice from the ProsIncidentally, her expanded editions of her Sacred Band books are being re-released now (Video Trailer).  She frequently interacts in the Sword & Sorcery Group on Goodreads-com, which is currently running a Groupread on Heroines (everyone is invited, so feel welcome to join).  Her below comment suggested she had a lot more to share:
"Men in woman-suits do not women make, and the novel's purpose in the world is to create story to carry forth common values and shared ethos; when those values are deformed, and that deformation taken for true, we all suffer." Janet E. Morris - 2013
JEM kindly agreed to an interview and simply overwhelmed me with her response.  She is a font of information, and her responses should appeal to readers and aspiring authors (incidentally, Alexandra Butcher recently posted an insightful, interview with JEM on a broader range of topics).  She shared loads of insights and inspirational messages, I highlighted a few in blue.  Thank you JEM for your continued passion for writing, and for sharing your philospohy on Beauty and Art in Fantasy Fiction:  

  1. Were you aiming to recast/redefine the definition of beauty at all in your work? If so, would the Silistra series be the most representative? Link to JEM's answer-1
  2. How exactly did you strategize writing fiction featuring a powerful woman without pandering to stereotypes (i.e. chic's in chainmail) or making her wear a "man-suit"?  Link to JEM's answer-2 
  3. Have you ever thought of your own fiction as beautiful art? Link to JEM's answer-3 

Intro) JEM: Art is the process and Beauty the goal

Herein we’ll briefly explore Art and Beauty in fantastical literature, which may include fantasy and horror for purposes of discussion, not only historically, but how this single core issue is changing today: is Art and its associated Beauty still a valid goal in modern fiction, despite the vast quantity of fiction written by those aiming to capture the lowest common denominator of readership?
1) Was Estri & Silistra strategically conceived to create a new sort of female hero?
JEM: When I wrote High Couch of Silistra, I was twenty-five and loved being female; my body and mind were my laboratory, and I wanted to write the book I couldn’t find to read: not a book that was a clumsy attempt to treat a woman as a man, or as an enemy or competitor of men, or as a victim of men, but as someone powerful in a different society for genetic and political reasons; a protagonist whose sensuality and sexuality are at the heart of her world, and whose travails are self-created, so that I could explore the genetics of behavior: Estri, protagonist, is a courtesan and an adventuress, but not a sword-swinging hero tougher than any man around her. The books explore the differences and complementarities between men and women and the exercise of power, both personal and societal; they aren’t about a man who happens to live in a woman’s body. The Silistra Quartet is well discussed by Kaler in The Picara, where she compares the Silistra Quartet to the Picara model, from which it does purposely diverge.
My strategy was simply to write a book that spoke for a unique viewpoint, not for the “woman’s movement” (who were offended that it diverged from their politics) or the conservative male-backlash audience. Like Disraeli, I always write the book I want to read. In Silistra, all stereotypes are turned on their heads; emotion rules; sexuality is sometimes graphic as it pertains to power among and between sexes: it’s a book about people balancing free will against their hard-wired natures, not about women in man-suits or men in woman-suits. At the end of Wind from the Abyss, the third in the series, Estri’s counterpart Sereth reminds us, “We are all bound, the highest no less than the meanest.” Human extravagances and limitations are what, for me, Silistra is about, but it is not a series for the erotically-averse, or the intellectually timid.
Boris Vallejo - High Couch of Silistra Cover
Vallejo - High Couch of Silistra Cover Art
None of our heroines have ever worn chain mail:  Estri's chains are on her wait and sometimes on her writs; Shebat Kerrion, our science fantasy heroine of the Dream Dancer/Kerrion Consortium trilogy, is a newcomer to the space-faring culture where she wanders and a catalyst for change; the various Sacred Band of Stepsons heroines include Jihan, who has scale armor and a few supernatural powers appropriate to the daughter of the god of wind and wave; Kama has leather and linen armor, just like the men she serves among  (she wants to be a man so her father will respect her, but is a poet most of all); Cime wears god-forged armor or doeskin leathers, is a sorcerer-slayer by vocation, is also picaresque, and rules Tempus' heart and by extension, the Sacred Band at times.  It's not their weapons or outfits or special powers that make them heroic, but their goals and deeds, hopes and dreams.  When I saw the Boris High Couch cover for the first time, I was insulted that anyone could have derived the brass bra and Gucci boots image from my work. 
(this next paragraph is paraphrased from her comment): I was a fine arts major in school. My first cover was the Boris High Couch, commissioned by Bantam for High Couch of Silistra. I didn't think it matched the description, so I got Bantam to arrange for me to talk to him and request changes (feathered wings to non-feathered, etc). He didn't like that. So we changed to someone else thereafter. I had always loved the Frazetta covers, and in Germany I had Chris Achilleos for the German versions of the Silistra series, then Frazetta for the German Tempus. But now that I have cover control, I'm choosing Rubens and ancient art that truly moves me. The new cover for Tempus, and The Sacred Band cover, and the Beyond sub-series with Rubens covera, are pleasing me because I can look at them for hours and always see something that evokes the heart of the stories within. Matching books to cover, when centuries separate book and cover creation, has been an adventure. Strangest experience was finding the three Rubens we're using for Beyond Sanctuary, Beyond the Veil, and Beyond Wizardwall and realizing that each of those three paintings fit one of the three books nearly perfectly.
SEL asks whether I’m aiming to recast/redefine the definition of beauty in my work and, if so, would the Silistra series be the most representative? The answer to that is simple: like everyone concerned with writing Art, I am always striving, always hoping to improve, always experimenting, pushing my limits, trying to reach Homeric heights – but for me in my time, not by copying him in his. What is most beautiful about literature as Art is its ability to transport, to materialize a vision, whole cloth, in the reader’s mind, and I’m still working on doing that. The most representative of my books is probably my most recent novel, written with Chris Morris, The Sacred Band, grappling as it does with what is common to all, and unique in some: taking hold of mythos and ethos, sexuality of every sort, and exploring power and emotion at their best and worst. My favorite of my books is  I, the Sun, biographical novel of Suppiluliumas, Great King of Hatti, because his own words set my soul afire, and the task – flavoring my style with his writings, creating a relative chronology, and bringing so many historical people to life – was unparalleled in its demands on my ability. My favorite science fiction book, Outpassage, written with Chris Morris, is my greatest success so far with writing a group of futuristic, strong, heroic and villainous female characters.

My female characters, no more or less than my male characters, speak for themselves, not for a grand plan to redress centuries of perceived grievances, or to be role models for a future of retributive bile, where men and women are retaught their roles, and those roles are precisely the same. If, indeed, Art is the process and Beauty the goal, and if ‘common values’ can still be transferred to future generations through literature, then only reality and its study can yield fantasy worth reading, and making women into men and men into women won’t have my desired result: a book that satisfies me, since I must go first into any adventure I write, and live there. 
2) Have you ever thought of your own fiction as beautiful art?
JEM: My answer is simple: Of course I do. And of course it is valid to consciously strive for greatness in any art-form, and literature most of all, since literature carries our culture forward, gives voice to our inner selves most directly, speaks for us in no uncertain terms to a future yet unformed.  I think of my own work as a search for Art and strive for beauty in every line: for power, lyricism, brutality, mythos and ethos, and I do this by invoking character, not diatribe. 
3) Is Art and Beauty present in classic fantasy?
JEM: Certainly each man’s essays and letters (i.e. from Lovecraft, Howard, Smith, & Poe) reveal their intent to create Art with a level of Beauty in their fiction. Consider these among other writers equally persuaded that they were writing Art with Beauty. The Western Canon, and back to the earliest myths of Gilgamesh, give us fantasy and horror stories with Art and Beauty: since these are ‘literature’, we don’t refer to them as Horror or Fantasy anymore, despite the faeries in Spenser, the witches and ghosts in Shakespeare, the devils and demons in Milton.

Art with a level of Beauty (where Beauty is emotional impact and Art is a process of transcendent composition) does not exist in every piece of fiction, but it exists in many more fictions than today’s pernicious genre-fication would lead one to believe, or the ghetto-izers of literature would prefer. However, look sharp: if the book is really good, people will not call it Horror or Fantasy very long. For instance, is Moby Dick Horrific Fantasy? To me it is. Does Conan carry the flag of fantastical creation forward, and even include the emotional context and kick necessary in Art? Absolutely, although the non-Howard Conan stories written by others so far do not.

If Art is, as Zola famously observed, life seen through a temperament, then Howard’s Conan is Art. The spare prose and raw power of that work stimulated many to try to copy it whole cloth, resulting in a cripplingly limited vision of how Howard emplaces impact that has created a genre of crude imitators. No matter: Conan can take one’s breath away, and replace it with his own. The loaded style of Poe is peerless, in his darkly forsaken world, as much an echo of New England’s own inherent darkness as of the phantasms he evokes. Arthur Conan Doyle observed through the mouth of Sherlock Holmes that: ‘Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.’ Writing fantasy (whether one may become the next Dante or Poe or Homer), or reading it, requires imagination, and creating Art and Beauty is the goal of an informed imagination.

Now, what do we mean by Beauty? The most beautiful line I have ever read is from Hamlet: “And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” In Poe, it’s “Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore! Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore.’” Howard stabs for your heart with his Beauty, evoking a barbarian soul in “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women”, but consider Howard’s “Fire and wind come from the sky, from the gods of the sky. But Crom is your god, Crom and he lives in the earth. Once, giants lived in the earth, Conan. And in the darkness of chaos, they fooled Crom, and they took from him the enigma of steel. Crom was angered. And the Earth shook. Fire and wind struck down these giants, and they threw their bodies into the waters, but in their rage, the gods forgot the secret of steel and left it on the battlefield. We who found it are just men. Not gods. Not giants. Just men. The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan. You must learn its discipline. For no one – no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts.” In my own work I can show you my strivings for Art and Beauty more easily, since I know it best: “The chapel is dim, full of the god. So many of Tempus’ own ghosts are here. He bows his head and greets them one by one. Shades and revenants from years gone by crowd in, murmuring like the dead he carries in his heart. A gilded chariot gleams in the chapel’s soft light: a prop for a show he disdains, in these days when it is so hard for him to keep man and god separate, distinct from one another; when so many, many wraiths come with him, walk with him, ride with him from battlefield to battlefield, war to war.” or: “Woe betide the soul who loves too much, wants too much, dares too much. Soon now comes the hour of doom for some, victory for others.”
"Beauty requires that we breathe into our characters a unique view of the human condition, and show how that character experiences and suffers the world around him (her)."  Janet E. Morris - 2013

So where does Art reside, and where Beauty? Art is the process and Beauty the result. These together reside in the totality of thought; in the dark of the soul; in the voice of your Muse and, finally, if you are very lucky, on the page. If you are male or female, and writing fantasy fiction today, are you at an advantage or a disadvantage in the marketplace? The answer should be ‘no,’ but now and previously, may be ‘yes,’ depending on how separate you can keep yourself from political correctness and societal pressure to write trite stereotypes, not characters. Is the first great fantasy writer “J” from the Old Testament? Probably. Harold Bloom thinks “J” was female, and says so. What makes Bloom think so? A lifetime of scholarship. I recommend to you his “The Book of J” so you can find out for yourself. Where does the Art and Beauty reside in the Old Testament? Try the oldest translation you can find of the ‘burning bush’ scene. Homer’s Iliad, the most male of tales, changed the world because Alexander of Macedon considered its treatise on war-fighting so much his inspiration that he carried it with him on campaign. Before the Iliad, the myths of powerful women in Greek, and before them in Hittite and Egyptian and Akkadian mythologies, abounded. After Homer, the age of early male heroes increasingly defined literature, but these heroes were aided and abetted by female goddesses, muses, nereids, all more powerful than the men who served them. Then came the inscription at Delphi: “Keep woman under rule.” Why? Perhaps women sibyls and rulers had abused their men, perhaps the warlord overcame the sorceress. After Constantine and his New Testament redactions, modern patriarchy took hold with a vengeance, eradicating not only the Gnostic Gospel of Mary, but much else that made women and men equally important – in the eyes of literature, at least.

"Today, the writer, be that author male or female, makes a choice, at the outset: to reach for greatness and challenge an audience, or even change them; or to please a common denominator of audience by writing a familiar tale told artlessly. It is rare to attempt both, even rarer to achieve both.
So why try for Art and Beauty, when what most people want is a short, easy read, simple and direct? For some, Art is its own reward, and Beauty brings Art to the life in the mind. Before these art-seeking souls today, a wilderness stretches: many more craftsmen exist than artists, and the good, invariably, is the enemy of the great." Janet E. Morris - 2013