We’re at it again with our sporadic Picks of the Week! They range from books to TV to movies to comics this week: The Punisher, FIYAH magazine, All the Birds in the Sky, The House of Laughing Windows and many, many others. Stocking stuffers, one and all.
Much excitement at UN Headquarters! Earlier this year, Chia and Cath devoted an episode to their love of the Peter Grant/Rivers of London series. Hold onto your seats, because author Ben Aaronovitch joins us from across the pond! We embarrass him with too many Doctor Who questions, and he shares details about his writing process and plans for the future. Can one show contain all this merriment?
Authors Spotlight? Author Spotlights? However you slice it, this week is twice the flavor with the one-two punch of spec fic’s ultimate power couple, Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch! The dynamic duo join us for an anything-goes chat about fecal escapades, tidy trilogies, roleplaying dream teams, perhaps even news of a new release! (Spoiler alert: Bear’s The Stone in the Skull is out now!)
[PARENTAL ADVISORY: Extreme Content. Graphic expletives about Skype absolutely reflect the opinions of management. ]
Writer and editor Jeanne Cavelos founded the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 1996, and it quickly became an invaluable experience for writers of genre fiction. She joins us to discuss the workshop, her own fiction and anthology projects, Dracula and Van Helsing, and rituals involving plush animals and condensed milk. Not for the faint of heart! (PS – The Early Application deadline for next year’s workshop is January 31st. Get those apps ready!)
You’ve heard me talk about Riverdale on the podcast. It never fails to astound me that comics which amused me only slightly as a child, and didn’t amuse me at all as a teen have now become cutting edge phenomena. Consider the following.
Archie Comics has undergone a cutting edge renaissance, albeit one might argue that they are merely peripherally the same comic. In 2015, Mark Waid and Fiona Staples modernized the classic Archie into a relevant comic about today’s teens. Before that, Life with Archie explored Archie’s adult life in two separate timelines, one in which he married Betty, and one in which he married Veronica. In 2010, Kevin Keller, Riverdale’s first gay character was introduced.
And then things went really dark. Afterlife with Archie deals with the Archie gang as zombies. Thanks, Sabrina! The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is currently one of my favorite comics, and it is SUPER creepy and twisted. This isn’t your parents’ Archie anymore, that’s for sure.
So, the television show Riverdale has been cranking hard since the beginning of 2017. It’s the lovechild of Twin Peaks and Beverly Hills 90210. In much the same vein as the teen shows of the 80s, many adults are pretending to be high schoolers, but it’s the show’s strange vibe, in the little town with ridiculously big town concerns (whaaatttt??? Riverdale has two high schools and still calls itself the town with pep???? And has a Chok’lit Shop? And two gangs????) that captures the audience. Hey, I’m captured. I am in love with the new take on Veronica Lodge and the enigmatic Betty Cooper. I like Archie and I adore Jughead, the literary, misunderstood writer who comes from a sketchy background (yeah. No identifying with character going on here. Nope.) Even juicier is a cast of Dynasty like parents who are all…well, most of them…kind of revolting that the kids have to work around. Sure. It’s hard to believe the town of Riverdale is besieged by the epidemic of a drug called jingle jangle served in pixie sticks, or has a serial murder called the Black Hood purifying the town, but remember, we’re in television cult territory here. The villains would get away with things, if it weren’t for those darned kids. Go with the flow, and buy your merch at Hot Topic. You’ll be happier if you do.
And…Netflix will soon be airing a Sabrina show along the horror lines of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. While a companion show, I do not think they can go as far as they do in the comic on television, but given that it’ll only be streamed, I could be proven wrong. We also do not yet know if the show will cross over with Riverdale. I’m happy either way. Mid season finale is tomorrow night, kids. Then you gotta wait until January to get your Riverdale on.
My agent mate Rati Mehrotra has written the first book of her new series Markswoman. The book is exactly what I’ve been looking for–a gripping fantasy about a strong group of woman, focusing on strength and revenge.
Markswoman takes place in a post-apocalyptic future Asia, where groups of assassins bonded to special daggers keep the peace among clans and their own orders. The story centers on Kyra, last of her clan, focused on becoming a markswoman to avenge her family’s death. When the head of the order of Kali is killed mysteriously, Kyra finds herself on the wrong side and flees. She spends time among the male assassins of the order of Khur, held in disdain by the predominantly female assassins. There, she learns to fight to face her ultimate battle with Tamsyn the usurper.
Markswoman centers on a strong female lead. Kyra has fears and flaws, but also has a strong moral core, and she knows what she must do when the leader of her order is killed. Against all odds of success, she decides she will challenge Tamsyn to a duel. There is a romantic element to the book, but it is a side plot rather than the point of the endeavor. Kyra coming into her own, learning her true potential, focuses the reader and pulls us through the book.
Mehrotra descriptions are transporting. I found her landscapes immersive and her technological descriptions mysterious. The world of Markswoman, all aspects of it, are deftly weaved into a rich, textured whole. It is hard to find your way out of this book in certain sections, as it seems to envelope.
One of the added bonuses for me, an older reader, was finding so many interesting “elder” characters to read about. Even though this is a YA book, I found myself enjoying the portrayals of many of the wise and experienced people in the orders of Kali and Khur, which transcended the stereotypes of older people generally found in books about younger people. I felt validated.
There are dangling plot points. What is Nineth’s ultimate fate? Shurik’s? What happens after the ending of the book, which seems so abrupt? And that big reveal about parents and children I can’t tell you about? What are the implications of that? I hope we will get the next book in the Asiana series to answer these questions.
Should you read Markswoman? Yes, you should. You can buy it on January 23rd, 2018. You can pre-order it now.
Unreliable Alum Rachel Marks does not disappoint with her latest book, Fire and Bone, a YA Urban Fantasy featuring Celtic mythology.
Way back in the beginning of our podcast, we were lucky enough to interview Rachel about the first book of her Dark Cycle trilogy Darkness Brutal. Fire and Bone kicks off Rachel’s The Otherborn series. Sage, the second born daughter of the Celtic goddess Brighid, finds herself suddenly in the world of the Celtic Penta and all that surround them. She also becomes involved in a centuries old tragedy, and it becomes difficult for Sage to sort out which life is present, which is past, and who her allies and enemies are in this new and strange world.
Marks presents us with some winning characters. Sage is vulnerable and lost, yet is solidly grounded and knows herself, sparing us some of the insecurities that have haunted YA heroines in years past. The romance between her and Faelin is compelling, but stays at a level which drives it forward in unrelenting tension. All the characters are dimensional and intriguing. It will come as no surprise to the people who know me I become a fan of the dark prince Kieran, and yes, I’m not giving away any spoilers at all here. Go read the book. You’ll get there.
At the same time Sage is thrust into the intrigue and politics of the Celtic gods, an undercurrent of a tragedy in the past presents as a mystery, and then as very relevant to the current day. The mystery of the past blends with the discovery of the present skillfully, and by the end of the book, both plots come together. The only real flaw of this book is that it ends, and we’ll have to wait for the next one for a while. Since I received an ARC, I have to wait longer than you will, so be grateful for that, at least.
Fire and Bone is available at Amazon from Skyscape in all the usual ways: Kindle, CreateSpace, and Audio. If UF, YA or Celtic is your jam, you should go pre-order.