This week’s edition of In the Duke’s Sights is a small one because I didn’t wait so many darn weeks to post it. In this edition: flintlock fantasy, a steampunk collection from across the sea, a cantankerous writer’s writings, and a fantasy novel about fallen angels and alchemists waging war in Paris.
If any of these strike your fancy, let us know in the comments!
1. Cold Iron by Stina Leicht (Saga Press; 07/15)
Fraternal twins Nels and Suvi move beyond their royal heritage and into military and magical dominion in this flintlock epic fantasy debut from a two-time Campbell Award finalist.
Prince Nels is the scholarly runt of the ancient Kainen royal family of Eledore, disregarded as flawed by the king and many others. Only Suvi, his fraternal twin sister, supports him. When Nels is ambushed by an Acrasian scouting party, he does the forbidden for a member of the ruling family: He picks up a fallen sword and defends himself.
Disowned and dismissed to the military, Nels establishes himself as a leader as Eledore begins to shatter under the attack of the Acrasians, who the Kainen had previously dismissed as barbarians. But Nels knows differently, and with the aid of Suvi, who has allied with pirates, he mounts a military offensive with sword, canon, and what little magic is left in the world.
Stina Leicht wrote a new book. I now have that book. I’m reading it. That is all. You can’t have it. YOU CAN’T HAVE IT!
2. The SEA is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia edited by Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng (Rosarium Publishing; 11/1/15)
Steampunk takes on Southeast Asia in this anthology
The stories in this collection merge technological wonder with the everyday. Children upgrade their fighting spiders with armor, and toymakers create punchcard-driven marionettes. Large fish lumber across the skies, while boat people find a new home on the edge of a different dimension. Technology and tradition meld as the people adapt to the changing forces of their world. The Sea Is Ours is an exciting new anthology that features stories infused with the spirits of Southeast Asia’s diverse peoples, legends, and geography.
I heard about this anthology on Twitter, and now that it has arrived on my doorstep, I can’t wait to read it. There are only a few region-specific anthologies out there, and this one appears to serve an underrepresented group in the English-speaking market. Plus, it has Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng as editors, both lovely people with a long history in the genre. I’m game!
3. Can & Can’tankerous by Harlan Ellison (Subterranean Press; Late 2015)
Harlan Ellison has been compared to an annoying gnat, a no-see ’em buzzing in your peripheral vision till you try to swat him, and he’s gone.
The great English writer Michael Moorcock—and if his name does not leave you dumbstruck with awe, you should move on—called Ellison a “fox in the sf hen-coop” whose presence will “produce a brighter, faster hen, with improved survival characteristics, laying a tastier, more nourishing egg” and went on to say Ellison was “a brave and lively little beast, who makes a great show of himself to the hounds, but remains too wary ever to lead them to his lair.”
The brilliant novelist Joanna Russ, in admiring frustration, opined that Ellison’s stories “have an assault on you,” but complained that “they’re not like a piece of sculpture that you can stop and walk around and look at from all sides.” Ellison’s reply: “Absolutely not; I want them to grab you by the throat and tear off parts of your body.”
Ellison’s a double agent who lures you into the bush, and when you blink, he’s gone; you don’t know whether to turn left or right, or just dig a hole. He crafts enigmas set to entrap you. When Ellison sees where a story is going, he figures—since he’s writing for the smartest readers alive—you do, too. So he stops and turns left. Or right. Or widdershins. Or digs a cave with 200 tunnels.
Can & Can’tankerous gathers ten previously uncollected tales from the fifth and sixth decades of Harlan Ellison’s professional writing career: a written-in-the-window endeavor that invites re-reading from the start before you’ve even finished it; a second entry in his (now) ongoing abcedarian sequence; a “lost” pulp tale re-cast as a retro-fable; a melancholy meditation for departed friend and fellow legend, Ray Bradbury; a 2001 revision of a 1956 original; an absurdist ascent toward enlightenment (or its gluten-free substitute); a 200-word exercise in not following the directions as written (with a special introduction by Neil Gaiman that weighs in at four times the word count of its subject); a fantastical lament for a bottom-line world; the 2011 Nebula Award-winning short story; and Ellison’s most recent offering, a fusion of fact and fiction that calls to mind Russ’s frustration and Moorcock’s metaphor while offering a solution to the story’s enigma in plain view.
Strokes be damned! Ellison’s still here! HE’s still writing! And with more new books published in the last ten years than any preceding decade of his career, his third act is proving to be the kind other living legends envy.
Say what you will of Harlan Ellison as a person, the man’s writing career is still worth watching. This collection caught my eye partly because it’s not a standard sized book and the font is massive (and gorgeous). It also caught my eye because I actually really love Ellison’s work, so anything containing more of his writing, including writing exercises and other strangeness, will always get me interested.
4. The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard (Roc ; 8/18/15)
Multi-award winning author Aliette de Bodard, brings her story of the War in Heaven to Paris, igniting the City of Light in a fantasy of divine power and deep conspiracy…
In the late twentieth century, the streets of Paris are lined with haunted ruins, the aftermath of a Great War between arcane powers. The Grand Magasins have been reduced to piles of debris, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine has turned black with ashes and rubble and the remnants of the spells that tore the city apart. But those that survived still retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.
Once the most powerful and formidable, House Silverspires now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.
Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen angel; an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction; and a resentful young man wielding spells of unknown origin. They may be Silverspires’ salvation—or the architects of its last, irreversible fall. And if Silverspires falls, so may the city itself.
We’re gearing up to interview de Bodard about this book. The second I heard about it on Twitter, I pretty much started drooling. She is easily one of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers alive today, and it’s wonderful to see her return to the long form!