Friday, May 19, 2023

Round Table on Canadian SF&F — On Spec Magazine

Of possible interest: "Canada in Conversation – SFF from the Global South to the Meeting Point of all Worlds" By Emad El-Din Aysha, PhD up at On Spec Magazine

A long exchange with Emad with myself and other Canadian SF authors. Someone needs to write a book, though.

My own comments are thin on Quebec SF and newer writers--I even missed many of the old established authors--but still of possible interest.

My Drabble, "Disposable" published in Fairfield Scribes Micro #29.

My Review of The Crystal Key by Douglas Smith

[Originally published in Ottawa Review of Books.]

If you've already read The Hollow Boys (Book 1 in the Dream Rider saga), you don't need me to tell you to buy the sequel (except to say that it was published in March and is now available). If you are new to the trilogy, Smith insists that you read Book 1 first: this is a single mystery written across three books, with Book 2, The Crystal Key, picking up directly a few weeks after the climactic events of The Hollow Boys. Although Smith provides some backstory, the reader must keep the momentum going from Book 1 to land in The Crystal Key.

With The Hollow Boys, I was slow to realize I was reading a text-based superhero story; knowing that, Smith surprised me again with The Crystal Key, tapping into my deep nostalgia for Saturday matinee serials. The opening scene in particular put me right in the middle of episode 12 of, say, Radar Men from the Moon. Or, if you grew up a few generations later, the banquet scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Smith manages to perfectly capture the summer I was 13, hunkered down on the basement couch reading The Black Dwarf of Outer Mongolia - only without the overt racism and stilted dialogue of that era . . . or the banquet scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Smith manages to update the genre with an ethnically diverse cast and strong female characters. Smith's take on superheroes and serials is both modern and original, but it recreates the same energy, the same yearning for superpowers, the same subconscious fear of dark places and boogeymen as the best stories of our own remembered youth. High adventure leavened with romance and mystery. Perfect for any 13-year-old looking for a summer read, or any 70-year-old looking to be 13 again for a while.

As the title suggests, the McGuffin here is an ancient crystal, the key to the mysterious disappearance of our hero's parents, his own superpowers, and the various factions vying to kill him. Finding it, figuring out what it does, how it works, who else wants it, what they want it for, and what they are willing to do to get it, keeps things moving at a fast clip. No spoilers, so all I can say about the plot is that it involves the multiverse, astral travel, ancient cults, hypnotic powers, criminal gangs, private mercenaries, romance, and betrayal. In other words, the whole 1950-60s Saturday matinee movie package.

The other thing Smith nails perfectly is the outside observer. Effective mysteries have to lead the hero(s) through a series of incremental steps to a point where they (and now the audience) know what's going on, but no one else could possibly believe it. The really great versions, as here, introduce the "Wait, what?" character, the outsider who arrives late in the story and, lacking those earlier experiences, is suitably discombobulated often to comic effect. Smith's subplot of the intrepid reporter confronted with an inexplicable-and ultimately unreportable-story is a textbook example of this outsider-observer technique.

My only complaint is that, for the sake of brevity, Smith occasionally lapses into explaining what various characters are feeling rather than showing us. This is especially noticeable with the two leads, who are constantly worrying about their relationship with the other -- but to be fair, I was probably that obsessed with relationships at that age, so okay, I'm willing to give Smith a pass on that one.

Overall, great fun. While it is common for the middle of a novel, or the middle book of a trilogy, to drag a bit, that is definitely not the case here. The Crystal Key has everything that made The Hollow Boys work and turns it up a few notches. I can't wait for the conclusion in The Lost Expedition, which is coming soon.

[Boo1 in the Dream Rider Series was shortlisted for an Aurora Award in the YA category.]

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Drabble "Spellcheck" published.

I find I'm only getting time to write the occasional drabble (stories exactly 100 words) these days, but it's fun and keeps my hand in, as it were. "Spellcheck" is a silly fantasy piece; the title tells it all.

Spellcheck" in Scribesmicro #28

(you have to scroll a few pages to get to mine)

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Dave Duncan Gets Posthumous Two-Book Deal with Shadowpaw Press

Dave Duncan
The Late Dave Duncan
Canadian Author
Edward Willett
Edward Willett
Shadowpaw Press
Robert Runté
Robert Runté

From Shadowpaw Press (Edwart Wilett):

I'm thrilled to announce that Shadowpaw Press has obtained the rights to publish two previously unpublished novels by the late, great Canadian author Dave Duncan, one of the first authors I met in the field, long before I was a published novelist--he gave a reading at the Saskatchewan Science Centre while I was communications officer there. Edited by Robert Runte, THE TRAITOR'S SON and CORRIDOR TO NIGHTMARE will be released late this year or early in 2024.


"They know the world is dying, but they hope not in their lifetimes. Meanwhile, they’re top dogs and will do anything to stay that way."

Doig Gray is fifteen when his father is killed in a mining accident, which Doig comes to realizes was no accident. Torn from his mother and sister, Doig is sent off to college, his every movement monitored in case he has inherited his dissident father’s unacceptable attitudes . . . or passwords. Doig has nothing but his own sense that there’s something desperately wrong with the world—and a last name that evokes the assumption that he’s destined to be the next traitor-hero.

THE TRAITOR'S SON is a science fiction novel about a colony world where everything that could go wrong already has. Stuck on the wrong world at the wrong site, with the wrong leaders, the colony is doomed to extinction unless immediate steps are taken to correct—everything. But 500 years of hiding from the reality of their situation has created an unchallengeable status quo—and the Accident Squad determined to ensure it remains that way.


When one life ends, another begins.

After forty years as the village school teacher in the idyllic valley of Greenbottom, Agatha is looking forward to a quiet retirement. Instead, an enigmatic stranger arrives to drag her through a long-closed portal to another world.

Confronted with a completely foreign culture steeped in magic and violence, Agatha finds herself a crucial pawn being played between rival factions. The only way forward through the rigid traditions and convoluted politics of the Archons of Otopia is to remain true to herself and her Greenbottom ideals.

The agent for the deal was Wayne Arthurson of The Rights Factory.

Perfect Rendition of "Day Three"

Ridiculously pleased with CB Droege's perfectly nuanced narration of my flash fiction, "Day Three", on his Manawalker Studio's Flash Fiction Podcast, #807, March 16, 2023.

Originally published in Pulp Literature #21 and repinted in Metastellar, Sept 3, 2021 and The Best of Metastellar's First year, July, 2022.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

My Review of The New Empire by Alison McBain

My review of the parallel world/alternate history novel, The New Empire by Alberta author Alison McBain is up at Ottawa Review of Books, March 2023.

The same issue of ORB also includes a review of Leslie Gadallah's The Legend of Sarah from Shadowpaw Reprise, which I also highly recommend.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Short Story Reprinted

My short story, "Crossing Avenue" has been reprinted in Polar Borealis #23, available free to download at (The story originally appeared in the print-only literary journal, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review Vol. 14 #1, 2020.)