BTS: Jon, this has been a fun discussion. It’s reminded me of so many reasons why I like Star Wars, and has me mire excited than ever at the prospect of more. When Disney made their announcement a few weeks back, I was surprised and reticent, but done well, this could be an amazing opportunity for fans. What are some things you’d like to see in future films?
JS: I want any new films to both honor the older films (esp. the original trilogy) — WITHOUT copying them (i.e., stop reusing the same exact dialogue quips) — and reach for something new. One good thing that the prequel movies did was they introduced new depth to the Jedi-Sith conflict. I’d like to see Jedi (and Sith) presented in some new, interesting ways. I want the new directors/writers to reach for new types of characters. Stop using the “scoundrel, bounty hunter, princess, droid sidekick” archtypes. Those only worked in the originals because they were fresh takes on old standbys. Develop new characters and character types. I’d really love a series of films based on Tim Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, but I don’t think we will.
BTS: It’s interesting to hear you mention good things the prequels did. It seems people are split on them. Old school trilogy fans tend to hate them for lacking the true spirit. Fans who had their first experience with them often call them superior for their special effects, etc. I thought the acting and character development and over reliance on CGI were their prime weaknesses. I liked the action and some of the new characters. I enjoyed the new settings and ships a lot as well. Were there other things you thought they did well? (We’ll get to the bad more after).
JS: I thought the fight scenes, especially the duel between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon, and then Yoda versus Palpatine and Obi-Wan versus Anakin in the third movie. Most of the space battles were also good. Ian McDiarmid’s performance as Palpatine was excellent, and I also enjoyed Liam Nielson and Ewan McGregor. Some of the CGI was beautiful. Other than those things, I wasn’t much of a fan.
BTS: McDiarmid, Neeson, McGregor, Portman and Jackson all didn’t need the hand holding that other actors did and did their best to rise above the weaknesses and, thus, stood out. I enjoyed the underwater sequence and the water planet concept. I really like the Council scenes on Coruscant and having the chance to see so many diverse creatures. The Jedi HQ and clone stuff interested me as well. Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christiansen were two big weaknesses. Sadly, I’ve seen Christiansen give decent performances elsewhere with director’s guidance. The films would have been much better with a director who guided the actors more. AND then there’s Jar Jar…
JS: I didn’t particularly like either incarnation of Anakin. Young Ani (ugh, that nickname… “Ani! Ani!”) was nice enough, but Lucas wasted the entire first movie by portraying Anakin as a young kid. I didn’t care one bit about his miraculous conception, his slave status, his pod race, or his crush on Amidala (and her eventual attraction to him is a little weird). And don’t get me started on his piloting of a starfighter at the climax–that was the height of absurdity. Then in the second movie we get Petulant Teenage Anikan. That was slightly better because at least his theatrics tied in somewhat with the plot, but it was still annoying as hell. I refuse to believe that Darth Vader came out of a whiny kid with a ponytail. Now, a brooding, quiet, loner kid? Yeah, that would make some sense. It kills me to say this, but the Harry Potter movies did it better, portraying young Voldemort as a dark, scary kid. That’s what the movies needed. Alas, Lucas has become addicted to candyland storytelling. I could almost stand Anakin in the third movie. The hair was a little 80s’ glam for me, but he finally came to posses a little of the Vader swagger, and his relationship with Obi-Wan started to take on a more realistic quality. As for Jar-Jar, I feel bad for the actor who played him, but it was one of the worst character choices in film history. At least Lucas started to realize his mistake and cut back on Jar-Jar’s screen time. What really makes me ill is that the prequel movies could have been good. The basic premise–the evolution of Vader–was powerful. Lucas just failed in the execution of major parts of those movies.
BTS: Agreed. They could have and should have been better. And I think we see him start to crack a bit with Return Of The Jedi, with Ewoks and other things that seem to have been part of the failure of those latter films. Empire, being directed by someone else, was still quite strong. And the first film, he’d done so many drafts and had so much input from studio, his now ex-wife, etc., that it was strong. It’s when we see those influences fade, when Lucas is so big he can do what he wants unchecked that his failures overcome his gifts sadly. I also afree that the Thrawn series would be amazing movies but given the role the original trilogy cast plays in those, and the age of those actors, I don’t see how it would be feasible without major changes. On top of that, they’d have to completely change the Star Wars timeline, unless they want to do the Tron3D aging trick they pulled with Jeff Bridges, and, even then, Hamill and Fisher would have to lose some serious weight to pass. But there are tons of storylines they can do, including something with their kids and other characters introduced later in the Expanded Universe, and I think they’d be wise to consider it. There’s a lot of mythology to build on that’s well established and well thought out and already existing and liked by fans. Why not use that stuff? I just hope they don’t pull a JJ Abrams-Star Trek scenario.
JS: Wow, you are reading my mind. I agree SOOOOOOOOOOOOO much with what you just said. Part of me wants the future movies to break away from the Skywalker and Solo families, but I understand that they could be a useful tether to the past films if handled properly. For instance, if Han and Leia’s kids kept muttering Han’s dialogue lines from the original movies (“I can arrange that! He could use a good kiss!”), I will leave the theater. Generational films/series require a deft touch that, frankly, Lucas did not possess. The new films need to be more than just enhanced-CGI versions of the previous movies. Entirely new themes and story arcs. New approaches to the Force–no midichlorians, ffs.
BTS: GEORGE, “some people are stronger in the Force” was an acceptable explanation for decades. We didn’t need you to dig deeper. *shakes head* Mid-chlorioans, my ass…. Sorry, I digress. But hey, the actors are older. I have no desire to see Leia in a bikini at middle age, and watching Han and Luke cough and grab their jiggling bellies mid-fight as two middle aged men running around would do, also has little appeal. On the other hand, give me Luke as Master of a Jedi Academy, and I’d be all over that. Han as negotiator and Leia and stateswoman also are perfect. They can still play key leadership roles without having to be the center of the action now. There’s an opportunity to recapture their personalities and the fun of their characters and use that bolster the introduction of new characters. If Star Wars as a franchise is going to have a future, they have to do that well, I think.JS: I think (hope) that’s what Disney has in mind, to allow those actors to come back in cameo roles, although they could definitely be more substantial roles if couched properly, as you said. They could also make movies about other events. The galaxy is a huge place with millions (if not billions) of inhabited worlds. What was everyone else doing while Luke and his friends battled the second Death Star? A series of films could carve out another sector of space where the war was being fought by different people, and how they react when the emperor is defeated. A galaxy of warlords–some imperial, others Alliance, and a bunch out for themselves–battling for control of the old empire is rich with possibilities.
BTS: Absolutely. I’d love to see other planets and races. This is a chance, for example, to make Lando no longer the only non-white in that era. Obviously, they had one in Amadala’s service as well as Mace in the prequels, but surely there are whole planets of humans with varied racial profiles, not to mention aliens, etc. And they could also explore some of the aliens we’ve already met more in depth such as Chewbacca, etc. I can imagine humorous scenarios with Han training pilots and getting annoyed with a cocky student and a little competition developing, etc. I also think they need to come up with a solid villain again. Vader is gone. And so is Palpatine. Maybe competing factions, maybe they can find new stories involving Thrawn somehow.
JS: I love those suggestions. I hope that someone at Disney is thinking the same way. This franchise has limitless potential. And the choice of villain, as in most action-adventure films, is key. They need a solid idea, and talented actors to pull it off. We could use a Heath Ledger’s Joker to up the ante.
BTS: A high caliber performance, yes. The darkness of the Batman films would spoil Star Wars, in my opinion. They have always had a hopeful lightness even at their darkness moments, unlike the Nolan films, and I think that’s part of the charm and should be preserved. I also think there’s an opportunity to introduce conflicting elements. With the Emperor and his lead henchman dead, why wouldn’t competing forces arise to threaten the Empire’s power? The Hutts, perhaps, or the Corporate Sector Authority as set forward in the Daley Han books. Surely there are plenty of options which could be explored to keep it more interesting. I’d also like to see them use the same level of humor. They can exploit the aging heroes and how age affects their ability to join the action as Lethal Weapon did so well, but they can also exploit the generational differences with new characters and even the cross cultural clashes inevitable with aliens.
JS: Yes, keep the charm of the franchise (lightsaber duels, starship battles, seat-of-the-pants heroics, etc…) and also strive to tell new stories. I think that’s the recipe for success. They could even do multiple film series at the same time, like the EU book series. I’m fine with a series of films that is tilted more Young Adult as long as there is also one or more series aimed at me, the aging SW nut who fell in love with the franchise back in ’77, too.
BTS: One of my writing goals, silly as it may sound, is to write a Star Wars tie-in. Just once, I want to play in that sandbox. I have several ideas but I know they’re assigned. My dream would be to do something with Han Solo in his later years, post-Chewie’s death (a storyline I don’t like but which has been done and offers great dramatic possibilities for the character nonetheless) where he takes in a young kid as apprentice. Have you ever thought of writing a tie-in novel?
JS: There aren’t many franchises for which I’d be willing to write a tie-in, but Star Wars is one of them. I don’t have any specific stories in mind, but I’m sure I could come up with a few ideas if given the chance. But my dream job (in addition to my writing) would be quality control for all future Star Wars movies. Just let me sit in during the storyboarding, the casting, the filming, and the editing and I could prevent so many problems from getting made in the first place. If we’re talking dreams-that-will-never-come-true, I’d love to tear apart the prequel movies and remake them from scratch.
BTS: I’d like to erase memory of them from my head for good and wait for your versions, sir. Heh, I’d give anything to script one of them but since my film school and screenwriting days are behind me, I consider that a “never going to happen” thing. But yeah, consulting would be a blast. We’d have a long line to wait in, though, I’d guess. I’m glad we took time to revisit this though, Jon. And I think it’s a good reminder why we love them so much and how much they’ve affected us and inspired our work and our storytelling. Any fina thoughts as we close this out?
JS: I hope the Star Wars franchise enjoys a long life of more films, books, comics, and memorabilia. It’s a part of our national identity and it has served as a major influence in my life.
BTS: Well, I don’t know how I could say it any better than that, so, thanks for sharing this journey with us and Happy Holidays. We wish you a wonderful 2013 to come!
Jon Sprunk grew up in central Pennsylvania, the eldest of four and attended Lock Haven University. He graduated with a B.A. in English in 1992. After his disastrous first novel failed to find a publisher, he sought gainful employment. Finally, after many more rejections and twists and turns of life, he joined Pennwriters and attended their annual conference in 2004. His short fiction has appeared in Cloaked in Shadow: Dark Tales of Elves, Dreams & Visions #34 andCemetery Moon #4. In June 2009, he signed a multi-book contract with Pyr Books by whom his Shadow Trilogy dark fantasy series have been published. He can be found on twitter as @jsprunk70, on Facebook and via his website athttp://jonsprunk.com/.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press, headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, a Ray Gun Revival Best Of Collection for Every Day Publishing and World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, all forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Space Battles is a collection of 17 different short stories centered on, you guessed it, space battles. They each have their own unique way of displaying a battle and include anything from one-on-one gun fights, to dogfights between single ships, to even full scale assaults on battle cruisers. Space Battles has a good mix of female and male characters, and generally speaking the women kick even more tail than their male counterparts, a refreshing thing to see especially in this genre. In Space Battles you will find mixtures of humor, a wide variety of sub-genres such as Space Opera and Military Science Fiction, as well as all the action you can handle and more. You will find sentient spacecrafts and Amish space truckers, that’s right I said Amish which are shown in a way you could never imagine! There is a little something in Space Battles for everyone.The character depth is excellent despite the fact that the average length of the stories is about 15 pages or so, quite an achievement when you consider that they have to pack these short stories with as much action as you can handle as well. You have some stories that will make you laugh such as The Thirteens by Gene Mederos where a particular incident involving slippers had me in a fit of giggles. Others will make you appreciate those in the military as admirals valiantly fight to save their ship, and their way of life such as in Like So Much Refuse by Simon C. Larter. Some examine the will to live and the will to die such as in Never Look Back by Grace Bridges. I was hardly able to set the book down as each new story sent adrenaline into my system.
If you enjoy anything in the realm of science fiction this is a book I highly recommend you go out and get. The writing is excellent and if battles themselves are your thing, regardless of genre, than this book will suit your fancy just fine as well. Honestly if you just want some quick reads that are done very well Space Battles is a good choice. The characters do not suffer for the short length of the stories, even in Bait and Switch by Jaleta Clegg which is a mere eight pages! Obviously if you have read this far you can tell I thoroughly enjoyed Space Battles. I really don’t have any complaints.
I’ve gotten questions about this since I started tweeting about in July when I wrote and finished my first draft at 13k for this new book. Basically, it’s a chapter book for early readers, ages 6-10, in this case probably aimed more at boys.
The idea itself was a collaboration with Jeff Rutherford for whom I blog at www.tobereadbooks.com and for whom I am primary editor. He also contracted me for four books, the first of which, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids, is out since August and in the Top 10 for its category. It’s ebook only, at the moment, but print may be in the works.
“ABRAHAM LINCOLN: DINOSAUR HUNTER — LAND OF LEGENDS succeeds on almost every level –readability, alternate history, adventure, and excitement.” — Mike Resnick
Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunteris intended to be a series of science fiction adventure stories. The idea came from our mutual love of history, my desire to do something more for kids with dinosaurs, and Jeff’s desire to produce books for kids like his own. The basic concept came from putting our ideas together: Abraham Lincoln as a boy winds up hunting dinosaurs with Davy Crockett, who is in his early 30s. We knew we wanted a T-Rex. We knew it would involve a time machine. After that, I went off and wrote the specifics and book 1, which I’ve titled “Land Of Legends.” It’s the story of how they meet and wind up going back in time, and their introduction to the dinosaur world.
Now, as you may have guessed from the concept, it’s science fantasy. I did research historical figures, such as the scientists who inspire the time travel theory, the dinosaurs and plants of the prehistoric age, Lincoln’s boyhood life and friends, Davy Crockett, etc. But I also put dinosaurs in as I need them without regard for which actually would have encountered each other and I use time travel, so I’m not dealing with historical fact. What I am dealing with is fun and humor and lots of action. I wanted to write the kind of tale I’d enjoy as a kid. If there’s any message in the first book, it’s about friendship and heroes and working together to get through hard times. Those things naturally flow out of the story itself. And I think in future books any such “lesson” would have to work the same. There’s no intended lesson. I think different readers might get different things and that’ s great!
I structured it like the old serials. Each chapter is like flash fiction piece around 1400-1600 words with a cliffhanger ending. So it can be read in segments but readers will keep wanting to come back. My friends who beta read it with their kids said the effect worked really well, as the kids looked forward to the next reading to find out what happens next.
Being as there are humans and dinosaurs, there’s a bit of danger, yes, but it’s usually resolved fairly quickly so as not to overpower young readers emotionally. There are great action pieces including encounters with the aforementioned T-Rex, a Stegasaurus, a sabre-toothed tiger, and a bear which Davy Crockett dispatches at a much older age than three.
In any case, I have done rough sketches of seven more books so far and am pretty sure I could do at least three a year and still keep producing my two novels a year and editing anthologies. At 13.5k, these chapter books use simpler wording and shorter sentences and can be drafted much more quickly. And as I get used to the voice, etc., I expect it will go even faster. The polishing took me a weekend after beta notes came back and I let it sit a few weeks.
It’s a fun project to work on, one of the funnest I’ve had. It’s fun to write in a precocious young Abe Lincoln’s voice. And it’s also fun to play with the Crockett legend and all its exaggerations, using that for humor. And I get to write dinosaur scenes, okay? Can somebody pinch me?
In any case, book 1, “Land Of Legends”, is off to the artist and in final edits at Delabarre. We expect to release it for the holidays, if all goes well. It’ll be in trade paperback and ebook, and I really look forward to sharing it with you.
For what it’s worth, I offer this brief excerpt:
The world around us became less hazy again. Soon we were surrounded by trees with thick trunks and heights I’d never seen before. Leaves grew up the sides of their trunks, not just on their branches, and some of the leaves themselves were bigger than my head.
“Where are we?” Jacob mumbled.
Jacob and I exchanged a panicked look. Had the bear come back to life? It wasn’t aboard the machine.
Nehemiah grumbled as he fiddled with the controls.
The rest of us turned to see the giant green nostrils and gaping, sharp teeth of a mighty-jawed lizard. It stood at the edge of the trees, its small front arms flexing as it reared back on giant back feet and rambled toward us.
The ground shook from its every step. The booming echoed in our ears.
Jacob shook beside me, his mouth opening in a silent scream.
Davy swung around, reaching for his rifle and shouted: “Get under the seats, boys!”
“Something went wrong,” Nehemiah muttered.
“We knew that!” Jacob called as we did our best to squeeze under the seats.
The roaring sounded as loud as before. The time machine offered little shelter from those glinting, knife-like teeth. As I looked up at him, I saw the beast also had a jagged scar running down its right cheek.
“Judging from the scar on its face, it can be wounded.” Davy jumped down to the ground and took aim with his rifle.
“Shouldn’t we run?” I asked, looking toward him.
“I’ll try and distract him, lead him away,” he replied, eyes locked on the towering predator. Davy took aim and fired twice at the raging animal’s legs. I saw the bullets tear into flesh and blood start to flow. The animal snarled and screamed but didn’t even slow down. Davy prepared to fire again.
“Wait!” Nehemiah called as the time machine vibrated and hummed again. “I can take us away.”
“To somewhere worse?” Jacob whined.
“Out of here at least,” Nehemiah snapped. “Mister Crockett, get back aboard.”
Davy fired twice more at the monster then scrambled aboard. Nehemiah pushed a lever.
TOOT! TOOT! HISSSSS! RUMBLE!
The world faded and spun around us again as we felt the familiar sensation of time flight.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids(ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Lost In A Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun,forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Imagine, if you will, the dark streets of Boston. Trouble is afoot, a revolution against the wealthy and the authorities. Equality and justice are demanded by protesting crowds, some of which get out of hand at times, leading to smoky, dark nights. Add to that ghosts and dark magic at hand, a secret sorcerer working his will in the midst of the chaos. Sounds like a pretty good urban fantasy, right?
Now imagine all this is occurring during the Stamp Act uprising in the 18th Century. Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty, the original Tea Party, the Colonists stirring against the British Crown.
D.B. Jackson’s debut alternate history novel is the tale of a thieftaker, one who hunts down stolen property for a fee and returns it to its rightful owners. What separates him from his competition, however, is Ethan’s gift for conjuring. He was born with the gift, inherited from his mother, and now Ethan Kaille is called upon to investigate the theft of a brooch off the neck of a murdered daughter of one of Boston’s wealthy merchants. Murders are not the sorts of crimes men like Ethan typically get involved with, but the girl’s cause of death is undetermined and some believe conjuring was involved, and so Ethan promises to find the stolen brooch and return it, revealing what he also discovers about the murderer in the process.
But once he gets involved, finding himself haunted by ghosts and voices of not just the dead daughter but others who’ve died in similar fashion, attacked by his main rival, Sephira Pryce, a thieftaker who rules the city in ways less honorable than Ethan and many of her trade, and hunted by the authorities. Drawn into an unfolding mystery by his compulsion to understand and his desire to set things right, Ethan uncovers a dark conspiracy that brings him into encounters with the British leadership, upper crust merchants, and even Samuel Adams himself.
Jackson is the nom de plume of a well respected fantasy writer with numerous fantasies under his belt. And his skill at prose, worldbuilding, and character development shine through on every page. Add to this his degree in history and passion for that, and you have a book that drips with authenticity, despite the fantastical elements wove into the historical narrative. Colonial Boston really comes alive here, and the story draws you in quickly, compelling you to read onward with every page.
Alternate history is as tricky as working in a contemporary setting because so much documentation and knowledge exists that one has to study hard and tread carefully in order to use history both responsibly, meaningfully and fairly in weaving a fictional tale around and within it, while still crafting elements which would appeal to the genre fans for whom the book will be primarily targeted. But my opinion is that any fan of history, particularly Revolutionary War America, would love Thieftaker. And I think it’s a not to be missed start of a new not to be missed series.
Jackson is scheduled to follow next year with Thieve’s Quarry and everything from the beautiful cover art to the prose, dialogue and settings works together to bring this charming, authentic, well paced tale to life. It’s unique and yet familiar. And it’s one of my favorite reads of 2012 so far. Highly recommended!
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
I read a lot of books for my author interviews on SFFWRTCHT and blogs like GraspingForTheWind.com, www.SFSignal.com, and Ray Gun Revival, as well as my own blog. In fact, reading for those dominates my reading time. I rarely squeeze in books for fun or learning anymore. Most of the time, I’m excited to read the books because I love discovering new authors and for years I didn’t read speculative fiction at all, so I am way behind in my genre knowledge. But every once in a while you come across one that makes you think “I probably won’t enjoy this” for various reasons. Isn’t it wonderful to instead discover you adore them? Here’s Eleven series I had that initial reaction to which are now among my favorites:
1) The Majipoor Books by Robert Silverberg–WHAT?! You say? Well, I’d never heard of Robert Silverberg when my twin sister gave me Lord Valentine’s Castle for Christmas at age 15. It was not a book on my Christmas list, and, frankly, I was annoyed that she would dare deviate from my carefully prepared list. The cover intrigued me though with its aliens juggling and such. And boy, this book knocked my socks off. Other than The Hobbit (I had yet to read Lord Of The Rings), this book had the most amazing world building I had ever seen. It absolutely knocked me out. And I adored it. I snagged Majipoor Chronicles as soon as that came out, and the alien sex scenes certainly stimulated my young teenage boy mind (HEY! I’m only human people!) It took years for me to get the rest and read them, but I finally did and reread the first two as well. My favorite novel series of all time, hands down. Amazing characters, amazing world building, masterful storytelling in every sense. True classics. Not to be missed. His second series surrounding Presimion is maybe even better than the first, but Lord Valentine’s Castle remains my favorite. They are all getting released starting this month by ACE/ROC Books, too.
2) Black Blade Blues by John A. Pitts–An urban fantasy with dragons and a Lesbian heroine with romance. Dragons are overdone. They’ve been done a million times. And I’m straight, not gay. To each his or her own, but when I do read romance, I just prefer male on female. Also, this just sounded like a teen set, girly appeal book to me. Not because John himself is all that girly. He’s really not. In fact, he’s become a good friend. But this was one I expected to not enjoy and instead turned out to be one of my favorite series ever. Pitts writes really good characters and action. He also does some unique POV things, with all Sarah Buehall’s chapters in 1st person, and 3rd person for the supporting POV characters. He takes old tropes like dragons and the blacksmith and breathes new life into them. He also takes modern SCA reenactors and throws them into their living fantasy and mines it for humor skillfully. Just a delight in every way and should not be missed. SERIOUSLY. Straight guys too!
3) Greywalker by Kat Richardson–I read this after meeting Kat at Rainforest Writers. She was delightful. But urban fantasy had never sounded like much of anything I’d enjoy. Instead, I’m hooked. And I have Kat to blame. At first, it sounded too Sixth Sense-like for me. As one of the few people who didn’t care for that movie, this was not a draw. But man, I love this series. I’m hooked. I went out and tracked down copies of every one. I’ve since read another and interviewed her. And it inspired my own idea for an urban fantasy detective noir series I am working on. Love these books. They are even better than you’ve heard.
4) Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole–Military fantasy? Military anything really. Okay, I like John Ringo. And I am pro-military. But it just sounded odd, although I adore the book cover. I could not have been more wrong. I absolutely got my socks knocked off, and I still can’t find them. Cole is a master at world building and working old tropes inventively into the modern world. He also knows his military and it shows. It’s like an inside view of military life in so many ways, and I think it makes you respect all the more, the sacrifices our troops make in serving our country. Sure to make you patriotic in a good way but also challenges the idea that obeying orders strictly is an ideal rule of thumb. Cole infuses his characters with humanity, even the goblins, yes, and makes you care about them and root for them. Really fun and exciting possibilities with this one. And women, you’ll love it just as much. He writes good, strong females as well. I can’t wait to read the rest. And I am telling you, this one is for everyone!
5) The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger–Okay, parasol in the title. Pretty much said it all. Romance. Also, vampires and werewolfs AGAIN?????!!! Not my favorite. No one can top Anne Rice in the vampires, if you ask me, although Charlaine Harris is giving her a run for the money at the moment. I read it because Carriger is a leading steampunk author, a genre I love. And I’d heard good things. I am in love with this series, too. Went out and tracked them all down. Carriger is hilarious and she uses old tropes in new ways while making absolutely fantastic use (and fun) of her Victorian setting. She even gets the Old Queen herself involved. Yes, there’s romance, but not in a sappy, smarmy way. (Well, not too much.) Her lead character is not one of those sappy females with dreamy eyed looks and emotions at all. She’s a bit rougher around the edges, and, as such, a bit of an outcast. She also has gifts which set her apart. I won’t spoil it for you. But I adored the first book and can
6) The First Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson–I picked these up because the Darrell Sweet covers were so intriguing and I wanted something fantasy to read. I had been reading a lot of science fiction but not as much fantasy. Then the main character was not so nice and he raped a young girl. I almost put it down right then. So glad I didn’t. The redemption journey of Thomas Covenant is so worth the effort and Donaldson is so masterful a writer. I am thrilled to have met him and had him sign my copy a couple of years ago. And we have an interview coming up for SFFWRTCHT with him where I focused on this series. He’s got two trilogies and a 4 book final cycle in this universe now, and they are rightly regarded as classics of the genre. Also, the later cycles have a female lead, so if you women are turned off by Covenant’s behavior, you really should still give this a chance. The world building is rich and unique and the journey is one that touches the heart. I promise.
7) The Retrieval Artist series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch–I read these because I had read her first Diving book and several great short stories, but the idea of a noir detective in science fiction didn’t sound like my thing. I have never been a huge mystery reader. I think Rusch changed all that with these books. I adore this series and her mix of genres. She also does some really fantastic world building in here as well. Her use of tropes in new ways, her alien species, etc. are so well thought out, with real cross cultural conflicts and consequences arising from their different world views. Authors don’t always think it through that far or even strive to incorporate it all, and she’s challenged me as a writer to go further as a result. Highly recommended. Kris has become a friend and one of my favorite authors.
8 ) The Ender Series by Orson Scott Card–This one I had hesitancy for silly reasons. I wasn’t reading science fiction at the time and I’d only heard bad things about this author’s strong opinions. But my cousin David and his wife insisted I’d love these. They even gave me their copies, so I felt obligated to give them a chance. After all, David and I have always been close and our mutual love of speculative fiction is one reason. David introduced me to D&D, Star Wars and so many things. He was right. Ender’s Game is called a classic with good reason. No matter what you think of Card’s religion or opinions on politics, he’s masterful at writing and those themes don’t come into it with this series (at least so far). This is really good militarySF and space opera. And not to be missed by genre fans.
9) The Chronicles Of A Distant World series by Mike Resnick–I am now a huge Resnick fan and he’s become a friend and mentor. He even blurbed my forthcoming novel and wrote a story for an anthology I edited. But full disclosure aside, I read this when I really had no idea who this Resnick guy was. I just knew he’d won a lot of awards and was a big shot amongst writers (everyone said). He also had a passion for Africa and so do I. But could a white guy from Ohio really do the African cultures I adored justice? I think he did splendidly, frankly. This series of science fiction inspired by African history and imagining what the future might look like has been a touchstone for me. In fact, the predictions Resnick made came true in some cases. Very unique and not like most other SF you will read but that’s all the more reason you shouldn’t miss it. Masterfully done and really deep world building and cross cultural explanation. No preaching. No judging. He just lays it out there like the expert he is and lets readers to the rest.
10) The Posleen War Series by John Ringo–I am not a big military story reader. I support the military. But reading military books is rare. I love political intrigue like old school Tom Clancy and WEB Griffin, but the idea of war books didn’t appeal. But people kept raving about MilitarySF. And people said John Ringo was a great place to start. Plus I heard an interview with the author that impressed me. A Hymn Before Battle blew me away. I went out and bought the series and can’t wait to tear into the rest. Reading schedule, as mentioned above, has so far prevented me, but they are on the shelf where I can see them and one of these days, soon, I’ll pick them up and tear into them again, and I can’t wait!
11) Pathfinder Tales by various–D&D tie-ins, really? I imagined characters stopping to roll the dice during attacks, and more silliness. I just couldn’t wrap my mind about it. What I never expected to find was good sword & sorcery/fantasy novels, but these are a real find. I have read four so far and enjoyed them thoroughly. This is some great stuff. Don’t let the tie-in stigma scare you off. Editor James L. Sutter is doing some great stuff with some great authors like Howard Andrew Jones and Dave Gross. If you enjoy fantasy and magic, even if you’re not into RPGs, you’ll love this. If you are into RPGs, that’s just a bonus.
Okay, there’s eleven series I loved in spite of initial reservations. I’m sure I’ll discover more, but what about you? Please post yours in comments. I’m sure we’d all love to discover more!’ll be tearing back into this. Military culture is well handled, of course, but the alien invasion and character drama is fascinating too. He really is the Clancy/Griffin of SF writers. His tension and the intrigue level is far more than I’d anticipated. It really keeps you hooked and turning the pages. I really enjoyed these.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novelThe Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012 along with the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which he edited for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Rensick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novel for author Ellen C. Maze (Rabbit: Legacy), a historical book for Leon C. Metz (The Shooters, John Wesley Hardin, The Border), and is now editing Decipher Inc’s WARS tie-in books for Grail Quest Books. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.