Jonathan Crowe

My Correct Views on Everything
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Fictional Maps International Conference

The Fictional Maps International Conference, an academic conference on the use of maps in fiction, will take place from January 21 to 23, 2016 at the University of Silesia’s Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library in Katowice, Poland. Stefan Ekman, the author of Here Be Dragons: Exploring Fantasy Maps and Settings (my review), is the keynote speaker. Deadline for submitting abstracts is October 30.

If you’ve been following along, you will instantly understand that this is very much relevant to my interests, and though it’s been an awfully long time since I’ve been in academic mode, I might have to figure out a way to go to this.

Puppy Count

Now that the Hugo Award statistics have been released, we can try to answer the question that has been bugging me since the nominations came out: just how many Sad and Rabid Puppy nominators were there?

(Note: This post deals with the arcana of voting for the Hugo Awards. Some familiarity with the subject is required to make any sense of it. We’re talking about votes at the nomination stage earlier this year, which determined the final ballot — not the vote on the final ballot, the results of which were announced on Saturday.)

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The House of Shattered Wings

Book cover: The House of Shattered Wings (US edition) Book cover: The House of Shattered Wings (UK edition) Aliette de Bodard’s new novel The House of Shattered Wings combines several elements of her past work that made it so interesting and her career worth following.

De Bodard first came to my notice with her trilogy of Aztec murder mystery fantasy novels: Servant of the Underworld (Angry Robot, 2010), Harbinger of the Storm (Angry Robot, 2011) and Master of the House of Darts (Angry Robot, 2011), now collected in an omnibus volume, Obsidian and Blood (Angry Robot, 2012: Amazon, U.K. edition). Set in a 15th-century Tenochtitlan where the Aztec religion is real (gods interact freely with mortals, and blood sacrifices are literally required to keep the sun in the sky and ensure the survival of life on earth), the novels follow the story of Acatl, the High Priest of the Dead, as he solves murders with spells and sacrifices and does his best to stave off a Mesoamerican Ragnarök that always seems just around the corner.

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Reviews Update

Book cover: The Philosopher KingsBook cover: The Just City This morning my review of The Just City and The Philosopher Kings, the first two books of Jo Walton’s Thessaly trilogy, went live at AE. I don’t have the background in classical history and literature to get all the references, but as I argue in my review, that’s not at all necessary to enjoy these books.

I’m also happy to announce, now that I’ve signed the contract, that my essay on the short fiction of Peter Watts will appear in translation as an afterword to a French collection of Watts’s short stories. The as-yet-untitled book will be published by Éditions du Bélial’ in 2016. So a landmark of sorts: my first reprint and my first translation.

Actually, It’s About Ethics in Book Reviewing

As I mentioned in a previous post, I appeared on a panel called “It’s Actually About Ethics: Reviewing the Work of Colleagues and Friends” at Readercon. That was last weekend. Scott Edelman recorded video of that panel, so you can see me in all my questionable glory. As you will see, I have a few suggestions about who you should and should not review.

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Child of a Hidden Sea

Book cover: Child of a Hidden Sea Alyx Dellamonica’s Child of a Hidden Sea (Tor Books, June 2014) is the kind of fantasy adventure novel you used to see a lot more of — not technically YA, but certainly something my 14- or 15-year-old self would have had no trouble reading. But do not make the mistake that this is some kind of throwback. It’s a delightful portal fantasy that brings the form up to date in several important ways.

Twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa, fresh off a difficult first contact with her birth mother, suddenly finds herself floating at sea, desperately trying to save the life of an aunt she’s just met. It turns out that she’s been swept away to Stormwrack, a richly developed fantasy world of island nations and dashing sailors. She is promptly sent back, but manages to return, bringing her brother Bram with her. Adventures naturally ensue.

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Robert Lazzaretti, Fantasy Mapmaker

Lou Anders interviews fantasy mapmaker Robert Lazzaretti, who drew the maps for Anders’s Thrones and Bones series (Frostborn, Nightborn). I can never get enough information about the process of making fantasy maps.

Previously: Mapping An Ember in the Ashes; How to Make a Fantasy Map.

Ecdysis Voter’s Packet

Ecdysis is, you may remember, a nominee for this year’s Aurora Award for Best Fan Publication. It’s available for free online, so its inclusion in the formal voter’s packet isn’t really necessary. But since making all the eligible issues available in a single download might make things more convenient for Aurora voters, I’ve put together my own little voter’s packet: a ZIP file containing the three issues published in 2014 (28.9 MB). I hope you find it helpful.

Best Saga Proposal Revised

So the proposal for a Best Saga Hugo Award (see previous entry) has since been revised: they’ve abandoned getting rid of Best Novelette, which was needlessly zero-sum, and have lowered the minimum word count. The proposal now says 300,000 words; the draft posted to File 770 at more or less the same time says 240,000. A series cannot win more than once, but it can certainly be nominated multiple times (so long as two new installments requalifies it) until it wins — I think of this as the “my favourite series better damn well win this time” provision.

I’m still not a fan: it’s going to be a popularity contest for very popular (if not always good) ongoing series. And any minimum word count is going to be exclusionary. A 240,000-word lower limit would have rendered ineligible the original Foundation trilogy — which won a one-off “Best All-Time Series” Hugo in 1966.

And as far as I can tell the amendment would still allow series to appear on the Best Novel ballot when the final installment is published, like The World of Time did last year.

Brandon Kempner tries to model what the Best Saga Hugo ballot would have looked like if it had existed: part one, part two, an imagined winner’s list.

Some Initial Thoughts on a Couple of Hugo Award Amendments

Herewith some initial thoughts on a couple of proposed amendments to the World Science Fiction Society’s constitution that will be discussed at the WSFS business meeting at Sasquan. These amendments propose changing the rules governing the Hugo Awards.

Warning: Hugo Award rules neepery ahead.

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The Short Fiction of Peter Watts

Peter Watts at Ad Astra 2011 In my latest piece for AE, I survey the short fiction of Peter Watts. What might have been a review of his collection Beyond the Rift quickly grew into a longer piece about the themes found in his entire corpus of short fiction, only half of which is found in that collection. (Most of his stories can be downloaded from his website or found elsewhere online.) Read on to find out why Watts’s stories are so unsettling.

Mapping An Ember in the Ashes

Jonathan Roberts's map for An Ember in the Ashes

The fantasy cartographer Jonathan Roberts has a blog post, reprinted at, that shows some of the steps involved in creating the map for Sabaa Tahir’s novel An Ember in the Ashes.

I sometimes get asked how to do a fantasy map. I’m the wrong person to ask, because I’m basically a fantasy map critic, not a working illustrator. What the people asking me this question want is an instruction manual for the standard fantasy map, and for that, Roberts is their man, because he’s an actual illustrator. He does operate within the dominant fantasy map paradigm I often critique (though with a good deal more colour and texture than the standard line drawing), but he does it very well, and more importantly shares his methods. Roberts’s blog is full of interesting material on how he goes about creating fantasy maps: see for example this tutorial.

Aurora Award Nomination

The finalists for the 2015 Aurora Awards have been announced. My little fanzine, Ecdysis, has been nominated in the Best Fan Publication category.

Aurora nominee logo The Aurora Awards are essentially the Canadian equivalent of the Hugo Awards. They’re voted on by members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association; and voting takes place much as it does with the Hugos. They’re awarded at Canvention, the Canadian national science fiction convention, which takes place as part of an existing convention. (As I understand it, the French-language Auroras are administered separately.)

The Auroras are a small award in the grand scheme of things (inasmuch as sf fandom can have a grand scheme), but this is my first genre award nomination, and I have feels.

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The Martian

Just finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir. Good Lord it’s a lot of fun.

Book cover: The Martian During this year’s Hugo Awards foofaraw, there was some disappointment expressed that this book was not on the final ballot. That was not because Hugo voters were out to snub a book full of the good old stuff and lacking in social justice virtue, or whatever — it was simply ineligible. The Martian was first self-published electronically in 2011. But don’t weep overmuch for Andy Weir: after brisk online sales, both traditional publishing and Hollywood started paying attention. He got a six-figure advance for the hardcover edition, which came out in February 2014, and the movie adaptation comes out this November.

And it’s not hard to see why. The book chronicles a lone astronaut’s struggle to survive on the Martian surface after an accident leaves him stranded there, and the attempts to rescue him. It’s chock-a-block with technical detail — Weir did a lot of research, and the Mars program in the book reflects a lot of the proposals I’ve seen — and MacGyveresque solutions to problems. It’s written in a light, breezy and entertaining (if not necessarily felicitous) manner. Characterization and prose quality are not among its virtues — it’s basically an Analog story without all the Analog baggage — but Weir manages to maintain real tension while interleaving it with some legitimately funny moments; in many ways it manages to out-Scalzi John Scalzi at his own game. It’s a fun book — just what I needed right now.

The Martian
by Andy Weir
Crown, February 2014
Buy at Amazon: Canada, U.K., USA (paperback) | Goodreads | LibraryThing



A Redditor called Sarithus has created a map of Clichéa, “a map based on fantasy tropes that also pokes a little fun at unoriginal map makers.” Like others of its kind, it hearkens back, probably undeliberately, to early modern maps of Cockaigne and Schlaraffenland and other satirical maps. Cartographer’s Guild thread, Reddit thread.

Previously: The Only Fantasy World Map You’ll Ever Need.

Review: My Real Children

Book cover: My Real Children My review of Jo Walton’s My Real Children is now up at AE. My Real Children came out a year ago, but it just won the Tiptree Award, which made doing the review more timely; AE’s review policy doesn’t limit itself to new releases in any event.

Rereading the book for this review was an interesting experience, as was writing the review. This is the kind of book that could generate several different reviews that each focused exclusively on a different subject. It wasn’t just that I was scratching the surface — I was scratching just one surface.

Ecdysis 5

Ecdysis 5 cover The fifth issue of Ecdysis, my science fiction and fantasy fanzine, is now available for download.

The fourth issue was late; this one is ludicrously so: I’d hoped to have it out by the end of December. That’s on me alone: everyone else got their stuff in on time. But with everything that’s been happening, it took me a long time before I could brain enough to get things together.

But that means we’ve got an extra helping of … uh, whatever it is that we do here for you this time. Forty pages in all.

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Various and Sundry (Again)

My third book review for AE was posted earlier this week: this time I look at Elements, a short story collection by Suzanne Church. (To reiterate: AE is where I’ll be reviewing Canadian science fiction; anything that is neither will likely fall outside that purview. Bear that in mind when deciding whether to send me a review copy.)

It is now a virtual certainty that Jennifer and I will be attending Ad Astra next month. There was some doubt about it in terms of whether she’d be sufficiently recuperated to attend, but she is, so we will. I’m not doing any programming or anything; our plan is simply to socialize.

The other conventions we plan to attend this year are Readercon and Can-Con. I was too slow to sign up for World Fantasy before it reached the membership cap; Sasquan conflicts with the start of Jennifer’s school year; and we’re watching our pennies too much this year to attend anything further afield.

The next issue of Ecdysis is running awfully late (I’d originally intended for it to be out three months ago), but it’s very nearly done. Honest. It might even be worth the wait.

Irregular Verbs and My Doing Book Reviews in General

Book cover: Irregular Verbs and Other Stories My review of Matthew Johnson’s short story collection, Irregular Verbs and Other Stories (ChiZine, 2014), went live this morning at AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review.

It’s my second review for AE, and I’ll be doing more, so yes, I think it’s safe to call myself a book reviewer. A few years ago I would have found the prospect of writing full-length reviews, rather than a blog entry a paragraph or two long, utterly daunting, at least for science fiction and fantasy (I’d already been reviewing map books, after all). And yet here I am, to my great surprise. Still feels like I’m learning how to do it, one review at a time, sweat beading.

That said, I’ll primarily be reviewing Canadian sf at that venue (in case you’re wondering whether to send me a review copy). The fact that I know a lot of the Canadian authors in this field, some of them very well, will make things a bit tricky: “full disclosure” may well be a permanent feature of my reviews. To say nothing of the situation if I have to give a book a bad review (see my previous post on that subject). I’m definitely feeling what Amal El-Mohtar expresses about writing reviews of books by people you know or who might see the review, in the most recent episode of the Rocket Talk podcast (which is really worth listening to in full, for Amal’s and Natalie Luhrs’s sharp insights on the ethics of reviewing).

Various and Sundry

As I announced on all the social media, my review of Ruth Ozeki’s Kitchie-winning, Booker-shortlisted novel, A Tale for the Time Being, was posted at AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review on Monday. It seems a little premature to say that I’ve picked up a gig reviewing books when only one review has been posted so far, but this review isn’t a one-time thing. If all goes well I should have a review with them every other month or so (and yes, I know what I’m reviewing next).

My friend Dominik Parisien is editing Clockwork Canada, an anthology of Canadian steampunk stories, for Exile Editions, to be published in spring 2016. Open to submissions from December 1, 2014 to April 30, 2015; Canadians only; 2,000 to 8,000 words; 5¢/word.

One of Jeet Heer’s famous numbered Twitter essays deals with the relationship between history, alternate history and science fiction, and goes down some really interesting alleyways. A few examples:

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Sorol world map

Another one for those of you who like geofiction as much as I do. The Sorolpedia is an online encyclopedia of the distant and fictional world of Sorol, containing articles about the planet and its inhabitants. The maps are something else: far better than you’d expect from such a project (there’s even a KML file to import it into Google Earth). Its creator has put it on indefinite hiatus since 2010, so we may not see any more updates, but it’s still fascinating stuff.

Ecdysis 4

Ecdysis 4 cover The fourth issue of Ecdysis, my science fiction and fantasy fanzine, is now available for download.

It’s late: I’d hoped to get it out in September. Even that would have been a bit of a scramble, after summer vacations and Tamara’s sojourn at Clarion. But then life got in the way in a fairly fundamental fashion, as many of you know.

This issue features my editorial on works that are “not science fiction” appearing on award ballots, Tamara’s adventures at Clarion, the art Jennifer creates during readings, and reviews of work by John Chu, Lee Killough and Karl Schroeder, among other things. Plus graphs. I hope you enjoy it.

Gene Wolfe Interviewed

You know how I feel about sf author Gene Wolfe. Here are two recent interviews: one in the MIT Technology Review; the other in the Barrington Courier-Review (until recently his local paper). Attention must be paid.

Fantasy Maps of U.S. Cities

Fantasy map of Cleveland (Stentor Danielson)

For another example of using fantasy map design language to create real-world maps, here’s the work of geography professor Stentor Danielson, who draws maps of U.S. cities in the style of fantasy maps and sells them on Etsy. Boston, Cleveland (above), Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington are available. His Tumblr. Via io9.

Previously: A Fantasy Map of Great Britain; A Fantasy Map of Australia; A Fantasy Map of the U.S.

Open for Submissions Soon: Second Contacts, Tesseracts 19

Submissions will be opening soon for two forthcoming Canadian sf anthologies paying semipro rates:

  • Second Contacts (Bundoran Press), edited by Mike Rimar and Hayden Trenholm, seeks stories that explore “what happens fifty years after first contact, for us, for them, for our shared future.” Open for submissions from September 15, 2014 to January 15, 2015; up to 10,000 words (3,500 to 6,500 preferred); 2¢/word to a maximum of $130.
  • Tesseracts Nineteen (Edge), edited by Claude Lalumière and Mark Shainblum. Annual Canadian anthology with a different theme each year; this one seeks “any and all permutations of the superhero genre.” Open for submissions from October 30, 2014 to February 2, 2015; Canadians only; up to 6,000 words; $50-160.

Long Hidden

Book cover: Long Hidden I support greater diversity in science fiction and fantasy, and I have to confess that one of my reasons for doing so is selfish: I want more interesting stories to read. The field is at its least interesting when it’s a monoculture (we can’t all be responding to Heinlein and Tolkien); it’s at its most interesting when it includes authors from diverse backgrounds and experiences, who use those backgrounds and experiences to inform their work. It’s a win-win situation: more people see themselves in the fiction they read; readers benefit from being exposed to other backgrounds; the field as a whole gets stronger.

But Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History doesn’t just bring us diverse fiction, though it certainly does that; it brings us fiction from the margins. Let me explain: diverse fiction might include a story from Japan; fiction from the margins might include a story about a Japanese minority like the Ainu.

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Heinlein and His Biographer

Book cover: Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better Volume two of the massive biography of Robert A. Heinlein by William H. Patterson Jr., who died earlier this year, is now out.

I’ve read the first volume, which covered the first half of Heinlein’s life, and found it quite interesting but rather hagiographic. I recall that several critics pointed out the many points at which Patterson muffed the broader historical record, which is problematic for a book series subtitled In Dialogue with His Century: it helps to get the century right.

Alas, Marissa has found that volume two suffers from the same problems: Heinlein’s idiosyncratic take on events being presented as historical fact; Patterson’s idiosyncratic take on Heinlein’s idiosyncratic take being presented as historical fact. Jeet Heer finds in Patterson’s hagiographic approach a failure to address Heinlein’s internal contradictions or to subject his life or work to any proper analysis; he goes into much more specific criticism of Patterson’s books in this blog entry, and has posted a remarkable 37-part Twitter essay on Heinlein and racism.

The book sounds profoundly flawed in ways I can appreciate, having read volume one, but I suspect I’m going to buy it and read it (mindfully, critically, as one always should) anyway.

Testing the King Hypothesis

Ken Schneyer conducted an online survey of writers’ and non-writers’ reading habits to test Stephen King’s hypothesis that too often the audience for short fiction “happens to consist of other writers and would-be writers who are reading the various literary magazines (and The New Yorker, of course, the holy grail of the young fiction writer) not to be entertained but to get an idea of what sells there.”

Ken found that writers and non-writers read novels at roughly the same frequency, but writers tended to read short fiction more often than non-writers.

But what’s really interesting is the difference among writers: while 56 percent of short-story writers reported reading short fiction daily to a few times a week, only 10 percent of novellists did so — to quote Ken, “novel writers read short fiction even less frequently than nonwriters do.”

Maybe King is right, and short story publications are largely supported by people trying to publish in them — or maybe, as Ada Hoffmann argued in Ken’s comments, the people who choose to write short stories do so simply because they love reading them.

Previously: Science Fiction Magazines and Aspiring Writers.

Four More Map Stories

Four more fantasy stories about maps to tell you about.

To begin with, two short stories by Beth Cato, both published in Daily Science Fiction, both available to read online. In the first, Cartographer’s Ink (August 24, 2012), cartographers “peddle in ink, earth and war”: boundaries drawn on maps with magic ink have real-world effects. The second, simply titled Maps (February 14, 2013), is a brief, quietly horrific tale of a young girl, Christina, whose left hand, against her will, draws maps that predict the future. Both belong to that group of map stories that deal in the tension between map and territory, between representation and reality.

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Game of Thrones Map Marker Set

Game of Thrones Map Markers (Dark Horse) Dark Horse has released a Game of Thrones map marker set, based on a map and markers briefly seen in the first season of the HBO TV series. What surprises me is how much more the map resembles a real-world medieval map, in its use of symbols and text, than do the usual fantasy maps, including those for Westeros (though, as I’ve argued before, real-world medieval maps were much more information-dense, and covered in text). At $200, it’s not cheap, but the markers are up to six inches in height, and the map is made of fabric and roughly four by three feet in size. It’s available for purchase at Amazon and ThinkGeek, among others.

Older Entries

Questionable Practices
2013 Nebula Awards
Ecdysis 3
The Only Fantasy World Map You’ll Ever Need
The Geology of ‘Game of Thrones’
Unlikely Cartography ToC
Ecdysis Editorial Posted
Ecdysis 2
The New Yorker on Maps and Literature
The Journal of Unlikely Cartography
Introducing Ecdysis
Literary SF Gets Noticed
How to Make a Fantasy Map
Horse of a Different Color
Glitter and Mayhem
The 2013 Hugo Results
My New Article on Fantasy Maps: ‘Here Be Blank Spaces’
On Year’s-Best Anthologies
A Fantasy Map of Ireland
Three Original Anthologies
2013 Hugos: Novellas
A Fantasy Map of Great Britain
A Fantasy Map of Australia
The Mapmaker’s War
The Best of All Possible Worlds
Fantasy Maps Project Page Updated
Review: Here Be Dragons
The Sixteenth-Century Origins of Fantasy Maps
2013 Hugos: Short Stories
My Own Private Westeros
2012 Nebula Award Winners
2012 Nebulas: Novelettes
2012 Nebulas: Novellas
2012 Nebulas: Short Stories
The Human Division
Without a Summer
Iain M. Banks
Glamour in Glass
Throne of the Crescent Moon
The 2013 Hugo Award Nominees
In Defence of Immortality
A Natural History of Dragons
The Imaginarium Geographica
2012 Nebula Ballot Announced
Red Planet Blues
Ankh-Morpork on the iPad
The Book of Thomas: Volume One: Heaven
Saladin Ahmed on Secondary World Fantasy
Interfictions, Tesseracts
Gene Wolfe, Grand Master
Antony Swithin’s Rockall
Analog and Asimov’s Raise Their Rates
Review: The Lands of Ice and Fire
Let Maps to Others
The World Fantasy Map Panel
Gardner Dozois Ebooks!
Now Out: The Lands of Ice and Fire
Be My Enemy
Caliban’s War
Mira Grant’s Newsflesh Trilogy
Two New Online SF Magazines
Space Navies
Roger Zelazny’s Here There Be Dragons
Dung Kai-cheung’s Atlas
The Pottawatomie Giant and Other Stories
At the Mouth of the River of Bees
Leviathan Wakes
Canadian Calls for Submissions
The High Crusade
P Is for Prunes
Kate Elliott on Fantasy Maps
Write Like the Wind
2012 Hugos: Related Work
A Scholarly Work on Fantasy Maps
2011 Nebula Award Winners
2011 Nebulas: Novels
2011 Nebulas: Short Stories
2012 Aurora Award Finalists
El Viaje de Argos
The 2012 Hugo Award Nominees
The Islanders
2011 Nebulas: Novelettes
The Lands of Ice and Fire: Westeros Atlas Coming in October
2011 Nebulas: Novellas
Christopher Priest vs. the Clarke Awards
Arctic Rising
A Fantasy Map of the U.S.
A Door into Ocean
2011 Nebula Ballot Announced
How Readers Use Fantasy Maps
‘The Maps We Wandered Into as Kids’
Two Writing Workshops
2011 Science Fiction and Fantasy Recommendations
Radio Waves
Four Map Stories
Reading Short SF and Fantasy 3
Incompetent Dwarves and Wizardly Plans
Reading Short SF and Fantasy 2
More Skiffy Bits
Skiffy Bits
Reading Short SF and Fantasy 1
Gopnik on Fantasy and Young Readers
2011 in Short SF and Fantasy
2011 Aurora Awards
Master of the House of Darts
Middle-Earth’s Columbian Exchange
The Farthing Party Map Panel
Maps in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Top 20 Steampunk Books
SF Signal on Fantasy Maps
2011 Hugos: Novellas
2011 Hugos: Novelettes
Gardner Dozois: When the Great Days Come
2011 Hugos: Short Stories
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
The Dervish House
Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Online
She Likes It Dark
Engineering Infinity
Fuzzy Nation
Realms of Fantasy Will Move to Online Submissions
Clarkesworld on the Kindle
Zoo City
2010 Nebula Awards Announced
Michael Swanwick’s Dancing with Bears
Consensus in Science Fiction Awards
Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede
Ad Astra 2011: Top Ten SF Novels
Reading Jules Verne
‘Can’t-Miss’ SF and Fantasy Novels for 2011
2010 Nebulas: Novellas
Aliette de Bodard’s Aztec Mystery Novels
2010 Nebulas: Novelettes
‘The Fall of Alacan’ by Tobias Buckell
2010 Nebulas: Short Stories
In Defence of the Tolkien Estate
Writing Space-Based Science Fiction
Prisoners of Gravity Episodes Online
Words in 1907
Copyediting Science Fiction and Fantasy
Analog Goes Digital