Fancast Spotlight: SFF180

It’s time for the next entry in my Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project. For more about the Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project, go here. You can also check out the other great fanzines and fancasts featured by clicking here.

I have decided to expand the scope of the project to also cover fancasts, because the fancast category could also use a boost. And besides, the borders between fanzine and fancast are porous anyway.

So today, I’m pleased to feature the SFF180 Booktube channel.

Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Thomas Wagner of SFF180 to my blog today:

SFF180 banner

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

SFF180 is a YouTube channel that is part of what’s called the booktube community, consisting of all the YouTube creators who talk about books and reading. Much of booktube focuses on Young Adult titles, but you can find channels that cover nearly every reading niche you can imagine. My channel covers predominately original fantasy and science fiction for adult audiences, and it had its origins in a book review website I ran from 2001-2015 called SFReviews.net (which I am continuing under the new domain sff180.com).

Who are the people behind your podcast or channel?

Just myself. I have a channel artist, Matt Olson, who creates the thumbnail art for my videos. Thumbnails are how a YouTubers lures potential viewers to their content, quite like a well-designed book cover, and my thumbnails are fairly unique in that they’re original art, as opposed to simply a screenshot of myself holding up a book and making a face!

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

I was running out of creative steam at the website and looking for a new platform and new medium through which to talk about SFF books. I was actually inspired by friends of mine who run YouTube gaming channels. At the time I started my channel, I had no idea that there was any such thing as booktube.

What format do you use for your podcast or channel and why did you choose this format?

Since I’m not sure what you mean by format exactly, I’ll just describe my approach to the content I make. I have a weekly (when it’s possible to be weekly) flagship series called Mailbag Monday, in which I showcase all of the review copies publishers have seen me that week. I decided early on that having at least one reliable, regular upload on the channel would give viewers something they could look forward to viewing habitually, and bring them back each week. Beyond these, I do book reviews, editorial reviews when I want to comment on some current issue in the SFF community, convention vlogs, and other content as I see fit.

The fanzine category at the Hugos is one of the oldest, but also the category which consistently gets the lowest number of votes and nominations. So why do you think fanzines, fancasts and other fan projects are important?

Fan activity has always been central to the SFF community, from the days of the earliest conventions in the 1920s and 1930s. SFF fans realized that they had a specialized, nerdy hobby, and immediately sought ways to reach out and connect with other fans. From this, convention culture was born. The era of the internet and social media has made such connections much easier than they were in the 20th century, and fans now have so many more creative ways to express their fandom and reach out to fellow fans — blogs, YouTube, Instagram, online fanfic, and so on. Anything that builds community is vitally necessary for the health of the genre.

In the past twenty years, fanzines have increasingly moved online and fancasts sprang up. What do you think the future of fan media looks like?

Utterly unpredictable, except to say that wherever communication technology goes, fandom will follow. The current rise of TikTok, for example, has seen many communities moving onto that platform — there is now BookTok. When a new, popular platform arises, whatever it may be, fan media will make it work for them.

The four fan categories of the Hugos (best fanzine, fan writer, fan artist and fancast) tend to get less attention than the fiction and dramatic presentation categories. Are there any awesome fanzines, fancasts, fan writers and fan artists you’d like to recommend?

Naturally, I would like to recommend so many of my friends and fellow creators on booktube: Kalanadi, Kitty G Books, The Shades of Orange, Thoughts on Tomes, ONYX Pages, Triumphal Reads are all very good channels. I would like to listen to more podcasts than I do; it is mostly a question of time.

Where can people find you?

http://sff180.com
https://youtube.com/c/SFF180
Instagram: @sff180.booktube
Twitter: @SFF180
Facebook

Thank you, Thomas, for stopping by and answering my questions.

Do check out SFF180, cause it’s a great YouTube channel.

***

Do you have a Hugo eligible fanzine/-site or fancast and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

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First Monday Free Fiction: Our Lady of the Burning Heart

Our Lady of the Burning Heart by Cora BuhlertWelcome to the March 2021 edition of First Monday Free Fiction, which is also posted on the first day of the month this time around.

To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on every first Monday of the month.

This month’s free story is Our Lady of the Burning Heart, the story of a would-be burglar who tries to rob a church and has an experience that not only puts the fear of God into him but also makes him go straight. And if that sounds too religious for you, don’t worry, because it’s not really that kind of story at all.

Our Lady of the Burning Heart

Liam Connor walked down Market Street, pondering a dilemma of immense proportions. For Liam needed money and he needed it fast, cause Dan “the Man” O’Brien, bookmaker and bonebreaker, had threatened to break some of Liam’s bones, if Liam did not pay back the twenty thousand he owed Dan “the Man” within twenty-four hours.

Liam didn’t want his bones broken. However, he didn’t have twenty thousand dollars. He didn’t even have twenty dollars. In fact, after turning his pockets inside out, he found that he had exactly two dollars and forty-seven cents to his name. And two dollars and forty-seven cents wouldn’t even serve as a downpayment for Dan “the Man”. So Liam needed to procure money, a lot of money, twenty thousand dollars worth of money, to pay off Dan “the Man”. And he needed to procure that money within twenty-four hours.

Now there were very few professions in the world where one could earn twenty thousand dollars in a single day and unfortunately, Liam was crap at all of them. Indeed, Liam had never been able to hold down a job, any job, for more than a few weeks. He knew only two ways of making money and that was by stealing or by gambling. And Liam wasn’t very good at either of them, otherwise he would never have racked up twenty thousand dollars worth of debt.

However, Lady Luck had smiled down on Liam for once. Just in the most dire hour of his need she had handed him a sure-fire bet. For there was a horse running in the fifth race at Suffolk Downs tonight, a horse named Fiddler’s Fortune. Fiddler’s Fortune was a complete and utter outsider who had never won a minor race, let alone a major one. But Liam had it on one hundred percent certain authority that Fiddler’s Fortune’s streak of losses would end tonight, even though the odds of that happening were two hundred to one.

If Liam were to bet only a single grand on Fiddler’s Fortune in the fifth race tonight, he’d be able to pay off Dan “the Man” in a single swoop. If he were to bet more, he’d even have money left over. A lot of money. More money than Liam had ever seen in a single place in his whole lifetime.

There was only one problem. Liam did not have a grand to bet on Fiddler’s Fortune, let alone more. All he had was two dollars and forty-seven cents and even with odds of two hundred to one, that would be… — well, math had never been his strong suit, but he knew that it wouldn’t be nearly enough.

That left Liam with three choices, all equally unpleasant. One, he could bet his two dollars and forty-seven cents on Fiddler’s Fortune, hand over his winnings to Dan “the Man” and get his bones broken for his troubles. Two, he could bet his two dollars and forty-seven cents on Fiddler’s Fortune and use his meagre winnings to skip town and buy a bus ticket to a place that was hopefully beyond the reach of Dan “the Man”. Three, he could somehow try to raise a grand or two, bet it all on Fiddler’s Fortune and use the winnings to pay off Dan “the Man”.

Number three was clearly the most appealing choice. There was just one problem, namely that Liam had no more chance of raising a hundred dollars than he had of raising twenty thousand dollars. Which meant that he’d either have to skip town or get his bones broken or both, should Dan “the Man” ever find him.

And so Liam walked briskly down Market Street, head kept down and hands stuffed into his pockets against the chilly wind, and prayed for a miracle that would somehow solve all of his problems at once. To his own amazement, he got one.

At this moment, Liam just happened to walk past the Church of Our Lady of the Burning Heart. He’d been an altar boy here once, to please his pious Grandma who had been all about prayer and confession and repentance to the point that she went to confession twice a week, though Liam didn’t think she’d ever committed a sin worse than jaywalking in her whole life.

But then Granny died and Liam gave up being an altar boy and finally stopped going to the Church of Our Lady of the Burning Heart or indeed any other church altogether. He’d never believed in that whole mumbo jumbo anyway and had only gone through the motions to please Granny. But with her gone, there was no point.

He wondered what she’d think of him and the man he had become. Not much, that was for sure. Granny had always hoped that Liam would become a priest one day, the highest profession in her eyes. Though Liam had always known that priesthood wasn’t for him. He simply liked women too much and gambling and sex and alcohol that wasn’t communion wine.

Granny would be even more disappointed if she knew that Liam was about to get all his bones broken by Dan “the Man” O’Brien. After all, she’d never thought much of the O’Briens and always warned Liam about them. “Nothing good can ever come with getting mixed up with one of them O’Brien boys,” she’d always said. If Liam had only listened. But then, listening to reason had never been his strong suit.

As Liam walked past the heavy doors of the Church of Our Lady of the Burning Heart, he suddenly heard a low moaning sound. At first, he thought it was Granny come back from beyond the grave to scold him. But since that was quite impossible, he thought he was going mad from fear and paranoia instead.

Then he heard the sound again and flinched, for it sounded just like a damned soul moaning in the depths of hell. Or like Liam would sound moaning in a hospital bed after Dan “the Man” had broken every bone in his body.

The moan sounded for a third time, echoing through the still of the winter night. Liam shuddered and shook his head to clear it of all the superstitious nonsense that had taken up residence inside his brain. It was the church, he decided. The church and memories of Granny and fear of what Dan “the Man” would do it him.

A particularly harsh gust of wind swept down Market Street, driving Liam back into the shelter of the church doorway. He leant against the heavy oakwood doors, just for a moment to catch his breath, when all of a sudden he felt the door give beneath his weight. Simultaneously, another hellish moan startled him.

Once his heart was beating normally again, Liam decided to investigate. He gave the church door a little push and to his amazement, it gave. So that was the solution to the mysterious sounds. Old Father O’Hurley had left the church doors unlocked and the hellish moans he’d heard had merely been the icy wind tugging on the ancient hinges.

A grin spread over his face. The church door had been left unlocked. And inside the church, there was a collection box, not to mention silver candlesticks, a famous statue of the Virgin Mary and all sorts of other old and valuable things. It should be absolutely no problem finding something worth a hundred dollars in there. Hell, technically it wasn’t even breaking in, since the door was already open.

Of course, stealing from a church was the ultimate sin, the sort of thing that would almost certainly land him in hell. But to Liam, even hell was still preferable to the tender mercies of Dan “the Man” O’Brien. And besides, the church door was unlocked. What was that but a sign from God or Jesus or the Virgin Mary that he should go in and help himself? After all, didn’t the Bible say “Blessed are the poor”? And with only two dollars and forty-seven cents in his pocket, he certainly qualified as poor. So Liam stepped into the church and pulled the door shut behind him.

The interior of the Church of Our Lady of the Burning Heart had always been gloomy, even on the brightest of summer days. But now, on a winter evening, it was pitch black. The only illumination came from a single flickering light at the far end of the church, where the altar should be. Probably a candle left burning.

Liam shook his head. One of these days, old Father O’Hurley would burn down the church and probably all of Market Street along with it.

He traipsed towards the flickering light, for the collection box would be at the altar as well, behind the pulpit where Father O’Hurley always put it after mass. And failing that, he could always snatch one of the massive silver candlesticks on the altar and pawn it. Hell, given Father O’Hurley’s penchant for leaving the candles burning, he’d be doing the church a favour by stealing the candlesticks and thus eliminating the fire hazard.

By now Liam’s eyes had adjusted to the gloom inside the church, but the place was still scary as hell. The occasional scrap of light falling through the stained glass windows painted hellish patterns onto the pews and the floor, while bizarre shadows seemed to lurk behind every column. Every instinct told Liam to run, run away now, while he still could.

But Liam had never been one to listen to instinct. It was part of the reason why he was in as much trouble as he was.

When he finally made it to the altar, the flickering light was still casting its ghostly illumination over everything. But this close, Liam realised that it did not originate from a candle left burning at all. Instead, the source of the light was the Virgin Mary herself or rather the famous statue depicting her that stood behind the altar. The chest of the statue was glowing, glowing with a flickering light where her heart should be.

For a few seconds, Liam was frozen in place, just staring at the impossible. Because statues did not just glow in the dark. Not unless they were radioactive or something and Liam was pretty sure that the Virgin Mary wasn’t. Of course, Granny had always said that the Virgin’s heart glowed during evening mass, but then Granny had actually believed in all this religious mumbo-jumbo. Liam didn’t.

It was a trick. It had to be. A hidden lamp, just like those plastic lawn ornaments that lit up at night. Only that this statue was over a hundred years old, dating from a time when they didn’t yet have electricity, let alone plastic lawn ornaments that lit up at night. Besides, there was no electrical cord or a battery, no hint of any power source at all. Liam should know — after all he had dusted off this bloody statue frequently enough in his time as an altar boy.

And if it was just a hidden lightbulb, then why was the light flickering? Lightbulbs did not flicker, not unless there was something seriously wrong with the power source. And when they flickered, they certainly didn’t flicker like this.

For the light that emanated from the chest of the Virgin Mary flickered and pulsed like a living thing. Almost like a heart. A living beating human heart.

There was only one solution. This was a miracle, the very miracle that Liam had hoped for, prayed for as he walked along Market Street desperate and alone. But like all miracles, it wasn’t the sort of thing he had expected.

He’d hoped for money, for a way to pay off Dan “the Man”. He’d even been willing to steal from the church — a church, for goodness sake! And now the heart of the Virgin Mary was burning, burning with pain and shame and compassion, showing him the error of his ways.

Liam thought of his Grandma and Father O’Hurley and how disappointed they would be, if they could see him now, standing before Our Lady of the Burning Heart, contemplating to steal the collection box. Overcome with shame, he fell to his knees right there before the statue of the Virgin to beg for forgiveness and pray for guidance and swear he would change his ways.

Prayers weren’t often answered, but sometimes they were. And so, while Liam was on his knees before the statue of the Virgin Mary, he suddenly noticed the flickering light radiating from the Virgin’s heart striking something that was lying on the floor at the Virgin’s feet. Something that looked like a piece of paper. Almost as if the Virgin Mary was sending him a message, a message straight from heaven.

Curious, Liam reached out and picked up the piece of paper. He turned it over, still half hoping it was the one hundred dollar bill he so sorely needed to bet on Fiddler’s Fortune and pay off Dan “the Man”.

But as he held the piece of paper in his hand, squinting to make out the words by the flickering light radiating from the Virgin’s heart, Liam realised that it was not a dollar bill at all. It was a bus ticket for a bus that left town early the next morning. And not just any bus ticket either, but a bus ticket to the St. Nicholas Seminary out in the countryside.

So this was what vocation felt like. After all, Granny had always wanted Liam to become a priest. And apparently, the Lord above and the Virgin Mary agreed with her, for they had just told Liam in no uncertain way that he should go to the St. Nicholas Seminary and become a priest. And for added irony, they’d even picked a seminary named after St. Nicholas of Myra, patron saint of sailors, merchants and repentant thieves. Hell — ahem — Good Heavens, they’d even sent him a bus ticket.

Now Liam had never heard of vocation coming with a bus ticket, but then few of those who were called to serve the Lord were quite as broke as he was either. So he pocketed the bus ticket and put his two dollars and forty-seven cents down on the altar to say “sorry” and “thank you”.

Then he turned around and left the church, walking away towards his new and hopefully better life.

Behind him, the statue of the Virgin Mary smiled beatifically, her heart glowing with joy.

***

When he came to work the next morning, Father Frank O’Hurley was stunned to find the church doors unlocked. Goodness, someone might have come in, ransacked the church, stolen the collection box or the silver candlesticks on the altar or even the famous statue of the Virgin herself.

All right, so maybe they wouldn’t have stolen the statue. It was heavy, after all, Difficult to move without a forklift and a truck.

Father O’Hurley shook his head. He was truly getting forgetful in his old age. But praise the Lord, once he stepped into his church, he found everything just as it should be. The collection box was still in its place underneath the pulpit, the silver candlesticks were still on the altar and the statue of the Virgin was still standing in her place of honour where she had been standing since the church was built in the year of the Lord 1873.

Though some kindly soul had placed some money on the altar, two dollars and forty-seven cents to be exact. Father O’Hurley frowned. So someone had been inside the church last night after all. Still, considering that someone had left a donation, that was hardly something to complain about. Probably just some poor soul in need of solitude, contemplation and prayer. After all, that was what a church was for.

He picked up the two dollars and forty-seven cents and stuffed them into the collection box. Then he picked up a votive candle from his stash behind the pulpit and walked over to the statue of the Virgin Mary. He laid his hand onto the cuffs of her sleeves and pressed. A hidden panel on the statue’s chest sprang open, revealing a hollow chamber where her heart should be. Inside the chamber, there was a single burned out votive candle.

Father O’Hurley remove the burned out candle and replaced it with a new one. The chamber hidden inside the Virgin’s chest was a closely guarded secret, handed down from priest to priest. During the prohibition, so his predecessor had told him, the priest used to keep a bottle of moonshine in there. Though Father O’Hurley preferred to use the hidden compartment for its original purpose, to place a votive candle inside. He always lit the candle right before evening mass to make the statue’s chest glow. A little miracle made to order.

Of course, he’d forgotten to extinguish the candle after mass again, but then it didn’t matter much. After all, statues didn’t burn.

Though tonight, his congregation would have to do without the Virgin’s burning heart, for he’d handed over today’s evening mass to Father Rizzoli from St. Luke’s, while he was visiting a friend out at St. Nicholas Seminary. And there was no way he was sharing the secret of the statue with Father Rizzoli. The man simply couldn’t keep his mouth shut.

Father O’Hurley patted down his cassock and frowned. Now where had he put the bus ticket that would take him out to St. Nicholas again? He was certain he’d had it yesterday at evening mass. Truly, he was becoming forgetful in his old age.

The End

Madonna of the Glowing Heart

Here is the inspiration for the story, the Madonna of the Burning Heart, which is not a miracle, but a votive candle holder. The light of the candle shines through the porcelain and the effect is quite spectacular.

***

That’s it for this month’s edition of First Monday Free Fiction. Check back next month, when a new free story will be posted.

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We finally get an explanation for what happened “Previously On” WandaVision

It’s still time for the penultimate installment of my episode by episode reviews of WandaVision, Marvel’s sitcom parody/Dickian faux reality paranoia. Previous installments may be found here. Also, may I remind you that Disney is still not paying Alan Dean Foster and others.

Warning: Spoilers and pretty significant ones at that behind the cut! Continue reading

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for February 2021

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month
It’s that time of the month again, time for “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie and small press authors (as well as the occasional Big 5 book) newly published this month, though some January books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have epic fantasy, urban fantasy, sword and sorcery, paranormal mystery, paranormal romance, fantasy romance, science fiction romance, science fiction thrillers, space opera, military science fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, dystopian fiction, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, historical horror, LitRPG, magical realism, fairy tales retellings, dragons, elves, mermaids, superheroes, aliens, UFOs, interstellar wars, intergalactic smugglers, headless horsemen, matriarchical werewolves, crime-busting witches, crime-busting ghosts, lovelorn cupids and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a group blog run by Jessica Rydill and myself, which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things speculative fiction several times per week.

As always, I know the authors at least vaguely, but I haven’t read all of the books, so Caveat emptor.

And now on to the books without further ado:

Conviction by Jennifer BlackstreamConviction by Jennifer Blackstream:

Shade’s FBI partner has shot a kelpie.
Again.
And this time, the law may not be on his side…

Agent Andrew Bradford once used deadly force to stop a kelpie from kidnapping a human teenager. And now Shade has gotten a call saying he’s done it again. Flesh-eating kelpie dead, human victim saved.

At least, he thinks that’s what happened.

He doesn’t remember.

His inability to clearly recall the night’s events forces Shade to seek answers among the monsters of the Otherworld. She’ll have to question scheming leannan sidhe, malicious waterhorses, and take a dangerous step into the world of vampire politics.

Otherworlders are nothing if not opportunistic. And there are plenty of powerful players ready to take advantage of Shade’s desperation to do whatever it takes to save her partner…

The Wolf of Rajala by Richard Blakemore and Cora BuhlertThe Wolf of Rajala by Richard Blakemore and Cora Buhlert:

Before Kurval became King of Azakoria, he was a wandering mercenary and monster slayer for hire.

One day, Kurval is hired to take out the monstrous wolves that have been besetting the village of Rajala. However, he quickly finds that the wolves are not what they seem. He also realises that the wolves have a very good reason for attacking the villagers…

This is a novelette of 8700 words or approx. 30 print pages in the Kurval sword and sorcery series, but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.

Mercadia Stalling by Shaka BryMercadia Stalling by Shaka Bry:

Immortality takes time. Armageddon is inevitable. Love is somewhere in-between.

In a faraway fairy tale world, the first mermaids and merliens are evolving. Maya, the newly crowned queen of Mercadia, is learning how to rule. Hermann, freshly immortal, is brimming with strange feelings. When they meet, sparks will fly.

Mercadia’s magic is vanishing. An apocalypse is brewing. To save their species, explorers are going to have to step up. Someone will have to risk everything and travel through a portal to an ocean realm called Earth.

Before they had tails, mermaids and merliens basked in the glow of eternal life. Existence is about to accelerate.

Secrets of the Sword III by Lindsay BurokerSecrets of the Sword III by Lindsay Buroker:

I’m Val Thorvald, tough butt-kicking assassin and soon-to-be wife of Lord Zavryd’nokquetal. He’s a dragon from another world, and he’s haughty, arrogant, and has horrible taste in footwear, but I love him. Our wedding is going to be amazing.

At least… I’d like to think so. But when the coffee shop I’m a co-owner of gets bombed, our youngest employee goes missing, and the entire elven family I didn’t know I had shows up for a visit, my wedding preparations take an alarming turn.

Oh, and did I mention that Zav’s clan is coming to the wedding? Dozens of dragons flying into the Seattle area. What could possibly go wrong?

Cupid by Demelza CarltonCupid by Delmeza Carlton:

As a Cupid, Orel has plenty of experience helping other people find love, even if he’s unlucky in that department. But when he ends up covering for another Cupid at a speed dating event for singles in the leadup to Valentine’s Day, he dares to hope.

Can a lonely Cupid find love?

Or will he fall victim to the Cupid curse, too?

 

Heather's Marauders by M.D. CooperHeather’s Marauders by M.D. Cooper:

When the Alliance calls in the ISF Mech Corps, they never know what the situation might hold, but one thing is always for certain: the shit has hit the fan.

Heather had never even heard of the Tchyros System until orders came in from the Hegemon herself; an urgent message to deploy an entire division of mechs into the system with orders to put down an insurrection before it topples the democratically elected government.

A simple enough task for her mechs, but Heather knows that if she’s going in, then the situation on the ground will be far from clear cut—and her suspicions hold true upon arrival.

‘Murky’ doesn’t even begin to describe the situation and as Heather attempts to determine who is in the right, the Marauders find themselves in the middle of a three-way battle for control of the system with no clear path to peace.

If the Marauders are to keep the system from falling into utter chaos, Heather will need to…to… come up with a hell of a plan.

If only she knew what that was.

Pagan's Veil by Matt EatonPagan’s Veil by Matt Eaton:

Washington Times-Herald reporter Edna Drake receives an anonymous tip about a classified government program in possession of a fully functional flying saucer.

But before she can publish she’ll need to prove it, which won’t be easy.

It’s 1952… the flying saucer frenzy is at its peak. Sightings are through the roof across America.

Nobody knows what’s going on, least of all the government.

Yet Drake is sure President Harry Truman and the US Air Force know a lot more than they’re willing to admit.

Standing between her and the truth is retired soldier and wartime spymaster ‘Wild’ Bill Donovan.

Donovan is worried America will end up at war with the Soviet Union if Drake gets too close.

Pagan’s Veil brings you face-to-face with the men who’ll do anything to keep their secrets under wraps.

Dagger of Doom by Rachel FordDagger of Doom by Rachel Ford:

A fully immersive virtual reality system. A beta testing opportunity that’s the stuff of dreams – or a nightmare that may never end.

Jack Owens has been stuck in Marshfield Studio’s newest virtual reality RPG for so long that his mind is starting to break down the barriers between his real body and his avatar.

In-game, things aren’t looking any better. The greatest evil the world has ever known is coming back, and it’s turned heroes everywhere to stone. Men, elves, and dwarves cower in their holds as the coming darkness looms. The only thing holding the wolves at bay? Jack and his merry band of ne’er-do-wells: a pair of purse-cutting goblins, a morally ambiguous ranger, and a throat-cutting giant.

While Jack works with Marshfield Studio to save his mind in real life, he has to work with his in-game team to rescue the world’s heroes, and save the day. If they can keep from plying their dark trades on each other long enough to survive, anyway…

Weapons Free by Daniel GibbsWeapons Free by Daniel Gibbs:

Thirty-five years of peace. One vicious attack destroys it all.

Reservist Lieutenant Justin Spencer loves every minute of flying fighters through space during his annual two-week tour with the Coalition Defense Force. The job back home isn’t nearly as thrilling as blowing up asteroids with the squadron under his command, but it keeps him close to his wife and daughter. After all, joining the CDF was only for the free education. Justin never expected a battle, much less a war.

With one shot across his cockpit, peacetime fades into memory.

An unexpected enemy emerges with overwhelming force designed to obliterate the Terran Coalition. The League of Sol has a different name, but it’s the same communist regime that chased away much of Earth’s population hundreds of years ago.

Illusions of returning home are shattered in a single instant. Simulated battles become all too real, and it’s full-on engagement or permanent elimination. Death and destruction erupt across the Terran Coalition and leave Justin in a protracted war with only one truth remaining.

The battlefield will leave no one unscathed.

Reign of the Colossus by Nicole GrotepasReign of the Colossus by Nicole Grotepas:

How many enemies can one hero have?

The faces of Holly Drake’s foes have never been so clear, yet so out of reach.

As kinks stop the flow of cash towards Holly’s goals to build her own empire, she must choose between solidifying her standing against the growing forces of evil…

…or saving her crew.

Never got enough of Firefly? Already longing for a new season of The Mandalorian? Then dip into this entertaining cast of characters and space adventure and grab your copy of Reign of the Colossus today!

All the Pretty Witches by Lily Harper HartAll the Pretty Witches by Lily Harper Hart:

Hannah Hickok was looking for adventure when she inherited Casper Creek from her grandmother.

She got more than she was bargaining for.

Now she’s grappling with two ancient sister witches, both of whom are inhabiting the bodies of others, and a war is brewing.

Hannah knows she has to fight on the side of good but she’s not certain their ally has anybody’s best interests at heart, and it has her faltering. On top of everything, there’s a new demon on the loose and he appears to have joined sides with the dark witch who wants to end them all.

Life has never been easy for Hannah but it’s harder than ever for her now. The magic she’s only recently discovered is taking hold … and growing. That makes her an appealing target for the sister witches should they want a stronger body to leap into.

Cooper Wyatt loves Hannah with his whole heart but fear has gripped him by the throat. He wants to help Hannah with her battle but he’s not sure what he has to offer … other than loyalty. He will protect her with his dying breath, although she’s determined to make sure that’s not necessary.

Ancient evil is about to take on a powerful new witch. Who will be left standing? It’s anybody’s guess.

Project Charon by Patty JansenProject Charon 1. Re-Entry by Patty Jansen:

On the backwater world of Cayelle, Tina Freeman runs a shop with her son Rex: fifteen years old, half-human, half-android with a massive chip on his shoulder about having been born without arms or legs.

The shop makes a modest profit, but when a creditor turns up wanting his money back, everything goes pear-shaped.

She needs money, and needs it fast. Another creditor is impossible to find. That leaves her one option: to return to the world she fled fifteen years ago and Kelso Space Station, where her spaceship has languished for over fifteen years, and finally sell the thing.

Tina worked as scientific officer in the Federacy Force’s top secret Project Charon, and was forced out when she rang alarm bells about particles that escaped out of a rift to another universe.

As it turns out, the alien dust has been infecting people in her absence, causing profound changes in human behaviour.

When Tina re-surfaces at Kelso, her presence is a threat to those who still defend the project, including her ex-husband, and they want to shut her up, but her continued silence may well mean the end of civilisation.

The Last Exit by Michael KaufmanThe Last Exit by Michael Kaufman:

Set in Washington D.C. in the near future, climate change has hit hard, fires are burning, unemployment is high, and controversial longevity treatments are only available to the very rich. Enter resourceful young police detective, Jen B. Lu, and her ‘partner’, Chandler, a SIM implant in her brain and her instant link to the Internet and police records, and constant voice inside her head. He’s an inquisitive tough guy, with a helluva sense of humor and his own ideas about solving crimes.

As a detective in the Elder Abuse unit, Jen is supposed to be investigating kids pushing their aging parents to “exit” so they are eligible to get the longevity drug. But what really has her attention are the persistent rumors about Eden, an illegal version of the longevity drug, and the bizarre outbreak of people aging almost overnight, then suddenly dying–is this all connected? Is Big Pharma involved?

When Jen’s investigations of Eden take her too close to the truth, she is suspended, Chandler is deactivated, and her boyfriend is freaked out by “the thing inside her brain.” This leaves Jen to pursue a very dangerous investigation all by herself.

Fire Fight by B.V. LarsonFire Fight by B.V. Larson:

The colonies of the Faustian Chain have gone dark. No star freighters have come from the star cluster for decades.

Captain Bill Gorman, a smuggler on the Fringe, is one of the few who know the truth. He’s personally battled the alien invaders who’ve overrun the human colonies of the Chain. He and his crew are faced with a choice: will they fight the invaders, or will they run?

Find out in FIRE FIGHT, the thrilling sequel to STAR RUNNER.

Extinction Protocol: Rogue by Marc LandauExtinction Protocol: Rogue by Marc Landau:

They rule with a cold-steel heart and an iron fist. But these technological terrors haven’t reckoned with the revenge brewing in one man’s soul.

Harkly Colson has only a tenuous grasp on his humanity. Living off the grid after the war with the machines cost him his family, the grizzled veteran clings to his few pleasant memories of the time before mechanized oppression. But when a rare trip into town goes sideways and a female cyborg shows up near his home, he fears the ruthless rulers have sent an assassin in judgment.

Discovering the girl is an escapee from an experimental facility, Hark takes her in and tries to nurture her human side. But with computerized killers seeking them both, rescuing the young hybrid may prove to be a fatal mistake.

Will Hark’s last chance for redemption come with a lethal price?

Rogue is the first book in the gripping Extinction Protocol post-apocalyptic science fiction series. If you like futuristic combat, determined fugitives, and rising up against the state, then you’ll love Marc Landau’s dark vision.

Freaky Mage by Amanda M. LeeFreaky Mage by Amanda M. Lee:

The members Mystic Caravan have Georgia on their minds as they land in Savannah … and immediately find trouble.

In a city full of ghosts, Poet Parker expects a few magical things to happen, but when an evil cult sacrifices a young woman on the beach next to their camp, things take a turn nobody was expecting. Thankfully, she’s not alone for this fight.

Zoe Lake-Winters is considered the most powerful mage in existence. She’s brash, full of herself, and ready for a brawl. When she and her husband bring their daughter to the circus, Poet is immediately intrigued. She can feel the power rippling off Zoe, and it’s the sort of power that can force a reckoning.

The cult has magic, but it’s not enough to frighten Poet. It’s what they’re protecting that has everybody in a tizzy. It seems there’s a door to another plane, and the enemy trying to cross over to a world they were driven from is significant.

With Zoe and her mouthy daughter Sami on the prowl, Mystic Caravan is in a tumultuous state. On top of her normal worries, Poet also has to contend with her boyfriend Kade Denton, who is delighted to have another mage to learn from even as he struggles to trust his new abilities.

Magic is might, and there’s magic bubbling at every corner of Mystic Caravan. That’s a good thing because for the final fight they’re going to need every ounce of it they can muster.

Worlds are about to collide, and nobody will ever be the same again.

Vengeance and Dinner by Sophie LoveVengeance and Dinner by Sophie Love:

Marie Fortune, 39, a successful dog groomer in Boston, leaves the stressful life behind and heads to a small town in coastal Maine to create a new life. She remains intent on renovating the old, historic house her great-aunt left her and giving it a new life as a B&B. Yet there was one thing she couldn’t plan for: the house is haunted. Two things, actually: her great-aunt also left her a dog—and he is far from a typical dog.

When Marie is invited to exorcise a supposedly haunted house, she encounters a twist she never could have anticipated. But before she can wrap her mind around the situation, a man turns up dead—forcing her to solve the case and to clear her own name.

New Moon Rising by Brandy NacoleNew Moon Rising by Brandy Nacole:

Meet Tamsin Grey, witch extraordinaire…

At least, she would be if the High Council would heed her family’s warnings.

For decades her grandmother had tried warning the council that the supernatural races were not safe, especially the witches. She could feel the darkness that haunted the bloodlines, as could Tamsin as she got older.

A hopelessness often troubled Tamsin’s dreams, dreams filled with secrets hidden in the dark wood. Secrets the council had tried to hide. She feared for the witch’s future, as well as the other supernatural races, if she didn’t unravel the dreams meaning. But how?

It wasn’t until three years after her grandmother’s death and a life outside of Pyreshore, New Hampshire that she gets her chance. A letter inviting her to become a Keeper. It was the ticket she needed to bring her home and give her the opportunity to right a wrong so many chose to ignore.

But upon returning she finds that not only will she have to worry about the Witch’s Keeper watching her every move, but also Talon Strohm, son of the witches High Council. Talon tells Tamsin she can trust him but revealing the truth to him could put everything in jeopardy.

Tamsin will have to make a choice, trust Talon or let her only chance to save the witches slip away.

After all, every secret needs a Keeper

Kelianna by Leah NegronKelianna by Leah Negron:

What my fellow countrymen do not realize is that the tales are true. From the leprechauns to the fairies, the banshees to the pooka, the merrow to the kelpie, the changelings to the far darrig, they all exist.

There are many more creatures; some of them are good and stand by us in the fight to keep the evil ones at bay. The others, the dark ones, try to destroy everything that is good in the world.

Now there is a new threat, one that I have never seen before. Thankfully, Tiamat sent word through the portals to warn me of what is coming.

It’s time to bring my forces together for the battle of a lifetime. It looks like it’s going to be one hell of a Bloody Valentine’s Day.

Choosing Cleo by Ava ParisChoosing Cleo by Ava Paris:

This isn’t Sci-Fi. This is my lab.

He is a gorgeous Swede who has a couple of secrets, the biggest being that he isn’t a Swede at all, he’s an alien from another planet. She is a curious scientist who lives in her head, and who would never have imagined what she is about to discover.

Will he be able to help her break out of her head and into the world around her? Her world, which is slowly falling apart and needs her to come to the rescue? Together, will they be able to make a difference before it’s too late?

Tiamat by Serenity RayneTiamat by Serenity Rayne:

You would think I was living a fairy tale life. I live in my ancestral home high up in the mountains, and I am heir to the Ice Dragon throne. With the standard court drama and Prince’s trying to court me that don’t measure up to the man in my dreams, life can be quite stressful at times. But in the darkness, an old evil lurks, one we thought my mother Aurora had extinguished long ago. Villagers start going missing by my father Klaus’s pack lands, and all signs point to the Strigoi. Time to help mom and get my talons dirty; this will be one bloody Valentines Day.

 

Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons by Keith RossonFolk Songs for Trauma Surgeons by Keith Rosson:

With Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons, award-winning author Keith Rosson once again delves into notions of family, identity, indebtedness, loss, and hope, with the surefooted merging of literary fiction and magical realism he’s explored in previous novels. In “Dunsmuir,” a newly sober husband buys a hearse to help his wife spread her sister’s ashes, while “The Lesser Horsemen” illustrates what happens when God instructs the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to go on a team-building cruise as a way of boosting their frayed morale. In “Brad Benske and the Hand of Light,” an estranged husband seeks his wife’s whereabouts through a fortuneteller after she absconds with a cult, and the returning soldier in “Homecoming” navigates the strange and ghostly confines of his hometown, as well as the boundaries of his own grief. With grace, imagination, and a brazen gallows humor, Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons merges the fantastic and the everyday, and includes new work as well as award-winning favorites.

Mermaid Song by Anthea SharpMermaid Song by Anthea Sharp:

Five delightful fairytale retellings from USA Today bestselling author Anthea Sharp. Featuring magical cats, romance, and a touch of wistful faerie enchantment, escape the everyday with these entertaining new twists on old tales.

Mistress Bootsi
A girl sets out to seek her fortune – and luckily, she has a clever cat for a companion, in this Puss in Boots retelling.

The Sea King’s Daughter
The Little Mermaid, reimagined in an ancient Celtic setting full of wild and bittersweet magic.

Faerie Song
A magical retelling of the Pied Piper, with a dark faerie twist.

Escape: A Liza Roth Adventure
A princess on the run and her feline companion find adventure and danger on Starhub Station in this story based on the Icelandic fairy tale Kisa the Cat.

Waltzed
A Victorian Cinderella retelling complete with an absent-minded Godmother, an orange carriage, and a slipper mishap. Prepare to be swept away into this (nonmagical) fairytale romance written under the pen name Anthea Lawson.

Headless 1776 by Tom SchneiderHeadless 1776 by Tom Schneider:

THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN ORIGIN STORY

America wasn’t the only thing birthed in 1776. The year also gave rise to the brutal terror of the Headless Hessian.

Elijah sets off from Philadelphia to the village of North Tarrytown. There, his path leads to a showdown with the murderous horseman on All Hallows Eve, and his deeds give birth to a legend.

 

Bridget Bramble and the Wandering Elf by Aurora SpringerBridget Bramble and the Wandering Elf by Aurora Springer:

Fantasy romance. A young witch escapes the destruction of her home and embarks on a perilous quest for the fabled land where elves and humans live in peace.

In a land threatened by cruel invaders from the east, Bridget Bramble lives in a small village where she barters herbs and carved buttons. When marauders target her village and murder her family, she flees into the woods. Armed with her Granny’s advice and a bag of magic buttons, she sets out on the perilous journey to Oakenwald, the fabled land where elves and men live in harmony. As she travels farther from home, she encounters malicious creatures from the worst kind of folktale.

Lost in the foothills of the mountains, Bridget meets the elf, Windswift the Wanderer. He offers to guide her across the mountain range. But what is the elf doing in human lands? Can an ordinary, or almost ordinary, human girl trust a cold hearted elf to lead her to safety?

Epic fantasy adventure and romance with darker overtones. This story weaves elements of folklore and a quest for a safe haven in a land where magic is real.

The Fall of Rho-Torkis by Tim C. TaylorThe Fall of Rho-Torkis by Tim C. Taylor:

When your worst enemy has your back…

…you know the mission is doomed from the start.

Sergeant Osu Sybutu of the Legion had a simple mission. Take five men and travel unobserved to a location in the capital where he would deliver a coded phrase to a contact. Simple, that is, except for the fact that there was a war going on, and all the different factions he had to pass by on the way would cheerfully shoot him on sight. And that was only if the planet didn’t kill him first.

Militia Sergeant Vetch Arunsen’s task, however, was far more complex. Shepherd a group of hated rivals across the frozen wastes, keeping them safe from everyone who wanted to kill them, which was pretty much everyone. Including the oddball troopers under Arunsen’s own command, who would happily shoot the Legion soldiers if given the slightest opportunity.

Legion versus Militia. Joint defenders of the Federation. In theory. Their mutual loathing, however, could burn the armor plate off a battleship. For rival sergeants Sybutu and Arunsen, there’s only one way their squads could survive trekking across the iceworld of Rho-Torkis.

Legion and Militia.

Teeth of the Rakshasa by B.J. WestTeeth of the Rakshasa by B.J. West:

Revolutionaries, thieves, or terrorists?

Depending on who you talk to, Spider King and his cohorts in the infamous Gordian Net are either criminals or revolutionaries in the ongoing struggle against the corporations that have replaced the federal government of the formerly united States.

Nobody pushes their notoriety as Robin Hoods harder than Spider himself. Arrogant and egotistical, Spider is a veritable rock star of the hacking world. It would be annoying if he wasn’t actually every bit as good as his talk.

Attracted by their reputation, a peculiar client approaches the Gordian Net with an opportunity that could be the score of a lifetime. But what first appears to be a simple hack-and-grab run quickly snowballs into an all-out war with the most powerful tech company in the world.

Spider will have to outthink, outrun, and outmaneuver the most ruthless street operatives in San Francisco without becoming the next victim of a new weapon of unspeakable horror.

Super Gone by Mel WoodburnSuper Gone by Mel Woodburn:

High school sophomore, Emma Edgin takes a break from being Dragon Girl to learn how to be a better superhero.

Plus, supers have been disappearing, regardless of whether they’re a villain, hero, or just scraping by. Emma’s sure the Super Commission is to blame.

So, when she accidentally reveals a friend’s superpowers—powers she didn’t even know he had—they try to flee.

But the Super Commission arrests two of her friends, forcing Emma to team up with a Dragon Girl fan who sees the future and her rich cousin.

Can a handful of teenagers defeat the shadowy government agency or is Emma’s freedom super gone?

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Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for February 2021


Welcome to the latest edition of “Indie Crime Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Crime Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of crime fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some January books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Our new releases cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have traditional mysteries, cozy mysteries, historical mysteries, Victorian mysteries, Jazz Age mysteries, 1950s mysteries, paranormal mysteries, science fiction mysteries, hardboiled mysteries, humorous crime fiction, police procedurals, crime thrillers, legal thrillers, environmental thrillers, conspiracy thrillers, science fiction thrillers, dystopian thrillers, romantic suspense, police officers, amateur sleuths, private investigators, FBI agents, lawyers, journalists, serial killers, missing persons, elder abuse, crime-busting witches, crime-busting socialites, crime-busting maids, crime-busting dressmakers, crime-busting ghosts, detective AIs, murder and mayhem in Chicago, Washington DC, New Orleans, Pennsylvania, Maine, California, Suffolk and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Crime Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Indie Crime Scene, a group blog which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things crime fiction several times per week.

As always, I know the authors at least vaguely, but I haven’t read all of the books, so Caveat emptor.

And now on to the books without further ado:

A Design for Deceit by Blythe BakerA Design of Deceit by Blythe Baker:

Upon hearing rumors of “dark” goings on at a nearby country estate, Iris Dickinson cannot resist the pull to become involved. When a sudden storm traps her on the property, she must navigate the dangerous waters of a family mystery she does not fully understand, without the help of her sister Lily.

But there is more than one mystery haunting Iris, as shadowy childhood memories resurface. Can she survive one “storm” before being overtaken by another?

 

An Unexpected Misfortune by Blythe BakerAn Unexpected Misfortune by Blythe Baker:

Anna Fairweather’s resolution to delve further into the death of her father is interrupted by a fresh murder investigation. When a dinner party at the home of the attractive Jerome Townson ends in violence, it is up to Anna to get to the truth.

But with even her own employer a suspect, will Anna uncover a darker secret than she bargained for, one that could change her life forever?

 

Conviction by Jennifer BlackstreamConviction by Jennifer Blackstream:

Shade’s FBI partner has shot a kelpie.
Again.
And this time, the law may not be on his side…

Agent Andrew Bradford once used deadly force to stop a kelpie from kidnapping a human teenager. And now Shade has gotten a call saying he’s done it again. Flesh-eating kelpie dead, human victim saved.

At least, he thinks that’s what happened.

He doesn’t remember.

His inability to clearly recall the night’s events forces Shade to seek answers among the monsters of the Otherworld. She’ll have to question scheming leannan sidhe, malicious waterhorses, and take a dangerous step into the world of vampire politics.

Otherworlders are nothing if not opportunistic. And there are plenty of powerful players ready to take advantage of Shade’s desperation to do whatever it takes to save her partner…

Amid Rage by Joel BurcatAmid Rage by Joel Burcat:

A psychotic coal mine operator and cynical neighbors with an anti-mining agenda fight out a strip mine permit battle. Mike Jacobs, a 29-year old environmental prosecutor with Pennsylvania’s environmental agency, DEP, is caught between the warring factions, but is ordered to “babysit” the case. All Mike wants to do is to protect the environment and neighbors from certain harm as a result of the proposed mining. Sid Feldman, the Philadelphia lawyer for the mine operator, who oozes power and privilege, offers Mike a job midway through the proceedings. Miranda Clymer, the lawyer for the neighbors, pulls out all the stops to win Mike’s affection and assistance. Mike’s nearest and dearest friend, Nicky Kane is by his side as his paralegal. Mike must use all of his talents as a lawyer and rely on his discretion and courage to do what is right and not anger the political bosses for whom he works. In the cataclysmic ending, someone will die, but who?

The Uncountable Cost of Mystery by Beth ByersThe Uncountable Cost of Mystery by Beth Byers:

January 1926

Severine DuNoir and friends have left New Orleans and started on the trail to just what happened to Jane Oliver.

Things are confused and emotions are intense as they find Jane. The relief of finding their missing loved one fades as they have to face what they’ve found? Will their friendship survive? Where do they go from here?

 

Snakes and Ladders by Adam CroftSnakes and Ladders by Adam Croft:

A body lies amongst the undergrowth in Mildenheath Woods. His hands are bound behind his back, and he’s been killed execution-style.

But the victim isn’t a gangland kingpin: he’s a well-liked young man, never in any trouble, who had his whole life ahead of him.

But as Jack Culverhouse and Wendy Knight begin to dig deeper into what happened, a shocking new truth comes to light. Was the victim quite as innocent as he seemed?

Pagan's Veil by Matt EatonPagan’s Veil by Matt Eaton:

Washington Times-Herald reporter Edna Drake receives an anonymous tip about a classified government program in possession of a fully functional flying saucer.

But before she can publish she’ll need to prove it, which won’t be easy.

It’s 1952… the flying saucer frenzy is at its peak. Sightings are through the roof across America.

Nobody knows what’s going on, least of all the government.

Yet Drake is sure President Harry Truman and the US Air Force know a lot more than they’re willing to admit.

Standing between her and the truth is retired soldier and wartime spymaster ‘Wild’ Bill Donovan.

Donovan is worried America will end up at war with the Soviet Union if Drake gets too close.

Pagan’s Veil brings you face-to-face with the men who’ll do anything to keep their secrets under wraps.

Moonlight Dance Academy by Mike FaricyMoonlight Dance Academy by Mike Faricy:

Desperate times call for desperate measures!

Hub Schneider and Val Harwood flee the upper midwest for sunny Florida. They’re unemployed, broke, and basicly, haven’t a clue.

Hub’s girlfriend had piled his belongings in the driveway and set her sights on someone else.

Fortunately, Val has come up with a get rich quick brainstorm. UniqueDancing!

Open a ‘Dance Academy’ and while Val gives lessons to wealthy seniors, Hub can break into their homes and steal precious items they’ll never miss.

What could possibly go wrong?JUST WAIT!

Start with J.W. Brooks, head of a criminal enterprise in Atlanta.

Add to that there’s the “little” problem of ‘Crazy Bobby Falconi’ mobster hitman. Lord only knows how things will workout. Better grab your copy to find out…

All the Pretty Witches by Lily Harper HartAll the Pretty Witches by Lily Harper Hart:

Hannah Hickok was looking for adventure when she inherited Casper Creek from her grandmother.

She got more than she was bargaining for.

Now she’s grappling with two ancient sister witches, both of whom are inhabiting the bodies of others, and a war is brewing.

Hannah knows she has to fight on the side of good but she’s not certain their ally has anybody’s best interests at heart, and it has her faltering. On top of everything, there’s a new demon on the loose and he appears to have joined sides with the dark witch who wants to end them all.

Life has never been easy for Hannah but it’s harder than ever for her now. The magic she’s only recently discovered is taking hold … and growing. That makes her an appealing target for the sister witches should they want a stronger body to leap into.

Cooper Wyatt loves Hannah with his whole heart but fear has gripped him by the throat. He wants to help Hannah with her battle but he’s not sure what he has to offer … other than loyalty. He will protect her with his dying breath, although she’s determined to make sure that’s not necessary.

Ancient evil is about to take on a powerful new witch. Who will be left standing? It’s anybody’s guess.

The Last Exit by Michael KaufmanThe Last Exit by Michael Kaufman:

Set in Washington D.C. in the near future, climate change has hit hard, fires are burning, unemployment is high, and controversial longevity treatments are only available to the very rich. Enter resourceful young police detective, Jen B. Lu, and her ‘partner’, Chandler, a SIM implant in her brain and her instant link to the Internet and police records, and constant voice inside her head. He’s an inquisitive tough guy, with a helluva sense of humor and his own ideas about solving crimes.

As a detective in the Elder Abuse unit, Jen is supposed to be investigating kids pushing their aging parents to “exit” so they are eligible to get the longevity drug. But what really has her attention are the persistent rumors about Eden, an illegal version of the longevity drug, and the bizarre outbreak of people aging almost overnight, then suddenly dying–is this all connected? Is Big Pharma involved?

When Jen’s investigations of Eden take her too close to the truth, she is suspended, Chandler is deactivated, and her boyfriend is freaked out by “the thing inside her brain.” This leaves Jen to pursue a very dangerous investigation all by herself.

Valentine's Day: Kiss of Death by Charlot KingValentine’s Day: Kiss of Death by Charlot King:

The quintessentially English Professor Elizabeth Green is not herself, shut in her bedroom she doesn’t even have time for her grandson, Godric, whom she adores. As the director of the student play, Godric, meanwhile, attends a College Valentine’s Banquet with some of his troupe. Soon after, he is one actor down, a body is found.

Meanwhile, Inspector Abley’s messy divorce has brought him alone up to Grantchester, as Sergeant Lemon steps in to lend support. With mystery after mystery building up, will Professor Green open her door to help?

Hugely popular author makes this beautiful historic city of Cambridge, England, leap off the page, with the eccentric Professor of poisons. Join the fast-growing number of readers of these page-turning whodunnits in the tradition of Agatha Christie, Colin Dexter, and grab a murder mystery fuelled by poison in the dark alleys of Cambridge!

Missing Amanda by Duane LindsayMissing Amanda by Duane Lindsay:

P.I. Lou Fleener’s got a great disguise—he’s kind of short, slightly pudgy, and a little nondescript. But whatever you do, don’t get in a fight with him, even if you’ve brought a couple of buddies. Because you’re gonna lose every time. Some people just have a gift.

One of Lou’s is that nobody ever sees him coming, and he’s pretty much the Bruce Lee of street fighting. Who they see—especially if they’re female—is his tall, handsome friend Monk, and that brings us to Lou’s second superpower. He’s got a little something for the ladies too—he can dance like an Arthur Murray instructor.

Not your average 1950s Chicago P.I.

Duane Lindsay’s fresh take on the tough-guy detective is nicely buttressed by humor, graceful writing, and big, fun plots that sometimes evolve into intricate capers. Like this one.

It starts out nice and easy. Lou—an expert in Chicago gangster lore—is hired against his better judgment to find the adorable missing daughter of a wise guy. Only Amanda’s not really missing. In fact, there is no Amanda. The gangster’s got a devious agenda of his own.

But by the time Lou’s found that out, he’s got four crime bosses gunning for him, and he’s plenty pissed off. Not only should you never fight with Lou Fleener, you should also never piss him off. He quickly enlists Monk to outplot the plotters— because Monk’s super power is working out intricate and diabolical revenge plans. Next thing you know, Lou, Monk, a ragtag bunch of other P.I.s and blonde, intrepid Cassidy, Lou’s new squeeze, are conducting a dizzying array of heists that whisk the reader around glorious 1950’s Chicago.

If it all works, they get to live. And they might get rich. And for sure, somebody gets the girl.

Vengeance and Dinner by Sophie LoveVengeance and Dinner by Sophie Love:

Marie Fortune, 39, a successful dog groomer in Boston, leaves the stressful life behind and heads to a small town in coastal Maine to create a new life. She remains intent on renovating the old, historic house her great-aunt left her and giving it a new life as a B&B. Yet there was one thing she couldn’t plan for: the house is haunted. Two things, actually: her great-aunt also left her a dog—and he is far from a typical dog.

When Marie is invited to exorcise a supposedly haunted house, she encounters a twist she never could have anticipated. But before she can wrap her mind around the situation, a man turns up dead—forcing her to solve the case and to clear her own name.

To Die For by Willow RoseTo Die For by Willow Rose:

Former FBI-profiler, Eva Rae Thomas is caught off guard by a murderous plan that sends her on a pulse-pounding race against time in this romantic thriller by Willow Rose.

It is a typical Tuesday morning. Scott Benton gets up, kisses his girlfriend Sarah goodbye, and goes to work.

But when he returns home from work later in the afternoon, his girlfriend of two years is gone.

And just like that, Scott’s life is turned upside down.

The police are after him, thinking he hurt her. His friends and family have turned their backs on him, thinking the same. Meanwhile, there is one thing Scott can’t stop thinking about.

Two months ago, Sarah told him that he should go looking for her if she ever turned up missing.

Former FBI-profiler Eva Rae Thomas has enough on her plate as it is: a newborn baby, an upcoming marriage, and a house not big enough to fit them all.

On top of it, she takes in a young girl who is in serious trouble, only adding to the strain on her family life.

When Scott Benton shows up and tells her she’s his only hope in finding his girlfriend, Eva Rae is inclined to say no, but she can’t get herself to do it.

Scott and Eva Rae used to date for a brief period in high school, and Eva Rae isn’t the type of person who just can stop caring about someone.

Especially when they have nowhere else to turn.

As the investigation deepens, Eva Rae Thomas finds out what it is from her past that Sarah was so afraid of, and she’ll need all of her profiling skills in the race against time to find the girl before it is too late.

The Valentine's Day Murders by Kendall ScottThe Valentine’s Day Murders by Kendall Scott:

It has been nine months since Constance Aberfield “retired” from her crime solving ways and she is loving every minute of it. That’s what she is telling herself anyway. Besides, with Valentine’s Day week descending upon the small town of Modest Peak, Constance is flat out too busy to even think of doing anything non-hotel related. Even if she wanted to work a case, she would not have the time.

Constance is so dedicated to her retirement in fact, that when she is alerted to a serial killer known as the St. Valentine Killer, operating in Denver, she refuses to take the case. Even Sheriff Nevil, begging for her help for a change, isn’t enough to get her back in the game. She really is done with that life.

But when the St. Valentine Killer makes his way to Modest Peak, and begins to target people close to Constance, she will have to ask herself if her self-imposed retirement is worth it. This is especially true when it becomes increasingly clear that only she possesses the skills required to put the killer behind bars once and for all.

Murder at the Races by Lee StraussMurder at the Races by Lee Strauss:

Murder is a wreck!

Rosa Reed attends a charity stock car race in Santa Bonita and expects to have an exhilarating time shared with family and friends. That ends when a driver inexplicably crashes into a guard rail and dies. When local assistant medical examiner, Dr. Larry Rayburn determines the death is suspicious, Rosa once again finds herself working with the handsome Detective Miguel Belmonte in an awkward and uncomfortable alliance to solve the murder.

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Fancast Spotlight: The Skiffy and Fanty Show

It’s time for the next entry in my Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project. For more about the Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project, go here. You can also check out the other great fanzines and fancasts featured by clicking here.

I have decided to expand the scope of the project to also cover fancasts, because the fancast category could also use a boost. And besides, the borders between fanzine and fancast are porous anyway.

So today, I’m pleased to feature three-time Hugo finalist The Skiffy and Fanty Show.

Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Shaun Duke and Jen Zink of The Skiffy and Fanty Show to my blog today:

Tell us about your podcast or YouTube channel.

The Skiffy and Fanty Show is, as you might have guessed, a podcast focused on literature, film, and other media broadly viewed as science fiction, fantasy, or horror. The show had humble beginnings, which is a nice way of saying we had no idea what we were doing because there weren’t a whole lot of SF/F/H podcasts back in those days. But we think we’ve figured it out (mostly). In a lot of ways, we’re just a bunch of mega dorks who want to have thoughtful and occasionally hilarious conversations about genre fiction and film, and that makes for a show that could best be described as “what Killer Klowns from Outer Space would be like if the klowns didn’t kill anyone and they were from Earth and had far too much time on their hands for semi-intelligent conversation.” Some might say that’s not an accurate statement, but we’ll let you be the judge!

On a more serious note, we’ve been at this since 2010. In those 10 years, we’ve discussed new and old works of film and literature, conducted interviews with authors from over a dozen countries, and given our time each month to semi-drunkenly discuss a supposedly terrible SF/F/H film (now selected by our supporters). In all that time, we’ve worked our butts off to draw attention to works by BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) and women authors, going so far as to set entire years to specific themes. In Summer 2020, we decided to permanently focus our positive coverage almost exclusively on the contributions of BIPOC creators, with a little wiggle room for Into the Wardrobe (our show covering children’s films from our childhood), Torture Cinema (our bad movie comedy review show), and other quite irregular shows with specific focuses (like Thrawn and On and On, our Star Wars literature discussion show). All of this work has, I think, earned us a pretty loyal following and the honor of being Hugo Award finalists three separate times. And if you’re reading this and are partly responsible for that: THANK YOU!

TL;DR: We’re a mega dork podcast about genre fiction in all its myriad forms, and we conduct interviews and record thoughtful discussions about all things genre with a diverse range of people.

Who are the people behind your podcast or channel?

The main folks are Shaun Duke and Jen Zink. But we have a whole lot of lovely folks who have joined us throughout the years, including Hugo Award finalist Paul Weimer, David Annandale, Alex Acks, Mike Underwood, Brandon O’Brien, Stina Leicht, and many MANY others. You can find a humongous list of folks who have contributed over the years here: https://skiffyandfanty.com/about/contributors/

Also: Shaun’s cat sometimes makes an appearance, and if we ever do live episodes again, you’ll see it happen in real time!

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

It’s a tad complicated. Originally, Shaun wanted to start a podcast with Jen because he’d moved across the country and wanted to keep in touch. Shaun not having any sense, he just thought it would be real easy and there would be nothing to worry about in making a podcast for the general public about dorky things. Jen having some sense was initially reluctant. So there was a brief moment when Shaun did it with a fellow by the name of Adam before Jen finally came to her non-senses and decided “hey, I want to hang with my best friend and talk about genre fiction.” And the rest was history, as they say.

We didn’t exactly have lofty goals at the start. We just wanted to do a thing to stay in touch and talk about stuff we loved, and then we discovered that the thing we called a podcast had some influence, and we could use that influence for good. These days, we continue making podcasts to stay in touch with one another — that is a big motivation — but we also use the platform to be the change we want to see in the genre world.

What format do you use for your podcast or channel and why did you choose this format?

We have a bunch of different formats depending on the type of show we do. We release a good deal of episodes that are effectively discussions about a media thing (movies, TV, or books), and those follow pretty similar formats you’ll see elsewhere. Where we got “wild,” if you will, is with interviews and Torture Cinema.

For interviews, we had a good conversation about what kind of interview show we wanted to do, and we settled on the idea that we needed to read the book cover-to-cover and really dive into its themes and ideas with the author. Why? Well, Shaun and Jen, who started our interview train, both studied in the same literature program, and deep-dive interviews were a good way to keep using those muscles while doing something a little different from others. It’s a lot of work, but we think the end result is pretty solid.

For Torture Cinema, we really just wanted to have fun at the expense of films of questionable quality. We use a Like/Dislike structure (originally 5-by-5s <– a reference!) and a grading system (A+ to F-), and each episode runs through the entire film covering what worked and didn’t work, often with rants about the utterly absurd things terrible movies do. Sometimes the Union for Green Grass Performers shows up, which is fine because they’re pretty nice anyway! And then we average those grades to come up with a definitive “totally objective” grade for the whole film. It’s a discussion, a critique, and a deconstruction all wrapped in a happy, sometimes-drink-laden, often hilarious podcast.

The fanzine category at the Hugos is one of the oldest, but also the category which consistently gets the lowest number of votes and nominations. So why do you think fanzines, fancasts and other fan projects are important?

There are two elements to this that seem important to us:

1) The Hugos are one of the few SF/F/H awards with categories designed to honor fans for their contributions to the field. This is, to put it bluntly, a Big Damn Deal.

2) SF/F/H doesn’t exist without fans. It cannot survive without them. If fans don’t wax lyrical about their favorite SF novels, line up for tickets to a new fantasy epic, write zines about their experiences new and old, make podcasts of their critiques of SF/F/H media, and so on, then the genre dies. Fanzines, fancasts, fan wikis, and all manner of other fan projects are fundamental to how we talk about SF/F/H, and without them making these things on paper way back before the Internet, during the Internet, and now today, we think things would be pretty dull.

This is one of the reasons we tend to think that the fan categories should be the most important ones at the Hugos. But they’re also important because the Hugo Awards are voted on by fans. No novel gets an award without fans selecting it, and that novel probably got there because fans were writing about it in their blogs or wikis OR talking about it on their booktube channels or podcasts. Additionally, fans are at the heart of what makes this giant community tick, and that means they are foundational to change. Fans writing critical reviews or challenging the status quo or pushing the boundaries to make SF/F/H a more inclusive space are so essential.

We need fans to keep doing what they do, and we need to recognize them for that work. Because it is work. Work done out of love, but work nonetheless. They give their love every day, and they deserve some back!

In the past twenty years, fanzines have increasingly moved online and fancasts sprang up. What do you think the future of fan media looks like?

As with a lot of media, we’re probably going to see a lot more fan production move into video, which is hardly revelatory because so much of fan media is already there anyway. Fan media is increasingly more mobile today than it was 10 years ago, and that often means that the media that gets a lot of the attention is most usable on mobile systems. And it wouldn’t surprise me if we see more and more video-based work take the dominant spot for fan media production, especially as newer fans enter the fray with a wider array of technological know-how.

Beyond that, it’s honestly hard to predict. In a lot of ways, fan media is still tethered to the same media types of the last 20 years because that stuff just…works. So maybe someone will come along offering virtual reality experiences? That would be cool and terrifying.

The four fan categories of the Hugos (best fanzine, fan writer, fan artist and fancast) tend to get less attention than the fiction and dramatic presentation categories. Are there any awesome fanzines, fancasts, fan writers and fan artists you’d like to recommend?

Oh boy. You asked for here, so here we go! We don’t have fingers in all the pies, so forgive us if we’re just missing so much here! Some of our favorite Fanzines include Nerds of a Feather, Stitch’s Media Mix, Puzzle Box Horror, Morbidly Beautiful, Real Queen of Horror, Aidan Moher’s Astrolabe, Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid, Neon Dystopia, Speculative Fiction in Translation, The Mythcreants, Salon Futura, Journey Planet, and probably too many more to list (and oh my gosh I’m forgetting so many).

For best fan writer, we’d have to point to folks like Paul Weimer (we’re biased, but we love his stuff), Alasdair Stuart (for infectious joy), Alex Acks (also biased, but Alex writers great stuff), Foz Meadows (for truly exceptional analysis), Stitch! (their work on fandom racism is crucial), Aidan Moher (for that delicious gaming commentary), Camestros Felapton (for fandom analysis), Jason Sanford (for his fandom deep dives and pure bravery), Cora Buhlert (fandom/SF/F analysis — oh look, this is Cora’s blog!), Rachel Cordasco (for her razor focus on translated SF/F/H), and, again, far too many for us to list and also we’re forgetting so many.

For fancasts, we’re big fans of a pretty wide range of shows, including Aggressive Negotiations, Breaking the Glass Slipper, Dungeon Master of None, Fansplaining, Fictitious, and Our Opinions Are Correct. On this, we need to find more diverse shows that really scratch that itch for delicious fan and SF/F/H content, so scream at us about your shows! We’re also suddenly into a lot of Actual Play podcasts, which may or may not qualify as fancasts or dramatic presentations. Shows like The Adventure Zone, Crit Squad, The Critshow, Facing Fate, The Neon Streets, The StarBirds, and Tableverse (and here, we’re always open to more things, too).

This is really just a cue to the audience to fill the comments with more things. Do it!

Where can people find you?

Website:  http://www.skiffyandfanty.com/
Twitter:  @skiffyandfanty
Instagram:  @skiffyandfanty
Patreon:  http://www.patreon.com/skiffyandfanty

Thank you, Shaun and Jen, for stopping by and answering my questions.

Do check out The Skiffy and Fanty Show, cause it’s a great fancast.

***

Do you have a Hugo eligible fanzine/-site or fancast and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

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Fanzine Spotlight: Quick Sip Reviews

It’s time for the next entry in my Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project. For more about the Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project, go here. You can also check out the other great fanzines and fancasts featured by clicking here.

I have decided to expand the scope of the project to also cover fancasts, because the fancast category could also use a boost. And besides, the borders between fanzine and fancast are porous anyway.

So today, I’m pleased to feature the two-time Hugo finalist Quick Sip Reviews, a blog which focusses on reviewing short speculative fiction.

Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Charles Payseur of Quick Sip Reviews to my blog:

Quick Sip Reviews header

Tell us about your site or zine.

At Quick Sip Reviews I review as much short speculative fiction as I can. For most of my time doing it, and through 2020, that meant basically a review post covering a short fiction issue or monthly content from a publication every weekday, with additional coverage of certain anthologies, novellas, collections, and the like. I’ve run some interviews, written a bit on reviewing and my own thoughts on genre related topics, and generally just tried as much as possible to celebrate the amazing works being produced in short SFF. Moving into 2021 I’m broadening my coverage but reigning in my review length, while moving to a weekly posting schedule rather than a daily one. But yeah. Short SFF reviews. It’s what I do.

Who are the people behind your site or zine?

While I’ve worked on collaborative blogs and projects like Nerds of a Feather and The Book Smugglers, Quick Sip Reviews has pretty much been my one man show since I started. So hello, I’m Charles Payseur! Hailing originally from the suburbs of Chicago, I now live in Western Wisconsin with my husband and two cats. Aside from my work at QSR, I’m also a fiction author and poet, and starting this year I’ll be adding anthology editor to my resume, as well as putting out a collection of my own short fiction.

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

Equal parts love of short SFF and guilt. I actually got into reviewing kind of sideways, from a call at Critters.org to apply to review at Tangent. This was before I really knew anything about the field aside from having read in the genre since I was young. So I started reviewing there, and it’s not really something I was super happy with, for a number of reasons. So while I was reviewing there I applied to be a short fiction reviewer at Nerds of a Feather, and began a monthly column (The Monthly Round). My work in that brought me much more into the fandom side of things, and brought me onto Twitter, where I began to hear more about Tangent and its history. Because I’m sort of geographically distant from conventions and couldn’t afford to travel at the time, social media really was where I got to hear the conversations about short SFF reviewing that I had never been exposed to. And I decided I wanted to do something that didn’t empower Tangent to further the harm it was doing (a sentiment that was underlined by a homophobic review that Tangent ran that year and I got to witness from both within and without). It was then I made my excuses, left Tangent, and focused on my own work.

So, of course, I started a blog! I’d run personal blogs before and I just wanted to follow through on the promise of what I wanted to do in the field. I knew there was a hunger for longer form reviews that covered every story in an issue. So that became my mission, to cover everything put out at the venues that I would cover. So I picked a bunch of publications, both new and old, and got to work. I don’t know that I would have started or done as much if not for the desire to in some ways atone for my time at Tangent. But what’s sustained for the past six years is more than that, is the passion for short SFF and reviewing that got me into the field to start with.

What format do you use for your site or zine (blog, e-mail newsletter, PDF zine, paper zine) and why did you choose this format?

Blog 100%. Though I’ve recently changed the frequency and style of my posts, 2020 was probably the height of my blogging output, with posts every weekday. Aside from my bread-and-butter, reviews of whole issues, I also covered some anthologies, a bunch of novellas, and did some other miscellaneous nonfiction like interviews, essays, and updates. It’s just…what works for me, I guess. It fits my mission, with each blog post delivering full coverage of a particular issue or month of content. It also allows my reviews to be a bit more bite-sized, as over 40,000 words of content would probably get a bit long in the tooth for a monthly issue/zine format. Being a blog makes tagging and organization easier, which is important for those wishing to navigate based on author of publication or month. And again, it’s just something I was familiar with from running my own personal blog for a few years before I ever got into fandom.

The fanzine category at the Hugos is one of the oldest, but also the category which consistently gets the lowest number of votes and nominations. So why do you think fanzines and sites are important?

For me, it’s that it shows people engaged in the field in ways driven by their passions. Some of the very best work in nonfiction and media coverage is happening in fan spaces, in fanzines. Because it’s people doing work that they are compelled to do for the sake of the work. It’s not really about making money, even for those who manage to make some, because there are likely more profitable ways to spend time. It’s about doing something because you have something to say and…say it. Now, I won’t say that there are no barriers to entry, especially because it’s often unpaid or greatly underpaid and there’s always the question of who can afford that. But, that’s still a very low barrier to entry, considering that otherwise, gatekeeping doesn’t have a centralized structure. Anyone can start a blog for free and start sharing things, and that’s rather wonderful, especially when it’s engaged and engaging, when it’s based on a love of the genre or a love of what the genre could be. And really I just love thinking too much about stories, and that I could start a blog and find that a lot of people were into exactly what I wanted to do, that’s magical.

In the past twenty years, fanzines have increasingly moved online. What do you think the future of fanzines looks like?

I could see fanzines being reframed further over time. Could a social media account (a Twitter feed, for instance) be a fanzine? No one is paid for being on Twitter, and certainly the case could be made that a feed that contained mostly “original work” should count as a fanzine, but something like that would privilege those with large platforms, regardless of how those platforms were built. Now, for me, that seems a little bit not in the spirit of things, but it probably would go a way towards addressing the concerns in the previous question, because a well known social media feed would likely draw votes based on recognition alone. Part of the issue in my opinion is that our online time has become so commodified that older traditions in blogging are running into the ways that social media companies have caught up to their own technology and leveraged their algorithms toward making themselves money. So there’s intense competition for attention, and given that fanzines tend small and unpaid, they do get a bit drowned out, or at least a bit fractured, which I think is why the vote totals tend to be lower and less concentrated. Part of it, too, is that the tools for being paid for fan work have increased, which is in one instance a very good thing, but in another a very complicating factor in what makes a fanzine a fanzine. A Patreon cannot be a fanzine by its very nature, nor can a paid newsletter or subscription anything. So where does that leave us as routes forward? I’m not entirely sure, though I am excited to see what shape it might take.

The four fan categories of the Hugos (best fanzine, fan writer, fan artist and fancast) tend to get less attention than the fiction and dramatic presentation categories. Are there any awesome fanzines, fancasts, fan writers and fan artists you’d like to recommend?

So, so many. I’ve worked with and deeply appreciate Nerds of a Feather and The Book Smugglers. I love what A.C. Wise does and the care and attention of her reviews. Bogi Takács, Vanessa Fogg, Alex Brown, and Maria Haskins are also wonderful. Jason Sanford does great coverage of the field, and really there’s so many amazing people doing heroic work as fans.

Where can people find you?

Blog: http://quicksipreviews.blogspot.com
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/quicksipreviews
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ClowderofTwo

Thank you, Charles, for stopping by and answering my questions.

Do check out Quick Sip Reviews, cause it’s a great blog.

***

Do you have a Hugo eligible fanzine/-site or fancast and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

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Fancast Spotlight: Hugo, Girl!

It’s time for the next entry in my Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project. For more about the Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project, go here. You can also check out the other great fanzines and fancasts featured by clicking here.

I have decided to expand the scope of the project to also cover fancasts, because the fancast category could also use a boost. And besides, the borders between fanzine and fancast are porous anyway.

So today, I’m pleased to feature the Hugo, Girl! podcast, which discusses Hugo winners and finalists as well as other SFF novels from a feminist POV.

Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Haley Zapal, Amy Salley as well as Lori and Kevin Anderson of Hugo, Girl! to my blog today:

Hugo, Girl! logo

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

Hugo, Girl! is a book club-style discussion podcast. We all read the month’s selection, with someone designated as DM each episode, meaning that they’ll take the lead on guiding the discussion and providing a little research into the book and author. Before the episode, we painstakingly avoid discussing the book in our group chat lest we spoil the upcoming discussion and waste hilarious reactions. (This is harder than it sounds).

We structure each episode around recurring segments like Boob Talk, Misogynist Moment, and Goodies from Goodreads. We end with the hardest, and probably most divisive segment, “Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?” where we ostensibly decide if the month’s selection is more sci-fi or more fantasy, but in reality is code for “Did Haley like this book?” since she is a known Tolkien-hater.

One of our favorite reviews from Apple Podcasts described us like this – “Your smart, funny sci-fi book club: Three friends chat about books, share insights, and crack each other up.” That’s pretty much everything we hoped and dreamed our podcast would be!

Who are the people behind your podcast or channel?

Hugo, Girl! is hosted by three self-proclaimed space feminists: Haley Zapal, Amy Salley, and Lori Anderson. Our audio tech and editing wizard is Kevin Anderson. We all live and work in Atlanta, Georgia.

Haley has no memory of watching Star Wars for the first time — it’s always been a part of her consciousness. By 12 she was immersed in the Expanded Universe and writing her first novella-length fanfic. As an adult, she enjoys movies and books about space, and pondering if the speed of light really is the universe’s speed limit. She does not like fantasy, mainly because of all the horses.

Amy is a longtime sci-fi and fantasy fan. She cut her teeth on teen urban fantasy (including a dubious foray into vampire LARPing in her youth) and Star Trek:TNG and never looked back. In fact, her teenage commitment to one day wooing Wesley Crusher is probably how we got where we are today. Amy is fiercely committed to converting all of her friends to the Truth of nerdy pop culture, including but not limited to forcing them all to listen to the podcast.

Lori had no idea she was a sci-fi and fantasy geek until she was an adult, despite having read Melanie Rawn’s Dragon Prince series at least ten times between the ages of 15 and 20. She also read (and re-read) the Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow series, but didn’t acknowledge the truth until her first trip to Atlanta’s Dragon Con in 2012. And there, a true geek was not exactly born, but at long last acknowledged and embraced.

Kevin’s first memory of being a “fan” is, of course, Star Wars (or maybe He-Man, who can say). From pretending to run from AT-ATs in the Northern Alberta snow, to puzzling over the timeline of Back to the Future, he was a fan from an early age. Soon every trip to the mall required a stop at the bookstore, where he would go straight to the Sci-Fi section, choosing books based mostly on cover art (this was before Goodreads!). He continues his fandom with yearly attendance at Dragon Con, cosplaying such characters as Herbert West (Re-Animator), Ned Flanders, the 10th Doctor (Doctor Who), and “Mad” Max Rockatansky.

Several years ago, during a mind-numbingly boring stretch of unemployment and in need of a worthwhile project, Haley set out to read all of the Hugo Award-winning novels. She started a blog with the most excellent pun name of “Hugo, Girl!” (think: you GO, girl!) to help chronicle her journey. No entries were made, sadly, but she did end up reading about 10 books before her funemployment was up.  She had caught the fever, however — and a seed was planted.

Fast forward a few years later. Blogs are out, and podcasts are in — at least for 30-somethings looking for a fun, creative outlet. Haley’s ex-girlfriend at the time had been doing a podcast with her best friend for a while, viewing it as a way to cement scheduled hang-out sessions while also reading cool books together. Inspired by this, Haley decided a podcast with her best friends was something she definitely needed in her life — and she had just the perfect, catchy name to help convince Amy and Lori. They were sold almost instantly.

The fan categories at the Hugos were there at the very beginning, but also the category which consistently gets the lowest number of votes and nominations. So why do you think fanzines, fancasts and other fan projects are important?

High-powered studio creations, like Marvel movies, and industry-lauded best-selling novels may get a lot of attention (and thus awards) because they have deep pockets of funding, but fan-centered media and creation is the lifeblood of sci-fi and fantasy. A perfect illustration of this divide can be seen even in cons. Your hosts are passionate attendees of the Atlanta-based Dragon Con (Lori and Kevin even got married at the con, on the floor of the Marriot Marquis in 2014!). The costumes, the panels, the parties, the overwhelming joy you get from Dragon Con — it’s incredible. But it’s the more corporate cons like San Diego’s Comic-Con that get the biggest stars and hugest announcements.

Fan-based media is important because it fosters a sense of community with everyday people you can relate to. With just a little equipment (and it’s getting cheaper every year!) anyone can start up a zine or podcast — and as a result, the act of production has become much more democratized, offering platforms for diverse voices, points of view, and participants. Other fans tuning into a DIY fan podcast can also contribute as listeners, communicating with the hosts via social media or email to provide much-needed feedback and criticism. In this way, fan-created media can oftentimes create a sort of self-sustaining ecosystem, and it’s fun (and eye-opening!) to experience in real-time.

We were about a year into Hugo, Girl! when the pandemic hit, so we were forced to begin recording episodes remotely instead of huddled all around Lori’s dining room table. It was a bit of a change at first, but remote recording has really been a blessing, as it’s enabled us to collaborate with other podcasts all across North America, including Hugos There, Androids & Assets, and Gribcast.  We’ve hosted a couple of one-off book clubs via Zoom, which gave us the opportunity to meet other podcasters and many of our most devoted listeners. It’s been great connecting with people who enjoy geeking out over the same stuff.

In the past twenty years, fanzines have increasingly moved online and fancasts have sprung up. What do you think the future of fan media looks like?

If reading sci-fi for our entire lives has taught us anything, it’s that we’ll always adapt to whatever the prevailing technology is in our lives. We mentioned before the democratization of media production, and we think it’s only going to continue becoming more equitable, allowing nearly anyone to produce something that other people can read, listen to, or watch from anywhere in the world.

The media of the past was dominated by passivity  — reading words printed on a book shipped across the country, listening to a radio show beamed from 40 miles away. We believe the media of the future will keep evolving toward more interactivity, as people work on projects together and discuss, comment, and critique each other in near real-time.

The four fan categories of the Hugos (best fanzine, fan writer, fan artist and fancast) tend to get less attention than the fiction and dramatic presentation categories. Are there any awesome fanzines, fancasts, fan writers and fan artists you’d like to recommend?

For reading material, we enjoy The Science Fiction Project (it’s tough to Google, so here’s a link: http://lovehistory.net/blog/the-science-fiction-project/), the Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog, Nerds of a Feather, and your blog! For listening, we recommend Hugos There, Androids and Assets, and Desi Geek Girls.

This one isn’t exactly fan work, but we also wanted to mention the podcast Newcomers because we think many of your readers might like it as much as we do. Two great comedians, Lauren Lapkus and Nicole Byer, watch all the Star Wars (yes, including the Christmas special) and Lord of the Rings movies for the first time and discuss. It’s lighthearted and hilarious.

Where can people find you?

We are Hugo, Girl! on Facebook, @hugogirlpodcast on Instagram and Twitter, and we can be reached via email at hugogirlpodcast@gmail.com. We’re pretty sure we’re on all the major podcast hosting apps, but if we’re not on the one you like, send us an email or a Tweet and we’ll try to fix that!

Thank you, Haley, Amy, Lori and Kevin, for stopping by and answering my questions.

Do check out Hugo, Girl!, cause it’s a great fancast.

***

Do you have a Hugo eligible fanzine/-site or fancast and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

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Fancast Spotlight: Appendix N Book Club

It’s time for the next entry in my Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project. For more about the Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project, go here. You can also check out the other great fanzines and fancasts featured by clicking here.

I have decided to expand the scope of the project to also cover fancasts, because the fancast category could also use a boost. And besides, the borders between fanzine and fancast are porous anyway.

So today, I’m pleased to feature the Appendix N Book Club, a fancast has the mission to read and discuss the books and authors listed in Appendix N of the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide with varying guests.

Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Jeff Goad and Ngo Vinh-Hoi of the Appendix N Book Club to my blog today:

Appendix N Book Club logoTell us about your podcast or channel.

We are a podcast about the literature that inspires our tabletop RPGs. Initially, we only focused on the Appendix N: a list of “inspirational reading” located in the back of the 1979 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide. Starting with episode 101, we are expanding the scope of the show to include ALL fiction that inspires our gaming. The first half of each episode focuses on the text from a literary perspective and the second half of each episode discussed the text from a gaming perspective.

Who are the people behind your podcast or channel?

Jeff Goad and Ngo Vinh-Hoi are the co-hosts. Both of us are fantasy tabletop roleplaying game enthusiasts who met in 2016 in Brooklyn, NY over our shared love of a game called Dungeon Crawl Classics. Each episode has a special guest and we have had guests ranging from Michael Moorcock to Jeannette Ng. Since Jeff is gay and Hoi is a POC, we also tend to chat about what it is like reading the fiction from a contemporary perspective. We also make an effort to have a diverse group of voices on the show as special guests.

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

The Appendix N Book Club started out as an in-person book club at a small coffee shop in Brooklyn, NY in 2016. Jeff organized it and Hoi attended regularly. Hoi was like “We should turn this into a book or a podcast or something!” and by summer of 2017 we launched the first episode of the podcast.

What format do you use for your podcast or channel and why did you choose this format?

Our podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and just about anywhere else you can find podcasts. We chose the podcast format because we were both New Yorkers who listened to podcasts on the subway during our commutes and we thought that we should make a podcast that we would want to listen to.

The fan categories at the Hugos were there at the very beginning, but also the category which consistently gets the lowest number of votes and nominations. So why do you think fanzines, fancasts and other fan projects are important?

Zines and podcasts are amazing formats because anyone can make them. There is no corporate gatekeeper who decides whose voice is more deserving of recognition. They are made for the people and by the people (cliche, I know!) and they are rarely motivated by financial gain (and good luck to those that are because that is a steep hill to climb!)

In the past twenty years, fanzines have increasingly moved online and fancasts have sprung up. What do you think the future of fan media looks like?

The lower the barriers for entry become, the more people are going to share their materials. The future of fan media is that it is a medium that is going to grow and will include more diverse voices and perspectives previously overlooked (or actively oppressed).

The four fan categories of the Hugos (best fanzine, fan writer, fan artist and fancast) tend to get less attention than the fiction and dramatic presentation categories. Are there any awesome fanzines, fancasts, fan writers and fan artists you’d like to recommend?

We are huge fans of the Cromcast, a podcast about Robert E. Howard and pulp fiction from the early 20th Century. We are also not the only podcast looking at literature from a gaming perspective. We would also recommend Sanctum Secorum and the Tome Show for anyone looking for more shows like ours. We also love many gaming podcasts like Spellburn, Gaming & BS, the Grognard Files, and the MegaDumbCast.

Where can people find you?

Our website is appendixnbookclub.com, our Twitter account is @appendix_n, and our email address is appendixnbookclub@gmail.com.

Thank you, Jeff and Hoi, for stopping by and answering my questions.

Do check out the Appendix N Book Club, cause it’s a great fancast.

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Do you have a Hugo eligible fanzine/-site or fancast and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

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WandaVision engages in some “Breaking the Fourth Wall” and finally delivers some answers

Even though much of fandom decided to go to war this week, it’s still time for the latest installment of my episode by episode reviews of WandaVision, Marvel’s new sitcom parody/Dickian faux reality paranoia. Previous installments may be found here. Also, may I remind you that Disney is still not paying Alan Dean Foster and others.

Warning: Spoilers and pretty significant ones at that behind the cut! Continue reading

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