I've been playing Dungeons & Dragons for over twenty years, and during that time, I've seen all manner of ways to heighten the immersion of the hobby, be it fully ensconcing yourself in foam armor and heading out into the woods for a weekend, skillfully crafting ancient-looking maps and scrolls with tea and patience, or referring to each party member as only their character's name throughout the entire night. One thing that always breaks the immersion is when you reach for your Funyuns and Mountain Dew (unless you're in the Mad Mage's cells...then anything's fair game), or dipping E.L. Fudge cookies in red wine (The author does not admit to being party to this behavior, but heartily recommends against in the in strongest terms.), or just annihilating the sleeve of Oatmeal Pies. Well, friends, some great minds in gaming have taken the next logical step in game session food immersion and created a cookbook full of dishes from the most famous of the Realms in the D&D canon, including Greyhawk, Eberron, Faerun, and Krynn. Steeped in the countless tomes of lore and the rich history of the world's best-known role-playing game, there has been a lot of love poured into making this book a recipe for not only gastronomic experimentation, but camaraderie and shared experiences, as well.
In a combination of alternate-history, secret society with a little steampunk thrown in, The Clockwork Dynasty tells the dual story of June Stefanov (an anthropologist who specializes in ancient technology) and the mechanical being Peter. After having found a unique automaton doll, June is unwittingly dragged into a centuries-long conflict between two warring factions of a world she never knew existed: a group of automatons who have been living among us for what might be over a thousand years. Rescued by Peter after she finds out that the automatons exist, June learns they are dying, and she and Peter must rediscover their primary power source in order to preserve their future. But the real question is: who made them and why?
Next up on the review list from the Hugo Awards is N.K. Jemison’s Emergency Skin, the winner for best novelette for 2020. For those of you unfamiliar with Ms. Jemisin, she is a multiple Hugo Award winner for her Broken Earth novels, as well as other accolades too numerous to mention. Emergency Skin is part of the Forward Collection (Amazon Original Stories) which contains a total of six stories from Veronica Roth, Andy Weir, and four others. The editor, Blake Crouch, came up with the idea of asking some of his favorite authors to write about emerging technologies and how they may affect the earth, our society, and who we are.
“As time marches on, Kaza has come to view his solitary existence as a necessary sacrifice, his home a sanctuary from a hostile world that doesn’t always look favorably on cops. By spending his free time reading cyberpunk novels, playing video games, and masturbating to porn, Gaza’s desire of preforming in a band and enjoying a satisfying relationship remained unrealized…”
“What belongs to me in this world, after all, besides what’s within these walls? What claim to this world do I have beyond them?”
“My alter-ego, Simon, might say, 'Nada.’"
Blood in the Mirror is an anthology of seven horror stories that center loosely around the theme of mirrors. Each writer’s tale is unique, and the stories range from imaginative retellings of folk tales to exorcisms, exploring pasts and futures through a genre lens that is less restricted than one would think, often contextualizing the term “horror” in their own right.
As I plow through the list of the 2020 Nebula Winners, I was very happy to see that Cat Rambo had won for Carpe Glitter. I hadn’t read it yet, but I had met her at the Nebula Conference last year and had taken a couple of her online courses, which I recommend. Carpe Glitter was the winner of the novelette category, and now that I’ve read it, I understand why.
It is the late 1800s, and Creeper is a thirteen-year-old orphan girl who lives on the streets of New Orleans and gets by stealing in this alternate history of America. Through a hard-fought battle at the end of the American Civil War, New Orleans is the only place where people of color are free, and Confederate and Union soldiers can socialize without coming to blows. Creeper hopes to escape her hand-to-mouth existence with the help of an airship captain, but life becomes more complicated when she overhears that the Rebels plan to kidnap an important Haitian scientist whose knowledge might destroy her beloved city. But Creeper has a secret. Deep inside her lies the old African God, Oya, who can be a bit capricious. Will Oya and the airship captain help her stop the Rebels, or do they have an agenda of their own?
Sequels seldom get the same attention and interest as the first film that launched a popular and enduring franchise. Regardless if it is the first film of a series or the tenth, behind each project there are individuals who are passionate about what they are working on, looking to deliver a final product that fans will enjoy. Finally, that perennial “middle child” - the sequel - is getting its day in the new CLASH Books titled Sequelland: A Story of Dreams and Screams from author Jay Slayton-Joslin.
Madeleine Holly-Rosing’s short story, “Here Abide Monsters,” was originally published in the Steampunk anthology, Some Time Later, which I had the pleasure of reviewing a few years ago. Set in the world of Holly-Rosing’s Boston Metaphysical Society, it tells the story of Duncan, a young Irish lad in pre-Civil War United States, attempting to lead Mae, an escaped slave, to freedom and safety.
I have to admit that I bought the first Murderbot novella because Amazon’s algorithms kept forcing it in my face every time I got on the site. It had a bunch of Hugo Awards attached to it. Plus, it sounded pretty cool, so I bought the audio book for when I was at the gym. (Yes, that was the time when we could all go to the gym.) It was funny, irreverent, and had me hooked. It also helped that the actor doing the narration was awesome, so I bought the rest for when I traveled to comic cons. (Miss those, too.) Soon, my husband couldn’t get enough. It was a no-brainer to pick up the novel when it came out.