小说图片区Speculative Fiction—an all-encompassing genre created to describe stories of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and other stories that have an element of “What if...” in them. A story in speculative fiction is one that adds an element of the unreal, or asks, what would become of our society if history took a different direction at some important event? Fiction with a little something extra thrown in.—William D. Richards

Friday, June 26, 2020

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for June 26, 2020

It's time for the latest weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with the J.K. Rowling transphobia controversy, tributes to Ian Holm, Joel Schumacher, Carlos Ruiz Zafón and Monica Stephens, the various iterations of Star Trek, the various iterations of Star Wars, Artemis Fowl, You Should Have Left,sexual harrassment in the speculative fiction and comics community, Michael Keaton's return to the Batman role, the latest convention cancellations and virtual conventions due to the corona virus and much more. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Comments on J.K. Rowling's remarks about transpeople:

Comments on various cases of sexual misconduct in the SFF, comics and gaming community:

Film and TV:

Tributes to Sir Ian Holm:

Tributes to Joel Schumacher:

Comments on the various iterations of Star Wars

Comments on the various iterations of Star Trek:

Comments on Artemis Fowl

Comments on You Should Have Left

Comments on Michael Keaton's return to the Batman role and Batman in general:


Writing, publishing and promotion:



Classics reviews:

Con and event reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Wounded Ones (Witch of Empire, Book 2) by G.D. Penman

Release date: June 23, 2020
Subgenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Mystery 

About The Wounded Ones:


Demons and serial killers are Iona "Sully" Sullivan's bread and butter, but nothing could have prepared her to face off against the full weight of the British Empire at the height of its power. With the War for American Independence in full swing, she finds even her prodigious talents pushed beyond their limits when citizens of the American Colonies begin vanishing amidst rumors of crop circles, hydra sightings and worse. Through a wild and lethal adventure that will see her clashing with the Empire around the world and beyond, the only constants in Sully's life are an undead girlfriend, a giant demon crow that has taken a shine to her, regular assassination attempts by enemies on all sides, and the cold certainty that nothing and nobody is going to make it out of the war in one piece.




The Gobi Grill was a Mongolian joint on Staten Island. Of thedifferent boroughs of New Amsterdam, Staten had always been thewealthiest and the most resistant to what the IBI used to call“foreign influences,” but even here, the Gobi stood out. AmidstFrench cuisine, Italian pizzerias, Greek salad buffets and stolidBritish pub food, it was the only place with anything spicy on themenu. Sully had always hated it, which meant that every time it washer partner’s turn to pick a take-out joint, the delivery came fromthere. On the late nights in the office, there was nothing thatCeejay had enjoyed more than watching Sully eat the spiciest thinghe could find on the menu without flinching. Sully had alwaysappreciated his sense of humor, even when she was the victim of it.
Right on cue at twenty minutes to nine, Ceejay swaggered in throughthe door in a sky blue Ophiran suit. He spotted Sully sitting bythe bar and spun on his heel to walk back out again. He made it asfar as the street before Sully’s snort of laughter brought him backinside.
“General Sullivan! Haven’t you won this war yet? I can’t sleep atnight with all the banging on the barrier. You are so negligent. Itis amazing that I didn’t steal your job years ago.”
Sully got up to shake his hand but stiffened as he engulfed her ina hug. Softly he murmured, “It is good to see you.” Then he steppedback and was instantly back to his full braying volume. “Twocoffees, please, and four Nai Wong Bao.”
They settled by the bar after Ceejay had made a big show of yawningand stretching so he could get a good look around the place. Therewas no breakfast crowd to speak of—a few people were grabbingtake-out coffee orders and there was an old Oriental man snoozingover a bowl of fishy soup in a booth. As far as Sully could tell,the Gobi never closed.
The food was in front of them before Sully could get a word in.Ceejay asked, “You came alone? I thought you would have bodyguardsand sycophants dribbling out behind you these days.”
Sully scoffed, “Like I’ve keep telling you all these years, I cantake care of myself.”
He raised an imperious eyebrow. “I seem to recall your telling methat—just before I had to pull your ass out of the fire.”
Sully prodded at the gelatinous white lumps on her plate. “What amI eating here?”
“Steamed buns. They have custard inside. Very British. You shouldlike them.”
She took a small bite. Swallowing took some effort. Ceejay waggledhis eyebrows again. “No?”
“I didn’t miss eating your weird food.”
“I’ve missed watching you eat my weird food. Your face—”
She cut him off. “How’s business? They haven’t kicked you back downto the mailroom yet?”
Ceejay chuckled. “I think that if there was no war going on, allthe polite white people would’ve had me taken out back and shot bynow. But since you keep dragging your feet, I get to keep being topdog in the IBI.”
“Well, I’ll do my best to keep fucking up then. For your jobsecurity.”
He gave a little mock bow of thanks, then tucked into his own bunsas Sully tried to wash the texture out of her mouth with coffee.After a moment of comfortable silence she said, “I hear you’vecaught an interesting case.”
“I catch all the interesting cases. I am like a net that hangsunderneath a thousand useless constabularies, catching everythingthat isn’t completely obvious.” His voice was slightly muffled bythe mouthful of food.
“I was thinking about a specific interesting case. One that isalmost as interesting as the one that I had just before I left theIBI.”
He sighed. “I don’t know why I pretended this was a social call.You are here about work. You are always all about work.”
Sully stared intently down into her coffee. “When things aresettled and the war is over, there will be time to be friendsagain. Hell, I might even apply for my old job. You could be myboss.”
That earned her a belly laugh. “I can just picture it—‘Sully, Ineed you to investigate this terrible crime.’ ‘Ceejay, go to hell,I am hungover.’” His smile never faltered as he hissed, “Did youcheck that we are safe to talk here?”
Sully let her arcane senses sweep out of her body and through therestaurant. She could feel the fire runes in the kitchen like acrackling pressure at the edge of her consciousness, and the alarmcharms woven into the doors and windows vibrated softly against hergentle intrusion. Laid over all of it was the sensation of her ownmagic, an almost imperceptible bubble blocking anyone from scryingon them. “We’re good for now.”
“No pattern,” he started. “These people, they seem to vanish withno logic at all. They go to bed one night and the next morning, poof. Nothing. It is not isolated to Nova Europa. The Northernprovinces of the Republic have been losing people too. I know thatthe United Nations have lost some, but they don’t trust us enoughto even give names or locations. They give me nothing but dates ofthe disappearances and then they expect everything that we have inreturn. Pricks.”
“And the Schr?dingers?”
“They go haywire. Spike off the chart. There is definitely magic atplay, but if any of our guys have a clue what it is, they arekeeping it to themselves.” Ceejay knocked back the last of hiscoffee.
Sully sipped hers. “Any theories?”
“The smart money is on spies. Everyone knows that the British hadthem everywhere. Now that the hammer is about to fall, they arepulling them all out. The crazy power spikes may be some sort ofpumped up portals to get past the blocks your friends cast.”
Sully frowned. “That makes no sense .You don’t withdraw your spieswhen you are about to fight someone, you keep them in place so theycan feed you vital intel—troop movements, morale on the ground. Idon’t buy it.”
Ceejay was scowling. “It doesn’t matter what you buy. It isn’t yourjob anymore. Remember? You quit.”
A bitter laugh escaped Sully. “Yeah, lucky me.”
It was only when he turned on her that she realized he wasn’tjoking. “Back off, Sully. You have your own business to be dealingwith. Stay out of mine.”
Sully’s jaw clenched but she forced her temper down. She had alifetime of practice at that. “I don’t know what you think is goingon, but I don’t want my job back.”
“What’s going on is that just when I thought I was going to see myfriend again for the first time in months, a spy walked in dressedin her clothes. Fuck you very much, Sully.”
Sully did not blow up the Gobi Grill. She even paid the tab for thecoffee and glutinous lumps. When she stepped out into the street,the gathering of three dozen crows perched on every flat surfacewas probably a complete coincidence and nothing to do with hermood. She shooed them away and waited to watch them circle upthrough the canyon between the skyscrapers to vanish into the chillblue sky. She blew out a warm cloud of breath after them. Shedidn’t know what was worse: Ceejay’s calling her a governmentstooge or his being completely right. Her phone started to vibratein her pocket and with great reluctance she drew it out. She wasn’tsure how Ogden had adapted to modern technology faster than shehad, given that she had several centuries head-start, but there washis name flashing on the screen.
She grunted, “Sullivan.”
He replied, “Ogden.” She could almost hear the smug grin.
“What do you want, Ogden?”
“I just thought that it might be an auspicious time to invite youto visit with us in Manhattan.”
Sully tried not to growl. “Why would anyone want to do that?”
“You could take a look at the unique architecture? Get to know yournew friends and allies? Come and witness the ritual that we use totear down the Veil of Tears?”
Sully huffed out another plume of steam. “You finished the spell.”
“We have most assuredly finished the spell.”
What Manhattan used to be could be seen in its foundations. As shesoared over the water Sully caught a glimpse of wood and whitewashhere and there. The ground gravel beneath her course still bore theshape of cobblestones in places and there was unmistakably dirt anddung beneath that. Once upon a time, this had been a human place.The moment that she looked higher than knee height the illusionthat it still belonged to mankind vanished. Conjured stone twistedup into the skyline, jagged and impossibly symmetrical. The spiresof Manhattan resembled nothing so much as gargantuan termite moundsand the fact that the doorways and thoroughfares of the city hadbeen designed with residents many times the size of humans in mindjust hammered home the idea that humans were visitors here. Theouter wall stood at more than twenty feet tall and the smooth whiteexpanse of it was oppressive, but it also hid the strangeness ofeverything within its circumference very well. There was no gate inor out of Manhattan; there was no need when every one of theresidents could fly. Sully tried not to shudder as she saw thedemons coiled along the ramparts beneath her, nesting in thebelfries and lurking in the shadows between the towers. There werenot as many of them as there were Magi, but the numbers were close.In all of the dull meetings since the war began, Sully had notvoiced her suspicions that behind their impassable walls the Magiwere summoning more demons to bolster their forces. It wasn’t asthough there was anything that could be done, even if they were;Manhattan was a law unto itself. That had been the problem sincebefore it popped back into the world.
Sully took the scenic route down to the massive ritual circle inthe center of the city where the mass of Magi were gathered.Intelligence about America’s allies had been even harder to come bythan information about the British in the past months, so she wasmaking up for lost time. That was what she told herself to justifyher slow descent. It wasn’t because she was frightened to go downinto a massive nest of demons that would eat her magic and tear herto shreds and it certainly wasn’t because she was keeping an eyeout for Mol Kalath. The bird could be here or not, it made nodifference to her. Once she was sure that it was not, she dove toland gracelessly by Ogden’s side. He was grinning. “A very pleasantafternoon to you, Miss Sullivan.”
“Right. How long have we got until the fireworks start?”
He swept his arms out to encompass this little town square. “Theyhave already begun the preliminary casting. Each component shall bebound within the circle and when all of the parts have beenassembled—”
Sully grumbled. “I know how ritual magic works. I’m asking for atime.”
When he laughed it tugged on the scars across his lips, making himflinch. “By this time tomorrow, the Veil of Tears shall be unpickedand all the hell of Europe will be unleashed upon the British. Evennow we ready our envoys to meet with the trapped demons. We shallmarshal our forces in France, then strike out before tomorrow ends.They will not stand against such an onslaught for long. I wouldexpect surrender by the following dawn at the latest.”
“Good job. Has Pratt been told?” Sully cracked her knuckles.
“The Prime Minister has been informed, yes.”
Sully closed her eyes and felt the magic taking form, each casterstitching their spell onto the last, every spell simple and easy toreplace if an error was made, but woven together into an immense,complex tapestry. She had punched through a few barrier spells inher day, but that was a momentary disruption of the stablepatterns, not a permanent solution like this patchwork monstrosityof a spell. She could already see the shape that it was going totake from the gaps left in the framework that they had cast so far.Understanding the totality of it was probably beyond her, but shecould appreciate the craft.
“So, did you invite me here to watch you all casting for twentyhours? Because I might need a seat or something.”
Ogden shuffled his feet. “Knowing the little that I do of you, Ihad assumed that you would want to be at the front lines when thefighting begins.”
“You assumed right.” Sully flexed her hands. The dense magic thatsaturated the air was teasing little sparks of spellfire from herfingertips.
“Which is why our mutual friend has offered to carry you with thevanguard to Europe.”
Sully grimaced at the tell-tale rustle of feathers behind her.“Hello again, Mol Kalath.”
“GREETINGS, SHADOW-TWIN.” The voice tore right through Sully everysingle time. Even the other demons roaming free around Manhattanchattering in their own tongue didn’t make her head creak as much.
“I guess that you’re my ride to Europe?”
Sully ground her teeth together while Ogden clapped her on theback. “Just think, Miss Sullivan. In two days’ time, the war willbe over and we will have toppled the British Empire.”
She unclenched her jaw. “All right. Let’s do this.”


Meerkat Press | Amazon | Indiebound| Book Depository | Barnes & Noble


a Rafflecopter giveaway



G.D. Penman is the author of the Strata Online and Witch of Empireseries, the ghostwriter of more than 50 books, and a freelance gamedesigner. A firm believer in the axiom that any story is madebetter with the addition of dragons, he is fulfilling his destinyas an overweight bearded white man by pursuing a career as afantasy author. In “real life” he lives in Scotland with hispartner, children, dog and cats. Just . . . so many cats.

Website | Twitter | Tumblr


About Meerkat Press

 Meerkat Press is an independent publisher committed to finding and publishing exceptional, irresistible, unforgettable fiction. And despite the previous sentence, we frown on overuse of adjectives and adverbs in submissions. *smile*

Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Pinterest



Monday, June 22, 2020

The Capramancer Next Door by Danielle Williams

Release date: June 14, 2020
Subgenre:  Cozy Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy

About The Capramancer Next Door:


Down-to-earth mage Will Schafer has her hands full moving into a new house while keeping her mischievous herd of magical goats in line. Meeting handsome gardener Rickert Nash takes the sting out of moving...until his shadowy past comes roaring back to bite him in the butt.

Now Will and the herd must step in to save their neighbor from getting mulched—but can a girl and her goats defeat a formidable hunter...or are they all about to buy the farm?

Called “A wonderful read!” by the owner of GoatsLive.com, The Capramancer Next Door is an upbeat fantasy adventure sure to leave you smiling.




She’d picked the land for itsweather—all four seasons, and plenty of falling leaves in autumn (the herdloved crispy leaves, snarfed them down like potato chips)—and the village forits lack of development, which meant plenty of browsing and wide-open blueskies.
She was enjoying just such a skynow on the front steps of her new brick home, which she had picked for theacreage. (She’d thought it a little strange the land was all straight outbehind the house, like those small-until-you-realized-how-far-back-they-wentshops she’d visited in Europe on vacation, but since it wouldn’t bother theherd any, she hadn’t spared another moment’s worry about it.)
The chipped mug of apple cider inher hand steamed, warming her round chin. It was hard to stop smiling. Todaythe boulders came in; with any luck, she could call the herd over beforesundown.
Her lips worked inwardmomentarily. “Luck” and “contractors” did not go together in the same sentence,let alone the same reality. And she hadn’t finished unpacking, so who knewwhere her luck talisman was hiding. Probably in one of those Trader Joe’s papersacks she’d used to pack up her staff-care drawer. She’d thrown a lot ofsundries from around the house in that paper bag.
Pride in one’s mage staff wasemphasized at the University of Rivermoon (waxing), with staff inspectionscarried out by the TA’s every week, and special staff inspections carried outby the head mages of the department every month (and only once a month, if you’d chosen well; randomly two to threetimes a month if you’d chosen the wrong major), and a final staff inspectionupon graduation by the dean.
But since she’d become apracticing capramancer, she’d found she only brought the staff out twice ayear, max, at summer solstice and Easter. And even then, it was mostly forshow. She’d attempted to use her mage’s staff—which, of course, had a crook onthe end, like any self-respecting shepherd’s staff—to herd the goats only once,because something about the blue glassy stone from which it was made enticedElvis (the herd’s voice) to try breaking it. Via ricocheting off it. Of course,that had been when she’d first taken in the herd; she and Elvis were cool now,so maybe it’d be different…but Wilhemendra didn’t want to risk it.
So for now her staff hung from ahook on the inside door of the wardrobe with the winter coats and boots. Herhand went to the wardrobe key around her neck, disguised as a dainty bronzechoker. Still, she was a mage, and it was her staff, and it did merit some protection.So the wardrobe was kept locked year round.
Will heard the rumble of plasticwheels on pavement. She looked next door to see a man walking his garbage outto the curb. He wore a rugged hat with quite a brim (it reminded her, somehow,of Australia), a long-sleeved shirt in a color she believed they were nowcalling “greige”, and pants a shade darker. Coyote brown boots completed theensemble, or so Will thought, until the man turned around to return up thedriveway. Then she saw the sturdy yellow gloves tucked into the waistband ofhis pants. Gardening gloves.


Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Apple | Scribd | Vivlio | Angus & Robertson 


About Danielle Williams: 


Danielle Williams is the author of (so far) four novels and nearlya dozen other tales of wonder, horror and humor, including Steel City, Veiled Kingdom; The Girlfriend Who Wasn’t from Delaware; and The Witching License. Explore her full collection of stories at www.PixelvaniaPublishing.com today.