All posts by CyborgGeek

Daughter of Mystery – Heather Rose Jones

Daughter of MysteryDaughter of Mystery: surprisingly traditional.

In Daughter of Mystery Heather Rose Jones captures the essence of the sweeping epic often pervasive in speculative fictional works with the largess of language and intricacy of tale.  Like other authors in this genre following in the wake of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Jones encountered the difficulty of creating a world that is at once attentive to historical mythos and unique.  In a way, finding a topic that can hold up to Bradley’s standard and transcend it becomes an arduous task.

Jones sets the story in a believable, although fictional, European realm (Alpinna) and era (18th century) and is quite attentive to the sensibilities of the nobility with respect to speech, manners, and familial dynamics.  Assuredly, Jones created a well-written work, although steeped in traditional historical romance genre, rather than speculative fiction. That attentiveness to the particular type of writing, with the family dynamics, social class, etc., created a world that seemed all too traditional; the only real twist seemed to be the superimposition of female characters in place of male ones. That is to say, I found the work to be rather heterosexual in disposition, despite the fact that the major characters, and the romance, centered on Margerit and Barbara.

Regardless of the inclusion of the “Mysteries of the Saints,” a locus of divine power (female goddess in pseudo-Christian guise), the text still appeared a bit too closely wrapt in traditionalism and not quite speculative enough, which is fine for a romance novel, not for a work of speculative fiction.   Further, this Jones book could easily cross over to a more mainstream venue, as it seems quite in alignment with an epic period romance, replete with aristocratic titles, intrigue, inheritance, and the need for a the damsel to have one sworn to save her.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Bella Books (February 18, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00INAL256
  Amazon.comTo buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

Freya’s Tears – D. Jordan Redhawk

freyas tearsWith a title like Freya’s Tears, anyone with some background in Norse mythology may raise an eyebrow. Will the goddess be woven into the tale at all, and if so, how so? For this reader, who possesses deep affinity for mythology, skepticism hovered above the novel prior to reading it.   “Surely, disappointment will once again reign as another favored myth becomes defiled by misuse,” I thought. With abundant joy, each page unfolded into an incredibly well crafted, unique, science fiction tale that was replete with an astonishing voice of the storytellers of the past.

D. Jordan Redhawk transfixed this reader with Freya’s Tears, a work at once unique and steeped in the beauty of mythology. Redhawk managed to maintain the myth of Freya, not merely by allusion or homage, but by intricately lacing it into a modern work of science fiction. In doing so, Redhawk transcends skill and reaches into the realm of the masterful.

D. Jordan Redhawk biogEach facet of the book incorporates the myth: from the ship’s name, Freya’s Tears, wound into the main character Captain Elsibet Ulfarsdottir, the unfolding of the plot, Elsbet’s love, and more.

Apart from subtle, yet complete, weaving of mythology, Redhawk builds an intricate, believable world within a troubled space cargo ship that avoids the trappings of the mundane replication of space operatic formulaic writing. Freya’s Tear’s was my first D. Jordan Redhawk novel experience. If this book is an indication of Redhawk’s other works, I plan to relish the exploration of space, and any other worlds that she creates, by checking out the rest of her bibliography.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Bella Books (June 16, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594933844
  Amazon.com

To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

LESBIAN FOCAL BOOK LIST: FANTASY

michael-whelan-dragons-et-cavaliersFantasy fiction, inclusive of all aspects, tends to be shoved in the corner, placed on the odd shelf in the bookstore corner, maligned, over-looked, marginalized and so forth.  Books written by women, very often, suffer the same fate.  Books written by openly lesbian authors tend to be subsumed within the categories of “women authors,” “lgbtq,” or hidden away, promoted via word of mouth, social media, and the like.

This list, currently 26 pages, was borne out of much research. I excluded works by males, ones without lesbian main or major characters, works that are not fantasy, per se, but actually erotica, and ones that portray sexuality as sick or twisted. Similarly, I left out most recent works, as those less recently written tend to be forgotten, not having the luxury of social media and so forth. In the coming weeks, of course more recent works will be added, as will other works that were overlooked. Further, and more importantly, the list will become clearly categorized by sub-genre, easier to search and generally be more user friendly. The goal was to share what I have discovered thus far. I hope that the work so far has shown that many women have written novels that still need to be discovered.

Click here to open the “Lesbian focal book list”

Please feel free to submit titles, for the intention is to increase awareness. However PLEASE fill in the form rather than make comments – then we can add them to the new database.  Submit a title here.

Vermilion Justice – Sheri Lewis Wohl

Vermilion Justice

Vermilion Justice, by Sheri Lewis Wohl, avoids the trappings of the new sparkling vampire paradigm while by combining a mix of tradition and her own unique spin on the tale.   Wohl weaves a tale that skirts the line of horror, treading down the dark urban fantasy hand in hand with the paranormal, employing excellent use of literary reference, attention to detail, and a clear delineation of the good versus evil. The main character, vampire Riah Preston, compels the reader with a certain verve, intellect, and sexiness befitting of any vampire.

The overall story combines enough necessary modernity to hold most readers’ attention by the inclusion of a group created to fight evil (Spiritus Group), a mystery, (a missing friend), then returns to the conventional with a trip to Romania, the traditional homeland of the vampires, and a meeting with Vlad Dracula.

In a way, Wohl seems to try to fill the bill for all vampire fans, both traditional and modern. But attempting to please divergent fan base may be detrimental, as her plot development follows a somewhat obvious path.

While Vermilion Justice is well written, it felt a bit too familiar, regardless of the twist of having the lesbian focal characters.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (June 14, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00L0LZC92
  Amazon.com

To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

Fantasy and it’s many sub-genres and connections

women animals magic the gathering long hair corset fantasy art owls cloak artwork bears braids lowa_www.wallpaperhi.com_44

There is a certain agreement that fantasy literature varies widely, so much so that the genre tends to be split into subsets.   These subsets have a great deal of overlap, but in other ways the sub-genre has its basis in a particular specificity.

 

Fantasy, as a literary genre, may be defined as:

  • Fantasy is imaginative literature, often set in strange places with unusual characters and the use of magic.
  • A story about things that happen in an imaginary world
  • Imaginative fiction featuring especially strange settings and grotesque characters

Given this definition, fantasy works can be categorized in a host of ways. Typically those divisions are rather specific, which leads to many overlaps. However, if we divide the works into major sub-genres, then we may end up with something along these lines:

  • Fantasy (General)
    • Traditional
      • Tolkien
    • Contemporary
      • Urban
  • Dark
    • Dark Urban
    • Paranormal
      • Supernatural
    • Horror
      • Lovecraftian
  • Mythic
  • Fairytale (parody, re-telling, etc.)
  • Gods and Demons
  • Heroic Tales
    • Sword and Sorcery
  • Magical Realism
  • Historical
    • Medieval
  • Science Fantasy (science fiction)
    • Traditional
      • Verne
    • Golden Age
      • Asimov
    • New Wave
    • Cyberpunk
  • Speculative
    • Alternative histories
      • Steampunk
      • Dieselpunk
  • Superhero
  • Fanfiction

Certainly, that’s incomplete. However, the idea that overlaps become more apparent.   So how to decide?

Well, for this reader, it depends on the extent of the slant of, say, dark elements, or if the plot leans toward speculation, re-telling, science orientation, etc. I tend to get more into specifics when reviewing aspects of the novel, since each novel tends to overlap many categories.   A particular book can be a speculative historical fantasy that has attributes of steampunk and myth.   So, one category seems too narrow.

If the discussion goes further into the ingredients required for each category, then, we would end up with something along the following lines:

Basic Elements of Fantasy

  • Fantastic creatures
    • Legendary creature
    • Angel
    • Demon
    • Dragon
    • Elemental
    • Familiar
    • Fairy
    • Spirit
    • Undead
  • Types of characters in fantasy
    • Hero
    • Magician
    • Occult detective
    • Witch
  • Magic
    • Animism
    • Shapeshifting
    • Evocation
    • Incantation
    • Magocracy
    • Necromancy
    • Technomancy
    • Witchcraft
  • Fantasy races
    • Elves
    • Fairies
    • Giants
    • Gnomes
    • Hobbits
    • Halflings
    • Orcs
    • Trolls
  • Places and events
    • Fantasy world
    • Astral plane
    • Enchanted forest
    • Mythological places
    • Lost cities
    • Quests

Each of the categories first emerged from fantasy, then divide into sub groups, with each sub group still overlapping with one another.

So let’s return to our first list of fantasy and it’s sub-types:

Check out Science Fiction and its sub-genres:

  • Science Fiction
  • Hard versus Soft
  • Cyberpunk
  • Time Travel
  • Alternative History
  • Superhuman
  • Apocalyptic and Post Apocalyptic
  • Social Sci-Fi (societal themes)
  • Anthropologic
  • Biopunk (misuse of biotechnology, and synthetic biotech.)
  • Feminist
  • Steampunk
  • Dieselpunk
  • Sci-fi poetry

Now consider Speculative Fiction:

  • Alternative histories
  • Alternative futures
  • Steampunk
  • Dieselpunk
  • Future History
  • Paranormal
  • Time Travel
  • Feminist
  • Anthropologic
  • Societal

Let’s turn now to Horror

  • Gothic
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Speculative
  • Zombies
  • Vampires
  • Occult
  • Werewolf and other were-creatures
  • Psychological
  • Monsters
  • Southern gothic
  • Suburban gothic
  • Survival

How about Urban Fantasy?

  • Real world plus magic
  • Emerging magical power in humans
  • Alien races
  • The discovery of earthbound mythological creatures,
    1. Co-existence between humans and paranormal beings
  • Co-existence of real world and a hidden world, say of magic
  • Witches

Dark Urban Fantasy?

Honestly, Urban Fantasy plus pick a few of the above, generally darker elements of paranormal (just north of horror) and magic, with dystopian disposition or attributes of the science fiction or speculative fiction

The elements of basic fantasy are taken, to some degree or other, and used in particular ways in order to create a specific tone. Thus, magic may become used as something realistic or more on the verge of traditional myth. Or perhaps, the magic becomes something verging on the possible, as in scientific progression. Hence, one basic ingredient, magic, has a plethora of possible uses in fantasy literature, traditional to cyberpunk. Similarly, beings of traditional fantasy, say fairies, take on the modern world in a duality in urban and contemporary fantasy. The attributes of the fae may be used in the common tradition of beautiful magic wielders, as the defenders of magic, or become a mixed use, taking the wide range of fairy traditions and blending them into, say, a modern individual whose latent fairy blood emerges, somehow, creating a fairy human hybrid. Furthermore, it may be the case, that more modern fantasy creatures, such as zombies, are not altogether different than the those beings in thrall of the gods, or, if given a social-political gaze, zombies become the mindless followers of the evil leaders in a post apocalyptic future.

Discussions of this sort can go on for pages. However, the ultimate aim of this piece was to distinguish types of fantasy sub-genres, the elements therein, and why overlap occurs.   It seems that the best thing to do as a reader may be to take note of the major ideas that stand out and use those as a guide.

Hell’s Belle – Marie Castle

HellsBelleMarie Castle’s First Novel, Hell’s Belle: Book 1 of the Dark Mirror series revitalizes the Dark Urban Fantasy landscape. Lately, the fantasy landscape, regardless of sub-genre, has become littered with perfunctory, now cliché, devices: the detective agency run by supernatural beings, an individual whose magic is extraordinary for her generation, a council put into place to enforce the laws of magic use, and trips to hell replete with demons.   In her novel, Hell’s Belle, Marie Castle indeed employs these ideas, however, she does so not only in an exceptionally clever manner, but she breaths new life into them.

Perhaps I was drawn to her ability to blend a depth of literary knowledge and re-package it in a non-alienating manner; thereby leaving no reader out of the story.   Blending depth of research into a very accessible story takes a deft hand, and Castle does that well. Yet, Hell’s Belle goes beyond simply having an intellectually disposed author (as most authors have such dispositions in some manner.)   Castle generates interest in the expected by adding to them, creating layers of gray, in a genre where evil is generally obvious and good may be as well.

The first idea that caught my attention was the detective agency, Dark Mirror.   Of course, for this reader, who truly enjoys looking through the glass darkly, the name caught my eye; yet Castle used the allusion delightfully well. She wove the allusion into the main character, Cate Delancey, into her identity, into her core witch. Whether that technique was intentional or not doesn’t matter, for the action sets forth a complexity in Cate Delaney.   The character never transcends her place in the magic-cum- human realm. Castle could easily have left Cate as simply a Guardian of humanity, hence “good” in character, yet she never truly is completely “good” in the traditional way.   Furthermore, Castle extends the notion into the conception of Hell. While Hell has it’s Dante-esque cast, Castle manipulates it such that it can be simultaneously frightening and, contrarily, sexy.

Marie Castle BioThere’s more to enjoy in Marie Castle’s debut novel.   Her ability to capture Southern culture is exemplary. While many Southerners fail to capture the nuances of language, disposition, and sensibilities; Castle embraces the essence of the culture without trivializing it, particularly in the familial relationships and interactions with others – politeness, often with a bite.

I enjoyed this book a good deal more than I expected to do, as I am becoming a tad jaded by the over usage of once good ideas. I recommend Hell’s Belle and happily anticipate the rest of the series.

GCLS Goldie Awards
Hell’s Belle — Finalist, Lesbian Paranormal, Lesbian Debut Fiction.

Lambda Literary Awards
Hell’s Belle — Finalist, LGBT Speculative Fiction / Paranormal.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Bella Books (December 16, 2013)
  • ASIN: B00HX1THWQ
  Amazon.com
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

Defining Fantasy Genres #1

– Taken from a longer article  Reading on the Dark Side and the Realm in Between -18 months of reading only series by female authors of the darker side of fantasy – JUNE 9, 2014 –

 

Given that the definitions for Fantasy and it’s sub-genres vary, my parameters for categorization follow along these lines, loosely, and there is tremendous overlap

1. Fantasy Fantasy as a genre, commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme, or setting. Setting often takes place in imaginary worlds where magic and magical creatures exist, generally gaining inspiration from mythology and folklore. Within such a structure, any location of the fantastical element is possible: it may be hidden in, or leak into the apparently real world setting, it may draw the characters into a world with such elements, or it may occur entirely in a fantasy world setting, where such elements are part of the world.

2. Urban Fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy defined an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, and the settings may include fictional elements. Here the fantasy cast within the real world by means of alien races, the discovery of earthbound mythological creatures, coexistence between humans and paranormal beings, conflicts between humans and paranormals.

3. Dark Urban Fantasy is a sub-genre of UF replete with themes of a darker nature.
Darkness, death, violence, sex, and blood permeate stories dealing with paranormal characters and their urban landscape. A struggle typically exists as characters cope with latent magic and it’s effect on humanity or a notion of fallen as in-between the good versus evil dynamic or the this world/other world distinction.

4. Science Fiction, overly simplified, is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginative content such as futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. Authors commonly use science fiction as a framework to explore politics, identity, desire, morality, social structure, and other literary themes. A couple of important elements, which overlap into UF, DUF, etc.

  • alternative timelines, or in a historical past that contradicts known facts of history or the archaeological record.
  • other worlds, or on subterranean earth.
  • Characters that include aliens, mutants, androids, or humanoid robots and other types of characters arising from a future human evolution.
  • Scientific principles that are new or that contradict accepted physical laws, for example time travel, wormholes, or faster-than-light travel or communication.
  • New and different political or social systems, e.g. dystopian, post-scarcity, or post-apocalyptic.
  • Paranormal abilities such as mind control, telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation.
  • Other universes or dimensions and travel between them.

5. Paranormal: Paranormal fiction is a genre of fiction whose storylines revolve around the paranormal. The most prevalent themes involving vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, or time travel, paranormal romances can also include books featuring characters with psychic abilities, like telekinesis or telepathy.

6. SteamPunk. Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American West, set within in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power regains mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Steampunk perhaps most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era’s perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art.

7. CyberPunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a near-future with plots centering on a conflict among hackers, artificial intelligences, and megacorporations. The setting tends to be cast in a near-future Earth, rather than the far-future settings or galaxies. The settings are usually post-industrial dystopias but tend to be marked by extraordinary cultural ferment and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its creators. Very reminiscent of film noir aesthetic.

Demon Hunter (The Silver Legacy Series) – Linda Kay Silva

demon hunterThe Dark Urban Realm has an excellent new series in the making with Linda Kay Silva’s new book, Demon Hunter: The Silver Legacy Series, Book 1

Some creatures within the fantasy/paranormal realm, particularly those within the dark reaches, become stereotypes in a paradigmatic way.   A certain traditional characterization takes place, rendering these beings as trite. Demons tend to be among these stereotypes, unfortunately.

Blissfully, in Demon Hunter, Linda Kay Silva immediately dismisses the trivialization wrought by the paradigm in her first paragraph.   She writes, “Demons are not what people think they are. There are seldom horns or spiked tails, no cloven hooves or red skin. They come in all shapes and sizes, and aren’t anything like Hollywood portrays them.” (pg.1).   With that opening, I became a fan of Linda Kay Silva. She dispelled the typical vernacular, appearance, and assumptions attached to the concept of demon and advanced the notion beyond the believable, but to the original intention: as cautionary tales about evil in this world.

Linda Kay Silva bioSilva transcends the obvious portrayals of demon, evil, and of the demon hunter (with her main character, Denny Silver), and creates a psychologically compelling dark urban fantasy, with a frightening perspective on the inevitability of evil as simultaneously provocative and “real.”

Her characters are complex, innovative, and in some ways, terrifying. Silva’s use of journaling allows for the demon hunter, Denny, to have layered voices, which creates exceptional depth of character. Silva’s intuitive sense of legitimacy of the paranormal along with her ability to weave an intricate tale, made me a believer in demon hunters and a huge fan of Linda Kay Silva. She created an inroad to my Dark Urban Fantasy fiendish heart not only by writing a great book, but, by tantalizing me with another of my favorite things – a new series! Demon Hunter: the Silver Legacy Series, must exist on any Dark Urban Fantasy or Paranormal lovers “to-read” list.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 358 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Sapphire Books Publishing (May 1, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1939062543
  Amazon.com
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

Destination Alara – S.Y. Thompson

Destination AlaraSY Thompson’s newest novel, Destination Alara, transports readers to a science fiction plot replete with nearly everything for which an aficionado of such books could wish: the creation of a unique galactic world with its own historical backstory, strong female protagonists, a romance which enhances the plot rather than overwhelming it, sophisticated political intrigue, and vivid, descriptive settings which are richly sensory in nature.  It isn’t surprising that Thompson delivers a novel in the tradition of Ursula Le Guin, with a bit of Elizabeth Lynn, and Mercedes Lackey tossed in for good measure.  Thompson creates a unique world, with incredibly nuanced characters, and a view of a matriarchal social structure that is not overly simplified or stereotypical, but possible.  Needless to say, I loved this book.  Thompson brought a bit of glee to my sci-fi soul.

Thompson creates a rather post-apocalyptic setting with its own historical backstory (not just a few years prior, but layers/generations of societies, not completely unlike that of Star Trek or Star Wars, but unique unto itself).  That history is useful in that it helps stage the current a political struggle, cast, (aptly), with gender, class, imperialist issues.  If Thompson had simply inserted a matriarchal society in place of the patriarchal one in which we live, the tale would be simplistic.

SY ThompsonInstead, the use of matriarchy allows for a tension between the antagonists in such a way that demonstrates the oppressive nature of male centered culture toward women; particularly with respect to women in power, the means by which rape culture would attempt to strip the power from any woman, as well as the disdain patriarchal societies hold for lesbians.  These themes play out well in the dynamic character of Admiral Meryan as a daughter of the ruling family and the circumstances in which she is placed within the plot, as well as how Van, the other protagonist, military hero, and love interest, works within that dynamic.

Desiination Alara - revised jacket

Alternate jacket image

Certainly, I could go on for pages about the themes at work in Destination Alara, it seems more appropriate for this review to clue the reader into the incredibly, no, sensuously vivid descriptions that Thompson provides the reader.   Each scene can be felt, heard, visualized completely, as if the reader is along side the character.   If one has ever watched an episode of Star Trek, then take that visualization and double it – that’s how intense the descriptors are written.  With respect to dialogue, each character has a unique phrasing, accent, emotional range, even with respect to minor characters.  Thompson delivers such a rich complexity to each moment of the plot that it seems genuine – an excellent rendering of a possible world.

All in all, SY Thompson delivers outstanding science fiction with a lesbian fiction focus.   The lesbian focal aspect should not dissuade non-lesbians from picking up this book, because it is outstanding and transcends gender identity.  It is simply put, wonderfully written science fiction.  I highly recommend this book.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 210 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Regal Crest/Silver Dragon (June 4, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00KSNFA22
      Amazon.com
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

Fractured Futures – S.Y. Thompson

Fractured FuturesAs a hard-core Dark Urban Fantasy fan, it takes a clever plot to surprise me any more. More often than not, it seems as though every story harkens back to one prior, often as just shy of plagiarism, or as accidental homage. So, when I opened Fractured Futures, I was prepared to for disappointment. Happily, what I discovered was a strong dark urban fantasy, complete with intense female protagonists and romance that was rich, inviting, and sexy (oh, and between woman!)

SY Thompson takes a futuristic landscape, reminiscent of a blending of Orwell and Ridley Scott, dark, centralized, and fraught with layers of discord and corruption, yet she reaches further into that realm, casting a glance at the oppression of women service workers via the near cyborg effect cast upon Ronan as a police officer, serves as tool both owned and employed by the state.  This reductionism becomes further enhanced by her connection to technology, especially intriguing as the technological component leads to an even daker and complex plot line.

SY ThompsonFurther, Thompson explores sexuality, via intense dialogue and an inter-play of provocative themes of class — within both regime and intimacy. Additionally, as the plot revolves around serial killing, violence against women provides another important social element. It is the complexity of this interplay that ultimately strengthens the romantic relationship.

Certainly, I could easily say that I loved the book and call it a day. However, Thompson deserves recognition for how well she fused aspects of social justice into a police drama cum DUF cum lesbian fiction book. I highly recommend it. Hand down, this book will be re-read multiple times.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • First published 2013
  • Publisher:  Silver Dragon(September 10, 2013)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1619291225
      Amazon.comTo buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.