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What Makes a Woman Dangerous?

Dangerous Women We asked a few of the authors who contributed to the wonderful, genre-jumping short story collection Dangerous Women -- one of our Science Fiction & Fantasy Best of the Year picks -- what they think makes a woman dangerous. Here's what they had to say...


Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson
"Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell"

What makes a woman dangerous? Well, what makes a person dangerous?

To me, the best kind of danger--which is, in a way, also the worst kind--is unexpected. It's that twisted kind of dangerous that takes something familiar and safe and reveals it as something deadly. Wolves are frightening. A loyal pet going mad and killing a child is ten times more terrifying to me.

For the anthology, I wanted to find a way to express this unexpected sort of dangerous. I didn't want a lean, professional assassin or a warrior in her prime, dangerous though those may be. I wanted something closer to home, a blend of the expected and unexpected. That is where I found Silence Montane.

The first name is one I ran across while reading puritan names. It was the second piece of the puzzle, as it raised questions. Who names their daughter Silence, and what does it imply? What is it like to grow up with this name? The answers built into the concept of a stout pioneer woman who ran an inn on the frontier, drawing the seediest criminals the land had to offer. She'd then track them after they left her inn, and murder them for their bounties.

Familiar, yet unexpected. Kindly, yet deadly. The story turned out better than I could have hoped, and I'm thrilled to have had the chance--and the prompting--to write it.

 

Kress

Nancy Kress
"Second Arabesque, Very Slowly"

What makes a woman dangerous? The same thing that makes a man dangerous: wanting something too much. "Wanting something" is, of course, what drives characters in fiction, as well as in real life. Wanting to win a football game, an argument, the presidency, a certain mate. Wanting to gain money, power, glory, a buff body, a hole-in-one, the most ambitious Christmas lights in town. This is all normal (well, maybe not the Christmas lights). It becomes dangerous when people will do anything at all to obtain what they want. Then you get bloody coups, bank robbery, dangerous steroid use, assassination, and the 1919 World Series. 

It's a balancing act, satisfying the sometimes competing requirements of desire, morality, and other people's outrage. The temptations are many, the rewards great, and the strictures of varying intensity. How badly do I want this? What am I willing to do to get it? At what price? All the characters in Dangerous Women want something, or they would not be dangerous. Usually they want it pretty badly. These are stories about how they go about getting it.

 

Spector

Caroline Spector
"Lies My Mother Told Me

There are so many ways a woman can be dangerous it's difficult to narrow the field. But these four characters in the following films are dangerous because they are all ruthless in getting what they desire. They're beautiful, dangerous monsters.

 

  • Ingrid Magnussen: White Oleander
  • Cora Smith: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
  • Phyllis Dietrichson: Double Indemnity
  • Matty Walker: Body Heat

 

Lindholm

Megan Lindholm
"Neighbors"

Malala Yousafzai threatens the Taliban in a way that no amount of military might could achieve. While still a teenager, she is one dangerous woman, in the best sense of that phrase!

Graphic Novel Friday: Holiday Buying Guide

Yikes, was everyone else aware that the holiday buying season is almost over? The good news: there are plenty of good-looking comics to give as gifts. The bad news: there isn’t a lot of time! Here are a few noteworthy, stand-out books that would make perfect presents for the comics reader in your life.

For the music buff: The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story by Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson, and Kyle Baker: The cultural fascination with the Fab Four will never wane so long as new stories continue to be unearthed and told. Here, The Beatles’ manager and visionary, Brian Epstein, receives his due in this dreamy, eccentric graphic novel. There are three editions of this book, depending on how “fab” you want to get: standard hardcover edition (and digital edition), a collector’s edition (with bonus materials), and a limited edition (only 1,500 copies) with a slipcase, bonus materials, and a signed tip-in sheet by writer Tiwary.

For the goofball: Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh. This famously bizarre and manic webcomic is finally available as a collection (with new stories!) and it does not disappoint. Amazon editor Mari Malcolm had this to say in her glowing review: “Neurosis has rarely been so relatable and entertaining.” Brosh captures her childhood and adult awkwardness in deceptively simple illustrations, allowing for a universal appeal and accessibility. Parp!

For the lit major: This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz was already a critical hit when it first published in September 2012, but this new slipcased edition includes illustrations by beloved indie artist Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets). There are full-page illustrations for each story, and Hernandez's deep, economical lines perfectly suit Diaz's layered tales [Hope I find this one under the tree!]. Speaking of layered stories, if your special someone does not yet have a copy of The Sandman on his or her shelf, now is the time to remedy such a void with The Sandman Omnibus Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman. Presented in a sturdy, richly detailed hardcover (with over 1,000 pages), this is the gift edition to make any Grinch’s heart swell.

For the history buff: The Boxer Rebellion is told from two perspectives in Boxers & Saints (Boxed Set) by Gene Luen Yang. Appearing on many Best of the Year lists (including ours), Yang’s ambitious examination of the human condition as told through one of the most controversial moments in Chinese history is not as daunting a read as it sounds. Rather, this is a treasure, both in narrative and packaging.

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Friday: Holiday Buying Guide" »

Best of the Year in Science Fiction & Fantasy ... plus Horror

It's been an amazing year for Science Fiction & Fantasy. We saw the conclusion of a truly epic epic fantasy series, father and son horror writers cleverly nodding to one another, a self-published ebook phenomenon turned hardcover release, and much, much more. What follows are three of my favorite genre reads of 2013.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

It's the short story that refused to stay small. Neil Gaiman weaves a gorgeous coming of age tale, filled with all the wonder and magic we've come to expect from him. But it's the autobiographical elements, the moments that came from his memory rather than his pure imagination, that give this tale its true heart. Learn more
The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

There's something to be said for subtlety. Wecker's debut isn't what we typically think of when we think of the fantasy genre. It's more of alternate history that happens to revolve around two incredibly real-feeling and memorable fantasy beings. Months later, the story continues to move me. Learn More
N0S4A2

N0S4A2 by Joe Hill

Imaginative, original, creepy as hell, and referentially genius, N0S4A2 is a new horror gem. Hill delivers true suspense, keeping us locked within the confines of his characters -- showing the story, never telling it. And what characters they are! Vic, a young girl we grow with throughout. Manx, a man so twisted he cameos as an abstract threat in Stephen King's Doctor Sleep. Personalities and special powers are all precise and powerful, even for those we barely get to know. Hill nailed this! Learn More
See all 20 books on the Sciece Fiction & Fantasy Best of the Year list

Graphic Novel Friday: Interview with Mike Mignola (Part Two)

In Part One of our interview with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, we discussed the recent original graphic novel, The Midnight Circus, and his narrative influences. In Part Two of our spirited conversation, we explore the forthcoming Hellboy in Hell storyline, the changing status quo of his universe—where Mike gently corrects my understanding about a particular character—and our favorite new vampire film. 

Alex Carr: While young Hellboy begins his adventures in The Midnight Circus, his career, as we know it, ends in Hellboy in Hell. What awaits him in Hell?

Mike Mignola: A lot of family stuff; I’ll say some old “friends” with quotations marks around it; a lot—a lot of stuff [laughs]. The first volume of Hellboy in Hell is really settling him into Hell. We get a tour of that world—not the complete world, but Hellboy gets shown around a bit. We get to see a little bit of how my version of Hell works. And most important, we see that by Hellboy appearing in Hell, major changes have happened with the guys who have been running Hell. Hellboy gets in there and throws a pretty big rock in that pond.

There are some major changes that happen, and really, after that first volume I want to focus on doing smaller stories for a while and go back to my spin on fairy and folk tales. My long-term goal with Hell—we’ll see the Greek underworld, we’ll see the sort-of Asian underworld of Hell so I can do Asian-related fairy tales and folklore and use the creatures from those mythologies.

AC: There’s an apocalyptic theme running through your entire universe at the moment. We’ve got Hellboy in Hell, and in B.P.R.D. there’s a multi-year arc called Hell on Earth. Why so grim?

MM: You know, things do look pretty grim, but I think there are more laughs in Hellboy in Hell than there are in B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth. I think Hell is getting nicer and Earth is getting worse [laughs]. Once we figured out what we were doing, the whole point of the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. stuff has always been evolution. The kind of evolution we’re seeing on Earth is nasty evolution—part of this kind of evolution is that you have to wipe out what was there before you can replace it.

In B.P.R.D., a lot of the old ways of doing things are being replaced, and people are going to struggle against things like, you know, giant monsters coming down to re-pave the planet. Human beings are going to try to stop that. Can they do it? I don’t know. Everything is changing, and there’s a lot of destruction that goes along with it.

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Friday: Interview with Mike Mignola (Part Two)" »

Graphic Novel Friday: Interview with Mike Mignola (Part One)

Before we finish the leftovers from Thanksgiving and head into December, let’s revisit one of the Best of the Month picks for November in Comics and Graphic Novels: Hellboy: The Midnight Circus by Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo. Demons and dark prophecies await young Hellboy as he sneaks away to find the circus, making for a classic Hellboy tale, but the way in which Mignola weaves familiar narratives into the compact story elevates it to must-read canon. In part one of our interview with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, we discuss his narrative influences in The Midnight Cirucs, the art process, and why he dislikes the circus.

Alex Carr: The Midnight Circus stars a young Hellboy, whom we recently saw in B.P.R.D.: 1948. Was it a conscious decision to release these two stories so closely together—and why the sudden focus on Hellboy at an early age?

Mike Mignola: You know, I think that was one of those happy accidents. Since we started using young Hellboy in the B.P.R.D. stories, 1946 and 1947, it just made sense to continue in 1948, but I wasn’t thinking about that at all when I started The Midnight Circus. When I started thinking about The Midnight Circus, I was looking for something to do with [artist] Duncan Fegredo that was different than what we’d done before [in The Wild Hunt and The Storm and the Fury]. Since Duncan killed off Hellboy, I thought, “Well, let’s go to the other end of the spectrum.”

It’s set in the 1940s, so I was thinking Ray Bradbury—what does a young kid in the 1940s do? He sneaks off and goes to the circus. Obviously, I was thinking about Something Wicked This Way Comes, that coming-of-age type of thing, where you’re not a little kid anymore, but you’re not quite an adult. And of course Hellboy grows up to be a guy who’s always smoking a cigarette, so I thought about making that a moment. Is this somehow his rite of passage, you know, stealing a cigarette? So, Hellboy sneaks off and has a smoke.

And I’m a big fan of Pinocchio, the original book, and I’d always seen these funny parallels between that character and Hellboy—with the whole real-boy thing. It was an excuse to do the circus, and once I got into the circus, I didn’t really know what the hell to do because I don’t really care about the circus. But I thought it would be a chance to do my spin on Pinocchio.

AC: Well, you’ve pretty much touched upon every question I had for you about the book [laughs]. You dedicate The Midnight Circus to Ray Bradbury: “Who confirmed my worst fears about the circus.” When did you first encounter his classic, Something Wicked This Way Comes?

MM: Probably college. It remains my favorite Bradbury novel. I love that thing.

AC: I have to believe there is some sort of story behind your “worst fears about the circus.”

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Friday: Interview with Mike Mignola (Part One)" »

Happy Halloween Comics!

Happy Halloween! This special collector’s edition of Graphic Novel Friday arrives on a Thursday—just in time for the greatest holiday of them all. With no familial baggage or end of year expectations, Halloween’s all party. In keeping with that sentiment, our Top 10 Halloween comics of the fall are less about the fright and more about the groovy monster mashed-ness of the evening. Raise a dark chocolate and let’s get spooky.Witchinghour_1_

10. Marvel Zombies: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman, Mark Millar, Sean Philips, and more.

9. The Walking Dead, Vol. 19: March to War by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. 

8. The Witching Hour #1 by Various.COFFIN_Cv1__

7. Creepy Presents: Steve Ditko by Steve Ditko and Archie Goodwin.

6. Creepy Archives Vol. 17 by Various.

5. Revival: Deluxe Collection, Vol. 1 by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton

4. Hellboy: The Midnight Circus by Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo.

3. Coffin Hill #1 by Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda. 

2. The Halloween Legion: The Great Goblin Invasion by Martin Powell, Thomas Boatwright, and Diana Leto.

1. Colder by Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra. 

By now it’s almost sunset, Omni readers. Take a peek outside the window. Do the pumpkins look mischievous tonight? Are their grins a little grim? Maybe save a piece of candy in case the doorway darkens once more.

--Alex

YA Wednesday: Cory Doctorow and Terry Pratchett: Authority and Underdogs

CarpetPeopleBest-selling author Terry Pratchett wrote The Carpet People at the tender age of 17.  Now, many years later, Pratchett has re-written the story and it's being published in its new version on November 5th.  In the author's note for The Carpet People, Pratchett refers to the novel as a joint effort between his 17-year-old self and his 43-year-old self. I couldn't help but picture a sci-fi moment after reading that...

When Pratchett sat down for a chat with one of our other favorite authors, Cory Doctorow, the result is as funny and interesting as you might expect from these two, as they discuss The Carpet People, authority, and the underdog:

CoryDoctorowCory Doctorow: The Carpet People was your first novel, and now the fortieth book in your Discworld series is about to be published. Do you think you could have kept us in the Carpet for anything like forty books?

PratchettTerry Pratchett: I was about to say, “No,” but right now I wonder. . . . If the idea had taken, I don’t know. I really don’t. But how would it be? People in the Carpet are more or less tribal. What would happen if I . . . You’ve got me thinking!

CD: You took a bunch of runs at building a world where a million stories could unfold—The Carpet People, Truckers, and, finally, Discworld. Is Discworld’s near-total untethering from our world the secret of its staying power?

TP: It isn’t our world, but on the other hand it is very much like our world. Discworld takes something from this world all the time, shows you bits of the familiar world in new light by putting them into Discworld.

CD: You write a lot of feudal scenarios, but you also seem like a fellow with a lot of sympathy for (and suspicion of!) majority rule. The Carpet People is shot through with themes of who should rule and why. Where does legitimate authority spring from?

TP: The people! The only trouble is the people can be a bit stupid--I know that; I’m one of the people, and I’m quite stupid.

CD: What should the writer’s relationship with authority be?

TP: My personal view is that you look askance at authority. Authority must be challenged at every step. You challenge authority to keep it on its toes.

CD: The Carpet People concerns itself with many questions of infrastructure and public works. Now that we’ve arrived at a time of deep austerity, what do you think the future of infrastructure is?

TP: To crack and fall away, I sometimes think. From what I see around me, it’s people doing it for themselves. We know the government is there, but we know they have no real power to do anything but mess things up, so you do workarounds.

CD: Ultimately, it comes down to the builders, the wreckers, and the free spirits.

TP: Sometimes things need tearing down—and that might be, as it were, the gates of the city. But if we talk without metaphors, I would say that building is best. Because it is inherently useful. My dad was a mechanic; maybe it starts there.

CD: One thing I’ve always enjoyed about your books with feudal settings is that it seems you get something like the correct ratio of vassals to lords. So much of fantasy seems very top-heavy. Do you consciously think about political and economic considerations when you’re devising a world?

TP: I’ve never been at home with lords and ladies, kings, and rubbish like that, because it’s not so much fun. Take a protagonist from the bottom of the heap and they’ve got it all to play for. Whereas people in high places, all they can do is, well . . . I don’t know, actually: I’ve never been that high. If you have the underdog in front of you, that means you’re going to have fun, because what the underdog is going to want to do is be the upper dog or be no dog at all.

CD: Damon Knight once told me that he thought that no matter how good a writer you are, you probably won’t have anything much to say until you’re about twenty-six (I was twenty at the time). You’ve written about collaborating with your younger self on the revised text of The Carpet People. Do you feel like seventeen-year-old Terry had much to say?

TP: That’s the best question you’ve asked all day! I think that he had a go at it, and it wasn’t bad, but that when I was younger I didn’t have the anger. It gives an outlook. And a place from which to stand. When you get out of the teens, well out of the teens, you begin to have some kind of understanding: you’ve met so many people, heard so many things, all the bits that growing up means. And out of that lot comes wisdom—it might not be very good wisdom to start with, but it will be a certain kind of wisdom. It leads to better books.

Graphic Novel Friday: Sabertooth Swordsman!

Normally, I try to feature a book close to its publication date, but in the case of Dark Horse’s Sabertooth Swordsman by Damon Gentry and Aaron Conley (out in late November) I need to talk to someone, anyone about it—-anywhere.

I’ll start with the subtitle: “And the Mayhem of the Malevolent Mastodon Mathematician.” Love. It. And it’s this spirit of self-aware humor that progresses throughout the compact hardcover, where a young farmer loses his wife to a roving band of marauders and swears revenge. It’s at this point where the farmer meets a benevolent cloud, and this cloud grants him the power and body of—yes, a Sabertooth Swordsman. From there the adventure begins, with plenty of slicing, dicing, gore, and cleaved appendages.

Over at Comics Alliance, Chris Sims likens it to “some half-remembered NES game that you would’ve gotten at a video store in 1988 because it kind of looked like a Mario game.” Exactly, only with a heavy dose of hallucinogens because the Sabertooth Swordsman traverses the surreal and mystical as often as he cuts a gushingly bloody swath. At the end of significant “boss battles,” the swordsman is awarded various upgrades (“Juice box,” chicken leg,” “laser eyes,” etc.), and yet he is constantly dismissed by locals and villains.

Damon Gentry’s script is full of quick puns (“Tiny kitten, feel my math!”), but he leaves plenty of room for Aaron Conley’s art to shred and shine. No stone is left un-pencilled in Conley’s meticulously detailed, hyper-frenetic artwork. It’s fantastic to behold and daunting to process. Due to the black, white, and  Swordsman03grey rendering, depth is occasionally lost, so images can blend within panels. This does not, however, take away from the gorgeous visuals. The reader simply has to spend a little more time with them, as there are finer points in the corners of everything. The art is so layered that it recalls Brandon Graham, so it’s no surprise that the fellow indie artist provides a pinup and blurb (“Sabertooth Swordsman is fantastic comics. It’s the kind of work I hope to find when I go into a comic shop.”), along with Mike Allred (whose pinup is great!), Johnny Ryan, John Arcudi, and more.

My enthusiasm got the best of me—I cannot wait to talk about Sabertooth Swordsman. It's one for wishlists and the comics fan in your life who loves the weird and beautiful. I recommend being an early adopter here, ahead of the (scimitar's) curve. This one’s all animal.

--Alex

Rick Riordan on Percabeth and "The House of Hades"

HouseOfHades300Today is the day Rick Riordan fans have been waiting for--the release of Book 4 in the Heroes of Olympus series, The House of Hades.   This book lives up to the promise of the last three (after an early read we chose it as a Best Book of the Month for October) and jumps in right where The Mark of Athena left off, with Percy and Annabeth plunging toward to their death in Tartarus while the rest of the demigods try to find their way to the House of Hades and the mortal side of the Doors of Death.

Riordan introduces some great new characters: twin dwarves who like to steal shiny objects; Hecate, the goddess of magic and the crossroads; and brings back characters from earlier books--you may remember a certain vampire cheerleader and an Einstein-haired Titan named Bob?  The same trademark puns and humor that I've loved in all of the Percy Jackson books are still going strong, and The House of Hades is packed with new adventures and twists, including a showdown with Cupid that reveals Nico's dark secret, and Frank Zhang's true test of leadership.  And the end?  Well, let's just say that there is more to be done and another amazing book to look forward to...

In the interview below, I talked with Rick Riordan (one of the nicest authors ever) about The House of Hades, Percabeth (think Brangelina), how his life has changed--or not--since he wrote The Lightning Thief, and the next Riordan to become an author. 

 


YA Wednesday: Brandon Sanderson and James Dashner

Steelheart200 EyeOfMinds200Brandon Sanderson and James Dashner are no strangers to best seller lists, and both have big things happening right now, including the release of their fantastic new books.  We loved them both-- Sanderson's Steelheart  was a September Best of the Month pick and Dashner's The Eye of Minds is on the list for October

Both novels are the first in a new series, and Sanderson's, first foray into writing young adult novels.  Steelheart is an amazing, futuristic, action packed story with comic book style heroes and villains, though it isn't a comic or graphic novel.  I wasn't sure this was a book for me, but I was totally wrong, and loved it.  I'm already a huge fan of Dashner's Maze Runner series so was super excited to read The Eye of Minds, the first book of his new Mortality Doctrine series.  Once again Dashner has created a world that you can't help but get immersed in--this time the hyper-techno world of a virtual reality game that has a very real killer.   

YA authors tend to be a close knit bunch, so it did not surprise me to learn that Sanderson and Dashner are not only colleagues but friends.  The photo here is a shot of them at this year's Comic-con where they sat down for us to have a chat about their new books:

Sanderson_Dashner_ComiconJames Dashner: Brandon, you’re perhaps best known for your adult books—Mistborn, The Way of Kings, and particularly for finishing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. However, recently you’ve undertaken several projects for younger readers. Why is that? How does it feel to be entering into the world of YA fiction? How does it differ from writing for an adult audience? How do you possibly think you can compete with your friend, James Dashner?

Brandon Sanderson: I've known this guy James Dashner for so long, and he was such an inspiration to me, and I thought, if this joker can do it, then I can too! The sci-fi/fantasy genre is what made a reader out of me, and it has a long history of crossing the line between YA and adult fiction. For example, you mentioned The Wheel of Time. In the early books, the main protagonists are all teenagers. Are these books YA? The publishers don't classify them that way. They’re shelved with the adult fantasy books. Books like that have influenced me in that some of the stories I tell fit into the mold that society says will package well as YA books. Other stories I tell—that are a thousand pages long—don’t seem to fit that mold. But I don’t sit down and say, “I’m writing for a teen audience now. I need to change my entire style.” Instead, I say, “This project and the way I’m writing it feels like it would work well for a teen audience.”

Continue reading "YA Wednesday: Brandon Sanderson and James Dashner" »

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