Friday, August 11, 2017

What Will be the Next Breakout SF/F Novel?

Sure, we've all heard of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Game series, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, and more recently Nnedi Okorafor's Binti series, but what are some new under-the-radar SF/F pieces that deserve their time in the spotlight? Sometimes the best pieces are the ones found in the nooks and crannies of the literary universe; you just have to dig hard enough to find them. We took the Minotaur by the horns and have compiled a few book recommendations from esteemed SF/F reviewers to give you some suggestions on what book to pick up next!

Reading Recs from the Pros

Marion Deeds from

Image result for certain dark thingsCertain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I thought I had hit my vampire threshold until I read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things. (My review at is here.) Morena-Garcia shows us a new take on supernatural bloodsucking creatures, and she provides a gritty, Gibsonian Mexico City as a backdrop. The book gives us novelty by creating various “races” of vampires; our main character, Atl, is from a line indigenous to the Americas. She is described as avian and her family crest is the hummingbird. Other vamps are more in the Bram Stoker tradition, and there is infighting among the bloodlines. Atl, a rebellious party girl, is the sole survivor of an attack on her clan by an encroaching vampire crime family, and she’s fled to the supposedly vampire-free Mexico City. As you might imagine, it’s not vampire-free at all. Once there, she enlists the aid of a scrappy human street kid named Domingo. The descriptions of Mexico City are sharp, by turns gritty, beautiful and romantic.

Moreno-Garcia was better known to me as the editor of the award-winning horror anthology She Walks in Shadows. She’s got the writing chops, as Certain Dark Things shows. Beyond the imagining of a new reason for vampires, Moreno-Garcia creates a three-dimensional world and characters whose choices matter.

Image result for barsk the elephants' graveyardBarsk:The Elephants Graveyard by Lawrence R. Schoen

Published in 2015, Lawrence R Schoen’s Barsk; The Elephant’s Graveyard expertly delivers one of the things I read science fiction for. That’s an imagining of cultures and species that are different from that of earthbound humans. The main characters of Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard are all uplifted animals, thousands of years in our future, in a different galaxy. The leads, as the name implies, are bipedal elephants called Fants. Fantsare restricted to the world of Barsk by the other animals, but now Barsk is under attack. The plot is twisty, although readers will see some twists coming, and there’s a bit too much exposition at the end, but the characters of Jorl, a Fant historian, and Pizlo, a small boy, were engaging and believable. The abilities of the Fants were fascinating. Schoen’s prose is often pretty, especially when he is describing the tropical zone on Barsk where most Fants live. The book is well-written and a true original. Bill and I review it here.

Marion Deeds has written reviews and other columns for Fantasy Literature since 2011. Her own short fiction has appeared in Podcastle, Daily Science Fiction, and Flash Fiction Online. There is nothing she likes more than stumbling across a book that’s so good that she wants to share it with everyone. Well, maybe she likes chocolate more, but it’s a close call. Her personal blog lives at and you can find her on Twitter at mariond_d.

Bob Milne from Beauty in Ruins

Image result for blackwing bookBlackwing (Ravens' Mark #1) by Ed McDonald

This is a book that marks, I hope, a notable pivot point for the grimdark genre. Yes, it’s dark and bleak and hopeless as can be, but it’s also full of imagination, wonder, and awe. It not only has one of the greatest opening chapters I have read in ages, but it also boasts a finale that is worthy of the story leading up to it. So many epic fantasies seem to fall apart at the end, with a climax that simply cannot compete with the expectations we've built as readers, but McDonald delivered on every aspect of it. Blackwing is almost a new genre, an epic, post-apocalyptic, grimdark fantasy that's (sometimes painfully) socially relevant.

Image result for king of thewyldKings of the Wyld (The Band, #1) by Nicholas Eames

One of my favorite reads of the year, this is a book that does everything right. It has a solid story, fantastic characters, real imagination, and a killer sense of humor. Instead of being a save-the-world or complete-the-quest kind of story, it's a simple tale of a washed-up mercenary who is desperate to get the old band back together to rescue his daughter from a monstrous horde. It's a story of friendships, alliances, and even betrayals, with a band of men driven by loves lost, broken, and distant. In many ways, this is the equivalent of an epic fantasy road trip, an often-funny experience of male bonding and opportunistic heroics. Eames mixes action and humor in equal measure, and weaves genuine emotion into the heroics. I almost hate to say it, but it's a kick-ass rollercoaster of epic fantasy heroics...with heart.

Recommended by Bob Milne—book reviewer, urban explorer, wilderness hiker, and author of dark & twist fiction.

Anya from On Starships & Dragonwings

Image result for forest of a thousand lanternsForest of a Thousand Lanterns is the story of how an evil queen got to her throne, from the innocent girl destined for greatness, to a woman consumed by her own magic.

Image result for the tethered mageThe Tethered Mage tells the story of a bookish heir who stumbles into her own magical adventure in a world reminiscent of The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Image result for the prey of gods bookThe Prey of Gods is too weird to contain in a single paragraph, but I'll try: demi-goddess that is slightly evil and out for revenge in the form of a small girl, future society where everyone has robots, those robots aren't super happy with how they are treated, strange new and potentially metamorphic drug emerging on the streets of a South African city. Beautiful writing that will make you feel as if you are drifting back into the strange world of Labyrinth, including the darker corners and the sexy goblin king.

Anya is a computer science professor that prefers studying evolutionary biology as well as corrupting young minds with logic and imagination.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dreamrush: Free Download and Author Q&A

Good news! The Kindle version of my short story collection, Dreamrush, is available to download for free on for the rest of the week (8/8/17 – 8/12/17). Get your free download here.

To celebrate, my intern-extraordinaire, Jayna Bosse, and I are hosting an author Q&A over on Facebook. So please do head on over there to hit me up with whatever burning questions you have, either about the stories in the book, the writing process, my favorite color, etc., etc. (after downloading the free book first, of course).

Lastly, to get some intel on the stories in the book (in case you're still not convinced), here's a great story-by-story review of Dreamrush from steampunk author Robyn Bennis.


-Garrett Calcaterra

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Introducing Jayna Bosse

As an emerging author, I’m always looking for unique ways to get my work out there and connect with new readers, so when author John Fox, a good friend of mine, mentioned that he had worked with student interns to help him with his popular writing website, Bookfox, the gears started spinning in my head. After contemplating the idea for a while, I decided to bring on an intern of my own to work with me as a writing assistant.

Intern extraordinaire, Jayna Bosse 
As luck would have it, Jayna Bosse, the applicant who ended up being the most qualified and enthusiastic, is a student at the Orange County School of Arts (OCSA) Creative Writing Conservatory, a high school writing program that was founded by author James P. Blaylock and brags Tim Powers as a master teacher. And oh yeah, and I used to teach there, too (although I left before Jayna became a student there).

In speaking to her during the interview process, I could tell right away that Jayna and I were on the same page. She’s already a strong writer, has great ideas, and is enthusiastic to learn more. In addition to helping me with the business end of my writing, she’ll also be writing here on this blog. With that in mind, she was kind enough to share some thoughts about herself in the way of an introduction to readers.

GC: So Jayna, when I was there teaching at OCSA, students in the Creative Writing Conservatory really embraced sci-fi, fantasy, and geek culture in general. Have things changed much, or is there still a healthy love for SF/F among students?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mowing Down Greenhouse Gases

Global warming finally captured mainstream news headlines last week when reality star President Trump declared he would pull the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. While withdrawing from the agreement will have negative environmental and economic ramifications that won't manifest themselves for years, maybe even decades, I won't pretend to be surprised by this turn events, just like I wasn't surprised by the Dakota Access Pipeline getting rammed through. I've long believed that any meaningful action to curb global warming would come from the private sector and local efforts.

To that end, it's been encouraging to see cities like Pittsburgh pledge to go 100% renewable, and cities like Oakland block the construction of coal terminals in their ports, largely thanks to pressure from local groups. Similarly, municipalities, academic institutions, and churches have been divesting from the fossil fuel industry. All of these efforts began well before Trump became president and can continue despite his efforts to gut environmental regulations.

My electric, mulching mower has a
lot of miles on it...for good reason
As individuals, we have little control of federal legislation, but we can take individual efforts and band together to put pressure on businesses and local governments.

One avenue that I feel has been overlooked is a simple one: mulching our lawns instead of bagging out the grass clippings. I know, I know, it sounds sort of stupid, but hear me out.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I'm Now an Author/Dad

Introducing Ruby, my new excuse
for not getting work done!
If I've been quiet online for the last month, and I have, it's because my wife gave birth to our daughter. I'm happy to announce that both she and my wife, Mandy Burke, made it through labor just fine and are happy and healthy.

This is our first child, and as we were warned, the first month has been a blur. Needless to say, I've done little in the way of fiction writing (and by "little" I mean none). Each day is getting easier, though, and I'm looking forward to the prospect of getting back in the saddle again.

Apart from becoming a new dad, I don't have much in the way of news, but it does appear that there's been a price reduction for the Kindle editions of Dreamwielder and Souldrifter. Cheap is good, right? I'm not sure how long the prices will stay there, so I'd jump on board with  the series quickly if you're thinking about giving it a whirl.

-Garrett Calcaterra

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Fantasy Author Interview: Craig Comer

Craig Comer
Readers of this blog have heard the name Craig Comer often enough in the past. He and I go way back, and along with Ahimsa Kerp, we co-authored the mosaic novel The Roads to Baldairn Motte. In addition to both of us being writers, we both love to travel and backpack, although he’s much more well-traveled than I. He also knows a hell of a lot more when it comes to history.

That being the case, it’s not surprising that Comer’s new novel, The Laird of Duncairn, is as much about travel and historical settings in Scotland as it is about magic and steampunk. In this interview, we discuss what the new book is all about, what inspired it, and what Comer has in store next.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Reading Recs, Random Projects, and Life Things

Photo courtesy of Craig Comer
As my lack of new posts here probably indicates, April was a busy month for me. The shenanigans kicked off with a great hike in the California redwoods with fellow authors Ahimsa Kerp and Craig Comer. A week later, I turned 40, and my wife threw a steampunk themed party for me where I got to see a lot of great family and friends (and eat cake, of course).

Since then, it's been all about prepping for our new baby, due in the coming weeks. My wife and I don't have a big place, so my writing office is now a combo writing office/nursery. (I figure this will last a year or two at best, and then the kid will kick me out and I'll be relegated to writing in the garage or the backyard.)