Review: Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

Fantasy fiction.

You just bent your knees a little, didn’t you? Instinctively bracing for the weight of a couple of thousand pages, spread across a dozen volumes. Endless  description, constant character shifts and a never ending parade of exposition surely await you. There will be a prologue, maybe more than one. You will find out more than you ever wanted to about the food the characters are eating.

There will be a map.

None of this is bad, but all of it is work. So, you bend your knees and you brace for impact.

And that’s when Mirror Empire kicks your legs out from under you.

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The Books What I Help Write: Victoriana-The Concert in Flame


This is the cover to Victoriana: The Concert in Flame. It’s a campaign for the Victoriana RPG, published by Cubicle 7 and written by Walt Ciechanowski, Chad Bowser, Lynne Hardy, Andi Newton and me. Illustrated by  Scott Purdy and fellow former Traveling Man Jon Hodgson it’s the story of a race across Europe to stop an elaborate plan to raise an ancient Death God. Victoriana‘s an amazingly pretty, fun game and this is exactly the sort of high density, idea-heavy stuff that it excels at. Here’s the inside, plus a cameo appearance by my fingers.

Thanks, fingers. You rule.

I’m really proud of my work on this and it was an honor working with such a kickass group of writers and artists.. It was also an interesting and valuable learning experience as a writer. A lot of my concepts and story beats are in here, but not as many of my actual words typed by my actual fingers (Including the ones in that photo) made it into the book. Given that my professional confidence meter is, for a variety of reasons, not high right now, that knocked me sideways for a couple of hours.

What turned me around was my friend Mur Lafferty. Mur is one of the smartest, most switched on people I know and she pointed out that while my disappointment was understandable it also wasn’t necessary. My work helped build the book, my ideas helped shape the book, I got paid for having worked on the book and now I can hold a copy of something I worked on, with my name on the front, spelt right. That’s four different shades of win however you cut it.

So, thanks Mur for not letting me kick my own ass on this one and realize I’m allowed to be pleased that I made an awesome thing. And it really is awesome; classic ‘head long sprint across Europe against impossible odds’ stuff. Plus there’s weaponized classic music and in particular a weaponized proscenium in there which remains one of my favorite ideas EVER. As for the steam organ that turned into a battle mech with steam throwers for hands?It’s day will come…

 

The News From Harran Week 1-Us and Them and Us Again


I’m playing Dying Light at the moment. It’s a first person survival zombie game set in the fictional city of Harran, which has fallen victim to a zombie outbreak. No one’s said zombies, not yet, but the shambling hordes filling the city are pretty clearly post-mortem. Dropped in to by a humanitarian organization to retrieve an embarrassing set of documents, you’re attacked, rescued and find yourself working for the group of survivors who saved your life. And the group who tried to kill you. And the organization who sent you in… I’m about six hours in at this point and enjoying it more and more. The reason for that, rather appropriately for a zombie game, has crept up on me.

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Sunday Moment of Zen: The Lazy Song

Leonard Nimoy was a quiet titan. An actor, director, photographer and writer whose career spanned decades and epochal changes in Western society. He was a defining part of the industry I’ve loved, or worked in in some capacity, my entire life. On The Search for Spock he directed one of the most thrilling pieces of cinema I’ve ever seen, the theft of the Enterprise. In Star Trek IV, he gave every one of his colleagues a moment to shine and showed me the offhand, relaxed beauty of the Bay Area. I fell in love with San Francisco in that movie. Decades later, I’d find out he was telling the truth about the city and I loved it even more. Nimoy’s acting, and direction, on the end scene of both Star Trek III and Star Trek IV is note perfect and uses subtlety, implication and music to create immense emotional impact. The letter ‘A’ has never, and will never have again the emotional impact it does when the crew, and you, see it on the new Enterprise‘s saucer section at the end of Star Trek IV. You’ll see thousands of tributes to him over the next week and each one is deserved. Most will, deservedly, be his work across Star Trek II, III and IV. This one isn’t.

Nimoy starred in an alternate video to Bruno Mars’ ‘The Lazy Song’ in 2011. It’s mischievous, impish stuff that sees him have huge fun playing with the idea of his disreputable old age. May we all be so politely, gleefully subversive. This is your Sunday Moment of Zen.

 

 

Preview: Marc Jackson’s Duckless coming soon to Aces Weekly

Marc Jackson‘s comics are joyous. His work is friendly, expansive, delightfully silly and often very funny. His new strip, a comic about a Duck that draws comics, is launching in the excellent Aces Weekly next month and it’s both an honor and a pleasure to host a preview here. So, let’s get Duckless.

 

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Al Dente: We Need To Talk About Cottage Cheese Pancakes

You’re allowed to have pancakes more than once a year. In fact, you should. They’re ace.

Right now the rest of the world is blinking, coffee halfway to its face while the UK is going ‘Yes, but-‘

No. No but. There is no but here. There is only delicious, easy breakfast food that will make you happy and you can do all kinds of stuff with. I know, I know, I can hear you being all ‘This is blasphemy! This is madness!’

THIS!IS! AL DENTE!

Except I…make you pancakes instead of kick you into the special death pit Leonidas clearly had made to kick folks into. Wouldn’t that have been a nicer way to resolve things than all the stabbing? ‘Oh hi Xerxes, yeah yeah conquering, mangod all that. Want a pancake?’

‘…THESE ARE DELIGHTFUL.’

World peace. CENTURIES EARLY. That’s the sort of power pancakes have.

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Sunday Moment of Zen: Kezia Tan’s video for The Love Club by Lorde

Music videos are, like movie trailers, a much maligned art form. Done wrong all they are is locking the camera off on the artist in the same warehouse a thousand others have been shot in. Done right they take the song and focus it, using a second medium to create something complex and interesting and different.

This is an exceptional music video for an exceptional song. Kezia Tan perfectly captures that not quite laugh, not quite scream that late adolescence embodies. The desperate need to do something at war with the desperate need for everything to stay exactly the same lies at the heart of both the song, by Lorde, and the video. It’s funny and frightened and defiant all at once. It’s a beautiful video for a beautiful song and it’s this week’s Sunday Moment of Zen.

Al Dente: Not Southern, Not Fried, Still Chicken

Chicken, my friends, is a pure and holy thing. Like I’ve said before it’s lego that you can eat.

Well, lego you can eat COMFORTABLY, anyway.

And it’s versatile as all hell. It’s also delicious fried and not delicious friend as I just typed.

‘I love you, delicious friend.’

Because that’s not creepy at all…

Anyway, it’s also delicious fried. Which is both a good thing and a very, very bad one. Here’s why:

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Sunday Moment of Zen: The Awful Truth About Batman’s Parents

The Nerdist. Members of Thrilling Adventure Hour. The social awkwardness of a billionaire in a suit of rubber armour punching bad people. The most magnificently deployed profanity I’ve seen so far this year. Sunday Moment of Zen.