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February 2, 2014 2:00 AM   Subscribe

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (not to be confused with the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel) has been running since 1974 and featured some amazing writers over the years. Want to sample some of it? You're in luck, as a massive anthology featuring 111 Campbell winners and nominees is now available for free, drm free download. It's a limited time offer only, so act now while supplies last.
posted by MartinWisse (21 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, thanks for posting this — not so much for the anthology, because I don't read short fiction — but because of the opportunity to discover a few new writers.

The 2013 nominees were Mur Lafferty, Zen Cho, Max Gladstone, Stina Leicht, and Chuck Wendig.

Mur Lafferty won.

I've read both Gladstone and Wendig.

In Wendig's case, I've read several of his novels, specifically all three of his Miriam Black novels, which I truly love (here's the first one), and The Blue Blazes, which was pretty good but not as good as the Miriam Black books.

For Gladstone, I read and very much enjoyed his first Craft Sequence book, Three Parts Dead, but stalled halfway through the second, Two Serpents Rise. I'll eventually finish the latter, but I don't think it's quite as interesting and unusual as Three Parts Dead, which is very refreshingly different with regard to the subgenre.

So the other three are new to me. Looking at the novels they've available, I see that the first book of the two that Stina Leicht's written in the A Book of the Fey and the Fallen series looks pretty interesting, Of Blood and Honey, and I've added it to my list. Probably will be reading it in the next week, or so. It's an urban fantasy set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, which seems quite unusual to me and intriguing.

Mur Lafferty's zombie books just aren't attractive to me because, frankly, I just don't find this whole zombie thing very interesting. I enjoy The Walking Dead, but that's about it.

However, there's Playing For Keeps, which looks very interesting. I'm not big on superhero novels; but a third-rate superhero protagonist, a bartender, whose superpower is that no one can steal her possessions sounds pretty great. Definitely on my list and probably the next thing I'll read after I finish the Michelle Sagara novel I'm currently reading.

Zen Cho's The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo doesn't sound appealing to me, which is a pity, but I'll keep an eye on her.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:46 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


It's pretty fascinating to look at that list and see so many familiar names. Even for some of the more recent ones it's hard to remember that they were "new" not so very long ago, and for the ones far back on the list, it's hard to remember they haven't simply always been around.

Ivan Fyodorovich, Playing for Keeps was pretty good, and I'd pick up a sequel if she ever writes one, but in my opinion the beginning and middle were stronger than the ending. I just read Three Parts Dead a few days ago; sorry to hear that the sequel isn't as good, because that was a great book.
posted by kyrademon at 3:31 AM on February 2


This is awesome! I read all of last year's nominees and liked the sample work by Max Gladstone and Zen Cho best. Zen Cho doesn't seem to be in the packet, so I assume she isn't eligible anymore. Her website has links to several free stories online though.

Among the folks in the linked packet, I've read anywhere from a chapter or two to whole novels by Max Gladstone, Marko Kloos, Ramez Naam, Marcus Sakey, Sofia Samatar, and Django Wexler, and I hope to read more stuff in time for Loncon's nomination deadline.

But since she's eligible, I will definitely nominate Sofia Samatar, mentioned as an aside in this FPP. When I was about two chapters into her novel A Stranger in Olondria I started laughing with delight at how beautiful it was. Among other things, it's a love letter to reading itself, and I kept thinking, "Yes, this is why I read." It also features one of the most intricately detailed fantasy worlds I've encountered in many years, as well as a thoughtful albeit slow-going story (the ornate imagery sort of hinders the pace of it). And after I finished, I looked up the author's website and discovered she has very interesting taste in experimental and/or weird fiction and posts tons of cool stuff on her blog. So, yeah, count me as a fan.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:40 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


"I just read Three Parts Dead a few days ago; sorry to hear that the sequel isn't as good, because that was a great book."

The protagonist is a different kind of person and the story is a different kind of story. More action. So I don't want to say that it's not as good a book in the more objective senses — it might be as well written and well-characterized as the first one. But this protagonist and this kind of story don't happen to appeal to me nearly as strongly as those of the first book. So someone else (perhaps yourself) may find the second book just as enjoyable.

The first book had several things going for it that especially appealed to me. Lately, I've been having trouble with male protagonists; I very much enjoyed the first book's female protagonist. And then this whole idea of a legalistic magic/theistic system and someone who is basically a attorney of magic, and the sly humor involved in that, was really something new and had a lot of appeal for that reason alone.

Thanks for the info about Playing for Keeps. If it's good through the middle, I'll be happy. Speaking of books of this subgenre, have you read Victoria Schwab's Vicious? I thought it was pretty good and also takes an unusual approach to its subject.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:22 AM on February 2


I've read Vicious. I don't see the parallels with Three Parts Dead. However, it struck me as being a lot like Chuck Wendig's Blackbirds in the sense that it has just a few characters in tight plot orbit around each other with minimal elaboration of the world or extraneous incidental details or other people. That's a reasonable dramatic choice, and I thought Vicious did it pretty well--on literally a sentence-to-sentence level, I admired the interplay of hermeneutic and proairetic codes in it.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:42 AM on February 2


I was comparing Vicious with Playing for Keeps. Both are playing with the superhero trope. And, yeah, it was written very tightly.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:45 AM on February 2


I really enjoyed both Three Parts Dead and Vicious (and also Two Serpents Rise), but I don't see the relationship between them.
posted by jeather at 5:45 AM on February 2


Oh, sorry, I missed that too. I should look for Playing for Keeps; I like the superhero novel genre (After the Golden Age and Soon I will be Invincible as memorable ones), so I'll look for the Mur Lafferty one.

I never even got through the free sample for A Stranger in Olondria, though I really wanted to enjoy it.
posted by jeather at 5:48 AM on February 2


I was about to recommend After the Golden Age, by Carrie Vaughn, in turn. :) I'm in the middle of the sequel, Dreams of the Golden Age, right now, and so far it's also good. (I'd actually recommend them above Playing For Keeps, but on the other hand, Vaughn's been writing for awhile now, and her earliest stuff was sometimes a little shaky too. Lafferty might very well keep developing, and Playing for Keeps was good enough that, as I said, I'd keep an eye out for further works.)

Soon I Will Be Invincible ultimately didn't do a lot for me, mainly because I was far more interested in one of the minor characters than either of the main ones.

In other interesting takes on the superhero genre -- Black & White, and the sequel Shades of Grey, by Kessler and Kittredge, are pretty good. I feel they must regret that name for their sequel now since every websearch is now inevitably going to bring up, shall we say, a different book first.

Robert Mayer's Superfolks is an early take on the subject and considered by many to be the ultimate source of the, maybe call it postmodernist take on superheroes. It's a strange and uneven work, but worth reading for those interested in the genre.

... And I'll stop there because I apparently have a surprising number of superhero-themed books on my shelves.
posted by kyrademon at 7:01 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


... Or rather, I would have stopped there, but I somehow completely forgot to mention Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart, which is quite good.
posted by kyrademon at 7:05 AM on February 2


Kyrademon, if you have not read Vicious, you really should. (I enjoy her YA work too, but this was far better.)
posted by jeather at 7:10 AM on February 2


My mini-bison story is in there. Yay!
posted by RakDaddy at 7:12 AM on February 2 [4 favorites]


> "Kyrademon, if you have not read Vicious, you really should."

Will do. So far, the comments in this post have led me to add Vicious, Of Blood and Honey, and Blackbirds to my already overfull "read this one as soon as possible" list, and the links in the post itself have me considering The Year of Our War and Soulless.
posted by kyrademon at 7:17 AM on February 2


"...and Blackbirds to my already overfull..."

I was just looking at the Amazon reviews for it. It's interesting in that it seems to be one of those love it or hate it books, though the love it reviews are about 2:1 to the hate it reviews.

One thing I noticed, though, is that a good number of the hate it reviews seemed to be written by people who have delicate sensibilities. Like, maybe they're people who read a lot of UF/PR and just aren't accustomed to a very, very dark novel with an antihero who is (apparently) amoral and opportunistic. There's good reasons for Miriam to be this way, but if you're used to Mary Sue protagonists, a Miriam Black is a big change.

It's also not written in first person. Thank god. I am unbelievably tired of first person. And I'm beginning to fear that a whole cadre of readers, from YA to this huge subgenre of UF/PR, are being conditioned to first person. I've noticed the few books that aren't written in first person in UF are not as popular, even though they're almost all better books.

Anyway, I think the beauty of the Miriam Black books and her character is that it takes the romantic goth idea of death and shows you that death is ugly. Miriam's ability is borne of trauma and death, it gives her a nightmarish view into everyone's various deaths, and it forces her to live outside of society in every sense, beginning with her experience and psychology, and encompassing the practical realities of just getting by. Miriam lives in a harsh, ugly world and it's made her harsh and ugly. This isn't a romantic book. But she's a protagonist with a supernatural power and a mystery to solve and some lives to save, it fits the formula but does something entirely different with it. Which is a good thing.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:13 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


This should be just the thing for reading on my next trip.
posted by jepler at 8:30 AM on February 2


Thanks for this! I'm completely unfamiliar with the writers and look forward to sampling their wares.
posted by the sobsister at 8:32 AM on February 2


> But since she's eligible, I will definitely nominate Sofia Samatar, mentioned as an aside in this FPP. When I was about two chapters into her novel A Stranger in Olondria I started laughing with delight at how beautiful it was. Among other things, it's a love letter to reading itself, and I kept thinking, "Yes, this is why I read." It also features one of the most intricately detailed fantasy worlds I've encountered in many years, as well as a thoughtful albeit slow-going story (the ornate imagery sort of hinders the pace of it). And after I finished, I looked up the author's website and discovered she has very interesting taste in experimental and/or weird fiction and posts tons of cool stuff on her blog.

Thanks for that, I've added A Stranger in Olondria to my wish list. She has amazing taste (i.e., taste that resonates with mine—I thought nobody but me had ever heard of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha!).

And of course thanks for the post, MartinWisse; I've downloaded the anthology.
posted by languagehat at 9:36 AM on February 2


Came in to say thanks for the pointer; stayed for the book recs.

(I also did not find Two Serpents Rise quite as compelling as Three Parts Dead, but I didn't think it was bad, just not as personally enjoyable.)
posted by immlass at 9:58 AM on February 2


I liked Lafferty's Shambling Guide to New York City too. She's a good reader-- she got her start podcasting-- so her audiobooks are worth checking out.
posted by NoraReed at 10:49 AM on February 2


Zen Cho is a friend of mine, but I came to know her first through her writing and very particular style. Jade is good but it is quite different from her other work. Her short stories, some available on her website here, are wonderful Wodehouse-Aunt-esque Asian stories that are just in my head the way some of Ted Chiang's stories are.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:02 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


Wanted to thank you Monsieur Caution for shouting out A Stranger in Olondria and Sofia Samatar in general--I read it this week under blankets with tea and cats after dinner and it was the perfect way to combat this dreary weather. Kind of like mixing Guy Gavriel Kay with Italo Calvino, lots of fun and some emotional turns without being stupid. Also really digging her unpretentious, enthusiastic, interesting blog posts.

Up next thanks to languagehat, Dictee. I love a good recommended reading thread!
posted by ifjuly at 11:59 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


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