Insert Title Here to be launched at Swancon

FableCroft Publishing‘s intriguingly titled new anthology, Insert Title Here, will be launched at Swancon this coming Easter.

Insert Title Here is an unthemed anthology with a swag of dark stories, including work by Joanne Anderton, Robert Hood, Marienne de Pierres, Dan Rabarts, Sara Larner, Matthew Morrison, Thoraiya Dyer and Daniel Simpson.

The launch is penciled in for 10am on Saturday the 4th of April, but keep an eye on the publisher’s or Swancon’s websites for confirmation closer to the event.

ITH Cover

Swancon is Western Australia’s annual speculative fiction convention “that is invested in all kinds of media. You will find panels and discussion about games, film, literature, and graphic novels. If you are interested in science fiction or fantasy of almost any flavour, we will have something for you.”

Swancon 40 runs from 2-6 April, 2015, in Perth, and this year will be celebrating 40 years.

The Doll Collection, ed. Ellen Datlow – review by Mario Guslandi

The Doll Collection, ed. Ellen Datlow

The Doll Collection, ed. Ellen Datlow

The Doll Collection

Edited by Ellen Datlow

Tor Books, 2015

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Well known, distinguished American editor Ellen Datlow continues to delight horror fans with juicy anthologies of excellent short fiction featuring either reprints or, as in this case, brand new, original tales.

“The Doll Collection” is a theme anthology assembling seventeen stories where dolls (of any size, type and nature) represent the backbone of the plot. Needless to say the average quality of the material is extremely good, with about 50%of the stories reaching a level of excellence which makes them worth to be included in any forthcoming “Year’s Best”. A challenge for Datlow herself, as the editor of one of the most important and successful “Best Horror of the Year” series.

Then please take note of the following titles and see if my prediction is well founded or not.

“Skin and Bone” by Tim Lebbon is a masterful tale of Arctic horror where the discovery of two doll- like corpses in the snow reveals the hidden truth about the fate of the expedition, while “Heroes and Villains” by Stephen Gallagher is a creepy yarn featuring a too lively ventriloquist’s dummy recalling a past tragedy brought about by a fire.

In the enigmatic tale of witchcraft, “Gaze” by Gemma Files, we get acquainted with a long dead woman with eyes of different colours and in the terrifying “Ambitious Boys Like You” by Richard Kadrey, two young burglars breaking into an old man’s house end up facing a veritable nightmare.

Stephen Graham Jones contributes the offbeat but fascinating and disquieting “Daniel’s Theory About Dolls”, probing the dark secrets of a family where two brothers, living with the constant memory of an unborn little sister, have an unhealthy obsession with dolls.

Genevieve Valentine’s delicious “Visit Lovely Cornwall on the Western Railway Line” depicts with a gentle, exquisite touch the train journey of a girl travelling alone.

Lucy Sussex provides the very enjoyable “Miss Sibyl-Cassandra”, revolving around a fortune-telling doll and her ambiguous but effective previsions.

John Langan exhibits his great storytelling ability in “Homemade Monsters” where childhood memories about the disappearance of a kid during an unusual seismic event are linked to a makeshift but powerful Godzilla figurine.

Other contributors are: Joyce Carol Oates, Pat Cadigan,Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn, Miranda Siemienowicz, Mary Robinette Kowal, Richard Bowes,Veronica Schanoes and Jeffrey Ford.

Needless to add, a highly recommended book.

- review by Mario Guslandi

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‘Mayhem: Selected Stories’ by Deborah Sheldeon is now available!

Deborah Sheldon’s latest collection, ‘Mayhem: Selected Stories’ has just been published on Friday the 13th February 2015, by Satalyte Publishing.

A farmer is confronted by two desperadoes;
A tourist does her terrible best to evade a tracker and his dog;
A teenager discards his civilised mask inside a lonely roadhouse.

SheldonThis collection of 28 short stories propels the reader through a kaleidoscope of Australian lowlife. In a range of styles, from dirty realism to noir, Deborah Sheldon pens the kind of fiction that is tough enough to shock, yet tender enough to hurt. An exploration of what it means to be human in the face of brutality, Mayhem: Selected Stories, is perfect reading for pulp novices and crime aficionados alike.

Praise for Deborah Sheldon:

“[This is] short fiction told masterfully. Sheldon’s stories have that rare ability to speak volumes between each word. There are pieces of life’s puzzles the reader must complete, wonderfully unsettling strips of humanity that linger in the mind long after closing the book.” – Craig Bezant, Dark Prints Press

“Deborah Sheldon explores the rich vein of violence that runs through Australian society… The merely disconcerting and the deadly are juxtaposed and those who don’t know the difference, pay the price.” – Antonia Hildebrand, Polestar Writers’ Journal

“Sheldon specialises in the little moments that reveal the chaos and terror beneath.” – Elizabeth Rutherford-Johnson, The Short Review (UK)

A bit about the book, in Deborah’s words… 

Mayhem: selected stories comprises 28 of my crime and dark-themed short stories. Most were originally published by magazines such as Island, Crime Factory, [untitled], Tincture Journal, and Shotgun Honey. Every story nagged at me to be written. A line of dialogue, an opening sentence, a plot point, a thematic arc – something in each piece compelled me to work on it. Personally, I love the short story form. I buy and devour plenty of short story collections every year; my bookshelves are laden with them.

My favourite character is always the protagonist of the story I’m currently writing. By that rationale, I have 28 favourite characters in ‘Mayhem: Selected Stories’. My job was to tell each of their stories as honestly as possible.

Mayhem: selected stories is now available direct from the publishers, Satalyte Publishing (soon available everywhere).

Cranky Ladies of History launches March 8

FableCroft Publishing is pleased to announce that Cranky Ladies of History will be launched in Canberra on March the 8th, 2015.

The successful Pozible crowd-funding campaign for Cranky Ladies began on March 1 and ran until March 31, coinciding with Women’s History Month.

The anthology examines or celebrates real cranky* ladies from history, with stories from a diverse range of backgrounds, nationalities, and time periods. The anthology is around 125,000 words in total, with original cover art by Kathleen Jennings.

*The definition of “cranky” is rather broad, and stems somewhat more from a tendency to buck societal standards of the era than a true inherent crankiness.

Table of Contents:

 

Author Provisional Title Cranky Lady A little detail…
Joyce Chng “Charmed Life” Leizu Chinese empress who discovered silk
Amanda Pillar “Neter Nefer” Hatshepsut Egyptian ruler
Barbara Robson “Theodora” Theodora, wife of the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian the first Wife of the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian the first
Lisa Hannett “Hallgerðr Höskuldsdóttir / For So Great a Misdeed” Icelandic woman
Garth Nix “The Company of Women” Lady Godiva Anglo-Saxon noblewoman
Juliet Marillier “Hallowed Ground” Hildegard of Bingen German writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath
LM Myles “Little Battles” Eleanor of Aquitaine French queen & mother of dynasty
Foz Meadows “Bright Moon” Khutulun Central Asian warrior
Laura Lam “The lioness and her prey” Jeanne de Clisson French pirate
Liz Barr “Queenside” Mary Tudor (Mary I of England) Queen of England
Deborah Biancotti “Look How Cold My Hands Are” Countess Bathory countess from the renowned Báthory family of nobility in the Kingdom of Hungary. She has been labelled the most prolific female serial killer in history
Dirk Flinthart “The gift of freedom” Grace O’Malley Queen of Umaill, chieftain of the Ó Máille clan sometimes known as “The Sea Queen of Connacht”
Faith Mudge “Glorious” Elizabeth I Queen of England
Havva Murat “The Pasha, the girl and the dagger: The story of Nora of Kelmendi” Nora of Kelmendi Albanian warrior
Kirstyn McDermott “Mary Mary” Mary Wollstonecroft English writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights.
Thoraiya Dyer “Vintana” Queen Ranavalona I of Madagascar, also known as Ranavalona the Cruel Queen of Madagascar
Stephanie Lai “The dragon, the terror, the sea” Cheng Shih Chinese pirate
Jane Yolen SACAGAWEA SACAGAWEA Lemhi Shoshone woman, who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition, acting as an interpreter and guide, in their exploration of the Western United States
Kaaron Warren “Another week in the future” Miss CH Spence Scottish-born Australian author, teacher, journalist, politician and leading suffragist.
Sylvia Kelso “Due care and attention” Lilian Cooper British-born Australian doctor
Sandra McDonald “Cora Crane and The Trouble with Me” Cora Crane American businesswoman, nightclub and bordello owner, writer and journalist.
Nisi Shawl “A Beautiful Stream” Colette French novelist and performer
Liz Argall “Oodgeroo is Not Yet Your Name” Oodgeroo Noonuccal Australian poet, political activist, artist and educator.

See FableCroft Publishing for more details.

Peripheral Visions ghost story collection by Robert Hood

Robert Hood‘s complete collection of ghost stories will be released in April 2015 by IFWG Publishing Australia, in paperback and ebook formats. It will also be available in hardcover, and most notably, IFWG Publishing Australia will produce 200 limited edition copies, signed by Robert Hood. The cover and internal artwork is created by the very talented, industry-respected artist, Nick Stathopoulos.

Robert Hood is a highly respected, award-winning author, considered by many to be one of Australia’s grand masters of horror and weird fiction. Though over his 40-year career (to date) he has published speculative fiction of all kinds, he has notably produced 43 short stories that feature ghosts, hauntings and spectral horrors. These memorable tales display his ability to make the fantastic real, to embrace weirdness, and create human characters whose inner and outer lives, haunted by mortality, are laid bare and revealed to be our own worst nightmares. Ranging from melancholy reflections on life and death, through disquieting tales of dark humour and vengeance, to chilling visions of ghostly apocalypse, Hood’s stories are sure to draw you into a terrifying world that in the end is revealed to be irrefutably our own.

Peripheral Visions is a one-of-a-kind reference collection that includes all of Hood’s 43 ghost stories to date, three of them especially written for this volume.

“Rob Hood is Australia’s master of dark fantasy, seducing the reader with stories that are lavishly grim and rife with a quirky, unpredictable inventiveness.” (Sean Williams)

“Rob Hood is so good at what he does, he’ll have you believing in ghosts by the end of the first story in this brilliant collection.” (Kaaron Warren)

Peripheral Visions is a large volume of work, with a word count over 220k. In trade paperback format it will be published in two volumes, spaced over a month. Here is the appearance of the two covers, when laid side-by-side.

Rob's cover LeftRob's cover right

A single volume hardcover edition will also be published, with internal illustrations by Nick Stathopoulos. The exciting part of this publishing effort is a signed, limited hardcover edition, which can be pre-ordered now. There are only 200 limited edition copies available (numbered), each of which includes a Nick Stathopoulos-designed signature page, and a bonus ‘chap-ebook’ containing several zombie stories, titled Haunted Flesh: Stories of the Living Dead. These editions will disappear quickly, so we recommend interested readers pre-order now. IFWG Publishing Australia will not be repeating this offer.

The offer:

  • Hardcover Book: 6.14″ x 9.21″ (156mm x 234mm), creme paper, plain cloth binding with spine imprint, and matt cover sleeve.
  • 43 stories: a mix of short stories, novelettes and a novella. Over 220k words of fiction, spanning the period 1986 to present. Three stories, including the novella, are new, published for the first time here.
  • The book will also contain extensive notes on all stories, and a table that registers the complete publishing history of each story, including all reprints, and any awards or short listing for awards.
  • An introduction by World Fantasy Awards winner, Danel Olson.
  • The book is divided into six categories of ghost stories:
    • Haunted Places
    • Haunted Families
    • Haunted Minds
    • Haunted Youth
    • Haunted Vengeance
    • Haunted Realities
  • Each category of the book will include an illustration by Nick Stathopoulos, as well as a frontispiece.
  • Each book will have a signature page (also illustrated/designed by Nick Stathopoulos), signed by Robert Hood, and numbered from 1 to 200. The sequence number provided will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. There will never be any other signed limited editions produced for sale, beyond this 200.
  • Each purchaser will also get, as an added bonus, a chap-ebook titled Haunted Flesh: Stories of the Living Dead, containing several zombie stories, totalling to approximately 20k in word count.

Orders:

For Australian shipping addresses, the price is AU$75.00 (including shipping).
For Other countries shipping addresses, the price is US$85.00 (including shipping).

Far Cry 4: Game Review

Far Cry 4 Limited Editon packshot_0Finished Far Cry 4 (Xbox360 version) yesterday and, ultimately, it is a disappointing game.

First-person open world games are my favourites, and some entries in the Far Cry series are right up there alongside S.T.A.L.K.E.R. as amongst the best.

In a way, Far Cry 1 started it all — allowing you to approach missions any way you wanted, with few set paths. Far Cry 2 took this to a new level, opening up an enormous map of a (fictional) section of Africa, allowing the player a great deal of latitude in playing the game the way they wanted to. Far Cry 2 also took itself quite seriously and, despite it’s numerous bugs and annoyances, was a dark tale with strong messages on ethics in war. I think Far Cry 2 is still my favourite of the series.

Far Cry 3 was gorgeous to look at, and took the open world nature of FC2 to an entirely new level. Unfortunately, the POV character was lame and the story even worse. There were also constant attempts at humour, and I mean ‘attempts’, and a silliness to many of the characters that meant it lacked the gritty seriousness of FC2. There was no real moral, and the ethics questionable. I played it through though (twice!) because the scenery was so good, and I just loved the open nature of the missions. Ultimately, though, I was hoping for more with FC4.

Far Cry 4 started out well. The new setting (Himalayas instead of a tropical island or African savannah) is even more gorgeous than previous games, and the verticality of the mountains make a very different game. And the wildlife! Tigers, Bears, Rhinos, Elephants, Eagles, Honeybadgers (damn those honeybadgers!)… they’re all there and they’re all dangerous. Very exciting! But the story? The POV character’s motives for getting involved in all this are near non-existent. You’re just expected to become a bloodthirsty killer, mowing down natives in another near Third-World country, for the flimsiest of reasons (if there actually WAS a reason). And the ending was VERY anti-climactic. After pouring over 45 hours of my time into this thing, I expected some sort of pay-off at the end. Unfortunately, it just sort of fizzes out.

So, the verdict? It looks amazing and there have been many improvements — getting the wingsuit so early really opens up the world, and the single-seat ‘Buzzer’ helicopters were a great addition. I still loved just wandering the world, climbing mountains and traversing valleys, watching Eagles snatch pigs from the fields and bears fight with tigers. I loved stealthing into an enemy compound and taking guys out silently, without anyone ever knowing I was there… and if things turned to shit, I always had enough heavy weaponry to blast my way to victory. It was AMAZING!

But the story? It sucked so bad that it spoiled a lot of the experience. I’m glad I played it, but I probably won’t be going back to Kyrat. Hopefully, FC5 will return to the much more serious (and adult) style storyline of FC2.

Score: 7/10

From Out of the Dark now available

New_From_Out_Of_The_DarkEditor: Robert N Stephenson
Publisher: Altair Australia Publishing
Published: 9 January 2015
290 pages
Available in two formats: print and ebook (free)

From Out of the Dark is a SF/H anthology set in the gap between galaxies, in the immense darkness of space with all the frightening aspects and contemplation billions of light years of unseeable entities can bring.

A collection of 10 short stories by 10 unique writers, including Tony Shillitoe, Gene Stewart and Gregory L. Norris. Some stories travel the same road, some not so close, some are classic space opera and some are strangely different. But these are not just first encounters. This is not horror added the SF or SF added to horror by slight of hand. These are journeys into places we cannot and will never imagine outside of telescopes and maths.

Edited by Robert N Stephenson (Altair Australia Publishing), an award winning author of novels and non fiction/fiction collections, with over 100 short stories published across the world. As an editor, Robert has edited over 30 full length novels, as well as Altair Magazine for 3 years, and other anthologies in SF and Horror.