Author Event: Cat Valente reads from Deathless (April 2011)

(Juibilatory pre-script, appended 5.11: Valente’s celebrated The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making has finally been released in bookity form! We covet, and so should you – just check out the reviews if you don’t feel convinced by the title alone. [That might be ‘coveted,’ past tense, in Kakaner’s case – she’s probably getting her fix as I type this.])

A few weeks ago, I got to see Catherynne Valente read from her newest novel, Deathless, at Pandemonium Books (conveniently located about twenty steps from the Central Square T stop in Cambridge, MA). Deathless, a Stalinist-era retelling of the fairy tale of Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless, was released in late March to glowing reviews, and its first printing already seems to be well on its way to selling out. (I know this because Pandemonium actually couldn’t get copies in on time for the signing due to short supply at multiple warehouses. Bummer for the eager fans at the signing, but fantastic news for Valente.)

Cat Valente signing

Valente read from a segment in which Marya encounters Baba Yaga – chauffered in a chicken-footed limousine – at a swanky club for devils. The prose was vintage Valente – vibrant, blackly witty, equal parts wonder and menace. Part of her motivation in writing Deathless, Valente emphasized, was a desire to bring greater awareness of both less-familiar folklore, and terrible events outside of the usual American perception of World War II. Her Marya emerges from the fairy-tale world into the Siege of Leningrad, a horrific three-year siege that consumed more than 1.5 million lives.

Deathless also includes, of course, generous doses of Communist satire. How do the inhabitants of the fairy-tale world react to Communism? one fan asked. “They love Communism. They’re devils! Communism is great.” (Baba Yaga also demands that Marya address her as “Chairman.”)

Amy Houser‘s lush comic teaser, “The House Committee,” features one such episode from the novel. (Houser, Valente mentioned, designs Barbies and My Little Ponies for a living, and was excited to work on something just a little bit darker.) Images below the cut —

Continue reading Author Event: Cat Valente reads from Deathless (April 2011)

Time Warp 1987: F&SF and a couple of soggy old men

I picked up a few old copies of Fantasy & Science Fiction for free this past fall, and should be posting a couple of reviews from them at intervals. Reading this issue, April 1987, meant a number of firsts for me – namely, my first time actually reading F&SF, my first time reading any non-electronic pro genre magazine, and my first time reading several big-name authors (…pretty much everyone in this issue, really). Embarrassing.

Also, check out this most excellent cover (an illustration for Wayne Wightman’s “Cage 37,” and, since Kakaner asked, honorary BBCF):

Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 1987Aww yeah. Alienated youth clad in flabby sweats squint at you from the thick of the ’80’s.

Anyway, reviews! Two to start.


Stephen Sondheim once dismissed his lyrical work for West Side Story as being “wet,” which has stuck with me as being a useful descriptor for the kind of self-seriousness generally accompanied by moistened eyes being cast to the horizon. (I love WSS anyway, by the way.) Lucius Shepard‘s prose in “The Glassblower’s Dragon” struck me as being very, very wet. Blah blah blah disaffected artist and club girl find Moment of Solace in each other’s company. Cue an outpouring of faintly patronizing affection on the part of the artist, a general pity party, and some really soppy declamations:

“And loss was probable, for love is an illusion with the fragility of glass and light, whose magic must constantly be renewed. But for the moment they did not allow themselves to think of these things. They were content to stare after the dragon, after the sole truth in their lives that no lie could disparage.”



George Zebrowski‘s “Behind the Night” dwells on “a sterile, post-plague United States and a 119-year-old president who is implementing a foreign policy based on treason” (stealing F&SF’s blurb there). It goes for elegiac, but doesn’t really get beyond fervent, slightly incoherent sentimentality, e.g.

“The sonata of survival is unaffected by our views of it; we have yet to learn how to change more than a few notes without creating dissonances. Life requires the deterioration of the body, the dashing of hopes, the death of love, to produce a head full of fading thoughts.”


“‘A beautiful idea,’ I said, moved by the depth of her feelings. And I realized that in a sense I had become the father of a new country.”

Oh Mr. President, what a clever duck you are.

Also, this one had yet more bubblings-up of creepish paternalistic tenderness. Brrr.

– E

Booklish #4: Gone With the Wind Tara Cake


View Recipe: Gone With the Wind Tara Cake

I envisioned nothing less than a grand, massive tiered cake for Margaret Mitchell‘s sweeping 1936 romantic epic, Gone With the Wind.  This famous and controversial novel has all the good bits– war, betrayal, unrequited love, mis-timed requited love– and a spoiled southern belle forced to experience the worst of humanity who then seizes her life back though hard work, womanly charms, and sheer force of will. This recipe is meant to capture the full range of history, time and emotion in the novel, as well as convey an atmosphere of grandness throughout.

Continue reading Booklish #4: Gone With the Wind Tara Cake

Booklish #3: Rorschach Cheesecake


View Recipe

Featured here is a gnarly wrought-chocolate cheesecake to commemorate Alan Moore’s vengeful vigilante, Rorschach. Pardon the craftsmanship– Rorschach blots are definitely supposed to be more symmetrical, but with only a wooden spoon and various other home tools, this was the best I could manage.

Continue reading Booklish #3: Rorschach Cheesecake

BBCF: I Will Fear No Evil

So when it comes to book covers, there’s overly literal, and then there’s this kind of thing, courtesy the mass-market paperback cover of Robert Heinlein’s I Will Fear No Evil:

Robert Heinlein - Fear No Evil

Allegorical representation of Something Profound About America, With Purple Pixie Dust? Thinly veiled excuse for female nudity? Who knows?

Go to:

Bad Book Covers Friday Archive
BBCF: The Technic Civilization Saga
BBCF: Relationships II
BBCF: The Saga of Recluce
BBCF: Moonsinger’s Friends
BBCF: The Alphabet Mysteries

BBCF: Relationships II

[Sorry for the lateness – apparently I specialize in redefining “Friday.”]

Oh small presses, sometimes (frequently) I just don’t know what you were thinking. So far I’ve tried to stay away from small-small-press covers because they do what they do under so many constraints, but sometimes – yeah, I just really don’t know what they were thinking. According to the publisher, this is “a collection of seven stories about relationships, loving and passionate, thought-provoking and inspiring. Some verge into the familiar Anthony territory of fantasy and science fiction, where others focus on the eroticism of contemporary life, proving that love has many facets.”

Piers Anthony - Relationships II

Apparently one of love’s facets is reenactment of bondage scenarios with Parcheesi gamepieces after a few hits of acid…?

Go to:
Bad Book Covers Friday Archive
BBCF: Birth of the Firebringer
BBCF: The Saga of Recluce
BBCF: Moonsinger’s Friends
BBCF: The Alphabet Mysteries

BBCF: Birth of the Firebringer

Foreign-language editions of fantasy novels tend to be particularly fertile grounds for weird book covers. And man, I love many a Scandinavian illustrator, but their covers also tend to be the loopiest among European editions that I’ve seen. Here’s the Danish paperback cover of Meredith Ann Pierce’s Birth of the Firebringer (which is the first book in a childhood-favorite trilogy, so this is another case in which I can vouch for the cover being accurate in its details, yet not… shall we say, entirely representative of the book as a whole):

Meredith Ann Pierce - Birth of the Firebringer, second Danish edition

50% cute, 50% acid-trip unhinged. I don’t think I want to be friends with these unicorns – they look like they’d shake me down for my lunch money, then threaten to cut me if I told.

Yet at the same time, I kind of want a t-shirt with them on it.

Go to:
Bad Book Covers Friday Archive
BBCF: The Saga of Recluce
BBCF: Moonsinger’s Friends
BBCF: The Alphabet Mysteries
BBCF: Diamond Star

Author Event: Joe Hill reads from Horns (February 2010)

Author: Joe Hill

Date: 2.22.10

Book: Horns

Venue: Porter Square Books

Reviewer: Kakaner

Joe Hill Porter Square Signing Locke and Key Horns Heart Shaped Box reading

Porter Square Books is a quaint bookstore tucked away in Porter Square, Cambridge and features a popular fair-trade cafe. We arrived early for front row seats, and discovered while waiting that we had been seated in the… SAT prep and pregnancy help section. Huh?

Anyway, enter Joe Hill, tall and lanky, and a spitting image of his father. He exuded a very distinct “accomplished nerd” appeal, as in awkward yet confident. I have to say I was a little taken aback by his appearance because the only photo I had seen of him was this:

Which incidentally kind of coincides with the mental image I have of Judas Coyne from Heart-Shaped Box– jacket, rock, auto-enthusiast. Oh author portraits. How you mislead us so!

Continue reading Author Event: Joe Hill reads from Horns (February 2010)

BBCF: The Saga of Recluce

Apologies for actually missing Friday – it’s been a long week. To make up for it, for this week’s Bad Book Cover Friday, I’m covering (har [?]) a series that Kakaner has been begging me to do pretty much since the beginning – L. E. Modesitt, Jr.’s The Saga of Recluce.

These covers actually work the best without much commentary, so prepare for some scrolling –

L. E. Modesitt - Mage-Guard of Hamor

Continue reading BBCF: The Saga of Recluce