Starting 18 hours ago, and good for 48 hours only, you can download a free copy of The Way of Kings, the first volume of The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. To get your free copy you have to sign up for the Tor email that tells you about new Sci-Fi/Fantasy books, not a bad thing in my opinion. And of course you can opt out at any time.
If you are looking for something to read, one of the best series ever written is Wild Cards, a Superhero shared-universe where around 40 authors have contributed to the mosaic novels and short stories. It started in 1986, when George R.R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass came up with the concept of Superpowers and horrible mutations and a lot of folks who just plain died when exposed to an Alien Xenovirus. That was meant to rid the Earth of Humans while leaving all our stuff intact so the aliens could take over the planet without destroying it in a war, but it didn’t quite work out the way they had planned. The stories are written by some of the best Science Fiction authors on the planet (there are too many to list, and I didn’t want to leave anyone out, so I gave the link so you could see for yourself), each of whom has created one or more characters. While it is difficult to pick a favorite with so many wonderful characters in the books, if I had to name just one it would be Roger Zelazny’s < href="http://www.wildcardsworld.com/characters/the-sleeper/">Croyd, The Sleeper. 24 books have already been published and there are two more in the pipe, one ready for release. And because that isn’t enough, the long-awaited TV series is finally in production; George can’t be directly involved with that due to his exclusive contract with HBO for Game of Thrones, so Melinda is heading up that project. This is one of the trailers for High Stakes, the 11th book in the series, updated to include mention of the TV series.
If you are as addicted to reading as I am, and in particular you love to read Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and other Genre stories, then I have a recommendation for you. Every week Locus Magazine generates a comprehensive list of the new publications their editorial team consider the best available. That means you can check in each week to find their New Books page, and learn where and what all the fun stories are, even if you don’t recognize all the authors or editors. For the most part, Locus does not link you to online version of the stories, but if you know their names and authors you shouldn’t have much trouble tracking them down yourself.
If you are a Manga fan, you need to be aware that Viz has now launched Viz Select. These are some classic Manga’s that have been out of print for a while, and have now been re-released in a digital media format. Some of them started life as light novels, got turned into manga, and finally became Anime. Other stories went in a different order, such as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, which started out as a novel, got turned into an Anime, followed by a live action movie, and then was developed as a Manga. However they got that way, there are some classic Manga titles in this collection, such as Future Diary, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Fate/stay night, Trinity Blood, D・N・ANGEL, and more. Enjoy!
There had been talk of the Wild Cards shared universe series being made into a TV show. It was to be a joint project between Universal Studios and Syfy, with Melinda Snodgrass doing the screenplay and her and George R. R. Martin executive producing the series. That announcement came out in 2011, and I haven’t heard a single mention of it since, so my hopes are getting pretty faded now. That is a shame, because the Wild Cards books are my favorite shared universe (the short stories) and mosaic novels, and was one of the first portrayals of super heroes as if they were real people with all the real life baggage that entails. Authors in the first 1986 volume included George R. R. Martin, Howard Waldrop, Roger Zelazny, Walter Jon Williams, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Lewis Shiner,Victor Milan, Edward Bryant, and John J Miller. They re-released the original Wild Cards I in 2010 in an expanded edition with new stories from a handful of authors, including Carrie Vaughn. Volume 23 of the series is coming out soon, and it continues to be excellent.
The premise of the series is simple; aliens from outer space want to take over the Earth with all the buildings and infrastructure intact, but without all those pesky Humans around to dispute ownership with them. Or perhaps one renegade Mad Scientists from the aliens wants to use the human race as a testing ground to see how the virus they have created to rewrite DNA actually spreads through a live population. I tend to remember it both ways, since one plot line seemed to be the hidden agenda behind the other. Either way, a space ship arrived to carpet bomb the world with the infection just after WWII has ended. Except… WWII has just ended, and War In The Skies is something humans have gotten pretty good at. Especially Jet Boy, a normal person who has become, in Batman-esque fashion, the most dangerous person in the air. When the ship arrives at Earth and begins the bombing run, he immediately recognizes an attack pattern and starts fighting back. It is destroyed, but not before it drops a single viral bomb on NYC, and they both fall burning from the sky.
The sole virus delivery bomb to reach the ground wrecks unimagined destruction and havoc on the population of the City That Never Sleeps. 99 out of every 100 people die outright. Of the 1% of the survivors, 99 out of every 100 of them become Jokers, with twisted mutant bodies looking not very human at all, although about half of them have some power to compensate them for their loss. The final 1% of 1% become Aces; people with normal or enhanced appearance, and some superpower they can use for themselves. They break down another layer deep, because they are, after all, people. Some become heroes and champions of justice, some become villains, and others are only in it for themselves; like everyone through the ages, they have to decide who they each want to be.
I should mention that my favorite character from this series is Croyd, The Sleeper, and that he was created by one of my favorite authors, Roger Zelazny. Croyd isn’t like any other Joker or Ace; they are all who they are. Croyd, on the other hand, is only who he is at the moment. Once he falls asleep, he could wake up as anyone, Joker or Ace or Human, and that gives him a flavor no one else in this shared universe has. It also gives him a problem no one else has, with its own set of issues; such as being terrified of falling asleep, since he never knows who or what he might wake up as. The solution he usually chooses for that problem is to consume massive amounts of no-doze and other sleep avoiding chemicals, which has its own drawback. After the first 48 to 72 hours of being awake, one’s mind starts to get a bit flaky. When you hit one week of being awake, you have begun to enter the realm of the psychotic, and things go rapidly downhill from there. So even when he starts out as one of the Aces with full superpowers and an intention of doing only good, within a week or so he is doing demented things with no rhyme or reason, and LOTS of unintended consequences.
And that is just one character and his basic issues. Wait until you meet Tom Tudbury, the Great and Powerful Turtle, who’s lineage appears as the House of Tudbury in George’s Game of Thrones series. Every author who came to play in the Wild Cards shared universe created one or more characters, and every character was a human being first with all that might entail, and a hero or monster second, using their abilities to write their personal self large on the world stage.
You can, of course, read any book in the series as a stand alone volume, but you will get a lot more out of it if you gather a selection of the books in a specific subset and read them all in a row. For myself, I would recommend starting with the first one in the set, Wild Cards, and then continuing through the next 9 volumes. If you have done that already, grab the second set starting at volume 11 and read from there. Often a set of 3 book will tell a complete story, even when it is a subset of a larger arc; each book is self contained, but the first 3 books are a single story, residing inside the first 10 book story arc, as an example.
Want to read a few of the stories online for free, before you decide if you should dive into this shared universe? Tor has made a number of them available, so here are a few to check out:
When We Were Heroes by Daniel Abraham
The Rook by Melinda Snodgrass
Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan by Carrie Vaughn
The Elephant in the Room by Paul Cornell
The Button Man and the Murder Tree by Cherie Priest
Drop by George R. R. Martin’s Blog to catch up on a lot of the news and ongoing details.
If you don’t already know about it, there is a wonderful site dedicated to how the past saw the future called Paleofuture. The original site is at the first link, and started off being a project for a class that Matt Novak was taking back in 2007, which he figured would be taken down when the class ended a few months later. What he didn’t expect was that he would become addicted to learning about all the different stuff folks in the past thought about how the future would be. He continued to add new entries to the site until he finally graduated in 2011.
Then Matt got his first real job at the Smithsonian in September of 2011, which was also happy to host the Paleofuture new and improved site. It looks to me like he learned a lot from some of the Smithsonian team about how to both research his topic and present the results of that research. His entries went from being the isn’t this neat kind of postings he did in school to detailed analysis of not only what folks in the past were thinking about what the future would be like, but how and why they came to those conclusions. It was during this period that his site grew into the ideas powerhouse it is today, rich in understanding of the various previous eras and how they each perceived the times to come.
The site moved again this week, following Matt this past Thursday to his new job at Gizmodo to become Paleofuture in its 3rd incarnation. Mind, each of the previous sites still exist in archived form, they just aren’t having new articles added. Matt has a lot of good info and ideas to share, if you haven’t run across him before now I recommend you take some time to explore his sites.