• Category Archives Literature
  • Oh Great Old Ones, I am writing a Novel!

    Lately I have not managed to update this blog as often as I would like to. Apart from the usual reasons of dayjob and family, another thing has crept up:

    I am actually writing a novel, and this time it is pretty serious. This is actually my second attempt at writing a novel. My first one was a steampunk novel, a sizable fragment of which is still on the harddrive of the computer I am writing this blog entry with. Unfortunately, that particular novel is not going anywhere any time fast.

    BUT: Luna Press of beautiful Edinburgh in beautiful Scotland will publish an anthology which includes a short story that is based on a sub-plot of that novel and features most of the original main characters. Maybe there will be more in the future.

    Here is a teaser for that one, it is called Heirs

    Below LZ Württemberg, foothills stretched towards the horizon, slowly merging with Mount Hasan. Here, long ago one of the greatest cities of early mankind had thrived.
    Two days had passed since the Prince and his team had left the Württemberg and gone on their errand. All Von Kober and his crew could do was wait, either for a message from the ground or something else. It was the something else that worried him. Too many something elses.
    How strangely moods transformed perception, he thought. Down there was a magnificent, exotic, almost alien landscape. He should be sitting there, drawing sketches of the volcano in his diary. Instead, he scanned the ground and the sky. Every boulder a sniper’s hiding place. Every cart a mobile gun. Every speck on the horizon the scout of a fleet, even the goat herders made him nervous.
    Von Kober almost hoped for something to happen, to give him a vent for his tension. He fixed his binoculars on yet another point in the sky. After a few moments he adjusted focus and magnification.
    “Richnow, possible airship north-north-west, take a look.”
    The second navigator swiveled the fixed observation telescope around, it took him a moment to find his mark.
    “Confirmed, Herr Kapitän. Airship. French configuration. Heading our way.”
    Von Kober hurried up the ladder to the bridge and took the master-tube.
    “Attention all stations. We have just spotted a French airship. Power up the turrets but do not extend. Boiler room, I want the Württemberg able to go to full speed faster than ever before, come up with something and do it fast.”
    “Herr Kapitän.,” came Richnow’s voice from below. “The airship has just gone on a parallel course to ours. Ah, there’s the name…” he paused.
    “It’s the Toulon.”

    The Toulon.
    Every member of the Imperial Zeppelin Corps had heard of her, Captain Baquoy’s vessel. 
Captain Baquoy, a living legend.
    Captain Baquoy, the French Empire’s most highly decorated captain. While on single patrol, ambushed by a pirate squadron over Siam. Came out of the engagement with six kills and not a single casualty on his side. 
Captain Baquoy, a personal friend of…
    Oh my God! Albrecht thought. Is that it? Is that what is going on down there?

    The project I am working on now, which is already significantly more advanced than the steampunk novel ever was, at just below 38.000 words is a completely different one. For one, I am writing it in German and it is dark fantasy, not steampunk at all.

    This is the first sketch of the cover:

    ObsidianSketchSmall

    The final cover image is also done, alll (c) Nele Diel and all rights reserved by me. No copying, distributing, download etc. in any way shape or form without written permission (except fair use).

    Some bullet points concerning the novel:

    • The main protagonist is a black, female necromancer
    • The technology level is roughly late bronze age
    • The necromancers are the good guys

    So, if the updates are not coming as often as usual, now you know what I am up to.


  • Review: Black Silk by Lila Lestrange

    Black Silk by Lila Lestrange has managed something no other book managed before: It wanted me to rage-quit my Kindle out of the window because of the level of disgusting, selfish evil the main villain reached, but let’s start at the beginning:

    Black Silk is a dark fantasy novel of quite some size (more than 100.000 words) and my first forray into Dark Fantasy or more precisely Grimdark Fantasy.

    The setting of Black Silk is the city of Naressina, a bustling trading port reminiscent of Renaissance Venice. Ships from all over the world fill its ports and many strange and wonderful goods from spices to silks to darker things change hands here.

    The first thing that sets Black Silk apart from other fantasy setting is the one non-human race living in rather limited numbers alongside humans in the city. These are the zereshi, humanoids with features of both cats and insects whose home is in some distant landNaressina trades with. One of their kind features prominently on the cover:

    Black Silk by Lila Lestrange Cover

     

    It is also with one of the zereshi, the merchant Zîf Kaliari, that the story begins. One of his warehouses is broken into but nothing seems to be missing. Instead, he finds a strange golden amulet depicting a beast or deamon of some sort.

    While the wealthy trader Zîf tries to uncover the secret behind the amulet and his health rapidly fades, the gang from Lowtown, the poorest part of Naressina, which broke into the warehouse and who got screwed by their mysterious employer, nearly destroying them, want revenge and a few answers themselves.

    At the same time revolution is brewing and the ruling classes of the city  use the civic unrest and general turmoil for their own ends, which are nefarious in more than one way. The reader lerns pretty quickly that life in the poor quarters of the city is cheap in deed, that the brutish law of the rulers does not even spare children and that dark forces are everywhere in more than one form.

    Enter Viedro, the aforementioned villain who is basically behind every single act of evil in the city. He is a noble who through intrigue and dark magic becomes the de facto ruler of the city, completely untouchable by the law. He is arrogant, lecherous, decadent, cares nothing about the lives of others, has despicable sexual preferences, is in league with deamons, I could go on. This bloated maggot (he is rather obese)  has no redeeming qualities and is depicted so realistically by Lila Lestrange, it made me mad on more than one occasion and let me seethe with rage several times as well.

    The political situation, the treatment of the poor and the self-serving dark magic is not the only thing that makes Black Silk a truely dark piece of fiction. There are the little personal tragedies that play out, the low-grade everyday racism against the zereshi and the bleakness of the lives of the poor.

    Yet, there is hope in the tale. Zîf and the gang which broke into his warehouse, the Wharf Rats, make contact in a roundabout way, uncover the dark conspiracy which has chocked the city and move against it as unlikely allies and make other allies along the way.

    One of the most beautiful scenes in the novel is when one of the truely evil scumbags in charge uses fear-based magic against another character with a dark past and finds out the hard way that fear-based magic does not work against a psychopath who lost his fear a long time ago.

    Also, the Drunken Rat, the tavern the Wharf Rats hang out, is a rare mostly happy place in this dark city of oppession, fear and magic. It is a place of refuge for some of the protagonists and also the reader.

    All in all, Black Silk is a fascinating, captivating, and harrowing tale set in a refreshingly different fantasy world, no elves or orcs but zereshi and two suns.

    8 out of 10 dark deamons.

     

    Find out more about Naressina and Lila Lestrange here.

     


  • Review: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

    Ever since I took a course focused on African literature at university, I have been in love with it, African literature, that is.
    The best books I ever read are (appologies to H.P. Lovecraft at this point) The River Between by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and The Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe (on which I wrote an essay at the end of the course).
    So when my lovely wife informed me a woman of African descent (Igbo, no less), Nnedi Okorafor, had won the Nebula and Hugo Awards for her novella Binti, I obviously had to get a copy.

     

     

    cover-binti (Klein)
    I did not regret it, not at all.
    Actually, I was a slight bit disappointed at the beginning, but this is because I had hoped the protagonist would be Igbo (Chinua Achebe is Igbo and The Arrow of God focusses on the clash between British and Igbo culture, in case you wondered why it was a factor for me that Nnedi Okorafor is of Igbo descent), alas, she is not.
    This is where the disappointments ended. The protagonist, Binti, is a Himba girl. I had never heard of the Himba before, which is embarassing, since I considered myself fairly knowledgable about Namibia. I read up on them, so I already learned something new via the novella.
    The story takes place at a not specified point in the future but I got the sense that it is a long way in the future.
    For one thing, ther is the cultural change. Now, the Himba are a pastoral people, practicing subsistance farming (mostly) by the time Binti is set in, they live in clans, each specializing in creating high-tech artifacts. Binti (the main character) is a prodigy in mathematics with a knack for patterns and fractals.
    Also, there is another ethnic group in Namibia that does not exist there now (it is made clear in the novella the Himba still live in their ancestral homeland). This other people are the Khoush, they wear turbans and veils and are described as pale and are unfamiliar with the ways of the Himba which leads to some of them insulting or condescenting towards Binti in various ways because they do not know the ways of the Himba and are also condescending towards the „savage girl“.

    Later in the novella we learn that most technology used in space travel, most prominently the space ships, are organic and grown from genetically engineered shrimp.

    Binti is the first member of her people to ever leave Earth and go to Oomza University, a planet dedicated to learning where only 5% of the students are human,  and takes with her a jar of otjize, which is culturally significant in several ways for the Himba, look it up, and also significant for the plot later. If I go to much into detail here, I would spoil the story.

    Again we get the sense that this is very far in the future since it seems no big deal that only 5% of students are human. Coming to think of it, 5% is actually pretty significant, given that especially at the end of the novella, we meet several sentioent races and I guess there are far more than a dozen present at the university.

    During the trip to Oomza Universirty, Binti again has some unpleasant encounters with cultural insensitivities but also almost falls in love. Almost, because just before this can fully flower, everybody on board except her and the pilot gets murdered by a Meduse boarding party.
    The meduse are another starfaring race, human-sized jellyfish-like creatures, to be exact. They come to avenge an insult and it becomes clear that it is up to Binti to prevent an interstellar conflict. Binti is able to communicate with the Meduse (which the Meduse think is an abomination) because of an old technological artifact that once was found in the Namib desert and another hint on how far in the future this is and how long mankind has traveled the stars by the time the novella takes place.
    In the end, the crisis is resolved, and Binti is involved in a triple way: Her ability to communicate, a strange power the otjize has on the Meduse and via another, and rather brutal and final violation of Binti as a peron and regarding her identity as Himba. Again, saying too much would spoil the story.
    There are two main themes in this novel, I think:

    One is pretty imperialistic: Might makes right and if you have the firepower, you can get away with things (Humans did a grave injustice to the Meduse and got away with it, the Meduse get away with slaughtering the passengers and crew of the space ship) and you can violate a percieved inferior in any case and get away with it.
    The other message is far more positive: There is no need for fighting if everybody is willing to talk.

    Binti is a fascinating read that offers a gimpse into a wonderfully different future that also takes the evolution of cultures into account. It is also very dark in a way that is not immediately apparent but Binti, the eponymous protagonist gets violated all the way through the novel and the violaters literally come in all shapes and sizes. She also loses part of herself, literally but she also manages do adopt part of her culture to an alien environment. Binti is also a surprisingly multi-faceted and multi-layered piece of literature, far more so than you would expect from a short novella.

     

    10 out of 10 starship-sized shrimps, and I cannot wait to getmy hands on the upcoming sequel.

     

    If you are interested in taking a peek yourself, you can of course get it on Amazon.

     


  • Happy birthday, Mr. Lovecraft

    It has become a tradition on this blog to note H.P. Lovecrafts birthday every year. So, another year has passed and today would be the master of the macabre’s 116th birthday.

    The cult he invented is still alive and well and shows no sign of decay.

    Happy birthday, Mr. Lovecraft, may we meet one day in Ulthar.


  • Raven Choy – An African-American Superheroine

    It happens rarely I simply post a press-release, but here I happily make an exception, because the whole topic is so awesome and also neccessary:

    In Korea, orphan Rayven Choi has had 20 years to feel bitter about the hitman who brutally murdered her parents in cold blood. Now it is time for the thinking to stop and for action to take over. She is back in America, and she is on a mission. She is a bounty hunter with a score to settle…

    Los Angeles, CA, July 25, 2016 – Right on the heels of this weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con International, award-winning writer and director Shequeta L. Smith has launched the first book in a her six-part graphic novel series, Rayven Choi, complete with a 14-minute companion film. The book will be available in both English and Korean.

    The multimedia series turns the comic book boys‘ club on its head with a strong African-American heroine leading the action-packed story of vengeance and female empowerment, written and directed by a woman.

    Putting a powerful African-American protagonist at the heart of the adventure was important for Smith, knowing that positive female characters are in short supply in the comic book world. And recognizing female creators are even rarer in the comic book and film sectors, Smith aims to shine a light on the untapped talent of women in both industries.

    Raven_Choi

    Smith is a seasoned filmmaker who beat more than 5,000 entrants to become the only individual female director to reach the Top 20 in HBO’s Project Greenlight. After that, she turned her focus to adapting her award-winning screenplay, Rayven Choi, into a graphic novel.

    “The female voice has been difficult to find in both the comic book and film worlds,“ she says. „I created Rayven Choi to help fill this void and to showcase the superhuman inner strength that all resilient women seem to possess.“

    Rayven Choi is now available on Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and iTunes/iBook eBook formats and has remained in the Top five best sellers on Amazon since its release. The film is set to be screened at film festivals later in the year.

    And this is the trailer for the first part of the six-part graphic novel:


  • Black Sails, Disco Inferno – Andrez Bergen Strikes Again!

    Andrez Bergen, if you follow my blog for some time, you have heard the name before, has yet another of his very distinct and unique tales ready to present to the world. I do not even know how to properly introduce Black Sails, Disco Inferno, since the whole premise of the novel is… Well… Read for yourselves:

    BlackSails_DiscoInferno

    An unnamed city, in which crime families flourish and the police pinch pennies from those with most power..

     

    Black Sails, Disco Inferno is a retelling of the classic medieval romance of Tristan and Isolde, turning things on their head by reversing the sex of the chief protagonists and placing them in a ’70’s pulp/noir world.

    Andrez Bergen’s latest novel (with Renee Asher Pickup) exposes Trista and Issy to a sensual, disco-infused narrative — one overflowing with double-dealings, violent brutality, and a spellbinding mystery.

    This does not sound like any run-of-the-mill book of any sort and I am looking forward to reading it (once I am through the novel I am in the last third of, actually).
    Tristan and Isolde as a 1970’s crime story… my word…

    In the meantime, if you want to find out more, check out the novel’s homepage.

    Oh yes, and there is a challenge I have for myself: Finding references to Andrez‘ other novels in this one…

     


  • Upcoming Graphic Novel: Victorian Bareknuckle League

    From beautiful Budapest comes an independent graphic novel called Victorian Bareknuckle League, set in alternative past really not too different from our own Victorian Era, and it is my pleasure to give you a glimpse into it already.

    First, a really short synopsis what it is all about:

    Victorian Bareknuckle League is the story of a peace loving young lady who descends into the seedy underbelly of the eponymous Victorian Bareknuckle League, and all kinds of adventure ensue.

    The creative crew (one of whom, Mr. Bilbao, has credentials working for Marvel) are the right honorable:

    Writer Carl Jackson

    Artist Jake Bilbao

    Colourist Pika Ciuka

    Here is some artwork, so you can get a glimpse of what glorious things awaits you once the project is finished:

     

    12973047_258865154454555_686147485972897261_o

    12977115_261993797475024_3271652280811514445_o

     

    You can find out more here, please:

    And there will also be a Kickstarter to help finalize this project, I keep you posted on that one.
    All Artwork © Jackson/Bilbao/Ciuka and used with kind permission


  • Non-Euclidean Æthercast #37 – Muslims are Geeks, too!

    Today’s podcast features the author, nurse, geek and lady of many talents Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali.

     

    cropped-IMG_2154

     

    She was kind enough to respond to my call for Muslim geeks so we could have a chat to make one thing clear: The regular Muslim you meet is just that: A regular person with regular thing on their mind and in this particular case: A lot of regular geek things.

    We talk about faith, politics (especially concerning bad-hair guy), writing, anime, Mass Effect, Fallout and gaming in general, and podcasts.

    And here are some links to stuff we talked about:

     

    Khaalida’s homepage and her narrations

    Podcastle

    One of Khaalidah’s stories as a podcast

    The art of one of her daughters and of the other daughter, and a Youtube Channel

    And this is her novel:

    518l4qSyOHL._SL250_

     

     

    But now, without further ado, please enjoy the podcast!

     


  • When the Cthulhu Mythos and Steampunk touched Ceres

    Yes, what happens, when the Cthulhu Mythos and Steampunk touch Ceres? A short story, that’s what. I just thought I do a little self-plug and give you a snippet of Reaching Out, a Steampunk/Cthulhu short story I penned a while ago and laready featured here previously, but this time I share a snippet with a little bit more cosmic dread and ancient secrets in it. The protagonists have touched down on Ceres and find some almost organic ruins:

    Reaching Out - A Steampunk/Cthulhu Mythos crossover short story

     

    Before us appeared a cluster of what first seemed to be the shells of some kind of titanic molluscs. Curved, spiralled and somewhat bent conical shapes, about 10 metres high and about 7 metres diameter at the the base. They, too, were covered with the blue mouldy growth and looked as if they had sprouted from Ceres‘ surface. We counted six domes. Only two had openings we could see and those were created by decay, seismic forces or rock crashing down from the dark sky.
    The easiest hole for us to reach and climb through was about four metres from the ground, so I could easily jump up there. Cautiously I tried, so as not to jump too high and propel myself into the overhanging top of the structure. After the third attempt, I got a grip on the edges of the accidental window and pulled myself up. The window opened a view into a room also infested and illuminated by the omnipresent fungal growth.
    It was a large, rounded, almost spherical chamber. Along the walls, spaced rather evenly, stood and lay what I thought to be boxes, chests or sarcophagi, some upright, but most lying on the floor. The far wall was also covered with strange protrusions and spikes, the pattern and exact shape I simply cannot describe. I turned away, dizzied, and waved for Kuhn to jump up as well. With one leap, he came up, I grabbed his outstretched arm and pulled him in.
    Together, we took a closer look at our discovery. I used my knife to scratch some of the mouldy dust off the surface of one of the boxes, while Kuhn inspected the strange pattern on the wall.
    The boxes, I labeled them thus because of their size and shape, were made of some peculiar green-brown material. It reminded me of a cross between jade and wood. The edges, as far as I could scrape them free of dust, were edged with some confusing geometrical shapes which gave the impression of wanting to jump out at the observer.
    The patch of the top surface I managed to clear of mould appeared simply polished, my knife was unable to make a scratch into it, but without further edgings. Then, Kuhn’s voice came through the aetherphone in my helmet. He had discovered something about the strange spikes. He shone the light of his torch on a patch he had gotten somewhat clean and moved the torch from left to right. Some bizarre shadows, strange shapes, maybe the former inhabitants of this place, appeared and a fragment of a scene seemed to play out. The scene played backward and forward with the moving light of the torch.

    We marvelled at this display of an undoubtably advanced civilisation but then noticed we had to turn back soon, so we started looking around for something we could take with us. Since there was no apparent connection to another room, I guess doors were hidden by the omnipresent glowing vegetation, we tried our luck with one of the upright boxes. After some rocking and pushing we managed to topple it over. Hitting the floor, what must have been some kind of door sprang open on its side and revealed something greyish that seemed to consist entirely of caked dust. We were disappointed with our find, until Kuhn noticed something metallic sticking out of the side of the grey mass. He managed to pull it free, causing quite some dust to spill on the floor. It was about the size of a revolver, matted black and obviously not made for human hands. We could not even tell if it was a weapon, tool, or piece of alien art. Its form made no sense to us at all. Kuhn put it in his satchel and together we jumped down unto the surface of Ceres again and made our way back.

    I hope this kindled the interests of some of you, or if you know someone who might enjoy the short story, pass the message on.


  • Today in 1937 H.P. Lovecraft began dreaming with Cthulhu

    Dead but dreaming… H.P. Lovecraft left the mortal realm 79 years ago today but his memory and legacy live on, stronger than ever.

     

    H-P-Lovecraft

     

    Mr Lovecraft, your fans and cultist across the planet and in the black gulfs of space salute you!