Three Non-Superhero Comics to Read With Your Kids

I don’t know about you, but one of the things I don’t have any interest in reading about in comic books is… super-heroes. So, of course, I stayed away from comics/graphic novels for the longest time for a few reasons, but mainly because I thought they were all going to be about superheroes. Turns out, luckily, that’s not true at all! So here are three (one from each genre of SF/F/H) non-superhero comics worth checking out with your kiddos. (Pictures lead to Goodreads.)

 

 

Pinky and StinkyPinky and Stinky by James Kochalka

Pinky and Stinky are fat little piglets, but because they’re cuties that doesn’t mean they’re not brave astronauts. Packed with action, adventure, and little cuties.

Color or B/W: Black and White

Violence: Some violence and threats of violence, but very basic stuff with no blood, etc.

Opinion: At first I didn’t think I was going to like Pinky & Stinky, but it grew on me fairly quickly. Definitely one for younger readers, but adults might have fun reading it out loud with their kids. It’s silly and delightful.

Rating: 4 out of 5


Alabaster Shadows.jpgAlabaster Shadows by Matt Gardner and Rashad Doucet

Carter Normandy knows there’s something weird about the neighborhood he and his family move into. Maybe it’s the physics-defying leak in the basement, or the way all the adults seem to look down on kids like they’re scum. With the help of his new friends, Carter discovers a whole other world alongside his seemingly normal community-a world filled with terrifying monsters. A world the adults of the community already know all about. Now it’s up to Carter and his friends to keep these monsters from crossing over into our world, or face the dire consequences!

A gorgeously illustrated mystery perfect for fans of Gravity Falls with just a hint of Lovecraftian horror.

Color or B/W: Color

Violence: Basically none. A small fight with a sea monster that just shows a kid getting wrapped up in a tentacle.

Diversity: Yes, racial.

Opinion: Oh, I loved this one. I could have done a full review on it. (And might in the future.) Beautifully drawn and colored, with an intriguing storyline and interesting characters, Alabaster Shadows is a great pick for middle-grade+ readers.

Rating: 5 out of 5


Princeless.jpg

Princeless by Jeremy Whitley and Mia Goodwin

Still waiting for your prince to come? Tired of spending night after night locked in a secluded tower? Ready for your own adventure? So are we.Princeless is the story of Princess Adrienne, one princess who’s tired of waiting to be rescued. Join Adrienne and her guardian dragon, Sparky, as they begin their own quest in an all-ages action adventure designed specifically for those who are tired of waiting to be rescued… and who are ready to save themselves.

Color or B/W: Color

Violence: Inferred, never witnessed. And typical getting eaten by dragons stuff.

Diversity: Yes, racial.

Opinion: While this probably technically for middle grade+ readers, I would have no problem with (and intend on) reading it with my 8-year-old. Princeless has a sassy, bold main character who is determined to get control of her life and be the hero her sisters need. It’s well-drawn, funny, and well-worth reading.

Rating: 5 out of 5


 

These were all very entertaining reads for various reasons. I’ll definitely be continuing on with two of the series. I do recommend pre-reading them to see if they’re suitable for your particular child. Alabaster Shadows is the one that has a horror tinge to it, but it’s really just a tinge. If you’re wanting to get your child introduced to the Lovecraft mythos, it would be a great way to ease them into it.

Let me know if there are any non-superhero comics you recommend for kids so I can check them out!

2017 Ohioana Book Festival (Bookworms Unite!)

Ohioana Book Festival 2017

©   Ohioana Library Association

Today was the 10th Ohioana Book Festival. It is held by the Ohioana Library Association, which “was founded in 1929 by Ohio First Lady Martha Kinney Cooper to collect, preserve, and promote the works of Ohio authors, artists, and musicians.”  The festival celebrates Ohio authors, whether they were both here or moved here. The set up has one main room where authors are available to sign their books, with bookmarks and other promotional material available. Then there are rooms that run the whole day for kids and one for teens. Then throughout the day are a multitude of panels on everything from writing and publishing young reader books to panels on sci-fi, horror, and fantasy.  While not extremely well attended, or particularly large, the atmosphere is fantastic and the panels were perfectly sized.   2017 Ohioana Book Festival

A few of the authors in attendance at the Ohioana Book Festival (and there were a surprising amount!) were: Edith Pattou (East), Tricia Springstubb (Moonpenny Island) from the children’s section. Terry W. Ervin II (Relic Tech) and Leanna Renee Hieber (Eterna and Omega) from science fiction and fantasy respectively. Along with Gary Buettner (Horror – Burial Suits),  Mark Dawidziak (Nonfiction – Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone), Nin Andres (Poetry – Why God is a Woman), Mindy McGinnis (Young Adult – A Madness So Discreet). Again, this was just to name a few. The ballroom was packed with tables, often 2 authors to a table.

We attended three panels. The one on writing and publishing for young readers, and the S/F/Horror panels I mentioned earlier in this post, as well as one on Crime, Punishment, and Political Intrigue. (You won’t hear me mention much about that one because my partner attended it whilst I was in the Young Reader’s panel.)

The Young Reader’s panel was laid back and very informative. Probably the coolest thing about this panel was how it brought home that both writing and publishing experiences for everyone can be so different. For the questions that were asked, each panelist had a different answer. I felt a bit out-of-place as everyone around me had notebooks and pens at the ready to take copious notes. And I just jotted stuff down on my phone. Annnyways…

I asked a question on age range, and how you figure out what age range your writing fits in/or is aiming for. I’ve paraphrased their answers below.

Carmella Van Vleet (Eliza Bing is (not) a Big, Fat Quitter) – “It’s a voice you develop (personally, I’ve found I have a middle-grade voice, or your editors tell you what group your book is for. “

David FitzSimmons (Curious Critters) – “Read your material to the group you’re aiming for. You’ll know if you succeed instantly. Also, my editors (and my wife) have helped me keep things appropriate. They keep scaling me back to where I need to be.”

Anne Vittur Kennedy (The Farmer’s Away! Baa! Neigh!) – “You don’t decide [what your market is]. Editors or publishers do it for you.”

Edith Pattou (East) – “You just tell the story. It decides.”

2017 Ohioana Book Festival

The most interesting thing to come out of the science fiction, horror, and fantasy was the bluntness with the which writing for the genres to discuss. “Understand this, as soon as you write this [scifi, fantasy, horror], you are permanently relegating yourself to the children’s table when it comes to the writing world.” -Mark Dawidziak. (And yes, there was general agreement amongst the other three panelists.) Related to this was the general bemoaning about tags, and how they hamper the truly versatile. (Alfred Hitchcock – Well-known ‘thriller’ director versus Robert Wise, a much more versatile – but much less well-known director). And, of course, hearing the authors talk about their favorite author (considering we had authors from across the board) turned into a love letter to Stephen King.

This panel was one I definitely enjoyed, though I do wish the that the moderator would have taken notes from the moderator of the young reader’s panel, and let the audience ask questions from the beginning and not trying to completely run the show. We managed the young reader’s panel perfectly fine without someone holding our hand, funnily enough. Mark Dawidziak really stood out amongst the panelists. They were all interesting, but Dawidziak came across as charming, irreverent, and very knowledgeable about his subjects.

In regards to the Crime, Punishment, and Political Intrigue Panel, my partner didn’t seem as satisfied by his experience as I was with mine. Most of that he puts down to “People continually asking stupid questions”. But he did say that one of the authors shared an interesting (and scary) experience when they had written a true crime novel about the investigation of a young girl. Apparently, someone made a YouTube video of pictures of the author’s family and stated that he needed to stop what he was doing. That author now writes fiction instead of non-fiction (and who can blame him?!)

Overall, the Ohioana Book Festival was a very pleasant experience. I found that I don’t mind crowds of people if we’re all just there because we love books. We purchased about 6 books total (though admittedly the majority of them were for the kiddo), and enjoyed our brief hit-and-run conversations with a few of the authors. One of the books I ended up purchasing was Mindy McGinnis’ A Madness So Discreet after briefly talking to her about the research that went into it, as well as her main character.

We will definitely be attending this festival in the future!

I would like to take a moment to note that my partner, who said he doubted we should build more bookshelves because “Wouldn’t you just end up buying more books than you need?” purchased more books at The Ohioana Book Festival than I did. And no, I’m not letting him forget that anytime soon. 


Horror Comes to Dare to Discuss (and more!)

As some of you might be aware, every other month we’ve been holding a science fiction book club called “Dare to Discuss”. Its been an awesome thing, especially as we get more participation, because the opinions are varied and the questions can really make you think. Its a friendly environment where opinions are respected and the give and take is quick and fun.

The Sci-Fi Book Discussions are always held on the third Wednesday of every other month at 7 PM EST. (So this year’s sci-fi months are Jan, March, May, July, September, November.)

On March 22nd, at 7 PM EST, we’ll be discussing:

Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Agents of Dreamland

(I can tell you that there’s not going to be a lot of fangirling during this one. It’s not exactly been a hit amongst us.)

I’ve talked about that one quite a bit, so here’s what I want to get straight to. For some time my cohost and I have also punted around the possibility of doing a horror version of Dare to Discuss on the alternate months. We finally got off our butts and organized it!

So, on April 19th, at 8:30 PM EST, we’ll be discussing:

Whispering Corridors: A Ghost Story by Ambrose Ibsen

Whispering Corridors.jpg

Whispering Corridors: There’s something in the house on Kenwood Drive, and it only comes out at night…
College students Eric and Lydia are looking for a novel way to spend Halloween. They decide to put together a documentary about the supernatural and take a camcorder into the long-abandoned house on Kenwood Drive. It’s said that a vengeful spirit lives there, and Lydia thinks it the perfect location.

Eric, though, has his reservations. Having grown up in the area, he’s familiar with the stories of the spirit they call the “Upside-Down Man”, and as their trip to the house draws near, his fear begins to mount. According to the rumors, once you go into the house, you bring the Upside-Down Man out with you. And in three days’ time, you disappear.

When the two of them begin to see and experience strange things, they launch into a frenzied search for truth, attempting to separate the myth of Kenwood House from the reality. But it turns out that untangling the threads of local legend is more difficult than it appears.

Especially when you’ve only got three days. – Goodreads

Whispering Corridors is available on Amazon for $2.99.

And at only 164 pages, it’s not exactly a massive time commitment! 

So we gleefully invite all horror hounds to join us, right here at the newly set up Sci-Fi & Scary Forums, on April 19th at 8:30 PM EST!

And, by participating in one, you get a voice in what the next book we discuss for June will be!

If you’re interested, all you need to do is click on the ‘forums’ tab at the top of the screen, then register. (Its free to register and I don’t share your information.) Then join us at the appropriate time for the discussion! (Or mosey over to the science fiction and horror movie section and make your feelings known on the recent visual offerings the genres have given us.)

 

Discussion: The Absence of Non-Impactive Abusive Behavior in Books

Earlier this week I was reading a book where the primary villain of the book was also a domestic abuser. His girlfriend put up with being hit and the like because ‘he gave her what she needed in bed’. Other than the fact that this was acknowledged (he smacked her around, she acknowledged some of the behavior was unhealthy, etc.), it didn’t really play a part in the book. Now, while I ranted about the use of sexuality and sex in the book, I did not directly address this in my review. Because this question occurred to me:

 Is it wrong to demand we not see evidence of unhealthy relationships in books where destroying/getting away from/overcoming those relationships is not the goal of the book?

The book that most people are going to think of when it comes to this question is probably Fifty Shades of Grey. However, in that book, the relationship (unhealthy, unrealistic, and twisted though it might be) was the primary focus of the book. This is not a discussion post about books where the unhealthy relationship is the main factor.

But it’s not just romantic relationships in books either.

For example, alcoholism is not necessarily a precursor to physical, sexual, or mental abuse, yet it is not possible to have a healthy relationship with an alcoholic. When you hear people talk about their alcoholic parents, they might say “Well, s/he never beat me or anything like that, but…” And that but tells you everything you need to know.

The fact is, unhealthy relationships are a part of the real world, and one might argue that to keep fiction realistic, we should not exclude the mention of unhealthy relationships.

This is one of those things where I think it’s easy to act/speak out against something you disagree with without stopping to consider if you’re truly being reasonable.

Bad people exist. And the things they do aren’t always necessarily of the murder, robbery, and mass destruction variety. Sometimes they present perfectly normal on the outside, and then they go home and knock the ever-lovin’ hell out of their partner. Maybe they don’t even physically touch them, but they get their rocks off by making them feel like they’re worthless. It happens. So why are we so against it being portrayed casually in fiction?

Graciekat says: I think that the portrayal of unhealthy relationships should be present. I think trying to get into the psychology of the victim and yes, even the abuser as well, can be very important. My issue with some of the more recent examples is that it’s not being portrayed as unhealthy. They’re being portrayed as the normal and something that should be aspired to. Abnormal and unhealthy is being portrayed as romantic, loving and charming. I think the responsibility of the author lies not in trying to leave them out, but rather in how they are portrayed. It can be challenging.As Lilyn said above, it’s very easy for a person to rationalize an unhealthy relationship or habit of any kind. A skilled author can explore those rationalizations through the eyes of the character or the people around him/her. I do not think that it’s necessary to glamorize or shrug off the effects of it, even if it’s a side character with little to no plot motivation. Whether or not the characters in question overcome their challenges or roles is immaterial but in how the author as the omniscient narrator (barring first person) chooses to present the behaviors.

One of my fellow bookworms thought maybe it had something to do with the train wreck mentality coupled with the few books the average person reads per year.  Ie: If we’re going to read about bad crap, we want that bad crap to be the primary focus of what we’re reading. 

It’s sort of funny to be writing this up because as people who read a lot of horror you’d think we’d see pretty much everything. But that’s not really the case at all. Even in horror, while you might see rape, murder, and general evil – you don’t see a lot of casual mentions of bad relationships that don’t have a direct impact on the plot.

Another question that pops up as a direct follow-up is then: When authors do have abusive or destructive behaviors in books, and it’s not about them… are they tacitly saying that these behaviors are normal? I want to say of course not. I think most people will say of course not. But there’s also people who genuinely believe that violence in old-school cartoons like Tom and Jerry led to increased incidences of violence from kids. So….  Maybe authors don’t mention abusive/destructive relationships because they are afraid of this backlash?

Overall, it’s definitely a question to chew on for a while.

 Is it wrong to demand we not see evidence of unhealthy relationships in books where destroying/getting away from/overcoming those relationships is not the goal of the book?

When authors do have abusive or destructive behaviors in books, and it’s not about them… are they tacitly saying that these behaviors are normal?

Mind you, we are not arguing for the inclusion of these types of relationships in books. Merely wondering about their absence.

What do you all think?

 

All About Book Blog Tours

A book blog tour  “allows authors to professionally promote their work without rearranging their schedule. Each tour stop enables authors to gain new readers and social media fans while reaching a worldwide audience.” (from Sage’s Blog Tours)

Book blog tours work for both authors and bloggers, albeit for different reasons. It gives bloggers, at a minimum, a topic/reason to post for a particular day. (This can be handy, especially if the creative well is bone dry.) It also introduces us to books (especially from indie authors) that we might not have come across otherwise. It does not, however, increase our page views or anything like that (at least not if the site is a daily poster as-is.)

There are some cons to participating in book blog tours, though. They can be seen as ‘filler content’. (I address that in the next paragraph.) Most blog tour companies seem to require ‘top post’ for the material, which means you cannot post anything else for the entire day. While it’s easy to understand why tour companies request this, it’s still difficult to give up various posting slots solely to book promotion. And you run the risk of having your site not stand out to potential new readers because they may have already seen the content somewhere else.

Sci-Fi & Scary is signed up with a few virtual book tours with blog tour companies, but we really only actively accept requests from one. That being Sage’s Blog Tours. There are several reasons for this but, in essence, it’s because the way Sage does her tours works out well for us. She works with content that most other book tour companies don’t seem to touch (science fiction and horror of the non-YA variety). Also, other than the graphics, we’re not given cut-and-paste material to use for interviews or prepared guest posts from the authors. (This isn’t an across the board thing with all other blog tour companies, just something I’ve noticed more from several.) Instead, we have a lot more control – we write our own interview questions, we have our own guidelines for guest posts, etc. There has been one case where I (Lilyn) received a guest post and got back in touch with Sage saying “I can’t accept this.” Within the day, I had something that I was willing to put up on Sci-Fi & Scary instead. That means a lot. Also, Sage doesn’t require ‘top post’ (although she mostly does get it from us.)

But I’ve always kind of wondered exactly how much work goes into doing a book blog tour. So, when I saw the issue raised on a forum about an author feeling ‘scammed’ because they hadn’t made any sales from the book tour that they had paid for, I went to Sage and asked her how things worked. She laid everything out for me in a post that I could share with everyone.

(I apologize for the rather lengthy introduction. I meant to do a separate discussion piece, but never found the time.)

So here you have it, straight from Sage’s mouth: Doing a Book Blog Tour from Start to Finish

Book Blog Tour

Doing a Book Blog Tour from the Organizer’s Perspective

Since 2012, I have been coordinating blog tours through my online business, Sage’s Blog Tours. In that time, I have created a smooth system that I use to plan blog tours for authors. I can personalize this system to work best for each author and their blog tour. Below are the general steps:

1.) Get to know the book – You can’t plan a blog tour for a book without knowing at least the basics. I request materials from the author, and I use this information to figure out the book’s target audience. This allows me to choose bloggers who would be best suited to participate in the blog tour. The more informative I can be for potential bloggers, the better.

2.) Organize materials – I create media kits for each author using the information they send me and set up a feature page on the Sage’s Blog Tours’ website. While I do this, my graphic designer begins creating a custom tour banner for the author.

3.) Reach out to bloggers – I have built a large database of book bloggers over the past five years, so for each blog tour, I contact the book bloggers who are interested in the genre that the author is promoting. This way I know the author is reaching their preferred audience. If not, the blog tour wouldn’t be as beneficial for them.

4.) Set up a schedule – I create a tour schedule and keep it updated with the book bloggers who have signed up to participate in the blog tour. Once the tour is filled, I share this tour schedule with the author so they can follow along, as well as keep it updated on their feature page located on my website.

5.) Follow the tour – I make sure to follow along with the tour, so I can check to see if each blogger posted their feature and that the information posted is correct. I also share every stop on tour with the author, and on all of our social media pages – Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

6.) After the tour – The tour is over, but my work isn’t done! I contact each blogger who hosted a review during the tour to ask if they would share their review on Amazon and Goodreads. If there was a giveaway, I collect the winner’s info and send it to the author or distribute the prize if the author has asked me to do so.

A successful blog tour happens with the partnership of the tour coordinator, the author, and the bloggers. When all of those above are on the same page and have good communication, the blog tour is sure to be an excellent experience!


Sage’s Blog Tours “is a full-service publicity company that works with authors of all genres. We offer services to help promote your work in an affordable, fun, and successful way. Sage’s Blog Tours schedules blog tours with reviews of your work, interviews, and guests posts.
Our in-house graphic designer is exceptional at designing promotional tools for your online tour and in-person events. ”

It’s important to note, also, that Sage very clearly states in her FAQs about Book Blog Tours that sales are not guaranteed, and authors do need to be an active participant in promoting the tour stops as well.

Find Sage on Twitter: @SagesBlogTours

2017 Science Fiction Reading Challenge January Linkup

It’s time for our 1st update for the 2017 Science Fiction Reading Challenge currently being hosted by Sci-Fi & Scary.

At the bottom of this list will be a linky.  Feel free to linkup to the page you’re monitoring all your book challenges on (or, alternately, I believe you can leave a link to each individual review once they’ve been posted on your site.)

(I promise there will be better shiny badges at some point!)

Rocketship Badge for Decades of Sci-Fi

For Decades of Sci-Fi:

You’ve stated you wish to expand your knowledge of science fiction by reading 1 book a month for each decade of science fiction starting at 1900.

If you’re working your way through the list, as many are doing, from earliest to newest, this month you should have read In the Days of the Comet by H.G. Wells. However, you’re free to choose to do the list in any order that you want.

If you need a reminder of the list to follow, click the link at the top of the page.

How I’m doing:  I’ve read In the Days of the Comet.

 

 

 

For Wired Into Sci-Fi:

Whether you be a Dabbler, a Dreamer, or fancy yourself a Sci-Fi Connoisseur the time has come to make your 1st accounting.

Wired Into Sci-Fi Challenge ButtonDabbler– Read 10 out of 30 of the Wired into Sci-Fi Books.

Dreamer – Read 20 out of 30 of the Wired into Sci-Fi Books.

Connoisseur – Read 25+ books of the Wired into Sci-Fi Books.

——-

Daring Dabblers – Though you have a small amount of wiggle room, you should have started your challenge by now. Which book did you choose to start your journey with?

Dashing Dreamers – You’ve probably read at least 1 or 2 books by now if you want to stay on track to achieve your dreams. How’s it going? Are you an over-achiever yet?

Courageous Connoisseurs – I hope you’ve read at least 2 books by now, or you may not have time to savor the flavor of your books as you rushed to read later on. Is there one that exceeded your expectations?

If you need a reminder of the pool of books you can choose from, please click the link at the top of the page.

How I’m doing: Er…*cough* LOOKIT! A SQUIRREL!! *runs*




2017 Horror Reading Challenge January Linkup

It’s time for our 1st monthly update for the 2017 Horror Reading Challenge currently being hosted by Sci-Fi & Scary.

At the bottom of this list will be a linky.  Feel free to linkup to the page you’re monitoring all your book challenges on (or, alternately, I believe you can leave a link to each individual review once they’ve been posted on your site.) Link will stay open for submissions until February 4th.

**note: The 2017 Sci-Fi Reading Challenge January Linkup will be posted at 6:30 PM EST**

How we’re doing:

GracieKat13 has read: Highwayman, Crowshine, My Daddy, The Serial Killer,  Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes, Wrathbone

Favorite: “I loved Crowshine. There was a good variety of stories, all of them very well-written. A few of them moved me emotionally, and a few made me stop and think for a while. The Chart of the Vagrant Mariner was very Lovecraft creepy. So, all in all, lots of good to say about it.”

Lilyn has read: Wrathbone, The Devil’s Prayer, AraratTransmission

Favorite: “Ararat gets my vote for favorite horror read so far. I loved the premise, Christopher Golden is a talented writer, and there was definitely a sense of evil permeating the book. But I still wish the ending had been better.”

How YOU Doin’ for the 2017 Horror Reading Challenge?

Neophyte Badge for The 2017 Horror Reading ChallengeNervous Neophytes: You signed up to read up to 7 books. How’s it going? Have you read your 1st book yet? What did you think of it or what are you going to read?

 

 

 

Initiate Badge for The 2017 Horror Reading ChallengeIntrepid Initiates: You signed up to read 8-15 books. I hope you’ve read at least 1 by now.  If you haven’t what are you planning on reading?

 

 

 

Oracle Badge for The 2017 Horror Reading ChallengeOmniscient Oracles: You’ve signed up to read 16-25 books. You should have read 2 or 3 by now. Has there been one that’s made you shudder yet?

 

 



2017 Horror Reading Challenge: We’re Baaaack!

For anyone that was wondering whether or not the Horror Reading Challenge will be going on as usual, never fear! Well, I suppose getting scared is the point so…

There have been a few changes but the root of the challenge remains the same!

2017 Horror Reading Challenge

First of all are the Challenge Badges, which you will win by completing the highest number of books for that level. I will list them below and they will be e-mailed to you at the conclusion of the challenge.

 

CHALLENGE LEVELS:

Neophyte of Coolthulhu’s Temple:  Read and review 1-7 horror books to receive the Neophyte badge


Initiate of Coolthulhu’s Temple:     Read and review 8-15 horror books to receive the Initiate badge


Oracle of Coolthulhu’s Temple:       Read and review 20-25 horror books to receive the Oracle  badge


MYSTERY BADGE     Read and review 50+ horror books in the 2017 Horror Reading Challenge to receive a special Coolthulhu-approved badge demonstrating your tentacly-awesomeness.


2017 Horror Reading Challenge Neophyte Badge2017 Horror Reading Challenge Initiate Badge2017 Horror Reading Challenge Oracle Badge

 


There Are Rules to This Game…

 This challenge will run from Jan 1, 2017-December 31, 2017. (Yes, we’re back-dating it so horror books you’ve already read this year count.)

 You can join at any time before August 1, 2017.

 Books must be read and reviewed in 2017.

 Audiobooks, re-reads, short stories, and cross-overs are fine.

 You do not have to be a book blogger to participate! You can track your progress on Goodreads, Shelfari, Booklikes, etc.

 Sign up on the designated link below with your post, shelf, etc. and leave a comment letting us know what your personal goal is.

 Link up your reviews each month via the provided link. (We will be doing a monthly challenge update for everyone to list up on.)

 

Come join the Coolthulhu Crew and see how brave you really are!

Use hashtag #CoolthulhuCrew on Twitter!

Remember, you do have to officially sign up before August 1, 2017 so link up below to sign up and enter the challenge.

 


2016 Horror Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

The 2016 Horror Challenge has finally come to an end. I’ve got the details for the Rafflecopter entry below, but first here’s how my personal challenge went.

I was aiming for the Horror Hound badge, which was 16+ books.

I read:109

That’s too many to even think about listing with their covers and or linking them up, but I’ll just do a quick test list of them.

The horror books that I read this year (from first to latest, and including short stories):

Ghost Camera by Darcy Coates, The Little Death by Dawn Buckner, Little Cuts by HMC, The Soul Collector by Glenn J. Soucy, Badwater by Mitch Sebourn, Z-Minus 1 by Perrin Briar, The History Major by Phillip Michael Cash, Night Terrors III by Theresa Dillon, The Moon in Your Eyes by Adrian Lilly, Straitjacket by Terry King, The Thing That Knocks by Duke Thompson, Awaken: A Vampire Horror Story by Zach Bohannon, Experiment 26 by David Gallie, Confessions of a Monster Hunter by Eric Guindon, Hell Holes: What Lurks Below by Donald G. Firesmith, The Screaming by David Graham, You Have Been Murdered and Other Stories by Andrew Kozma, Life after the Undead by Pembroke Sinclair, World War Moo by Michael Logan, Ellie Jordan: Ghost Trapper by J.L. Bryan, Hell House by Richard Matheson, The Turtle Boy by Kealan Patrick Burke, Anywhere but Here by Jason D. Morrow, The Thirteenth Child by David Dean, Nyctophobia by Christopher Fowler, The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone, Blackout by Tim Curran, Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton, Rushed by Brian Harmon, Nightmare Man by Alan Ryker, Shutter by Courtney Alameda, Carter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard, Dr. OZ of Z-Industries by Jay Wilson, The Binding by Nicholas Wolff, Floor Four by A. Lopez, Jr, The American Dream by Jonathan David Jackson, Night Show by Richard Laymon, Sick by Christa Wojo, In the After by Demitria Lunetta, The Zyne Project by Sara Brooke, Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, Takers by Ann Swann, Reviver by Seth Patrick, Mercy by T. Fox Dunham, Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie, H20 by Virginia Bergin, Sea Sick by Iain Rob Wright, Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz, The Ghost Files by Apryl Baker, Pure Evil by Jesse Bastide, The Spirit Chaser by Kat Mayor, A Walk on the Darkside by Corinna Underwood, Mother by Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross, Dwelling by Thomas S. Flowers, The Express by R.K. Howard, Mother’s Boys by Daniel I. Russell, The Mark of the Shadow Grove by Ross Smeltzer, The Demonists by Thomas E. Siegoski, As the Blade Cuts by Eric Kapitan, Child of the Dead by Sara Brooke, Fallow Ground by Michael James McFarland, 3 Gates of the Dead by Jonathan Ryan, One Who Saw by A.M. Burrage, Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey, Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry, Zombie Park by Mark Cusco Ailes, The Dark Man by Desmond Doane, The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco, The White Night by Desmond Doane, Casualties by Dev Jarrett, The Haunting of Pitmon House by Michael Richan, Fury by Joan De La Haye, By Summer’s Last Twilight by Robert J. Stava, And Darkness Waits by C.K. Post, Chiral Mad 3 by Michael Bailey, Moving In by Ron Ripley, Guns, Gods & Robots by Brady Koch, Bloodwalker by L.X. Cain, Medicine for the Dead by Ambrose Ibsen, Mirror Image by Michael Scott, Below the Ice by Eric S. Brown, The Fireman by Joe Hill, Raven’s Peak by Lincoln Cole, Sage Courage by Heather McLoud, Children to the Slaughter by A.I. Nasser, Land of the Hoosier Dawn by Nick Younker, Monstrum by Ann Christopher, Ancestor by Scott Sigler, Seed Me by Konn Lavery, Veterans’ Affairs by Joseph Hirsch, Chills by Mary SanGiovanni, Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, The Mist by Stephen King, The Containment Epiphany by Vincent B. Moneymaker, The Belly of the Beast by Desmond Doane, Deadlight Jack by Mark Onspaugh, Cocktails at Seven, Apocalypse at Eight by Don Bassingthwaite, Infected by Gregg Luke, Shadow’s Embrace by A.I. Nasser, Blackwater Val by William Gorman, Malus Domestica by S.A. Hunt, The Feast of All Souls by Simon Bestwick, Sunfall: Season One by Tim Meyer, Skitter by Ezekiel Boone, Floating Staircase by Ronald Malfi, Sandman by William W. Johnstone, Sawfish by Rick Chesler, Sarah by Teri Polen, and finally First Contact by Kat Green.

My reading challenge next year is to actually read less books than I read this year.

2016 Horror Reading Challenge

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BADGES

Grab the badge that correlates to the final number of books you

read for the challenge this year. (Just save and upload to your blog.)

Running Scared badge: 1-5 books
Brave Reader badge: 6-10 books
Fearless badge: 11-15 books
Horror Hound badge: 16+ books
 

Prepare to Assimilate: Are Cyborgs in our Future?

Science fiction is becoming science fact every day. From simple things like tablets to the more complex ones like 3D printers, it seems like if we can imagine it, it can be done. Most of the time, to be frank, I don’t pay much attention to it. Things happen as they happen, and for someone that loves science fiction for its look to the future, I’m rather hard to impress in the present. However, there’s one area where I am keeping my attention fixed with hawk-eyed interest. Prosthetic limbs and the leap we make (are making?) from there.

Did It Start With Prosthetic Limbs?

Iron Hand for Cyborgs Post

Illustration of Götz von Berlichingen’s famous iron hand. ©Public Domain

Prosthetic limb replacements have been around since potentially between 3500 and 1800 B.C. (1) when an account of a warrior queen having her leg amputated and being fitted with an iron one was written.   The most famous early limb replacement was probably that of Gottfried “Götz” von Berlichingen, who had an iron hand made for him after he lost his arm in a battle. Gottfried lived during the 16th century. (2) So, obviously, humanity has been interested in finding a way to replace lost limbs and restore mobility for quite a while.

Until recently, though, we had seemingly hit a wall when it came to restoring mobility. We could make them more comfortable to wear – a better design of the socket, a lighter material – but improving function was a bit more difficult.  There were great advancements made but it wasn’t until much more recently that we were able to make vast improvements in the field of prosthetics.  I am talking, of course, of prosthetic limbs being able to move (and even feel) via a brain-controlled interface, as discussed in Brain-Controlled Interfaces: Movement Restoration with Neural Prosthetics (3) from 2006. But that was10 years ago, and we’ve come a long way since then.

In fact, in 2015, Johnny Matheny debuted as the $120,000,000 man, when it was revealed that he had a prosthetic arm that he was able to manipulate via thought.

That was a moment that caused even laymen to do a double-take. In fact, the first time I heard about it, I’m pretty sure my eyes nearly bugged out of my head. Prosthetics controlled via thought? Holy ****, cyborgs! The future is here! Of course, once I read a little bit more, including the work that was involved, and the cost, I realized the future wasn’t exactly here. But, the future is very, very near. And that raises a few interesting questions. One of which is the acceptance or rejection of cyborgs.

Cyborgs and the Media

The best definition I’ve read for cyborg comes from Famous Robots and Cyborgs by Dan Roberts.

Cyborg: A ‘cybernetic organism’, partly robot and party organic. It can be a humanoid who uses technology to a greater or lesser extent to enhance his/her physical existence by incorporating it with his/her human form, or a creature whose robotic circuitry is integrated with that of another organic being, e.g. an animal.(4)

The idea of cyborgs is nothing new. The concept entered books over one hundred years ago. In 1911,  Jean de La Hire wrote about the Nyctalope (5), who was a man with an artificial heart and fantastic night vision (amongst other things). This is one of the first appearances (if not the first) of what we would consider cyborgs in literature. Honestly, though, I hadn’t even heard of the guy until I started doing research for this article. I think what most people think of when they hear the term cyborg is the Borg from Star Trek.

 

Picture of Cyborgs "Borg" docking station

By Marcin Wichary – originally posted to Flickr as [1], CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7254146 – no changes made.

And I think right there, with the Borg, begins that strange mixture of fascination with the idea of becoming physically integrated with technology, and the rejection of it. The Borg are seen  by humans as ‘evil’, even though their actions aren’t truly meant to harm. They wish to consume technology and to raise the quality of life of creatures that they assimilate.  When I questioned my partner about why the Borg were evil, he was quite firm about the fact that he thought they were. That the ‘hive mind’ was evil. Needless to say, I pointed out that it’s really not, especially in nature – look at the bees, man!- to which he retorted “But we’re not bees.”

 

That brought up a statement made regarding hive mind by an android in The Last Machine in the Solar System by Isaac Matthew Sobin (due for release April 2017), which I recently reviewed.  The android basically acknowledges that he could see why hive mind is unappealing but wonders if humanity wouldn’t have survived if they’d worked together as a collective. What would have happened if their over-riding goal was the survival of the human race? Ultimately, the question doesn’t matter because there’s not a chance that humanity would ever accept the hive mind mentality.

But it’s not just the idea of the Borg that turn people off to machine integration in media.

In Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312, the central character has a qube, which is a computer underneath the skin of the neck. The character, Swan, can talk with the computer mentally, or make the voice audible to the others around her. She’s looked down upon for having this item installed in her. Apparently, these installations had been a ‘fad’ for a while, but humanity had ultimately rejected it for some reason. It’s fairly typical science fiction, but it was the first time that I ever thought about the real possibility that humans, as a whole, might reject mechanical artificial enhancements.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, as you can find many cases of this rejection in literature. In fact, just a few weeks before reading 2312, I saw evidence of it in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. On more than one occasion in the book, those who have had ‘enhancements’ are looked upon almost as second class citizens. Weirdos, to be putting it nicely.  At least in that book, though, there’s an underground niche/club/black market of people who enjoy the ability to enhance themselves. They revel in it and thumb their noses (even as they maintain their distance) at the unenhanced others who might give them trouble.

I don’t think there’s a science fiction fan alive that hasn’t sighed wistfully at the idea of enhancing their brain power via some sort of computer mod. Or a college student, for that matter. Not to mention all the other cool enhancements that you could theoretically equip yourself with once integration became possible. Even if you had to insert microscopic disks through a small slit in your skin, wouldn’t the possibilities that present themselves be breathtaking? On the surface, it would be awesome.

So why does rejection of this integration pop up time and time again?

Cyborgs Amongst Us

Fun fact: There already is a recognized cyborg living amongst us. His name is Neil Harbisson, and he’s got an antenna implanted in his head. He is color-blind and uses the sound waves from the antennae to be able to ‘see’ colors. Neil founded The Cyborg Foundation with his partner in 2010. It’s a very visually pink site, but it is fascinating. Especially the Cyborg Database, which is not a list comprising one person, but instead lists the potential ‘cyborgian’ items currently in development.

I would be first in line for Doppler Labs’ Here earbuds, which would give me the ability to tune the sound around me. (Don’t like the noise the subway makes, but you have to ride it? Tune out the sound (but not everything else) by filtering it’s volume through Here.)

Tellingly, my initial thought upon seeing the antenna’d Harbisson was negative. In fact it was: “Yeah, no thanks.” I thought he looked absolutely ridiculous with ‘that thing’ arching up over his skull. So, even someone who is theoretically open to the idea of enhancements initially rejected it because it ‘looked ridiculous’.

Does it really look ridiculous though? Or is there an inborn fear of ‘different’ that keeps me from being able to accept it? It’s a fabricated extension of the man’s body that gives him the ability to see colors. Theoretically, I should be cheering at it, much the way I do at the mind-controlled arm, or the exoskeletons that enable the paralyzed to walk.  But that was not my gut reaction, nor was I able to bring myself around to that point of view even after giving myself a stern talking to. I think what it comes down to is the fact that being color-blind isn’t, in my mind, a disability as much as it is an inconvenience.  Is it an apples and oranges thing? Who knows.

Regardless of my mixed feelings on the subject,  I am more fascinated than disturbed by it. All I really know, though, is I’m probably more curious about the acceptance and/or rejection of cyborgs now than I was when I started this post, and that’s left me up crap creek without a paddle. More research is necessary!

So now I turn the tables to the readers:

What should I read or watch that will give me more information on this subject?

What are your feelings on cyborgs and their acceptance or lack thereof?

Would you, personally, get an enhancement? If so, what? (and keep it PG, guys.)

 

  1. “A Brief Review Of The History Of Amputations And Prostheses | ICIB Online Library, 1976 | ACPOC – Association Of Children’s Prosthetic-Orthotic Clinics”. Acpoc.org. N. p., 2016. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.
  2. “16Th Century Prosthetic Iron Hand: The Story Of Gotz Von Berlichingen”. Ancient Origins. N. p., 2016. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.

  3. “Famous Robots And Cyborgs”. Google Books. N. p., 2016. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.
  4. ” Brain-Controlled Interfaces: Movement Restoration With Neural Prosthetics “. Sciencedirect.com. N. p., 2016. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.

  5. Authors : La Hire, Jean De : SFE : Science Fiction Encyclopedia”. Sf-encyclopedia.com. N. p., 2016. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.

  • I love Audible. Tons of books, fantastic narrators, good prices.