Starred Review: Afterparty by Daryl Gregory

Afterparty by Daryl Gregory“International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (IAFA) William L. Crawford Fantasy Award winner Gregory (Pandemonium; Raising Stony Mayhall) takes on the pharmaceutical industry, drug dealers, religion, and the intricacies of how our brains work. The way the author combines the energy of a thriller with the ideas of sf is reminiscent of William Gibson’s best one-step-into-the-future novels…”

Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty got a starred review in Library Journal!

Here’s the full review, from the April 15 issue:

In the near future, designer drugs can be produced by anyone with a chemjet printer. As the lead developer of a drug called Numinous, Lyda Rose knows the dangers of these new pharmaceuticals firsthand. Numinous was supposed to cure schizophrenia but instead caused uncontrollable visions taking the form of a very real, very personal manifestation of God. The hallucinations meant the drug was too dangerous to develop and also put Lyda in a mental hospital. When a girl on the ward with Lyda shows every sign of having taken Numinous, Lyda and her paranoid and usefully dangerous lover Olivia break out of the hospital to find and stop the other creators of the drugs. The tension grows as they get closer to the secret of who is producing Numinous, with the stakes made more real because of the amazing characters of Lyda and Olivia. VERDICT International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (IAFA) William L. Crawford Fantasy Award winner Gregory (Pandemonium; Raising Stony Mayhall) takes on the pharmaceutical industry, drug dealers, religion, and the intricacies of how our brains work. The way the author combines the energy of a thriller with the ideas of sf is reminiscent of William Gibson’s best one-step-into-the-future novels like Pattern Recognition.

Afterparty will be published on April 22.

Goodreads Sweepstakes: Summoned by Anne M. Pillsworth

Summoned by Anne M. Pillsworth

About Summoned: While browsing in a rare book store in Arkham, Sean finds an occult book with an ad seeking an apprentice sorcerer, from a newspaper dated March 21, 1895. Even more intriguing, the ad specifically requests applicants reply by email.

Sean’s always been interested in magic, particularly the Lovecraftian dark mythology. Against his best friend Edna’s (“call-me-Eddy-or-else”) advice, he decides to answer the ad, figuring it’s a clever hoax, but hoping that it won’t be. The advertiser, Reverend Redemption Orne, claims to be a master of the occult born more than 300 years ago. To prove his legitimacy, Orne gives Sean instructions to summon a harmless but useful familiar—but Sean’s ceremony takes a dark turn, and he instead accidentally beckons a bloodthirsty servant to the Cthulhu Mythos god Nyarlathotep. The ritual is preemptively broken, and now Sean must find and bind the servitor, before it grows too strong to contain. But strange things are already happening in the town of Arkham….

Welcome to the darker side of New England in the first of a new series from Anne Pillsworth.

Summoned is a fantastic debut…this YA gothic is infused with sly wit and occult tremors in equal measure. Finally, a novel for readers who like their magic dangerous, and their hexes irrevocable.” —Sean Beaudoin, author of The Infects and Wise Young Fool

Enter for a chance to win here!

(Ends May 19th)

Also, don’t forget to check out our other sweepstakes!

Oxted: Building Families Since 2017

Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell

Rossum’s Universal Robots. U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc. Marionettes, Inc.

There’s a long line of robot corporations in the literature, producing menials, helpers, even substitutes for humankind.

Let me introduce you to Oxted Corporation. Of course, they manufacture conventional robots in chrome finish, with glowing red eyes. They’re a bit clunky, almost comical. Oxted also produces some more sophisticated models, to service a rather unusual market…

Oxted Corporation is founded on Neil Oxted’s bluntly phrased beliefs that “every human should have the opportunity to raise a young ‘un” and “life’s too short to waste it doing boring c**p.”

Hardly the glib phraseology of corporate culture, but Oxted Corporation isn’t your typical corporate giant. Put it down to the quirky Scots nature of our founder, but those two phrases infuse our corporate culture.

Of course, it also defines our products. From our domestics to our heavy industrials, our classic robot designs relieve humans of the drudgery of the mundane, freeing them to…be human. To create, to innovate, and to experience the sublime.

And in a world where biological parenthood is becoming rarer, Oxted also offers the chance to experience the sublime, through its Teknoids. A Teknoid delivers the joys of parenthood—and a share of parenthood’s challenges, too. Parenthood is one of the things that makes us human.

Oxted isn’t your typical corporate giant, but even Oxted Corporation has a Marketing department. They asked if they could write something on our web page. They wheedled and they begged. Eventually we gave in and said they could write a slogan. Three words, max, we told them.

“Realize Your Humanity”

We kind of liked it.


Who can apply for a Teknoid?

Oxted accepts applications from anyone who is medically certified as unable to bear children.

How much does a Teknoid cost?

Teknoids aren’t for sale. They can be leased for up to 18 years and you should expect to pay upwards of 150,000 Basics.

My domestic robot doesn’t cost anything like that much—why are Teknoids so expensive?

Teknoids and domestic robots are very different. The neurotronic nexus or web, also called the cognitive matrix, is common to both, but everything else is very different. Teknoids are designed to occupy the same ecology as humans. That means they can eat the same food, wear the same clothes, and as far as possible, do everything and experience everything a human can. That’s why they’ll fit so well into your home, because you’ll treat them almost exactly like a human child. Unfortunately, that level of technology makes a big difference to the price.

Can I get financial assistance?

Yes. Oxted Corporation administers bursaries on behalf of a number of charitable and philanthropic organisations. Neil Oxted believed “every human should have the opportunity to raise a young ‘un” and the Oxted Corporation was founded on that heroic aspiration.

Can only married couples apply?

Anyone can apply, so long as they can provide a stable, loving environment. It doesn’t matter whether you’re single, partnered, married, or grouped. Oxted Corporation does not discriminate on grounds of gender, ethnicity, creed, or sexual orientation.

Can I choose the gender of my Teknoid?

Yes, of course. Many parents choose, others ask to be surprised. Naturally, the Teknoid will embody a blend of the physical traits of the carers.

About the Book

It is the year 2049, and humanity is on the brink of extinction….

Tania Deeley has always been told that she’s a rarity: a human child in a world where most children are sophisticated androids manufactured by Oxted Corporation. When a decline in global fertility ensued, it was the creation of these near-perfect human copies, called teknoids, that helped to prevent the collapse of society.

Though she has always been aware of the existence of teknoids, it is not until Tania enters high school that she realizes many of her peers and friends might not be what they seem.

Driven by the need to understand what makes teknoids different from humans, Tania goes looking for answers. But time is running out. On their eighteenth “birthdays,” teknoids must be returned to the Oxted factory—never to be heard from again.


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The Magic of Theater

Thornlost by Melanie Rawn

Written by Melanie Rawn

Given that the subject of my novels (the Glass Thorns series) is a theater troup who use their magical abilities to enhance their performances, I am often asked the question: “How would your own favorite play work with the magic system you created for your Glass Thorns series?”

Answer: Well, here’s the thing. My favorites are pretty much anything by Shakespeare and Euripedes, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, Lion in Winter, Long Day’s Journey into Night, and so on, none of which would benefit at all by the inclusion of the kind of magic that shows up in Glass Thorns. Those playwrights didn’t have any of the flash-dazzle I’ve given my theater troupe; they worked with what they had. Words.

Modern films of Shakespeare’s plays take great delight in showing massive battles (Agincourt, Bosworth Field) that the limitations of Elizabethan theater made impossible, but is it really necessary to see all the blood and gore and guts and horses and swords and armor and banners? One imagines that Shakespeare would have had huge fun with all that, but that fact that he didn’t have the option doesn’t seem to have bothered him much. To me, it’s rather like colorizing B&W movies: sure, it’d be interesting to see Bogie and Bergman in color, but would it really make Casablanca a better film?

Cole Porter, in his last musical for the stage, Silk Stockings, pokes fun at the technological advances of the ’50s, assuring us that nobody would come to see Ava Gardner as Lady Godiva bare-naked on a horse unless she was filmed in:

  • Glorious Technicolor,
  • Breathtaking Cinemascope or
  • Cinerama, Vista Vision, Superscope, or Todd-A-O
  • And Stereophonic sound!

If you’ve got toys, you play with them. You write with your toys in mind. This has, in our era of CGI, led to some really spectacular special effects in movies that are, shall we say, a trifle challenged when it comes to plot. Special effects can be delightful, but if you don’t have them to play with, you have to write words that engage the audience as completely as glorious explosions and breath-taking monsters and, heaven help us, sharknados.

(And stereophonic sound.)

Which is not to say such movies aren’t great fun. I’m a total pushover for space operas and let’s-blow-up-Los-Angeles movies, volcanoes and dinosaurs on the rampage. Toys are fun.

The plays my guys perform are actually quite short by our standards—less like a five-hour Hamlet, more like an hour-long Tommy. Their magical toys are sounds, sights, tastes, sensations, scents, and emotions, the intensity of which would become a serious strain on performers and audiences alike after an hour or so.

But what if you don’t have any toys? That’s something that I have my theater group think about, and it bothers them. What if they did a play without the sound effects or the physical sensations or the scenery or the emotions that are conjured by them with magic? They find the idea both intriguing and nerve-shredding. What they’ll eventually work around to is that it’s the words that matter in the end—which is scarcely a startling conclusion to find in a book by somebody who uses words.

When you get right down to the nitty-gritty, as they used to say in my long-ago childhood, as writers we can’t offer you Glorious Technicolor, Breath-taking Cinemascope, and so on and so forth. What we offer you in our books is writing. We use words to tell stories and delineate characters and posit ideas, and the words are all we have. The only thing we can do is write them, and hope that you enjoy them.

Even without Stereophonic sound.


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Afterparty and the Desktop Drug Revolution

Afterparty by Daryl Gregory

Written by Daryl Gregory

Hey, kids! Now you can build a drug factory in your own home!

Or soon, anyway. I believe we’re teetering on the edge of a new era in designer drugs. There are several technologies in play that could converge to democratize drug design and manufacture in the same way that Macs and inkjet printers democratized the production of art—and created thousands of really bad newsletters.

In Afterparty I made up a machine called the chemjet. Like all the tech in the book, from the smart pens everyone uses to the drug-monitoring smart chip implanted in the protagonist’s arm, the chemjet is possible in principle, and most of its required parts exist now.

In form and function, the chemjet’s similar to an inkjet printer. You first load it with chemical precursor packs instead of ink cartridges. Then you download a drug recipe from the internet, or modify an existing one. Fill the input tray with rice paper, and you’re printing your own drugs in no time.

Fleshing out the idea didn’t require much extrapolation. Certainly the idea of home-based drug production isn’t new. The guy with the grow-lights in his basement, or the idiot in the unventilated trailer trying to break bad, are just further along the DIY spectrum from the folks who brew their own beer and roast their own coffee.

The hardware wasn’t much of a reach, either. 3D printers have already demonstrated that desktop manufacturing can be affordable once someone starts building the printers in volume. True, the internals of the machine would have to be much more complex than your usual Easy Bake Oven. In the novel I describe a few key parts—heating elements, distillation chambers, centrifuges, filtration tubes—but keep the exact design vague. (I’m a writer, Jim, not an engineer.)

The drug recipes would be easier to come by than the hardware. Pharmaceutical companies are already using CADD—computer-aided drug design—to construct novel molecules that are shaped to bind to their targets. Drug modeling is a computationally intensive task, but we all know that Moore’s Law makes quick work of supposedly hard problems. The open source hacking culture would provide plenty of novelty.

The biggest obstacle to building our chemjet is the getting packs of the right precursor chemicals. In the novel, the most common precursor chemical is that workhouse of the hallucinogenic and amphetamine industry, phenethylamine. It’s found in human liquids and tissues, and unmodified, it has no effect on man. But add a methyl group to a carbon atom in phenethylamine and you get amphetamine. Add another methyl group to that and you get methamphetamine. A few more twists and you get MDMA—ecstasy. Drop a carbon atom and you get into analgesics and anesthetics.

In writing Afterparty I had a good time inventing new designer drugs, like the synesthesia drug Paint Ball and the pattern-recognition enhancer Clarity. I also showed how rampant experimentation, and the inevitable overdoses, would probably lead to not only death but new types of insanity.

The drug I concentrate on is Numinous, which gives users the feeling of being in direct contact with a higher power. But overdose and you might be wake up with a deity permanently installed in your brain—your own personal Jesus.

Designer drugs like these are in our future, and I wouldn’t be surprised if something like a chemjet isn’t being put together in somebody’s garage right now. After all, near-future science fiction is just the present with the sell-by date scraped off.


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Goodreads Sweepstakes: Flight of the Golden Harpy by Susan Klaus

Flight of the Golden Harpy by Susan Klaus About Flight of the Golden Harpy: Kari, a young woman, returns to the jungle planet of Dora after ten years in Earth’s schools determined to unravel the mysteries surrounding the harpies, a feral species with the appearance half-bird, half-human. The human colonists believe harpies are dangerous animals, which are known to steal women. The creatures are hunted like wild game, their wings considered rare trophies. But Kari distrusts these rumors. When she was attacked by a monster in the jungle as a child, a male harpy with rare golden coloring rescued her. Constant hunting by men has driven the harpies to the brink of extinction. Is Kari’s savior, the elegant golden harpy, is still alive? If so, how long can he and his flock survive the ravages of mankind? Suan Klaus’s Flight of the Golden Harpy is an imaginative and romantic fantasy novel that questions what it means to be human.

Enter for a chance to win here!

(Ends May 16th)

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The Week in Review

Welcome to the week in review! Every Friday, we comb through the links and images we found and shared this week, and pull the very best for this post. Consider it concentrated genre goodness from all around the web.

Crafting a Shardblade

  • Watch a great conversation between Cory Doctorow and William Campbell Powell, the author of Expiration Day, about overcoming your fear of change.
  • John Scalzi has announced a new novella, “Unlocked,” a prequel story to his upcoming novel Lock In.
  • Last but not least, this week’s Throwback Thursday post features the inimitable Elizabeth Bear, who gives great advice, as always.

And, just to make Friday that much sweeter, here’s a list of sweepstakes and sales we have going on!

Throwback Thursdays: Cat-Waxing 101

Welcome to Throwback Thursdays on the Tor/Forge blog! Every other week, we’re delving into our newsletter archives and sharing some of our favorite posts.

Back in March of 2012, author Elizabeth Bear shared the tricks successful writers use—tricks you can definitely trust, now that she’s finished her critically-acclaimed Eternal Sky trilogy with the publication of Steles of the Sky. We hope you enjoy her advice in this blast from the past, and be sure to check back every other Thursday for more!

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth BearBy Elizabeth Bear

Over the years, I have written a great many articles and blog posts dealing with the nuances of the publishing industry, but there’s one topic I’ve never touched on before.

It’s one of the arcane secrets of the successful writer, jealously guarded. One of the secret handshakes of the clubhouse of publishing success.

Only now, with the cooperation of Tor, can I reveal it to you—and I’m risking my career and perhaps even my very safety to do so. It’s something every writer needs to know, and from time immemorial that secret has been passed down in back rooms and at two a.m. sessions in convention bars.

I speak of “How to wax a cat.”

I can’t count, over the years, the number of times a dewy-eyed young would-be author has looked at me in surprise and horror after overhearing a few casual lines passed between more established writers. “Bear!” they cry. “You are an animal lover! Why would you do something so terribly cruel?

Well, Grasshoppers, I am here now to reveal a great secret. The cat is a metaphor.

Cat-waxing (also known as cat vacuuming to some) is something writers undertake in order to complete important research, to give the brain the time it needs to do the subconscious processing so essential to creative work. There are a number of techniques, but here’s how I handle it.

First, you must determine if you wish to wax your cat for shininess, or for smoothness. Both have advantages—reducing allergens, waterproofing—but if you are going to wax your cat for smoothness I recommend sedating it first—for the comfort of the cat, and the safety of the human.

In either case, before you commence waxing, you must first create a clean and dust-free environment in which to wax. Dust will adhere readily to a freshly waxed cat, and then you’ll just have to start all over again. To create a proper waxing environment, select a space that you can completely control, clean it thoroughly, and drape it in plastic sheeting. You’ll want to wear a freshly laundered white-cotton full-body coverall or perhaps a Nuclear-Biological-Chemical suit as well, to avoid getting fibers from your clothes stuck in the cat wax.

The television show Dexter provides an excellent model of the sort of environment that’s best.

Having prepared your waxing chamber, it’s important to secure a good wax. There are several dedicated brands of cat wax which do an excellent job, and a number of writers use non-proprietary waxes, such as Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax (despite the name, intended for surfboards) or Homer Formby’s furniture wax. You will likely wish to experiment with a variety of waxes before making your final selection.

Once you have secured the cat, the space, the sedative, and the wax, you will also require a source of warm water and some dust-free cloths. First, grasp your cat gently but firmly by the scruff…

…oh, I see we’re out of time.

This article is originally from the March 2012 Tor/Forge newsletter. Sign up for the Tor/Forge newsletter now, and get similar content in your inbox twice a month!

Book Trailer: American Craftsmen by Tom Doyle

American Craftsmen by Tom Doyle

In modern America, two soldiers will fight their way through the magical legacies of Poe and Hawthorne to destroy an undying evil—if they don’t kill each other first.

US Army Captain Dale Morton is a magician soldier—a “craftsman.” After a black-ops mission gone wrong, Dale is cursed by a Persian sorcerer and haunted by his good and evil ancestors. Major Michael Endicott, a Puritan craftsman, finds gruesome evidence that the evil Mortons, formerly led by the twins Roderick and Madeline, have returned, and that Dale might be one of them.

Dale uncovers treason in the Pentagon’s highest covert ranks. He hunts for his enemies before they can murder him and Scherie, a new friend who knows nothing of his magic.

Endicott pursues Dale, divided between his duty to capture a rogue soldier and his desire to protect Dale from his would-be assassins. They will discover that the demonic horrors that have corrupted American magic are not bound by family or even death itself.

In Tom Doyle’s thrilling debut, American Craftsmen, Seal Team Six meets ancient magic—with the fate of the United States hanging in the balance….

American Craftsmen, by Tom Doyle, publishes on May 6th.