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2017 Sunburst Awards Longlists

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The Sunburst Award Committee is pleased to announce the 2017 longlist for the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. This year’s lists are comprised of a mixture of established authors, talented newcomers, and several past nominees.
The Spawning Grounds

The Spawning Grounds

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged : literary

The long-awaited new novel by the two-time Giller-shortlisted author is full of the qualities Gail Anderson-Dargatz's fans love: it's an intimate family saga rooted in the Thompson-Shuswap region of British Columbia, and saturated with the history of the place. A bold new story that bridges Native and white cultures across a bend in a river where the salmon run.

On one side of the river is a ranch once owned by Eugene Robertson, who came in the gold rush around 1860, and stayed on as a homestead …

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Company Town

Company Town

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover Paperback
tagged : high tech

They call it Company Town – a Family-owned city-sized oil rig off the coast of the Canadian Maritimes.

Meet Hwa. One of the few in her community to forego bio-engineered enhancements, she’s the last truly organic person left on the rig. But she’s an expert in the arts of self-defence, and she’s been charged with training the Family’s youngest, who has been receiving death threats – seemingly from another timeline.

Meanwhile, a series of interconnected murders threatens the city’s sta …

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Three Years with the Rat

Three Years with the Rat

edition:Hardcover

Shortlisted for the 2017 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, Speculative Fiction Category
A young man's quest to find his missing sister will catapult him into a dangerous labyrinth of secrets in this provocative, genre-bending, and page-turning debut.

After several years of drifting between school and go-nowhere jobs, a young man is drawn back into the big city of his youth. The magnet is his beloved older sister, Grace: always smart and charismatic even when she was rebelling, and always his hero. Now …

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The Witches of New York

The Witches of New York

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

The beloved, bestselling author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure is back with her most beguiling novel yet, luring us deep inside the lives of a trio of remarkable young women navigating the glitz and grotesqueries of Gilded-Age New York by any means possible, including witchcraft...

The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (Moth from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it's finally saf …

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Excerpt

City of Wonders.
In the dusky haze of evening a ruddy-cheeked newsboy strode along Fifth Avenue proclaiming the future. “The great Egyptian obelisk is about to land on our shores! The Brooklyn Bridge set to become the Eighth Wonder of the World! Broadway soon to glow with electric light!” In his wake, a crippled man shuffled, spouting prophecies of his own. “God’s judgement is upon us! The end of the world is nigh!”

New York had become a city of astonishments. Wonders and marvels came so frequent and fast, a day without spec­tacle was cause for concern.

Men involved themselves with the business of making mir­acles. Men in starched collars and suits, men in wool caps and dirty boots. From courtrooms to boardrooms to the news­rooms of Park Row; from dockyards to scaffolds to Mr. Roebling’s Great Bridge—every man to a one had a head full of schemes: to erect a monument to genius, to become a wizard of invention, to discover the unknown. They set their sights on greatness while setting their watches to the drop of the Western Union Time Ball. Their dreams no longer came to them via stardust and angel’s wings, but by tug, train and telegraph. Sleep lost all meaning now that Time was in man’s grasp.

In the building beneath the tower that held the time ball, a mindful order of women sat—side by side, row on row, storey upon storey, one hundred young ladies in all, working round the clock to translate the wishes of men to dots and dashes. Transfixed by the steady click-clack of their task, the ghost of Mr. Samuel Morse hovered near. He’d tried to get to Heaven on numerous occasions, but could never seem to find his way past the tangled canopy of telegraph lines that criss-crossed the skies above Manhattan. What he needed was an angel, or better yet, a witch. Someone to translate the knocks and rappings of his soul, to convey all the things he’d left unsaid. Where could one be found? Were there any left?

In a halo of lamplight near the Western Union Building, a prostitute leaned her aching back against the bricks. Lips rouged, eyes rimmed with charcoal, she was waiting for a man. Puffing on a cigarette she’d begged off a stranger, she blew a steady stream of smoke rings in the air. At the edge of her sight, a shadowy figure in the shape of a fine-dressed gentleman appeared—five feet off the ground, coattails flapping in the breeze. Rubbing her eyes, the girl shook her head, thinking she’d had too much to drink. She swore, hand to God, she’d get off the booze one day, not now, of course, maybe in the spring.

As the ghost dissolved from her view, the girl flicked the stub of her cigarette to the ground and crushed it with the heel of her boot. Hand in her pocket she reached for a trinket she’d been given by her last john. “A lucky rabbit’s foot,” he’d said, “blessed by a bona fide witch.” “Liar,” the girl had com­plained when he’d offered her the charm along with half of what he was supposed to pay. “No, no, no,” the john had insisted. “I tell you, she was real . . . a real witch with a very fine ass.” With that, the girl had grabbed the trinket and sent the john on his way. Something was better than nothing. She needed all the help she could get.

Stroking the soft fur of the rabbit’s foot, the girl thought of all she lacked. She was tired, she needed sleep, but she wanted more booze. When she glanced at the spot where she’d snuffed out the butt, there was a shiny new dime in its place. Picking the coin off the ground, she wondered if maybe the john had been right after all. Maybe the damn foot was lucky. Maybe the witch was real. Maybe her luck had changed because the john had dipped his willy in a witch and then dipped it in her, leaving behind some strange magic. There were worse things she could catch, she guessed.

 
In the shadow of the Great Bridge, a young widow knelt to plead with the river. Just after supper she’d spied something terrible in the soapy murk of her dishwater, a vision she’d seen once before, and she’d just as soon forget. Each time she closed her eyes, it came to her again—a man’s face, bloated and blue, gasping for air. The last time she’d seen it, it’d been her husband’s. This time it was a stranger’s.

“I understand,” the woman said to the river, touching the surface of the water with a finger. “I know how it feels to be slighted.” She also understood that the river required pay­ment from those who wished to cross it. Blood, flesh and bone were what it liked best. The widow didn’t have much of anything to give as an offering—a few pennies, a splash of whiskey, the cheerful tune of an ancient song—but she hoped that if she were gentle, persuasive and kind, the river might change its mind. Was it witchcraft she was plying? She didn’t care so long as it worked. Something had to be done. Something was better than nothing.

 
In the cellar of a modest house on the edge of the Tenderloin, a weary housekeeper lit a candle and said a prayer. Taper in one hand, glass jar in the other, she poured wax around the edge of the jar’s lid to seal it shut. The jar—filled with stale urine, old needles, shards of mirror, brass buttons, bent nails and thirteen drops of blood from her left thumb—was what her wise grandmother had called a “witch’s bottle.” While others might call it humbug, the housekeeper saw the jar and its contents as her last hope to dispel the strange darkness that’d settled in her midst. What else could explain all that’d happened since the master of the house had passed? For weeks she’d been plagued by what she thought was a ghost or, perhaps, a demon, lurking in her room, stealing her sight, shaking her bed, night after night. What did it want? Where had it come from? Why wouldn’t it leave her alone? Prayers, hymns and a desperate stint of almsgiving hadn’t driven it away. She feared the terrible thing wouldn’t rest until it saw her dead. Had she been cursed? Something had to be done. As her grandmother would say, Wo gibt es Hexen, gibt es Geister. Where there are witches there are ghosts.
 
In a quiet corner of a cozy teashop just shy of Madison Square Park, a magnificent raven sat on a perch, preening its feathers. As the bird tugged and fussed at its wing, three women con­versed around a nearby table—one, a lady of considerable wealth, the others a pair of witches, keepers of the bird and the shop. “Can you help?” the lady inquired, worry catching in her throat. “I’m at my wit’s end. Something must be done.”

One witch answered with a confident, “Of course.”
The other humbly replied, “Leave it with us.”

The raven cast an indifferent eye upon them. He’d wit­nessed this sort of thing before—the woman, unable to manage her affairs, needed a witch (or two) to make things right. That was all fine and good, but he was more interested in a faint sound coming from overhead, an enchanting jangle akin to when prisms on a chandelier touch. But how could that be when there was no chandelier to be found in the shop? He was certain unexpected magic was afoot.
Tea was poured, complaints and concerns heard, sympa­thy given. Crystal ball and grimoire consulted. Palms and tea leaves read. How pleased the bird was when he noticed the tray of teacakes in the centre of the table had barely been touched. How pleased the lady was when the witches pre­sented her with a small package tied with red string.
The lady was sure she felt something move within the parcel. A tiny tremor of mystical vibration, perhaps? A sign of things to come? She’d heard rumours from a friend of a friend that these women could work miracles. She prayed it was true. She wanted to believe. Lowering her voice, she said, “You swear this thing has been touched by witchcraft?”

One of the women gave a polite nod and said, “Of course, my dear, of course.”
The other replied with a smile and a shrug. “Call it what you like.”
The raven simply cocked its head. It was all he could do not to laugh.

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Certain Dark Things

Certain Dark Things

A Novel
edition:Hardcover
tagged : paranormal

Certain Dark Things combines elements of Latin American mythology with a literary voice that leads readers on an exhilarating and fast-paced journey.

Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Here in the city, heavily policed to keep the creatures of the night at bay, Domingo is another trash-picking street kid, just hoping to make enough to survive. Then he meets Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers. Domingo is smitten. He clings to her like a barnacle until Atl relents and d …

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Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giants

edition:Hardcover

A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.
 
A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in …

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Excerpt

PART ONE

Body Parts

File No. 003

Interview with Dr. Rose Franklin, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Enrico Fermi Institute

Location: University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

—How big was the hand?

—6.9 meters, about twenty-three feet; though it seemed much larger for an eleven-year-old.

—What did you do after the incident?

—Nothing. We didn’t talk about it much after that. I went to school every day like any kid my age. No one in my family had ever been to college, so they insisted I keep going to school. I majored in physics.

I know what you’re going to say. I wish I could tell you I went into science because of the hand, but I was always good at it. My parents figured out I had a knack for it early on. I must have been four years old when I got my first science kit for Christmas. One of those electronics kits. You could make a telegraph, or things like that, by squeezing wires into little metal springs. I don’t think I would have done anything different had I listened to my father and stayed home that day.

Anyway, I graduated from college and I kept doing the only thing I knew how to do. I went to school. You should have seen my dad when we learned I was accepted at the University of Chicago. I’ve never seen anyone so proud in my life. He wouldn’t have been any happier had he won a million dollars. They hired me at the U of C after I finished my Ph.D.

—When did you find the hand again?

—I didn’t. I wasn’t looking for it. It took seventeen years, but I guess you could say it found me.

—What happened?

—To the hand? The military took over the site when it was discovered.

—When was that?

—When I fell in. It took about eight hours before the military stepped in. Colonel Hudson—I think that was his name—was put in charge of the project. He was from the area so he knew pretty much everyone. I don’t remember ever meeting him, but those who did had only good things to say about the man.

I read what little was left of his notes—most of it was redacted by the military. In the three years he spent in charge, his main focus had always been figuring out what those carvings meant. The hand itself, which is mostly referred to as “the artifact,” is mentioned in passing only a few times, evidence that whoever built that room must have had a complex enough religious system. I think he had a fairly precise notion of what he wanted this to be.

—What do you think that was?

—I have no idea. Hudson was career military. He wasn’t a physicist. He wasn’t an archaeologist. He had never studied anything resembling anthropology, linguistics, anything that would be remotely useful in this situation. Whatever preconceived notion he had, it must have come from popular culture, watching Indiana Jones or something. Fortunately for him, he had competent people surrounding him. Still, it must have been awkward, being in charge and having no idea what’s going on most of the time.

What’s fascinating is how much effort they put into disproving their own findings. Their first analysis indicated the room was built about three thousand years ago. That made little sense to them, so they tried carbon-dating organic material found on the hand. The tests showed it to be much older, somewhere between five thousand and six thousand years old.

—That was unexpected?

—You could say that. You have to understand that this flies in the face of everything we know about American civilizations. The oldest civilization we’re aware of was located in the Norte Chico region of Peru, and the hand appeared to be about a thousand years older. Even if it weren’t, it’s fairly obvious that no one carried a giant hand from South America all the way to South Dakota, and there were no civilizations as advanced in North America until much, much later.

In the end, Hudson’s team blamed the carbon dating on contamination from surrounding material. After a few years of sporadic research, the site was determined to be twelve hundred years old and classified as a worship temple for some offshoot of Mississippian civilization.

I went through the files a dozen times. There is absolutely nothing, no evidence whatsoever to support that theory, other than the fact that it makes more sense than anything the data would suggest. If I had to guess, I would say that Hudson saw no military interest whatsoever in all this. He probably resented seeing his career slowly wither in an underground research lab and was eager to come up with anything, however preposterous, just to get out of there.

—Did he?

—Get out? Yes. It took a little more than three years, but he finally got his wish. He had a stroke while walking his dog and slipped into a coma. He died a few weeks later.

—What happened to the project after he died?

—Nothing. Nothing happened. The hand and panels collected dust in a warehouse for fourteen years until the project was demilitarized. Then the University of Chicago took over the research with NSA funding and somehow I was put in charge of studying the hand I fell in when I was a child. I don’t really believe in fate, but somehow “small world” doesn’t begin to do this justice.

—Why would the NSA get involved in an archaeological project?

—I asked myself the same question. They fund all kinds of research, but this seems to fall outside their usual fields of interest. Maybe they were interested in the language for cryptology; maybe they had an interest in the material the hand is made of. In any case, they gave us a pretty big budget so I didn’t ask too many questions. I was given a small team to handle the hard science before we handed everything over to the anthropology department. The project was still classified as top secret and, just like my predecessor, I was moved into an underground lab. I believe you’ve read my report, so you know the rest.

—Yes, I have read it. You sent your report after only four months. Some might think it was a little hasty.

—It was a preliminary report, but yes. I don’t think it was premature. OK, maybe a little, but I had made significant discoveries and I didn’t think I could go much further with the data that I had, so why wait? There is enough in that underground room to keep us guessing for several lifetimes. I just don’t think we have the knowledge to get much more out of this without getting more data.

—Who is we?

—Us. Me. You. Mankind. Whatever. There are things in that lab that are just beyond our reach right now.

—Ok, so tell me about what you do understand. Tell me about the panels.

—It’s all in my report. There are sixteen of them, approximately ten feet by thirty-two feet each, less than an inch thick. All sixteen panels were made around the same period, approximately three thousand years ago. We .?.?.

—If I may. I take it you do not subscribe to the cross-contamination theory?

—As far as I’m concerned, there’s no real reason not to trust the carbon dating. And to be honest, how old these things are is the least of our problems. Did I mention the symbols have been glowing for the last seventeen years, with no apparent power source?

Each wall is made of four panels and has a dozen rows of eighteen to twenty symbols carved into it. Rows are divided into sequences of six or seven symbols. We counted fifteen distinct symbols in total. Most are used several times, some appear only once. Seven of them are curvy, with a dot in the center, seven are made of straight lines, and one is just a dot. They are simple in design but very elegant.

—Had the previous team been able to interpret any of the markings?

—Actually, one of the few sections of Hudson’s report left intact by the military was the linguistic analysis. They had compared the symbols to every known writing system, past or present, but found no interesting correlation. They assumed each sequence of symbols represented a proposition, like an English sentence, but with no frame of reference, they couldn’t even speculate as to their interpretation. Their work was thorough enough and documented at every step. I saw no reason to do the same thing twice and I declined the offer to add a linguist to the team. With nothing to compare this to, there was logically no way to arrive at any sort of meaning.

Perhaps I was biased—because I stumbled onto it—but I felt drawn to the hand. I couldn’t explain it, but every fiber of my being was telling me the hand was the important piece.

—Quite a contrast from your predecessor. So what can you tell me about it?

—Well, it’s absolutely stunning, but I assume you’re not that interested in aesthetics. It measures 22.6 feet in length from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger. It seems to be solid, made of the same metallic material as the wall panels, but it’s at least two thousand years older. It is dark gray, with some bronze overtones, and it has subtle iridescent properties.

The hand is open, fingers close together, slightly bent, as if holding something very precious, or a handful of sand, trying not to spill it. There are grooves where human skin would normally fold, others that seem purely decorative. All are glowing the same bright turquoise, which brings out the iridescence in the metal. The hand looks strong, but .?.?. sophisticated is the only word that comes to mind. I think it’s a woman’s hand.

—I am more interested in facts at this point. What is this strong but sophisticated hand made of?

—It proved nearly impossible to cut or otherwise alter by conventional means. It took several attempts to remove even a small sample from one of the wall panels. Mass spectrography showed it to be an alloy of several heavy metals, mostly iridium, with about 10 percent iron and smaller concentrations of osmium, ruthenium, and other metals of the platinum group.

—It must be worth its weight in gold?

—It’s funny you should mention that. It doesn’t weigh as much as it should so I’d say it’s worth a lot more than its weight, in anything.

—How much does it weigh?

—Thirty-two metric tons .?.?. I know, it’s a respectable weight, but it’s inexplicably light given its composition. Iridium is one of the densest elements, arguably the densest, and even with some iron content, the hand should easily weigh ten times as much.

—How did you account for that?

—I didn’t. I still can’t. I couldn’t even speculate as to what type of process could be used to achieve this. In truth, the weight didn’t bother me nearly as much as the sheer amount of iridium I was looking at. Iridium is not only one of the densest things you can find, it’s also one of the rarest.

You see, metals of this group—platinum is one of them—love to bond with iron. That’s what most of the iridium on Earth did millions of years ago when the surface was still molten and, because it’s so heavy, it sunk to the core, thousands of miles deep. What little is left in the Earth’s crust is usually mixed with other metals and it takes a complex chemical process to separate them.

—How rare is it in comparison to other metals?

—It’s rare, very rare. Let’s put it this way, if you were to put together all the pure iridium produced on the entire planet in a year, you’d probably end up with no more than a couple metric tons. That’s about a large suitcaseful. It would take decades, using today’s technology, to scrounge up enough to build all this. It’s just too scarce on Earth and there simply aren’t enough chondrites lying around.

—You lost me.

—Sorry. Meteorites; stony ones. Iridium is so rare in Earth rocks that it is often undetectable. Most of the iridium we mine is extracted from fallen meteorites that didn’t completely burn up in the atmosphere. To build this room—and it seems safe to assume that this is not the only thing they would have built—you’d need to find it where there are a lot more than on the Earth’s surface.

—Journey to the center of the Earth?

—Jules Verne is one way to go. To get this type of metal in massive quantities, you’d either have to extract it thousands of miles deep or be able to mine in space. With all due respect to Mr. Verne, we haven’t come close to mining deep enough. The deepest mines we have would look like potholes next to what you’d need. Space seems much more feasible. There are private companies right now hoping to harvest water and precious minerals in space in the very near future, but all these projects are still in the early planning stages. Nonetheless, if you could harvest meteorites in space, you could get a lot more iridium, a whole lot more.

—What else can you tell me?

—That pretty much sums it up. After a few months of looking at this with every piece of equipment known to man, I felt we were getting nowhere. I knew we were asking the wrong questions, but I didn’t know the right ones. I submitted a preliminary report and asked for a leave of absence.

—Refresh my memory. What was the conclusion of that report?

—We didn’t build this.

—Interesting. What was their reaction?

—Request granted.

—That was it?

—Yes. I think they were hoping I wouldn’t come back. I never used the word “alien,” but that’s probably all they took out of my report.

—That is not what you meant?

—Not exactly. There might be a much more down-to-earth explanation, one I just didn’t think of. As a scientist, all I can say is that humans of today do not have the resources, the knowledge, or the technology to build something like this. It’s entirely possible that some ancient civilization’s understanding of metallurgy was better than ours, but there wouldn’t have been any more iridium around, whether it was five thousand, ten thousand, or twenty thousand years ago. So, to answer your question, no, I don’t believe humans built these things. You can draw whatever conclusion you want from that.

I’m not stupid; I knew I was probably putting an end to my career. I certainly annihilated any credibility I had with the NSA, but what was I going to do? Lie?

—What did you do after you submitted your report?

—I went home, to where it all began. I hadn’t gone home in nearly four years, not since my father died.

—Where is home?

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Angels of Our Better Beasts

Angels of Our Better Beasts

edition:Paperback

The Beasts have plans for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. But you're going to have to trust them.

The Lemmings are really researching the Arctic biologists, the werewolves sing sweet Christian praise songs, and the signing gorilla just wants someone back in the cage for a minute or two. The black dog who tells you God loves you may not be believable, no, and those old lions in the canyon are up to something, aren't they? The shaggy aliens just w …

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Thessaly

Thessaly

The Complete Trilogy (The Just City, The Philosopher Kings, Necessity)
edition:Paperback
tagged :

Finalist for 2017 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature

For the first time, Jo Walton’s critically acclaimed, genre-defying trilogy ThessalyThe Just City, The Philosopher Kings, andNecessity—is available in softcover, in a single-volume trade paperback omnibus.

The goddess Athena thought she was creating a utopia. Populate the island of Thera with extraordinary men, women, and children from throughout history, and watch as the mortals forge a harmonious society based on the tenets o …

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