News & Blog

Where to Find Me at the World Fantasy Convention

World Fantasy 2014 is a-comin’, folks! November 6th through 9th in Washington, D.C., and I’ll be there! The convention has finally announced its programming schedule, and it looks like I’m on a panel Saturday night, during prime bar time. That’s what I get for being a late registrant! But if you’re not in the mood for drinking and socializing, here’s where you can find me:

The Myriad Faces of Dragons
Time: 8pm-9pm, Nov. 8, Washington
Panelists: Michael A. Stackpole, Marie Brennan, Nicholas Kaufmann, James Maxey (M), Naomi Novik
Description: Dragons are a staple in European and Asian mythology and fantasy literature presents them across the spectrum from wise beings to destructive forces, from symbols to complex characters. Whether it is the great warbeasts of Temeraire , the mysterious councilors of A Wizard of Earthsea, the humorous scoundrels of How To Train Your Dragon or the deep and august beast that is Smaug, dragons continue to fascinate and delight. Then there is the treatment of dragons by science fiction authors, such as Anne McCafferty’s Pern and Jack Vance’s The Dragon Masters? Does including a dragon make these works secretly fantasies? A discussion at the various forms of dragons and why they are still are compelling today.

I actually know very little about dragons, despite having written three books now that feature them, so this should be…interesting. Here’s hoping I don’t come off sounding like a fool. Or more a fool than usual, I should say!

I didn’t get a reading slot this year. That’s also what I get for being a late registrant! But despite this minor disappointment, I’m looking forward to the convention. Lots of friends I haven’t seen in ages will be there, as well as many authors whose work I enjoy and admire. Year after year, the World Fantasy Convention is where it’s at!


HornsHorns by Joe Hill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At the heart of Joe Hill’s dark fable sits a bittersweet love story about Ignatius Perrish and Merrin Williams, whose tragic death is the catalyst for both the story and the hero’s transformation. It’s a deeply sad novel, and upsetting at times, but Hill is such a good writer that he guides you through these emotions so skillfully. The characters and their relationships ring authentic, which helps ground the story in the face of its more absurdist supernatural elements. Touching, sad, darkly funny at times, and very effective, this is a novel that will stick with you.

View all my reviews

The Scariest Part: Erik Williams Talks About DEMON


Welcome to this week’s installment of The Scariest Part, a recurring feature in which authors, comic book writers, filmmakers, and game creators tell us what scares them in their latest works of horror, dark fantasy, dark science fiction, and suspense. (If you’d like to be featured on The Scariest Part, please review the guidelines here.)

My guest is Erik Williams, whose latest novel is Demon. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Mike Caldwell is a CIA assassin who thinks he’s finally got a real case to work on. At a remote construction site in Iraq, something deadly and dangerous has been unearthed, and Mike believes he’s dealing with a powerful pathogen that turns the infected into primal killing machines. The truth, however, is far worse.

The ancient prison of the fallen angel Semyaza has been uncovered, and for the first time in thousands of years he is free to roam the earth, possessing the bodies of the humans he hates. And everywhere he goes, Hell is sure to follow.

Now Mike is on Semyaza’s trail, hunting a demon whose mere presence turns every living thing near it into a weapon of mass destruction. Both merchants of death are on a collision course, while the fate of humanity hangs in the balance.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Erik Williams:

So, I wrote a book called Demon. It’s about a CIA assassin going up against a, well, demon. Or fallen angel. Whatever you prefer. Anyway, it’s not your normal ho-hum horror novel. It’s got action! It’s got drama! It’s got carnage! And yes, quite a few scares. Don’t believe me? I dare you to buy a copy and read it. Go on.

Seriously, what happens on page 150…scariest thing you’ll ever read.

Now I won’t tell you what the scariest part of the book is. That would be spoiling. Nor will I pretend something I wrote scared me. That would be silly. But I can tell you what the scariest part of writing the book was: tapping into the past.

February 2003. I’m in the Navy. I’m on a ship in the Northern Arabian Gulf. The war’s about to start. Shit’s about to get real.

As soon as we sailed into the Gulf, we got issued gas masks and auto-injectors (the stuff you shoot into your body if you’re exposed to chemical weapons). We’re required to carry this stuff on us at all times. Just in case, you know.

But we didn’t know. No one took it seriously. No one actually thought Saddam was going to launch chemical weapons at a ship in the Gulf. Maybe at the Marines in Kuwait but not our-

And then the alarm went off. A chemical alarm went off in Kuwait. Our ship (only a few miles of the coast) went to General Quarters (that’s like Red Alert). We were ordered to MOPP Level 4 (that’s means everything gets worn). And we were told this was not a drill.

Holy shit.

In a span of thirty seconds, I saw grown men start crying. People’s hands shaking so bad they couldn’t get their gas canisters on the masks or their masks pulled over their heads. People freaking the hell out because they couldn’t get a good seal on their masks. People having panic attacks because they instantly became claustrophobic from wearing their masks.

It was insane. And possibly the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me. Because at that moment, it was real and instead of doing things the way we were trained to, instead of maintaining order and discipline, we turned inward and let chaos take over. If this was happening before actual exposure to chemicals or biologics, what the hell was it going to look like if we actually sailed through a cloud of mustard gas or something? Were people going to start fighting over auto-injectors while others choked to death on their own spit? Were we going to go batshit crazy and kill each other in a panic before any chemicals did?

Of course, there was no chemical attack. It was a false alarm. We laughed it off and then didn’t talk about it. The war started a few days after that. I was lucky to do my time and make it home without another scary incident.

But obviously, that moment stuck with me. So much so that when I first got the idea for Demon (imprisoned demon escapes its prison and causes havoc was the initial idea) I zeroed in on that chaos, that complete breakdown of order I witnessed, and gave it to my demon in the book, making him the agent of chaos that brings absolute disorder to anything that comes into contact with him. Just like I saw in 2003, albeit with a lot more death and destruction.

Erik Williams: Website / Twitter

Demon: Amazon/ Barnes & Noble / Powell’s / IndieBound

Erik Williams is a former Naval Officer and current defense contractor (but he’s not allowed to talk about it). He is also the author of the novel Demon and numerous other small press works and short stories. He currently lives in San Diego with his wife and three very young daughters. When he’s not at his day job, he can usually be found changing diapers or coveting carbohydrates. At some point in his life, he was told by a few people he had potential. Recently, he told himself he’s the bee’s knees. Erik prefers to refer to himself in the third person but feels he’s talked about himself enough and will grant your eyeballs the freedom they deserve.

Doctor Who: “Flatline”

I’m not going to lie to you. When I first saw the pre-publicity photos of the shrunken-down TARDIS with the full-size Doctor struggling to get out of its doors or the even smaller TARDIS in Clara’s hands, I thought for sure “Flatline” was going to be beyond stupid. I was wrong. (I thought much the same thing about “Mummy on the Orient Express” before I saw it and was wrong then, too. This season seems to be doing well when it comes to exceeding my expectations. But then, after the last few seasons, my expectations have admittedly been quite low.)

“Flatline” isn’t a bad episode at all, even if the shrinking TARDIS itself was kind of silly. Once again we get a classic Doctor Who setup with weird aliens to fight and a mystery to solve. With the Doctor trapped in the TARDIS and basically sidelined, it’s up to Clara to do the lion’s share of the work convincing people they’re in danger and getting them to safety. As a result, it’s Clara’s best episode to date. (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: freeing her from all that Impossible Girl nonsense has really allowed her to shine. Imagine that: when her life no longer revolves entirely around the Doctor as someone who was “born to save him,” she gets to be far more interesting. Why, it’s almost as if Steven Moffat is learning that the trick to successful female characters is to make them something more than their relationship to a man!)

With the exception of the handful of scenes involving the Doctor’s full-size face peeking out through the shrunken TARDIS’s doors, the special effects in this episode were pretty great, especially once the aliens materialize. They look really freaky. Over all, it was a well done, creepy episode with good bits of humor.

However, the drama around Clara lying to Danny now feels completely intrusive. It’s forced, adds nothing to the story, and diminishes everything around it. In an episode filled to the brim with far-fetched ideas, the telephone scene between Clara and Danny was the only one that actually pulled me out of the story and had me rolling my eyes. Resolve this baloney already! Danny and Clara were actually a far more interesting couple when she was being honest with him about her time with the Doctor.


I have a couple of minor quibbles, which should surprise no one.

At one point, the Doctor engages a TARDIS failsafe he calls Siege Mode. Essentially, it locks the TARDIS so nothing can get in or out. Leaving aside how useful this Siege Mode would have been in other adventures had it ever existed before this episode (among the things it could have prevented: the Titanic colliding with the TARDIS in the 2007 Christmas Special “Voyage of the Damned”; the Sontarans getting inside the TARDIS in the 1978 serial “The Invasion of Time”; and the Cybermen getting inside the TARDIS in the 1982 serial “Earthshock”), there is the rather quibble-worthy addition that Siege Mode also turns the TARDIS into an impenetrable metal cube, complete with Gallifreyan writing or designs on it. This would seem to imply that the TARDIS’s chameleon circuit works after all, at least in this capacity. But how the Doctor got it to work for Siege Mode but not for, um, Normal Mode is never explained, which is frustrating. After all, it’s fifty-year-old canon that the Doctor can’t get the damn chameleon circuit to work right.

Unfortunately, “Flatline” ends with another brief and wholly unwelcome scene involving Missy. This time she’s watching Clara on what is essentially an iPad they didn’t bother disguising as anything else, and ruminating on how she has chosen well in selecting Clara for…what exactly? I don’t know, and I don’t really care. Missy and the “Promised Land” are this season’s weakest link.

And now for a bit of speculation. I’m wondering if the aliens from the other dimension might actually be the Time Lords trying to get back to ours. They seem able to drain off the TARDIS’s energy easily enough, which perhaps speaks to a familiarity with TARDISes, and human physiognomy seems to be close enough to Gallifreyan that the aliens’ attempt to take over human bodies might fit this theory. (Also, wasn’t the Doctor going to spend this season looking for Gallifrey? Or has that idea already been Moffated out of existence?) Missy could conceivably play into this theory, too. Perhaps her realm is the gateway between the two dimensions? But then, why work so hard to put Clara and the Doctor together? And why did Missy so creepily refer to the Doctor as her boyfriend back in the first episode this season? Those don’t necessarily fit, at least not in ways I can see yet. Okay, so my theory isn’t a solid one, but this episode did make me wonder.