Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide 2014, Day Four: Fan Favorites!

For the first three days of the Whatever Shopping Guide 2014, I’ve let authors and creators tell you about their work. Today is different: Today is Fan Favorites day, in which fans, admirers and satisfied customers share with you a few of their favorite things — and you can share some of your favorite things as well. This is a way to discover some cool stuff from folks like you, and to spread the word about some of the things you love.

Fans: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Fans only: That means that authors and creators may not post about their own work in this thread (they may post about other people’s work, if they are fans). There are already existing threads for traditionally-published authorsnon-traditionally published authors, and for other creators. Those are the places to post about your own work, not here.

2. Individually created and completed works only, please. Which is to say, don’t promote things like a piece of hardware you can find at Sears, shoes from Foot Locker, or a TV you got at Wal-Mart. Focus on things created by one person or a small group: Music CDs, books, crafts and such. Things that you’ve discovered and think other people should know about, basically. Do not post about works in progress, even if they’re posted publicly elsewhere. Remember that this is supposed to be a gift guide, and that these are things meant to be given to other people. So focus on things that are completed and able to be sold of shared.

3. One post per fan. In that post, you can list whatever creations you like, from more than one person if you like, but allow me to suggest you focus on newer stuff. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on things available in North America.

4. Keep your description of the work brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about the work and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a sales site if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

6. Comment posts that are not about fans promoting work they like will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting gifts.

Got it? Excellent. Now: Geek out and tell us about cool stuff you love — and where we can get it too.

76 Comments on “Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide 2014, Day Four: Fan Favorites!”

  1. A friend is a terrific independent musician. Her work is what I tend to classify as neo-Celtic (think Loreena McKinnett or Clannad) with some Jazz and Blues influences. Many of her songs are themed from Arthurian legends and mythology.

    Check out her work at Heatherdale.com! If you like that kind of music I promise you won’t be disappointed. There are samples there for you to check out for free – and some stuff on You Tube as well.

    Happy Holidays!

  2. K V Johansen is a medieval scholar who writes silk road fantasy novels that feel like medieval epics. If that epic feel of ancient time, old Gods, ancient Devils and diverse characters and locations a la Tolkien has been missing for you…read THE BLACKDOG, The LEOPARD (first half of duology that came out earlier this year and THE LADY (the latter half of the duology, comes out Tuesday).

    Kelly McCullough is a workhorse of a midlist author who turns out eminently readable fantasy and science fiction. His latest series is the Fallen Blades series (latest novel DRAWN BLADES) . Start with THE BROKEN BLADE. The assassin emissary of a dead goddess, fallen on hard times, trying to make a living.

    One of my favorite books of the year is, of all things, a portal fantasy. A portal fantasy done right: CHILD OF A HIDDEN SEA by Alyx Dellamonica. Fascinating world, strong main character.

  3. Best book ever: Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking. Incredibly moving, heart wrenching, beautiful, inspirational and just down right the most blatant and honest thing you will ever read. If you Twitter, find the hashtag #theartofasking and see what everyone else is saying. (and get a box of tissues, you’re going to need it).

    Find links to buy it here:
    Amanda Palmer The Art of Asking

    Can’t afford it? Amanda’s wonderful community has started a place to ask for and share the book:

    The Art of Giving

  4. BOOOOKS! I have to mention S. A Hunt’s AMAZING Western/Fantasy series THE OUTLAW KING, all THREE volumes of which are available in ebook form from Amazon.com. The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree, Law of the Wolf, and Ten Thousand Devils form the most original story I’ve read in years. It’s been called (by someone not myself) the spiritual successor to Stephen King’s DARK TOWER series, and I concur.

    I also have to bring up Ann Smyth’s fantasy series, CHANGERS OF CHANDRIS. The first two books are available in ebook form from Amazon.com: Crowchanger and Stormbringer. (Rifthealer hasn’t gone live yet, but will be very soon.) I call it “mature YA,” as it doesn’t really conform to YA expectations and pushes some social-mores boundaries. It’s shapeshifters as you’ve not seen them before. The setting is familiar but different. Characters are engaging, even the minor ones. And the villain of the series . . . Ah, that villain.

    Merry Christmas, Blessed Solstice, Happy Hanukkah, etc.!

  5. One of my favorite independent things this year was issue #1 of Exterminite. Written by Mikey Neumann (Borderlands), Len Peralta (Geek A Week) & Kris Straub (Broodhollow, Chainsawsuit); illustrated by Len Peralta & Tim Switalski.

    The premise is: what if someone had the power to go into your dreams & kill your nightmares? The story is funny & emotional, & the artwork is gorgeous. Issue #1 is available now on Kindle & Comixology, & this is a fully independent self published effort, so it can use all the word of mouth you’ve got! Check it out! :)

  6. A good friend designs amazing purse patterns. http://www.studiokatdesigns.com
    The pattern instructions are METICULOUS! I know because I’ve tried them and other people also comment about them in her blog. And even cooler – you can watch her go through the design process of a new pattern by following her blog. She encourages and uses input from readers as she progresses through the design. Her latest work in progress is a purse that can be carried multiple ways: shoulder, cross body, hip or even attached to a walker. http://www.studiokatdesigns.com/ppc10-attachment-issues. (She also writes some pretty cool ‘thinking’ pieces on her blog, which I really enjoy.)

  7. A few years ago I discovered Marina V on Pandora; now I have her entire discography (really, she’s that good).
    She’s been compared to Tori Amos, so think that kind of music.
    I’d recommend either Simple Magic or Inner Superhero (her latest release) to start, but really you can’t go wrong with any of her albums.

  8. My very good friends Byron & Arleen Miller create amazing brooms, walking sticks, canes, magic wands and other wooden objects, both artistic and functional. Have a Harry Potter fan in your life who needs a racing broom? They’ve got you covered. A Tolkien fan whose wall simply must have a plaque of the map from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain? Ditto. Someone who needs a cane, and for whom the functional-but dull aluminum ones just won’t do? I have first hand experience with that one.

    They usually sell their wares at Ren Faires around the country (Arizona, Muskogee, Sterling NY, Minnesota and North Carolina) but they also have an Etsy shop. They also do special orders, such as a replica of Gandalf’s staff.


  9. Just discovered Noah Gordon, a former journalist turned author of historical novels. The Physician features a Christian who has to masquerade as a Jew in Muslim Persia to be able to train as a doctor a millennium ago. Very different than the usual, very detailed, great portal to a time when all science and progress was in Islamic countries. (Thank you Strand for your used bookshelves – would never have discovered it otherwise!) http://www.noahgordonbooks.com/

  10. I do not like jazz. But I very much like the new jazz fusion album recently released by my friend Chris Harwood-Jones. Chris is an Anglican priest and former WoW raid leader, who turned to music when his interest in WoW departed (as it does). You can find the CD version of his album here; the electronic version is available in all the usual places.

  11. Two people I’d like to promote.

    One is Myke Cole and his Shadow Ops series, which is one trilogy starting with Control Point, and in January his latest, Gemini Cell, comes out. His writing continues to improve with every book, and it was no slouch to start with. Plus, he’s a stand up guy, ready and willing to engage with his fans. Someday we’ll get to play Munchkin, I hope.


    Second is someone I only know through the internet, but she does amazing work. Earrings, necklaces, and other jewelry.


    I bought my fiance a set of her pumpkin earrings and the craftsmanship was amazing. She ships quick, and does great customer service. Highly recommended.

  12. I run a site on which I post short reviews of short form writing that I like- short ebooks and collections of short stories and essays. The site is full of writing I’ve really enjoyed, but for this post I’ll plug the AfroSF collection, which is a large and diverse collection of speculative fiction stories written by African authors. There are some real gems in it, and it is refreshing to get a view of potential futures from new points of view. Definitely worth checking out!


  13. J.P. Lantern’s YA novel Up the Tower set in a dystopic, future St. Louis (as opposed to the current dystopic one) was a fun book that isn’t getting enough advertisement. It’s a self-published novel that was actually good. I enjoyed it and hope that it gets more of a look.


    I definitely recommend City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, The Iron Druid Series by Kevin Hearne, and anything by Kameron Hurley.




    Finally, Architrave Press is an innovative small publisher of poetry. Each poem is printed on card stock and is its owns work of art. They can be purchased separately or as an edition. Ms. Tappenden has a good eye for quality poetry. You can read the poems on the website and order the ones that you like. I have all of the editions, and I will continue to subscribe to her press.


  14. “Satoshi Kon’s Opus”, a manga by the late director Satoshi Kon (Paprika, Millenium Actress, Paranoia Agent, Perfect Blue) will be coming out next Tuesday, published by Dark Horse manga. I’ve had a chance to read a bit of it, and it’s really good.

    The work itself is technically incomplete, in the sense that the magazine it was originally serialized in closed its doors before it could finish its run, and Kon died of cancer before he could finish the manga. However, what we have is very well written and drawn, and is definitely a worthy addition to the libraries of fans of both manga and sequential art in general.

  15. MOAR BOOOOOKS! I cannot BELIEVE I neglected to mention the “neo pulp” novel FANTASMAGORIA from Rick Wayne (rickwayne.com). If that’s not your thing, but you like super heroish tales that feel a lot like a political thriller, check out his MINUS FACTION series, the first two books of which are available now (Episode 1: Breakout and Episode 2: Crossfire). All of those AND MORE are available at his website AND at Amazon.com.

  16. The HP Lovecraft Historical Society (http://cthulhulives.org) started as a group of LARPers, and now produce some of the best Lovecraft merch around. Their props are insanely detailed, and they also do movie and “old time radio” adaptations of Cthulhu Mythos stories.

    Ever wonder what “The Call of Cthulhu” would look like if a movie studio decided to film it – in 1926? they have the answer. But the crown jewel of their product line must surely be Professor Angell’s box (http://www.cthulhulives.org/store/storeDetailPages/angellbox.html). At $1000, this is not a stocking stuffer, but might be worth it for a dedicated fan.

  17. Hope this isn’t too much self-promotion but it’s meant to connect readers to books. My blog Discoveries & Oddities from the Digital Library finds unusual and interesting public domain books from online archives. All legally free and downloadable so fill your ereader. Ranges from oddball history to film criticism to kook lit to 19th illustrated science to strange fiction to travel. All October was ghost stories and folk tales.


  18. I am a huge fan of Reality Engineers 1: What Happens At Con Stays At Con by William Hainline.

    This eBook is just plain fun to read!

    Here is a description from the author:

    Reality Engineers:

    It’s Geeks versus Aliens in a zany, irreverent sci-fi comedy that’s larger than life and out of this world! When inventor Terry “Gadget” Anders heads to RetCon with his cosplaying pals, he has no idea what’s in store. From malevolent aliens walking the convention floor to the superheroic geek-girl of his dreams, this is one weekend Terry will never forget — if, that is, he can survive it! Put on your costumes and tune up your filking guitars folks, ’cause this gonna be the best RetCon EVER!


  19. Like fantasy novels? How about well-written ones with dragons, complicated multi-racial worlds and memorable characters? Have I ever got the books for you!



    ‘Aranya’ (the first link) tells the story of a girl who gives up her freedom for the benefit of the kingdom, becoming a hostage to their new conqueror Sylakia. But not everything is as it seems and when it looks like she’s facing certain death, Aranya discovers a power within herself that she never knew she had.

    ‘The Pygmy Dragon’ (the second link) tells the story of a young Pygmy within the same world as ‘Aranya’ who was captured by slavers and sold to a zoo. There she was treated like a little animal until one day a dragon who recognized her power rescued her. It’s a spin-off series to the main one and it tells the legend of the Pygmy dragon who changed everything.

    I have to say that while I read over 200 books per year, Aranya and The Pygmy Dragon are both in my top 10 list for this year. Marc Secchia really is an amazing author with a captivating writing style and a talent for world-building. He’s a South African-born author and unlike so much fantasy, his novels have some pretty great diversity. It’s like he actually cares about representing everyone in his work!

    If these descriptions have at all intrigued you, follow the links to Amazon and read an excerpt. You’ll fall in love with his Shapeshifter Dragons world just like I did.

  20. I have two homegrown Colorado small business I’d like to tell you about:

    Ildanach Studios makes jewelry from recycled copper and other materials using ancient metalworking techniques. They have a variety of really nice and unique items — of particular interest to folks in the SCA, since they also do medallions and other period-like pieces. https://www.etsy.com/shop/IldanachAfterDark

    Dryad Tea makes custom teas! My favorites are Maid in Bedlam (like a Lady Grey but fancier) and Selkie (a yummy citrusy green). http://dryadtea.com/

  21. Artist’s artist P. Craig Russell adapted Wagner’s Ring Cycle into comics last decade, and Dark Horse is finally releasing a one volume edition of the work.

    From a person that likes comics and has no taste for opera, it made me listen to at least an hour of Wagner’s opus. PCR’s lines are impeccable, Lovern Kindzierski’s colors enrich and underline the mood. It’s not an exaggeration to call the hardcover a masterwork.


  22. Free Open Source Zombie Roguelike called Cataclysm Dark Days Ahead. Over 100 people have contributed code. We do it for fun. Most of the coders are professional programmers that work on this as a hobby. It has more depth than any of the commercial games. We just did a major release with a ton of new features.

    However, the ‘experimental’ version is a daily build. It can be a little unstable (its not bad). A month after any release there are a vast number of new features not in the stable version. I would start with the stable.

    Recommend you open the wiki and click on ‘controls’ to get the commands. This is a hard permadeath game. If you go to the forums, there is a thread on newbie builds. I would just pick one and get started. You will die alot at first so don’t spend time building a good character.

    — sandbox, open world, randomly generated.
    — massive crafting systems. You can even build cars, bridges, and generate electric power for your shelter, traps, etc… not quite as robust as minecraft, but its up there.
    — Skill based, no levels, perk systems, and starting scenarios. As staed, just use some of the newbie builds to start with.
    — alot more than zombies
    — rampaging zombie hordes
    — location based damage.
    — modding toolkit and the mods are added to builds. So you can do your own thing and people can choose to use them

    If you don’t code and you just have ideas, we take ideas seriously. Some of the team extended the code so you can add things without coding. There are instructions on the forums for how to add buildings, items, monsters, etc… you can then upload the code. If you want your own thing, add it as a mod.

    Its a fun community.


  23. In the past year I have gotten to know a lot of Colorado authors (local for me) and I am amazed at the wonderful work they put out, sometimes several short stories or novels a year.

    One good way to get a taste of what each author is like there are several anthologies that I would recommend. AND they are available in pretty much any format you could ask for.

    – The Best of Penny Dread Tales – The best stories from the first 4 Penny Dread Tales Anthologies. Enough steampunk stories to satisfy the most dedicated of fans.
    – A Fantastic Holiday Season and A Fantastic Holiday Season: The Gift of Stories – The first was released Christmas of 2013 and the second is this years’ offering. Both include short stories by Kevin J. Anderson.
    – One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology – This anthology is full of short stories with one common theme: Purple Unicorns (obviously). Everything from steampunk to science fiction; humorous and serious; fairy tales to murder mysteries. 19 authors give you their visions of how purple unicorns fill our world. This one includes Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn), Jody Lynn Nye, Todd McCaffrey, and many up-and-coming authors.

  24. Mine’s not a book or music. Someone here probably likes hand lamp worked beads, though.

    These are glass beads, hand made in Southern California. You might be able to find them in person at a few craft shows out here, like the Pasadena Bead Show, or, you can order from her etsy page.

    Designs include cute owls, lovely cherry blossoms, subdued stone patterns, and a very bright and cheerful set called “mod lolly.”

  25. I’d like to take the opportunity to promote some of the best folk music out there, performed by Pint & Dale (William Pint and Felicia Dale), a Seattle-based folk duo. The style is mostly maritime and Celtic, with truly magnificent instrumentals, lovely harmonies and delightful interpretations.

    It’s worth it to collect their entire catalog, but if you want to try just one, they have a holiday-themed CD, When I See Winter Return, with a few familiar favorites and several unusual pieces that immediately became new favorites for us!


    Oh, yeah, if you have a chance to see them live, do! They occasionally perform at a Redmond coffeeshop that has streaming capabilities. You can sign up for notifications on their website — I can vouch for the fact that you will NOT be spammed as a result.

  26. I will put a plug in for Aaron Wood’s etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Justonescarf

    Aaron did the cover to my book, but he’s also got a pile of really cool, clever social media propaganda posters. Several of his retro gaming posters are the only art that I happen to have on my office wall at the moment. It’s good stuff and the prices are perfect for the gift giving season.

  27. St Petersburg duo iamthemorning have a wonderful new album – Belighted – delicate through complex and loud with amazing piano and gorgeous vocals. They’re sort of prog, genre-wise, though that’s a genre I don’t follow and I love them anyway. They’re the sweetest people, and it’s a difficult geographical location from which to have a career! Their album cover design is always lovely, too – http://iamthemorningband.bandcamp.com/

  28. My cousin wrote a terrific historical novel, Gutenberg’s Apprentice – http://www.amazon.com/Gutenbergs-Apprentice-Novel-Alix-Christie/dp/0062336010 – about the development, financing, and history of the creation of moveable type and the first press editions of the Bible. It’s a fascinating story, well-wrought, that gets quite a bit more perspective on the various tensions on this development.

    Our grandfather was a printer in San Francisco for 50+ years and taught all of his grandkids how to use a letter press and set type from an early age, so she’s got some real hands-on research as to how the technology works there, too.

  29. For anyone looking to buy something for a pre-teen/young adult, I highly recommend Princeless, a comic by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin. Or for adults who enjoy fun comics.

    Adrienne Ashe is a princess (of color!) who’s stuck in a tower, and decides to go and rescue herself, along with her dragon, Sparky. It’s hilarious, witty, and skewers the ridiculous tropes in a lot of traditional fantasy narratives. Books 1 and 2 are out in collections, and Issue 1 of book 3 is being released in January.

    Here’s a sample of one of my favorite parts:

  30. Well, I’m going with books which I’ve really enjoyed, and which I think other people will too; first up is ‘The Other Half of the Sky’, an anthology edited by Athena Andreadis and Kay Holt of 16 original stories in the space opera tradition. That alone is ambitious; most authors need a lot of words when it comes to creating the big picture, but the editors went for more than that. Each story features women as protagonists, they are the stars, not the supporting cast, as is usually the case in so much of SF.

    The really clever bit is that the authors did it without it being noticeable; there’s no clunky, worthy, earnest stuff about ‘Women’. Instead it flows naturally through the stories themselves and the people in them, and that is truly radical. If you are still unconvinced then the reviews at:


    should help; equally, Aliette De Bodard won the Nebula for her novelette ‘The Waiting Stars’, and many of the stories have been reprinted and/or commended. An excellent holiday present for yourself and others.

    My second candidate is T Kingfisher’s ‘Nine Goblins’; the author is better known as Hugo winner Ursula Vernon, and ‘Nine Goblins’ is the most unusual work of military fantasy I have ever come across. It’s both laugh out loud funny and deeply sad, sometimes simultaneously, and I commend it to anyone looking for something off the beaten track in war stories, goblins, elves, wizards, and the burdens of command when one of your soldiers is unable to function without a teddy bear attached to his helmet.

    I have become rather fond of Sergeant Nessilka and her distinctly motley crew; I do hope that lots of you will buy it so Ursula will provide us with more of their exploits. A perfect gift for anyone capable of reading.

    Finally, I would recommend CJ Cherryh’s ‘Heavy Time’ and ‘Hellburner’ to anyone who enjoys well-written politics and military SF; they are now out of print but available as ebooks on the ‘Closed Circle’ website as amazing bargains.


    Even if you are not into Mil SF I would recommend that you take a look at the website since it includes other works by CJ, as well as Jane Fancher and Lynn Abbey; there’s something there for just about any tastes in SF and fantasy…

  31. For music people, I discovered the band Jared and the Mill this year when they came to play a show in my town and I ended up loving them. They’ve definitely got a folk-y influence, although they’re not straight folk if that’s your kind of thing. Give them a listen and buy their CD (although you can also do that on iTunes and Google Play) if you want at:


    For craft-y people, a great graphic artist in my town makes great, funky/quirky cards and art prints through her business Lovebird Paper. If you’re in the Jackson Hole, Wyoming she sells at MADE stores, but if you’re not, this is her site:


  32. https://some-stories.com/store/ has adorable and hilarious tee-shirts designed by the independent webcomic artists of some-stories.com.

    The shirts are locally printed and proceeds go to feed and house artists. If you ever wanted a shirt with an cuttlefish telling you it is (or is not) for cuddling, this is your chance.

  33. A Redtail’s Dream, a fantasy graphic novel by a young, talented Finnish writer-artist, Minna Sundberg. Based on Nordic mythology, with a young adult feel and gorgeous watercolors.
    You can read it online before purchasing.
    Minna is currently working on a science-fiction/fantasy series “Stand Still, Stay Silent” and I suggest you check it out at sssscomic.com. This is not currently on sale, but it’s her habit to open and close the shop depending on her workload and which country she’s in, so the best way to buy the book is to follow her blog. The first volume, including a prologue and chapters 1-4, is complete and can be read online.

  34. My Sister is an amazing artist and writer. From her website “Taking an interdisciplinary approach, I create artworks, texts and situations that explore anti-identification procedures, model formlessness, and provide opportunities to create community through anonymity.” Her work is BIG and fantastically detailed so it’s really fun to get up close to it.


    Please contact her if you are interested in any of her art!

  35. Nevada, by Imogen Binnie. Novel about (and by) a trans lady but no tabout transistion – it’s about how much it sucks not to have role models and how much damage it can do when you spend your whole life trying to convince everyone you’re a normal boy and then have to convince the medical establishment you’re absolutely 100% certain about who you are and what you want, and how hard and shitty it is to grow as a person after that.

    It made me want to put it down and write something ugly and gorgeous. It made being creative while being a bit broken seem possible.

    The voice is really informal and it’s pretty explicit.

    Yeah. Good stuff.

  36. If you’ve read and enjoyed Liz William’s Detective Inspector Chen series and wished there was more, now there is. Ms Williams has completed her new book, Morningstar, but as it doesn’t have a publisher she is selling it herself.

    If you want a copy (ebook only at this stage), you just need to email her (and send payment), and more Chen will be coming your way. Her website is http://mevennen.livejournal.com/

  37. Patricia S. Bowne’s books about the Royal Academy at Osyth are sort of like Harry Potter for grownups about the faculty of a university where they study magic, demons, sorcery, and alchemy. Things go wrong, which is bad, if not fatal, when you’re dealing with demons. I think they’re some of the funniest, scariest stories around. Academic satire at its best: http://www.raosyth.com/index.htm

  38. If you’re a Pacific Rim fan like me, artist Dana Guerrieri has this lovely print for sale: http://bit.ly/1vS1Nbc and her shop has a variety of other nifty art. I own that print, and it makes me happy every time I look at it on my wall.

    Or if you’d like an adorable pin back button that decries cat-calling, you could purchase one of these nifty designs featuring kitties from Sailor Moon, My Neighbor Totoro, Aristocats, or Kiki’s Delivery service: http://etsy.me/12BZONo – this artist also has other fannish cuteness for sale in their shop.

  39. I’d like to plug my friend Stephanie Maclean, who does primarily landscapes of the San Francisco Bay Area and her native Scotland. Art prints of her work can be ordered from her website. She can also make painted tiles from her paintings, which make excellent small gifts.

  40. I know it’s pricey, but if you or someone you love is a fan of Robert A. Heinlein, the ultimate gift is a copy of The Virginia Edition. http://www.virginiaedition.com Packed with the definitive editions of Heinlein’s complete publications, The Virginia Edition also contains the correspondence between Heinlein and master-editor John W. Campbell, another volume of correspondence with other illuminates and friends, and other hard-to-find treasures. Purchase also allows you access to the online archives, with its unmatched treasures of photographs, additional correspondence, and more. Best of all, proceeds fund the Heinlein Prize for space development, the Heinlein for Heroes book drive, and more. Payment plans are available. But if that’s still too pricey, then at least get your Heinlein fan volumes one and two of the Biography by William Patterson. This is the standard work for Heinlein studies and Heinlein fans. http://www.amazon.com/Robert-A-Heinlein-Dialogue-1907-1948/dp/B008SM8VIU.

  41. I second the nomination of Amanda Palmer’s the Art of Asking. It should be given as a gift along with Cory Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free. The books address different aspects of many of the same issues and enrich each other by giving context.

  42. Copra, by one man comic machine Michele Fiffe. He writes, draws, colors and publishes his comic that is described as… “They’re ugly. They’re mean. But up until today, they’ve always been loyal. So when one of their own betrays them, the men and women of COPRA have no choice but to turn their nightmarish skills back on every son of a bitch who ever looked at them funny.”
    You can subscribe here:
    You can read the first issue for free here:
    Or ask for it at your local comic shop!

  43. I’m a massive fan of C. Gockel’s I Bring the Fire series of books – the first is available in paperback as well as eBook. http://www.amazon.com/Bring-Fire-Part-Wolves/dp/1492394386/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417733502&sr=1-1&keywords=I+bring+the+fire

    Music – The Mouldy Lovers play a mix of gypsy/ska and I thought they were the best band at a Steampunk festival. http://themouldylovers.bandcamp.com

    Outside North America, so maybe not great for this xmas – but other gift days Seams Nostalgic does geeky skirts. https://www.etsy.com/shop/SeamsNostalgic

  44. For a bit of nerdy shiny (necklaces, earrings, bracelets) Emily Watson’s Science and Magic jewelry shop has you covered. I have the DNA necklace for myself and am loving it – very well made.

    For carrying all your things, these super adorable, useful, and bigger on the inside, cephalopod (and other adorable critter themed) bags by Namu are great.

    And finally for the gamers, Never Alone is a masterful piece of art and a pretty fantastic game too. It follows the story of a little Iñupiat girl and an adorable arctic fox as they try to find the source of a horrible blizzard threatening their home. The story is narrated in Iñupiat and there are many excellent documentary style videos (unlockable through the game play) discussing the culture you are exploring during the game.

  45. John

    Please forgive me for my incompetence; I accidentally omitted Schlock Mercenary in my review of things i love, and think others will love also. My only excuse is that my iPad has gone walk about, and grappling with Microsoft is taking its toll.

    Schlock Mercenary is always described as the comic space opera, and it is indeed very funny, but it’s a lot more than that; Howard reminds me of Terry Pratchett in using comedy as a route into things which aren’t funny but are a vital part of the human condition. He makes me laugh but he also makes me think; that’s a pretty good reason to keep reading.

    There’s still time to order stuff for delivery in the US before Christmas; go to


    to see the range of good stuff available. It’s fun, and in my view holidays should be fun!

  46. I’m trying to think of how to describe M.C.A. Hogarth’s Stone Moon trilogy. Fantasy culture-epic told in three books from various points of view? Loyalty, gender, culture change, history, violence, the cost of integrity, oracles, war, lives and deaths and the meanings thereof? Nah, I can’t describe them. Just… I found them really fascinating, and so has everyone I’ve lent them to. I need to get a second set of these to lend out, seriously. I’m so glad I found them.

    The Stone Moon trilogy are:
    The Worth of a Shell
    Pearl in the Void
    A Bloom in the North

    They can be found at Createspace along with the rest of her stories, including Spots the Space Marine. Tell her Lioness Elise sent you. (Really! Please do.)

    I also recommend a fellow metal-bending jewelry maker, Kythryne Aisling, whose shiny goodies can be found at Wyrding Studio. Another jewelry artist whose work I love is Jen Parrish, of Parrish Relics. (I love her work so much that once when Neil Gaiman asked me if I’d do a particular comission, I declined and recommended Jen to him instead because her work was absolutely perfect for what he wanted.)

  47. Not SF or fantasy (but written by someone who digs them), I must recommend the books here at bryngreenwood.com

    You may love or hate her characters, or want to reach into the book and smack them, but you won’t be bored by them. And you won’t forget what they do either. Go live in some other people’s skin for a while, and see if you’re more or less broken than they are. They’re literary, but not boring, and never sentimental. Dense, chewy thoughts in spare prose.

    Available in e-book, or in dead tree from an actual small press — not a behemoth multi-national.

  48. MUSIC: Larry David is a fabulous musician. His “Lunar Sky” album and his “Wanderings of a Classical Soul” are wonderful – his own piano creations based on classical music. They are both available on his website, along with several others. http://www.larrydavidmusic.com/ Lunar Sky is also available at Amazon.

    FINE ART: Marty Hatcher is a wonderful artist, with a wide variety of works available. http://martyhatcher.com/

    Science Fiction: Kristine Kathryn Rusch has written some wonderful books. I particularly love her Retrieval Artist series. Start at the beginning with “The Disappeared.” In that universe, she has a new 8-book mini-saga that begins with “Anniversary Day.” It kicks a** Note that the Retrieval Artist books are standalone, but the mini-saga is one huge story arc; however, there are actual endings for each book. (I HATE cliffhangers!)

    Mysteries: Christy Fifield has a fun cozy series, starting with “Murder Buys a T-Shirt.” And Marcelle Dube has a great mystery series set in Canada, beginning with “The Shoeless Kid.” This series is somewhere between a police procedural and a cozy.

    Romance: Dayle Ivy has a great paranormal romance, “What Beck’ning Ghost” and I love Kristine Grayson’s paranormal Fates series, starting with “Utterly Charming.”

    Urban Fantasy: Karen L. Abrahamson has written three series in her Cartographer universe – Past, Present, and Future. I especially enjoy the present series, beginning with “Afterburn.”

  49. Arty things: some of my favorite independent artists are Lars Love letters, who makes fun and funny greeting cards out of recycled junk mail https://www.etsy.com/shop/LarsLoveLetters ; the guys behind the LoveBot revolution, whose goal is to spread kindness and love throughout the world through their adorable robot figures and stickers http://lovebot.com/collections/all. There’s also inki-drop who makes the cutest seafood pun based pins and toys and things I’ve ever seen and offers them at http://www.storenvy.com/stores/120652-inki-drop . Oh, and https://www.etsy.com/shop/stephaniedistler of mindful jewelry makes some of the coolest steampunk-ish metal jewelry thingamabobs ever.


    Telah Marie of Heart Felt Design, who makes awesome nerdy pillows and adorable stuffed yeti monsters over at https://www.etsy.com/shop/telahmarie

    James Hance makes lovely art; my favorite are his Doctor Who ones (Whovian here!), and his Wookie the Chew stories featuring a young Han Solo and Chewie as Christopher Robin and Pooh – http://www.jameshance.com/index.html

    One more artist in the making-superheroes-super-adorable category – she’s in Malaysia but still shipping in time for Christmas! – is Hanie Mohd of sweater superhero girls fame – she’s even including a little gift in each other placed before December 31.

    A bit higher on the price scale is Paul Michael Design with fantabulous geek-themed jewelry – Star Wars, Doctor Who, games, you name it, he’s probably got it – including a necklace with an actual spinning Tardis for a pendant!

    Sugar rush: Tami Cromar of RubySnap at http://www.rubysnap.com/menu.html creates THE best and coolest cookies names after Pin Up Girls I’ve ever had. After these, it’s quite hard to go back to normal everyday store cookies, even Oreos.

    Music: LOVE LOVE LOVE Lindsey Stirling and The Piano Guys; can’t go much wrong there for heart-pumping music.

  50. I’d like to recommend a books/ebook:

    THORN by Intisar Khanani, a retelling/adaptation of the “Goose Girl” fairy tale that’s very well done. Khanana writes without resorting to cliches or sensationalism. Some scenes (involving male-on-female threats and violence) may be disturbing. The Goodreads page links to a number of sellers, though oddly not Barnes & Noble, where I bought it..

  51. Tamara of T.M. Originals creates marvelous handmade jewelry, from geeky and fun to elegant goth/steampunk inspired creations. You can see some work in her online shop at tmoriginalsjewelry.com, and a lot more at craft/gift fairs & conventions around the pacific northwest and some of the funkier shops in the Greater Seattle area.

  52. I’d like to recommend the fabulous wrapped wire steampunk jewelry of Jill Lawrence. My favorites are the pendants with eyes, which she paints herself. She also does requests for customized jewelry. I’ve bought two pieces of hers and have to exercise great restraint not to buy more. Her etsy shop is here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/twistedsisterarts

  53. I’d like to recommend Andy Weir’s /The Martian/, which has had a Big Idea piece on this very website, and recently beat out a novel called /Lock In/ by some scrub named John Scalzi to win the Goodreads Choice Awards. I got the audio version on Audible.com and it is well worth it.

    Seriously, put this book in your ears, put it in your eyes. I believe, without hyperbole or sarcasm, that it is one of the best science fiction novels I have ever read.

  54. I would like to recommend the comic Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson, illustrated by Brooke Allen. From the creators: “Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five best pals determined to have an awesome summer together…and they’re not gonna let any insane quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way.”

    This comic is AWESOME. All the main characters and most of the side characters are girls or women, all the girls are interesting and have different strengths and weaknesses, there is FRIENDSHIP and MYSTERY and WEIRD MYTHICAL CREATURES trying to EAT PEOPLE and SILLINESS and it’s ADORABLE.

    This comic is appropriate for ages 8+ and a great read for anyone of any age.

  55. These genre films on Blu-Ray and/or DVD definitely aren’t for those who want the same-old same-old:

    A FIELD IN ENGLAND–Set during the English Civil War, Ben Wheatley’s horror film is disturbing by implication rather than explicitness. Semi-cowardly scholar Whitehead and three other fugitives from the war find refuge in a seemingly endless field which seems removed from the fighting and killing. Supposedly, a great treasure is buried somewhere in the field…and it’s the same treasure that a rogue alchemist named O’Neil is interested in. A good part of the appeal of the film is in its head-tripping oddness, especially in its latter half.

    JODOROWSKY’S DUNE–One of the great unmade films of all time is cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt to adapt “Dune” for the cinema screen. This documentary tells the story of how that project came to be and the amazing talent Jodorowsky assembled to make the film (e.g. Orson Welles, H.R. Giger, and Salvador Dali). Jodorowsky himself turns out to be madly entertaining and inventive as he talks about his abortive project.

    UNDER THE SKIN—Jonathan Glazer (“Sexy Beast”) turns a stereotypical SF conceit into something quietly disturbing. Scarlett Johansson plays an unnamed alien whose job is to pick up men and lure them to her base for harvesting. But her encounters with humanity leads her to empathize with them.

    What makes the film work so well is partly the mix of real and staged sequences (some of the men Johansson’s character tries picking up are non-actors), but also the questions it raises about how much one can understand somebody whose existence is totally different from theirs. “Under The Skin” relies on a lot of visual storytelling and a deliberately discordant soundtrack. But if your recipient is willing to give this a try, it’ll leave them disturbed by the end.

    SNOWPIERCER—Bong Joon-ho’s political satirical action film is set in a future where the remnants of humanity live and ride on a train perpetually circling the Earth thanks to an anti-global warming experiment gone awry. Mutual survival, though, has not meant the elimination of class divisions. The well-off ride in the nice spacious front cars while the huddled masses ride in the cramped and dirty rear. Chris Evans (Captain America) plays the leader of a revolutionary group of commoners who might just succeed in their efforts to capture the train engine.

    As an action film, Bong’s film has some amazing set-pieces which won’t be described here. It’s also filled with twisted bits of dark humor courtesy of performances from Tilda Swinton as an official functionary and Alison Pill as a “teacher.” “Snowpiercer” is meant to be a satire, so don’t stress about the more “unrealistic” cars on the train.

  56. Some authors who I’ve loved this year.
    In sff for adults:
    Martha Wells- she has a bunch of different series, and all of them are good- exciting stories and people who feel real. Her most recent series starts with The Cloud Roads. It’s fantasy: Moon’s mother and siblings were killed when he was a child, and since then he’s never found any more of his shape-shifting, flying species. In a world with many, many intelligent species, the chances of stumbling on his own race’s home are small. And then his adopted village is spooked by signs of a flying predator nearby…
    Wells has also written some very good TV tie-in series. I liked her Stargate Atlantis ones.

    Laura Wise’s Traveller And Wish-Queen has universe-hopping detectives, several different magic systems and bad guys obsessed with 1930s crooners. It’s her first book- I wish there were more!

    Ankaret Wells does nice chewy SF. The Books of Requite series are set on a lost colony planet, with the few old AI/fabricating systems slowly running down, and life going busily on. The bad news for the planet is that their ruling caste are descended from genetically modified telepaths. Bad news because in the galactic society, telepaths are hated and feared; if the planet ever becomes un-lost, Bad Things will happen.
    Excellent world building, few bad guys but lots of characters with their own motivations acting against each other, and great big reptiles.

    Zen Cho’s Spirits Abroad short story collection was really fun (and creepy, and fingernail-biting)- stories set in Malaysia, in London, in the spirit world, and on the Moon, but all of them excellent.

    The Athena’s Daughters anthology was really good, I don’t think there was a bad story in it. A good mix of SF and fantasy.

    In YA sff:
    Andrea K Host: Whenever I start reading one of her books I end up tearing through all of them again. My favourites are a SF series that starts with Stray, with an Australian teenager falling through a wormhole onto a deserted planet, and a fantasy standalone, Stained Glass Monsters; a woman all in white falls out of the sky into a small village, and the ground collapse around her. Who is she, and who is the girl who knew beforehand where she would land?

    L Shelby’s Across a Jade Sea series has a young ship’s engineer protagonist. Swashbuckling, family, court intrigue, disguises and a sweet romance.

    Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale, is based on the Goose Girl fairytale, in a steppes-like setting. It’s told as the diary of a young maidservant who has just been walled up alive in a tower with her lady- for seven years, or until the lady agrees to marry the man of her father’s choice.

    In slightly uncategorisable SF:
    Terra, by Mitch Benn; the heroine is a child, but it isn’t a children’s book, I think. Terra is a human child, who was accidentally kidnapped as a baby by a scientific observer, who then adopted her. She’s having a perfectly normal Fnrran childhood (except for being an alien), but trouble is approaching. A charming book.

  57. Better late than never, here’s my traditional John Fullbright rec.

    John Fullbright. Kid who grew up on a farm outside Woody Guthrie’s home town, paid for his first studio album with a Kickstarter, and it was nominated for the 2013 Grammy for Best Americana Album. He lost to Bonnie Raitt, but c’mon: Bonnie.

    He put out a new album this year. It’s a little quieter than the first one, but if you like lyrics, this is your guy. Also guitar, piano, harmonica and whistling.



  58. Here are some graphic novels that are worth your while:

    SAGA DELUXE EDITION–Got a comics-loving friend who hasn’t tried Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ amazing series SAGA? This collection collects the first three storylines, which ends at a natural breaking off point.

    At its heart, the series concerns a pair of former combatants trying to survive an interstellar war that seems to have lasted forever and raise their child to adulthood. Non-spoiler: the tale is narrated by that child years after the events depicted.

    What raises the series to greatness is its mashup of humanity and wit. Staples’ art creates some incredibly bizarre-looking characters such as The Stalk, a naked giant, and the Sextillion greeters. Vaughn’s writing give these characters heart. Where else can you enjoy the presence of a ghost whose Grade-A snarkiness makes you not weirded out by the fact that you can see her viscera? But my favorite character would have to be Lying Cat, a tiger-sized cat who says only one word, “Lying,” yet manages to be utterly cool whenever she shows up.

    Oh yes, this series is recommended for mature readers. If your intended recipient is weirded out by breastfeeding images (such as that found on the cover) or images of naked male genitalia, you should probably find them something a little less button-pushing.

    Incidentally, for recipients who already got in early on the SAGA bandwagon, the collection of the fourth SAGA storyline just happens to come out Christmas week.

    MS. MARVEL: NO NORMAL—It’s your standard superhero origin story: outsider-ish teenager gains abilities far beyond those of mortals and must learn to use them for humanity’s betterment. The twist writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona is showing how the teenager in question, Kamala Khan, goes through this discovery process. For Kamala is many things, such as a superhero fanfic writer, somebody with a strong moral core, and a Muslim-American living in New Jersey. Seeing this young heroine learn by trial and error that superhero costumes can give you wedgies or that the ability to “enbiggen” (see for yourself to learn what that means) can cause unwanted property damage brings a smile to the face. You don’t have to be a teenager or a Muslim-American or a girl to love this series. You just need a big heart.

    THE FUSE: THE RUSSIA SHIFT–Anthony Johnston and Justin Greenwood blend together two venerable genres in one exciting tale. THE FUSE is a police procedural set aboard a space colony circling Earth. Klem Ristovych is the hard bitten veteran detective who works the homicide beat on The Fuse (the name of the colony). Ralph Dietrich, or Marlene as Klem nicknames him, is Klem’s FOB partner. “The Russia Shift,” the series’ first storyline, both introduces readers to these characters. It’s also a tale that shows how the murders of a couple of Cablers (The Fuse’s version of homeless people) brings in mayoral politics, the charged political past of The Fuse, and even a secret or two that Ristovych and Dietrich hide from each other. It’s gritty and compelling stuff, and I hope there are more tales on the way.

    LAZARUS: BOOK ONE—What would life be like in a future where present-day economic inequality got a thousand times worse? Greg Rucka and Michael Lark answer that question with LAZARUS. In their imagined future, the world’s societies are divided into three classes: the Families (the .000001%), the Serfs (the employees who serve the Families), and the Waste (the unwashed masses scrabbling for survival). Forever Carlyle is a Lazarus, a genetically engineered supersoldier charged with protecting and defending her Family. Yet she begins to slowly learn that the world as she knows it may not be worth protecting. This book collects the first two storylines in the series.

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