AISFP 171 — Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

ROGUES OF THE BLACK FURY! When a band of shadowy fanatics abducts Javin Wollstone’s little sister, Bella, from his care, his only hope to bring her home is turning to a hard-bitten band of special warriors, the Black Furies, led by Commander Rusk. Javin follows Rusk and his men through a maze of political intrigues, religious fanaticism, and centuries of distrust. Little do they know that little Bella Wollstone could be the spark that sets off a war of Armageddon. The investigation unfolds into a frantic chase that leads Javin, Rusk, and the Black Furies across trackless, pirate-infested seas into the ancient heart of Fartha, the religion-steeped land of prophets and priest-kings. Using stealth, guile, and sheer audacity, the Furies fling themselves into the teeth of the serpent, trying to snatch Bella back before she is swallowed forever. Javin finds himself torn between his genteel, noble upbringing and the raw, brutal necessity of what he must do to save her life. And after all of their trials, neither Javin nor Bella will ever be the same

DARK VICTORY! Magda Lazarus was a reluctant witch until the dire threat of Nazi Germany convinced her to assume the mantle of her family’s ancient powers. But though this young, beautiful Jewish woman has fought off Hitler’s SS werewolves and the demon who would rule through the Führer, she has been unable to prevent the outbreak of World War II. As long as Magda can summon spirits, there is still a chance to save people from the dire threat of the Holocaust. Her family’s guardian angel, Raziel, stands beside her in the battle against the human and supernatural forces of evil arrayed against her people and all of Europe. In Michele Lang’s Dark Victory, as the Nazis prepare to invade Poland, Magda and her beloved Raziel marshal their own army, a supernatural force that will battle Hitler’s minions to the death…or beyond.

Buy ROGUES OF THE BLACK FURY by Travis Heermann and DARK VICTORY by Michele Lang today, and tell them AISFP sent you!


  • The crew discusses the tragic shooting in Colorado and questions what role artists and creators have in inspiring or encouraging acts of violence. We would love to hear your opinion on this topic, which is large and difficult to approach. We do our best.
  • Brent talks about the Campbell Conference which hosts the Campbell and Sturgeon awards and launches a new online zine Ad Astra.
  • Sharon Lee and Steve Miller chatted with Brent at ConQuest. They discuss recent, big news that all 15 books in the Liaden Universe® will be released at Audible, other upcoming projects — including more Liaden books — and boxed wine. The husband and wife writing duo also talk about how loyal fans helped revive their writing careers.
  • In case you missed it, also take a look at Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s interview with the couple prior to the convention. Sharon provides some tremendous advice for writing (and living).


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  1. Geoffrey Stokker says

    Hey guys

    Great episode. My thoughts go out to the victims and all affected by the shooting.

    I was looking for the link to that Ad Aspra article (not sure about the spelling).

  2. Geoffrey …

    Thanks for the feedback and your thoughts about those affected by the Aurora shooting. I’ve updated the show notes to include information about the Campbell Conference, but you can find the specific critical article I mention at

  3. Two true stories.

    First, in the 1920s, Cecil B. DeMille did a biblical movie, silent of course. It featured some dancing girls. Someone who saw the movie decided that all women were evil, and started killing them

    Second, when Robert Bloch was writing Psycho, he had a scene in which Norman Bates was thinking of climbing up a tower with a rifle and shooting people at random. He cut it before publication in 1959. When Charles Whitman did snipe people at the Univ. of Tex. in 1966, Bloch was glad as hell he’d cut the scene, because he knew he hadn’t suggested it to the nutcase.

    The point is, authors just can’t predict the effects of their work.

  4. Kimberly L. Robinson says

    I think that artists of all types have to free to express themselves as they choose. Any society that tries to curtail those freedoms will quickly slide into totalitarianism. Nazi Germany practiced such repression in the past and China is, in the present, trying to silence dissident artists like Ai Weiwei.

    Having said that, I also think that, while artists must be free to make creative choices as they see fit, it beehoves them to be thoughtful about those choices. They are not, after all, member of some protected class that is removed from society. They are part of society. So, while they are, and should be, free to write, draw, and make films about whatever they want, they should also keep in mind that it could have been their kid being shot at in that Colorado theatre. Or sister. Or husband. Or friend.

    The larger, perhaps more abstract question is whether any artist can pull something from him or herself that isn’t there. Meaning, a person who is full of darkness (by which I do *not* mean homicidal leanings) is not really going to be capable of expressing light, bright, pure things no matter how hard they try. Art is the expression of the inner man or woman.

    I remember, years ago, a movie reviewer commenting on the performance and general career of a certain comedienne and actress, who I will leave nameless. He said that every time she tried to be funny, all he got from her was pure rage. Looking back, I think the actress herself would probably admit that critic was right. She was not living a happy life during those years and not being honest about herself. And, guess what? All that baggage came through even when she was trying to give a light-hearted performance.

    It is probably fair to say that popular culture pushes forward the boundaries and leads our society somewhat, but it’s only, at the most amplifying what is already there. We don’t need to question artists alone, we all need to ask ourselves why we have turned into such dark-mind creatures. And, since the next step in this slippery slope is usually complete nihilism, I think, as a society, we’d better ask and answer the question sooner rather than later.

  5. Truth is, we’re all mixed bags. No one is pure “good” or “evil.” When we consume art that touches on dark topics, it facilitates people learning about themselves. You can watch The Dark Knight and see Bruce Wayne’s slippery slope, see him pushing the boundaries, the gray areas, until he and we wonder where the line is between right and wrong. And then we can think about those things and decide for ourselves where that line is for us. We can have those internal debates without having to be in his situation, we can question safely.

    There are always going to be people who, for whatever reason, decide to hurt other people. We can’t stop that, as a phenomenon. We can only try to contain the individuals.

    History is full of darkness–censoring art won’t change that. What art allows us to do is attack the darkness of history (and current life) from new angles. This is especially true in speculative fiction. You can explore the futility of war by using alien species instead of other countries. You can explore racism or political issues by employing animals instead of people, and you can do so without all the emotional baggage that actual history and politics and current events bring with them. Giving up all that just in case some crazy nut takes it the wrong way? Bad trade, in my opinion.

    And that’s not even counting the catharsis from experiencing dark art. Some of us really need the outlet.

    On a different subject, and touching on something Shaun said, cuss words or whatever you want to call them have never made sense to me. Why is it okay to say crap, poo, poop, and feces, but not the s-word? They all mean the exact same thing, both literally and figuratively. (Not that many people use “feces” figuratively, but I have heard it.) “Screw” also comes to mind, although it lacks the literal punch of the scatlogical examples. Words only have power because they convey meaning. If the meaning is EXACTLY the same, why does the word choice matter? Why is one way of saying the same sentiment more polite than another? I honestly don’t understand it.

  6. I’m glad Mercy Loomis mentioned that spec fiction offered a safe place to explore new ideas and concepts. Fantasy is a great genre because it strips off preconceptions and emotional baggage, introducing the reader to new environs, new outlooks, and new experiences. Also, an action scene with swords and spellcraft I doubt will ever lead to going postal in the real world. That said, if every fantasy book ends in a war—even one no one wants as was the case in LoTR—it may support the idea that war, fighting, and brutality is inevitable. It may further the acceptance of the war, and I’m not sure that’s a healthy viewpoint for the 21st century.

    I would like to read more stories that do not resolve with bloodshed, but I admit it is difficult. Killing all the bad guys off feels so satisfying, a clear-cut ending and removal of the threat. The credits. However, we should know that bloodshed often brings more retribution and hatred, sewing seeds for future war.

  7. James Clark says

    I thought this episode was great and the discussions about the Aurora shootings (while necessarily quite general and high level) were important. I think the best quality they had was that there was no easy answer.

    In that vein, please consider this post a comment wrapped around a question.

    It is often said that there is nothing new under the sun; this is an argument oft used with regards to the writing of genre fiction. I think it is reasonable then, to say that no matter what a work of art contains in terms of disturbing material, the only way this could happen is if there is some parallel that can already be made with real life. Even the most creative authors in the most horrific genres only tend to extrapolate from ideas already in circulation.

    This individual in this instance probably has a much closer relationship, in terms of his deeds, with the Columbine shooters than anything shown in a Batman film; I’m not saying that this is the case, it’s just one of several real world incidents that *could* be a source of dark inspiration for the man.

    In situations like these the core of any resulting artistic introspection IMO should be the search for the truth of the issues you portray; the duty is to make sure that the violence in your works is not gratuitous or pornographic or superfluous in nature. That when violence (social, physical or mental) is portrayed, the consequences are shown as well, and honestly too.

  8. I found two things today that reminded me of this discussion. The 7th episode of Writing Excuses was on the subject of villains and Dan Wells said this in the comments on the blog:

    “I do think, absolutely, that anti-heroes can desensitize audiences. When we see “bad” people cast in “good” roles we start to get confused, and then we end up praising or even rooting for people who are in fact quite despicable. Hannibal Lecter is a great example: in the early books he is a villain, through and through, but he does good things to help the hero. He was a fantastic character with fascinating motivations and he became very popular, to the point that the last two books in the series have been solely about him. Granted, one of the main things that interests us is his capacity for making “noble” decisions to help Clarice, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a horrible person with evil goals and evil methods–and yet we cheer for him and always want him to win.”

    And this a Cracked article about how movies and other entertainment influence us. It’s a bit long, but pretty interesting and it made me think of this discussion. Here’s the conclusion:

    “So, yes, for the [bleeping] love of God, movies matter. TV shows matter. Novels matter. They shape the lens through which you see the world. The very fact that you don’t think they matter, that even right now you’re still resisting the idea, is what makes all of this so dangerous to you — you watch movies so you can turn off your brain and let your guard down. But while your guard is down, you’re letting them jack directly into that part of your brain that creates your mythology. If you think about it, it’s an awesome responsibility on the part of the storyteller. And you’re comfortable handing that responsibility over to Michael Bay.”

    Read more: 5 Ways You Don’t Realize Movies Are Controlling Your Brain |

    I guess I still find myself feeling very uncertain about this topic, but I do have a nagging sense that artists can’t take themselves out of the realm of responsibility completely. Our stories influence people. But that’s something for each of us to search our souls about.

  9. I very much agree with what you all said on the show about the Aurora shootings. In the end the artist is not responsible for anyone else’s behaviour except his or her own. The grave danger of making the art the whipping boy is that censorship and other constraints on freedom could be applied. Remember the debate about Charles Manson and The Beatles song, Helter Skelter? And take a look at the consequences of censorship: Adolph Hitler’s regime and Communism both used heavy censorship as a form of controlling the population. In much the same way that any form of fundamentalism, political religious or otherwise, does. And the perpetrators of some of these crimes do crave attention in many cases, which is what the media hands to them on a plate.

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