Diplomacy Under Pressure: The Curse of Chalion

Some scenes are like a song: Their pacing builds and sings. They’re a pleasure to read, and all the more if they’re about a character I love.

Lupe dy Cazaril (Caz, for convenience and by his preference) arrives home in the first book of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion series, The Curse of Chalion, under inauspicious circumstances. He’s nobility (a “castillar”—a knight), but penniless. He’s a war hero, but one betrayed and sold into servitude. He has powerful enemies waiting for him at home, and a tortured past haunting his steps. He just wants to lie low for a while and recover.

Naturally, it’s not long before he finds himself the primary advisor to the rightful Royina of Chalion, seeking to cut through a web of treachery to restore her to the throne and at the same time end the curse upon her house through intellect, strength of character, and the somewhat dubious assistance of two separate gods.

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Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
Written by Harve Bennett and Jack B. Sowards and Nicholas Meyer (uncredited)
Directed by Nicholas Meyer
Release date: June 4, 1982
Stardate: 8130.3

Captain’s log. Lieutenant Saavik gives a captain’s log, saying the Enterprise is on a training mission to the Gamma Hydra sector near the Neutral Zone between Federation and Klingon space. They receive a distress call from the Kobayashi Maru, which is dead in space after hitting a gravitic mine. They’re in the Neutral Zone, and if the Enterprise moves to rescue them, they’ll be in violation of treaty.

Saavik orders Commander Sulu to go in anyhow. As soon as they are in the Zone, three Klingon attack cruisers show up and surround them. They’re jamming all communications, and the signal from the Maru has gone dead. Sulu tries to evade them, but the Klingons fire on them. Sulu, Commander Uhura, Dr. McCoy, and Captain Spock are all killed, and the ship is damaged beyond repair. Saavik orders all hands to abandon ship.

[Galloping around the cosmos is a game for the young, Doctor…]

Series: Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune: Dune Messiah, Part One

We’re back to reading! Welcome once again to the Dune Reread, where we are getting a jump start on Dune Messiah! The next books run a bit faster, so I will be going through them in bigger chunks—Dune Messiah will probably be about 3-4 parts on a reread. There will be more overall summary rather than in-depth recapping. So for now, let’s dive into the current conditions of House Atreides and their galaxy-wide empire.

Index to the reread can be located here! And don’t forget this is a reread, which means that any and all of these posts will contain spoilers for all of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. If you’re not caught up, keep that in mind.

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Series: Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune

River of Teeth Hippo Mayhem Sweepstakes!

Sarah Gaileys’s River of Teeth is available now from Tor.com Publishing–and to celebrate, we want to send you a copy … and a hippo!

(Not a real hippo. A squeezy stress-relief hippo! This kind fits in the mail much better.)

In the early 20th century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.

Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.

This was a terrible plan.

Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 1:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on May 23rd. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on May 27th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Pull List: Adventure Time with 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank and Misfit City

Between Hydra Cap, Legacy and Generations, the toxic masculinity of Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, DC’s refusal to release timely trades, inadequate marketing for Wonder Woman, and about a million other irritations, I’m in need of a Marvel and DC break. Thankfully, there are plenty of non Big Two options out there, and I’m not just talking about Image and Dark Horse.

I’ve sung the praises of BOOM! Box and Black Mask Studios before, but get ready because I’m about to do it again with 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank and Misfit City. While the former is nearing the end of its miniseries arc, the latter is only just getting started as an ongoing series. Both have one thing in common: The Goonies. Or, more generally, a weirdly funny story about a pack of adventurous kids getting in way over their heads as they take on greedy adults. Either way, best get on the horn with your independent comic book shop or local library and get your orders in.

[“As far back as lunchtime I always wanted to be a Gangster.”]

Expanded Course in the History of Black Science Fiction: Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs

Over a year ago, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination published an essay by me called “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction.” Since then I’ve been asked to write individual monthly essays on each of the 42 works mentioned. This one’s about Les Blancs, Lorraine Hansberry’s last play.

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Pearly White: River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

If you’re a regular Tor.com reader, you’re already familiar with Sarah Gailey and her brilliant Women of Harry Potter series, which received a deserved Hugo nomination for Best Related Work. Gailey also earned her way onto the John W. Campbell Award shortlist, which recognizes the best new voices in science fiction and fantasy. Remarkably, Gailey did so without ever having published anything longer than a short story. One quick look at her resume, though—I recommend starting with “Of Blood and Bronze” (Devilfish Review, 2016) or “Homesick” (Fireside, 2016)—and it’s clear why she’s included alongside other terrific authors like Ada Palmer and Kelly Robson. Gailey’s stories maintain a razor-sharp balance between amusing and emotionally affecting; her characters are interesting and unpredictable; her prose is brisk, her dialogue sharp. Gailey’s debut novella, River of Teeth, has everything that makes these short stories great, with the added benefit of room to breathe.

As Gailey explains in the book’s foreword, “In the early twentieth century, the Congress of our great nation debated a glorious plan to resolve a meat shortage in America. The plan was this: import hippos and raise them in Louisiana’s bayous.” This, of course, never came to pass—however, that didn’t stop Gailey’s imagination from running wild. River of Teeth is set in speculative America where this harebrained plan played out, and now feral hippos prowl the Harriet (a dammed up portion of the Mississippi River). Hired by the federal government to attend to the feral hippo situation, Winslow Remington Houndstooth sets out, Seven Samurai-style, to gather a team of criminals specialists, each with a particular set of skills.

Some spoilers ahead.

[Take a bite]

What’s Your Pick for the Best Science Fiction Film of the 21st Century (So Far)?

Recently Indiewire rounded up their favorites, including thoughtful indies like Moon and Primer, blockbusters like Inception and Arrival, and even a few things that push the limits of the definition of sci-fi—does Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind count? Michel Gondry has created his own sub-genre in much the same way people like Wes Anderson and the Coen Brothers have, so does his use of a few near-future trappings mean that ESotSM can be called SF? What are some of your picks for best science fiction film of the 21st Century?

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Sleeps With Monsters: Intergenerational Female Influences in Arrival and Moana

I’ve been talking a lot about books in this column lately. Pretty much exclusively, in fact. This week I want to make a slight change to our programme—since recently I watched Arrival and Moana back to back, and discovered that they share one surprising trait.

On the surface, neither Arrival nor Moana share many features in common. Arrival is a live-action science fiction film based on a Ted Chiang short story, designed for adults and talking about intimate human themes—loss, communication, strangeness, hope—and big science fiction ones—time, the alien, understanding and language. Moana is an animated Disney fantasia that draws its inspiration from Polynesian island myth and legend, fun for all the family, and its themes are—unusually for many of the Disney films I’ve seen—focused firmly both on coming-of-age and on the preservation or recreation of skills and knowledge from the past.

But both Arrival and Moana share one particular commonality. Family relationships—and the emotional resonance of those relationships—between women of different generations have a deep influence on each film’s main character.

Spoilers ahead.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

The Star Wars: The Last Jedi Cast Makes Their Debut in Vanity Fair

Two years ago, Vanity Fair gave us our first introduction to Rey, Finn, Poe, and the rest of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens cast. Now, the magazine—which has been photographing the stars of Star Wars films since 1999’s The Phantom Menace—reveals a series of portraits of The Last Jedi cast. And, surprising no one, the cast is too awesome for just one cover. The magazine’s latest issue will have four alternate covers, the first time it has put out multiple Star Wars covers.

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Why is Genre Fiction Obsessed with Belisarius?

I once wrote jokingly here that there are only three plots, and they are Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, and Belisarius, because those are the ones everyone keeps on reusing.

There is a conference in Uppsala in Sweden the weekend before the Helsinki Worldcon called “Reception Histories of the Future” which is about the use of Byzantium in science fiction. The moment I heard of it, I immediately started thinking about our obsessive reuse of the story of Belisarius. (I’m going. Lots of other writers are going. If you’re heading to Helsinki, it’s on your way, and you should come too!)

It’s strange that science fiction and fantasy are obsessed with retelling the story of Belisarius, when the mainstream world isn’t particularly interested. Robert Graves wrote a historical novel about him in 1938, Count Belisarius, and there’s Gillian Bradshaw’s The Bearkeeper’s Daughter (1987), but not much else. Whereas in genre, we’ve had the story of Belisarius retold by Guy Gavriel Kay, David Drake (twice) and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and used by L. Sprague de Camp, John M. Ford, Jerry Pournelle, Robert Silverberg, and Isaac Asimov. So what is it about this bit of history that makes everyone from Asimov to Yarbro use it? And how is it that the only place you’re likely to have come across it is SF?

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Let’s Rank All the King Arthur Movies to Find the True Once and Future King

The world of film loves mining halls of folklore and legend for stories, and one of those oft-traveled halls belongs to King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. But which Arthurian movies are the best? Which are emphatically the worst? How do we make those judgements and why? These are not the questions that plague our era, but they sure do bug us from time to time, and so we have decided to rank the lot.

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The Witchwood Crown

Tad Williams’ ground-breaking epic fantasy saga of Osten Ard begins an exciting new cycle with The Witchwood Crown, available June 27th from DAW.

Now, twenty-four years after the conclusion of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad returns to his beloved universe and characters with The Witchwood Crown, the first novel in the long-awaited sequel trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard.

Thirty years have passed since the events of the earlier novels, and the world has reached a critical turning point once again. The realm is threatened by divisive forces, even as old allies are lost, and others are lured down darker paths. Perhaps most terrifying of all, the Norns—the long-vanquished elvish foe—are stirring once again, preparing to reclaim the mortal-ruled lands that once were theirs…

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Wicked Wonders Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a copy of Ellen Klages’s Wicked Wonders, available May 23rd from Tachyon Publications!

The award-winning author of The Green Glass Sea returns with smart and subversive new tales.

A rebellious child identifies with wicked Maleficent instead of Sleeping Beauty. Best friends Anna and Corry share one last morning on Earth. A solitary woman inherits a penny arcade haunted by a beautiful stranger. A prep-school student requires more than luck when playing dice with a faerie. Ladies who lunch—dividing one last bite of dessert—delve into new dimensions of quantum politeness.

Whether on a habitat on Mars or in a boardinghouse in London, discover Ellen Klages’ wicked, wondrous adventures full of wit, empathy, and courage.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on May 22nd. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on May 26th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.