Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune: Dune, Part Eight

The Baron Harkonnen’s plan is coming to fruition this week on the Dune Reread! Which is horrible. But, you know, necessary to the plot and stuff.

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

Binti: Home Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a galley copy of Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti: Home, the sequel to Binti, available January 31st from Publishing!

It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she found friendship in the unlikeliest of places.

And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders.

But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace.

After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?

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 January 17th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on January 21st. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor:, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “The Magicks of Megas-Tu”

“The Magicks of Megas-Tu”
Written by Larry Brody
Directed by Hal Sutherland
Animated Season 1, Episode 8
Production episode 22009
Original air date: October 27, 1973
Stardate: 1254.4

Captain’s log. The Enterprise takes a journey to the center of the galaxy in the hopes of seeing matter being created. A kind of matter/energy whirlwind sucks the Enterprise in. They can’t break free of it, so they try to get to the center of it. They find themselves in a place that Spock describes as being outside of time and space. All systems on board start to fail, including life support.

A creature appears on the ship who looks like popular conceptions of the devil and restores ship’s power. He calls himself Lucien and a friend, expressing glee that humans finally found him. He transports Kirk, Spock, and McCoy off the bridge, leaving a stunned Sulu, Arex, and Uhura behind.

[Gaze upon my countenance…]

Series: Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Barack Obama on The Three-Body Problem and Other Meaningful Books

Barack Obama, avid reader of science fiction and fantasy during his two terms as president, recently sat down with the New York Times’ chief book critic Michiko Kakutani to discuss the impact that books have had on him throughout his lifetime. It started at a young age, he explained: “I loved reading when I was a kid, partly because I was traveling so much, and there were times where I’d be displaced, I’d be the outsider. […] And so the idea of having these worlds that were portable, that were yours, that you could enter into, was appealing to me.”

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The Fortress at the End of Time

Captain Ronaldo Aldo has committed an unforgivable crime. He will ask for forgiveness all the same: from you, from God, even from himself.

Connected by ansible, humanity has spread across galaxies and fought a war against an enemy that remains a mystery. At the edge of human space sits the Citadel—a relic of the war and a listening station for the enemy’s return. For a young Ensign Aldo, fresh from the academy and newly cloned across the ansible line, it’s a prison from which he may never escape.

Deplorable work conditions and deafening silence from the blackness of space have left morale on the station low and tensions high. Aldo’s only hope of transcending his station, and cloning a piece of his soul somewhere new is both his triumph and his terrible crime.

The Fortress at the End of Time is a new science fiction novel from Joe M. McDermott, available now from Publishing.

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Draco Malfoy and the Fight Against Racism

In the wake of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as we wait with bated breath for the moment Harry Potter and the Cursed Child comes to Broadway, I’ve been revisiting the story of Draco Malfoy and pondering how some of the lessons his life provides tend to be overshadowed by the exploits of Harry, Hermione, and Ron.

A quick reading of Draco is that he’s a racist, a white supremacist, and a product of his awful environment. For some people, the analysis of Harry Potter’s nemesis ends there. But I’ve always thought that there was more to the character than just a broad villain. I’ve always seen Draco as both a tragic figure and a character that fans of the Harry Potter books can, and should, learn from. Draco’s character arc is something that is especially important in the times we’re embarking on now.

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Iain M. Banks’ Use of Weapons and an Extreme Sense of Wonder

Most science fiction and fantasy novels have a breaking point past which they would strain suspension of disbelief past bearing. Too many big ideas that don’t quite fit together, too much weirdness to process. Too many boundaries crossed for the fictional world to seem real. Good novels don’t get to that point. Great ones get close without crossing over.

Iain M. Banks’s novels of the Culture don’t actually seem to have that breaking point to begin with. Banks created a universe where the unbelievable and astonishing are part of the world, and suspension of disbelief isn’t needed because believing a constant stream of unbelievable worldbuilding is, in fact, part of the worldbuilding. From giant self-contained, sentient ships with too-whimsical names (the GSV Congenital Optimist) to characters existing in two places at once because cloned doppelgangers are a matter of course to far-out technology and extreme cultures and … actually, a list can’t contain the weirdness and joy of these books.

Use of Weapons isn’t the first of the Culture books I read. (That would be The Player of Games.) But it’s the one that, in Emily Dickinson’s phrasing, took the top of my head off. It’s the one I learned the most from.

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Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

With Blood Upon the Sand

Çeda, now a Blade Maiden in service to the kings of Sharakhai, trains as one of their elite warriors, gleaning secrets even as they send her on covert missions to further their rule. She knows the dark history of the asirim—that hundreds of years ago they were enslaved to the kings against their will—but when she bonds with them as a Maiden, chaining them to her, she feels their pain as if her own. They hunger for release, they demand it, but with the power of the gods compelling them, they find their chains unbreakable.

Çeda could become the champion they’ve been waiting for, but the need to tread carefully has never been greater. After their recent defeat at the hands of the rebel Moonless Host, the kings are hungry for blood, scouring the city in their ruthless quest for revenge. Çeda’s friend Emre and his new allies in the Moonless Host hope to take advantage of the unrest in Sharakhai, despite the danger of opposing the kings and their god-given powers, and the Maidens and their deadly ebon blades.

When Çeda and Emre are drawn into a plot of the blood mage Hamzakiir, they learn a devastating secret that may very well shatter the power of the hated kings. But it may all be undone if Çeda cannot learn to navigate the shifting tides of power in Sharakhai and control the growing anger of the asirim that threatens to overwhelm her…

With Blood Upon the Sand is the second book in Bradley P. Beaulieu’s Song of Shattered Sands epic fantasy trilogy—available February 7th from DAW.

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Sleeps With Monsters: Magical Girl(Friends)

Something happened in the tail end of 2016: I started saying I love you to my friends more often than I had before. There are a lot of things that feel both more precious and more fragile than they once did, to me, and friendship is one of those things.

That makes Isabel Yap’s Hurricane Heels (Book Smugglers Publishing, 2016) hit closer to home, and to hit more powerfully, than it might have otherwise. Hurricane Heels is—I want to call it a mosaic novel, since its constituent parts are so tightly knitted into a whole: a set of five linked novellas or novelettes that are, at heart, about the friendship and love and determination between five young women.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Timeless and Time Travel: Is It Possible?

I’ll admit that I didn’t expect much when I started watching the first half of the season of Timeless. The promos, with their swelling music, seemed a bit hokey and overly dramatic, and I wasn’t sold on the time travel premise. But then I actually sat down with the show, and found that not only was it enjoyable, but that I genuinely liked it. The leads are compelling, the mystery is intriguing, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Long story short, if you haven’t given this show a chance but you like fun, give it a try.

The scientific explanation of time travel in the show gets one sentence from character Connor Mason: “If you get a powerful enough gravitational field, you can actually bend space-time back on itself in a kind of loop, a closed time-like curve that would allow you to cross over to an earlier point.” There are certain rules within the show: only travel to the past is allowed, and only to periods before the time travelers’ births. And the characters have the ability to change the past, but they shouldn’t. That’s what main character and historian Lucy Preston is there to ensure.

The beauty of this show is in its simplicity: the creators and writers simply aren’t interested in digging too deep into the science because, at its core, it’s an adventure show. But I’m here to ruin the fun by asking: Is the time travel in Timeless actually possible?

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6 Books to Tide You Over Until Star Wars: Episode VIII

For most Star Wars fans, there’s one true thing that surrounds us, and binds us. Sure, we may squabble about which movie is the best and argue over who Snoke really is (it’s the angry resurrected ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn, obvs), but we all agree that there’s no such thing as too much Star Wars. But the fact is, only so much Star Wars exists. Granted, when all’s told between movies, TV shows, canon novels, non-canon novels, video games, board games, and comics, there’s a lot of content out there. But as the dust is settling on the box office juggernaut that is Rogue One, a grim reality is taking hold: there’s eleven long months that separate us from our next cinematic Star Wars fix. And if you’ve already read/watched/consumed everything there is to consume, you’re going to need to fill your time with…something.

Well, if you can’t have Star Wars, there’s always the next best thing: Stuff that’s like Star Wars! Here’s six novels that can help tide you over until Episode VIII drops in December.

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Emotional Context. Sherlock: “The Final Problem”

We’ve come to the end of the fourth season of Sherlock, and perhaps the last episode of the show. (For the moment there are no plans to make more Sherlock, as its stars have plenty of other projects on their plates.) So let’s see where “The Final Problem” leaves Sherlock Holmes and John Watson… and also fans of the show, who have been along for the ride since 2010.

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Gingerbread Bricks, Cherry-Eating Cats, and Other Culinary Disasters

Please enjoy this encore post on cooking disasters, originally published June 2016 as part of And Related Subjects.

I’ve been asked if I cook as well as I write about cooking.

It’s a fair question: I’ve been cooking almost as long as I’ve been writing. Writing was something I fell into, much like Alice down the rabbit-hole, when I was fourteen. I sat down one day to write myself a story instead of reading one, and thirty-two pages later—pencil and lined paper tablet—I finished my tale and realized that my predictable world had expanded wildly, enormously, with endlessly diverging and intriguing paths running every which way into an unknown I suddenly knew existed. Having ended one story (which is locked away, guarded by dragons and evil-eyed basilisks, and will never see the light of day if I have anything to say about it), I wanted to start all over again on another.

When or why I decided I needed to inflict culinary disasters on my long-suffering family and others, I don’t remember.

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At the Sign of Triumph Sweepstakes!

So you picked up David Weber’s Off Armageddon Reef for this month’s eBook Club, and now want to keep reading the series? Well, we want to send you a galley copy of At the Sign of Triumph, the ninth Safehold book, available now from Tor Books!

The Church of God Awaiting’s triumph over Charis was inevitable. Despite its prosperity, the Charis was a single, small island realm. It boasted less than two percent of the total population of Safehold. How could it possibly resist total destruction? The Church had every reason to be confident of a swift, crushing victory, an object lesson to other rebels.

But Charis had something far more powerful than simple numbers. It had a king, a crown prince, and a navy prepared to die where they stood in its defense. It had the Brethren of Saint Zherneau, who knew the truth about Safehold’s founding. Who knew that the Church of God Awaiting was a monstrous lie. And it had Merlin Athrawes, last survivor of long-vanished Earth. Merlin, the cybernetic avatar of a woman dead over a thousand years, who was determined to break the Church’s grip upon the human mind and soul.

So after eight years of war, it is not Charis but the Church that stands upon the brink of defeat. But the Church still commands immense resources, and—faced with the unthinkable—it’s decided that it, too, must embrace the forbidden technology which has carried Charis so far.

In the end, it is simple, for only one can survive. The lines are drawn, the navies and armies have been raised, and all of Safehold is poised for the final battle between those who believe in freedom and those who would crush it forever.

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 January 16th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on January 20th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor:, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.