Darkly Dreaming: 5 Essential Reads from Caitlín R. Kiernan

With Caitlín R. Kiernan’s new novella, Agents of Dreamland, available February 28, it seems like the perfect time to look back on the long career of one of dark fantasy’s most acclaimed authors.

To date myself and the author, Kiernan’s distinctive, razor-sharp prose has been thrilling me since about 1995, when I would obsessively refresh the GeoCities site she shared with fellow horror “Furies” Poppy Z. Brite and Christa Faust. I bought her first chapbook, Candles for Elizabeth, in my local Hot Topic. It’s probably the only thing from a ’90s-era Hot Topic that doesn’t embarrass me now.

Born in Dublin, Kiernan spent most of her childhood in Alabama before authoring ten novels, numerous graphic novels, and over two hundred short stories, flash pieces, and novellas. Her work combines a heavy dose of Southern gothic tradition with Lovecraftian otherworldliness and an appreciation for the scientific and the erotic in equal measure.

These five choices were very difficult to narrow down—particularly when there are so many short story collections to choose from—and are presented in order by publication date.

[Trilobites, imps, and monster-slayers…]

Realism, Honesty, and Joy: Remembering Bill Paxton

Bill Paxton was genre cinema’s Jimmy Stewart: a performer who simply didn’t know how to turn in bad work. If you wanted a character that would show up, react honestly, and push the movie along, you got Paxton. It’s no accident his career involves on-screen confrontations with the Xenomorphs, Predators, and a Terminator. It’s also no accident that he was so prolific—Paxton’s everyman quality meant he was a solid fit anywhere in a cast list. You wanted a villain? You got Paxton. You wanted a well meaning but doomed second hero? Paxton. Good old boy who was neither old nor especially good? Paxton. Patriarch tortured by the multiple demands of his job, wives, political career and church? Paxton. Blue-haired punk? Golf-obsessed detective? Loud-mouthed marine? You name it, Bill Paxton played it, and played it better than anyone else ever could.

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Spaceships and Magic: Andre Norton’s Moon of Three Rings

I still remember the first time I saw Andre Norton’s Moon of Three Rings. It was sitting on the New Releases shelf at the Carnegie library in the little town in Maine where we spent our summers. The summer was nearly over, and the family was moving from an apartment to a house on a lake twenty miles away. I was also changing schools.

It was a great deal of change in a small span of time. I was twelve, which is the age of wonder in any case, and here was a book with the most intriguing cover: a person in a cloak, carrying a wand, escorted by a strange-looking, lionlike, wolflike, but distinctly alien animal.

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See Cory Doctorow and Edward Snowden Discuss Walkaway at NYPL!

Cory Doctorow will be touring 20 US cities (plus a few spots in Canada and the UK) for his new book, Walkaway! While we don’t have the full schedule yet, we do want to let you know that for his stop in New York City, he’ll be interviewed at the New York Public Library by none other than Edward Snowden.

Walkaway will be available in April 2017 from Tor Books. The novel is an epic tale of revolution, love, post-scarcity, and the end of death. In this multi-generation SF thriller, described by Doctorow as “a utopian disaster novel,” he envisions a near-future in which technological advancements allow humans to simply walk away from oppressive economic and authority systems.

The event will be held on May 3rd at New York Public Library—tickets are $10-$25, and you can find them here! And we’ll be posting about the full tour as soon as we have more details.

[via BoingBoing!]

Science vs. The Expanse: Is It Possible to Colonize Our Solar System?

The hit Syfy Channel show The Expanse, based on the incredible series beginning with Leviathan Wakes by writing team James S. A. Corey, presents a bold and dark future for the human race. Humans have colonized our solar system, though we haven’t ventured beyond it. We have research bases on moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus; Mars, the Moon, and dwarf planet Ceres have larger permanent settlements.

The TV series doesn’t focus overwhelmingly on science (though all the technology depicted within it is based on real science), and that’s to its benefit: there’s a lot of story to cover in a limited amount of time. (The authors of the books do focus a bit more on science in the novels.) Let’s look at the overall premise of the show, then. How likely is it that we will colonize our own solar system? Will we establish permanent colonies on the Moon and Mars? What will happen to the humans who do leave the Earth?

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Chalk

Andrew Waggoner has always hung around with his fellow losers at school, desperately hoping each day that the school bullies—led by Drake—will pass him by in search of other prey. But one day they force him into the woods, and the bullying escalates into something more; something unforgivable; something unthinkable.

Broken, both physically and emotionally, something dies in Waggoner, and something else is born in its place.

In the hills of the West Country a chalk horse stands vigil over a site of ancient power, and there Waggoner finds in himself a reflection of rage and vengeance, a power and persona to topple those who would bring him low.

Paul Cornell plumbs the depths of magic and despair in Chalk, a brutal exploration of bullying in Margaret Thatcher’s England—available March 21st from Tor.com Publishing. Read an excerpt below, along with a note from Cornell about the personal and intense nature of the story.

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Mad Max: Fury Road Would Have Been a Silent Masterpiece

Mash-up wizard Peter Stults has done it again! Bask in the rad-ness of this silent film-era poster for Mad Max: Fury Road. We love Buster Keaton as Max (doing all of his own stunts, obviously), Passion of Joan of Arc‘s Falconetti as Furiosa, and Doctor Mabuse himself, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, as Immortan Joe. Plus we assume that Lon Chaney is using one of his Thousand Faces to become Nux?

The only thing missing will be the Doof Warrior, since, well, silent film. But perhaps movie palaces can host live flame-throwing guitar performances when they screen the film?

V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic Is Changing Direction, Now Headed to the Big Screen!

Last February we reported that V.E. Schwab’s alternate-universe fantasy novel A Darker Shade of Magic was coming to television courtesy of Gerard Butler’s production company G-BASE. Well today we’re excited to update that information: A Darker Shade of Magic will now be a film! According to The Hollywood Reporter, Butler will produce along with Alan Siegel, Danielle Robinson, and Neal Moritz. While Schwab is no longer writing the script, she will be producing as well.

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Holy Rewatch Batman! “Louie’s Lethal Lilac Time”

“Louie’s Lethal Lilac Time”
Written by Charles Hoffman
Directed by Sam Strangis
Season 3, Episode 18
Production code 1718
Original air date: January 11, 1968

The Bat-signal: Dick is holding a party for his friends at Bruce’s beach house in Ambergris Bay. Bruce has asked Barbara to chaperone with him. Dick and his friends find a huge chunk of ambergris, but before they can go try to find more, Louie the Lilac and two of his thugs show up to take the ambergris—and also to kidnap Bruce and Dick.

This is kind of a problem, insofar as Gordon’s call on the bat-phone is met with Alfred reluctantly telling him that Batman and Robin are out of town and unreachable.

[I’m a sucker for secret closets!]

Series: Holy Rewatch Batman!

Cold Counsel

Slud of the Blood Claw Clan, Bringer of Troubles, was born at the heart of the worst storm the mountain had ever seen. Slud’s father, chief of the clan, was changed by his son’s presence. For the first time since the age of the giants, he rallied the remaining trolls under one banner and marched to war taking back the mountain from the goblin clans.

However, the long-lived elves remembered the brutal wars of the last age, and did not welcome the return of these lesser-giants to martial power. Twenty thousand elves marched on the mountain intent on genocide. They eradicated the entire troll species—save two.

Aunt Agnes, an old witch from the Iron Wood, carried Slud away before the elves could find them. Their existence remained hidden for decades, and in that time, Agnes molded Slud to become her instrument of revenge.

Chris Sharp’s new epic fantasy Cold Counsel is available from Tor.com Publishing.

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Let’s Join a Cult! The Brainwashing Pulps of the ’70s and ’80s

Welcome to Freaky Fridays. You have come home. We’ve been waiting for you. Just relax, stop thinking, and read the sacred out-of-print paperbacks that allow us to understand the secret wisdom of the universe. We love you. Love us. There is no self. There is only us. Do not resist. Just relax. Become love with us.

Hey everyone, let’s join a cult! All the kids are doing it, and if you can give me one good reason not to do it, then I’ll give you an apple pie. Cults are fun! Cults are crazy! Cults can help you get ahead in this world! Cults actually run this world! Cults provide instant friends for the marginalized, the unwanted, and the short. I can’t think of a single problem that a cult couldn’t solve if they all put on their robes and worked together. So why wouldn’t you join one? You are actually holding yourself back and limiting your life every minute you are not in a cult.

The problem is, with so many cults to choose from, how do you narrow it down to just one? Cults aren’t like Better Business Bureaus. You can’t join two or three at a time. You have to pick one and commit. So how do you find the right cult for you? Allow Freaky Friday to help.

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Malazan Reread of the Fallen: Forge of Darkness, Chapter One

Welcome back to the Malazan Reread of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda, and finally comments from Tor.com readers. Today we’re Forge of Darkness, Chapter One.

A fair warning before we get started: We’ll be discussing both novel and whole-series themes, narrative arcs that run across the entire series, and foreshadowing, but the summary of events will be free of major spoilers and we’re going to try keeping the reader comments the same. A spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.

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Series: Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Shared Worlds is Now Open for Registration!

Shared Worlds, a world-building summer camp for kids, is now open for registration. The program is open to rising 8th-12th graders, and will take place from July 16th-29th at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Registration will be open until April 1st so be sure to register soon!

The students work in small groups with an experienced “world-building coordinator” to design and build a world, spending a week building their worlds from the ground up: geography, population, religion and philosophy, legal systems—everything you’d need for a functional world. The second week is spent writing stories that can only occur in the worlds they’ve created. The program culminates in individual sessions between the students and the guest authors so the students get personalized feedback on their work. Finally, the students’ stories are published in the annual program anthology.

2017 marks the 10th Anniversary of Shared Worlds! Each year, Co-director Jeff VanderMeer and Editor-in-Residence Ann VanderMeer are joined by a rotating guest faculty, and this year’s will include Gwenda Bond, Tobias S. Buckell, N.K. Jemisin, Kathe Koja, Terra Elan McVoy, Sofia Samatar, and Ekaterina Sedia, along with experts in history, science, and philosophy.

Check out Shared Worlds’ site to learn more, see this year’s guest authors, and register for the program!

An Enthusiastic Carnival of Horrors: Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show

When you say “weird Western”, we generally think of Joe Lansdale, Jonah Hex, or maybe a Johnny Depp box-office disaster. But while “weird” comes in all kinds of flavors, from horror and occult to sci-fi- and fantasy, “Western” somehow always paints the same mental picture: an Arizona aesthetic as dry and stark as the backdrop of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.

Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show aims to change that. In Eric Fischl’s debut novel, a rainy afternoon in 1878 Oregon sets the stage for a snake-oil salesman whose life behind the show-curtains is becoming ever more horrifying, thanks to the sinister contents of the patent-medicine bottles he’s forced to dispense to the desperate and the gullible. The setting is marvelously rendered right from the first page:

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Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing