The Beauty of Physical Writing

In this ongoing series, we ask SF/F authors to describe a specialty in their lives that has nothing (or very little) to do with writing. Join us as we discover what draws authors to their various hobbies, how they fit into their daily lives, and how and they inform the author’s literary identity!

I have a history of not being picky about my writing implements, which makes it all the more hilarious that I got sucked into the rabbit’s hole that is fountain pens. I’ve used everything from the ubiquitous Monami ballpoints that you find in South Korea to cruddy No. 2 pencils (hello, Scantron!) to glitter gel pens. Thumbnail sketches and math problems take on a certain glow when you do them in glitter gel pen.

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Enchantment and Distrust: Marie-Jeanne L’Heritier’s The Discreet Princess

It perhaps says something that one of the most remarkable aspects of the life of Mademoiselle Marie-Jeanne L’Heritier de Villandon (1664-1734), at least on the surface, was just how unremarkable it was. While most of her fellow French salon writers of fairy tales and novels alike were busy conducting scandalous affairs, travelling throughout Europe, dabbling in intrigue, entering and escaping dire marriages, and finding themselves exiled from the court of the none-too-tolerant Louis XIV, and often Paris itself, L’Heritier lived a comparatively quiet and, apparently, chaste life—if one that still had a touch of magic.

The niece of fairy tale writer Charles Perrault, daughter of a historian, and sister of a poet, she met and befriended several fairy tale writers in the salons of Paris, and was inspired to write tales of her own. Her talent and erudition eventually earned her a patron, the wealthy Marie d’Orleans-Longueville, Duchess of Nemours, which eventually turned into a small annuity after the Duchess’ death. Equally important was a friendship with the formidable and controversial Madeleine de Scudery, these days renowned as the probable writer of Artamene ou le Grand Cyrus, one of the longest novels ever published, but at the time noted for her scholarship and fierce defense of women’s education. De Scudery not only befriended the considerably younger woman (De Scudery was born in 1607) but left the fairy tale writer her salon at her death in 1701.

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“The Northern Thing”: Five Books Inspired by Norse Sagas

In 1966, at a gathering of J.R.R. Tolkien fans in New York City, the poet W.H. Auden—once a student of the Professor’s at Oxford—famously stated: “Tolkien is fascinated with the whole Northern thing.” In describing Tolkien thus, Auden coined a phrase that encompassed more than mere geographical direction. It was, according to the late Steve Tompkins, himself a formidable essayist and scholar of Tolkien’s work, “the mythology, many-legended history, and darkness-defying worldview of the ancient Germanic and Norse peoples.” This dynamic was woven into the cultural DNA of the Professor’s beloved Anglo-Saxons, as well. All the peoples of the north held the same basic belief: that Fate was inexorable, that the good fight must be fought, and that victory—however glorious—was transient. In the end the monsters would win, and the long twilight of the north would give way to an eternal darkness where even the gods were doomed.

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Series: Five Books About…

Spaceballs Brakes for Nobody

Thank you for pressing the self-destruct button, Tor.com. This website will self-destruct in two minutes! Okay, not really. But maybe you should read this post at ludicrous speed, just in case.

That’s right: today’s Movie Rewatch of Great Nostalgia is one of the most parodiest of all sci-fi film parodies: 1987’s Spaceballs! Whoo!

(I apologize in advance, by the way, for the sheer number of gifs under the cut. But I just couldn’t help myself!)

Previous entries can be found here. Please note that as with all films covered on the Nostalgia Rewatch, this post will be rife with spoilers for the film.

And now, the post!

[Nice dissolve!]

Series: Movie Rewatch of Great Nostalgia

Warbreaker Reread: Chapters 44, 45 and 46

Welcome back to the Warbreaker reread! Last week, Lightsong sent his newly-acquired Lifeless squirrel on a successful mission, and Vivenna was at last brought up out of the gutters again. This week, Siri capitulates, Lightsong dreams, and Vivenna learns.

This reread will contain spoilers for all of Warbreaker and any other Cosmere book that becomes relevant to the discussion. This is particularly likely to include Words of Radiance, due to certain crossover characters. The index for this reread can be found here. Click on through to join the discussion!

[You aren’t what I expected.]

Series: Warbreaker Reread

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers are Pitching Book Agents with #SFFPit on Twitter

Do you have a science fiction or fantasy book burning a hole in your laptop? Today might be the day you find it a home! Twitter is hosting #SFFPit today, so if you have a finished manuscript, you can craft a 140-character pitch, tag your tweet with a descriptor like #FA (Fantasy), #PA (Post-apocalyptic SF), or #WW (Weird West) and send it out into the world! The rules are simple: if a literary agent likes your pitch, you can follow their instructions to follow up with a formal query. If you want to support a pitch, you can retweet it, but don’t like it—only agents are supposed to like, and you don’t want to clutter another writer’s notifications. And remember, only pitch if you have a completed manuscript!

Click through for some samples!

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Women of Harry Potter: Hermione Granger is More than a Sidekick

Harry is the hero.

Right?

He’s the guy the story is all about, after all. He’s the Boy Who Lived. He has the scar and the prophecy. He has the sidekicks and the invisibility cloak. He has the mentor. He has the tragic backstory. He faces down the villain.

Harry is the hero. It’s his face on the covers of the books. They’re called Harry Potter and the… for a reason.

Right?

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My Muse is a Rat: 10 Years On, Ratatouille Is Still Inspiring

When I went to see Ratatouille in 2007, I was trapped in a terrible job. I was exhausted all the time, I felt completely uninspired, and spent a sickening amount of energy questioning myself, beating myself up, hating every decision I’d made that led me to that moment in my life, and creating a vomitous feedback loop of self-loathing. When I went to the movie with friends, I was paying for two hours of forgetfulness. Two hours to stop thinking about my life, and lose myself in a cute Pixar story. I remember hoping I liked the short.

And then the film started, and I didn’t get forgetfulness—I got a much-needed slap in the face.

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Octavia Butler Will Change the Way You Look at Genre Fiction

The first Octavia Butler novel I ever read was Fledgling, and it was a revelation. While I had been taught by early exposure to Ursula Le Guin that genre fiction could be political, could comment on social and cultural morés, I never expected that someone would use vampires to discuss bigotry, racism, and slavery. It’s been almost a decade since I read it, but I doubt I’ll ever forget that sense of wonder.

And that, more than anything else, is why Butler ranks as one of my all-time favorites. Of course, her accomplishments are many—this is a woman who conquered both dyslexia and prejudice to become an award-winning writer and a MacArthur Fellow. Kindred alone is enough to put her in the ranks of influential sci-fi writers. But I am a lifelong genre fan and a somewhat-jaded reader, and I’ve read a lot of good books and many great ones too. So when I read, I’m looking for a return to that moment we’ve all felt, in which an author does something so original, so creative, so truly surprising, that it feels like your mind has been blown wide open. Octavia Butler’s books create that moment, time and again.

For the first U.S. World Book Night, I chose to hand out Kindred. There’s nothing simple about trying to convince strangers first, that you’re not trying to give them religious materials, and second, that they should take this sci-fi novel from you. And believe me, I dearly wanted to say, “Have you accepted Octavia Butler as your personal reading savior?” but wiser heads convinced me this was a bad idea. So instead, I often found myself babbling. “It’s not just a time travel novel,” I told people. “It’s a book that shows how you can use science fiction to talk about politics and society.” “It’s amazing. It will change the way you look at genre fiction.” “She’s the most famous female African-American sci-fi writer!”

I said all those things because they were true, but mostly because “It will astonish you,” doesn’t seem like enough of a pitch. But truthfully, that’s the highest praise I can give: Octavia Butler will astonish you.

This article was originally published June 22, 2013 on Tor.com.

Series: On This Day

Killing is My Business

Another golden morning in a seedy town, and a new memory tape and assignment for intrepid PI-turned-hitman—and last robot left in working order—Raymond Electromatic. But his skills may be rustier than he remembered in Killing Is My Business, the latest in Adam Christopher’s robot noir oeuvre, available July 25th from Tor Books.

Read chapter 2 below, or head back to the beginning with chapter 1 here, along with an excerpt from Ray Electromatic’s novella-length adventure, Standard Hollywood Depravity.

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

We come to the final part of our Dune Messiah Reread. Now we must deal with the consequences of this these machinations, which happens to be… twins? Of course twins. It’s always twins.

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

How Not to Handle Rejection Letters: M.R. James’s “Casting the Runes”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at M. R. James’s “Casting the Runes,” first published in 1911 in his More Ghost Stories collection. Spoilers ahead.

[“Dear Sir, I am requested by the Council of the ___ Association to return to you the draft of a paper on The Truth of Alchemy…”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Dear God, Who Aren’t in Heaven: The Management Style of the Supreme Beings by Tom Holt

The easily-offended will be offended easily by Tom Holt’s new novel, a madcap Miracle on 34th Street in which religion in particular gets a ribbing, but readers with less delicate sensibilities should be ready to romp, because The Management Style of the Supreme Beings is a whole bunch of fun from word one. And it’s more than a simple send-up: it also stands as a sublimely ridiculous examination of morality in the modern era.

God, the thing begins, is getting on. “Fact is […] I feel old,” He says to his dearly beloved son as they fish for the same Sinderaan species that “had split the atom and proved the existence of the Higgs boson when Earth was still entirely inhabited by plankton.” An age or an instant later, as the five-dimensional fish nibble and divine drinks are sipped, the Big Guy admits that He thinks it might be time to step aside—as manager of the planet, naturally.

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Who Should Direct the Han Solo Spin-Off?

UPDATE: Ron Howard will be popping the clutch and politely requesting that everyone eat his dust as he directs the Han Solo movie! However, there are still more spin-offs on the horizon, and we think any of these fine directorial choices could give us a killer Boba Fett biopic.

Last night the news broke that the directing team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller have departed the Han Solo spin-off movie. A new director has yet to be announced, but after a spirited discussion with my co-workers, I’ve got a few potentially polarizing suggestions for a fresh take on the galaxy far, far away…

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