The Unlikely Philosophy of Joe Versus the Volcano

Please enjoy this repost of an article that originally ran on April 12, 2016. 

At the dawn of the ’90s, a film was released that was so quirky, so weird, and so darkly philosophical that people who turned up expecting a typical romantic comedy were left confused and dismayed. That film was Joe Versus the Volcano, and it is a near-masterpiece of cinema.

There are a number of ways one could approach Joe Versus the Volcano. You could look at it in terms of writer and director John Patrick Shanley’s career, or Tom Hanks’. You could analyze the film’s recurring duck and lightning imagery. You could look at it as a self-help text, or apply Campbell’s Hero Arc to it. I’m going to try to look at it a little differently. JVtV is actually an examination of morality, death, and more particularly the preparation for death that most people in the West do their best to avoid. The film celebrates and then subverts movie clichés to create a pointed commentary on what people value, and what they choose to ignore. Plus it’s also really funny!

[May you live to be a thousand years old.]

Passing for Human: Nowhere Near You by Leah Thomas

Leah Thomas’ blunderkinder are back, and they are as impossible and miraculous as ever. Ollie and Moritz forged an unbreakable bond in Because You’ll Never Meet Me, exchanging letters from across the globe. Ollie’s allergy to electricity means he’ll never see Moritz—equipped with a pacemaker and a love of EDM to boot—in person. Or, at least, not yet. Nowhere Near You, the second installment of Thomas’ as-yet-unnamed-Blunderkinder series, begins with Ollie’s greatest adventure so far: leaving his little house in the woods and venturing into the electric horizon of the open road.

Ollie doesn’t just leave home in a rubber suit for kicks, though. He wants to find other weirdos like him and Moritz, to hear their stories, and to make connections the likes of which a power line could never dream. Moritz, on the other hand, has enough to contend with in his own story. As if a new school and a new romance weren’t tricky enough, his memories of the human experimentation that produced him and Ollie are heavy and harrowing. At odds, as always, in both tone and timing, Moritz and Ollie write one another into their lives. Propelled by their love for one another and for the terrifying new worlds that they’re exploring, the two friends are drawn closer together even as they’re kept inexorably apart.

If Because You’ll Never Meet Me broke your heart and put it back together again, get ready for Nowhere Near You to put it through a blender.

[Read more]

Finding the Right Book at the Right Time

Please enjoy this encore post from April 2016.

Sometimes a book comes into your life at just the right moment. There’s something in it that speaks to your specific place in space and time, like the heavens aligning for an eclipse.

I spent my 16th year as an exchange student in France, living with a French family, attending a French school, and being completely immersed in the language—which I barely spoke a word of when I arrived. Even though I was an obsessive reader, I left my books at home. The whole point, I’d reasoned, was to forsake English for a year while I learned a different language. I rapidly realized my mistake—I was forlorn without books that I could understand.

So I wrote a letter to my Great Aunt Joan. In my reading life, my Aunt Joan was the Gandalf to my Frodo, the Merlin to my Arthur. She was responsible for most of the great literary loves of my childhood: the Moomins, Oz, the Dark is Rising series—all of them came from her. I wrote to her and I told her how forsaken I felt without any books that spoke to my heart.

[Read more]

The Joy of Being a Nerd: What Real Genius Reminds Us About Geek Culture

It’s interesting to me that Revenge of the Nerds, while still full up of the nostalgia that the 80s lends us, is lately being repositioned in the zeitgeist. What was viewed for many years as a bit of harmless fun that waved the banner for nerds everywhere is finally being called out for exactly what it is; an Us vs Them revenge fest that never lets go of racism or misogyny, and damages the image of geek culture more than it applauds for it. That shouldn’t be surprising—RotN was always just a frat house comedy with a thin nerdy gloss applied to it. And that’s fine with me, because that was never my go-to movie for feeling the geeky solidarity.

No, my friends. That movie was Real Genius.

[Read more]

Announcing the 2016 Nebula Awards Nominees

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America are pleased to announce the 2016 Nebula Awards nominees (to be presented in 2017), for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the nominees for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.

The winners will be announced at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s 51st Annual Nebula Conference in Pittsburgh, PA, which takes place from Thursday, May 18th through Sunday, May 21st at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center.

[Read more]

The SFF Equine: Troublesome Tropes About Horses

Just about everybody knows what a horse is. Equus caballus. Odd-toed ungulate. Large herd animal. Prey animal. War machine. Transportation. Companion animal. Sports equipment. Racing vehicle. Semi-mythical beast. Not nearly as many people know what a horse is not. The horse in song and story, not to mention in film, sometimes bears only a tangential resemblance to the animal on the hoof.

We’re firm believers in positive thinking here—believe me, when you work around horses, negativity can get you splatted in three seconds flat—but sometimes it’s useful to talk about the ways in which the equine demographic is misrepresented or misunderstood in popular culture. Here we go, therefore, with a brief roundup of what the horse is not, as a pointer toward what he really is. (And as always, dear readers, please add your own experiences in the comments.)

[A horse is not…]

Roshani Chokshi Prize Pack Sweepstakes!

Roshani Chokshi’s A Crown of Wishes is available March 28th from St. Martin’s Griffin–and we want to send you a galley copy of it, along with a copy of her first book, The Star-Touched Queen!

In A Crown of Wishes, Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes – a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

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 10:30 AM Eastern Time (ET) on February 20th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on February 24th. 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.

Ten Authors on the ‘Hard’ vs. ‘Soft’ Science Fiction Debate

Please enjoy this encore from January 2016, in which ten authors discuss the broad categories of science fiction.

In the wake of big-screen success stories like The Martian and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, debates about whether one movie or another is scientific enough have been cropping up in various corners of the internet. Is a deeper, harder line being drawn in the sand about “hard” science fiction than usual? Or are we discovering that perhaps there’s a whole lot more sand available with regards to how imaginative and future-looking fiction can develop, and even entertaining the possibility that these developments could become blueprints for future-fact?

I asked ten science fiction authors about their definitions of “hard” and “soft” science fiction, and how they see science fiction (hard, soft, and otherwise) in today’s terms. They returned with ten fascinating—and not surprisingly, entirely different—answers.

[Read more]

Try A Short Fiction Tasting Flight with Nerds of a Feather’s Monthly Round!

Is one of your reading goals for 2017 to read more short fiction, but you’re stymied as to where to start? The Monthly Round has just what you need! This recurring feature from the group blog nerds of a feather, flock together has been running since 2014, each month offering up a “tasting flight” of speculative short story/novella/novelette recommendations. Like the content they recommend, these tastes are short and sweet—and they take the theme seriously, giving real thought to the “notes” and “pairings” (with real-life drinks) of each.

[Read more]

Holy Rewatch Batman! “The Funny Feline Felonies” / “The Joke’s on Catwoman”

“The Funny Feline Felonies” / “The Joke’s on Catwoman”
Written by Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by Oscar Rudolph
Season 3, Episodes 16 & 17
Production code 1715
Original air dates: December 28, 1967 & January 4, 1968

The Bat-signal: Joker, having been paroled—his parole approved by the chairman of the parole committee who is, of course, Bruce Wayne—says his goodbyes to Bruce and Warden Crichton while wearing a very dapper—and very gray—suit. Crichton gives him a $10 bill, and Joker offers him a cigar in return. (Bruce declines, as he doesn’t use tobacco in any form.) To Crichton’s relief, the cigar doesn’t explode.

He’s picked up at the gate by Catwoman in her Catmobile, who holds a gun on him and makes him get in—except, of course, it’s for show, as this was Joker and Catwoman’s plan all along.

[She’s a woman, Robin, with a woman’s in-born desire to outsmart men.]

Series: Holy Rewatch Batman!

Emma Newman Prize Pack Sweepstakes!

If you haven’t read Emma Newman yet … well, we’re here to help! Newman has a novella, Brother’s Ruin, coming from Publishing on March 14th, and in celebration, we want to send you a prize pack of seven of her books!

Three lucky winners will each receive a galley of Brother’s Ruin along with copies of the four Split Worlds books, available now from Diversion Books, and the two Planetfall books, available now from Ace!

In Brother’s Ruin, set in a magical 19th century London, talented mage Charlotte Gunn must use all her cunning and guile to protect her family, her secret and her city from the nefarious plot of the sinister Doctor Ledbetter.

Planetfall and After Atlas are companion novels set in the same universe. In Planetfall, Renata Ghali is part of a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure, but she harbors a devastating secret about the colony’s founding. In After Atlas, detective Carlos Moreno must investigate the death of a cult leader with ties to the ship that took Carlos’s mother way, years ago.

The Split Worlds series—Between Two ThornsAny Other NameAll is Fair, and A Little Knowledge—is an urban fantasy series set in Bath, London, Oxford, and the secret magical reflections of these cities. Between Mundanus, the world of humans, and Exilium, the world of the Fae, lies the Nether, a mirror-world where the social structure of 19th-century England is preserved by Fae-touched families who remain loyal to their ageless masters. Born into this world is Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver, who escapes it all to live a normal life in Mundanus, free from her parents and the strictures of Fae-touched society. But now she’s being dragged back to face an arranged marriage, along with all the high society trappings it entails.

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 2:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on February 17th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on February 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.

The Time Museum

The internship program at the Time Museum is a little unusual. For one thing, kids as young as twelve get to apply for these prestigious summer jobs. And as for the applicant pool . . . well, these kids come from all over history.

When Delia finds herself working at the Time Museum, the last thing she expects is to be sent on time-traveling adventures with an unlikely gang of kids from across the eons. From a cave-boy to a girl from the distant future, Delia’s team represents nearly all of human history! They’re going to need all their skills for the challenge they’ve got in store . . . defending the Time Museum itself!

The Time Museum is the first in a new graphic novel series from Matthew Loux, available February 21st from First Second! Read an excerpt below, and check out Loux’s recommendations of other time travel stories perfect for younger audiences.

[Read more]

5 SFF Love Stories About Overcoming a Language Barrier

Communicating with an alien species, reteaching concepts like the meaning of “I” and “you,” making a friend—there are countless selfish and selfless motivations for overcoming a language barrier. But in the five examples below, from a Shakespeare retelling to an interstellar war story that’s equal parts sci-fi and fantasy, these characters discover that building common ground through language creates its own surprising intimacy.

[Read more]