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 Tor.com 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: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

The Films of Tim Burton All Occur in the Same Fictional Universe

This is an update to a piece that originally ran on January 8, 2015.

Tim Burton—a director often noted for his visual vernacular, his love of the macabre, and his dedication to heroic outcasts. A director who creates worlds where the mundane and the fantastically strange collide messily, often resulting in magic or terror. There is a certain flair, a flavor to Burton films that easily set them apart from the work of other directors and the majority of mainstream cinema.

But could it be more than that? Could these films actually exist in the same world—could all of them apply? And would that finally explain why every character looks like Johnny Depp?

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Rereading Katherine Kurtz: Camber the Heretic, Chapters 28-29

Welcome to the weekly reread of Camber the Heretic! Last time, Camber’s brilliant plan went awry, as the conflict between Church and Crown came to a violent conclusion.

This week, Tavis and Javan forge an alliance with Camber and company. Evaine rides into a massacre and comes out with a symbol of hope for the future. And the Camber family makes plans for that future.

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Series: Rereading Katherine Kurtz

Fabulous Forbidden Ferocity: In Defense of Villainesses

Please enjoy this encore post on villainesses, originally published August 2016.

She’s fabulous.

Her hair is done. Her makeup is flawless; her coat, luxurious. She’s single. She’s thin or she’s fat or she’s muscular or she’s old or she’s young but she’s never ever cute or soft or scared of you.

She’s hungry. She wants money, and she wants more luxurious coats, and she wants power. She wants to sit in the chair that is currently occupied by whoever’s in charge, and she doesn’t want to wait for the world to give her that throne. She doesn’t have time for that. She’s not going to wait. She’s going to take it.

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How Gardeners Save a Small Piece of the World

Please enjoy this encore post on gardening and history, originally published April 2016 as part of And Related Subjects.

When people think of gardeners, many of them tend to picture little old ladies in straw hats with bright green gloves, pottering among the roses.

When people think of gardeners who are also children’s book authors, they go straight to Beatrix Potter and assume that not only are these little old ladies in straw hats pottering among the roses, but they are also greeting the friendly woodland creatures by name—“Hello, Mister Robin! You’re looking very feathery today!” “Why, Missus Tiggywinkle, how have you been?” “Oh dear, that naughty little cottontail has been at my lettuces again!”

Well, I am a gardener and a children’s book author. I am also under forty, tattooed, and the owner of a mostly black wardrobe, and when I greet a happy woodland creature by name, there is an excellent chance that the sentence will end with “touch that and I will end you.”

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Heroic Vulnerability, Not Action, Defines the Star Wars Series

Please enjoy this encore post on the emotional heroics of the Star Wars movies, originally published January 2016.

I’ve seen The Force Awakens twice since it came out, and I was trying to figure out what exactly made it so compelling to me. I finally realized that it honors a tradition from the Original Trilogy: in the midst of an often cartoonish space opera, it’s the moments of heroic vulnerability—not moments of action—that define the series. The more I thought about it, the more I came to believe that this is the emotional undercurrent that kept the trilogy so vital, and the fact that The Force Awakens embraces this theme is part of the newest film’s success.

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16 Tempestuous Tales of Weather Magic

Please enjoy this encore post on weather magic, originally published January 13.

Red sky at night, readers’ delight. Red sky at morning, readers take warning…

The instability of the weather makes for a great metaphor in fantasy stories about characters learning to harness their own emotions and inborn magical powers. But just as no two storms are exactly alike, these tales of whispering winds and ravaging storms approach the subject in a variety of ways! Weather magic is channeled through glass orbs, wine, and even braids. Magical storms topple pirate ships, protect island countries, and sometimes accidentally trigger planet-wide climate changes. We took to Twitter to find out your favorites, so get out your galoshes as we unleash a torrent of weather magic tales!

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Holy Rewatch Batman! “The Ogg and I” / “How to Hatch a Dinosaur”

“The Ogg and I” / “How to Hatch a Dinosaur”
Written by Stanford Sherman
Directed by Oscar Rudolph
Season 3, Episodes 8 & 9
Production code 1705-1 & 1705-2
Original air dates: November 2 & 9, 1967

The Bat-signal: Olga, Queen of the Bessarovian Cossacks, and Egghead kidnap Gordon from his office in a hot-air balloon, under the guise of delivering a sandwich. Gordon realizes it’s Egghead when it’s an egg sandwich rather than roast beef, but by then it’s too late.

O’Hara enters the now-empty office, where Gordon managed to scrawl a note that says “KIDNAPPED.” Batgirl shows up—concerned that Gordon wasn’t answering his phone, no doubt, though she can’t say that out loud in order to preserve her secret ID—as do Batman and Robin, who saw Olga and Egghead at the end of last episode, and are now at GCPD HQ.

[“How did you do it?” “By underhand trick—what else?”]

Series: Holy Rewatch Batman!

Malevolent Lurkers: Revealing the Cover for Victor LaValle’s The Changeling

We’re excited to share the cover for Victor LaValle’s The Changeling, the wildly imaginative story of one man’s thrilling odyssey through an enchanted world to find his wife, who has disappeared after having seemingly committed an unforgivable act of violence—available this June from Spiegel & Grau. Below, LaValle shares the experience and creeping dread that inspired the story, plus Yuko Shimizu’s quietly haunting cover illustration…

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Remembering William Peter Blatty, 1928-2017

Yesterday, author and director William Peter Blatty died. Most people will remember him as the guy who wrote The Exorcist. I’ll remember him as the guy who took the freedom he got from The Exorcist and wrote two complicated, thorny, hopeful horror novels and then adapted them into two complicated, thorny, hopeful horror movies (which he also directed). And I’ll remember him as a novelist who was capable of turning out dialogue that read as sharp and surprising as Elmore Leonard’s, only with a far more philosophical bent.

Born to Lebanese immigrants, Blatty was raised by a single mother whose poverty turned his childhood into a constant flight to stay one step ahead of eviction. Blatty received a deeply Catholic education and was a deeply devout Catholic. He was so religious that the needle that goaded him into writing The Exorcist was watching Rosemary’s Baby with its famously ambiguous ending that, to him, felt like a cop-out. How the hell could a horror movie end with the forces of evil triumphant? A few years later, he pitched a courtroom novel about a kid who kills an adult and uses a claim of demonic possession as her defense to Mark Jaffe of Bantam Books, a paperback company (Bantam would later sell the hardcover rights to Harper & Row). It was a New Year’s party, everyone was drinking, Jaffe bought the book. It wound up getting titled The Exorcist.

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Ghost Town: Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

Coming in at just under 200 pages in the paperback version, I’m not sure whether Seanan McGuire’s Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day counts as a long novella or a short novel. It feels like an edge case: a liminal length for a story sliding elegantly across the edges of multiple subgenres, a story about liminal things.

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day is a ghost story, and a story about surviving suicide—or not, as the case may be. It lurks on the borders between urban fantasy and horror, neither committing to urban fantasy’s generally consolatory outlook nor to horror’s conviction of the inescapable malice of an uncaring (or inimical) universe.

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High-Tech Wizardry: C> The Shadow Man

Welcome to Freaky Fridays.
Current date is Fri 12-01-1986
Enter new date:
Current time is: 13:01:24.18
Enter new time:
The IBM Personal Computer DOS
Version 2.0 (C)Copyright IBM Corp 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986

A>dir

Stephen Gresham would one day write the best book about magicians ever conceived (Abracadabra, 1988) but in 1986 his greatest accomplishment was still on the horizon. For now, he had already written novels for Zebra Books that explored haunted lakes (Moon Lake, 1982), elderly transvestite serial killers (Rockabye Baby, 1984), and skeletons playing the banjo (Dew Claws, 1986), so clearly it was time for him to write about the personal computer revolution. And for Gresham, there was a simple question that needed to be asked.

[Q: What tasks can a PC (personal computer) accomplish in your home?]