Mother May I: Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

Following his triumphant trek through Area X in the cerebral Southern Reach series, Jeff VanderMeer mounts a more modest yet no less affecting expedition into uncharted territory by way of Borne, a surprisingly beautiful book about a blob which behaves like a boy and the broken woman who takes him in.

Her name is Rachel, and when she was little, she “wanted to be a writer, or at least something other than a refugee. Not a trap-maker. Not a scavenger. Not a killer.” But we are what the world makes us, and no poxy author would have lasted long in the world in which this novel’s narrator was raised:

Once, it was different. Once, people had homes and parents and went to schools. Cities existed within countries and those countries had leaders. Travel could be for adventure or recreation, not survival. But by the time I was grown up, the wider context was a sick joke. Incredible, how a slip could become a freefall and a freefall could become a hell where we lived on as ghosts in a haunted world.

There is hope even in this haunted hellscape, however, and it takes a strange shape, as hope tends to: that of “a hybrid of sea anemone and squid: a sleek vase with rippling colours” Rachel finds in the festering fur of a skyscraper-sized flying bear called Mord.

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Divine Cities Sweepstakes!

The third book in Robert Jackson Bennett’s Divine Cities series, City of Miracles, is available May 2nd from Broadway Books—and we want to send you a set of all three books in the series!

Revenge. It’s something Sigrud je Harkvaldsson is very, very good at. Maybe the only thing.

So when he learns that his oldest friend and ally, former Prime Minister Shara Komayd, has been assassinated, he knows exactly what to do—and that no mortal force can stop him from meting out the suffering Shara’s killers deserve.

Yet as Sigrud pursues his quarry with his customary terrifying efficiency, he begins to fear that this battle is an unwinnable one. Because discovering the truth behind Shara’s death will require him to take up arms in a secret, decades-long war, face down an angry young god, and unravel the last mysteries of Bulikov, the city of miracles itself. And—perhaps most daunting of all—finally face the truth about his own cursed existence.

Comment in the post to enter—and read on for a sneak peek from City of Miracles!

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Firebrand

Once a steeplejack, Anglet Sutonga is used to scaling the heights of Bar-Selehm. Nowadays she assists politician Josiah Willinghouse behind the scenes of Parliament. The latest threat to the city-state: Government plans for a secret weapon are stolen and feared to be sold to the rival nation of Grappoli. The investigation leads right to the doorsteps of Elitus, one of the most exclusive social clubs in the city. In order to catch the thief, Ang must pretend to be a foreign princess and infiltrate Elitus. But Ang is far from royal material, so Willinghouse enlists help from the exacting Madam Nahreem.

Yet Ang has other things on her mind. Refugees are trickling into the city, fleeing Grappoli-fueled conflicts in the north. A demagogue in Parliament is proposing extreme measures to get rid of them, and she soon discovers that one theft could spark a conflagration of conspiracy that threatens the most vulnerable of Bar-Selehm. Unless she can stop it.

Author A. J. Hartley returns to his intriguing, 19th-century South African-inspired fantasy world in Firebrand, an adrenaline-pounding adventure available from Tor Teen.

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The Power of Art: Community Development Through Writing

One of the things I’m passionate about is community development. In trying to figure out how to do this using writing, I became a part of an arts collective called The Learning Tree. We’re a group of organized neighbors that specializes in Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). We identify and invest in the individuals, organizations, and the community to see and celebrate the abundance in our neighborhood. Simply put, our neighbors are our business partners.

The community I work in, like other communities, is rich with gifted talented individuals who care about each other and their community but don’t have financial stability. The problem is that poor people aren’t being seen. There is a misrepresentation of poor people, in terms of who they are and what their capacity is to effect change within their communities. The dominant narrative about poor people or neighborhoods is that they are impoverished, broken, and filled with needs. Most stories of the poor focus on their economic and personal failures. Stories define a people. Stories reflect a people. Stories shape our perception, from the news to media to politics. The thing about stories, to paraphrase Neil Gaiman, is that it’s easy to let a bad one in you. Once labeled, it’s a constant battle not to live into that label.

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Fur, Comedy, and Lawsuits: Monsters, Inc.

By 2000, Pixar was doing well enough that Steve Jobs finally—finally—agreed to let the company move from its then-shoddy offices in a questionable neighborhood to a brand new production facility. Taking advice from old Disney hands, who remembered the way that an earlier change in production facilities had led to less communication and creativity between artists, Pixar created a large, open space that would, the company hoped, encourage conversation and collaboration. And just in time—Pixar had new projects in the works that presented new technical challenges, including animating individual strands of fur and creating a new underwater world. No longer content with studying fantastic parts of the regular world, Pixar was now ready to create an entirely new world of its own, inhabited by monsters. Friendly monsters, at that.

If the studio could manage the fur.

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Daniel José Older’s YA Urban Fantasy Shadowshaper Optioned for Film and TV

Actress and producer Anika Noni Rose has optioned film and television rights to Daniel José Older’s The Shadowshaper Cypher series, the bestselling YA urban fantasy series with an Afro-Latina heroine who can shape magic through paintings, music, and stories. This is Rose’s (via her company Roaring Virgin Productions) second collaboration with Older; in 2015 she optioned his Bone Street Rumba series.

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Warbreaker Reread: Chapters 29 and 30

Welcome back to the Warbreaker reread! Last week, Siri continued her search for information, and Vivenna continued to meet with criminals. This week, Siri gets a new definition of beauty while Vivenna, Vasher, and Lightsong ponder their options.

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!

[“Dead serious. Dead as a squirrel serious.”]

Series: Warbreaker Reread

The Handmaid’s Tale Isn’t Just Offred’s Story Anymore

Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale is such an intimate first-person account that, while it depicts a dystopian world in horrifying detail, we sometimes forget that it is the experience of just one Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. The 1990 film adaptation did away with Offred’s interiority and supplanted that with a few scenes that Offred is not privy to, a combination that rendered the final product mostly unrelatable. Hulu’s television adaptation, however, walks a fine line between both storytelling strategies: It resurrects Offred’s narration while also expanding every aspect of the world—the private traumas and tribulations of other Handmaids and Wives, and Gilead’s deadly consequences for crimes that (for now, at least) exist outside Offred’s frame of reference.

But what a frame it is. From the first lines, you know that screenwriter Bruce Miller (The 100) and the rest of the production team took the source material as seriously as Scripture: Offred’s narration, describing the constraints of both her room and her life as a Handmaid, is lifted almost verbatim from Atwood’s text, so that the rich language describing the most harrowing horrors quickly establishes the world. But then the writers do an incredible thing: They build on Offred’s monologue, supplementing the formal language of her mantras—My name is Offred, and I intend to survive—with a running commentary that’s so acerbic, so shockingly vulgar and wonderfully snarky in this repressed society, that it makes you laugh out loud in disbelief.

This approach could also describe the adaptation as a whole: The writers, directors, and producers took the novel’s foundation and built on it, enhancing Atwood’s original ideas with subtext that feels so painfully acute that you would be forgiven for thinking that this was written in only the last five months. Because the women depicted in this series—independent, outspoken, queer, sexually autonomous women of color and white women—could have been raising their voices and signs in the Women’s March. But they also could have been the women who chose not to march, who voted on the opposing side to these women in the election. The smartest thing that the showrunners did, in adapting this story to television, was to give every single one of these women a voice.

[Spoilers for the show ahead.]

“The dwarfs’ jazz party was pretty bad.” C. S. Lewis Reviews Disney’s Snow White

First great thing: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis went on movie dates to see blockbuster films. Second great thing: They reviewed them in letters to their friends.

Atlas Obscura has highlighted a passage from the J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, an out of print reference text, that describes Lewis taking Tolkien to see Disney’s Snow White in 1938. The article’s author Eric Grundhauser pulls in other reference material–letters from Lewis and reactions from scholars–to get a more complete picture of just how rankled the authors got over Disney’s depiction of fairy tales.

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Every Song Mentioned in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (Plus a Few Bonus Tracks)

If you’re familiar with Neil Gaiman’s work, then you know that music tends to play an important part in his writing, both on and off the page. This is certainly the case with American Gods, a road trip novel with its own offbeat, colorful soundtrack. When Emily Asher-Perrin and I launched our American Gods Reread five years ago, I decided to keep track of each song mentioned or alluded to in the novel, to see how the music fit in with the events of each week’s chapters. Along the way, I added in some song choices of my own, where they seemed to fit in. Now that Starz is about to premiere their TV version of the novel, I can’t wait to see how music plays into the show, and if any of these songs pop up along the way…

The songs below range from classical music to classic rock, pop songs to power ballads, show tunes to traditional folk melodies, and each song plays a part in the larger narrative—I’m still surprised by how much the musical references can inform and illuminate one’s reading of the text, once you start paying attention. I’ve covered each song in greater depth in the individual chapter by chapter Mix Tape posts, but without further ado, here’s the complete American Gods Mega-Mix for your listening enjoyment!

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Flawed Futures Make for Better Stories: Ada Palmer and Utopian SF

At Readercon last summer, when I saw that Ada Palmer was hosting a kaffeeklatsch, I jumped at the chance to join in. Having just read her debut, Too Like The Lightning, a few months earlier, I was thrilled at the prospect of having an hour to sit with her and other fans and pick her brain about the vast, complicated world of Terra Ignota and the future of 2454 that she had painstakingly created. During the discussion, someone asked something about how she had written a utopia, to which Ada chuckled for a moment, possibly thinking over all the complications—all the wrenches she’d thrown into the gears, basically—when it came to creating her world. Then, she said, “Well, it’s not quite a utopia, as it is utopian,” which she went on to explain means that while the world itself is utopian in nature, the future itself is far from a perfect utopia. She’s actually gone into a bit more detail about this distinction on her blog, stating:

 …[W]hen I talk about a “utopia”–a work intending to depict an ideal future–that is not quite the same as a work which is “utopian” i.e. addressing the idea of utopia, and using utopian positive elements in its future building, while still focusing on people, characters and events, and exploring or critiquing the positive future it depicts, rather than recommending it. 2454 as I imagine it is not a utopia.  There are many flaws and uncomfortable elements…. It is using utopia and commenting on utopia without being a utopia.

Which, of course, got me thinking.

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Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “How Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth”

“How Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth”
Written by Russell Bates & David Wise
Directed by Bill Reed
Animated Season 2, Episode 5
Production episode 22022
Original air date: October 5, 1974
Stardate: 6063.4

Captain’s log. A probe scanned Earth and then self-destructed. It left a disruption trail that the Enterprise can track, and they do so, eventually finding a ship on the same course as the probe. The ship is twice the size of the Enterprise, it’s surrounded by a huge energy field, and it’s made of crystalline ceramic. The alien ship surrounds the Enterprise with a force globe that traps them, even though they were travelling at warp when they were surrounded by it.

The ship then hits the Enterprise with some kind of beam. Kirk orders phasers to be fired, which stops the beam from hitting them, but they’re still trapped and still being probed.

[This city is one gigantic riddle….]

Series: Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Bad Solutions For Writer’s Block: Henry Kuttner’s “The Salem Horror”

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 Henry Kuttner’s “The Salem Horror,” first published in the May 1937 issue of Weird Tales. Spoilers ahead.

[“He became conscious that he was standing in the exact center of the chamber…”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Attention Citizens: We Have A Premiere Date for The Tick!

The Tick is coming to Amazon on Friday, August 25th! The reboot of the show stars Peter Serafinowicz as the titular Tick and Griffin Newman as his sidekick Arthur, and is taking the characters in a somewhat grittier direction as the duo investigates a conspiracy involving a mysterious super villain who may have faked his own death.

Tick-creator Ben Edlund is executive producing along with Barry Josephson and Barry Sonnenfeld. Edlund is also writing, and the show will be directed by Wally Pfister. You can read a review of the pilot here, and click through for a brief-yet-adorable promo!

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All of Your Favorite SFF TV and Movie Adaptations in the Works

Thanks to major properties like Game of Thrones and Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, we’ve entered a golden age of sci-fi and fantasy properties being developed for film and television. It seems that nearly every network and studio has snatched up the rights to old and new classics, with a bevy of projects in production or premiering in the coming months. To keep you on top of the latest news, we’ve updated our master list of every SFF adaptation currently in the works, from American Gods to Y: The Last Man.

Check out this list and get your DVRs and Netflix queues ready, because you’re going to be wonderfully busy for the foreseeable future.

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