How a Mathematician Created the Interstellar Travel in Arrival in One Night

Mathematician Stephen Wolfram’s company Wolfram Research was behind all of the math on CBS’ NUMB3RS (we’re talking everything from line readings to formulae), but he personally hadn’t gotten a chance to consult on what he calls the “science texture” of a Hollywood project… until Arrival. Back in 2015, before Paramount Pictures had really started the publicity push for their adaptation of Ted Chiang’s novella “Story of Your Life,” Wolfram and his young son got to visit the set in Montreal, where both of their brilliant minds were put to work.

A number of articles about constructing the heptapods’ bizarrely beautiful written language for the big screen have mentioned the code that the production team had to create in real life in order to show linguist Dr. Louise Banks’ (Amy Adams) thought process as she learns a uniquely alien language. It turns out that Wolfram’s son Christopher, a programmer, helped contribute some of the code in Wolfram Language, with certain shots making it to the final cut. But it was his father who was tasked with coming up with a plausible explanation for the heptapods’ interstellar travel… in the space of about one night.

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Superheroes with Substance: Dreadnought by April Daniels

This book, guys. This book. I’ve said before—I keep saying—I’m not normally a fan of superhero narratives, and then I find an exception that grabs me by the throat and makes me love it.

Dreadnought is one of those exceptions. April Daniels is a debut author, but this is a very accomplished debut, one that bids fair to open a promising career. Dreadnought builds a world that strongly resembles our own, except for the presence of superheroes, and casually drops in little nuggets of worldbuilding: why the US government doesn’t control American superheroes, why superheroes don’t police the government, political differences among superpowered individuals (or individuals with “special abilities”) and the spectrum of “capes” from white through grey to black. It’s the kind of worldbuilding that many superhero stories pass lightly over, but its presence in Dreadnought makes the world feel substantial, makes the world feel real, and allows me to enter fully into caring about the characters that inhabit it.

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Rereading Katherine Kurtz: Camber the Heretic, Chapter 30 and Epilogue

Welcome to the weekly reread of Camber the Heretic! Last time, Tavis and Javan forged an alliance with Camber and company, while Evaine rode into a massacre and emerged with a symbol of hope for the future.

This week we come to the end of the book. Camber discovers his destiny, while Evaine leads the family, and the Deryni, into the future.

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Series: Rereading Katherine Kurtz

Pull List: The Best of Marvel’s New Female Superheroes

Unlike its cinematic counterpart, Marvel Comics has done a decent job at upping diversity in recent years. Of course they’ve had some pretty spectacular fails as well, far too many to recount here but I’m sure you can easily think of half a dozen off the top of your head. There still aren’t nearly enough queer and/or PoC leads but the few we have are (Sam Wilson battling SJWs aside) generally top notch. Production-side diversity isn’t as good as it could be either, but the shift toward telling new kinds of stories with new kinds of characters has definitely broadened the stables. I guess what I’m saying is at least they’re trying.

Now that Civil War II is finally over—finally!—a crop of new series have landed on the shelves, including the pair whose praises I’m about to sing. With Hawkeye and The Unstoppable Wasp, Marvel passes old mantles onto new female characters with rousing success. Kate Bishop and Nadia put their own unique spins on being superheroes, and it’s an absolute joy to behold. As much as I scoffed at DC’s bimonthly push with Rebirth, I’d happily shell out extra cash for twice the fun with Hawkeye and The Unstoppable Wasp. They’re so good that I’m totally over my annoyance at Civil War II. Welcome back to my good graces, Marvel. I missed you.

[“Excuse me, I’m here to make a deposit. Do you accept…sass?!”]

Idle Ingredients Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a galley copy of Matt Wallace’s Idle Ingredients, available February 7th from Tor.com Publishing!

Catering for a charismatic motivational speaker, the staff of the Sin du Jour catering agency find themselves incapacitated by a force from within their ranks. A smile and a promise is all it took.

And for some reason, only the men are affected. It’s going to take cunning, guile, and a significant amount of violence to resolve.

Another day of cupcakes and evil with your favorite demonic caterers.

Idle Ingredients is the fourth Sin du Jour Affair by Matt Wallace.

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 1:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on January 23rd. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on January 27th. 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.

Turtles All the Way Down: Beauty and Brutality in The Red Turtle

Much like Kubo and The Two Strings, the new Wild Bunch/Studio Ghibli co-production The Red Turtle opens with a desperate, storm-tossed character washing up on an island. But where Kubo was an action-packed quest that also contained a meditation on trauma, mourning, and family, The Red Turtle is a stark, sparse story of survival. Basic physical survival, yes, but also the survival of the human spirit and the search for joy amid the harsh realities of life.

It is also, just to get this out of the way, gorgeous. If you love Studio Ghibli in particular, or even animation and film more generally, you owe it to yourself to seek this one out.

Light spoilers below.

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Samurai Jack Announces Premiere Date for Season Five!

We learned that Samurai Jack was returning to Adult Swim back in 2015, but now we finally have a premiere date! The hapless time-traveling samurai will slash his way into a new season on March 11th at 11:30 pm.

For those of you who missed the show, it follows the adventures of a noble prince who is sent into a dystopian future and must defeat the demon Aku to change history, all while helping the oppressed along the way and trying to get back to his own time. The show originally ran from 2001-2004, but was pulled before the resolution of Jack’s storyline. After attempts at a movie proved unsuccessful, creator Genndy Tartakovsky came to Adult Swim, who agreed to pick the show up. The new season will be 10 episodes long, and will be the final hurrah for Jack.

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Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cetaganda

This week, the re-read heads to Cetaganda, in Cetaganda! The exclamation point in this case is my addition, and not part of the title like in Oklahoma! This book was first published in 1996, appearing on the shelves between Mirror Dance and Memory, but it’s the sixth book in current reading order. At the beginning of the story, Miles and his cousin Ivan are dispatched to represent the Barrayaran Empire at the funeral of the Cetagandan Emperor’s mother. In some senses, the boys are on their Grand Tour, putting the final touches on a galactic education and getting some practice in doing the things the High Vor do. It’s also a neat little mystery—sort of “Sherlock Vorkosigan.”

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Fanzines, Cover Art, and the Best Vorkosigan Planet: An Interview with Lois McMaster Bujold

When I first started discussing the Vorkosigan reread with Tor.com editor Bridget McGovern, I suggested that I could interview author Lois McMaster Bujold. I was pretty sure that was not going to fly. I thought it would be fun and interesting, and also terrifying, and that there was no way that real adults would endorse that plan, or that Lois would make time for it. She has books to write about Penric and stuff!

I had really not been paying attention, because, as I would shortly discover, Lois spends a lot of time with fans. She reads the reread! I only spent one afternoon hyperventilating into a paper bag over that (it was the afternoon she commented on “Aftermaths”). She has been incredibly generous with her time and thoughts in the comments. Because she is so generous with her time, Lois has been interviewed a lot, including by Jo Walton here on Tor.com. If you’re looking for a question I didn’t ask, check out her earlier interviews!

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Magical Miscalculations: Revealing the Cover for Margaret Killjoy’s The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion

We’re excited to show off the cover for Margaret Killjoy’s The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, a punk fantasy that Alan Moore calls “scary and energetic.” The first in a new series, The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion is a story of ancient witchcraft among modern-day vagabonds, and about the hope we find in the strangest of places. Learn more about the novella and check out the full cover by artist Mark Smith below!

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Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway Wins the Alex Award!

Tor.com Publishing is excited to announce that Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire has been selected as a 2017 Alex Award winner at the American Library Association Youth Media Awards!

The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. The winning titles are selected from the previous year’s publishing. The Alex Awards were first given annually beginning in 1998 and became an official ALA award in 2002. The award is sponsored by the Margaret A. Edwards Trust and administered by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association.

Every Heart a Doorway, the first installment in the Wayward Children series, tells the story of what happens to children who tumble into magical worlds after they return from their adventures and find themselves unable to cope with their old, mundane realities. In June, the Wayward Children series continues with Down Among the Sticks and Bones, which transports readers to the dark otherworld of Jack and Jill, the twisted twins (and fan favorites) featured in Every Heart a Doorway.

The Alex Award winners were announced today at the Youth Media Awards ceremony at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. See more about the awards and a full list of winners here.

What Can We Learn from Star Trek’s Jake Sisko, Writer?

The 24th anniversary of the first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 took place earlier this month. The series took a lot of risks with the “idealized future” of Roddenberry as written into Star Trek’s DNA, adding nuance to Starfleet ideals by incorporating human desires and failings into the narrative. Some praised it for being more real, more relatable; some criticized it for being “too dark” and showing Starfleet in a bad light.

One thing I enjoyed was that in the midst of the Star Trek Universe’s science-and-tech-centric STEM paradise, DS9 showrunners made the captain’s son, Jake Sisko, a writer. We science fiction writers love our astronauts and engineers, but I was thrilled to see 14-year-old Jake developing into a writer and storyteller. They gave him a familiar writer’s journey: he dabbled in poetry, moved into short stories, then novels, and along the way he became a journalist, a war correspondent (echoes of Hemingway and Crane), and published a collection of essays about living under Dominion occupation, as well as a semi-autobiographical novel. By committing to Jake’s arc through the whole series, DS9 brought into broader relief how the series honoured storytellers.

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Passing Strange

San Francisco in 1940 is a haven for the unconventional. Tourists flock to the cities within the city: the Magic City of the World’s Fair on an island created of artifice and illusion; the forbidden city of Chinatown, a separate, alien world of exotic food and nightclubs that offer “authentic” experiences, straight from the pages of the pulps; and the twilight world of forbidden love, where outcasts from conventional society can meet.

Six women find their lives as tangled with each other’s as they are with the city they call home. They discover love and danger on the borders where magic, science, and art intersect.

Inspired by the pulps, film noir, and screwball comedy, Passing Strange is a story as unusual and complex as San Francisco itself from World Fantasy Award winning author Ellen Klages. Available January 24th from Tor.com Publishing.

[Read an Excerpt]