Daryl Gregory’s Spoonbenders: A Quirky Dance with an Unforgettable Family

Matthew Telemachus seems, at first glance, like a typical fourteen-year-old. Some of his problems are prosaic enough. His mom Irene, for example, has fallen on hard times, forcing her to move home, to once again share quarters with Matty’s grandfather and deeply eccentric Uncle Buddy. Matty is also nursing a lusty, hopeless crush on his step-cousin. Malice is two years older, after all, not to mention indisputably cool. She’s also totally indifferent to him.

But Matty isn’t ordinary, and neither is his family. At one time his grandparents, mom and uncles were a bona fide psychic act, billed as the Amazing Telemachus Family. True, grandfather Teddy was a straight up conman, able to pull off miraculous mind-reading feats by virtue of well-honed sleight-of-hand. Grandmother Maureen, though? Maureen was Gifted with a capital G, the real deal. She and Teddy met at a CIA-sponsored investigation into psychic abilities. Somehow in the process of keeping the wool firmly pulled over their testers’ eyes, Teddy found his way into both the intelligence community and Maureen’s heart. [Read more]

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Brothers in Arms, Chapters 4-6

So, I sat down to pick an end point for this week’s blog post and realized that the problem was not so much the end as the beginning. Yeah, someone forgot where the dividing line was between chapters 3 and 4. Some of the important details in chapter 4 were neglected and we need to take a second look. These issues help frame the competing forces of identities, relationships, revenge and duty in chapters 5 and 6, and those are fairly central to the book.

This reread has an index, which you can consult if you feel like exploring previous books and chapters. Spoilers are welcome in the comments if they are relevant to the discussion at hand. Comments that question the value and dignity of individuals, or that deny anyone’s right to exist, are emphatically NOT welcome. Please take note.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

A High Fantasy with All Your Old Friends: The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams

Like most people who grow up to be writers, I was a pretty weird kid. It will perhaps not entirely surprise you to learn that I was not a popular child; I spent the majority of my elementary-school recesses looking for dragons in the woods alone. I dressed as Raistlin three Halloweens in a row. I was certain that magic slumbered within me—not sleight of hand, but the real weather-altering enemy-smiting fireball-hurling stuff—waiting patiently for me to find the key to unlocking it. Other children were not kind to me, so I kept reading. There’s not a single doorstop-sized fantasy epic published between The Sword of Shannara and Sunrunner’s Fire that I haven’t read at least once (when I realized, belatedly, that this predilection was not endearing me to my peers, I took to disguising the telltale sword-and-naked-lady covers of my preferred reading material with a reusable cloth book cover; this concession, however, did not make me popular).

Tad Williams’ first novel, Tailchaser’s Song, was published in 1985. It follows the adventures of Fritti Tailchaser, a young feral cat whose love interest, Hushpad, disappears suddenly and mysteriously. Fritti’s search for his beloved takes him through multiple cats’ societies, a magnificently creepy underground city ruled by a diabolically Rabelaisian cat-god whose throne is a mountain of dying animals, legendary cat heroes in disguise, a kingdom of squirrels, and a complex and extensive cats’ mythology complete with creation stories and a family of cat deities. I read it so many times as a kid that my copy’s covers literally fell off. I can still quote parts of it from memory. When Williams’ next book came out in 1989, I was more than ready. I was obsessed.

The Dragonbone Chair isn’t about cats, but it’s so marvelously complex and vivid that my ten-year-old self was willing to overlook this flaw.

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Recognizing a Familiar Future: William Gibson’s Blue Ant Trilogy

Gibson and I got off on the wrong foot.

My first encounter with Gibson was the third book in the Sprawl trilogy, Mona Lisa Overdrive. I was in my teens, and stole it from my sister to read, along with Count Zero. I hated both. Viscerally. They’re only subtly interlinked, so order wasn’t the issue, it was more perhaps that I felt that world was too distant. The internet was foreign to me. I only had a basic computer for writing, and I wouldn’t encounter the internet until much later, and so the whole thing felt unreal. Fantasy instead of SF.

Perils of a lower middle class, low income upbringing, disconnection with the very connection that the rest of the world seemed to be getting into.

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Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

Pinpointing the Exact Moment the Harry Potter Magic Happened

Back in 1997, a little-known writer named Joanne Rowling gave a reading of her new fantasy novel—something about boy wizards and philosophers’ stones—at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Of course, twenty years later, we know that those children were among the lucky few to first hear the story of Harry Potter… and their parents got a phenomenal deal on tickets.

Thanks to the Edinburgh International Book Festival for sharing this cute bit of history for the 20th anniversary of the publication of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone!

Growing Up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Our brand new Spider-Man, as introduced in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, is only fifteen years old. Take that in for a moment. He is fifteen. A decade-and-a-half old. He wasn’t even born in the 20th century, which is a first for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It’s exciting because none of the previous screen Spider-Mans have been truly teenage-like (mostly because they were being portrayed by adults). And it’ll be great for the current audience of kids, who can view Peter as more of an avatar. But the really cool part? This Spider-Man grew up in an age full of superheroes—and it’s bound to shape his worldview in a way that these films have never been able to address before.

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Polygamous Space Horses: Considering Equinoid Sexuality

In the comments on the last SFF Equines Post, as we were discussing the logistics of spacefaring equinoids, Noblehunter had some most intriguing questions.

It would be cool for another post on the more complicated aspects of equinoid society. I get that we’re extrapolating from horse biology but it seems that a space-faring species will have a more complicated relationship with their instincts and basic biological drives.

Are there queer horses? Would there be a drive for gender equality? Resistance to the idea of herd over individual? What does horse religion look like? How far can we use human conflicts to model equinoid ones?

Just exactly the sort of questions I like to ask when I’m worldbuilding. So, let’s tackle a few of them over the next few columns, and see where they lead us.

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Beren and Lúthien and Their Not-So-Little Dog, Too

J.R.R. Tolkien nerds like me already know there’s a new book out—Beren and Lúthien—that again demonstrates that the Professor continues to release great stuff even from beyond the Circles of the World. Now, if you don’t really know much about these two characters, the titular Man and titular Elf, consider delving into their tale at long last! In one of many letters to his publisher, Tolkien had pitched theirs as “the chief story of the Silmarillion,” but more importantly, the tale of these two lovers was extremely close to the heart of the good ol’ Professor himself. Beren and Lúthien are like ripples in the Middle-earth legendarium, touching everything in all directions.

I previously wrote an article about Lúthien showcasing the badassery of the Elven half of this particular celebrity couple (Berúthian?), but this time I’d like to look at the new book itself, discuss some of its outrageous ideas, and admittedly go all fanboy on the real hero of the story (hint: he’s such a good boy). But here’s a sneak peek of Beren and Lúthien:

Sauron’s a kitty-cat and Gimli’s an Elf. Wait, whaaaat?

[Read on to forget the dreadful doom of life!]

More Murderbot Adventures from Martha Wells

In October of last year we announced that we’d acquired two books in Martha Wells’ new Murderbot Diaries series, and the first (All Systems Red) was published last month. It has already proven extremely popular, and it’s such a fun read that when Martha’s agent contacted us to ask if we’d like any more we jumped at the chance!

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Series: Editorially Speaking

The Wings of Inspiration

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 was one of those renaissance-artsy kids, always obsessively creating things. Writing when I barely knew how to construct sentences, drawing, sculpting, singing, dancing, dressing-up; I was engaged in storytelling in every possible way from my earliest understanding of human expression. My wonderful, tolerant college professor parents knew they had a compulsively creative soul on their hands, but they couldn’t have expected some of the obsessions that went along with that restlessly creative spirit.

[I showed an early interest in and love of birds.]

How Your RPG Campaign Can Inspire Your Novel

I’m sometimes startled to realize how many of the stories I’ve written have their roots in a role-playing game. They’re by far the minority among my published works, but even so: depending on how you count it, one novel series, one novella series, a novelette, and three short stories have been shaped in some fashion by my RPG experiences. If you include unpublished works, the list increases by at least two more novel series and another short story.

I say “depending on how you count it” because the nature of that influence varies from work to work. Nothing I’ve written is a direct retelling of a whole game. Some make use of pretty significant elements; one is barely related at all, being an idea that sprang sideways out of my character concept and thereafter had nothing to do with it. The process of adaptation changes based on what bit of the game you’re using as your springboard: a setting, a character, a plot. If you’re minded to adapt your own game experiences in some fashion, it can help to look at it from those angles and figure out what you’re dealing with—so let’s dig into each possibility in turn.

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Haunting the Body: Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

It begins, like so many hauntings do, with a house.

Junior’s house, though, is not your typical haunted home: it’s not old, has no secret compartments or hidden historical artifacts, and no one has died there. Junior lives with his mom and his little brother Dino in a modular house, cheap and small and different from a trailer only in that it stays put. “You can leave the reservation,” he overhears his mom say, “but your income level will still land you in a reservation house.” And just like that, they’ve brought their ghost from the reservation as well. When Junior sees him one night, dressed in full fancy dance regalia, he knows immediately that the ghost is his dad. He also knows that he’ll do whatever it takes to make him come back.

Stephen Graham Jones’ new Tor.com novella, Mapping the Interior, is a ghost story and a coming-of-age story; it’s a horror story with race and class breathing down the reader’s neck every bit as much as the dead. It’s also not quite like any version of those things you’ve read before. If most hauntings are metaphysical, Jones’ is physical: the legacy of Junior’s father is written on his body as well as his memory.

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Pull List Goes Pride: The Queer Webcomics Revolution

Webcomics are full of untamed creativity, experimental stories, and wholly unique casts, not to mention creators ready and willing to tackle subjects generally avoided by the mainstream. A few webcomics have made the transition to print (the big one in recent years is, of course, Nimona), but most stay online. The freedom a creator has online to do whatever they want doesn’t even come close to Image’s creator-friendly environment. Which is why I love webcomics so much.

I’ve been dying to do a webcomics edition of Pull List for ages, and the combination of Pride Month and needing a break from Big Two comics finally gave me a good excuse. Trouble is, there are so many great webcomics out there that it was impossible to choose just one or two to talk about. After winnowing my very long webcomics library down by series that have recently updated (as in not sporadically or on hiatus) and are not being published in print by major or small/indie presses (excluding self-pub), I offer you a list of some of my current favorite queer SFF webcomics While a few are managed by working comics creators or artists, most are from newbies or non-professionals. Some series are fairly new, others have longer running arcs, but all offer something mainstream comics don’t: a broad range of queer and racially/ethnically diverse characters written and illustrated by creators just as varied.

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