Zachary Quinto to Narrate New John Scalzi Novella The Dispatcher

On October 4, Audible will exclusively release John Scalzi’s new novella The Dispatcher in audiobook form, with Star Trek‘s Zachary Quinto narrating the science fiction thriller. In a near future where people who get murdered come back to life, the eponymous Dispatcher Tony Valdez finds himself distracted from his job—of “releasing” people who are near death for a second chance at life—when a fellow Dispatcher gets kidnapped.

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Fiction Affliction: September Releases in Fantasy

Fifty-seven fantastical new books will arrive in September to vie for your attention. Lian Hearn winds up her Shikanoko series; Seanan McGuire brings us the next Toby Daye story; Peter S. Beagle presents a very Pacific Northwestern standalone; Sarah Beth Durst and Danielle Paige kick off new series; and ever so much more. Really, so much more. Where will you start reading?

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The Internet Combined The Force Awakens and Shrek to Make Kylo Ren Seem Sillier Than Ever

One of the most upsetting sequences in Star Wars: The Force Awakens is Poe Dameron’s torture at the hands of Kylo Ren. While it acts as an echo of Princess Leia’s torture at the hand’s of Darth Vader in A New Hope, TFA shows us more, making Poe’s pain immediate and frightening.

But in an alternate universe… Kylo Ren is in fact Lord Farquaad from Shrek, and everything changes.

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Next Year’s Words: Science Fiction, Innovation, and Continuity

Reading Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please” which just won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Short Story, I was reminded of both John Varley’s 1984 “Press Enter” and Isaac Asimov’s 1956 “The Last Question”, as well as its direct call out to Bruce Sterling’s 1998 “Maneki Neko”. The narrator of “Cat Pictures Please” is consciously aware of its predecessors and engaging directly with them. That’s not to say it isn’t saying anything original. It could have been written at no other time and place and by no other person: it’s an original story by a terrific writer. But it’s adding another voice to an existing dialog, laying another story on the tower of work that precedes it, and in a way that shows how aware Kritzer is of all that preceding work. We’ve had a lot of stories about secretly emergent AI, all written with the technology and expectations of their times. This is one written now, with our technology, a new angle, a wider perspective, and a definite consciousness of what it’s adding to.

There’s a tremendous continuity within science fiction, where the genre constantly feeds on itself, reinvents itself, and revisits old issues in new ways as times and tech change. It’s fascinating to consider how today’s new stories are all things that could never have been written at any earlier time and simultaneously deeply influenced by everything that has come before. The old work of the genre is the mulch out of which the new work grows. A great deal of science fiction is about the future—a future fleshed out in the present, and built on the bones of the past. Every present moment has a different imagination of the way the future might play out, and that gives us constant novelty. But because many of the issues and tropes of science fiction remain relevant, there is also a constant process of reexamination, a replacement of old answers with new answers to the same questions.

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Remembering Gene Wilder, 1933-2016

We’re saddened to report that actor Gene Wilder has passed away at age 83.

Born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, he began acting while still a child, and eventually attended the Old Vic Theater school in Bristol, England. He continued his training back in the U.S., studying with Lee Strasberg, and supplementing his income by teaching fencing. After a decade in theater he became a breakout film star for his supporting turn as blanket-loving Leo Bloom in Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

A few years later, he became an icon to generations of children when he starred as a reclusive candy maker in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. From his somersaulting entrance to his snarky asides to the kids to his heartfelt rendition of “Pure Imagination”, Wilder made Willy Wonka a thorny, loving, and completely unpredictable mentor-figure to impoverished Charlie Bucket, and proving that a children’s movie could embrace moments of darkness without sacrificing heart.

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Keeping Telepaths in Mind: The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

Eight, sir; seven, sir;
Six, sir; five, sir;
Four, sir; three, sir;
Two, sir; one!
Tenser, said the Tensor.
Tenser, said the Tensor.
Tension, apprehension,
And dissension have begun.

With the Hugo winners recently announced for 2016, its the perfect time to look back to the novel that was awarded the first ever Hugo Award. That novel was The Demolished Man, a book that stands with The Stars My Destination as one of the two masterpieces of SF author Alfred Bester.

[How does it hold up for readers today?]

NASA’s HI-SEAS Crew Has Completed Their Year-Long Mars Simulation Mission

On August 28, six NASA crew members successfully wrapped up the fourth HI-SEAS mission by “returning” to Earth from Mars. Here’s the thing: They never actually left the planet.

The HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) missions simulate life on Mars by having a crew live in a small dome about 8,000 feet above sea level, on the slopes of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano—the closest approximation to the surface and conditions of the Red Planet. Isolated from Earth, with limited resources and not much space, the crew are guinea pigs for the effects of isolation and confined quarters on future Mars trips. The fourth HI-SEAS mission was the longest yet, with the crew locked away for a full year.

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Rereading Katherine Kurtz: Saint Camber, Chapters 12-13

Welcome to the weekly reread of Saint Camber! Last time, Camber and company were working Deryni magic to integrate Cullen’s memories with his own before being rudely interrupted by Cinhil.

This week Camber attends his own funeral, Evaine shows hidden depths, and the legend of Saint Camber gets a boost from the man himself. With bonus lengthy Michaeline chapter meeting.

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Series: Rereading Katherine Kurtz

The Monster Next Door: I Am Not a Serial Killer

IFC Midnight and director Billy O’Brien have brought Dan Wells’s I Am Not a Serial Killer to life on the screen, starring Max Records and Christopher Lloyd. Our protagonist, John Wayne Cleaver, is a teenage sociopath attempting to keep his life together and himself in check with the help of his therapist and small-town associates. This is, of course, until a rash of serial murders begin in his town—and there’s something more or less than human behind them.

When the novel was originally published—six years ago—I found it reasonably compelling and entertaining, as evidenced by this review. It had some narrative hiccups but a strong use of voice and an engaging internal conflict for the protagonist; overall, I thought it was decent. So, when I had the chance to scope out an adaptation from IFC, I thought: why not?

[A review.]

Enter the Dream of HBO’s Latest Westworld Trailer

HBO has released the latest trailer for Westworld, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s adaptation of the 1973 Michael Crichton movie. Set in a retro futuristic theme park that’s like Jurassic Park but for the Wild West, populated by robots who are as much prisoners as Ava from Ex Machina, the series looks to tackle the crossovers between consumerism and artificial intelligence—with a stellar cast, to boot.

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Who Are the Biggest Breakout Stars of Television’s Golden Age?

If you’re like me, you’re startled by the staying power of Stranger Things. While I enjoyed the show, I also saw that there were some flaws, and I certainly didn’t expect that it would be the breakout hit of the summer. But here were are, a month later, with Stranger Things cupcakes, Stranger Things cats, and roughly two thousand posts about Barb.

Finally, Jason Concepcion over at The Ringer asked the question: what is the deal with Barb? Why is everyone so obsessed with her? Since such questions are part of the ineffable workings of the cosmos, and provide no ready answer, he quickly moved on to an even more interesting question: why is it that characters with tiny fractions of screentime sometimes explode? OK, Concepcion didn’t quite answer that one either, because really, characters become fan favorites for lots of different reasons. But he did come up with a really interesting way to look at these breakouts.

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Hammers on Bone Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a galley copy of Cassandra Khaw’s Hammers on Bone, available October 11th from Tor.com Publishing! Read the first chapter here.

John Persons is a private investigator with a distasteful job from an unlikely client. He’s been hired by a ten-year-old to kill the kid’s stepdad, McKinsey. The man in question is abusive, abrasive, and abominable.

He’s also a monster, which makes Persons the perfect thing to hunt him. Over the course of his ancient, arcane existence, he’s hunted gods and demons, and broken them in his teeth.

As Persons investigates the horrible McKinsey, he realizes that he carries something far darker. He’s infected with an alien presence, and he’s spreading that monstrosity far and wide. Luckily Persons is no stranger to the occult, being an ancient and magical intelligence himself. The question is whether the private dick can take down the abusive stepdad without releasing the holds on his own horrifying potential.

Hammers on Bone is a new novella from rising author Cassandra Khaw.

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 11:30 AM Eastern Time (ET) on August 29th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on September 2nd. 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.

Five Books about Loving Everybody

Words are powerful magic. Finding a word—polyamory—to describe my romantic and sexual relationships made it possible to tell people what I was doing: my friends, my family, my lovers, and most importantly, myself. I was a college dropout when I first encountered the term polyamory, which we’ll define here as the conscious romantic and/or sexual involvement of three or more consenting adults.

The comic book which introduced me to the name of this concept, and which I read so eagerly, has gotten lost somewhere in my forty-plus years of raggle-taggle relocations. Its main character was named Polly, and I think the front cover was mostly black…. At any rate, it left me longing for further literary examples of this newly validated category of human behavior: stories about kissing and hugging and making love with everybody, without guilt or shame. Which I both wrote and found.

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Series: Five Books About…