It’s All in the Rigging: 9 of the Best Boats in Fantasy

Once upon a time (cough, August 6, 2013, actually), Tor.com published “I Hate Boats,” by Carl Engle-Laird. Carl’s gone on to brilliant things, but I still want to argue with him about the post, and especially this sentence in particular: “Whenever my beloved protagonists get on a boat, I groan, put the book on the table, and pace around the room muttering angrily to myself, alarming friends and loved ones.”

Carl, now that you’re a big-deal editor at Tor.com, I’m finally ready to tell you that I feel exactly the opposite way. I love boats, and when I see one in a book, I feel a lot of hope. I grew up sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, reading nautical histories, and what I want in my fiction is a boat that feels real and suits the plot. When a book takes me over water, I’m eagerly looking for the most seaworthy craft.

Such boats do exist! I am pretty sure we agree on this, because when you said, “The sad thing is that I think stories about boats and sailors can be incredibly compelling. A vessel on the open sea is a full, totally enclosed world unto itself…,” I nodded enthusiastically. But you left your readers a warning, “Don’t just treat your sea voyage as an opportunity to have things happen to your helpless protagonists, who don’t know any more about how to sail than you do. If you do, the only result will be wasted pages,” and I wanted you to know that they’re out there, those exciting boats you seek!

[To prove it, I made a list of my favorites.]

Who Could Play This Merry Fellow? Dreamcasting Tom Bombadil

We were discussing Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptations, and arguing the relative merits of the Extended Editions versus the Theatrical Releases. (Leah prefers Extended, Emily prefers Theatrical. We’re both correct.) Emily pointed out that there should have been a DVD extra of Bombadil material, and then, naturally, that led to a dreamcasting of Bombadil. We gave ourselves a few restrictions—these had to be people who would have fit the role in 1999-ish, when they would have been hired for The Fellowship of the Ring, and all of the actors have been cast on the assumption that supermodel Claudia Schiffer is playing Goldberry…

So, hey! Come derry dol! Hop along, my hearties! Hobbits! Ponies all! Tor.com readers! We are fond of parties. Now let the fun begin! Let us sing together… or at least take a look at our picks, and tell us yours in the comments.

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Corey J. White on Space Witches, Misfits, and Found Families

Killing Gravity by Corey J. White follows Mars Xi as she makes her way through life. And through space. Mars is a fiercely competent, brutally efficient woman who can kill you with her mind. But whether she knows it or not, Mars is about to get the last thing she expected: help. And she’s going to need it, because the past is far from done with her or her newfound friends…

It’s a great novella: character- and idea-heavy, but action-packed and light on its feet. I talked to Corey about Killing Gravity, how he writes, and the future.

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Apollo 8 Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a copy of Jeffrey Kluger’s Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon, available now from Henry Holt!

In August 1968, NASA made a bold decision: in just sixteen weeks, the United States would launch humankind’s first flight to the moon. Only the year before, three astronauts had burned to death in their spacecraft, and since then the Apollo program had suffered one setback after another. Meanwhile, the Russians were winning the space race, the Cold War was getting hotter by the month, and President Kennedy’s promise to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade seemed sure to be broken. But when Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders were summoned to a secret meeting and told of the dangerous mission, they instantly signed on.

Written with all the color and verve of the best narrative non-fiction, Apollo 8 takes us from Mission Control to the astronaut’s homes, from the test labs to the launch pad. The race to prepare an untested rocket for an unprecedented journey paves the way for the hair-raising trip to the moon. Then, on Christmas Eve, a nation that has suffered a horrendous year of assassinations and war is heartened by an inspiring message from the trio of astronauts in lunar orbit. And when the mission is over—after the first view of the far side of the moon, the first earth-rise, and the first re-entry through the earth’s atmosphere following a flight to deep space—the impossible dream of walking on the moon suddenly seems within reach.

Here is the tale of a mission that was both a calculated risk and a wild crapshoot, a stirring account of how three American heroes forever changed our view of the home planet.

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 May 26th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on May 30th. 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.

What Beavers Can Teach Us About Hope, Resilience, and the End of the World

The process of evolution can provide some jarring examples of what animals must do in order to survive. Predation, warfare, cannibalism, kidnapping, fratricide—all of these things can be considered normal in nature. Learning about them for the first time can be shocking, even depressing, especially when we consider the implications for our own species. And yet, the meat grinder of natural selection has also encouraged some altruistic traits, such as loyalty, empathy, sacrifice, and even love. One animal in particular that encompasses these gentler qualities is the astonishing, resilient, clever American beaver, an animal that has some surprising things to tell us about kinship and survival in the face of upheaval and extinction.

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Bringing an Uzi to a Vampire Fight: Nightblood

Welcome to Freaky Fridays where paperbacks are still on the racks and they’re full of sexy vampires and the even sexier men in leather trench coats who kill them.

If you thought ‘Salem’s Lot needed more automatic weapons, then T. Chris Martindale’s Nightblood is for you. In the Seventies and Eighties the rugged, emotionally repressed tough guy who was equally comfortable with both guns and lovemaking was the leading man of choice. The hottest ticket in male hunkdom was the Vietnam vet because he’d seen such things that he was basically Rutger Hauer at the end of Blade Runner only he didn’t dye his hair. But after Anne Rice’s slim-hipped, glam vampires took over horror in the mid-Eighties they provided horror writers with a template from which all future leading men would be forged, giving rise to a legion of edgy male leads who were conflicted, tormented about their motivations and, when they confronted their nemesis, were subjected to a speech about how they’re both the same underneath the skin.

Martindale saw that trend and said, “Oh, hell no.” He took Anne Rice’s sensitive vampires and machine gunned them into kibble. He set them on fire. He stuck bombs down their pants. His book’s hero? A Vietnam vet dedicated to avenging evil, wearing a trench coat and toting an uzi. A man as reliable as a divorced dad, roaming the country, parking outside lovers lanes and spying on them from his creeper van to, erm, make sure no vampires were about. Or anything. Instead of doubting himself, he was sure of his abilities to kick ass. Instead of worrying about whether gazing into the abyss would turn him into an abyss too, he worried about making pipe bombs. Instead of carrying baggage, he carried an uzi. Ladies, put on your running shoes because this stud is single!

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You Cannot Sink My Love for Battleship

There exists no convincing argument that movies should never be based on board games, because Clue exists, and therefore disproves any such argument. That said, the game of Battleship is a categorically stupid idea for a movie. Battleship is basically bingo with a bit of deductive strategy and no wacky prizes at the end. People in movies cannot sit around yelling YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP at each other, a fact which must have been clear to the people behind Battleship. Despite its dubious source material, Battleship is the one of the greatest dumb action movies of the early twenty-teens. Writers Jon and Erich Hoeber and director Peter Berg clearly took their Hasbro/Universal paychecks, gave the game a serious side-eye, and opted to keep just a few elements: big honkin’ battleships, cylindrical missile things, and goofy coordinates.

Everything else is newly made-up big dumb action movie gold.

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Jeff VanderMeer Talks Borne, Hyperobjects, and Florida Wildlife

Jeff VanderMeer is a master of combining ecological concerns with a dark, weird speculative fiction. His Southern Reach Trilogy followed an uncanny event that created “Area X”, and the subsequent expeditions to explore the region, mining Nature itself to find the beauty and horror that comes with a radical shift in ecology. His latest novel, Borne, takes us to a future city, where people attempt to carve out lives after decades of societal collapse and environmental upheaval—you can read Niall Alexander’s review here. Rachel, a young refugee, scavenges for food and tech in order to survive with her partner, a former biotech engineer named Wick. Rachel discovers a particularly mysterious biotech while scavenging, and rather than turning it over to Wick’s experiments, she keeps it, names it Borne, and raises it like a child. Hilarity ensues, as does heartbreak, terror, and musing on the nature of survival and humanity’s role on Earth… and that’s all before you get to the skyscraper-sized flying bear.

VanderMeer is currently on a book tour for Borne, but he graciously took time to answer a few of my questions about the novel, and to discuss his love of the environment and the “New Weird.” He also shared a video of the Florida coastline that inspired Area X.

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Finding Those Books That Seem Made For Each Other

It came up in a meeting recently.

“I just finished reading A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and it felt like I was reading Firefly in book form.”

“Oh that’s weird. I had the exact same thought about Killing Gravity.”

Sometimes completely separate books just go together. If you like one you’re guaranteed to enjoy the other; maybe due to a similarity in tone, prose, plot, or a combination of elements. It’s an aspect of literature that remains difficult to articulate even though it happens so often. Some books were made for each other.

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Gillian Anderson is David Bowie Now, and Everything is Perfect

You know how American Gods is essentially a perfect show? And how it keeps, somehow, becoming even more perfect? Well, it’s done that again. As any fans of the book or TV show know by now, Media, played by Gillian Anderson, is a New God who can take any form it chooses to. We’ve see it as Lucy Ricardo, and looking decidedly Judy Garland-esque in a promo shot. But Media has taken its best form yet in a new promotional video sent out by STARZ: DAVID BOWIE.

Click through for British-accented goodness.

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The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

Based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, Theodora Goss’s The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders—and the bigger mystery of their own origins. Available June 20th from Saga Press!

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

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Fish Parenting and Disability: Finding Nemo

“Fish are friends, not food!”

Before we get into this post, I must make a quick confession: of all of the Pixar films, this is probably the one I resent the most. Not because of anything actually in the film, I must say, but because of what has happened to aquaria since the film’s release: Hordes of little children squeaking “NEMO NEMO NEMO LOOK IT’S NEMO” even when the clownfish in question are OBVIOUSLY NOT NEMO SINCE THEIR FINS ARE PERFECTLY FINE SOMETHING YOU MIGHT HAVE NOTICED, KIDS, IF YOU WEREN’T SO BUSY SQUEAKING “NEMO!”

And that’s before we get into what this film did to one of the Epcot rides.

And with that out of my system, onto Finding Nemo.

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Should The Handmaid’s Tale Have Saved Luke?

In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred considers that there are multiple, contradictory versions of Luke: He could be alive, plotting with the resistance; alive, and wasting away under back-breaking work in the Colonies; or dead since the day their family was dragged apart. Any of these scenarios are plausible, but as long as she carries them all in her head, she doesn’t have to choose for one to be the truth. With the various adaptations of the novel, we now have three different Lukes existing in our pop culture consciousness. Book Luke’s fate is never spelled out, and we have no idea if Offred ever even gets closure. Movie Luke is gunned down in the first few minutes. And TV Luke… well, he’s surviving.

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That Magic Technique: Dark City’s Influence on Modern Sci-Fi

Wait, don’t hang up, Tor.com! Do you find yourself lurking in shadows, memory gone, wondering if anything around you is real?

Well then, you’ll fit right in with this post, for today’s Movie Rewatch of Great Nostalgia covers one of my personal faves, 1998’s dark and twisty neo-noir offering of Dark City!

Previous entries can be found here. Please note that as with all films covered on the Nostalgia Rewatch, this post will be rife with spoilers for the film.

And now, the post!

[It’s a Small World Afte- BLAM]

Series: Movie Rewatch of Great Nostalgia

Warbreaker Reread: Chapters 36 and 37

Welcome back to the Warbreaker reread! Last week, while Siri was feeling guilty about enjoying her political challenges, Vivenna barely escaped with her life—twice. This week, Siri and Susebron have a picnic on the floor, while Vivenna wanders the slums in despair.

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!

[And so my corruption of the God King continues.]

Series: Warbreaker Reread