Assassin’s Price

Six years have passed since the failed uprising of the High Holders, and the man behind the conspiracy is where the rex and Maitre Alastar can keep an eye on him.

Charyn has come of age and desperately wants to learn more so he can become an effective rex after his father—but he’s kept at a distance by the rex. So Charyn sets out to educate himself—circumspectly.

When Jarolian privateers disrupt Solidar’s shipping, someone attempts to kill Charyn’s younger brother as an act of protest. Threatening notes following in the wake of acts of violence against the rex and his family, demanding action—build more ships or expect someone to die.

L. E. Modesitt, Jr.’s Assassin’s Price is the eleventh book in the Imager Portfolio, and the third book in a story arc which began with Madness in Solidar and Treachery’s Tools. Available July 25th from Tor Books.

[Read an Excerpt]

Learning to Read Critically

A collection of my assorted nonfiction, Sleeping With Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy, is about to hit bookshelves and electronic retailers this July. It’s being published by Aqueduct Press, but—as the title implies—much of the material is based on my “Sleeps With Monsters” column here.

Today I’m here to try to convince you to read my book! Or at any rate, to read things that might surprise you.

Writing “Sleeps With Monsters” for Tor.com has shaped basically shaped my career as a critic. Week to week and month to month, I learned more about the science fiction and fantasy genre as I wrote on it—and as I stuck my foot in my mouth, on occasion. I’ve always tried to focus on women’s writing, and as I learned more, I tried to expand my knowledge of the writing of people who experience multiple marginalisations. (I don’t know that I’ve always quite succeeded!)

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Horrible Things Come in Small Packages: H.P. Lovecraft and Hazel Heald’s “Winged Death”

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 Lovecraft and Hazel Heald’s “Winged Death,” first published in the March 1934 issue of Weird Tales. Spoilers ahead.

[“The Orange Hotel stands in High Street near the railway station…”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Illustrated Scenes from Seanan McGuire’s Beneath the Sugar Sky

By now you’ve probably got a sweet tooth for Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, which begins with the Nebula and Locus Award-winning Every Heart a Doorway and continues with the dark origin story of Jack and Jill in Down Among the Sticks and Bones (out now in ebook and print worldwide). This January, the series returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children with Beneath the Sugar Sky, an irresistibly fun tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do that sees the return of fan favorites and the introduction of Rini, Sumi’s daughter. We’re excited to share the new illustrations by Rovina Cai that will be included in the book!

Take a look at the images below, and read selections from the story!

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Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune: Children of Dune, Part One

It’s the third book! Things are about to get weird…er. Yeah, they were already weird. And we get another decade-jump!

Index to the reread can be located here! And don’t forget this is a reread, which means that any and all of these posts will contain spoilers for all of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. If you’re not caught up, keep that in mind.

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Series: Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune

Medieval Matters: Timeline is a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Film

A reader suggested I review the 2003 movie Timeline. I agreed, mostly because I couldn’t remember anything about the film.

That should have been a clue.

Let me start with the conclusion: Don’t watch this movie. In fact, you’d probably do well not to even bother reading this review. Because it’s bad, people. (The movie, not the review. I hope.)

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Series: Medieval Matters

Laura Lam on Flawed Utopias, Sun-Drenched Noir, and the Future of Publishing

Laura Lam’s newest novel, Shattered Minds, is a journey to the exact sort of utopia that I like—namely, a complex, untidy one. Her Pacifica novels explore a future that’s ideal but not idealized and what happens when people fall, or sometimes, jump, between the cracks.

I talked to her about Shattered Minds, Pacifica, the Micah Gray books, and more…

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Five Books About Psi Powers

Whatever happened to ESP?

Psi powers—telepathy, telekinesis, precognition, and other parapsychological activity—was one of the founding tropes of science fiction, up there with rocket ships, time travel, and aliens. John W. Campbell coined the term “psionics”—from psi and electronics—and encouraged his stable of authors to write about it. And so they did.

But after reaching maximum saturation in the 1950s, psionics began disappearing from SF in the 70s, became uncommon by the 90s, and are a rarity today. (That’s one of the reasons I wanted to write one. I miss them!) The five books below, as well as being some of my favorite novels, show how the subgenre evolved, and why I think it’s unlikely to go extinct.

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Series: Five Books About…

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek Generations

Star Trek Generations
Written by Rick Berman and Ronald D. Moore & Brannon Braga
Directed by David Carson
Release date: November 18, 1994
Stardate: 48632.4

Captain’s log. A bottle floats through space and breaks on the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-B. Joining Captain John Harriman on her maiden voyage is a gaggle of press, as well as Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov. The trio look around and talk to the helm officer, Ensign Demora Sulu, Hikaru Sulu’s daughter.

After Kirk gives the order to leave Spacedock—which he only does reluctantly, and only after Harriman insists—they set course for a trip around the solar system. However, they pick up a distress call. Two ships are stuck in an energy ribbon and are about to be destroyed. Harriman tries to fob it off on another ship in range—but there is no other ship in range, so Harriman reluctantly sets course. Throughout all this, Kirk is practically jumping out of his skin.

[“Very good, sir!” “Brought a tear to my eye.” “Oh, be quiet….”]

Series: Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

My Love Affair With Ancient Aliens

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 have always loved the idea that the world is greater and more mysterious than we will ever understand; that there are strange things moving in the far corners of the world and in our own backyard. That what we call our reality, our history, is just a story among many others. It could be because I was reared on fairy tales, mythology, and stories of weird beings in the Swedish countryside. No matter the reason, there it is.

There was a special moment when I walked over from the library’s children’s section into the adult section. There, I found a shelf that was different from the others: Disputed Phenomena, or as it would be classified in the modern Dewey system, 130-135. I devoured all the books on that shelf and was left hungry for more. I went on to empty the same section in the central city library, and then went for the esoteric shelves in used bookshops. I collected books on paranormal phenomena, mysterious places and cryptozoology. I loved two things in particular: humanoid beings that aren’t really human, and lost civilizations. That’s when I stumbled over Zecharia Sitchin’s The 12th Planet.

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Transformers: The Last Knight Isn’t Good, But There’s Still Some Hope for the Franchise

Let’s cut to the chase up front—Transformers: The Last Knight isn’t very good. At all.

It manages to sidestep the stultifying narrative incoherence of Age of Extinction and a good dose of the weird cruelty of Dark of the Moon, but runs headlong into the massive racial stereotypes of Revenge of the Fallen and the bloated running length of the entire franchise to date.

There’s a three headed robotic dragon in the movie. Somehow it’s still dull.

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Making All Those Gears Spin: Engineering in Science Fiction and Fantasy Roundtable

A fair number of my stories feature science or technology, even when they’re fantasy. About my first novel, Updraft, my friend Max Gladstone said, “There’s no magic in this book. It’s all engineering.” He was right… and a little wrong (sorry, Max!). There is magic in Updraft, and it’s all engineering.

Because the Bone Universe series — which began with Updraft in 2015 — concludes with Horizon this September, I’m thinking a lot about engineering and how it appears in science fiction and fantasy. For Tor.com, I assembled a roundtable of SF author-engineers and analysts. I also pulled one of the engineering consultants for the Bone Universe series into the discussion. Today, Hugo-Award winner John Chu, Nebula- and Locus-award winner Aliette de Bodard, short story author A.T. Greenblatt, and short story author, editor, and 2017 debut novelist Nicky Drayden join New Zealand-based naval architect and marine engineer (aka: my sister) Susan Lake for a roundtable on engineering in science fiction and fantasy. Here we go:

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Kevin Bacon Returns for Tremors TV Sequel on Syfy

Almost fifteen years after Syfy’s Tremors television series got cancelled, the network is taking another stab at transferring the monster movie franchise to the small screen. But instead of a spinoff, like the 2003 series, this new project is going the route of Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead and having Kevin Bacon reprise his role from the 1990 cult classic.

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Sleeps With Monsters: Older Women and Tomorrow’s Kin

Science fiction is rarely great at depicting older women: it seldom does, and when it does, rarely does it seem interested in them as women—with grown children, family issues, rich inner lives, friends and relationships both platonic and sexual—as opposed to ciphers. When I find a book that does depict an older woman well, and moreover puts her in a central role, in the narrative forefront—well, that’s a special occasion.

Nancy Kress’s Tomorrow’s Kin has Dr. Marianne Jenner, human geneticist, for a main character. Dr. Jenner is a mature woman who has just made a minor but important breakthrough in her field when she is summoned to an alien embassy in New York’s harbour. There, she learns that Earth may be facing a catastrophe: space-born spores that could potentially wipe out the whole world.

[Read more]

Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Unity of Purpose: The Oathbringer Beta Story

In Which… Brandon Sanderson’s dedicated band of Knights Radiant search out problems in the world of Roshar, on behalf of Cosmere fans everywhere. Oathbringer is coming, and work behind the scenes has been building for many months. Now it’s time to ramp up your anticipation, making sure y’all are as excited as you can get by November—as much as we can without giving anything away, of course, because we would NOT do that to you. However, spoilers for The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance abound, so if you haven’t read them, be warned.

A long time ago (a little over three years), my first article for this website was about beta reading Words of Radiance. There’s a fair amount of water under the bridge since then, and I’ve done more beta reads, all of which functioned more or less like that one. Then came Oathbringer. I’m here today, in collaboration with a few of the beta readers, to talk about what this one was like. Special thanks to Ted Herman, Ravi Persaud, Joel and Jory Phillips, Ross Newberry, Brandon and Darci Cole, Deana Whitney, Alyx Hoge, Eric Lake, Nikki Ramsay, Gary Singer, Paige Vest, Becca Reppert, Lyndsey Luther, and Mark Lindberg for all their input. They are a small but representative (and vocal) sampling of the beta readers; so far as I know, they will all return for the gamma in the next few weeks.

[What’s with the Greek letters, anyway?]