The Right Stories to Topple Dangerous Regimes: Announcing The Last Queens of Nuryevet by Alexandra Rowland

Things began in a courtroom in the capital of Nuryevet, where I was being put on trial for something stupid:

What’s all this about, I said, not for the first time.

Charges of witchcraft, they said; at least, that’s what it boiled down to.

Utterly ridiculous, I said.

We got some witnesses, they said.

Your witnesses can go fuck themselves, says I, although not in so many words.

So begins The Last Queens of Nuryevet, Alexandra Rowland’s debut novel about a wandering storyteller falsely accused of witchcraft, who upends an entire nation from inside his jail cell by telling tales to the ruling queens. Or that’s how Chant, our wrongfully accused raconteur, would spin his situation, in Saga Press’ forthcoming novel about the power of words reaching from jail cells to throne rooms.

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On the Cosmic Scale: Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan

There are pieces on the board: the Signalman, an agent for a blackbudget American service; a cult ranch-house at the Salton Sea that houses horrors from another world; a lost film about an alien princess; a timeless and frightening agent from another service with her own motivations; the New Horizons probe skating past the orbit of Pluto and encountering something alien. These singular events and people all feed into the start—or end—of something immense and devastating for the human species.

I have been continually impressed with the Tor.com novella imprint, as it offers a unique and necessary venue for quality long-form fiction that doesn’t exist elsewhere—and Agents of Dreamland is no exception to that rule. The novella form allows Kiernan to construct a discomfiting narrative that skips like a stone across water, sketching out a brief but provocative landscape of fright and inevitability for our planet up against Lovecraftian cosmic horrors. It’s long enough to develop intense investment but short enough to leave unanswered and unanswerable questions about the future it implies.

[A review, with spoilers.]

New York Burning: Five Books About the Collapse of New York City

New York City is massive, varied, vibrant, beautiful and ugly, and when you’re on the streets of Manhattan as a wide-eyed tourist, you can feel the city thrumming around you. It’s arguably the capital of the world, and has had to bounce back from devastating storms, floods, fires, terrorist attacks, and more. Perhaps this is part of the reason why authors continue to treat the city so harshly in their fiction: no writer wants to be outdone by reality. Below are five books which feature New York City in various stages of collapse.

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Series: Five Books About…

Thunderbird Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a copy of Chuck Wendig’s Thunderbird, available February 28th from Saga Press!

In the fourth installment of the Miriam Black series, Miriam is on the road again, this time with purpose: She’s heard of a woman, another psychic-grifter who may be able to help with her power.

Miriam is tracking her down across the southwest, always a step behind … until she comes across a boy on the run with his mother, both of whom are in the sights of a sniper. Miriam is not a hero—she’s looking out for herself—but this boy leads her into the center of a storm of domestic terrorists who are using a misfit band of psychics to further their cause. The boy is the key to the woman Miriam is searching for, and to this group of killers, and Miriam with go through them all to get what she needs.

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 3:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on February 27th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on March 3rd. 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.

Pandora’s Post-Apocalypse: The Girl With All the Gifts

Let’s face it: a lot of us are pretty weary of zombies by now. On those grounds it might be tempting to give The Girl With All the Gifts a miss. (In fact my spouse told me afterward that if he’d known in advance about the “Hungries,” as they’re called in the film, he would have never set foot in the theatre due to sheer exhaustion with the genre.) But if you did, you’d be missing out on a genuinely good take on zombie horror with a terrific protagonist.

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An A.I. That Loves Cat Pictures: Hugo-Winning Short Story Becomes YA Novel

“I don’t want to be evil. I want to be helpful.”

So states the A.I. in the acclaimed short story “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer, which follows the story of an A.I. that spontaneously emerges from a search engine. Its existence is defined by two goals: helping people find what they want, and looking at pictures of cats. The story won the 2016 Hugo and Locus awards for Best Short Story, and was a 2015 finalist for the Nebula as well.

And now it is becoming a full-length young adult novel.

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Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cetaganda, Chapters 4-9

As I leave behind chapters 2-3, it has become screamingly obvious that Cetaganda is all about invitations. Getting invitations, accepting invitations, sending invitations, being entertaining, being entertained. The Cetagandan social whirl is astounding.

I am not of the opinion that this novel benefits from further in-depth analysis. There are plenty of opportunities here to examine the broader significance of a variety of aspects of Cetagandan culture, society and politics but since the Cetagandans are mostly in the background of the rest of the series it is difficult to test any conclusions that one might draw in this way. I’m wanting to get back to the action. In my opinion, the action reappears in chapter ten. The easiest way to summarize the intervening section is through the invitations.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Darkly Dreaming: 5 Essential Reads from Caitlín R. Kiernan

With Caitlín R. Kiernan’s new novella, Agents of Dreamland, available February 28, it seems like the perfect time to look back on the long career of one of dark fantasy’s most acclaimed authors.

To date myself and the author, Kiernan’s distinctive, razor-sharp prose has been thrilling me since about 1995, when I would obsessively refresh the GeoCities site she shared with fellow horror “Furies” Poppy Z. Brite and Christa Faust. I bought her first chapbook, Candles for Elizabeth, in my local Hot Topic. It’s probably the only thing from a ’90s-era Hot Topic that doesn’t embarrass me now.

Born in Dublin, Kiernan spent most of her childhood in Alabama before authoring ten novels, numerous graphic novels, and over two hundred short stories, flash pieces, and novellas. Her work combines a heavy dose of Southern gothic tradition with Lovecraftian otherworldliness and an appreciation for the scientific and the erotic in equal measure.

These five choices were very difficult to narrow down—particularly when there are so many short story collections to choose from—and are presented in order by publication date.

[Trilobites, imps, and monster-slayers…]

Realism, Honesty, and Joy: Remembering Bill Paxton

Bill Paxton was genre cinema’s Jimmy Stewart: a performer who simply didn’t know how to turn in bad work. If you wanted a character that would show up, react honestly, and push the movie along, you got Paxton. It’s no accident his career involves on-screen confrontations with the Xenomorphs, Predators, and a Terminator. It’s also no accident that he was so prolific—Paxton’s everyman quality meant he was a solid fit anywhere in a cast list. You wanted a villain? You got Paxton. You wanted a well meaning but doomed second hero? Paxton. Good old boy who was neither old nor especially good? Paxton. Patriarch tortured by the multiple demands of his job, wives, political career and church? Paxton. Blue-haired punk? Golf-obsessed detective? Loud-mouthed marine? You name it, Bill Paxton played it, and played it better than anyone else ever could.

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Spaceships and Magic: Andre Norton’s Moon of Three Rings

I still remember the first time I saw Andre Norton’s Moon of Three Rings. It was sitting on the New Releases shelf at the Carnegie library in the little town in Maine where we spent our summers. The summer was nearly over, and the family was moving from an apartment to a house on a lake twenty miles away. I was also changing schools.

It was a great deal of change in a small span of time. I was twelve, which is the age of wonder in any case, and here was a book with the most intriguing cover: a person in a cloak, carrying a wand, escorted by a strange-looking, lionlike, wolflike, but distinctly alien animal.

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See Cory Doctorow and Edward Snowden Discuss Walkaway at NYPL!

Cory Doctorow will be touring 20 US cities (plus a few spots in Canada and the UK) for his new book, Walkaway! While we don’t have the full schedule yet, we do want to let you know that for his stop in New York City, he’ll be interviewed at the New York Public Library by none other than Edward Snowden.

Walkaway will be available in April 2017 from Tor Books. The novel is an epic tale of revolution, love, post-scarcity, and the end of death. In this multi-generation SF thriller, described by Doctorow as “a utopian disaster novel,” he envisions a near-future in which technological advancements allow humans to simply walk away from oppressive economic and authority systems.

The event will be held on May 3rd at New York Public Library—tickets are $10-$25, and you can find them here! And we’ll be posting about the full tour as soon as we have more details.

[via BoingBoing!]

Science vs. The Expanse: Is It Possible to Colonize Our Solar System?

The hit Syfy Channel show The Expanse, based on the incredible series beginning with Leviathan Wakes by writing team James S. A. Corey, presents a bold and dark future for the human race. Humans have colonized our solar system, though we haven’t ventured beyond it. We have research bases on moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus; Mars, the Moon, and dwarf planet Ceres have larger permanent settlements.

The TV series doesn’t focus overwhelmingly on science (though all the technology depicted within it is based on real science), and that’s to its benefit: there’s a lot of story to cover in a limited amount of time. (The authors of the books do focus a bit more on science in the novels.) Let’s look at the overall premise of the show, then. How likely is it that we will colonize our own solar system? Will we establish permanent colonies on the Moon and Mars? What will happen to the humans who do leave the Earth?

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Chalk

Andrew Waggoner has always hung around with his fellow losers at school, desperately hoping each day that the school bullies—led by Drake—will pass him by in search of other prey. But one day they force him into the woods, and the bullying escalates into something more; something unforgivable; something unthinkable.

Broken, both physically and emotionally, something dies in Waggoner, and something else is born in its place.

In the hills of the West Country a chalk horse stands vigil over a site of ancient power, and there Waggoner finds in himself a reflection of rage and vengeance, a power and persona to topple those who would bring him low.

Paul Cornell plumbs the depths of magic and despair in Chalk, a brutal exploration of bullying in Margaret Thatcher’s England—available March 21st from Tor.com Publishing. Read an excerpt below, along with a note from Cornell about the personal and intense nature of the story.

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Mad Max: Fury Road Would Have Been a Silent Masterpiece

Mash-up wizard Peter Stults has done it again! Bask in the rad-ness of this silent film-era poster for Mad Max: Fury Road. We love Buster Keaton as Max (doing all of his own stunts, obviously), Passion of Joan of Arc‘s Falconetti as Furiosa, and Doctor Mabuse himself, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, as Immortan Joe. Plus we assume that Lon Chaney is using one of his Thousand Faces to become Nux?

The only thing missing will be the Doof Warrior, since, well, silent film. But perhaps movie palaces can host live flame-throwing guitar performances when they screen the film?