Thessaly: The Baroque Inspiration

Welcome back to the Tor.com eBook Club! August’s pick is The Just City, the first book in Jo Walton‘s Thessaly trilogy. Join in below, as Jo discusses how she built the titular city–and its inhabitants–around Plato’s philosophy.

One of the points of view of all three Thessaly books is Apollo. Writing a god’s point of view is literally hubris, though the Greeks did it all the time in poetry and drama. Apollo is the only narrator who stays with us through the trilogy, the one who ties it all together. His voice, his sly snarky voice, and his experience of being a god taking on mortal life for the duration of the experiment, are one of the things that made this project really interesting for me. This part of the books had a much more direct inspiration than most of my ideas. It came from a baroque statue.

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Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Warrior’s Apprentice, Chapter 1

This week, the reread jumps roughly 15 years from Barrayar to The Warrior’s Apprentice. First published in 1986, this is the first book in the series to feature Miles Vorkosigan, the fourth in reading order, and the second in publication order. At the time of publication, the only other book in the series was Shards of Honor, published two months earlier. I’m retroactively jealous of 1986 for getting two Vorkosigan books as beach reads, though I think that going straight from Shards to Miles’s adolescence must have caused readers whiplash.

If you’d like to catch up on previous posts in the reread, the index is here, and a series of blog posts on The Warrior’s Apprentice by Jo Walton can be found by following the Warrior’s Apprentice tag. At this time, the spoiler policy permits discussion of all books EXCEPT Gentlemen Jole and the Red Queen. Discussion of any and all revelations from or about that book should be whited out.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

The Varied Life of Jack Vance

There’s one thing I’ve learned from researching our founding SFF authors: writers used to be a hell of a lot cooler. Not to insult any of our modern masters—far from it! They’re doing their best with the era they were dealt. But skim over the history of Harlan Ellison. Take a look at Robert Heinlein’s life, or Kurt Vonnegut’s, or Frank Herbert’s or Philip K. Dick’s. You’ll find stories of street brawls, epic rivalries, tumultuous love lives, hallucinations.

And then you get to Jack Vance, and the more you read the more you expect to learn that the man wrestled tigers for fun.

[Actually, he wrestled with more interesting things than tigers…]

Series: On This Day

Beautiful Street Mural Honors SFF’s Heroines, Reminds Us “We Can Be Heroes”

In the words of the (hopefully) immortal David Bowie, “We can be heroes.” Artist/designer VictoryVague (Victoria Haigh) has taken up the cry to remind the women of the world that they have that power, too, with a gorgeous mural found by Twitter user KSully54. You can see the original post on Haigh’s VictoryVague Tumblr and Instagram.

The wall is a beautiful array of misfits, from the current set of Ghostbusters to Jessica Jones to Tank Girl to a mash-up of at least two Clone Club members to a couple of DC’s greatest superheroes.

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Why You Should Absolutely Watch The Neverending Story as an Adult

The Neverending Story was a classic children’s fantasy of the 1980s, right up there with The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Legend, and The Last Unicorn in creating a latticework of terrifying puppets, questionable animation, and traumatizing storylines. It had an added allure for this small, library-loving nerd: it was about a book that never ended. Most fantasies just give you a perfunctory review of some scrolls or an ancient dusty text before galloping back into an action scene, but The Neverending Story is literally about a kid sitting in an attic and reading all day—making it both fantasy and Carverian realism as far as I was concerned.

Looking back at it as an adult (more or less), I was surprised by how well it holds up. True, you have to look past some extremely…emphatic acting, and Falkor is slightly creepy now that I’m older (although compared to David Bowie’s tights and Molly Grue’s lamentation for her virginity lost youth, he’s really not that bad), but most importantly, watching it now gave me a completely different experience, not just an exercise in nostalgia.

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Biff Tannen is a Pop Icon; Actor Tom Wilson is a Pop Artist

Tom Wilson, the actor who played Biff, Griff, and Buford Tannen in the Back to the Future Trilogy, never intended to become an iconic bully. He planned to be an actor, disappearing into roles as actors do. Instead, he became part of the pop cultural pantheon when the Back to the Future trilogy became a touchstone of the ’80s in general and sci-fi in particular. When he thought about what had happened to him, the only way he could make sense of his fame was in the contxt of pop art. As part of his reckoning with the 30th anniversary of BTTF, he has created a series of pop-inspired painting that reference Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Indiana, while also grappling with the legacy of the Tannens. Click through to see more of his work!

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The Abyss: Welcome to Hell, Tennessee Coal Miner’s Association!

It’s time for Freaky Friday, that day when we hop in the cage and take the express elevator right down the M-19 shaft…straight to Hell!

Jere Cunningham was a novelist with two books under his belt when he took up his pen and wrote The Abyss in 1981. After Simon & Schuster reneged on the size of the print run and the promised promotion budget he said “Screw this” and moved from his home of Memphis Tennessee to Hollywood, California where he made a living working on screenplays for film and TV. He became one of those jobbing screenwriters who makes a good living selling projects and working on optioned scripts that make money but often never get made, which is how most screenwriters earn a living. However, he also worked on the Emilio Estevez-Cuba Gooding Jr. project Judgment Night (’93), the Brian Dennehy crime thriller The Last of the Finest (’90), as well as some TV movies for Chazz Palminteri, Donald Sutherland, and Mike Ditka.

But what of The Abyss? Basically The Coal Miner’s Daughter meets Event Horizon, it features a completely qualified cover blurb from Stephen King (“I loved this book. The Abyss is very close to being great.”) and an army of Amazon reviews apparently written by our Pilgrim forefathers (“I am not a prude by any means, but when I finished this book I threw it in the trash.” and “The protagonists drink to excess, are promiscuous, curse, and constantly demean each other,”) so it sounded like it could be a blast. And it is. If I was pitching the movie, I’d say it’s John Sayles’s Matewan meets Dante’s Inferno, with Bruce Springsteen doing the soundtrack. I mean, how else can you pitch a book about a Tennessee coal mine so deep that it accidentally drills into Hell?

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The Dreaming Hunt Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a galley copy of Cindy Dees and Bill Flippin’s The Dreaming Hunt, available September 27th from Tor Books!

In The Sleeping King our intrepid adventurers found the imprisoned echo of a long lost king on the Dream Plane. He told them how to wake him in the mortal realm: find his lost regalia—crown, ring, sword, shield, and bow—and rejoin them with his sleeping body.

In The Dreaming Hunt, the heroes begin their quest. But they’ve caught the attention of powerful forces determined to stop them. Worse, their visit to the Dream Plane has unleashed chaos, and the fight is spilling over into the mortal realm.

They frantically outrun old enemies and pick up new ones: imperial hunters, a secret cabal of mages, a criminal league, and a changeling army. Are they just pawns in larger political dramas, or are they crystallizing into the nucleus of a rebellion? Can they find the regalia necessary to wake the Sleeping King before they are utterly destroyed?

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 12:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on August 26th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on August 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.

Dan Wells Talks the I Am Not a Serial Killer Movie and Critiques Stranger Things in His Reddit AMA

Like Windwitch author Susan Dennard, Dan Wells recently swung by Reddit’s r/fantasy for an AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread to raise awareness for The Pixel Project, a virtual nonprofit devoted to raising awareness as well as funds and volunteer power to end violence against women. For Wells, this AMA was exceptionally well-timed with the release of I Am Not a Serial Killer, the indie movie adaptation of his novel about teenage sociopath John Wayne Cleaver. The movie, starring Where the Wild Things Are‘s Max Records and Christopher Lloyd, comes to limited theaters and Video OnDemand today; check out the trailer.

Of the movie, Wells said, “I have seen it four times, including the premiere at SXSW, and I say without any bias or exaggeration that it is the sum of all human achievement. I love it, and so will you.” If that’s not enough to convince you, our highlights of Wells’ Reddit AMA include plenty of talk about the movie and the books that inspired it. Plus, as one-quarter of the Writing Excuses podcast, Wells discusses how he would approach second-world fantasy and near-future sci-fi, while ribbing his co-host and longtime buddy Brandon Sanderson, who drops in for the AMA. Read all of the highlights below!

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Revealing the UK Cover of Susan Dennard’s Windwitch

Hot on the heels of our fabulous Truthwitch paperback, Tor Books UK has been working on the cover for its sequel, Windwitch. It’s been SO exciting to see the separate hardback and paperback looks take shape and I just love both of them. With the Windwitch HB, as with our Truthwitch HB, we are echoing the US look and going with the same character image – so the Windwitch Merik can look just as mysterious in both territories!

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The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Spring Dawning: Homecoming

Bad news, good news. Bad news: a super-short week, with a denouement and another (steel yourself) poem. Good news: it’s all Raistlin!

Join us for the last dying moments of the Dragonlance Chronicles. And, fair warning—next week, we’ll be doing our big rambling overview, so get ready to share your own favourite moments and monsters!

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Series: Dragonlance Reread

“MEESA BACK!” Rogue Binks is Even More Disturbing Than The Binks Awakens

Almost a year ago, we let the Jar-Jar in with the utterly WTF mashup trailer The Binks Awakens from the brilliant and twisted mind of YouTuber Michael Murdock. But Jar-Jar Binks isn’t the Force; he’s more like Samara from The Ring, as he’s no longer content with taking over just one Star Wars trailer. No—he had to return in Rogue Binks, in which he plays every role in the forthcoming Rogue One. And he’s not alone.

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