The Witchwood Crown

Tad Williams’ ground-breaking epic fantasy saga of Osten Ard begins an exciting new cycle with The Witchwood Crown, available June 27th from DAW.

Now, twenty-four years after the conclusion of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad returns to his beloved universe and characters with The Witchwood Crown, the first novel in the long-awaited sequel trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard.

Thirty years have passed since the events of the earlier novels, and the world has reached a critical turning point once again. The realm is threatened by divisive forces, even as old allies are lost, and others are lured down darker paths. Perhaps most terrifying of all, the Norns—the long-vanquished elvish foe—are stirring once again, preparing to reclaim the mortal-ruled lands that once were theirs…

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Wicked Wonders Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a copy of Ellen Klages’s Wicked Wonders, available May 23rd from Tachyon Publications!

The award-winning author of The Green Glass Sea returns with smart and subversive new tales.

A rebellious child identifies with wicked Maleficent instead of Sleeping Beauty. Best friends Anna and Corry share one last morning on Earth. A solitary woman inherits a penny arcade haunted by a beautiful stranger. A prep-school student requires more than luck when playing dice with a faerie. Ladies who lunch—dividing one last bite of dessert—delve into new dimensions of quantum politeness.

Whether on a habitat on Mars or in a boardinghouse in London, discover Ellen Klages’ wicked, wondrous adventures full of wit, empathy, and courage.

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 May 22nd. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on May 26th. 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.

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Borders of Infinity, “The Mountains of Mourning”

This week, we’re heading to Vorkosigan Surleau and then into the Dendarii Mountains with Miles. We will be looking at “Mountains of Mourning,” the first of the three novellas in Borders of Infinity. We’ve gone back in time here to the moments after Miles’s academy graduation and before his sojourn at Camp Permafrost. Assuming that Barrayar’s atmosphere is similar to Earth’s, space is going to be about 62 miles away for this entire story. Some parts of this space opera are still finding their way home.

This reread has an index, which you can consult if you feel like exploring previous books and chapters. Spoilers are welcome in the comments if they are relevant to the discussion at hand. Comments that question the value and dignity of individuals, or that deny anyone’s right to exist, are emphatically NOT welcome. Please take note.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

It’s a New Day in the Final Trailer for Orphan Black Season 5

We know that Sarah and her sestras will fight as one in Orphan Black season 5, but now we have a better idea of what they’re fighting for. The final trailer for the season, which BBC America has billed as “The Final Trip,” has each member of the Clone Club in some dire straits—and Rachel is not only back to being the HBIC, but she’s taken Kira, too.

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“Stick Around”: A Schwarzenegger Guide for the Uninitiated

For better or worse, Arnold Schwarzenegger occupies a prominent place in the science fiction and fantasy of the late 20th and early 21st century. Years from now, scholars of film will no doubt wonder how it happened: a muscleman from Austria with a thick accent and dubious acting chops somehow enjoyed an incredible run of blockbusters from the early 1980s to the late-1990s. Action stars of the past—like Steve McQueen or John Wayne—were generally respected as actors as well, with both being recognized by the Academy. Schwarzenegger, on the other hand, crafted himself into something entirely different, a pop cultural oddity combining athletics, politics, and (intentionally or not) comedy.  While there are no Oscar nominations on the horizon for Arnold, virtually everything he says becomes a quotable line. And, improbably, he has successfully cashed in on the nostalgia craze of our time, making movies that relive his glory days.

The Expendables franchise notwithstanding, Arnold has not headlined a blockbuster since Batman and Robin (1997), and that disaster of a film proved to be a harbinger of a long decline. I’m therefore writing this for those people who remain mostly unfamiliar with his work. Especially those who have an annoying friend—let’s call him Robert—who constantly, incessantly quotes Arnold’s most memorable one-liners. Such people may wonder: where do I begin with the massive Schwarzenegger archive? Consider this a brief guide.

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Reparations and Redemption: Andre Norton’s Sorceress of the Witch World

With Sorceress of the Witch World we reach the end of the series-within-a-series starring the three Tregarth offspring, with special bonus wrap-up of the story of Simon and Jaelithe. Finally, having followed the brothers and their adventures, we come to the youngest and the only daughter, Kaththea.

Kaththea, as I’ve noted in previous posts, is the real center of the triad.

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Welcome to the New Wave of Politically-Conscious Horror

Earlier this year, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, opened to critical accolades and quickly became a box office hit, and now it seems that Peele will be making another foray into the horror genre—one that has literary roots, this time. Specifically, he’s producing an adaptation for HBO of Matt Ruff’s novel Lovecraft Country, set in post-World War II America, and featuring an ensemble cast of characters who contend with fearsome supernatural entities and the even-more ominous presence of murderous racists across the nation. Ruff’s novel includes everything from secret mystical societies to interdimensional travel to body horror, giving Peele and his collaborators plenty to work with.

Among the many lessons that can be taken from the abundant success of both Get Out and Lovecraft Country is a reminder that horror can be used to elucidate powerful sociopolitical concepts, and explore ideas in a way where a more realistic narrative might fall short. Of course, these are far from the only recent works that have sought to blend politically conscious themes with the unsettling imagery of horror. Here’s a look at five recent books that do exactly that, from venturing into legacies of trauma to grappling with questions of race and class–all the while leaving the reader unsettled in the way that only the best horror can.

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Arrakis, Tatooine, and the Science of Desert Planets

“A desolate, dry planet with vast deserts… The planet is Arrakis. Also known as Dune.” – Princess Irulan, Dune 

I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy almost as long as I’ve been able to read, and I’m normally very good at suspending my disbelief. Unfortunately, seven years of university schooling and two degrees have now placed some suspension limits on certain areas—namely geology, landforms, and maps. I tend to notice little things like mountain ranges having ninety degree corners or rivers that flow uphill or maps that don’t have a scale bar.

So I want to talk about some things, which on-a-geological-scale are very small details that make me tilt my head like a dog hearing a high-pitched noise. Not because I hate, but because there is no more honorable nerd past-time than dismantling something we love into its finest details, ruminating endlessly on the bark of a single tree while there’s an entire forest planet surrounding us.

[Let’s talk about single-environment planets.]

Welcome Back to the Black Lodge: Twin Peaks: The Return

Um. So… that all happened.

Where to begin unpacking the long-awaited (almost 27 years!) return of one of television’s biggest shows? There were ominous trees, corpses, familiar faces, mentions of pie, chevron floors, white horses, blonde chanteuses, and a lot of head-scratching. And screaming.

Twin Peaks has certainly returned. Was it worth the hype?

[“Is it future or is it past?…”]

Samurai Jack Battles Depression, Suicide, and PTSD In An Extraordinary Final Season

Samurai Jack—Cartoon Network’s hit show in which a samurai prince from feudal-era Japan is transplanted to a dystopic future by his nemesis, the evil spirit Aku—created legions of fans during its original run in the early 2000s. Twelve years after it originally ended, the show has been thrilling its now-adult audience each week during its fifth and final season, which started in March and ended this past weekend. Because its core audience are no longer children, Samurai Jack’s creator Genndy Tartakovsky decided to give the show a much more mature tone in terms of its themes and overall approach. Sometimes, the shift can be jarring, such as when the show opts to make explicit penis or erection jokes; other times, the series’ more mature take on magical realism is remarkably haunting—as is the decision to devote half of its season to exploring Jack’s full-blown depression and PTSD.

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Death Is Not the End: American Gods, “Git Gone”

Death comes for us all, but for some, it’s only the beginning. The fourth episode of American Gods sets aside the travels and travails of Shadow and Wednesday to watch the slow motion train wreck that is Laura Moon.

We’ve talked a lot about how American Gods differs between book and television show, about things that work, things that don’t, and how the changes alter the meaning of the story. “Git Gone” is the show’s greatest departure yet from the novel, and also one of the strongest. Gaiman’s story was remarkable, but it lacked depth when it came to race and women. While Bryan Fuller and Michael Green haven’t entirely succeeded in the former, they’ve done stellar work on the latter.

[“Oh, fuck your feelings.”]

Mayhem-Causing Hippos Not Done Causing Mayhem. Revealing Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey

Hippos overrun the southern U.S. of 1890, causing mayhem and abetting revenge in Sarah Gailey’s debut novella River of Teeth, out this week from Tor.com Publishing.

And they’ll be back this fall.

Tor.com Publishing is happy to reveal Richard Anderson’s cover to Taste of Marrow, the sequel to the rollicking adventure River of Teeth!

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Announcing the 2016 Nebula Awards Winners

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America are pleased to announce the 2016 Nebula Awards winners (presented in 2017), as well as the winners for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation and Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.

The winners were announced at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s 51st Annual Nebula Conference in Pittsburgh, PA, which took place from Thursday, May 18th through Sunday, May 21st at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center.

The winners and nominees are as follows:

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Cultural Exchange: Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

“If writing novels is like planting a forest, then writing short stories is more like planting a garden,” muses Haruki Murakami in the materials accompanying my copy of Men Without Women. He must, then, be something of a glutton for punishment, having immersed himself in metaphorical forestry for the decade and change since his last short story collection, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, allowed the World Fantasy Award-winning author to tend to his wending trellises.

Compared to the twenty-four works of fiction featured in that last, Men Without Women is a strikingly slim volume, compiling only seven stories, six of which Murakami’s legion of English-language fans may well have read already. And whilst I wish I could tell you their haunting quality makes up for their wanting quantity, so many of said struck me as uneventful retreads that I can only recommend this collection with a planter of caveats.

That being said, if you come to Murakami for the cats and the cars, the deep obeisance to The Beatles and the bars choked with smoke, then come! Men Without Women has all that jazz—and oh so many miserable men and mysterious women.

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The Horror of Fitness Fads: The Glow

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, that magical day of the week when we put on our light blue Adidas track suits and go jogging! Then we come back home, pour a big glass of grapefruit juice and read a crunky old paperback from the Eighties.

In 1963, a small pamphlet was published in Oregon called The Jogger’s Manual. Sponsored by the National Bank of Portland and the Oregon Heart Foundation it told readers how to give this crazy new sport a whirl:

“Start with a short distance then increase as you improve. Jog until you are puffing, then walk until your breathing is normal again. Repeat until you have covered a mile or two, or three. Jogging…can be done ‘anywhere’ and by ‘anyone’ — male or female.”

With those words, a boom was born. In the Seventies, everyone jogged. Jim Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running sold over a million copies. Magazines like Runner’s World, Running, The Runner, and Running Times appeared. President Jimmy Carter put on unflattering workout shorts and jogged, even though he wasn’t very good at it. During the Seventies, 25 million Americans took up jogging. Did you really think no one would write a horror novel about it?

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