Innumerable Voices: The Short Fiction of A. Merc Rustad

Innumerable Voices is a monthly column profiling short fiction writers and exploring speculative fiction themes in their many permutations. The column will discuss stellar genre work from both fresh and established writers who don’t have short fiction collections or novel-length works, but who actively contribute to anthologies and magazines.Links to magazines and anthologies for each story are available as footnotes. Chances are I’ll discuss the stories at length and mild spoilers will be revealed.

In reading A. Merc Rustad’s catalog in preparation for writing this profile, I found myself reflecting on how I came to read speculative fiction and which characteristics fostered a full and unconditional adoration of the genre—one that has only found strength in subsequent years. Few other authors have proffered the exact conditions to revisit my initial, sublime surrender to SFF’s immeasurable potential and richness in possibility, which should already inform you about the powerful effect Rustad’s writing exerts.

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The Key to the Coward’s Spell

Nursing an injured arm while on the job searching for a missing kid is bad enough for sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse. But when he discovers a smuggling ring rumored to be protected by powerful magic, he seeks out old friends and new to lend a hand. A tale set in Alex Bledsoe’s popular medieval noir world.

Please be warned that this story deals with difficult content and themes involving children.

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Learn How to Write the VanderMeer Way

Jeff VanderMeer has been appointed the 2016-2017 Trias Writer-in-Residence for Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and will be teaching a creative writing course called “Ghost Modules, Months of Secrets, and Dark Matter.” Assuming you’re not currently enrolled in the upstate NY college, he’s also been kind enough to post the basic outline for his seminar, along with a reading list.

This, along VanderMeer’s Wonderbook lecture series, will make for indispensable inspiration for those of you embarking on your own writing projects this fall!

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Is It Just Us, Or Does Leonardo Da Vinci’s Tank Look Like a Giant Terrifying Dalek?

Orbit Book’s intrepid Creative Director Lauren Panepinto travelled to Burning Man this week, and among the art festival’s many delights, she found this amazing Flaming Dalek Tank! This enormous tank, while it looks like it’s here to exterminate us all, is actually a life-size model of a tank designed by Leonardo Da Vinci.

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Holy Rewatch Batman! “That Darn Catwoman” / “Scat! Darn Catwoman”

“That Darn Catwoman” / “Scat! Darn Catwoman”
Written by Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by Oscar Rudolph
Season 2, Episodes 40 and 41
Production code 9743
Original air dates: January 19 and 25, 1967

The Bat-signal. Robin is giving a commencement speech at Aaron Burr High School. (Why someone who hasn’t actually graduated high school yet is giving a high school commencement is left as an exercise for the viewer.) He’s approached afterward by Pussycat, who is Catwoman’s protégé. (She’s actually a rock and roll star, but Catwoman has recruited her to be her sidekick, since at age twenty, she’s already over-the-hill to be a rock star…). She scratches Robin with a cataphrenic, which turns Robin to a punk. The boy wonder actually slams O’Hara into a wall and then goes off with Pussycat.

[“I’ll do everything I can to rehabilitate you.” “Marry me!” “Everything except that…”]

Series: Holy Rewatch Batman!

Hamlet Makes Way More Sense as an Out-of-Control D&D Campaign

Hamlet can be frustrating to even the most discerning of theatre aficionados. Sure, it contains some of Shakespeare’s greatest soliloquies, but the plot is an awkward thing that seems to meander and fizzle and jump around oddly. And no one can seem to make up their minds about whether or not Hamlet is into his mom? The prince leaves for a long while and comes back later on? It’s all a bit much.

Until you realize that it was merely the result of an overzealous tabletop RPG.

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Furthermore Audiobook Sweepstakes!

The audiobook of Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermorenarrated by Bronson Pinchot!—is available now from Listening Library, and we want to send you a copy!

There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other.

But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is a boy named Oliver whose own magical ability is based in lies and deceit—and with a liar by her side in a land where nothing is as it seems, it will take all of Alice’s wits (and every limb she’s got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

Comment in the post to enter!

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Zachary Quinto to Narrate New John Scalzi Novella The Dispatcher

On October 4, Audible will exclusively release John Scalzi’s new novella The Dispatcher in audiobook form, with Star Trek‘s Zachary Quinto narrating the science fiction thriller. In a near future where people who get murdered come back to life, the eponymous Dispatcher Tony Valdez finds himself distracted from his job—of “releasing” people who are near death for a second chance at life—when a fellow Dispatcher gets kidnapped.

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Fiction Affliction: September Releases in Fantasy

Fifty-seven fantastical new books will arrive in September to vie for your attention. Lian Hearn winds up her Shikanoko series; Seanan McGuire brings us the next Toby Daye story; Peter S. Beagle presents a very Pacific Northwestern standalone; Sarah Beth Durst and Danielle Paige kick off new series; and ever so much more. Really, so much more. Where will you start reading?

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The Internet Combined The Force Awakens and Shrek to Make Kylo Ren Seem Sillier Than Ever

One of the most upsetting sequences in Star Wars: The Force Awakens is Poe Dameron’s torture at the hands of Kylo Ren. While it acts as an echo of Princess Leia’s torture at the hand’s of Darth Vader in A New Hope, TFA shows us more, making Poe’s pain immediate and frightening.

But in an alternate universe… Kylo Ren is in fact Lord Farquaad from Shrek, and everything changes.

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Next Year’s Words: Science Fiction, Innovation, and Continuity

Reading Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please” which just won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Short Story, I was reminded of both John Varley’s 1984 “Press Enter” and Isaac Asimov’s 1956 “The Last Question”, as well as its direct call out to Bruce Sterling’s 1998 “Maneki Neko”. The narrator of “Cat Pictures Please” is consciously aware of its predecessors and engaging directly with them. That’s not to say it isn’t saying anything original. It could have been written at no other time and place and by no other person: it’s an original story by a terrific writer. But it’s adding another voice to an existing dialog, laying another story on the tower of work that precedes it, and in a way that shows how aware Kritzer is of all that preceding work. We’ve had a lot of stories about secretly emergent AI, all written with the technology and expectations of their times. This is one written now, with our technology, a new angle, a wider perspective, and a definite consciousness of what it’s adding to.

There’s a tremendous continuity within science fiction, where the genre constantly feeds on itself, reinvents itself, and revisits old issues in new ways as times and tech change. It’s fascinating to consider how today’s new stories are all things that could never have been written at any earlier time and simultaneously deeply influenced by everything that has come before. The old work of the genre is the mulch out of which the new work grows. A great deal of science fiction is about the future—a future fleshed out in the present, and built on the bones of the past. Every present moment has a different imagination of the way the future might play out, and that gives us constant novelty. But because many of the issues and tropes of science fiction remain relevant, there is also a constant process of reexamination, a replacement of old answers with new answers to the same questions.

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Remembering Gene Wilder, 1933-2016

We’re saddened to report that actor Gene Wilder has passed away at age 83.

Born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, he began acting while still a child, and eventually attended the Old Vic Theater school in Bristol, England. He continued his training back in the U.S., studying with Lee Strasberg, and supplementing his income by teaching fencing. After a decade in theater he became a breakout film star for his supporting turn as blanket-loving Leo Bloom in Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

A few years later, he became an icon to generations of children when he starred as a reclusive candy maker in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. From his somersaulting entrance to his snarky asides to the kids to his heartfelt rendition of “Pure Imagination”, Wilder made Willy Wonka a thorny, loving, and completely unpredictable mentor-figure to impoverished Charlie Bucket, and proving that a children’s movie could embrace moments of darkness without sacrificing heart.

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