The SFF Equine: Troublesome Tropes About Horses

Just about everybody knows what a horse is. Equus caballus. Odd-toed ungulate. Large herd animal. Prey animal. War machine. Transportation. Companion animal. Sports equipment. Racing vehicle. Semi-mythical beast. Not nearly as many people know what a horse is not. The horse in song and story, not to mention in film, sometimes bears only a tangential resemblance to the animal on the hoof.

We’re firm believers in positive thinking here—believe me, when you work around horses, negativity can get you splatted in three seconds flat—but sometimes it’s useful to talk about the ways in which the equine demographic is misrepresented or misunderstood in popular culture. Here we go, therefore, with a brief roundup of what the horse is not, as a pointer toward what he really is. (And as always, dear readers, please add your own experiences in the comments.)

[A horse is not…]

Roshani Chokshi Prize Pack Sweepstakes!

Roshani Chokshi’s A Crown of Wishes is available March 28th from St. Martin’s Griffin–and we want to send you a galley copy of it, along with a copy of her first book, The Star-Touched Queen!

In A Crown of Wishes, Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes – a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

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 10:30 AM Eastern Time (ET) on February 20th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on February 24th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor:, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Ten Authors on the ‘Hard’ vs. ‘Soft’ Science Fiction Debate

Please enjoy this encore from January 2016, in which ten authors discuss the broad categories of science fiction.

In the wake of big-screen success stories like The Martian and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, debates about whether one movie or another is scientific enough have been cropping up in various corners of the internet. Is a deeper, harder line being drawn in the sand about “hard” science fiction than usual? Or are we discovering that perhaps there’s a whole lot more sand available with regards to how imaginative and future-looking fiction can develop, and even entertaining the possibility that these developments could become blueprints for future-fact?

I asked ten science fiction authors about their definitions of “hard” and “soft” science fiction, and how they see science fiction (hard, soft, and otherwise) in today’s terms. They returned with ten fascinating—and not surprisingly, entirely different—answers.

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Try A Short Fiction Tasting Flight with Nerds of a Feather’s Monthly Round!

Is one of your reading goals for 2017 to read more short fiction, but you’re stymied as to where to start? The Monthly Round has just what you need! This recurring feature from the group blog nerds of a feather, flock together has been running since 2014, each month offering up a “tasting flight” of speculative short story/novella/novelette recommendations. Like the content they recommend, these tastes are short and sweet—and they take the theme seriously, giving real thought to the “notes” and “pairings” (with real-life drinks) of each.

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Holy Rewatch Batman! “The Funny Feline Felonies” / “The Joke’s on Catwoman”

“The Funny Feline Felonies” / “The Joke’s on Catwoman”
Written by Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by Oscar Rudolph
Season 3, Episodes 16 & 17
Production code 1715
Original air dates: December 28, 1967 & January 4, 1968

The Bat-signal: Joker, having been paroled—his parole approved by the chairman of the parole committee who is, of course, Bruce Wayne—says his goodbyes to Bruce and Warden Crichton while wearing a very dapper—and very gray—suit. Crichton gives him a $10 bill, and Joker offers him a cigar in return. (Bruce declines, as he doesn’t use tobacco in any form.) To Crichton’s relief, the cigar doesn’t explode.

He’s picked up at the gate by Catwoman in her Catmobile, who holds a gun on him and makes him get in—except, of course, it’s for show, as this was Joker and Catwoman’s plan all along.

[She’s a woman, Robin, with a woman’s in-born desire to outsmart men.]

Series: Holy Rewatch Batman!

Emma Newman Prize Pack Sweepstakes!

If you haven’t read Emma Newman yet … well, we’re here to help! Newman has a novella, Brother’s Ruin, coming from Publishing on March 14th, and in celebration, we want to send you a prize pack of seven of her books!

Three lucky winners will each receive a galley of Brother’s Ruin along with copies of the four Split Worlds books, available now from Diversion Books, and the two Planetfall books, available now from Ace!

In Brother’s Ruin, set in a magical 19th century London, talented mage Charlotte Gunn must use all her cunning and guile to protect her family, her secret and her city from the nefarious plot of the sinister Doctor Ledbetter.

Planetfall and After Atlas are companion novels set in the same universe. In Planetfall, Renata Ghali is part of a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure, but she harbors a devastating secret about the colony’s founding. In After Atlas, detective Carlos Moreno must investigate the death of a cult leader with ties to the ship that took Carlos’s mother way, years ago.

The Split Worlds series—Between Two ThornsAny Other NameAll is Fair, and A Little Knowledge—is an urban fantasy series set in Bath, London, Oxford, and the secret magical reflections of these cities. Between Mundanus, the world of humans, and Exilium, the world of the Fae, lies the Nether, a mirror-world where the social structure of 19th-century England is preserved by Fae-touched families who remain loyal to their ageless masters. Born into this world is Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver, who escapes it all to live a normal life in Mundanus, free from her parents and the strictures of Fae-touched society. But now she’s being dragged back to face an arranged marriage, along with all the high society trappings it entails.

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 2:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on February 17th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on February 21st. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor:, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

The Time Museum

The internship program at the Time Museum is a little unusual. For one thing, kids as young as twelve get to apply for these prestigious summer jobs. And as for the applicant pool . . . well, these kids come from all over history.

When Delia finds herself working at the Time Museum, the last thing she expects is to be sent on time-traveling adventures with an unlikely gang of kids from across the eons. From a cave-boy to a girl from the distant future, Delia’s team represents nearly all of human history! They’re going to need all their skills for the challenge they’ve got in store . . . defending the Time Museum itself!

The Time Museum is the first in a new graphic novel series from Matthew Loux, available February 21st from First Second! Read an excerpt below, and check out Loux’s recommendations of other time travel stories perfect for younger audiences.

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5 SFF Love Stories About Overcoming a Language Barrier

Communicating with an alien species, reteaching concepts like the meaning of “I” and “you,” making a friend—there are countless selfish and selfless motivations for overcoming a language barrier. But in the five examples below, from a Shakespeare retelling to an interstellar war story that’s equal parts sci-fi and fantasy, these characters discover that building common ground through language creates its own surprising intimacy.

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This American Afterlife: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I hate the phrase “now more than ever.” I hate the implications that come with it, the idea that one moment of history is somehow more fraught than all the others. And yet, part of me wants to say that we need George Saunders’ first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, now more than ever, because I want you to drop everything and read it. Like, right now. (OK, read this review first, but seriously right after that.) The truth is, this book would have been vital if it had been released in 1950 or 1980, or on September 12, 2001. It will still be necessary in three hundred years, whether or not humans are here to experience it—maybe by then the cockroaches and ants that inherit the earth will have learned to read, and it can inspire them to be better than we have been.

Over a thirty-year writing career, George Saunders has crafted a very precise tone in his stories—wry and absurdist, with an occasional flash of sadness so deep that you start crying before you understand why. His stories make for a particularly good lens to view our current climate, and I always feel like I understand life in modern America better after I’ve read his work. So it might seem odd at first that in his debut as a novelist, Saunders has decided to excavate a moment from our nation’s past. Bardo’s story is simple and based in heartbreaking fact: Abraham Lincoln’s third son, Willie, died of typhoid fever in 1862. Since the Lincolns didn’t have a family plot in D.C., Willie was buried in a borrowed tomb in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown. His mother was too distraught to attend the funeral; the president went to the service, and then, according to stories circulated at the time, returned to the crypt late in the night to hold his son’s body one last time.

Saunders takes this sliver of grief and turns it into a meditation on loss which in turn becomes a consideration of the Civil War and the existence of America itself.

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Series: Genre in the Mainstream

Nigerian Production Company Fiery Film Options Nnedi Okorafor’s Short Story “Hello, Moto”

Binti: Home author Nnedi Okorafor recently shared some exciting news via Facebook: Her science-meets-witchcraft short story “Hello, Moto” has been optioned by Fiery Film, a Nigerian film/TV company/studio based in Lagos and Owerri. The 2011 tale, about a woman who discovers that there is a witchcraft in science and a science in witchcraft when she creates wigs for her friends that gives them incredible powers, is the next project for filmmaker C.J. “Fiery” Obasi, known for the horror/thriller film OJUJU and the gangster thriller O-Town. Obasi recently completed the shoot for his new short film Bruja.

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Beyond Han and Chewie: Cassian Andor, Sacrifice, and Redemption

Even two months after the movie’s initial release, I’m still ruminating on the fact that there is more to every lead character in Rogue One than the script (which can be a bit cursory) might make you think: Jyn and Bodhi are the spiritual architects of the Rebel Alliance as we know it. Baze and Chirrut, besides being the best Gay Space Dads Ever, embody the fundamental faith and code of honour that the Empire can never destroy. And Cassian and K2S0 embody the redemption inherent in resistance (as well as being the closest the movie gets to giving us a Han and Chewie dynamic).

Given the events of act three of The Force Awakens and of A New Hope itself, a Han analogue was always going to be part of Rogue One. This is the universe of the Star Wars movies at their most lawless and fluid: the Empire closing its fist around the worlds of the Old Republic while scoundrels, thieves, and gangsters take what they can from the rapidly shrinking territory still left. That’s what makes Han’s journey through the original movie so compelling—he willingly and heroically sacrifices his own freedom and, potentially, his life, for something bigger than he is. Plus he looks awesome doing it.

[But Cassian is much more than just a Han Solo analogue…]

This Morning in Publishing: February 17, 2017

This beautiful caffeinated illustration is part of a project by Mahmoud El Sayed, who has been manipulating Arabic words into illustrations of their meanings. As it is morning, we thought the picture of coffee suited us rather well, but there are many more over on Bored Panda, including koalas and watermelons!

Today we’re talking about Marvel’s “Generations,” fictional novelists, and musicals made from books!

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The Salam Award for Imaginative Fiction Seeks to Encourage and Honor Pakistani SFF

The Salam Award for Imaginative Fiction, announced this week, seeks to encourage the pursuit of science fiction and imaginative writing in Pakistan. Organized by Pakistani speculative fiction authors Tehseen Baweja and Usman T. Malik (The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn), the award is named for Pakistan’s only Nobel Prize winner, theoretical physicist Dr. Abdus Salam; it will be given to aspiring speculative fiction writers of Pakistani origin, regardless of sexual orientation, creed, or caste.

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