Burnt Sugar December 10, 2014 Burnt Sugar Lish McBride Everyone knows about gingerbread houses. Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North December 9, 2014 Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North Charles Vess Happy Holidays from Tor.com Skin in the Game December 3, 2014 Skin in the Game Sabrina Vourvoulias Some monsters learn how to pass. Where the Trains Turn November 19, 2014 Where the Trains Turn Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen His imagination runs wild.
From The Blog
December 9, 2014
The Eleventh Doctor’s Legacy Was Loss and Failure
Emily Asher-Perrin
December 9, 2014
Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2014
Tor.com
December 8, 2014
How Fast is the Millennium Falcon? A Thought Experiment.
Chris Lough
December 8, 2014
Tiamat’s Terrain: Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange
Alex Mangles
December 4, 2014
Potential Spoiler Leak for Star Wars: The Force Awakens Reveals Awesome Details
Emily Asher-Perrin
Tue
Dec 16 2014 12:00pm

How Do We Categorize The Nightmare Before Christmas?

Nightmare Before Christmas

Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween movie, or a Christmas movie? In terms of worldbuilding, it’s obviously both—it’s about a bunch of Halloween-town residents taking over Christmas from Santa Claus.

But worldbuilding elements don’t suffice as genre classifiers, or else black comedies wouldn’t exist. Creators deliberately apply worldbuilding elements from one genre to another for pure frission’s sake. Consider Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (speaking of Christmas movies), which takes a New York noir character, a down-on-his-luck con, and drops him into an LA noir scenario of movie glitz and private eyes; or Rian Johnson’s amazing Brick, a noir story engine driving high school characters. Fantasy literature is rife with this sort of behavior—consider Steven Brust’s use of crime drama story in the Vlad Taltos books, or for that matter the tug of war between detective fiction and fantasy that propels considerable swaths of urban fantasy. If we classify stories solely by the worldbuilding elements they contain, we’re engaging in the same fallacy as the Certain Kind of Book Review that blithely dismisses all science fiction as “those books with rockets.”

[Read More]

Tue
Dec 16 2014 11:00am

Under the Radar: The Books That Pinged

Under the Radar best of 2014

Throughout the year, we’ve been taking turns with the Under the Radar column—looking at recent works that, despite being awesome, may have gone unnoticed by many Tor.com readers (including us!). As we’re at the end of the year—and the end of our first year (woohoo!)—this seems the perfect occasion to kick back and think about what we’ve learned.

[Read More]

Tue
Dec 16 2014 10:00am

Constantine Gets Back In The Habit With “The Saint of Last Resorts”

Constantine the saint of last resorts

“No price is too high to save the innocent.”

The mid-season finale of Constantine’s officially-not-extended-past-the-initial-13-episode-order-but-not-explicitly-cancelled first season accomplishes a whole lot of things: it takes our hero down to Mexico, offers some solid insight into the whole “Rising Darkness” thing, revisits the disaster at Newcastle, and perhaps most importantly, writes a character out of the journey for in-story reasons that actually serve the plot! Also in general it was just a really solid episode of television, with a decent enough cliffhanger to hold it over until after the holiday break. Was it perfect? Nah. And as much as I enjoy the show, it still hasn’t quite become the “must-see-TV” of NBC’s catchphrase. But from the writing to the performances to the production values, “The Saint of Last Resorts” was still a high-point of this first season of Constantine and gave a good indication of what the show is capable of when it’s not trying too hard to exposit at every new audience member.

[I’m sorry for the nun pun in the subject line, but I couldn’t help myself so you’re just going to have to accept it]

Tue
Dec 16 2014 9:00am

Anime Year in Review: The Ten Best Shows of 2014

Anime Year in Review

As 2014 draws to a close, it is once again time to look back, reflect, and reduce all our experiences into ranked “best of” lists. Whereas often the year is dominated by one major blockbuster, 2014 was a somewhat eclectic year for anime, featuring a smattering of very good shows (and very bad ones), stunning displays industry talent (and incompetence), some very pleasant surprises (and rather unpleasant disappointments), and, alongside the annual prophecies of doom, a few reminders of how imaginative, innovative, and beautiful the medium can be.

So, without further ado, here’s a list of my ten favorite shows of 2014.

[Read more]

Tue
Dec 16 2014 8:00am

Morning Roundup: George R.R. Martin Gets in the Holiday Spirit With “12 Days of Westeros”

George R.R. Martin red Christmas Game of Thrones tweets

On the first day of Christmas, George R.R. Martin gave to us... false hope for a speedy release of Winds of Winter. The author had to clarify that his #12DaysofWesteros tweets are not a countdown to his next A Song of Ice and Fire book, but just a way to spread Christmas cheer by making us remember every traumatic moment from his books. Red Christmases and stockings hung on moon doors... Gah, now we’re thinking about it again!

Morning Roundup contemplates the alternate reality of Jon Hamm in tights, muses on running entire solar systems in the future, and makes sure there are no evil spirits lurking in its selfies.

[Also, we’re still talking about “Let It Go.”]

Tue
Dec 16 2014 7:00am

Celebrating Arthur C. Clarke’s Odyssey

Today we mark what would have been the 97th birthday of the great Arthur C. Clarke. Often credited with making fantastic predictions in his science fiction that actually came true, Clarke is among the most recognized and celebrated authors of the previous century. Perhaps the hardest of “hard science fiction” writers, Clarke was the authority on futurism and concepts both mind-bending and fascinatingly plausible. Known best for the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey and the epic film of the same name, Arthur C. Clarke is probably the writer most responsible for making futuristic space travel look realistic in our mind’s eye.

[Read more]

Tue
Dec 16 2014 7:00am

Philip K. Dick Scanned Our Brains, Darkly

In his afterword to a 1977 paperback collection called The Best of Philip K. Dick, PKD writes about the notion of questioning reality. At one point, Dick says the world made “sense” to him:

“I used to dig in the garden, and there isn’t anything fantastic or ultradimensional about crab grass...unless you are a sf writer, in which case, pretty soon you’re viewing crabgrass with suspicion. What are its real motives? And who sent it in the first place? The question I always found myself asking was, What is it really?”

Looking back on his work today, on the 86th anniversary of Dick’s birthday, the escape from the conspiracy of the mundane is a concept that certainly dominates the oeuvre of perhaps the most famous science fiction author ever. And why not? Don’t we all wish our lives were a little more interesting, a little more fantastic than perhaps they are?

[Read more]

Mon
Dec 15 2014 5:00pm

All Your Giant Mecha Dreams Come True! The Legend of Korra, “Kuvira’s Gambit”

Legend of Korra Kuriva's Gambit

That’s...quite an eponymous ploy, hm? This episode of The Legend of Korra is named “Kuvira’s Gambit,” and I frankly was expecting something like the inverse of the Gaang’s invasion of the Fire Nation, or the Rebel’s plan on Endor, or Suyin’s assault on Kuvira in the first place. Make a distraction and let an elite team take out essential targets. I was expecting Kuvira and a crack assault time to ride in on, I don’t know, a heavy paratroop drop, and hit Republic City in the heart.

But no, I had it all wrong: Kuvira’s gambit is a 25 story tall mecha suit. It’s a short jump from last week’s “Operation Beifong”: now that the crew is back together—kit and caboodle—they’ve almost got a chance to prepare...

[Read More]

Mon
Dec 15 2014 4:30pm

Gary Gibson’s Final Days Series Sweepstakes!

Out now from Tor UK and Pan Macmillan, The Thousand Emperors takes place in the same thrilling, high-octane world of dangerous technology and interstellar conflict that Gary Gibson created in Final Days. We want to send two lucky winners a copy of both Final Days and The Thousand Emperors!

Find out why Gary Gibson loves apocalypses, then comment in the post below 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 4:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on December 15. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on December 19. 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.

Mon
Dec 15 2014 4:00pm

End of the Line: Jeff VanderMeer and the Southern Reach Trilogy

Jeff VanderMeer interview Southern Reach trilogy omnibus Since the first and second Tor.com interviews with Jeff VanderMeer, his Southern Reach Trilogy, which concluded with Acceptance in August, has appeared on several Best Of lists this year. Meanwhile, an omnibus edition of the entire trilogy has been released in hardcover and VanderMeer, on tour again in support of the books, has been interviewed many times.

For this third and final interview about the Southern Reach Trilogy, then, we talked more about the overarching themes of the trilogy, the places it was written from and about, and what’s next—for VanderMeer and for us.

[Read More]

Mon
Dec 15 2014 3:15pm

Ancient Textbook Doodles Prove School Has Been Boring for Centuries

medieval doodles

We’re used to thinking of illuminated manuscripts as nearly sacred texts that take a painstakingly long time to create and must have been handled with the utmost care. But medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel, in documenting his various findings on his blog, has discovered that people in medieval times treated their books much the way we do today.

Kwakkel shared several photos of medieval manuscripts from about 700 years ago, their pages filled with doodles by scribes, monks, and bored school children.

[Read more]

Mon
Dec 15 2014 3:00pm

Follow Your Arrow: Valdemaran Public Health and Epidemiology

One of the conventions of YA literature is a journey in which the hero’s mettle is tested. Harry Potter went to the Forest of Dean. Katniss Everdeen went to the Quarter Quell. And Talia goes to Sorrows Two.

She spent Arrows of the Queen being trained and educated as Queen’s Own, and in chapters five and six of Arrow’s Flight, Kris and Talia reach their sector and her skills are put to the test. The major plot development here is that Talia’s shields continue to deteriorate, taking her emotional state with them.

In order to build that problem to a meaningful crisis, Lackey needs to show us what Heralds really do, and why it’s important for them to be emotionally stable.

[An arrow in flight must be sent with control]

Mon
Dec 15 2014 2:00pm

Flying Hats and Marching Brooms: Once Upon a Time, “Heroes and Villains”

Once Upon a Time Heroes and Villains

Villains! Heroes! Trickery! Princesses! Pirates! Surprisingly Powerful Hats! Yep, time once again for ABC’s Once Upon a Time, as the fall season draws to a close with “Heroes and Villains.” Which has to do—SHOCKER AHEAD—with Heroes and Villains.

[This means an evil yet adorable dalmatian could be showing up. JUST SAYING.]

Mon
Dec 15 2014 1:00pm

Rereading the Empire Trilogy: Servant of the Empire, Part 14

Servant of the Empire Raymond E Feist Janny WurtsWelcome back to the reread of Servant of the Empire by Raymond E Feist and Janny Wurts.

This is the ‘Arakasi wishes they had invented telephones’ chapter in which he basically spends several week running around and bringing news to Mara, over and over again. I am reminded of Hermione Granger snapping “I am not an OWL” at Harry Potter. Possibly Hermione should buy Arakasi a stiff drink out of sympathy given that I’m pretty sure his job description does include being an owl.

[Read More]

Mon
Dec 15 2014 12:24pm

Saga Press to Publish Kameron Hurley’s Standalone Space Opera The Stars Are Legion

Saga Press Kameron Hurley The Stars Are Legion

Saga Press, Simon & Schuster’s new science fiction and fantasy imprint, already counts among its authors Ken Liu and Genevieve Valentine. Now we can add to that list Kameron Hurley, author of the post-binary gender epic fantasy The Mirror Empire. Canadian SFF writer Aidan Moher broke the news on his blog A Dribble of Ink that Saga will publish Hurley’s The Stars Are Legion, a new standalone space opera, in 2016.

The first of two standalone books, The Stars Are Legion takes place within a star system comprised of “world-ships”—think generation ships but bigger—where two feuding matriarchs ultimately incite a war en route to discovering humanity’s new home. Saga Press Executive Editor Joe Monti (who purchased both novels) describes it as “Mad Max meets Henry V but aboard a world-sized [Weyland]-Yutani spaceship.”

[Read more]

Mon
Dec 15 2014 12:00pm
Excerpt

The Just City (Excerpt)

Jo Walton The Just City excerpt Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future—all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer’s daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge,  ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome—and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her. Meanwhile, Apollo—stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does—has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human.

Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives—the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself—to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect. What happens next is a tale only Jo Walton could tell. The Just City is available January 13th from Tor Books—check out an excerpt below!

[Read an excerpt]

Mon
Dec 15 2014 1:48pm

Sony Hack Reveals Potential Plot Details About Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII and Episode IX

Star Wars Episode XIII IX rumors Rian Johnson Luke Leia storylines

One of the unexpected ways that movie fans benefit from the Sony email hack is that even offhanded comments about non-Sony projects can become news. For instance, the emails between Columbia Pictures President of Production Michael De Luca and Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal, in which the two chat briefly about some of the new Star Wars films.

While the emails don’t divulge as much information as the alleged spoiler leak on 4chan a few weeks ago, they still hint at what to expect from Rian Johnson’s follow-ups to J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens, plus some insight into the standalone films.

[Read more]

Mon
Dec 15 2014 11:00am

The Infinite Points of Interest in Alternate History

The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocketwatch Conspiracy Jacopo della Quercia In many ways, any venture into alternate history ultimately begins with something simple: a single bullet, a stopping heart, or—perhaps most famously—the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in some distant, unknown past.

Such elements have played key roles in the literatures of countless writers, especially since such similarly minor factors have repeatedly redirected history as we know it. The fate of the American Revolution, for example, might have ultimately been decided by a poker game. Before the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the American Civil War hinged on a piece of paper wrapped around three cigars, found in a field. A wrong turn in a stalling car resulted in the assassination that triggered World War I, whereas World War III was narrowly avoided in 1962 thanks to one little-known Soviet officer’s presence during the Cuban Missile Crisis. As for World War II, let’s not even get started on how different the world would be if a certain vagrant studied painting instead of antisemitism while in Vienna.

[What if?]

Mon
Dec 15 2014 10:34am

Gandalf Is the Worst Boss Ever in This The Hobbit/The Office Mashup

The Hobbit The Office mashup sketch Saturday Night Live Martin Freeman

If you thought Bilbo Baggins simply returned to the Shire after the events of The Hobbit, you’d be dead wrong. Turns out that after the Battle of the Five Armies, he nobly turned down his share of Smaug’s treasure and instead took up a job at a paper company, along with his fellow adventurers... and Gandalf, who continues to run everyone’s lives and just be the worst.

[Watch this Hobbit/Office mashup]

Mon
Dec 15 2014 10:00am

Steven Erikson: On Compassion, Completing Malazan, and Looking Toward the Future

Malazan Reread of the Fallen Steven Erikson

As many of you know, our ongoing Malazan Reread recently reached the end of The Crippled God, the final novel in the series. To mark the occasion, author Steven Erikson graciously offered to participate in a Q&A covering both the novel and the series as a whole.

You can read the entirety of the discussion here, but for those who might have missed it, we wanted to share the following statement from Steven, addressing all the fans who’ve followed the series, as well as our intrepid Tor.com rereaders, Bill Capossere and Amanda Rutter.

[Read Erikson’s post below!]