X-Men: Apocalypse Really Hopes You Remember Those Characters You Liked From Before

X-Men: Apocalypse is a story meant to bridge the gap between the previous generation of characters fans have been rooting for since 2011’s First Class, and the mutants they came to know from the first Bryan Singer films in the early aughts. Because of that, Apocalypse has quite a lot to of ground to cover, and a lot of characters to juggle.

Does the film manage that circus act? Um… very yes and very no.

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Robert Jordan: America’s Tolkien

In 2005, Lev Grossman of Time Magazine declared that George R. R. Martin was “the American Tolkien.” Since then, you’ll be able to find the phrase splashed on just about every one of Martin’s wonderful novels.

And for good reason, of course. That’s a really awesome blurb. I’d love it on my own novels. Or how about just “the American Pullman”? I would be totally cool with that, Mr. Grossman!

Unfortunately, I think that my series The Shards of Heaven—while it follows Philip Pullman’s superb His Dark Materials in ultimately positing a new origin story for the gods—would not be the right fit for the comparison. Pullman’s series is a parallel world fantasy fundamentally in dialogue with John Milton, William Blake, and C. S. Lewis; my series is a historical fantasy set during the time of Antony and Cleopatra that dialogues with history, legend, and myth. He and I are really doing different things. And the same kind of differentiation is true, I think, of Martin and Tolkien. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire might exist in the shadow of The Lord of the Rings—I’ve written elsewhere about its quasi-“medieval” setting—but they are tremendously different works in tone, scale, and intent. As terrific as his work is (and, seriously, you can put down the pitchforks if you’re a fan of Westeros), George R. R. Martin isn’t the American Tolkien.

[Robert Jordan is.]

Hammers on Bone Excerpt and Cover Reveal!

John Persons is a private investigator with a distasteful job from an unlikely client. He’s been hired by a ten-year-old to kill the kid’s stepdad, McKinsey. The man in question is abusive, abrasive, and abominable. He’s also a monster, which makes Persons the perfect thing to hunt him. Over the course of his ancient, arcane existence, he’s hunted gods and demons, and broken them in his teeth.

As Persons investigates the horrible McKinsey, he realizes that he carries something far darker than the expected social evils. He’s infected with an alien presence, and he’s spreading that monstrosity far and wide. Luckily Persons is no stranger to the occult, being an ancient and magical intelligence himself. The question is whether the private dick can take down the abusive stepdad without releasing the holds on his own horrifying potential.

We’re pleased to reveal the cover for Cassandra Khaw’s Hammers on Bone, a new dark fantasy noir novella available October 11th from Tor.com Publishing. Check out the full cover, illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love and designed by Christine Foltzer, and read an exclusive excerpt below!

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Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 6: “Blood of My Blood”

Seeing last week’s ending again in the “Previously on…” bit made me upset all over again.

Tonight’s episode proper kept it in the family. Some take this more literally than others. (Looking at you, Jaime and Cersei.) But elsewhere in King’s Landing, family members reunited, were torn apart, fought to stay together, and were also unspeakably horrible to one another.

But no one died! This was good for everyone—except for Arya, of course.

Major episode spoilers ahead.

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Series: HBO’s Game of Thrones

Neil Gaiman’s Likely Stories, Episodes 1 and 2: Clever, Unsettling, and Not To Be Missed

The first ten minutes of “Foreign Parts,” the first of four Neil Gaiman short stories to be adapted for TV in Neil Gaiman’s Likely Stories, are uncomfortable viewing. That’s partially due to the setup which follows Simon Powers (George Mackay), a man who is professionally cautious of very nearly everything besides his fondness for solitude and masturbation. Simon hasn’t had sex with anyone other than himself for three years, has a stable job, a stable life and absolutely no prospect of anything changing. Until he’s woken up by pain in his genitals and goes to the Doctor. Simon, it turns out has picked up an infection.

But from where? Or who?

For ten minutes you find yourself wondering if you really are about to watch a half hour drama about a not especially pleasant man’s urethra infection. For ten minutes, if you’re a Brit, you look at the dingy décor and the grumpily polite London that Simon moves through and wonder if that really is all there is to the country. For ten minutes, you hope desperately that the subplot involving the collapse of Doctor Benham’s marriage is actually going to work. For ten minutes you wonder if Gaiman’s Hitchcockian cameos on TV screens and radios will pay off.

[It all does.]

Paizo Announces New Starfinder Roleplaying Game

Paizo Inc., creators of the fantasy roleplaying game Pathfinder, have just revealed their plans to release an all-new science fantasy roleplaying game called Starfinder in August of 2017.

Set in the same universe as Pathfinder but thousands of years in the future, the Starfinder roleplaying game makes players the explorers of weird new worlds, where monsters and magic exist alongside spaceships and laser guns. While compatible with the Pathfinder RPG, Starfinder will be a complete standalone game, requiring only the Starfinder RPG Core Rulebook to play.

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Traumatic SFF Movie Moments (That I Loved and Watched Repeatedly)

(This is rerun of a post that originally ran on August 5th, 2015.)

As a child of the 80s, I grew up watching a lot of weird stuff. My parents love movies, from glorious technicolor musicals (hi, mom!) and classic comedies to Westerns and all Kubrick films (hey, dad!), and as the oldest kid I was their pop culture guinea pig as they tried their best to figure out what kind of entertainment would fly with little ones, and what would just straight-up freak us out. But of course, they soon found that mileage tends to vary in a big way—spooky movies that amused me to no end gave my younger brother crazy nightmares, while other scenes that completely disturbed me had zero effect on him, and so on. Kids are fun like that.

Of course, having a strong emotional reaction to a movie or a particular scene isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes the moments we find most upsetting end up sticking with us long after we’ve processed those emotions. I’m sure everyone has a list of the movies that deeply affected them, growing up, and we’d love to hear your stories in the comments, if you care to share! In the meantime, here are my own personal top five trauma-inducing movie moments from childhood (mostly), in no particular order…

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Highlights From Our “Five Books About…” Series to Build Your TBR Pile

Quick! Give us five books about dragons. Or girls disguising themselves as boys. Or magic systems with particularly high costs. When authors are releasing their new books out into the world, we like to pick their brains for a quintet of similar books that might have inspired them. Or, as with our “And Related Subjects” essays, we want authors to list books that have nothing to do with their creative process, but that address a fascinating topic or reversal in genre. Since 2015, we’ve been asking authors to share serious or cheeky book recommendations for our Five Books About… series. With over 100 lists, that’s close to 500 books to check out (minus any overlap, which are probably books you doubly want to check out). Read through some of our best lists (so far) for the books that compel great authors to write.

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Rereading Katherine Kurtz: Farewell to Morgan and Company

As I think about the reread of Katherine Kurtz’s first published trilogy before I move on to the second published series (which actually moves backward in time), what strikes me is that, for all their problems, their wobbles and plotholes, the first three books hold up amazingly well. I still love many of the things I loved then, and I see where my own writing picked up not only ideas and characters, but also Don’ts and No’s—things that made me say, even then, “Hell, no. It should be this way instead.”

And that’s all to the good. A baby writer should take inspiration from her predecessors, but also find ways to tell her own stories in her own way. [Read more]

Series: Rereading Katherine Kurtz

Huge Adult Ideas Taught to Us By Weird Movies

(This is a rerun of a post that originally ran on April 27th, 2016.)

When you’re a kid, the adult world is filled with mysteries. Adults talk about things that are literally and figuratively over your head. If the news comes on, you’ll catch fragments of conflicts that don’t make any sense. If you happen across films or books for adults, there might be scenes that baffle you, since you lack the context.

Sometimes the best way, or even the only way, to understand these huge ideas is through movies. Why don’t people want to live in a shiny new building? What is “light speed”? And how can responsibility ever be fun? Emily and I rounded up a few movies that helped us figure out these huge concepts when we were kids.

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It’s Just Business: Why Rejection of Your Art Feels So Personal

(This is a rerun of a post that originally ran on March 10th, 2016.)

You cancelled social plans, sacrificed other potential income streams, and lost sleep to finish your short story, manuscript, or screenplay…only to be told that you’re “not a good fit.” And you’re not supposed to take this rejection personally?

The upside to writing, be it a story, script, or poem, is that you get to create in a vacuum. While the actual work is squeezed into the hours outside your day job(s), school, and other responsibilities, that time and space to create is wholly yours, and so is anything that emerges from that space.

The downside to writing, be it a story, script, or poem, is that you get to create in a vacuum. Because when you’re finally ready to submit this work to other people, then any kind of rejection can feel very personal. You spent all this time blocking out the nagging voice that you’re not good enough, only for that voice to come out of someone else’s mouth.

The problem with writing in a vacuum is that it’s difficult to notice that businesses—like the publisher who buys books, or the studio that buys scripts—are also creating within their own vacuum, one where impersonal commercial concerns often dictate decisions. Where those two vacuum bubbles intersect is where creativity meets commerce, and it’s how your work will ultimately find its audience. So why does that intersection feel so personal even though it’s “just business”?

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Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Shards of Honor, Chapters 8-10

Last week, Cordelia was captured, which turned out to be bad luck for Admiral Vorrutyer. She’s free now, and Aral has come charging through the door. This week, we’re looking at chapters 8 through 10. Cordelia and Aral crowd into his quarters with a mostly unconscious Bothari and talk about their problems.

If you’d like to catch up on previous posts in the re-read, the index is here. 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

Cloned, Recruited, and Kidnapped: Military Evolution in the Star Wars Universe

(This is a rerun of a post that originally ran on March 30th, 2016)

Is it weird to acknowledge that Emperor Palpatine has the most ethically formed army of “bad guys” in Star Wars? It feels weird to say that. I feel strange now. Ick.

I mean, as a Chancellor to the Old Republic, he was responsible for the creation of an army of clones who were deliberately programmed without agency and trained to die for a governed body that they were barred from joining. But as an Emperor, he just plain old recruited. For an academy. Where you became a stormtrooper. So… the Empire was weirdly nicer than the Old Republic or the First Order. The Evil Galactic Empire™ was better at people.

Still feel weird.

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Dancer’s Lament: Chapter 4

At the heart of Quon Tali lies the powerful city-state of Li Heng, which has for centuries enjoyed relative stability under the guidance of the powerful sorceress known as the Protectress. She is not someone likely to tolerate the arrival of two particular young men into her domain: one determined to prove he is the most skilled assassin of his age, the other his quarry—a Dal Hon mage who is proving annoyingly difficult to kill. The sorceress and her cabal of five mage servants were enough to repel the Quon Tali Iron Legions, so how could two such troublemakers upset her ironfisted rule?

And now, under a new and ambitious king, the forces of Itko Kan are marching on Li Heng from the south. His own assassins, the Nightblades, have been sent ahead into the city, and rumors abound that he has inhuman, nightmarish forces at his command. So as shadows and mistrust swirl, and monstrous beasts that people say appear from nowhere run rampage through Li Heng’s streets, it seems chaos is come—but in chaos, as a certain young Dal Hon mage would say, there is opportunity…

Ian C. Esslemont’s all-new prequel trilogy takes readers deeper into the politics and intrigue of the Malazan Empire from its very beginnings. Dancer’s Lament, the first book in the series, is available May 31st from Tor Books. Read chapter four below, or head back to the beginning with chapter one.

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