Shared Worlds is the Kind of SFF Writing Camp You Wish Existed When You Were a Teenager

Happy eighth birthday to Shared Worlds! For almost a decade, the SFF writing camp located at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, has brought aspiring young writers together to build an entire world. Under the tutelage of guest writers, students learn the basics of worldbuilding by actually doing it: They spend one week brainstorming a speculative-fiction world together, from vast geography down to the nitty-gritty of its citizens’ philosophy. Then the second week is spent writing stories all set in the same world, honing their unique voices while working in tandem. There are also prizes, field trips, an alien baby mascot, and wacky stunts from the staff, because after all, this is summer camp.

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Pulpy and Playful: Daughters of Frankenstein, edited by Steve Berman

With the subheading “Lesbian Mad Scientists!” and a delightful cover that hearkens back to the pulp tradition—two women with frizzy hair bringing an android to life with lightning arcing all over the place—Daughters of Frankenstein is aiming for a very specific tone: fun. Lethe Press, under editor Steve Berman, regularly produces queer sf anthologies that I’ve appreciated, and this one in particular seemed likely to offer an entertaining late-summer read.

(I did, in fact, read it on the porch in the sun. Highly recommended activity.)

[A review.]

Series: Queering SFF

The House of Shattered Wings

In the late twentieth century, the streets of Paris are lined with haunted ruins, the aftermath of a Great War between arcane powers. The Grand Magasins have been reduced to piles of debris, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine has turned black with ashes and rubble and the remnants of the spells that tore the city apart. But those that survived still retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.

Once the most powerful and formidable, House Silverspires now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen angel; an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction; and a resentful young man wielding spells of unknown origin. They may be Silverspires’ salvation—or the architects of its last, irreversible fall. And if Silverspires falls, so may the city itself.

The War in Heaven comes to Paris in Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings, available August 18th from Roc (US) and August 20th from Gollancz (UK).

[Read an excerpt]

Turns Out Serenity Valley is Right Next to the Vulcan Planum

The mapping of Pluto and Charon continues, and it’s geekier than ever! Invoking the dark gods was one thing, but now the OurPluto naming campaign has expanded to fit countless geeky references into the surface terrain of both Pluto and its moon. Craters named for Ripley, Leia, Skywalkers, Spock, Sulu! Chasmas tipping their hats to Nostromo, Serenity, the TARDIS! Ah, what a world we live in. io9 has an extensive rundown of the namesakes of all of these spots, and you can feast your eyes on hi-res maps at the OurPluto website.

Afternoon Roundup brings you comic art so good it doesn’t need words, the writer/reader contract, and a shocking suggestion for spy movie storytelling!

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The Wheel of Time Reread Redux: The Great Hunt, Part 11

Fly, fly my pretties—into the next Wheel of Time Reread Redux!

Today’s Redux post will cover Chapter 18 of The Great Hunt, originally reread in this post.

All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on

The Wheel of Time Reread is also available as an e-book series! Yay!

All Reread Redux posts will contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And now, the post!

[Even though that means it literally is rocket science, sort of, I still think someone could have figured it out by now]

Series: The Wheel of Time Reread

Warner Bros Announces Dungeons & Dragons Movie, Hoping You Forgot About the First D&D Movie

Warner Bros is finally bringing Dungeons & Dragons to the big screen, to drum up fan excitement like never before, because a D&D movie never happened. Nope, Jeremy Irons grinning maniacally at you is just something you dreamed up. That we all dreamed up. Like some terrifying treat that lives in our collective unconsciousness.

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The Luck of the Irish, and Other Cliches: “The Moon-Bog”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s original stories.

Today we’re looking at “The Moon-Bog,” written in somewhere in the vicinity of March 1921, shared at an amateur journalists’ club Saint Patrick’s Day Party on March 10 1921, and first published in the June 1926 issue of Weird Tales. You can read it here.

Spoilers ahead.

[“And that night my dreams of piping flutes and marble peristyles came to a sudden and disquieting end.”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Five Japanese Books of Mystery and Imagination

I basically spent the 1990s in Japan, eight years in-country and the rest of the time traveling. I had the leisure to read as much as I chose, much of it pure frivolity like the humorous essays of Munenori Harada and classic comedy like Shank’s Mare. Just as in English, though, I always found myself wandering off into dark corners of the bookstore.

Here are five books of mystery and imagination that changed the way I thought of Japan.

[Read more]

Series: Five Books About…

Let’s Go Back in Time (then Forward, then Back Again) With 20 Time Travel Classics!

All of us have dreamed of hijacking a Time Turner or a Quantum Leap Accelerator to go back to fix a moment in our pasts. Many of us have also dreamed about a TARDIS or Delorean-based trip forward into a dimly-imagined future. Luckily, we here at have access to vast tracts of science fiction, and we can celebrate some of the best authors in history as they work out their own time travel scenarios.

Here are 20 of our favorites, from H.G. Wells to Octavia Butler, but be sure to add your own picks in the comments!

[We won’t need roads, but we’ll always need books!]

“Just Because You’re Immortal, Doesn’t Mean You’re Going to Live Forever” — A Wicked + Divine Mixtape

Pop Stars are gods. We all know this is true in some way or another—whether in the ecstasy of a song that just “gets” you, or in the frenzied almost-worship of fandom—but The Wicked + The Divine takes that premise a two-step further. In Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s comic series, gods from all manner of pantheons are reborn every ninety years as mortal, teenage popsters. They exist to be worshipped, but only for two years. After that, they die, and the phoenix-cycle of creation and destruction begins again.

Like Phonogram before it, WicDiv is a story about music told exclusively through words and images—and the way that the creators make up for the lack of awe-inspiring audio through color and character and pop culture reference is impressive, to say the least. Still, if anything is going to convince you to pick up this phenomenal series, it should be music.

[The Music of the Gods]

House Gamgee: Can Carry House Baggins

Like an adult version of sorting character into Hogwarts Houses, summing up our favorite fictional characters with Game of Thrones-style House Banners is just pure fun, and we commend artist Miguel Lokia for these inspired banners. While House Wayne’s “We Are the Night” motto is pretty fun, and House House’s “Not Lupus” is hilarious, we had to stay true to the fantasy roots here and highlight House Baggins. You can check out more of Lokia’s banners over at DeviantArt!

Morning Roundup brings you the dino-centric news you need, plus a potentially troubling update on what was, admittedly, already a fairly loose adaptation of a Washington Irving tale, and the best all-sheep theater production we’ve ever heard of.

[Plus a philosophical take on Star Trek!]

Aurora Australis: Awards, Novels, and Podcasts

Apparently there have been some excellent aurora australis in the skies recently, but winter where I live obscures them behind grey, grey skies. At least good things are happening in the NZ and Australian SFF scene, so that’s some compensation.

[Let’s start with awards this time because WHOO!]

Series: Aurora Australis

The Coode Street Podcast Episode 243: Michael Swanwick

Welcome to The Coode Street Podcast, an informal weekly discussion about science fiction and fantasy featuring award-winning critics and editors Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe. The Coode Street Podcast debuted in 2010 and has been nominated for the Hugo, British Science Fiction, and Aurealis awards.

This week we welcome very special guest Michael Swanwick, discussing his new ‘Darger and Surplus’ novel Chasing the Phoenix, the origins of the Darger and Surplus stories, his long-ago discussions with Fritz Leiber about whether the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories were actually horror stories, collaborating with Eilieen Gunn, William Gibson, and others, and what it was like to  work with legendary editors Terry Carr and Gardner Dozois, plus other random-but-related topics.

[Listen to Coode Street]

Series: The Coode Street Podcast

Witches and Real Estate: Five Magical Houses

House and apartment hunting is wearying, so it’s good to have a clear picture in your mind of what you think is important in a place of residence. I am inclined to choose appealing window nooks, mysterious dumbwaiters, and vine-trailing balconies over rent control, a safe neighborhood, and how easy the bathroom will be to clean. For this folly, I blame my taste in books. Fantasy novels have a longstanding love of magical houses, and they have completely spoiled me for serviceable, low-rise shoeboxes.

Here are a few listings that I wish would turn up in the classifieds and some musings on their appeal…

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Sunset Mantle

With a single blow, Cete won both honor and exile from his last commander. Since then he has wandered, looking for a place to call home. The distant holdings of the Reach Antach offer shelter, but that promise has a price: The Reach Antach is doomed.

Barbarians, traitors, and scheming investors conspire to destroy the burgeoning settlement. A wise man would move on, but Cete has found reason to stay. A blind weaver-woman and the beautiful sunset mantle lure the warrior to wager everything he has left on one final chance to turn back the hungry tides of war.

Read an excerpt from Sunset Mantle by Alter S. Reiss—available in paperback and ebook September 15th from!

[Read an excerpt]

Who You Gonna Call? Just What the Doctor Ordered!

Four out of five doctors would probably tell you that getting a visit from your favorite geek culture characters does wonders for patients’ morale. Likely taking a page from Chris Evans and Chris Pratt, the all-female cast of the new Ghostbusters movie stopped by Tufts Medical Center’s Floating Hospital for Children, in their snazzy new costumes and proton packs!

Afternoon Roundup brings you the hitchbot we lost too soon, the SFF characters John Scalzi wanted to be, and a reminder of the appeal of standalone sci-fi movies.

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“Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall; Death is the Fifth, and Master of All”: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

If the Inheritance Trilogy established N. K. Jemisin as a genre writer to be reckoned with, and the Dreamblood Duology demonstrated the range of her capabilities as a creator, book the first of The Broken Earth comprehensively confirms the award-winning worldbuilder as one of our very finest fantasists. Epic in its scope and scale in the same instant as it is intimate, The Fifth Season is rich, relevant and resonant—quite frankly remarkable.

Brilliantly, it begins with an ending; with two intertwined endings, in truth, which, when taken together, foreground Jemisin’s focus on the huge and the human. In the first, a mother covers the broken body of her little boy—who’s been beaten to death by his father simply for being different—with a blanket. Essun does not cover Uche’s head, however, “because he is afraid of the dark.”

These harrowing paragraphs—and paragraphs are all they are, for all their power—are paired with what is, in apocalyptic fiction such as this, a more conventional conclusion.

[The end… of everything.]

Dragon Coast Sweepstakes!

We have five galleys of Greg Van Eekhout’s Dragon Coast, the conclusion to the Daniel Blackland series, and we want to send you a copy before the book hits shelves on September 15th!

Daniel’s adopted son Sam, made from the magical essence of the tyrannical Hierarch of Southern California whom Daniel overthrew and killed, is lost—consumed by the great Pacific firedrake secretly assembled by Daniel’s half-brother, Paul.

But Sam is still alive and aware, in magical form, trapped inside the dragon as it rampages around Los Angeles, periodically torching a neighborhood or two.

Daniel has a plan to rescue Sam. It will involve the rarest of substances, axis mundi, pieces of the bones of the great dragon at the center of the Earth. Daniel will have to go to the kingdom of Northern California, boldly posing as his half-brother, come to claim his place in the competition to be appointed Lord High Osteomancer of the Northern Kingdom. Only when the Northern Hierarch, in her throne room at Golden Gate Park, raises her scepter to confirm Daniel in his position will he have an opportunity to steal the axis mundi—under the gaze of the Hierarch herself.

And that’s just the first obstacle.

Check for the rules below!

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Mercedes Lackey’s Winds of Change: Bring Me the Finest Cheese Plants in the Land!

Mercedes Lackey’s Winds of Change, book two in the Mage Winds trilogy, has a relatively simple plot. Darkwind and Elspeth work to train their powers and help fix K’Sheyna Vale’s fractured heartstone, while Falconsbane tries to stop them. K’Sheyna calls in Healer-Adept Firesong from K’Treva Vale to help. He chooses an unconventional approach, draining the heartstone of its power. K’Treva’s Mages are pushing that power towards a new heartstone when the power is grabbed and diverted to the Palace in Haven by a mysterious force located in the Forest of Sorrows.

But what I remember most about reading Winds of Change when I was a teenager is that it is the book where Darkwind makes over Elspeth’s wardrobe and the hertasi bring them tapas.

[The hertasi are winning the Velgarth edition of Top Chef]

Series: The Valdemar Reread