A Long Spoon December 18, 2014 A Long Spoon Jonathan L. Howard A Johannes Cabal story. 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.
From The Blog
December 22, 2014
What is it Like to be a Malfoy Post-Battle of Hogwarts? Rowling Reveals All on Pottermore
Stubby the Rocket
December 18, 2014
Mistborn Fans Will Get TWO New Novels Next Year!
December 15, 2014
Steven Erikson: On Completing Malazan
December 12, 2014
When My Wife Put Her Face in a Fireball for Epic Fantasy
Brian Staveley
December 10, 2014
Even More Standalone Fantasy Fiction!
Stubby the Rocket
Showing posts by: Amal El-Mohtar click to see Amal El-Mohtar's profile
Dec 17 2014 3:00pm

Rich and Strange: “Nkásht íí” by Darcie Little Badger

strange horizonsWelcome back to Rich and Strange, a weekly reading of marvellous short fiction from around the web. Today’s review takes a look at “Nkásht íí” by Darcie Little Badger, published this week in Strange Horizons.

This week in Full Disclosure: nothing to declare! Except that this story is beautiful and hooked me from start to finish.

[Read More]

Dec 10 2014 2:00pm

Rich and Strange: “No Vera There” by Dominica Phetteplace

Clarkesworld Issue 99 This week on Rich and Strange we head over to Clarkesworld, a venue that became one of my early favourites for online reading but that I’ve inexplicably been neglecting recently, to read Dominica Phetteplace’s “No Vera There.

Full Disclosure: I had never read or heard of Dominica Phetteplace before her good friend Christopher Caldwell recommended this story on Twitter. Christopher Caldwell is also my good friend and I have eaten his jambalaya, which is superb.

As it happens, so is this story.

[Read More.]

Dec 3 2014 12:00pm

Rich and Strange: “A Kiss With Teeth” by Max Gladstone

This week I want to review a story published here at Tor.com, because in addition to being elegantly written and intensely engaging it taught me something about the way I read short fiction.

Full Disclosure: I am writing this review of a Tor.com story on Tor.com! Circles are closing! Streams are crossing! But far more perniciously than that, Max Gladstone and I have dirt on each other. We share a Dark and Terrible Secret. It’s entirely possible that if we were to become enemies instead of friendly acquaintances we could mutually assure each other’s destruction.

Thank goodness I loved this story.

[Read More.]

Nov 19 2014 2:00pm

Rich and Strange: “Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy” by Saladin Ahmed

The Faerie Queene

I love Spenser’s The Faerie Queen. I love it with a geeky, earnest passion for its bleeding trees, its book-vomiting serpents, its undefeatable shield-maiden and her rescue of a woman named Love.

That said, I always read it with double vision—one eye always redacting, reading Duessa and the Saracen Knights against their ergot-laden grain. Of course the first really interesting female character we meet is a duplicitous evil-doer; of course being friends with the Queen of Night and getting her to spirit your boyfriend away before some (quite literal) kill-joy murders him means you’re a villain instead of a resourceful badass. It was strange, reading a book and loving it enough to spontaneously compose explanatory fanfic for its ugly parts, but that was most of my undergraduate English degree.

When I saw the title of Saladin Ahmed’s “Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy,” I straightened up out of a slouch. I felt my eyes brighten with hope. He’s going to do it, I thought. He’s going to write my fanfic.

[SPOILER: he’s the one with the beard.]

Nov 12 2014 12:30pm

Rich and Strange: “Stalemate” by Rose Lemberg and “Bonsaiships of Venus” by Kate Heartfield

Lackington's Issue 4 A new issue of Lackington’s magazine, edited by Ranylt Richildis, went up this week, book-ended by two searingly beautiful meditations on the relationship between aesthetics and utility. This week on Rich and Strange, I want to talk about Rose Lemberg’s “Stalemate” and Kate Heartfield’s “Bonsaiships of Venus,” both far-future science fiction stories told in awe-inducing language. They’re also two stories that fit together in a way that delighted me into much-needed catharsis after a hard week of reading very upsetting fiction.

This week in Full Disclosure: Ranylt Richildis and Rose Lemberg are good friends and have both published me in their respective zines in the past (Lemberg edits Stone Telling), and I’m friendlily acquainted with Kate Heartfield.

[To the micro/macrocosm!]

Nov 5 2014 10:00am

Rich and Strange: “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” by Maria Dahvana Headley

Welcome to Rich and Strange, a weekly spotlight on short fiction I’ve thoroughly enjoyed! This week I want to look Maria Dahvana Headley’s “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White,” appearing in the inaugural issue of Uncanny Magazine.

It’s occurred to me that, given the permeable nature of professional relationships in our genre, I might change the name of this column to Full Disclosure, since I’m often hard put to find stories I love written by people or appearing in venues to which I have absolutely no connection. It’s a natural state of affairs in genre that we read a thing we love, meet the person who wrote it at a convention, strike up an acquaintanceship that becomes a friendship, and then find that we’re reading the excellent work of people we now chat with on a regular basis. So it goes – but I’ll always state those connections up front when they occur.

So for instance, this week in Full Disclosure, I reveal that I read “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” for Uncanny’s podcast (and was paid to do so); that I supported Uncanny’s Kickstarter; and that Headley once bought me a salad at Readercon. Personally what I think you should take away from this is that I loved “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” enough to tediously itemize the above because as we all know it’s actually about ethics in short fiction journalism.

[It was a tasty salad.]

Oct 30 2014 8:30am

Rich and Strange: “Witch, Beast, Saint” by C. S. E. Cooney

Grooming Earlier this autumn I was infuriated enough by a bigoted and incompetent review of a talented writer’s work that I decided to review it myself. The result was Rich and Strange, a commitment to review short fiction on a weekly basis, focusing on work in magazines that I’ve especially loved. I reviewed three stories—Sam J. Miller’s “We Are the Cloud,” Alyssa Wong’s “Santos de Sampaguitas,” and Kate Hall’s “The Scrimshaw and the Scream”—before taking Tor.com up on the invitation of running the column here.

Partly in honour of Liz Bourke’s Sleeps With Monsters column but mostly just because it’s dazzling, the first story I want to single out for praise in this venue is C. S. E. Cooney’s “Witch, Beast, Saint: an Erotic Fairy Tale.”

[Read More]

Nov 22 2013 1:00pm

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Cocktails: Tasting Notes for 11 Doctor-themed Doc-tails

Doctor Who Cocktails

Welcome back to Doc-tails, a two-part post in anticipation of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary! In part one of this boozestravaganza, we introduced you to the concepts and recipes for 11 cocktails—one for each incarnation of the Doctor so far. In this post, a veritable Companionship—Interrogation? Paradox?—of fans prepare the beverages in question, getting their geek on with photos and tasting notes.


Nov 19 2013 9:00am

Making 11 Cocktails for All 11 Doctors: Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Doc-tails

Once upon a time on Twitter, I asked people to come up with easy to make Doctor Who themed drinks for the launch party of Queers Dig Time Lords. I was staggered by the enthusiasm and ingenuity with which people responded—but Al Kennedy of comics podcast House to Astonish took things a step further, coming up with drink components for all eleven incarnations of the Doctor, themed around one of their representative episodes (or books).

Very keen to see these bits and bobs come together as actual, buildable drinks, I asked alcohol architect Stephane Cote for his expertise—and what he came up with absolutely blew me away.

Armed with recipes, good company, and very little in the way of instinctual self-preservation, I journeyed forth into the wilds of Glasgow to find a cocktail bar that would enable us to drink our way through eleven Doctors. Blue Dog and its excellent staff were game, and thus did our adventure begin.


Nov 7 2013 5:00pm

Thor: The Dark World is SO MUCH FUN

Thor: The Dark World non-spoiler movie review

I have seen Thor: The Dark World and LO, I have loved it with a deep and abiding love that would take me back into the IMAX immediately if it weren’t for the fact that I need to pack for a trip to Brighton and the World Fantasy Convention therein. Apparently there were TWO post-credits Easter eggs! Let it be a testament to how excited I was to get home and write this review that I didn’t stick around to see whether or not there’d be a second one!

[When all you’ve got is a hammer…]

Nov 7 2013 10:00am

From Sindbad to Sci-Fi: Summing Up a Salon on Arab SF

Murat Palta illustration Terminator

I recently had the pleasure of participating in an event discussing “Arab Science Fiction” under the auspices of the Nour Festival, a London-based celebration of Arabic culture now in its fourth year. Conceived of, organised and produced by Yasmin Khan (and recently covered by the BBC), “From Sindbad to Sci-Fi” was a salon-style discussion involving Samira Ahmed, Ziauddin Sardar, Khyle Alexander Raja, and myself, moderated by Quentin Cooper.

The evening was to be divided into two parts: in the first half, each of us would be invited to speak for up to ten minutes about our relationship with or views about science fiction as related to the Arab world, and in the second, we would form a panel to discuss questions posed by Cooper, respondents, and members of the audience.

[Read more...]

Oct 31 2013 9:30am

Thor: The Dark World Is SO MUCH FUN

Thor: The Dark World non-spoiler movie review

I have seen Thor: The Dark World and LO, I have loved it with a deep and abiding love that would take me back into the IMAX immediately if it weren’t for the fact that I need to pack for a trip to Brighton and the World Fantasy Convention therein. Apparently there were TWO post-credits Easter eggs! Let it be a testament to how excited I was to get home and write this review that I didn’t stick around to see whether or not there’d be a second one!

[When all you’ve got is a hammer…]

Oct 15 2013 2:00pm

Legend of Korra, I Am Disappoint: Remembering “The Ember Island Players”

Last weekend’s episode of The Legend of Korra left me furiously disappointed for a multitude of reasons, but one element in particular threw the show’s failures into sharp relief: the extended sequence of Varrick’s propaganda film in support of the Southern Water Tribe, featuring Bolin playing Nuktuk, Hero of the South.

The film sequence itself was beautifully realised, but its place within the episode, and that episode’s place within the season, reminded me powerfully of the last time we saw characters in this universe watching themselves portrayed: back in Book 3, Episode 17 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, with “The Ember Island Players.”

Unfortunately, the differences between the episodes speak volumes about everything that’s gone wrong with Legend of Korra.

[Raise the curtain.]

May 14 2013 4:00pm

The Powerful Acts of Writing and Reading: A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

A Stranger in Olondria cover, Sofia Samatar

For a long time now I have been afraid of Sofia Samatar's fiction. Knowing the effect her poetry has had on me—in Goblin Fruit, in Stone Telling, in Strange Horizons—I have trembled at the thought of allowing her words any deeper purchase on my psyche. Given her ability to incapacitate me with a few well-turned stanzas, what havoc might she wreak with a whole novel?

Through some terrible and wonderful magic, A Stranger in Olondria has anticipated these fears and commented on them. With characteristic wit, poise, and eloquence, Samatar delivers a story about our vulnerability to language and literature, and the simultaneous experience of power and surrender inherent in the acts of writing and reading.

[Read more]

Apr 4 2013 12:00pm

How to Read Poetry 101: Whys and Wherefores

Amal El-Mohtar How to read poetryWelcome, dear readers, to April, a month variously named sweet and cruel in poetry across the ages, and therefore uniquely appropriate to a series on How to Read Poetry. Over the next four weeks I want to transform you from a sheepish non-reader of poetry into a curious appreciator of it by doing the following:

  • Demonstrating that poetry is more than the dry dusty stuff people tried to cram down your throats in high school, and that you’re missing out on something awesome and important by shunning it wholesale.
  • Suggesting different ways of approaching poems you’re not understanding to help you figure out whether there’s something in here for you to enjoy or not.
  • Introducing you to the fantastic poetry of the authors whose fiction you may already love.

What I won’t do is hold forth about things like the difference between synecdoche and metonymy or why some bits of Shakespeare are written in iambic pentameter while others are written in trochaic tetrameter. I love that stuff, but for my purposes here it’s besides the point. You don’t need to know these things to enjoy poetry; you don’t need to be able to tell the difference between a sonnet and a sestina to be spellbound by them. Rhyme schemes, verse forms and prosody are fascinating things, but my sense is that they’re also intricate and elaborate window dressing that has for too long obscured the window itself.

[Read more]

Feb 4 2013 5:00pm

Our Time Lords in the North

Our Time Lords in the NorthThere’s presently a great deal of excitement around the fact that David Bradley, whose numerous credits include playing Argus Filch on Harry Potter and the slave-driving, dinosaur-thieving villain Solomon on the Doctor Who episode “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” has been cast as William Hartnell in the upcoming BBC docudrama about the early days of the show. But it’s worth mentioning that David Bradley has another connection to the series: he was a core part of Our Friends in the North, a British serial broadcast over nine episodes in 1996, starring Gina McKee (Mirrormask), Daniel Craig (Casino Royale), Mark Strong (every villain ever Kick-Ass) and—wait for it—Christopher freakin’ Eccleston, who played the Ninth Doctor and the first one of the reboot of Doctor Who.

[Read more]

Apr 19 2012 9:00am

Voice like a Stair: Story of a Collaboration

Stair in her Hair by Rima StainesIn February of 2010, I was going to grad school in Cornwall, England, living in a many-bedroomed student house called The Old Library – built of the bones of dismantled ships, and so very like a fairy tale – when I realised it had been a couple of months since I’d checked my Other E-mail Address.

Some of you probably have at least one of these: an alternate account you use for mailing lists you feel guilty not subscribing to but have little enough interest in to warrant daily perusal. An account to be used mainly for things like Facebook notifications (before you learned how to turn those off) and petition signatures when you didn’t want to be spammed with follow-up requests. That sort of thing.

Maybe that actually isn’t normal at all.

[What was lurking in that inbox]

Oct 29 2010 9:39am

Towards a Steampunk Without Steam

Winding Down the House

I want to destroy steampunk.

I want to tear it apart and melt it down and recast it. I want to take your bustles and your fob watches and your monocles and grind them to a fine powder, dust some mahogany furniture with it and ask you, is this steampunk? And if you say yes, I want to burn the furniture.

Understand, I want to do this out of love. I love what I see at steampunk’s core: a desire for the beautiful, for technological wonder, for a wedding of the rational and the marvelous. I see in it a desire for non-specialised science, for the mélange of occultism and scientific rigour, for a time when they were not mutually exclusive categories. But sadly I think we’ve become so saturated with the outward signs of an aesthetic that we’re no longer able to recognise the complex tensions and dynamics that produced it: we’re happy to let the clockwork, the brass, the steam stand in for them synecdochally, but have gotten to a point where we’ve forgotten that they are symbols, not ends in themselves.

[Centuries and Symbols]