A Short History of the Twentieth Century, or, When You Wish Upon A Star July 20, 2014 A Short History of the Twentieth Century, or, When You Wish Upon A Star Kathleen Ann Goonan A rocket story. The Angelus Guns July 16, 2014 The Angelus Guns Max Gladstone There's a war in heaven, outside of time. Sleep Walking Now and Then July 9, 2014 Sleep Walking Now and Then Richard Bowes A tragedy in three acts. The Devil in the Details July 2, 2014 The Devil in the Details Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald A Peter Crossman adventure.
From The Blog
July 18, 2014
Summer 2014 Anime Preview: In the Name of the Moon!
Kelly Quinn
July 16, 2014
Picturing Dragons
Irene Gallo
July 15, 2014
Who Should Play The Magicians?
Ryan Britt
July 14, 2014
A Long Overdue Nod to SciFi and Fantasy’s Best Librarians
Stubby the Rocket
July 11, 2014
For Love or Money (And If You Do It Right, BOTH): Choosing a Career in Art
Greg Ruth
Showing posts by: Karin L Kross click to see Karin L Kross's profile
Jul 26 2013 12:00pm

The Elric Reread: The Fortress of the Pearl

Michael Moorcock Elric The Fortress of the PearlBy 1989, I was well and truly immersed in all things Moorcock and Elric—and I was stunned to learn that there was a new Elric book. This being well before the advent of the Internet, I’m pretty sure that I only found out about it when the book showed up in stores. The ending of Stormbringer being what it is, the only obvious option for a new Elric book was something that fit amongst the existing tales, and fortunately there is sufficient space between the recorded adventures to add more. Thus The Fortress of the Pearl fits between Elric of Melniboné and The Sailor on the Seas of Fate.

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Jul 26 2013 11:00am

Simple Does Not Equal Dumb, and Other Assorted Thoughts on Pacific Rim

There’s a kind of meme going around right now with regard to Pacific Rim that really gets up my nose: that Pacific Rim is a “dumb movie.” As in, a friend recently asked on Facebook if anyone had seen it, and amongst the responses was a comment along the lines of, “It was a dumb movie, but I really liked it.” Even Chris Lough here at Tor has described it as “an exceptionally loud, kind of dumb action movie that focuses on being really good as an exceptionally loud, kind of dumb action movie.”

Respectfully, I would like to disagree. Or at least, insist that we stop using the word dumb. Simple? Sure. Uncomplicated? Absolutely. Spectacular, in the truest sense of the word? Hell yes. But none of these things are dumb.

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Jul 12 2013 1:00pm

The Elric Reread: Elric of Melniboné

Elric of MelniboneIt is the colour of a bleached skull, his flesh; and the long hair which flows below his shoulders is milk-white. From the tapering, beautiful head stare two slanting eyes, crimson and moody, and from the loose sleeves of his yellow gown emerge two slender hands, also the colour of bone, resting on each arm of a seat which has been carved from a single, massive ruby.

With this striking description , we’re introduced to Elric VIII, four hundred and twenty-eighth Sorcerer Emperor of Melniboné, the only son of Sadric the Eighty-Sixth. Once Melniboné ruled the entirety of the known world, but as the human race and the Young Kingdoms have grown stronger, it has now dwindled; its borders have withdrawn to the Dragon Isles that were the centre of the empire, and its exquisitely refined, cruel, inhuman people have fallen into decadence, lost in sensual pleasures and dreaming. From the moment we join Elric as he watches his court dance—serenaded by a choir of slaves who have been mutilated so that each one may only produce one single, perfect note—we can be certain that Melniboné’s days are numbered.

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Jul 12 2013 1:00pm

Welcome to the Elric Reread!

The Elric Reread

When I was thirteen, I stumbled across a book that would change my life in a Nag Champa-scented New Age bookstore in Austin. The book was called Law and Chaos, and I was drawn to it by the cover illustration: a hauntingly fey, ghost-pale figure in a hooded black cloak, holding a massive broadsword that had a hilt like a pair of bat wings. I had no idea what it was, but I knew I wanted it, and somehow I conned my father (who has always been patient with my various fixations and enthusiasms) into buying it for me.

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Jul 9 2013 5:00pm

Templar by Jordan Mechner, LeUyen Pham, and Alex Puvilland

Templar, Jordan Mechner, LeUyen Pham, Alex Puvilland

The Knights Templar have been fodder for any number of conspiracy theories, ranging from the mundane to the supernatural. A character in Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum notes that the sure sign of a lunatic is that he eventually brings up the Templars. The order’s even been used as the basis for the bad guys in the Assassin’s Creed series. But in Templar (excerpt here), written by Jordan Mechner and illustrated by LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland, the dissolution of the Knights Templar becomes the basis for a heist in the best tradition of Ocean’s Eleven and The Italian Job . Mechner’s experience as a screenwriter and the writer behind games like Prince of Persia pays off here, resulting in a fast-paced and unexpectedly moving adventure against one of the great historical dramas of the Middle Ages.

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Jul 8 2013 2:00pm

Twenty-First Century Folktales: Eleanor Arnason’s Big Mama Stories

Big Mama Stories Eleanor ArnasonIt’s not unusual to find fairy tales or folk tales that have been reinvented or brought up to date in SF&F these days; Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys is probably one of the best-known examples of this particular trope. But in Big Mama Stories, Eleanor Arnason, known for anthropological SF stories like A Woman of the Iron People, has created a batch of new folk tales for the twenty-first century, with an entirely new cast of mythic characters. The results are reminiscent of Stanislaw Lem’s Cyberiad or Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics: witty and fanciful short stories, populated with fantastical beings having larger-than-life adventures. Her prose has the straightforward quality of a good campfire story, and her characters are a delight.

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Jun 28 2013 1:00pm

The Next Step: The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The Long War Terry Pratchett Stephen BaxterLast year, Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter introduced us to the Long Earth, the system of millions of parallel Earths that can be accessed by “stepping” between worlds, either through an inborn gift or through “stepper boxes” that, once released into the wild, changed everything as humanity discovered that it could leave the Datum Earth for pristine new worlds, as yet untouched by human industry. It was a brilliant piece of multiverse-building, and it’s great to return there with the second book in the series, The Long War.

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Jun 21 2013 12:00pm

Filling the Westeros Gap With Tudor England

Thomas Cromwell and Game of Throne's Petyr Baelish

There’s only so much I can really swallow of real-world politics before it all gets so bad that not even The Daily Show makes it any better. Political fiction, though—that I can’t get enough of, and frankly, the more cynical the better. I’m a huge fan of The Thick of It, and the US House of Cards was, disturbingly enough, my happy place for the last couple of months—though fans of that show will appreciate that it was really something to watch a certain very dramatic episode of House of Cards on the same day that HBO broadcast the now-infamous “The Rains of Castamere.”

And while I definitely enjoy the dragons, ice zombies, fire magic, and prophetic visions of both the Song of Ice and Fire novels and the Game of Thrones TV show, it’s the courtly intrigue that keeps me coming back for more. Cersei Lannister’s struggles to hold on to the power that the men of the court would take from her, Daenerys’s hard-knocks school of statecraft, Tywin’s ruthlessness, Tyrion’s desperate attempts to make something of himself in service of the kingdom, the charm offensive of the Tyrells—this is what really makes the books and the show for me. That the intrigue occasionally explodes into shocking and bloody violence is, perhaps, a bonus for those for whom contemporary political drama is a bit too arid.

But now we’ve got several months to wait for the next season of Game of Thrones, and some as-yet-undetermined period before The Winds of Winter pops up on shelves and e-readers, and I’ll probably be tiding myself over for the next season of House of Cards with the UK series. What else is there to take up the slack? Well, one contender is a pair of books whose praises I’ve sung here at Tor before—Hilary Mantel’s Tudor-era historical fiction novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. No, there’s not an ice zombie to be seen, and the only dragons are likely to be those gracing a coat of arms, but there is plenty of royal intrigue, and even a few lost heads.

[No, really, hear me out.]

Apr 17 2013 5:00pm

Griffins, Unicorns, and Yet Weirder Chimerae: Unnatural Creatures, edited by Neil Gaiman and Maria Dahvana Headley

Review Unnatural Creatures Neil Gaiman Mari Dahvana HeadleyThe tidal wave of vampires, werewolves, and mermaids that has washed over the publishing industry these last few years has obscured the stranger and subtler pleasures of griffins, unicorns, and even weirder chimerae and unspeakable things with no names. For re-introducing these things, Unnatural Creatures would be a welcome volume by any standard, and it also happens to be, by any objective standard, an excellent anthology. Additionally wonderful is that sales will benefit 826 DC, a non-profit dedicated to developing the writing skills of elementary, middle-school, and high school students. So if you like fantasy fiction, especially about weird mythical creatures, you should check out this volume.

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Mar 20 2013 5:00pm

Love That Outlasts Memory: Unremembered by Jessica Brody

book review Unremembered Jessica BrodyPerhaps it’s an obvious metaphor at the heart of Jessica Brody’s science fiction YA romance Unremembered—any teenage girl is trying to define her identity and desires in the face of a cacophony of voices trying to tell her what she is and how she should behave. Brody’s amnesiac heroine is surrounded by people with expectations of her that she can barely understand: is she just an ordinary girl with a teenager’s regular interests and a loving family? A mathematical prodigy? A celebrity? A devoted girlfriend? Or a weapon?

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Mar 12 2013 4:00pm

How Not to Build an Alternate America: Anne Bishop’s Written in Red

Written In Red Anne Bishop Alternate Earth Book Review

As it turns out, successfully building an alternate Earth is a lot more complicated than changing a few place-names and dropping in paranormal characters to spice things up a little. In the hands of a more skilled writer, the alternate America of Written in Red could have been used as a setting for an interesting examination of race, gender, and the legacy of colonialism, but unfortunately it ends up being a fairly predictable urban fantasy with many elements that, on further examination, become increasingly problematic.

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Feb 18 2013 4:10pm

Convention Report: Gallifrey One 2013, Day Three

The last day of the convention always serves up a cocktail of sadness at the need to return to the real world and slight relief at being able to emerge, blinking, into the bright light and fresh air of the outdoors. Or maybe that’s just conventions at the LAX Marriott, where just about everything is in the basement. The effect seems to be especially jarring at single-fandom conventions like Gallifrey One—for three days straight, you’ve been wallowing in Doctor Who, and when you finally venture out, it feels strange to not see an extra-long knitted scarf around every third neck, and you assume that anyone wearing a certain shade of blue must be a fan.

[Wrapping up with Mark Sheppard, dinosaur puppets, and a look ahead...]

Feb 17 2013 12:50pm

Convention Report: Gallifrey One 2013, Day Two

My notes from Sylvester McCoy’s Q&A on Saturday are sparse to nonexistent, and the most notable feature therein is the sentence, “Nothing I write is going to get across the insanity that is this Q&A.”

After you’ve gone to enough conventions, you often find panels or Q&A sessions settling into a fairly predictable pattern, to the extent that you don’t really go into it expecting to be shocked. Oh, it’ll be enjoyable no matter what, if it’s work that you’re interested in, but usually, assuming a good moderator, you can be confident of considered questions, equally considered answers, and audience questions that range from predictable to predictably deranged.

What you don’t expect—unless you’ve been fortunate enough to see McCoy in action before, which I hadn't—is for the star to immediately bound off the stage and into the audience, personally walking up to the people with their hands up to hand them the mic.

[Sylvester McCoy, unleashed!]

Feb 16 2013 12:35pm

Convention Report: Gallifrey One 2013, Day One

Here’s the thing to remember about Gallifrey One: at its heart, it’s essentially a convention run for fans, by fans, with a certain “hey kids, let’s put on a show!” vibe that still hasn’t gone away—despite the fact that the show now completely takes over the LAX Marriott for the duration. It’s not usually the kind of convention where the show-changing, life-altering announcements are made; even with 3200 attendees, it’s still a big, cozy fan party.

That said, we got a pretty big party favor this evening: at the completion of the opening ceremonies, we got a first look at “Airlock”—part three of the First Doctor serial “Galaxy 4”. This serial was thought entirely lost until 2011, and it’s since been recovered and restored for inclusion on an upcoming special release of “The Aztecs”. The premiere of a lost piece of Doctor Who history is an event, and it was definitely a great way to kick off the first night of the twenty-fourth Gallifrey One, in the year of Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary.

[Daleks, piracy, and Chumblies...]

Feb 5 2013 11:00am

A School for Finishers: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

A School for Finishers: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

When we first meet fourteen-year-old Sophronia Temminnick, she’s trying to descend via dumbwaiter to eavesdrop on Mrs Barnaclegoose, a friend of her mother’s who has arrived for tea with a mysterious stranger in tow. After a catastrophic accident with a trifle and a very strange interview (in which Sophronia gets a pillow thrown at her head for her trouble) with a woman purporting to be the proprietor of Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing School for Girls, Sophronia finds herself instantly and summarily banished to said school, where her mother hopes she will improve her curtsy and become a proper lady.

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Dec 14 2012 5:00pm

Cyberpunk is the New Retro: Rosa Montero’s Tears in Rain

Cyberpunk is the New Retro: Rosa Montero’s Tears in RainRetro-futurism is usually associated with the likes of Hugo Gernsback’s stories and the streamlined cars and idealized cities of Norman Bel Geddes. But given the way nostalgia works, it seemed inevitable that the backward-looking retro-future lens would shift its focus from the Thirties and Fifties to more recent science fiction. Having apparently skipped the Seventies altogether (unless you count the attenuation of the Star Wars franchise), we’re now looking back to the Eighties and to cyberpunk, as in Rosa Montero’s Tears In Rain.

To say that it wears its Blade Runner influence on its sleeve is an understatement; almost anyone reading this review will recognize that the title is derived from Roy Batty’s famous dying words. That scene itself is quoted verbatim when the heroine recalls how a friend showed her the “old, mythical film from the twentieth century in which replicants first made an appearance”, and the “technohumans” of 2109 are referred to colloquially as “replicants” or “reps.”

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Nov 1 2012 1:00pm

Make It So: The Star Trek: The Next Generation 25th Anniversary Reunion at Austin Comic-Con

Make It So: The Star Trek: The Next Generation 25th Anniversary Reunion at Austin Comic-Con

You hear it all the time on DVD commentaries, talk shows, and making-of featurettes—“we were like a family, we were all best friends!” Usually you feel like taking that sort of statement with a big or small grain of salt, but when you hear it from the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, you genuinely believe it. This is a group of people who are still friends after seven years of TV and four films; very much in evidence is the collective sense of humor and rowdy playfulness that drove one director in Patrick Stewart’s recollection to get down on his knees, “begging us to do the scene as written.” At one point LeVar Burton asked Stewart if he was going commando (after Marina Sirtis had darted across the stage to expose Stewart’s abs to an admiring fan); at another Stewart told Wil Wheaton, “You were never a young person, Wil. You were always mature, like a ripe cheddar cheese.”

[The Star Trek: The Next Generation 25th anniversary reunion]

Jul 23 2012 3:30pm

San Diego Comic Con, Tragedy, and the Family of Fans: A Handful of Thoughts

On Thursday night I stood in line outside the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX, two and a half hours before the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. A girl in a Suicide Squad Harley Quinn costume was handing out free promotional Batman: Earth One comics, and there was a Burton-style Batmobile parked right by the theatre’s front door. The Batmobile’s stereo was playing music from the Burton Batman films on a loop, which meant that I ended up hearing “Batdance” about a dozen times before they finally let us into the theatre.

The familiarity of the scenario was unmistakable: the outlandishness of the hour (out on a school night for a movie that wouldn’t be over until 3:00 AM!), the long lines of people who were actually happy to be in line, because at the other end of it was something exciting that they’d been looking forward to for days, weeks, months. There was a guy dressed as Ra’s Al Ghul in a natty black suit, his beard trimmed just so. Another guy showed up in a Bane mask, and a woman in a Julie Newmar Catwoman costume strutted by. People wore their Batman t-shirts, and some had donned capes and cowls and masks. It was as if San Diego Comic-Con had come back to Austin with me.

This essay started out as something about San Diego Comic-Con. It has since been overtaken by events.

[Something larger emerges when we convene for that which we love]

Jul 18 2012 5:00pm

Losing Bookstores, Female Artists, and More: Other Things I Saw at San Diego Comic Con

Losing Bookstores, Female Artists, and More: Other Things I Saw at San Diego Comic ConI think I saw more panels this year at San Diego Comic Con than I have in any years past—it tells you something that I actually didn’t get to spent any significant time in the exhibition hall until Saturday.

(I skipped out on the Warner Brothers presentation for that. Yes, that’s right, I actually walked away from The Hobbit. But by then I felt like if I didn’t spend at least some time walking around and occasionally going outside, I was going to waste away.)

So since the panel writeups that I’ve done so far actually represent only about half of what I saw, I thought I’d offer some brief roundups of the other things I went to.

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Jul 16 2012 12:10pm

Daleks, Dinosaurs, and Westerns: Doctor Who at San Diego Comic Con

Daleks, Dinosaurs, and Westerns: Doctor Who at San Diego Comic Con

It took a Dalek to ask the question that was surely on everyone’s mind at the Doctor Who panel on Sunday morning. After the obligatory cries of “WE WILL EX-TER-MIN-ATE YOU AND ALL OF HALL H,” it came: “Will there be a multiple Doctor episode?

“I’m not going to tell you!” Steven Moffat cried. “Not even for the Daleks! Sorry!”

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