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Alex Brown

When the Devil Comes Knocking: The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

“I plead the blood” was the last thing Clay Tate’s father said to him as he died. This was after he slaughtered a dozen pregnant cows and attempted to do the same to the bull in the breeding barn. Papa Tate had been driven mad by who knows what—a bad batch of genetics, maybe, or meth—and as the one year anniversary of his death rapidly approaches Clay begins to recognize his father’s madness repeating in himself. It all begins again when Clay is harvesting wheat on his family’s farm and accidentally runs over a golden calf, just as his late father predicted. Soon he’s seeing things that aren’t there and hearing sinister voices in his head.

Fate pushes him back into the orbit of the Preservation Society, the council populated exclusively by the descendants of the founders of Clay’s Oklahoma hometown. He and his former friends are the sixth generation from the founders, but their intertwined destinies are greater than football and barbecues. As Clay loses sense of what’s real and what’s imaginary, the body count rises. Terrible killings fuel wild accusations of murderous insanity and devil worship and poor Clay is caught right in the middle of it.

[“He is coming.”]

Don’t Touch That Dial: Winter 2016 TV

Welcome back to “Don’t Touch That Dial,” a seasonal series in which I, your friendly neighborhood television addict, break down some of the shows screaming for your attention. The winter hiatus is upon us, and while the major networks are all reruns all the time, streaming networks apparently haven’t gotten the message. Today we’re looking at a brand new show (The OA), two returning fan favorites (Black Sails and The Man in the High Castle), and a cancelled series probably taking up space in your To Watch queue right now (Whitechapel).

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Top Comic Books of 2016

If I had to guess, I’d say there were at least a million comics being released every month. At least it feels that way sometimes. Most of it’s meaningless drivel, the comic book equivalent of network television that’s only on for background noise while folding laundry. Yet that very glut makes the gems both harder to find and more precious once you do.

[Great comics that debuted in 2016]

Pull List: Interdimensional Theater Geeks and Roadtripping Witches

The end of the year is nigh, so I might as send the final Pull List of 2016 out with a bang with two of my favorite series of the year. Both are diverse in terms of gender, sexuality, and race/ethnicity, both tell compelling stories with intriguing characters, and both prove independent comics are where it’s at if you want unfettered creativity. The Big Two can keep their event crossovers, rebirth-y reboots, and disappointing cancellations of low-selling, high-quality niche titles. I’ll be over here reveling in The Backstagers and Spell on Wheels.

[“That sounds awesome…” “That sounds terrible.”]

The Best YA SFF of 2016

2016 was a pretty darn good year for YA fiction. In contemporary YA, mental illness (The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati, Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner), trans characters (Beast by Brie Spangler, If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo), harrowing experiences (This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp), and romance (Girls Like Me by Lola StVil) reigned.

But science fiction and fantasy fans were especially spoiled. The list of must-read young adult SF/F from this year alone is massive—and super diverse!—so let’s start with the best of the best. In no particular order, here are my top ten best YA SF/F of 2016. Did I skip your fave? Stop by the comments with your recs.

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Clockmakers Lie: Ian Tregillis’ The Liberation

At the dawn of The Liberation, the final entry in Ian Tregillis’ Alchemy Wars series, things aren’t looking good for humanity. The mechanical now calling himself Daniel, has freed his fellow Clakkers, and the French are still (barely) holding on against all odds, but the war is far from won. When the mad metal dictator Queen Mab gains the secrets to mechanical Free Will, she sets her sights on slaughtering her makers. As the fight moves back across the pond to continental Europe, the war pits meat versus machine, humans against humans, mechanicals against mechanicals.

The survival of the “good guys” depends upon collaboration and cooperation between former slaves, enslavers, and the enemy of their mutual enemy. One faction of rogue Clakkers want to crush all humans, another prefers a more libertarian ideal of humans and machines living separate but equal. The humans are just as split, with the Dutch hoping to reimpose their rule over Clakkers and humankind and the French wanting to free humans and Clakkers alike. But neither group has pure motivations and as conflicts arise, suspicions and bigotry threaten what little hope for victory there is. The Liberation is part philosophical debate over human nature and choice, part contemplation on colonialism and slavery, and part action-y alternate history. It brings the trilogy to a raucous, blood-soaked end where no one gets everything they want, but everyone gets exactly what they deserve.

[“I was born, and reborn, in flames.”]

Pull List: Mockingbird and Comics’ Feminist Growing Pains

Pop culture is littered with stories about powerful women standing aside so weaker men can act out fits of dominance. That reductionism is one of the MCU’s biggest faults right now. Wasp trains Scott Lang to be Ant-Man despite her already being the most qualified person on the team. Black Widow’s detailed emotional arc is replaced with baby mania. Christine Palmer and Jane Foster may be brilliant doctors, but that’s secondary to their role as superhero girlfriends. At this rate, I’m half convinced Carol Danvers will be introduced not as a badass Air Force pilot but as Rhodey’s new girlfriend.

Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk’s Mockingbird was a badly needed antidote to that noise. Sadly, Marvel made the inane decision to cancel it before it found its footing, and the comics world is all the worse for it. And to top it all off, trolls drove Cain off social media all for having the audacity to be a woman on the internet. For fans, we’re in the awkward position of being in the midst of a great feminist revival in comics while also dealing with haters who loathe any change that lessens their own sense of self-importance. Regardless of how you felt about Mockingbird as a series, its demise and the loss of Cain should have us all up in arms about the state of our beloved industry.

[“Ask me about my feminist agenda”]

Oh Come On, the Fright Night Remake Isn’t That Bad…

Fright Night is a great movie. Vampires, awesome actors, bloody deaths, cool special effects a splash of romance, what’s not to love? Oh, I should clarify, I’m talking about the 2011 remake, not the 1985 original. I could take or leave the original version but I break out my copy of the remake several times a year. To take it one step further, I submit that the remake is better than the original. Wait, wait, wait, don’t storm off yet. Hear me out.

Spoilers ahoy…

[“The whole house looks like that show Dark Shadows.”]

Where to Start with Joe Hill

Joe Hill is the kind of author whose works burrow under your skin. Months after finishing one of his books, certain scenes will pop up in your memories at unexpected moments. Characters will haunt you, their travails or deaths stalking you during work meetings, Twitter scrolling, even through other books. Hill writes horror fiction with a style as eviscerating as it is visceral. His works critique and peel apart our sociocultural ideals by pushing his characters to the extreme, and he does it all with geeky Easter eggs and literary eloquence.

There was a time not long ago when I could bring up author Joe Hill and no one would have any idea who I was talking about. Nowadays nearly every reader I encounter has heard of him, but many haven’t yet read any of his works. The son of authors Stephen and Tabitha King, Hill has written numerous novels, short stories, and comics, as well scripts for two TV shows (even though neither made it to air). His back catalogue, while a boon to long-time fans like myself, can be overwhelming for a newbie unsure of which to read first. Some are intimidated by his larger tomes while others by the horror tag. But I maintain there’s at least one Joe Hill story for everyone. It’s just a matter of digging around until we find it. Let’s see if I can’t do something about that…

[“Fantasy was always only a reality waiting to be switched on.”]

Pull List: Gather ‘Round for Some Spooky Tales from the Darkside

I first heard about Joe Hill’s new miniseries, a comic book adaptation of his scripts for the smothered-in-its-cradle Tales from the Darkside reboot he was doing for the CW, during his book tour for The Fireman. Needless to say, everyone in the audience gasped and squeed in excitement and anticipation. As I was sitting with several people from the local comic shop I frequent, I of course leaned over and asked the owner to put it on my pull list right then and there.

A few months later and the series has wrapped (or has it?!) and all I can think is how cool the TV show would’ve been. Granted, I’m still in mourning for his other DOA TV show, Locke & Key, but how awesome would a horror anthology be right now? There’s nothing like it on the schedule and the premise is chockablock with potential. Good thing, then, that the adaptation very nearly lives up to the high expectations.

[“No…this can’t be real.”]

To Hell and Back: Lost Gods by Brom

Recently released from jail after a stint on drug charges, Chet Moran is determined to turn his life around, starting with reconciling with his pregnant girlfriend, Trish. Her father has forbidden their relationship, and when the couple make their hasty escape, Chet accidentally hits his high school nemesis, Coach, with his car. They find sanctuary on an island off the coast of South Carolina, his ancestral homeland now occupied by his grandmother, Lamia. Decades before, Lamia’s abusive husband, Gavin, murdered her two sons and tried to kill her. Afterward she lost custody of her daughter, Cynthia, Chet’s mother. Despite having not seen Lamia since he was a child, they have an arcane psychic connection to each other.

But hiding out with his doting grandmother proves too good to be true. The ghosts of hundreds of dead children haunt the island, led by two demon children with an ominous attachment to Lamia. Before he and Trish can flee, Chet is brutally murdered. A depressed angel named Senoy convinces Chet to descend into the underworld to recover a magic key that was stolen from him by Gavin. The key, Senoy insists, will allow him to summon angelic backup to kill Lamia once and for all, and if Chet works fast enough he just might spare the souls of Trish and their unborn child as well.

[“Thought I saw a ghost.”]

Why I’m Walking Out On The Walking Dead

That’s it. I’m done. Tap me the hell out. Pack my bags and send me home. The season 7 premiere was an hour of sadism, misery, and over the top violence stitched together by padding and shouting. I don’t care what happens next, where Carol and Morgan are, or even how that damn tiger from the commercials will come into play. I. Don’t. Care. There are better ways to spend Sunday night.

[“I’m gonna kill you.”]

Don’t Touch That Dial: Fall 2016 TV — The DC Television Universe

And we’re back with the second edition of the Fall 2016 “Don’t Touch That Dial.” In this very special episode we’re looking at DC on TV, specifically Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl. None of these series are new this fall, but all have had major overhauls since their first season, so let’s see what’s working, what’s not, and where we go from here.

Mild spoilers for previous seasons.

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Don’t Touch That Dial: Fall 2016 TV

Welcome to “Don’t Touch That Dial,” a seasonal series in which I, your friendly neighborhood television addict, break down some of the shows screaming for your attention. All four shows here are new this season and while they vary in subject and tone, all fill that SFF niche we call home. In this edition we’re looking at shows where the dead commune with the living (Frequency), the dead commune with each other (The Good Place), demons commune with priests (The Exorcist), and a history professor communes with famous historical figures (Timeless).

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