Tor.com content by

Alex Brown

You Had Me At “Queer Demon Hunters”: Margaret Killjoy’s The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion

GAAAAAAHHHHHH!! Margaret Killjoy’s The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, y’all. I mean. I can’t even. Like. It’s so good. It’s sooooooooo good. It’s very existence is a tonic for my troubled soul. And now having read it (twice!) it’s my everything. Open a new tab and buy this novella RIGHT. NOW. I’ll wait. ……… Done? Good. Now let’s talk about how awesome it is.

When Danielle Cain finally makes her way to the squatters’ settlement of Freedom, Iowa, it seems like a queer punk traveler’s home sweet home. It’s anarchy with structure, a free-for-all community run by shared responsibility. Or so they say. There’s a reason Danielle’s best friend Clay killed himself after abandoning Freedom. Just as there’s a reason suspicion, doubt, and mistrust saturate the town.

[“What hand dare seize the fire.”]

Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a Feisty Delight

Oh, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. It’s young adult historical fiction set in the Georgian period. It has just enough magic to entertain the magic geeks but not so much to turn off the fantasy naysayers. It’s a will-they-won’t-they romance disguised as an adventure fic with a helping of family drama. And best of all it’s diverse, inclusive, feminist, and wonderfully queer. In case you can’t tell, I absolutely adored this book.

It may only be August, but there’s a strong chance Gentleman’s Guide is going to end up being one of my favorite YA SFF books of the year. It’s the queer YA historical fantasy adventure you’ve been waiting for.

[“Fortune favors the flirtatious.”]

Midnight, Texas Is Magical Trash

Midnight, Texas, is a small town in the middle of nowhere. It’s a safe haven for people (or “people”) who can’t live anywhere else or don’t want to. It also may be sitting on top of a hellmouth, if that ominous glowing red light coming up through Manfred Bernardo’s (François Arnaud) floorboards is any indication. Speaking of the possibly-fake-but-probably-real psychic, Manfred flees Dallas for Midnight at the behest of his dead grandmother Xylda (Joanne Camp) to escape her determined creditors. He couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Within a few hours of Manfred’s arrival he encounters the corpse of Bobo Winthrop’s (Dylan Bruce) missing fiance, hits on Creek (Sarah Ramos) the daughter of a very overprotective father, has his life force sucked out by vampire Lemuel (Peter Mensah), steals holy water from a creepy reverend (Yul Vazquez), witnesses Fiji (Parisa Fitz-Henley) go all The Craft on a couple of cops, is beaten up by Olivia the hitwoman (Arielle Kebbel), and summons a host of very pissed off ghosts and maybe a demon. At least he doesn’t see Joe (Jason Lewis) sprout wings or hear Fiji’s cat Mr. Snuggly (Joe Smith) talk. Gotta save something for the second episode…

[“You’ll be safe in Midnight.”]

Pull List: The Body-Swapping, Fantasyland, Awesomeness of Crosswind and Moonstruck

Oh Image, how I’ve missed you! It’s been ages since the biggest name in indie publishing has released something new that really excited me. Sure, a lot of their ongoings are permanent staples on my shelves, but I was more ready for something brand spanking new than I realized. That drought is at long last over. This summer, Image Comics has delivered two fantastic new ongoing series, Crosswind and Moonstruck.

Within moments of hearing about these two series, I had an order into my local independent comic book shop. Now that I have them in my grabby little hands, I can assure you my untameable eagerness was well worth it. Both take new tacks on old tropes, both are gorgeous to look at and wickedly fun to read, and both will leave you begging for the next issue.

[Read more]

Five Murders: Adam Christopher’s Killing Is My Business

Ray Electromatic, the robot hitman, is back in the latest entry in Adam Christopher’s pulpy murder mystery series, Killing Is My Business. It’s been a while now since Ada, his former secretary now boss who also happens to be a room-sized super computer, reprogrammed Ray from a run-of-the-mill metallic detective to a murderer for hire. Business is booming and the cash is piling up. Ray is eerily good at what he does.

Ada sends Ray on a cryptic stakeout, which leads to an even more cryptic hit and a series of increasingly convoluted and seemingly counterproductive cons, schemes, and shenanigans. The less Ada reveals, the more Ray suspects something’s up, and the deeper he’s pulled into the tangled web of the Italian mafia, Hollywood high rollers, and conspiracy coverups.

[“We’ll make a detective out of you yet, chief.”]

Destiny Schmestiny: Aditi Khorana’s The Library of Fates

Princess Amrita of Shalingar has it made. Her wealthy kingdom of Shalingar is ruled by her compassionate father, and she’s surrounded by kind people who love her more than anything. That is until Emperor Sikander from the distant empire of Macedon demands her hand in marriage in exchange for peacefully taking control of Shalingar. At first Amrita agrees to the scheme, but when all hell breaks loose she finds herself on the run from Sikander.

But she’s not alone. Joining her is a teenage oracle, Thala, enslaved and drugged for most of her young life. Together, Thala and Amrita set off for the Library of All Things, a mythical place where they can both rewrite their destinies. The journey is long and arduous, but they must not fail. The fate of the world rests on their shoulders.

[“The Library, maybe it really is the only way…”]

Sin Versus Salvation: Victoria Schwab’s Monsters of Verity

Victoria Schwab’s Monsters of Verity duology is my new everything. The story hooks you from word one and never lets go, not that you’d want it to anyway. The characters are fire and ice; they bite and fight and delight all at once. The series is dark and tragic yet hopeful and honest. Schwab never pulls her punches, condescends, or sugarcoats. She knows what teenagers are capable of and what her teenage readers can handle, and she brings both right to the very edge of comfort. Not to mention the inclusive diversity.

[“It was a cycle of whimpers and bangs, gruesome beginnings and bloody ends.”]

Practical Victorian Magic: Ami McKay’s The Witches of New York

Seventeen year old Beatrice Dunn has had it with her small town. She leaves her limited prospects in Stony Point for the wilds of New York City following a job notice in the newspaper for a “Respectable Lady” who is “well versed in sums, etiquette, tea making, and the language of flowers.” Beatrice is particularly keen on the last line of the advert: “Those averse to magic need not apply.” Tea and Sympathy is a magical tea shop catering to high society ladies run by a witch named Eleanor St. Clair and her fortune telling BFF Adelaide Thom. As Beatrice settles into her new digs, her magic flourishes beyond her wildest expectations and she learns to communicate with the dead.

Each of the women encounter a man that will change their lives. When Eleanor’s secret relationship with an engaged woman ends upon her marriage, the new husband seeks to punish Eleanor for her proclivities. Adelaide, having sworn to remain single, finds herself increasingly attached to a former army doctor who wants to use science to explain magic. Meanwhile, a reverend with a little too much time on his hands and an obsession with the Salem Witch Trials decides to “cure” Beatrice. On the edges lurk sinister supernatural forces with their sights set on the trio.

[Think Practical Magic with Victorian twist…]

Pull List Goes Pride: The Queer Webcomics Revolution

Webcomics are full of untamed creativity, experimental stories, and wholly unique casts, not to mention creators ready and willing to tackle subjects generally avoided by the mainstream. A few webcomics have made the transition to print (the big one in recent years is, of course, Nimona), but most stay online. The freedom a creator has online to do whatever they want doesn’t even come close to Image’s creator-friendly environment. Which is why I love webcomics so much.

I’ve been dying to do a webcomics edition of Pull List for ages, and the combination of Pride Month and needing a break from Big Two comics finally gave me a good excuse. Trouble is, there are so many great webcomics out there that it was impossible to choose just one or two to talk about. After winnowing my very long webcomics library down by series that have recently updated (as in not sporadically or on hiatus) and are not being published in print by major or small/indie presses (excluding self-pub), I offer you a list of some of my current favorite queer SFF webcomics While a few are managed by working comics creators or artists, most are from newbies or non-professionals. Some series are fairly new, others have longer running arcs, but all offer something mainstream comics don’t: a broad range of queer and racially/ethnically diverse characters written and illustrated by creators just as varied.

[Read more]

The Odd Thomas Movie Is Better Than You Think (Because of Anton Yelchin)

I don’t usually cry at celebrity deaths, but I teared up when I learned of Anton Yelchin’s passing. He always seemed like a genuinely caring, decent person. And though he was only 27, he’d put out a remarkable amount of high-quality work. It breaks my heart to think of all the roles Anton Yelchin never got to play, all the lives he never got to touch, all the years he never got to live.

On the night of his death last year, I went back and rewatched two of my favorite films of Yelchin’s, Fright Night and Odd Thomas. If this year is any indication, it’s going to be an annual tradition. Now, I’m not going to argue that these are his best films—that honor goes to Green Room and Only Lovers Left Alive—but they are the ones I keep going back to, like the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. I’ve written before about my boundless adoration of the updated Fright Night, so now let me talk your ear off about the other Yelchin movie love of my life, the delightfully odd Odd Thomas.

Mild spoilers ahoy.

[“I may see dead people but then, by God, I do something about it.”]

The End Is Only the Beginning: American Gods, “Come to Jesus”

First, let’s start off with the easy stuff. Shadow and Wednesday stop off at Anansi’s clothier—just as Vulcan showed his allegiance, false though it was, by crafting a sword, Anansi does it with bespoke suits. Anansi tells another story of Black pain in an unforgiving New World, but this one has a darker turn. Then, we’re off to Easter’s Easter party. Wednesday lays on the charm and smarm to hook in Easter; meanwhile, Shadow, a man who refuses to believe in what he sees, is confronted with a holy host of gods. The storm Wednesday seeded in the second episode with the dandelion fluff finally blows in and makes The Children a sacrifice to Easter. Shadow’s spiritual crisis comes to a head as Wednesday forces the belief right out of him. Mr. World and the new gods declare war.

[“Goddammit!”]

Gwenda Bond and Lois Lane Save the Day

Lois Lane has always been a bit of a personal hero of mine. Not being a DC comics reader as a child, I didn’t meet her until the wonderfully cheesy Adventures of Lois and Clark. Teri Hatcher’s Lois was gutsy, feisty, and the queen of the eyeroll. She was a woman who didn’t hesitate to do what was right no matter what and who bulldozed right on past Dean Cain’s Clark like the small town farm boy he was. A few years later my love of Lois Lane deepened with Superman: The Animated Series. She was even tougher and more defiant, a journalist who took on danger with a laugh. She wasn’t a Strong Female Protagonist or an Action Girlfriend, but she was independent and intelligent.

These Loises were everything Amy Adams’ (or should I say Zack Snyder’s) Lois isn’t. They weren’t reduced to sex object or damsel in distress. It breaks my heart to see Lois brought so low by the DCEU. Fortunately, Gwenda Bond has the cure for my Lois Lane blues.

[“We’re our own heroes.”]

In the Old Country: American Gods, “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney”

If nothing else, this was a bold choice for a penultimate episode of the season. I genuinely don’t know if I liked it or not. My opinion has vacillated all night between annoyance and delight. Perhaps when looking back on the season as a whole, this detour will make more sense. But right now and with only eight episodes this season, it’s hard to justify any time spent away from Shadow and Wednesday.

[“Malice, draped in pretty, can get away with murder.”]

Death Becomes Them: American Gods, “A Murder of Gods”

Well, it finally happened. American Gods stumbled hard with “A Murder of Gods.” While the sixth episode didn’t suck by any means, it was about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the forehead yet as superficial as Media playing Marilyn Monroe. Plot was buried under piles of visual bombast and empty political commentary. In short, oof.

[“God bless the believers.”]

The Wonder Woman Movie Is An Experience That’s Long Overdue

I went into Wonder Woman practically vibrating with excitement. Not seeing it in the theater opening weekend didn’t even occur to me. It’s a movie starring Wonder Woman, the only superhero movie with a female lead, and the only major comic book franchise film directed by a woman in years*, of course I was going to see it. And I’m clearly not the only one freaking out. As of the time of this writing, Wonder Woman is projected to bring in $223 million worldwide, the third biggest opening of the DCEU. Patty Jenkins now has the distinction of having the best domestic opening weekend of any female director. Unlike most superhero movies where women make up about 40% of the audience, Jenkin’s audience opening weekend was 52% female. Get ready, dudebros. The future is female and the future is now.

Spoilers ahoy.

[“It is our sacred duty to defend the world.”]