Tor.com content by

Chris Lough

Fiction and Excerpts [1]
All

Fiction and Excerpts [1]

Does The Geek’s Guide to Dating Work on a Real Date?

, || Finding someone to date shouldn't be like trying to party up in an MMORPG: running around, repeatedly spamming chat channels for a group, and anxiously seeking a random encounter. (Random casual encounters are for Craigslist. This isn't that kind of book.) No, seeking out Player Two is more like an old-school RPG: a gradual progression that, with the right walkthrough, becomes much, much easier.

Is Time Travel Possible in The Wheel of Time?

The plot of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time is built, appropriately, upon a foundation of causal loops, with the majority of the action propelled by prophecy. What I mean is: Information travels back from the future and the response to that information creates the events that generate that very same future information. An arbitrary man, Rand al’Thor, must fight the universal embodiment of evil not because he wants to, but because he has been seen as doing so in the future. Thus do the personal motivations of millions of people within this fantasy world bend towards this unknown sheepherder.

Considering how inherent the manipulation of time is to the story of The Wheel of Time, it’s interesting that we don’t see any of the characters directly utilize time travel to fulfill their goals. Or do we? Throughout the series we see four, maybe five, types of time manipulation demonstrated by the characters, but can any of them be used to travel through time? And more specifically, can any of them be used to travel back in time and undo a great wrong, like the boring into the Dark One’s prison?

[Read more]

Why Did Seanchan Invade Randland From the Wrong Direction?

There’s something weird about the world of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. (Weirder than spanking being used as a plot device in The Gathering Storm, I mean.) Readers and fans are used to a Randland-centric view of the planet, which isn’t without merit, since eventually all of the major players in the world gather on that continent to fight the Last Battle against the Dark One.

But that Rand-centric view obscures another avenue of exploration: what exists between Shara and the continent of Seanchan? And why did it prevent the Seanchan from invading east of Randland?

[Read more]

Series: The Wheel of Time Companion

This is How Finished the Fantastic Four Movie Is

The marketing for this year’s Fantastic Four movie reboot puzzled me. Its trailers featured almost exactly the same footage even months apart. The subway and phone ads featured the individual characters in stock hero poses, as if superheroes wrought into flesh are still unique, even though we’ve seen nearly 100 characters onscreen from the Marvel Cinematic Universe alone. It was generic. As if the characters didn’t have decades of rich backstory to plumb.

The appeal of the Fantastic Four seems obvious to me. They aren’t so much super heroes as they are super explorers. Reed Richards actively pushes into insane areas of scientific knowledge. He and his family interact with the unknown and unlock wonders and horrors, both of which they take full responsibility for. Theirs is a unique angle on the idea of superheroes. Why didn’t the marketing for the film utilize that?

Because it’s not in the movie. And unfortunately, there isn’t really anything in the Fantastic Four movie.

[Read more]

If Neil Armstrong Can Be the First to Land on a New World, So Can You

History remembers the now-departed Neil Armstrong fondly for being the first man to set foot on the moon. And it should. That first step was the culmination of millions of years of human exploration and ingenuity, taking us from the trees to an entirely new world. The importance of that can’t be overstated.

When we imagine taking a step this large as a species, it’s difficult not to imagine the person leading the way as being larger than life, of possessing exceptional qualities that allowed them to break through to this new frontier. They are our hero, our catalyst, something we can focus on and examine and emulate order to better ourselves.

Neil Armstrong is a particularly refreshing idol in this regard because there’s nothing particularly exceptional about him. Well…that’s not entirely true. He tended to crash planes. A lot.

[There’s more to this story]

Series: On This Day

How Far Into the Future Did Aviendha See?

Towers of Midnight, the second to last book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga, is brimming over with amazing moments, from Perrin’s battles with Slayer, Egwene’s machinations in the Tower, Rand’s defense of Maradon, the forging of Perrin’s hammer, Mat’s rescue of Moiraine, and onward. To Wheel of Time readers, these moments were somewhat expected. They’re all main characters, after all, so of course they’re all going to do something fantastic.

What really took readers and fans like myself by surprise were the two gut-wrenching chapters near the end of the book where Aviendha watches the slow unraveling of the Aiel people. Shortly after the publication of Towers of Midnight there was some question as to whether Aviendha had actually seen the future past The Last Battle and, if so, if that future was fluid. A Memory of Light answered both of these questions, but it left a smaller one behind. Namely: Exactly how far in time did Aviendha see?

[Read more]

Series: The Wheel of Time Companion

Let’s Talk About Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere…and its Similarities to Final Fantasy

Big Damn Swords, orange blood, gods made of future metal… Brandon Sanderson’s books make use of a great variety of epic fantasy settings and magic systems, and each new series and short tale introduces yet more. 2015 marks ten years since Sanderson’s first fantasy novel Elantris was released, and since then the author has filled the shelves with so many different worlds that the ones that share the same grand universe are dubbed, simply, “The Cosmere.”

This variety of fantasy worlds sharing certain characteristics is not a new construct. (Role-playing games create this solely by virtue of publishing sequels.) But over the course of reading Sanderson’s novels, I started to notice more than a few parallels that the Cosmere has with the classic RPG series Final Fantasy.

[Read more]

Dear Boss, Please Excuse My Erratic Behavior This Week

It snuck right up on me, but Games Done Quick is back for its annual summer fundraising marathon. It goes like this: You watch people play video games and then donate money to Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization Doctors Without Borders. These aren’t just any video gamers. These are speedrunners, who take the NES, Sega, Sony, etc. games you grew up with and manipulate the artificial worlds in these classic games so completely—solely through their dexterity with a normal controller—they often get flipped inside out. (Like tricking The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time into letting you fight Ganon with Child Link, pictured above!) They also explain the weird tricks and programming manipulation they pull off while they’re doing it, giving regular gamers and watchers some stunning insights into how they achieve the impossible, and how you can do so, as well.

It’s completely addicting and I would like to take this moment to tell my bosses at Tor.com that I will not CAN not acknowledge the outside world during the speedruns of following games.

[Read more]

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Has More Than Enough Characters for Captain America: Civil War

Now that Ant-Man has closed the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Phase 2″ slate of movies, we await the hero-vs-hero calamity that will be 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

Except…doesn’t it seem too soon for that? Aren’t there only still about 10 or so superpowered heroes bopping around the MCU? That’s not a civil war, that’s a volleyball game.

It turns out that the MCU’s Phase 2 was more expansive than it seems. There are now nearly one hundred characters, most of them with powers or superior abilities, that could take an active role in Marvel’s Civil War! Take a look at the below graphic to see what the network of Marvel characters looks like right now. (Spoilers ahead for Ant-Man and Age of Ultron, as well as rumored characters and links in forthcoming Marvel Phase 3 movies.)

[Read more]

Nikola Tesla Was a Great Scientist, But a Greater Nerd

Today marks the 159th birthday of Nikola Tesla, a man so bizarre and scientifically curious that it’s easy to imagine him figuring out a method to cheat death and live to see this year, if only Thomas Edison or his suspected OCD weren’t interfering….

Tesla brought true advancements to the fields of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and talking about death ray urban legends while tipsy at parties. And although his scientific achievements are vital to the way we live today, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that what we as fans of science fiction truly laud him for is for being a wildly imaginative outsider.

[And a snappy dresser]

Series: On This Day

Humanity’s First Time Travelers Should Be Writers and Readers

Wesley Chu’s new book Time Salvager (out this week, I promise) is an extremely fast-paced time travel adventure, packing spaceships, floating cities, utopia, dystopia, Boston, and Nazis into one story while drenching it all in greasy whiskey. Michael Bay optioned the movie in a heartbeat, and by the end of Time Salvager you can see why; the book is just that action-packed.

But while the action may be big-screen, the laws that govern time travel in this novel are specifically suited for book readers. While Time Salvager doesn’t overtly state this, during the course of the narrative it becomes clear that the characters who best understand how time travel works are also the people who best understand how stories work.

[Read more]

How Can We Use Mistborn’s Allomancy to Travel Faster Than Light?

In the fantasy world of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn book series, magic users known as Allomancers, Feruchemists, and Hemalurgists can bounce themselves back and forth between metals, store their own luck away for a rainy day, or (bloodily) steal these powers away from others. In the first Mistborn trilogy, the characters with these powers make war in a somewhat Victorian setting and not once does an Allomancer think “what if I propelled myself so far and so fast that I left this entire planet entirely and visited another star system?”

But we do. Because an Allomancer’s magical manipulation of a fundamental aspect of the universe may hold the key to connecting ALL of Brandon Sanderson’s books!

[Read more]

You Should Know What The Fermi Paradox is Before Reading The Dark Forest

Time for some Real Talk: Cixin Liu’s Three-Body Problem trilogy has trouble presenting non-stereotypical characters but I CAN’T STOP READING IT and that’s because it takes all these great theories about physics and the universe and threads them together into a fantastically epic story that determines the course of all humanity. It’s like someone wrote fanfic based on I Fucking Love Science and it’s GREAT. And knowing just one thing ahead of time makes it that great.

(Mild spoilers for Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem ahead.)

[Read more]

Welcome to Being Done With A Game of Thrones

For the last five years readers of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire book series, like me, have operated with a selective silence around Game of Thrones viewers. Season after season we have so badly wanted to reveal what was coming–especially when it seemed that Joffrey had all but won–but at the same time we knew better than to rob TV viewers of the deep emotional thrills regarding Ned’s fate, the Red Wedding, or any of the other plot twists awaiting TV viewers.

Now, with Game of Thrones having caught up with the Ice and Fire books, readers and viewers are united in their knowledge of the series. Unfortunately, the nature of this common ground is bleak and TV viewers are left wondering, just as book readers were after the 2011 publication of A Dance With Dragons, if there’s anything more to this series than repetitive brutality.

Spoilers ahead for all published books and Game of Thrones Season 5.

[Read more]

George Miller’s Justice League Would Have Changed Superhero Movies Drastically

Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller almost made a Justice League movie, years before the Avengers made it to the big screen.

It’s one of the panoply of lost Hollywood projects, sunk by the 2007-08 writer’s strike and spoken of in the same terms as Tim Burton’s Superman Lives, Jodorowsky’s Dune, or Bob “Back to the Future” Gale’s Doctor Strange. Miller’s lost project Justice League: Mortal is back in the news because an Australian documentary team wants to show audiences what could have been. Judging from the scripts and other intel that have been leaked, the project had plenty of problems and could have fallen short. Except that now there’s a little movie called Mad Max: Fury Road that has us wondering just what Miller’s Justice League would have looked like, and how it might have impacted the DC and Marvel Cinematic Universes.

[Read more]

Bill Nye’s Spacecraft Has Launched Successfully and Wait How Did We Get Here?

The Planetary Society, headed by its CEO Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” has announced the successful launch and deployment of their LightSail solar sail in Earth’s orbit. In a statement, the guy in the bow tie who I used to stare at puzzlingly on Saturday morning television said:

While we celebrate this step, LightSail’s biggest tests are still ahead. Over the next days, we will be monitoring our CubeSat as we prepare for the big show: the day LightSail deploys its super shiny Mylar sails for flight on sunlight. Stay tuned; the best is about to happen.

[Read more]

I Finally Figured Out Why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Isn’t Engaging

What is my problem with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

This year I was able to, for the most part, watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. without having to dig through the guts of each episode. I was really looking forward to this approach. Focusing on singular episodes in a show structured to mimic an ongoing comic book was making me a little batty, for one, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s structure as a network television show isn’t designed to withstand that kind of scrutiny. The more I focused, the uglier it got. By stepping back, I thought, I could better appreciate the show.

Instead, I just got bored.

(Spoilers ahead for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2 finale and Avengers: Age of Ultron.)

[Read more]

Agent Carter Renewed for a Second Season

ABC has renewed Agent Carter for a second season of 8 episodes and that feeling you’re having right now? That’s joy. (Or at the very least the lack of existential dread.)

The question of Agent Carter coming back to television was left open after the show’s first season, as its ratings were considered average for ABC and its line-up of dramas, despite the big jump in quality that Carter represented over its channel-mate show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

[Read more]

Obvious Doctor Who Fan Stand-In Character Not Murdered After All!

Last, I think, autumn (It’s been a busy year. I don’t remember how time works anymore.) Peter Capaldi’s inaugural season of Doctor Who concluded with a very, very grim season finale where, amongst other deaths, obvious fan stand-in character Osgood was captured by the Master, taunted, disintegrated, then somehow stomped on. It was a very drawn out procedure and the heartless episode made me quite unhappy, despite the strong performances from the principal characters.

But good news! Turns out Osgood isn’t dead after all.

[Read more]

Marvel CEO’s “No Female-Lead Movies” Email Makes No Sense

Recently, news outlets have been reporting on a leaked email between Sony Studios executive Michael Lynton and Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter which revealed that the resistance against a Black Widow or other female-lead Marvel movies comes from the very top of Marvel itself.

The email is only one part of a larger conversation between Lynton and Perlmutter, but it’s still very strange.

[Read more]