Tor.com content by

Chris Lough

Fiction and Excerpts [1]
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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.

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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!

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Iceman Already Kinda Sorta Tried to Come Out as Gay in the 1990s

I imagine that all the recent hubbub about Iceman coming out as gay in this week’s #40 issue of All New X-Men (and by hubbub I mean “Oh, Facebook Trending updated itself again”) is interesting to comic book fans who grew up reading X-Men comics. Perhaps not because it’s astonishing or new or uncanny, but maybe because it represents the return of a plotline that cropped up in a little-remembered Almost Very Special Issue of Uncanny X-Men published in 1994, more than 20 years ago.

[“Bobby… …is there anything you want to say?”]

Here’s Why NASA Thinks We’ll Find Alien Life by 2025

NASA hosted a panel discussion with many of its high-ranking scientists on April 7th regarding the possibility of discovering signs of alien life within the 21st century. The consensus the NASA officials put forth was overwhelmingly optimistic in this regard: Not only will we discover alien life in this century, but we’ll discover it in the next 20 years.

Meaning… my theoretical grandchildren could grow up in a world where alien life is a historical fact.

What makes NASA so sure of this time frame? Three reasons. Or rather, three missions that will launch in the next 10 years that will bridge the gap between theories of alien life and evidence of alien life.

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Why Can’t We Know Love Like They Know Love?!?

In a rough and self-loathing-centric but also very true and vulnerable kind of way?!?

SpoilerTV has set pics from Jessica Jones, which is currently filming in NYC, and captured these great images of Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones and Mike Colter as Luke Cage being exactly as they are in the Alias maxi-series and oh god, my heart, I can’t.

There are also set pics of David Tennant in his Purple Man get-up, now featuring Tenth Doctor-style hair. Which also means the Tenth Doctor is probably wandering around New York City as I type this, wondering where to get a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. And I’m gonna tell him what I tell everyone: You gotta put the work in. Find that one place in your neighborhood that does it well and stick with them forever.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 Discussion Thread

Inhumans, two S.H.I.E.L.D.s, and Ultron? The latter half of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2 is slowly becoming the insane Marvel Universe-with-creamy-Coulson-center that show we always hoped it would be.

And since the twists just keep coming, we’ve set up a single discussion thread so that no one has to wait to talk about the latest surprise in Agents of SHIELD. Spoilers ahead for the latest episode, of course.

To follow Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recaps and discussion threads on Tor.com, visit the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tag page.

15 Secrets Hiding in the World of Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is an intense political and character drama brought to life by its fantastic settings and engaging actors, but it’s also chronicling events within a fantasy world that expands in rich detail through author George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series. Not all of these details make it into the TV show. (Frankly, not all of these details make it into the books themselves!) But knowing them can make Game of Thrones an even richer television experience.

Here are 15 secrets about Westeros and the characters that will make the show and the books even more incredible.

[15 Secrets Hiding in the World of Game of Thrones]

Series: HBO’s Game of Thrones

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “Love in the Time of Hydra” Discussion Thread

Let’s take a quick break from the ol’ S.H.I.E.L.D. quake-and-dagger to check in on Ward and Agent 33. They’ve done alright for themselves after the collapse of the Temple and the Many Shots To The Abdomening that Skye laid out. He took his time recuperating and Agent 33 seems to be adjusting post-Whitehall and now, well, they just want some hearty pumpkin pan…oh wait, nope. They’re still crazy.

But it’s a comforting kind of crazy, you know? Like how cats will sometimes climb up a door for no reason. So let’s talk crazy and “Love in the Time of Hydra.”

To follow Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recaps and discussion threads on Tor.com, visit the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tag page.