content by

Chris Lough

Fiction and Excerpts [1]

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.

Let’s Go to the Last Unexplored Place in The Wheel of Time: The Land of Madmen!

For Wheel of Time readers, the last great unexplored frontier is a lonely continent nestled deep down in the world’s southern hemisphere, colloquially known as the Land of Madmen. The only ships ever to visit there have been the few Sea Folk vessels not dashed upon the iceberg floes that drift north from the continent; and all they found was a hostile populace overwhelmed by male channelers gone crazy from the Dark One’s touch upon saidin.

Subsequently, we don’t know much about the continent or what life is like there. But we can apply some lessons learned from the history of the Wheel of Time, as well as historical history on Earth, to shed a little light on this mysterious place. Some big surprises await us!

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How The Wheel of Time Made Me Hate Epic Fantasy, and How Mistborn Brought Me Back

There was no triggering event, but I knew that I couldn’t read The Wheel of Time anymore. Or any epic fantasy stories. This was a literary genre that had defined my entire life but here I was, only 27 years old, well before I started working at Tor, and I felt like the victim of a long con. A sucker who kept buying books that promised a resolution that would never arrive.

2008 was a bad year for epic fantasy in general. Robert Jordan had just passed away, far too early, and while Brandon Sanderson had been named the successor to The Wheel of Time, at that point readers had no way of knowing what that would mean. Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind had recently promised a stunningly intimate new world, but it was only just beginning as a series. Harry Potter’s adventures had just concluded. And the latest Song of Ice and Fire book A Feast For Crows was nearing its third birthday, with A Dance With Dragons still several horizons away. Epic fantasy felt abandoned as a genre. And if its creators couldn’t be bothered to keep it alive, why should I, as a reader?

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No One Told Me Luna: New Moon Was Gonzo Journalism!

We will not have have Richard Nixon to kick around much longer—which is not especially “sorrowful news” to a lot of people, except that the purging of the cheap little bastard is going to have to take place here in Washington and will take up the rest of our summer.

One day at a time, Sweet Jesus…. That’s all I’m askin’ from you…

The preceding ramble is from an article in Rolling Stone from 1974 titled “The Scum Also Rises,” chronicling the night before President Nixon announced his resignation, and everything that followed. It isn’t what a reader in 2015 would expect from insightful political coverage. The writer is clearly angry, maybe drunk, and more concerned with his own annoyances than the piece of American history that he has a front seat for. But that’s Hunter S. Thompson for you. He didn’t promise objectivity or facts, yet he delivered news more genuine than any mere recitation of events could achieve; his audacious style of writing was more than just florid indulgence, it made you feel what it was like to have been there watching history unfold.

Now, Ian McDonald is doing the same thing. Except he’s sending us to live on the moon.

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8 Ways the Military Deals With Magical Powers

Fantasy readers are accustomed to a classic depiction of wizards as lone combatants, marshaling the power of the world and changing the direction of history itself with a determined gnashing of their teeth. Naturally, any nation or world power would want a bunch of those kinds of high-powered folks, right? But what happens when you get them? How do you forge a veritable army of wizards into an effective Wizard Army?

Here are eight interesting ways that authors have approached the challenge, in our own world and beyond, by taking a militaristic perspective. In doing so, these authors reveal a fascinating look at the evolution of a society.

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5 Other Historical Periods That Should Have Their Own Mistborn Book

Brandon Sanderson was never supposed to write a Mistborn series set in “the Old West.”

The story that became the novel The Alloy of Law was originally a writing exercise, a way for Sanderson to stretch his muscles before diving into the complex and senses-shattering work of finishing A Memory of Light and with it, the entire Wheel of Time series. Sanderson certainly meant (and still means) to write another Mistborn series, but in a 1980s-style setting, examining how Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy would affect the technology of that period. (Allomantic Steve Jobs and Bill Gates would have the weirdest fights!)

But Wax and Wayne, once created, could not be denied, and in the next four months we will read two new Mistborn books—Shadows of Self and The Bands of Mourningthat further explore these two characters and the western frontier era of their Cosmere world, Scadrial.

This quick road trip through the Old West has been pretty fruitful, all told (railroads…gunfights…fancy hats…who could resist, really?) And this got me thinking: What other periods or settings in history would it be cool to see a Mistborn story unfold in?

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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 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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