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Natalie Zutter

Rereading The Handmaid’s Tale: Parts III-IV

Now that we’ve been introduced to the Republic of Gilead… how do you survive? Just as Offred explores her room (her room) in sections, so do we begin to fill in the edges of her life as a Handmaid: witnessing a funeral for an Econowife’s child even as the Econowives look down on their red-smocked rivals; the daily walks and monthly doctor’s visit both threaded with whispers of sedition; and a surprise, as the Commander seems to be poking around her room. She would like to believe the story she is telling, but will continue to speak it regardless of whether she does or not.

The index to the Handmaid’s Tale reread can be found here! Remember that because this is a reread, there will be spoilers for the rest of the book, as well as speculation about the TV series.

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Series: Rereading The Handmaid’s Tale

She Said, She Said: Supergirl, “Luthors”

I remember watching the Smallville pilot in high school and thinking what a “great twist” it was for the creators to make Clark Kent and Lex Luthor friends—what delicious opportunity for them to grow close before their destinies would necessarily put them on opposite sides. But there’s something very different to how Supergirl treads that ground with Kara Danvers and Lena Luthor. For one, knowing next to nothing about Lena’s history in comic book canon, their interactions are lacking in any dramatic irony for me. But what really makes it different is that they’re both young women: It’s not that they’re water and oil, as Clark and Lex were, but instead that their friendship contains a measure of solidarity.

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What’s the Value of Romance in Sci-Fi & Fantasy?

I still experience a visceral shiver when I remember the passage from Tamora Pierce’s In the Hand of the Goddess, in which Alanna of Trebond, dressing up as a “proper” lady on her birthday, runs into Prince Jonathan in the palace gardens. Seeing her not as his squire Alan but as a woman in feminine trappings, he plays with the laces on her bodice, and Alanna is overtaken with a heady need, a self-described giddiness that’s almost as strong (almost) as her desire to continue living as a man in order to earn her knighthood. I read that book twenty years ago, when I was nearly a decade younger than Alanna, yet this moment remains as fresh as when I first came across it. The same goes for the moment when George Cooper, King of Thieves, catches “Alan” with her hands full and steals a kiss, trading it for the promise of accepting her however she wants him. Or when both men profess their love for her and offer her very different futures—one of which would supplement her life as a lady knight, the other which would eclipse it—and her response is to flee to the desert to clear her head.

The Song of the Lioness’ main draw is easily the girl-disguises-herself-as-boy-to-train-as-a-knight plot. Yet as a gawky preteen with glasses, braces, and frizzy hair, there was no way I would summon any of Alanna’s chutzpah—but her romantic entanglements? Those grounded both the fantastical setting and Alanna herself, making her a relatable heroine.

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8 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books Sexier Than Fifty Shades

Please enjoy this encore post celebrating all things kinky SFF, originally published February 2015.

Fifty Shades of Grey opens this weekend, with many audiences worried that the movie will repeat the mistakes of the book in depicting an unrealistic, unhealthy BDSM relationship. But it doesn’t have to be this way—after all, sci-fi and fantasy authors have written believable power exchanges and sexual agency into their books and comics for decades. Instead of headdesking over Christian and Ana once again, pick up these books by Samuel R. Delany, Octavia E. Butler, Matt Fraction, and more.

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Marvel’s Runaways Casts The Pride

Last week, Marvel Studios announced the cast for its television adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphonse’s Runaways: the six teenagers who discover that their parents are supervillains and who harness their parents’ technology to become superheroes. But you can’t have the Runaways without The Pride! Marvel shared five of the six couples (including a familiar face from Buffy and Angel) who harness time travel, alien technology, and magic to secure their children a place in paradise—and who have no problem hunting down their progeny (with the help of a mole) once they turn against them.

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Emma Watson is Her Best Self in the New Trailer for The Circle

The latest trailer for The Circle, the film adaptation of Dave Eggers’ social media cautionary tale, really ups the creepy ante. While the first teaser introduced us to the world of The Circle—a self-sustaining, cultlike tech company—and its SeeChange cameras posted all over the world streaming live footage, the latest trailer focuses in on the star of both the film and The Circle itself: Mae Holland (Emma Watson), who joins The Circle and quickly rises through its ranks.

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Here’s Your First Look at Elle Fanning as Mary Shelley

We’re finally getting our first look at the Mary Shelley biopic starring Elle Fanning (Super 8Maleficent) that has been in the works for at least two and a half years. Previously titled A Storm in the Stars, the film depicts the relationship between the 18-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft and poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, which eventually led to young Mary penning Frankenstein. (Thanks also to a volcanic eruption and some especially pesky moonlight, of course.) Now the project is known as just Mary Shelley, though it’s unclear if the title change means a shift in focus.

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Rereading The Handmaid’s Tale: Parts I-II

In the more than three decades since the publication of The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, Margaret Atwood has maintained that it and her other works are more speculative fiction than science fiction: “For me, the science fiction label belongs on books with things in them that we can’t yet do, such as going through a wormhole in space to another universe; and speculative fiction means a work that employs the means already to hand, such as DNA identification and credit cards, and that takes place on Planet Earth,” she wrote in a 2005 editorial in The Guardian. “But,” she allowed, “the terms are fluid. Some use speculative fiction as an umbrella covering science fiction and all its hyphenated forms—science fiction fantasy, and so forth—and others choose the reverse.” Not surprising, considering that Atwood’s dystopian vision of the future won the very first Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987.

A particular challenge that Atwood gave herself while writing The Handmaid’s Tale, she shared in a 2014 Reddit AMA, was that “I would not put anything into it that had not happened in human history, or for which we did not already have the tools.” To wit, her points of inspiration spanned human history, from dictatorships to the “Quaker-hanging, witch-hunting Puritans” who were her ancestors, as well as Mary Webster, another believed ancestor who survived her hanging. Yes, she wanted to challenge the norm of contemporary dystopian narratives having mostly male protagonists, but really she was challenging everyone who looks at current events elsewhere in the world and says, “It can’t happen here.”

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Series: Rereading The Handmaid’s Tale

M.R. Carey Reads the First Chapter from The Girl With All the Gifts Prequel The Boy on the Bridge

The Girl With All the Gifts author M.R. Carey has shared the first excerpt from The Boy on the Bridge, his forthcoming prequel set in the same post-apocalyptic world as Gifts but taking place about a decade earlier:

Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy.

The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world.

To where the monsters lived.

The book will be available May 2 from Orbit Books, but in the meantime, you can watch Carey read the first chapter on his official Facebook page.

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This Skin Is Beautiful: Supergirl, “The Martian Chronicles”

After Live Wire’s surprisingly enjoyable return last week, this week’s Supergirl was less “The Martian Chronicles” than “The Martian Bottle Episode That Wraps Up Really Neatly.” The A.V. Club has it right: If this were a true bottle episode, with all of the action confined to the DEO—Kara, Alex, Winn, J’onn, and M’gann trapped with a shapeshifting White Martian—then we would have gotten the tight thriller that was advertised. As it is, the action gets bogged down, or in some cases heightened, by the various emotional subplots taking place outside of (both figuratively and literally) the main conflict.

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Orphan Black Final Season Premiere Date Announced

Heads up, Clone Club! Begin the Clone Countdown to the series finale of Orphan Black: The fifth and final season will premiere Saturday, June 10, at 10 p.m. EST on BBC America. The announcement, posted on the official Orphan Black Facebook page, included a silhouette of Sarah Manning, with the interesting subtitle of Orphan Black: Final Trip. Considering that BBC America President Sarah Barnett described the last 10 episodes as “one final gobsmacking clone adventure,” it probably will be quite a trip.

An Atlanta High School and Trader Joe’s Celebrate SFF Authors for Black History Month

During Black History Month, Grady High School in Atlanta, GA, is collaborating with a local Trader Joe’s to celebrate black science fiction and fantasy authors. Michael T. Powell is the Head Artist and Art Director of this project, which is working to build a network of artists throughout the city. Alongside the usual array of colorful art in Trader Joe’s will hang portraits of authors such as Samuel R. Delany, Nnedi Okorafor, and N.K. Jemisin, with short biographies contextualizing their works.

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Meet the Rogues Gallery in Latest LEGO Batman Teaser!

Poor Joker, he’s going to be making this face in most of The LEGO Batman Movie, if these trailers are any indication. But it’s OK if the pilot doesn’t think he’s all that scary! Because it’s not just the Joker terrorizing Gotham, it’s the entire rogues gallery: Riddler, Catwoman, Penguin, Calendar Man, Gentleman Ghost, and of course we can’t forget Condiment King…

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Watch the Super Bowl Trailer for Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale

While plenty of movie trailers drop during the Super Bowl, this year Hulu is doing something unprecedented by releasing a teaser trailer for its original series The Handmaid’s Tale, according to The Verge. But you don’t have to watch the game to see the teaser; Hulu posted it online today.

At a little over 30 seconds, it’s as long as the first teaser, and has a lot of the same disturbing imagery. But it also builds upon the dystopian world with just a few striking images: Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and the Commander (Joseph Fiennes) after the Ceremony; barren Wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski); how other citizens of the Republic of Gilead interact with the Handmaids, from Aunts to doctors; and how the Handmaids enact their own justice.

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