Tor.com content by

Natalie Zutter

Let Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen Guide You Through the World of YA Sci-Fi & Fantasy

So, we have to assume that you know what The Hunger Games is, considering all of our commentary on the books and movie franchise. And you almost definitely wouldn’t be on this website if you’d never heard of Harry Potter. But the world of sci-fi and fantasy YA is ever-expanding (not unlike Aunt Marge or, um, a tribute who got stung by one too many tracker jackers), and it’s impossible to know every single book out there. Enter the brilliant ladies at Bookish (full disclosure: my former coworkers), who put together a comprehensive and fun flowchart using The Hunger Games and Harry Potter as shorthand.

[Read more]

Creating a More Perfect Human Being: Orphan Black, “The Stigmata of Progress”

I haven’t been able to figure out where this week’s Orphan Black got its title, but it’s a gripping visual nonetheless: forward momentum, but the kind that leaves a scar. The Clone Club has already lost so much blood, several embryos, and one eye, and had about as many things implanted. This week centers around two especially interesting implants: Sarah’s Neolutionist bug and Rachel’s eye.

[Read more]

How Guy Gavriel Kay Mashes Up Real Events and People Into Alternate History Fantasy

Guy Gavriel Kay’s work has been described as “history with a quarter-turn to the fantastic”: It’s almost what you remember learning about in school, but overlaid with a new intrigue, or perspective, that doesn’t exist in our recorded history. Take his new book, Children of Earth and Sky: Set in alternate-history 16th-century Europe—in a city whose canals bring to mind Venice—it tracks the individual ambitions of an artist, an undercover spy, and a band of pirates as well as the looming threat of invasion from an eastern threat that resembles the Ottoman Empire. Bits and pieces that you may have read in books, woven together in a tapestry (to borrow the metaphor of one recent review) or, as I like to think of it, mashed up into a delightful historical remix. Kay has likely read all of the books, as well as some primary sources and other unusual texts—he recently talked to io9 about his involved research process.

[Read more]

Paolo Bacigalupi Uses Fiction and Law to Debate Whether Robots Are Capable of Murder

It sounds like a joke: An SFF/speculative fiction author and a robotics law expert come together to talk about a killer sex robot. But it’s actually part of Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University to explore how emerging technologies are changing our lives. While past Future Tense installments have included screenings of The Terminator with robotic experts and panels on genetic engineering or nuclear energy and environmentalism, this week takes a different approach: The Water Knife author Paolo Bacigalupi has written “Mika Model,” a short story about a sex robot who murders her owner (or does she?); and Ryan Calo, a law professor with a specialization in robotics, has penned a response.

[Read more]

At Least Ten Percent of Women Are Cyborgs

What makes someone a cyborg? Is it an artificial limb replacing an organic one lost? Is it the ability to open your phone or your car door by waving your hand, or to sense magnetic fields in your fingertips? Is it someone who can “hack” their own consciousness toward the goal of improved mindfulness? Is it a woman who can control her fertility with an unprecedented near-certainty? In a fascinating piece for Fusion, Rose Eveleth talks about the two cyborg implants that add her to the growing ranks of bodyhackers: the RFID microchip in her hand, and the IUD in her uterus. The thing is, most people only recognize one of those as some futuristic, identity-changing technology, and it’s the one that Eveleth would have removed in an instant if she had to choose.

[Read more]

Hiding Doesn’t Work: Orphan Black, “Transgressive Border Crossing”

While this week’s Orphan Black opens with Sarah, Kira, Mrs. S., and Kendall sneaking across Canada’s borders via cargo plane and truck, it concludes with a very different kind of border breached, in a much more insidious and horrifying way: the discovery of one of Neolution’s worms (or “maggot bombs,” M.K.’s nickname for them) lurking in Sarah’s cheek!

[Read more]

Fear, Inc. Is This Year’s The Cabin in the Woods

When the incredibly self-referential The Cabin in the Woods thrilled audiences (in the physical and figurative senses) in 2012, it also brought with it an ominous message about the state of the horror genre: These guys control your world, and they are out to get you. Now, four years later, another movie is jockeying for the position of most meta commentary, from a new angle: Vincent Masciale’s Fear, Inc. explores what happens when you invite the scares upon yourself.

Traditional horror has run out of ways to scare us, Masciale (Funny Or Die) and screenwriter Luke Barnett assert through their unlikely protagonist, slacker dudebro (down to the man-bun) and horror junkie Joe (Lucas Neff): He can predict the jump scares in haunted houses, and he’s so burnt out on the genre that he looks for it in non-horror offerings, declaring that his favorite horror movie-style death scene is Game of Thrones‘ Red Wedding. “I want to cry like the last time I saw The Notebook,” he tells his long-suffering (and much more successful) girlfriend Lindsay (Caitlin Stasey). “I want to be destroyed. I want to shake in my boots.”

Enter Fear, Inc., a shady yet undeniably intriguing organization: They’ll tailor a horror-movie experience to your hopes, expectations, and (most importantly) fears.

[Read more]

Look at the Aurora Borealis in a Whole New Way From Space

Last fall, I went to Iceland for a few days during peak Aurora Borealis season, yet managed to catch only a blurry glimpse of the Northern Lights on a foggy night; it was the one disappointment of the trip. But now, thanks to NASA, I (and you) get to enjoy the sheer beauty of this weird phenomenon. If you thought it looked cool from the ground, just wait til you see it from space.

[Read more]

The Audacity of Hope: Supergirl Season 1 Finale, “Better Angels”

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

In the second half of the Supergirl season finale, Supergirl saves the minds of the human race with a stirring speech about hope. Then Indigo and Non double down with an even greater, deadlier threat to the humans’ lives that requires Kara to tap into a much darker place. The episode title is drawn from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address in 1861; I think it’s safe to say that Supergirl is that better angel of humanity’s nature, the paragon of virtue made all the more virtuous for getting up every time she stumbles.

[Read more]

(Almost) Every SFF Adaptation Coming to Television and Movie Theaters!

Thanks to major properties like Game of Thrones and Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, we’ve entered a golden age of sci-fi and fantasy properties being developed for film and television. It seems that nearly every network and studio has snatched up the rights to old and new classics, with a bevy of projects in production or premiering in the coming months. To keep you on top of the latest news, we’ve updated our master list of every SFF adaptation currently in the works, from American Gods to Y: The Last Man. And surprising no one, prolific writers Neil Gaiman and John Scalzi each have a number of projects in varying stages of development.

Check out this list and get your DVRs and Netflix queues ready, because you’re going to be wonderfully busy for the foreseeable future.

[Read more]

“Look at Me. See Me.” Orphan Black, “The Collapse of Nature”

Orphan Black is back! And it went back, to before the pilot: We finally got to meet Detective Beth Childs for the third time, but really the first; before she takes off her high heels and jumps in front of a train, before Sarah Manning slips on those high heels and the rest of her identity. It’s a bleak but necessary backstory that begins to fill in some of the holes with Neolution and Project Leda, and which introduces us to a heretofore-in-hiding new clone!

[Read more]

Are You Ruled by Fear, Control, or Hope? Supergirl, “Myriad”

It’s kind of ironic that one episode after the citizens of National City re-accepted Supergirl, they’ve all turned against her again. But this is the one time she’s not taking it personally, because it’s all the result of Kryptonian mind control technology Myriad! And the handful of people who are unaffected by Myriad all have different thoughts on Non and Astra’s Indigo’s solution for “saving” the human race.

[Read more]