Jul 20 2010 5:46pm

It Is What They Call the Best of the Best: Two Years of Tor.com Highlights

Since it’s our birthday, we thought we’d indulge and share our favorite moments—funny, poignant, eloquent, and wacky—from the last two years.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden:
Tor.com is terrific, and many people write great stuff on Tor.com. I can’t possibly rate two years and hundreds, maybe thousands of posts. But Jo Walton is my favorite blogger on Tor.com, just as she’s one of my favorite novelists, bloggers, and human beings in general. My two favorite Jo Walton posts:

(1) Her contribution to our moon-landing 40th-anniversary event. Specifically this:

I was at an outdoor party once. There was a beautiful full moon sailing above the trees, above the whole planet. And there was a guy at the party who proclaimed loudly that the boots of the Apollo astronauts had contaminated the magic of the moon and that it should have been left untouched. I disagreed really strongly. I felt that the fact that people had visited the moon made it a real place, while not stopping it being beautiful. There it was, after all, shining silver, and the thought that people had been there, that I could potentially go there one day, made it better for me. That guy wanted it to be a fantasy moon, and I wanted it to be a science fiction moon. And that’s how the day of the moon landing affected me and my relationship with science fiction, twenty years after it happened. It gave me a science fiction moon, full of wonder and beauty and potentially within my grasp.

I have been thinking about this paragraph ever since she wrote it.

(2) Her review of Robert A. Heinlein’s The Stone Pillow, which (as Flann O’Brien once said) filled a much-needed gap in the literature.

Liz Gorinsky:
I’m sure I’m not the only one who fondly remembers our one-time bloggers Jason Hnningr and J. Hennenger. The first link goes to a review of Georges Perec’s The Void, the second to some comments on his Exeter Text. Except that something is a bit...funny...about them.

Another one of my favorite moments also spanned two posts: Irene’s insider perspective on the evolution of HMS Stubbington and some subsequent comments on the everyday Stubby logo we know and love.

It is not very often that I come across a gag cartoon that makes me laugh more than once. Sean Bieri’s Gift of the Zombi still gets me every time, nearly two years later. Genius.

Irene Gallo:
Things that I worked on:
By far the most ambitious, and many ways most rewarding, project I’m working on is the Wheel of Time eBook repackage project. Having come to Tor with the series well under way, this was my chance to revisit Robert Jordan’s world from the beginning and become much more emotionally attached to the story and it’s fans as we go through. It’s become much more collaborative with the fan base than I would have guessed possible at the start.

Saturday Morning Cartoons! I do miss these, and promise to return! Spending a few evenings every week trolling for amazing animation was a real treat for me. Each time I was about to give up, I’d stumble on something that would make my heart race.

Things that are stories:
It’s always a good day when Patrick says he has a new Rachel Swirsky story. There are lots of other good days when it comes to stories, but Swirsky is one I’ll always credit Patrick and Tor.com for introducing me to.

Things that are comics:
The geniuses of Idiot’s Books and Teetering Bulb.

Things that are posts:
The blog is such a heart of the site, it’s nearly impossible to say which are favorites. But to name a few (while saying everyone else’s choises are also favorites):

Bridget McGovern:
We’ve had so many brilliant, insightful, and hilarious people contributing to the site for the last two years, picking favorites is nearly impossible, but here are a few standouts:

Like Liz, I love Sean Bieri’s “12 Days of Zombie Christmas” comics from December 2008—and then last year, we celebrated Cthulhumas, of course...because what fun are the holidays without a heaping helping of unspeakable horror?

I always really enjoy Scott Brundage’s rollovers on the site; his Ada Lovelace tribute might be my favorite, though—it’s such a fun, unique way of celebrating Lovelace’s legacy...

Jason Henninger’s ridiculously clever post about Georges Perec and Oulipo is another standout: Jason managed to write the entire thing without using the letter E. I’m a big fan of Jason’s work in general, but I think this was the post that made me realize we were dealing with a crazy genius. (For the record, I’m also very partial to his Gashlycrumb Losties parody...)

I definitely have to include Eugene Myers and Torie Atkinson’s spectacular week-long salute to “The Trouble With Tribbles” as part of their ongoing Star Trek Re-Watch. Tribbles Week had everything from handmade tribbles to animated tribbles to a recap of Futurama’s tribble-inspired parody, “The Problem with Popplers”...as always, they did an amazing, hilarious job.

Finally, without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite days in the last two years was our first April Fool’s Day, when we morphed into TÖRdötCÖM for 24 very silly hours; I had so much fun writing posts for that day...then I had even more fun reading everybody else’s: our bloggers are a wildly creative and deviously clever bunch (and they proved it again this year). I can’t wait for April 2011 (although I still want a badass TÖRdötCÖM t-shirt, for old times’ sake...)

Megan Messinger:
I usually encounter our original stories first in audio, so I’m fond of Charlie Stross’s dry delivery of  “Overtime,” G.D. Falksen’s infectious enthusiasm in “The Strange Case of Mr Salad Monday,” and the way Terry Bisson makes “TVA Baby” sound perfectly reasonable when, in fact, the narrator is round the bend.

My favorite illustration and, in fact, one of my favorite paintings ever, is Greg Manchess’s painting for Ken Scholes’s “A Weeping Czar Beholds the Fallen Moon.” You can see it bigger here. I feel silly actually describing art when I know we have real art people around, but I love his posture, the line of the moonlight coming in the window and its balance with the huge bed, and the little pool of warmth in the far corner. It makes me sad, but in a sort of Keatsian way.

A lot of people have mentioned last year’s April Fools’ Day, and for me, nothing beat Jo Walton’s review of Shakespeare’s Robin of Sherwood on DVD; there’s no such play, but that didn’t stop the commenters from chiming in! And we love Leigh Butler for a lot of reasons, many of them Wheel of Time-related, but she outdid herself with this Edgar Allan Poe pastiche.

Speaking of Poe, as far as scholarly work on the site, I loved S.J. Chambers’ “Living Poe Girl” series—Objects of Desire, An Alchemical Marriage, Metaphysical Motherhood, and The Young Girl of the Valley —and Arachne Jericho’s posts on portrayals of PTSD in fiction, parts one, two, and three.

And we do talk a lot about reading and writing. Jo Walton is the queen here, with posts like “Feast or Famine?”, “Why reviewers don’t often say ‘this sucks,’” “Fantasy and the need to remake our origin stories,” “The joy of an unfinished series,” and “What is it with coffee?” Torie Atkinson started a great discussion on “Reader’s Block,” and Melissa Singer asked for, and then collected, the community’s suggestions on what her thirteen-year-old daughter should read. In her Queering SF series, Brit Mandelo asked “Writing Sex: To Do, or Not To Do?” and in their comic, Kurt Huggins and Zelda Devon answered “The Dreaded Question” about where ideas come from.

I’ll also indulge in two personal favorites: making the Tor.com steampunk poster was one of the coolest days ever, and writing a Choose Your Own Adventure music video was more fun than a barrel of flying monkeys.

Chris Lough:
I latch on to certain writers on this site rather than individual posts, but one that’s stuck with me is Richard Fife’s “Congress Reinstates Pluto as a Planet” post. I know this is an April Fool’s post and yet when I see it in the archives (or elsewhere) I am fooled by the title every time. The piece also made me realize that I apparently have strong feelings about Pluto, and it’s certainly not often that a blog post that can teach you something new about yourself.

I’m also a big fan of Mari Ness’ Oz recaps, as those were the first novels I ever read. My own readership halted at the L. Frank Baum books but her coverage is so comprehensive that my own unfamiliarity doesn’t stop me from enjoying her recaps of the latter books.

Rob Munnelly
1. RobMRobM
RFife, Leigh Butler and Irene's shepherding of the WoT ebook project for the win!

I'd also put in a self-interested vote for the WoT re-read community, which is amazingly substantive, perceptive and fun, with running jokes a-plenty, such as Wetlander's awesome 12 days of Tor Christmas parody:

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
tordotcom gave to me
Twelve looney theories
Eleven headdesk comments
Ten thousand twitches
Nine gender battles
Eight trademarked taglines
Seven silly surveys
Six carol parodies
Five spanking wars ;) ;)
Four bunker parties
Three rickrolls
Two fiction fictions
And a light-up dingle ball on the screen.

Lots of good stuff on the site. Proud to be part of the Tor.com community.

Irene Gallo
2. Irene

You are so right! In many ways, it’s because Leigh has built such a strong community of WoT Fans in her reread posts that I was able to tap into Jordan's world so readily. I should have been more explicit about that.

Alice Arneson
3. Wetlandernw
Aww, thanks, Rob! I love you too. ;)

And let me add, I love being part of this place, if only as a verbose commenter. I've made a lot of friends here. How else do you sit in your recliner and develop friendships not only across the country, but around the world as well?

I'm mostly here for all things WoT, but I'd add another cool find: Jo Walton's "Where Do I Start with That?" series.
Jennifer B
4. JennB
I don't understand the 2 years of tor.com thing. I have a outdated tor.com bookmark in my favorites list from before New Spring came out in 2004. I checked it regularly for answers to question that had been sent in to Robert Jordan.

Does this 2 year birthday just refer to the current setup of the blogs page?
Barry T
5. blindillusion
I remember the old Tor.com page as well.

And I second Rob on the WoT Re-Read community being the best around.
Jennifer B
6. JennB
Me 3rd, definately the best. Thank you Leigh.
John Massey
7. subwoofer

Er... thanks Irene:) Much appreciated that you listen to us little people.

@Blind- I like to think that I am very svelte.

Just sayin'.

Oooooo lucky 7!

John Massey
8. subwoofer
Wait a tick- did somebody say "cake"?

Oooooooooo lucky 8.

Janet Hopkins
9. JanDSedai
Wow! If it were not for the Wot crew chiming in, who knows what kinda crazies would be reading tor.com?!
Thomas Keith
10. insectoid
WoT Re-readers: You guys/gals are the best! Rock on Leigh!

Mmmm... cake.

Helen Lowe
11. Helen Lowe
My favourite so far has been Arachne Jericho's series on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Fiction--if for no other reason that it encouraged me to read Max Brooks' "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War".
Estara Swanberg
12. Estara
My favourite posts are Jo Walton's re-read and recommendation posts.
I also really enjoy the Star Trek re-watch posts (and the Cowboy Bebop ones) ^^
James Hogan
13. Sonofthunder
Of course, I have to give props to Leigh for the awe-inspiring WoT re-read. I also have much enjoyed the Star Trek re-watch, the Firefly re-watch by R. Fife and most every book review(so many books, so little time!).

Also, Jason's Losties was pure genius. Just saying.

And more props to the amazing ebook WoT covers. That counts, right? I eagerly anticipate every one of those posts. :D

Oh and every story that gets posted on here, I devour.

Pretty much, the content on here is amazing. If I took the time to write all of it, I may as well have written a whole column, neh?
Dru O'Higgins
14. bellman
Well, it was Leigh's WoT reread that first brought me here, so major thanks to Leigh.

Also thanks to Jo, she's increased my reading enormously. From Little Brother to Spin to Replay, it's incredible the number of books she's given me. And when I read her review of The Stone Pillow, my little heart went pitter-pat until I remembered what day it was.

Who was it who did the famous lines from science fiction books and what would you take to a fantasy world? Was it Jo? They were great, we should do more stuff like that.

Mostly, I love being part of a science fiction community that doesn't take itself too seriously, and where it's hardly unusual for the writers to show up and take part in the discussions.
Alice Arneson
15. Wetlandernw
bellman @14 - May I second that last paragraph? I love it that the people who write stuff for tordotcom generally seem to a) enjoy reading what others have to say in response and b) be happy to join in the discussion. Cheers to them all!
April Vrugtman
16. dwndrgn
My comment disappeared into the great unknown...
Anyway, I just wanted to 'third' bellman's last statement:

Mostly, I love being part of a science fiction community that doesn't take itself too seriously, and where it's hardly unusual for the writers to show up and take part in the discussions.
Irene Gallo
17. Irene
the frustration with this kind of thing is suddenly remembering all the items you meant to include after the fact. Like:

The not-so-little-known fact that some of the most entertaining writing on Tor.com is Megan’s weekly newsletter

And, I was overwhelmed by the response “Show us your tentacles” got. Artists and dabblers alike jumped right in. It was a blast...and I still get a kick out of it when someone adds another.
Megan Messinger
18. thumbelinablues
Irene @17, I don't know how many times I've looked at the Cthulhu art jam, so how have I never noticed Greg's Cthulhubux cup! If they were cool like us, they'd do those for Cthulhumas....
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
19. pnh
The old tor.com is the ancestor of Tor-the-publisher's current corporate web page, which can now be reached at www.tor-forge.com. The Tor.com you're reading now launched on July 20, 2008.

True fact: the old Tor.com was originally a gopher server. As a company, we've been online for a looooooong time...
Alice Arneson
20. Wetlandernw
Irene - I'll second the bit about the weekly newsletter, too. I almost fell out of my chair over the haiku edition. My husband wasn't sure whether to call the EMTs or just ignore me. It was fabulous.
Tamara Allen
21. tamaralynn
I love Tor.com, the community and the website and the content and, and, ... well, everything!

Somehow I missed the April 1 "Robin of Sherwood" review, but I was surprised to see Megan write "there's no such play" as the DVD set is available on Amazon in addition to the link to Acorn from the original post. Am I totally clueless and do I need a joke explained?

One other thing: Mur Lafferty's podcast of stories on iTunes stopped in May. Is it coming back, or does it have a new feed URL?

Thanks, all of you, for adding to the fun in my life. :)
Jo Walton
22. bluejo
Tamaralynn: The link is to a real old BBC series about Robin Hood, but the review is of a completely imaginary Shakespeare play of the same name.

I seem to be fond of imaginary Shakespeare, as I did a fake review of Shakespeare's King Arthur once as well. And come to think of it, I also wrote Shakespeare's Tam Lin.
Tamara Allen
23. tamaralynn
Thanks, bluejo. I guess I should brush up my Shakespeare. :)

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