Remembering Gene Wilder, 1933-2016

We’re saddened to report that actor Gene Wilder has passed away at age 83.

Born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, he began acting while still a child, and eventually attended the Old Vic Theater school in Bristol, England. He continued his training back in the U.S., studying with Lee Strasberg, and supplementing his income by teaching fencing. After a decade in theater he became a breakout film star for his supporting turn as blanket-loving Leo Bloom in Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

A few years later, he became an icon to generations of children when he starred as a reclusive candy maker in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. From his somersaulting entrance to his snarky asides to the kids to his heartfelt rendition of “Pure Imagination”, Wilder made Willy Wonka a thorny, loving, and completely unpredictable mentor-figure to impoverished Charlie Bucket, and proving that a children’s movie could embrace moments of darkness without sacrificing heart.

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Keeping Telepaths in Mind: The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

Eight, sir; seven, sir;
Six, sir; five, sir;
Four, sir; three, sir;
Two, sir; one!
Tenser, said the Tensor.
Tenser, said the Tensor.
Tension, apprehension,
And dissension have begun.

With the Hugo winners recently announced for 2016, its the perfect time to look back to the novel that was awarded the first ever Hugo Award. That novel was The Demolished Man, a book that stands with The Stars My Destination as one of the two masterpieces of SF author Alfred Bester.

[How does it hold up for readers today?]

NASA’s HI-SEAS Crew Has Completed Their Year-Long Mars Simulation Mission

On August 28, six NASA crew members successfully wrapped up the fourth HI-SEAS mission by “returning” to Earth from Mars. Here’s the thing: They never actually left the planet.

The HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) missions simulate life on Mars by having a crew live in a small dome about 8,000 feet above sea level, on the slopes of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano—the closest approximation to the surface and conditions of the Red Planet. Isolated from Earth, with limited resources and not much space, the crew are guinea pigs for the effects of isolation and confined quarters on future Mars trips. The fourth HI-SEAS mission was the longest yet, with the crew locked away for a full year.

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Rereading Katherine Kurtz: Saint Camber, Chapters 12-13

Welcome to the weekly reread of Saint Camber! Last time, Camber and company were working Deryni magic to integrate Cullen’s memories with his own before being rudely interrupted by Cinhil.

This week Camber attends his own funeral, Evaine shows hidden depths, and the legend of Saint Camber gets a boost from the man himself. With bonus lengthy Michaeline chapter meeting.

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Series: Rereading Katherine Kurtz

The Monster Next Door: I Am Not a Serial Killer

IFC Midnight and director Billy O’Brien have brought Dan Wells’s I Am Not a Serial Killer to life on the screen, starring Max Records and Christopher Lloyd. Our protagonist, John Wayne Cleaver, is a teenage sociopath attempting to keep his life together and himself in check with the help of his therapist and small-town associates. This is, of course, until a rash of serial murders begin in his town—and there’s something more or less than human behind them.

When the novel was originally published—six years ago—I found it reasonably compelling and entertaining, as evidenced by this review. It had some narrative hiccups but a strong use of voice and an engaging internal conflict for the protagonist; overall, I thought it was decent. So, when I had the chance to scope out an adaptation from IFC, I thought: why not?

[A review.]

Enter the Dream of HBO’s Latest Westworld Trailer

HBO has released the latest trailer for Westworld, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s adaptation of the 1973 Michael Crichton movie. Set in a retro futuristic theme park that’s like Jurassic Park but for the Wild West, populated by robots who are as much prisoners as Ava from Ex Machina, the series looks to tackle the crossovers between consumerism and artificial intelligence—with a stellar cast, to boot.

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Who Are the Biggest Breakout Stars of Television’s Golden Age?

If you’re like me, you’re startled by the staying power of Stranger Things. While I enjoyed the show, I also saw that there were some flaws, and I certainly didn’t expect that it would be the breakout hit of the summer. But here were are, a month later, with Stranger Things cupcakes, Stranger Things cats, and roughly two thousand posts about Barb.

Finally, Jason Concepcion over at The Ringer asked the question: what is the deal with Barb? Why is everyone so obsessed with her? Since such questions are part of the ineffable workings of the cosmos, and provide no ready answer, he quickly moved on to an even more interesting question: why is it that characters with tiny fractions of screentime sometimes explode? OK, Concepcion didn’t quite answer that one either, because really, characters become fan favorites for lots of different reasons. But he did come up with a really interesting way to look at these breakouts.

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Hammers on Bone Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a galley copy of Cassandra Khaw’s Hammers on Bone, available October 11th from Tor.com Publishing! Read the first chapter here.

John Persons is a private investigator with a distasteful job from an unlikely client. He’s been hired by a ten-year-old to kill the kid’s stepdad, McKinsey. The man in question is abusive, abrasive, and abominable.

He’s also a monster, which makes Persons the perfect thing to hunt him. Over the course of his ancient, arcane existence, he’s hunted gods and demons, and broken them in his teeth.

As Persons investigates the horrible McKinsey, he realizes that he carries something far darker. He’s infected with an alien presence, and he’s spreading that monstrosity far and wide. Luckily Persons is no stranger to the occult, being an ancient and magical intelligence himself. The question is whether the private dick can take down the abusive stepdad without releasing the holds on his own horrifying potential.

Hammers on Bone is a new novella from rising author Cassandra Khaw.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 11:30 AM Eastern Time (ET) on August 29th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on September 2nd. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Five Books about Loving Everybody

Words are powerful magic. Finding a word—polyamory—to describe my romantic and sexual relationships made it possible to tell people what I was doing: my friends, my family, my lovers, and most importantly, myself. I was a college dropout when I first encountered the term polyamory, which we’ll define here as the conscious romantic and/or sexual involvement of three or more consenting adults.

The comic book which introduced me to the name of this concept, and which I read so eagerly, has gotten lost somewhere in my forty-plus years of raggle-taggle relocations. Its main character was named Polly, and I think the front cover was mostly black…. At any rate, it left me longing for further literary examples of this newly validated category of human behavior: stories about kissing and hugging and making love with everybody, without guilt or shame. Which I both wrote and found.

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Series: Five Books About…

Thessaly: The Baroque Inspiration

Welcome back to the Tor.com eBook Club! August’s pick is The Just City, the first book in Jo Walton‘s Thessaly trilogy. Join in below, as Jo discusses one of the inspirations behind her characterization of Apollo.

One of the points of view of all three Thessaly books is Apollo. Writing a god’s point of view is literally hubris, though the Greeks did it all the time in poetry and drama. Apollo is the only narrator who stays with us through the trilogy, the one who ties it all together. His voice, his sly snarky voice, and his experience of being a god taking on mortal life for the duration of the experiment, are one of the things that made this project really interesting for me. This part of the books had a much more direct inspiration than most of my ideas. It came from a baroque statue.

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Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Warrior’s Apprentice, Chapter 1

This week, the reread jumps roughly 15 years from Barrayar to The Warrior’s Apprentice. First published in 1986, this is the first book in the series to feature Miles Vorkosigan, the fourth in reading order, and the second in publication order. At the time of publication, the only other book in the series was Shards of Honor, published two months earlier. I’m retroactively jealous of 1986 for getting two Vorkosigan books as beach reads, though I think that going straight from Shards to Miles’s adolescence must have caused readers whiplash.

If you’d like to catch up on previous posts in the reread, the index is here, and a series of blog posts on The Warrior’s Apprentice by Jo Walton can be found by following the Warrior’s Apprentice tag. At this time, the spoiler policy permits discussion of all books EXCEPT Gentlemen Jole and the Red Queen. Discussion of any and all revelations from or about that book should be whited out.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

The Varied Life of Jack Vance

There’s one thing I’ve learned from researching our founding SFF authors: writers used to be a hell of a lot cooler. Not to insult any of our modern masters—far from it! They’re doing their best with the era they were dealt. But skim over the history of Harlan Ellison. Take a look at Robert Heinlein’s life, or Kurt Vonnegut’s, or Frank Herbert’s or Philip K. Dick’s. You’ll find stories of street brawls, epic rivalries, tumultuous love lives, hallucinations.

And then you get to Jack Vance, and the more you read the more you expect to learn that the man wrestled tigers for fun.

[Actually, he wrestled with more interesting things than tigers…]

Series: On This Day