Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “The Alternative Factor”

“The Alternative Factor”
Written by Don Ingalls
Directed by Gerd Oswald
Season 1, Episodes 20
Production episode 6149-20
Original air date: March 30, 1967
Stardate: 3087.6

Captain’s log. The Enterprise is finishing up an orbital survey of an uninhabited planet, when they’re buffeted by some kind of force. According to Spock, for an instant the magnetic field of the solar system disappeared and the planet below had no mass—it was as if reality winked out of existence for a second. As soon as the phenomenon abated, a humanoid life sign reading appeared on the planet out of nowhere.

Kirk, Spock, and a four-person security detail beam down to investigate. They find a small, one-person ship—which, weirdly, Spock’s sensors did not pick up—and its pilot, who is ranting and raving and then faints.

[“Coffee?” “Is that an order, Lieutenant?”]

Series: Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Nixon’s The One: Crooked by Austin Grossman

Austin Grossman’s new novel, Crooked, features a very different Richard Nixon from the one you may remember from history class. To illustrate, allow me to start this review with a brief quote from the book’s opening chapter, showing Nixon in the Oval Office:

I closed the blinds, knelt down, and rolled back the carpeting to reveal the great seal of the office, set just beneath the public one. I rolled up my left sleeve and cut twice with the dagger as prescribed, to release the blood of the Democratically Elected, the Duly Sworn and Consecrated. I began to chant in stilted, precise seventeenth-century English prose from the the Twelfth and Thirteenth Secret Articles of the United States Constitution. These were not the duties of the U.S. presidency as I had once conceived of them, nor as most of the citizens of this country still do. But really. Ask yourself if everything in your life is the way they told you it would be.

Well, the man has a point.

[Spiro, we’re not in Washington anymore.]

The Dark Forest

Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion-in just four centuries’ time. The aliens’ human collaborators may have been defeated, but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access to all human information, means that Earth’s defense plans are totally exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret.

This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies, hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike. Three of the Wallfacers are influential statesmen and scientists, but the fourth is a total unknown. Luo Ji, an unambitious Chinese astronomer and sociologist, is baffled by his new status. All he knows is that he’s the one Wallfacer that Trisolaris wants dead.

This near-future trilogy is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple-award-winning phenomenon from Cixin Liu, China’s most beloved science fiction author. Translated by Joel Martinsen, book two, The Dark Forest, is available August 11th from Tor Books. Read an excerpt below, and listen to a clip from the audiobook, out from Macmillan Audio the same day as the book!

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The Best Ant-Man Viral Marketing is the One You Almost Don’t Notice

With its Ant-Man advertising, Marvel had to be careful to toe the line between cutesy/clever and groanworthy. Case in point, the tiny Ant-Man billboards that popped up randomly everywhere. But this bit of viral advertising out in the wild is so wonderfully specific—and not immediately apparent—that we have to tip tiny hats to the marketing team. Our thought process basically reflects this tweet: “Did a car knock over this??” *takes a closer look* “WAIT WHAT”

Afternoon Roundup brings you the perfect ass-kicking, horse-picking-up superheroine; The Force Awakens‘ Finn back when he was defending against a whole other crop of aliens; and a tongue-in-cheek movement against bald baddies.

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The Wheel of Time Reread Redux: The Great Hunt, Part 10

Hang on to your Oryctolagus cuniculus, kids, because it’s a Wheel of Time Reread Redux!

Today’s Redux post will cover Chapters 16 and 17 of The Great Hunt, originally reread in this post.

All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on Tor.com.)

The Wheel of Time Reread is also available as an e-book series! Yay!

All Reread Redux posts will contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And now, the post!

[She’s not gonna be ignored, Rand]

What Does George R. R. Martin Have to do With Dinosaur Lords?

The key thing to know is that New Mexico hosts a large and fairly tight-knit community of science fiction and fantasy writers. Some of us older ones have been friends for decades.

George R. R. Martin and I have been friends since he moved to Santa Fe in the late Seventies. Since the mid-Eighties I’ve also worked with him on the abidingly popular Wild Cards shared-world anthology series, along with several other players of the role-playing game campaign GRRM ran which became that series, including Melinda M. Snodgrass, John Jos Miller, and Walter Jon Williams.

[All of whom happened to be present at a party George threw in 2013]

It Was Seeing That Made Them Scream: “From Beyond”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s original stories.

Today we’re looking at “From Beyond,” written in 1920 and first published in the June 1934 issue of Fantasy Fan—so don’t be so quick to trunk your early stories. You can read it here.

Spoilers ahead.

[“It is not pleasant to see a stout man suddenly grown thin…”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Falling in Love with Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Archivist Wasp

This book. This book. In the past few years, there’ve been a handful of books I count it a privilege to have read—a handful of books with which I fell instantly and deeply in love. It’s a short list: Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword; Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor; Elizabeth Bear’s Karen Memory. I might spot you one or two others, depending on the day, but these are the ones that hit me right on an emotional level, where pleasure in the quality of writing combines with a straight shot to my narrative hindbrain: this is our stuff! This is OUR THING!

Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Archivist Wasp has added itself to that list. I didn’t expect it to: at a brief glance, it sounded a little too peculiar. But then I came across Amal El-Mohtar and Ana Grilo (of The Booksmugglers) discussing its merits on Twitter—and when people like that recommend a thing, I try to take notice.

[And wow, am I glad I did.]

Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Court of Fives Sweepstakes!

We have three copies of Kate Elliot’s new book Court of Fives, from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers coming out on August 18th. Check out our excerpt here, and then enter to win!

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family she can be whoever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best contenders. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between two Fives competitors–one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy–causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

Comment on 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 10:30 AM Eastern Time (ET) on July 28, 2015. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on August 1. 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.

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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You Beautiful Monster: The 20-Year Struggle to Make Clive Barker’s Nightbreed

Clive Barker has had a bumpy film career. After writing scripts for Underworld and Rawhead Rex, and being underwhelmed with the results, he decided to try directing his stories himself. So he adapted his story “The Hellbound Heart,” and created the classic Hellraiser. Unfortunately, for the next movie he wanted to do a thoughtful, dark fantasy adaptation of his story “Cabal,” but his producers just really wanted a slasher movie.

[Because the world needed more of those…]

This Nursery Has Leveled Up!

Baby Grant’s dad decided to create a magical, Yoshirrific, coin-filled Mario Kart-themed nursery! That is some A+ Dad-ing, Father-of-Baby-Grant! You can check out the whole build process here. And presumably once Grant becomes a moody teen, he can remodel the room to honor Castlevania

Morning Roundup compares Fury Roads to Genysises, looks back at the impactful history of a font, and suggests some deeply depressing cartoons for all the grownup to enjoy.

[Plus, the best thing to happen to Batman V. Superman!]

Fiction Affliction: August Releases in Fantasy

Twenty-four new fantasies bring their dungeons and dragons to the masses in August, even a few for adult readers. Look for a brand new fantasy series from N. K. Jemisin, and series additions from, among others, Robin Hobb (The Fitz and the Fool); Kate Elliott (Court of Fives); K.J. Parker (The Two of Swords); Mark Smylie (The Barrow); Amanda Hocking (Kanin Chronicles); and Susan Murray (Waterborne Blade).

[Read about this month’s releases]

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 Tor.com that I will not CAN not acknowledge the outside world during the speedruns of following games.

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The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps Sweepstakes!

We have three galley copies of  The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson, the debut novella from Tor.com Publishing out on September 1st, and we want to share them with you!

Since leaving his homeland, the earthbound demigod Demane has been labeled a sorcerer. With his ancestors’ artifacts in hand, the Sorcerer follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight. The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive. The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror. Demane may have to master his wild powers and trade humanity for godhood if he is to keep his brothers and his beloved captain alive.

Read an excerpt here, and then comment in the post below 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 3:30 pm Eastern Time (ET) on July 27, 2015. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on August 1, 2015. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Reread: The BBC Adaptation

Hello, everyone! Welcome back to the reread of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which we’ve reopened to discuss the TV adaptation now that it’s finished airing on BBC America. You can catch up on past posts at the reread index; read Emily Asher-Perrin’s episode reviews; or check out all of Tor.com’s posts about this book.

After the jump I’m first going to give first a spoiler-free three-paragraph summary of whether I think the show’s worth watching. Then I’ll give the long version, which is (unsurprisingly) quite long, with spoilers for all of JS&MN, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, and the TV show. And pictures, including the best eyeroll gif ever. I look forward to other people’s thoughts now that the whole series has aired in the UK and US. (Sorry, Canada, where it’s still airing; sorry, other countries that are waiting for the DVD release. Comment whenever, truly, I’ll get the notifications!)

[“The nameless slave shall be a king in a strange country.”]

Series: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Reread

Court of Fives

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family she can be whoever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best contenders.

Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between two Fives competitors—one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy—causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege. Court of Fives is available August 18th from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

[Read an excerpt]

Sith Lords for Better Highways

Maybe Darth Vader felt just a little guilty about blowing Alderaan to smithereens, because as this photo shows, he did his little bit of goodwill and adopted a highway. Or, you know, a normal person co-opted the Sith Lord’s moniker (and, later, his helmet) to raise awareness about the Adopt-a-Highway program. Virginia bus driver Henry Wakley took it even further when he dressed up as Vader to pick up trash along the roadway—making Anakin truly a role model for the kids.

Afternoon Roundup brings you Frank Miller discussion from the most unexpected source, #firstworldapocalypseproblems, and snarky posthuman commentary.

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