Mercedes Lackey’s Winds of Change: Bring Me the Finest Cheese Plants in the Land!

Mercedes Lackey’s Winds of Change, book two in the Mage Winds trilogy, has a relatively simple plot. Darkwind and Elspeth work to train their powers and help fix K’Sheyna Vale’s fractured heartstone, while Falconsbane tries to stop them. K’Sheyna calls in Healer-Adept Firesong from K’Treva Vale to help. He chooses an unconventional approach, draining the heartstone of its power. K’Treva’s Mages are pushing that power towards a new heartstone when the power is grabbed and diverted to the Palace in Haven by a mysterious force located in the Forest of Sorrows.

But what I remember most about reading Winds of Change when I was a teenager is that it is the book where Darkwind makes over Elspeth’s wardrobe and the hertasi bring them tapas.

[The hertasi are winning the Velgarth edition of Top Chef]

Series: The Valdemar Reread

The Way We Walk: Getting Started with the Short Stories of China Miéville

Sometimes you’re better off starting with the short stuff, developing a taste, and then tackling the larger works.

An example: Genesis’s The Way We Walk, for those that didn’t home-school themselves in 1980s prog rock, is a set of two live albums. There are The Longs and The Shorts. Naturally, the first one I got was The Longs, because, value, right? Right? And, boy, was that a mistake—because The Longs consisted of basically a half-dozen amorphic medleys, 1980s squidgy power harmonies with a shapelessness that bordered on the Lovecraftian. It took me a while to try Genesis again, and this time I dipped my toe into The Shorts. And that album was (and still is) fantastic—complete with instant, anthemic crowd-pleasers like “I Can’t Dance,” “Invisible Touch,” and “Jesus He Knows Me.” “Ah-ha!” I told myself. “This is why this music thing is a thing!” Later, I even got back into The Longs, as The Shorts had introduced me to the style in a more immediate, approachable way. I got to ease into liking it, rather than leaping into the deep end.

[China Miéville, like Genesis…]

Chris Pratt and Velociraptor E.T. Set Off On a Magical Journey!

So this one will take a moment to explain. Over the weekend, Chris Pratt asked his Facebook followers to help him design a new cover photo, in exchange for dinner at Applebees! Obviously they responded immediately, by the hundreds, with works of Photoshop that inspired emotions including joy, disgust, terror, and utter euphoria. We especially loved Nathan More’s entry, but honestly you need to see all of them, because they are all uniquely beautiful. You can see the rest over on Facebook!

Morning Roundup brings you a whole new side to Bambi’s past, some helpful rats, news of Outlander, and an interview with David Mitchell!

[Read more]

Kitty Norville’s iPod Shuffle Sweepstakes!

Kitty Norville is back in the final installment of Carrie Vaughn’s bestselling series! Kitty Saves the World picks up with werewolf and late-night radio DJ Kitty and the gang trying to find a way to stop the evil vampire Dux Bellorum before he can put his apocalyptic plan into action. Outgunned and outnumbered at every turn, the stakes have never been higher for Kitty, and she’ll have to call on all her old allies if she hopes to beat Dux and save the world!

One grand prize winner will receive a copy of Kitty Saves the World, out on August 4th from Tor Books, along with an iPod shuffle preloaded by Carrie Vaughn herself with all of the songs from all fourteen playlists listed in the Kitty Norville novels and short story collection! You can listen to nearly 200 of Kitty’s favorite tunes, and show off the engraving on this silver 2GB iPod Shuffle, which reads “Kitty’s Ultimate Playlist.”

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 9:30 AM Eastern Time (ET) on August 1, 2015. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on August 5, 2015. 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.

Fiction Affliction: August Releases in Paranormal Romance

Twenty new paranormal romance books turn up the heat in August (note that due to space limitations, this list does not include all of the small-press and self-published paranormal romances for the month). Look for series additions from, among others, Linda Thomas-Sundstrom, J.D. Tyler, Sherrilyn Kenyon, A.C. Arthur, Eve Langlais, Carrie Ann Rylan, Sandra Hill, Amanda Ashley, and Dianne Duvall.

[Read about this month’s releases!]

New “Dystopian” Little Women Might be Missing the Point

Little Women is described as a hyper-stylized, gritty adaptation of the 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott, in which disparate half-sisters Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy band together in order to survive the dystopic streets of Philadelphia and unravel a conspiracy that stretches far beyond anything they have ever imagined—all while trying not to kill each other in the process.

What the actual f***? Have The CW’s executives actually read Little Women? Probably not, though they likely patted themselves on the backs for having Rory Gilmore be seen reading it on Gilmore Girls a decade ago.

[Read more]

The Stargate Rewatch: Atlantis Season Four

Stargate Atlantis Season 4
Executive producers: Robert C. Cooper, Brad Wright, Joseph Malozzi, Paul Mullie
Original air dates: September 28, 2007 – March 7, 2008

Mission briefing. Atlantis is drifting between star systems, with McKay and Zelenka trying desperately to keep everyone from dying through various manipulations of the power and the shield. Meanwhile, Weir is dying, and the only solution that Keller can come up with involves activating the nanites that are still in her system. Sheppard thinks this is a terrible idea, but they do it anyhow, as she’ll die otherwise. Weir herself thinks it’s a bad idea when she’s revived.

The city needs a ZPM or they’ll be drifting forever, but they have a jumper that can make it to a planet—specifically, the Asuran homeworld. Weir is now plugged into the replicators, so she helps them get the ZPM, and also keeps Oberoth at bay. But in the end, she is taken by the replicators, even as the others escape with a ZPM.

As an added bonus, McKay has altered the replicator base code so that they will do what the Ancients originally built them for: to fight the Wraith. A Wraith-replicator war proceeds to break out in the Pegasus galaxy.

[Good. We can finally get to work without having to look over our shoulders.]

Series: Stargate Rewatch

Classic Hollywood Stars Meet Classic Superheroes!

Joe Phillips has already given us unique takes on superheroes with his beefcake Steve Rogers and Superman art. But now he’s going in a bold new direction, casting the greatest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age as an impressive lineup of comics’ finest heroes! Our favorite? Humphrey Bogart as a presumably-even-more-gruff Hellboy, with Peter Lorre taking on the role of Abe Sapien. Throw in Lauren Bacall as Liz Sherman and we have movie heaven!

[Wait until you see Marilyn Monroe…]

Star Wars Topps Cards: Mark Hamill Commentary Edition!

Forget headshots—the real fun thing to get autographed are collectors’ items like these vintage Star Wars Topps cards. Especially because Mark Hamill gets wonderfully snarky in signing them. (Poor Luke! But it’s so true.) Check out more at Comics Beat. Seriously, though, Hamill needs to record commentary for all of the Star Wars movies, even the one’s he’s not in!

Afternoon Roundup brings you animals that actually benefited from losing their superpowers, upcoming awesome speculative fiction, and how A Wrinkle in Time changed sci-fi forever!

[Read more]

The Great Stephen King Reread: Hearts in Atlantis

Stephen King wasn’t messing around. His new publisher was getting double barreled capital L literature from the Viscount of Vomit. First there was the high-blown gothic, Bag of Bones, then came the small and spiritual Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and now here was Hearts in Atlantis—a series of Linked Novellas. Could there be a literary form more twee and precious than Linked Novellas?

And these weren’t just any linked novellas, but linked novellas about the Sixties and the Vietnam War (which King missed due to his busted eardrums and flat feet) which is basically a core requirement to attain one’s Serious Man of Letters certificate. Scribner was so thrilled about what they received from their expensive new author that on the cover they simply wrote “New Fiction” rather than cluing readers in that this was either a novel told in parts, or Linked Novellas, or a collection of short stories. Hell, they probably didn’t even know themselves.

[Read more]

Series: The Great Stephen King Reread

Fake It Till You Make It: Savages by K.J. Parker

K.J. Parker appears to be in a very prolific period in his career right now. In addition to the ongoing serial novel The Two of Swords, which just had its sixth monthly installment published in July, and last year’s short fiction/essay collection Academic Exercises, we are now treated to Savages, a brand new full length novel. (Plus, come October, a new novella right here on Tor.com!) Maybe it’s the recent unveiling of his true identity that spurred all this activity? Whatever’s the cause, you’ll never hear me complain about more K.J. Parker on the shelves.

The setting for Savages, as for most of Parker’s output to date, is once again a vaguely recognizable (but really different) parallel of Europe during and after the breakup of the Roman Empire: there are Western and Eastern Empires, one with vaguely Roman-sounding names and one with kinda-Greek-sounding names, as well as some other parallels to countries and regions in historical central Europe. Fans of the author will catch references to, among others, Permia and Scheria, two countries that have frequently been featured in Parker’s fiction.

[Read more]

Voyager Goes Virtual

Way back when, in October 2012, Voyager—HarperCollins’ home for fantasy and science fiction, and the publisher across the pond of people like George R.R. Martin, Mark Lawrence, Peter V. Brett, and Robin Hobb—opened its doors to unagented submissions for a brief period. In just two weeks, something like five thousand manuscripts were submitted, fifteen of which have seen the light of day of late.

Spanning genres “from urban fantasy to military sci-fi, with YA, romance and mystery in the mix,” Voyager’s venture into digital-first publishing has been such a exceptional success that the imprint is set to celebrate said with a week it’s calling #VirtualVoyager. From this coming Monday through Friday (August 3-7), the fifteen authors comprising the digital list have cleared their calendar to participate in a schedule of exciting events and social media sessions you won’t want to miss.

Never one to take a press release as the whole of the story, however, I asked Voyager’s most approachable assistant editor, one Rachel Winterbottom, if she could delve into a little additional detail about the week.

[She did!]

Series: British Fiction Focus

Under the Dome: “Ejecta”

This week, John Elvis, the actor who plays Skater Ben on Under the Dome, did an AMA on Reddit and someone asked him to pitch the show. Mr. Elvis wrote, “Pitch: The Simpsons movie, except Stephen King thought of it 15 years before. The GOOD bald guy on Breaking Bad is now the BAD bald guy. The Redhead from Twilight isn’t weird, and the dude from Texas Chainsaw Massacre isn’t a weenie that dies right at the beginning. The same people that made LOST make this show too. plus STEPHEN KING!!!! Drops Mic

But let’s say that mic had a mass of about 12,000 metric tons, and it was dropped at a speed of 60,000 km/h. It would impact the ground with a kinetic energy of 500 kilotons, generating a bright flash, releasing a hot cloud of dusty gas, and throwing debris into the air in a wide radius around the impact crater. This debris is known as ejecta… and that’s also the title of tonight’s episode! So now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

[Read more]

Check Out This Moving 3D Tribute to Hayao Miyazaki!

What was your first Miyazaki movie? Because if you watch this wonderful 3D tribute to his films, getting a glimpse of that first one is probably what will make you tear up. That’s assuming the music doesn’t have you weeping first. French animator Dono created three-dimensional environments that bring Miyazaki’s various memorable creations together in one shared world without ever getting too intrusive.

[One note: Needs more soot monsters!]

The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Autumn Twilight Part 2: Chapters 9 and 10

Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread!

We’re back with our regular transmission following last week’s guest post from Highlord Damien Walter. Damien covered a large chunk of Raistlin’s character arc, but this week our favorite wizard continues to save everyone’s backsides…

As always, we’re going to keep the reread post spoiler-free, but the comments are open to any and all discussion, so proceed with caution!

[Read more]

Series: Dragonlance Reread

Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant Sweepstakes!

Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant finally hits shelves on September 15th from Tor Books, but we’ve got a chance for you to get your hands on a galley of this eagerly anticipated fantasy novel right now!

Baru Cormorant believes any price is worth paying to liberate her people-even her soul.

When the Empire of Masks conquers her island home, overwrites her culture, criminalizes her customs, and murders one of her fathers, Baru vows to swallow her hate, join the Empire’s civil service, and claw her way high enough to set her people free.

Sent as an Imperial agent to distant Aurdwynn, another conquered country, Baru discovers it’s on the brink of rebellion. Drawn by the intriguing duchess Tain Hu into a circle of seditious dukes, Baru may be able to use her position to help. As she pursues a precarious balance between the rebels and a shadowy cabal within the Empire, she orchestrates a do-or-die gambit with freedom as the prize.

But the cost of winning the long game of saving her people may be far greater than Baru imagines.

Read an excerpt here, and then check for the rules below!

[Read more]

Pull List: Hawkeye

When I first pitched Pull List, I intended the column to look at the bad stuff as well as the good, but somehow it’s morphed into monthly love notes. Which means that this is the perfect time to talk about Matt Fraction and David Aja’s absolutely fan-flerken-tastic run on Hawkeye. It’s one of the rare few superhero comics I’d readily and without hesitation put near the top of my Best Of list. It’s that good. No, it’s that incredibly great.

[“Okay, this looks bad.”]

A Young Tim Burton Learns That Hollywood is a Snake Pit

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, one of the greatest films of all time, premiered 30 years ago this week! In celebration, Paul Reubens posted a few behind-the-scenes stills from the shoot, and while they’re all adorable, we particularly loved this one of a young Tim Burton rasslin’ snakes!

Morning Roundup looks at the state of film criticism, the state of the superhero film, and the state of Samuel Delany!

[Plus, vampire cars.]

J. K. Rowling’s Real Life is More Incredible Than Any Fiction

You know what’s really hard for me? Talking about J. K. Rowling objectively (and on her birthday, too—she’s 50 today). And it’s not just because she wrote one of the most successful book series of all time, teaching millions of children to adore reading in the process. Not just because she has used her well-earned gains to promote so many charitable causes. Not just because the world loves a good rags-to-riches story, and hers is one of the best.

It’s because she described herself as “the biggest failure [she] knew” before she sat down to write one of the most beloved fantasy worlds on paper. It’s because she turned the sorrow over her mother’s death into a tale where a mother’s love for her child ultimately saves the world. It’s because all of the first publishers to read her three chapter sample rejected her book. It’s because failing made Jo Rowling push back hard against depression and poverty to find her very best calling.

It’s because she gave us Harry, Ron and Hermione, and so many of us wouldn’t recognize our childhoods without them.

[Meet in the Astronomy Tower…]

Series: On This Day