Conjoined Twins: The Real-Life Inspiration Behind False Hearts

Content note: this article goes into detail about surgical separation of twins and medical treatment without consent.

False Hearts stars formerly-conjoined twins raised in a cult, and there’s also futuristic San Francisco, brain hacking, dream drugs, a mob, and a fair amount of violence. Though I researched many topics for the book, I spent the most time learning all I could about conjoined twins to ensure I depicted my twins respectfully and without falling into harmful tropes. The initial book idea was sparked by reading an article on io9 about Daisy and Violet Hilton, who were 1920s vaudeville stars. They were so famous that they were essentially the Olsen twins of their day. In the course of my research, I learned of other historical twins, and also their own opinions and beliefs about being conjoined, which differs to the mainstream narrative that all twins desire separation above all else and it is their ultimate goal.

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Overcoming Genre Clichés: Stranger Things

I accidentally created a UFO video library when I was 17. It was a rubbish video library with a single, rubbish video in it: UFO Secrets Of The Third Reich. Yes. That was a crappy year for a lot of reasons and I dealt with it by diving headlong into escapism. And, that one particular month, persuading eight friends to kick a pound in for a video that HAD to be worth watching with a title like that.

It really, really was not.

I mention it here for two reasons. The first is that UFO Secrets Of The Third Reich perfectly embodied the pre-millennial tension that defined the late ’90s. The paranoia of Watergate and the various polite British scandals of the previous three decades had festered and transformed into active fear in many circles, and there was a sense, even living adjacent to England, of the country being a large, polite, privately-owned library. We were all allowed in. We were all monitored. We would be punished if we transgressed.

Which of course made movies like Defense of the Realm, shows like the original House of Cards and, of course, The X-Files even more attractive. We knew SOMETHING was out there. We just had to work out what it was before the MiBs did. Or if not, at least wait until they’d finished their dance number.

That fictional transition from political conspiracy to science fiction conspiracy to “Oh god, I hope they bring back Elvis!” was one of the reverberating bass notes of my adolescence. It’s also one of the bass notes of Stranger Things, which touches on Stephen King, The Thing, E.T., and The X-Files, amongst other pop-cultural gems in its mad sprint through the worst week in Hawkins, Indiana’s history.

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Can Charlie Stross, Seanan McGuire, and John Scalzi Save Us From a World Where Tea is Bad?

Anyone up for a Tor Author Voltron? Twitter-user Dan Bailey suggested that Charlie Stross (author of The Laundry Files and The Merchant Prince series) and John Scalzi (of Redshirts, Lock In, and Old Man’s War fame) should join forces for a work of epic SFF proportions. As these things often do, the idea quickly expanded, with more fans chiming in story ideas, and a third author being pulled into the fray…

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Finally Revealed: The Secret History of Twin Peaks

Welcome back to the world of Twin Peaks.

From Mark Frost, co-creator of the landmark series, the story millions of fans have been waiting to get their hands on for 25 long years.

The Secret History of Twin Peaks, publishing October 18th from Flatiron Books, is a vastly layered, wide-ranging history that deepens the mysteries of the iconic town in ways that will thrill disciples of the original series, and will prepare fans for the upcoming Showtime series like nothing else out there.​ It’s a publication that’s been under wraps for years, so get the very first look at its pages below!

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Waking Up Dead Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a galley copy of Nigel Williams’s Waking Up Dead, available August 23rd from Thomas Dunne Books!

Retired bank manager George Pearmain is, apparently, dead. According to the behavior of everyone around him, it would seem that he is no more. Not only that, but his mother has also passed away too—and on the eve of her 99th year, poor dear. Not only that, it could be that they were both murdered.

He feels fine otherwise.

As George’s family gather for the birthday-celebration-that-never-was, he hovers around the house, watching and listening, entirely unseen. As a result, he makes all sorts of discoveries about himself, his wife Esmeralda, and his supposedly happy family …

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 2:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on July 27th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on July 31st. 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.

Bera the One-Headed Troll

Bera doesn’t ask for much in life. She’s a solitary, humble troll, tending her island pumpkin patch in cheerful isolation. She isn’t looking for any trouble.

But when trouble comes to find her, it comes in spades. A human baby has arrived in the realm of the trolls, and nobody knows where it came from, but Bera seems to be the only person who doesn’t want it dead. There’s nothing to it but to return the adorable little thing to its parents.

Like it or not, Bera’s gone and found herself a quest.

From noted picture book illustrator and graphic novelist Eric Orchard comes Bera the One-Headed Troll, a delightful new fantasy adventure with all the sweetness, spookiness, and satisfaction of your favorite childhood bedtime story—available August 2nd from First Second!

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Please Don’t Send in the Clowns: Thomas Ligotti’s “The Last Feast of Harlequin”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at Thomas Ligotti’s “The Last Feast of Harlequin,” first published in the April 1990 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction. You can find it in the Cthulhu 2000 anthology, among other places. Spoilers ahead.

[“When he swept his arm around to indicate some common term on the blackboard behind him, one felt he was presenting nothing less than an item of fantastic qualities and secret value.”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

So. Let’s Talk About The Killing Joke.

DC’s animated feature based on Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s classic story has hit both theaters and digital video. When it premiered at San Diego Comic Con this past week, fan reaction was… tense to say the least, and apparently culminated with screenwriter Brian Azzarello using a decidedly gendered slur to insult a reporter who expressed his issues with the film vocally in a room full of people.

Talking about this film, this story, is rough. It’s rough because it commands a lot of questions on multiple levels of the creative process. It’s rough because it deals with sexual violence and brutality, and what it means to make money off of stories that heavily feature those themes. It’s rough because this project involved many beloved creators and talent, and it’s hard to speak ill of people whose work you love and respect.

But we have to talk about The Killing Joke. Because we have to work through the shockwaves that this film has already prompted, and question the wisdom of this particular enterprise at a point in time when its legacy has never been more highly contested.

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Midnight in Karachi Returns with an Exclusive Interview with Margaret Atwood!

It’s been a couple of months of radio silence from my end, with some major life changes and relocations included but I’m pleased to report that Midnight in Karachi will officially return on August 4th with a very special interview of a writer who has been a personal hero of mine for years. I first read her seminal novel when I was 17, and it’s been a love affair since then. I never thought I’d ever have the chance to speak with her, but when she wont a Kitschies award earlier this year, director Glen Mehn put in a request with her people for my podcast and amazingly, she agreed.

This left me wondering, how does one address Margaret Atwood? I asked her over Twitter, and she said Aunty Peggy would be just fine, but you’ll notice I avoid addressing her by name anyway. Maybe we can get to Aunty Peggy levels of familiarity a few interviews down the line. In case you’re wondering, Margaret Atwood is just as sharp, funny and charming as you’d want your literary hero to be. I may have gushed off air a bit, but that remains mercifully off the record.

Other guests who’ll be appearing on Midnight in Karachi for August are Malka Older, Laura Lam, Sami Shah and Victoria Schwab! In the meantime, please enjoy this “Where to Begin” piece from October 2015, which offers some suggestions for places to dive into the amazing worlds of Margaret Atwood. Jump right in, and then please join us Thursday August 4th on the Midnight in Karachi podcast to hear from Atwood herself!

[Here are some suggestions for where to start with Margaret Atwood…]

Testing the Waters: What to Do When You Don’t Like Anything

In this ongoing series, we ask SF/F authors to describe a specialty in their lives that has nothing (or very little) to do with writing. Join us as we discover what draws authors to their various hobbies, how they fit into their daily lives, and how and they inform the author’s literary identity!

When I first learned about the “And Related Subjects” series, it threw me for a loop. Actually, it was less of a loop and more of a downward spiral, because that’s what happens when you realize you have no passions. In thirty-three years on this earth, I didn’t manage to develop even a hobby, unless you count games that begin with the words “Candy Crush.”

But the more I read about fantastic authors who also go mountain-climbing or fencing or compose actual music, the farther I went into panic-shame-depression mode. I’ve spent the last decade of my life writing books, building a writing career (these are two different things, by the way), and raising kids. I don’t have a lot of free time, and when I do have a night off, I dust off my film degree and take it to the movies, usually with my husband in tow.

[Then I realized that I was looking at it the wrong way…]

The Art of Space Travel

“The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan is a science fiction novelette. In 2047, a first manned mission to Mars ended in tragedy. Thirty years later, a second expedition is preparing to launch. As housekeeper of the hotel where two of the astronauts will give their final press statements, Emily finds the mission intruding upon her thoughts more and more. Emily’s mother, Moolie, has a message to give her, but Moolie’s memories are fading. As the astronauts’ visit draws closer, the unearthing of a more personal history is about to alter Emily’s world forever.

[Read “The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan]

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Fan Art is the Friendliest, Most Welcoming Fan Art

Twitterer and MSTie Rich Jensen has created what may be the single greatest greeting card the Great State of Minnesota will ever receive! He doesn’t just include the stately capitol building (in St. Paul), nor yet the lovely state flower (the Cypripedium acaule – known as the pink lady’s slipper or moccasin flower), but instead goes for broke and includes the entire cast of last month’s Rifftrax/MST3K/Cinematic Titanic/Mads reunion.

Anybody want to go on a roadtrip? We can stop at the Dells!

[via Twitter!]

Rereading Kage Baker’s Company Series: Sky Coyote, Chapters 31-35

Welcome back to the Kage Baker Company Series Reread! In today’s post, we’ll cover the final five chapters of Sky Coyote and the elusive “Memorandum from Dr. Zeus, Incorporated” coda found in the Avon Eos edition of the novel. I’ll also include a quick rundown of some short stories set between the end of this novel and the start of Mendoza in Hollywood.

As always, you can find a list of all previous posts in the reread on our handy-dandy index page. And also as always, beware spoilers, because this reread discusses events and plot lines from the entire series.

And with that we’re off to Humashup, sadly for the last time…

[I will come home when the stars are faded.]

Series: Rereading Kage Baker

Why Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence is So. Damn. Powerful.

It’s a typical morning, as typical as they come. You wake up and shower, listening to your favorite shock jockey blab on the air. You make a cup of coffee and read the paper, all the while keeping an eye on the clock. You hail a cab, and despite the intense traffic, you manage to make your way to work and even manage to impress your boss.

Except that in this world, your shock jockey is a rogue elemental riding the airwaves, spreading gossip. Your cab could be a riderless carriage that touts you around the bustling streets, or possibly a giant dragonfly like creature, whose legs wrap around your body and fly you to work. Your office is probably a giant glass pyramid, fitting into the city like a perfect puzzle piece. And your boss? Yeah, he’s an immortal sorcerer whose constant tampering with the forces of the universe has caused his flesh to fall away, and remain in this life as a skeleton in a business suit, a Deathless King.

Welcome to the Craft Sequence. You’re going to want to pick your jaw up off the floor if you expect to get any respect around here, kid.

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