Traumatic SFF Movie Moments (That I Loved and Watched Repeatedly)

(This is rerun of a post that originally ran on August 5th, 2015.)

As a child of the 80s, I grew up watching a lot of weird stuff. My parents love movies, from glorious technicolor musicals (hi, mom!) and classic comedies to Westerns and all Kubrick films (hey, dad!), and as the oldest kid I was their pop culture guinea pig as they tried their best to figure out what kind of entertainment would fly with little ones, and what would just straight-up freak us out. But of course, they soon found that mileage tends to vary in a big way—spooky movies that amused me to no end gave my younger brother crazy nightmares, while other scenes that completely disturbed me had zero effect on him, and so on. Kids are fun like that.

Of course, having a strong emotional reaction to a movie or a particular scene isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes the moments we find most upsetting end up sticking with us long after we’ve processed those emotions. I’m sure everyone has a list of the movies that deeply affected them, growing up, and we’d love to hear your stories in the comments, if you care to share! In the meantime, here are my own personal top five trauma-inducing movie moments from childhood (mostly), in no particular order…

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Highlights From Our “Five Books About…” Series to Build Your TBR Pile

Quick! Give us five books about dragons. Or girls disguising themselves as boys. Or magic systems with particularly high costs. When authors are releasing their new books out into the world, we like to pick their brains for a quintet of similar books that might have inspired them. Or, as with our “And Related Subjects” essays, we want authors to list books that have nothing to do with their creative process, but that address a fascinating topic or reversal in genre. Since 2015, we’ve been asking authors to share serious or cheeky book recommendations for our Five Books About… series. With over 100 lists, that’s close to 500 books to check out (minus any overlap, which are probably books you doubly want to check out). Read through some of our best lists (so far) for the books that compel great authors to write.

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Rereading Katherine Kurtz: Farewell to Morgan and Company

As I think about the reread of Katherine Kurtz’s first published trilogy before I move on to the second published series (which actually moves backward in time), what strikes me is that, for all their problems, their wobbles and plotholes, the first three books hold up amazingly well. I still love many of the things I loved then, and I see where my own writing picked up not only ideas and characters, but also Don’ts and No’s—things that made me say, even then, “Hell, no. It should be this way instead.”

And that’s all to the good. A baby writer should take inspiration from her predecessors, but also find ways to tell her own stories in her own way. [Read more]

Series: Rereading Katherine Kurtz

Huge Adult Ideas Taught to Us By Weird Movies

(This is a rerun of a post that originally ran on April 27th, 2016.)

When you’re a kid, the adult world is filled with mysteries. Adults talk about things that are literally and figuratively over your head. If the news comes on, you’ll catch fragments of conflicts that don’t make any sense. If you happen across films or books for adults, there might be scenes that baffle you, since you lack the context.

Sometimes the best way, or even the only way, to understand these huge ideas is through movies. Why don’t people want to live in a shiny new building? What is “light speed”? And how can responsibility ever be fun? Emily and I rounded up a few movies that helped us figure out these huge concepts when we were kids.

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It’s Just Business: Why Rejection of Your Art Feels So Personal

(This is a rerun of a post that originally ran on March 10th, 2016.)

You cancelled social plans, sacrificed other potential income streams, and lost sleep to finish your short story, manuscript, or screenplay…only to be told that you’re “not a good fit.” And you’re not supposed to take this rejection personally?

The upside to writing, be it a story, script, or poem, is that you get to create in a vacuum. While the actual work is squeezed into the hours outside your day job(s), school, and other responsibilities, that time and space to create is wholly yours, and so is anything that emerges from that space.

The downside to writing, be it a story, script, or poem, is that you get to create in a vacuum. Because when you’re finally ready to submit this work to other people, then any kind of rejection can feel very personal. You spent all this time blocking out the nagging voice that you’re not good enough, only for that voice to come out of someone else’s mouth.

The problem with writing in a vacuum is that it’s difficult to notice that businesses—like the publisher who buys books, or the studio that buys scripts—are also creating within their own vacuum, one where impersonal commercial concerns often dictate decisions. Where those two vacuum bubbles intersect is where creativity meets commerce, and it’s how your work will ultimately find its audience. So why does that intersection feel so personal even though it’s “just business”?

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Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Shards of Honor, Chapters 8-10

Last week, Cordelia was captured, which turned out to be bad luck for Admiral Vorrutyer. She’s free now, and Aral has come charging through the door. This week, we’re looking at chapters 8 through 10. Cordelia and Aral crowd into his quarters with a mostly unconscious Bothari and talk about their problems.

If you’d like to catch up on previous posts in the re-read, the index is here. 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

Cloned, Recruited, and Kidnapped: Military Evolution in the Star Wars Universe

(This is a rerun of a post that originally ran on March 30th, 2016)

Is it weird to acknowledge that Emperor Palpatine has the most ethically formed army of “bad guys” in Star Wars? It feels weird to say that. I feel strange now. Ick.

I mean, as a Chancellor to the Old Republic, he was responsible for the creation of an army of clones who were deliberately programmed without agency and trained to die for a governed body that they were barred from joining. But as an Emperor, he just plain old recruited. For an academy. Where you became a stormtrooper. So… the Empire was weirdly nicer than the Old Republic or the First Order. The Evil Galactic Empire™ was better at people.

Still feel weird.

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Dancer’s Lament: Chapter 4

At the heart of Quon Tali lies the powerful city-state of Li Heng, which has for centuries enjoyed relative stability under the guidance of the powerful sorceress known as the Protectress. She is not someone likely to tolerate the arrival of two particular young men into her domain: one determined to prove he is the most skilled assassin of his age, the other his quarry—a Dal Hon mage who is proving annoyingly difficult to kill. The sorceress and her cabal of five mage servants were enough to repel the Quon Tali Iron Legions, so how could two such troublemakers upset her ironfisted rule?

And now, under a new and ambitious king, the forces of Itko Kan are marching on Li Heng from the south. His own assassins, the Nightblades, have been sent ahead into the city, and rumors abound that he has inhuman, nightmarish forces at his command. So as shadows and mistrust swirl, and monstrous beasts that people say appear from nowhere run rampage through Li Heng’s streets, it seems chaos is come—but in chaos, as a certain young Dal Hon mage would say, there is opportunity…

Ian C. Esslemont’s all-new prequel trilogy takes readers deeper into the politics and intrigue of the Malazan Empire from its very beginnings. Dancer’s Lament, the first book in the series, is available May 31st from Tor Books. Read chapter four below, or head back to the beginning with chapter one.

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Holy Rewatch, Batman! “Marsha, Queen of Diamonds” / “Marsha’s Scheme of Diamonds”

“Marsha, Queen of Diamonds” / “Marsha’s Scheme of Diamonds”
Written by Stanford Sherman
Directed by James B. Clark
Season 2, Episodes 23 and 24
Production code 9727
Original air dates: November 23 and 24, 1966

The Bat-signal: The police are on alert at U Magnum Diamonds because Marsha, Queen of Diamonds, is back in town—she’s been after the Pretzel Diamond, which U Magnum has on display, for years. O’Hara himself shows up to make sure all is well—and then escorts Marsha inside to take the diamond! O’Hara is completely devoted to her, fawning all over her and threatening the staff at U Magnum with arrest if they don’t give Marsha the Pretzel Diamond.

Apprehensive about his subordinate’s going rogue, Gordon immediately calls Batman, who is in the Batcave doing maintenance on the Bat-diamond and the machine that channels the power to the Bat-computer through that massive, perfect gem. They head off in the Batmobile to GCPD HQ—but Gordon isn’t there! On Marsha’s orders, O’Hara has called the commissioner to Marsha’s hideout.

[Let me be near you!!!!!]

Series: Holy Rewatch Batman!

Consequences and Coping Mechanisms: Orphan Black, “The Antisocialism of Sex”

Soooo remember when Orphan Black co-creator John Fawcett said that 4×05, 4×06, and 4×07 would be a crazy three-episode arc? Yeah. Last week’s heart-ripper of an episode, “The Scandal of Altruism,” subjected Sarah’s already-risky plan to every possible monkeywrench, leaving her freed from her creepy bot implant but everyone else absolutely screwed and devastated. And this week, we looked at the crazy mess of guilt and self-harm that comes out of the Clone Club’s massive setback.

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A Green and Ancient Light

Set in a world similar to our own, during a war that parallels World War II, A Green and Ancient Light is the stunning story of a boy who is sent to stay with his grandmother for the summer in a serene fishing village. Their tranquility is shattered by the crash of a bullet-riddled enemy plane, the arrival of grandmother’s friend Mr. Girandole—a man who knows the true story of Cinderella’­s slipper—and the discovery of a riddle in the sacred grove of ruins behind grandmother’s house. In a sumptuous idyllic setting and overshadowed by the threat of war, four unlikely allies learn the values of courage and sacrifice.

A gorgeous fantasy in the spirit of Pan’s Labyrinth, Frederic S. Durbin’s A Green and Ancient Light is available June 7th from Saga Press.

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Leviathan’s Blood Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a copy of Ben Peek’s Leviathan’s Blood, available May 31st from Thomas Dunne Books!

At the end of The Godless, Mireea lay in ruins, the dead of the city had risen as ghosts, and the keepers Fo and Bau had been slain by Zaifyr.

The Mireeans have now fled to the city of Yeflam with the immortal Zaifyr in chains to barter for their safety. With the threat of war arriving at the Floating Cities, Zaifyr’s trial will become the center of political games. However, Zaifyr is intent on using his trial to begin a new war, a motive that many fear is an echo of the dangerous man he once was. Ayae, a young girl cursed with the gift of fire, sees a chance to learn more of her powers here in the floating city, but she is weighed down by her new responsibilities regarding the safety of the Mireean people.

Across the far ocean, exiled Baron Bueralan and cartographer Orlan have arrived in the city of Ooila with some chilling cargo: the soul of a dead man. As the two men are accepted into the city’s court, they are pulled ever deeper into the Queen’s web of lies and deceit. All the while, a rumor begins to spread of a man who has come ashore, whose seemingly innocent presence threatens them all.

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 1:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on May 27th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on May 31st. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor:, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Abracadabra: The Only Good Magician is a Dead Magician

Welcome to Freaky Friday, the only weekly celebration of forgotten pulp fiction that comes fully approved by Magnus Trench.

Hating clowns is a waste of time because you’ll never loathe a clown as much as he loathes himself, but a magician? Magicians think they’re wise and witty, full of patter and panache, walking around like they didn’t deserve to be shot in the back of the head and dumped in a lake. For all the grandeur of its self-regard, magic consists of nothing more than making a total stranger feel stupid. Worse, the magician usually dresses like a jackass, sending the message loud and clear, “I may be a balding hippie wearing rainbow suspenders, but you can’t even stop me from stealing your watch and pretending to find it behind your ear.” We’re supposed to ooh and aah over their feats, which mostly consist of hiding things in their waxy orifices when we’re not looking, producing body temperature quarters and handkerchiefs from their nooks and crannies with a flourish, standing motionless until we’re guilted into applause, at which point they beam and wink as if they’ve just performed surgery on the President rather than befuddled a mouth-breathing child.

Abracadabra is a horror novel about magic and magicians. It is warm and wise and full of love.

Kill me now.

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Rocket Talk Episode 77: Does Hamilton Count as Genre?

Welcome back to the Rocket Talk podcast! We’ve got some tremendous shows coming in the weeks ahead. So stay tuned!

This week’s show features Rocket Talk regular, Amal El-Mohtar. She joins Justin Landon to talk about Hamilton, the musical cultural sensation. The pair discuss what makes the musical so great, how it’s impacting the discussion, and whether or not it qualifies as “genre”. [Read more]

Series: Rocket Talk: A Podcast