The Sky Is Falling! Maybe! “Henny Penny” or “Chicken Little”

The story of Henny Penny, also called Chicken Little, or sometimes Chicken-licken (not to be confused with “Finger-licken” from Kentucky Fried Chicken), the terrified little chicken convinced that the sky is falling and that life as we, or at least as chickens know it, is over, is common throughout European folklore—so common that “the sky is falling!” and “Chicken Little” and related names have become bywords for fearmongering, and the often tragic results that occur.

[The different endings of Chicken Little, with a bonus brief discussion of Disney’s first, deadly serious, take on the story.]

The Flash’s Joe West is TV’s Best/Worst Dad

If the DC Universe has a benevolent version of Lex Luthor, it’s Greg Berlanti. The producer, responsible for Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow and the animated Vixen series has spearheaded a massive resurgence for the company on the small screen. Better still, the work he and his teams have produced is coherent, shares a continuity and, most importantly, a sense of joy. That last, with the DC movies seemingly tripling down on the idea of murder as character development, is the most important. The Berlanti-produced shows, Oliver Queen’s almost universally awful life and life choices aside, are defined by joy. The scrappy mutts of Legends of Tomorrow refusing to be forgotten by history. Kara Danvers discovering not only who she is but that strength, bravery and kindness are inextricably linked. And, of course, Barry Allen, the fastest science puppy alive.

A big part of the success of all these shows is the supporting casts and that’s especially true of Supergirl and The Flash. The dynamic between the female characters, in particular Cat and Kara, on Supergirl is fascinating and I’m hoping to write about that in detail at a later date. Here though, I’ll be talking about The Flash and in particular, Joe West.

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Is It Time to Update Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger?

In early April, Marvel Entertainment announced that their television universe would be expanding to include a live-action adaptation of teen heroes Cloak and Dagger, to be broadcast on Freeform, ABC’s family-oriented cable network. And that’s great! Marvel has a big roster of entertaining “young adult” characters, and a TV show could give oft-neglected characters like Cloak and Dagger the space to grow into their potential.

There’s just one big problem.

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Words of Radiance Reread: Chapter 79

Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Dalinar received a surprise or two that he badly needed. This week, he has his first actual conversation with a Listener since his brother was killed, and learns more surprising new notions.

This reread will contain spoilers for The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and any other Cosmere book that becomes relevant to the discussion. The index for this reread can be found here, and more Stormlight Archive goodies are indexed here.

Click on through to join the discussion!

[Dalinar felt as if he were trying to stop a dam from breaking, all the while not knowing where the leaks were actually coming from.]

Series: Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com

Consider the Many Buttons of Star Wars!

Over at Motherboard, Alex Pasternack wants everyone to think about the wonderfully blinky, perfectly analog buttons of Star Wars. In a series that exemplifies the tension between CGI and practical effects, the lived-in aesthetic of the first Star Wars trilogy is most obviously seen in the Millennium Falcon and its constant need for repairs and hyperdrive failures. But just as important are the lights, dials, and manual levers that all add to the films’ reality.

[Buttons!]

Midnight in Karachi Episode 54: Kat Howard

Welcome back to Midnight in Karachi, a weekly podcast about writers, publishers, editors, illustrators, their books and the worlds they create, hosted by Mahvesh Murad.

Writer Kat Howard is on the podcast this week to talk about cutting her teeth on short fiction, Kate Bush, story telling, and the sacrifices writers make. Her novel Roses and Rot is available May 17th from Saga Press—you can read an excerpt here on Tor.com!

[Read more]

Series: Midnight in Karachi Podcast

Revealing the Cover of Skullsworn, Set in the World of The Emperor’s Blades

I’m struck, sometimes, by all the ways in which writing a book is nothing like playing hockey. I was never very good at hockey, but I liked it, and played through the start of high school. Hockey, of course, is a team sport. This means that individual players can leave the ice and the game will keep going. Not only that, but your team can score goals without you doing a damn thing. This isn’t to say you don’t bust your ass every time you’re on the ice, but that when your line is taking a breather on the bench, things are still progressing.

Not so much with the writing of books. If a writer takes a breather to make a cup of coffee, no one subs in to keep pushing the chapter forward. I never come back to my computer to discover I’ve scored another few paragraphs without noticing. Which can be demoralizing.

As a result, I get disproportionately excited for those rare times in the process when someone else is actually pushing the story forward without me: when my wife, or agent, or editor goes to work on the text. Or in this case, when Richard Anderson and Irene Gallo, the artist and artistic director, get their hands on it. The feeling is like flopping over the boards and onto the bench totally exhausted, muttering to them, “I don’t know if we’re winning or losing, but go do something awesome…” And then they do.

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Lonely Hospital at the Edge of Space: A Return to Sector General

In the far reaches of Sector 12, a massive interspecies hospital drifts in space, home to a diverse cast of doctors and patients from every intelligent race in the galaxy. Sector 12 General Hospital was once a popular stop for thousands of science fiction readers who were drawn in by author James White’s fast-paced medical mysteries and his inventive cast of novel-yet-relatable aliens. Despite their seemingly monstrous appearances, White’s aliens are highly professional and noble healers, fearlessly treating the sick and injured while confronting a host of complications with ingenuity and insight.

In 1962, while his contemporaries were envisioning a future where cities were flooded by global warming, overrun by violent hooligans, or bombed into a radioactive crisp, James White brought readers a vision of a peaceful and cooperative future with Hospital Station, the first volume of the Sector General series. Eleven more books would follow over the next 37 years, essentially defining the genre of medical science fiction.

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Announcing Null States, the Sequel to Malka Older’s Infomocracy

Malka Older’s debut novel Infomocracy is coming out in just a month, and it’s getting rave reviews. Infomocracy has already been awarded a Kirkus Star and rave reviews from Publishers Weekly and RT. But the story won’t end with Infomocracy: If you’re excited for Malka Older’s upcoming novel I’ve got fantastic news for you. Tor.com has acquired Null States, a sequel to the globe-trotting, post-cyberpunk, political technothriller. Here’s Malka Older on her second novel:

Infomocracy takes place during an election, which is an exciting and informative time to visit a world, but it’s not the whole story. I am so excited to continue to explore the intrepid characters, wide range of governments, and powerful extra-governmental bureaucracies of micro-democracy in the sequel, Null States. After elections is when governing happens; it’s also when the plays for power are variously more subtle and more drastic. There are some election shenanigans in this installment, because that’s what happens when there’s an assassination and no clear order of succession, but at the same time new centenals are struggling with their first experience of Information, the elite Specialized Voter Action Tactics team is trying to prevent conflict from breaking out, and Information spies hunt terrorists among the high ranks of major governments. The greatest threat, however, might come from outside micro-democracies borders. The remaining sovereign nations, shrunken and isolated but still powerful, are threatening military force. Beyond the reach of Information’s surveillance, these antiquated countries are unknown quantities, blank areas on the data map with governments that might or might not be functioning: null states.”

Null States is expected to publish in 2017. You can pre-order Infomocracy now wherever books are sold.

Series: Editorially Speaking

An Interesting Theory About How Game of Thrones Will Decide the Iron Throne

Theories about Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire fill the internet’s backseat like fast food containers and jewel cases, but occasionally a theory in this mess, much like the “RT+LS” theory of Jon Snow’s parentage, makes too much sense to ignore.

Chris Taylor posted a strong contender for “Best Game of Thrones Theory of the Year” over on Mashable on May 3. It starts by asking a simple question: Now that Tommen is the only “Baratheon” left on Game of Thrones,* who’s next in the lineage if he dies?

(*This applies to Game of Thrones only. The books are unfolding in a different manner.)

[Spoilers ahead up to the first episode of season 6]

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Can This Please Be Pacific Rim 2?

OK, we planned to cool it on Star Wars stuff for at least a day after May the 4th, but think of it: an obviously drift compatible Finn and Poe pilot an enormous, snarky BB-8, and save us all through the power of adorability and sheer charisma. We would watch that movie at least once a day until the heat death of the universe. Thank you, Jake Parker.

Fiction Affliction: May Releases in Science Fiction

Sixteen science fiction books are beaming onto shelves this May, including space epics, post-nuclear dystopias, cyborg racing, the untapped potential of the brain, and, oh, this little thing called Star Wars. Look for new series additions from Neal Asher, Stephanie Saulter, and Jack Campbell (among others), plus standalones from Lavie Tidhar, Madeline Ashby, and more!

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Five Books (of Short Stories) That’ll Make You Rethink Reality

Stephen King once said a novel is a love affair, while a short story is a kiss in the dark. Hey, I’ll buy it. Novels are work. Commitments. Contracts in good faith. Often, intimate and soul-enriching partnerships. But they’re not without their trappings.

For one, they can go on longer than they should. They can be clunky in places. Rigid in their approach. Forceful, even. And while novels have the ability to whisk us off to new and fully-formed worlds, alongside fully-formed characters, there can be disagreements with where the narrative should be heading, or how things should turn out. At their most comprehensive, novels can make too many choices on our behalf, or reduce the celestial realm of imagination to a single, absolute conclusion.

It should be of no surprise then that, when it comes to speculative fiction—fiction of the weird, of the physically and metaphysically flexible—the short story may just be the perfect medium. It’s a peck in the dark for the recklessly imaginative, often providing something more precious and affecting than the mechanics of plots and resolution. In its ability to puncture little more than a peephole in the veil of reality, a good short story can provide not only a glimpse of an unfinished image, but conjure up the lingering and hopeful sense of infinite possibility.

Here are five short story collections that know just what I mean.

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Series: Five Books About…

Rocks Fall Everyone Dies

Aspen Quick’s family has secretly protected their small upstate New York town for generations, using their gifts to conduct a periodic ritual to keep the cliff that looms over Three Peaks from collapsing. Aspen also uses his powers for his own benefit—reaching inside people to steal their innermost fears, memories, scars, and even love. This summer he’ll discover just how strong the Quick family magic is—and how far they’ll go to keep their secrets safe.

Lindsay Ribar’s Rocks Fall Everyone Dies is a fast-paced, twisty story about power, addiction, and deciding what kind of person you want to be, in a family that has the ability to control everything you are. Available June 7th from Penguin.

[Read more]

The Closing of the Cycle: Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven King

Last week saw the release of the final novel in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle, The Raven King. While I’ll still be writing a final companion installment to the previous three-part essay on the Raven Cycle (found here)—which will be more in-depth—the pressing concern is to discuss immediate impressions.

The Raven King picks up immediately after the events of Blue Lily, Lily Blue. It’s fall, school is back in session after one perfect strange summer, and the fivesome are all facing down imminent changes in their lives. College, and the lack thereof; love, and the consequences thereof; magic, and the cost thereof. The arc has built up through three prior books to a trembling, tense point where it’s all going to come to a shattering conclusion. And with perhaps the most chilling, devastating end-of-prologue lines I’ve had the pleasure of reading, Stiefvater sets off the final book in the cycle:

The hounds of the Aglionby Hunt Club howled it that fall: away, away, away.

He was a king.

This was the year he was going to die.

[A review. Spoilers.]