Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 7: “The Gift”

After last week’s traumatic episode, one couldn’t be blamed for no longer wanting to stick with HBO’s Game of Thrones. From U.S. senators to popular feminist geek websites to individual fans of television that doesn’t make you (a) really pissed off and disgusted, or (b) curl into the fetal position while weeping, everyone’s feeling that events in the North are getting more dire than direwolves. Who are actually pretty scarce until the perfect dramatic moment calls for one.

We’re still in the quiet before the storm of swords that is set of rain down upon Winterfell. There’s no solace there, not for us, not for Sansa. But there were two gifts of great importance given that could go a long way towards improving fans’ moods.

Major episode spoilers ahead.

[“Egg, I dreamed that I was old…”]

Series: HBO’s Game of Thrones

Message Fiction: Power Rivalries and Interstellar Cold Wars

Welcome to the second installment of “Message Fiction: Politics in Sci-Fi and Fantasy Literature!” In the introductory post I outlined a framework for analyzing the political messages encoded into SF/F, talked a bit about what I personally like and dislike when it comes to political messaging, and explored the politics of Glen Cook’s trailblazing military fantasy novel The Black Company (1984).

This month we pivot from fantasy to science fiction, but retain the thematic focus on war and the regular folks who fight them—with an in-depth discussion of Dan Abnett’s 2011 novel Embedded.

(Warning: some spoilers.)

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So Glad She Stopped Playing Tennis! Why Sally Ride Still Amazes Us

After responding to a newspaper ad looking for astronauts, Sally Ride found herself a bonafide member of NASA in 1978. Back then, we didn’t have a space shuttle and there had only been two women in space, both of them Russian. Throughout her amazing career as an astronaut, Sally Ride put up with a lot of nonsense, helped develop indispensable technology, and amazed the hell out of the whole world.

Today, on what would have been her 63rd birthday, we’re celebrating an awesome pioneer who was taken from us too soon.

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Series: On This Day

Rereading the Empire Trilogy: Mistress of the Empire, Part 11

Welcome back to the reread of Mistress of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts! This week: Arakasi is very good at seducing ladies but very bad at dealing with the Feelings that come afterwards. If only he had some sort of outlet for his emo. Sure, they don’t have Livejournal in Tsuranuanni but surely he could paint a few tragic poems on silk panels or something. Right? Right? Or maybe a therapy group for emotionally compromised superspies.

Someone write that webcomic, stat!

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Series: Rereading The Empire Trilogy

Announcing the Spectrum 22: The Best In Contemporary Fantastic Art Award Recipients

The Spectrum 22 awards were presented May 23 at a gala celebration at the Folly Theater in Kansas City, MO as part of Spectrum Fantastic Art Live.

This year’s jury consisted of Justin Gerard, Virginie Ropars, Greg Ruth, Annie Stegg Gerard, and Dice Tsutsumi, and determined Silver and Gold recipients in eight categories. The Spectrum Advisory Board also selected the 2015 Grand Master Honoree.

Please join us in congratulating all of the finalists and recipients!

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Star Trek Redshirt Garden Gnome Reveals the Dangers of Your Garden

Will ThinkGeek never stop dreaming up odd but perfect nerdy toy combos? Citing the little-known subculture of Star Trek horticulturists, they’ve created this set of garden gnomes for Kirk, Spock, Gorn, and (of course) an ill-fated Redshirt. We appreciate this little guy’s noble sacrifice, so that Gnome-Kirk and Gnome-Spock could explore this treacherous land. (A tip of our gnome hats to Epic Stream for finding these!)

Afternoon Roundup wants to know why Hogwarts hasn’t been invented yet, dances to “Axel F,” and guesses the title of the first Future Library book.

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Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Last Argument of Kings: “The Seventh Day” and “Too Many Masters”

Abercrombie rereaders, thank you for your patience. I’ve been traveling for work the last few weeks and trying to get these written has been a challenge. I have a particularly hard time writing while in a hotel room. I find them to be one of the Circles of Hell. And I’m like Brother Longfoot. You can’t shut me up when I’m comfortable, but torture me a little and I’m a gibbering mess!

Anyway, the first chapter this week is terribly sad as we lose one of the few characters who seems to have a heart. The second chapter we watch Glokta squirm under the thumb of Valint in Balk. Unfortunately, we’re no closer to finding out what the hell the bank is all about.

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Series: The Joe Abercrombie First Law Trilogy Reread

Dead in the Water: Day Four by Sarah Lotz

Got an appetite for good food? Hungry for some unforgettable fun?

If you answered yes to those questions, then Foveros Cruises is beside itself with excitement to invite you to spend a week on the sparkling seas aboard The Beautiful Dreamer—a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to know North America’s number one psychic, Celine del Ray.

[That’s not all this holiday has to offer, either.]

The Philosopher Kings Sweepstakes!

The Philosopher Kings, the sequel to Jo Walton’s highly acclaimed novel, The Just City, arrives on June 30th from Tor Books, and we want to send you a galley now!

Twenty years have elapsed since the events of The Just City. The god Apollo still lives in human form among the inhabitants of the City, founded by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, organized on the principles espoused in Plato’s Republic and populated by people from all eras of human history. Confronting loss, grief, and all the complications of mortality, Apollo embarks on an expedition to the Eastern Mediterranean of pre-antiquity, and what he discovers there changes everything.

Check for the rules below!

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The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Chapters 19 and 20

Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread! Last week: gully dwarves and draconians. This week: one more gully dwarf! And other more exciting stuff.

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!

[The party is doing what it does best: wandering about.]

Series: Dragonlance Reread

Hoshruba: The Land and the Tilism: Book 1, Episode 50

When Tilism-e Hoshruba was first published in Lucknow, India in 1883, it was already a beloved oral history that had been performed for years in public and private. What Hoshruba’s fans did not know, however, was that professional storyteller Mir Ahmed Ali and his disciples had engineered a massive literary hoax, writing Hoshruba themselves and falsely attributing it to the epic poem cycle The Adventures of Amir Hamza. But less important than Hoshruba’s provenance was its impact: The story of the tilism (an inanimate object transformed into its own world) of Hoshruba, defended by Emperor Afrasiyab against rival tilism as well as the trickster Amar Ayyar, has become one of the foremost fantasy tales in Urdu. For a more in-depth look at the epic’s sorcerers, formidable women, and grimdark (long before the genre existed) battles, read Mahvesh Murad’s Under the Radar review.

Hoshruba (which translates to “ravishing the senses”) is part of the dastan tradition of oral storytelling and is being translated into English for the first time as Hoshruba: The Land and the Tilism. In its original form, Hoshruba was published in Urdu, in eight volumes totaling over eight thousand pages. In translating the epic into English, Pakistani-Canadian writer Musharraf Ali Farooqi has split each volume into three, for a total of 24 volumes. Over the next few months, you will be able to read all 50 episodes—the entire first volume of Hoshruba—on Tor.com, with one new episode going up every day. You can also purchase the entire novel through Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

[Afrasiyab recited a spell and struck his hands.]

Series: Hoshruba: The Land and the Tilism

The Professor X/Magneto Chess Match Just Got Meta

Do you have a prescheduled annual meeting with a nemesis to settle your moral quandaries through the beautiful art of chess? Or perhaps you need to cheat death again, to win a few increasingly desperate days of precious life? Why not use a Thanos chess piece to checkmate the Grim Reaper! The DC and Marvel chess pieces from Eaglemoss will allow you to take an already nerdy occupation to new and magnificent heights. [Chess set image via Toyland!]

Morning Roundup welcomes its U.S.-based readers into what is hopefully a wonderful long weekend. It is the true beginning of summer, and the next crest in the glorious wave of summer movie season. We bring you the Mad Max meme you’ve been waiting for, reading suggestions for the SF-challenged, and HATEBEAK.

[Also, a song for a blowfish.]

The Unnoticeables Sweepstakes!

The Unnoticeables by Robert Brockway of Cracked.com hits shelves from Tor Books on July 7th, and we want to send you a galley right now!

There are angels, and they are not beneficent or loving. But they do watch over us. They watch our lives unfold, analyzing us for repeating patterns and redundancies. When they find them, the angels simplify those patterns and remove the redundancies, and the problem that is “you” gets solved.

Check for the rules below!

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The Harry Potter Reread: The Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 11 and 12

The Harry Potter Reread really thinks we should make synchronized swimming a thing again. It’s just so pretty. And it expands the amount of fun you can have a pool, which is always a win, right?

We’re back at Hogwarts and we’re about to get a closer look at the new DADA teacher! (oh no.) It’s chapters 11 and 12 of The Order of the Phoenix—The Sorting Hat’s New Song and Professor Umbridge.

Index to the reread can be located here! Other Harry Potter and Potter-related pieces can be found under their appropriate tag. And of course, since we know this is a reread, all posts might contain spoilers for the entire series. If you haven’t read all the Potter books, be warned.

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Series: The Harry Potter Reread

What are Neville Longbottom’s Abs Hiding?

So we’ve all seen the Neville Longbottom pictures, right? In which Attitude, a magazine tailored to gay men, and Matthew Lewis once again prove that Hogwarts produced some, er, remarkably fit and attractive wizards? And then J.K. Rowling came in to be the most adorable mom ever?

After a lot of quiet introspective thought, we wondered…what if that was actually Neville on the cover? Because there’s something missing, isn’t there?

[Something wonderful.]