These SuperHero Girls are Ready to Save the World!

Think for a moment about classic female superheroes and villains. Wonder Woman. Harley Quinn. Catwoman. Powergirl. What are the images in your mind? Skintight suits? Boob windows? Tiny skirts? In a burst of fresh toy design that follows on the lead of designers like Arklu and IAmElemental, Mattel teamed with a group of women toy designers to create action figures for girls. The results, seen above, are Mattel’s line of 12″ DC SuperHero Girls, and we love everything about them.

[Plus we want real-life counterparts of all of their shoes…]

Different Ellipticals: Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson

In a world where the Powers That Be have deemed any and all secrets illegal, Zeke Thomas must go against the flow he’s always followed when he inherits a sealed envelope containing information which could sink the system that’s kept humanity alive since the Collapse. Meanwhile, in the year 1843, Zeke’s time-removed relative, Zadock, has to leave his one true love languishing in her sickbed to deliver a highly sensitive letter to a legendary general embedded deep in the disputed territory of Texas.

An incredibly presented “illuminated novel” which, like last year’s S., blends form and function with history and mystery to realise a reading experience that amazes from the first page, Bats of the Republic comes from the co-founder of a small press specialising in “strange and beautiful fiction and nonfiction” with a sideline in detail-oriented design, so the unusual shape Zachary Thomas Dodson’s debut takes shouldn’t be such a surprise.

[And yet…]

The King’s Justice Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a copy of Stephen R. Donaldson’s The King’s Justice, available October 13th from G.P. Putnam’s Sons!

Two new, original novellas—Donaldson’s first publication since finishing the Thomas Covenant series—are a sure cause for celebration among his many fans.

In “The King’s Justice,” a stranger dressed in black arrives in the village of Settle’s Crossways, following the scent of a terrible crime. He even calls himself “Black,” though almost certainly that is not his name. The people of the village discover that they have a surprising urge to cooperate with this stranger, though the desire of inhabitants of quiet villages to cooperate with strangers is not common in their land, or most lands. But this gift will not save him as he discovers the nature of the evil concealed in Settle’s Crossways.

The “Augur’s Gambit” is a daring plan created by Mayhew Gordian, Hieronomer to the Queen of Indemnie, a plan to save his Queen and his country. Gordian is a reader of entrails. In the bodies of chickens, lambs, piglets, and one stillborn infant he sees the same message: the island nation of Indemnie is doomed. But even in the face of certain destruction a man may fight, and the Hieronomer is utterly loyal to his beautiful Queen—and to her only daughter. The “Augur’s Gambit” is his mad attempt to save a kingdom.

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 4:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on October 12th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on October 16th. 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.

The Coode Street Podcast: SF Lectures, The Martian, and More

Welcome to The Coode Street Podcast, an informal weekly discussion about science fiction and fantasy featuring award-winning critics and editors Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe. The Coode Street Podcast debuted in 2010 and has been nominated for the Hugo, British Science Fiction, and Aurealis awards.

This week Gary returns from the wilds of Virginia or Washington DC or somewhere or other on the US Eastern seaboard. We discuss his experience writing and performing a series of lectures on science fiction; the strengths and weaknesses of Ridley Scott’s The Martian; compiling Gary’s Library of America volumes, and whether or not we kid ourselves on whether a work really is canonical.

[Listen to Coode Street]

Series: The Coode Street Podcast

Help Fund Strange Horizons Through 2016!

Strange Horizons needs your help to keep publishing speculative fiction, poetry, and commentary through 2016! Since the magazine’s launch in 2000, this non-profit organization has relied on donations to keep publishing new and established authors’ work, and to pay writers at a professional rate.

This year, Strange Horizons is looking to raise $18,000; they’ve currently surpassed $12,000, with a little over 7 days left for donations.

[Read more]

Rereading The Elfstones of Shannara, Chapters 15–18

Welcome, readers of Shady Vale, to this week’s instalment in our reread of Terry Brooks’ classic epic fantasy, The Elfstones of Shannara. If you’re unfamiliar with Elfstones, Brooks, or this reread, be sure to check out the introductory post, in which we all become acquainted.

Last week, the King of the Silver River appeared to pull our heroes out of a fire, Wil and Amberle had a heart-to-heart, Artaq disappeared, and a love triangle found its third point.

This week, Wil outwits the Rovers thanks to a Demon attack, the Demon-wolves return (but so does Allanon), and Amberle faces the Elvish High Council.

[Click to summon Elfstone magic]

Series: Rereading Shannara

Jared Leto Went to NYCC 2015 as a Joker, But Not the Joker

For the past few years, it’s been typical convention behavior for at least one celebrity to don a disguise and go incognito among congoers. At NYCC, it was Jared Leto and Mark Ruffalo. Leto, in a wonderfully ironic twist, posed with a Leto-Joker cosplayer and then gleefully tweeted about it. Ruffalo’s costume was arguably even more unguessable.

Afternoon Roundup brings you gender-swapped SFF novels, a surprising visual motif in the last 15 years of movies, and a tour inside Guillermo del Toro’s imagination!

[Read more]

Of Sorrow and Such Audio Excerpt

If you liked listening to Marisa Calin on the audio edition of Paul Cornell’s Witches of Lychford, then you’ll love her take on Angela Slatter’s Of Sorrow and Such! Calin’s lilting narration lends itself nicely to Mistress Gideon and the other witches and shapeshifters of Edda’s Meadow—with just the right amount of edge when the trouble with the locals places supernatural beings in grave danger.

[Listen to an excerpt from Of Sorrow and Such]

Five Fantasy Books with Awe-Inspiring Settings

In the best fantasy novels, settings are characters too. These created worlds are as rich and alive as the characters that inhabit their colorful landscapes. Of course characters — strong and fascinating ones — are integral to a compelling plot. But a great setting adds layers of dynamism and complexity to characters’ struggles. It’s Middle-earth and Westeros, Oz and Earthsea, Pern and Amber, and all the other fantastic worlds we love to inhabit which mold and shape the characters moving inside them into something greater.

The most memorable fantasy worlds feel as if they are real places that we’ve visited. In fact, we have visited them, in our minds. This is why we build interactive maps of Kings Landing, why we feel the hot ashen winds of Mordor on our cheeks, and why we can still taste the Mad Hatter’s tea on our lips.

[Five awe-inspiring settings that have stuck with me]

Series: Five Books About…

Watch the First Full Trailer for The Shannara Chronicles!

We’ve seen several cool trailers taking us on a dizzying tour through the world of MTV’s adaptation of The Chronicles of Shannara. But with the series premiering on January 5, 2016, it’s about time that viewers actually discover what it’s about. To wit, the network released the first full-length trailer for New York Comic-Con 2015, introducing us to the dynamic trio of Amberle, Wil, and Eretria.

[Read more]

The Walking Dead Season 6 Premiere: “First Time Again”

I wasn’t too thrilled with the Alexandria storyline last season, but after the mess of dangling plotlines and cipher personalities rife in Fear The Walking Dead, The Walking Dead shines quite a bit brighter. “First Time Again” opens not long after the deaths of Pete (the abusive surgeon) and Reg (the beloved First Husband who designed the wall). Rather than take its usual pace of arduous place setting, TWD launches straight into one of the biggest episodes it’s ever done. Surprisingly enough, they more or less pulled it off. And once again the show proves it’s aces at premieres and finales.

[“Do you have any idea who you’re talking to?”]

Design a Game For This Bored Octopus!

Anyone want to design a puzzle for an octopus? Ursula, a 2-year-old octopus resident of Living Coasts Aquarium in Torquay, England, has already gone through all of her puzzles and toys and is getting bored with them. So her keepers have put out a call for any cephalopod-loving game designers to come up with puzzles for her. Click below to see a video of Ursula in action!

[This bored unfortunate soul needs some new games!]

Showcasing Real, Fantastical Women: Angela Slatter’s Of Sorrow and Such

I often complain about how rare it is to have a book, TV show, or film be driven by relationships between women. Stories seem to me to be primarily driven by relationships between men or between men and women. Often there’s only one woman in the story in the first place, or, if there’s more than one, they never meet. When relationships between women are seen, they are often framed in the context of each woman’s relationship to a man who knows them both (for instance, a wife and her mother-in-law); or the women are portrayed competitors.

[To me, that doesn’t reflect the real world.]

The Bane of Banality: Frodo Baggins

In the world of fantasy and science fiction, we expect our protagonists to be men and women of action; people who make hard and risky choices with potentially dire consequences. And while we love heroic characters that can accomplish great feats of strength and agility, sometimes the best characters are ordinary people who find a way to overcome extraordinary circumstances. But if these characters become too ordinary—too inactive, flawed or encumbered by their plight—there is also a potential for us as readers to resent them for being so damn ordinary. Alas, I give you Frodo Baggins. Simply put, things happen to Frodo; Frodo doesn’t make things happen. He needs significant assistance or an outright bailout in virtually every situation. This, coupled with his increasingly whiny temperament, serves to remind us about how ordinary he truly is.

[Read more]

Marvel’s NYCC 2015 Panel Talks of Punishers and Purple Men, and the Extraordinary Jessica Jones

This year’s Marvel panel at NYCC 2015 was an odd beast. As everyone on stage excitedly talked about their Netflix original shows delving into darker and grittier territories than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they also talked about how much they all loved each other, and, indeed, it often felt like a Thanksgiving family reunion. If your weird cousin who you only see once a year was The Punisher. Jeph Loeb moderated two panels, one for the Daredevil cast and crew, and one for Jessica Jones. He also showed us an all-too-brief clip from Daredevil Season 2….and the first episode of Jessica Jones. Since he explicitly asked us not to spoil anything, and since I fear Marvel’s wrath like I fear nothing else, I will say only two things, below the cut.


The X-Files Panel at NYCC Asks Hard Questions about Love, Conspiracy, and The Lone Gunmen

They asked us not to record or spoil anything, so I won’t tell you anything about the episode except: A.) It’s really good. B.) I think fans of The X-Files will dig it. It’s also a genuinely surreal experience to watch an episode of the most paranoid show in history while black-suited security guys stalk through the halls looking for pirates. What I can talk about is the fun and emotional panel that followed the screening – click through for highlights!

[Read more]