A Universe of Possibilities: The Best of James H. Schmitz

In this monthly series reviewing classic science fiction books, Alan Brown will look at the front lines and frontiers of science fiction; books about soldiers and spacers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.

Science fiction opens a universe of possibilities for the author and the reader. New worlds, new creatures, and new civilizations can all be created to serve the story. And this broad canvas, in the right hands, can be used to paint stories of grand adventure: spaceships can roar through the cosmos, crewed by space pirates armed with ray guns, encountering strange beings. The term “space opera” was coined to describe this type of adventure story. Some authors writing in this sub-genre became lazy, and let their stories become as fanciful as the settings, but others were able to capture that sense of adventure and wonder, and still write stories that felt real, rooted in well-drawn characters and thoughtful backdrops.

One such author was James H. Schmitz. If you were reading Analog and Galaxy magazines in the 1960s and 70s, as I was, you were bound to encounter his work, and bound to remember it fondly.

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Ann VanderMeer Acquires The Warren by Brian Evenson

Tor.com Publishing is proud to announce that consulting editor Ann VanderMeer has acquired her first novella from us. Scheduled for publication this fall, Brian Evenson’s novella The Warren is a tense, thoughtful exploration of a battle for survival between two beings with competing claims to humanity. Ann VanderMeer is a Hugo Award winning editor who has acquired wonderful short fiction for Tor.com over the past few years, and we’re honored to have her on board with another amazing project.

Brian Evenson is the author of a dozen books of fiction, most recently the story collection A Collapse of Horses. His collection Windeye and the novel Immobility were both finalists for a Shirley Jackson Award. His novel Last Days won the American Library Association’s award for Best Horror Novel of 2009). His novel The Open Curtain was a finalist for an Edgar Award and an International Horror Guild Award. He is the recipient of three O. Henry Prizes as well as an NEA fellowship.

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Series: Editorially Speaking

Max and Furiosa Reunite in London!

Tom Hardy posted this shot with the jubilant message: “Found Furiosa negotiating London traffic”, and we have to agree, this London lorry driver is awesomely Furiosa-esque. We wonder who initiated the photo, though? Did the Furiosa doppelgänger glance to the right and say something along the lines of, “Holy crumpets, that’s Tom bleedin’ Hardy!” and then get his attention? Or did Tom Hardy spot her first, mumble a series of incoherent syllables, and then dig through the pile of pit bull puppies we’re assuming surround him at all times to find his phone for the pic? And what could the passengers possibly have been thinking during this exchange?

Click through for another, slightly-more-dangerous-looking shot!

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The Cheysuli Reread, Book 2: The Song of Homana

Tansy Rayner Roberts is rereading The Cheysuli Chronicles, an epic fantasy series and family saga by Jennifer Roberson which combines war, magic and prophecy with domestic politics, romance and issues to do with cultural appropriation and colonialism.

Another concise, fast-paced read which manages to pack several volumes worth of Epic Fantasy Plot into a single volume—but this one, quite startlingly, is told in 1st person instead of 3rd, as well as having a different protagonist to Book 1. (Oh, fantasy series made up of single narratively satisfying volumes, where did you go?) This time it’s Carillon, Alix’s cousin and the dispossessed Mujhar of Homana, who takes centre stage.

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Illustrating the Cover for The Jewel and Her Lapidary

Artist Tommy Arnold has worked on a wide range of titles in science fiction and fantasy, from Krista D. Ball’s The Demons We See to David Dalglish’s Fireborn—he’s also illustrated some of Tor.com’s original short fiction, including Jennifer Fallon’s “First Kill” and John Chu’s “Hold Time Violations“.

We’re thrilled that Arnold has also turned his talents to Fran Wilde’s The Jewel and Her Lapidary, an epic fantasy novella forthcoming from Tor.com Publishing on May 3rd. Below, Arnold walks us through his process for capturing the novella’s central characters Lin and Sima, from early sketches through the final cover result!

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2015 Shirley Jackson Award Nominees Announced

The nominees for the 2015 Shirley Jackson Award have been announced! Awarded every year in recognition of Shirley Jackson’s legacy, the awards honor exceptional work in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and dark fantasy. Tor.com is pleased to announce that two Tor.com Originals are among the nominees: Priya Sharma’s “Fabulous Beasts” and Jeffrey Ford’s “The Thyme Fiend” were nominated for Best Novelette; in addition, The Doll Collection (edited by Ellen Datlow) is up for Best Edited Anthology. Congratulations to all of the nominees!

The 2015 Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented on Sunday, July 10, at Readercon 27.

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Judenstaat Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a galley copy of Simone Zelitch’s alternate history Judenstaat, available June 21 from Tor Books!

On April 4th, 1948 the sovereign state of Judenstaat was created in the territory of Saxony, bordering Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.

Forty years later, Jewish historian Judit Klemmer is making a documentary portraying Judenstaat’s history from the time of its founding to the present. She is haunted by the ghost of her dead husband, Hans, a Saxon, shot by a sniper as he conducted the National Symphony. With the grief always fresh, Judit lives a half-life, until confronted by a mysterious, flesh-and-blood ghost from her past who leaves her controversial footage on one of Judenstaat’s founding fathers—and a note:

“They lied about the murder.”

Judit’s research into the footage, and what really happened to Hans, embroils her in controversy and conspiracy, collective memory and national amnesia, and answers far more horrific than she imagined.

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 May 2nd. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on May 6th. 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.

Astronomers Spot Trio of Promising Exoplanets Orbiting Ultra-Cool Dwarf

Not to be superficial, but it’s hard to ignore an exoplanet press release when it comes with artwork that looks like it was ripped from a Michael Whelan paperback cover.

Specifically, we’re looking at Martin Kornmesser’s depiction of an Earth-like plant orbiting the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1—a dim, Jupiter-sized star roughly 40 light years away. Using the Belgian TRAPPIST telescope*, ESO astronomers were able to detect the presence of three planets as they passed between us and TRAPPIST-1’s bloody glow—thus promoting such “red worlds” from the realm of theoretical to confirmed astronomy.

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Rereading Katherine Kurtz: High Deryni, Chapters 16-18

Welcome to the weekly reread of High Deryni!

Last time, Morgan engaged Warin in a semi-scholastic debate on the divine origins of the healing gift, revealing that he, a Deryni, can also heal. GASP! This week sees a miraculous conversion, a dramatic reversal, and a very long council of war. And Morgan finally learns the identity of the beautiful lady with the red-gold hair.

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Series: Rereading Katherine Kurtz

Fear the Walking Dead: Checking in with Season 2

Fear The Walking Dead: a show where exciting stuff happens to people I hardly care about. The writers give me an interracial gay romance—yay!—and a gaggle of angsty, obnoxious, selfish teenagers with few redeeming qualities—boo! Nick levels up by mimicking the walkers but apparently uses up the jar of smarts because everyone else makes the world’s worst choices without pausing to consider the consequences. At least the water zombies are cool.

[“We’re just going to each other alive.”]

Stranger Than Fiction: First Contact Conspiracy Theories

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!

I have long had a fascination for First Contact novels, films and stories. I have probably read every English-language First Contact novel published. I am an inveterate Trekker (one of the kindest takes on First Contact there is), and I’ve seen angles on the theme ranging from the hard-science approach (Sagan’s Contact, Clarke’s Ramas series, Pournelle and Niven’s Moties series) to the sociological (McDevitt’s Thunderbird, Patrick Tilley’s seminal Fade Out) to the way-out-there (Zelazny’s Doorways in the Sand).

A few years back I started doing the research for my Willful Child series (no, really, there was research!). The first thing I needed to sort out was how to subvert the Star Trek take on First Contact (you see, it occurred to me that, unlike the enlightened humanists who found themselves face to face with Vulcans, a more realistic approach would be to assume that the inmates in charge of the asylum that is present day civilization would be the same inmates in charge of the asylum on the day the aliens arrive, and all we’d see is a fractal expansion of our collective idiocy. Granted, I was aiming at a satirical take on this, but even so….)

[Anyway, this led me into my new hobby here at Wingnut Central.]

Captain America: Civil War Non-Spoiler Review

I saw Civil War a couple of days ago and I’m glad it’s taken that long for me to write this piece. It’s the single most complex, thematically and ideologically chewy movie Marvel have produced to date and there’s a huge amount to discuss. It’s simultaneously a capstone to the Captain America trilogy, Avengers 2.5, and a very clear progression down the road to the Infinity War films.

It’s also really, extraordinarily good.

The problem is that in order to explain why it’s so good, the temptation to spoil huge chunks of it is almost overwhelming. I promise that, with one tiny exception, there will be no spoilers in this article. That single exception is a topic of conversation that comes up at one point in the film. In context it’s a throwaway gag. In reality, I think it’s the key to why the film is so good.

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