A Cup of Salt Tears August 27, 2014 A Cup of Salt Tears Isabel Yap They say women in grief are beautiful. Strongest Conjuration August 26, 2014 Strongest Conjuration Skyler White A story of the Incrementalists. Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land August 20, 2014 Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land Ruthanna Emrys Stories of Tikanu. Hero of the Five Points August 19, 2014 Hero of the Five Points Alan Gratz A League of Seven story.
From The Blog
August 25, 2014
Animorphs: Why the Series Rocked and Why You Should Still Care
Sam Riedel
August 20, 2014
The Welcome Return of the Impatient and Cantankerous Doctor Who
David Cranmer
August 19, 2014
The Wheel of Time Reread Redux: Introductory Post
Leigh Butler
August 19, 2014
Whatever Happened to the Boy Wonder? Bring Robin Back to the Big Screen
Emily Asher-Perrin
August 15, 2014
“Perhaps It Was Only an Echo”: The Giver
Natalie Zutter
Showing posts by: emily nordling click to see emily nordling's profile
Thu
Aug 7 2014 5:00pm

Weird Kids in a Weird World: Hollow City, by Ransom Riggs

Hollow City Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children Ransom Riggs review

Ransom Rigg’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was a runaway success when it was released in 2011. Combining vintage photographs, time traveling adventures, and “Edward Gorey-like Victorian weirdness,” Miss Peregrine introduced a world where the past is never past and even ex-sideshow freaks can find a home.

The book’s success has inspired a film adaptation—written by Jane Goldman of X-Men: First Class fame, directed by Tim Burton, and slotted for release in Summer 2015—and two sequel novels, including this January’s Hollow City. Like its predecessor, Hollow City revels in the weird. Despite drawing its readers into an already familiar world, this sequel has plenty of new nooks, crannies, and photographs to explore.

[Read More]

Mon
Mar 10 2014 11:30am

Genre Wars: SFF at AWP Conference

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin and Molly Gloss were two of the keynote speakers at last week’s conference for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. I’d never been to the conference before, but I couldn’t help but be surprised; there is a fairly common—and justified—defensiveness among SFF readers and writers when it comes to the mainstream literary world, whether due to its cooption of writers like Kurt Vonnegut and Angela Carter, or to its perpetuation of the high art/low art divide. Or, if you’re like my friends and me, you’ve been in college or even MFA classes that bar genre fiction entirely, that compare your work to Twilight, and that generally conflate genre with formula, heavy-handedness, and as Brook Wonders phrased it, a lack of “aesthetic ambition.”

The program for AWP, though, was pretty great. In addition to Le Guin and Gloss, there were numerous panels and readings dedicated to—or at least in the realm of—speculative fiction. More vital than that, though, was the ongoing conversation about genre that I encountered there. Not every dialogue was successful, and still more tended towards semantic nuance, but they were happening and they were easy and pleasing to find. MFA culture, if not the literary landscape at large, seems to slowly and surely be easing into a more diverse range of concepts and content.

[Read More]

Tue
Jan 7 2014 6:00pm

A Romp in Vienna: City of Lost Dreams by Magnus Flyte

Magnus Flyte City of Lost Dreams

Writing duo Magnus Flyte (composed of authors Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch) didn’t wait long to send their protagonist on another life-altering quest. Where 2012’s City of Dark Magic took Sarah to the historical underbelly of Prague, City of Lost Dreams places her among the gossiping crowds of Vienna, where modern science turns out to be just as wacky as all those Renaissance alchemists she’d encountered last time.

Sarah returns to the Old World with just one thing in mind: to find a cure for her friend, the young piano prodigy, Pollina. She’s not seeking immortality, per se, but altering the course of death is never a narrow path. In a haze of science, magic, history, and art, Sarah must muddle her way through the desires of centuries of others like her, who cannot accept that time will someday stop moving.

[Read More]

Tue
Sep 17 2013 5:00pm

Adventure and Mayhem with Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant Tony Cliff

Tony Cliff’s new graphic novel, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, is as rich and satisfying as a hot cup of tea. In combination with a cast of engaging characters and stunning landscapes, the straightforward story carries a certain level of comfort and nostalgia for past adventures—whether real or fictional. In the tradition of Tintin, Treasure Island, and Indiana Jones, Delilah Dirk provides enough adventure to last a lifetime.

In 19th century Turkey, Erdemoglu Selim, the Turkish lieutenant of the title and the reluctant protagonist of our tale, is so resigned to his less-than-ordinary lot, that he is even willing to die for the arbitrary set of rules surrounding him. He works middle management to the Agha of Constantinople and makes at least enough money to survive and indulge in artisan tea every now and then. His is a simple life, and if he’s not happy, he is at least content. Until, of course Delilah Dirk comes along.

[Read more]

Tue
Sep 10 2013 2:00pm

Another One of Dad’s Stories: Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, the Milk

Fortunately the Milk Neil Gaiman Skottie Young

Neil Gaiman told a cautionary tale at his reading in Lexington, KY this summer. The moral was this: just because one’s young daughter enjoys R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series does not mean one’s same young daughter will also enjoy Stephen King’s Carrie. Sometimes, though, we literary sorts get carried away with our stories, with sharing and spinning imagination into words and tales, and just have to hope that the people around us are willing to jog a bit to catch up (or, at the very least, not turn tail and run).

In a culture where fathers are often presented as bumbling idiots a la Berenstein Bears (a “fatherist” problem Gaiman has even faulted himself for), Gaiman’s new children’s book, Fortunately, the Milk has turned the trope on its head while remaining charmingly self-aware. Fortunately’s protagonist is a dad on a mission—a very zany mission—but it’s in the telling of the tale that he proves himself to his kids. The publisher describes the book as “an ode to the pleasure and wonders of storytelling itself,” and Gaiman called it the “silliest book [he] has ever written.” It’s a bit of both, and therein lays its magic.

[Read more]

Tue
Aug 13 2013 2:00pm

Finding Your Real Life OTP: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell’s new YA novel, Fangirl, will paint a distressingly close-to-home picture for many Harry Potter-era geeks. Complete with novel-length fanfiction, navigating first-times with only erotic slash as a guidebook, and social anxieties aplenty, Fangirl is as funny as it is embarrassing, and as charming as it is true-to-geek-life.

Fangirl follows the typical plot arch set by young adult romcoms everywhere—girl meets boy, girl and boy have a series of misunderstandings, girl’s family just doesn’t understand, and finally the girl comes of age (and hopefully gets some on the side). Enter, however, Simon Snow: a fictional YA book series a-la-Harry Potter, wherein magician and orphan Simon Snow battles his way through evil magic and a dark and frustrating roommate to boot. Cath, Fangirl’s protagonist, is a Simon Snow fanatic. When she isn’t writing fanfiction, she’s thinking about it, and she is perfectly happy that way; until, of course, her world starts changing around her.

[Read more—some light spoilers for the book, below...]

Mon
Jul 8 2013 10:00am

The Melancholy of Mechagirl, by Catherynne M. Valente

The Melancholy of Mechagirl Catherynne Valente’s The Melancholy of Mechagirl compiles Valente’s poetry and short fiction tied to Japan and Japanese culture. As Teruyuki Hashimoto points out in the collection’s introduction, however, many of these connections to Japan are subtle, even tenuous; instead (or perhaps in addition), we find the pieces united by recurring images and themes. Houses and families, as Hashimoto points out, weave their way through the text, and so too do the subjects of birth, isolation, and creeping uncanniness.

Melancholy could have easily fallen into appropriative narrative or become what Valente herself describes as culturally “fraught.” However, Valente continues to write with grace and cognizance. Her afterword on the matter (echoed to some degree on her blog, here) explains her interest in Japan as a matter beyond scholastics or fan culture; she lived alone there for some time, and the experience affected her to the point that, as she says, “Japan is everywhere in my work.” The collection’s thematic elements build upon one another as the reader progresses, but they’re brought into stark focus with the addition of her autobiographical note. The book itself is full and rich in the author’s characteristic style, but this time, it feels personal—in the best possible way.

[Read more.]

Wed
Jun 19 2013 5:00pm

Brain Knowledge & Heart Knowledge: Genius, by Steven T. Seagle & Teddy Kristiansen

GeniusFirst Second’s upcoming graphic novel Genius tackles a world of tropes with finesse. Eisner Award-winning duo Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen have worked together before, and this particular project presents the ease with which they marry form and function. Combining Kristiansen’s nebulous, emotive artwork with Seagle’s fresh dialogue and nuanced narration, Genius hits home in 125 pages what Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp did in 300. It is a testimony to short form stories.

[Read more.]

Thu
Jun 13 2013 9:00am

Tales From the Tower: Vol. 1: The Wilful Eye, eds. Isobelle Carmody & Nan McNab

The first volume of Isobelle Carmody and Nan McNab’s Tales From the Tower duet sets out to accomplish a feat undertaken by many contemporary fantasy authors: to understand and to harness the fairy tale genre. May it be in tone, moral, or a harkening to the deceptive simplicity of childhood, the qualities of the fairy tale are today as alluring as they were in the centuries of their conception. This begs the question why—what can these stories do for us as adults, in our current age? Carmody explores the concept in an introduction to the volume that I found perhaps more engaging than the stories themselves. She and her co-editor set out, not to modernize these tales, or to imbibe them with modern morality, but to capture their aesthetic in retelling, to exploit their “mystery and dangerous sensuality.”

[Read more.]

Wed
Jun 5 2013 1:00pm

Time and Relative Dimension in Sexuality: Queers Dig Time Lords

Queers Dig TimelordsI expected Mad Norwegian Press’ new addition to their “Digs” series to present a compilation of LGBT analyses and episodic interpretations of Doctor Who, but Queers Dig Time Lords went beyond that. Editors Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas have collected a great combination of short essays and memoirs with topics ranging from geek “coming out” stories to everyone’s favorite slutty bisexual, Captain Jack Harkness. Capt. Jack himself—actor John Barrowman—along with his sister—writer and Whovian Carole Barrowman—introduce the anthology with all the genuine exuberance one might expect from such a duo. With their blessings in the cards, and with the addition of numerous other DW creators and contributors (Gary Russell, Nigel Fairs, and Paul Magrs just to name a few) alongside fans and other writers from throughout the SFF community, the anthology’s editors demonstrate just how diverse and far-reaching DW fandom has become.

I was lucky enough to have attended QDTL’s release party and contributors panel at last week’s WisCon37, where I received a great preview of what was in store. Julia Rios, contributor to both the anthology and to Outer Alliance (a group dedicated to QUILTBAG specific SFF), recorded this fabulous panel for an upcoming episode of the OA podcast. Be sure to check it out in the next couple of weeks to get an insider’s perspective on how and why the anthology came about.

[Let’s Get Wibbly Wobbly]

Wed
May 29 2013 2:00pm

“Each Village Seems the Haunt of Holy Feet:” Mortal Fire, by Elizabeth Knox

Review Mortal Fire Elizabeth Knox

Elizabeth Knox’s Mortal Fire is the kind of book where, no matter how many times you read its initial disclaimer, you are constantly stopping to verify its historical accuracy on Wikipedia. Everything about it feels unsettlingly real. In fact, about halfway through, I realized that the protagonist’s nickname, Canny, may well have to do with this uncomfortable straddling between the real and the fantastical—and, heavy-handed as Knox can be, I was a little in love with this weirdness. So, before I say more about the novel, let me confirm that the Southland islands do not, in fact, exist beyond Knox’s novels, nor do its cities or coal mines. Iron lungs, for all they sound like depraved inventions of a crazed mind, are real. So, unfortunately, was the Second World War.

Set in 1959, Mortal Fire opens to typical YA-fanfare. Protagonist Canny (short for Agnes, short again for Akanesi) is an outsider, and is very obviously prone to the supernatural. Knox’s twist on these tropes, however, is more engaging than usual; Canny is a brown, native girl amongst her white peers and step-family, she is a mathematical genius and, it is implied, somewhere on the autistic spectrum. She sees and describes magic in logical terms, as natural “extra” rather than as something inexplicable and spiritual. Right away, Canny is made an other in our own world as well as Southland’s, but what’s more, she is a character to whom we can relate without ever fully understanding.

[Into the mines]

Mon
May 13 2013 1:30pm

Music to Die For: Ghoulish Song, by William Alexander

Book Review Ghoulish Song William Alexander

Settings are sometimes the best and most memorable characters of a story, and of returning to YA literature in particular; revisiting Narnia is like seeing an old friend, and I won’t pretend not to have chosen a grad school based on its resemblance to Hogwarts. Ghoulish Song is William Alexander’s second book set in the city of Zombay, and though I’ve not read its sister novel, the National Book Award-winning Goblin Secrets, this fantastical port city—noisy and wafting with the smell of fresh bread—has secured its place on my map of fantastical places. Alexander paints a picture so vivid, readers can’t help but cheer on his protagonist as she fights for her home.

Kaile’s first quest, however, is to save her mother.

[Read more]

Tue
Apr 23 2013 4:00pm

The Worst Cool Kid Ever: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong Review Prudence Shen Faith Erin Hicks

Faith Erin Hicks (of Tor.com fame) and Prudence Shen’s new graphic novel, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, has a bit of everything: nerds, jocks, robots, friendship, drama, and, of course, wanton destruction. It is essentially everything you could want out of a high school story, and perhaps a little bit that you didn’t realize you wanted.

The story begins with a scenario we have, at this point, all encountered in some way or another: a text message break-up. Charlie—the protagonist and gentle, well-meaning basketball star—is in shock. After all, by the natural order of things, he is supposed to be dating the head of the cheerleading squad, but instead, he is being whisked away by his next-door neighbor and childhood best friend, Nate, and harangued for something he has no control over. In fact, Charlie doesn’t have control over much in his life; his parents are divorced and emotionally distant, his closest friend is a lunatic, and now—well, now he’s single.

[Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong… right?]

Mon
Apr 8 2013 3:00pm

In Defense of the Imaginary: The Vanishing Act, by Mette Jakobsen

Book Review The Vanishing Cat Mette Jakobsen

Newcomer Mette Jakobsen’s Vanishing Act begins with the discovery of a dead boy, frozen and dusted with snow. An act with the potential for trauma, grief, and a whole range of reaction, is quickly harnessed to its context and changed, gradually and subtly, throughout the 217-page novel. Minou, the boy’s 12-year-old excavator, lives secluded on an island with 3 others. Their habits are repetitive, their lives peaceful and quaint. In the inner lives of each of the island’s inhabitants, however, a war for meaning is waged, and so the dead boy becomes as much a symbol as the island they inhabit.

The Vanishing Act is, on its surface, a study of the popular “reason vs. emotion” dichotomy, embodied by the opposing forces of Minou’s mother (an artist and, later, a circus performer) and father (a philosopher and descendent of Descartes). It is not, as I assumed when I bought it on impulse, a novel about circuses, magic, or mysterious acts (though they each make an appearance). In fact, it just barely hovers on the border of speculative and mainstream literary fiction. It is, however, a defense of the fantastic, of life, of the unknown magics that we face everyday. It erases dichotomy and praises an age in which, for the first time, not having an answer became an answer in itself.

[Read more]

Mon
Feb 25 2013 11:00am

On the Wild Side of Austin: Dreams and Shadows, by C. Robert Cargill

On The Wild Side of Austin: Dreams And Shadows by C. Robert Cargill

“Once upon a time,” the upcoming novel Dreams and Shadows begins, “there were two people who fell very much in love.” In a novel described as the meeting of Gaiman and Del Toro, this is not a happy beginning, but one filled with inevitable horrors. In this regard, newcomer Cargill does not disappoint. The happy couple mentioned in the opening line die within fifteen pages, tricked and bested by a changeling sent from the fairy court. The changeling—Knocks, a revolting mirror version of his human counterpart—revels in his adopted parents’ fear, disgust, and finally death. And he only gets more charming as the story progresses.

Told with shifting points of view, excerpts from fantastical encyclopedias, and fairy tale narration, this novel is anything but traditional. Dark, comedic, and unsettling, Dreams and Shadows is everything an urban fantasy sets out to be.

[Read more]

Wed
Jan 23 2013 5:00pm

A Novella About “Nothing”: Tim Powers’ Salvage and Demolition

A Novella About “Nothing”: Tim Powers’ Salvage and DemolitionRichard Blanzac works in salvage and demolition—or at least, that’s what he tells Sophia Greenwald when he travels back in time to destroy her life’s work. Mere hours before that, he had read Greenwald’s manuscripts alongside Ginsburg and Kerouac, but the beats are the least of his worries when he arrives in 1957; Blanzac must stop a mythic organization from using Greenwald’s work to open up the proverbial wormhole that will suck all of mankind into non-existence. That’s right—not destruction or even death, but to the state of never having existed in the first place.

Tim Powers’ upcoming novella, Salvage and Demolition has all of the elements of an entertaining, rainy-afternoon read: time travel, evil religious sects, action, romance, and enough whiskey and cigarettes to give Mad Men a run for its money. It lacks a heap of essential development, though, so if you’re looking for plot and character growth, you’d best go elsewhere for your two hours of reading. For hijinks and entertainment, however, do read on.

[Read more]

Mon
Jan 14 2013 11:00am

Ghosts of the Trianon: Marie Antoinette Does the Time Warp Again

When Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain arrived at the palace of Versailles in 1901, nothing initially seemed amiss. Being good English spinsters, they had never toured France before, and were properly charmed by the place. When they walked further into the grounds, however, they were struck by a strong sensation of melancholy, and by the time they reached Marie Antoinette’s palace, the Trianon, they had begun to encounter strange phantom sounds, men and women in anachronistic fashion. They saw a woman with a little girl, and thought her stitched from an old tapestry. It was not until they left the place, a week later, that they confirmed with one another what they had experienced: a walk through the memories of Bourbon Queen Marie Antoinette.

Their story, published under the pseudonyms Elizabeth Morison and Frances Lamont, seems straight from fancy, but it’s true (or, at the very least, as true as these stories can be). The women compiled their story and researched the events for their veracity in a book called simply, An Adventure. Skeptics since the incident have attempted to debunk their story, but it remains at least famous enough to warrant a Wikipedia page and a small press reprint.

[Read more]

Thu
Jan 3 2013 6:00pm

I Want To Roll You Up Into My Life: Katamari Damacy and Ander Monson’s The Available World

I Want To Roll You Up Into My Life: Katamari Damacy and Ander Monson’s The Available WorldKatamari Damacy is, as many of the franchise’s followers might tell you, more than just a game. The premise—wherein the player rolls a sticky ball around the screen to collect all of Earth’s objects to turn them into stars (while chipper Japanese pop music encourages you to do so with love and cheer in your heart)— is as bizarre as it sounds. A good friend of mine introduced the delightfully eccentric video game to me as a life philosophy, as a means of rolling everything in your life—good and bad—into a ball, and throwing it back to the space from whence it came.

It was, therefore, not much of a surprise when I happened upon a book of poems loosely based on the concept. Ander Monson’s collection, The Available World offers up a delectable sample of contemporary poems with an eye to language, space, technology, and, of course, the ever-rolling katamari. Despite hailing from a non-speculative press, the collection, and Monson himself, is rife with science, science fiction, and science fiction references. Just imagine if Douglas Coupland had a literary boner for Wil Wheaton and video games, and go from there.

[Read more]

Tue
Nov 27 2012 5:30pm

The Past is Present, The Personal is Political: City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte

A review of City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte

I was sold on newcomer Magnus Flyte’s recent novel when I looked at the clock and realized that I’d been reading for four hours without pause. Ironically, City of Dark Magic dedicates itself to time travel, and, what’s more, Magnus Flyte is actually a composite pseudonym for author Meg Howrey, and television writer and journalist Christina Lynch. If there’s anything this novel taught me, it’s that two people can be one and that present time is all the time.

If you’re not sold on that description, here’s one from the back cover of the novel: “Rom-com paranormal suspense novel.” When music student Sarah Weston is called to Prague to study dusty Beethoven manuscripts and instead discovers political intrigue, love, and time-bending hallucinogens, Flyte’s readers are left with their own discovery: meta-fiction can be fun and rom-coms can, indeed, be smart, sexy, and self-aware.

[Read more]

Wed
Nov 14 2012 11:30am

The Contemporary Appeal of CW’s New Arrow

It was only a matter of time before DC’s beloved Batman-meets-Robin-Hood franchise made its way to the long list of contemporary film remakes; comic book movies and television are all the rage, after all, and with a presidential campaign and the effects of a recession on our heels, we can all use some good old-fashioned tales of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.

The CW’s Arrow premiered on Wednesday, October 10th at 8/7c. to much surprisingly-not-awful-style fanfare (Esther Inglis-Arkell at iO9 even said that the pilot, “all mostly worked,” and if that’s not a compliment for a CW series, I don’t know what is). Though much of this praise can certainly be chalked up to Oliver Queen’s badassery and thoroughly scarred-pecs, let’s not forget that part of our joy stems from the original Green Arrow’s themes of vigilante justice and ambiguous morality. Watching Ollie (Stephen Amell) thwart the status quo just feels… right.

[Read more almost-praise for the CW]