Gaming Roundup: M-M-M-Monster Kill. Epic Revives Unreal Tournament for Free

When the first Unreal Tournament—developed by Epic Games—came out in 1999, it helped introduce and popularize the arena FPS sub-genre, bringing multiplayer-focused FPS gameplay to the masses in a futuristic interplanetary setting. Most 90s PC gamers will recall the game’s memorable arcade announcer (“M-M-M-Monster Kill!”), the iconic Capture the Flag map, Facing Worlds, as well as the rivalry fostered with contesting developer id Software’s Quake III Arena which released at virtually the same time. UT went on to spawn 3 sequels before Epic put the franchise on hold after the 2007 launch of Unreal Tournament 3. On hold, that is, until now—Unreal Tournament is back, and this time it’s free.

[Click to draw first blood…]

Child of a Hidden Sea (Excerpt)

We’re proud to introduce this free excerpt from Child of a Hidden Sea, the first book in the new Stormwrack fantasy series by A.M. Dellamonica, coming on June 24 from Tor Books! (You may have read her original fiction or her Buffy The Vampire Slayer rewatch here on

One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. Glowing moths fall to the waves around her, and the sleek bodies of unseen fish glide against her submerged ankles.

The world is Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies—and a language different from any Sophie has heard.

Sophie doesn’t know it yet, but she has just stepped into the middle of a political firestorm, and a conspiracy that could destroy a world she has just discovered…her world, where everyone seems to know who she is, and where she is forbidden to stay.

[Read Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica]

Check out the Trailer for the Disney/Marvel Collaboration, Big Hero 6!

We have the first trailer for Big Hero 6! What is Big Hero 6? It’s the next effort from the Disney team that gave us Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen (so…good pedigree there) and is theoretically based on a Marvel comic from the 1990s of the of the same name, although if you blinked back then you probably missed it.

Big Hero 6 is a superhero team led by 13-year-old supergenius Hiro Takachiho, and his robot bodyguard, Baymax. The original storyline of the comic is a pretty eye-popping combination of superhero arcs, nuclear anxiety, and family angst, so we’re really excited to see how it translates into a film.

[Click through for robots!]

The Way of Kings Reread: Epilogue and All that Comes After

Welcome back to the final chapter of The Way of Kings reread on It’s been a long and stormy road to this moment, but we’re not quite done yet. This week I cover the Epilogue, in which one guy tells a bunch of riddles and another guy knocks on a door, most thrillingly. Also contained within are an opportunity to pose questions to Brandon Sanderson and an announcement of what’s coming next for the reread community. Don’t miss out!

[Read more]

Series: The Way of Kings Reread on

The Scary Ham

Note: During the recent Nebula Awards streaming, Toastmaster Ellen Klages was called upon to entertain the audience while technical difficulties were resolved, a process that took much longer than anyone anticipated. This is, more or less, the story she told.

In the early ‘90s, my father’s brother gave him a Christmas present, a ham. Not the kind in a can, but a full-sized southern-style ham. A Smithfield ham. They are supposed to be aged a bit before serving, hanging for six months or a year in a dry Virginia smokehouse.

My father hung his in a damp Ohio basement.

For twenty years.

[Read on…if you dare]

Lock In by John Scalzi: Chapter 2

Read a free excerpt from Lock In, John Scalzi’s new novel, out on August 26 from Tor Books! And check back every morning for another chapter from Scalzi’s new science fiction thriller.

Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever, and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent—nearly five million souls in the United States alone—the disease causes “lock in”: Victims are fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to any stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.  

A quarter of a century later, in a world shaped by what’s now known as “Haden’s syndrome,” rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann. They are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel, with a suspect who is an “Integrator”—someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a Haden client, then naming the suspect for the murder will be that much more complicated.  

But “complicated” doesn’t begin to describe the puzzle that ensues. As Shane and Vann begin to unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery—and the real crime—is bigger than anyone could have imagined. The world of the locked in is changing, and with change comes opportunity that the ambitious will seize at any cost. The investigation takes Shane and Vann from the halls of corporate power to the virtual spaces of the locked in, and to the very heart of an emerging, surprising new human culture.  

[Read chapter 2 of Lock In by John Scalzi]

Series: John Scalzi’s Lock In

The Harry Potter Reread: Rewatching The Philosopher’s Stone Film

The Harry Potter Reread has morphed into a rewatch briefly, which means that it probably sprouted some feathers and gained surround sound hearing, and is fuchsia rather than it’s usual cheery cherry color. (I don’t know, rereads are probably colorful. At least, they are in my head.)

So… what is there to say about Chris Columbus’ first outing into the Potterverse? While it took decades for Lord of the Rings to become a live action trilogy, they were banking on Potter when we were barely halfway through the series. And it was strange. Sort of like this first film.

[Yer a wizard, Harry.]

Series: The Harry Potter Reread

Koko Takes a Holiday (Excerpt)

Check out an excerpt from Kieran Shea’s Koko Takes a Holiday, out from Titan Books on June 10th in the U.S. and June 20th in the U.K!

Five hundred years from now, ex-corporate mercenary Koko Martstellar is swaggering through an early retirement as a brothel owner on The Sixty Islands, a manufactured tropical resort archipelago known for its sex and simulated violence. Surrounded by slang-drooling boywhores and synthetic komodo dragons, the most challenging part of Koko’s day is deciding on her next drink. That is, until her old comrade Portia Delacompte sends a squad of security personnel to murder her.

[Read Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea]

Which Way to Murder Town? Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

When 22-year-old phone psychic Manfred Bernardo moved to Midnight, Texas, he was looking for a quiet place to go unnoticed. Turns out, that’s what everyone else in the dusty little crossroads town wants, too. The denizens are friendly and welcoming, but frighteningly protective of their myriad and sundry secrets. Manfred’s landlord, Bobo Winthrop, runs a pawn shop with a very pale night owl named Lemuel and Olivia, a woman as deadly as she is beautiful. Across the way is a nail salon run by a gay couple (whose secret could very easily force the sequel to jump the shark), a diner owned by apparently the town’s only married couple, the Gas N Go staffed by an overprotective father and his two bored kids, a rundown church and pet cemetery overseen by a decidedly creepy reverend, and a magic shop presided over by a witch named Fiji and her observant cat.

Quirky doesn’t even come close to describing this town, and Manfred hasn’t felt this at home since his psychic grandmother was still alive. Everything threatens to come crashing down when one of the townsfolk turns up murdered by the river. Suddenly there are cops and pissed off bikers and white supremacists crawling all over Witch Light Road, and the list of possible killers grows longer and longer. Violence outbursts from racist outsiders push the Midnighters closer together, and the hunt for the killer heats up.

[“You might pass through the town of Midnight without noticing it…”]

If Manfred sounds vaguely familiar, ya’ll might remember him from the Harper Connelly series. A few other characters and concepts from Harris’ other novels crop up here—Lily Bard gets a shout out, not to mention the rural fantasy stuff being trucked in from the Southern Vampire series neatly placing everything into the same universe. It’s also safe to say Harris can still pick the most atrocious character names ever. I mean, seriously. Bobo and Fiji? Sweet zombie Jesus.

Harris’ books are usually very entertaining, but rarely are they of quality work. For example, the first 9 pages of Midnight is a literal walkthrough of the entire town and the residents who will soon play very important roles. It’s an entire chapter of infodumping in the most banal and uncreative way possible:

Though his business is to the east of the Davy highway, the Rev’s home lies to the west, to the right of the Home Cookin Restaurant, which is past the closed hotel and the closed hardware store.

I have no idea why that sentence even exists, since it has nothing at all to do with the story, nor does it add anything to the proceedings. THE WHOLE PROLOGUE IS LIKE THAT. Several times throughout the novel Harris describes in minute detail the process of Manfred checking his email and responding to queries. Manfred takes a girl he has a crush on to get her hair done at a salon another town over…and that’s everything that happens in the entire chapter.

As valid as those complaints are, they still don’t manage to derail the book, mostly because I’ve come to expect them. We all know more or less what we’re getting with a Charlaine Harris book. When I hit a doldrum, I breeze past it and get to the fun stuff. And there’s a ton of fun stuff. No matter how many sexy vampires or shirtless werewolves Harris proliferates, she is, at heart, a mystery writer. Midnight Crossroad is what Charlaine Harris does best: a murder mystery with enough plot twists and fakeouts to make even M. Night Shyamalan dizzy. And yes, that’s actually a compliment.

The characters in Midnight have more in common with Aurora Teagarden than Sookie Stackhouse. Despite the undercurrents of magic, the murder and unfolding mystery are strictly mundane. Sex and romance take a back seat to friendship and enigma, which gives the characters room to grow in ways Sookie, Bill, and Eric never could. Unrequited crushes abound in Midnight, but the relationships on which those affections are built are based on the kind of trust and respect only a friendship can provide. The Midnighters are good people caught up in uncontrollable circumstances. They work together to resolve conflict and circle the wagons to defend from interlopers. They aren’t business partners or faction leaders competing over territory, or lovers acting jealous over each others’ exes. They’re family, plain and simple. Everyone plays their role (thankfully not one determined by gender, sexuality, or race) for the betterment of the community.

Speaking of non-discrimination, Harris is, once again, wonderfully diverse. There’s an interracial gay couple (who may or may not be supernatural beasties), full-figured women, a pierced and tattooed punk, etc., and other than characters who are intentionally racist (hint: they’re also the bad guys), no one ever gives a second thought to their differences. Not to say diversity is whitewashed; on the contrary, the Midnighters simply accept that they are all different and move on from it. They judge people based on how they treat their fellow humans, not what they look like or what sex they’re attracted to. Of course Harris isn’t exactly subtle about any of this—she’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer—but I’m grateful it’s there.

As a longtime Harris fan, I’m delighted at the return to her non-Sookie roots. That ship ran aground for me back around book 6, so it’s a welcome relief to get back to a good old fashioned small town murder mystery. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say this is her best book, but it is certainly streets ahead of the storytelling quagmire she’s been stuck in with her Southern Vampire series. Harper Connelly will always be my favorite series (like Midnight Crossroad, her supernatural abilities are secondary to the plot, as if Harris was looking for a way to distinguish her from Lily and Aurora), but if the rest of the Midnight, Texas series is as enjoyable as the first entry, Harper’s going to have some tough competition.


Midnight Crossroad is out now from Ace Books

Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

Cryogenic Colonialism: Karen Healey’s While We Run

The more I read of Karen Healey’s work, the more impressed I become. While We Run is only her fourth novel, a sequel to last year’s truly excellent When We Wake. Set in Australia a little over a hundred years from now in a time of grave resource depletion, when the human species may well be facing extinction from the changed climate within two generations, When We Wake was the story of Tegan Oglietti, cryogenically frozen in 2027 and brought back to life by the Australian government—the first ever successful revival—who stumbles across a horrifying government conspiracy to do with cryonics and resolves to reveal it to the public.

While We Run is the story of Abdi Taalib, the son of a Djibouti politician. Abdi came to Australia to study, and ended up Tegan’s boyfriend, playing a vital part in Tegan’s spilling of the secrets behind the government’s cryonics conspiracy. It’s not possible to talk about the events of While We Run without mentioning many of the things revealed in When We Wake, so if you haven’t read the first book (and if so, why haven’t you? I recommend you go read it right now), be warned: there are spoilers ahead.

[Spoilers for things that happen in While We Run, too]

Full Fathom Five Sweepstakes!

Attention, Max Gladstone fans: we’ve got another chance for you to get your hands on a galley of Full Fathom Five before it comes out this July!

Don’t forget that you can read the first five chapters here, and that Reddit’s Fantasy group just named the first book in this series, Three Parts Dead, one of their favorite under-read fantasy novels. Each book in the Craft Sequence stands alone, though, so first-time readers of the series can jump in with Full Fathom Five right now!

Check for the rules below!

[Read more]

Tribbles Week Redux: Star Trek: Voyager‘s “Flashback”

In 1996, Star Trek reached its 30th anniversary. Deep Space Nine celebrated this occasion with an episode called “Trials and Tribble-ations,” which was a direct crossover with “The Trouble with Tribbles.” With the DS9 Rewatch having reached that point, we’re celebrating by doing a redux of “Tribbles Week,” previously celebrated when the Star Trek Rewatch by Eugene Myers & Torie Atkinson got to “The Trouble with Tribbles” back in 2010. We began Monday with a special rewatch of the episode that started it all, and we followed it yesterday with the DS9 episode. Today, we conclude with a look at DS9’s sister show Voyager and how they celebrated the anniversary…


Written by Brannon Braga

Directed by David Livingston
Season 3, Episode 2

Production episode 145

Original air date: September 11, 1996

Stardate: 50126.4

Captain’s log: Voyager has found a Class 17 nebula, which is filled with sirilium, which can be used by the ship as an energy source. However, as soon as the nebula appears on the screen, Tuvok experiences dizziness and disorientation. As he goes to sickbay, he hears the voice of a little girl asking for his help. He gets flashes of himself as a boy trying to save a human girl from falling off a cliff. Tuvok loses his grip on the girl in his hallucination and his grip on reality in the present, as he collapses as soon as he enters sickbay.

[All right, Gamma Shift, time to defend the Federation against gaseous anomalies!]

Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Official Title of Batman Vs. Superman is… Sort of What We Thought?

That Batman-and-Superman-are-gonna-fight-now movie now has an official title and logo! Get yourself ready for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. (Presumably referencing the beginnings of the Justice League, naturally.)

Gets the job done, right? Not that we haven’t already started putting on our best Bale-Batman voices and shouting “Dawn… of JUSTICE,” at each other. Because it’s also pretty hilarious.

What to Expect From the Forthcoming Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

If you’re a Dungeons & Dragons fan, then you may already be aware that the next edition of D&D is swooping in at the end of the summer, courtesy of publisher Wizards of the Coast. Whether you’re up on the latest rules, a cantankerous old grognard, or simply a proponent of the oft-exemplary offshoots, this is still a momentous time for the game and could either reignite or diminish the famous brand. Likely it will do a little bit of both—you cannot please everyone—but my personal hope is that it attracts a wealth of new players to the hobby: kids, teens, adults, whomever! After the “edition wars” and other rules-based schisms that online fans still like to argue about, it remains to be seen whether this iteration of Earth’s original and most iconic role-playing game takes wing.

[Can I cram in a few more dragon metaphors? Let’s find out.]

Highlights from Jim Butcher’s Reddit AMA!

Jim Butcher, author of The Dresden Files, the Codex Alera series, and the upcoming “steam opera” trilogy The Cinder Spires, held court on Reddit last week, answering questions and teasing some of the drama that will be found in his upcoming (15th!) Harry Dresden book, Skin Game. There was also talk of kickstarting an event in which Butcher would “benchpress Patrick Rothfuss,” who, being “mostly beard” is eminently benchpressable. We will obviously update immediately if this even comes to pass.

We pulled some of our favorite moments out for you!

[Read more]

Ask Steven Erikson Your Dust of Dreams Questions!

Now that Amanda and Bill have concluded the reread of the ninth (and penultimate!) book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, Dust of Dreams, we’re opening the floor for questions to Steven Erikson!

The procedure is pretty direct. Steven will do his best to answer your questions in the thread below as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the timing of the answers is subject to Steven’s schedule, of course. Just a note that a Q&A occurred earlier in the reread of Dust of Dreams in regards to Hetan’s sequence in Chapter Fifteen. You can find Erikson’s Q&A here. Take a read through if you haven’t already. Odds are that any question you have regarding that sequence has already been addressed at length.

There are no strict guidelines for questions, but concise and well-composed questions are always always always best! And once again, a big thank you goes to Steven for taking time out of his schedule to engage in depth with fans of the Malazan series!

[Ask your questions]

Series: Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: Dust of Dreams, Chapter Twenty-Four (Part Two) and Whole Book Wrap-up

Welcome to the Malazan Reread of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from readers. In this article, we’ll cover part two of chapter twenty-four of Dust of Dreams and our thoughts on the entire book.

A fair warning before we get started: We’ll be discussing both novel and whole-series themes, narrative arcs that run across the entire series, and foreshadowing. Note: The summary of events will be free of major spoilers and we’re going to try keeping the reader comments the same. A spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.

[Read more]

Series: Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Rocket Talk, Episode 10: Delilah S. Dawson and Brian T. McClellan

In this episode of Rocket Talk, Justin Landon interviews Delilah S. Dawson and Brian T. McClellan about a host of things including the type of short Brian is wearing. Other topics include what makes a writing career a success, the impetus behind self publishing short fiction, and attempting to get a handle on some weird genre terms.

[Listen here]

Series: Rocket Talk: A Podcast