The Future is Here and it Doesn’t Need You: Top Ten Movies About Killer Artificial Intelligence

In Our Final Invention, a brilliant and terrifying look at the very real threat of artificial intelligence, James Barrat makes the claim that we will soon be facing an alien menace of our own making: a super intelligence that, while not necessarily bent on our destruction, will be ambivalent about us at best—and one that may decide we are worth more as biological building blocks than human beings. While Barrat argues passionately about the need to prepare for this inevitability now and find a way to keep it contained, the odds are that no matter what we do, it will find a way to break out of its box. And once it does, it will surely evolve to the point of deciding we are far more trouble than we’re worth.

Think about it for a moment. We’re closer than ever to the Singularity. Various forms of AI surround us, from our iPhone’s personal assistant to search algorithms, car computer systems and Amazon’s “recommended for you” lists. Brilliant men and women are throwing billions of dollars at AI research and development. Let’s face it: an AI that can learn is coming, and once that happens, our time is limited. Even if it is not malevolent, it will most certainly view us as expendable depending on its own needs—as Barrat points out, humans don’t hate lab rats, but we experiment on them in many horrible ways. We are engineering our own extinction.

[Killer AI takes over the movies]

How to Make Friends and Land a Wookiee Life Debt. Star Wars: The Hutt Gambit

While The Paradise Snare gives us some much-needed set up for Han’s ultimate journey, it’s in The Hutt Gambit that a more recognizable scoundrel comes to the forefront. For those who were worried (no one was worried, I know), Han doesn’t last long in the Imperial Navy. He is discharged after saving the life of a Wookiee who is almost murdered by slavers. Don’t forget, there’s that disturbing “human purity” angle to the Empire that no one ever talks about.

Looks like Dewlanna never taught him about those pesky Wookiee life debts, though, because now Han is stuck with Chewbacca. Forever.

Everything about this is perfect.

[Don’t worry, Han. You’ll get over it around the 1856th time he saves your life.]

Series: Star Wars on Tor.com

Bad Tomorrows: Two Varieties of Dystopian Sci-Fi

With high profile films like Oblivion, AfterEarth, and Elysium offering up new (or recycled) visions of humanity’s hopeless future, 2013 might go down as the Summer of Doom. It’s worth noting, however, that dystopian sci-fi not only isn’t new, it’s the bedrock of the genre. After all, Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis—which hypothesized a dehumanized future society not far removed from the those presented in today’s would-be blockbusters—is considered by some scholars to be the first fully-formed, feature-length science fiction film. For as long as filmmakers have dreamed of the future, they’ve presented nightmare scenarios of the world to come, and in the years since Lang’s masterpiece, filmmakers and audiences alike have never seemed to lose their enthusiasm for the end of the world—or, at least, the end of the world as we know it.

Dystopian science fiction comes in many shapes and sizes. Some are multi-million dollar behemoths, while others are quiet character studies. We can see the varieties of these films falling into two broad categories:

[Read More]

Morning Roundup Presents the Coin of Omens!

Lion-O should be on all coins! This would be so much more inspiring than the past presidents we’re stuck with now. Plus you could yell “25, 25, 25 cents, ho-oooh!” every time you took one out of your pocket. Brazilian artist Andre Levy thought the world’s currencies needed to strive for a new level of awesome and embarked on the “Tales You Lose” project, So far he’s painted Catwoman, Wolverine, The Hulk, and an entire mint’s worth of other cultural icons onto coins from around the world. Check out Levy’s Facebook page for the project to learn more!

Morning Roundup has an appreciation of Galaxy Quest, heated arguments about philosophy and genre, and Victorian villains!

[read more]

Magical Mystery Girl: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

Eve is a girl without a past. All she knows is what she’s been told by the people in charge of keeping her safe. She’s from somewhere else. She’s had multiple surgeries to give her the appearance of a normal teenage girl. She possesses some sort of magic. Every time she uses her powers, she blacks out and is assaulted by horrifying, ominous dreams of a mysterious carnival, a malevolent Magician, and the equally unsettling Storyteller. Every time she blacks out, she loses more of her memory. And someone is after her because she knows something, but she can’t remember what it is. If she follows the rules of witness protection, she’ll be safe…

[Read more]

Series: YA on Tor.com

Paul Pope’s Battling Boy Poster Sweepstakes!

We’re only a few weeks away from the release of Battling Boy, Paul Pope’s new graphic novel from First Second about a twelve-year-old demigod fighting shadowy monsters with his incredibly kick-ass powers. You’ve read the excerpt and Kazu Kibuishi’s review, and now we want to give you some of Paul Pope’s Battling Boy art to hang on your walls!

One of our ten posters could be yours, so 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 September 18. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on September 22. 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.

If You Want to Soar With the Eagles, You Have to Learn to Fly Like Gandalf

GUYS! Now we know exactly what it’s like to travel like Gandalf, except without any magical powers, or a sword, or pipeweed, or fun Hobbit friends, and it’s…still pretty awesome. This footage gives us a stunning view of the Misty Mountains a mountain range near Chamonix, France by strapping a camera to the back of an eagle (who may or may not answer to “Landroval”). It’s a truly awe-inspiring sight, with no sign of any wargs, orcs, Nazghûl, or the dreaded Steve Miller Band to mar the view. Check out the video below!

[One does not simply fly into Mordor! Oh, wait…]

The Cusanus Game (Excerpt)

Check out The Cusanus Game by Wolfgang Jeschke, available October 15th from Tor Books!

Biologist Domenica Ligrina fears her planet is dying. She might be right.

An atomic disaster near the French-German border has contaminated Northern Europe with radioactivity. Economic and political calamities are destroying the whole planet. Human DNA is mutating, plant species are going extinct, and scientists are feverishly working on possible solutions. It becomes increasingly apparent that the key to future salvation lies in the past. In 2052 a secret research facility in the Vatican is recruiting scientists for a mission to restore the flora of the irradiated territories. The institute claims to have time travel. When Domenica’s sometime-lover tells her that he knows her future but that she must decide her own fate, she enlists despite his ambiguous warning.

The Middle Ages hold Domenica spellbound. She immerses herself in the mysteries, puzzles, and peculiarities of a culture foreign to her, though she risks changing the past with effects far more disastrous than radiation poisoning. Perhaps there is more than one Domenica, and more than one catastrophe…

[Read More]

It Is Our Discontent That Drives Us: The Incrementalists

With certain authors, I’m reaching the point where I feel like I may as well stop reviewing them, because their books have become so reliable it verges on the predictable. Not that I’d stop reading them: I enjoy their works, and there’s always something reassuring about a nice slice of comfort pie. It’s more that I feel like I’m running out of things to say about them.

And then there’s Steven Brust, who is not one of those authors. About 20 of his books are set in the same (Dragaeran) universe, but they still constantly surprise the reader in the way they experiment with form and style, switch narrators, juggle the internal chronology, and use a host of other tricks and techniques to keep things fresh and exciting. Outside of that universe, his books range from a retelling of the Revolt of the Angels to what’s possibly my favorite vampire novel ever to, well, just take a look at his bibliography to see how he has reinvented himself in the course of his career. Brust plays hopscotch with his readers’ expectations.

[“I believe in Better because I was never any good at Good.”]

Singularity&Co is Turning One Year Old! Let’s Party!

Exactly one year ago this coming September 20th, Singularity&Co opened its doors. With a mission to “Save the Sci-fi” and all other genres we love, their DUMBO-based bookstore has been home to droves of lovely bookshelves and the I, Reader Reading Series, hosted by Ryan Britt.

So this Friday, we encourage everyone within jogging/pedalling/motoring distance to head on down to 18 Bridge Street in Brooklyn to celebrate the store’s first birthday! There will be a costume contest, a trivia death match, drinks, and maybe a cake! You will also get a sneak peak at the relaunch of I, Reader, which will henceforth be known as the Lust for Genre Reading Series, hosted by Ryan Britt and Emily Asher-Perrin.

Come on down (in your favorite costume)! It may not be Halloween yet, but we’re ready to party like it is!

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, The Blade Itself: “On the List”

I’m going to sidebar for a minute. Stick with me.

There has been no shortage of discussion in recent days about the nature of the author and fan relationship. The argument goes, “authors shouldn’t involve themselves in discussions about a readers interpretation of their work.” And the response is generally, “I love talking to fans about my work and want to engage.” There’s a reasonable case to made for either side.

I bring it up, not to rehash what has become a tired diatribe, but to mention that if Joe Abercrombie commented on this reread every week it would fundamentally change the way it conducts itself. My writing would be different and, far more significantly, your commenting would be different. I won’t characterize it as better or worse, but it would be different. I don’t know what the right answer is, as to how authors and fans should interact in online space, but to suggest those interactions won’t change the conversation is a bit… silly.

[Read More]

Series: The Joe Abercrombie First Law Trilogy Reread

Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam is The Hunger Games for Grown-Ups

Dystopian fiction might seem hot now thanks to The Hunger Games, Divergent, and other post-some-kind-of-cataclysm tales, but the subgenre is far more complex than a simple trend. And while Margaret Atwood doesn’t want you to call her a science fiction writer, she has been showing humanity how to get down in the muck of it for a good portion of her career. With the release of MaddAddam, Atwood is wrapping up a trilogy of sorts which began with 2003’s Oryx and Crake. What makes Maddadam and its previous installments so unique though is the way Atwood treats dystopia not just as a metaphor but as a real, complex, and ultimately human event.

[Read more]

Series: Genre in the Mainstream

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: Stonewielder, Prologue

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 Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll cover the prologue of Stonewielder.

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

The Great Stephen King Reread: Skeleton Crew

It’s hard to imagine how huge Stephen King was in 1985. Featured on the cover of Time magazine, with four books simultaneously hitting the New York Times bestseller list, two new books on the stands in hardcover, one new paperback, and two movies (one of them considered his best, one of them considered his worst) going into production, this was a Godzilla-sized career in motion.

The writer at the center of it all was, by his own accounts, a Godzilla-sized addict, too, hoovering up monstrous amounts of cocaine and sucking down gallons of beer every night. In the middle of this mega-mayhem, Stephen King published Skeleton Crew, a book of short stories. The one bit of wisdom everyone in publishing agrees on is that short story collections don’t sell, but Skeleton Crew sold a monster-sized 600,000 copies in its first year, which is only appropriate because this is a book all about monsters.

[Read More]

Series: The Great Stephen King Reread