Ambiguity Machines: An Examination April 29, 2015 Ambiguity Machines: An Examination Vandana Singh A test for Junior Navigators of Conceptual Machine-Space. The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn April 22, 2015 The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn Usman Malik He will inherit the Unseen. The Ways of Walls and Words April 15, 2015 The Ways of Walls and Words Sabrina Vourvoulias Can the spirit truly be imprisoned? Ballroom Blitz April 1, 2015 Ballroom Blitz Veronica Schanoes Can't stop drinking, can't stop dancing, can't stop smoking, can't even die.
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April 30, 2015
The Folklore Origins of The Avengers
Caitlyn Paxson
April 28, 2015
Five Books Where Music is Practically a Character
Sabaa Tahir
April 27, 2015
Message Fiction: Politics in Sci-Fi and Fantasy Literature
The G
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5 Extremely Accurate Predictions For Star Trek Beyond
Ryan Britt
April 22, 2015
Daredevil, Catholicism, and the Marvel Moral Universe
Leah Schnelbach
Showing posts by: the rejectionist click to see the rejectionist's profile
May 27 2011 10:32am

More Than the Sum of Influence: An Appreciation of Moon

Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is a blue-collar astronaut employee of Lunar Industries, sent to the moon to man a helium-3 harvesting station. He’s in the final weeks of his three-year stint as the harvester’s solo human supervisor, with only his overly attentive robotic companion GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) for company. Sam whiles away the hours running on his treadmill, watching Mary Tyler Moore reruns, and watering his plant collection. His satellite connection to earth has failed, meaning he can only send and receive prerecorded messages; he watches a video from his wife and child, telling him how eager they are to see him again. After three years alone in space, he’s not in the greatest shape emotionally or physically. One day, he dodges GERTY and heads out to the mine, only to find another mangled astronaut in a wrecked tractor—an astronaut who looks exactly like him.

[Read more after the jump. Spoiler-free!]

May 3 2011 2:34pm

Glory and Intrigue: Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven

Under Heaven, out today in paperback, is Guy Gavriel Kay’s most recent novel. It’s an epic work of genre-bending, neither quite fantasy nor quite historical fiction. The book is set in Kitai, a kind of alternate-universe Tang Dynasty-era China. Shen Tai, the second son of the recently deceased General Shen Gao, has elected to spend the duration of his mourning period in the wasteland of Kuala Nor. One by one, he’s burying the dead left to rot in the aftermath of a war fought between the Kitai and their neighbors, the Tagurans: a Sisyphean task he has no illusions he’ll ever complete.

At the end of the two-year mourning period, he’s unexpectedly rewarded for his labors. A messenger brings him the tidings that Cheng-wan, the White Jade Princess of neighboring kingdom Tagur, has bestowed upon him the priceless gift of two hundred and fifty Sardian horses. The horses are as much a burden as a reward; suddenly, Shen Tai is a very wealthy man, with the power to influence events across the empire—whether he wants it or not. And, as he finds out when an assassin shows up hot on the heels of the messenger, not everyone is happy about his sudden rise to glory.

[More after the jump; MASSIVE SPOILERS ALERT]

Apr 12 2011 4:01pm

Sheri S. Tepper’s Dystopias

Sheri S. Tepper dystopias

Sheri S. Tepper is one of those science fiction writers whom people either adore or despise. Her work, at its least successful, is frustratingly didactic and even at her best she’s not much of one for subtlety. In many ways her writing epitomizes the problems of the second-wave feminist movement, a movement that was largely defined by and for middle-class white women and notoriously failed to deal with the complex intersections of gender, race, class, and sexuality that women outside that narrow bracket negotiate daily. 

[Read more...]

Apr 5 2011 6:05pm

Adventure on the High Seas: Carrie Vaughn’s Steel

Steel by Carrie Vaughn

Sixteen-year-old Jill is a competitive fencer trying to make it to the Olympics. When she loses a crucial bout against a fighter she should have been able to beat, she’s beset by doubts about her capabilities. A few months after the disastrous tournament, she’s on vacation with her family in the Bahamas when she discovers a rusty and battered piece of metal on a deserted beach. She instantly recognizes her find as part of a real-life rapier, and pockets it as a souvenir.

What she doesn’t know is that the steel shard is from the eighteenth century—and it wants to go home. Jill’s dragged back in time to the golden age of piracy, where she is taken prisoner aboard the Diana—an honest-to-goodness pirate ship captained by Marjory Cooper, an honest-to-goodness lady pirate. Terrified and alone, Jill is forced to throw her lot in with Diana’s crew, even as she desperately searches for a way home.

[The slightest of spoilers, plus amputation, after the jump]

Mar 18 2011 1:11pm

Lovecraft in the Theatre: Manhattan Theatre Source’s Things at the Doorstep

Things at the DoorstepA friend of mine reviews plays for, and he took me on Tuesday to see Manhattan Theatresource’s production of Things at the Doorstep. The double-bill show is a set of one-man plays; the first piece, “The Hound,” is an adaptation of the Lovecraft story written and performed by Greg Oliver Bodine, and the second piece, “I Am Providence,” is from playwright Nat Cassidy.

One knows, straight off the bat, that even if one is a Lovecraft fan (which I am, with reservations), two back-to-back one-man shows based on Lovecraft stories are either going to be truly amazing or staggeringly awful. There is not much room for the middling in such an endeavor. Luckily for me, they verged on magical.

[Read more...]

Mar 9 2011 11:16am

Lost in Space: My Dark Secret

I’ve been watching the previews for Battle: Los Angeles with what I can only describe as “gleeful anticipation.” Explosions? Check. Aerial shots of missiles detonating in the atmosphere? Check. Aliens? Check. It’s an embarrassing problem, for someone with delusions of grandeur and intellectual pretensions that rival any bespectacled Brooklyn-born gentleman author: I love, passionately and without reservation, truly terrible space movies. In the same way I’ve finally worked up to being able to unashamedly haul Dragonlance books on the L train (sometimes you just have to reread them, no matter the social situation) I can at last admit it openly.

Armageddon makes me cry. Every time. (“Daddy, no!”) Independence Day I have seen so many times I know whole sections of it off by heart. (“Yes, yes, yes, without the oops!”) I didn’t just watch the Keanu Reeves remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still; I enjoyed it. Ditto Tom Cruise’s War of the Worlds butchery (a.k.a. “The Movie that Everyone Else Forgot.”) I’m not totally without dignity: I skipped Skyline, after all. But I made up for that exercise of good taste by voluntarily watching 2012 (apocalypse can sub in for aliens in a pinch). More than once. In the theater. And come on, Signs isn’t THAT bad.

[Give me some space and I am there]

Mar 1 2011 6:08pm

Flying High: Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah HarknessLately, it seems, one can hardly chuck a grimoire without hitting an academic who’s taken up penning thrilling supernatural novels to supplement a professorial career. Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches is the latest offering in this pantheon of wild tales of ancient manuscripts, dark secrets, and magic.

Diana Bishop is a scholar of alchemy. She’s researching ancient texts at Oxford University’s Bodleian library when she requests a long-lost manuscript called Ashmole 782. In addition to being an academic, Diana’s also the sole descendant of a long line of witches, but she’s spent her life refusing to have anything to do with sorcery and dedicating herself to more earthly scholarship. What she doesn’t know is that Ashmole 782 has been lost for centuries (apparently other sorcerous creatures haven’t yet figured out how to use the card catalog), and a whole host of witches, vampires, and daemons have been itching to get their hands on it since its mysterious disappearance.

Diana’s unwitting discovery of the manuscript sets the entire fantastical underworld astir, and she’s soon pursued by a whole battalion of sinister persons—including uber-foxy wine connoisseur, Yogi (really), and fifteen-hundred-year-old vampire-about-town Matthew Clairmont, who’s as interested in Diana as he is in the long-lost manuscript. 

[Read more...]

Feb 4 2011 3:15pm

Ratha’s Persistence: An Interview with Clare Bell

I’ve loved Clare Bell’s Ratha series since I was a kid. Her extraordinarily detailed Paleolithic world is peopled with a species of intelligent cats negotiating very human questions of community, identity, and the divine. Ratha’s Creature (first published in 1983) and its sequels have had a bumpy journey in and out of print, but their legacy has endured thanks in no small part to a devoted community of fans. Rereading the books as an adult, I fell in love with Ratha all over again. Impetuous, arrogant, and exuberant, she’s a character that will stay with you.

Clare Bell was kind enough to answer some questions about the books; you can read more about the series at the Ratha and the Named Series website.

[Read the interview below]

Nov 2 2010 10:23am

Book Review: Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja

Under the Poppy by Kathe KojaSet in 1870s Brussel on the eve of war, Under the Poppy (out now from Small Beer Press) is the story of an eccentric cast of characters who come together under the roof of the titular brothel. Run by Decca and Rupert, Under the Poppy specializes in unique—to say the least—entertainments for a discriminating clientele. When Decca’s brother Istvan, a master puppeteer, rolls into town with his troupe of louche puppets in tow, he sets off a hot mess of unforeseen consequences.

[Read more...]

Sep 21 2010 12:03pm

Back to the Future for Beginners: Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

Protagonist Charles Yu (not to be confused with Author Charles Yu, who lives in Los Angeles) is a time-travel machine repairman living in Minor Universe 31, a “smallish universe... Not big enough for space opera and anyway not zoned for it.”

Protagonist Yu spends his days patching up the damage caused by time-travel machine owners hoping to alter the circumstances of their pasts. In his off hours, he visits his mom, who inhabits “the sci-fi version of assisted living”: a closed-loop time machine in which the same hour of her life (Sunday night dinner) repeats itself on an endless cycle. P. Yu is accompanied by Ed, a nonexistent but ontologically valid dog, and TAMMY, his inept and self-conscious operating system.

[More about the book and an interview with Charles Yu below]

Aug 26 2010 1:07pm

An Interview with Filmmaker Arwen Curry

Arwen Curry is a filmmaker and writer. She is an associate producer of the documentary Regarding Susan Sontag and co-produced and directed the 2006 documentary Stuffed. She coordinated the magazine Maximum Rocknroll from 1998 to 2004 and publishes the zine Ration. She talked to me about her current project, a documentary on Ursula K. Le Guin.

[Read more...]

Aug 25 2010 3:09pm

An Interview with Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is the author of the children’s and YA books Zahrah the Windseeker, The Shadow Speaker (a Tiptree Honor book), Long Juju Man, and Sunny. Her newest book is the mind-blowing novel for adults, Who Fears Death, set in post-apocalyptic Saharan Africa. She has received the Hurston/Wright literary award, the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa, the Parallax Award, and the Andre Norton Award, among other honors. Her short stories have been anthologized in Dark Matter II, Strange Horizons, and Writers of the Future.

[Read more...]

Aug 24 2010 11:28am

An interview with Elizabeth Hand

Elizabeth Hand is the author of eight science fiction novels, three short story collections, a YA novel, and the genre-bending thriller Generation Loss. She has won multiple Nebula and World Fantasy Awards, the James Tiptree Jr. Award, the Mythopoeic Society Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and multiple International Horror Guild Awards.

[Read more...]

Aug 23 2010 12:26pm

Why Science Fiction?

I’m a compulsive reader with pretty Catholic tastes, and I write about everything from shamelessly cheesy Young Adult romance to shamelessly highbrow literary fiction for my blog. But I recently decided to dedicate a week to talking about speculative fiction exclusively, and the enthusiastic reception affirmed the special place science fiction in particular has always held in my heart.

Why science fiction? Here’s a story for you: I grew up in a very small and unpleasant town, with parents whom I adore, don’t get me wrong, but whose politics are very different from mine (i.e. they watch Fox News religiously, I have an FBI file from getting arrested at anti-globalization protests). As a very young person, I was solidly on my way to a content middle-class life of fluorescent-lit day jobs, picket fences, and voting Republican (my mom recently unearthed a fan letter I wrote to Ronald Reagan at a tender age). Somewhere between then and now, however, I took a hard left on the road less traveled. What happened, you may well ask? I wonder that myself sometimes, and the best I can come up with is: science fiction. No, seriously. Bear with me.

[Read more...]