Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, Chapters 19 and 20

In Esad Ribic’s cover of Cryoburn, Miles is looking for something.

I came to Cryoburn looking for something, and one of the things about blogging a reread is that the things I thought I was doing never go away, they stay where I wrote them. My recollection of the book, before I started rereading it, was that it had a lot to do with unwanted people. It has some unwanted people in it. Lisa Sato was very inconvenient. Yani was inconvenient. Jin’s father hadn’t bought a cryofreezing contract. Suze offered a refuge for people waiting to be frozen in her underground cryofreezing commune in the building she didn’t own—people whose needs weren’t drawing public attention. But that’s not what Cryoburn is about; it’s about what it means to be alive and what it means to be dead. One of those is something you decide for yourself, and the other is something other people make decisions about for you.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

SFF Equines Looks at Purpose-Breeding

Purpose-breeding is a term often used in animal husbandry to refer to breeding an animal for a particular purpose. Not just breeding “on purpose”—with planning and intention rather than just letting the animals sort it out—but for a particular use.

That use doesn’t necessarily need to be functional. You can breed a horse for halter showing and end up with something that may not be ridable or driveable and might not be all that sound for standing around the pasture, either. Or you can breed him for color or size or a particular shape of head. [Read more]

Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children Series Coming to Television

Wayward Children, Seanan McGuire’s award-winning Publishing novella series—about what happens when your portal fantasy story is over and you return to the real world—is being adapted for television!

Legendary Television and Syfy will bring Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children to the small screen, beginning with Every Heart a Doorway. Joe Tracz, whose credits include Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief musical and the A Series of Unfortunate Events TV series, will adapt the novella and serve as showrunner.

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Star Trek: Discovery Explains Why Kirk and Picard Never Trust Holograms

Renegade cyborgs and a scheming A.I. became the latest enemies of Starfleet in the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery, “Project Daedalus.” But beyond the obvious fact that Trek canon has dabbled in evil supercomputer stories many times before, the second season of Discovery has been slowly explaining a more subtle techno-paranoia present across several eras of Star Trek. In “Project Daedalus,” we essentially see why (almost) all other incarnations of Star Trek hate holograms. And not only does this anti-hologram retcon make perfect sense within Trek canon, but it’s also illustrative of real-life fears, too.

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On the Cult of Originality: What Byzantine Literary Culture Can Tell Us About Fanfiction

What are we going to do with the cult of originality? The set of pernicious beliefs that say: oh, all romances are the same, there’s always a happy ending, that can’t be real literature? Or, this book is full of tropes, it must be too commercial to be good? Or even: if you can’t write something entirely new, you aren’t writing real literature … and if you’re writing fanfiction, you must be ‘practicing’ until you’re ready to be original! I’m entirely sure most of you readers have heard—or even subscribe to—one or more of these beliefs about originality being a sign of artistic achievement. It’s an idea that’s baked into modern Western cultural criticism, particularly literary criticism.

And yet: we are surrounded by literature which is not original and which is successful, enjoyed, and persistent.

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A Busy Person’s Primer for Game of Thrones Season 8

Eight. Years.

Can you believe it? Am I talking about Game of Thrones’ epic run or just how long it feels like we’ve been enduring this final hiatus? I need “it’s-not-TV-it’s-HBO” prestige television like Cersei needs wine. If the new trailer tells us anything, it’s time to drink all the Dornish red, eat every fucking chicken in the room, and smoke ’em if ya got ’em—dragons, I mean—because the end isn’t nigh: it’s here.

And I’ve rewatched every episode of the series so you don’t have to.

Here’s what you need to know going into season 8.

Major spoilers ahead. Obviously. 

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Five Books About Running Away to Join a Space Pirate Crew

Disclaimer: If you’re hoping for a hard sci-fi piracy list, know that I chose these novels for the characters and events, although several of them benefit from stellar worldbuilding too. I also want you to know that I almost started this list with I Was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space by Megan Rose Gedris, AKA Rosalarian. However, it’s impossible to find the first and last issues of the comic at a reasonable price, and I want to offer you novels to read. So instead, please check out my five favorite books about running away from one’s problems to join a space pirate crew.

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Series: Five Books About…

A Future in the Author’s Backyard: The New Edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home

However believable you find Ursula K. Le Guin’s imagined worlds, you cannot visit the planet Gethen and cross its frozen plains, nor can you join the commune on Anarres or sail the archipelagos of Earthsea. The town of Klatsand, from Searoad, has an address in Oregon, but you can’t drive or fly there. You may, however visit where the Kesh people “might be going to have lived a long, long time from now.” They’ll perhaps live in Northern California, in the Napa Valley, and one of their towns might sit where the Le Guin family had a summer house. In Always Coming Home, her longest and strangest novel, just reissued by the Library of America, Ursula K. Le Guin built a utopia in her backyard.

A warning: If you read solely for plot, Always Coming Home might seem an exercise in Never Reaching the Point, and I’d encourage you to read The Lathe of Heaven or a volume of Earthsea in its stead. This novel represents a culmination of the anthropological or societal bent in Le Guin’s fiction. Le Guin’s first three novels were republished as Worlds of Exile and Illusionworlds, not tales or stories. The Left Hand of Darkness alternates plot chapters with bits of Winter’s lore and excerpts of its stories; while The Dispossessed, “An Ambiguous Utopia,” announces its social interests in its very subtitle. Always Coming Home doesn’t abandon narrative, but it comes close: This is a book that aspires to placehood.

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Earnest Voices: New Suns, edited by Nisi Shawl

Though New Suns is simply presented as an anthology of short fiction by people of colour, without any over arching theme, a great many of the stories in the collection focus on what it means to be the other—or become the other. But of course they do. This comes as no surprise, though some readers may be slightly disappointed when many of the stories don’t quite push at this enough, holding back just that little bit that stops from deeper exploration of their narrative.

For some, it is that the short story format isn’t quite long enough to explore what they’re thinking (and so some of the stories come across as excerpts, which isn’t necessarily a negative aspect). For some it’s just a matter of undeveloped skill at addressing heavier, more complicated themes in equally complicated settings. Regardless, New Suns is an earnest compilation of voices from many ethnicities and backgrounds, making it a nice little package for those looking to read the narratives of writers exploring their experiences as people of colour, and as marginalised people .

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“I think I’m starting to like this” — The Flash (1990)

The success of 1989’s Batman led to a flurry of activity from Warner Bros. as they tried to cash in on that film’s combination of high box office, good word of mouth, and through-the-roof merchandise sales.

One of the ones that actually made it to air was a TV series featuring the Flash, which only lasted for one season in 1990-1991.

[“You made me when you killed my brother.” “I killed a lot of men’s brothers.”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Kurt Vonnegut and the Science Fiction Writers’ Lodge

In Back to School, Rodney Dangerfield’s character Thornton Melon is assigned a paper on Kurt Vonnegut’s novels. Melon shirks responsibility and instead pays Vonnegut himself to write the essay. Unfortunately, the paper earns an F for the obvious forgery and the following critique from Melon’s professor: “Whoever did write this doesn’t know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut.”

And perhaps Professor Turner is right. After all, Vonnegut didn’t even know he was a genre writer until reviewers got hold of his first novel, Player Piano. Two decades (and several novels) later, Vonnegut cheekily admitted, “I didn’t know that [it was science fiction]. I supposed that I was writing a novel about life.”

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Redshirts, Red Angels, and Red Herrings — Star Trek: Discovery’s “Project Daedalus”

One of my least favorite tropes of dramatic fiction in general and the Star Trek franchise in particular is the Redshirt Phenomenon. I’ve discussed this particular practice elsewhere on this site, but the short version is: It’s the laziest of lazy writing, showing that a situation is dangerous by killing a character, but that character barely qualifies as such, as it’s generally an extra or a person we barely know and don’t really care about.

“Project Daedalus” manages to embrace, invert, and reject the Redshirt Phenomenon all at the same time, and I honestly still haven’t figured out how I feel about it.

[What is it about the look on my face that suggests I’ve changed my mind?]

The Tao of Sir Terry: Pratchett and Philosophy

“Build a man a fire and he’s warm for a day,” I say. “But set a man on fire and he’s warm for the rest of his life. Tao of Pratchett. I live by it.” —Jim Butcher, Cold Days (2012)

That’s “Sir Terry” to you, Dresden… but other than that, the only wizard listed in the yellow pages is right on the money.

Terry Pratchett is best known for his incompetent wizards, dragon-wielding policemen, and anthropomorphic personifications who SPEAK LIKE THIS. And we love him for it. Once we’re done chuckling at Nanny Ogg’s not-so-subtle innuendos and the song about the knob on the end of the wizard’s staff, however, there’s so much more going on beneath the surface of a Pratchett novel. The real reason Pratchett’s work resonates so deeply with so many people around the world—and will continue to do so for decades to come—is that every one of his stories tugs at a deep, philosophical thread that sneaks up under the cover of action and punny dialogue to mug you faster than a denizen of the Shades.

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