Cupcakes and Cacti, Meteors and Magic: Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore

Chicky Quintanilla is a gawky, gangly girl with one friend and a major lack of confidence. Lita Perez is a glittering ball of sunshine who no one really appreciates. Once upon a time, they were best friends who shared their love of old-timey movies and goofing off in the desert. Now they barely speak and move through high school secretly pining for each other but unable to breach the divide. Desperate to keep a huge secret from Lita, Chicky pushed her away so much that eventually Lita stopped trying. But Lita has a secret of her own: she and Bruja Lupe, the woman who raised her as a daughter, are made of stardust.

With the annual Meteor Regional Pageant and Talent Competition Showcase coming up fast, Chicky hatches a plan to get back at Kendra Kendall—a local Mean Girl who has made Chicky’s life a living nightmare—by sabotaging her run for the pageant crown. At the same time, Lita decides to enter the pageant hoping to do one last fun thing before her body turns back into stardust. With the help of Chicky’s brash older sisters, Junior, their school’s resident artist, and Cole Kendall, a trans boy who uses his privilege to protect those without any, Lita and Chicky take on queer- and transphobia, white supremacy, and the patriarchy.

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On Reading Book Series in the Wrong Order

We live in a glorious age when books are a click away. It may now seem incomprehensible that one might be forced to read a series of books out of order. Yet, in a dark age not so long ago, when we (and by we, I mean me) were dependent on the vagaries of book store and library orders, it was very easy to find oneself in a place where the choice was (a) read an intermediate book or (b) read nothing new.

By way of example, here are five F&SF series I began in what most people would say is the wrong place.

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The Perfection of Theresa Watkins

Justin C. Key’s “The Perfection of Theresa Watkins” is a skillful speculative exploration of the intersection of race, mental illness, and the American prison system.

Darius and Theresa Watkins confronted death once as fellow cancer survivors. Their lives are full and productive, their love a shield against Darius’s bouts of anxiety and Theresa’s occasional flare-ups. Yet when tragedy strikes, Darius will try everything to save his wife…even against his fears that she may have transformed into an entirely different person—literally.

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Supergirl Will Hang Up Her Cape After Season 6

CW will be saying farewell to the last daughter of Krypton next year. According to Deadline, the long-running Supergirl will come to an end after its sixth season. When Kara Danvers flies off into the sunset, she’ll be leaving behind a show that overcame huge obstacles and went on to break new ground in the genre.

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Black Mirror: U.S.S. Callister Director Will Take Over Directing Duties For Rogue One Prequel Series

Lucasfilm’s as-of-yet-untitled prequel to Rogue One hit a minor bump in the road: showrunner Tony Gilroy has turned over directing duties to Toby Haynes, who’s best known for work on the Black Mirror episode “U.S.S. Callister.”

The reasons for the switch aren’t quite as dramatic as the production turmoil that Rogue One itself experienced—it’s simply that Gilroy is based in the US, and with the COVID-19 pandemic still a thing, opted to hand off directing duties to Haynes, who’s based in the UK, according to Deadline

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Superheroes and Spreadsheets in Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Pop culture and superheroes go hand-in-hand. There’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe, of course, and so many reboots and reincarnations of Batman over the years that I’m daunted by the task of counting them all. Hench’s main character, Anna, however, would likely know the number–she’s a spreadsheet aficionado who lives in a world much like ours except that superheroes and supervillains are real, an almost mundane addition to everyday life.

Superheroes and supervillains, however, aren’t all they’re cracked up to be in Anna’s world. And in this vein, Natalie Zina Walschots’ Hench is similar to the comic book series and recent television adaptation of The Boys, where a corporate conglomeration uses superpowered people as (among other things) a product to sell to the masses.

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Let’s Celebrate Tolkien Week (By Force of Hobbit)!

Hobbits, amirite?

When they’re not avoiding anything that makes them late for dinner, they’re pilfering ancient artifacts, accepting age-ending quests, sticking with their friends through thick and thin to the bitter end, testing the patience of wizards, getting kidnapped by Orcs, befriending tree-shepherding giants, sitting on the edge of ruin while discussing the pleasures of the table, swearing their service to kings, stabbing smack-talking lords of carrion and voracious giant spiders…and even carrying their masters up the faces of active volcanoes. Hobbits are, when it comes down to it, just a bunch of irrepressible lads and lasses going off into the Blue for mad adventures.

And a lot of people are very fond of them. Accordingly, on September 22nd, the in-world birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, we celebrate Hobbit Day. It’s Tolkien Week, in fact, which has been a thing since 1978. Far too short a time.

[In un buco nella terra vivena uno hobbit.]

Netflix’s Over The Moon Wants to Soar Into Space and Our Hearts

The moon has never looked more magical—Netflix’s latest trailer for the animated musical Over The Moon showed young protagonist Fei Fei arriving on a bright and imaginative version of the celestial body, instantly drawing us in with its creativity and possibilities. At the same time, it didn’t lose sight of how a new spin on a Chinese myth would be the key to Fei Fei returning home.

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Never Say You Can’t Survive: The Unexamined Story Is Not Worth Writing

Charlie Jane Anders is writing a nonfiction book—and is publishing it as she does so. Never Say You Can’t Survive is a how-to book about the storytelling craft, but it’s also full of memoir, personal anecdote, and insight about how to flourish in the present emergency.

Below is the eighteenth chapter, “The Unexamined Story Is Not Worth Writing.” You can find all previous chapters here. New chapters will appear every Tuesday. Enjoy!

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Series: Never Say You Can’t Survive

A Different Kind of ’80s Fantasy in Garth Nix’s The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

As his characters tumble through a magical version of 1983 London, Garth Nix stuffs the pages of his latest delightful novel with references—to books, to bands, to politics and happenings that ground the increasingly magical story in the real world. There are British jokes this American reader maybe doesn’t entirely understand; newly invented creatures share pages with much older stuff. But running throughout is one particular in-joke that the former bookseller in me deeply appreciates: these booksellers, whether left-, right-, or evenhanded, very rarely engage in the specific task of selling books.

Alas, my bookselling days weren’t filled with capers, swords, grails, and Old Ones, but with spreadsheets, boxes, schedules, and emails. But the concept still works.

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Reading The Wheel of Time: Ji’e’toh and What Must Be Done in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 4)

It’s Week Four of our read of The Fires of Heaven, and everyone’s wishing for more fires as night falls in Rhuidean. First we get to spend time with Rand and Aviendha, and then we move on to catch up with Egwene as she and Aviendha connect over shared struggles and Moiraine seeks aid from the Wise Ones. I really liked these chapters; there’s lots of beautiful descriptions of the architecture and of how our POV characters Rand and Egwene are feeling. I tend to forget that I actually really like Egwene, but Chapter Five really reminded me of what is best about her as a character.

More on that later. First, our recap.

[You may not know ji’e’toh, but you follow it.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

8 SFF Books That Center Mental Health

From depression and trauma to borderline personality disorder, mental health concerns affect millions of people every day. As someone who battles depression and anxiety, I know all too well how they can impact daily life. Yet, where does mental health fit in a fantasy setting? How does a bipolar or obsessive compulsive protagonist fare while also encountering new planets, the magical, and the supernatural?

In recent years, there has been a steadily growing wealth of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror novels dealing with mental health, often resulting in powerful character arcs. There has been nothing more satisfying than to see a protagonist coping with mental illness becoming powerful enough to save themselves and the entire world. Here are just eight examples.

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