A Politics of Synthesis: The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

Ecological disaster and social collapse loom on the horizon for the inhabitants of January, human descendants of a generation ship whose advanced technologies have long since failed. Political and economic tensions ride high in both of the planet’s most populous cities, separated by a deadly tract of wilderness and segregated by past conflicts, while trouble also brews outside human habitation in the massive section of the planet that exists in total darkness.

Sophie, a Xiosphanti student from the impoverished end of town attending an upper class school, is drawn into a young activist circle by her outgoing wealthy roommate with drastic consequences leading to a brutal near-death experience. However, Sophie’s chance rescue by one of the alien inhabitants of the Night is the catalyst for a series of conflicts both grand and intimate in scale that offer the start of an answer to the crises facing her world.

[A review, with spoilers.]

Glass Is an Unnecessary Sequel that Undercuts Unbreakable

M. Night Shyamalan has had nearly twenty years to perfect any ideas he may have been tossing around for an Unbreakable sequel, and following the success of Split—which was set in the same universe—it was only a matter of time before Mr. Glass and David Dunn resurfaced. Sadly, everything that made Unbreakable one of the better ruminations on superhero archetypes on film is missing from Glass, which despite impressive performances manages to be neither as surprising, nor as thoughtful, as its predecessor.

[Spoilers for Glass, Split, and Unbreakable contained within.]

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5 SFF Stories About Surviving the Dangers of Boarding School

J.K. Rowling has done much to revive the literary genre of boarding school stories, which achieved its greatest (pre-Potter) popularity in the period between Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1857) and the mid-twentieth century. As a setting, boarding schools allow for the construction of thrilling narratives: concerned parents are replaced by teachers who may well prioritize student achievement over student welfare, e.g. maximizing points for Gryffindor over the survival of the students earning those points. Because the students cannot easily walk away from the school, they must deal with teachers and other students, some of whom may be vividly villainous (Miss Minchin, for example—the antagonist in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess).

Are there any SFF novels featuring boarding schools? Why yes! I am glad you asked—there are more than I can list in a single article. Here are just a few.

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Bad Dads Make for Family-Friendly Drama, But Bad Moms Are the Stuff of Nightmares

Hollywood seems to have a thing for struggling fathers, running the gamut from hapless or distant to downright sinister. The trope is so common that it permeates every genre of fiction regardless of tone—even family-friendly fare like Mary Poppins Returns centers on a father’s inability to keep his family above water following the death of his wife.

I don’t think these stories are bad by virtue of their very existence—for some, they may even offer some much-needed catharsis—but their ubiquity is a bit troubling, especially when compared to how stories about women who struggle with parenting are often framed.

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Sleeps With Monsters: Queering Classic Fantasy Stories

New year, new queer! If that’s not a catchphrase somewhere, it ought to be, and—as you may have guessed—queerness is the element that unites the stories I want to talk about this week. The presence of queer women in the stories I read is becoming so delightfully frequent as to begin to feel unremarkable, and I’m really enjoying this current state of affairs. It’s not something I feel I can allow myself to get used to, because it was a rarity for years.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Vultures by Chuck Wendig is the Perfect End to Miriam’s Story

Everything has been building up to this. Miriam is pregnant and isn’t particularly excited about it. The man she loved is dead, murdered by someone she cared for. The woman she loves has a rapidly approaching expiration date. The feds are onto her. And the Trespasser is circling like a vulture over its prey. Miriam is beaten but not broken, but for the Trespasser it’s only a matter of time until she snaps. The Trespasser can wait; it has all the time in the world. Miriam doesn’t. Her time is quickly running out and when it finally does…

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For The Killing of Kings

Their peace was a fragile thing, but it had endured for seven years, mostly because the people of Darassus and the king of the Naor hordes believed his doom was foretold upon the edge of the great sword hung in the hall of champions. Unruly Naor clans might raid across the border, but the king himself would never lead his people to war so long as the blade remained in the hands of his enemies.

But when squire Elenai’s aging mentor uncovers evidence that the sword in their hall is a forgery she’s forced to flee Darassus for her life, her only ally the reckless, disillusioned Kyrkenall the archer. Framed for murder and treason, pursued by the greatest heroes of the realm, they race to recover the real sword, only to stumble into a conspiracy that leads all the way back to the Darassan queen and her secretive advisors. They must find a way to clear their names and set things right, all while dodging friends determined to kill them – and the Naor hordes, invading at last with a new and deadly weapon.

Howard Andrew Jones’ powerful world-building brings this epic fantasy to life in For The Killing of Kings, the first book of his new adventure-filled trilogy—available February 19th from St. Martin’s Press.

[Read an Excerpt]

Swashbuckling Fantasy with Political Intrigue: A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery by Curtis Craddock

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (2018), the first volume in Curtis Craddock’s The Risen Kingdoms series, was an extremely accomplished fantasy novel. It combined intrigue, adventure, and swashbuckling in a setting filled with airships and floating kingdoms, ancient religion, lost knowledge, and powerful magic. Its politics bore the influence of Renaissance Europe while its narrative approach held something of the flair of Alexandre Dumas. An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors set a strikingly high bar for any sequel to follow.

Fortunately, A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery more than meets that bar. It’s just as good as its predecessor—if not better.

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The Federation Allowed Families On Starships to Keep Starfleet Enlistment Up

If you’ve watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, it has probably occurred to you that keeping families on a starship is a questionable practice. The Enterprise-D is constantly heading into dangerous situations, and while we can assume that there are protocols in place to keep the kiddies feeling safe and cared for, you have to wonder who thought this was such a brilliant idea to begin with.

Turns out the answer is: probably the Federation?

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5 Young Adult Novels That Blew Me Away

For a long time, I didn’t read much YA. I’m old enough that our modern, awesome version of the genre didn’t exist when I was a teen—I often joke that all we had to read were Newbery Award-winning books about dead dogs. I got into adult SFF at a fairly young age and made that my home for quite a while. Aside from Harry Potter and a few other mega-hits, I didn’t pay much attention to YA.

When I became a professional writer, I started reading a little bit more widely, and found that so much great SFF was happening in YA there was a pretty big gap in my knowledge. So I recruited a couple of friends to give me reading lists and went on a binge to find out what I’d been missing. These are a few of the books that I absolutely loved—but no means exhaustive, of course, because I still have a lot of catching up to do! So many books, so little time…

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Series: Five Books About…

Why Science Fiction Authors Need to be Writing About Climate Change Right Now

The future is arriving sooner than most of us expected, and speculative fiction needs to do far more to help us prepare. The warning signs of catastrophic climate change are getting harder to ignore, and how we deal with this crisis will shape the future of humanity. It’s time for SF authors, and fiction authors generally, to factor climate change into our visions of life in 2019, and the years beyond.

The good news? A growing number of SF authors are talking about climate change overtly, imagining futures full of flooded cities, droughts, melting icecaps, and other disasters. Amazon.com lists 382 SF books with the keyword “climate” from 2018, versus 147 in 2013 and just 22 in 2008. Some great recent books dealing with the effects of environmental disasters include Sam J. Miller’s Blackfish City, Edan Lepucki’s California, Cindy Pon’s Want, Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140, and N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. It’s simply not true, as Amitav Ghosh has suggested, that contemporary fiction hasn’t dealt with climate issues to any meaningful degree.

But we need to do more, because speculative fiction is uniquely suited to help us imagine what’s coming, and to motivate us to mitigate the effects before it’s too late.

[Read more]

Black Panther Nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars

The nominees for the 91st Academy Awards were announced this morning, with the delightful news that Black Panther is among the nominees for Best Picture. (Though unfortunately Ryan Coogler did not get a nod for Best Director.) While it is the only explicitly genre film among the eight Best Picture nominees (last year had Get Out and eventual winner The Shape of Water), the Best Animated Feature category recognized Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Incredibles 2, and Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2.

Further, you’ll spot other genre films from the past year like Avengers: Infinity War, Ready Player One, and A Quiet Place in the requisite visual and sound effects categories; Black Panther has a few nominees among those as well, such as Kendrick Lamar’s “All the Stars” going head-to-head with Lady Gaga’s earworm “Shallow” for Best Original Song. (That’s seven nominations total for Black Panther. Wakanda forever!) One notable disappointment is no nominations for Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You.

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Reading The Ruin of Kings: Chapter 14

Greetings, salutations and what up, Tor.com: It’s another RROK post! Just what you wanted!

This blog series will be covering the first 17 chapters of the forthcoming novel The Ruin of Kings, first of a five-book series by Jenn Lyons. Previous entries can be found here in the series index.

Today’s post will be covering Chapter 14, “Bedtime Stories”, which is available for your reading delectation right here.

Read it? Great! Then click on to find out what I thought!

[I still have my “Moistened Bint” button around here somewhere]

Series: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons: Chapter 14

Debut author Jenn Lyons has created one of the funniest, most engrossing new epic fantasy novels of the 21st century in The Ruin of Kings. An eyebrow-raising cross between the intricacy of Brandon Sanderson’s worldbuilding and the snark of Patrick Rothfuss.

Which is why Tor.com is releasing one or two chapters per week, leading all the way up to the book’s release on February 5th, 2019!

Not only that, but our resident Wheel of Time expert Leigh Butler will be reading along and reacting with you. So when you’re done with this week’s chapter, head on over to Reading The Ruin of Kings for some fresh commentary.

Our journey continues…

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Series: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

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