Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, “Aftermaths”

At the time of this writing, Aral is the last character to die in the Vorkosigan Saga.

This is the second time a book has ended with something that functioned as an epilogue titled “Aftermaths.” The previous “Aftermaths” appeared at the end of Shards of Honor and described the process of finding and identifying the remains of the casualties of the Escobar War. Aral lost a great deal in that war, and among other things, that story was about his losses. He got to go on and have a second life he never anticipated; the losses never went away, but he gained things he never expected to have. The current set of aftermaths are about everyone else’s loss of Aral.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Waste Tide Sweepstakes!

Award-winning author Chen Qiufan’s Waste Tide (translated by Ken Liu) is a thought-provoking vision of the future, available April 30th from Tor Books—and we want to send you a copy!

Mimi is drowning in the world’s trash.

She’s a waste worker on Silicon Isle, where electronics—from cell phones and laptops to bots and bionic limbs—are sent to be recycled. These amass in towering heaps, polluting every spare inch of land. On this island off the coast of China, the fruits of capitalism and consumer culture come to a toxic end.

Mimi and thousands of migrant waste workers like her are lured to Silicon Isle with the promise of steady work and a better life. They’re the lifeblood of the island’s economy, but are at the mercy of those in power.

A storm is brewing, between ruthless local gangs, warring for control. Ecoterrorists, set on toppling the status quo. American investors, hungry for profit. And a Chinese-American interpreter, searching for his roots.

[Read on for more about the book, and comment in the post to enter!]

A Whole Different Kind of Time Travel: Andre Norton’s Lavender-Green Magic

Of all the Magic books, this is the one I thought I remembered the best. It turns out all I remembered was the folk ditty that inspired the title, and a few small bits about witchcraft. Everything else read as completely new.

Maybe the book I remember was another one built around “Lavender’s blue, dilly-dilly.” Maybe memory is just being weird. Either way, I did enjoy this, though with some fairly large doses of “Ummm… no.”

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Jordan Peele’s Us: A Full-Spoiler Movie Review

Let’s cut to the chase: Jordan Peele’s second directorial endeavor, Us, is stellar and if you haven’t seen it already you should do so immediately. I walked out of Us unable to do anything but obsess over what I had just witnessed. If I could’ve, I would’ve walked right back to the ticket counter and gone for a second round.

Spoilers ahoy! Proceed with caution.

[“It’s our time now.”]

Star Trek: Discovery’s Red Angel Explains a Lot of Time Travel from The Original Series

At the very start of the Star Trek: Discovery episode “The Red Angel,” the history of time travel in the Trek universe got a little more wrinkled. According to this episode, Starfleet has been desperate to develop some reliable time travel since the very early part of the 23rd century. This feels a little crazy, but what’s even crazier is that a close reading of nearly every single time travel episode of the original series supports this idea. Yep. That’s right. Discovery’s “temporal arms race” seems to be something Captain Kirk was totally involved with during TOS. Here’s how it all works.

Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery, Season 2, Episode 10, “The Red Angel.”

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One Free Trick: How to Use the Writing Skills You Have to Learn the Ones You Don’t

When I went to the Viable Paradise writer’s workshop back in the distant dim year of 2013, the inestimable Elizabeth Bear, along with various other people who are cleverer than me, explained to me about the tricks a writer gets for free in their box. The writing-skill cards you drew in your first poker hand.

The magic of this idea is that it is a promise: everyone gets something. Every writer, no matter how green, has at least one thing they’re good at to start off with. It could be character, or prose rhythm, or pacing. Or the instructions to the Plot Machine. (The people who got the instructions to the Plot Machine are very lucky, and I hate them all with a profound envy. My Plot Machine instructions were incomplete and mostly made of those guys from the IKEA instruction manuals, gesticulating happily at a pile of incomprehensible parts.)

Your One Free Trick is the skill you can build on. The skill you can lean on, while you learn the rest of the craft of being a writer. Thinking about writing craft in this way—as a collection of interlinked skills, some of which you got for free, some of which you have to work for—completely changed how I approached new and hard projects. In a certain sense, this concept let me learn how to write a novel.

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Love, Lust, and Loathing in Children of Blood and Bone, Chapters 53-60

Our reread of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi continues with chapters 53-60, in which the quartet fractures into couples. Amari falls in love, Tzain intensifies his feud with Zèlie, Zèlie fears the unintended and uncontrollable consequences of her revolution, and Inan plots the reunification of Orïsha under his crown.

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Series: Reading Children of Blood and Bone

All the New Fantasy Books Coming Out in April!

Whether you’re cooped up on a rainy day or basking in the sunshine of early spring, there are plenty of perfect fantasy titles to curl up with this April! A siege approaches in K.J. Parker’s Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City; a mage makes plans for revenge in Sam Sykes’ Seven Blades in Black; the war between the gnomes and the halflings comes to a head in Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne’s No Country for Old Gnomes; and an unusual detective takes on an unexpected case in Gareth L. Powell’s Ragged Alice.

Head below for the full list of fantasy titles heading your way in April.

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Magic for Liars: Chapters 1 and 2

Ivy Gamble was born without magic and never wanted it. Ivy Gamble is perfectly happy with her life—or at least, she’s perfectly fine. She doesn’t in any way wish she was like Tabitha, her estranged, gifted twin sister.

Ivy Gamble is a liar.

When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where her estranged twin sister teaches Theoretical Magic, reluctant detective Ivy Gamble is pulled into the world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister—without losing herself.

Sarah Gailey’s Magic For Liars is available June 4th from Tor Books. Read chapters 1 and 2 below, and stay tuned for additional chapters soon!

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Five Books to Read After Your Planet Explodes

So: your home planet has been destroyed. Or maybe not your home planet; maybe just the planet you were currently residing on. Either way, you find yourself suddenly without a planet (always an awkward position to be in), but at least with a spacecraft and an interstellar library of choice Earth works to tide you over on the long hyperspace journey to whatever world is nearest, which hopefully has not also been destroyed (though you never can tell). Thankfully, you were smart enough to load up your ship’s computer with the entire archive of Tor.com articles, and you can refer to this helpful list to choose the correct title to comfort you in the vast emptiness of space…

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John Bellairs Taught Me Magic is Real, But Not Without Consequences

You know the story: boy discovers there’s a world of witches and wizards, where friends come in the forms of a courageous girls and aging professors, where sinister forces stir in ancient tombs and only he, riddled with self-doubt from behind his glasses, can stop them.

You do realize I’m not talking about Harry Potter.

It’s Lewis Barnavelt, obviously. You know, by John Bellairs? Wait, YOU DON’T KNOW JOHN BELLAIRS?

My inner eleven-year-old gets a little defensive about Bellairs, because he’s my J.K. Rowling.

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“I just want you to meet a super guy” — Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

Superman has always been a trailblazer: besides pretty much singlehandedly starting the notion of superhero comics when he was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938, the first radio and animated adaptations of superheroes, and one of the first live-action ones, featured the man of steel, and the first TV show based on a superhero was The Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves. The first superhero feature film that wasn’t tied to television was 1978’s Superman, and in the 2010s, Superman would lead off DC’s attempt at a cinematic universe with Man of Steel (which we’ll cover next week).

In the midst of the revived interest in the 1990s in DC’s characters in cinema (the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher Batman films), animation (Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League), and television (Superboy, The Flash), ABC gave us Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

[“Well, one thing’s for sure, nobody’s going to be looking at your face.” “Mom!” “Well, they don’t call them tights for nothing!”]

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

Valdemar, Pern, and the Real World Horse-Human Bond

Science fiction and fantasy have a long tradition of cultures and characters based on Earth animals. Cherryh’s Chanur, to cite one of my favorite examples. Space whales in multiple space operas (I love me some space whales). And most relevant here, Mercedes Lackey’s Companions, who are openly based on horses, and dragons, who are not—but Anne McCaffrey told me herself that the origins of Pern’s dragons are a particular breed of horses and the riders who serve them.

In both cases, we have magical, marginally mortal creatures of high intelligence, who communicate telepathically with their Chosen or Impressed riders. Choosing of Heralds happens usually in young adulthood, though there’s no age limit on the process, and Companions do so in their adult form. Dragons Impress at hatching, again on young adult humans usually. The result is a deep, lifelong bond between the human and the animal, which when broken tends to result in the death of the bereaved partner.

[Real-world horses can’t compare, can they?]

Death, Here is Thy Sting — Star Trek: Discovery’s “The Red Angel”

Death is all over tonight’s incredibly intense episode of Discovery, from the very first scene to the very last.

It starts with something I would not have credited them doing with the death of so minor a character as Airiam: a funeral. Usually such pomp and circumstance is reserved for people in the opening credits, and the fact that they went to this trouble for a minor character was a welcome change from the norm, where the characters’ reactions to other characters’ deaths depends entirely upon their actors’ billing. It shows that the writers remember that, even though the viewers barely knew Airiam, the crew of Discovery knew her damn well.

[“Admiral, we have a solution.” “I’m cringing already.”]

Science Fiction and the Philosophical “Ship of Theseus” Problem

The Ship of Theseus is a thought experiment first posited by Plutarch in Life of Theseus. It goes a little something like this:

A ship goes out in a storm and is damaged. Upon returning to shore, the ship is repaired, with parts of it being replaced in the process. Again and again the ship goes out, and again it is repaired, until eventually every single component of the ship, every plank of wood, has been replaced.

Is the repaired ship still the same ship that first went out into the storm? And if not, then at what point did it become a different ship?

Now, say you collected every part of the ship that was discarded during repairs, and you used these parts to rebuild the ship. With the two ships side-by-side, which one would be the true Ship of Theseus? Or would it be both? Or neither?

There’s no single answer to the problem, no correct one, just the looming question: what is the intrinsic thingness of a thing? But the thought experiment has captured my attention because, even though it is thousands of years old, it’s still relevant today. It’s given me a new way to look at some of my favourite bits of pop-culture, some of the technologies used in science fiction, and by extension, a valid frame by which to look at some of the technologies we may be using in the future.

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