Five Fairy Tale Mashups That Show How All Our Stories Are Connected

What could be better than a retelling of your favorite fairy tale? How about a retelling of two of your favorite fairy tales? How about a retelling that incorporates a bunch of your favorite fairy tales?

One of my favorite types of narrative is the mashup, wherein a bunch of existing characters or storylines mingle together, resulting in brand-new flavors, new adventures, and if you’re lucky, fresh nuances to explore.

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Trying to Do Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast in The Expanse’s “Hard Vacuum”

I’m never going to stop talking about how good Dominique Tipper is in this show, and especially this season. Everyone in “Hard Vacuum” is facing something that seems impossible, but Naomi is struggling with the hardest, most physical manifestation of an impossible task. It’s an aching, exhausting, solo performance, and it anchors another solidly engrossing episode.

Spoilers follow!

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The Science of Space: Rockets, Missiles, & Space Travel by Willy Ley

In this bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books, Alan Brown looks at the front lines and frontiers of the field; books about soldiers and spacers, scientists and engineers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.

This column, up until now, has been devoted to exploring works of fiction. But looking around my den recently, I realized there have been many non-fiction books that influenced my view of the future. Today, I’m going to look at one of my early favorites, written by a pioneer of rocketry, Willy Ley. In the 1960s, it was impossible not to get caught up in the excitement of the space program, and I was fortunate to have a dad who worked in aerospace and was a collector of all sorts of fascinating books on scientific topics.

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Ten of the Best Recent Horror and Sci-Fi Movies to Stream Right Now

2020 was a weird year for movies: closed theaters, no Marvel movies, and the new Bond movie and The Fast and the Furious sequel pushed to 2021.

But limitations on theater attendance not only pushed studios to experiment with their releases, but also allowed some smaller genre movies to attract attention that usually would have been taken by blockbuster franchise films. In other words, 2020 made room for some great new genre movies, and gave viewers more of an opportunity to watch them.

Here are ten of the best sci-fi and horror movies of 2020 (in no particular order), all of which you can watch right now.

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Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Twenty

It’s Thursday, and you know what that means, my wee Cosmere chickens? That’s right, it’s another installment of the Rhythm of War reread! We’re excited to learn a bit more about the inner workings of the Lightweavers in this chapter, and also to follow The Three around as they try to figure out who the traitor in their midst could be. Intrigue! Danger! Sea shanties!

…No, wait, that’s not right, let me try again.

Intrigue! Danger! Treachery!

There we go. Join us, won’t you?

[This time, she was the hunter.]

Series: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Five Stories About Generation Ships With Happy(ish) Endings

We’ve all read about it: after decades of construction, a shiny new generation ship is loaded with a crew of bright-eyed optimists. Once the sun is just another bright star in the sky, mutiny and civil war reduce the crew to ignorant peasants…unless something worse happens. This is a narrative pattern set as early as Murray Leinster’s 1935 “Proxima Centauri,” solidified by Heinlein’s 1941 “Universe,” and embraced by authors ever since: human foibles in the confined space of a generation ship ensure calamity. Ideally not of the sort that leave everyone too dead to be interesting.

But it does not have to go that way! Here are five examples of generation ships that managed to avoid mutiny, civil war, barbarism, and mass cannibalism.

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The Deplorable Word: Power, Magicians, and Evil in C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew

C.S. Lewis didn’t care for magicians.

In fact, as Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man, he saw the core problem that magicians were trying to solve one that was at best distasteful, and at worst something that led to actions “disgusting and impious.” That core problem: “how to subdue reality to the wishes of men.” (We won’t get into this much yet, but he saw magicians and scientists as related in this sense…something we will discuss more when we get to the Space Trilogy.)

For the “wise men of old” the core question of the universe was “how to conform the soul to reality,” but for magicians the question was how to bend Nature to one’s own desires (or, at best, humanity’s desires). “It is the magician’s bargain: give up your soul, get power in return.” The process was clear: the magician “surrenders object after object, and finally himself, to Nature in return for power.”

Where the wise sages of old bent their soul to reality using “knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue,” the magician embraces a core selfishness, a willingness to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to attain greater power.

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Series: The Great C.S. Lewis Reread

Her Suitcase Full of Ectoplasm: The Haunting of Hill House (Part 8)

Welcome back to Reading the Weird, in which we get girl cooties all over weird fiction, cosmic horror, and Lovecraftiana—from its historical roots through its most recent branches.

This week, we continue with Chapter 7 of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, first published in 1959. Spoilers ahead.

[“The spirits dwelling in this house may be actually suffering because they are aware that you are afraid of them.”]

Series: Reading the Weird

Snowpiercer Is Getting an Express Ticket to a Third Season

The mighty train will keep on rolling next year. TNT has confirmed that it has ordered a third season for its hit sci-fi show Snowpiercer.  Since the series is being renewed for another go around the icy tracks before season two has premiered, it sounds like the showrunners have more stories to tell even after we see the fallout from season one’s wild twist ending. (Spoilers below the cut.)

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A Human-Free Earth: Andre Norton’s Breed to Come

Breed to Come is one of Norton’s better-loved books. It was published in the early Seventies, shortly before what is effectively a companion volume (and was packaged so in Baen Books’ ebook revival of Norton’s works), Iron Cage. Whereas Iron Cage frames itself as a human variation on a cat locked in a cage and dumped out of a car, with aliens as the villains who cage the humans, Breed to Come tells the story of an Earth abandoned by humans and inhabited by intelligent animals.

The primary protagonist is Furtig, a mutated cat who lives in a colony related to a famous explorer and leader, Gammage. The People, as they call themselves, have evolved somewhat functional hands—at the cost of their ancestral claws—and the ability to walk upright as well as on all fours. They coexist more or less peacefully with mutated pigs, have an adversarial relationship with local tribes of mutated dogs, and open enmity with the mutated rats who infest the ruined cities of the Demons.

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Life, Death, and Coming of Age in Nnedi Okorafor’s Remote Control

This is the story of Sankofa and how she came to be—an icon, a feared pseudo-spirit, and a many-faceted metaphor. Nnedi Okorafor’s latest novella, Remote Control, is the melancholy tale of Sankofa’s search for peace and closure as she evolves into something far beyond an adolescent girl. Set in a futuristic Africa, autonomous machines, drones, and robots exist side by side with long-held cultural and spiritual beliefs—witchcraft is alive and well in the future, as it will be as long as the human imagination endures. It’s a classic coming-of-age story where a young protagonist endures personal devastation, only to adapt and grow into her own skin.

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