The language of the originators defines reality, every word warping the world to fit its meaning. Its study transforms the mind and body, and is closely guarded by stodgy, paranoid academics. These hidebound men don’t trust many students with their secrets, especially not women, and more especially not “madwomen.” Polymede and her lover Erishti believe they’ve made a discovery that could blow open the field’s unexamined assumptions, and they’re ready to face expulsion to make their mark. Of course, if they’re wrong, the language will make its mark on them instead.
Calling yourself “Old Ben” is fine. Saying mean things about someone’s uncle is rude yet necessary. Pretending that you don’t remember your BBF’s old copilot droid is crappy, but saves time. Does that excuse all the outright lies that Obi-Wan Kenobi tells to Luke Skywalker? Maybe if those lies were truly essential to getting the kid to bring down the Empire. But they’re not, so most of those lies (and omissions) are pretty egregious.
Here are a few things that Obi-Wan could have said to avoid the most ridiculous ones. Because let’s face it, most of Ben’s lies are just kind of… ill-conceived.
Cannibalism, cuddly creatures, alternate timelines, flashbacks, and one big vat of Peeps-flavored chili: this year’s SFF television shows had a lot to give. Rather than listing our favorite series, this year we’ve opted to pick our ten favorite single episodes of SFF TV. From Doctor Who’s trip to one companion’s family history to Legends of Tomorrow’s big blue battle monster, these are the episodes we watched and rewatched and came to work talking about.
Which were your favorites?
Climate-focused science fiction is not a recent development. Even if we were to reject all the works in which climate change is an unexpected benefit of thermonuclear war , or where the climate change is part of the process of terraforming other worlds , examples of classic works featuring anthropogenic climate change are not all that hard to find. It’s as though discussions of anthropogenic climate change date back to the 19th century and earlier … or something.
Urban fantasy. Everyone knows what it is these days. There is even a romance-novel category for it. But back when I started writing it, it was a very new “place” to set a fantasy novel—although to be fair, a lot of things that were once classified as “horror” would be classified as “urban fantasy” today, like Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife or my own Diana Tregarde books. But when I started the Bedlam’s Bard and SERRAted Edge series, it was brand new, and no one had ever considered putting elves in a mall or on a racetrack, making them qualify for the category of “groundbreaking.”
So I’ll toot my own horn a little and submit for your consideration (as Rod Serling used to say) both those series. The Bedlam’s Bard series, beginning with A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows, featured the debut of “mall elves”; the concept made sense to myself and co-writer Ellen Guon, because we posited elves as being tied to sacred groves, and many of the malls going up at the time in California had to be built around groves of native trees. The actual genesis of the series was a pen-and-ink sketch of a couple of bored looking teenage girls dressed in ‘80s hair and bling, loitering in a mall—and if you looked closely, you could see the pointed ears just barely sticking out of their hair. The SERRAted Edge series, on the other hand, was born of Larry and my mutual love of (real) sports car racing, and featured a division of Sports Car Club of America called the SouthEastern Road Racing Association. It asked, and answered the question, “What if elves never stopped challenging humans at crossroads, but just changed the (literal) vehicle of challenge?” And Baen came up with the tagline “Hot cars, fast elves, and kids on the run.”
It seems appropriate to talk about Melissa Scott’s Finders and Ursula Vernon’s (writing as T. Kingfisher) Swordheart together. Although in terms of setting and tone they’re very different books—Finders is a space opera with elements of a thriller, a fast-paced adventure story that ends up shaped like an epic; Swordheart is a sword-and-sorcery story with a romance at its centre—they share an interest in relationships and in consequences, and in a certain underpinning of kindness that unites them despite their otherwise disparate elements.
Series: Sleeps With Monsters
Tor.com Publishing is proud to announce that consulting editor Ellen Datlow has acquired Ormeshadow, an historical novella by Priya Sharma about a farming family, the Belmans; of their estrangements, jealousies, adultery, abuse, and suicide, as seen through the eyes of Gideon Belman from childhood to young man. The Belman fabled fortune and personal myths are rooted in the Orme, land named from the Norse word dragon. The Orme legends become a cornerstone for Gideon when he loses everything that he loves.
At about the halfway point of any given Outlander season, our heroes usually wind up in a completely different country—sailing from Scotland to France, or shipwrecked in America by way of Jamaica. The stakes change, the theme song gets a cool new spin, and the latter half of the season is drastically altered.
But after three years, you gotta shake things up a bit. So it’s no surprise that the midpoint of Outlander season 4 is less concerned with changing the where so much as the when… and in doing so, creating not one, but two new sassenachs.
Beer is the oldest human-made alcoholic beverage that we know about. People living in the Yellow River Valley (now in China) were brewing some sort of fermented grain alcohol around 9,000 B.C.E., and the first barley beer was probably made in the Zagros Mountains of Iran around 3,400 B.C.E. We’ve been drinking it, in all its ethanol-and-carbonation-filled glory, for pretty much as long as we’ve been people. Some of our earliest writing is even about beer: the Hymn to Ninkasi, the Mesopotamian goddess of beer, was not only a praise song but also a way of remembering the standard beer recipe. It stands to reason that, if humans manage to get off of earth and head for the vast reaches of the galaxy, we’d want to have some beer to drink along the way.
Which brings us to a conundrum: beer requires many ingredients that really grow best on a nice, healthy, soil-and-oxygen-rich planet. Spacefarers—particularly those on a generation ship or a self-sufficient space station, i.e. people who live in space—are going to have an interesting and difficult time making something that we’d recognize as beer, in the quantities humans tend to like to consume beer in. I recently had the pleasure, if that’s the right word for it, of trying to solve this problem for Lsel Station, a self-sufficient completely non-planetary location in my upcoming novel A Memory Called Empire, which is why I am now duty-bound to bring you the answer to how to make beer with only what you can grow on a generation ship.
This is the first year I’ve failed to meet my reading goal.
Every year of my life since I can remember, I’ve read at least one hundred books. This year, I’ve managed half of that. I can blame part of that on writing, and I can blame part of it on edits, critiques, and the abject hell that is moving—but if I’m honest, it’s just been a hard year. It’s been a hard year for everyone I know; the world is a hard place to be right now, and the small personal struggles we all face feel unbearably magnified. For so many of us, 2018 has been a year of loss and grief: we’ve lost jobs, pets, friendships, relationships, health, family members, children, and a good measure of hope.
It’s been a hard year, and I haven’t been reading as much as I usually do. When I have been reading, I’ve been gravitating toward books that are kind to their audience, that treat the reader like a partner rather than an adversary.
Happy holidays, Tor.com! Would you like to celebrate with a discussion of demon prophecies and institutional slavery? Of course you would! So season appropriate, it’s amazing. So much so, in fact, that I have two chapters of it for you, yay!
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 10, “Demon in the Streets”, and Chapter 11, “The Coming Storm”, which are available for your reading delectation right here.
Read it? Great! Then click on to find out what I thought!
Series: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
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…
Series: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
Despite having been given glimpses of Moiraine and the Amyrlin Seat’s secret plans back in Chapter Four of The Great Hunt, I think this week’s chapters have given me the best example of Aes Sedai double-talk thus far in the read. What I enjoyed most about this week’s read was also the thing that had me grinding my teeth the whole time; because we got the section in which Liandrin used channeling to exert influence over Lady Amalisa, the reader knows more about Liandrin and her evil ways than Egwene and her friends do, and therefore has a much greater reason to be suspicious of her motives. In knowing that she is a Darkfriend (I feel quite safe in calling this one) I had the opportunity to examine the ways in which she avoided answering questions, or responded in such a way that convinced Nynaeve and Egwene of her sincerity without Liandrin actually speaking any falsehoods. Of course all Aes Sedai seem to be fairly adept at speaking guarded and concealed truth, but any member of the Black Ajah would have to be especially skilled at such duplicities.
Still, I feel like if the Aes Sedai took the prospect of the Black Ajah seriously, they could ostensibly ask a question that could not be gotten around; “Have you sworn allegiance to the Dark One, answer yes or no,” would probably do it. I bet Moiraine wishes she could walk the halls of the White Tower asking the other Aes Sedai that… and everyone would probably be super offended.
More on this later, but let’s get to the recap first.
Series: Reading The Wheel of Time
We began the year with a post about the White Horse Between the Worlds: the ancient belief that a white horse (or a grey, as most white horses technically are) possesses mystical powers; that he (or she) can walk from world to world, and stands watch on the border between the living and the dead. Now, as the year ends and the Solstice is upon us, we’re back in that liminal space. In that space is one of my favorite films of all time.
One week before Winterfair, and Ivan is desperately trying to get his wife’s attention.
Tej is BUSY. Family are making a lot of demands on her time, which is just so typical of this holiday season. There’s a lot of pressure to pitch in and make things work and put family first. There are some domineering parents and grandparents. Most of us are not using experimental chemicals to excavate bunkers located underneath government buildings while wearing fuzzy slippers for stealth, but otherwise, all of this sounds very familiar.
Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga
If you’ve been following the reviews of Syfy’s Nightflyers, based on the novella by George R. R. Martin, then you already know how this one is going to end: in a bloody mess. But like the show itself, I’m going to start with the ugly conclusion and rewind. Or, if you prefer a gorier analogy, we’re going to conduct an autopsy on this corpse to see which organs failed.
Why bother? Because if you’re interested in good storytelling, Nightflyers offers a useful illustration of some basic pitfalls to avoid.