Spinning Through Genres in Andre Norton’s Wheel of Stars

To give her full credit (and she surely deserved it), Andre Norton seldom wrote a book that seemed as if she had phoned it in. She played on similar themes, settings, characters, plots, but she made them seem fresh. She managed her tropes with great skill, and kept the pages turning with tireless energy.

Once in a great while however, she missed her usual mark. Wheel of Stars, for me, was a slog to get through. It never quite committed to a particular genre, for one thing. At first blush it seems to be headed toward a classic cursed-village plot, but then it swerves off into a confused melange of time travel (or possibly parallel worlds), Atlantis or Mu or some other undefined sunken world, reincarnation, mind powers and clairvoyance, astrology, and ancient wars between good and evil. And finally, as if that’s not enough, it throws in a cave full of bodies in cold sleep. Topped off by the fastest romance that I’ve seen in the Norton canon.

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Naomi Novik and Christopher Paolini Talk About Their New Books, Old Inspirations, Dragons, and More!

Before these two fantastic authors released their newest novels to the world, they sat down and talked about everything from writing techniques to dragons. We sat in on an interview between Naomi Novik and Christopher Paolini as they discussed their respective books, A Deadly Education and To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, while diving into their inspirations and processes, and of course, dragons.

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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Scorpion, Part II”

“Scorpion, Part II”
Written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 4, Episode 1
Production episode 169
Original air date: September 3, 1997
Stardate: 51003.7

Captain’s log. We get the highlights of Part 1, then pick up with a Borg Cube running very fast away from the Species 8472 ship that blew up a planet, Voyager in a tractor beam. Chakotay tries to get Torres to beam Janeway off the cube, but Janeway herself contacts them and says to belay that order, as she has formed an alliance with the Borg.

[We’re going to war.]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Why Batman Is a Terrible Superhero (Or, Why Our Present Social Crises Demand a Different Class of Hero)

I’m a huge fan of the Dark Knight, so I was ready to throw hands a few weeks ago when someone told me they considered Batman to be a terrible superhero.

“You can’t just say that. You have to give reasons,” I demanded.

Well, she did: “Bruce Wayne has wealth and access and power, and he uses it all on himself—building armor and weapons and going out in the night to beat up bad guys just because he can’t get over his parents’ murder. When, instead, he could be using all his wealth to save Gotham City by improving schools, getting homeless people off the streets, and providing opportunities for young people who would otherwise turn to a life of crime.”

I had to admit she made a good point. And that point has stuck with me.

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Five SF Books Featuring Relativistic Relics and Timey-Wimey Problems

As discussed in this 2018 piece, relativistic starflight can put the entire universe within one’s reach (assuming that one has access to mind-boggling amounts of energy and commands utterly implausible technology). But as that essay points out, relativistic starflight is also  a form of time travel, which often works out badly for all involved.

For example…

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Joan of Arc Meets Space Opera: Announcing a New SF Trilogy From Author Neon Yang

Tor Books announced the acquisition of an epic science fiction trilogy from acclaimed writer and debut novelist Neon Yang by Senior Editor Lindsey Hall via DongWon Song of Howard Morhaim in a pre-empt with world-English rights.

It’s an old, familiar story: a young person hears the voice of an angel saying they have been chosen as a warrior to lead their people to victory in a holy war. But Misery Nomaki knows they are a fraud. Raised on a remote moon colony, they don’t believe in any kind of god. Their angel is a delusion, brought on by hereditary space exposure. Yet their survival banks on mastering the holy mech they are supposedly destined for, and convincing the Emperor of the Faithful that they are the real deal. The deeper they get into their charade, however, the more they start to doubt their convictions. What if this, all of it, is real?

A retelling of Joan of Arc’s story given a space opera, giant robot twist, the Nullvoid Chronicles is a story about the nature of truth, the power of belief, and the interplay of both in the stories we tell ourselves.

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Got Series Fatigue? Try These Ten Standalone Fantasy Novels!

Fantasy fiction is best known for its giant, door-stopping series that come in trilogies or longer. Of course, not everyone wants to embark on a ten-book project. And even if you love series, sometimes it’s nice to read a standalone story that provides a satisfying resolution within a single book. With that in mind, I’ve set out to provide a list of ten fantasy stories that have all the thrills of a series but stand alone as a single volume.

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Rankin & Bass’ The Hobbit Predicted the Future of Pop Culture

J.R.R. Tolkien’s landmark novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have been adapted numerous times for TV and the big screen—with varying quality and results—over the last forty years. The first of these is Rankin/Bass’ animated version of The Hobbit, first released as a TV movie on NBC in November, 1977.

As I rewatched The Hobbit, for the first time since elementary school, I tried to imagine what it would have been like to see the film when it first aired on television forty-three years ago. I picture a child sitting on a lime green couch in a wood-paneled basement, wearing a Darth Vader t-shirt she got after she fell in love with Star Wars (aka A New Hope, then still simply known as “Star Wars”) when it was released in theaters a few months earlier.

Our hypothetical child would have no idea that she was glimpsing, like a vision in Galadriel’s mirror, the future of pop culture.

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Five Fantasy Novels Starring Self-Taught Protagonists

Formal educations are a fine thing if you have access to one. But if the field is new and no training exists, or if you are barred from training (for being the wrong gender, wrong class, having no money, etc.), then there is nothing for it but to teach oneself: scavenging for texts (if they exist) and learning by trial and error. Time to heal from mistakes may need to be factored into the curriculum.  Here are five examples.

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