5 Books That Explore the Monstrous

I’ve written previously about gravity being monstrous. Above the clouds, gravity is that unreasonable force always waiting for someone to make a mistake.

When thinking about monsters for Updraft, I wanted to explore variety and opposites. Not all monsters take a quasi-human form, not all devour (though some of the great ones do). I looked at how monsters occur—whether from the dark corners of our subconscious, or from a darker side of our conscience. My research built a catalogue of characteristics that began with Grendel’s startling appearances and his mother’s grief in Beowulf, and reached all the way to black holes out at the wobbly edge of space. I did a lot of reading.

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Romance vs Ethics: Warcross and Wildcard by Marie Lu

As a longtime fan of Marie Lu—I bought her debut novel Legend on the day it released—I was excited and intrigued by the concept of Warcross, the first novel in this duology. It focuses on Emika Chen’s selection for and participation in the Warcross Championships, an international esports tournament for a game that sounds like a more technologically-advanced version of Overwatch. Yet Warcross, for its focus on innovative technology, was itself not very innovative at all, containing a lot of predictable elements ranging from the romance to the “plot twists” at the end.

With the release of Wildcard, I was interested to see the direction Emika’s story would take, and in many ways, Wildcard is a much better book, though it lacks the action-packed virtual reality sequences that make Warcross fun. Wildcard focuses much more on intrigue, taking Emika and the other members of the Phoenix Riders team on investigations and into thrillingly dangerous situations.

Spoilers for Warcross and Wildcard follow!

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Some of Stephen King’s Best Cameo Roles

I love Stephen King, as a writer, as a proclaimer of the greatness of genre literature, and, maybe most of all, as a guy. He was the first author I knew who—actually, scratch that. Stephen King was the first author I knew.

I recognized the names of children’s authors, and some of the bigger pulpy adult authors that my parents read (my mother was a huge Dick Francis fan, and our house had the requisite copies of Clan of the Cave Bear and Shogun) but King was the first author I saw being interviewed on TV. He was the only author I knew who wrote introductions to his own books, and I got a real sense of him as a person form reading them. Later, when I read Danse Macabre and On Writing, I discovered that he could carry that conversational, regular-guy writing style through an entire book, and the more I write myself, the more impressed I am. I think what really came through, more so even than in his fiction, was his weird, dark sense of humor.

It is in this spirit that I present to you, oh my brothers and sisters and neithers and others, a Stephen King Movie Moment Retrospective.

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The Genius of John Bellairs’s The House With A Clock In Its Walls

There’s a particular kind of nostalgia that smells like burning autumn leaves on an overcast day. It sounds like a static-filled radio station playing Brylcreem advertisements in the other room. It feels like a scratchy wool blanket. It looks like a wood-paneled library stuffed with leather-bound books.

This is the flavor of occult nostalgia conjured up by author John Bellairs and his illustrator, Edward Gorey, in their middle grade gothic New Zebedee books featuring low-key poker-playing wizards, portents of the apocalypse, gloomy weather, and some of the most complicated names this side of the list of ingredients on a packet of Twinkies.

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“Don’t waste your life, Stark” — Iron Man

Iron Man was part of the huge first wave of superheroes co-created by Stan Lee in the early 1960s, in collaboration with a variety of artists, mainly Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but also Bill Everett, Larry Lieber, and Don Heck.

While never a headliner in the Marvel Universe, ol’ ShellHead was always a major player at the very least. He was a founding member of the Avengers, a presence in a lot of stories as the inventor (or at least the owner of the company that invented) much of the Marvel Universe’s fancy tech, the financial backing of the Avengers, and the centerpiece of several major events in the comics, from the Kree-Skrull War to the Armor Wars to Operation: Galactic Storm to Civil War.

Since the movie rights to most of Marvel’s biggest names—Spider-Man, the X-Men, Daredevil, and the Fantastic Four—were already gobbled up by other studios, Marvel decided to focus their nascent Marvel Studios endeavor on the Avengers characters, starting with Iron Man.

[You stood by my side all these years while I reaped the benefits of destruction. Now that I’m trying to protect the people I’ve put in harm’s way, you’re going to walk out?]

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

Raymond E. Feist’s The Riftwar Saga Optioned for Television

BCDF Pictures is bringing Raymond E. Feist’s epic fantasy series The Riftwar Saga to television. Deadline reports that the production company, which has also optioned Marie Lu’s Legend, is working with Atomic Blonde screenwriter Kurt Johnstad to adapt Magician, the first book in the series, which is itself the first series of Feist’s The Riftwar Cycle.

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Read This, Watch That: Pairing “School Story” SFF Books and Anime

As a long-time fan of both speculative fiction and anime, one common thread I’ve noticed in both media is the enduring presence of The School Story. Plenty of fantasy readers make their grand entrance to the genre via a school fantasy story; for teens, who spend more time at school than at home, what other setting could tie the fantastic world to mundane reality?

Here are four anime to watch based on the book series you love—or, if you came here looking for books, four book series to read based on your favorite anime!

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CBS Announces Star Trek: Short Treks Episode Titles and Air Dates

As announced at San Diego Comic-Con, CBS is bridging the gap between seasons of Star Trek: Discovery with Star Treks: Short Treks, four mini-episodes following various Starfleet characters and other familiar faces from Discovery. These standalone installments, more resembling short stories than television episodes, will premiere the first Thursday of every month starting October 4.

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Zero Sum Game Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a copy of S.L. Huang’s Zero Sum Game, available October 2nd from Tor Books!

Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight, and she’ll take any job for the right price.

As far as Cas knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower … until she discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.

Cas should run, like she usually does, but for once she’s involved. There’s only one problem…

She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on September 20th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on September 24th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

A Demon-Haunted Life: The Unusual Literary History of Patient X

David Peace’s literary career began with the Red Riding Quartet: four literary novels set in a specific period of time and a specific place, with a stylized and haunted prose approach that signified a penchant for the works of James Ellroy. In the years since then, Peace’s fiction has expanded in scope: he’s continued to tell crime stories, but he’s also brought his approach to fiction to bear on a number of different projects.

Chief among them are his pair of novels about soccer, The Damned United and Red or Dead. In these books, especially the latter, Peace uses language and structure to echo the rhythms and nuances of the game at the heart of the real-life subjects of the novels. It’s an unconventional approach to storytelling, but it’s one that fits its subjects well. All of which is to say that Peace’s latest novel, Patient X: The Case-Book of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, echoes his novels about soccer, even as it’s nothing like them at all.

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Captain Marvel Doesn’t Know She’s On Camera

There was something particular that struck me when I was watching the Captain Marvel trailer earlier this week. (Aside from general excitement over how great it looks.) It’s not the costumes or the CGI or the gorgeous music. It’s that Captain Marvel herself rarely ever smiles. In fact, Carol Danvers looks entirely, miraculously indifferent to be on a movie screen. Or anywhere at all.

As far as I can tell, that’s a first for the entire superhero film genre.

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Life for Death for Life: Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

Strange Grace is a standalone young adult novel from Tessa Gratton (also author of recently-released The Queens of Innis Lear) set in a town that knows no lasting hardship due to a pact with the devil. Illnesses pass in a night; wounds heal without infection; babies are born healthy with safe mothers; crops thrive under perfectly timed rains. However, the pact is upheld by the sacrifice of a young man every seven years to run the devil’s forest and see if he comes out victorious. The sacrifice of one allows all to live peacefully. None are forced—the trial is an honor.

Mairwen Grace is the only daughter of the town’s bloodline of witches, linked to the forest as her ancestors were before her, all the way back to the woman who made the original bargain. The witches form the liminal border between forest and town, life and death. However, when the bargain falls awry only three years after the last sacrifice, Mairwen and her closest companions, Arthur and Rhun, have a duty to determine the cause—whether they agree with the true nature of the bargain or not.

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10 Years To the End of Humanity. Revealing Permafrost, a New Novella From Alastair Reynolds

Fix the past. Save the present. Stop the future.

2080: at a remote site on the edge of the Arctic Circle, a group of scientists, engineers and physicians gather to gamble humanity’s future on one last-ditch experiment. Their goal: to make a tiny alteration to the past, averting a global catastrophe while at the same time leaving recorded history intact. To make the experiment work, they just need one last recruit: an aging schoolteacher whose late mother was the foremost expert on the mathematics of paradox.

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Texas Hold’em

San Antonio, home of the Alamo, is also host to the nation’s top high school jazz competition, and the musicians at Xavier Desmond High are excited to outplay their rivals. They are also jokers, kids with strange abilities and even stranger looks. On top of that, well, they are teenagers, apt for mischief, mishaps, and romantic misunderstandings.

Michelle Pond, aka The Amazing Bubbles, thinks that her superhero (and supermom) know-how has prepared her to chaperone the event. But when her students start going wayward, she’ll soon discover the true meaning of “Don’t mess with Texas.”

Part of George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards universe, Texas Hold’em features the writing talents of David Anthony Durham, Max Gladstone, Victor Milan, Diana Rowland, Walton Simons, Caroline Spector and William F. Wu. Available October 23d from Tor Books.

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