The Medieval Origins of Easter Traditions

Have you ever wondered just what a rabbit has to do with the resurrection of Jesus? Or what the word “Easter” really means? And, for that matter, what’s with all the eggs? Could it be, as Jon Stewart once wondered, that it’s because Jesus was allergic to eggs?

Alas, no. But how we got to all this egg and bunny business is nevertheless a cool and rather medieval story.

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5 SF Stories that Celebrate the Ordinary

Science fiction has a major advantage over the more basic forms of literature, which are designed to provide an opportunity through which we can share emotional and learning experiences with the characters. At their best, standard books and stories remind us of the nature of reality. A writer, however, who can take us to Mars, or allow us to cruise past an exploding star, or show us what our lives might really be like if our friends include artificial intelligences, can show us realities, sometimes of everyday life, sometimes not, but which nonetheless we often take for granted.

Science fiction readers have access to the future, to a range of futures, actually, and also to advanced technology. And we can seriously profit from that capability. Here are five stories, from the heart, about science fiction and everyday life.

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End All Wars — Wonder Woman (2017)

Both Wonder Woman and Captain America were created in the days just prior to the United States’ entry into World War II. Both had costumes that evoked the red-white-and-blue of the American flag, and both spent their earliest days in comic book form fighting the Axis powers.

While Wonder Woman wasn’t specifically created to punch Nazis the way Cap was, the character continued to be associated with her WWII-era origins, in part due to the 1977 TV series initially taking place then. So when it came time to do a movie for her as part of DC’s Extended Universe, the powers-that-be decided to shift her back to the first World War to avoid comparisons to Captain America: The First Avenger.

[“You lied to me?” “I’m a spy, it’s what I do!”]

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

Alien: Echo Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a copy of Mira Grant’s Alien: Echo, an original young adult novel of the Alien universe, available April 9 from Imprint!

Olivia and her twin sister Viola have been dragged around the universe for as long as they can remember. Their parents, both xenobiologists, are always in high demand for their research into obscure alien biology.

Just settled on a new colony world, they discover an alien threat unlike anything they’ve ever seen. And suddenly the sisters’ world is ripped apart.

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

Five Really Cool Things I Learned at NASA

It’s like this… An astronaut asks if you want to spend the day at work with him. You say, “Yes.”

More specifically, it was like this. Kjell Lindgren, a NASA astronaut who spent 142 days in space, was a consultant when I was writing The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky. So by “Would you like to spend the day with me at work?” what he meant was “Do you want to come to the NBL and watch a full dev run?”

Now, if you’re like me, you say, “Yes.”

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The Director of Your Opponent’s Fate — Star Trek: Discovery’s “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2”

There is a lot to like about the second-season finale of Discovery. It’s a massive thrill ride, with lots of action and adventure and which finally tells us where the signals came from.

And then we get to the ending, and I found it incredibly frustrating and irritating, and not just because Ethan Peck looks incredibly creepy without the beard…

Okay, let’s start with the good stuff: I was completely gripped by the action in this episode. Whether the space battle involving the Enterprise and Discovery (and later L’Rell’s flagship and the Kelpien/Ba’ul fleet) against Control’s drones, Georgiou and Nhan’s leading Zombie Leland on a merry chase through Discovery‘s corridors, Cornwell, Pike, and Number One trying to disarm the photon torpedo stuck in the hull, or Burnham and Spock trying to get their red angel suit to work right, the script by Michelle Paradise, Jenny Lumet, & Alex Kurtzman and the directing by Olatunde Osunsami kept me on the edge of my seat for an hour.

[“I’m going, I’m going, get off my ass. Sir! Get off my ass sir!”]

Remembering the Great Opening Sentences of Gene Wolfe

The King of Hearts, not the wisest of monarchs, gives this advice on reading in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: “Begin at the beginning […] and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” That advice has never served Lewis Carroll’s readers, who delight in re-reading the Alice books and solving their puzzles, and it serves just as poorly for Gene Wolfe’s readers, many of whom don’t count a Wolfe book as read until it’s been re-read.

Still, whatever failings the King of Hearts might have had, there’s something to be said for beginning at the beginning, and so here follows my examination of Gene Wolfe’s opening sentences.

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Finding the Throbbing Heart of a City: The Municipalists by Seth Fried

The Municipalists, Seth Fried’s debut novel, is a futuristic noir that isn’t quite a noir; a bumpy buddy cop story where the cops are a career bureaucrat and computer program, and most of the outsized emotions belong to the computer program; a love letter to cities that actually looks at the ways cities are destroyed by systemic inequality.

It’s also deeply, constantly funny, and able to transform from a breezy page-turner into a serious exploration of class and trauma in a few well-turned sentences.

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QUILTBAG+ Speculative Classics: A Matter of Oaths by Helen S. Wright

A Matter of Oaths is Helen S. Wright’s first and—so far—only novel, originally published in 1988 and re-released in 2017. It is a traditional space opera book with the mindbending, baroque elements characteristic of 1980s SF, but also with very clear queer themes: Two of the male protagonists and point of view characters are in a relationship with each other, and there are other queer characters as well. The gay elements are very matter-of-fact, and both clearly spelled out and treated as completely ordinary in the setting. A Matter of Oaths is not an issue book of any kind, but rather something that’s very much in demand right now: a space adventure with characters who just happen to be queer.

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The Gothic and Game of Thrones, Part I: The Burial of Sansa Stark

Let’s start with an unpopular opinion that I happen to hold: Sansa Stark and Theon Greyjoy are, by far, the two best characters in both George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and the TV show based upon it. Don’t get me wrong, I have a deep fondness for Tyrion, I’m on board with Daenerys, Sam, Arya, Catelyn, Brienne and a whole slew of others. But Sansa and Theon are in a class by themselves. This is probably due, in no small part, to their position as Martin’s window into the Gothic, which is a genre that dominates my professional and personal life.

Martin’s series is most often compared to the works of epic fantasy writers like Tolkien and Robert Jordan. He cites historical fiction writers like Philippa Gregory, Bernard Cornwell, and Sharon Kay Penman as some of his biggest influences. With HBO’s adaptation, we have seen horror become a third dominant genre, especially with the hiring of The Descent’s Neil Marshall to direct two of the series’ biggest episodes (season two’s “Blackwater,” and season four’s “Watchers on the Wall”) …and, you know, all the zombies. But, in a series that is so focused on the ways in which people obtain, hoard, and lose political power, it is worth noting that the Gothic threads—especially those in Sansa and Theon’s plotlines—are some of the most explicit and nuanced in their discussion of that central theme. This is the first of two articles on the subject. In this one, we’ll discuss the general ways in which we might talk about Martin and the Gothic as well as do a deep dive into the life of Sansa Stark, the more obvious candidate for the mantle of Gothic heroine.

[Potential spoilers: This article discusses Game of Thrones through Season 7 and the Song of Ice and Fire books through The Winds of Winter preview chapters.]

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Series: HBO’s Game of Thrones

Exploring the People of Middle-earth: Glorfindel, Resurrected Hero and Spiritual Warrior

In this biweekly series, we’re exploring the evolution of both major and minor figures in Tolkien’s legendarium, tracing the transformations of these characters through drafts and early manuscripts through to the finished work. This week’s installment focuses on Glorfindel, an Elf-lord with only a few appearances, who channels the divine power of the Other-world and whose presence in Middle-earth twice assures the survival of—well, basically everything.

Glorfindel has the double distinction of being, first of all, an elf whose name was so unique that Tolkien felt like it couldn’t be used again for anyone else; and second of all, an elf whose power was so great that he was specifically sent back to Middle-earth by the Valar to aid Elrond and Gandalf in the fight against Sauron. But his fame doesn’t end there: the tale of this particular character is also what drove Tolkien to almost tirelessly revise his theory of elvish reincarnation.

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A Brief History of Pamela Sargent’s Women of Wonder Anthologies

The 1970s may have been an era when most of the interesting new writers were women, but you sure would not know it from that era’s Best SF of the Year anthologies. These were almost always overwhelmingly male .

Women pushed back. They managed to fund and publish their own anthologies, filled with notable works by women—anthologies like 1976’s Aurora: Beyond Equality, edited by Vonda N. McIntyre and Susan Janice Anderson, and Virginia Kidd’s 1978 Millennial Women. Which brings us to Pamela Sargent’s Women of Wonder anthologies.

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Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Seventy-Four

Welcome back to the ongoing reread of Oathbringer, as we approach the Part Three Avalanche! No, it’s not starting just yet, but it soon will be; the anticipation is getting stronger with every passing chapter. This week, Shallan as Veil is out showing off, and Shallan as Shallan has trouble getting herself back. Cue up something ominous, and join in!

[Little red whirlwinds]

Series: Oathbringer Reread

The Normal(ish) Lovecraft: Wilfred Blanch Talman and H.P. Lovecraft’s “Two Black Bottles”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

This week, we’re reading Wilfred Blanch Talman and H. P. Lovecraft’s “Two Black Bottles,” first published in the August 1927 issue of Weird Tales. Spoilers ahead.

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Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Studying the White Man: Pym by Mat Johnson

In 2016, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination published my survey “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction” (now hosted here). Since then has published 25 in-depth essays I wrote about some of the 42 works mentioned, and another essay by LaShawn Wanak on my collection Filter House. This month’s column is dedicated to Pym by Mat Johnson.

[Following an obsession with Poe to the South Pole…]

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