Duncan Jones’ Moon Is Still a 21st-century Classic

Mute, Duncan Jones’ long-awaited follow-up to Moon, hit Netflix last month, after a lengthy incubation period. It’s part of Netflix’s current trend of producing and/or acquiring somewhat esoteric genre movies, a trend which began with Bright and continued with The Cloverfield Paradox and Annihilation, up through imminent releases like The Titan. Often these releases are intended for overseas audiences, sometimes global, but the process is ongoing and has so far given us a wide slate of films that have varied from frequently great (Annihilation) to ones that seem to be setting up a far better sequel (Bright).

Mute is something of the middle child in all this, and its reviews have reflected that. Slammed for being an unusual combination of cyberpunk and film noir, as well as for a script that touches on everything from Amish woodwork to the aftermath of Moon, it’s a choppy piece of work, to be sure, but there’s some real worth to it. If nothing else, Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux’s characters and their transition from Cyberpunk Hawkeye and Trapper John into something infinitely darker is compelling stuff, if you’ve got the stomach for it.

[Love it or hate it, Mute gives us a chance to celebrate everything that’s great about Moon…]

Read Martha Wells’ Serialized Magic: The Gathering Story “Return to Dominaria”!

Dominaria coalesced around Gideon and the first thing that struck him was the stench of rotting plants and dank earth. He stood on a high stone foundation between a ruined town and an overgrown stinking marsh, the landscape desolate under a cloud-covered sky. Gray stone structures once tall and graceful had lost sections of walls and roofs, and some were just heaps of tumbled stone. Mist cloaked the tall grass, bubbling mud pools, and rotting trees of the marsh, empty of any life except clouds of insects. It was like an artist’s attempt to visually capture a representation of death and failure. He couldn’t suppress the bitter thought, How fitting for this moment.

For its 78th expansion, Magic: The Gathering returns to where it all started: Dominaria, the original setting for the card game’s storylines before those narratives branched off into a multiverse full of “Planewalkers” moving between Dominaria and other planes. With the Dominaria expansion out in late April, MTG is serializing a tie-in story, “Return to Dominaria,” penned by new head writer and The Murderbot Diaries author Martha Wells.

[Read more]

Sleeps With Monsters: Annihilation is Amazing, and Full of Women

I suspect the reason I got to watch Annihilation on Netflix is the same reason that I enjoyed it so much. Its parent studio Paramount didn’t believe it would make money on a theatrical release, and thus didn’t spend much energy on promoting the film. And I find myself unwilling to believe that the fact it stars five women—women who are presented as complex and intellectual, who aren’t present as objects for sexual consumption, but whose competence is assumed in every scene and every glance—had nothing to do with that.

[Read more]

Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Publish and Perish

Linnet Ellery, a young attorney at a prestigious New York vampire law firm has proved she has extraordinary luck—and not just in the courtroom. She has walked unscathed through events that would kill a normal person.

Linnet’s elven ex-boyfriend is trapped in Fairyland, and Linnet will have to lead a raid into Fey to free him—alongside her boss, whom she is falling in love with. But a love affair between a vampire and a human is strictly forbidden, and any violation is punishable by death for both parties.

As events unfold, Linnet determines the source of her mysterious power, and is dismayed to discover that she is the most dangerous person in the world to her vampire and werewolf friends. The more secrets and treachery she uncovers, the more Linnet realizes that a decision must be made: Can she be her true self, without sacrificing everyone she cares about?

The third installment in Phillipa Bornikova’s Linnet Ellery series, Publish and Perish is available April 24th from Tor Books!

[Read an Excerpt]

Flirting with Revolution: Torn by Rowenna Miller

Rowenna Miller’s fantasy debut, Torn, starts with great promise. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite live up to its promises: like many fantasies that flirt with revolution, it ultimately fails to actually critique the system of aristocracy, ascribing the flaws in a system of inherited power down to one or two bad apples and general well-meaning ignorance among the aristocrats rather than the violence inherent in a system that exploits the labour of the many for the benefit of the few.

I hold fantasy that flirts with overturning the status quo to higher rhetorical and ideological standards than fantasy that doesn’t question the established hierarchies of power within its world. It sets itself up to swing at the mark of political systems and political change, which means that when it fails to connect, it’s pretty obvious. When it comes to systems—and rhetorics—of power, the question of who ought to be in charge and how change can—or should—come is deeply fraught and powerfully emotive. And significant: the rhetoric of our fictions informs our understanding of how power operates in our daily lives.

And yeah, I expected Torn to offer a more radical view of revolution.

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A Less Comforting Supernatural Guardian: The Grimms’ “Godfather Death”

It can be easier, I suppose, to imagine death as something a little less impersonal than, well, death. Say, something, or perhaps someone, almost human, or at least looking almost human, arriving more as an escort than a killer, pointing people to the next step – whatever that step might be. A little bit easier, maybe. For some people, at least.

This comfort perhaps explains why so many myths and folktales in western culture focus on the figure of Death – often inviting Death to enter their homes, or even almost join their families. “Godfather Death,” retold by the Brothers Grimm, is one of several typical examples.

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What Made Us Toys “R” Us Kids? Romanticism, Consumerism, and Nostalgia

Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye argued that where you are is as important as who you are. Just as one affects their environment, people are, in turn, affected by those same surroundings. The Romantic poets located this exchange in nature, turning their work toward subjects ruminating on not only their own individuality, but the natural world in which that rumination occurred. It is therefore only logical, in the highly commercial, Capitalist late 20th and early 21st Century United States, that this symbiosis of person and place can be housed, at least for some, in the malls and chain stores freckled across the American landscape.

For me, this was Toys “R” Us. It has been a permanent fixture throughout my 32 years, just as it’s been for the lives of many of my Millennial peers. In light of last week’s announcement that the chain will be going out of business, much is being reported about the people who made, and ultimately eroded, this place—but there’s much more to be said about the place that made the people. The Toys “R” Us Kids. Those for whom the place precedes the person.

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Writing the Distant Future of Global Politics

What if citizenship wasn’t something we’re born with, but something we choose when we grow up? In the Terra Ignota future, giant nations called “Hives” are equally distributed all around the world, so every house on a block, and even every person in a house, gets to choose which laws to live by, and which government represents that individual’s views the most. It’s an extension into the future of the many diasporas which already characterize our present, since increasingly easy transportation and communication mean that families, school friends, social groups, ethnic groups, language groups, and political parties are already more often spread over large areas than residing all together. In this future each of those groups can be part of one self-governing nation, with laws that fit their values, even while all living spread over the same space.

Readers of Too Like the Lightning have enjoyed playing the “Which Hive would you join?” game, but this system is very different from a Sorting Hat, or a personality quiz, for a simple reason: people aren’t assigned to Hives. In this world you choose, freely and for yourself when you come of age, which of the many worldwide nations best fits your ideals. And, even better, you can switch nations as easily as signing up for a different school club, so if a change in policy or rulers makes you feel your government no longer reflects your values, you can choose again. But what are the options?

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Why the Hell Are These Books Out of Print?

About two years ago, I reviewed Raphael Carter’s The Fortunate Fall. I could not add a link that would allow readers to purchase the book because as far as I could tell, The Fortunate Fall has been out of print for more than twenty years. I was astounded because I had the impression that the book was warmly regarded. The evidence suggests it was warmly regarded by a small number of very vocal fans1.

I tend to expect that many others will love the same books that I do. I have been proved wrong again and again. Books that I love are not reprinted. Even in this era of ebooks, all but a few lucky books come forth like flowers and wither: they slip away like shadows and do not endure. Ah, the sorrows of the reader!

Not to mention the author….

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Monsters Bearing Bouquets: R.A. Kaelin’s “Mnemeros”

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.

Today we’re looking at R.A. Kaelin’s “Mnemeros,” first published in 2015 in Lynn Jamneck’s Dreams From the Witch House anthology. Spoilers ahead.

[“Some names are like keys; they swing doors wide open that are best left shut.”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Collaborating with His Reader: Theodore Sturgeon’s Some of Your Blood

…but first, a word:

As first lines go, the one that opens Theodore Sturgeon’s slim 1961 novel Some of Your Blood is deceptively simple. Just four little words, but already—thanks to those ellipses, thanks to that in medias res “but first”—Sturgeon pulls off two tricks: He creates instant suspense, and he draws the reader in as a conspirator. You didn’t know you were in the middle of hearing a secret before you opened the cover of this book, but thanks to that nameless narrator, now you do. And with the power of punctuation—that colon!—you embark on the story of “George,” a mental patient kicked out of the army for assaulting an officer.

[Read more]

Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

Come for the Health, Stay for the Self-Improvement — One Writer’s Martial Arts Journey

In this ongoing series, we ask SF/F authors to describe a specialty in their lives that has nothing (or very little) to do with writing. Join us as we discover what draws authors to their various hobbies, how they fit into their daily lives, and how they inform the author’s literary identity!

Writing is a very sedentary profession. You spend most of your time sitting at a computer. Thanks to the march of technology, you don’t even need to get up from that computer to do research anymore, as most of what you might need to look up is accessible from the same machine that you’re writing on.

In my twenties, this was hardly an issue. I was young, I was energetic, I was active. But by the time I hit the age of 35, the warranty had run out, as it were. My doctor stared at my growing belly, my hiatal hernia, the prescription pain meds for my constant knee and foot pain, and said, “Hey, maybe you should try exercising, y’know, once.”

That suggestion started me on a journey that took me to some amazing places I never imagined I’d visit.

[Fall down seven times, get up eight times…]