Touching Magic with Andre Norton’s The Hands of Lyr

One of the really interesting things about reading and rereading an author with a career as long as Andre Norton’s is the ability to see how her work evolved over decades—and how it stayed the same. Jumping ahead from the Sixties and Seventies to The Hands of Lyr, published in 1994, turns out to have been less of a leap than I expected.

All the classic Norton elements are there. The misfit protagonist—in this case doubled: Nosh the war orphan living with a wisewoman in an apocalyptic wasteland, and Kryn the heir of a broken noble house (complete with ancient sword). The dualistic cosmology: light versus dark, good versus bad, good gods versus bad wizard/demigod. The city of merchants and the criminal mastermind who preys on them. The love of gems and crystals tied in with an avowed belief in psychometry. The animal companions: the lizards called zarks, the water-buffalo-like varges (including one large varge), the alpaca-like, camel-like Ushur. The awkward character interactions and abrupt romance, and the rapid rush to the ending after a long, long, long, slow buildup.

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5 Reasons Pike and Spock Star Trek Spinoff Should Happen (And 3 Reasons Why it Shouldn’t)

If you’d never seen a Star Trek series before Discovery, you may have assumed that the season 2 finale opened a wormhole for the exit of the titular starship, while opening a door for a new show about Captain Pike, Spock, Number One and the crew of the USS Enterprise circa 2257. Because the original Star Trek doesn’t happen for another eight years in the established timeline, the idea that we could see the adventures of the Enterprise before Captain Kirk took over isn’t that all that crazy. Even before the season 2 finale of Discovery, fans began petitioning for a new spin-off series featuring Spock and Pike aboard the classic Enterprise with Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn reprising their roles from Discovery.

Here are five reasons why this retro-spinoff is a great idea, and three reasons why this starship needs to stay in spacedock.

Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery season 2, “Such Sweet Sorrow, Parts 1 and 2.”

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Hey, Star Wars: Episode IX — Don’t Retcon Rey Into a Skywalker

Star Wars: The Last Jedi left many fans with the answer they’d been hoping for—Rey is not a Skywalker! In fact, Rey’s parentage is of no importance whatsoever. It seemed like we got lucky and the new generation would not be related to this dominant clan of hyper-capable Force-users (with the exception of Kylo Ren). But now Episode IX is sneaking up on us, and according to director and writer J.J. Abrams: “I don’t want to say that what happens in Episode 8 [didn’t happen]. We have honored that. But I will say that there’s more to the story than you’ve seen.”

So… there’s still more to the “Rey’s parents” saga ahead.

Can we still just say no to this?

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Donato Giancola Is the Caravaggio of Middle-earth

When I visited Venice last year, I was overcome by the quality and quantity of the art filling the great halls of the famous Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace). The works of Italian Renaissance painters like Paolo Veronese and Tintoretto surround you and nearly overwhelm you in that place. Saints, kings, soldiers, philosophers, angels, and gods throng the walls, ceilings, and frescoes. But you know, if someone could sneak in an armload of paintings by artist Donato Giancola—paintings like “Gandalf at Rivendell,” “Boromir in the Court of the Fountain,” or “The Tower of Cirith Ungol”—and scatter them around the palace, I bet it would take a good long while for some snooty art historian to notice and complain.

Hell, I probably wouldn’t double-take, either, because those paintings would be perfectly at home there among the masters. I suppose if you put up enough of Donato’s masterpieces in the Louvre or the Met, maybe tourists would eventually wonder why Satan looks an awful lot like a Balrog or ask who all those stressed-out, grey-robed, pipe-smoking old men are, and hey, what’s that blonde lady doing with a sword and, whoa, is she facing off against a headless, mace-wielding black knight who’s just been unhorsed from some kind of pterosaur? What Greco-Roman myth is that even from?!

Personally, I was sold on Donato Giancola’s work the moment I first saw his illustrious and mesmerizingly expansive “Beren and Lúthien in the Court of Thingol and Melian.” I later contacted him to ask if I could include some of his art in The Silmarillion Primer. Not only was he cool with it, he turned out to be a surprisingly down-to-earth fellow, and it was only a matter of time before I roped him in for an interview. Good timing, because he’s got a great new book out, too.

[‘Dear me,’ he went on. ‘Not the Gandalf who was responsible for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the Blue for mad adventures?’]

Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 2 Review: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”

Arise, arise, riders of Théoden Tyrion!

We’re not quite at the big battle for Winterfell, but we are one very full hour away from it beginning. How would you spend your last night in Westeros? Some people like a warm fire, good wine, and better conversation. Some people choose to do something even more life-affirming.

And some people are not people, but Bran.

Squick-inducing spoilers after the cut. Be aware that book spoilers are allowed, but we are so far beyond Martin territory now, you’ll probably be fine on that front.

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Series: HBO’s Game of Thrones

Read Gideon the Ninth: Chapter 4

PREVIOUSLY ON GIDEON THE NINTH:

Harrowhark adds religious piety to her growing list of virtues. Gideon is poorly behaved during a nice Locked Tomb mass wherein we learn that the Necrolord Prime, holy Emperor of the Reignited Sun, is offering all scions of the Nine Houses the chance to become his powerful Lyctors. Gideon, to whom this is all pearls before swine, is shown yet again the error of her ways.

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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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