How Harrow the Ninth Uses the Language of Fanfiction to Process Grief

Harrow the Ninth is one of the most anticipated SFF sequels in recent memory, weighted as it is with the expectation of living up to the cheeky, bonetastic glory of Gideon the Ninth. After crafting an incredibly complex far-future with necromancy seeping out of its every pore, as seen through the aviator-covered gaze of one Gideon Nav, the second novel swaps protagonists and propels readers into the even gorier, more existential setting of Lyctorhood that not even Gideon and its trials could have prepared you for. How can Tamsyn Muir possibly follow up Gideon the Ninth?

By retelling the story, over and over and over.

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It’s Time to Put Down the Beach Read and Pick Up a Crunchy Autumnal Book

Earlier this year, the New York Times took a look at the history of summer reading, which has apparently been an annual topic for the paper since 1897. (This is way earlier than I would have guessed.) Writer Jennifer Harlan notes that the concept “emerged in the United States in the mid-1800s, buoyed by an emerging middle class, innovations in book publishing and a growing population of avid readers, many of them women.”

Her history is excellent, but another quote near the beginning caught my eye—or, to be more precise, distracted me so much that it took me two tries to get through the article. In 1968, in the pages of The New York Times Book Review, critic Clive Barnes wrote, “Why summer reading? One doesn’t have winter reading, or fall reading (that I suppose would have too autumnal an echo).”

First of all, absolutely one has winter reading; some books beg to be read under a blanket and with a warm drink. But he’s even more wrong about fall reading. Too autumnal? There’s no such thing. And SFF is full of fall books no matter how you slice it. 

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Huzzah! — Star Trek: Lower Decks: “Where Pleasant Fountains Lie”

In 1986, Jeffrey Combs auditioned for the role of First Officer William T. Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation, a role that instead went to a man half a foot taller than him, Jonathan Frakes. Combs would finally appear on Trek in the third-season Deep Space Nine episode “Meridian” in 1994, an episode directed by Frakes, ironically.

That opened the floodgates. Combs would return later that season as the Ferengi Brunt in “Family Business,” then as the Vorta Weyoun in “To the Death” in season four, both roles that would recur all the way to the end of the series. (He even appeared as both in the penultimate DS9 episode, “The Dogs of War.”) He then appeared on Voyager as a fight promoter in “Tsunkatse,” on Enterprise in another recurring role, that of the Andorian Shran, throughout all four of that show’s seasons, and also played another Ferengi in “Acquisition.”

And now he’s added Lower Decks to his resumé.


The Watch Made a Mess of Adapting Pratchett — But It Had Some Interesting Ideas

Let me start by saying that I will not be arguing that The Watch—BBC Studios’ TV adaptation of some of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels—is Good, Actually. It isn’t good: it’s a hot mess. But in amongst the janky chaos are some really interesting ideas that I want to honour before this whole thing sinks without a trace.

[Note: The following essay contains spoilers for S1 of The Watch]

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Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Fifty-One

Hey there, ye chickens and peeps of the Cosmere. Welcome back to another weekly installment of the Rhythm of War reread! There’s not a lot of action this week, as Venli observes Navani’s busywork and has a little consultation with her favorite stormsetter, but there’s still plenty to talk about. This week sets up some interesting foreshadowing, not to mention the lead-in to next week’s flashback. Come on in and join the discussion!

[An escape. A way out.]

Series: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Souls for Sale, Bargain Prices: John Connolly’s “The Fractured Atlas,” Part 4

Welcome back to Reading the Weird, in which we get girl cooties all over weird fiction, cosmic horror, and Lovecraftiana—from its historical roots through its most recent branches.

This week, we start on John Connolly’s “The Fractured Atlas,” first published in 2015 as part of Night Music: Nocturnes Volume II, with Part IV, sections I-VIII: “The Wanderer in Unknown Realms.” Spoilers ahead.

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Series: Reading the Weird

Meet Shizuka, the Music Teacher in Ryka Aoki’s Light From Uncommon Stars

The lives of three women—Katrina, Shizuka, and Lan—become entangled by chance and fate in Ryka Aoki’s Light From Uncommon Stars, a defiantly joyful adventure publishing September 28th with Tor Books. From the author:

Shizuka is my favorite character because I identify with her. I look at my past relations, and for each I have entire symphonies of full of regret. Shizuka is torn between the damnation she knows she brings, and letting herself exist and hope, anyway. With every breath, Shizuka recalls lost love, forgotten sonatas and ever-present regret…and still she tries to make herself beautiful for the music yet to come.

We’re thrilled to share an excerpt below—meet Shizuka, and check back later this week for additional excerpts!

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Showtime Greenlights a Let the Right One In Series

Let the Right One In is knocking at the door again. Showtime previously ordered a pilot episode for a new adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s vampire novel, but now they’ve committed to the series, ordering a ten-episode first season.

Demian Bichir is set to star as the father of a twelve-year-old vampire (Madison Taylor Baez); Anika Noni Rose is his next door neighbor, a single mom and detective who is happy to see her son making friends with the neighbor girl (presumably until she starts to suspect the family’s secret). Grace Gummer, who was excellent on Mr. Robot, is also part of the cast.

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Historical Fantasy at Its Most Anime: Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

There are few books out there that can compare itself to so many things that make my eyes go very big, but when someone tells me a new YA is like Pacific Rim, Neon Genesis Evangelion, The Hunger Games, and every webtoon novel out there, I immediately figure out how to get my hands on that book. Iron Widow does all this and more, re-writing Chinese historical figures as leading men and women in a drama that reaches far past its historical scope.

This book is a very slight reimagining of Empress Wu; an oft-demonized figure in Chinese history who became the nation’s only legitimate female sovereign. And when I say slight, I mean it: there are markers of Chinese politics, landscapes, and even other characters from history, but if you’re hoping for a more direct retelling of Wu’s life, Iron Widow is not that book.

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The ‘90s Teen Horror Landscape: The Babysitter and The Lifeguard

Being a teenager is tough: juggling classes and extracurricular activities, navigating the high school social strata, scoring the best weekend plans with hot dates and the right party invites, figuring out college visits and summer jobs. But it gets even more challenging when your house is haunted by a pissed off ghost, your new friend might be a murderer (or an otherworldly monster), some anonymous creep is following you, and your classmates keep going missing or turning up dead.

From the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, there was an explosion of horror paperbacks marketed to teen readers—and particularly teen girls—by authors like R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Richie Tankersley Cusick, Caroline B. Cooney, Carol Ellis, Diane Hoh, Lael Littke, A. Bates, D.E. Athkins, and Sinclair Smith. Some of these novels followed the long-series form that was enormously popular in the larger teen fiction landscape at the time, like Stine’s iconic Fear Street series and Hoh’s Nightmare Hall, while others were standalone novels, with Scholastic’s Point Horror imprint as the gold standard.

Drawing on Gothic horror traditions, slasher film conventions, and over-the-top soap opera-style melodrama, these books were enormously popular among teen readers, who flocked to their local mall to hit up the B. Dalton or Waldenbooks for the latest scares, which ranged from the supernatural (vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and Lovecraftian-style horrors) to the all too real (mean girls, peer pressure, stalking, intimate partner violence, or loss of a loved one). Regardless of the nature of the specific threat, there was a preponderance of dark secrets, mistaken identity, and one “terrible accident” after another.

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What If… “Thor Were an Only Child?” Turns Earth Into a Party Planet

After two darkity dark dark What If…?s, it’s a giant relief to get an episode that’s purely fun. In this week’s episode, Thor is fully the frat bro we met in his first movie, and he comes to Midgard to throw a planet-wide party.

Several days later, the party’s still jumping ’cause Frigga ain’t home, and things begin to go awry.

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Colonization, Empire, and Power in C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet

I was going to start out this article by saying that early science fiction was shaped by colonialism, but that’s probably understating it. Many of the tropes of science fiction and—going even further back—adventure novels are centrally located in colonialism. It’s not a huge surprise given that many of the authors were from colonizing culture or, as science fiction spread, in countries that were doing their best to get in on the colonization game. Out of the Silent Planet is no exception to this and, in fact, the book is largely shaped around a critique of H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon.

Lewis doesn’t disguise this at all. He lays all the cards out on the table that this is a novel about imperialism, colonialism, and seeing others as subhuman. We get some indications of this early on. Weston and Devine, the main antagonists are practically colonialism incarnated. Weston’s name comes from Old English, meaning “settlement.” Devine says he doesn’t care a bit about science or first contact (later we will learn he’s all about the abundant gold), but he does pay lip service to “the white man’s burden” and the “blessings of civilization” (encouraged by Kipling and critiqued by Twain).

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Series: The Great C.S. Lewis Reread

Five Superpowers That Just Aren’t As Fun as They Sound

Who among us has not dreamed of having superpowers? We are urged thereto by the avalanche of comics, movies, novels, and roleplaying games featuring abilities beyond mortal ken. Yet not all superpowers are created equal. Some superpowers require secondary superpowers to survive.  Other abilities have disquieting consequences for their possessors.

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