The Construction of Language in Riddley Walker

I don’t recommend my favorite book, Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker, without a lot of caveats. People have gotten mad at me—legitimately mad—when they’ve heard me say “this is my favorite book” and interpreted that as “you should read it” even though I never said so, and then the first sentence is “On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen.”

If you aren’t prepared for that sort of thing—and Riddley Walker, while very much a classic, also isn’t nearly as well-known as I think it deserves—it’s not unreasonable to be like “Jess what the fuck.”

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Series: Close Reads

Hugo Spotlight: Moving Through Trauma in Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi

In the lead-up to the 2021 Hugo Awards, we’re taking time to appreciate this year’s best novel Finalists, and what makes each of them great.

More than a decade passed between Susanna Clarke’s last literary offering, The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories, and Piranesi, her second novel. Clarke rose to fame with her devastatingly fantastic doorstopper of a debut, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It’s hard to imagine anything living up to the heights that book set, but Piranesi does.

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Reading The Wheel of Time: A Trip to Shayol Ghul and Salidar in Robert Jordan’s Lord of Chaos (Part 1)

Hello hello, and welcome back once again to Reading The Wheel of Time! After two weeks away, I am very excited to be starting Lord of Chaos. Which has oddly lost the “The” that has been in every other title thus far in the series, and which I find oddly irksome for some reason. I guess it’s fitting that a book about a Lord of Chaos would dispense with the orderly nature of previous books, but as a result I can only hear the title in the voice of Jeff Goldblum, like the way he says “Lord of Thunder” in Thor: Ragnarok.

More to the point, I’ve been getting some tutoring in summaries from’s own Emmet Asher-Perrin, and I’m going to start running those sections very differently. I mean, you all have read the books, you don’t need an extensive blow-by-blow from me every week! And what better time to test my newfound skills and resist my completist tendencies than with this immensely long slog of a prologue that opens Lord of Chaos. We’re going to ease in by covering half of the Prologue, up through Elayne’s section.

Are you ready? I’m ready. Let’s do this thing.

[Severing. That was what it was called, what you name stilling for women and gentling for men.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Exploring the Darker Side of Found Family

I love a good found family story. I know I’m not alone; it’s a popular and beloved trope for a reason. At this time of year in particular, when there is so much pressure to do family stuff, regardless of how one might feel about family, stories about families of choice can be especially appealing.

It doesn’t have to be about yearning or loss or escapism either. (I actually like my family just fine, even when my sisters wrongly and outrageously insist that their cats are cuter than my cats.) No matter what our individual circumstances are, there is rich emotional drama to be mined from stories about people who find and care for and keep each other regardless of how the whims of the universe threw them together. Comfort and support, trust and understanding, familiarity and fondness—these are the things a family of choice is made of, and spending time with them in fiction can be delightful.

But—there’s always a but—if you are like me, and there lives inside you still the child who spent more time giving your Barbies safety-scissor buzz-cuts and shoebox funerals than you ever spent making them play house, sometimes you look at those warm, squishy, soft, soothing scenarios with a wild glint in your eye, and you think, “Sure, okay, but what if it goes horribly wrong?”

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The Finest Scribe in Aldgate: Revealing Kelly Robson’s High Times in the Low Parliament

The tale of a flirtatious scribe, several irritable fairies, and some rather important votes….

We’re thrilled to share the cover of Kelly Robson’s High Times in the Low Parliament, a lighthearted romp through an 18th-century London (alternately, per the author, “a lesbian stoner buddy comedy with fairies—about Brexit”)—arriving August 9, 2022 with Tordotcom Publishing.

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Teaser for Korean Sci-Fi Series The Silent Sea Shows a Mysterious Trip to the Moon Doesn’t Turn Out So Great

Netflix’s The Silent Sea is a Korean sci-fi thriller where sometime in the future, the Earth is one big desert and one team is tasked go to the moon to retrieve a mysterious sample from an abandoned lab that will presumably save humanity. Does that spark your interest? Good news—Netflix dropped a trailer today to give us a tease of what the film is about.

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Writing Horses: Saddles and Styles of Riding

My post on Saddles 101 gave rise to a whole sequence of reader questions. I love reader questions. Here I’m going to answer one particular set, which is best summed up in Troyce’s comment:

An interesting addendum to this essay would be one about the style of riding and how the rider sits.

As I noted in my post, a saddle is a structure designed to serve as an interface between the rider’s seat and legs and the horse’s back. It can be as basic as a piece of leather or other flexible, breathable material (fabric, synthetic) shaped to the horse, with some form of attachment that holds it in place—again, most basically, a strap around the horse’s barrel. There may be additional straps to stabilize it fore (a breast collar) and/or aft (a crupper). (And maybe a second girth or cinch in a Western saddle.)

But here we’re talking about how the structure of the saddle determines where and how the rider sits on the horse’s back. Some of that is style, i.e. form, and some is function. The definition of what “looks good on a horse” has a lot to do with style, but it’s also related to the optimal way to stay on board when the horse does whatever the style of riding is about.

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A Heartwarming Combo of Wholesome and Gruesome: A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

Pity Robin Blythe, one of two protagonists in Freya Marske’s debut fantasy novel A Marvellous Light. Not only is he stuck with a new job he doesn’t want; not only does said job land him squarely in the teeth of the Edwardian bureaucracy; but his very first day at work features the unsettling revelation—delivered by the colorless and bookish Edwin Courcey, liaison to the Magical Assembly—that magic is real, followed by a spot of abduction in the London streets. Robin’s assailants want him to find a contract hidden from them by Robin’s missing (let’s be real, dead) predecessor, and they place a curse on him to motivate him to find the contract and bring it to them.

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Wheel of Time Showrunner Fought to Keep ‘Weep for Manetheren’ Scene in Show

Prime Video’s adaptation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series has some definite changes from its source material. One thing that showrunner Rafe Judkins made sure was in the show, however, was the four-minute “Weep for Manetheren” scene in episode two, where Mat (Barney Harris) starts a singalong about Manetheren, and Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) tells the young folks from Two Rivers the story of how the ancient city stood up to Trollocs many years ago.

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Meet Graylin in James Rollins’ The Starless Crown

Who will claim the Starless Crown?

An alliance embarks on a dangerous journey to uncover the secrets of the distant past and save their world in a captivating new series from author James Rollins. We’re thrilled to share excerpts all this month from The Starless Crown—publishing January 4, 2022 with Tor Books. Read on below, or head back to the beginning.

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With Three Series Adaptations in the Works, Jules Verne Is Really Hot Right Now

Not a single episode of Around the World in 80 Days, an eight-episode adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel, has aired yet, but it’s already been renewed for a second season. The series, which stars David Tennant as Phileas Fogg, took a seven-month break from filming last year due to the pandemic, but is finally coming to screens in January (on BBC One in the UK and Masterpiece PBS in the US).

But the producers also have a second Verne adaptation on their hands. Slim Film + Television and Federation Entertainment announced they’re also teaming up for Journey to the Centre of the Earth, with Around the World writer Ashley Pharoah (Life on Mars) as showrunner.

And, of course, there’s a third Verne incoming from a different corner: Disney+’s Nautilus, starring Shazad Latif as a Captain Nemo with a frustratingly changed backstory.

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