The Future Is Half-Written in Laura Sebastian’s Half Sick of Shadows

This isn’t the year of Arthurian retellings and revisitings, because there can’t be only one. The king and his affiliated tales have come before and he’ll be back around, cyclical as nature. But it’s definitely a year for Arthurian stories, from the way E.K. Johnston weaves The Fisher King into Aetherbound to the anthology Sword Stone Table to the upcoming The Other Merlin to, of course, Dev Patel in The Green Knight. I’m sure there are more; these are just off the top of my head.

In the middle of these sits Half Sick of Shadows, a story both familiar and not. The names, you know: Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Morgana, Elaine. There are, it turns out, a lot of Elaines, and this one specifically is Elaine of Astolat, also known as the Lady of Shalott. But like anyone playing in the Arthuriana sandbox, Laura Sebastian tweaks things. In this novel, the story belongs to Elaine—the past, present, and future of it.

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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Unimatrix Zero, Part II”

“Unimatrix Zero, Part II”
Written by Mike Sussman and Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Directed by Mike Vejar
Season 7, Episode 1
Production episode 247
Original air date: October 4, 2000
Stardate: 54014.4

Captain’s log. After getting highlights from Part I, we see Janeway, Tuvok, and Torres all assimilated by the Borg—but apparently retaining their personalities, thanks to a neural inhibitor the EMH gave them. They don’t know how long this inoculation will last, and they need to get to the central plexus to upload the virus that will allow the drones who visit Unimatrix Zero to retain their individuality when they wake up.

[That is not compromise. That is surrender.]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Playing Favorites With Favorites, or, What We Talk About When We Talk About Our Favorite Books

What’s your favorite book?

Maybe there are people for whom this isn’t a loaded question. I’m not sure I’ve met any of them. “Favorite” is a freeze-up word, a demand impossible to meet. Picking just one? Are you serious? But there are 17 books from just last year that are my favorites!

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Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall Are Leaving Doctor Who

The inevitable rumors about the departure of the Doctor have been flying for a while—the typical side effect of a Doctor nearing their third season. Now, we have confirmation: Variety reports that Jodie Whittaker will end her run as the Doctor after the coming season. Showrunner Chris Chibnall is also leaving the series, meaning there’s a lot of change coming when Whittaker regenerates.

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Five SFF Books About Love Across Boundaries

In my youth, love seemed always around the corner, sticky sweet as summer popsicles, sudden and quick as a lightning strike, the only thing holding it back was the ripe promise of tomorrow or a door opened. In short, love seemed easy. But with time, all the things with the potential to hold love back gradually made themselves known: the walls erected around us by society or that we foster within ourselves. Love, I eventually learned, was complicated and slow, needed battling our worst natures, undoing what we’d been taught, reaching across time and space to nurture. Wars were fought over it. Wars ended because of it.

My favorite books are often fantastical, featuring werewolves, alien arrivals, and superheroes. But what makes them the books I’ll love forever is that whatever boundaries, walls, obstacles, and internalized taboos exist in their worlds, the characters’ attempts to reach across boundaries simmer deep. Sometimes these attempts end in tragedy, limitations that continue to confound, romanticizations that reveal themselves to never have been true. Sometimes they end triumphantly, the characters emerging into new understandings of themselves, what they are capable of, and the possibilities of their love.

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Series: Five Books About…

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Forty-Four

Welcome back to the Rhythm of War reread, as we launch into Part Three this week! We’ll pick up just a few steps away from where we left off at the end of Part Two: with Kaladin working his way through the Tower, hoping for a way to escape pursuit and hide his friend. Watch for the parallels between the current situation and some of Kaladin’s flashbacks; there’s some very deliberate reflection going on up in here.

[No thoughts. Thoughts are dangerous. Just move.]

Series: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Coyote Paints a Rock: T. Kingfisher’s The Hollow Places, Part 11

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 wrap up T. Kingfisher’s The Hollow Places, first published in 2020, with Chapters 21-22. Spoilers ahead!

[“The Glory to God Museum of Natural Wonders, Curiosities, and Taxidermy, open nine to six, six days a week, closed Mondays.”]

Series: Reading the Weird

Neither One Thing Nor the Other: She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

As a daughter born in an era of lethal drought and impoverishment, Zhu knows her fate before a fortune-teller confirms it: nothing. In contrast, her brother Zhu Chongba is pronounced to be destined for real greatness—but when bandits murder their father in front of them, Zhu Chongba dies as well. Fueled by a burning desire to survive at all costs, Zhu adopts her brother’s name and grasps for his fate. She becomes a young man, commits to monastic life, and nurtures that hunger to be someone, until a grim encounter with the Yuan’s eunuch general Ouyang sets her on the path toward empire.

Drawing inspiration from the historical Red Turban Rebellion, She Who Became the Sun (first of the Radiant Emperor duology) reimagines of the rise of Zhu Yuanzhang—from peasant to founder of the Ming Dynasty—and the concurrent collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty… if Zhu had been the unnamed daughter instead.

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Series: Queering SFF

There’s No Outrunning Destiny in the Latest Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Teaser

There’s not a ton of new footage in the newest teaser for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which is titled “Need,” but it’s worth watching for several reasons. One is that every little glimpse of this movie makes it look incredibly appealing. Another is Awkwafina’s perfect delivery of the first line in the teaser—and Simu Liu’s shrug in response. Who can say where superheroes’ shirts go?

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The Comforts of Hell: C.S. Lewis and The Great Divorce

Hell is referred to as “home” eight times in The Great Divorce.

It’s not so bad, after all. You can make a house appear just by imagining it. If you need something, you can bring it to mind and it will materialize. There are little shops, even book shops, and there are “cinemas and fish and chip shops and advertisements and all the sorts of things they want.”

Sure, the grey rain never really ends, and the houses don’t seem to quite keep it out. But there’s plenty of space if one wants to be alone…which most people do.

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Series: The Great C.S. Lewis Reread

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