John Crowley’s Reading Backwards Offers More Than a Decade of Brilliance

John Crowley’s readers have great capacities for patience. Twenty years passed between the first volume of his Ægypt series in 1987 and its last entry in 2007; after his realistic historical novel Four Freedoms appeared in 2009, Crowley’s fans waited seven years for another major publication. With the 2016 publication of The Chemical Wedding, Crowley’s translation of an obscure seventeenth-century hermetic allegory, something changed. Whatever the cause — Perhaps the author’s retirement from teaching at Yale — Crowley has become prolific. A year after Wedding, he published Ka, a thick historical fantasy, alongside Totalitopia, a slim volume that combined fiction, essay, and criticism. And this month Crowley has released two thick hardbacks. The first, story collection And Go Like This, I reviewed a few weeks ago. Now Subterranean Press has released Reading Backwards: Essays & Reviews, 2015-2018

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The Calm After the Storm — Spider-Man: Far From Home

After making his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Captain America: Civil War (a movie that made over a billion dollars), Spider-Man starred in three MCU movies—his own Homecoming as well as the next two Avengers movies, Infinity War and Endgame—and also was the subject of a hugely successful non-MCU animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

A second MCU film was inevitable, especially since it was a moneymaker for both Disney (who control the MCU) and Sony (who control the film rights to the web-head). The hype on the movie started late due to Marvel Studios wanting to avoid spoiling Endgame (recall that Spidey was one of the ones who turned to dust at the end of Infinity War).

[It’s my Blip Beard…]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

To Understand Anakin Skywalker’s Full Story, You Need to Watch the Star Wars Animated Series

In Star Wars, Episodes I-IX are wrapped around the Skywalker family like a fluffy, strangling blanket of expectations and betrayal. This journey begins with one person in particular: Anakin Skywalker, the supposed Chosen One of the Jedi, later best known as the Emperor’s right hand, Darth Vader. The problem with this very dramatic arc is that the first three films—meant to show us exactly why Anakin becomes one of the galaxy’s most infamous tyrants—doesn’t actually give us much by way of explanation on his actions. We’re told things rather than shown them. We don’t know how he gets from Point A to Point K(ill-All-the-Younglings). And that’s kind of important, given that his actions set the entire saga in motion.

Don’t worry. Television’s got you covered.

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Jo Walton’s Reading List: November 2019

November began with a trip to Utopiales, a huge French SF festival in Nantes, followed by a lightning trip to the UK to see King John at Stratford and Henry VI at the Globe in London, then back to Paris for some bookstore events and the Louvre. Then I came home to find winter had set in: 20cm of snow and -10C on the day I got back. I had the proofs of Or What You Will to do, but otherwise plenty of time to read and little desire to go out of the house. I read 22 books in November, and here they are.

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Creating Gods Through Science and Magic

To (mis)quote Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, “I looked and looked but I didn’t see God.” Humans are cunning little monkeys, though, so even if at present we assume there are no gods as such, it’s within the realm of possibility that we might someday build something (or somethings) functionally equivalent to gods.

We could even turn ourselves into gods (via tech assist or magic). Would this be an unmixed blessing? Um, not really. We already know that humans can be monumental dicks; deified humans could be just as nasty.

[Some examples…]

Read an Excerpt From The Monsters Know What They’re Doing, a Guide to Battle Tactics in D&D

In the course of a Dungeons & Dragons game, a Dungeon Master has to make one decision after another in response to player behavior—and the better the players, the more unpredictable their behavior! It’s easy for even an experienced DM to get bogged down in on-the-spot decision-making or to let combat devolve into a boring slugfest, with enemies running directly at the player characters and biting, bashing, and slashing away.

In The Monsters Know What They’re Doing—available now from Saga Press—Keith Ammann lightens the DM’s burden by helping you understand your monsters’ abilities and develop battle plans before your fifth edition D&D game session begins. Just as soldiers don’t whip out their field manuals for the first time when they’re already under fire, a DM shouldn’t wait until the PCs have just encountered a dozen bullywugs to figure out how they advance, fight, and retreat.

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Serial Box’s Orphan Black: The Next Chapter Is a Mostly Successful Experiment in Transmedia Storytelling

It is no easy feat to translate the success of Orphan Black the TV series, which was so predicated on the visual aspect of Tatiana Maslany’s riveting performances, to the page. Serial Box’s stable of writers (Madeline Ashby, Mishell Baker, Heli Kennedy, E.C. Myers, Malka Older, Lindsay Smith) have ably wrangled the TV show’s five years of science-thriller worldbuilding and over a dozen unique characters into a sequel that should satisfy fans in plenty of individual moments, if not potentially overall. It was an ambitious experiment, changing the very DNA of the story by crossing over into a vastly different medium with its own perks and drawbacks. Yet the spirit of Clone Club shines through the final episodes of Orphan Black: The Next Chapter, which see younger Clone Club members Kira and Charlotte surpassing their predecessors to save the world on their own terms—and which opens up a variety of futures for both generations of clones.

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Looks Like We Probably Aren’t Getting a Poe or Finn Spin-off On Disney+

It is not a good week for Finn/Poe fans. Yesterday, J.J. Abrams confirmed that a romance between the two would not be blossoming in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, to the on-record regret of John Boyega and Oscar Isaac. Today, the co-stars announced separately that they had no intention of reprising their roles in any sort of Disney+ spin-off.

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Hard-Boiled Fantasy: Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

In this bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books, Alan Brown looks at the front lines and frontiers of the field; books about soldiers and spacers, scientists and engineers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.

If you’re a reader who likes the work of John Scalzi because of his snarky narrators, or if you’re a fan of the gritty fantasy found in George R. R. Martin’s Westeros, then I have a recommendation for you… Years before these authors started their careers, Roger Zelazny was bringing his own unique approach to science fiction and fantasy. His tales appeared unsentimental…but if you looked closer, his heart was very much on his sleeve. His work is deeply resonant with myths, religions, and legends drawn from cultures from around the world. And while his prose often echoes the hardboiled staccato rhythms of a detective novel, it also had a poetry all its own. Among the finest work he ever produced is the first book of what became known as the Chronicles of Amber, Nine Princes in Amber.

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