How I Learned to Give in to Anime

Once upon a time, when I was a child, I had dinner at a friend’s house. I don’t remember the friend. All I remember is that their parents served up something they called goulash, but was in reality a distressing mixture of greasy noodles, watery sloppy joe mix and, perhaps, a can of stewed tomatoes. It was disgusting. I hated it. It wasn’t like I was a picky eater or a pint-sized gourmand! We ate very cheap and unfancy foods in my family. This particular meal was especially terrible.

Although I didn’t know it at the time—this is important—it bore no resemblance whatsoever to actual goulash. There was no paprika anywhere near that meal. Not even the wispiest ghost of old Hungary had ever haunted its presence.

But for many years, I heard the word goulash, remembered that meal, and knew, without a doubt, that all goulash was terrible. I was well into adulthood before I saw a recipe for proper goulash and thought, “Huh. Maybe those people were just appallingly shitty cooks.

The point is: I have a history of this sort of behavior, and it explains why I didn’t start watching anime until I was in my forties.

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Five Fantasies With Prophesied Chosen Ones

The prophecy of the chosen one is considered to be a tired trope by many fantasy readers. Indeed, many books use prophecy as a crutch to make it easier on the characters and push the plot along. But when done well, prophecy makes it harder on the characters, not easier, and enhances the mythic quality of the novel.

I love prophecy and the tale of the chosen one. I love when I realize a new book will detail another hero’s journey, and I break out in goosebumps when the prophecy sends our hero forth. The Lord of the Rings teems with prophecy—most of the main characters have legends attached to them. Harry Potter’s entire dilemma would not exist if a prophet hadn’t spewed her ambiguous foretelling, setting Voldemort against him. When in the hands of a master, a prophecy can be devastating. It can wring the chosen one dry, even crushing her spirit and leaving her quest shrouded in doom. A prophecy can add a lyricism to the novel, which makes the writing sing. It cloaks a novel with a hint of ancient folklore. Before you give up on prophecy, read one of these five masterfully prophetic books.

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Five Series Made Up of Standalone Novels

While reading Molly Templeton’s recent essay, Is Series Fatigue Real?, I noted an interesting phrase: “the loose series where the books are standalones but they also fit together.” I realized that I tend to divide series fiction into two sets:

A) series in which the books are clearly linked by setting and characters but which can provide readers with the complete plot experience in each volume;

B) series in which each volume is but a fragment of a greater whole.

[I strongly prefer the first sort.]

The Orville: New Horizons Crew Bring Their A-Game in a New Trailer!

The third season of The Orville is almost here, and in addition to a slightly new name (The Orville: New Horizons) and a sneak peek of what’s in store, Hulu has also released a shiny new trailer that reveals the crew of the U.S.S. Orville heading into uncharted parts of space.

As Captain Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) says in the aforementioned trailer, may the Force be with them.

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Five SFF Books About Warring Families

Ah, family feuds. Perhaps the mightiest source of conflict since the dawn of time, to get a little dramatic about it, but who doesn’t like a bit of in-fighting heightened by the responsibility of defending your blood ties? I wrote a Romeo and Juliet inspired duology about a feud between two warring families because I’ve always been so interested in the matter of ideals and beliefs. At what point do you pick up a sword to right a wrong done to you by proximity of blood? Is someone more justified to act righteously if they’re doing it in the name of family?

Here are five books that investigate what is and isn’t enough to stir a quarrel between families.

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Everything Versus the Void: Premee Mohamed’s The Void Ascendant

It’s no small achievement to tell a compelling story across the three books of a trilogy. That’s challenge enough, but for a handful of writers, simply doing that isn’t quite enough. I can think of a handful of examples of this, which takes the already-difficult task of following a novel with a sequel done in a new genre and further complicates things. Jeff VanderMeer’s done it twice, with the Southern Reach and Ambergris trilogies.

And having read Premee Mohamed’s The Void Ascendant, I can confirm that she’s pulled it off as well with her Beneath the Rising trilogy.

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“We’ve got a planet to save before breakfast” — Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: “Children of the Comet”

Nichelle Nichols famously was planning to quit the role of Lieutenant Uhura after the first season of the original Star Trek in order to take a role in a Broadway show. At an NAACP dinner, she was introduced to a big fan of the show, who turned out to be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said Star Trek was the only show he and his wife let their kids stay up late to watch. Dr. King convinced Nichols to stay in the role because it was so important to see a person of color working an ordinary, prominent job, not because she was black, but because she was a person.

And yet despite that importance, because of the realities of being a supporting character in a 1960s TV show, we learned more about the character of Uhura before the opening credits of this week’s Strange New Worlds than we did in all of the character’s prior fifty-six-year screen history…

[You want to learn alien languages, go where the aliens are.]

What Byzantine Literary Culture Can Tell Us About Fanfiction

What are we going to do with the cult of originality? The set of pernicious beliefs that say: oh, all romances are the same, there’s always a happy ending, that can’t be real literature? Or, this book is full of tropes, it must be too commercial to be good? Or even: if you can’t write something entirely new, you aren’t writing real literature … and if you’re writing fanfiction, you must be ‘practicing’ until you’re ready to be original! I’m entirely sure most of you readers have heard—or even subscribe to—one or more of these beliefs about originality being a sign of artistic achievement. It’s an idea that’s baked into modern Western cultural criticism, particularly literary criticism.

And yet: we are surrounded by literature which is not original and which is successful, enjoyed, and persistent.

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Five Small Books Packed With Big Ideas

I read a lot of epic fantasy. The bigger the better. When it comes to reading enjoyment, it’s hard to beat a sweeping, 800-plus page story—especially if it’s part of a massive series.

Lately, though, I’ve started slotting smaller books into my reading schedule. It helps me explore a more diverse array of voices and approach my always-too-high annual reading goal… but mostly, these comparatively tiny tomes have shown me how big ideas can fill up a small space and still feel impactful, and deeply meaningful.

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“The Proper Pronoun for When One Shares One’s Body With One’s New Friend”: A Transgender Reading of Star Trek: Picard

The second season of Star Trek: Picard was rife with plot twists, but for my money, the biggest by far was when Agnes Jurati (Allison Pill) stole the entire series from right out below its title character and never gave it back. Picard may be my favourite Star Trek captain; Patrick Stewart may be one of the best living actors; but by the third episode, it was Agnes for whom I was tuning in.

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A Vision From the City of Lies: Revealing Moses Ose Utomi’s The Lies of the Ajungo

We’re thrilled to share the cover of Moses Ose Utomi’s debut novella, The Lies of the Ajungo, forthcoming from Tordotcom Publishing in March 2023. Set in a secondary world reminiscent of Saharan Africa, The Lies of the Ajungo follows one boy’s epic quest to bring water back to his city and save his mother’s life.

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