Introducing the Ursula K. Le Guin Reread

Ursula K. Le Guin might very well be the most critically celebrated author of SFF, beloved of both the literary and genre worlds—and make no mistake that these markets, their audiences, and the generic and stylistic assumptions behind each still carry significance over 50 years after Le Guin turned to SFF because the literary journals wouldn’t take her stories (and because the SFF mags paid). Authors like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are darlings of genre and mainstream fiction, remembered by many adults with fondness from their childhood years; their influence has been huge and adaptations of their work have been numerous. Le Guin, on the other hand, has rarely been adapted but has the curious distinction of being beloved by literary elites and genre diehards in equal measure, and her influence has gone beyond the literary to make waves in political circles, among anarchists, feminists, activists for racial and decolonial justice, and others.

As we enter a new decade, the third of a still-young century and even younger millennium, we have been greeted with more of the same: environmental disasters; war and imperial interventions; increasingly polarized cultural and political divisions; and, as always, billions without adequate resources needed to survive. In short, the 2020s look bleak as shit.

[But history has always been pretty damn bleak.]

Series: The Ursula K. Le Guin Reread

Celebrating Christopher Tolkien’s Cartographic Legacy

Christopher Tolkien died last week at the age of 95. The third of J.R.R. Tolkien’s four children, he was his father’s literary executor and the editor of his posthumous works. He whipped The Silmarillion into publishable shape (with the assistance of a young Canadian philosophy student named Guy Gavriel Kay, whom we would hear more from later) and edited volume after volume of his father’s early drafts and other fragmentary tales.

But before that, Christopher Tolkien was his father’s first reader—and his cartographer. And while his obituaries mention the fact that he drew the first published map of the west of Middle-earth, which appeared in the first edition of The Fellowship of the Ring in 1954, they do so in passing, the map overshadowed by his later editorial and curatorial work.

I think that’s a mistake. Christopher Tolkien’s map proved to be a huge influence on the fantasy genre. It helped set the norm for subsequent epic fantasy novels; indeed it became the norm. Epic fantasy novels would come with maps—were supposed to come with maps—and in many cases those maps would look a lot like the one drawn by Christopher Tolkien.

So it’s worth taking a closer look at this map…

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Agent Smith Was Apparently Supposed to Be In Matrix 4

Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith met a pretty definitive end in the final installment of the Matrix trilogy, The Matrix Revolutions but that reportedly didn’t stop the writers from trying to include him in the upcoming Matrix 4. The character won’t appear in the film, however, according to new interview in Time Out London with Weaving.

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Stormsong Sweepstakes!

After spinning an enthralling world in Witchmark, the winner of the World Fantasy Award for best novel that was praised as a “can’t-miss debut” by Booklist, and as “thoroughly charming and deftly paced” by the New York Times, C. L. Polk continues the story in Stormsong — and we want to send you a copy!


Magical cabals, otherworldly avengers, and impossible love affairs conspire to create a book that refuses to be put down.

Dame Grace Hensley helped her brother Miles undo the atrocity that stained her nation, but now she has to deal with the consequences.

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Read Chapter Five of A.K. Larkwood’s The Unspoken Name

What if you knew how and when you will die?

Csorwe does—she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.

But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.

But Csorwe will soon learn—gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.

A.K. Larkwood’s debut fantasy, The Unspoken Name, is available February 11, 2020 from Tor Books. Read chapter five below, or head back to the beginning with chapter one. Check back here for additional excerpts up until the book’s release.

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Enjoy Life: The Seep by Chana Porter

The Seep arrives on our planet, and everything changes. It is an alien entity that seeks symbiotic communion with life on earth—human and nonhuman animals, plants, objects—and in return for sharing our embodied being, it collapses distinctions, hierarchies, and systems into one shared experience. Capitalism falls; so, of equal import, does human mortality (except in cases of extreme physical misfortune or the personally-made choice to die).

Trina FastHorse Goldberg-Oneka is a fifty year old trans woman, married to the love of her life Deeba. Until, that is, Deeba decides to be recreated into a baby to live a whole new life: to be parented well, to give up her histories of trauma, to no longer hold the baggage of the pre-Seep past. Trina refuses to be that parent and the two, necessarily, split up—leaving Trina mourning, wounded, and unsure of the costs of a world without a connection to experiential histories.

While The Seep is a debut novel, Chana Porter is also a playwright and education activist with a number of achievements in her fields, including the receipt of an Honorable Mention for the Relentless Prize and a MacDowell fellowship. She is currently writer-in-residence at The Catastrophic Theatre in Houston.

[A review.]

Series: Queering SFF

Oscar Isaac Will Play Mitchell Hundred in the Film Adaptation of Ex Machina

Once again, Oscar Isaac will be the star of a film called Ex MachinaOr rather, this time, Oscar Isaac will be starring in a film based on a work called Ex Machina, whose name was changed for the adaptation, presumably to avoid confusion about which Oscar Isaac-starring Ex Machina filmgoers are talking about at any given time.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Oscar Isaac will be playing superhero-turned-politician Mitchell Hundred in The Great Machine, the film adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris’ comic book series of a different name. He’ll also be producing the film, THR reports, alongside his manager and producer Jason Spire.

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Comin’ Straight From the Underground: Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

It’s fitting that Tochi Onyebuchi’s first adult novella, Riot Baby, comes out the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The roots of activists like MLK run deep through the story, not the sugar-coated, hand-holding, civil rights Santa Claus version the majority likes to champion but the impassioned preacher who wrote fiery words decrying those who stood in the way of progress. Onyebuchi’s story is a clarion call for action and an indictment of pacifism. And it’s a damn good story, too.

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The Gideon the Ninth Reread: Chapters 1 and 2

Hello, my little sacks of bones, and welcome to the start of the Gideon the Ninth reread! I’m your host, Regina Phalange, and over the next few months, I’ll be walking you through Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir from beginning to end, in preparation for the release of Harrow the Ninth, the second book in the Locked Room trilogy!

Today, I’ll be covering chapters one and two, and heads up: there will be more spoilers than the Youtube comments of a Star Wars movie trailer. So if you haven’t read the book yet, you might want to bone up on your reading first.

Okay, now buckle your seatbelts, strap on your helmets, and keep all ulnas and femurs inside the vehicle, because here we go!

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Series: Gideon the Ninth Reread

“Where in your affidavit does it say you’re Black?”: Why Worldbuilding Can’t Neglect Race

“Where in your affidavit does it say you’re Black?”

I was on the witness stand, and opposing counsel had on a red tie. Suit jacket was either black or a dark enough blue that it might as well have been black. Pants either matched or were khakis. The details are a little fuzzy in my memory; I remember the essence of the kid rather than his specifics. But he was white and his tie was red. And it was too long.

There was a window to my right. Early afternoon sunlight gilded the desks behind which sat his clones. My representation was on the far side of the room.

“Where in your affidavit does it say you’re Black?”

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