Five Books About Surprisingly Supernatural Teens

In the world of SFF, books are positively littered with supernatural protagonists, many of them young people just coming into their power as they hit their teen years. But one thing that has always been interesting to me are stories that are utterly realistic—even gritty—until suddenly, out of nowhere, one of the protagonists turns out to be telepathic or telekinetic or psychic. I’ve been thinking about a few specific titles that meet these standards, mostly heavy slices of socially realistic YA that abruptly drop their readers into the icy waters of fantasy. Here are five such books—can you think of more titles that fit the bill?

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Series: Five Books About…

Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf and Helen Phillips’ The Need Longlisted for the National Book Award

Congratulations are in order for Marlon James and Helen Phillips, who were included on the National Book Award’s longlist in fiction today! Of the ten books in contention for the prize, James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf and Phillips’ The Need are the two that come from a speculative fiction tradition.

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Higher, Further, Faster — Captain Marvel

Carol Danvers has had a tumultuous history over her five decades in Marvel Comics, starting as a supporting character to Captain Marvel, becoming Marvel’s first attempt at a feminist icon, the subject of one of the most sexist comics ever written, and then eventually being the seventh character to take on the mantle of Captain Marvel, and is unarguably the most popular of those seven.

Over the past decade or so, she has become one of the major superstars of Marvel’s heroes, her self-titled comic book written by Kelly Sue DeConnick becoming a hugely popular and iconic series in 2012. And in 2019, she became the long-overdue first female hero to headline a movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

[“That’s not the craziest thing I’ve heard today.” “Well, it’s early…”]

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

Ad Astra is an Extended Parable About Absentee Fathers, But What For?

The near-future of James Gray’s beautiful but empty Ad Astra is, according to a helpful-but-still-frustratingly-vague title card, “a time of both hope and conflict.” Space travel is commercial (though still not entirely accessible), and humanity has erected an International Space Antennae tuned to pick up any potential signals from extraterrestrials. If only Earthlings were as proficient at deciphering their own emotional baggage. In particular need of direction is almost inhumanly dispassionate ISA astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), who undertakes a top-secret mission to the edges of the solar system, urged on by the eternal, universal question: How can I better understand my father?

Er, I mean: Is there intelligent life out there? Ultimately, Ad Astra answers neither, its mood vacillating between pleasantly remote and emotionally overwrought, but it sure looks pretty while doing so.

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Find Your Necromancy Family Among the Houses of Gideon the Ninth

There’s no shortage of things to love about Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, but if we had to pick just two: (1) it is full of necromancers, and (2) there are nine separate Houses dedicated to their Undead Emperor, each with their own purpose, and necromantic talents all their own.

Want to know where you’d belong? Here is a glorious breakdown, complete with rhyme scheme…

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Smallville‘s Tom Welling to Play Superman Again in the Arrowverse Crossover

A third Superman has been added to the mix for the CW’s massive Arrowverse crossover event, Crisis on Infinite Earths! This time, he’ll be played by Tom Welling. Deadline has reported that the actor will indeed be reprising his Smallville version of the character, and the crossover event will reveal what happened to Clark Kent 10 years after the events of the show.

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How Do Robots in Science Fiction Talk to Each Other?

Technology-based lifeforms have to communicate, just like any other living beings. And just like living beings, science fiction has come up with a variety of ways for them to do so. Keeping tabs on the way robots, computers, and A.I. convey information in genre fiction offers an fascinating glimpse into what humans think the future might look like—and how we would prefer to interact with technology ourselves.

When looking to science fiction for sentient life created by artificial means, there are plenty of possibilities to choose from. A.I. and robotics are some of the oldest hallmarks of the genre, and there are countless ways to render characters that fit the bill. But with those characters come a number of questions about how they move through the world (/galaxy/universe) and who they interact with. Were they created for a specific purpose, or to exist as they will? Do they have a community of their own kind, or are they restricted to humans and aliens and other organic matter? And if they do have their own communities… doesn’t it stand to reason that they would have their own traditions, their own philosophies, and even their own forms of communication? And what do those forms look like?

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The Deconstruction of Falling Action: Alexandra Rowland’s A Choir of Lies

In A Choir of Lies, Alexandra Rowland brings us back the world of Chants, but in the process completely calls into question what we learned about them in A Conspiracy of Truths

I think it is futile for me to discuss what A Choir of Lies does without discussing in depth what A Conspiracy of Truths does, and so readers who do not want to be spoiled for the first book probably should go read it first.

Ready? Good!

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Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer: Part 3

The previous installment of this particular rereading took us only so far as the Botanic Gardens—but Severian and Agia hadn’t entered the Gardens yet. So, after unwittingly destroying the altar of the Pelerines, they continue on their mission to collect an avern, the deadly flower which he must use in his impending duel:

The Botanic Gardens stood on as island near the bank (of the river Gyoll), enclosed in a building of glass (a thing I had not seen before and did not know could exist).

The building seems modern in comparison with the former spaceship that is the Matachin Tower, but we must take care when using words such as “modern.” More on that in a while…

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Series: Rereading Gene Wolfe

Stories Within Stories: 8 Instances of SFF Hyper-Worldbuilding

Authors build elaborate worlds through everything from carefully-chosen foods to amateur map-making to breathtakingly detailed wikis, their attention to detail a signal that these are worlds worthy of getting lost in. Often these are specific moments in the text, or a helpful hand-drawn atlas bookending the epic adventure, or a bonus feature that’s just a click away. But some storytellers go the extra mile, embedding worldbuilding details into their texts as a sort of “found footage”—fictional childhood stories, comic books, or newspaper clippings that appear as excerpts throughout the larger work, and sometimes spill out into the real world.

Crack a book, cross a bridge, hop a spaceship, and check out these eight stories that are wonderfully extra when it comes to worldbuilding, creating children’s stories that can hold up to the classics, spinning off into picture books drawn from your nightmares, or even spawning entirely new real-world book franchises. You know, like you do.

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The People of Middle-earth: One Ring to Rule Them All

In this biweekly series, we’re exploring the evolution of both major and minor figures in Tolkien’s legendarium, tracing the transformations of these characters through drafts and early manuscripts through to the finished work. This week’s installment looks at the textual history and political significance of the One Ring, Sauron’s greatest treasure.

In September 1963, Tolkien drafted yet another of a number of letters responding to questions about Frodo’s “failure” at the Cracks of Doom. It’s easy to imagine that he was rather exasperated. Few, it seemed, had really understood the impossibility of Frodo’s situation in those last, crucial moments: “the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum,” Tolkien explained; it was “impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted” (Letters 326). Even had someone of unmatched power, like Gandalf, claimed the Ring, there would have been no real victory, for “the Ring and all its works would have endured. It would have been the master in the end” (332).

It would have been the master.

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Jeffrey Dean Morgan Will Play the Lead in an Adaptation of James Herbert’s Shrine

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, whom you might know as Negan from The Walking Dead, the dad of the Winchester boys on Supernatural, or the guy who is not Javier Bardem, is taking on yet another horror project ⁠— this time on the big screen. Deadline has reported that he’ll be playing the lead in an upcoming adaptation of James Herbert’s 1983 horror novel Shrine, to be written and directed by Evan Spiliotopoulos.

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