The Most Scientifically Interesting Community in the U.S.: Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at the first episode of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor and voiced by Cecil Baldwin, first broadcast on March 15 2015 through Commonplace Books. Spoilers ahead.

[“A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep.”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

A Smuggler’s OTP: What is the Best Han Solo ‘Ship?

You may know the podcast I work on, One True Pairing, but what you may not know is that I am a Star Wars devotee. Don’t get me started on this series. I’ve seen all the movies multiple times, including the the remastered versions which I have some OPINIONS on. I could get into my love of all of the (space)ships in the Star Wars franchise (because if you don’t want a TIE Interceptor then I literally don’t know what would ever make you happy) but that’s another post for another time.

So today, I’ll be talking about Han ’ships. My co-host Marissa and I covered Han and Leia in honor of the new movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story, on our last episode, but there’s only so much we can hit on in such a short time. And, because we are all about ’ships—any ships, really, up to and including space ships—I’ve expanded on that episode to include all of the best Han ’ships from the entire series.

Let’s get into it.

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Surreal SFF That Explores Humanity Through Language and Memory

The nature of identity is at the heart of an abundance of speculative fiction. It can be one of the best ways of exploring what makes a person unique and what sits at the heart of a particular person’s identity. In some fiction, this can be approached via heated philosophical discussion or rich metaphors; in the realm of science fiction and speculative fiction, these questions can be approached far more literally.

This year has brought with it a trio of books—two new, one in a new edition—that use surreal and speculative takes on memory and language to explore fundamental questions about the nature of humanity. The imagery and language in these books sizzles with uncanny takes on the nature of life and consciousness, but as far from the mundane as they go, their concerns remain deeply rooted in primal anxieties. Who are we? What makes us us? Is there a certain point beyond which I might become someone else, or forever lose my sense of selfhood?

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The Philosophy of Self-Destruction in Alex Garland’s Annihilation

28 Days Later was the first movie that had me stumbling out of the theater in a mind-fried daze. Back in 2002, I knew director Danny Boyle from Trainspotting and The Beach, both movies with some troubling themes, but I went in expecting nothing more than a fun zombie romp (this was, after all, long before zombies had infected every part of popular culture). But the movie sold the “humans are the real monsters” trope in a way I had never before seen. By the time Jim (Cillian Murphy) nearly attacks Selena (Naomi Harris) in his bloody rage, I no longer knew what to believe or expect. My friend and I were so shocked by what we’d just experienced that we drove 20 minutes in the wrong direction before realizing our error.

16 years later, I left Annihilation in a similar state. Working here as both writer and director, 28 Days Later screenwriter Alex Garland uses sci-fi tropes to raise questions about identity and existence, with a level of urgency found only classics such as Solaris, Stalker, and John Carpenter’s The Thing.

(Spoilers ahead.)

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How the Cloak & Dagger TV Miniseries Compares to the Original Comics

FreeForm’s new Cloak & Dagger miniseries is doing a very Netflix-style slow burn, as through the first three episodes, the title characters have barely had any screen time together. However, they’ve established quite a bit about Tyrone Johnson, Tandy Bowen, and their lives tinged with tragedy.

While showrunner Joe Pokaski and his team of writers have kept the basic structure of Cloak and Dagger, a significant number of details have been changed from their comic book origins. Herewith, an accounting of what we’ve seen so far.

[SPOILERS for the first three episodes of Cloak & Dagger]

Angband Strikes Back; or, The Battle of Unnumbered Tears

In Which the Noldor Regroup (Mostly), War is Renewed, Dwarves Join the Fray, Dragons Are Unleashed, Men Prove to Be Faithful and/or Faithless, and Húrin Wears a Very Special Coat of Arms

Well, we’re way past the middle of The Silmarillion. If there was a line chart that showed the fortunes of the Elves in the First Age, we’ve been seeing the data points starting to tank. The first big drop was the Battle of Sudden Flame, but now we’ve come to Chapter 20, “Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad,” and this is when things really go south.

Literally, as well as figuratively: As the Noldor try to rally and regroup and gather what allies they can for a retaliation against Morgoth, the Dark Lord proves that he’s been thinking about war a lot more than they have and still has untold strength. And in this chapter, his arm grows long indeed, reaching out of Thangorodrim to the far ends of Beleriand. And, oh, yeah: the father of dragons is back for more.

[Aiya Eldalië ar Atanatári, utúlie’n aurë!]

Series: The Silmarillion Primer

Five Books About Motherhood and Dystopia

Everything is the same… and yet, not. Startling differences from the familiar world you thought you knew confront you at every turn: unfamiliar technologies, reductions of basic freedoms, new rules and authority figures that demand your obedience. Your understanding of the world and your place in it is tested. It’s nothing less than a challenge to your sense of self.

Are you a character in a work of dystopian fiction? Or are you just… uh, trying to deal with this whole parenting thing?

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Series: Five Books About…

A Different Shade of Magic: Witchmark by C.L. Polk

Welcome to Witchmark, C.L. Polk’s masterful debut about a magical Edwardian-esque world still reeling from a deadly world war. One of those battlefield survivors is Dr. Miles Singer. In the war he experienced terrible acts of violence, and perpetrated a few of his own. Now back home, he treats injured veterans at a local hospital. Did I say treat? I meant cure. With magic. Miles is a healer, although no one is supposed to know. Years before, he was a recalcitrant Secondary, a second-class mage destined to be magically bound to his magically superior sister. Grace is a Storm-Singer and she and the other elite mages use magic to keep Aeland temperate and fertile. But Miles ran away, escaped from a live of captivity and servitude. And he might have remained undiscovered if Nick Elliot hadn’t died in his arms.

Something terrible is driving vets to kill their loved ones, but what does it have to do with imprisoned witches and Nick’s bizarre travel habits? All of a sudden Miles is yanked into a murder mystery turned national conspiracy, with his very identity at stake. Helping him is Tristan Hunter, a charming, enigmatic man who, like Miles, is far more than he lets on. As the two men grow closer, Miles’ family threatens to rip them apart. In order to save the world, he might just have to destroy it.

[“I wanted to be free.”]

How Geek Culture Made Me Realize I Am Non-Binary

I am about to type a sentence I have never before been able to type. I am non-binary. I am non-binary, and my fandom provided me with so much of what I needed to experiment with my gender and arrive at that conclusion. So I’m writing this article as a way to not only explain the link between geek cosplay and culture and gender non-conformity, but also as a way of reaching out with my story, in hopes others might identify, even in some small way.

Okay, this needs a little context. When I was a kid, I had no idea what the term “non-binary” meant. But that’s not saying much. I was a kid! I barely knew what “deodorant” meant. I did know that I was expected to be, or become, a “man,” and that term seemed quite rigidly defined. A lot of it would come to feel very performative, and also quite narrow: you wore sportsball stuff and played a sport, you had access to these aisles in a clothing or toy store, but don’t be caught dead outside of those; you walked, talked, and sat a certain way. I failed at pretty much all of that, and still do, happily.

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Reading V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic (Part 1)

Hello, friends, and welcome to Reading V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic! It is summer and I need a new series to dive into. I’ve been meaning to pick up V. E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic for ages, but life has continually intervened with my plans.

No. Longer. No longer, I say! (Sorry, getting overdramatic, time to pull back on the coffee consumption.)

I’ve never done a “read,” only rereads, so this should be an adventure. Let’s roll up our sleeves and dive right in.

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Series: Reading V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2018—So Far

We’re almost halfway through the year, and we have … a lot of favorite new reads already. Which is to say: We each picked a lot of best-books-so-far, and we almost all picked different books! This year’s highlights run the gamut: high fantasy, alternate history, space opera, reissues, YA fantasy, and a couple of things that aren’t even SFF (but so well-loved we had to include them anyway). We’ve got dragons, we’ve got translations, we’ve got witches and elephants and warriors, and we’ve got Murderbot. Naturally.

Take a gander at our favorites below, and leave your additions in the comments!

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Reading The Wheel of Time: When Need is Greatest in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 18)

Welcome, welcome to Week 18! This week Reading The Wheel of Time covers Chapters 48 and 49. We ride with Lan into the Blight and we will see monsters and green men and trees that would put the ones in Oz to shame. At the edge of the climactic battle, our heroes are drawn together, to thoughts of how the future could be happier, and who they want near them. And the Green Man gives us hope in a decaying land.

[And now, onward to the recap. You might want to cover your nose.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time