Monsters of the Week Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a copy of Zack Handlen and Todd VanDerWerff’s Monsters of the Week: The Complete Critical Companion to The X-Files, available now from Abrams Press! And as a bonus, each book will come with a bookplate signed by the authors and X-Files creator Chris Carter!

In 1993, Fox debuted a strange new television show called The X-Files. Little did anyone suspect that the series would become one of the network’s biggest hits—and change the landscape of television in the process. Now, on the occasion of the show’s 25th anniversary, TV critics Zack Handlen and Todd VanDerWerff unpack exactly what made this haunting show so groundbreaking. Witty and insightful reviews of every episode of the series, revised and updated from the authors’ popular A.V. Club recaps, leave no mystery unsolved and no monster unexplained. This crucial collection even includes exclusive interviews with some of the stars and screenwriters, as well as an original foreword by X-Files creator and showrunner Chris Carter. This complete critical companion is the definitive guide whether you’re a lifelong viewer wanting to relive memories of watching the show when it first aired or a new fan uncovering the conspiracy for the first time.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on October 16th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on October 20th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Sleeps With Monsters: Atmospheric and Compelling Stories

Due to the vagaries of e-publishing (and my personal preferences), I continue to only read Lois McMaster Bujold’s self-published novellas after Subterranean Press has picked them up and published them in gorgeous hardcover. The latest of these is Mira’s Last Dance, the fifth Penric and Desdemona novella to be published, and a direct sequel to Penric’s Mission.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Nnedi Okorafor’s First Nonfiction Book, Broken Places & Outer Spaces, Coming in 2019

Nnedi Okorafor recently took to Facebook to announce her first nonfiction book! In Broken Places & Outer Spaces, the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of the Binti trilogy and Akata Witch will look back at how travels in her her youth and a traumatic incident during her teen years shaped her creative life—particularly her love of science fiction and the fantastic.

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Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House Finds the Beating Heart of Shirley Jackson’s Tale

Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House is easily one of the best things I’ve seen on Netflix. It’s consistently scary and moving, creepy and heartfelt, and creates one of the best, most multi-dimensional views of a family I’ve seen since Six Feet Under.

And as a work of horror, Hill House works because it’s an adaptation. It takes Shirley Jackson’s novel as more of a sketch than a blueprint, and it frees itself to riff on the horror genre as a whole.

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V.E. Schwab’s Out-of-Print Debut Novel The Near Witch Gets Reissued

Seven years ago, Victoria Schwab’s first novel, The Near Witch, was published by Disney/Hyperion. Within two years, the book was out of print, and became what the author known now as V.E. Schwab describes as “a strange and vaguely mythic story, one readers heard of, but couldn’t find.” Now, Titan Books is reviving that mythic story by reissuing The Near Witch with a haunting new cover and a new introduction by Schwab.

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A Non-Spoiler Look at John Scalzi’s The Consuming Fire

Hello, friends! It’s time! Our return to The Interdependency for a fun adventure is here! But before we all download our ebooks, fire up Audible, or crack open our shiny new hardcover, let’s have a quick recap of what went down in the first book of the series, The Collapsing Empire.

In a galaxy far, far away, humans live within the Interdependency, a massive empire that has been churning along for a millennium, anchored by trade partnerships between planetary systems light years away from one another. The societies of the Interdependency are connected by the Flow, a naturally occurring “river” of space-time that allows ships to pass in and out by using entrance “shoals” that remain stationary. It allows humans to build their colonies throughout different parts of the galaxy and makes travel between them faster. Not always fast—some trips can take weeks or months—but notably quicker than without the Flow, which would take so long you would be super dead at the end of the trip. The Flow allows a huge interdependent economy to flourish—that’s the Interdependency.

But it’s all coming to an end, because the Flow shoals are vanishing.

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Reading Around the World: Five Books from Five Different Continents

A few years ago, I read Kalpa Imperial and The Three Body Problem in quick succession, and I said to myself, I have GOT to make my SFF reading more global! And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from living overseas, it’s that the world is a bigger, deeper place with more richness in so many more ways than I ever could have imagined.

Like many readers, I try to seek out authors from all different perspectives and walks of life. It makes my reading experience that much broader and fuller and more enjoyable—and also, I think, helps me understand more of the world and thus become a more empathetic human. As geographic diversity in particular has become an important piece of that awareness, I’ve also become especially interested in reading more work in translation, and I want to give a shoutout to Rachel Cordasco’s website SF In Translation for the great reviews and recommendations. If you’re interested in spreading out your reading, that’s a good place to start. Here’s hoping we can increase the market for authors in all places, both Anglophone and non-Anglophone, and get more books to read from everywhere!

Now, to tempt you, here are five knockout reads from five different continents.

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Series: Five Books About…

Eight SFF Stories Written in Verse

Sometimes there is a tale so epic, so lyrical, so otherworldly that plain old prose can’t do it justice! That is when serious writers break out the verse. We’ve collected eight books—some horror, some myth, one science fiction, and one YA—that use verse to pluck their readers away form the workaday world and into stories that bend reality.

Let us know if we’ve missed any of your favorites in the comments!

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Reading The Ruin of Kings: New Beginnings (Prologue & Chapter 1)

Hello, Tor.com, your Auntie Leigh here! Have you missed me? I’ve missed you! But I return to the fold today with a Very Important Message for you. Are you listening? Awesome, here it is:

Beginnings are important.

There’s a definite flavor of “duh” to that statement, I know. Um, yeah, you say, of course beginnings are important, if we didn’t begin things we wouldn’t have things. Okay, yes, true. But, I contest, the beginnings of some kinds of things are more important than those of other things.

Stop being so damn vague, you say? Okay, how’s this: the beginnings of stories are important.

Also a “duh” statement, possibly. But, possibly, not.

The beginning of a story is vital. I would argue, in fact, that the beginning of a story is more important than any other part of it, including the end. Which may seem like nonsense, but think about it: if you aren’t intrigued enough by the beginning of a story to keep reading, it doesn’t really matter whether the end is good or not, does it? You’ll never get there to find out. A story without an audience is no story at all.

Why do I say that? And what does this have to do with the nifty artwork up there for a certain upcoming series, hmm? Well, if this beginning was enough to entice you to want to know more, click on to find out!

[Well begun is half done and alla that]

Series: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons: Prologue and Chapter 1

Debut author Jenn Lyons has created one of the funniest, most engrossing new epic fantasy novels of the 21st century in The Ruin of Kings. An eyebrow-raising cross between the intricacy of Brandon Sanderson’s worldbuilding and the snark of Patrick Rothfuss.

Which is why Tor.com is releasing one or two chapters per week, leading all the way up to the book’s release on February 5th, 2019!

Not only that, but our resident Wheel of Time expert Leigh Butler will be reading along and reacting with you. So when you’re done with this week’s chapter, head on over to Reading The Ruin of Kings for some fresh commentary.

Our journey begins….

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Series: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

Reading the Wheel of Time: Cracks in the Wall in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 12)

So it’s official friends: I totally ship Nynaeve and Lan. I was pretty much on board with it before now, despite being cross with Lan for his rather selfish handling of the situation. But if I was at all on the fence, Moiraine’s observations about them in Chapter 22 have sealed the deal for me.

As those have been following this read know, I have a lot of empathy for Nynaeve, particularly for her insecurities and the often terrible way she handles them. Though she is someone who really struggles to control her temper, she is also in many ways a very repressed person–in fact I believe the latter trait actually informs the former. This repression is due in part due to her unconscious suppression of her channeling abilities, but also is due to her intense sense of duty towards those in her charge. As a healer, Nynaeve must always face the fact that failure, be it her fault or entirely unavoidable, can mean loss of life for those who rely on her and for whom she cares. After all, her first instance of channeling came about when she couldn’t face (what she thought was going to be) the death of Egwene, and we’ve seen her get angry to the point of irrationality when faced with the inability to protect the people she wants to protect. Granted, she’s channeled all this into her unfair and unhelpful hatred of Moiraine, but the human impulse to turn one’s inner frustrations outward is a flaw I think many can emphasize with.

After all, it’s far easier and less painful to be angry at someone else than it is to deeply examine one’s own feelings of vulnerability or guilt, and the people who feel the most deeply are often the most likely to have developed some less than perfect coping mechanisms. The world, be it Rand’s or ours, is not often kind to the sensitive sort. And the fascinating thing is that this same struggle of deep emotion and sense of duty is also an intrinsic part of Lan’s character. It’s no wonder they are drawn together.

But I can tackle those thoughts after the recap, and after we also tackle Chapter 21 and poor Rand’s slightly uncomfortable stay in The Nine Rings.

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Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapter 4 (Part 1)

Ivan has been many things to many people. He has been an object of jealousy, a military officer, a friend, a cousin, and a lover. He has been a foppish playboy—he has, and will continue to have, some distinctly Bertie Wooster moments—and he has been the Vor lord, with intent, which is pretty impressive considering that he is the Lord of exactly nothing, it’s a courtesy title that acknowledges his close relationship to other people who are actually important. He’s been a hostage, a rescuer, and a native guide. He’s an ADC whose flat is stocked with rat bars and wine. And now, he’s the guy who’s bringing dinner.

What does Ivan bring, when he brings dinner?

Everything. Ivan brings everything.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Black Lightning Returns with a Focus on Consequences

A new episode—in fact, an entire new season—of Black Lightning means confronting a lot of tension; tension that goes beyond the fictional setting of Freeland, bleeding into the realities of our current moment. Facing that tension, especially as a Black audience, is an experience fraught with complex emotions: there is, of course, joy in the heroism and hope on display, but the show being so painfully adept at casting a stern eye upon the troubles of the African-American experience, especially as it relates to crime and policing, can surely be jarring sometimes. I want to say that experience is in itself radical: the series standing in as a speculative fiction watchman over the turbulence of living while black in America, providing an opportunity to channel some anger and power through a critical, empathetic outlet—but that empathy doesn’t rob the anger or desire for justice of any of its intensity or immediacy

The season two premiere, “The Book of Consequences, Chapter One: Rise of the Green Light Babies,” is no exception.

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Adventures in Space and Time: Andre Norton’s Galactic Derelict

Galactic Derelict is another Andre Norton novel I almost-remember reading. I remember the opening, with a Norton Hero(TM) riding into a camp in the desert. I very vaguely remember that this iteration was Native American—Apache, he turns out to be.

I had forgotten that Travis Fox is in Arizona, and I wouldn’t have known that I’d end up living not all that far away from where his ranch is supposed to be, along with the secret Canyon of the Hohokam where he meets a crew of time travelers masquerading as archaeologists. That turned out to be a nice bonus. I know the landscape, and I can imagine going for a horseback ride in the desert and running across a dig. Archaeological sites are rather thick on the ground out here. There are Hohokam villages everywhere.

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Boys Playing with Balsa Wood: First Man Grapples with Darkness in the Heart of Space

I watch space movies not because it is easy but because it is hard. I watch them to remind myself that my country used to do great things, the same way that I read the work of Black authors, Latinx authors, Indigenous authors, Asian-American authors, to remind myself that my country has always been a son of a bitch.

First Man is the rare space exploration movie to honestly confront both of those sides of America. It’s been criticized by some people for not being patriotic enough (because it doesn’t focus on the moment Neil Armstrong planted an American flag on the moon) but it’s actually a complicated work that explores the idea of patriotism and masculinity, and the way those can become entangled. What results is a film that is by far the most interesting, and harrowing, film I’ve ever seen about the U.S. space program. 

[Yes, even more harrowing than Gravity.]

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