What We Are Writing About When We Write About Ghosts

Ghost stories have been with us for thousands of years. The oldest ones, dating back to The Epic of Gilgamesh, included tales of monsters and spirit beings in the underworld, ghosts who held secrets for the living.

Spectrality plays with our beliefs about time. We like to think that past, present, and future are separate from each other, but they’re interconnected. When something happens in the past, it isn’t just over and done with. Tragic events from the past still resonate in the present, which is why certain places enter into local folklore or become historical sites. After suffering a deep loss, people can become engulfed with grief and memories of a loved one. Guilt follows people to their graves. We live in a layered continuum of time, and ghost stories make this explicit. Ghosts signal memories that won’t go away; they signal the guilt of culprits or survivors; they signal an eruption of the past into our present and the dead’s future as we watch a spirit repeatedly go through the motions of a last act.

Need proof? Think of the most popular folktales and legends. The Tower of London is haunted by Anne Boleyn. Every major city in America has a ghost tour, full of stories of buildings haunted by past inhabitants. The ghosts in these stories are usually victims, whether of murder, an untimely death, or past abuse. The specters we see repeatedly are reminders of the things that we can’t yet face, but they keep materializing in front of us, especially when we try to ignore them.

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Ryan Reynolds and John Krasinski Are Teaming Up for a Fantasy Comedy Called Imaginary Friends

Remember Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends? In this mid-to-late aughts Cartoon Network show, imaginary friends, when outgrown by the children who imagined them into existence, end up at an orphanage run by a kindly older woman and her lifelong imaginary friend. Well, what if there were no such place? What if, instead, abandoned imaginary friends were left to languish on their own, unseen and unloved, and ended up on a Joker-esque downward spiral to a career of evil and dastardly deeds?

That’s, more or less, the premise of John Krasinski’s new fantasy comedy Imaginary Friends, starring Ryan Reynolds.

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Naked, Stoned, and Stabbed

The Wild Cards universe has been thrilling readers for over 25 years. “Naked, Stones and Stabbed” is an fantastic new tale from acclaimed sci-fi writer Bradley Denton, about the hidden truths revealed when a Who concert goes haywire.

Freddie’s looking for answers. Freddie’s also a bit unconventional: in his looks, in his music tastes, and oh yeah, he’s also a nascent ace who can manipulate sound. But he’s got a gig as a roadie for The Who and the opportunity of a lifetime in New York City. See, the only thing Freddie wants is the opportunity to meet his older half-sister — and not even a suspicious fire at the Bowery Ballroom can stop him.

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Series: Wild Cards on Tor.com

Apple Has Renewed For All Mankind For a Second Season

Apple’s forthcoming series For All Mankind will already get a second season, according to Deadline. The series is set to debut with the company’s streaming platform, Apple TV + on November 1st, and follows a group of astronauts in an alternate history in which the Soviet Union beats the United States to the Moon.

As a result, the US redoubles its efforts and begins recruiting women to become astronauts in an effort to keep up with the space race. The series comes from Ron Moore, who created SCI FI’s Battlestar Galactica reboot and Starz’s Outlander.

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Sleeps With Monsters: Queen of Coin and Whispers

The strangest thing about talking about Helen Corcoran’s debut novel is that it’s actually kind of weird that I only met her recently. We’re both from Ireland and we’re both queer women—and we attended the same alma mater—and honestly, this country’s not that big. By that rubric, it’d turn out to be dead awkward if I hated Queen of Coin and Whispers, said debut (coming in April 2020 from Irish publisher O’Brien Press): I’m nearly certain that this is the first queer fantasy with a love story featuring young women to be published from a traditional outfit here, and I have just enough local pride to want the best for it.

Fortunately, Corcoran has written a novel that could have been tailor-made to satisfy my particular narrative kinks.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

It’s No Game: Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

In 2016, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination published my survey “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction” (now hosted here). Since then, Tor.com has published 29 in-depth essays I wrote about some of the 42 works mentioned, and a thirtieth essay by LaShawn Wanak on my collection Filter House. This time we’re discussing the importance of Brown Girl in the Ring, the first published novel by the wonderful award-winner Nalo Hopkinson.

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Sabbath Sweepstakes!

Highlander meets Seven in Nick Mamatas’s Sabbath – and we want to send you a copy!

The infamous eleventh-century warrior Hexen Sabbath is plucked from death and certain damnation by a being claiming to be an angel of the Lord, and finds himself dropped into contemporary Manhattan with no clothes, no weapons, no resources, and one mission—to track down and kill the living personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins before they bring about Armageddon.

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Far Apart, Close By: Homesick by Nino Cipri

Nino Cipri’s debut book of fabulist queer stories, Homesick, won the Dzanc Short Fiction Collection Prize in 2018—and now the collection has been released, just in time to be an ideal (and mildly haunting) October read. The pieces included are innovative and introspective at turns, often open-ended but evocative in their exploration of liminal spaces in homes, families, and the world at large.

Eight of the nine stories in Homesick are reprints from various publications, including magazines like Tor.com and Nightmare, while the final novella, “Before We Disperse Like Star Stuff,” is original to the book. Cipri’s fiction takes on questions of nationality, neurodivergence, and gender in the context of connection and estrangement, and in doing so, approaches the emotions surrounding complicated and complicating problems in contemporary life.

[A review.]

Series: Queering SFF

Gormenghast With Hooves: Learning the Art of Dark Storytelling From My Little Pony

I don’t have many memories from before I was six. I don’t think most people do. We have the idea of memories, the stories our families have told us about how cute we were when we were little, the ridiculous things we did or said or believed. It seems weird to me sometimes that I could have forgotten the things people tell me happened, like the time I brought a rattlesnake home to be my new pet, or the time I spent an entire summer taking naps on top of bookcases, but that’s the thing about human memory. It doesn’t play fair.

One of those early memories, though, one of those rare, precious, treasured memories, is walking through a department store with my grandmother. I was four. She was taking me to get a present. I’m not sure why: it may have had something to do with my mother’s impending marriage to the man who would go on to father my two sisters, or maybe she just felt like it. Whatever the reason, she took me to the toy section and told me I could have two things.

I picked Minty and Cotton Candy, two of the original six My Little Ponies, and thus was an obsession born.

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My Gift Was Memory: On Ta-Nehisi Coates’s The Water Dancer

Mythic language pervades the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates. In his leviathanic 2015 piece, “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” he invoked The Grey Wastes, hearkening back to a childhood enthrallment with D&D. In “The Case for Reparations,” race relations are recast in the language of plunder and credit, and though he’s writing specifically about housing and redlining and Clyde Ross, he’s also writing about slavery and Jim Crow, state regimes and intergenerational oppression. In his National Book Award-winning letter to his son, Between the World and Me, the epistolary format provides a ribcage for the poetic heart beating inside.

With The Water Dancer, Coates’s first full-length novel, a story about slavery and a superpower, we pay witness to a writer unchained. In the proliferation of subjunctive clauses; the easy moving from waking to dreaming; capitalizations as we see in the Tasked, the Quality, and Low whites; in the very configuration of Lockless manor as two houses—one shown and one hidden—containing liminal spaces through which the Tasked must flit so as to appear at parties to pour a guest’s drink like they were summoned out of thin air, in all of these things lives a writer finally able to marry novelistic tendencies to the form. The faithfully dated prose and the constraints of this story’s form as recitation or testimonial allow Coates ample room to both dramatize his arguments and encapsulate them in single lines of cutting dialogue, to carry an entire longform essay’s worth of insights in the arms of a single paragraph-long interaction between two characters. The result is a powerful, if somewhat bloated, book that seeks to do so much. Sometimes, perhaps, too much. But while the moonshot may be off, the fistfuls of firmament Coates is able to bring back to us are a wonder to behold.

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Kali Wallace’s Salvation Day Is Becoming a Movie

Kali Wallace‘s near-future space thriller Salvation Day is being turned into a movie! The Hollywood Reporter has reported that Karl Gajdusek, executive producer of Stranger Things season 1 and screenwriter of Oblivion, will be writing the feature film adaptation of the novel. Ripley executive producer Ben Forkner will be producing.

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Download a Free Ebook of The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera Before Oct. 19!

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach—but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people.

Now it is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from these encroaching demons.

Each month, the Tor.com eBook Club gives away one (or two, and sometimes five? You can’t pin us down!) free sci-fi/fantasy ebook to club subscribers. For October 2019, the Ebook Club pick is K Arsenault Rivera’s novel THE TIGER’S DAUGHTER.

As book reviewer Natalie Zutter put it after finishing the novel:

Shefali. O-Shizuka. We need to talk.

You’re out of control. You run through palace gardens fending off tigers, and camp out on the Silver Steppes grappling with demons around the fire. You’re so convinced that you’ve been touched by the gods because you’ve been able to escape tiger attacks without getting mauled, just some claws to the shoulder.

Go on….

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