The year is 1915, and a young man hired to shout the words on title cards for silent films experiences the magic of movies. This spurs him to edit some of the worst dialog, leading him in a weird direction that utterly changes his life.
It’s hard to start anywhere but with the feral hogs.
Termination Shock, Neal Stephenson’s latest doorstopper (at just over 700 pages, it’s considerably shorter than his last few books), is a sprawling, truly global story. It would be foolish to expect anything else from Stephenson, whose novels regularly involve the minutiae of an endlessly surprising array of topics. To read him is to accept that you’re not just going to be told a story; you’re going to be educated. Often, it’s about something fascinating. How much time did I spend distracted by the Wikipedia page about the Maeslantkering, which plays a role in the novel? Let’s not talk about that.
Sometimes it is less engrossing. Termination Shock is the length of approximately three shorter books, and the first of those is almost 300 pages of warmup to one of the novel’s central concepts: In the Texas desert, a quirky billionaire has set up a massive geoengineering project. In the meticulous process of detailing this, Stephenson digs into the personal history of an aide to the queen of the Netherlands; explains how, about 10 years from now, fire ants and supply chain issues have driven many Texans from their homes; and gives the backstory of a man named Rufus, who has a beef with one of those feral hogs. All told, there are, in the book, more than 30 to 50 of them.
Head below for the full list of Young Adult SFF titles heading your way in December!
The show Peacemaker, a spin-off of the eponymous character played by John Cena in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, is coming at us in the new year. For those who haven’t seen the film, Christopher Smith/Peacemaker is… not the most ethical guy but justifies everything he does as protecting America.
Naturally, the series is a comedy.
From August 2017 – January 2020, Keith R.A. DeCandido took a weekly look at every live-action movie based on a superhero comic that had been made to date in the weekly “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch.” He has been revisiting the feature every six months or so to look back at the new releases in the previous half-year. This week we kick off the latest revisiting with Black Widow, followed in the weeks to come by The Suicide Squad, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Eternals.
Marvel’s age of heroes started in 1961 with the introduction of the Fantastic Four, and in those early Cold War-era days, many of the villains the various Marvel heroes faced were Communists of some manner or other. Cold War sensibilities influenced the origin stories of the FF (beating the “Commies” into space), the Hulk (a “Commie” agent sabotaged the bomb test), and Iron Man (Stark was in Southeast Asia selling weapons being used to fight the “Commies”).
One of the many villains from behind the Iron Curtain introduced in those early days was the Black Widow.
Hawkeye is back this week in “Echoes,” and trick arrows abound…
In the lead-up to the 2021 Hugo Awards, we’re taking time to appreciate this year’s best novel Finalists, and what makes each of them great.
The Relentless Moon marks roughly the halfway point of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series, at least considering how many books have been published and/or announced so far. It’s fitting, then, that the 2020 novel represents a shift in how her punch-card-punk alternate-universe series addresses its own premise: The first two novels, The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, are about humanity’s rush to figure out a way off-planet before The Meteor’s climate cataclysm renders the Earth completely uninhabitable. The Relentless Moon doesn’t have all the answers yet—but by transforming into a tense spy thriller set in a claustrophobic lunar colony, it picks that equation back up and continues to work toward a solution with a fresh set of eyes.
There’s something inherently intriguing about a narrative that seems to be one genre and then turns out to be another—especially when it’s a work of fantasy that turns out to be a work of science fiction. There’s Arthur C. Clarke’s famous quote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Hard to Be a God, Samuel R. Delany’s The Einstein Intersection, and Iain M. Banks’s Inversions would all fall into this category as well.
I was pretty nervous about re-reading Perelandra. The last time I read it, several decades ago, it was pretty firmly in the top three of Lewis’ novels for me, and I was concerned that after all these years I might discover some fatal flaw that would make the book less enjoyable, less interesting, or less fun. I’m glad to say that although there was a lot to process, and a lot of scenes I had no memory of whatsoever (there are a fair number of multi-page philosophical rambles), and although I’m still trying to wrap my brain around what exactly Lewis was saying about gender, overall I still enjoyed the book a great deal and, indeed, it’s still one of my favorites.
Perelandra was one of Lewis’ favorites of his own work, too. Multiple times throughout his life he suggested it was the best thing he had written (in his later days he’d sometimes push it to second after Till We Have Faces), and there is a lot about the novel that brings together Lewis’ particular interests, skills, and thoughts. It’s a theological book and a space adventure at the same time, and successfully does both things at once… it never feels like two books fighting with each other.
Series: The Great C.S. Lewis Reread
Even in the 1970s, when I was an avid magazine reader, it was impossible to keep up with all the publications and all the stories. I relied on annual anthologies collecting the best short SF. At the time, such projects were helmed by Wollheim, del Rey, and Carr (I was just a bit late for Merrill). Although the Best Of annuals all had the same core mission, no two editorial teams had quite the same idea what “best” might be, so I didn’t end up buying the same short story over and over. When I did, it was an indication that story was worth the reader’s attention.
These days, there are many venues for short fiction, and there enough Best Of annuals that keeping track of them can be challenging. Of course, you’re all aware of the Horton, Clarke, and Strahan annuals; here are four that may be new to you.
Time is a flat circle, or so that one TV show said, and everything old is constantly new again, and so it’s time. Time for a new generation to experience a cinematic Dracula played by an actor whose casting is so obvious, it seems impossible he hasn’t played the role before. In the ’90s, we got Gary Oldman as Dracula. This made perfect sense at the time. But the ’20s will also get the Dracula we deserve, and his name is Nicolas Cage.
Cage, according to The Hollywood Reporter, has joined the cast of Universal’s Renfield, the studio’s latest attempt to make Universal Monsters into a thing. (Previous attempts include that Tom Cruise Mummy movie.) Renfield is set to star Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class) as Dracula’s flunkie, a human believed to be insane. (Tom Waits played him in the 1992 Dracula.)
Plot details have not been announced, but the movie is expected to be “comedic in tone.”
“One spark. Two sparks. Three. This is what it takes to ignite a revolution.”
A reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairytale, “The Tinder Box” tells the story of a witch at the heart of an incipient rebellion—and all of those to come.
In 2089, Dhaka, Bangladesh has found an unexpected way to not just survive a global climate apocalypse…
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Saad Z. Hossain’s Cyber Mage, a genre mashup of SF and fantasy that offers a scathing critique of corporate greed—available December 7th from Unnamed Press.
Head below for the full list of science fiction titles heading your way in December!