It’s Very Wrong to Do Cannibalism: Alex Blechman’s “You Are the Rats in the Walls” Video Game

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.

This week, we’re playing Alex Blechman’s “You Are the Rats in the Walls” video game, created in January 2020 for Techdirt’s Gaming Like It’s 1924 game jam. Play takes about 15-20 minutes, and we recommend playing! Spoilers ahead.

[“Loading rats…”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Read Ken Liu’s “Staying Behind” From the New Collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories

From stories about time-traveling assassins, to Black Mirror-esque tales of cryptocurrency and Internet trolling, to heartbreaking narratives of parent-child relationships, Ken Liu’s The Hidden Girl and Other Stories is a far-reaching work that explores topical themes from the present and a speculative look at humanity’s future.

Publishing Feb 25th with Saga Press, The Hidden Girl includes 16 of Liu’s science fiction and fantasy stories, plus a new novelette. Read the 2011 story “Staying Behind” below!

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The Left Hand of Darkness, Part II: Love on the Ice

A biweekly series, The Ursula K. Le Guin Reread explores anew the transformative writing, exciting worlds, and radical stories that changed countless lives. This week we’ll be covering The Left Hand of Darkness, first published by Ace Books in 1969. My edition is Ace Books, 1999, and this installment of the reread covers pages 185 to the end (out of a total of 304 pages)

Gethen—Winter—is a world utterly alien to the vast majority of our earth’s population. The frozen wastes, heaving glaciers, icy crevasses, unending cold and snow are so far from the warmer climes that most humans inhabit that they stand out as exotic, other, exciting. Their ambisexuality aside, the people of Gethen also entice: they are an evolutionary branch of humankind suited to permanent winter, brought to sweats by the lowest setting on a small, portable heater in a tent buried in snow atop a mountain. For non-indigenous readers, the Gethenians likely conjure fetishized images of Inuit and igloos, or remind us of trivia about a language with thirty… no fifty—or was it a hundred?—words for snow. Perhaps the scene of two men (to Genly, at least, for a time) fleeing 800 miles across taiga, mountains, a glacier, running toward unsure safety in another country evokes the ironically cozy feeling of winter survival films like The Way Back (2010), Vertical Limit (2000), or, the gods of Kobol forbid, The Day After Tomorrow (2004).

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Series: The Ursula K. Le Guin Reread

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and the Losers Who Become Heroes (and Then Losers Again)

If you don’t already watch Legends of Tomorrow, whatever kind of show you think it is, it’s not that. It’s too kooky, too adorable, too raucous, too frenetic, too earnest, too inexplicable, too wonderful, too cheesy to be contained. I’m full of warm fuzzies just thinking about it. Legends of Tomorrow is the kind of show that knows television can be fun and fresh and diverse and inclusive all at once. As season 5 kicks into high gear, I want to take a moment to celebrate a show we don’t talk about nearly enough.

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Badass Librarians Fight for Our Future in 2020

The heroes of the near future, of worlds starved for knowledge and restricted by authoritarian regimes, are genetically-engineered soldiers and six-shooter-toting horseback riders. They know how to cross unforgiving deserts teeming with poisonous snakes and vicious bandits, how to calculate the most brutally efficient combination of moves to neatly dispatch their enemies before they’ve even landed the first blow. And they’ll do it all with their most treasured tool in their hands or on their backs: a book.

Because they’re librarians. Every single one of them. Because the only people who are going to save our future are the ones who still know what the truth is, and who are willing to bring it to the people who need it most.

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Peering Into The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

In her first two books, Natasha Pulley created a magical, soft-steampunk world inspired by folklore, history, and clairvoyant futurists. Both her debut, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, and sophomore release, The Bedlam Stacks, share space in the same universe, but are distantly related by small threads. Her newest book, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, is a direct sequel Filigree Street, taking place five years later.

The story once again follows Nathaniel Steepleton as he makes his way through the world twisted around the machinations of Baron Keita Mori, the Japanese samurai/soothsayer who seems to be pulling the strings of fate in every movement and breath. In this novel, Thaniel and Mori, along with their adopted daughter Six, travel to Japan, where Thaniel takes up a post at the Foreign Affairs office in Tokyo. In the Meiji era, the politics of Tokyo are strung in between Western modernization and traditionalist values. Nearby, strange storms are brewing on Mount Fuji, and people are seeing ghosts.

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Announcing the L.A. Times’ First Inaugural Ray Bradbury Prize Finalists

The Los Angeles Times has announced the finalists for its 40th annual L.A. Times Book Prizes, which span awards for a bunch of different genres including Current Interest, Fiction, Graphic Novels, and History books published in 2019. This also marks the launch of the publication’s Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction. Sponsored by Ray Bradbury Literary Works, the prize “honors Bradbury’s literary legacy by celebrating writers working in his field today.”

Check out the nominees for this inaugural prize below!

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Hardboiled World: Four Creative Noir Traditions From Around the Globe

I spent the three years of my doctorate defining noir and its direct descendant, cyberpunk, and their representations in film and literature outside of the US—in particular Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. As an Australian who has lived throughout East and Southeast Asia for a decade as an aid worker, as a writer, and as an obsessive of hardboiled literature and the film Blade Runner, the task was a merging of all my professions and passions.

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An Aged Mystery in a Surreal Landscape: Marian Womack’s The Golden Key

Marian Womack’s fiction finds the middle ground between haunting landscapes and the surreal. She’s edited an anthology in collaboration with Gary Budden, whose work occupies a subgenre known as “landscape punk.” And a review of her 2018 collection Lost Objects in Weird Fiction Review cited the story “Kingfisher,” and highlighted “a blurred boundary between an initially recognizable world and a later turn toward something much weirder.”

While much of Womack’s work to date has been set around the present or in a possible future, her new novel The Golden Key opts for a very different locale: England in 1901.

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All Rebel, No Cause: Andre Norton’s Ride Proud, Rebel!

2020 is a difficult year for reading novels about the American Civil War. The old comfortable myths, the familiar interpretations of history, have developed serious fractures. The romance of the Confederacy has given way to the dismantling of Confederate war memorials. The election of an African-American President represented both the power of cultural change and the vehement, even violent opposition to it.

Andre Norton published Ride Proud, Rebel! in 1961, in the midst of the Civil Rights era. Her science fiction novels took care to depict a future that was not all or even mostly white, and she tried hard to write Black and Native American characters with respect and understanding. And yet she chose this material for a foray into historical fiction.

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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Emanations”

Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by David Livingston
Season 1, Episode 8
Production episode 109
Original air date: March 13, 1995
Stardate: 48623.5

Captain’s log. Voyager has detected a heretofore undiscovered element in the asteroids of a ring around a planet. They investigate, as it could be useful, not just to catalogue, but to mine and use. Chakotay, Kim, and Torres beam down to discover that the element is in a weird coating that’s on a bunch of dead bodies that seem to be haphazardly stored in the asteroid. (The asteroid is also Class M; the notion that an asteroid would have oxygen-nitrogen air and the same gravity as Earth is patently absurd, but doing space suits and filming in a gravity-less environment aren’t really in a 1990s TV show’s budget.)

[In essence, Commander, you were strolling through dead bodies.]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Sonic The Hedgehog: An Origin Story That Deserves a Follow-Up

When someone at work asks how I felt about Sonic the Hedgehog, I will say “It was great!” because they know me as “the guy who really likes Sonic” and not necessarily “the guy who has spent 50+ podcast hours talking about Sonic’s cultural impact and meaning” so they don’t need the full, complicated answer. But you clicked on this review, so you need the details. And the truth is: Sonic the Hedgehog is a fun movie, but it sacrifices Sonic’s messy and rebellious history to make Marvel-style comfort food.

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Ken Liu and Katie M. Flynn Bundle Sweepstakes!

Read two of the most exciting sci-fi releases this year! We want to send you a copy of Ken Liu’s latest collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, along with Katie M. Flynn’s near-future novel The Companions!


Ken Liu is one of the most lauded short story writers of our time. The Hidden Girl and Other Stories includes a selection of his science fiction and fantasy stories from the last five years—sixteen of his best—plus a new novelette.

Station Eleven meets Never Let Me Go in The Companions by Katie M. Flynn, a debut novel set in an unsettling near future where the dead can be uploaded to machines and kept in service by the living.

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