A Master Class in Writing Horses: Horse by Geraldine Brooks

In one of those happy coincidences that often befall the writer-by-trade, while I was pondering the nature of the racehorse and the psychology of the stallion, I happened across a review of a new book that looked as if it would focus on both themes. Geraldine Brooks’ Horse is the work of a famously meticulous researcher who is also a devoted horse person. And it shows.

I did not know anything about the author when I read the book, except that this is far from her first novel, and she’s won a Pulitzer Prize. Therefore I expected some of what I got: highly polished prose, visibly topical characters and themes, and a familiar device of literary novels, the interweaving of a carefully described past with a present that explicitly reflects it.

What I also got was an engrossing read, with twists and turns that left me breathless. Wild coincidences and bizarre connections that actually, historically happened. And a deep, true knowledge of and love for horses.

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Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Dead Stop”

“Dead Stop”
Written by Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong
Directed by Roxann Dawson
Season 2, Episode 4
Production episode 031
Original air date: October 9, 2002
Date: unknown

Captain’s star log. Tucker and Archer survey the damage done by the Romulans last episode. They don’t have the parts to do a proper repair on the outer hull of the saucer. As it stands, Tucker doesn’t think they can do more than warp two or so, which means it would take the better part of a decade to get back home to Jupiter Station.

Archer has Sato send out a general distress call, on the theory that they’ve answered enough of them over the last year. A Tellarite ship answers, saying they can’t help, but there’s a fantastic repair station not far away. They can get there in a few days at warp two, so Archer sets a course.

[You look pretty good for a dead guy…]

Series: Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

15 Years Later, Ratatouille’s Message About Art Still Inspires Me

When I went to see Ratatouille in 2007, I was trapped in a terrible job. I was exhausted all the time, I felt completely uninspired, and spent a sickening amount of energy questioning myself, beating myself up, hating every decision I’d made that led me to that moment in my life, and creating a vomitous feedback loop of self-loathing. When I went to the movie with friends, I was paying for two hours of forgetfulness. Two hours to stop thinking about my life, and lose myself in a cute Pixar story. I remember hoping I liked the short. And then the film started, and I didn’t get forgetfulness—I got a much-needed slap in the face.

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Five Stories About Sending Teens Into Space

Why send teens into space? They are the ideal astronaut candidates: They are less likely to grasp the inherent risks involved in space travel, so might be less terrified to know they are about to be launched into space by a rocket built by the lowest bidder. Also, if things don’t turn out well, losing a fifteen-year-old in the vast emptiness of space is arguably less costly than losing a seasoned, experienced adult.

…or so the authorities in some SF settings would argue.

In our real world, space efforts are kneecapped by namby-pamby nanny-state-isms like safety and basic human decency. Not so science fiction creators, who have gleefully jumped on the story potential of TEENS…IN…SPACE.

Consider these five works about space-going teens.

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Immortal Combat: Nicola Griffith’s Spear

If revisionist takes on all things Arthurian are your cup of tea—or, perhaps, your cup of mead—it’s likely been a good couple of years for you. Lavie Tidhar’s novel By Force Alone comes to mind as one recent work that took an intriguing approach to a familiar story; Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora’s comic Once and Future blends a deconstruction of myths with intense action sequences.

There’s also Sword Stone Table, an anthology of Arthurian retellings edited by Jenn Northington and Swapna Krishna—which, it turns out, is part of the origin story for Nicola Griffith’s new novella Spear.

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“A little strategic violence” — The Umbrella Academy Season Three Continues to Bring the Bugnuts

The second season of The Umbrella Academy ended with a nasty cliffhanger, as the Hargreeves kids came forward in time from 1963 after saving the world from nuclear armageddon only to find that the Umbrella Academy doesn’t exist, and in its place is the Sparrow Academy, still run by Sir Reginald Hargreeves (played by Colm Feore, the character now alive in 2019) but with six new children as his students, plus the also-still-alive Ben.

What follows is a worthy third season that keeps the themes of TUA from prior seasons while giving us some new stuff.

[I stopped tracking what was possible a long time ago.]

Scientifically Plausible SF Settings That Provide an Alternative to FTL Travel

Suppose for the moment that one was a science fiction author and was trying to imagine a plausible setting in which a multitude of inhabited worlds were within easy, quick reach. Further suppose that one did not care to discard relativity, but likewise was not keen on a setting where time dilation plays a significant role. What is one to do?

How many authors have tried to come up with settings that meet all these demands? More than you’d expect.

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The Crawling King: A Conversation With Einar Baldvin

Einar Baldvin’s graphic novel The Crawling King released in 2018 on the heels of a successful Kickstarter campaign. The eerie grimoire blends fairy tale elements, Lovecraftian monsters, and an overarching narrative about a fallen kingdom. The book is an ideal conversation starter: a lovingly crafted, horror-filled tome packed with dazzlingly dark illustrations and compelling yarns. 

But after its initial run, The Crawling King seemed to fade into the background. The book soon became hard to find, with secondhand copies surfacing rarely and almost always above list price. 

After I discussed the graphic novel in my article about fictional texts with dark or mysterious implications, Einar Baldvin got in touch. We chatted about The Crawling King and his career as an animator and illustrator. He also revealed that he and his publisher have a few stray copies of the book still available, which are now available for purchase

My conversation with Baldvin below spans origin stories (his own and that of The Crawling King), inspirations, his experience working with Starburns Industries, and a few hints at what’s next…. 

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Fairy Tale Fanfic — Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: “The Elysian Kingdom”

One of the most popular tropes in genre television especially is the episode where the characters all act wildly out of character. Star Trek has indulged in this trope dozens of times before, though the reasons for the out-of-character behavior are legion: disease (the original series’ “The Naked Time,” TNG’s “The Naked Now”), weird telepathy (DS9‘s “Dramatis Personae”), an alternate timeline (the original series’ “Mirror, Mirror,” DS9’s “Crossover” and its followups, Enterprise’s “In a Mirror, Darkly,” Discovery’s “Despite Yourself” and its followups), biased historical records (Voyager’s “Living Witness”), holodeck shenanigans (DS9’s “Our Man Bashir,” Voyager’s “Bride of Chaotica!”). And now we get to add alien interference to the list…

[I knew I should’ve stayed in the castle—it’s always safer at home!]

Adulthood Meets Adolescence in Young Justice: Phantoms

The DC animated show Young Justice has a problem: its heroes aren’t exactly young anymore.

What started out as a series about the adolescent sidekicks of mainstream Justice Leaguers like Batman and Martian Manhunter has become, as some fans put it, the generic DC show, stuffed with heroes and villains of all ages.

Showrunners Brandon Vietti and Greg Weisman abandoned the tight focus on a core group of teen heroes from season two, opting instead to include more adult heroes, though the drama still centered around the original crew. Season three took things even further, as the adult Justice Leaguers became involved in a cold war between the heroes of Earth and Darkseid.

Season four (also called Young Justice: Phantoms), which finished airing in early June, has been an attempt to restore the show’s original focus.

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