How Does a Centaur Eat, Anyway?

This is entirely the fault of the staff writers. I take no responsibility for the consequences. One day I received the following email:

Our staff writers were just debating how centaurs work … and how, for example, they would eat: do they have horse stomachs or human stomachs?

I pondered for exactly three and a half seconds before concluding that that is a very good question. A very good question indeed.

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When Guns Meet Sword & Sorcery: Some of Our Favorite Biceps in Fantasy

We love the fantasy genre for so many reasons, but we feel like one of those reasons often gets overlooked. We’re just so caught up in our magic systems, and our fancy weaponry, and our world-ending peril that we forget to focus on the little things. So it’s time to appreciate a truly underrated aspect of the genre: beautifully toned biceps.

Show us your muscle, fantasy heroes.

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Definitively Ranking Every MST3K Short

Compared to most cult-inspiring TV shows, MST3K is a shambling beast. They’re all two hours long! And if you’re trying to watch with an opinionated group of viewers—say your family and friends at Thanksgiving—you have to navigate which host to go with, whether TV’s Frank is there, Corbett vs. Beaulieu vs. Yount… it gets complicated. The best way I’ve found to avoid all of those issues is to go with the shorts. They’re quick, the hosts don’t matter as much, and they’re so deeply weird that they make for a pure, concentrated does of MST3K. And so I present, this definitive wholly subjective ranking of almost every short!

My hope is that this list helps you, yes you, better enjoy—and maybe induct some new members into—the greatest pop cultural cult of all time.

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Books That Grab You

I’ve written here before about the quality of “I-want-to-read-it-osity” that some books have, a hard to define but easy to see quality which I am going to refer to as “grabbyness.” There are books you can pick up and put down and happily pick up again, and then there are books that seem to glue themselves to your brain, that utterly absorb you. There are books that are great when you’re halfway through them but that take work to get into. Right now, the kind you can put down and the kind that are hard to get into don’t cut it, because they’re hard to focus on while fretting. For me, grabbyness is a quality entirely orthogonal to actual quality. There are grabby books that are only OK and great books that are not grabby. It also has nothing to do with how ostensibly exciting they are, nor how comforting they are. There are just books that are grabby and books that are not. What I’m talking about is the power to bring you right into the story so that all you want to do is read more, and you forget entirely about the real world around you.

So here are some suggestions for books that grab you, for you to read in these difficult times. I’m trying to suggest a wide range of things, so that there might be some you haven’t read before—sometimes we want to re-read and comfort read, but sometimes we want new things that are sure to hold our attention.

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Escapism and Adventure in the SFF Art of Jenn Ravenna

Welcome back to Art of SFF—a column covering the best and brightest science fiction and fantasy artists. From newcomers to legends, Art of SFF pulls back the curtain to introduce you to the people behind your favourite book covers, films, and video games, and SFF-influenced art of all kinds. This time around, Jenn Ravenna joins us.

“My mother and father were immigrants who were always working overtime to support our family,” said Ravenna, a Seattle-based concept artist and illustrator who has worked for Wizards of the Coast, HarperCollins, XBOX, and Fantasy Flight Games, among many others. Science fiction and fantasy provide people in need of escapism with an opportunity for adventure, Ravenna said. They’re like a teleportation device to other worlds through various mediums—in art, books, video games, and film. “I had no siblings, so I was often left to my own devices. When I discovered science fiction in books and video games, I was immediately drawn to the endless possibility. It might sound sad, but it helped pass the time and make my world more interesting.”

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Four SF Stories That Are More Gilligan’s Island Than Lord of the Flies

It’s a tale as old as time, or at least as old as 1954: a small group of youths are cast away on an isolated island. With no adult supervision, they soon descend into violent chaos. By the time adults arrive to restore order, several of the young people have been murdered. Others are left permanently traumatized. This is, of course, William Golding’s 1954 novel Lord of the Flies. It’s one of the classics often forced on defenseless schoolkids, as it reinforces an important lesson: humans are beasts who require a boot firmly placed on their necks if they are to retain a patina of civility. Kids may not appreciate hearing this, but people who own and wield boots certainly want it heard.

Anyone who, as I do, deals with kids on a regular basis knows that kids will, if left to their own devices, flout convention with no regard for the feelings and expectations of their elders. Even as a keen-eyed guardian waits for a chance to correct egregious misbehavior, those confounded kids will pick up discarded trash, fix defective signage, assist in the sweeping-up of snowdrifts of theatrical confetti, even spontaneously practice four-part harmony while waiting for public transit. I can only speculate as to what dark motives cause this inconsiderate behaviour.

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Finding Love in Dystopia With Garth Nix’s Shade’s Children

Garth Nix’s Shade’s Children predates the late-Aughts YA dystopia boom by roughly a decade, but it would have fit right in alongside those later, post-9/11 stories. Set in a near-future version of our own world, ruled over by the battle-minded Overlords, who disappeared the world’s older teens and adults 15 years ago, Shade’s Children centers on a group of four teenagers—Ella, Drum, Ninde, and Gold-Eye—who have escaped certain death in the dormitories and now serve the mysterious hologram-person known as Shade. Living in seclusion on a submarine, Shade’s children must learn to fight the Overlords’ monsters, all made from teenagers just like them, in order to one day reverse the Change: the cataclysmic event that brought the Overlords to Earth in the first place.

Shade’s Children is not a love story, but it is a part of mine. My husband and I knew one another for more than a decade before we married, and we spent roughly half that time, not as lovers, but as friends. Looking back on it, however, I’ve come to realize that the moment he leaned over and asked me, earnestly, if I’d ever read Shade’s Children, was the moment I began to fall in love with him.

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5 SFF Books for the Goth in Your Life

It is an aesthetic born of counterculture. One defined by a potentially insufferable amount of black clothing, wearing a lot of straps on your pants for seemingly no reason (it looks cool, okay), and copious amounts of eyeliner. The subcultures that have fractured from the original are too many to number but there’s something to be said for the defining factors of listening to music that’s outside the norm and creating art that’s meant to be a little out there and a little (or a lot) provocative. It’s counterculture, so that means relishing a bit in the over-the-top, in the grit, in the glamor, in the dark.

Also, sometimes one is just extremely lazy and an entirely black wardrobe makes getting dressed in the morning easy, but I’d like to think there’s more to it than that. So I have five books that I think cut to the heart of it all and are extremely Goth.

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Series: Five Books About…

Ashes to Anomalies: Where We’re at After the The 100’s Final Season Premiere

Compared to The 100’s last two season premieres, which jumped forward (respectively) six years and 125 years in time, it’s a little jarring that the premiere of the seventh and final season picks up just one beat after the end of last year’s finale: Sanctum in figurative ruins, its gods either dead or dethroned; Octavia pulled into the anomaly, replaced by an impossibly-aged Hope Diyoza; Clarke still mourning Abby while trying to take care of a Flame-less Madi. As a result, “From the Ashes” feels more like an epilogue than a standalone episode—which makes sense, since we’ve now entered our final 16 episodes, and time is of the essence. But it also means that the action ranges between smaller moments of tying up loose ends and big narrative leaps that hint at where the season is going, even if there’s no way that we can possibly predict the end of The 100.

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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Lifesigns”

“Lifesigns”
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 2, Episode 19
Production episode 136
Original air date: February 26, 1996
Stardate: 49504.3

Captain’s log. Paris is late for his shift again, and his excuse is particularly feeble, as he claims to have been too busy delivering Wildman’s baby. Chakotay reprimands him, and then Tuvok picks up a distress call from a Vidiian shuttle, which has only one rapidly fading lifesign on board.

[Sometimes I think my people are so focused on trying to save lives, we don’t know how to live anymore.]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

The First Trailer for The Old Guard Shows How Hard It Is To Stay Immortal and Anonymous in the Modern Day

Imagine if you will: a group of immortal warriors fighting throughout history to try and keep the world safe. What happens when they enter the modern day when there are cameras and surveillance everywhere?

That’s the premise of a new film from Netflix, The Old Guard, which stars Charlize Theron as the leader of such a group. The streaming service debuted its first trailer for the film today, which is set to debut on the platform on July 10th.

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Dragons of the Prime: Jo Walton on Writing Tooth and Claw

I’m delighted that Tooth and Claw is being given away this week—I hope people will enjoy reading it in these difficult times. The title comes from Tennyson talking about how much humans suck in In Memoriam: “Tho’ nature, red in tooth and claw, with ravine shrieked against his creed… no more? A monster, then, a dream, a discord. Dragons of the prime that tear each other in their slime were mellow music matched with him.” And that’s the book, really; the easiest way to sum it up.

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Physician as Paladin, Facing Plague and Pandemic: Med Ship by Murray Leinster

In this bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books, Alan Brown looks at the front lines and frontiers of the field; books about soldiers and spacers, scientists and engineers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.

If and when mankind spreads to the stars, many of the problems we experience on Earth will follow us to new worlds. Medical issues could become more complex as we encounter whole new ecologies. And sharing medical knowledge could be complicated by the vastness of space. In the mid-20th century, Murray Leinster, one of the most entertaining and creative of science fiction’s early masters, imagined a cadre of uniformed public health officers who travel the stars like the knights errant of ancient legend, helping the needy and righting wrongs. At this moment in time, as we face a worldwide pandemic, these tales and the lessons they contain have suddenly become very timely.

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