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Donovan is a world of remarkable wealth, a habitable paradise of a planet. But Donovan’s wealth comes at a price. When the ship Turalon arrives in orbit, Supervisor Kalico Aguila discovers a failing colony, its government overthrown and the few remaining colonists now gone wild. Planetside, Talina Perez is one of three rulers of the Port Authority colony—the only law left in the one remaining town on Donovan. With the Corporate ship demanding answers about the things she’s done in the name of survival, Perez could lose everything, including her life.

For Dan Wirth, Donovan is a last chance. A psychopath with a death sentence looming over his head, he can’t wait to set foot on Port Authority. He will make one desperate play to grab a piece of the action—no matter who he has to corrupt, murder, or destroy. Captain Max Taggart has been The Corporation’s “go-to” guy when it comes to brutal enforcement. As the situation in Port Authority deteriorates, he’ll be faced with tough choices to control the wild Donovanians. Only Talina Perez stands in his way.

Just as matters spiral out of control, a ghost ship, the Freelander, appears in orbit. Missing for two years, she arrives with a crew dead of old age, and reeks of a bizarre death-cult ritual that deters any ship from attempting a return journey. And in the meantime, a brutal killer is stalking all of them, for Donovan plays its own complex and deadly game. The secrets of which are hidden in Talina Perez’s very blood.

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Menu Inspired by Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness Includes Hot Beer

Since Ursula K. Le Guin’s passing in January 2018, the sci-fi/fantasy and literary communities have paid tribute to the greatly-missed author in a variety of personal essays and other reminders of her impact not only on the genre, but on literature as a whole. But one of the more charming remembrances comes from The Paris Review’s Eat Your Words column, which has recreated key meals from The Left Hand of Darkness, complete with “sube-egg” porridge with Winter vegetables and hot beer.

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Don’t Kill The Dog: The Human-Canine Bond in Stories and Life

You never forget them.

The dehydrated mini fox terrier. She was found three days after her owner, a farmer, was killed by a tipped quad bike. In the sharply sloping paddock, still hopefully licking his face.

Or the owner of a blue cattle dog with a terrible degloving injury. The dog jumped out of the back of a moving vehicle, losing all the skin from elbows to toes on both front feet. His recovery was an exercise in pain and bandaging, stitches and grafts, infections and injections. But the pain was equally borne by the man, a single, middle-aged carpenter, who took on ludicrous, long, body-breaking work hours and went deeply into debt to save his best friend.

As a vet, a writer and an avid SFF fan, I’ve marvelled at our canine connection, whether in fiction or real life. Long may it carry on, well into our actual and literary future!

[Read more]

We Come in Pieces — Star Trek Discovery First Season Overview

“I dunno,” the Star Trek fan says with a sigh. “I mean, the uniforms are all monochrome, I feel like the timeline’s all messed up, they’re just rehashing stuff they’ve done before, it all feels so military with the metal insignia, and they’re killing characters off, and it just all doesn’t feel like real Trek, y’know?”

This Trek fan is, of course, from 1982 and complaining about The Wrath of Khan.

Yes, I can do this all day.

But I won’t. Instead, let’s look back at a most uneven first season of Star Trek Discovery

[We will not accept a no-win scenario.]

Announcing the 2017 Nebula Awards Nominees

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America are pleased to announce the 2017 Nebula Awards nominees (to be presented in 2018), for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the nominees for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.

The winners will be announced at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s 52nd Annual Nebula Conference in Pittsburgh, PA, which takes place from Thursday, May 17th through Sunday, May 20th at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center.

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Sleeps With Monsters: Old Influences and New Impressions

I may be a sucker for a good Dr. Watson, or maybe Claire O’Dell (an open pseudonym for Beth Bernobich) has just written a hell of a good novel, because A Study in Honor (Harper Voyager, forthcoming July 2018) turns out to be one of those books I find impossible to put down. I want the sequel immediately.

I’m going to have to wait. (I don’t want to have to wait.)

[Read more]

Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Black Panther Is Far More Than Just A Comic Book Movie

Black Panther is a goddamn masterpiece. It’s as anti-imperialist as Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok with as much commentary on Blackness as Ryan Coogler’s own Fruitvale Station. By no means is it perfect, but it’s deeper than the typical superhero fluff. Coogler offers a fantasy of an independent Africa untainted by colonialism and exploitation, of what we might have had, of what was stolen from us. This is a film of the culture, by the culture, for the culture.

Spoilers ahead. Like, a lot of ‘em. Check out Emily Asher-Perrin’s spoiler-free review, otherwise get ready to dive into my new favorite Marvel movie.

[“Praise the ancestors!”]

Reading The Wheel of Time: A Boy Leaves Home in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 1)

Welcome to the first installment of The Reading of The Wheel of Time! I’m Kelsey Jefferson Barrett, and despite my lifelong love of high fantasy and the fact that I have fantastic librarian for an aunt who was largely responsible for my education in both science fiction and fantasy, I somehow never managed to pick up any of The Wheel of Time books before now. So rather than a reread, this series is going to be me reading Robert Jordan’s novels [insert dramatic announcer’s voice here] For The Very First Time!

I’m going to try to avoid spoilers in these articles as much as I can, but feel free to talk spoilers in the comments. That way those who already know and love The Wheel of Time can have fun of watching my reactions as I discover the mysteries, the characters, and the magic of these books. This week’s installment covers Chapters 1 through 9.

When I was in undergrad, my favorite writing teacher said something about fiction that has always stuck with me, both as an aspiring writer and as a reader. All stories, she said, start one of two ways: a stranger comes to town, or a boy leaves home.

[Now, without further ado, I give you the very first installment of Reading The Wheel of Time]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Komarr, Chapters 15 and 16

Chapters 15 and 16 of Komarr are action packed! And a lot of that action is centered on that other guy in Ekaterin’s life, Nikolai Vorsoisson. For years, Nikki has been the target of Ekaterin’s ambition to one day be the proud mother of a kid who’s been cured of Vorzohn’s Dystrophy. She just wants this one thing.

Ekaterin is one of my favorite parents in the Vorkosigan Saga. She’s diplomatic, sensitive, encouraging, and always on the lookout for an experience that might spark a child’s interest. Nikki isn’t thrilled to learn that he has a mutation that his parents didn’t tell him about, but Ekaterin provides well-timed, age-appropriate information and emotional support so he’s OK, even though hearing about it this week probably compounded the trauma of his dad’s death. You know what? Nikki went to school all but one of the days this week anyway. It would have been understandable if he had needed to take a couple days off, but a lot of kids find that sticking to their normal routine helps them cope with traumatic events. Testing shows that Nikki has no symptoms of Vorzohn’s Dystrophy and retrogenic treatment will ensure that he never does. In other news, Nikki has a scab on his knee that might possibly scar.

[Read more]

Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Going Native: Andre Norton’s Lord of Thunder

In light of some of the comments on previous entries in this reread, I think I should clarify what this series is about.

It’s a reread of books I loved as a child and a teen. That means it’s subjective. It’s about how I reacted then, and whether that reaction is the same now, or whether my feelings have changed. It is not a scholarly study. And yes, I do know how to do one. That’s just not what I’m doing here.

The early Nortons especially are of their time, as commenters have been diligent in informing me. And I understand that. I make a point of saying so, in so many words. But I’m reading them now, in 2018. And sometimes that means that what Norton thought she was doing well or knowledgeably has not stood up to the changes in our culture and understanding. Regardless of what she tried to do, the results are sometimes problematical.

With The Beast Master and Lord of Thunder, she tried very hard to portray a non-white, non-mainstream character.

[Read more]

The Stories We Tell: Five Books that Recycle Historical Legends

Let’s be honest: the line between history and fiction doesn’t really exist. After all, history is just stories we tell ourselves. The way we tell those stories says more about our time than about the times we’re examining. Reading about decades- or even centuries-old events in contemporary sources and then comparing how we talk—or don’t talk—about them now is a sobering insight into how writing history shifts what happened into what we think happened and how we process it long after the fact.

So when we write fantasy using history as our playground, we aren’t really rewriting history. We’re writing our own questions played out on a historical background. Fortunately for us, history is cyclical, and we keep needing the same questions answered again and again and again.

[Read more]

Sleeps With Monsters: The Women of Black Panther Are Amazing

Seeing Black Panther was an experience. It’s a gorgeous film, with a strong storyline and probably the tightest narrative I’ve yet seen in a superhero film.* The Afrofuturism of the setting—technology so advanced it may as well be magic, tied to what’s clearly a long historical tradition—is a glittering vision** of possibility, undercut with the tension between Wakanda’s technologically advanced isolationism and the scars of colonial imperialism that affect the rest of African history.

[Note: Possible spoilers ahead for Black Panther.]

It’s also a film that, while it centres on a man—and on questions of kingship, legitimacy, and responsibility—is the first superhero film I’ve ever seen to surround its main male character with women who are in many ways equally powerful, and who don’t depend on him for purpose or characterisation. No, seriously: this is the first superhero film I’ve ever seen—maybe the first SFF film I’ve ever seen—where pretty much the hero’s entire back-up team, his entire support network, were women. Women who teased him and challenged him and demanded he do better.

[Read more]

Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Read Vandana Singh’s “Ambiguity Machines: An Examination”

This tale is an unusual take on an engineering exam that explores new concepts in machine design and function. All new machine discoveries must be investigated and classified. This is the story of three such machines and the truth or lie of their existence.

We’re pleased to reprint Vandana Singh’s “Ambiguity Machines: An Examination”. Originally published on Tor.com in April 2015, this story now appears in Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories, a new collection of Singh’s work available from Small Beer Press.

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The Dos and Don’ts of Fiction Inspired by Your RPG Campaign

Back in 2015 a movie called Seventh Son flopped its way through theatres. As soon as I saw the trailer, I remarked loudly that it looked like somebody turned their Dungeons & Dragons campaign into a screenplay. I said this with scorn, and I did not go to see the film. This seems to have worked in my favor, as one reviewer from the Chicago Reader called it “a loud, joyless mess.”

I read slush for a poetry quarterly called Goblin Fruit, and, being that our submission guidelines request poems of the fantastic, we get occasional submissions that smack slightly of D&D. These pieces often feel like they were written in-game by someone’s half-elf bard character, probably while drunk off his ass at Ye Olde Inn and Taverna.

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In the Aftermath of the Unknown: When Light Left Us by Leah Thomas

We know (or can guess) how we’d react to an alien encounter—sci-fi has begged the question from War of the Worlds to Lilo and Stitch. But how would any of us deal with an alien leaving us behind?

Leah Thomas’ When Light Left Us picks up where family-friendly alien stories like E.T. and Close Encounters leave off: after the alien visitor has left the Vasquez family, after the hazmat tent has been cleared away, and after all the action—the great romance, the betrayal, the delight and wonder of a strange new world—has ended. Hank, Ana, Milo, and their mother Maggie don’t fade to black once their guest, a strange consciousness they call Luz, suddenly disappears. Sometimes, they wish they could. Instead, they do their best to figure out how to make lives in the holes that Luz left in his wake. For the Vasquez kids, this means relearning how to use the parts of themselves that Luz had (literally) possessed. And for Maggie, this means forgiving all those Luz-shaped holes, her own most of all.

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