Winning Isn’t Everything, it’s the Only Thing: Welcome to The Gameshouse

Claire North’s The Gameshouse was first published in 2015, as a series of three, interconnected, digital-only novellas. In 2019, at long last, the three are collected into a single volume, and in a format where it can sit snugly on the shelf alongside North’s other works.

In case the laudatory flavour of that introduction is in any way misleading, let me be clear: I wholly believe The Gameshouse is one of the ‘single’ best works of modern fantasy. Nor, thanks to its unusual path to publication, is this recency bias. I’ve had four years to read and re-read The Gameshouse, and it gets better every time.

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8 Sweet, Funny, Thrilling Queer Fiction Podcasts

When Welcome to Night Vale premiered its pilot episode in 2012, there was plenty to hook listeners, as Cecil Baldwin’s mellifluous voice speaking Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor’s distinctive words immediately crafted an eerie atmosphere of familiar but not. But there was something else that made a compelling first impression: Cecil’s loving descriptions of Carlos, the scientist with the perfect hair. Queer representation on the fictional radio, as matter-of-fact as everything else in Night Vale.

Seven years on, queer characters are found in every corner of the expanding audio drama world. So this list of recommendations is by no means exhaustive; it is simply one starting point based on the SFF series I’ve laughed, gasped, and teared up at. From radio-show hosts caught up in romantic fanfic tropes to stories that aren’t about ships but just about being a queer person in the world, these eight fiction podcasts are something to be proud of.

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Noelle Stevenson’s Latest on She-Ra Season 3

For the honor of Grayskull! With season three of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power set to drop on Netflix in August, fans are eagerly awaiting any hints at what’s to come. And Noelle Stevenson is giving the people what they want. While discussing her upcoming graphic novel memoir, The Fire Never Goes Out, with io9, the show’s creator/showrunner/executive producer dropped a few tantalizing details about the upcoming season.

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On the Origins of Modern Biology and the Fantastic: Part 12—Philip K. Dick and Sydney Brenner

“Within him an actual hatred once more manifested itself toward his electric sheep, which he had to tend, had to care about, as if it lived. The tyranny of an object, he thought. It doesn’t know I exist.” —Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

“What is real?” is the central theme of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968). In the novel, nuclear fallout led to the collapse of Earth’s ecosystem, turning real animals into status symbols among the remains of humanity, as colonists flock to other planets with the promise of android companionship. But android models are becoming indistinguishable from humans—blurring the line between property and slavery—and when androids escape servitude, bounty hunters like Rick Deckard must use empathy tests to distinguish real from unreal before “retiring” them. The story plays with the nature of objective versus subjective reality as Deckard is forced to reexamine what it means to be human.

While the British New Wave was a reaction to Golden Age American Hard SF trends, the American New Wave began in part as a reaction to the British movement, in part thanks to the publication of the Dangerous Visions (1967) anthology assembled and edited by Harlan Ellison, and in part due to a postmodern shift in attitudes towards technology at the dawning of the Cold War. This conflict of warring political philosophies made good and evil appear less black and white, as both sides used cults of personalities and new forms of mass media to sway public opinion as it became harder to discern what was real and what was propaganda. In this new reality, the boilerplate SF whiz-bang plots with scientists positioned as heroes against obvious evil felt stale, and one of the most important postmodern writers at the birth of this American New Wave was Philip Kindred Dick.

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The First Trailer Is Out for AMC’s The Terror: Infamy

The Terror is back. On Thursday morning, AMC released the first trailer for season two of its critically acclaimed horror anthology series. Subtitled Infamy, this season takes viewers from Captain Sir John Franklin’s doomed excursion to the Arctic to a much more recent, horrific, and timely part of history: the U.S.’s internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

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Something With Teeth: Finding My Identity in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles

When I was a teenager, my mom gave me a book with a royal blue cover, raised silver lettering, and a spine so broken as to be almost illegible. A mass market paperback with yellowed pages that threatened to liberate themselves from the glue binding them and the distinct scent of old paper. Its outsides rich with phrases like “a voluptuous dream” and “unrelentingly erotic.” Its insides with blood and wine and teeth. With vampires.

I was probably too young to be reading Interview with the Vampire, but I devoured it and the seven other extant books of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles with only one lingering question: did my mom know how gay these books were?

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Marvel’s Spider-Man Countdown Reveals a New Spider-Man Comic by J.J. Abrams and His Son

The cat (or…spider?) is finally out of the bag! After teasing fans with a mysterious count-down earlier this week, Marvel has finally revealed what all the hubbub was about. Turns out, it’s not a new Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man vehicle, nor is it a Spider-Man/Fantastic Four cross-over comic, as some people thought. Instead, we’re getting a new Spider-Man comic, courtesy of J.J. Abrams, his son Henry, and artist Sara Pichelli, who previously illustrated the Miles Morales-starring Ultimate Spider-Man series.

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Robert E. Howard’s First (and Best?) Barbarian: Kull: The Fabulous Warrior King

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.

Robert E. Howard is often deservedly acclaimed as the father of the sword and sorcery genre. His most widely known creation is Conan: a barbarian turned thief, pirate, warrior, military commander, and then king. (I reviewed a book of Conan’s adventures here.) But before Conan, Howard created another barbarian turned king—the character of Kull. While the characters certainly share similarities, and are both mighty warriors who cut a bloody swath through their worlds, Kull’s adventures have a distinct aura of mysticism, magic, and mystery that makes them compelling in their own right. And of all the characters Howard created, Kull is my personal favorite.

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Five (Somewhat) Forgotten Books Featuring F/F Relationships

Queer fiction—that is, stories with more than just a token side character and about more than just the trauma of coming out—has exploded in the last few years. We still have a long ways to go before the representation becomes acceptable—becomes more than just cis white guys and gals, that is—but I think it’s fair cause to celebrate.

That said, sometimes it can feel like not even five years ago we lived in a land of nothing but heteronormativity, which isn’t as true as it feels. The number of times I’ve seen someone lament how there are no queer protagonists in fantasy makes my nose itch. While it’s important to celebrate what is coming, it’s equally important to celebrate what we have. Queer authors have been paving the way for this explosion for decades now, with their words and wit and wisdom and, most importantly, their persistence.

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Series: Five Books About…

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Eighty-Four

I hope you’re all prepared for one doozy of a chapter, because this one’s chock full of questions, theories, death, betrayal… everything that makes one of Sanderson’s “avalanches” edge-of-your-seat events. There’s a lot going on here, as Kaladin and Elhokar finally find Unmade-possessed-Aesudan in the palace and Shallan confronts two different Unmade on the Oathgate platform, and Alice and I are ready to pull it all apart and pick the bones clean of theories, nuance, and… gifs. Of course. So buckle your seat belts and keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times, because the Stormlight Coaster is about to drop clear off the edge of Roshar.

[The city has fallen.]

Series: Oathbringer Reread

Bad Ideas 101: David Barr Kirtley’s “The Disciple”

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 reading David Barr Kirtley’s “The Disciple,” first published in the Summer 2002 issue of Weird Tales. Spoilers ahead.

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Series: The Lovecraft Reread

The Way of Thorn and Thunder by Daniel Heath Justice (Part 3)

So far in this column, I’ve already reviewed the first and second parts of The Way of Thorn and Thunder, and now we’re getting to the finale. I chose to review this book in three parts because it was originally published as three separate books, though I read the more recent re-release, which molds the trilogy into a one-book whole that is around 600 large-format pages long. Whew!

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Single Star System Space Opera; or, Those Pesky Belters, Revisited

Paul Weimer recently asked:

“I saw JJ’s comment above about Space Opera and wonder just how much space is required to make a Space Opera a Space Opera, as opposed to being something more akin to Planetary Romance.”

It’s an interesting question that prompted responses on File 770, Cora Buhlert’s blog, and no doubt elsewhere. There probably is no hard line between Space Opera and Planetary Romance; that does not mean we cannot argue incessantly discuss passionately where the line should be drawn. Here’s my two cents (rounded up to a nickel because Canada phased pennies out in 2013)…

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