Dissonance and Myth: Stefan Spjut’s Trolls

The idea of unearthly or folkloric creatures living alongside humanity is one that plenty of writers have embraced over the years. Using that as a starting point, countless authors have told stories that range from the mythic to the comic, from the horror-laden to the sublime. Trolls, the new novel from Stefan Spjut, also makes use of this conceit, but the author takes it to a very different place than most of his peers—somewhere decidedly bleak and disquieting. It doesn’t always click, but when it does it’s bone-chillingly effective.

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Lovecraft’s Faintest Fingerprints: C.M. Eddy Jr.’s and H.P. Lovecraft’s “Ashes”

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 C. M. Eddy, Jr.’s and Lovecraft’s “Ashes,” first published in the March 1924 issue of Weird Tales. Spoilers ahead.

[“It has been your privilege to witness the first successful trial of a preparation that will revolutionize the world.”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

In the Shadow of Our Kin: Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma

A legend in the village of Ormeshadow tells of an orme (Norse for dragon) that fought in a battle against her own kind and fell fast asleep to heal herself. Over centuries, grass grew and homes were built, her body was hidden and her story all but forgotten. Gideon Belman arrives in Ormeshadow at seven years old, carried to his father’s childhood home for reasons he doesn’t yet understand. Slowly, his father reveals to him the story of the orme, and Gideon’s own ancestral ties to her. Faced with the banal cruelty of his new life on the farm, Gideon relies on the orme and confides in her, waiting for the day she’ll finally awake.

Priya Sharma’s new novella Ormeshadow is brooding and subtle, its stark realism set against the lure and power of legend. What might be too heavy in a longer novel is the perfect length here, a window into a life and a sketch of a possibility. It is the perfect autumnal read—moody, atmospheric, and readily paired with a cup of tea and a warm sweater.

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QUILTBAG+ Speculative Classics: The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You by Dorothy Bryant

In this ongoing survey of QUILTBAG+ Speculative Classics, I want to try to go back to the very firsts—even risking the possibility that those works have not aged well. The Kin of Ata are Waiting for You was, to my knowledge, the first English-language speculative book that featured neopronouns: gender pronouns that are distinct from he, she, or singular they. It is a book that is unique in another respect as well: it was a massive self-publishing success, which was almost entirely unheard of in the 1970s when it first appeared.

The book was originally published under the title The Comforter: A Mystical Fantasy by Evan Press in Berkeley in 1971, then republished by Dorothy Bryant’s own Ata Press, until it was picked up by Random House in 1976. (I could not find out much about Evan Press; this might have been an earlier name for Ata Press as well. Interestingly, Edvige Giunta’s monograph on Italian American women writers points out that Italian American women like Bryant turned to self-publishing early on due to a preexistent cultural tradition.) The book is still in print and seems to have a following; for this review, I read a copy of the 1988 printing.

The novel begins with a detailed murder scene of a naked woman; the murder is committed by the protagonist, an up-and-coming Anglo-American male writer. (From here on, I’ll call him “Protagonist” with a capital P.) The Protagonist attempts to flee from justice, but after a mysterious event, finds himself on an island inhabited by “the kin of Ata”—a calm, quiet people of various races. Here, he experiences an entirely different way of life, and eventually achieves a spiritual awakening. But can he stay there forever?

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The Goddesses Are the Future: The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

“A demoness is what men call a goddess they cannot control.” So opens The Never Tilting World and the legendary song of the ancestral goddess Inanna, with a call to powerful women and the systems that seek to manipulate that power.

Aeon was once a steadily spinning world, ruled by generations of twin goddesses beholden to a secret, terrible ritual. Until seventeen years ago, when one of the goddesses refused the ritual and caused the Breaking. The planet stopped turning, a Great Abyss splitting the earth into two unsustainable halves: Aranth, a storm-tossed freezing never-night, and a brutal, desert wasteland that houses the Golden City. Now, unbeknownst to each other, two young goddesses and their respective unlikely allies find themselves fighting their way to the Abyss from either side of the planet in an attempt to restore the wreckage of their world.

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Watch the Trailer for Never Surrender, a Documentary About Galaxy Quest

This year, Galaxy Quest will turn 20 years old. In case you haven’t seen it (which, if you’re reading this website, seems super unlikely), it was a terrifically meta and affectionate parody of Star Trek and Trekkies, starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Alan Rickman, that was made the year nerd culture began to take over the world.

Now, to coincide with its 20th anniversary, there’s a new documentary about the film coming out. Called Never Surrender, it explores how Galaxy Quest came to be a beloved cult favorite, and features footage and interviews with the cast and fans. Check out the trailer below!

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8 Sweet, Funny, and 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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Highlights from Brent Weeks’ r/Fantasy AMA

Brent Weeks is the best-selling author of The Night Angel trilogy and The Lightbringer Seriesa “five-volume epic fantasy trilogy” that’s been in the works for the past 11 years. Now, the final volume, The Burning White, is finally complete. Ahead of its release next week, Weeks dropped by r/Fantasy for an AMA, where he talked writing tips, the one most essential rule of writing, the books that were the most fun to write, and much, much more. Here are the highlights! (Stick around until the end for a surprise cameo from Joe Abercrombie.)

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The Messy, Beautiful Worldbuilding of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

It all started, we’re told, with a picture of a faun, walking through a snowy wood and carrying some parcels and an umbrella. The image had come to C.S. Lewis when he was 16 years old, and many years later it became the seed of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe—which, incidentally, celebrates its anniversary today, having been published on October 16, 1950.

It’s a strange scene, symbolic of the wonderful mythological hodgepodge that passes for Narnia’s worldbuilding. In most myths up until that point, fauns weren’t particularly child-friendly, known mostly as symbols of fertility or followers of the wise drunkard Silenus. We definitely wouldn’t expect them to be trotting along with an umbrella and parcels (we’re never told what’s in those parcels or where they came from). Mr. Tumnus (that’s the polite little faun’s name) also has a long tail which he drapes over his arm…an odd detail for someone who is half goat.

Lewis’s disregard for cohesive worldbuilding was cause for critique among a number of his friends. J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t appreciate the mythological jumble. Poet Ruth Pitter complained that if it’s always winter in Narnia, the Beaver family shouldn’t be able to grow potatoes or serve fresh marmalade rolls. In fact, Lewis burned an earlier draft of something similar to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because, “It was, by the unanimous verdict of my friends, so bad that I destroyed it.”

[But he kept coming back to that civilized little faun…]

Series: The Great C.S. Lewis Reread

What We Are Writing About When We Write About Ghosts

Ghost stories have been with us for thousands of years. The oldest ones, dating back to The Epic of Gilgamesh, included tales of monsters and spirit beings in the underworld, ghosts who held secrets for the living.

Spectrality plays with our beliefs about time. We like to think that past, present, and future are separate from each other, but they’re interconnected. When something happens in the past, it isn’t just over and done with. Tragic events from the past still resonate in the present, which is why certain places enter into local folklore or become historical sites. After suffering a deep loss, people can become engulfed with grief and memories of a loved one. Guilt follows people to their graves. We live in a layered continuum of time, and ghost stories make this explicit. Ghosts signal memories that won’t go away; they signal the guilt of culprits or survivors; they signal an eruption of the past into our present and the dead’s future as we watch a spirit repeatedly go through the motions of a last act.

Need proof? Think of the most popular folktales and legends. The Tower of London is haunted by Anne Boleyn. Every major city in America has a ghost tour, full of stories of buildings haunted by past inhabitants. The ghosts in these stories are usually victims, whether of murder, an untimely death, or past abuse. The specters we see repeatedly are reminders of the things that we can’t yet face, but they keep materializing in front of us, especially when we try to ignore them.

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Ryan Reynolds and John Krasinski Are Teaming Up for a Fantasy Comedy Called Imaginary Friends

Remember Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends? In this mid-to-late aughts Cartoon Network show, imaginary friends, when outgrown by the children who imagined them into existence, end up at an orphanage run by a kindly older woman and her lifelong imaginary friend. Well, what if there were no such place? What if, instead, abandoned imaginary friends were left to languish on their own, unseen and unloved, and ended up on a Joker-esque downward spiral to a career of evil and dastardly deeds?

That’s, more or less, the premise of John Krasinski’s new fantasy comedy Imaginary Friends, starring Ryan Reynolds.

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