Why Fantasy Should Seem Real

As a young child devouring every fantasy book I could get my hands on, I was incredibly lucky to have not only a mentor in my school librarian but also an unlimited transatlantic supply of books from my grandmother’s bookshop back home in the UK. One of the books Grandma sent me was Robin McKinley’s Outlaws of Sherwood; that and the duology of The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown cemented my profound love of McKinley’s characterization and accessibility.

I’d read lots of high fantasy before encountering McKinley, and the enormous difference between her heroes and, say, Tolkien’s struck me as both new and welcoming. McKinley’s protagonists are people, not archetypes—fallible, unsure of themselves, practical, vulnerable. As a young reader I could fit myself into Aerin or Harry or Robin or Marian (or Cecily) in a way I’d never been able to fit into Tolkien’s people.

[Read more]

Unwelcome Is a Reminder to Always Look a Gift House in the Mouth

In the Before Times, I might have felt a little judgey toward poor Hannah John-Kamen in the trailer for Unwelcome. You had one task! Remember to leave the blood out for the redcaps! But these days I can barely remember to brush my teeth—and my living conditions don’t involve murderous tiny neighbors and a whole town full of people who hate me for moving in. So maybe I should cut her some slack.

Unwelcome, the new film from Grabbers director Jon Wright, stars John-Kamen (Killjoys) and Douglas Booth (Jupiter Ascending) as “a couple who escape their urban nightmare to the tranquility of rural Ireland only to discover malevolent, murderous goblins lurking in the gnarled, ancient wood at the foot of their new garden.”

[Read more]

Horror as Strength: Queer Armor in Stephen King’s IT

I grew up terrified.

When I was 12, I wasn’t particularly afraid of clowns or monsters or troubled ghosts, but as puberty hit at the start of middle school, I was terrified of myself.

I was a gay boy in the early 90s and though I didn’t quite have the vocabulary for it, I knew that I wasn’t like any of the other kids at my all-boys prep school, where masculinity was modeled, crafted, and policed in very specific ways; ways I feared I did not—and could not—match. I knew the game “smear the queer,” and played it as the smearer and the smeared with a knot in my stomach, because it taught me the inevitable violence attached to being different in that way. Smearer or smeared, those were the only options. Though no one ever said so explicitly, every message I received told me that if I was gay, I was doomed.

[Read more]

Reading the Wheel of Time: Bandits, Assassins, and Carneira in Robert Jordan’s New Spring (Part 12)

Welcome back to your regularly scheduled Reading the Wheel of Time. This week, Moiraine torments Lan but fails to get what she wants from him, and Lan finds exactly what he didn’t want to find in Chachin. Meanwhile, Sylas struggles to remember that Prince Consort Brys and Gareth Bryne are not the same person, and continues to spell Malkier incorrectly. Bukama would be so disappointed in me.

And now, on to the recap of Chapters 21 and 22!

[Malkier deserved remembrance. But at what price?]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Fear of Desire: Dracula, Purity Culture, and the Sins of the Church

I first read Bram Stoker’s Dracula when I was fourteen. I was shocked how Christian the book was (which should tell you something about how deeply I thought about books written by white Irish guys in the 19th century). I underlined, for instance, when Van Helsing insists, “Thus are we ministers of God’s own wish: that the world, and men for whom His Son die, will not be given over to monsters, whose very existence would defame Him. He has allowed us to redeem one soul already, and we go out as the old knights of the Cross to redeem more. Like them we shall travel toward sunrise; and like them, if we fall, we fall in good cause.”

I underlined this passage because I was a Southern Baptist youth group kid. A religious kid who loved horror, but a religious kid all the same. Even buying my mass-market paperback edition of Dracula felt transgressive. But here, near the end of the book, I was reading lines that would have sounded right coming from any minister or missionary’s mouth. I had known, of course, that the Church was the enemy of the vampire—holy water and crosses (and garlic because, uh, Rome is in Italy?) are potent weapons against this fanged menace. But Stoker’s enigmatic slayer was explicit. He was practically evangelistic in his fervor.

[Read more]

Alternate Historical Fantasy Done Right in The Shadow of Albion

I will say right up front that this, of all the Norton collaborations I’ve read so far, is my favorite. I love novels of the Napoleonic Wars, both real-world historicals and alternate-world fantasies. I like spy novels. I like fish-out-of-water adventures: characters thrust out of their own worlds or times. Add a strong dose of Faerie and a dollop of portal fantasy, and I’m there.

What’s fun about this is that it’s absolutely a Norton novel, with a whole range of her favorite things to do and not do, and yet Rosemary Edghill’s hand is visible in the smoother prose, the deft characterization, and the range and variety of historical and sartorial detail. It’s Norton, but more. As a collaboration, it’s just about seamless, and for me at least, it works.

[Read more]

Ryka Aoki’s Light from Uncommon Stars Sweepstakes!

Light from Uncommon Stars is a genre-bending masterpiece featuring donuts, a soul-snatching violin teacher, and refugee aliens—and we want to send you a copy!


Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in Ryka Aoki’s Light From Uncommon Stars, a defiantly joyful adventure set in California’s San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts.

[Read more]

13 Spooky Poems to Get You in the Mood for Halloween

It’s early evening, the sky is dusky and you’ve just gotten cosy on an old rocking chair, with a blanket on your knees and a mug of pumpkin spice at your elbow. Or, you’re lying awake blotchy-eyed at 2 am, fully intent on scaring yourself beyond sleep. Or, it’s nightfall and you’re huddled around a campfire in the whistling dark, knee-to-knee with your friends, speaking in wild gestures and stage-whispers… Whoever you are, wherever you are, you’re reading these words for a reason: you want to get your spook on.

But you’ve read Poe. In fact, you’ve probably perused dozens of works by dead white Victorian men. Time to change things up, so make yourself comfortable: Without further ado, here are thirteen haunting, fascinating poems by women to get you in the perfect mood for Halloween.

[Read more]

Welp, We Finally Have a Movie That Sure Seems Like Dune

The thing about trying to adapt Dune is that Dune has become something of a white whale for filmmaking ever since the book’s release in 1965. Or maybe it’s a dead albatross? A ladder you walked beneath? Point is, it’s difficult and maybe a little cursed, but not because the story of Dune is actually hard to adapt—people just seem to think it is.

What I watched in the theater was definitely Dune (part one, as it says in the opening credits), so director Denis Villeneuve got that part right.

[Spoilers for Dune: Part One]

[Read more]

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Seventh Season Overview

Star Trek: Voyager Seventh Season
Original air dates: October 2000 – May 2001
Executive Producers: Rick Berman, Kenneth Biller

Captain’s log. As with both TNG and DS9, Voyager went into its seventh season fully aware that it would be their last year on the air. To that end, several episodes were done with the notion that the show was ending in mind.

Like the two show-runners before him (Jeri Taylor and Michael Piller), Brannon Braga stepped back to the role of consulting producer, with Kenneth Biller taking over the show-running duties. One thing Biller tried to do was address certain outstanding issues, or at least revisit themes that hadn’t been dealt with in a while.

[It took you thirty-three years to come up with “Joe”?]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Reading Steven Erikson’s The God is Not Willing: Chapter Two

Well, here we are all too soon at the end of our look at the opening of The God is Not Willing, after diving into the Prologue and Chapter One. We ended Chapter One with the unsettling idea that things are often not what they seem, and we pick up with Chapter Two (after the epigraph, of course) with a question from Spindle that has him worrying about that same concept.

[Read more]

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.