The Revelation Will Not Be Televised: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

A Head Full of Ghosts is literary catnip: a modern possession that turned into a reality TV show? A modern possession that might nor be possession at all?? Catholicism???

But like all great horror stories, it ends up being about human emotions more than anything, with, yes, an element of incisive class commentary, and, even better, an ongoing conversation with both The Exorcist and We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

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Mystery, Mayhem, and Murder? Must Be Wednesday

No release date has been announced for Netflix’s Wednesday, but it seems pretty safe to assume it’ll eventually drop… on a Wednesday. This week, we get the first real look at the series, which comes from the minds of showrunners Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville) and director Tim Burton.

Jenna Ortega stars as this generation’s Wednesday Addams, whose introduction comes complete with piranhas.

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The Ghost of Workshops Past: How Communism, Conservatism, and the Cold War Still Mold Our Paths Into SFF Writing

Part 1. The Emotionally-Charged World of the SFF Workshops That Make Professional Writers

In 2016, Neil Gaiman tweeted: “If you want to be a writer, you want to go to Clarion, NEED to go to Clarion.”

The tweet got significant pushback, with replies calling it “crushing”, “hurtful”, and “cruel”, including from other professionals. Eight hours later, Gaiman clarified: “Obviously you don’t actually need to go to Clarion/Clarion West to be a writer.”

To those outside the industry, the name “Clarion” might not have much meaning. But to those with aspirations of being a professional SFF author—of joining those like Gaiman—workshops like Clarion can have a venerated status. The Clarion Writers’ Workshop boasts a stunning roster of alumni, including Kim Stanley Robinson, Ted Chiang, Octavia Butler, and Cory Doctorow—many of whom have returned to teach, creating a star-studded faculty that’s been joined by the likes of Harlan Ellison and George R.R. Martin.

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Series: R.F. Kuang Guest Editor for

7 Wrong Lessons Creators Learned From Game of Thrones

Hard to believe it’s been more than a decade since Game of Thrones’ premiere on April 17, 2011. I can still remember when Thrones reigned over pop culture, and I used to spend my Sunday nights staying up until two in the morning trying to craft the perfect recap of each episode. I kind of agree with the many people who have said Game of Thrones was the last television show to dominate the conversation, before everything became fragmented into a hundred streaming services and countless niche options.

Like a few other pop-culture behemoths, Game of Thrones cast a huge shadow and spawned many would-be imitators. The Marvel Cinematic Universe led to a dozen copycat “cinematic universes”; Lost spawned a ton of TV shows that went down endless cryptic rabbit holes; The Dark Knight cursed us with a decade of “chaotic-evil dude who has magic blow-everything-up powers and gets caught on purpose” movies. The thing is, people always take the wrong lesson from these successes—they focus on the froth rather than the churn, the tip rather than the iceberg, and what a popular thing turned into over time, rather than what made it popular in the first place.

Here are seven of the wrong lessons that everyone learned from the phenomenal success of Game of Thrones—one for each of the Seven Kingdoms. (I miss writing listicles, can you tell?)

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Darling! Bow Down Before These Great Divas of Fantasy

Divas are divine. Literally: “Diva” derives from the Latin word for “divine,” or a “goddess,” and it’s no small thing to label a person (or a character) as such. Diving into a book and discovering a diva lurking within brings an immediate rush, because divas are super confident of their place in the universe—and absolutely positive that the sun spins around them, not the other way around.

Not only that, divas have a way of taking the wheel in a story, in part because they operate under a totally different set of rules: namely, their own. As an author who’s recently written a loose cannon—er, divine diva actor—named Fiona Ballantine in my upcoming book Tune In Tomorrow, I promise that these characters sometimes they surprise even their creators.

Yet when we think of divas in literature, fantasy might not be the first genre to come to mind. There’s Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, or Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, or Rhoda Penmark in The Bad Seed. But divas exist everywhere—from opera (their natural habitat) to reality TV to wrestling. So why not fantasy? And, for that matter, there’s no rule that says divas have to be cisgender women, or even human—divas tend to transcend labels and confound expectations; it’s all part of the gig.

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What Is Your Damage, Mars?: The Honeys by Ryan La Sala

It was the middle of the night when Mars’ twin sister Caroline snuck home from the prestigious Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy and tried to kill him. Although her death certificate gives their family cover from public scrutiny, Mars knows something else was going on. And it all goes back to the Honeys, a group of girls who used the privileges of Aspen to claw their way up and are now at the top of the Aspen social hierarchy. They live at the far edge of the property in their own luxurious cabin where they tend to a sprawling apiary. Years before, Mars fled camp after the bullying he suffered due to being genderfluid hit a breaking point. Now, to solve the mystery of what happened to Caroline, he must return to Aspen and play the part of a boy.

Once he gets to camp, settling in with the boys proves harder than Mars realized. The camp director attaches her nephew to Mars as a friend/spy, a relationship that gets ever more complicated as their connection deepens. The boys find ways to punish Mars, and the more they ostracize him the more he sheds “boy” for his true self. It’s the Honeys who see him for who he is. Soon, teens start going missing and turning up dead. Blank spaces and false memories crowd into Mars’ mind. No one is who they seem, including Mars. Something or someone is after him the way they were after Caroline, and if he doesn’t figure it out soon, he may suffer her same fate.

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You Have Another Chance to Catch Two-Hour Andor Trailer Rogue One in Theaters

Yeah, I know, I know, Andor is a prequel to Rogue One, which is itself a prequel to Star Wars, I know. But you also know the reason Rogue One is getting a theatrical re-release is to remind us who the heck Cassian Andor is and why we might want to get invested in the terrible things he did for the Rebellion.

There are reasons to get excited for this re-release, though: You can watch Rogue One—which has the prettiest space battles of just about any Star War*—in IMAX! And with sneak-peek Andor footage!

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The Joy that Kills, The Joy that Saves: Our Flag Means Death’s Mary Bonnet is Her Own Masterpiece

Welcome to Close Reads! In this series, Leah Schnelbach and guest authors dig into the tiny, weird moments of pop culture—from books to theme songs to viral internet hits—that have burrowed into our minds, found rent-stabilized apartments, started community gardens, and refused to be forced out by corporate interests. This time out, Maya Gittelman looks at the lives of two widows—one the protagonist of a classic story by Kate Chopin, the other…Mary Bonnet.

“Free! Body and soul free!” 

So whispers Mrs. Mallard in Kate Chopin’s 1894 very short “The Story of An Hour” upon the revelation of her husband’s sudden death. Grief and shock come first. And then the fact of it sets in. The way the world has cracked open. As a widow, she at last has the right to her own life. She did her duty of wifehood, no one can fault her for the freedom that comes next:

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Series: Close Reads

Mentioning Everything Twice: Samuel R. Delany’s Tales of Nevèrÿon

Tales of Nevèrÿon (1979) is a wonderful mosaic novel, Delany at his best.

It was published in 1979, but because of the vagaries of British publishing I didn’t see it until 1988, and I had to check the date twice because it feels to me to belong a decade later. It’s interesting to consider that this book was written (1979!) so early in the first boom of fantasy as a marketing genre—Terry Carr, seeing the success of The Lord of the Rings had deliberately published Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara in 1977 to capitalize on the idea of fantasy trilogies, and suddenly fantasy out of nowhere was a big thing.

Before 1977 it’s fair to say that fantasy was a genre written by oddballs (up to and including Tolkien) or for children, but then between 1977 and 1980 fantasy for adults became huge, bigger than science fiction, selling in huge numbers to an eager public. And this fantasy explosion took a little longer in Britain which is probably why this book didn’t make it to teenage me until a decade after its original US publication. Because Delany too was writing fantasy—but of course, his wasn’t like the fantasy everyone else was writing.

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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Has a Double Episode Premiere — That Might Not Arrive When You Expect

Amazon’s release schedule is occasionally a little confusing. Shows have airdates, but episodes arrive before them? Okay! Sure! Why not! And the just-released airing schedule for their Second Age saga, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, is even more confusing than usual. The epic series will have a double episode premiere, but despite Prime Video announcing more than a year ago that it will arrive on September 2nd… that’s not entirely accurate, depending on where you are.

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Reading The Wheel of Time: Leaning on the Knife in Robert Jordan’s Lord of Chaos (Part 28)

This week in Reading The Wheel of Time, we travel to Ebou Dar by way of Elayne being kind of insufferable to Mat, and then we get there and Elayne and Nynaeve get a chance to practice being real Aes Sedai, despite Vandene and Adeleas’s opinions on the matter. I think I’m really going to enjoy the visit to Ebou Dar… but I’m not sure our heroes are. Let’s start with our recap of Chapters 47 and 48.

[Men gave women a knife when they married, asking her to use it to kill him if he displeased her.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Navigating Middle-earth Before the Bending of the Seas

How on earth did the Númenóreans become such good mariners?

“Above all arts,” says the Akallabêth, the Men of Númenor “nourished ship-building and sea-craft, and they became mariners whose like shall never be again since the world was diminished; and voyaging upon the wide seas was the chief feat and adventure of their hardy men in the gallant days of their youth.” With the exception of the Undying Lands, travel to which was banned, the Dúnedain traversed the Sundering Sea and beyond: “from the darkness of the North to the heats of the South, and beyond the South to the Nether Darkness; and they came even into the inner seas, and sailed about Middle-earth and glimpsed from their high prows the Gates of Morning in the East.” In other words: they got around.

To travel the world like that doesn’t just require hardy seafarers and ships, it requires skilled navigation. And that’s where the problem is. Before the Changing of the World that destroyed Númenor bent the seas and made the world round, the world—Arda—was flat. And if you know enough about maps, navigation, or mucking about with boats, you know that will have serious implications for navigation.

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