Sleeps With Monsters: Intimate Space Operas

Ever since I read E. K. Johnston’s Exit, Pursued By A Bear, I’ve been a fan of her quiet, understated approach to narrative. The work of her books is, as far as I can tell, closely circling thematic resonances, interpersonal tension, and character development, rather than the splashier and more obvious tensions and drives of action-led novels: thrillers, adventures, capers and heists. Even when her novels include such action, it’s always in service to the development of the character arc. The stakes are always intensely personal.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Managing Temporal Changes: Alastair Reynolds’ Permafrost

How do you change history to stop an apocalypse, but without changing recorded history and suffering the severe consequences and chaos from doing so?

Time travel manipulation on a fine scale is a tightrope of a problem and the stakes are for the fate of the world. The world is dying. Time is running out for humanity, living on stored food that is running out. To save humanity, the Permafrost project seeks to use time travel to make a small change, a change that can bring hope to the future. But changing recorded history has enormous risks and challenges, the paradox can be ferocious and the consequences not entirely clear. And when it is clear that there is more than one agenda is brewing, that there might be other agents seeking different changes to history, the perils of changing the time stream might prove personally deadly.

These are the central questions and story at the heart of Alastair Reynolds time travel novella, Permafrost.

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Cory Doctorow’s Radicalized Examines Our Dark Present, and Our Possibly Slightly Less Dark Future

Sometimes things are broken, and sometimes the only way to fix them is to break them even more.

Furious, funny, and smart, Cory Doctorow’s Radicalized is a quick, cracking read, full of the brave ideas and humanistic optimism that have marked Doctorow as one of our best writers and activists. The four novellas in Radicalized grow from a fundamental truth: That things in 2019 America are horrifyingly broken. And the four novellas in Radicalized show that Doctorow wants to break them even further.

The only thing he might want to do more is fix them.

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Five Books That Gave Me Unreasonable Expectations for Post-High School Life

My family moved to Toronto when I was fourteen. At the time, there was still a fifth year of high school required, a series of courses that involved lengthy essays and independent projects. The idea that I’d be graduating a year after my friends back in New York bothered me, and I determined that I would cram the fifth year into the fourth. I’d somewhere absorbed the idea that high school was hell and college (as well as anything else that came after) was better, and I should do everything I could to hasten the change.

Where had I gotten that idea? Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti wasn’t around yet, nor Diana Wynne Jones’ Year of the Griffin, nor Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, nor Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals. Here are five of the books that may have contributed to my rush to leave high school behind.

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Series: Five Books About…

Toy Story 4 Wants to Give Us Another Existential Crisis

Toy Story 3 was widely lauded, particularly by the generation of kids who grew up on the first and second films—it was a perfect button to all the thoughts and emotions this series prompted in regard to growing up, moving through life, and the importance of play. When Andy left his beloved toys with little Bonnie, many fans heard audible sobs in the theater.

And now we’ve got Toy Story 4 to… help us do it all over again?

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Rereading The Ruin of Kings: Chapters 22 and 23

Happy Tuesday, folks! Up for a spot of weirdly benign death cult sacrificial ritual? Of course you are, who wouldn’t be! In which case, this post is for you.

This blog series will be covering The Ruin of Kings, the first novel of a five-book series by Jenn Lyons. Previous entries can be found here in the series index.

Today’s post will be covering Chapter 22, “A Golden Hawk,” and Chapter 23, “Morning Service.” Please note that from this point forward, these posts will likely contain spoilers for the entire novel, so it’s recommended that you read the whole thing first before continuing on.

Got that? Great! Click on for the rest!

[no monkey brainzzzzz either, that’s always a plus]

Series: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

What Does a Fantasy Map Look Like?

Epic fantasy and maps: it’s hard to imagine one without the other. The presence of maps in fantasy is so well established and so well understood that it’s become a point of parody. “No Tour of Fantasyland is complete without one,” wrote Diana Wynne Jones in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. “If you take this Tour, you are going to have to visit every single place on this Map, whether it is marked or not. This is a Rule.”

And yet, for all their ubiquity, their role in writers’ creative process and their usefulness to the reader, we don’t examine fantasy maps as objects in their own right as much as we could. In this and future posts here on, I will take a closer look at fantasy maps: their design and aesthetic, their origins and inspirations, and where they may be going in the future. The first question I’d like to tackle is a basic one:

What do fantasy maps look like?

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Read the First Chapter of Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth!

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Tamsyn Muir’s heart-pounding epic science fantasy Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Available September 10th from Publishing, it’s the most fun you’ll ever have with a skeleton. We’re excited to share the first chapter with you below—what are you waiting for?!

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Reading the Wheel of Time: Whitecloaks, Wolves and the Wheel in Robert Jordan’s The Dragon Reborn (Part 4)

Hello there, good readers. I have to admit I’m feeling pretty smug this week, since my educated guesses about the wolves’ abilities turned out to be pretty spot-on. This week’s chapters (7-9) were a real pleasure to read. The slow unfolding of Chapter 7 contained a lot of interesting detail, such as Lan’s tricks for leaving signs to show the trail. Chapter 9 was beautifully contrived and had an almost cinematic quality to it, and Chapter 8 contained the story line with Noam, which is just an all-around fantastic little side-adventure. In fact, I’d have to say that Chapter 8 is my favorite Chapter in The Wheel of Time to date.

[All men are dangerous.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, Chapters 19 and 20

In Esad Ribic’s cover of Cryoburn, Miles is looking for something.

I came to Cryoburn looking for something, and one of the things about blogging a reread is that the things I thought I was doing never go away, they stay where I wrote them. My recollection of the book, before I started rereading it, was that it had a lot to do with unwanted people. It has some unwanted people in it. Lisa Sato was very inconvenient. Yani was inconvenient. Jin’s father hadn’t bought a cryofreezing contract. Suze offered a refuge for people waiting to be frozen in her underground cryofreezing commune in the building she didn’t own—people whose needs weren’t drawing public attention. But that’s not what Cryoburn is about; it’s about what it means to be alive and what it means to be dead. One of those is something you decide for yourself, and the other is something other people make decisions about for you.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

SFF Equines Looks at Purpose-Breeding

Purpose-breeding is a term often used in animal husbandry to refer to breeding an animal for a particular purpose. Not just breeding “on purpose”—with planning and intention rather than just letting the animals sort it out—but for a particular use.

That use doesn’t necessarily need to be functional. You can breed a horse for halter showing and end up with something that may not be ridable or driveable and might not be all that sound for standing around the pasture, either. Or you can breed him for color or size or a particular shape of head. [Read more]

Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children Series Coming to Television

Wayward Children, Seanan McGuire’s award-winning Publishing novella series—about what happens when your portal fantasy story is over and you return to the real world—is being adapted for television!

Legendary Television and Syfy will bring Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children to the small screen, beginning with Every Heart a Doorway. Joe Tracz, whose credits include Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief musical and the A Series of Unfortunate Events TV series, will adapt the novella and serve as showrunner.

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Star Trek: Discovery Explains Why Kirk and Picard Never Trust Holograms

Renegade cyborgs and a scheming A.I. became the latest enemies of Starfleet in the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery, “Project Daedalus.” But beyond the obvious fact that Trek canon has dabbled in evil supercomputer stories many times before, the second season of Discovery has been slowly explaining a more subtle techno-paranoia present across several eras of Star Trek. In “Project Daedalus,” we essentially see why (almost) all other incarnations of Star Trek hate holograms. And not only does this anti-hologram retcon make perfect sense within Trek canon, but it’s also illustrative of real-life fears, too.

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On the Cult of Originality: What Byzantine Literary Culture Can Tell Us About Fanfiction

What are we going to do with the cult of originality? The set of pernicious beliefs that say: oh, all romances are the same, there’s always a happy ending, that can’t be real literature? Or, this book is full of tropes, it must be too commercial to be good? Or even: if you can’t write something entirely new, you aren’t writing real literature … and if you’re writing fanfiction, you must be ‘practicing’ until you’re ready to be original! I’m entirely sure most of you readers have heard—or even subscribe to—one or more of these beliefs about originality being a sign of artistic achievement. It’s an idea that’s baked into modern Western cultural criticism, particularly literary criticism.

And yet: we are surrounded by literature which is not original and which is successful, enjoyed, and persistent.

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