10 Expansive SFF Worlds We Want to Get Lost In

You can tell an epic story at any length; sometimes a standalone fantasy can traverse just as much narrative space as an entire trilogy. But when it comes to fantasy worlds that we can explore every inch of, we are particularly fond of series with nine books or more. Yep, you heard us: we want trilogies upon trilogies (with the occasional side duology/quartet) in our favorite long-running SFF series. From alternate histories to fantasy that slowly becomes science fiction, from lady knights to more than a few telepathic dragons, from sagas that span one generation to multiple centuries, these series are so expansive and immersive that reading them feels not just like visiting a new world, but like coming home.

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Sci-Fi & Fantasy Indie Bookseller Picks: Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC

Books have always been a refuge for me. Not a unique sentiment but a profoundly true one for me. Growing up largely in South-East Asia and moving between various countries in that region with the odd years back in the United States; I quickly learned that no matter where I ended up as long as I had a good book with me, I’d be alright. That carried over into my adult life where pretty much every job I’ve held has been with books. In the fall of 2017, I started as a bookseller at Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC and count myself truly lucky to have ended up here.

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#SaveSpidey: MCU Fans, Jeremy Renner, and Ryan Reynolds React to the Sony/Disney Spider-Man Schism

Yesterday, fandom was rocked by the devastating news that Spider-Man has been exiled from the Marvel Cinematic Universe because of a failed deal between Sony and Disney. (At least for now–negotiations aren’t completely dead and this could just be a power play to make one side give in.) Fingers were pointed, jimmies were rustled, and as the implications set in (Will Spider-Man have to be recast yet again? How many times are they going to make Uncle Ben die? How DARE they? etc.), social media exploded with calls to #SaveSpidey.

(Possible spoilers for Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home, so click at your own peril.) 

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“Being Vulnerable Does Not Make You Weak”: Lauren Shippen on Podcast-to-YA-Love-Story The Infinite Noise

As podcasts and especially audio fiction grow in popularity, the medium has seen a crossover from listening to reading: Welcome to Night ValeThe Adventure ZoneAlice Isn’t Dead, and Steal the Stars have all been adapted from fiction podcasts to books that expand the worlds between your headphones into engage your imagination in new ways. With The Infinite Noise, Lauren Shippen, creator of The Bright Sessions and The AM Archives, takes TBS’ most beloved love story—between superpowered empath Caleb and Adam, who “keeps him green”—and builds it out into a poignant story about the challenges of connecting with someone.

Shippen, who also wrote Stitcher’s forthcoming audio drama Marvels, talks the tricky shifts from writing dialogue-only scripts to prose novels, plus headcanons and finding strength in vulnerability.

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The Flash Gordon Serials of the 1930s Changed the Face of Sci-Fi

One of the first things I watched when I signed up for Netflix was a suspense serial from the silent film era called Phantomas, and while it was very enlightening to see this first step in the evolution of recorded crime dramas, ultimately it… wasn’t very good. Maybe that’s not fair—it had its moments, but I would have a hard time recommending it to anyone but the most curious film archivists.

Thanks to the growth of streaming services, a vast archive of antique entertainment is now easily accessible to the public, though whether it should be or not is a matter of personal opinion. In the case of the Flash Gordon serials that Universal created from 1936 to 1940, the debate over such material’s worth is a significant matter to science fiction fans. The serials, starring Larry “Buster” Crabbe as Flash (a character who had first appeared in newspaper comic strips a few years prior) made a powerful impression which is evident in much of the sci-fi films and shows that followed. You can see a clear impact on EC comics like Weird Science, on the original Star Trek, and of course the 1980 Flash Gordon film. George Lucas acknowledged the influence of the serials on Star Wars—a film he made when he was unable to acquire the Flash Gordon film rights.

[So the pre-WWII serials are significant, but are they actually worth watching?]

Guillermo del Toro’s Antlers Has a Chilling First Teaser

With Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark still in theaters, Guillermo del Toro is treating us to another literary horror adaptation containing one or two creepy illustrations. This one is called Antlers, an adaptation of Nick Antosca’s short story “The Quiet Boy,” and Fox Searchlight just released its atmospheric first teaser.

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Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus Bypasses Nostalgia to Focus on Sheer Gothy Fun

I don’t do nostalgia. I tend to think that looking back is a trap, a quicksand that will pull you down into a belief that your culture and your era was somehow superior to what kids are into now. I hate (hate) the endless recycling of older properties. If you’re going to revisit a show or a book, give it a new angle or a twist or a quirk. The new She-Ra, for instance, queers an already pretty queer show, and the new Rocko introduces a trans character—they’re telling stories that weren’t really tellable in the ’80s and ’90s. They justify their existence.

Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus doesn’t quite give us a new twist, but by ignoring all the obvious nostalgia opportunities and focusing on a solid, ridiculous story, Jhonen Vasquez has given us a return to form that turns out to be incredibly fun.

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800 Panicked Questions We Have About Spider-Man No Longer Being in the MCU

New York’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

As reported by Deadline, Sony and Disney have failed to reach new agreement terms after months of negotiations and have essentially nixed producer Kevin Feige and Marvel’s involvement from further Spider-Man films.

So we just have a few questions, the first one being How dare you?

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Sleeps With Monsters: Books That Spark Joy

Last column out, I mentioned that I woke up one day to discover I hated every book I read. Shortly afterwards, I made a resolution, at least for now, to only read books that—to borrow a phrase—”sparked joy” and left me feeling delighted with my experience of the narrative. (Or at the very least, pleased.) This has had the beneficial effect of removing a significant number of volumes from my to-be-read shelf.

And increasing my pleasure in reading significantly.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Just Out of Sight: Echoes, Edited by Ellen Datlow

“I don’t believe in ghosts, but I love ghost stories,” opens esteemed editor Ellen Datlow in her introduction to Echoes. The anthology’s central focus is the ‘ghost story’ but within that framework it ranges wide, across the world and through the decades, from familial dramas to wartime haunts and more. Echoes is an absolute behemoth of an anthology, with all pieces minus three reprints original to the book.

That makes for roughly seven hundred pages of never-seen-before spooky stories by writers ranging the gamut from Nathan Ballingrud to A. C. Wise, Stephen Graham Jones to Indrapamit Das, and so on. Stories are set in India, in Britain, in the US. Some are ghost stories with science fictional settings, others purely fantastical, others still realist—but there’s always the creeping dread, a specter at the corner of the story’s vision. The sheer volume of work Datlow has collected in Echoes fills out the nooks and crannies of the theme with gusto.

[A review.]

Long-Distance Hikers Love Fantasy

Take away the Ents, the Nazgûl, the Orcs, and all those pesky battles and Elven deliberations from The Lord of the Rings, and really what you have is a series about one very epic hike. But how epic is it? Well, it depends on who you ask. Tallying up how many miles it took for Frodo and Sam to get to Mount Doom is a popular past-time for LOTR fans, and if you visit New Zealand, where Peter Jackson’s trilogy was filmed, there are plenty of hiking tours designed to put you in the Hobbitses’ foot-steps.

The Venn Diagram of Tolkien-lovers and hiking fans doesn’t end there. As it turns out, there’s a whole sub-culture of thru-hikers—those who hike long-distance trails end-to-end—who are also huge fantasy readers.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch Extra: What We Left Behind

We hereby present this review of the documentary What We Left Behind in the same format as “The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch” by the same author that ran on this site from 2013-2015, and a similar format to the current “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Reread” of the post-finale DS9 fiction.

What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine
Directed by Ira Steven Behr
Original release date: May 13, 2019
Stardate: n/a

Station log. Ira Steven Behr, the show-runner of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for most of its run, gets together a massive number of people involved with the show to talk about it on the occasion of the show’s conclusion happening twenty years ago.

[If people aren’t bothered by it or don’t like it, then you’re doing something wrong…]

Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

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