Fairy Tale Towers and False Brides: “Maid Maleen”

As we’ve previously discussed here, the practice of locking women up in towers of one sort of another was not exactly unknown in the European Middle Ages and Renaissance. In some cases, the women entered willingly, interested in pursuing a religious life—out of either genuine religious devotion, or interest in the opportunities offered by cloisters, which included education, culture and the opportunity to avoid the risks of childbirth. In other cases, the women did not enter willingly at all, but found themselves forced into prison and death. Some for crimes they committed; some for purely political reasons; and at least two because if you’re going to marry six women but not do that all at once you have got to hurry up the process by imprisoning and then executing them in towers.

Not at all surprisingly, this historical reality bled into fairy tales. Rapunzel and its variants are probably the best known, especially after a certain recent movie, but equally interesting is a story of a maiden imprisoned not by a witch, but by her own father: Maid Maleen.

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Upright Women Wanted: Announcing a New Sarah Gailey Novella

“That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”

Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her—a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda. The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.

Tor.com Publishing is pleased to announce that acquiring editor Justin Landon and Sarah Gailey are reuniting with Upright Women Wanted, a dystopian scifi western about love, resistance, and revolution. (No hippos this time, we think.)

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Not the Way I Remembered It: Raiders from the Rings by Alan E. Nourse

In this bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books, Alan Brown looks at the front lines and frontiers of the field; books about soldiers and spacers, scientists and engineers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.

Sometimes, you revisit an old favorite book from your childhood, and it feels comfortable and familiar. Other times, you put it down after re-reading, and ask, “Is that the same book I read all those years ago?” For me, one such book is Raiders from the Rings by Alan E. Nourse. I remembered it for the action, the exciting depictions of dodging asteroids while pursued by hostile forces. But while I did find that this time around, I also found a book with elements that reminded me of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Which raised a question in my mind: how did this troubling subject matter end up in a 1960s juvenile novel?

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On the Origins of Modern Biology and the Fantastic: Part 3 — Aldous Huxley and Thomas Hunt Morgan

Science and science fiction are indelibly intertwined, each inspiring the other since their modern birth in the Victorian Era. Good science fiction, like a sound scientific theory, involves thorough worldbuilding, avoids logical inconsistencies, and progressively deeper interrogations reveal further harmonies. This series explores the connection between the evolution of biology and science fiction into the modern era.

“It isn’t only art that is incompatible with happiness, it’s also science. Science is dangerous, we have to keep it most carefully chained and muzzled.” —Mustapha Mond, Brave New World

Brave New World (1932) is set in a world that is built with, dependent upon, and terrified of science. Humans are manufactured on assembly lines. The shape of their lives and their intelligence are determined through the addition of mutagens during in vitro fetal development. During childhood, their personalities, likes and dislikes are conditioned during sleep with subliminal messaging to produce a perfect and completely replaceable cog that knows only work and pleasure in a utopia of the unquestioning. It is a science fictional dystopia, written by the grandson of Darwin’s bulldog, with a title drawn from a line in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, partly inspired by the British scientist J.B.S. Haldane’s 1926 lecture, Daedalus; or, Science and the Future, and a response to industrial and political totalitarianism. As a piece of literature, it is a mash-up of legacies—of Wells and science fiction, of Darwin and Mendel and biology, of Henry Ford and Sigmund Freud, of the Victorian era itself—which perfectly captures the the complex feelings of hope and anxiety that marked the time between the turn of the 20th century and the start of the second World War.

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Oathbringer Reread: Chapters Nineteen and Twenty

Welcome back to the Oathbringer Reread, loyal Knights, Ardents, or whatever else you are! This week we’ll be covering two chapters, in which we see a bit more of Dalinar’s past (and his first meeting with Evi!) and get a little glimpse of Kaladin’s continued journey with the parshmen. Questions abound in these chapters… how crazy was young!Dalinar for walking around in a highstorm? Who sent that assassin after Gavilar? What makes an enemy, and who deserves to die in a war? And just what the heck are those spindly light-things that are walking around in the highstorms, anyway?

[You may have just proven in one moment, Dalinar, a point I’ve spent a half hour trying to make politically.]

Series: Oathbringer Reread

The Secret Life of Abdul Al-Hazred: Reza Negarestani’s “Dust Enforcer”

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.

Today we’re looking at Reza Negarestani’s “Dust Enforcer,” a chapter from Cyclonopedia: Complicity With Anonymous Materials, a 2008 novel published through Re.Press. This week’s excerpt can be found in Ann and Jeff Vandermeer’s The Weird anthology. Spoilers ahead, but it’s not really the sort of piece where that matters.

[“Abdul Al-Hazred as an adept rammal (sand-sorcerer) probably wrote Al Azif through the dust-infested language of Pazuzu…”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

The Uncanny Melancholies of Rita Bullwinkel

What happens when tales of the paranormal and supernatural are shot through with an air of melancholy? Rita Bullwinkel’s new collection Belly Up does a fine job of answering that question. Bullwinkel covers a lot of stylistic territory here—some of these stories deal with the uncanny, while others fall in a more realistic vein—but the emotional consistency that carries through the book helps it to achieve a welcome unity. Alternately, consider these variations on a theme regarding mortality and isolation: timeless themes, rendered in an unpredictable manner.

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Pull List, Spooky Edition: Ghostbusters and Archival Quality

Spring has sprung! Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, the sun is shining… and the ghosts are ghouling. Yeah, I know people don’t generally put ghosts and spring in the same sentence. Unless you’re me, that is, and have two awesome spirit-centered comics you can’t stop squeeing about. So gather ‘round, comics fanatics, as I rant and rave about my new faves Ghostbusters: Answer the Call and Archival Quality.

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If the Deadpool Movies Don’t Want Me to Think That Deadpool is Queer, They’re Doing a Terrible Job

We’re in a weird place right now, cinema-wise. People in the film industry keep trying to mollify fandom by suggesting that any number of characters could be queer, then finding out that fans aren’t interested in this game anymore—they want action and quantifiable results. They want representation that doesn’t come after publication, or without on-screen verification, or with a promise that it will show up in a few years.

But with that said, there is no possible way that you can convince me that Wade Wilson is straight. There’s just too much evidence to the contrary—and I don’t mean the number of slash fanfics with his name attached.

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Five Unforgettable Prisons in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Countless times in fiction we’ve seen heroes pull off daring heists, avenge the deaths of loved ones, and vanquish colossal foes (whilst causing considerable collateral damage), but what might happen if they didn’t get away with it? What does it look like in science fiction and fantasy when a character finds themselves behind bars, whether literal or only figurative? Here are five books that explore that very question.

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Series: Five Books About…

An Affair To Long Remember: Beren the Mortal and Lúthien the Elfmaid

In Which the Son of Barahir Meets a Girl, Accepts An Impossible Quest To Marry Her, Gets Himself Thrown In the Slammer (of Sauron), and Witnesses the Demise of the Greatest Elf In Arda

Chapter 19, “Of Beren and Lúthien,” is the most famous love story of the First Age, even of Tolkien’s entire legendarium. It is the original adventure romance between a mortal Man and an immortal Elf-maid, the legend of which Aragorn and Arwen’s own tale is an echo in The Lord of the Rings.

I’ve written about this extraordinary yarn twice on Tor.com before, first as a study of Lúthien herself (Lúthien: Tolkien’s Original Badass Elf Princess) and then again when Christopher Tolkien released the stand-alone book in 2017 (Beren and Lúthien and Their Not-So-Little Dog, Too). For a deeper walk-through of that tale, I would encourage you to check those out. But for a more contextualized primer entry that places the story within The Silmarillion, read on. As this adventure story is especially rich with exposition, oaths, callbacks, and foreshadowing, I’m going to tackle the chapter in two installments.

[For little price do Elven-kings sell their daughters.]

Series: The Silmarillion Primer

Seanan McGuire is Sending Kitty Pryde to Summer Camp!

This one-off tale of the young teen Kitty Pryde will appear in X-Men Gold Annual #2, out on August 1st. “Like so many of us, I started reading the X-Men before I was old enough to have been a student at Xavier’s Academy,” says Wayward Children series author Seanan McGuire. “Kitty Pryde was my hero for most of my childhood. She was smart, she was curious, she got to be an X-Man and go to space and have a dragon for a friend—she was basically everything I wanted to be.”

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India’s Love Affair with Archie Comics

It was recently announced that there would be a Bollywood-style live-action adaption of Archie comics produced in India. The freckled redhead and his friends Betty, Veronica, Jughead and the gang will be reimagined as Indian teenagers.

Initially, this announcement may seem like a natural progression for the Archie brand thanks in part to the overwhelming success of Riverdale both here in the U.S. and internationally. But that show alone isn’t solely responsible for Archie’s popularity in Indian, nor is it a recent phenomenon. The fact that this is the first American comic book to receive a big screen adaptation for South Asian audiences makes perfect sense: for as long as I can remember, Archie comics have always been part of Indian culture.

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