Toby Benson has a chance to make history. The first mind to circle the moon without a body in tow. It’s a golden opportunity, perhaps the only chance for a 19-year-old whose body failed him to become immortal. But as he reaches the dark side of the moon and loses signal from Earth, the cold of space threatens to overwhelm him.
Saga Press announced today that it would publish The Deep, an Afrofuturist novel based on the song of the same name by rap group Clipping (often stylized as clipping.) which includes Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes. Nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form, “The Deep” envisions an underwater culture of the descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slavers. Rivers Solomon, author of An Unkindness of Ghosts and a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, will write the novel, to be published in June 2019.
Six years after The Half-Drowned King, Ragnvald Eysteinsson is now king of Sogn, but fighting battles for King Harald keeps him away from home, as he confronts treachery and navigates a political landscape that grows more dangerous the higher he rises.
Ragnvald’s sister Svanhild has found the freedom and adventure she craves at the side of the rebel explorer Solvi Hunthiofsson, though not without a cost. She longs for a home where her quiet son can grow strong, and a place where she can put down roots, even as Solvi’s ambition draws him back to Norway’s battles again and keeps her divided from her brother.
As a growing rebellion unites King Harald’s enemies, Ragnvald suspects that some Norse nobles are not loyal to Harald’s dream of a unified Norway. He sets a plan in motion to defeat all of his enemies, and bring his sister back to his side, while Svanhild finds herself with no easy decisions, and no choices that will leave her truly free. Their actions will hold irrevocable repercussions for the fates of those they love and for Norway itself.
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Welcome back to the reread, where we are dealing with chapter 6 of Diplomatic Immunity. We get to go to the ballet! Nicol will be performing with the orchestra and has arranged a box so that Miles and Ekaterin can watch a performance with Bel and Garnet Five. I love this chapter because I love ballet. It’s one of the legacies of my time in Arizona—Ib Anderson’s production of Don Quixote was life-changing. I also love Quaddies, and this trip to the ballet is a crash course in Quaddie culture. What we saw back in Falling Free was the roots of this culture, born in a struggle in which the only options were freedom and annihilation. This, two centuries later, has clear links to that early history while celebrating contemporary Quaddie autonomy.
Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga
Abbey Mei Otis’s first long-form collection, Alien Virus Love Disaster: Stories, is a powerful debut volume published by the perennially impressive Small Beer Press. The book contains twelve stories with publication dates spanning the past eight years, including “Sweetheart” which appeared on Tor.com in 2010. Otis’s fiction has a dynamic blend of contemporary and speculative approaches, diamond-edged and furious in her exploration of power, oppression, and grief.
The titular story also serves as a statement of themes: outsider or abject characters; viral, haunting, gruesome physicality; hunger mixed with passion and crooked adoration; cataclysm before-during-and-after. It isn’t a pleasant or simple experience for the audience. The bodies in Otis’s short fiction are subject to a grim though often lyrical brutality, one step too far for comfort at all times, and their suffering does not generally lead to a positive outcome.
This is a beautiful book, beautifully written, infused with love of horses. It’s a lovely story in the mode of Watership Down and The Wind in the Willows, not to mention the Narnia books. Talking animals, strong moral code, more than a hint of the numinous.
When I first read it I enjoyed it, but it didn’t make the powerful impression on me that it’s made on so many others. It’s iconic, people are always begging me to write about it, and so there was no question that I’d include it in this series. But it never made it to my constant-reread rota.
Now I think I understand why.
Earlier this year, author V.E. Schwab delivered the sixth annual J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature at Pembroke College, Oxford. With her permission, we are proud to present the text of that lecture; you can also find a complete video of the lecture and the excellent Q&A session that followed here, and also embedded below.
I have a confession to make:
I haven’t read The Lord of the Rings, or The Hobbit. I do not consider myself a well-versed fan of Tolkien, let alone an expert. I have nothing against the titular author of this lecture series, of course—in fact, when I was awarded the immense opportunity of delivering this talk, I considered dropping everything to read those books. Not because I wanted to, but because how could I step up to this podium otherwise? Fluency, if not fandom, felt expected of me.
Which is exactly why, in the end, I chose not to. I have a very strong belief that reading should be an act of love, of joy, of willing discovery. That when we force someone across the wrong literary threshold, we risk turning them away instead of ushering them through.
When we had last left our favorite Murderbot, it was fleeing, leaving the beginnings of a comfortable life behind, before that life had even started—departing PresevationAux and Mensah, who had given Murderbot a path out of being a SecUnit. But what is a Murderbot, whether sentient or not, who doesn’t do murderbotting? Is this the Artificial Condition indicated in the title?
No—Murderbot is on a mission to discover what happened in the “incident” in which, not yet sentient, it killed lots and lots of clients in a mining facility and had its memory partially wiped. There is a trauma that haunts Murderbot now that it’s alive, awake, and in possession of a conscience, however snarky it is. In the previous installment of the Murderbot Diaries, All Systems Red (which I wrote about here), Murderbot was just beginning to find its footing, with a newfound sense of emotional agency, and a sense of belonging to something that’s more than a purely contractual connection. In the midst of forging this new identity, however, the very conditions that allowed it to form new bonds also opened up these old wounds, and so it had to leave the comfort of what it was just beginning to know.
The 2010s and the 1970s are similar in many ways: questionable fashion choices1, U.S. presidents under investigation, Canadian prime ministers named Trudeau, the possibility that nuclear tensions might flare up at any moment. The two decades share something else, as well: during both of these decades, it became easier to discover classic SF. In the modern era, we are seeing ebook reprints mining the output of the past. In the 1970s, we had paper reprints, such as the variously titled Ballantine (or Del Rey) Classic Library of Science Fiction.
As with Timescape Books, the Classic series was largely due to the astute market sense of one editor. In this case, the editor was Judy-Lynn del Rey (she may have had an occasional assist from husband Lester2). Under her guidance, Ballantine and later the imprint that bore her name became a signifier of quality; readers like me turned to her books whenever we had the cash3. The Classic Library of Science Fiction helped to firmly establish the Del Rey publishing house.
Each volume collected the best short stories of a well-known SF or fantasy author. I’m discussing a slew of authors in this essay—alphabetized, because trying to list them in chronological order proved unexpectedly complicated.
Nalo Hopkinson’s “Fisherman” was the first trans story I ever read where the trans character wasn’t an extraterrestrial or the product of futuristic biotechnology. The story made a significant impression on me, and so it occurred to me to take a look at Skin Folk, the collection where it first appeared.
Nalo Hopkinson is a cis queer Afro-Caribbean writer of speculative fiction who has lived in Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad, Canada, and is currently living on the West Coast of the U.S. Besides many novels, she has had multiple short story collections published, most recently Falling in Love with Hominids—while this book, published in 2015, is too recent for me to include in this column, I would like to warmly recommend it. Skin Folk was Hopkinson’s first collection, yet it doesn’t come across as immature—the stories are confident, written with a strong and determined voice.
Short fiction is awesome.
No, seriously. I am of the opinion that there are few things in life better than a perfectly executed short story. Creating an expertly paced short story, that makes you care about its characters, understand its world, and be invested in its central conflict—all within the space of 7,500 words—is no small feat. What follows are six pieces of subversive short fiction—stories that have captured my heart and imagination (in less time it takes to ride the subway to work, no less). These are stories that stretch the definition of “fiction” and play with format; they are stories that defy convention and sometimes even storytelling logic.
Temper is Nicky Drayden’s second novel. Her first novel, The Prey of Gods, was a weird and inventive thriller that combined fantasy and science fictional elements. Temper is a standalone work in a new setting, one that involves fantasy, religion, and a touch of steampunk SF. This review will contain spoilers, because there’s absolutely no way to talk about even half of this book without them—much less the more interesting half.
In a nation reminiscent of South Africa, almost everyone is born as a twin. Seven vices are divided between each pair of twins, so that one twin always has more, and one, less. The vices are complemented by their alternate virtues.
Charlton Comics was never one of the heavy hitters of the comics industry, but the company had a long and respectable run as a publisher from the end of World War II until the early 1980s. They had a reputation as a “minor league” comics company, as a lot of people who became well regarded artists for Marvel and DC started out doing work for Charlton: Steve Ditko, Sal Trapani, John Byrne, Roger Stern, Denny O’Neil, Jim Aparo, Sam Grainger, Bob Layton, and Mike Zeck, among many others.
In response to both DC and Marvel reviving the superhero comic book in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Charlton created their own superhero line, including Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, the Question, the Peacemaker, Nightshade, and Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. That line eventually petered out, and Charlton did mostly licensed comics in the 1970s.
This all relates to Watchmen, trust me.
Who works harder in a fantasy novel than the trusty and ubiquitous horse?
I have my favorites. I invite you all to tell us about yours in the comments.
I’ve never liked Blade Runner. I know it’s innovative, I know it’s been imitated by countless other movies (I’ve seen at least a dozen of them) but I’ve never been able to forgive it for cutting out the beating heart of the novel on which it was based.
Gone is Rick Deckard leafing through his Sidney’s catalogue and gazing through the windows of pet shops. Gone is the electric sheep, and all the other animals which sometimes seem real but then turn out to be electric too. Gone too is the religion of Mercerism, whose central story is exposed by androids as a blatant fake, and yet continues to be true in a way that androids simply can’t comprehend—and gone is the subtlety of that whole paradox about truth which is so central to Dick’s vision. And where is the Ajax model Mountibank Lead Codpiece? Where is the counterpart of Dick’s lovely prose, sometimes rushed and careless, but always muscular and vivid? And above all, where is the humour, the humour and the good humour, that characterises Dick’s work? In their place—what? The lazy sentimentality of ‘attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion’?
Famed comics and geek retailer Forbidden Planet is turning 40! On August 11, the iconic British comics shop and event space will celebrate the big day with a party featuring prizes, cake and more. Possibly even better? They’ve released a lovely treasure trove of photos from the store’s history, featuring special (adorable) appearances by a young Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Mark Hamill, Douglas Adams, and more!