A Brief Guide to the Extraordinary Fiction of Vonda N. McIntyre

“Vonda McIntyre writes science fiction.” So sings the author’s pithy bio at the magazine Strange Horizons. Yet the contributions of the science fiction and fantasy icon and founder of Clarion West throughout her career speak volumes, and encompass so much more than you might realize.

It was two years ago this month that Tor.com reported on McIntyre’s passing. To mark the recent anniversary, I’ve put together a helpful guide to McIntyre’s life and work—and of course, how and where to read and enjoy her remarkable fiction.

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Joe Cornish’s Next Project Is Adapting Mark Millar’s Starlight

It’s been ten years since the US release of Joe Cornish’s virtually perfect film Attack the Block. In the past decade, the writer-director has only made one other movie, the sweet but slight The Kid Who Would Be King. Now, his next film is announced, and it feels a little out of left field: Deadline reports that Cornish is writing and directing the long-expected adaptation of Mark Millar and Goran Parlov’s comic Starlight.

Starlight is, in its creator’s words, Flash Gordon meets The Dark Knight. It tells the story of Duke McQueen, who saved the universe decades ago. Ever since, he’s lived a normal life on Earth, where no one believes his tales of space glory. But now someone out there needs his help again.

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Tolkien’s Orcs: The Din-horde of Morgoth

In this scattershot series, we’ll be delving “too greedily and too deep,” prying gems out of the glorious rough that is the extended legendarium of Tolkien’s world. This includes drawing on The Lord of the Rings itself, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, The Children of Húrin, and the History of Middle-earth (or HoMe) books.

Previously, on Tolkien’s Orcs…

I concluded in part 1, which covered the monstrous hoi polloi of Middle-earth as presented in The Hobbit and in The Lord of the Rings, that Orcs are driven to mayhem—and frankly, the will to do anything substantive—by the power of Sauron. Which is to say, when there’s no Dark Lord in the neighborhood to give them some moxie, they become idle (relatively speaking) and their numbers stay down. But what about before all that? What happened before Sauron even became the head honcho of evil?

In this installment, I’m going to look at the role of Orcs in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, which are like the uber-prequel and the deleted scenes (respectively) to Tolkien’s more famous works. But to fans of the legendarium on the whole, they are also essential reading.

[‘Rouse the Orcs and I leave you.’]

Arranged Marriage Meets Queer Fantasy Romance: Announcing A Strange and Stubborn Endurance

Tor Books is thrilled to announce the acquisition of World English rights for A Strange and Stubborn Endurance and an additional novel from Hugo Award-winning blogger and author Foz Meadows by Executive Editor Claire Eddy from Hannah Bowman at Liza Dawson Associates.

A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is a male/male epic fantasy romance about Velasin, a closeted young nobleman preparing for a political arranged marriage to a foreign noblewoman—but when his sexuality is revealed under unpleasant circumstances, it’s proposed that he marry her brother instead. With no idea of what to expect from life in a culture famously more permissive than his own, Velasin’s troubles only increase when his arrival sparks an onset of violent political intrigue. Working together with his new husband, Velasin must try to figure out who’s behind the attacks—and maybe build a real relationship in the process.

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A Live-Action Gundam Film Is Coming to Netflix From the Director of Kong: Skull Island

For decades, Mobile Suit Gundam defined the mecha subgenre, and has been the subject of thousands of hours of anime television and film. But there’s never been a live-action version.

Until now. Netflix has announced that it’ll bring the first live-action, feature film adaptation of the franchise to its platform, and that it’s tapped Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts to helm the project.

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A Dim and Diminished Reflection: Andre Norton’s Merlin’s Mirror

Andre Norton was a master of the adventure plot, and she loved to mash up genres—science fantasy was one of her favorite things, as the Witch World cycle demonstrates. Every so often however, she either did not connect with her material, or the book she wanted to write simply did not fit into her wheelhouse. Merlin’s Mirror is one of these rather rare misfires.

The idea is not terrible. It’s the Witch World concept: a vanishing Old Race of impossible antiquity, an alien world of war and superstition, ongoing attempts to bring peace and higher civilization to the reluctant natives. The Arthurian canon is, in a lot of ways, about this. Adding basically Forerunners to the mix, and applying Clarke’s Third Law to the technology, could work.

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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Equinox, Part I”

“Equinox, Part I”
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Directed by David Livingston
Season 5, Episode 26
Production episode 220
Original air date: May 26, 1999
Stardate: unknown

Captain’s log. We open with the U.S.S. Equinox, a Nova-class starship with heavily modified shields, being menaced by creatures that appear in fissures in space. Captain Rudolph Ransom orders their weakened shields to be lowered and reinitialized so they’ll be back at full strength, though that will take forty-five seconds, according to his first officer, Commander Max Burke. They do it, firing phaser rifles at the creatures as they materialize on the bridge, one of which kills one of the crew.

[I thought we were the only humans in the Delta Quadrant!]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Micaiah Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds Wins the 2021 Compton Crook Award

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has announced (via File 770) the winner of this year’s Compton Crook Award: Micaiah Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds, about a woman who travels to alternate universes to gather information, and who discovers some deeply troubling secrets about the company that employs her.

The award has been handed out annually at Balticon by the BSFS since 1983, and honors debut works in the name of author Stephen Tall, who used the pen name Compton Crook. Members of the society select the finalists and rate them to produce a winner.

In addition to Johnson’s book, year’s finalists for the award included Architects of Memory by Karen Osbourne, Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis, Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, Docile by K.M Szpara, and The Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin. Last year’s winner was Arkady Martine’s debut, A Memory Called Empire, and other recent winners include R.F. Kuang (The Poppy War), Nicky Drayden (The Prey of Gods), Ada Palmer (Too Like Lightning), and Fran Wilde (Updraft).

For her win, Johnson will get a $1,000 cash prize, and will be the Compton Crook Guest of Honor at Balticon this year and next. This year’s convention will be a virtual con, and it’ll be held over this year’s Memorial Day Weekend from May 28th through the 31st.

Them Relies on Brutality Over Nuanced Social Commentary

Them, Amazon Prime’s newest horror anthology series, has a lot of potential. The premise—escaping violence in the South, a Black family relocates to East Compton in the 1950s when it was still an all-white enclave and horror ensues—is intriguing. In the wake of other television shows like Watchmen and Lovecraft Country that also took Black history and twisted it with fantastical elements, there was a real opportunity to explore different aspects of racial violence: redlining, white flight, and blockbusting. Unfortunately, Little Marvin, who created Them and wrote four episodes, fails to live up to the potential of his own premise.

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Five Stories Built Around the Threat of Nuclear Blackmail

When I look back on it, it was quite quite odd that so many of us, back in the benighted 20th century, accepted the threat of nuclear war (thousands of nuclear weapons perpetually poised for launch) as normal. Just part of the background noise for daily life. Anyone who expressed concern about living on the knife edge of catastrophe was probably either some sort of political extremist or some sort of unhinged commie sex pervert.

But…even if all-out nuclear war were impossible, nuclear blackmail wasn’t. Some nation, NGO, or highly motivated individual could build bombs and threaten to use them if they didn’t get what they wanted. (Nice planet you have here; shame if anything happened to it…) At one time there was a fair bit of worry that this would happen; then (at least as far I can tell using Google Ngram) people sank into numb acceptance that there was nothing they could do to avoid doom. (Am I wrong here? You oldbies can tell me about it in comments.)

[Five tales involving atomic threats, bluffs, bargaining, and blackmail…]

Can The Nevers Evolve Beyond a Whedonesque Bag of Tricks?

The Nevers was to be Joss Whedon’s triumphant return to television, his first original series since 2010’s Dollhouse. In the interim, of course, he made The Avengers and co-created Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, but HBO Max’s new drama about female Victorian superheroes seemed to be a return to form for Whedon after nearly a decade entrenched in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But what’s ironic is that The Nevers, rather than being an original new act, feels like someone else playing around in Whedon’s IP: an Orphanage setting reminiscent of the Dollhouse, down to the same overseer in actress Olivia Williams; a grating antagonist spouting Drusilla’s rejected dialogue from Buffy; an unfortunate Firefly Easter egg that shows how little Whedon managed to learn from that series’ appropriative elements.

Despite all that, there may still be something to The Nevers, with its heavy-handed metaphor about superpowered women representing the age of modernity that so terrifies men, if only it has the chance to prove itself. Whedon’s departure during production (with Philippa Goslett replacing him as showrunner and Whedonverse alums Jane Espenson and Doug Petrie carrying on his vision from the pilot) has made this a case of art imitating life: Like its orphaned protagonists, The Nevers has become a real-time experiment in whether a series from a problematic creator can be more than the sum of its parts.

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