If You Prick Us, Do We Not Rust? Tara Campbell’s “Spencer”

Welcome back to Reading the Weird, in which we get girl cooties all over weird fiction, cosmic horror, and Lovecraftiana—from its historical roots through its most recent branches.

This week, we cover Tara Campbell’s “Spencer,” first published in the March 2020 issue of Speculative City, and now available in Campbell’s Cabinet of Wrath: A Doll Collection. Spoilers ahead!

[“I only needed something small from her, something she would barely miss.”]

Series: Reading the Weird

Without Fear of Certain Death: Alex White’s August Kitko and the Mechas From Space

It’s the year 2657 and August “Gus” Kitko is a jazz pianist with a front seat to the end of the world. Like the string quartet playing a swan song on the deck of the sinking Titanic though, he’s doomed not to live out his last days with friends, or family, or even in the comfort of his own home, but at a lavish party hosted by Earth’s richest. At the estate of Lord Elisa Yamazaki in Monaco, Gus is the hired entertainment for a victory party meant to celebrate the Dictum, a warship designed to eliminate the alien mechas, or Vanguards that have for years now threatened the extinction of humanity.

Of course, the Dictum is only a symptom of the United Worlds goverment’s giant hubris; it’s cast aside in the first battle like scrap metal, leaving only hours for the Vanguards to regroup before they inevitably commit intergalactic genocide. Gus is left amongst insipid apocalypse partiers drinking their last hours away. Standing at the edge of a cliff, he wonders if he should take his own life before he’s casually slain. Only of course, the fall might not kill him and he’d be leaving his half-dead body to the mercy of marine life or seagulls, and as we can all concur, “seagulls are assholes.”

Believe it or not, all of this occurs in the first few pages of August Kitko and the Mechas from Space, a rapidly shifting stunner of a space opera novel that is more delightful whiplash than languidly-paced tragedy.

[Read more]

Vampire Rebellion Is On the Rise in the Vampire Academy Trailer

Should you find yourself questioning the return of vampire shows to the TV lineup this fall, well, I don’t know what to tell you: Sign me up for all of ’em. (Vampires are immortal, after all; their series will never really die.) And especially for Vampire Academy, the latest from Vampire Diaries co-creator Julie Plec, who co-created this one with Marguerite MacIntyre (The Vampire DiariesThe OriginalsLegacies). Bestie vampires (okay, fine, one’s a half-vampire, whatever that means) tangled up in rebellion while navigating fraught relationships? Yes. Yes, please.

[Read more]

The Revelation Will Not Be Televised: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

A Head Full of Ghosts is literary catnip: a modern possession that turned into a reality TV show? A modern possession that might not be possession at all?? Catholicism???

But like all great horror stories, it ends up being about human emotions more than anything, with, yes, an element of incisive class commentary, and, even better, an ongoing conversation with both The Exorcist and We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

[Read more]

Mystery, Mayhem, and Murder? Must Be Wednesday

No release date has been announced for Netflix’s Wednesday, but it seems pretty safe to assume it’ll eventually drop… on a Wednesday. This week, we get the first real look at the series, which comes from the minds of showrunners Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville) and director Tim Burton.

Jenna Ortega stars as this generation’s Wednesday Addams, whose introduction comes complete with piranhas.

[Read more]

The Ghost of Workshops Past: How Communism, Conservatism, and the Cold War Still Mold Our Paths Into SFF Writing

Part 1. The Emotionally-Charged World of the SFF Workshops That Make Professional Writers

In 2016, Neil Gaiman tweeted: “If you want to be a writer, you want to go to Clarion, NEED to go to Clarion.”

The tweet got significant pushback, with replies calling it “crushing”, “hurtful”, and “cruel”, including from other professionals. Eight hours later, Gaiman clarified: “Obviously you don’t actually need to go to Clarion/Clarion West to be a writer.”

To those outside the industry, the name “Clarion” might not have much meaning. But to those with aspirations of being a professional SFF author—of joining those like Gaiman—workshops like Clarion can have a venerated status. The Clarion Writers’ Workshop boasts a stunning roster of alumni, including Kim Stanley Robinson, Ted Chiang, Octavia Butler, and Cory Doctorow—many of whom have returned to teach, creating a star-studded faculty that’s been joined by the likes of Harlan Ellison and George R.R. Martin.

[Read more]

Series: R.F. Kuang Guest Editor for Tor.com

7 Wrong Lessons Creators Learned From Game of Thrones

Hard to believe it’s been more than a decade since Game of Thrones’ premiere on April 17, 2011. I can still remember when Thrones reigned over pop culture, and I used to spend my Sunday nights staying up until two in the morning trying to craft the perfect recap of each episode. I kind of agree with the many people who have said Game of Thrones was the last television show to dominate the conversation, before everything became fragmented into a hundred streaming services and countless niche options.

Like a few other pop-culture behemoths, Game of Thrones cast a huge shadow and spawned many would-be imitators. The Marvel Cinematic Universe led to a dozen copycat “cinematic universes”; Lost spawned a ton of TV shows that went down endless cryptic rabbit holes; The Dark Knight cursed us with a decade of “chaotic-evil dude who has magic blow-everything-up powers and gets caught on purpose” movies. The thing is, people always take the wrong lesson from these successes—they focus on the froth rather than the churn, the tip rather than the iceberg, and what a popular thing turned into over time, rather than what made it popular in the first place.

Here are seven of the wrong lessons that everyone learned from the phenomenal success of Game of Thrones—one for each of the Seven Kingdoms. (I miss writing listicles, can you tell?)

[Read more]

Darling! Bow Down Before These Great Divas of Fantasy

Divas are divine. Literally: “Diva” derives from the Latin word for “divine,” or a “goddess,” and it’s no small thing to label a person (or a character) as such. Diving into a book and discovering a diva lurking within brings an immediate rush, because divas are super confident of their place in the universe—and absolutely positive that the sun spins around them, not the other way around.

Not only that, divas have a way of taking the wheel in a story, in part because they operate under a totally different set of rules: namely, their own. As an author who’s recently written a loose cannon—er, divine diva actor—named Fiona Ballantine in my upcoming book Tune In Tomorrow, I promise that these characters sometimes they surprise even their creators.

Yet when we think of divas in literature, fantasy might not be the first genre to come to mind. There’s Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, or Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, or Rhoda Penmark in The Bad Seed. But divas exist everywhere—from opera (their natural habitat) to reality TV to wrestling. So why not fantasy? And, for that matter, there’s no rule that says divas have to be cisgender women, or even human—divas tend to transcend labels and confound expectations; it’s all part of the gig.

[Read more]

What Is Your Damage, Mars?: The Honeys by Ryan La Sala

It was the middle of the night when Mars’ twin sister Caroline snuck home from the prestigious Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy and tried to kill him. Although her death certificate gives their family cover from public scrutiny, Mars knows something else was going on. And it all goes back to the Honeys, a group of girls who used the privileges of Aspen to claw their way up and are now at the top of the Aspen social hierarchy. They live at the far edge of the property in their own luxurious cabin where they tend to a sprawling apiary. Years before, Mars fled camp after the bullying he suffered due to being genderfluid hit a breaking point. Now, to solve the mystery of what happened to Caroline, he must return to Aspen and play the part of a boy.

Once he gets to camp, settling in with the boys proves harder than Mars realized. The camp director attaches her nephew to Mars as a friend/spy, a relationship that gets ever more complicated as their connection deepens. The boys find ways to punish Mars, and the more they ostracize him the more he sheds “boy” for his true self. It’s the Honeys who see him for who he is. Soon, teens start going missing and turning up dead. Blank spaces and false memories crowd into Mars’ mind. No one is who they seem, including Mars. Something or someone is after him the way they were after Caroline, and if he doesn’t figure it out soon, he may suffer her same fate.

[Read more]

You Have Another Chance to Catch Two-Hour Andor Trailer Rogue One in Theaters

Yeah, I know, I know, Andor is a prequel to Rogue One, which is itself a prequel to Star Wars, I know. But you also know the reason Rogue One is getting a theatrical re-release is to remind us who the heck Cassian Andor is and why we might want to get invested in the terrible things he did for the Rebellion.

There are reasons to get excited for this re-release, though: You can watch Rogue One—which has the prettiest space battles of just about any Star War*—in IMAX! And with sneak-peek Andor footage!

[Read more]

The Joy that Kills, The Joy that Saves: Our Flag Means Death’s Mary Bonnet is Her Own Masterpiece

Welcome to Close Reads! In this series, Leah Schnelbach and guest authors dig into the tiny, weird moments of pop culture—from books to theme songs to viral internet hits—that have burrowed into our minds, found rent-stabilized apartments, started community gardens, and refused to be forced out by corporate interests. This time out, Maya Gittelman looks at the lives of two widows—one the protagonist of a classic story by Kate Chopin, the other…Mary Bonnet.

“Free! Body and soul free!” 

So whispers Mrs. Mallard in Kate Chopin’s 1894 very short “The Story of An Hour” upon the revelation of her husband’s sudden death. Grief and shock come first. And then the fact of it sets in. The way the world has cracked open. As a widow, she at last has the right to her own life. She did her duty of wifehood, no one can fault her for the freedom that comes next:

[Read more]

Series: Close Reads

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.