Judge Dee must himself stand trial before his fellow vampires for the loss of a valuable manuscript, even as those vampires are murdered, one by one, by an unknown hand.
What does it mean to have a great location in a work of fiction? If you’re writing something tinged with the supernatural, it can give that fiction a sense of veracity, a lived-in quality that’s magnified even more when the arcane or uncanny elements show up. Part of the appeal for me of Gene Wolfe’s Peace or Free Live Free is the way the settings of those novels feel almost tactile as I’m making my way through their pages. The same could be said for adrienne maree brown’s Grievers, which offered a rich sense of what it’s like for its characters every day—making the more speculative elements of that book even more deeply felt.
That’s also the case in Erika T. Wurth’s White Horse, which plays its supernatural elements very close to the vest and uses them sparingly.
Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro is clearly pushing his own campaign to make an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. We already knew that he got to the test footage stage of an adaptation a decade ago, with Universal ultimately canning the project. Del Toro also tried to make the film once more in 2017 after the success of The Shape of Water but got nowhere.
The director still hasn’t given up, however, and after the critical success of his stop-animation feature, Pinocchio, he’s pushing to make a Mountains of Madness adaptation once more, this time (maybe?) in stop animation as well.
R.L. Stine’s Fear Street is the best-known of the ‘90s teen horror series, but it wasn’t the only one. Diane Hoh’s Nightmare Hall is a 29-book series chronicling the dark history and inexplicable goings-on at Salem University. Hoh’s series followed the kids of ‘90s teen horror beyond graduation as they ventured into the great wide world, where they usually discovered a whole new set of horrors. The cover design of the Nightmare Hall books featured a window cut-out in the cover, through which the bookstore browser could get a tantalizingly incomplete peek at the horrors that lay within, with a second, inner cover providing further visual clues—a dead body, a lurking monster—without giving away the novel’s mystery.
They’re robots; of course their franchise never dies. After an uncountable number of Michael Bay Transformers movies, the robot series is headed off in a new direction. And it’s historical fiction, too! By which I mean it’s set in the ’90s. (Hey, it worked for Captain Marvel.)
And this trailer wastes no time in getting to its point: Say hello to the beast-transforming Maximals and their leader, Optimus Primal (voiced by Ron Perlman).
They all warned her about Marec Górski…
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from The Two Doctors Górski, a dazzling contemporary fantasy and an exploration of reclaiming personal power in the aftermath of abuse by Lambda Award-winning author Isaac Fellman—available now from Tordotcom Publishing.
Last week I went to see a band, which is a fairly normal occurrence for me. It wasn’t just any show, though; it was a date on a 30th anniversary tour, a celebration of a record that came out decades ago.
It did not feel particularly celebratory. But it did feel specific. The Lemonheads’ It’s a Shame About Ray is an album from the early ’90s, made at that specific time, riddled—to those who listened to it both then and now—with potholes of nostalgia, splashes of memory. I can’t hear it without hearing the echoes of when I first heard it.
But it’s not timeless. I’m not sure music can be timeless; it’s ephemeral and visceral at once, subject to the recording tools of its day, bent and shaped by so many forces and talents and skills and feelings that it almost can’t not be of a moment.
Can the same be said of books?
Every Sanderson fan has an origin story—we’re like superheroes in that way. Some of us come to Sanderson via brute force, recommendations from friends wearing us down until we accept our fate. Others enjoy a more roundabout path, stumbling into the Cosmere by complete accident. No matter the method, Sanderson’s work often finds its way to fantasy-obsessed readers, catapulting the books to a spot on our favorite shelves. And everyone’s experience differs, thanks to the author’s frankly impressive portfolio.
I took the roundabout way. After buying my wife the first Mistborn trilogy as a gift, I ended up reading them first (don’t worry, I got her many other presents that I didn’t commandeer for myself). Enamored, I began devouring Brandon Sanderson’s work, making 2021 the year of the Sanderlanche. To date, I’ve logged Mistborn era one, Mistborn era two (The Wax and Wayne Cycle), The Way of Kings, Elantris, and (as of this writing) about 10% of Warbreaker.
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 continue N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became with Chapter 14: The Gauntlet of Second Avenue. The novel was first published in March 2020. Spoilers ahead!
Series: Reading the Weird
The title of the movie Cocaine Bear says it all. It’s a movie about a bear. Who does cocaine. And then kills a lot of people, if this red band trailer for the film is any indication. And if that sounds unbelievable, it’s apparently inspired by a true story.
I’m going to take a contrary position here. Here we go: It’s conventional wisdom that science fiction and animation are two forms ideally suited for each other. Makes sense—the unbounded palette of the cartoon allows for the creation of technologies, worlds, and scientific concepts that are unrestricted by the limits of live-action filming. (This is not exactly true, by the way—animation tech and production budgets impose their own constraints. But close enough.)
But did you ever consider that, maybe, science fiction is too grounded a genre for the likes of cartoons? After all, animation customarily traffics in talking animals and magic kingdoms; having to adhere to such principles as physics and chemistry can put a damper on the medium’s more fanciful impulses. Why deal with rocket ships when you can just as easily have characters sprout wings and fly to Mars?
There’s a small cluster of books that came to mind when reading Kay Chronister’s Desert Creatures—novels about the western United States when the future has curdled into something brutal. The ecological nightmares of Claire Vaye Watkins’s Gold Fame Citrus, Diane Cook’s The New Wilderness, and Edan Lepucki’s California all come to mind when reading Chronister’s book—but there’s something else in its DNA as well that makes this fit imperfect. Chronister’s novel also hearkens to the genre-shredding vistas of Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps, Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, and Sue Rainsford’s Redder Days—but its horrors aren’t entirely of a piece with either of these books as well.
From August 2017 – January 2020, Keith R.A. DeCandido took a weekly look at every live-action movie based on a superhero comic that had been made to date in the Superhero Movie Rewatch. He has been revisiting the feature every six months or so to look back at the new releases in the previous half-year, as well as a few he missed the first time through. We kick off this semi-annual look back with two twentieth-century movies…
Jean-Claude Forest created the character of Barbarella for V Magazine in 1962, chronicling the erotic tales of a far-future space pilot who traveled from planet to planet and had adventures, usually involving sex.
Seven years later, inspired in part by Forest’s character’s name, Forrest J. Ackerman conceived the character of Vampirella for Warren Comics, originally intended as the “host” of an anthology horror comic like Warren’s other titles Creepy (hosted by Uncle Creepy) and Eerie (hosted by Cousin Eerie), but Vampi also starred in her own adventures.
Both had movie adaptations made, one of which became a cult hit, one of which, um, didn’t.
It’s her day—we’re just allowed to hang out on it. In its first week on the streaming platform, Netflix’s Wednesday pulled in eyeballs for 341.23 million viewing hours, beating out even the hotly anticipated Stranger Things 4 (which had 335 million). The two supernatural tales were both the #1 series in 83 countries in their debut week.
You could chalk this up to any number of factors: The affection many of us adults retain for Christina Ricci’s ’90s version of Wednesday Addams. Love for the Addams Family in general. The perfect deadpan of Jenna Ortega, who plays a barely-blinking Wednesday with crisp confidence. And, of course, the perpetual appeal of Tim Burton.
As I rewatched Rankin/Bass’ animated version of The Hobbit, for the first time since elementary school, I tried to imagine what it would have been like to see the film when it first aired on television in November of 1977. I picture a child sitting on a lime green couch in a wood-paneled basement, wearing a Darth Vader t-shirt she got after she fell in love with Star Wars (aka A New Hope, then still simply known as “Star Wars”) when it was released in theaters a few months earlier.
Our hypothetical child would have no idea that she was glimpsing, like a vision in Galadriel’s mirror, the future of pop culture.
Although recent history suggests that humans as a whole (or at least their leaders) are perfectly comfortable with the ever-present risk of a global nuclear exchange, individual authors appear to be more ambivalent. Perhaps it’s some unnatural “life wish.” One coping mechanism that appeared over and over in SF written during the Cold War was to suppose that nations allied with one superpower or another could arrange to sit out World War III, thus suffering only indirect effects.
Personally, I find this a bit dubious for a number of reasons, ranging from the unlikelihood of great powers leaving intact valuable cities in their enemy’s backyard to the hints in such texts as The Wizards of Armageddon that the great nations simply lacked the powers of discrimination required to acknowledge during a hasty nuclear exchange that, for example, China would be sitting this war out. Still, dubious precepts can lead to interesting stories, as these five books should show.