Unicorn Magic with Realistic Underpinnings: Meredith Ann Pierce’s Birth of the Firebringer

I’ve gone on record as not being a fan of talking-animal fantasies, but I make exceptions. The Silver Brumby is one, and there’s The Horse and His Boy, which for all its problems still has some lovely bits. And now, having missed Meredith Ann Pierce’s Birth of the Firebringer when it was first published, I’m adding another to my very short list of talking-animal stories that I actually enjoyed.

The book is not technically about horses, but close enough. It’s about unicorns. It’s a hero’s journey, with a mysterious prophecy and an ancient evil and a prince’s son who won’t play by the rules.

[Read more]

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Flowers of Vashnoi

The Flowers of Vashnoi is the most recent Vorkosigan novella. It is set between Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance and Cryoburn. It’s a short adventure focusing on Ekaterin, with Enrique in a major supporting role. While carrying out a research study on bugs that process radioactive waste, Ekaterin and Enrique find a family of mutants hiding in the contaminated area outside the ruins of Vorkosigan Vashnoi. The Flowers of Vashnoi came out last year in the same week as my birthday, which is irrelevant to any and all readers whose birthday isn’t in the same week as mine, roughly 51/52 of literate humanity, but I mention it anyway because I regard the book as a present. To me. I know Bujold didn’t write it for me, but she wrote it and I’m blogging about it, and here we are.

And because of that, it feels a little weird to be blogging about this book. You’re not supposed to dissect presents. You’re supposed to say thank you and be properly grateful and carry your present off to read and appreciate. I did all of those things. I love it and I appreciate it, and I’m also a little skeptical about it.

[Read more]

Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Meet Murderbot in Chapter One of Martha Wells’ All Systems Red

“As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.”

We’re pleased to encore the first chapter of Martha Wells’ award-winning novella All Systems Red, the first entry in the bestselling science fiction series, The Murderbot Diaries. One of our favorite books of 2018, All Systems Red is now available in hardcover from Tor.com Publishing!

[Read more]

Did We ALL Write a Book About Space Elevators? (And Other Coincidences in Science Fiction)

An author has an epiphany, spots a story idea nobody ever had before, writes it in the white heat of inspiration, sends it off and gets a cheque in the mail. All is as it should be. At least, that is, until they discover someone else had the exact same idea at exactly the same time. Or worse—the other person’s version saw print first.

One of the more remarkable examples of this type of unfortunate concurrence occurred in 1979. Working on opposite sides of the planet in an era long before everyone had email, Charles Sheffield and Arthur C. Clarke wrote novels about…well, let me just quote Mr. Clarke’s open letter, which was reprinted at the end of Sheffield’s book…

[Read more]

You Don’t Need to Understand Magic: The Gathering to Fully Enjoy Brandon Sanderson’s Children of the Nameless

Magic: The Gathering is the most successful and enduring trading card game of all time. It started life in 1993 when brilliant designer Richard Garfield and a plucky young company called Wizards of the Coast decided to expand on the growing market for fantasy games, and, well, since then it’s only become more and more popular. From 2008 to 2016, 20 billion (billion!) Magic cards were produced and sold. Most recently, Wizards of the Coast launched Magic: The Gathering Arena, a digital client that will provide new avenues for growth and introduce many more players to the game. While Magic is a card game, and many of its most intense stories are those that play out between opponents in tournament halls, around kitchen tables, or online, it’s also home to one of the longest running and deepest fantasy universes ever designed.

While the game’s core story is told through the cards themselves, ripe with flavour text and huge spectacles that play out flavourfully on the battlefield between players, Wizards of the Coast also supplements the story with short stories, novellas, and novels. Recently they’ve made a shift toward hiring high-end authors to help them pen the stories, and their biggest coup yet was snagging Brandon Sanderson, one of fantasy’s most popular and prolific authors, to write a new standalone novella called Children of the Nameless.

[Read more]

Five SFF Books that Subvert Gender Roles

Every fantasy author approaches worldbuilding differently—the choices made and the societies created can say just as much about the writer as the story itself. I always end up playing with gender roles.

Growing up on a steady diet of Tolkien, I longed to see myself as a member of the Fellowship (Eowyn is a fantastic character, but she’s surrounded by a sea of men). I began with a female-dominated society in my first series, and now in The Cerulean, I went all in and crafted a Sapphic utopia, a city devoid of men entirely. One thing I love about writing fantasy is that the norm can be whatever I want it to be—and I’m always fascinated by how other authors create their own norms. Here are my top five books that play with different gender/societal roles.

[Read more]

Pull List: Captain Marvel and Miles Morales: Spider-Man Get Back to Basics

Given the fervent adoration (rightly) bestowed on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse at the tail end of 2018 and the growing anticipation for the MCU’s latest entry, Captain Marvel, it seems fitting to start my first Pull List of the year covering their newest comics. Miles Morales and Carol Danvers both got well-earned recent relaunches, but are they worth reading? I think you already know the answer to that…

[Read more]

5 Books in Which Superpowers Have Unfortunate Side Effects

I’ve always been drawn to books with characters whose abilities represent a classic double-edged sword, both blessing and curse. Think Incredible Hulk—unbelievably strong, capable of protecting both himself and others, but also out of control, unable to clearly remember who he is or what he’s doing when he’s in that transformed state. When it comes to such powerful characters, the double-edged ability is a great way to explore the dark-side of awesomeness, to render someone who is untouchable painfully relatable. The unfortunate side effects and consequences of special powers also bring balance and tension into a story, where power alone would limit the tale to simple answers and quick resolution.

[Read more]

Listen to the Echoes: The Ultimate Profile of Ray Bradbury

When I decided to write my recent piece about The Bradbury Chronicles, Sam Weller’s biography of Ray Bradbury, I knew I’d also have to write (just a few words) about the book I always think of as its fraternal twin. Not to do so would’ve meant ignoring the other half of Bradbury.

I declared (perhaps rather grandly) that Weller’s subject in 2005’s The Bradbury Chronicles was a portrait of Bradbury as an artist, a narrative about the development of a writer—his “Other Me”—alongside the details and milestones of the life he’d led. What Weller gives us in 2010’s Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews is a portrait of the man behind the typewriter. How does it rate, then, when compared to the earlier volume? I’ll be frank and say that this book is not a “must read” for everyone who read The Bradbury Chronicles.

[Read more]

“This isn’t freedom, this is fear” — Captain America: The Winter Soldier

For a very long time, there was a feeling among a certain segment of hardcore comics fans. When Jean Grey was resurrected in the lead-up to the launch of the X-Factor comic book, it started a flood of character resurrections in Marvel (and DC for that matter). Heck, even Aunt May was revived! (Thus ruining a most powerful character death in Amazing Spider-Man #400.)

To many comics fans, though, there were two people who were likely to stay all dead, rather than be mostly dead: Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben and Captain America’s sidekick Bucky Barnes. Those two deaths were too important, too formative to ever be reversed.

And then in 2005, Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting did the “Winter Soldier” storyline in Captain America Volume 5 and blew that idea all to hell.

[“There are no prisoners with Hydra, just order. And order only comes with pain. You ready for yours?” “Man, shut the hell up!”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

“Where’s my damn red thing?” — Star Trek: Discovery’s “Brother”

The very first Star Trek character that Gene Roddenberry ever wrote was Captain Christopher Pike. As played by Jeffrey Hunter, Pike was a solid, stolid leader in the Hornblower mode, one who was world-weary and thinking about retiring in the flashbacks of “The Menagerie,” using footage from the unaired pilot “The Cage.” As played by Bruce Greenwood in the alternate timeline of the Bad Robot movies, Pike was a wise mentor, an understanding authority figure.

Anson Mount debuted his interpretation of Pike on the second season premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, and it’s a fascinating mix of Hunter and Greenwood, and a role that’s written with the knowledge that it takes place several years after “The Cage.” It’s also a delight, a welcome shot in the arm to the show which delivers its best episode yet.

[This is the power of math, people!]

Robert Jordan’s Never-Before-Seen First Novel is Coming From Tor Books in 2019

Tor Books is honored to announce the forthcoming publication of Warrior of the Altaii, the never-before-seen first novel by epic fantasy titan Robert Jordan.

Warrior of the Altaii is a fascinating formative work by The Wheel of Time creator, offering an abundance of the epic themes that Jordan would continue to develop in The Wheel of Time itself. A standalone fantasy story told with implacable momentum, readers new to Robert Jordan will find Warrior of the Altaii an easy gateway to the author’s artistry.

[Read more]

Gentle Giants: Rescue Dogs, Pet Adoption, and Lessons in Love and Survival

In this ongoing series, we ask SF/F authors to describe a specialty in their lives that has nothing (or very little) to do with writing. Join us as we discover what draws authors to their various hobbies, how they fit into their daily lives, and how and they inform the author’s literary identity.

Nothing prepared me for this.

It was 2011, and there I was, standing in the grass outside a Panera Bread, waiting to meet a woman about a dog. I had wanted this forever: an Italian Greyhound. And now here I was, adopting not one but two of them with my fiancé.

[Read more]

Vigilance and The Test “Near-Future” Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a copy of two near-future thrillers from Tor.com Publishing: Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett, available January 29th, and The Test by Sylvain Neuvel, available February 12th!

From Vigilance:

The United States. 2030. John McDean executive produces “Vigilance,” a reality game show designed to make sure American citizens stay alert to foreign and domestic threats. Shooters are introduced into a “game environment,” and the survivors get a cash prize. Read more in our free excerpt.

From The Test:

Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress. When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death. How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice? Read more in our free excerpt.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 2:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on January 17th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on January 20th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Can You Ever Go Home Again? 9 Stories That Continue After Journey’s End

After fighting in the Trojan War, taking an epic walk to Mount Doom, or communing with the alien Meduse, all the intrepid war hero/quester/intergalactic exchange student wants is to return to the familiar comforts of home. But they’ve changed—maybe they’re missing a finger, have been transformed on a molecular level, or simply had their mind expanded in the figurative sense—and so has home. These nine sci-fi and fantasy tales explore the awkward, anticlimactic, and occasionally antagonistic homecomings, and how sometimes that final hurdle is the most important part of the story.

[Read more]

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.