Add Some Romance to the Spooky Season With Spring

For most horror movie fans, the 1981 Canadian flick My Bloody Valentine is the obvious choice for required viewing on February 14th. The movie offers everything the holiday demands: kissing, lots of pink hearts, and a killer in mining gear. My Bloody Valentine holds particular appeal to those who aren’t into the whole lovey-dovey thing: After all, what better way to undermine grandiose romantic claims than the sight of actual bloody hearts in decorative boxes?

But what if I told you there was a better option? A movie that climaxes with a man and a woman ending their spontaneous week-long affair trying to decide if it will continue for the rest of their lives?

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18 Spooky Stories Recommended by Our Favorite Classic Monsters

Surely nobody knows the horror genre better than the horrors themselves!

From the 1920s through the ’50s, Universal Pictures’ horror films ruled the silver screen, giving us classic portrayals of iconic monsters from Count Dracula to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Whether you’ve seen the films or not, you know the creatures—the sinister predator, the curious monster, the transformed traveler, the cursed immortal, the mad scientist, and the tragic experiment.

So if you want a stack of books to sustain you through the rest of the Spooky Season, we’ve got recommendations directly from the Monsters…

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Art and Automata in Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

All Jebi wants to do is keep their head down and paint. That’s it. But navigating under the oppressive thumb of the Razanei who occupied the country of Hwaguk when they were a child, who took their sister’s wife from her in the ensuing war, who make it nearly impossible for a native Hwagukan to make a living… it takes a toll on a person. Even after buying a Razanei name to try to get a better job, Jebi is running out of options. Life doesn’t get any easier when they’re blackmailed into working for the Ministry of Armor, Razanei’s research division for the military. See, they need artists to create new automata, those faceless forces of policing set up wherever the Razanei conquer. And their latest project is so dangerous that Jebi realizes they’ll have to step up or let their country burn.

Phoenix Extravagant, the latest novel from the visionary Yoon Ha Lee, is a standalone novel with worlds of detail, depth, and heart, as one non-binary artist must do their best to use the skills they have to save what they can.

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Five SF Tales About Dead or Dying Worlds

Life on Earth is most likely doomed…in a billion years or so. The Sun’s slowly increasing luminosity will trigger a runaway greenhouse effect like that seen on Venus. Later stages in stellar evolution will further sear the Earth into an airless husk (unless the red giant sun simply gobbles up the planet like a piece of candy). Oh woe is us!

The following five tales of dying worlds might be of some interest during this interesting time. Remember: when the prospect of yet another Zoom meeting provokes anxiety and loathing, we can always tell ourselves that it could be worse…

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Reading Paper and Fire: Book 2 of the Great Library by Rachel Caine

We return for book two of Rachel Caine’s five volume Great Library series. In book one Caine introduces her alternate history set up: The Great Library of Alexandria, which in our historical timeline was destroyed in late antiquity, not only survived into the modern era but thrived and eventually took control of all permitted transmission of knowledge in the world.

This speculative idea is the foundation of Caine’s story. She uses it as a springboard to do what science fiction does best: Ask questions about the present day. Who controls ideas? Is knowledge more valuable than people? Is progress inevitable? Will authoritarians prevent technological and social advances in the name of stability, if by stability they mean their own grip on authority? Does power corrupt? Is the sky blue? This list barely scratches the surface of the questions Caine asks in the series, and we hope readers will chime in with their own observations.

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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Scientific Method”

“Scientific Method”
Written by Sherry Klein & Harry Doc. Kloor and Lisa Klink
Directed by David Livingston
Season 4, Episode 7
Production episode 175
Original air date: October 29, 1997
Stardate: 51244.3

Captain’s log. Torres is in the Jefferies Tube to track down a power issue, only to find Seven working on a junction. Seven decided to do some work to improve astrometrics, but did it without checking with Torres first. Seven’s work messed up a project Torres was working on in engineering.

[“How did he sound? Annoyed? Amused?” “He sounded Vulcan—what more can I tell you?”]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Five SFF Books Driven by Terrible Choices and Appalling Judgment

Many people can assemble the available evidence, weigh it carefully in the light of past experience, and make a rational, sensible decision. Many more of us are sensible…most of the time. Then there are those who cannot turn down a dare, cannot gauge risks rationally, cannot listen to useful advice. Bad for them, but sometimes amusing for observers, and often just what an author needs to generate plot, suspense, and excitement.

Here are five SFF novels that involve appalling judgment.

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A Little Something Extra: Masters of the Vortex by E. E. “Doc” Smith

In this bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books, Alan Brown looks at the front lines and frontiers of the field; books about soldiers and spacers, scientists and engineers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.

Down in New Orleans, they have a term, “lagniappe,” which Google defines as “something given as a bonus or extra gift.” And that is a perfect description of the novel Masters of the Vortex. It is a book full of new characters and new “scientific” principles, set in the universe of the Lensmen, but not connected to the continuity of the main series of novels. And as it marks the final book in my reviews of the Lensman series, it also gives me a chance to look back at the series as a whole.

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The Future Isn’t What it Used to Be — Star Trek: Discovery’s “Far from Home”

When we got to the end of Discovery’s first season, I was incredibly disappointed to learn that the ship was on its way to Vulcan to pick up their new captain. (We never did find out who that was supposed to be.) Instead, they rendezvoused with the Enterprise, and Pike took over as temporary captain.

The disappointment was that Saru wouldn’t be the new CO of the ship.

[No, but you do look like a man who is pain-free and enjoys mixing metaphors—keep at it, crankypants.]

Ten Scientastic Episodes of The Venture Bros.

In a year of seemingly infinite suck, the cancellation of The Venture Bros. may not represent the most devastating thing to be sacrificed to 2020’s ravenous maw. For avid fans, though—myself included—the news still stung. Over seven seasons and sixteen years (or seventeen, if you want to include the 2003 pilot, which aired a year and a half before the first season began), we’ve watched the show go from a simple, adult-themed parody á la Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law to something richer, more complex, and—oh man, I can’t believe I’m saying this about a series that featured an iron-jawed villain named Baron Ünderbheit—surprisingly moving. We’d endured extended interregnums as Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick (né Christopher McCulloch), the show’s creators (and pretty much sole writers, as well as making up a fair chunk of its voice cast and post-production team), labored to crank out each (occasionally awkwardly-truncated) season. [Don’t stop now, young adventurer! Read on!]

10 African SFF Novels That Offer a Breath of Fresh Air

In fiction, we are exposed to new places. With speculative fiction, we are exposed to new possibilities. There are new ideas of science, of magic, of horror lingering in books from authors Western readers insist have unpronounceable names. These books offer fresh perspectives into people or places we thought we knew. African SF&F grapples with unique themes like colonialism and the recovery from this past. There are witches and wizards, infusion of cultures and traditions that will stun the reader. Not all magic happens using a wand, and people perform magic in their native tongues too.

Here are 10 books by African writers offering a breath of fresh air.

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