Bad Influences From Atlantis: H.P. Lovecraft and Adolphe de Castro’s “The Last Test”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

This week, we’re reading H. P. Lovecraft and Adolphe de Castro’s “The Last Test,” a revision of de Castro’s original “A Sacrifice to Science,” first published in In the Confessional and the Following in 1893; the revised version first appeared in the November 1928 issue of Weird Tales. Spoilers ahead.

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Series: The Lovecraft Reread

“This must be what vengeance felt like”: Roshani Chokshi’s The Gilded Wolves

In the weeks before the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, six teens are pulled into a dangerous heist. Séverin Montagnet-Alarie is the disowned half-French half-Algerian illegitimate son of the dead Patriarch of House Vanth. The Order, the organization that unites the Houses and formalizes the rules of Forging (aka magic), exiled Séverin years ago. He’s spent his time since “acquiring” Forged artifacts from the Order and slowly gathering his former House’s collections. Helping him are Zofia, an arson-inclined autistic Polish Jew with a flair for Forging and engineering; Enrique, a bisexual half-Spanish half Filipino historian; Tristan, Séverin’s younger brother with a plant-based Forging talent and an obsession with his pet tarantula; and Laila, an Indian girl harboring a dark secret.

When he’s approached by his former childhood companion Hypnos, a queer half-French half-Haitian Patriarch, with an offer he can’t refuse, Séverin and his crew are pulled into a vast conspiracy. To win back his status as the Patriarch of House Vanth, he and his crew must steal Forged artifacts, solve tricky riddles and complicated puzzles, and battle sinister forces all while keeping the Order off their trail. The dead will rise and the living will fall and by the end the world will never be the same.

[“I’ve come to collect my dues.”]

The Ethical Drama of Farscape’s John Crichton

Farscape, the Henson Company’s extravaganza of a gonzo science fiction TV series, filmed in Australia at the turn of the last century, weirder and grosser and funnier and more brutal than almost any other piece of SF television—a show where a puppet, playing Dominar Rygel the XVI, sluglike deposed ruler of the Hynerian Empire, farts helium for plot purposes more than once—has at its center a drama of profound ethical transformation. By this I am of course referring to the journey of the show’s protagonist, John Crichton.

Farscape is a brilliant piece of television for many reasons—compulsively enjoyable, incredibly weird, emotionally challenging. But it is the ethical journey of John Crichton which, for me, makes it worth watching and rewatching, especially as our own world veers out of the predicted, understandable, comfortable place some of us believed we dwelled in, and into something far closer to what Crichton calls the “weird, amazing, and psychotic life. In Technicolor,” that he found through a wormhole to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. In looking at what happens to Crichton over four seasons and a miniseries, I find myself thinking about the lasting effects of trauma, and the experience of trying to find a new, solid self in a universe gone off the rails.

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A Travel Guide to the Worlds of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children Series (Updated!)

In Every Heart a Doorway, the first novella in the stellar Wayward Children series, author Seanan McGuire explores what happens when children who disappeared into magical worlds returned to the real world. Its prequel story Down Among the Sticks and Bones explores one of these worlds in detail, telling the story of how Jacqueline and Jillian became Jack and Jill. The consequences of leaving your home world for the real one come to roost in the third novella, Beneath the Sugar Sky, a theme explored from a different angle in the fourth novella, In An Absent Dream.

Maguire’s portal worlds are connected to our own through magic doors. Not just any child can cross the threshold; something innate in their being or in the other world draws them in. What follows is an account of every single portal world mentioned, even in passing. Most of the worlds we have only scattershot information, but they’re listed here anyway alongside those we know a substantial amount about. I’ve kept spoilers out as much as possible.

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Stolen Bodies, Warped Minds—Wild Cards IX: Jokertown Shuffle

Hello again, and welcome back to the Wild Cards reread! Here we are with 1991’s Jokertown Shuffle (Book IX), the second installment of the jumper trilogy (falling between One-Eyed Jacks and Dealer’s Choice). In April of 2019, Tor will be republishing the book along with two new stories by Carrie Vaughn and Cherie Priest. This is my first time reading this one—it’s a bit infamous amongst Wild Card readers, though, so I’ve heard quite a bit about it in advance. Here we go!

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Series: George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards: The Reread Community is Seeking an In-House Publicity Coordinator Community is seeking an in-house publicity coordinator with at least 2 years of experience to coordinate book coverage for upcoming genre titles and work with staff, publishing contacts, and authors to create and ensure completion of long-term plans for coverage. Candidates should have an extensive knowledge of the science fiction and fantasy genre and experience interacting with online communities. We are looking for someone highly organized and detail-oriented with an enthusiasm for SF/F and its community.

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Sleeps With Monsters: Phyllis Ann Karr’s Sword and Sorcery Novels

Recently, Sonya Taaffe chanced to mention Phyllis Ann Karr in one of her blog posts. Karr has never been a prolific author of science fiction and fantasy, and she remains best-known for her Arthurian murder-mystery The Idylls of the Queen and for the pair of fantasy novels, first published in the 1980s, which I’m going to talk about here: Frostflower and Thorn (1980) and Frostflower and Windbourne (1982).

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

A Fun Space Adventure: Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl

Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl is the upcoming title in Disney’s “Rick Riordan Presents” series for middle grade readers. I am, myself, the parent of a middle grade reader. We’ve had to have a number of difficult conversations lately—chores and homework, mostly—and I jumped at the chance to review the book in the hopes that offering her access to a pre-publication work with the word dragon in the title would help me score some cool points. Unfortunately for me, she thinks that reading a book before its release date means waiting longer than everyone else for the sequel. There is compelling evidence that she and I are related, but that is not it.

Typical middle grade space stories feature protagonists who leave familiar worlds (sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not) to have fabulous adventures that sometimes involve aliens, sometimes involve war, and sometimes are hilariously misguided parables about the power of international cooperation or justice or something. Dragon Pearl is neither a war story nor an alien story—it’s about people competing to find and control their society’s most important resource. It’s not a misguided parable either.

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The Test

Britain, the not-too-distant future. Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test. He wants his family to belong.

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?

Award-winning author Sylvain Neuvel explores an immigration dystopia in The Test—available February 12th from Publishing.

[Read an Excerpt]

Five Books About Bad-Ass Modern-day Magicians

In decades past, if one asked readers of fantasy to picture a magic-user, most would envision a figure in medieval garb, wielding a wand or a gnarled staff capped with an orb, and perhaps wearing a pointy hat. Though long a staple of the swords-and-sorcery niche, spell-slingers have proved to be just as much at home in the urban-fantasy subgenre.

There are, of course, as many ways to depict magicians in modern-day settings as there are authors to write them. There are monster-hunters, vampire-lovers, world-jumpers, and countless other variations on the concept. My personal favorite? Big-city magicians as stone-cold badasses, living life beyond the law, in the shadows, and forever skirting the rough edge of self-destruction. Here are five that I love.

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Series: Five Books About…

Zombie Musicals are the Perfect Genre Mash-up

Maybe Michael Jackson saw it first. On the surface, the combination of the living dead with the fun, hyper-bright world of the musical seems, well, ridiculous, two great tastes that absolutely don’t go great together. But somehow, it works. Somehow, when these two great tastes are combined in just the right way, you wind up with something that’s substantially better than the sum of its parts. You wind up with a masterpiece.

“But wait,” you might cry, confused by my assertion that everything is better with zombies, “there can’t possibly be that many zombie musicals! Your entire premise is flawed!”

On the contrary my dear, hypothetical reader, there are so many more zombie musicals than anyone seems to realize—definitely more than I’ve seen, because I guarantee you that this list is going to leave something out. It’s the nature of the beast. The shambling, singing, soft-shoeing beast. And with that in mind, welcome one and all. Welcome to the world of…


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