Safer Meat: Amanda Downum’s “The Tenderness of Jackals”

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 Amanda Downum’s “The Tenderness of Jackals,” first published in Ellen Datlow’s Lovecraft Unbound anthology in 2009. Spoilers ahead.

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Series: The Lovecraft Reread

On the Origins of Modern Biology and the Fantastic: Part 19 — Nalo Hopkinson and Stem Cell Research

“She just wanted to be somewhere safe, somewhere familiar, where people looked and spoke like her and she could stand to eat the food.” —Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson

Midnight Robber (2000) is about a woman, divided. Raised on the high-tech utopian planet of Touissant, Tan-Tan grows up on a planet populated by the descendants of a Caribbean diaspora, where all labor is performed by an all-seeing AI. But when she is exiled to Touissant’s parallel universe twin planet, the no-tech New Half-Way Tree, with her sexually abusive father, she becomes divided between good and evil Tan-Tans. To make herself and New Half-Way Tree whole, she adopts the persona of the legendary Robber Queen and becomes a legend herself. It is a wondrous blend of science fictional tropes and Caribbean mythology written in a Caribbean vernacular which vividly recalls the history of slavery and imperialism that shaped Touissant and its people, published at a time when diverse voices and perspectives within science fiction were blossoming.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Reread — The Soul Key

The Soul Key
Olivia Woods
Publication Date: August 2009
Timeline: 2377, following the events of Fearful Symmetry and Warpath; also 2376

Progress: A Prologue set in the Alternate Universe (AU; also, I’ll be using “m-” to denote the mirror version of a character) aboard Terok Nor recaps the basic conflict between the Terran Rebellion and the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance. We’re shown m-Eddington, m-O’Brien, m-Ezri, m-Keiko, and m-Sloan receiving the inter-dimensional call from our Bashir, Sisko, Ro, Quark, Kira, Dax and m-Iliana, as depicted in Fearful Symmetry from our side. Terok Nor is then attacked by Klingons.

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Empathy Over Stigma: YA Authors On Making Mental Health Visible In Their Works

As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, Tor Teen YA authors hosted a conversation on mental health representation in YA fiction. Titled “Empathy Over Stigma,” the panel featured YA authors TJ Klune (The Extraordinaries), Mark Oshiro (Each of Us a Desert), and Lauren Shippen (A Neon Darkness).

The trio sat down over Crowdcast to discuss the responsibility of writing about a frequently misrepresented topic, how they react to readers who don’t feel portrayed, changing people’s perceptions of therapy, tips for bad mental health days, first-person experiences vs. research, sensitivity readers, book recommendations, and much more. Watch the video above, and follow along below the jump for time-stamped questions.

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Blogging the Nebulas Predictions: Place Your Bets

The Nebula Awards could be described as the Academy Awards of SFF literature; they are voted on by the professional peers of the award nominees—members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. There are six nominees in the best novel category this year and I’ve now reviewed each of them in turn,  figuring their odds of taking home the prize. Now it’s time to make my final predictions. This is Blogging the Nebulas 2020.

The Nebula for Best Novel is my favorite award in genre fiction. Sure, everyone loves to kvetch about the Hugos, but there’s too much drama there, especially lately, and until recently at least, the winners rarely reflected my own personal taste. The Philip K. Dick Award, which goes to a paperback original, tends to skew weird, which is always interesting, but rarely am I intimately familiar with the entire shortlist, which makes things a bit less fun. The Locus Award shortlist is always fantastic, but that’s… a lot of nominees.

[But the Nebulas are my jam…]

Read N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season Along With Us!

The Socially Distant Read-Along continues! We recently wrapped up Katherine Addison’s fabulous steampunk/fantasy/goblin bildungsroman, The Goblin Emperor, but there are still more excellent books in our To Be Read stacks. Next week we’re excited to dig into N. K. Jemisin’s Hugo Award-winning tale of magic and climate upheaval, The Fifth Season! We’ll be reading and discussing the novel over the course of the next six weeks, and you can follow along with us on Twitter using the hashtag #TorDotReads.

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Neverending Stories, Or: My 3 Favorite Books I’ve Never Actually Finished

Hear me out.

We all remember that scene in The Neverending Story—which is a ridiculously apropos title for this conversation, by the way—where Bastian takes out his sandwich and, while hiding in the school attic, reading his stolen tome, stops himself after one bite, saying, “No. Not too much. We’ve still got a long way to go.”

That’s my reading life, in a nutshell. While I can count on one hand the times I have thrown restraint to the wind and finished an amazing book in one or two sittings, it is more often that I’ve started reading something, appreciated it, and taken months to finish. Better still are the times I’ve started a book, realized I love it on a deep bone level, and, lamenting the progress I am making toward completing it, set it down.

Because I love it too much.

This is a thing that happens.

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Moving Beyond Martial Arts Stereotypes: Make Room for the AAPI Bruce Willis

Fighting is character.

The barroom brawler. The Western gunslinger. The balletic dance-like fighting so often assigned to female action stars. The grim war hero, the foppish fencer…or the stylized martial artist.

Much has been written about the type of fight moves often assigned to women—so often high kicks and acrobatic tumbling instead of a good solid right hook and a bottle to the face. In fact, I’m very conscious when I’m writing my own female characters to err on the side of making them boxers and brawlers, because in media, a female fighter too often really means a gymnast, and it’s so very frustrating to see that every single time.

Equally frustrating—but less talked about—is that an Asian action star almost always means a martial artist. And not just any martial artist, but someone with amazing, stylized moves that elicit gasps with their expertise.

[The history here is a complicated one…]

Kitties in Space: Andre Norton’s Star Ka’at

As it turns out, I have actually read this volume in the series. I remember the big black cat with the white V marking, and the character named Elly Mae. The rest is lost in the mists of time.

This is what we now call a middle-grade book, with characters around ten years old. It’s a classic setup for the genre: offstage, disconnected adults, kids having their own adventures and doing their bit to save the world. These kids push standard Norton buttons, with the orphaned boy struggling to adapt to his new foster home, and the likewise orphaned girl raised in grinding poverty by her dying grandmother. The boy is white and the girl is Black, but they’re oblivious to racial politics. They have a prickly sort of friendship, as Jim tries to help Ellie cope in a world that has almost no place for her.

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Sleeps With Monsters: Spending Time With Physicians and Dragons

Well, it’s the middle (the end? what even is time) of May. As I write this, here in Ireland, we’ve been under movement restrictions for two months, and strict restrictions for one, and while the current government has a well-thought-out five-stage plan for (slowly, carefully, over the course of a minimum of fifteen weeks) lifting restrictions, I’m not really optimistic that the death toll won’t rise again as soon as we hit Stage Two. So it’s not really surprising that I’m among the many people having difficulty concentrating right now. How do we achieve the kind of equilibrium necessary to experience confidence, satisfaction, and/or some degree of pleasure in our work or in the rest of our lives under the conditions that presently obtain? I don’t rightly know.

In the meanwhile, I’ll tell you about three books that I did manage to concentrate on reading—even greatly enjoyed!

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Start Reading Christopher Paolini’s To Sleep in a Sea of Stars!

To celebrate the upcoming release of Christopher Paolini’s first book for adults, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, Tor Books will be releasing micro-excerpts over the course of this week! In partnership with The Mary Sue, Den of Geek, and others, you can get an exclusive sneak peak of the book, little by little. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars will be available on September 15, 2020, from Tor Books.

This epic novel follows Kira Navárez, who, during a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, finds an alien relic that thrusts her into the wonders and the nightmares of first contact. Epic space battles for the fate of humanity take her to the farthest reaches of the galaxy and, in the process, transform not only her—but the entire course of history.

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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Investigations”

Written by Jeff Schnaufer & Ed Bond and Jeri Taylor
Directed by Les Landaur
Season 2, Episode 20
Production episode 135
Original air date: March 13, 1996
Stardate: 49485.2

Captain’s log. Neelix’s latest endeavor as morale officer is to provide a news program for the crew called A Briefing with Neelix. He insists that he will only have good news on the program, which is probably wise, though also a challenge for a ship that’s stuck 70,000 light-years from home, but whatever.

[Good day, Voyager!]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

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