Celebrating 10 Great Parents from Young Adult SFF

Every so often someone laments the lack of good parents in young adult fantasy and science fiction. This is usually followed up with the claim that good parents make for poor YA fiction because good parents don’t let their kids go off on dangerous adventures to save the world. To which I usually reply that they clearly don’t read enough YA SFF. Parents—yes, even the good ones—have a long history of involvement in young adult science fiction and fantasy, a trend that has actually been increasing in recent years.

In that vein, here are ten YA SFF novels where the parents are very much alive, are good people, and in some cases who even join the teen protagonist on their quest. There are, of course, a zillion more, so please add your recs in the comments!

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“This ain’t that kind of movie” — Kingsman: The Secret Service

In 2012, Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons released The Secret Service, a creator-owned comic book miniseries published by Marvel that was more or less a 2010s version of a 1960s British spy thriller.

It proved hugely popular, and it was optioned by Matthew Vaughn, who had already successfully adapted another Millar-written comic, Kick-Ass, into a couple of films.

[Martini. Gin, not vodka, obviously. Stirred for 10 seconds while glancing at an unopened bottle of vermouth. Thank you.]

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

Men in Black: International Is Uninspired, But Still Cute and Fun

The original Men In Black was a divinely weird piece of cinema, a film that takes inspiration from the world’s most outrageous tabloids (the bat boy ones, not the celebrity rags)—but can you sustain that particular brand of magic over 20 years? With each sequel, the attempts to franchise-ify the series never quite passed muster.

But adding Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth to the mix sure doesn’t hurt.

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Liu Cixin’s The Wandering Earth Is Now a Striking SF Film on Netflix

When Chinese science fiction film The Wandering Earth appeared in U.S. theaters earlier this year, very few people saw it, but just about all of them liked it. Critics lamented that this movie, which grossed nearly as much as Avengers: Endgame worldwide, received only a few days’ booking in the more discerning arthouses and the most diverse big-city multiplexes. Now that The Wandering Earth has made its way to Netflix, it has a new chance to find a wider audience. Many lesser films have thrived on the streaming service—let’s hope Netflix helps this movie find the American viewership it deserves.

The Wandering Earth is adapted from a novella—though some say it’s more a long short story—by Liu Cixin, author of The Three-Body Problem. Since this particular work isn’t yet available in English translation, I can’t vouch for the faithfulness of the adaptation. I can merely express my admiration at Liu’s audacity in fitting such a large story into such a small space.

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7 Mothers, Mentors, and Matriarchs of SFF Who Are Probably Very Disappointed With Us Right Now

If you need something done, there’s usually only one person for the job… and no, we’re not talking about a chosen one. We’re talking about the women who roll up their sleeves and get sh*t done, whether it’s holding down the fort in a wizarding resistance, or standing at the right hand of power in a planetary Empire—these mothers, mentors, and matriarchs are some of the most imposing figures the world (or universe) over, and they really don’t have time for our crap right now…
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5 SFF Books Set In Contemporary African Locales

The current wave of speculative fiction from underrepresented groups continues to provide the SFF world with peeks into oft-forgotten slices of the globe. Interesting settings are huge draws in science fiction and fantasy, so little wonder we’ve been enamored by these sojourns into non-EuroAmerican spaces. The African continent stands in the front lines of this charge, offering stories that overturn long held views about its history and future, or at least provide some long desired nuance. However, our fascination with Black Panther, Children of Blood and Bone and Who Fears Death? is mostly steeped in the fantastic or futuristic representations of these African locales, and not as much the contemporary. Pray, where are the SFF books about the African locales of now?

This question came to me while writing David Mogo, Godhunter. I discovered there was little work out there representing contemporary African spaces in all their multilayered complexity. So I set out to find books where the otherworldly is juxtaposed with the contemporary—used here to mean since the 2000s—socioeconomics, politics and culture of post-colonial Africa. These five locales offered fresh glances at the African continent, so that both inhabitants and non-inhabitants of these cities, towns and villages end up discovering their magic and potential anew.

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Series: Five Books About…

Introducing the Gene Wolfe Reread on Tor.com: The Reader in the Mist

How did I initially encounter Gene Wolfe’s work? When was the first time I heard his name?

I can’t remember exactly. Memory fails. It’s like a mist shrouding my eyes. It doesn’t help that I lost my only pair of glasses a few months ago and couldn’t afford a new one until last week, so this mist is not just a metaphor. The tribute to this Grand Master is quite fitting, I’m afraid.

But, if I could venture a guess, how then?

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Series: Rereading Gene Wolfe

All Else We Left Behind: Air Logic by Laurie J. Marks

Just shy of eighteen years since the publication of Marks’ first Elemental Logic novel, the story of Shaftal—of Karis and Zanja and Emil, their spouses and children and loved ones—reaches its conclusion in Air Logic. In the previous volume, an assassination attempt was made on Karis’s government and her person. Though the attempt was foiled, the larger problem of an active resistance in Shaftal to peace with the Sainnites remains unsolved: people in the wind, plotting the overthrow of the G’deon they consider false for her attempt to close out the brutalities of war without seeking vengeance.

As we’ve discussed previously, Marks’s novels argue that progress is only possible if people are able and willing to change—but also to forgive, to allow room for growth and rehabilitation, all at the same time. Finding that third path isn’t a comfortable task. Air logic as it has been represented throughout the series is implacable and the people gifted with it are as well, possessors of rigid internal structures of moral certainty. I’d argue, then, that it makes a great deal of thematic sense for the final book to have a vested interest in exploring the problem of rigid certainties and inflexible beliefs as a stumbling block on the path to peace.

[Onward – essay contains spoilers.]

Exploring the People of Middle-earth: Legolas, Prince of Mirkwood and Environmental Intercessor

In this biweekly series, we’re exploring the evolution of both major and minor figures in Tolkien’s legendarium, tracing the transformations of these characters through drafts and early manuscripts through to the finished work. This is the first of a two-part series dealing with Legolas Greenleaf, son of Thranduil and prince of Mirkwood. This first section looks at the evolution of the character over numerous drafts and tales; the second will look at Legolas’s role in the published Lord of the Rings.

Legolas is one of the more popular characters to come out of The Lord of the Rings. We can, I think, attribute much of his fame to the success of Peter Jackson’s film franchise and Orlando Bloom’s performance in the role of the immortal warrior-prince. (In fact, it’s surprisingly difficult to find fan art that isn’t either based on or influenced by Bloom’s Legolas.) But for many fans, there is little enough material to work with, at least if we look only at his role in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: Legolas is often described as a flat character, one who changes little and whose impact on the narrative is slight at best. Tolkien himself wrote that of all nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring, “Legolas probably achieved the least” (Unfinished Tales, hereafter UT, 412). Christopher Tolkien, commenting on his father’s drafts of The Lord of the Rings, consistently describes the emendations and additions to Legolas’s character—and even the addition of Legolas’s character—as structurally irrelevant or insignificant.

It has long been my opinion (and in this I am undoubtedly joined by others) that Legolas is the most understated and underrated member of the Fellowship.

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Babylon 5 Is the Greatest, Most Terrible SF Series

Babylon 5 is one of the best science fiction shows ever made. It also kind of sucks, and that’s okay.

“I hope the future will be like Star Trek, but I’m afraid it’s going to be like Babylon 5.”

This is how a friend convinced me to watch Babylon 5 close to a decade ago, and it’s a statement that gets both more and less prescient by the day. Babylon 5 depicts a future rife with stratified poverty, union busting corporations, xenophobic hate crimes, colonial legacies blossoming into new conflicts, and the tide of fascism rising right in our own backyard. In J. Michael Straczynski’s imagined future, the smug neoliberal western hegemony that arose from the ashes of the Cold War really was “the end of history”, and the results are simultaneously anodyne and horrific. Psychic powers are real, but those born with them are enslaved by the state. There are ancient terrors lurking on the edges of the map—civilizations who long ago ascended but refuse to let the children of the galaxy play unattended in the sandbox. People who live on the titular station still have to pay for their freaking healthcare in the year 2258.

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Writing Games to Test the Waters of My Identity

This year’s Nebula Awards included an inaugural category for Outstanding Game Writing, honoring storytelling in games. The new award was presented by Ajit George, the Director of Operations for the Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project, a non-profit school program that includes gaming as an educational tool. His speech highlights the unique ways gaming gave him a space to explore his Indian heritage, as well as helping him develop a deeper empathy for others, which in turn has enhanced his work as an educator.

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