Destiny and Choices: Julie Dao’s Rise of the Empress Duology

In Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, the beautiful but poor Xifeng has been raised her entire life to believe she’s destined for greatness as the Empress of Feng Lu. For a woman not born into nobility, that dream seems nearly beyond reach. When a chance arises to go to the capital, Xifeng seizes it, armed with her beauty and dark magic learned from her aunt. As she learns to navigate the pit of vipers that is the imperial court, Xifeng is faced with choices that can lead to her destiny—if she’s willing to pay the price.

To talk about book two of this duology, I’ll be discussing the ending of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, so stop here if you’re looking to avoid spoilers!

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A Thin But Frosty Modern Fairy Tale: “Frosty the Snowman”

It’s one of the undeniable, inescapable rites of the season: listening to “Frosty the Snowman.”

Short of barring yourself inside the walls of your own home and never venturing out for the entire month of December, you’re almost bound to hear the annoyingly cheerful lyrics and melody. In part because it’s a secular song, and therefore deemed somewhat less likely to offend or irritate listeners—an opinion held only by those who have either never heard the song or never listened to its lyrics.

It might help a little to realize that it’s also a fairy tale.

A fairy tale with outright murder in some versions, but we’ll get to that.

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A Love Letter to Murderbots, Hamster Princesses, and Other Cute Reads

Sometimes, when you blog about fiction, people say things to you that are inexplicable—things like, “I hated the winged horse,” or “I wanted to set this book on fire.” That’s fine, really. Cool story. Is there more to it? Did Satan give you something when you handed over your soul?

I have strong literary preferences of my own. For example, I prefer that people’s psychic companion animals not comment on their sex lives. And it really bothers me when time travel stories try to explain the underlying science involved by treating time like matter, and yet don’t tear the universe apart—either your time travel is hand-wavy and doesn’t really need an explanation or you have to deal with the laws of physics. Some of my opinions are controversial. There are lots of people who don’t like psychic cats, or happily-ever-after endings. And again, that’s fine! Many things are a matter of taste. But I’ll be honest—I think those people are missing out.

So I’m giving in to the urge to recommend the things I love: You should read cute stuff.

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The Speculative Worlds of William Shakespeare

There’s a weird moment near the end of Shakespeare’s most realist and domestic comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor, when the plot to expose Falstaff’s failed sexual exploits gets all “Midsummer Nights” dreamy. Suddenly, there’s an enchanted oak tree which is haunted by fairies and a monstrous figure of Herne the Hunter. It’s all a kind of prank at Falstaff’s expense, of course, but it hinges on the fat knight thinking it’s real, and for a few minutes the play feels like its moved into an entirely different genre. The reality of Windsor’s small town doings gives way to the stuff of Puck, Oberon and Titania. It’s as if Shakespeare has gotten frustrated by the mundane, prosaic world of the play and needs to find a little whimsy, even if he will finally pull the rug out from under the fairies and show that it’s all just boys with tapers and costumes.

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Oathbringer Reread: Interlude Five—Taravangian

Calling all conspiracy theorists! You’re wanted on the Oathbringer Reread this week! We have secret societies, deception among the leadership, calls for murder, charges of idiocy… Yes, if you couldn’t tell, we have a Taravangian interlude this week. Join in to figure out what he’s up to—or at least what he thinks he’s up to.

[Light and truth. Save what he could. Abandon the rest.]

Series: Oathbringer Reread

We Want to Join Spider-Man’s Book Club!

Are you seeing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse this weekend? (You should, because if the opening half hour shown at New York Comic-Con is any indication, this will be The Greatest Spider-Movie.) We’re even more excited for the film than before, because we’ve just learned just learned that Miles Morales’ first big screen adventure contains a fabulous literary Easter egg: a new fictional book by Black Leopard, Red Wolf author Marlon James!

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Just Being Nosy: China Miéville’s “Details”

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 China Miéville’s “Details,” first published in 2002 in John Pelan and Benjamin Adams’ The Children of Cthulhu. Spoilers ahead.

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Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Tom Holland and Chris Pratt to Play Elf Brothers in New Disney•Pixar Fantasy Adventure Onward

Disney•Pixar has announced Onward, a new animated adventure starring Star-Lord and Peter Parker Chris Pratt and Tom Holland as elf brothers searching for lost magic in a “suburban fantasy” world. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer also star. While Toy Story 4 comes out in June of 2019, ahead of Onward’s 2020 release, this is Pixar Animation’s next original/non-sequel story since 2017’s Coco.

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The Trouble with Terraforming

My foray through Lois McMaster Bujold’s backlist on my site—a foray nowhere near as detailed as Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer’s ongoing reread—reached Komarr recently. One of the elements of the setting impressed me: Bujold’s handling of the centuries-long effort to terraform the planet.

Terraforming is, of course, the hypothesized art of converting an uninhabitable rock into a habitable world. Jack Williamson coined the term in his Seetee-related short story, “Collision Orbit”, published under the pen name Will Stewart in the July, 1942 issue of Astounding Magazine. While Williamson invokes non-existent super-science in order to make the task seem doable, he probably felt confident that terraforming would someday make sense. In the short run, we have seen humans shaping the Earth. In the long run—well, Earth was once an anoxic wasteland. Eons of life shaped it into a habitable planet. Williamson suspected that humans could imitate that process elsewhere…and make it happen in centuries rather than eons. Perhaps in even less time!

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Why You Should Add AD/BC: A Rock Opera to Your Holiday Movie List

Every year, people who get paid to write on the internet celebrate a very strange ritual: we try to dig up obscure Christmas specials, or find new angles on popular ones. Thus, we receive epic takedowns of Love Actually; assertions that not only is Die Hard a Christmas movie, it’s the best Christmas movie; and the annual realization that Alf’s Special Christmas is an atrocity. These are all worthy specials, deserving of your limited holiday media time. However, I have not come here to ask you to reconsider anything, or to tell you that something you watch each December 24th is actually garbage—I am here to offer you a gift.

The gift of AD/BC: A Rock Opera.

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Pull List: Best Comics of 2018

This was a pretty decent year new comics, especially for indies and miniseries. Marvel’s constant behind-the-scenes chaos isn’t making it any easier to keep its readers in the face of DC’s post-Rebirth creative revitalization. Image is as good as always, but is facing stiff competition from smaller publishers.

After pillaging my local comic shop and scouring the interwebs, I’ve pulled together the official Pull List Best of 2018. There’s some popular comics and some deep cuts, but all are doing something unique and powerful with the medium. The only eligibility requirement was that it had to be released for the first time in 2018, including the release of the first issue, first time being published in print, or first time being published in English.

What would you put in your top comics of 2018?

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Sam Weller’s The Bradbury Chronicles: A Portrait of the Artist That Every SciFi Fan Should Read

I’ll admit that, after combing through the archives (shamelessly searching for ideas for more articles), when I discovered no one had written about Sam Weller’s biography of Ray Bradbury, my reaction was twofold.

On the one hand, I was incensed. Here was the authorized biography of one of my heroes—one of the faces on my personal literary Mount Rushmore—and nobody had dedicated a word to it. That reaction, however, was short lived as a wave of joyful realization replaced it. If no one else had written about it, then the opportunity to do so could be mine for the taking.

Now, (to be fair to my great host), Tor only established its website in 2008. Weller originally published his biography in 2005. Thus, a three-year-old book was likely not on their radar when they started to publish their reviews and other nonfiction. However, late is better than never. Besides, a book about one of the most important authors of SF deserves to have a couple a thousand words said about it, even 13 years on.

So, what is the best way I can describe Weller’s book?

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Read Brandon Sanderson’s New Magic: The Gathering Novella Free on December 12!

All year, Brandon Sanderson fans have wondered what the prolific author’s “secret project” could be, but today’s announcement from io9 has answered that question: Sanderson, a longtime fan of Magic: The Gathering, has written a M:TG novella. Magic: Children of the Nameless explores the connections between Tacenda, a young woman with the power to protect those around her… until she can’t; and Davriel, a Planeswalker of Sanderson’s own creation. And the best part is, you can read the entire novella starting December 12.

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