Necromancy for Fun and/or Profit: Vivian Shaw’s “Black Matter”

Welcome back to Reading the Weird, in which we get girl cooties all over weird fiction, cosmic horror, and Lovecraftiana—from its historical roots through its most recent branches.

This week, we cover Vivian Shaw’s “Black Matter,” first published in July 2019 in Pseudopod. Spoilers ahead!

[“People have described it as sweet…”]

Series: Reading the Weird

Eight Fantasy Tales About the Joys of Bread and Baking

“There is not a thing more positive than bread.” So said Fyodor Dostoevsky, and as someone who needs little more than a decent sourdough loaf and a spread of good Irish butter to be blissfully happy, I wholeheartedly agree.

Bread is one of our oldest recipes as humans, and nearly every culture has developed its own variety. It became such an important staple in our diets that the Roman empire and, later, medieval Europe established baking collegiums—systems to keep bread prices fair, for the good of the public.

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Five Dark (But Hopeful) SF Movies

I’ve always been something of a sci-fi movie fanatic. For as long as I can remember, whenever I hear the sound of a lightsaber igniting or see those aliens waddling out of the spaceship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I get chills. In recent years, I’ve found myself drawn to darker sci-fi films—filled with the kind of bleak dystopias and post-apocalyptic visions of the future that force you to sit back and think about the realities of our own world, and the kind of future we’re building here in the present day. I always find that the best of these movies, no matter how dark, incorporate glimmers of hope and true resilience—as grim and devastating as this kind of dystopian science fiction can be, there’s always a hint of light.

For me, there’s nothing more wonderful, thought-provoking, and inspiring than a science fiction film that asks you to re-examine society and the world around you. Such films might seem irredeemably pessimistic at first look, but there’s so much more to them if you give them a chance. Here’s my list of five dark (but still hopeful!) science fiction movies you should see at least once in your lifetime.

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Seven Very Short SF Stories That Can Be Read in Seven Minutes or Less

I’m the type of reader who hates having to put down a book before I’ve finished a chapter, which means that when I’ve only got a few minutes to spare I often turn to social media instead of reading. But sometimes instead of scrolling I want to optimize that time and that’s where flash fiction comes in to save the day—or, rather, the minutes. If you’re also looking to make the most of your fragments of free time with some short but impactful sci-fi goodness, here are seven of my favorite very short stories.

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The Difference Between Love and Time is pleased to reprint “The Difference Between Love and Time” by Catherynne M. Valente, as featured in Someone in Time: Tales of Time-Crossed Romance—available from Solaris.

Even time travel can’t unravel love

Time-travel is a way for writers to play with history and imagine different futures—for better, or worse. When romance is thrown into the mix, time-travel becomes a passionate tool, or heart-breaking weapon.

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Disney’s Lackluster Sequel Disenchanted Forgets Where It Came From

If Disney’s Enchanted was a sly-yet-still-sincere fairy tale mashup, its sequel Disenchanted is more like an overproduced, unnecessary remix, atonal and completely missing the point of the magical, musical synergy the first time around. The premise is certainly promising: Giselle (Amy Adams), the Andalasian maiden transported to the mean streets of New York City, has found her Happily Ever After in divorce lawyer Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his sweet daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey). But enough years have passed since that HEA that this family—with Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino) now a sarcastic teenager and a new baby in the mix—feel squeezed out of their Manhattan apartment and flee to the suburbs in the hopes of tapping into that magic again. But when naïve, well-meaning Giselle makes a wish for their lives to be more like a fairy tale, she traps them all in a disingenuous fantasy world—one that transforms her into the wicked stepmother.

Yet the movie never follows through on the relationship dynamics that were established before the spell; it misses every opportunity to have Giselle or Morgan actually say or do something wicked, something hurtful, that will need more than a wave of the wand to fix. Despite Enchanted having a whole song dedicated to how you have to tell someone how you feel, Disenchanted forgot the lesson, with the end result being a vacant-eyed, passive adventure into a briefly entertaining modern fairy tale.

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A Glimpse Into the Military SF of the 1980s: Peace Company by Roland J. Green

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.

In the 1980s, there was a surge of interest in military science fiction, and the bookstore chains of the day—including Waldenbooks, Borders, and Barnes & Noble—were more than willing to fill their shelves with paperback originals to serve the market. That created an opportunity for a number of newer writers to make their mark. One of the most consistent and reliable of those authors was Roland J. Green, whose Peace Company (1985) is a fine example of the subgenre.

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Food, Glorious Food! Five SF Approaches to a Balanced Diet

Finnish scientists are working on an innovative protein source. (In case you don’t want to click on the link: scientists are making protein flour from CO2, other common elements, electricity [which could come from solar], and bacteria) This process, if successful and scalable, promises some degree of protection against agricultural disruption due to climate change—perhaps even the end of famine.

I hope this, or something like this, can eventually replace much of modern agriculture, since, according to my math, I think that we are currently doing it all wrong.  Food being the primary need that it is, it is no surprise that science fiction authors have based plots on new forms of nutrition. Want to guess how many examples follow?

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The Refreshing Hopefulness of Becky Chambers’ Monk and Robot Books

Like many people, I played a lot of Animal Crossing: New Horizons in 2020. Eventually, though, I walked away from my island, with its carefully terraformed ponds and a half-built castle and an entire rainbow of flowers. I have no desire to go back. It’s so much work! So much weird pressure to make everything just right. To collect all the things. To pay off to that capitalist racoon, Tom Nook.

A little over a month ago, I started playing a game called Cozy Grove. Cozy Grove is like Animal Crossing without the capitalism. (Mostly.) You still buy things and craft things and get flowers and trees and a lot of stuff. (There are cats, and they really like stuff.) But helping the ghost bears who live on the island of Cozy Grove is the heart of the game, and it makes a huge difference in how it feels. You run their errands, find their stuff, listen to their stories (or conspiracy theories), help them figure out who they were and what they need. It’s a game of small kindnesses and big feelings, a place where figuring yourself out, mistakes and all, is key.

In that way, it’s kind of like a Becky Chambers book. It’s a world where flawed people deserve love and connection, where kindness and hope spring eternal, where you can make interspecies friendships and find adventures through small gestures. These are the kind of worlds I want to live in, right now—worlds that give us permission to be human, in the sense that to be human is to be flawed and imperfect and full of messy feelings that don’t always have anywhere to go. To want and need and love and struggle and hope on a human scale, one that rarely concerns the fate of worlds or the actions of a chosen one. To walk through a world—ours or another—more gently.

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Marvel’s Blade Has Found Its New Director

The future’s been a bit murky for everyone’s favorite half-vampire vampire hunter since Blade lost its director back in September. But those of us looking forward to seeing Mahershala Ali in a dramatic leather coat (please, he has to have the coat) can rejoice, as the film has a new director: Variety reports that Lovecraft Country‘s Yann Demange is now at the helm, and what’s more, the film has a new writer, too.

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Five Speculative Fiction Books Featuring Tarot

The tarot’s history as a tool of divination goes back to the late eighteenth century, and its use as a deck of playing cards goes back centuries further; it’s no surprise that genre writers have repeatedly incorporated tarot and tarot analogs into their works. Although there’s a lot of fun in characters consulting a fortune teller or a diviner offering crucial insight at a key juncture, some writers have gone deeper. Here are five works of genre fiction that incorporate the tarot or a tarot analog into the worldbuilding of their novels.

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Series: Five Books About…

Legends & Lattes Is the Warm, Cozy Fantasy We All Need Right Now

Welcome to another installment of Please Adapt! I hope you’re ready to snuggle up and enjoy a warm cuppa, because we’re putting our feet up.

Today, we turn our sights to Travis Baldree’s Legends & Lattes, a fascinating viral indie success that bypasses the “epic” lane of fantasy and sets off on its own road, leaving readers with warm and fuzzy feelings from dawn to dusk.

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