The Claw of the Conciliator, Part 2: Unholy Communions

In the previous installment of our reread of The Claw of the Conciliator, we followed Severian (along with his newfound friend, Jonas) into the city of Saltus, where he must perform two executions in his role as carnifex. He had an encounter with the Green Man (who we may meet again, but we won’t be seeing him again in this novel). And he received a note from (apparently) Thecla, only to find out it was actually sent by Agia, luring him into a trap—he then escapes from the trap with the help of the Claw of the Conciliator.

And so we pick up the thread with Severian and Jonas, having returned from the cave, deciding to eat and rest. They then engage in an interesting conversation, during which the two get to know each other better. Severian supposes that Jonas must be an outlander—that is, a foreigner from very far away…maybe even from outside Urth, even though humans do not travel among the stars anymore. He poses three questions to Jonas, mostly about the nature of the man-apes, but also if the soldiers stationed nearby were there to resist Abaia. As I had noted before in relation to Severian’s strange dream at the inn in The Shadow of the Torturer, the gods of the deep are of great interest to Wolfe’s protagonist.

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Series: Rereading Gene Wolfe

“It’s not skimmed over.” Daisy Ridley Says “Reylo” Will Be Addressed in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

For certain fanfiction writers, Rey/Kylo Ren is the gift that keeps on giving. But come December, its bountiful harvest could come to a decisive end. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Daisy Ridley says that “this whole Reylo thing” will be addressed by J.J. Abrams in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

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No Longer The ‘Only Gay in the Village’ — Queer Communities and Found-Family in Speculative Fiction

Estranged loners and solitary iconoclasts are popular figures in fiction. With nothing to lose and nothing to prove, they can be relied upon to supply cool dialogue in the face of danger and remain unreasonably disinterested in the status quo power structures. So it’s not surprising to come across numerous sci-fi and fantasy protagonists who appear to be largely devoid of friends and family. Yet despite their reputations as cynics and misanthropes these characters almost inevitably risk everything for a lost cause, a chance at redemption, or even a cute puppy. (I admit to sometimes having a laugh at the idea of a single town populated entirely by the brooding, world-weary strangers of fiction. Would there even be enough middle-distance for them all to stare out into with cool disinterest?)

But fun as this trope is, it can prove problematic when it intersects with queer representation. The alienation of straight characters most often results from what they have done—betrayed their nation, led a failed rebellion, or just murdered lots and lots of people for money. Queer characters (and particularly queer characters of color) are regularly depicted as being rejected for what they are regardless of their actions or values.

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One of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Oxford Houses Has Gone Up for Sale

Attention all budding fantasy novelists! If that 10-volume epic you have percolating in your brain is taking a little longer than you thought, if the ravages of modern life are seriously cramping your creative output, or if you simply need that mythic “room of one’s own,” then boy, do we have the house for you.

The BBC reports that one of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s Oxford homes has gone up for sale, and it can be yours for the paltry sum of 4.575 million. That’s in pounds, by the way, not dollars. With the exchange rate, that’s exactly $5,870,200.80.

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The People of Middle-earth: Yavanna Kementári, Giver of Good Gifts

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 week’s installment looks at Yavanna Kementári, one of the most powerful of the Valar, known as the Lady of the Wide Earth.

Yavanna is an artist. Among the Valar, most of whom are also artists, she stands out for her compassionate representation of the voiceless, her commitment to peaceful intercession, and her willingness to keep in mind (literally, as we will see) the bodies of even the smallest and most overlooked in Arda. She is called Kementari, Queen of the Earth, and, in earlier drafts, Palurien and Bladorwen, which signifies “the wide earth” or “Mother Earth” (The Lays of Beleriand, hereafter LB, 196). Thus in the cosmology and mythology of Arda she represents the earth goddess, a role which is intimately related to her activity and artistry. She might also be described as a fertility goddess; this role similarly draws together her identities of mother and artist—she is a (pro)creator. She brings forth life.

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“You Used to Be Optimistic”: Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth

The Secret Commonwealth begins twenty years after the events of La Belle Sauvage and eight years or so after Lyra’s grand adventures in the His Dark Materials trilogy. Lyra is a student now, dedicated to her studies and happy among her friends. Her chief source of trouble is a falling-out with her daemon, Pantalaimon, who has never entirely forgiven her for separating from him at the edge of the world of the dead. And she is no longer able to lie with impunity; “now,” she thinks to herself at one point, “she just lacked inventiveness, or energy, or chutzpah.”

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Read Editor Carmen Maria Machado’s Intro to The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019

We’re excited to share the introduction to The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019, written by guest editor Carmen Maria Machado!

This omnivorous selection of stories chosen by series editor John Joseph Adams and World Fantasy Award finalist Machado is a display of the most boundary-pushing, genre-blurring, stylistically singular science fiction and fantasy stories published in the last year. By sending us to alternate universes and chronicling ordinary magic, introducing us to mythical beasts and talking animals, and engaging with a wide spectrum of emotion from tenderness to fear, each of these stories challenge the way we see our place in the cosmos. The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019 represents a wide range of the most accomplished voices working in science fiction and fantasy, in fiction, today—each story dazzles with ambition, striking prose, and the promise of the other and the unencountered.

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New Horror Imprint Nightfire Announces Come Join Us by the Fire, an Audio Horror Anthology

Nightfire, a new horror imprint that will join Tor, Forge, Tor Teen & Starscape, and Tor.com Publishing as part of Tom Doherty Associates, is thrilled to announce an exclusive audio project in conjunction with Google Play Books, set to go live on October 17.

Come Join Us by the Fire is an audio-only horror anthology of 35 short stories available to download as free individual audiobooks or to call up with a voice command on your Android phone or Google Assistant-enabled smart speakers, like Google Home, via the Google Play Books app. To try it out, just say “Hey Google, read me ‘This Guy’ by Chuck Wendig”—one of the many titles available.

The project is a way to preview the breadth of talent writing in the horror genre today, with contributions from a wide range of bestselling genre luminaries including China Miéville, Chuck Wendig, Richard Kadrey, and Victor LaValle, Shirley Jackson Award winners Paul Tremblay (The Cabin at the End of the World), Priya Sharma (All the Fabulous Beasts), and Sam J. Miller (Blackfish City) Nebula Award winners Brooke Bolander, Alyssa Wong, Kij Johnson and many, many more.

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Oathbringer Reread: Chapter One Hundred and One

Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me… on a Reacher ship in an ocean of beads on a journey to Celebrant? (It’s a pity not to work in something about the river Styx, or that the song wasn’t done by Journey instead. Oh well.) Here we are on board, in this week’s Oathbringer reread! Adolin does some clever fashion alterations (I’m so proud of him) and begins questioning who he truly is, which can’t possibly bode well for the future… Also, Azure is enigmatic.

[A deal fulfilled, and a bond kept.]

Series: Oathbringer Reread

Dissonance and Myth: Stefan Spjut’s Trolls

The idea of unearthly or folkloric creatures living alongside humanity is one that plenty of writers have embraced over the years. Using that as a starting point, countless authors have told stories that range from the mythic to the comic, from the horror-laden to the sublime. Trolls, the new novel from Stefan Spjut, also makes use of this conceit, but the author takes it to a very different place than most of his peers—somewhere decidedly bleak and disquieting. It doesn’t always click, but when it does it’s bone-chillingly effective.

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Lovecraft’s Faintest Fingerprints: C.M. Eddy Jr.’s and H.P. Lovecraft’s “Ashes”

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 C. M. Eddy, Jr.’s and Lovecraft’s “Ashes,” first published in the March 1924 issue of Weird Tales. Spoilers ahead.

[“It has been your privilege to witness the first successful trial of a preparation that will revolutionize the world.”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

In the Shadow of Our Kin: Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma

A legend in the village of Ormeshadow tells of an orme (Norse for dragon) that fought in a battle against her own kind and fell fast asleep to heal herself. Over centuries, grass grew and homes were built, her body was hidden and her story all but forgotten. Gideon Belman arrives in Ormeshadow at seven years old, carried to his father’s childhood home for reasons he doesn’t yet understand. Slowly, his father reveals to him the story of the orme, and Gideon’s own ancestral ties to her. Faced with the banal cruelty of his new life on the farm, Gideon relies on the orme and confides in her, waiting for the day she’ll finally awake.

Priya Sharma’s new novella Ormeshadow is brooding and subtle, its stark realism set against the lure and power of legend. What might be too heavy in a longer novel is the perfect length here, a window into a life and a sketch of a possibility. It is the perfect autumnal read—moody, atmospheric, and readily paired with a cup of tea and a warm sweater.

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