The Power of Language: The Black Khan by Ausma Zehanat Khan

The One granted the world the gift of the Claim, holy words used to summon magic. Arian is one of those who can wield it: the daughter of linguists raised in a scriptorium, her entire life has been dedicated to the Claim. In fact, Arian has been one of the Companions of Hira—a group of women who study and use the Claim—since she was a child. But across Khorasan, a man known as the One-Eyed Prophet has led the rising Talisman group in a campaign to dominate civilization, subjugating the women of Khorasan and destroying libraries and knowledge in the process. The Companions seek to overthrow the Talisman—but they need a text called the Bloodprint first.

Spoilers for The Bloodprint, book one of the Khorasan Archives, follow!

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City of Broken Magic Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a galley copy of Mirah Bolender’s City of Broken Magic, available November 20th from Tor Books!

Five hundred years ago, magi created a weapon they couldn’t control. An infestation that ate magic—and anything else it came into contact with. Enemies and allies were equally filling.

Only an elite team of non-magical humans, known as sweepers, can defuse and dispose of infestations before they spread. Most die before they finish training.

Laura, a new team member, has stayed alive longer than most. Now, she’s the last—and only—sweeper standing between the city and a massive infestation.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on October 18th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on October 22nd. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor:, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Delicate Magics: Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Kingdoms of Elfin

At the entrance to the town they put on visibility. It made them no warmer, and impaired their self-esteem.

In the last decade of her life, author Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893-1978) told an interviewer that “I want to write about something different.”

That different turned out to be fairy tales. Warner had played with themes of magic and enchantment in her work before, and always had an interest in folklore, but for this project, she tried something a bit different: interconnected stories of other and fairy. Most were published in The New Yorker from 1972-1975, and collected in the last book printed in Warner’s lifetime: Kingdoms of Elfin (1976). Regrettably out of print for decades, the collection is now being reissued by Handheld Press, with a foreward by Greer Gilman, an introduction by Ingrid Hotz-Davies, and extensive footnotes by Kate McDonald.

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Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award Opens Submissions for Second Year Honoring Speculative Fiction

After a successful inaugural year, The Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College has announced the 2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards. Established in 2017, the award honors speculative fiction works in book form (debuts and otherwise) as well as plays. It also recognizes the relationship between science and the arts, the latter which the award website describes as “[a]cting as gadfly for the good, provocateur and satirist when the sciences overreach, but also far-seeing prophets of scientific potential.”

The inaugural winners were Juan Martinez for Best Worst American (in the debut category), Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station and Corinne Duyvis’ On the Edge of Gone (in the open book category), and Jessica Andrewartha’s play Choices People Make.

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Five Books About Heroes Who Shouldn’t Babysit Your Kitten

Who doesn’t like kittens? Kittens are what cats used to be before the irony of a two-legged universe got to them, making them the moody judgmental purring balls of fur they are today. Kittens are fun. Kittens are daring. Kittens are little evil feline ninjas with razor teeth and spikey claws. Kittens wake up every morning and treat the world like it’s their own personal frat house and the air is spiked with catnip. I love kittens. I also love me righteous protagonists in books and comics. So, I was wondering the other day—I’d trust these folks to save the world, but would I trust them to babysit a kitten?

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Series: Five Books About…

Haunted by the Past: Lila Bowen’s Treason of Hawks

At the end of Malice of Crows, Rhett experiences a loss so devastating, he doesn’t think anything could ever be worse. Treason of Hawks proves him wrong time and time again. In fact, “worse” is an understatement. Rhett goes through hell physically, psychologically, romantically, emotionally.

The fourth and final book in Lila Bowen’s excellent Shadow series picks up right where the third book left off, and never lets up on the tension. Wicked Ranger Haskell and his band of brutes are harrying Rhett’s trail as a gang of chupacabras taunt his motley crew. Meanwhile, an unknown fiend is picking off the people from Rhett’s past, leaving them dry, desiccated husks. And on top of all this, supernatural beasties from all across Durango are making their way to Rhett’s camp at Inès’ mission. Something is drawing them to the Shadow, and whatever it is, the Shadow knows not everyone will make it out alive. All he wants is a quiet life of cattle ranching and romancing Sam, but what Rhett wants and what the Shadow demands are two separate things. The fight of his life is coming … and Rhett isn’t ready.

[“You’re the Shadow! People need you!”]

A Good Horror Story Needs to Be Sincere

I watch a lot of horror movies. However many you’re thinking right now, I regret to inform you that you have woefully underestimated the number of horror movies that I have watched in my lifetime. I watch a lot of horror movies. My earliest cinematic memories involve horror movies—Alien when I was three years old, sitting on my uncle’s lap in the living room of our old apartment; The Blob after a midnight trip to the emergency vet to have a cattail removed from my cat’s eye; Critters in my grandmother’s living room, elbows buried in the plush beige carpet, dreaming of marrying the handsome red-haired boy in the lead role. So many horror movies. The only form of media that has arguably had more of an influence on me than the horror movie is the superhero comic book (which is a whole different kettle of worms).

The standards of horror have changed with time, of course. The things we’re afraid of now and the things we were afraid of fifty years ago are not the same, and neither are the avatars we choose to face those fears. We’ve gone from jut-jawed heroes to final girls to clever kids to slackers who somehow stumbled into the wrong movie, and when it’s been successful, it’s been incredible, and when it’s failed, we haven’t even needed to talk about it, because everyone knows. But there’s one ingredient to a really good horror movie that has never changed—that I don’t think ever will change—that I think we need to think about a little harder.


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Dragons and Scholars, and the Stories of My Heart

I grew up with dragons and scholars: the rồng, the dragons of my mother’s and grandmother’s tales, old and wise spirits that lived beneath the rivers and seas who brought rain and floods to bless the fields and the harvest. Rồng are a meld of animals: they have the antlers of a deer, the mane of a lion, the body of a snake, though they also have short, stubby legs.

They can be born from eggs, but the legend I grew up with was that of the Dragon’s Gate, which is a waterfall at the top of a legendary mountain. Carps can swim upstream against the current, but they have to be strong and brave to leap over that final waterfall, and those who do transform into a dragon: the dragon’s scales are meant to recall their origin from the fish.

[In the fairytales or fantasy I consumed, I seldom found these…]

On the Origins of Modern Biology and the Fantastic: Part 7 — Robert A. Heinlein and DNA Replication

“Acting per se, like all art, is a process of abstracting, of retaining only significant detail. But in impersonation any detail can be significant.” – The Great Lorenzo, Double Star by Robert Heinlein

In Robert Anson Heinlein’s Double Star (1956), the down-on-his-luck actor “The Great Lorenzo” (aka Lawrence Smythe) is recruited by the frantic political team of John Bonaforte, a VIP in solar system politics who has been kidnapped to cause a diplomatic crisis. Hired to impersonate Bonaforte, over the course of a series of escalating complications, Smythe not only becomes sympathetic to Bonaforte’s politics, but inhabits his role so perfectly that when Bonaforte drops dead on election night, Smythe permanently becomes Bonaforte. It is a light-hearted comedy about topics near and dear to its author’s heart—politics, space travel, moralizing, and shaving the numbers off of old tropes (in this case the classic body double plot)—that won the third ever Hugo Award for Best Novel and is widely regarded to be Heinlein’s best novel.

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Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Fifty-Two

Good day (or night depending on your time zone), faithful rereaders! Welcome back to Roshar for a… well, I was going to say “a very special episode of the Oathbringer Reread,” but let’s be honest, there’s nothing too terribly special going on in this chapter, unless you count parental abandonment “special.” We’ll be doing a bit of theorizing about the Thrill as well as lots of discussion about the Kholin family dynamics, so roll up your sleeves and prepare those comments as we dive in.

[Four glorious years.]

Series: Oathbringer Reread

Dreams Come True (Unfortunately): E.F. Benson’s “The Room in the Tower”

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 E.F. Benson’s “The Room in the Tower,” first published in Benson’s The Room in the Tower and Other Stories in 1912. Trigger Warning for suicide, treated as a symptom of Evil. Spoilers ahead.

[“Jack will show you your room: I have given you the room in the tower.”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Corporate Space Piracy: Mutiny at Vesta by R.E. Stearns

R.E. Stearns’ debut novel, Barbary Station, exploded its way close to my heart with its narrative of lesbian space engineers, pirates, and murderous AI. A measured, tensely claustrophobic narrative, it hinted that Stearns might be a voice to watch. Now in Mutiny at Vesta, Barbary Station‘s sequel, Stearns has written a worthy successor, one that makes me feel that tensely claustrophobic is the corner of slower-than-light space opera that Stearns has staked out as her playing field.

One can’t help but feel for Adda Karpe and Iridian Nassir, the protagonists of both Barbary Station and now Mutiny at Vesta. They may have each other—they may now be married to each other—but they seem to have a decided knack for setting their courses out of the frying pan and into the fire.

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Writing Girls and Rethinking Fairytales

I am a voracious, enthusiastic reader of all things young adult and one of the things that interests me the most as a reader, reviewer, and editor is the way that we write about girls, how those stories are framed, and how we engage with them. Warning: this column contains girls. And spoilers. But mostly, girls.

Looking at folklore and old tales and reinterpreting them is nothing new, of course; the Brothers Grimm did just that 200 years ago, and SFF and YA authors have been engaging with this kind of material for a long time.

That said, I do feel like there has been a renewed interest in YA to reimagine fairytales through feminist, subversive, and diverse lenses, with stories focused on girls and their empowerment. I recently read three of these—three novels published this year, three retellings that take beloved stories/tropes and turn them upside down. The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill is a retelling of “The Little Mermaid” with a side of Slavic folklore and their Rusalka via an Irish history of policing women’s bodies. Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore is Swan Lake meets “Snow White and Rose Red” from a Latinx viewpoint. Finally, Damsel by Elana K. Arnold looks at the trope of the damsel in the dragon tower waiting to be rescued by a prince.

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Why You Should Read Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World

Fate, I observe somewhat unoriginally, is a funny thing—in both the strange and the ha-ha flavors. This is just as true in real life as it is in stories, though the dialogue in the stories generally tends to be a bit more polished.

I am continually both amused and bemused, therefore, whenever I think about how there’s a person out there who, by saying two short sentences to me, is ultimately responsible for shaping a huge portion of my life, my friends, my interests, my travels, my experiences, and even my career.

And I have absolutely no idea who this person is. And I never will.

He will forever only be that random guy in the University bookstore on Guadalupe Street in Austin, Texas who, sometime in 1997, paused in the science fiction/fantasy aisle next to an equally random girl staring at the shelves in total indecision, just long enough to point at a thick mass-market paperback with a blue-toned cover and say:

“You should try that one. It’s really good.”

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Happy 20th Anniversary to Practical Magic, the Witchy Rom-Com That’s Really About the Bonds Between Women

Practical Magic is called a romantic comedy, and that’s funny because its leading man doesn’t show up until well over half the film’s runtime has elapsed. (It’s also based on a book of the same name, though they don’t resemble each other very much.) I suppose it is a romantic comedy in that many parts of the film are funny, and there’s a lot of romantic stuff in it. The romance is basically a tangent that occurs so that the story has a thought to end on, and it’s perfectly nice. But really, more than anything, Practical Magic is about how important it is for women to have other women in their lives for the sake of their empowerment and protection. And that’s really it.

Also witch stuff. And tequila.

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