8 Forgotten SFF Classics of the ’70s and ’80s

I’m a nerd from a family of nerds, and I grew up reading a lot of science fiction. Specifically, I grew up reading a lot of my mother’s science fiction collection, which included a lot of brilliant writers, some of whose works are not as well-known today as they once were.

Since this is a pity, I’d like to introduce you to some of the books that affected me strongly growing up, and influenced me as a reader—and probably also as a writer.

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Reading Children of Blood and Bone: Chapters 1-8

Welcome to the first installment of our reread of Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone. This week, we’re focusing on chapters 1-8—in which Zélie gets herself into all kinds of trouble, Princess Amari commits high treason, Prince Inan learns the full scope of his father’s violence, and Tzain gets dragged into the middle of a mess he didn’t start and doesn’t want to finish.

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There’s a Fine Line Between Theatre and Fantasy

As some readers might be aware, my other job involves the theatre. So believe me when I say that nothing provides unexpected drama quite like live theatre and its lesser cousins, galas and proms. Any event in which a collection of disparate egos come together to provide grand spectacle (in spite of participants who may be unfamiliar with the material, not to mention trifling differences over goals and ethics, as well as sporadic technical mishaps) has the potential to transform a mundane effort into something legendary…for better or worse.

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Read “A Dead Djinn in Cairo”, A Supernatural Alternate History from P. Djeli Clark

Egypt, 1912. In an alternate Cairo infused with the otherworldly, the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigate disturbances between the mortal and the (possibly) divine. What starts off as an odd suicide case for Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi leads her through the city’s underbelly as she encounters rampaging ghouls, saucy assassins, clockwork angels, and a plot that could unravel time itself.

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Announcing the 2018 BSFA Award Finalists

The British Science Fiction Association has announced the finalists for the BSFA Awards for works published in 2018. The Awards will be presented at the 70th Eastercon, in London, April 19-22. Jeannette Ng will be our host for the ceremony. Congratulations to all the finalists!

Best Novel

  • Europe at Dawn by Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
  • Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Before Mars by Emma Newman  (Ace Books)
  • Embers of War by Gareth L Powell (Titan Books)
  • Rosewater by Tade Thompson (Orbit)

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Six Standalone Fantasy Novels that Stand Out

There’s a certain satisfaction in picking up a fantasy novel and knowing it’s a standalone. For one, you won’t have to wait a year, or two, or even five before you find out what happens next. In that time you’ve invariably forgotten much of the first, or previous book anyway, so a lot of the time you have to reread to get up to speed. Also, you won’t end up picking up an interesting looking fantasy novel from the shelves, starting it, then realizing it’s actually book two of a trilogy, or book four in a ten book series.

With Blood of the Four, we wanted to build a big, epic world full of fascinating characters, and tell a story that comes to a definite end. The reader will hopefully end up satisfied, the story threads come together. Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t other stories that could be told about that vast world of Quandis…

We were partly inspired by other great standalone fantasy novels we’ve read, but because we read so broadly in so many different genres, when we discussed making this list, we also wanted to take a broad definition of fantasy. Here are just a small selection of our favorite fantastical epics, with a few words about why we think they work so well. We came up with the list together, then split them up, three a piece.

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Setting the Stakes in Storytelling

Everyone turns up for a car chase at the end of the world, and the cars won’t start.

Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men is a movie of exquisite direction, and I’m madly in love with the action scenes. Violence in Cuarón’s movie is sudden and unemphasized: the camera doesn’t flinch, the sound mixing doesn’t dwell, and that gives the action a terrible power. Children of Men knows a subtle secret.

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Half-Assed in a Half-Shell — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

While 1993’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III didn’t do well enough to warrant a fourth film, the heroes in a half-shell continued unabated in various forms throughout the rest of the 1990s and the 2000s, both in comic books and on screen. The most successful was the animated series, which ran from 1987-1996. That was followed by a live-action series called Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation in 1997, which only lasted a season; a 2007 animated sequel to the three live-action films called TMNT; and two new animated series, one from 2003-2009 and another from 2012-2017 (another would debut in 2018). Plus the Turtles continued to be published in comics from Mirage, as well as Image and more recently IDW.

And then in 2014, a new film was made.

[“Remember that thing you used to say when we were kids?” “You made me promise never to say it again.” “Forget about that! Still got one in the tank?” “I’ve been holding it in for years!”]

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

What Manga, Anime, and Japanese History Teaches Us About Loving Robots

After losing to Angelique Kerber in the Australian Open a couple of years ago, tennis star Serena Williams said, “As much as I would like to be a robot, I am not. I try to. But, you know, I do the best that I can.”

The implication is that if Williams were a robot, she would be a perfect, match-winning machine. A consequence of being human is our inherent fallibility. How many Western narratives are built on this very premise of robotic perfection and efficiency?  The Terminator can, well, “terminate” with such precision because the T-800 is a cyborg from the future. Marvel’s Ultron is a superpowered threat because of the cutting-edge technology that goes into creating the villain. Ava’s advanced programming in Ex Machina makes us recognize that, of course, the A.I.’s cunning can outwit a human. And let’s not even talk about the menacing efficiency of the security robots in Chopping Mall! Point is: if we’re looking for reference material to support the thesis that “technology is scary,” there’s plenty at our fingertips.

[But robots don’t have to be murder machines!]

The Monster at the End of This Episode — Star Trek: Discovery’s “Saints of Imperfection”

One of the themes of the second season of Discovery is fixing what was broken—or at least off-kilter—in the first season. Some of these are carried a bit too far. Honestly, I don’t need Pike not liking holographic communicators to “justify” why they didn’t have them in “The Cage” in 1964. (I also don’t need them to explain why the Enterprise used printouts in that failed pilot episode.)

But with this episode, they address one of the biggest fuckups of season one, the death of Hugh Culber in “Despite Yourself.”

[“Mr. Stamets, are you ready to execute this very bold, deeply insane plan of yours?”]

Pull List: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and DIE and the Lure of Nostalgia

Looking back on something you once loved deeply is a double-edged sword. Sometimes you revisit the past and find it not nearly as hospitable and compelling as you thought, and sometimes you find fresh new ways to engage with the material.

For this month’s Pull List we’re taking a trip down memory lane with two comics that take very different approaches to nostalgia. DIE asks what it means to confront the past while Buffy the Vampire Slayer excavates all the best bits from the way back when and pairs them with contemporary sensibilities. So when I tell you to call your local comic shop ASAP to place your order, you better be pulling out your phone.

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A Transformed Woman: Madame d’Aulnoy’s “The White Cat.”

“Either become a woman, or make me a cat.”

The image of a beast hiding deep within an enchanted forest in an enchanted castle, waiting to be transformed through love, is generally associated with, well, male beasts. The beasts also typically have a frightening appearance: they are often bears, or lions, or something too terrifying to describe.

But sometimes, that enchanted beast is a girl. As in Madame d’Aulnoy’s novelette, “The White Cat.”

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I Must Be Writing for Both of Us: Wild Life by Molly Gloss

Set in the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the twentieth century, Wild Life takes the narrative frame of a journal, written across a period of weeks, by Charlotte Bridger Drummond—single mother of five boys, ardent public feminist, professional adventure-romance writer—wherein she has a wilderness experience of her own. Her housekeeper’s granddaughter has gone missing on a trip with her father to the logging camp where he works. Charlotte, repulsed by the company of men but functional within it, takes it upon herself to join the search, as the housekeeper is too old and the mother too frail. At once a work of historical fiction, a speculative romance in the traditional sense, and a broader feminist commentary on genre fiction, Gloss’s novel is a subtle and thorough piece of art.

Originally published in 2000, almost twenty years ago, Wild Life is nonetheless recent enough to have a digital trail of reviews in genre spaces. A brief search reveals a contemporaneous essay at Strange Horizons, one from Jo Walton here at Tor.com in 2010, and more. For me, though, this was a first read—as I suspect it will be for many others—and I’ll approach it as such. Saga’s new editions of Gloss’s previous novels are a significant boon to an audience unfamiliar, like myself, with her longform work.

[A review.]

QUILTBAG+ Speculative Classics: Hadriana in All My Dreams by René Depestre

Hadriana in All My Dreams by René Depestre is considered one of the major works of 20th century Haitian literature—when I picked up the new English translation by Kaiama L. Glover, however, I wasn’t aware that I would also be able to include it in my QUILTBAG+ SFF Classics column. Yet the title character, Hadriana, displays attraction to people regardless of gender, and at a key point in the novel, she describes her sexual awakening with another young woman. This wasn’t the book I had been planning on reviewing this week, but I was very happy that it fit into the column.

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