Better Science Fiction Through Real Science

Science fiction purports to be based on science. I hate to tell you this, but a lot of SF is as close to science and math as Taco Bell is to authentic Mexican cuisine.

I revelled and still revel in mass ratios and scale heights, albedos and exhaust velocities, evolutionary biology and world history. (I’m not the only one. Big wave to my homies out there.) So…as much as I love SF, I’m constantly running head-on into settings that could just not work the way the author imagines. My SOD (suspension of disbelief) is motoring along merrily and suddenly, bang! Dead in its tracks. Perhaps you can understand now why so many of my reviews grumble about worldbuilding.

[Read more]

Kobayashi Sidhu — Star Trek’s “Ask Not”

Anson Mount was the breakout star of Star Trek Discovery’s second season with his portrayal of Captain Christopher Pike, with Ethan Peck and Rebecca Romijn right behind him as Spock and Number One, respectively. The events of the end of that season precludes the trio returning to Discovery any time soon, but they’ve made up for it to a degree by having Mount in all three of the second batch of Short Treks to date, with Romijn and Peck in two of those, including the new one, “Ask Not.”

[We’ve all learned to expect no mercy from Number One.]

Be Better Than Yesterday: Star Wars: Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse

After Star Wars: The Last Jedi came out in late 2017, plenty of fans were furious with Poe Dameron for his disobedience and mutiny that helped whittle down the Resistance to nearly nothing. But at the start of Rebecca Roanhorse’s Resistance Reborn, no one is more upset with the beautiful-haired pilot than Poe himself. The book, which bridges the gap between The Last Jedi and the forthcoming Episode IX, The Rise of Skywalker, acts as a Poe Dameron Redemption Tour of sorts: Seeing as his actions led to most of the Resistance’s ships getting blown up, he is now tasked with finding new ships and new bodies. That means pilots, sure, but also potentially some Rebellion leaders who can provide a shot in the arm to General Leia Organa’s floundering Resistance. It’s a thin enough plot stretched over nearly 300 pages, but the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Roanhorse (Storm of Locusts) amplifies the patchy plot with tender character moments and thought-provoking questions about what it means to occupy the gray space between good and evil in the Star Wars universe.

[Read more]

Into the Woods: Shea Ernshaw’s Winterwood

Nora Walker is many things. Isolated, friendless, lonely, a little odd, in tune with nature. The one thing she is not is the very thing other kids taunt her for being: a witch. Generations of Walker women have lived near Jackjaw Lake and the eerie Wicker Woods, each with a special gift that Nora’s grandmother calls their “nightshade.” One woman could communicate with birds, another could see other people’s dreams, another could calm wild bees. At seventeen Nora’s gift still hasn’t made itself known, and so she believes she has none, that the Walker legacy of witchcraft will wither with her. Then one evening she finds a lost boy in the woods and everything changes.

[Read more]

Portals and Expansive Future Technology in Salvation Lost by Peter F. Hamilton

Peter F. Hamilton’s Salvation, first in the sequence, created a new universe that resembles his Commonwealth universe; in both, Gate technology proves to be the method of interstellar transport. In many ways, though, the Salvation universe takes the idea and extends it into other facets of life, using gates in a way more reminiscent of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion verse or Larry Niven’s teleportation booths. Salvation’s narrative takes place in two times: in the 23rd century, first contact with the Olyix is not seen immediately as a threat, except by a paranoid few; but in the far future, the danger is all too clear, and the descendants of humanity ruthlessly train themselves and their society to combat the alien threat.

Salvation Lost continues both of those stories in parallel. We know the 23rd century Olyix are going to devestate to humanity—but just how will that play out? And how will the far future conflict resolve?
[Read more]

The Sword of the Lictor, Part 1: Of Loves Lost and Found

With the previous installment of this reread, we’ve approached the halfway point of Gene Wolfe’s masterwork, The Book of the New Sun. (I’m referring, naturally, to the four volumes that comprise this story. The fifth, The Urth of the New Sun, is a coda, and it will be considered as such for the purposes of this rereading.)

The Sword of the Lictor begins with an epigraph by Russian poet Osip Mandelstam: “Into the distance disappear the/mounds of human heads. /I dwindle – go unnoticed now./But in affectionate books, in children’s games,/I will rise from the dead to say: the sun!”

It’s a beautiful elegy, and not very hard to interpret in the context of the saga: the poet is Severian, in his incarnation as Autarch, describing in a nutshell his trajectory, disappearing into the wilds of Urth until he rises again as the New Sun. But how is this transformation accomplished? The third volume gets us closer to the answer.

[Read more]

Series: Rereading Gene Wolfe

Ruth Wilson’s Mrs Coulter Illuminates the Complex, Patriarchal World of His Dark Materials

One of the great things about superlative children’s literature is its ability to let events unfold from a simplistic, child’s perspective while cluing in older readers to the complexities of an adult world. As an example, look no further than Harry Potter’s Sirius Black, who must seem, to the child reader, the ideal, fun-loving companion to the boy-wizard and, to the adult reader, a troubled man in a state of arrested development who is using Harry to reconnect with his dead school chum.

This balancing act is no easy task. And even the best children’s literature occasionally sacrifices some of the complexity of the adult world in order to keep its narrative centered on a child protagonist’s experience. Such is the case with Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, which is additionally burdened by the fact that much of the world is predicated on heavy theological concepts which Lyra understandably is less interested in than the immediate danger she must face while dealing with agents of the Magisterium and Armored Bears.

And while none of that tension makes HDM a less satisfying read, it is true that one of Pullman’s most intriguing characters is left a little thin and unfairly treated by the narrative. I am speaking, of course, of Mrs Coulter, one of the series’ primary antagonists. I should add here that, in discussing Mrs Coulter in this article two things should be noted: First, I have not done a full reread of HDM in about a decade and while I am attempting to catch up while I watch the show and write these articles, some of my sense of the novels may be based on older information and recollections. Second, any discussion of Mrs Coulter that involves the novels will have to involve MAJOR SPOILERS for the books (and presumably the show), so read on at your own peril.

[Read more]

The New Star Trek TV Shows Are Hiring Paid Interns for the Job of a Lifetime

Ever wanted to work on a Star Trek TV show?

(Okay, all of you raised your hands immediately. Should have seen that coming.)

In Star Trek: Discovery, Sylvia Tilly works super-hard to get herself into the Command Training Program, which eventually will set her up on the road to becoming a starship captain. Now, CBS and the Star Trek franchise are bringing that concept into the real world, by announcing the Command Training Program: a paid internship program.

[Read more]

Exploring the People of Middle-earth: Saruman, Man of Craft and Fallen Wizard

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 tracks the rise and fall of one of Middle-earth’s most enigmatic villains, Saruman: one-time head of the White Council who famously falls under the spell of Sauron, betraying the mission entrusted to him by the Valar.

The five Wizards of Middle-earth are a constant source of mystery and confusion. Little to nothing is known about the two Blue Wizards, Alatar and Pallando; Radagast remains a sylvan enigma; only Gandalf and Saruman are given the narrative space necessary to flesh out their characters, but even then the resulting sketch is frustratingly unfulfilled at best. Of Gandalf more is directly known because of his relationship with Hobbits and his central role in the resistance to Sauron, but what of Saruman? The traitorous wizard’s character and motivations are never fully developed in The Lord of the Rings, and readers are left to assume that pride and lust for power lead to his undoing. This is a fair interpretation of Saruman’s role in The Lord of the Rings, but Tolkien’s drafts and left-behind notes paint a fuller picture of his treacherous Power—one that allows us to track his fall from wisdom into folly, and hopefully understand just how it happened that an emissary sent by the Valar themselves could so radically fail in his task.

[Read more]

Henry Cavill Cast Roach Himself, Plus Other New Details About Netflix’s The Witcher

When Netflix dropped the official trailer for The Witcher on Halloween, they packed quite a bit of stuff into those two minutes of footage. From close-ups on a certain pair of violet eyes, to mysterious brooches, to the unassuming backside of an important side-character, there were a lot of Easter Eggs and pieces of lore that might have slipped on by.

Luckily, the folks behind The Witcher TV series itself are here to walk you through the whole thing! Watch showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and executive producer Tomasz “Tomek” Bagiński break down the details from the trailer.

[Read more]

It Looks Like The Wheel of Time Writers Are Already Working on Season 2

It seems like only yesterday that Amazon’s The Wheel of Time adaptation had its first table-read, and now it looks like season 2 is already in the works. On Wednesday, showrunner Rafe Judkins tweeted a photo of a writers’ room, captioning it, “Starting the S2 writers’ room on Wheel of Time and the Czech builders didn’t fully grasp how many whiteboards are needed to break an entire season of television. Ha.”

[Read more]

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.