Octavia Butler Will Change the Way You Look at Genre Fiction

The first Octavia Butler novel I ever read was Fledgling, and it was a revelation. While I had been taught by early exposure to Ursula Le Guin that genre fiction could be political, could comment on social and cultural morés, I never expected that someone would use vampires to discuss bigotry, racism, and slavery. It’s been almost a decade since I read it, but I doubt I’ll ever forget that sense of wonder.

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“All that you know is at an end” — Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

While it was far from a critical success, and while the fan community seemed pretty divided on it (a common refrain was that Brad Bird had already done a better Fantastic Four movie with Pixar’s The Incredibles), Fantastic Four made a pretty penny in 2005, riding the new wave of Marvel films suddenly seemed to be all over the filmic landscape.

Green-lighting a sequel seemed a no-brainer, and so they brought most everyone back two years later, and decided to adapt one of the most iconic Fantastic Four comics stories ever: the coming of Galactus.

[“You don’t even know me!” “Actually, I know you very well. I read your personality profile: confident, reckless, irresponsible, self-obsessed, borderline narcissism.” “Okay, so you do know me….”]

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

6 SFF Classics That Would Make Great Video Games

It hit me while checking out Fred Saberhagen’s fantasy classic The Book of Swords: This should be a video game.

The Book of Swords has a great out-of-the-box premise. “For a game the gods have given the world twelve Swords of Power so that they might be amused as the nations battle for their possession. But Vulcan the Smith has had his own little joke: the Swords can kill the gods themselves.”

I would play the heck out of that game. Even more so if there were dual storylines where you could play through as a human hunting down a God-slaying sword, or a God collecting the swords before all the humans can kill you.

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Breathes New Life into the Franchise

There are few movie series that embody their tag line more than Jurassic Park. “Life finds a way” perfectly describes a franchise that opened with an all-time classic and followed it up with the worst movie Steven Spielberg has ever directed and a fun third entry that still somehow managed to reduce Tea Leoni to a shrieking peril klaxon. Even Jurassic World, which should have been a slam dunk, managed to stumble into some weird evolutionary dead ends: Claire running through the jungle in high heels. Owen being a just staggeringly unlikable leading man. The weird, violent glee it took in killing Katie McGrath’s character, Zara. For every evolutionary step forward, Jurassic World took two back. But it still landed well enough to get a sequel. Life still found a way.

And the good news is that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is far better than at least two of its predecessors, and may just be the second best movie in the franchise. There’s still a precipitous drop off between the original Jurassic Park and that number two slot but Fallen Kingdom makes a strong play for it, and breaks surprising new ground in the process…

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Political Upheaval in Shannara: The Skaar Invasion by Terry Brooks

I’ve written at length about not only what Terry Brooks means to the epic fantasy genre, but to me personally as a reader. His books blew the doors off the world I first discovered via Tolkien, but it was his generosity and kindness towards a young writer at Surrey International Writer’s Conference that set me on the path I travel today. Brooks is one of fantasy’s most prolific novelists, having written over 30 novels. Since 1996, he’s produced a novel a year—the release of which has become something of an event for me. Despite some inconsistency in quality over the years, I eagerly look forward to his new books, especially the Shannara novels.

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You Deserve This: The Handmaid’s Tale, “The Last Ceremony”

What’s worse: Thinking that you had endured that awful thing for the last time, only to have to go through it again without any emotional preparation? Or unexpectedly getting to experience something truly wonderful, and then not knowing if it is the last time you’ll do so? The Handmaid’s Tale poses these wrenching questions as it heads into the final arc of season 2, something of a ticking clock based on June’s soon-to-be-born baby.

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Abuse and Revenge in Grimms’ Fairy Tales: “The Juniper Tree”

In stark contrast to the long, intricate tales penned by other literary fairy tale writers, in particular those practicing their arts in French salons, most of the fairy tales collected and published by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are quite short—in many cases, easily squeezed into just one or two pages, or even just a few paragraphs. One major exception: “The Juniper Tree,” one of the longest tales in the original 1812 Children’s and Household Tales, which also happens to be one of the most horrifying tales in the original collection.

[Warning: cannibalism, child abuse, and a ghost ahead.]

Five SFF Books in Which Art Matters

I love art and illustration. My childhood obsession with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood led to hours with art history texts. I’d need a fortnight just to properly do the Met. And so I love it when SFF books engage with art and culture, providing insight into the history of the world, their aesthetic, and their values. There are plenty of literary works revolving around art, and artists, but SFF provides a number of stories where art matters—to the story, to its society, and to its character.

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Series: Five Books About…

Man Against Machine: Great Sky River by Gregory Benford

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.

Some science fiction stories are, well, just more science fiction-y than other tales. The setting is further in the future, the location is further from our own out-of-the-way spiral arm of the galaxy, the protagonists are strange to us, and the antagonists are stranger still. We get a capital-letter, full dose of the SENSE OF WONDER that we love. And when you combine that with a story full of action, adventure, and jeopardy, you get something truly special. If you hadn’t guessed by now, Great Sky River by Gregory Benford, the subject of today’s review, is one of my all time favorite novels for all of these reasons.

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20 Summer Books We Cannot Wait to Read!

Happy longest day of the year! (Insert joke about more daylight hours-in-which-to-read here.) The solstice has us thinking about the months to come … and the books we’re going to read out in the sun, or under an umbrella, or with a frozen drink in hand. We’ll go to Havana with Laura van den Berg’s The Third Hotel, to space with Becky Chambers and Drew Williams, and to near-future Australia with Claire G. Coleman—for starters. There are series to begin (Sam Hawke’s Poison Wars!) and to wind up (Malka Older’s Centenal Cycle!) and a few intriguing standalones for those of you who wouldn’t want to finish a book one or two and not have the next book immediately on hand. (We understand.)

What are you planning to read between now and the autumnal equinox? Our picks are below—leave yours in the comments!

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Oathbringer Reread: Chapters Twenty-Six and Twenty-Seven

Lyn: Well… Ross and I are here again, brightlords and ladies, with—brace yourselves—another Dalinar flashback chapter. Strap yourselves in for a good Blackthorn-ing, because boy does Dalinar ever deliver on the death and destruction in this one (though not as much so, of course, as he will later on ::shudder::).

Ross: Yeah, I’d say things are smoldering right now, but later on, they really catch fire.

[Let me be stronger than those who would kill me.]

Series: Oathbringer Reread

The Most Scientifically Interesting Community in the U.S.: Welcome to Night Vale

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.

Today we’re looking at the first episode of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor and voiced by Cecil Baldwin, first broadcast on March 15 2015 through Commonplace Books. Spoilers ahead.

[“A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep.”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread