Black Lightning: The Family That Fights Together, Stays Together

In the very first moments of the premiere of Black Lightning, a bleeding Jefferson Pierce lies face-up in a bathtub, open wounds gushing all over him, as he gazes into his wife Lynn’s eyes and promises that he will leave the superhero game for good.

Obviously, if you’re watching a show called Black Lightning, it’s because you assume that he will never keep this promise. Part of us may even cruelly want to see how long Jefferson can keep toeing the line between his own sense of duty and the concerns of his family. How does one keep the streets clean and keep their family’s minds at ease at the same time? Many a superhero show would have their protagonist hide from that pressure for as long as they possibly could.

This show takes a different path—not only does Lynn already know the score, but Jefferson’s daughters Anissa and Jennifer learn about his superhero moonlighting quite early compared to other shows of its kind, and they also learn that they’re all irrevocably connected to the troubled history of their hometown itself. As it stands, they have very little choice about whether they will be forced to respond to that history—the only questions are how, and how much will be asked of them.

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The Frankenstein Chronicles Is What Grimdark Should Be

What is this new devilry?

The Frankenstein Chronicles—the ITV Encore production starring Sean “They have a cave troll” Bean currently streaming on Netflix—is exactly what I wish all grimdark fiction would be, and I wish more writers would take a page or two from its book. I may be a high fantasy-loving Tolkien nut, but I’ve also been a fan of horror since forever. The more gothic, the better; the more supernatural, the better. And so, as a period crime show with supernatural elements, The Frankenstein Chronicles is precisely my cup of cold and galvanized tea.

The show is NOT, as other reviews have misguidedly stated, a reimagining of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Netflix or its producers have marketed it as such to help draw people in. Still, this isn’t a drawback. It’s a selling point, as far as I’m concerned, in an age so full of reboots and rehashed past works. Here, then, is my largely spoiler-free review.

[Beware the beast with the head of a man.]

Never Let Mei Go — The Expanse: “IFF”

The Expanse is back, and so am I! I’ve missed you, weird blue show. After Molly Templeton’s stellar write up of last week’s episode I’ll be reviewing The Expanse moving forward—but next week Molly will return with additional “Notes for Book Nerds,” since I’m still woefully behind on my reading…

Now, on to this week’s episode! “IFF”—“identification, friend or foe”did a great job of ratcheting up tensions that had already been pretty well ratcheted, but also offered a tiny bit resolution in the end.

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Conspiracy, or Madness? Before Mars by Emma Newman

Before Mars is the third novel in Emma Newman’s Planetfall universe, loosely connected to its predecessors, 2015’s Planetfall and 2016’s After Atlas. Readers of After Atlas will come to Before Mars with some foreboding: we already know that the creeping sense of horror Before Mars’ protagonist experiences will have to pay off, one way or another—especially as it becomes clearer how the timeline in Before Mars lines up with that of After Atlas.

[Review: Before Mars by Emma Newman]

The Robinsons Are Charming as Ever, But Lost In Space is Definitely Lost

Cousin of 1960s science fiction mainstays like Star Trek and Doctor Who, Lost in Space was lighter fare for fans of space travel, and never managed the same longevity that its counterparts did. But with new generations come new reboots, and Netflix has revived the series for the first time since the ill-fated 1998 film.

And things are a little different this time.

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The NOMMO Awards Announce their 2018 Nominees

The African Speculative Fiction Society have announced their shortlists, including The Ilube Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novel by an African and the shortlists for Nommos in the Novella, Short Story, and Graphic Novel categories. We’re pleased to report that two Tor.com Publishing titles, Binti: Home and The Murders of Molly Southbourne, have been included.

Click through to see the shortlists, and congratulations to all the nominees!

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Is Killing Giants Ever Justified? The Evolving Tale of “Jack and the Beanstalk”

Last week, we talked about the first literary version of Jack and the Beanstalk, a weird tale from 1734 framed by discussions of Christmas traditions, witches, hobgoblins and ghosts, that hinted at revolution and overthrow. And pretty much stated flat out, without hinting, that before Jack went up the beanstalk, he was involved in some entertaining bedtime fun with his grandmother, an enchantress, fun that eventually allowed him to become the ruler of an entire world. Ahem.

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Halfway to Nowhere: On Enjoying the Narrative Journey

Like so many other readers, I am frustrated by interminable series that never end. I complain. Loudly. Publicly. In print (well, HTML). I do this because it’s the right thing to do. I may have a twinkling of a hope that some authors will wake up and conclude their series. But that hope is as long-lived as a firefly. Alas.

I do make an exception for works in which the destination is never the point, in which the goal is simply to enjoy the journey.

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The Barbarians: Conan Without Conan

Conan the Barbarian came out in 1982. It was a hit, and it catapulted a muscled Arnold Schwarzenegger into action stardom.

That success led to a sequel—Conan the Destroyer, in 1984—as well as a host of mid-80s Conan knock-offs like Krull (1983) and Masters of the Universe (1987).

These are all Really Bad Films, and I might well review them all before my time here is done.

Starting today… with The Barbarians (1987).

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Series: Medieval Matters

Patrick Rothfuss Reads His Introduction to The Adventure Zone Graphic Novel

This July, First Second is publishing the graphic novel adaptation of wildly popular podcast The Adventure Zone, titled Here There Be Gerblins. The Adventure Zone is a live-play D&D podcast starring the three McElroy brothers and their dad. The McElroys have their own unique brand of off-kilter humor and action that’s truly magnetic—the podcast has been downloaded tens of million of times, has spawned sold-out live shows to thousands of fans, spin-offs, a fanzine Kickstarter, and a rabid fan-base.

One of the biggest and most outspoken fans of The Adventure Zone is fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss, who actually wrote the introduction for the graphic novel out of the kindness of his heart and his passion for The Adventure Zone. While First Second were originally just planning to reveal the text of the introduction, the McElroys thought Patrick would do a fantastic job reading it aloud, hence this video, which starts with some wildly funny bloopers…

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On the Origins of Modern Biology and the Fantastic: Part 2 – Wells and Mendel

Science and science fiction are indelibly intertwined, each inspiring the other since their modern birth in the Victorian Era. Good science fiction, like a sound scientific theory, involves thorough worldbuilding avoids logical inconsistencies, and progressively deeper interrogations reveal further harmonies. This series explores the connection between the evolution of biology and science fiction into the modern era.

“For I, in my own part, cannot think that these latter days of weak experiment, fragmentary theory, and mutual discord are indeed man’s culminating time.” –H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

At the end of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895), the nameless time traveler stands alone on a beach at the end of the world, watching the sun go out. re escaped thirty million years into the future from the effete Eloi and cannibalistic Morlocks of the year 802,701 only to find their descendants—pale butterflies and giant crab-monsters – still locked in their hopeless predator-prey struggle on this terminal beach. Wells conjured this broken utopia through the evolutionary extrapolation of the class struggle he experienced firsthand growing up in order to tell an extraordinary story about time, consequence, and inevitability.

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Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Thirteen

Cosmerenauts ahoy! Lo, on the horizon looms another reread post with Lyndsey and Alice! Or something like that. Anyway, welcome back to Oathbringer, as Shallan gets embarrassed (again) and Pattern expands his vocabulary. Also, Adolin refuses to be embarrassed, which is also entertaining.

Lyn: ::crashes through door:: Did someone say Adolin?

Alice: Welcome back, Lyn! Thought you might enjoy this chapter…

L: What, me? Enjoy an Adolin chapter? NEVER. (Because I’m totally not obsessive enough to be cosplaying him most of this weekend at JordanCon or anything…)

[“Did you knock with one hand or two?”]

Series: Oathbringer Reread

The Atrocities

When Isabella died, her parents were determined to ensure her education wouldn’t suffer.

But Isabella’s parents had not informed her new governess of Isabella’s… condition, and when Ms Valdez arrives at the estate, having forced herself through a surreal nightmare maze of twisted human-like statues, she discovers that there is no girl to tutor.

Or is there…?

Jeremy Shipp’s haunting gothic fantasy The Atrocities is available now from Tor.com Publishing.

[Read an Excerpt]

Side Effects of Cave Bat Consumption: H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Beast in the Cave”

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 Lovecraft’s own “The Beast in the Cave,” written between Spring 1904 and April 1905, and first published in the June 1918 issue of The Vagrant. Spoilers ahead.

[“The tension on my brain now became frightful.”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread