The language of the originators defines reality, every word warping the world to fit its meaning. Its study transforms the mind and body, and is closely guarded by stodgy, paranoid academics. These hidebound men don’t trust many students with their secrets, especially not women, and more especially not “madwomen.” Polymede and her lover Erishti believe they’ve made a discovery that could blow open the field’s unexamined assumptions, and they’re ready to face expulsion to make their mark. Of course, if they’re wrong, the language will make its mark on them instead.
Are you seeing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse this weekend? (You should, because if the opening half hour shown at New York Comic-Con is any indication, this will be The Greatest Spider-Movie.) We’re even more excited for the film than before, because we’ve just learned just learned that Miles Morales’ first big screen adventure contains a fabulous literary Easter egg: a new fictional book by Black Leopard, Red Wolf author Marlon James!
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 China Miéville’s “Details,” first published in 2002 in John Pelan and Benjamin Adams’ The Children of Cthulhu. Spoilers ahead.
Series: The Lovecraft Reread
Disney•Pixar has announced Onward, a new animated adventure starring
Star-Lord and Peter Parker Chris Pratt and Tom Holland as elf brothers searching for lost magic in a “suburban fantasy” world. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer also star. While Toy Story 4 comes out in June of 2019, ahead of Onward’s 2020 release, this is Pixar Animation’s next original/non-sequel story since 2017’s Coco.
My foray through Lois McMaster Bujold’s backlist on my site—a foray nowhere near as detailed as Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer’s ongoing reread—reached Komarr recently. One of the elements of the setting impressed me: Bujold’s handling of the centuries-long effort to terraform the planet.
Terraforming is, of course, the hypothesized art of converting an uninhabitable rock into a habitable world. Jack Williamson coined the term in his Seetee-related short story, “Collision Orbit”, published under the pen name Will Stewart in the July, 1942 issue of Astounding Magazine. While Williamson invokes non-existent super-science in order to make the task seem doable, he probably felt confident that terraforming would someday make sense. In the short run, we have seen humans shaping the Earth. In the long run—well, Earth was once an anoxic wasteland. Eons of life shaped it into a habitable planet. Williamson suspected that humans could imitate that process elsewhere…and make it happen in centuries rather than eons. Perhaps in even less time!
Every year, people who get paid to write on the internet celebrate a very strange ritual: we try to dig up obscure Christmas specials, or find new angles on popular ones. Thus, we receive epic takedowns of Love Actually; assertions that not only is Die Hard a Christmas movie, it’s the best Christmas movie; and the annual realization that Alf’s Special Christmas is an atrocity. These are all worthy specials, deserving of your limited holiday media time. However, I have not come here to ask you to reconsider anything, or to tell you that something you watch each December 24th is actually garbage—I am here to offer you a gift.
The gift of AD/BC: A Rock Opera.
This was a pretty decent year new comics, especially for indies and miniseries. Marvel’s constant behind-the-scenes chaos isn’t making it any easier to keep its readers in the face of DC’s post-Rebirth creative revitalization. Image is as good as always, but is facing stiff competition from smaller publishers.
After pillaging my local comic shop and scouring the interwebs, I’ve pulled together the official Pull List Best of 2018. There’s some popular comics and some deep cuts, but all are doing something unique and powerful with the medium. The only eligibility requirement was that it had to be released for the first time in 2018, including the release of the first issue, first time being published in print, or first time being published in English.
What would you put in your top comics of 2018?
Some Star Wars theories make too much sense not to be true. Such as the very sensible idea that, to Chewbacca, Han is a badly behaved puppy.
I’ll admit that, after combing through the Tor.com archives (shamelessly searching for ideas for more articles), when I discovered no one had written about Sam Weller’s biography of Ray Bradbury, my reaction was twofold.
On the one hand, I was incensed. Here was the authorized biography of one of my heroes—one of the faces on my personal literary Mount Rushmore—and nobody had dedicated a word to it. That reaction, however, was short lived as a wave of joyful realization replaced it. If no one else had written about it, then the opportunity to do so could be mine for the taking.
Now, (to be fair to my great host), Tor only established its website in 2008. Weller originally published his biography in 2005. Thus, a three-year-old book was likely not on their radar when they started to publish their reviews and other nonfiction. However, late is better than never. Besides, a book about one of the most important authors of SF deserves to have a couple a thousand words said about it, even 13 years on.
So, what is the best way I can describe Weller’s book?
All year, Brandon Sanderson fans have wondered what the prolific author’s “secret project” could be, but today’s announcement from io9 has answered that question: Sanderson, a longtime fan of Magic: The Gathering, has written a M:TG novella. Magic: Children of the Nameless explores the connections between Tacenda, a young woman with the power to protect those around her… until she can’t; and Davriel, a Planeswalker of Sanderson’s own creation. And the best part is, you can read the entire novella starting December 12.
Each month, the Tor.com eBook Club gives away a free sci-fi/fantasy ebook to club subscribers.
We’re excited to announce that the pick for December 2018 is Ian McDonald’s Luna: New Moon, the first book in McDonald’s saga of the Five Dragons! (The latest volume, Luna: Moon Rising, hits shelves on March 19, 2019.)
In Ian McDonald’s Luna: New Moon, the scions of a falling house must navigate a world of corporate warfare to maintain their family’s status in the Moon’s vicious political atmosphere.
We want to send you a galley copy of Charlie Jane Anders’ The City in the Middle of the Night, available February 12 from Tor Books!
“If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams… And from there, it’s easy to control our entire lives.”
January is a dying planet—divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk.
But life inside the cities is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.
Sophie, a student and reluctant revolutionary, is supposed to be dead, after being exiled into the night. Saved only by forming an unusual bond with the enigmatic beasts who roam the ice, Sophie vows to stay hidden from the world, hoping she can heal.
But fate has other plans—and Sophie’s ensuing odyssey and the ragtag family she finds will change the entire world.
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A little while ago, I received an ARC of Alliance Rising, C.J. Cherryh’s collaboration with her spouse Jane Fancher, set in Cherryh’s Alliance-Union continuity—the universe of Cherryh’s acclaimed Downbelow Station (1981) and Cyteen (1988). While I tried to read Downbelow Station years ago, before I understood the rhythms of Cherryh’s work, Alliance Rising is the first work in this particular setting that I’ve ever finished. It spurred me to find a couple more—the omnibuses Alliance Space and The Deep Beyond, available in ebook form—to see just how representative Alliance Rising is of the works in this setting.
Series: Sleeps With Monsters
I’ve spent the last two years studying the typography and design of science fiction movies for Typeset in the Future, available in all good bookstores now from the lovely folks at Abrams. My studies have given me huge respect for the worlds these films create—their feats of visual storytelling are nothing short of amazing, creating cinematic visions of imagined worlds for which every detail must be realized on screen.
I was intrigued, therefore, when Tor.com invited me to apply the same approach to classic science fiction novels. These books, I’ve come to realize, have an even greater challenge to overcome when visualizing their future. A novel has just a single wraparound opportunity to picture its imagined world. Done well, a great sci-fi cover can seed an entire universe of visuals in a reader’s imagination, giving the brain’s internal SFX department all the material it needs to extrapolate during reading. Let’s take a look, then, at the design and typography of five classic cover designs—and how they bring their imagined worlds to life.
Even today, even in the era of mainstream geekdom and publicly embracing guilty pleasures, I still cannot recommend two formative pieces of genre work from my childhood (the mid-’90s to early ’00s) without caveats. One was the first book series that I committed to with unabashed zeal, buying new installments monthly and absorbing myself in its world (nay, universe) for half a decade. The other was the TV series that first brought me online reading and then writing fanfiction; it was also my first lesson in the exhilaration-followed-by-disappointment of seeing a beloved series come back from cancellation not-quite-right. Animorphs and ReBoot shaped me as a fan and a writer; they were the first places where I learned how to make your characters grow with their audience, and how to depict war and its indelible consequences.
They are also cheesy as all get-out, with their ’90s-tastic Photoshop morphing book covers and CGI characters rapid-fire riffing on pop culture. But it was this unapologetically cartoonish packaging that made both series brilliant Trojan horses of a sort, ferrying impressively dark tales of trauma and recovery they might not have otherwise gotten away with.