When an illicit trade deal goes wrong and Quandary is blamed for it, she goes on the run to avoid the crosshairs of a bioengineered killer that only lives for 24 hours. If Q can evade it for that long, she just might survive.
Welcome back to Reading the Weird, in which we get girl cooties all over weird fiction, cosmic horror, and Lovecraftiana—from its historical roots through its most recent branches.
This week, we continue N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became with Chapter 10: Make Staten Island Grate Again(st Sao Paulo). The novel was first published in March 2020. Spoilers ahead! Content warning for attempted rape, neonazis, and racial slurs.
Series: Reading the Weird
It’s barely October, and yet it’s already that time of year. You know the one: the holiday season.
By which I mean the season of the violent holiday movie, obviously.
The latest in this storied line of cinematic masterpieces is Violent Night, which stars Stranger Things’ David Harbour as a Santa who brings a different sort of festivity to the home of a family being held captive by mercenaries.
The space sheep are called dray, by the way. And that’s only half the fun of this week’s episode…
From his myriad standalone novels and novellas, to the City of Stairs trilogy and the Foundryside series, author Robert Jackson Bennett continues to craft larger and more expansive stakes, more high octane action set pieces, and pushes genre into new and fresh spaces, all while grappling with deep and complex questions of character, morality, community, and more. And here in Locklands, Bennett once again sticks the landing as he brings the Foundryside story to a beautiful, bittersweet, and heart-soaring close.
Although human life spans (with child mortality factored in) used to be a mere quarter century, modern Americans can expect considerably longer lives. However, even were we to posit an unlikely social revolution in which life extension treatment was generally available to all, it seems that factors inherent in human biology limit maximum lifespans to about 120 years. Which, granted, is a lot better than twenty-five years. If still not as long as the lifetime of a sequoia or a bristlecone pine.
Imagine what we could accomplish, had we only a thousand years or so to procrastinate hone our skills? What grand projects could we embrace, knowing that we could see century-long efforts to their end? How wonderful it would be to live long enough to get that catchy Pharrell Williams earworm out of your head! Unsurprisingly, SFF authors have found the concept of greatly enhanced lifespans tremendously inspirational, as these five works show.
September was an excellent month, beginning with Chicon 8, Worldcon in Chicago, and then flying to Florence immediately afterwards, where we stayed for a couple of weeks before taking the train up through the Alps (so beautiful!) to Riom in the centre of France for the excellent festival Aventuriales, where I was guest of honour and had a really great time. Then we went back through the Alps on the train to Turin, where Ada was a guest at Italian Tech Week. With all this dashing about and being with friends, I only had time to read eight books, mostly on trains and at bedtime, and here they are.
Further to my confessions from last time, I have to be transparent that due to time constraints, I did not go back and read the entire Psy-Changeling series before writing this column. On the advice of counsel, I started with Silver Silence, which begins a new chapter in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling world. This sequel series, called the Psy-Changeling Trinity series, consists of six books so far, which made it much easier and more accessible for a newbie Singh reader. (It would have been god-tier to read all 21 novels across both series, though, wouldn’t it? Some real “all shall love me and despair” shit. If we weren’t facing two plagues and a global rise in fascism, I’d totally have done it.)
The Dune: The Sisterhood series is moving forward at HBO Max! The show that centers around the origin of the Bene Gesserit already had writer and co-showrunner Diane Ademu-John attached (with Alison Schapker as the other showrunner), and now also has two actors lined up for leading roles.
If you’ve seen Matt Reeves’ The Batman (pictured above), you know that Barry Keoghan makes an appearance as an inmate in Arkham who will clearly become the Joker. Keoghan, however, originally wanted to play another character in Reeves’ Batverse, and sent the director an unsolicited audition tape reflecting that.
It’s a classic romantic trope: a marriage is arranged for political reasons, and despite initial feelings or inclinations, the two strangers begin a slow spiral into each other’s hearts. In A Strange and Stubborn Endurance, author Foz Meadows imbues this familiar story with enough twists and turns and thoughtful examinations to render it almost entirely new—a queer romance for the ages. A secondary world fantasy of intricate politics, hierarchies of power and culture and magic, plus two exquisite leads that brim with life, this slow-burn novel may have the flame low, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t burn hot.
For the first time ever, the 2002 feature Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla will grace theater screens in the United States for one day.
Everyone currently freaking out about the new Interview With the Vampire TV show, have I got a novel for you. While Alexis Henderson’s latest dark fantasy novel House of Hunger is only vampire adjacent, it’s sexy and queer and monstrous and very bloody.
In the final paragraphs of the 1977 short story “The Screwfly Solution” by Raccoona Sheldon (aka James Tiptree Jr, aka Alice Bradley Sheldon), the world has succumbed to an apparent plague of violent misogyny, leaving the story’s protagonist, Anne, the last woman alive. Scuttled away into hiding by one of the few men immune to the “femicidal” wave sweeping humanity, Anne cuts her hair, dirties her face, and disguises herself as a boy. She only ventures into society when she absolutely must, often gambling on whether she passes well enough to slink by the detection of a store clerk when she purchases supplies. The threat of discovery hangs heavy—Anne’s safety, her life, balancing on the gendered expectations of a man she doesn’t know.
As a trans woman, I know this threat. It’s a feeling I’ve felt in gas stations in rural Oregon on the mornings when I forgot to shave. It’s a feeling I’ve felt whenever I enter the women’s room in a rest stop off I-94. It’s a feeling I’ve felt when my girlfriend reminds me to let her do the talking when we check into a hotel in Wyoming.
Marvel just keeps bringing Michael Waldron back. The writer came into the MCU with Loki, stuck around for the turgid Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and now will continue his turn in the multiverse with Avengers: Secret Wars, which will close out Marvel’s Phase Six.
Yes, sure, it’s very tidy that the man who brought Kang (Jonathan Majors, above) into the Marvel world will presumably see him out again. But this is not, shall we say, an inspired choice.