Vigilance and The Test “Near-Future” Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a copy of two near-future thrillers from Publishing: Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett, available January 29th, and The Test by Sylvain Neuvel, available February 12th!

From Vigilance:

The United States. 2030. John McDean executive produces “Vigilance,” a reality game show designed to make sure American citizens stay alert to foreign and domestic threats. Shooters are introduced into a “game environment,” and the survivors get a cash prize. Read more in our free excerpt.

From The Test:

Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress. When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death. How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice? Read more in our free excerpt.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 2:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on January 17th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on January 20th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor:, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Can You Ever Go Home Again? 9 Stories That Continue After Journey’s End

After fighting in the Trojan War, taking an epic walk to Mount Doom, or communing with the alien Meduse, all the intrepid war hero/quester/intergalactic exchange student wants is to return to the familiar comforts of home. But they’ve changed—maybe they’re missing a finger, have been transformed on a molecular level, or simply had their mind expanded in the figurative sense—and so has home. These nine sci-fi and fantasy tales explore the awkward, anticlimactic, and occasionally antagonistic homecomings, and how sometimes that final hurdle is the most important part of the story.

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Andre Norton’s Star Gate Inspired Me Before I Knew I Wanted to Write

One of my absolute favorite books when I was a kid in the 70s was Star Gate by Andre Norton, published in 1958. I found it first in the junior high school library, then managed to buy a used paperback copy—probably secretly; my father didn’t believe in letting me buy books I’d already read, even when they were only $1.00 or so. Even as a kid I was careful with books no matter how many times I read them, and it’s on my shelf today.

It’s one of those books that I didn’t realize was deeply encoded in my writing DNA until I went back and looked at it recently. It’s not like I ever forgot about the book, but it and the others like it were so deep under my skin I forgot there was a time before I read them. They formed my understanding of what SF/F should be. I read Tolkien and other epic fantasies, but Andre Norton got to me first, and planted seeds that eventually grew into mountain-trees.

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Fairy Tales for Survivors: The Armless Maiden

One of the most profound influences on my understanding of fairy tales was The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors (1995), edited by Terri Windling, an anthology I discovered quite by chance while browsing a bookstore one day. I picked it up partly because of the title, partly because it had a couple of stories from favorite authors, partly because it seemed to be about fairy tales, and mostly because it had a nice big sticker proclaiming that it was 25% off.

Never underestimate the value of nice big stickers proclaiming that things are 25% off, even if those stickers end up leaving sticky residue all over your book, which is not the point just now.

Rather, it’s how the book changed my understanding of fairy tales.

[Read more]

The Perfect Blend of Adventure and Romance in The Sharing Knife: Beguilement by Lois McMaster Bujold

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.

Today I’m taking a look at the work of one of my favorite authors of all time, Lois McMaster Bujold. Instead of the more widely known Vorkosigan series, or her Five Gods and Penric stories, however, I’ll be discussing the first book of her Sharing Knife series—a prime example of how romantic themes can fit well into a science fiction or fantasy setting. A few weeks ago, on Christmas Day, Bujold announced on her blog that “I am pleased to report that I have finished the first draft of a new novella in the world of The Sharing Knife. Functionally a novella, anyway; its length, at the moment, is a tad over 49,000 words, so it’s technically a short novel.” So, to get ready for the new story, let’s look back at the beginning with Book 1, The Beguilement.

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The Clarkson Twins Join The Wheel of Time TV Series Writers Room

The writers room for Amazon Studios’ The Wheel of Time TV series is coming together! Showrunner Rafe Judkins has devoted various #WoTWednesdays to introducing different writers as they join the epic fantasy adaptation, and this week he had two introductions to make: twins Michael P. Clarkson and Paul T. Clarkson have joined the staff.

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Five SFF Books about Family Drama

Ah, family. Can’t live with them, can’t live without finding ways to avoid THAT cousin on social media. But for all the griping, tales revolving around family drama dominate human story-telling, and science fiction and fantasy aren’t any different. Whether it’s Darth Vader declaring fatherhood or the Lannisters plotting each other’s murder, it’s clear not even fleeing to the stars will let you escape your relatives.

There are innumerable books about scheming families, but for this list I wanted to highlight five recent novels that add a bit more nuance to these kinds of relationships. Family can be complicated enough—add earth-shaking magic and daunting political responsibilities, and things get downright dangerous. Yet even as the characters below find themselves being torn apart, they refuse to stop fighting for each other, suggesting that yes… perhaps the family that plots together, stays together.

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Series: Five Books About…

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Sixty-One

Greetings, fair rereaders, and welcome back to Kholinar! It’s sneaky-time for our intrepid crew, as they take on some unexpected disguises and attempt to make their way into the city without being recognized by the locals or attacked by the Voidbringers. Wish them luck, because it’s weird in this man’s town.

[Be extraordinary, Captain. Nothing else will suffice.]

Series: Oathbringer Reread

Bad Influences From Atlantis: H.P. Lovecraft and Adolphe de Castro’s “The Last Test”

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 H. P. Lovecraft and Adolphe de Castro’s “The Last Test,” a revision of de Castro’s original “A Sacrifice to Science,” first published in In the Confessional and the Following in 1893; the revised version first appeared in the November 1928 issue of Weird Tales. Spoilers ahead.

[Read more]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

“This must be what vengeance felt like”: Roshani Chokshi’s The Gilded Wolves

In the weeks before the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, six teens are pulled into a dangerous heist. Séverin Montagnet-Alarie is the disowned half-French half-Algerian illegitimate son of the dead Patriarch of House Vanth. The Order, the organization that unites the Houses and formalizes the rules of Forging (aka magic), exiled Séverin years ago. He’s spent his time since “acquiring” Forged artifacts from the Order and slowly gathering his former House’s collections. Helping him are Zofia, an arson-inclined autistic Polish Jew with a flair for Forging and engineering; Enrique, a bisexual half-Spanish half Filipino historian; Tristan, Séverin’s younger brother with a plant-based Forging talent and an obsession with his pet tarantula; and Laila, an Indian girl harboring a dark secret.

When he’s approached by his former childhood companion Hypnos, a queer half-French half-Haitian Patriarch, with an offer he can’t refuse, Séverin and his crew are pulled into a vast conspiracy. To win back his status as the Patriarch of House Vanth, he and his crew must steal Forged artifacts, solve tricky riddles and complicated puzzles, and battle sinister forces all while keeping the Order off their trail. The dead will rise and the living will fall and by the end the world will never be the same.

[“I’ve come to collect my dues.”]

The Ethical Drama of Farscape’s John Crichton

Farscape, the Henson Company’s extravaganza of a gonzo science fiction TV series, filmed in Australia at the turn of the last century, weirder and grosser and funnier and more brutal than almost any other piece of SF television—a show where a puppet, playing Dominar Rygel the XVI, sluglike deposed ruler of the Hynerian Empire, farts helium for plot purposes more than once—has at its center a drama of profound ethical transformation. By this I am of course referring to the journey of the show’s protagonist, John Crichton.

Farscape is a brilliant piece of television for many reasons—compulsively enjoyable, incredibly weird, emotionally challenging. But it is the ethical journey of John Crichton which, for me, makes it worth watching and rewatching, especially as our own world veers out of the predicted, understandable, comfortable place some of us believed we dwelled in, and into something far closer to what Crichton calls the “weird, amazing, and psychotic life. In Technicolor,” that he found through a wormhole to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. In looking at what happens to Crichton over four seasons and a miniseries, I find myself thinking about the lasting effects of trauma, and the experience of trying to find a new, solid self in a universe gone off the rails.

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A Travel Guide to the Worlds of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children Series (Updated!)

In Every Heart a Doorway, the first novella in the stellar Wayward Children series, author Seanan McGuire explores what happens when children who disappeared into magical worlds returned to the real world. Its prequel story Down Among the Sticks and Bones explores one of these worlds in detail, telling the story of how Jacqueline and Jillian became Jack and Jill. The consequences of leaving your home world for the real one come to roost in the third novella, Beneath the Sugar Sky, a theme explored from a different angle in the fourth novella, In An Absent Dream.

Maguire’s portal worlds are connected to our own through magic doors. Not just any child can cross the threshold; something innate in their being or in the other world draws them in. What follows is an account of every single portal world mentioned, even in passing. Most of the worlds we have only scattershot information, but they’re listed here anyway alongside those we know a substantial amount about. I’ve kept spoilers out as much as possible.

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Stolen Bodies, Warped Minds—Wild Cards IX: Jokertown Shuffle

Hello again, and welcome back to the Wild Cards reread! Here we are with 1991’s Jokertown Shuffle (Book IX), the second installment of the jumper trilogy (falling between One-Eyed Jacks and Dealer’s Choice). In April of 2019, Tor will be republishing the book along with two new stories by Carrie Vaughn and Cherie Priest. This is my first time reading this one—it’s a bit infamous amongst Wild Card readers, though, so I’ve heard quite a bit about it in advance. Here we go!

[Read more]

Series: George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards: The Reread

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