The Year Nerd Culture Took Over the Mainstream

In the transcendental year of 1999, it became clear to me that I was extremely cool.

No, that’s a lie, please don’t take that declaration even remotely seriously. I was twelve and thirteen years old in 1999, and no new teenager understands coolness on a base level, much less feels that coolness in their still-growing bones. The effortlessness of cool is not something that any tween can hope to emulate, the style inherent in the word “cool” has not yet developed by that age. So I was not cool. But there are now two solid decades between me and that year, and on reflection, I’ve realized something momentous:

1999 was the year when I got a glimpse of my future. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

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Stephen Graham Jones’ The Only Good Indians Wins the Ray Bradbury Prize

The L.A. Times announced the winners of its annual book prizes in a virtual ceremony on April 16th, including the winner of the second Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction: Stephen Graham Jones’ The Only Good Indians.

The novel was part of a stacked finalist lineup that included Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, Megan Giddings’ Lakewood, N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became, and Aoko Matsuda’s Where the Wild Ladies Are (translated by Polly Barton).

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Magic and Crime Go Hand-in-Hand: Announcing Comeuppance Served Cold by Marion Deeds

Tordotcom Publishing is thrilled to announce that Emily Goldman has acquired World English Rights to Comeuppance Served Cold, a hard-boiled historical fantasy novella by Marion Deeds.

In the wake of the 1929 stock market crash, Seattle’s powerful Commission of Magi is moving against the city’s most vulnerable magic users and merchants under the guise of protecting law-abiding citizens. Meanwhile, an unassuming young lady with hidden skills and a nebulous past named Dolly White enters the employ of the head commissioner’s family as a lady’s companion. Although she has her own agenda to fulfill, it may prove to be the perfect opportunity for one family who’s suffered tremendous loss at the hands of the Commission to get their overdue vengeance.

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The Calm Before the Storm in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s “Truth”

When I saw that the title of the fifth episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was going to be “Truth,” I may have fist-pumped a bit. That was the title of the 2003 comic book miniseries by Robert Morales & Kyle Baker that introduced Isaiah Bradley, subtitled Red, White, and Black, and I was hoping that we’d see more of Carl Lumbly’s MCU version of Bradley. I was not disappointed, as the scene with him and Sam Wilson was one of several excellent scenes in this take-a-breath episode that paused from the fight scenes to remind us of some of the themes that were introduced in the first couple of episodes that had fallen a bit by the wayside.

[This is our history—we can’t lose this fight.]

Anika Noni Rose Joins Showtime’s Let the Right One In Adaptation

Let the right remakes continue: Deadline reports that Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls) has joined Showtime’s Let the Right One In pilot. The show, which also stars Demián Bichir (Godzilla vs. Kong), is reportedly inspired by both John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 vampire novel and the 2008 Swedish film adaptation of said novel—but not the American film adaptation, the unsatisfying Let Me In.

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Five Perfectly Pulpy Modern Horror Novels

It’s no secret that horror is making a comeback. But what about the pulp? The sensational and fantastical imagery that gives us nightmares as kids and can make even the toughest of adults squirm? That’s exactly what my co-author Darren Wearmouth and I tried to harness in our latest thriller, Don’t Move. Set in the woods of West Virginia, the story follows a church group from the Bronx on their annual camping trip. But this year, the group has made a fatal navigational error that’s left them stranded in an uninhabited portion of canyon untouched by humans for centuries. The only thing that has survived there all this time? A giant, terrifying prehistoric arachnid that’s desperate for a meal. The novel itself draws on inspiration from the classic 80s and 90s slasher movies that captured my attention as a young teen, and as the thriller genre matures and leans more towards the cerebral, that doesn’t mean a good romp around in the pulp isn’t welcomed.

So if you’re looking for a gory, creepy page-turner that still offers the best of modern storytelling, here are five books that are pulpy in all the right ways…

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Five Books That Use Wormholes to Plug Plot Holes

Wormholes and other means of providing instant access between distant fixed points are narratively convenient. They make it possible to get characters from point A to point B without dying of old age en route. Wormholes (or their equivalent) constrain interstellar travel so that, for example, people cannot simply flee combat by going FTL, nor can they emerge above a planet before their photons arrive to carry out an unstoppable bombing run. From an authorial perspective, such constraints are very, very useful.

Once their attention had been drawn to wormholes some time in the 1980s, authors leapt on the chance to use them in fiction. See, for example, how frequently the phrase appears in American English.

Which isn’t to say that all authors have used the same kind of wormholes to fix plot holes. Consider these five examples:

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Battles Fought With Ideas: Emily B. Martin’s Floodpath

Not long before the pandemic struck last year, I began playing a video game called Greedfall. That the overarching plot involved a country grappling with a pandemic ended up putting a lengthy pause on my own progress through the game, but there was one main feature that attracted me to it: the idea of an open-world fantasy game in which diplomacy was as important as casting the right spell or having a suitably dangerous weapon.

Hence the appeal of Emily B. Martin’s Outlaw Road Duology, a pair of novels set in a fantasy world with a geography that takes its cues from—as Paul Weimer noted in his review of the first book, Sunshield—North America. Both Sunshield and Floodpath are narrated by a distinctive trio of characters. Lark, a Robin Hood-by-way-of-Sergio Leone bandit who targets the wealthy and those invested in human trafficking, is the most archetypal of the three. Veran, a young noble acting as a diplomat, is a less familiar figure; so too is Tamsin, an ashoki—essentially, a kind of court poet and musician whose works can help shape government policy.

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