Middle-earth Cage Match: Bill the Pony vs. Shadowfax

Here we have our two contestants for this week’s match, the first in SFF Equines history (but not, perhaps, the last): on this side the tall, white, shining, magical, beautiful king of stallions who deigns to carry the great Wizard; and over on that side, the short, brown, fuzzy, unromantic, pretty definitely not-a-stallion who is not asked whether he wants to carry the Fellowship’s baggage (but as far as Sam can determine, he’s willing).

A serious mismatch, you say?

[Read more]

Journeys, Desolations, and Battles: Examining Jackson’s Trifold Hobbit

Yesterday, the Extended Edition of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies played in theaters as a prelude to its release on DVD/Blu-ray. And so with battle cries, the clash of weapons, and then a somber dirge, we have seen the trilogy-that-wasn’t-really-a-trilogy conclude. To be honest, I found it to be a curious admixture of satisfying and unfulfilling; the former because as a film saga, there is both excitement and sufficient closure, and the latter because it would have felt more complete, more “extended,” if Peter Jackson had deigned to drop in a few more looked-for elements from the books. But hey, war goats!

[Read more]

The Best Continuation of The Terminator Saga Has Already Happened: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

James Cameron has formally announced that a new Terminator movie is in development. Given that he basically lives on Pandora with the Na’vi now, Cameron will be producing while Deadpool’s Tim Miller is in the director’s chair. Arnold Schwarzenegger will return and, more interestingly, so will Linda Hamilton.

That’s…good news? Probably? Maybe? Perhaps? After three increasingly ambitious and, unfortunately, increasingly incoherent sequels the Terminator series is looking a lot like it’s way past its obsolescence date. Cameron’s vague mutterings about Arnie playing the person the T-800’s physical form was based on don’t exactly help matters, either. Schwarzenegger getting to play out the Terminator version of Logan could be interesting, but—unless the film is building to a very definitive ending, rather than another sequel—there’s not really much point.

Besides, the best continuation of the Terminator saga has already happened on TV.

[Read more]

An Introduction to Soulcasting in Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere

As I open another chapter of the Stormlight Grimoire, my in-depth exploration of the many magical systems of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, I find that it is time to turn to a new topic. There are volumes more to be said about Surgebinders, and even, I’m sure, more to be discovered about the Windrunners, to whom I paid special attention last time, but that will have to wait for future books. In the meantime, let’s talk about Soulcasting, the magical process of transforming rocks into wheat, Settlers of Catan style.

Oh, I’m sorry, maybe I forgot to mention that I’m a huge nerd. Deal with it?

[Read more]

Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence Could Fit Into Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere

It was during the end of Three Parts Dead, with its many reversals and its clash between different and intricate rule-based magic systems, that we both recognized the inner thrill of reading a new Brandon Sanderson story. Except…Three Parts Dead isn’t a Sanderson novel, it’s a Max Gladstone book from a few years back.

[Read more]

Stephen King’s Dark Humor Shines in His Many Cameo Roles

I love Stephen King, as a writer, as a proclaimer of the greatness of genre literature, and, maybe most of all, as a guy. He was the first author I knew who—actually, scratch that. Stephen King was the first author I knew.

I recognized the names of children’s authors, and some of the bigger pulpy adult authors that my parents read (my mother was a huge Dick Francis fan, and our house had the requisite copies of Clan of the Cave Bear and Shogun) but King was the first author I saw being interviewed on TV. He was the only author I knew who wrote introductions to his own books, and I got a real sense of him as a person form reading them. Later, when I read Danse Macabre and On Writing, I discovered that he could carry that conversational, regular-guy writing style through an entire book, and the more I write myself, the more impressed I am. I think what really came through, more so even than in his fiction, was his weird, dark sense of humor.

It is in this spirit that I present to you, oh my brothers and sisters and neithers and others, a Stephen King Movie Moment Retrospective.

[Read more]

The OTHER Live-Action Beauty and the Beast

As we all—well, at least some of us—prepare to view Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast once it arrives on Netflix in just a few more days, I thought it might be fun to look at the other live action adaptation currently available on Netflix: the 2014 Beauty and the Beast, a French-German film starring Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel as Belle and the Beast, respectively.

[Extraordinary CGI. Less extraordinary story…]

Charlie Brooker Announces Authors for Black Mirror: Volume I

Black Mirror creator/mastermind Charlie Brooker, fresh off winning two Emmys for last season’s beloved episode “San Junipero,” has announced the first group of authors who get to play in his twisted world for Black Mirror: Volume I. Or, as he calls it, Black Mirror: Paper Edition.

According to the announcement on Penguin Random House UK’s website, the first of three volumes (edited by Brooker) will feature three novella-length stories (with plots soon to be announced) by Cory Doctorow, Claire North, and Sylvain Neuvel.

[Read more]

Edgedancer Reread: Chapters 7 and 8

Brightlords and ladies, parshendi and spren! Have you gotten your fill of speculation after reading chapters 10-12 of Oathbringer? Well, you’ve come to the right place, because this week Alice and I are tackling chapters 7 and 8 of Edgedancer! These chapters are considerably meatier than those we’ve analyzed so far, so strap in and prepare yourselves for some Diabolical Deeds, Awesome Adventures, and Scrupulous Spren! Alice, you got any more fun alliterative descriptions of these chapters?

Alice: Edgedancer Eavesdropping and Purloined Pancakes, naturally!

[Darkness’s breakfast: Mission accomplished.]

Series: Edgedancer Reread

Gattaca is a Profound Sci-Fi Examination of the Human Soul

There’s a certain type of sci-fi story that we all know: visitors from beyond make contact with humans and teach us something important about who we are and where we’re heading. It’s in 2001, Arrival, and Independence Day—well, maybe not the last one so much, but you get the idea. One of the great things about Gattaca, Andrew Niccol’s 1997 masterpiece, is that it doesn’t need an outside other to deliver a powerful, moving message about humanity; instead of aliens, we get a meditative, deeply introspective examination of the human spirit that’s limited strictly to humans. The result, I’d argue, is one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made.

[Read more]

Picturing The Hobbit

The Hobbit has been inspiring artists and readers for generations, ever since its publication 80 years ago today. Artwise, I’ve always had a soft spot for The Hobbit; I love that it lends itself equally well to delightful and weighty interpretations. Below, let’s take a look at how just a few of the unofficial band of “Tolkien artists” have approached Bilbo’s story.

Above, Over Hill and Under Hill by Chris Rahn.

[The Hobbit as depicted in art over the decades]

Series: Picturing…

Murderbot is Back for a Third Adventure: Revealing Martha Wells’ Rogue Protocol

Last week, The Verge revealed the cover for Martha Wells’ Artificial Condition, the second book in the Murderbot Diaries series. Murderbot, a human-like android, has bucked its restrictive programming and would rather be left alone, away from humanity and small talk. Unfortunately for Murderbot, it keeps getting sucked back into adventure after adventure—and we couldn’t wait to reveal book three, Rogue Protocol. Check out the full cover by artist Jaime Jones below!

[Read more]

H.G. Wells and the Speculative Dream of Astronomy

Old science magazines can be an unexpected source of pathos. I own a copy of National Geographic from February 1958 that features, among other topics, a long piece titled “Exploring Our Neighbor World, the Moon.” It was that February when the U.S. Senate convened a committee with the aim of establishing a new government agency to explore outer space. Several months later, NASA would be born. The first moon probes would not follow until shortly thereafter. So, this article, which describes in detail a stroll on the lunar surface, is largely a work of speculative fiction.

This is my favorite kind of writing about the moon, untainted by too much direct knowledge. I like, especially, H.G. Wells’ heroic effort in 1901—The First Men in the Moon is breathtaking because it was so far off the mark. When Dr. Cavor’s homemade space sphere lands in the basin of a vast crater, the surface appears dead on arrival: “a huge undulating plain, cold and gray, a gray that deepened eastward into the absolute raven darkness of the cliff shadow.”

[Read more]

Even More Ways to Get in Trouble With Calculus: Bram Stoker’s “The Judge’s House”

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 Bram Stoker’s “The Judge’s House,” first published in the December 5 1891 issue of Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. Spoilers ahead.

[“‘It is,’ said the Doctor slowly, ‘the very rope which the hangman used for all the victims of the Judge’s judicial rancour!’”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread