All Hail The Science Fiction Encyclopedia, Bringer of Knowledge!

Imagine, if you will, a dark age in which information was not at the tip of one’s fingertips, in which acquiring it required a trip to the library or the bookstore, in which tidbits of useful information might be limited to brief introductions and afterwords, in which there was no guarantee that the information would exist in an accessible form anywhere at all.  Imagine further that one was a snoopy highly inquisitive young reader, curious about the authors whose works he was consuming and eager to know more about the works themselves. Imagine the frustration.

Imagine, then, the glee that resulted when The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: An Illustrated A to Z (or as it was known in the edition I had, The Science Fiction Encyclopedia) appeared in 1979.

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Apple Makes Some of its Original Shows Available to Watch For Free

Last fall, Apple launched its streaming service Apple TV +, with a slate of original TV shows and movies. With the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic prompting millions of people to stay at home, the company has made a number of those series available to watch for free free, including its genre shows For All Mankind, Servant, and Snoopy in Space.

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8 Sugary Fantasies That Indulge Our Sweet Tooth

Fantasy fiction has a sweet tooth. It seems that worlds full of magic and mayhem need sugar to keep their denizens powered through endless winters, strange adventures, and harrowing school years. We’ve assembled a brief chronology of tales with a sugary bite (eschewing video games for the time being—the Mario games alone could fill a book with candy worlds) that contain our favorite (and often very magical) cakes, cookies, and candies—from an edible cottage set deep in the woods, to the enchanted sweets hidden in the robes of our favorite Headmaster…

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A Young Girl’s Magical Legacy in Louisa Morgan’s The Age of Witches

Annis Allington, a daughter of the New York nouveau riche , wants nothing to do with the societal conventions of the 1890s. Her ambitions are to breed her prized Thoroughbred stallion, Black Satin, and enter the market with a strong bloodline of horses. Not very ladylike. But her stepmother, Frances, has other plans: mainly, to use her stepdaughter’s inheritance to secure a title and climb up the ranks of society. Frances whisks Annis to London to marry her off and lay her trap. Only when Annis’s Aunt Harriet Bishop comes to the rescue does the young girl realize she’s caught in a battle between two powerful witches that will decide her fate, and the future of her family’s power.

A story of bloodlines, magic, and love, The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan is a bewitching coming-of-age story set against the backdrops of Gilded Age New York and London.

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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Parturition”

“Parturition”
Written by Tom Szollosi
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
Season 2, Episode 7
Production episode 123
Original air date: October 9, 1995
Stardate: unknown

Captain’s log. Paris is training Kes in how to fly a shuttlecraft on the holodeck. At one point, the shuttle comes under attack, and Kes falls into Paris’s lap, which she finds amusing and he finds awkward. They leave the holodeck laughing together, neither noticing Neelix lurking in the corridor looking pissed.

[“I’m going to kill you!” “Too late! I’m betting your hair pasta already did the trick!”]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Amazing Worlds of Science Fiction and Science Fact

Science fiction takes us to new social, cultural and technological lands, but often it also transports us to new worlds in the more literal sense, that of faraway planets rich in excitement and imagination.

Before the 1990s, the idea of planets around other stars was science fiction, but today, astronomers are discovering thousands of ‘exoplanets’, and inevitable comparisons with the worlds of science fiction have been drawn. For instance, the phrase ‘Tatooine planet’, to describe a world with two suns, is practically part of the scientific lexicon now.

So here are four fictional, yet scientifically plausible, planets – and four real planets that show that, sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.

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Long-Lost Treasure: The Pursuit of the Pankera vs. The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein

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.

My mission in this column is to look at older books, primarily from the last century, and not newly published works. Recently, however, an early and substantially different draft of Robert Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast was discovered among his papers; it was then reconstructed and has just been published for the first time under the title The Pursuit of the Pankera. So, for a change, while still reviewing a book written in the last century, in this column I get to review a book that just came out. And let me say right from the start, this is a good one—in my opinion, it’s far superior to the version previously published.

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Station Eleven, Mr. Burns, and (Re)telling Stories to Survive

There seem to be two types of people, a friend observed to me this week: Those who have absolutely no interest in pandemic narratives at this particular point in history, and those who are strangely soothed by reading about how fictional characters respond to a world paused, and then halted, by a hypothetical disease that suddenly seems very familiar. Despite being in the latter camp, it’s not as if I take any grim satisfaction in how the early days of the Georgia Flu in Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven eerily mirror some of our current supermarket-sweeping, social-distancing status quo. Nor do I long to inhabit the post-electric world of Anne Washburn’s incredible play Mr. Burns.

Even Mandel herself has joked that people might want to wait a few months before actually reading Station Eleven, emphasizing the book’s hopeful future over our bleak present. But I would argue that now is the exact right time to get to know both the novel’s Traveling Symphony—who bring Shakespeare and classical music through post-apocalyptic towns—and Mr. Burns’ nameless theater troupe, who filter The Simpsons through oral tradition and eventually transform it into choral mythology. It’s not the pandemic that is central to either work, but rather how both tackle the aftermath. That is, the stories that the survivors tell one another in worlds that need to be lit by something other than electricity. So, what can these works tell us, as we struggle to adapt to our current crisis, about the importance of connection, memory, art, and storytelling?

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Oathbringer Reread: Chapter One Hundred Twenty-Two

Welcome back, friends, to the penultimate installment of the Oathbringer reread. It’s been a long ride, but we hope you’ve all enjoyed it! This week ties up a handful of loose ends, and sets the stage for events to progress over the next (in-world) year before Rhythm of War picks up. We’ll check in on most of our favorite characters to see where they are and what they’re doing, now that Odium’s anticipated “easy victory” has fallen apart and his forces have withdrawn.

[Oh my. Now this should be interesting.]

Series: Oathbringer Reread

Netflix’s Space Force Comedy Will Debut On May 29th

Just as Netflix is set to lose The Office to NBC’s upcoming streaming service next January, it’s about to gain a replacement: Space Force. Created by Greg Daniels (and reuniting him with Steve Carrell), the series will be a workplace comedy “about the people tasked with creating Space Force.”

Today, Netflix announced when we’ll get to see the show: it’ll debut on May 29th.

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Two Households, Not Exactly Alike in Dignity: Caitlín Kiernan’s “Love is Forbidden, We Croak and Howl”

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 Caitlín Kiernan’s “Love is Forbidden, We Croak and Howl,” first published in Sirenia Digest #78, in 2010; the version reviewed here is from the 2012 Lovecraft’s Monsters anthology edited by Ellen Datlow. Spoilers ahead.

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Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Queer Pining and a Reckoning of Empire: Emily Skrutskie’s Bonds of Brass

The propulsive first book in Emily Skrutskie’s Bloodright trilogy, Bonds of Brass is an action-packed, incisively clever, and unapologetically queer space opera. Skrutskie balances burgeoning galaxy-wide revolution with deliciously tender pining to craft a page-turning adventure simmering with slow-burn romance and an indictment of empire.

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Sleeps With Monsters: What to Read When the Whole World’s Falling Apart, Part 3

Another week, another column with reading recommendations to hide under a rock with!

But first, some bad news. We’re living through the kind of disaster that hits hard at the publishing and bookselling industry. For one thing, the supply chain for paper and books is pretty screwed up right now. I’m normally not a fan of promoting capitalistic responses to disaster mitigation, but right now, if you can afford to buy or preorder books (from independent booksellers, or as ebooks)… think seriously about not putting it off. A lot of books that would’ve come out this summer and autumn are probably going to be delayed or come out in ebook-first versions.

And I don’t know about you, but on a very personal level, I dread running out of new entertainment before I’m allowed to go more than 2km from my house again.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Internal Circumstances Are the Only Thing You Can Control: Mourning The Magicians

There’s so much I want to talk about with this show—not just the ending, but so many moments along the way. I want to talk about all the episodes that made me cry; about the beauty of “A Life in the Day”; about Margo’s desert journey with lizard-king Eliot; about how much I want to believe in a swearing Santa Claus who gives exactly the things you don’t know you need. I want to talk about the cruel whimsy of gods and the incredible skill with which the show’s writers balanced people doing shitty, selfish things with deep understanding of exactly why they were doing them.

I want to talk about Alice, and how so much of her anger comes from how much she doesn’t change enough, how she’s brittle and wise and always scared of losing, and how that doesn’t protect her when the loss comes. I want to talk about destroying in order to create, and that smile on Margo’s face at the end. And I want to talk about how these characters aren’t heroes.

They aren’t anti-heroes, either. The Magicians isn’t a show about redefining what it means to be a hero, but it is, in part, about asking whether that’s even a useful way to measure anything. It’s what Quentin Coldwater has to get over: the dream of being a chosen one. It turns out that it’s a lot more effective to simply do what needs to be done, even when it’s the opposite of heroic—when it’s robbing a bank or tripping magic balls or literally bottling up your emotions or just accepting the good and bad of your internal circumstances.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

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