Escapism and Adventure in the SFF Art of Jenn Ravenna

Welcome back to Art of SFF—a column covering the best and brightest science fiction and fantasy artists. From newcomers to legends, Art of SFF pulls back the curtain to introduce you to the people behind your favourite book covers, films, and video games, and SFF-influenced art of all kinds. This time around, Jenn Ravenna joins us.

“My mother and father were immigrants who were always working overtime to support our family,” said Ravenna, a Seattle-based concept artist and illustrator who has worked for Wizards of the Coast, HarperCollins, XBOX, and Fantasy Flight Games, among many others. Science fiction and fantasy provide people in need of escapism with an opportunity for adventure, Ravenna said. They’re like a teleportation device to other worlds through various mediums—in art, books, video games, and film. “I had no siblings, so I was often left to my own devices. When I discovered science fiction in books and video games, I was immediately drawn to the endless possibility. It might sound sad, but it helped pass the time and make my world more interesting.”

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Four SF Stories That Are More Gilligan’s Island Than Lord of the Flies

It’s a tale as old as time, or at least as old as 1954: a small group of youths are cast away on an isolated island. With no adult supervision, they soon descend into violent chaos. By the time adults arrive to restore order, several of the young people have been murdered. Others are left permanently traumatized. This is, of course, William Golding’s 1954 novel Lord of the Flies. It’s one of the classics often forced on defenseless schoolkids, as it reinforces an important lesson: humans are beasts who require a boot firmly placed on their necks if they are to retain a patina of civility. Kids may not appreciate hearing this, but people who own and wield boots certainly want it heard.

Anyone who, as I do, deals with kids on a regular basis knows that kids will, if left to their own devices, flout convention with no regard for the feelings and expectations of their elders. Even as a keen-eyed guardian waits for a chance to correct egregious misbehavior, those confounded kids will pick up discarded trash, fix defective signage, assist in the sweeping-up of snowdrifts of theatrical confetti, even spontaneously practice four-part harmony while waiting for public transit. I can only speculate as to what dark motives cause this inconsiderate behaviour.

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Finding Love in Dystopia With Garth Nix’s Shade’s Children

Garth Nix’s Shade’s Children predates the late-Aughts YA dystopia boom by roughly a decade, but it would have fit right in alongside those later, post-9/11 stories. Set in a near-future version of our own world, ruled over by the battle-minded Overlords, who disappeared the world’s older teens and adults 15 years ago, Shade’s Children centers on a group of four teenagers—Ella, Drum, Ninde, and Gold-Eye—who have escaped certain death in the dormitories and now serve the mysterious hologram-person known as Shade. Living in seclusion on a submarine, Shade’s children must learn to fight the Overlords’ monsters, all made from teenagers just like them, in order to one day reverse the Change: the cataclysmic event that brought the Overlords to Earth in the first place.

Shade’s Children is not a love story, but it is a part of mine. My husband and I knew one another for more than a decade before we married, and we spent roughly half that time, not as lovers, but as friends. Looking back on it, however, I’ve come to realize that the moment he leaned over and asked me, earnestly, if I’d ever read Shade’s Children, was the moment I began to fall in love with him.

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5 SFF Books for the Goth in Your Life

It is an aesthetic born of counterculture. One defined by a potentially insufferable amount of black clothing, wearing a lot of straps on your pants for seemingly no reason (it looks cool, okay), and copious amounts of eyeliner. The subcultures that have fractured from the original are too many to number but there’s something to be said for the defining factors of listening to music that’s outside the norm and creating art that’s meant to be a little out there and a little (or a lot) provocative. It’s counterculture, so that means relishing a bit in the over-the-top, in the grit, in the glamor, in the dark.

Also, sometimes one is just extremely lazy and an entirely black wardrobe makes getting dressed in the morning easy, but I’d like to think there’s more to it than that. So I have five books that I think cut to the heart of it all and are extremely Goth.

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Series: Five Books About…

Ashes to Anomalies: Where We’re at After the The 100’s Final Season Premiere

Compared to The 100’s last two season premieres, which jumped forward (respectively) six years and 125 years in time, it’s a little jarring that the premiere of the seventh and final season picks up just one beat after the end of last year’s finale: Sanctum in figurative ruins, its gods either dead or dethroned; Octavia pulled into the anomaly, replaced by an impossibly-aged Hope Diyoza; Clarke still mourning Abby while trying to take care of a Flame-less Madi. As a result, “From the Ashes” feels more like an epilogue than a standalone episode—which makes sense, since we’ve now entered our final 16 episodes, and time is of the essence. But it also means that the action ranges between smaller moments of tying up loose ends and big narrative leaps that hint at where the season is going, even if there’s no way that we can possibly predict the end of The 100.

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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Lifesigns”

Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 2, Episode 19
Production episode 136
Original air date: February 26, 1996
Stardate: 49504.3

Captain’s log. Paris is late for his shift again, and his excuse is particularly feeble, as he claims to have been too busy delivering Wildman’s baby. Chakotay reprimands him, and then Tuvok picks up a distress call from a Vidiian shuttle, which has only one rapidly fading lifesign on board.

[Sometimes I think my people are so focused on trying to save lives, we don’t know how to live anymore.]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

The First Trailer for The Old Guard Shows How Hard It Is To Stay Immortal and Anonymous in the Modern Day

Imagine if you will: a group of immortal warriors fighting throughout history to try and keep the world safe. What happens when they enter the modern day when there are cameras and surveillance everywhere?

That’s the premise of a new film from Netflix, The Old Guard, which stars Charlize Theron as the leader of such a group. The streaming service debuted its first trailer for the film today, which is set to debut on the platform on July 10th.

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Dragons of the Prime: Jo Walton on Writing Tooth and Claw

I’m delighted that Tooth and Claw is being given away this week—I hope people will enjoy reading it in these difficult times. The title comes from Tennyson talking about how much humans suck in In Memoriam: “Tho’ nature, red in tooth and claw, with ravine shrieked against his creed… no more? A monster, then, a dream, a discord. Dragons of the prime that tear each other in their slime were mellow music matched with him.” And that’s the book, really; the easiest way to sum it up.

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Physician as Paladin, Facing Plague and Pandemic: Med Ship by Murray Leinster

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.

If and when mankind spreads to the stars, many of the problems we experience on Earth will follow us to new worlds. Medical issues could become more complex as we encounter whole new ecologies. And sharing medical knowledge could be complicated by the vastness of space. In the mid-20th century, Murray Leinster, one of the most entertaining and creative of science fiction’s early masters, imagined a cadre of uniformed public health officers who travel the stars like the knights errant of ancient legend, helping the needy and righting wrongs. At this moment in time, as we face a worldwide pandemic, these tales and the lessons they contain have suddenly become very timely.

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Peter Dinklage and Jason Momoa’s New Movie Is About a Vampire/Vampire Slayer Con Artist Duo

If you were sad that Tyrion and Khal Drogo never got to interact but also thought they would have absolutely destroyed their respective What We Do in the Shadows cameos, then oh, do we have the pitch for you. Deadline reports that Peter Dinklage and Jason Momoa’s new film is an action-horror buddy road movie about a vampire (Momoa) and a vampire slayer (Dinklage) who team up to run cons.

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Blogging the Nebulas: Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow Explores Life and Death in Jazz Age Mexico

The Nebula Awards could be described as the Academy Awards of SFF literature; they are voted on by the professional peers of the award nominees—members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. There are six nominees in the best novel category this year. Every day this week, I will be reviewing each of them and figuring their odds of taking home the prize. Welcome to Blogging the Nebulas 2020.

The Pitch

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow begins as a Cinderella tale of sorts. In the wake of her father’s death, young Casiopeia Tun moved with her mother to live with her wealthy, standoffish grandfather on his estate in  Uukumil, a small town in southeastern Mexico. It is the 1920s, the dawn of the Jazz Age, but Casiopeia’s life is filled with anything but glitz and glamour: she is barely tolerated by her grandfather, who holds the promise of her meager inheritance over her head like a boulder, and looked down upon by her relations, who treat her like the help.

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Everything We Know About The Heralds

Welcome back to your refresher series on The Stormlight Archive! As we prepare for the release of Rhythm of War, we’ll be doing our best to help you remember who’s who and what’s what from the past. Last week, we did a Stormfather’s-eye view of the history of Roshar, from creation to a couple of centuries before the “current events.” This week, we’ll take a look at those pivotal characters, the Ten Heralds, beginning with their birth and going right up through what we know of their current condition and whereabouts.

[“We chose this burden willingly. Well, we can choose to drop it if we wish.”]

Read This Free Astrobiology Anthology From the European Astrobiology Institute

Institutions have often utilized science fiction as a method for imagining scientific concepts and new technologies. Everyone from the Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination to the US Army’s Mad Scientist Initiative to the Atlantic Council have generated their own anthologies that serve not only as fun reading for fans, but also as thought-provoking material.

The European Astrobiology Institute joins that group this month with a new anthology called Strangest of All. Best of all, it’s a free download.

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