The Wild Cards universe has been thrilling readers for over 25 years. In Alan Brennert’s “Skin Deep,” we see for the first time the events of September 15, 1946 from the viewpoint of someone living on the West Coast of the United States. Trina Nelson is a pretty, popular sixteen-year-old high school student whose idyllic life took a turn for the tragic because of the Wild Cards virus. Now, she wants nothing more than to live out her days in the shadowy anonymity of the Jokertown on the Santa Monica Pier. But life, it turns out, has still another wild card to deal Trina…
Welcome back to Reading the Weird, in which we get girl cooties all over weird fiction, cosmic horror, and Lovecraftiana—from its historical roots through its most recent branches.
This week, we wrap up T. Kingfisher’s The Hollow Places, first published in 2020, with Chapters 21-22. Spoilers ahead!
Series: Reading the Weird
As a daughter born in an era of lethal drought and impoverishment, Zhu knows her fate before a fortune-teller confirms it: nothing. In contrast, her brother Zhu Chongba is pronounced to be destined for real greatness—but when bandits murder their father in front of them, Zhu Chongba dies as well. Fueled by a burning desire to survive at all costs, Zhu adopts her brother’s name and grasps for his fate. She becomes a young man, commits to monastic life, and nurtures that hunger to be someone, until a grim encounter with the Yuan’s eunuch general Ouyang sets her on the path toward empire.
Drawing inspiration from the historical Red Turban Rebellion, She Who Became the Sun (first of the Radiant Emperor duology) reimagines of the rise of Zhu Yuanzhang—from peasant to founder of the Ming Dynasty—and the concurrent collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty… if Zhu had been the unnamed daughter instead.
Series: Queering SFF
There’s not a ton of new footage in the newest teaser for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which is titled “Need,” but it’s worth watching for several reasons. One is that every little glimpse of this movie makes it look incredibly appealing. Another is Awkwafina’s perfect delivery of the first line in the teaser—and Simu Liu’s shrug in response. Who can say where superheroes’ shirts go?
Hell is referred to as “home” eight times in The Great Divorce.
It’s not so bad, after all. You can make a house appear just by imagining it. If you need something, you can bring it to mind and it will materialize. There are little shops, even book shops, and there are “cinemas and fish and chip shops and advertisements and all the sorts of things they want.”
Sure, the grey rain never really ends, and the houses don’t seem to quite keep it out. But there’s plenty of space if one wants to be alone…which most people do.
Series: The Great C.S. Lewis Reread
Protagonists are fine folk…well, except for the ones whose main characteristic is that they are very much not fine folk. Often, however, the character that the reader remembers most fondly isn’t the lead. Rather, it’s one of the supporting characters. Here are five of my favourites.
I don’t think Zen Cho is capable of writing a book that isn’t a fascinating and stylish delight. Black Water Sister is her latest, and it’s a striking, appealing narrative of family, displacement, “home”-coming, coming-of-age… and ghosts.
Jess has grown up in the USA, the only daughter of Malaysian Chinese immigrants. Her memories of Malaysia are holiday snapshots. She’s just finished college, and her girlfriend has moved to Singapore. And now Jess is moving back to Malaysia with her parents in the wake of her father’s brush with cancer, to live with her father’s younger sister’s family in George Town. Jess is not out to her parents, or to any of her family, and she’s feeling dislocated enough with the move to Malaysia before she starts hearing voices.
Series: Sleeps With Monsters
Universal and its streaming service Peacock have signed a $400 million deal to release a new Exorcist film trilogy, reports The New York Times. The project will see the return of star Ellen Burtsyn, and Halloween director David Gordon Green will helm the project, with the first installment scheduled to hit theaters in 2023.
There’s long been an overlap between crime fiction and science fiction. And much as the two genres can themselves contain multitudes, so too can those works that situate themselves in their overlap. The corporate espionage of Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite is worlds apart from Isaac Asimov’s R. Daneel Olivaw novels, and the climate fiction noir of Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife takes a very different tone than the surreal dystopia at the heart of Ricardo Piglia’s The Artificial City.
It’s not hard to see why these two genres have converged so neatly, though. Many writers use crime fiction to reveal hidden elements of society or expose the abuses of those in power—both concepts that play a not insubstantial role in plenty of science fiction as well. And that sense of powerful people concealing crucial secrets from the general public is very much on display in Chris McKinney’s Midnight, Water City—a novel which makes the most of its slow-burning narrative of detection.
Despite all appearances to the contrary, that title is not clickbait, I promise you! Where She-Ra and the Princesses of Power reinvented the series as a super queer tale of found family and self-actualization, Masters of the Universe: Revelation is a sequel, and reveals itself to be a somewhat queer-coded tale of found family, consequences, and DEATH.
Also, there’s a holy war?
I was just as surprised as you!
Sony has debuted a new trailer for its upcoming continuation of the Ghostbusters franchise, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, taking its supernatural action from the streets of New York City to Summerville, Oklahoma.
Set to hit theaters in November, this new trailer puts its teenage cast front and center as they contend with some apocalyptic, supernatural phenomena that threaten their southwestern home.
Today in Reading The Wheel of Time, it’s the first two chapters of New Spring! As expected, starting the prequel novel has been an absolute delight.
I adore Lan and Moiraine, and seeing them like this feels like discovering that an actor you love was in some movie years before the one that made them famous. I just keep squealing to myself that “they’re babies” like some fanboy on tumblr. But they are babies, is the thing, and it’s fascinating seeing them in this context. More grown up and experienced than the Emond’s Fielders were when we first met them, of course. But struggling with some of the same things. Moiraine with her temper, for example. Or Lan with encountering people and customs that don’t meet his personal standards. We already know some of the story we’re about to read, and we already know the kind of people they are, but there is still something very exciting about seeing them in this state. As Doctor Who once put it, they aren’t done yet.