Aristocratic Necromancy: Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

I couldn’t help but read Reign of the Fallen, Sarah Glenn Marsh’s epic fantasy debut, alongside Rati Mehrotra’s Markswoman, another debut epic fantasy novel published on the same day. Both books have as their protagonists young women with special skills—Mehrotra’s an assassin from an order with telepathic skills and quasi-magic, quasi-technological swords; Glenn Marsh’s a necromancer capable of raising the dead nobility of her kingdom back to their facsimile of life, and thus preserving both their changeless ruler and their connection with their families—who are faced with challenges to the stability of their worlds.

But Reign of the Fallen opens with a brilliant first line and a gorgeous sense of voice.

[“Today, for the second time in my life, I killed King Wylding.”]

A Tale of Tiny Artistry: Thumbelina

During a recent cold spate here in Florida, various creatures—largely but not just iguanas—fell out of trees and onto people’s heads. (No. Really. Sometimes Florida can be a really strange place.) Or missed people’s heads entirely and just slammed down on the ground, stunned. Looking very very dead—until, that is, the weather warmed up, allowing the (surviving) iguanas to start to move again. That all mostly happened south of me—here, the main Strange Animal Reactions to the Cold consisted of two squirrels conspiring to empty the bird feeder again—but the stories ended up reminding me of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of “Thumbelina.”

What, exactly, do weird animal moments in Florida have to do with a famous Danish fairy tale? Well, simply enough: the same thing happens in “Thumbelina”—only with a bird instead of an iguana.

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What Star Wars Learned From Literary Fiction

The original 1977 Star Wars film is often credited with creating the modern blockbuster: a popcorn-fueled thrill ride that is a feast for all the senses. Before it became known as Episode IV: A New Hope, Star Wars set the template for popular film, from the tight three-act structure to the bombastic film score to the broad strokes of heroes and villains against a visually spectacular backdrop. The commercially driven films that it spawned became densely packed with groundbreaking effects and audience-thrilling action.

This is precisely what makes The Last Jedi, the most recent film and source of the most recent controversy in the franchise, such a wild departure. It’s true that the movie is, like the preceding entries in its canon, very much a Star Wars film: there are space battles and aliens and shootouts, along with lightsaber battles and a John Williams score. But in many ways, it deviates from the original template more than any other Star Wars movie to date, even when compared to the boldly different The Phantom Menace.

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Snuggled Up With Spaceships: The Best SFF Comfort TV

Television is getting into a lot of heavy stuff lately, as well it should. But sometimes we just need to watch something that’s like the small-screen equivalent of an old blanket, or a warm cup of cocoa—something familiar and soothing, where we know all the beats and could tell you about the characters’ histories as if they were our oldest friends. That’s where comfort viewing comes in.

“Comforting” means different things to different people—maybe it’s about the humor, or the imagery, or the perfect resolution of one perfect scene. But we’ve all got shows we turn to when we need to scratch a certain itch, to push just the right buttons, or just, simply, to feel better. Here are some of our picks for the best comforting SFF television—share yours with us in the comments!

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C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith Stories: Pulp Hero vs. Cosmic Horrors

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.

There was a day when magazine racks were far larger than they are today, and choices were far more varied. If you wanted science fiction adventure, you could read Planet Stories or Amazing Stories. If you wanted stories with science and rivets, you could read Astounding Science Fiction. For Earthbound adventures you could read Doc Savage Magazine, Argosy, or Blue Book. And if you wanted horror stories, your first choice was Weird Tales. The stories in that magazine ranged from the pure horror of H. P. Lovecraft and the barbarian tales of Robert E. Howard to the planetary adventures of C. L. Moore, and her protagonist Northwest Smith. But while the adventures of Northwest Smith might bear a superficial resemblance to those you would find in Planet Stories, there were darker themes lurking beneath the surface.

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The Armored Saint Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a galley copy of Myke Cole’s The Armored Saint, available February 20th from Tor.com Publishing!

Myke Cole debuts the Sacred Throne epic fantasy trilogy with a story of religious tyrants, arcane war-machines, and underground resistance that will enthrall epic fantasy readers of all ages. (If you’re in New York City, catch him reading from the book tonight at 7 pm at KGB’s Fantastic Fiction series!)

In a world where any act of magic could open a portal to hell, the Order insures that no wizard will live to summon devils, and will kill as many innocent people as they must to prevent that greater horror. After witnessing a horrendous slaughter, the village girl Heloise opposes the Order, and risks bringing their wrath down on herself, her family, and her village.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on January 17th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on January 21st. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Up, Up and Away: Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

Self-published several years ago to next to no notice, Senlin Ascends has a second chance to enrapture readers by way of its wide release this week—and enrapture them it surely shall. If you liked The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, consider this your ticket to some equally fine times.

Incredibly creative in its conception and no less confident in its crafting, Josiah Bancroft’s dazzling debut concerns a couple on a honeymoon that goes to hell in a handcart when their destination of choice disappoints. This pair, though, haven’t popped off to romantic Paris or plotted some vibrant adventure in Venice: rather, they’ve travelled to the Tower of Babel, a monolithic column in the middle of Ur said to be a “great refuge of learning, the very seat of civilisation” and the source of any number of wonders.

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Resistance is Futile: Peter Watts’s “The Things”

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 Peter Watts’s “The Things,” first published in the January 2010 issue of Clarkesworld. Spoilers ahead.

[“Mutinous biomass sloughed off despite my most desperate attempts to hold myself together: panic-stricken little clots of meat, instinctively growing whatever limbs they could remember and fleeing across the burning ice.”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Star Wars: The Rebellion Won Because They Treated Their Droids Like People

It’s no great secret that R2-D2 is the real hero of Star Wars. In fact, that might be the fandom’s favorite joke of the past four decades—everyone would be dead, multiple times over, without that rolling trash can’s help. Same goes for C-3PO, if we take into account how Artoo relies on him to redirect the bad guys with his babbling and multitude of diplomatic excuses.

But the truth of the matter is a bit uglier than that. Because the only reason that R2-D2 is capable of helping in the first place is because he’s treated like a person… instead of an expensive piece of hardware.

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Valinor Darkens (and Ungoliant Sucks)

In Which the Valar Throw a Party, Melkor Takes a Friend, Then Tells the Residents of Valinor Where They Can Stick It (Hint: It’s Where the Light Don’t Shine)

In “Of the Darkening of Valinor,” things are about to get real gloomy in the Blessed Realm. But since its residents don’t know it yet, why not throw a big party? There’s been too much tension in the air; this could be an opportunity to come together in peace and solidarity. Meanwhile, there’s an APB out for Melkor. He knows he can’t stick around, but before he skedaddles for good, he’s got one last trick for his old buddies. To pull it off, he recruits a particularly unsavory and many-legged ally. Remember old Shelob? In The Two Towers, we were told that she was “the last child of Ungoliant to trouble the unhappy world.” But who, exactly, is that?

Well, it’s time to meet dear Mommy Dearest…

[Click here to read more. Yea, with both hands.]

Series: The Silmarillion Primer

Coming Home: Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti Series

One evening, Binti Ekeopara Zuzu Dambu Kaipka of Namib runs away from home. She is a teenager and Himba, a people from southwestern Africa. They believe in staying close to their native land and that women should cover their bodies and hair in otjize, a mixture primarily comprised of “sweet smelling red clay.” Otjize in hand, Binti climbs aboard a living spaceship called the Third Fish as it heads off to Oozma University. Most of the passengers are Khoush, the dominant people in Binti’s country, and they look down on the Himba. But Binti is the first of her kind to be accepted into the prestigious uni and won’t let anything stand in her way. That is, until the Meduse, a jellyfish-like alien species engaged in a centuries-old war with the Khoush, attack the ship. Binti’s people didn’t start this war, but she may be the one to end it.

[“I was on the threshold now, between home and my future.”]