Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Komarr, Chapters 15 and 16

Chapters 15 and 16 of Komarr are action packed! And a lot of that action is centered on that other guy in Ekaterin’s life, Nikolai Vorsoisson. For years, Nikki has been the target of Ekaterin’s ambition to one day be the proud mother of a kid who’s been cured of Vorzohn’s Dystrophy. She just wants this one thing.

Ekaterin is one of my favorite parents in the Vorkosigan Saga. She’s diplomatic, sensitive, encouraging, and always on the lookout for an experience that might spark a child’s interest. Nikki isn’t thrilled to learn that he has a mutation that his parents didn’t tell him about, but Ekaterin provides well-timed, age-appropriate information and emotional support so he’s OK, even though hearing about it this week probably compounded the trauma of his dad’s death. You know what? Nikki went to school all but one of the days this week anyway. It would have been understandable if he had needed to take a couple days off, but a lot of kids find that sticking to their normal routine helps them cope with traumatic events. Testing shows that Nikki has no symptoms of Vorzohn’s Dystrophy and retrogenic treatment will ensure that he never does. In other news, Nikki has a scab on his knee that might possibly scar.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Going Native: Andre Norton’s Lord of Thunder

In light of some of the comments on previous entries in this reread, I think I should clarify what this series is about.

It’s a reread of books I loved as a child and a teen. That means it’s subjective. It’s about how I reacted then, and whether that reaction is the same now, or whether my feelings have changed. It is not a scholarly study. And yes, I do know how to do one. That’s just not what I’m doing here.

The early Nortons especially are of their time, as commenters have been diligent in informing me. And I understand that. I make a point of saying so, in so many words. But I’m reading them now, in 2018. And sometimes that means that what Norton thought she was doing well or knowledgeably has not stood up to the changes in our culture and understanding. Regardless of what she tried to do, the results are sometimes problematical.

With The Beast Master and Lord of Thunder, she tried very hard to portray a non-white, non-mainstream character.

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The Stories We Tell: Five Books that Recycle Historical Legends

Let’s be honest: the line between history and fiction doesn’t really exist. After all, history is just stories we tell ourselves. The way we tell those stories says more about our time than about the times we’re examining. Reading about decades- or even centuries-old events in contemporary sources and then comparing how we talk—or don’t talk—about them now is a sobering insight into how writing history shifts what happened into what we think happened and how we process it long after the fact.

So when we write fantasy using history as our playground, we aren’t really rewriting history. We’re writing our own questions played out on a historical background. Fortunately for us, history is cyclical, and we keep needing the same questions answered again and again and again.

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Sleeps With Monsters: The Women of Black Panther Are Amazing

Seeing Black Panther was an experience. It’s a gorgeous film, with a strong storyline and probably the tightest narrative I’ve yet seen in a superhero film.* The Afrofuturism of the setting—technology so advanced it may as well be magic, tied to what’s clearly a long historical tradition—is a glittering vision** of possibility, undercut with the tension between Wakanda’s technologically advanced isolationism and the scars of colonial imperialism that affect the rest of African history.

[Note: Possible spoilers ahead for Black Panther.]

It’s also a film that, while it centres on a man—and on questions of kingship, legitimacy, and responsibility—is the first superhero film I’ve ever seen to surround its main male character with women who are in many ways equally powerful, and who don’t depend on him for purpose or characterisation. No, seriously: this is the first superhero film I’ve ever seen—maybe the first SFF film I’ve ever seen—where pretty much the hero’s entire back-up team, his entire support network, were women. Women who teased him and challenged him and demanded he do better.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Read Vandana Singh’s “Ambiguity Machines: An Examination”

This tale is an unusual take on an engineering exam that explores new concepts in machine design and function. All new machine discoveries must be investigated and classified. This is the story of three such machines and the truth or lie of their existence.

We’re pleased to reprint Vandana Singh’s “Ambiguity Machines: An Examination”. Originally published on Tor.com in April 2015, this story now appears in Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories, a new collection of Singh’s work available from Small Beer Press.

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The Dos and Don’ts of Fiction Inspired by Your RPG Campaign

Back in 2015 a movie called Seventh Son flopped its way through theatres. As soon as I saw the trailer, I remarked loudly that it looked like somebody turned their Dungeons & Dragons campaign into a screenplay. I said this with scorn, and I did not go to see the film. This seems to have worked in my favor, as one reviewer from the Chicago Reader called it “a loud, joyless mess.”

I read slush for a poetry quarterly called Goblin Fruit, and, being that our submission guidelines request poems of the fantastic, we get occasional submissions that smack slightly of D&D. These pieces often feel like they were written in-game by someone’s half-elf bard character, probably while drunk off his ass at Ye Olde Inn and Taverna.

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In the Aftermath of the Unknown: When Light Left Us by Leah Thomas

We know (or can guess) how we’d react to an alien encounter—sci-fi has begged the question from War of the Worlds to Lilo and Stitch. But how would any of us deal with an alien leaving us behind?

Leah Thomas’ When Light Left Us picks up where family-friendly alien stories like E.T. and Close Encounters leave off: after the alien visitor has left the Vasquez family, after the hazmat tent has been cleared away, and after all the action—the great romance, the betrayal, the delight and wonder of a strange new world—has ended. Hank, Ana, Milo, and their mother Maggie don’t fade to black once their guest, a strange consciousness they call Luz, suddenly disappears. Sometimes, they wish they could. Instead, they do their best to figure out how to make lives in the holes that Luz left in his wake. For the Vasquez kids, this means relearning how to use the parts of themselves that Luz had (literally) possessed. And for Maggie, this means forgiving all those Luz-shaped holes, her own most of all.

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Marvel’s First Theatrical Success — The Blade trilogy

One of the most popular comic books during the horror boom of the 1970s was The Tomb of Dracula, which from issue #7 on was written by Marv Wolfman, with art throughout its run by Gene Colan, both grandmasters of the field. Focusing on Marvel’s version of Bram Stoker’s creation (itself inspired by the historical figure of Vlad the Impaler), Tomb of Dracula had as its heroes a collection of vampire hunters, some of whom were members of the Harker and van Helsing family from Stoker’s novel, as well as (among others) a reluctant vampire named Hannibal King and an African-American vampire hunter who simply went by the name Blade.

In 1998, a feature film starring Blade was released, only loosely based on the comic. It was only Marvel’s second actual theatrical release (after Howard the Duck in 1986, also a product of the 1970s comics market), and first success, as the film was a huge international hit, spawning two sequels in 2002 and 2004.

[“You’re human?” “Barely. I’m a lawyer.”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Five Books that Contain Fictional Works of Art

A novel within a novel. A comic, painting, or song within a novel. Many writers enjoy the playfulness of creating fictitious works of art that no one will ever read, see, or hear.

I, too, love to play this game. Fictitious paintings and photographs lie at the heart of my genre-crossover novel, Sleeping Embers of An Ordinary Mind. It’s been immense fun to write, and during the long drafting and editing process, I’ve re-visited several novels, and read new releases, that share this compelling theme. Here are five of my personal favorites.

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Read Kelly Barnhill’s “Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch”

When Mr. Sorensen—a drab, cipher of a man—passes away, his lovely widow falls in love with a most unsuitable mate. Enraged and scandalized (and armed with hot-dish and gossip and seven-layer bars), the Parish Council turns to the old priest to fix the situation—to convince Mrs. Sorensen to reject the green world and live as a widow ought. But the pretty widow has plans of her own.

We’re pleased to reprint Kelly Barnhill’s “Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch”, originally published on Tor.com in August 2014. The story now appears in Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories, a new collection of Barnhill’s short fiction arriving February 20th from Algonquin Books. It will also be featured in Worlds Seen in Passing, an anthology celebrating ten years of Tor.com short fiction, available this September.

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Meet Tor Authors at the Tucson Festival of Books

Want to hear The Tiger’s Daughter author K. Arsenault Rivera talk about epic lands beyond Middle-earth and Westeros? Get tips from L.E. Modesitt, Jr. about creating complex fantasy worlds like the Recluce universe? Have Annalee Newitz answer your pressing questions about whether the future is dystopian? (She wrote Autonomous, she would know.) A bevy of Tor/Forge and Tor.com Publishing authors will be at the Tucson Festival of Books from March 10-11 to touch upon these and other topics! Click through for the complete schedule, including panels and signings.

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Imprisonment and the Fairy Tales of Henriette Julie de Murat

Most of the French salon fairy tale writers lived lives mired in scandal and intrigue. Few, however, were quite as scandalous as Henriette Julie de Murat (1670?—1716), who, contemporaries whispered, was a lover of women, and who, authorities insisted, needed to spend some quality in prison, and who, she herself insisted, needed to dress up as a man in order to escape said prison—and this is before I mention all of the rumors of her teenage affairs in Brittany, or the tales of how she more than once wore peasant clothing in the very halls of Versailles itself.

Oh, and she also wrote fairy tales.

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Literary Fusion: Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel

John Kessel is one of those much-lauded authors (with two Nebula Awards and a Shirley Jackson Award to his credit, among sundry other accolades) of whom I’d never heard before I was offered his latest book to review. Is Pride and Prometheus representative of his work and career? I don’t know, but I hope so. This is a fine, measured novel, deeply interested in the social conditions and conventions of its setting, and deeply interested, too, in human nature and human frailty.

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Watch the Final Trailer for Ready Player One

Warner Bros has released the final trailer for its nostalgia fest Ready Player One before the movie’s release next month. While this trailer treads a lot of the same ground as previous ones, with the “Pure Imagination” cover and footage of Parzival leading a resolution in the digital OASIS, there’s also plenty of footage of Wade Watts, and certain fellow gunters, out in the real world.

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