| Science fiction. Fantasy. The universe. And related subjects.

Rhys Darby Trained His Whole Life to Swim Like a Merman on Our Flag Means Death

The second season of Our Flag Means Death saw a lot of big changes for the crew, particularly for Stede Bonnet, the gentleman-turned-pirate who’s now trying to navigate his relationship with Ed (a.k.a. Blackbeard).

According to Rhys Darby, who plays Stede on the show, his character’s relationship with Ed wasn’t something that was in Bonnet’s original plan. “He probably wasn’t expecting to find love, but he found it in the most notorious pirate,” Darby told me in a recent interview, adding “imagine you’re in Lord of the Rings, and you’ve fallen in love with Sauron or something. Not that Ed’s that evil, but in pirate terms, he certainly was. But then when you meet a person and you realize that that’s all a façade, because of course it is. Because they need love and that’s why they are the way they are.”

[Note: Spoilers ahead for season two of Our Flag Means Death.]

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“Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner: The Terror of Isolation

Welcome back to Dissecting The Dark Descent, where we lovingly delve into the guts of David Hartwell’s seminal 1987 anthology story by story, and in the process, explore the underpinnings of a genre we all love. For an in-depth introduction, here’s the intro post.

Even if you haven’t read it, you’ve encountered “Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner. Wagner’s unusual Adirondack gothic story about cosmic-horror folk art can be seen as an inspiration for works as diverse as Skinny Puppy songs, audio dramas, an “imaginary soundtrack” album, and most notably The Blair Witch Project. While its central image—odd configurations of sticks lashed together with a vague purpose—might be its most iconic element, it’s only a small part of what makes this story so effective. Rather, Wagner’s tight focus on his protagonist’s own mental state and limited interaction with the outside world, his use of more lurid and sudden horror elements, and the cryptic details suffused throughout the work all underscore the horror of Leverett’s predicament and the self-isolation that becomes his own undoing. Using this relatively simple structure, “Sticks” weaves a portrait of trauma, isolation, and obsession every bit as intricate and unnerving as the latticework of sticks Colin Leverett can’t help but obsess over.

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12 Male Role Models From Science Fiction and Fantasy

Lately I feel like everyone is talking about masculinity and what it means to be a good dude. Last month, I was on a panel at the Pride on the Page book festival with Jacob Tobia (Sissy) who was saying that we’ve spent decades expanding gender roles for women in mainstream society—and women finally won the right to wear pants in the workplace (for now)—but meanwhile, too many guys men remain trapped, unable to express healthy emotions or process all of their trauma.

As someone who was so successful at being a man that I actually graduated, I want to help!

So it’s a really good thing that science fiction and fantasy offer us so many excellent examples of guys who are secure in their masculinity and ready to do the right thing, even when it’s tough.

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Big, Juicy, Dense, Unknowable Fantasy: Malarkoi by Alex Pheby

There are few things greater in fiction than the annihilation of the magical boy trope, which is only one of many exquisite things about Alex Pheby’s Cities of the Weft trilogy. I first came to Mordew knowing little about the book or the world or why Marlon James was calling it “the future of fantasy.” Now I’m leaving Malarkoi sated, with a full belly from the second installment of Pheby’s extraordinary creation, with even less certainty of how things are going to end. The Cities of the Weft isn’t just a coming-of-age story dissected, subverted, and reassembled into a chaotic new design—that would be doing it a disservice, as it would be to reduce it to a typical fantasy bildungsroman with moralistic lessons and the sort of sentimentality common to the subgenre’s commitment to pedagogy and closure. Pheby makes a close study of these familiar forms and devices and structures, and promptly throws them out the window.

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Reading The Wheel of Time: Perrin Loses His Falcon in Robert Jordan’s Winter’s Heart (Part 4)

This week in Reading The Wheel of Time, Perrin leaves a sort-of successful meeting with Masema, only to return home and learn of Faile’s capture. They’re short chapters, but there is a lot of emotional work being done for Perrin that I find really fascinating. While I was reading these chapters I suddenly felt very keyed into the fact that Jordan is a war veteran, and that some of what he builds into his characters and in the violence of the world comes from that. Of course I’ve known about Jordan’s history and considered it before during the read. But this was the moment that I felt like the experience was in the page, staring up at me, as I read.

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Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Tess of the Road Is the Compassionate, Personal Fantasy Journey We Need on Our Screens

Nestled between thick tomes and lengthy fantasy epics sits one of my favorite 2023 reads: Rachel Hartman’s Tess of the Road. The novel was published in 2018 to some critical acclaim; frankly, I have no idea where I first heard of the book, but I’m glad I did. As soon as I’d finished turning the final page, I immediately began yearned to see Tess’s adventures brought to the screen…

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Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “In a Mirror, Darkly” (Part I)

“In a Mirror, Darkly”
Written by Mike Sussman
Directed by James L. Conway
Season 4, Episode 18
Production episode 094
Original air date: April 22, 2005
Date: January 13, 2155

Captain’s star log. We open in Bozeman, Montana in 2063, the familiar tableau from First Contact of a Vulcan ship landing and making the titular contact with Earth. But then Cochrane whips out a pistol and shoots the Vulcan and the humans board the ship and take it over. Yup, we’re in the Mirror Universe

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Series: Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

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