Understatement of the Space-Time Continuum: N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became (Part 5)

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 continue N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became with Chapter 6. The novel was first published in March 2020. Spoilers ahead! CW for depictions of racist and misogynist art including some that graphically portrays sexual assault.

[“What part of ‘we don’t do bigotry’ do you not understand?”]

Series: Reading the Weird

The Pursuit of Happyness — Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

From August 2017 – January 2020, Keith R.A. DeCandido took a weekly look at every live-action movie based on a superhero comic that had been made to date in the weekly Superhero Movie Rewatch. In this latest revisit we’ve covered some older movies—It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman!, Mandrake, and the two Timecop movies—and two December 2021 releases—Spider-Man: No Way Home and The King’s Man—we finish off with the first three 2022 movies: The Batman, Morbius, and now the latest Doctor Strange flick.

The concept of the multiverse has been all over Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After Avengers: Endgame gave us the notion of alternate time tracks and Spider-Man: Far from Home had Mysterio using the concept as part of his long con to end Phase Three, we’ve gotten the multiverse spelled out in Loki, explored in more depth in What If…? season one, and serving as the plot catalyst in Spider-Man: No Way Home.

In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it is the plot…

[You break the rules and become a hero. I do it, and I become the enemy. That doesn’t seem fair.]

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

Five SFF Takes on Reality TV

Reality TV is a horror show. Except when it’s hilarious. Few genres can walk that fine line between sublimely terrifying and divinely ridiculous, which makes reality TV a particularly special kind of programming. It’s no surprise that Squid Game, last year’s must-watch series and this year’s Emmy Award darling, became such a big hit with the idea of a reality TV show aired to a tiny, elite audience that paired children’s games (and glorious sets that reminded us of the playground or nursery) with bloodshed. Now Netflix (which aired the series) is even creating an actual Squid Game: The Challenge reality competition series. No bloodshed, of course, but 456 contestants will be able to scramble for $4.56 million, the biggest cash prize a competition show has ever offered.

When reality TV goes to the movies, however, there tends to be approximately 90 percent less fun and games and 100 percent more totalitarianism. Here are five instances of reality TV reimagined for the big screen, and there’s a commonality to nearly all of these movies: The shows live in lurid colors (often crimson) and their ubiquity is trumpeted in exclamation points: They’re the Most Watched TV Shows Ever!!! in their dystopian near futures… a phrase that implicates all of us in the audience along with the warped minds who came up with the concepts in the first place.

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How to Keep Fighting: Romance & Rebellion in Suleikha Snyder’s Third Shift Series

Here’s where I confess my most significant shortcoming as an SFF romance critic: The only paranormal romances I had read before this year were Meljean Brook’s Guardian series. They are classics for sure, but perceptive romance readers will correctly detect that this also means I have never read not even one single shifter romance. No, I had never read the Psy-Changeling series. No, the Immortals After Dark books either. No, obviously not the books by that one lady who tried to copyright the omegaverse. Luckily, the romance genre is a welcoming one, and I anticipate with pleasing expectation that my readers will drop their paranormal recs in the comments (especially paranormals by BIPOC and other marginalized authors).

For my first! ever! shifter! novel!, I doubled up and read the first two books in Suleikha Snyder’s Third Shift series (more, hopefully, to come in the future!).

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The Creator of Veep and the Director of Skyfall Are Making a Superhero Comedy for HBO

“Superhero” and “comedy” are two words that aren’t always the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups of SFF storytelling. The combination can be great! But it’s rarely a sure thing.

But when you have “superhero” and “comedy” and “cowritten by Armando Iannucci,” well, that combination is quite promising. According to Variety, HBO has ordered a pilot episode of The Franchise, a series about superhero movies with a concept from director Sam Mendes (Skyfall, 1917) and a story co-written by Iannucci.

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Man in the Mirror: Worlds of the Imperium and The Other Side of Time by Keith Laumer

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.

Today I’m taking a look at two alternate world books by Keith Laumer, from the days when novels were short and briskly paced. And Laumer was a master of that form. I’d been searching for some good summer reading, and these certainly fit the bill. The books are full of alternate versions of people we recognize from our own history, and the hero even gets to meet an alternate version of himself at one point. What can be more fun than playing the game of “what if…?”

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How to Paint With Words: 6 Descriptive Works of SFF

Mervyn Peake, famously the author of the unfinished Gormenghast series, was also a well-respected illustrator—the British Library referred to him as “arguably the finest children’s illustrator of the mid-20th century.” His style was frequently expressive and gestural, dark and grotesque; he produced portraits of his own characters that were intimately suggestive of their foibles and eccentricities.

I am not a visual artist, nor do I have a background in art history. Nevertheless, while reading Titus Groan, I was struck by the intensely visual quality of Peake’s prose.

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Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

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