5 Books that Capture the Magic of New York City

Thalia Cutler, in The Glass Magician, is a professional stage magician on the vaudeville circuit. Onstage she plays the Lady of the Lake, who produces doves from thin air — actually the pigeon-squeezer corset beneath her costume. Offstage she deals with rival magic acts and cynical theater managers. She travels from the theater district to the splendors of Riverside Park and the Hudson River via a Hell’s Kitchen boarding house.

I had a wonderful time doing research for The Glass Magician. Although I am at a far remove from New York City in 1905 in both time and space, it wasn’t hard to imagine how people might react to the advent of new technology or new knowledge about themselves.

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Series: Five Books About…

Star Trek: Picard and The Witcher Highlight a Brave New Trend — Direct Contact With Fandom

Showrunner Michael Chabon remembers the exact moment when he knew he needed to talk directly to the viewers of Star Trek: Picard. At the end of a “gauntlet” of perfunctory red-carpet interviews with members of the press at the LA premiere of the series, Chabon describes “a sense of relief” in being greeted by what he describes as “probably 100 fans, a lot of them in cosplay. All I wanted to do at that moment was to go stand over there and talk to them and answer their questions and engage and be part of that.” And so, as Picard started airing, Chabon took to Instagram every week to answer fan questions about each episode.

This direct and overwhelming positive interaction with fans reveals the emergence of an encouraging trend. Some of the biggest science fiction and fantasy TV franchises are connecting directly with their fandoms, in a way that brings everyone down to Earth. From The Witcher to the in-production Wheel of Time TV series, to Chabon’s Instagram talkbacks about Picard, the line between fan and showrunner is getting warmly blurred.

[Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard.]

Imaginary Space Programs Are Always Better Than Reality (But Reality Is Pretty Amazing)

Yuri’s Night approaches. With it comes the inevitable cloud-shouting from persons my age about all the space habitats and Moon colonies we were promised and currently don’t have. Hold on, guys…some of this discontent might go away if we adopted a different perspective.

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Mark Hamill Pens Grateful Goodbye Letter to Star Wars

The release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker marked the end of not just one trilogy, but three. Over the weekend, Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker himself, shared an emotional goodbye letter to the series.

“What an extraordinary journey it’s been,” he begins, typed out on some Star Wars letterhead (is this official? has he had a stock of it since the ’70s??), recalling the story of how “The Adventures of Luke Starkiller” evolved into the Skywalker saga we know today.

Check out the full letter below!

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Twelve Animated Series You Should Absolutely Watch Now That There’s Time

Welcome to Time Enough at Last: The Home Edition, when we all discover what our true heart’s desire is when we’re stuck with nothing much else to do. Surprise, surprise, it turns out that not many of us are eager to be alphabetizing our book collections, dusting the upper shelves, or cleaning out the back of the fridge like we promised three months ago (sorry, B).

In my case, top priority has been given to the arduous task of sitting around and watching cartoons. And yes, while that can be as infantile as it sounds—as the bowl of Cap’n Crunch next to me attests—it’s also a fact that animated series, even the ones purportedly aimed at kids, have grown more nuanced and sophisticated since the days of Yogi Bear, Transformers, and Smurfs (or whatever you gazed goggle-eyed at from the living room carpet when you were a kid). And adult stuff? No surprise, everything’s on the table there (sometimes literally).

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SFF Books That Are Hard to Track Down in North America

One might expect that, in this globalized world, noteworthy books in one region would soon attract publishers elsewhere, especially in regions that happen to share a language. Not so. In the case of the United States and the United Kingdom, for example, some books are published only in the UK, others only in the US. 

It can be frustrating to have heard of an interesting book, to want to read that book, and to find that it is available ONLY in an imported edition. Well, at least it’s available (failing a breakdown in global trade networks, and how likely is that)…but it may take longer to get the book and the book may be more expensive.

You may be wondering why I am vexed about this. Allow me to list a few books that I wanted to acquire and that were not available in North American editions, as far as I can tell.

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Akiva Goldsman Writes a Star Trek: Picard Coronavirus Episode

Pretty much the entire entertainment industry is shut down right now, but that doesn’t mean TV creators can’t have some socially distanced fun with their shows. The good folks over at Vulture asked “dozens of showrunners, creators, and writers” how their characters would be faring during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 37 responded with surprisingly in-depth treatments. One of them just so happened to be Star Trek: Picard director, writer, and executive producer Akiva Goldsman, who shared his thoughts on how our beloved Jean-Luc would be spending time in lock-down.

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Gaming and Surviving the Internet in Chris Kluwe’s Otaku

In Infinite Game—a virtual world that spans the globe with varying lands, missions, and levels of difficulty—Ashley Akachi is Ashura the Terrible, leader of the SunJewel Warriors. Her all-women team is one of the best, constantly pulling off impressive feats and racking up prizes, money, status and the occasional death threat.

In the real world, Ash lives in Ditchtown, formerly Miami, a run-down city where hackers, Gamers, and the low-income class gather, making the most of their lives on and off the ‘Net. Ash has to deal with her brother Kiro growing distant and more obsessed with the Game, and making enough money to take care of her mother, an ex-solider, in intensive rehab, all while keeping a low profile from angry Gamers.

While running a side job for Sawyer, one of the members of the current government, Ash has a run-in with an old team member that goes awry and discovers a plot that can throw Ditchtown and other sectors into turmoil once more. Now it’s up to her and the legendary SunJewel Warriors to pull off one more encounter before the Game gets too real.

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This “Slightly More Scientific” Personality Quiz Will Give You the Definitive List of Pop Culture Characters You Match

If you’re looking for a way to while away the hours in self-isolation, it might be a good time to definitively find out—once and for all—all the pop culture characters you have jostling for sovereignty inside of you. That was the idea at (the now-virtual) Tor.com HQ at least, where we all took the Open-Source Psychometrics’ Project’s Statistical “Which Character” Personality Quiz.

Go take it, and click through for the Tor.com staff and contributors’ results!

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Amazon’s Tales From the Loop Captures the Moody Atmosphere of Simon Stålenhag’s Art

Giant buildings loom over the distant skyline, while giant robots and machines dot the surface of a rural landscape. Those elements make up many of the paintings that Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag has produced over the years, and which are now the basis of a new series from Amazon Prime Video, Tales From the Loop

Stålenhag has risen to prominence in recent years with his nostalgia-laced art, which he has since published in a pair of art books, Tales From the Loop and Things from the Flood. (Another, Electric State, reflects much of the same format, but isn’t set in the same world.) Featuring stark, haunting images of a sort of urban decay, on their surface they seem like an unlikely source for a dramatic television series. But Amazon’s Tales From the Loop is an intriguing, beautiful series that looks for the humanity amidst the fantastical. 

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