Who Wants to Live Forever: Five SFF Tales of Immortality

Although human life spans (with child mortality factored in) used to be a mere quarter century, modern Americans can expect considerably longer lives. However, even were we to posit an unlikely social revolution in which life extension treatment was generally available to all, it seems that factors inherent in human biology limit maximum lifespans to about 120 years. Which, granted, is a lot better than twenty-five years. If still not as long as the lifetime of a sequoia or a bristlecone pine.

Imagine what we could accomplish, had we only a thousand years or so to procrastinate hone our skills? What grand projects could we embrace, knowing that we could see century-long efforts to their end? How wonderful it would be to live long enough to get that catchy Pharrell Williams earworm out of your head! Unsurprisingly, SFF authors have found the concept of greatly enhanced lifespans tremendously inspirational, as these five works show.

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Jo Walton’s Reading List: September 2022

September was an excellent month, beginning with Chicon 8, Worldcon in Chicago, and then flying to Florence immediately afterwards, where we stayed for a couple of weeks before taking the train up through the Alps (so beautiful!) to Riom in the centre of France for the excellent festival Aventuriales, where I was guest of honour and had a really great time. Then we went back through the Alps on the train to Turin, where Ada was a guest at Italian Tech Week. With all this dashing about and being with friends, I only had time to read eight books, mostly on trains and at bedtime, and here they are.

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Dismantling the Protagonist Problem in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling Series

Further to my confessions from last time, I have to be transparent that due to time constraints, I did not go back and read the entire Psy-Changeling series before writing this column. On the advice of counsel, I started with Silver Silence, which begins a new chapter in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling world. This sequel series, called the Psy-Changeling Trinity series, consists of six books so far, which made it much easier and more accessible for a newbie Singh reader. (It would have been god-tier to read all 21 novels across both series, though, wouldn’t it? Some real “all shall love me and despair” shit. If we weren’t facing two plagues and a global rise in fascism, I’d totally have done it.)

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Barry Keoghan Sent The Batman Director an Unsolicited Audition Tape That Got Him the Joker

If you’ve seen Matt Reeves’ The Batman (pictured above), you know that Barry Keoghan makes an appearance as an inmate in Arkham who will clearly become the Joker. Keoghan, however, originally wanted to play another character in Reeves’ Batverse, and sent the director an unsolicited audition tape reflecting that.

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A Stunning and Complex Queer Romance: A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows

It’s a classic romantic trope: a marriage is arranged for political reasons, and despite initial feelings or inclinations, the two strangers begin a slow spiral into each other’s hearts. In A Strange and Stubborn Endurance, author Foz Meadows imbues this familiar story with enough twists and turns and thoughtful examinations to render it almost entirely new—a queer romance for the ages. A secondary world fantasy of intricate politics, hierarchies of power and culture and magic, plus two exquisite leads that brim with life, this slow-burn novel may have the flame low, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t burn hot.

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“The Screwfly Solution” Captures the Violence of Our Current Moment

In the final paragraphs of the 1977 short story “The Screwfly Solution” by Raccoona Sheldon (aka James Tiptree Jr, aka Alice Bradley Sheldon), the world has succumbed to an apparent plague of violent misogyny, leaving the story’s protagonist, Anne, the last woman alive. Scuttled away into hiding by one of the few men immune to the “femicidal” wave sweeping humanity, Anne cuts her hair, dirties her face, and disguises herself as a boy. She only ventures into society when she absolutely must, often gambling on whether she passes well enough to slink by the detection of a store clerk when she purchases supplies. The threat of discovery hangs heavy—Anne’s safety, her life, balancing on the gendered expectations of a man she doesn’t know.

As a trans woman, I know this threat. It’s a feeling I’ve felt in gas stations in rural Oregon on the mornings when I forgot to shave. It’s a feeling I’ve felt whenever I enter the women’s room in a rest stop off I-94. It’s a feeling I’ve felt when my girlfriend reminds me to let her do the talking when we check into a hotel in Wyoming.

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Loki Writer Michael Waldron Will Get His Hands on Avengers: Secret Wars

Marvel just keeps bringing Michael Waldron back. The writer came into the MCU with Loki, stuck around for the turgid Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and now will continue his turn in the multiverse with Avengers: Secret Wars, which will close out Marvel’s Phase Six.

Yes, sure, it’s very tidy that the man who brought Kang (Jonathan Majors, above) into the Marvel world will presumably see him out again. But this is not, shall we say, an inspired choice.

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Reading The Wheel of Time: Answers and Questions in Robert Jordan’s Lord of Chaos (Part 33)

Welcome back to Reading The Wheel of Time and the last week of Lord of Chaos! It’s just the epilogue this week, which is remarkably short by Robert Jordan standards. Still, we get some tasty little teasers of what’s to come in the next book. I must confess, I did not expect Moghedien’s escape!​​

[Order burns to clear his path.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Announcing the Nominees for the 2021 Shirley Jackson Awards

The nominees for the 2021 Shirley Jackson Awards have been announced! The awards recognize “outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.”

This year, the winners will be announced October 29th at an in-person ceremony at the Boston Book Festival that is presented in partnership with Readercon. Elizabeth Hand and Paul Tremblay will host the ceremony.

Congratulations to all the nominees!

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Five Scary Novels That Use Setting To Embody Horror

I recently reached a long-awaited milestone: my child became old enough to watch ‘90s witch classic The Craft with me. Remember that scene where unstable-goth-icon Nancy explains the nature of their deity, Manon? If God and the Devil played football, she explains, eyes alight with teenage mania, Manon would be the field they played on.

And because I’m always teaching and thinking about narrative—and because even if I show my tween “edgy” movies, I’m a nerd—I thought: that’s exactly how place functions in stories. Character and plot are here tossing the ball (or whatever football players do), but they don’t exist without place.

I don’t mean that in a literal sense—that a story needs a stage on which to unfold. I mean that place infuses and animates everything; I mean that place is an embodiment of character and conflict.

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Series: Five Books About…

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