Horses and Horsemen in C.J. Cherryh’s Gate of Ivrel

When writers ask me how to tell whether a writer (of any genre) knows horses, I’ve tended to fumble around for examples, any examples, help me, wonky memory, you are my only hope.

Not any more. I finally reread Gate of Ivrel after quite a few years, and now all I need to do is point. “Read this. See what it does. Do likewise.” [Read more]

Paradise Crossed: The Cloven by Brian Catling

Adventurers, archaeologists and adherents alike have long sought—only to be stymied in their search for—the site of the Garden of Eden, that portion of paradise where many people believe humanity took root. In his phenomenal first novel, the poet, painter, and performance artist Brian Catling posited that it might at last be located in the Vorrh, a vast (albeit fictional) forest in the heart of Africa. In the ambitious if middling middle volume of what in 2017 turned out to be a trilogy, he expanded the scope of his suggestive story substantially, to take in characters from Bedlam in London, the colonial compound of Essenwald and a retirement home in Heidelberg: a litany of lost souls that would only be found, finally, in or in relation to the good woodland.

The Cloven closes the book on those disconsolate characters at the same time as advancing the overarching narrative of Catling’s exceptionally weird series, which can be seen in sum as a sinister subversion of the Christian tale of creation. Adam and Eve, it has it, were never meant to be anything more than minders in the Garden of Eden—they simply grew too big for their boots when they tasted of the forbidden fruit. The knowledge it contained was meant for the trees, you see, and they, as much more multifarious beings than we mere people can see, have had a chip on their sturdy shoulders ever since. Now, though… now the time has come for them to take what’s theirs, and I dare say it won’t end well if we stand in their way.

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Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapter 1

Welcome to Diplomatic Immunity! Can Miles still have his usual adventures now that he’s married and about to become a dad? This is a book suggests that he can, but he may have to accept some new limits.

Exciting news this weekthe Internet Speculative Fiction Database now has links that let you see all the print covers associated with a title on one page. The thanks of this grateful blogger—and I imagine many others—go out to the staff and volunteers at the ISFDB.

Tragically, most of the covers for Diplomatic Immunity are dreadful.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

The Fated Sky

Mary Robinette Kowal continues the grand sweep of alternate history begun in The Calculating Stars with The Fated Sky, available August 21st from Tor Books. The second novel looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars.

Of course the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, but there’s a lot riding on whoever the International Aerospace Coalition decides to send on this historic—but potentially very dangerous—mission. Could Elma really leave behind her husband and the chance to start a family to spend several years traveling to Mars? And with the Civil Rights movement taking hold all over Earth, will the astronaut pool ever be allowed to catch up, and will these brave men and women of all races be treated equitably when they get there? This gripping look at the real conflicts behind a fantastical space race will put a new spin on our visions of what might have been.

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The Thin Line Between Monster and Warrior: Maria Dahvana Headley’s The Mere Wife

Hwaet!

Maria Dahvana Headley’s The Mere Wife has finally been loosed upon the world. I say finally because I think the world needs this book. In Headley’s hands, Beowulf is revealed to be the perfect story to bring forward from the depths of Western history. Headley has turned it over, poked its squishy underbelly, asked it a bunch of questions, and come out with an entirely new version of the tale, exploring new perspectives and revealing truths new and old.

It’s also a great, heart-wrenching read.

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The Most Feminist Thing Doctor Who’s 11th Season Could Do is Refuse to Address Sexism

Jodie Whittaker is going to be the Thirteenth Doctor. We all know why this is a big deal—not just because the role is being taken up by yet another accomplished and talented actor, but because she will be the first woman to do it. I just have a small request to that effect:

Please don’t make the Doctor deal with sexism now that she’s a woman.

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More Murderbot on the Horizon: Announcing a New Martha Wells Novel

In 2017, Murderbot broke onto the SF/F scene with All Systems Red, the first in Martha Wells’ wryly funny, breakneck scifi series about a deadly robotic construct who frees itself from its governor module… in order to double down on grumpily bingeing TV shows on its media feed and studiously avoiding its curious human crew. By turns thrilling and touching, the Murderbot Diaries are both a shoot ’em up rollicking space adventure and a smart, sneakily intimate portrait of how we construct our identities through storytelling and the surprising places where humanity can be found.

With the initial novella series wrapping up with Exit Strategy in October 2018 (and Rogue Protocol before that in August 2018), Murderbot fans have been wondering what’s next for scifi’s most relatable robotic construct.

Tor.com Publishing and Senior Editor Lee Harris are proud to announce that Murderbot will return, making its full-length debut in a new novel.

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11 Stories of Sea Songs, Tragic Romances, and Selkies

We’ve always been suckers for good stories of the sea, and selkies are pretty much the best. Ethereal creatures who take the form of seals in the ocean, but then transform into supernaturally beautiful humans while on land: they’ve inspired tales for centuries. Selkies stories tend to be romantic tragedies: female selkies are trapped on land and slowly waste away when men hide their sealskins; fishermen wake to find their beloved wives gone back to the sea; selkie children spirited away to an aquatic life.

But lately people have been tweaking the selkie stories to give them, if not happy endings, at least slightly more hopeful ones. We’ve gathered up a few of our favorite modern selkies below—let us know those we missed in the comments!

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Steeplejack’s Final Stand: Guardian by A.J. Hartley

Ang has always been on the outside looking in. At home, she is the arrogant girl that betrayed her family by moving to the city. In Bar-Selehm, she is a Lani streetrat, barely worth a second glance. Even with her benefactor and his family, she can’t be sure of her place: did the progressive politician Josiah Willinghouse hire her as a spy in order to advance his political career, or because he truly cares for the poor and the oppressed?

When Willinghouse is accused of killing the prime minister, throwing the city to the brink of a racial civil war, Ang is forced to take a stand. Belonging can be a complicated thing. But when it comes to resisting violent oppression, knowing who your allies are becomes a matter of life and death.

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City-State Fantasy: City of Lies by Sam Hawke

One of the debates I’ve had with myself and others over the years I’ve been reading and reviewing fantasy is the question of the definition of “urban fantasy.” This mainly gets into the idea of secondary world fantasies and whether or not a story is set in a secondary world city, where the city is as much a character and changing and evolving place as any of the sentient characters. Are the Ankh-Morpork novels of Terry Pratchett urban fantasy? Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories, primarily set in the fascinating city of Lankhmar? The novels of Marshall Ryan Maresca, set in the Archduchy of Maradaine, and showing us an increasing number of facets of his city-state from different points of view and different social classes? Is there a good way to define novels that take this space and make it their own by calling them something better than epic fantasy or urban fantasy? And why do novels that operate in this space, let’s call it city-state fantasy, work? And how do they work when they work well?

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Charmed, I’m Sure: A Closer Look at Everyone’s Dream Prince

I will admit up front that I have a strange affection for Prince Charming. He inspired the Charming Tales (available at fine book portals everywhere), and got me started on the road to a career as an author, or at least a published author. However, what made me interested in writing a story about Prince Charming was not that he was a particularly interesting character, but that he was entirely uninteresting. In fairytales filled with iconic beautiful princesses like Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty, and Briar Rose, the prince is, almost without exception, a non-entity. In fact, in fairytales prince characters are comically nondescript and interchangeable. Would the stories of Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty or Snow White be any different if Prince Phillip or Prince Charming or Prince “Noname” (literally—the prince in Snow White is never given a name) were swapped?

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“Victory has defeated you” — The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan wasn’t a hundred percent sure that he wanted to return to the Batman well, as he was worried that he’d lose interest. He also was struggling to come up with third films in series that were well regarded. (Just on the superhero end of things, you’ve got Superman III, Batman Forever, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Spider-Man 3 as cautionary tales.) But once he and his Bat-collaborators David S. Goyer and Jonathan Nolan hit on the notion of using the “Knightfall” and “No Man’s Land” storylines from the comics for inspiration for, in essence, the end of Batman’s career, he found the story he wanted to tell.

[“My mother warned me about getting into cars with strange men.” “This isn’t a car.”]

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

How iZombie Became a Show About the Birth of a Minority Subculture

Zombie stories are about dehumanization, about what makes an entire population less than human and a threat to civilization itself, whether that’s racism (Night of the Living Dead) or consumerism (Dawn of the Dead), apathy (Shaun of the Dead) or rage (28 Days Later). The CW’s iZombie, on the other hand, is more interested in how zombies get their humanity back.

The show is very clear on the cause of zombification: trauma. Like her predecessor Veronica Mars—the titular protagonist of another mystery show by series creator Rob Thomas—Liv Moore (yes, that’s her name, the show loves puns) survives a violent assault and finds herself disconnected and numb afterwards, withdrawing from her family and friends and subject to mood swings and violent outbursts: all classic symptoms of trauma. She also turns chalk white and needs to eat a brain a week to stay sane, so the metaphor only extends so far. Still… like Veronica before her, Liv finds purpose by solving crimes, using her skills as a medical examiner and ability to experience the memories of the people she eats.

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