How Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris Planted the Seeds for Future Cosmere Goodness

Every Sanderson fan has an origin story—we’re like superheroes in that way. Some of us come to Sanderson via brute force, recommendations from friends wearing us down until we accept our fate. Others enjoy a more roundabout path, stumbling into the Cosmere by complete accident. No matter the method, Sanderson’s work often finds its way to fantasy-obsessed readers, catapulting the books to a spot on our favorite shelves. And everyone’s experience differs, thanks to the author’s frankly impressive portfolio.

I took the roundabout way. After buying my wife the first Mistborn trilogy as a gift, I ended up reading them first (don’t worry, I got her many other presents that I didn’t commandeer for myself). Enamored, I began devouring Brandon Sanderson’s work, making 2021 the year of the Sanderlanche. To date, I’ve logged Mistborn era one, Mistborn era two (The Wax and Wayne Cycle), The Way of Kings, Elantris, and (as of this writing) about 10% of Warbreaker.

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Why Villains Monologue: N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became (Part 13)

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 14: The Gauntlet of Second Avenue. The novel was first published in March 2020. Spoilers ahead!

[“Dread works best in complete silence.”]

Series: Reading the Weird

Ten Classic Science Fiction Cartoons From the Last Century

I’m going to take a contrary position here. Here we go: It’s conventional wisdom that science fiction and animation are two forms ideally suited for each other. Makes sense—the unbounded palette of the cartoon allows for the creation of technologies, worlds, and scientific concepts that are unrestricted by the limits of live-action filming. (This is not exactly true, by the way—animation tech and production budgets impose their own constraints. But close enough.)

But did you ever consider that, maybe, science fiction is too grounded a genre for the likes of cartoons? After all, animation customarily traffics in talking animals and magic kingdoms; having to adhere to such principles as physics and chemistry can put a damper on the medium’s more fanciful impulses. Why deal with rocket ships when you can just as easily have characters sprout wings and fly to Mars?

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A Western Phantasmagoria: Kay Chronister’s Desert Creatures

There’s a small cluster of books that came to mind when reading Kay Chronister’s Desert Creatures—novels about the western United States when the future has curdled into something brutal. The ecological nightmares of Claire Vaye Watkins’s Gold Fame Citrus, Diane Cook’s The New Wilderness, and Edan Lepucki’s California all come to mind when reading Chronister’s book—but there’s something else in its DNA as well that makes this fit imperfect. Chronister’s novel also hearkens to the genre-shredding vistas of Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps, Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, and Sue Rainsford’s Redder Days—but its horrors aren’t entirely of a piece with either of these books as well.

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“I better adjust my tongue box” — Barbarella and Vampirella

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 Superhero Movie Rewatch. He has been revisiting the feature every six months or so to look back at the new releases in the previous half-year, as well as a few he missed the first time through. We kick off this semi-annual look back with two twentieth-century movies…

Jean-Claude Forest created the character of Barbarella for V Magazine in 1962, chronicling the erotic tales of a far-future space pilot who traveled from planet to planet and had adventures, usually involving sex.

Seven years later, inspired in part by Forest’s character’s name, Forrest J. Ackerman conceived the character of Vampirella for Warren Comics, originally intended as the “host” of an anthology horror comic like Warren’s other titles Creepy (hosted by Uncle Creepy) and Eerie (hosted by Cousin Eerie), but Vampi also starred in her own adventures.

Both had movie adaptations made, one of which became a cult hit, one of which, um, didn’t.

[This is really much too poetic a way to die!]

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

Wednesday Steals Stranger Things’ Crown as Netflix’s Most-Watched English-Language Series

It’s her day—we’re just allowed to hang out on it. In its first week on the streaming platform, Netflix’s Wednesday pulled in eyeballs for 341.23 million viewing hours, beating out even the hotly anticipated Stranger Things 4 (which had 335 million). The two supernatural tales were both the #1 series in 83 countries in their debut week.

You could chalk this up to any number of factors: The affection many of us adults retain for Christina Ricci’s ’90s version of Wednesday Addams. Love for the Addams Family in general. The perfect deadpan of Jenna Ortega, who plays a barely-blinking Wednesday with crisp confidence. And, of course, the perpetual appeal of Tim Burton.

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45 Years Ago, Rankin & Bass’ The Hobbit Predicted the Future of Pop Culture

As I rewatched Rankin/Bass’ animated version of The Hobbit, for the first time since elementary school, I tried to imagine what it would have been like to see the film when it first aired on television in November of 1977. I picture a child sitting on a lime green couch in a wood-paneled basement, wearing a Darth Vader t-shirt she got after she fell in love with Star Wars (aka A New Hope, then still simply known as “Star Wars”) when it was released in theaters a few months earlier.

Our hypothetical child would have no idea that she was glimpsing, like a vision in Galadriel’s mirror, the future of pop culture.

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Five SF Works About Sitting Out World War III

Although recent history suggests that humans as a whole (or at least their leaders) are perfectly comfortable with the ever-present risk of a global nuclear exchange, individual authors appear to be more ambivalent. Perhaps it’s some unnatural “life wish.” One coping mechanism that appeared over and over in SF written during the Cold War was to suppose that nations allied with one superpower or another could arrange to sit out World War III, thus suffering only indirect effects.

Personally, I find this a bit dubious for a number of reasons, ranging from the unlikelihood of great powers leaving intact valuable cities in their enemy’s backyard to the hints in such texts as The Wizards of Armageddon that the great nations simply lacked the powers of discrimination required to acknowledge during a hasty nuclear exchange that, for example, China would be sitting this war out. Still, dubious precepts can lead to interesting stories, as these five books should show.

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If You Like Remembering Scenes From Video Games You’ve Played Thousands of Times, You’ll Love the Super Mario Bros. Movie Trailer

You know it’s serious business as soon as the music starts. They trailered-up the Super Mario Bros. theme—which is to say, slowed it down, made it different. This is a movie trailer! Not a bunch of scenes animated from every Mario game you’ve ever played!

It’s kind of both, actually? It’s-a certainly got Mario, and Luigi, and Donkey Kong, and Peach and Toad and all the rest. As for a plot, you know this one. For some reason, the lil’ plumber needs to save the world(s).

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Kristin Cashore’s Seasparrow Finds Hope in the Most Harrowing Places

I do not think I’m the only person who’s slowly and surely fallen a bit in love with Hava over the last few novels in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm series. The spy (and secret half-sister of Queen Bitterblue) moved around the edges in Bitterblue, making the most of her Grace (an unlikely and unique power) of hiding and disguise. In last year’s Winterkeep, her role in Bitterblue’s court became rather more prominent—not a position with which Hava was comfortable. 

She takes center stage on her own terms in Seasparrow, which picks up after the explosive end of Winterkeep. The whole world is facing something entirely new: the existence of a weapon far beyond anything previously in existence. Hava’s task is to translate documentation of the weapon’s development. Bitterblue’s is to decide what to do with that information.

But readers of any of the first four Graceling Realms novels will know what they’re really in for. This is a Kristin Cashore novel. There is a plot—a taut and harrowing story—but we are here for a different kind of journey: that of a young woman learning some difficult and necessary truths.

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The Creator and His Creation: Origins of The Wheel of Time by Michael Livingston

Michael Livingston’s Origins of the Wheel of Time is a deep dive into all things Robert Jordan: the man, the myths he used to craft his legendary series, and a final, lingering look behind the pages that have moved so many readers over the years. It’s also immensely readable, appealing to both hardcore fans and more casual series readers alike.

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