A contemporary Lovecraftian tale of art, obsession, and elder gods.
The new trailer for The Last Jedi was not the only exciting Star Wars news this past week. In celebration of A New Hope’s 40th anniversary, Del Rey has published an anthology of 40 stories that weave in and out of the original film. Whether it’s Greedo, Antilles or the red droid (you know the one), A New Hope is bursting at the seams with weird and fantastic side characters. Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View hands those characters over to 43 weird and fantastic authors. The set-list alone is amazing: scifi heavyweights (Nnedi Okorafor, Ken Liu), seasoned SW veterans (Jason Fry, Jeffrey Brown), comic book writers (Kelly Sue DeConnick, Kieron Gillen), and media luminaries (Griffin McElroy, Mallory Ortberg) offer up a diverse range of tone, form, and lore.
There’s nothing new under two suns in a sprawling franchise that’s celebrating its 40th year. What the Expanded Universe hasn’t covered, fanfiction has laid its messy, beautiful little hands on. But the EU has already been reshuffled by the reboot, and the playground feels fresh and new. Where there’s still love for a story, there’s still room to explore it—and there is still a whole lot of love in the galaxy for scrappy, fresh-faced rebels destroying evil galactic empires.
This week’s chapters deal with Miles’s 30th birthday. Happy birthday, Miles!
My copy of Memory was purchased from the Oberlin College Cooperative Bookstore shortly after I turned twenty. That was a very different time to be reading about Miles turning thirty than now, almost exactly twenty-one years later. Thirty seemed old then. I sort of got what Miles said to Martin about middle age being a moveable feast, always ten years older than you are, but it really hit home on this read. Miles is striking me as shockingly young this week because I finally noticed that his birthday means that he must have been killed at twenty-nine. Or possibly at twenty-eight—it was a long convalescence. He’s been leading the Dendarii for slightly more than a decade, and he’s been assigned to ImpSec for approximately seven years. Rank notwithstanding, his career has been meteoric; he has come an incredibly long way as a result of a few impulsive decisions he made to impress a girl while vacationing at age seventeen. Gregor has already asked him not to return the the Dendarii, but I think he needs to go further. Miles is Not Safe to be out of direct Imperial control. He’s dangerous; he needs a job.
Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga
This batch of questions centers around a couple of common themes, namely horse breeds and riding. I’ll take the shortest one first, and then circle out from there.
In 1966, Star Trek put a black woman and an Asian man on the bridge, and made them senior officers, a year later adding a Russian man to the mix. In an era of civil rights unrest, war in southeast Asia, and the ongoing cold war with the Soviet Union, showing those three working together with the white folks (not to mention the pointy-eared alien) was huge.
In 1993, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine put a black man at the top of the ensemble, and had an Arab doctor. The former was so radical that it had rarely been seen before or since, and the latter is also vanishingly rare.
And now, in 2017, Star Trek Discovery finally gives us a main character on a Trek TV show who is not heterosexual.
Two feelings predominated my first reading of Gene Wolfe: awe and trepidation. The awe was for Wolfe’s mastery of prose, tone, setting, voice, mood, and incident: I had not realized that science fiction could be so fraught with meaning, so numinous and so horrifying, or that any writer could so successfully marry apocalyptic drama, baroque landscapes, and violent action with pensive introspection and rueful reflection. The trepidation? I didn’t know that anyone could sustain this level of accomplishment for four volumes and a thousand pages. Could he really be this good? As it turns out, he really was.
After twenty pages of The Shadow of the Torturer, I wanted nothing more than to set aside my schoolwork and social life and read all four volumes of The Book of the New Sun cover to cover. But, reflecting that this would leave me without any New Sun books to read for the first time, I decided to pace myself: I would not read the books all in a row, but would force myself to read at least one other novel between each New Sun volume.
I’ve been illustrating covers for major science fiction, fantasy, and horror publishers for two decades, but after I won my first Hugo Award in 2012, I decided to start creating my own worlds and stories. In between cover jobs, something was building—I was inspired by the icons of the classic Mexican game of chance, Loteria, that I grew up playing with my family. So I started drawing. I’ve been producing very limited runs of the artworks as giant-sized art cards called “Loteria Grandes”—and it’s a joy to watch that fan base grow. What I didn’t know is that the pictures contained secrets and stories, and the more that I drew, the more they revealed themselves.
So I started writing them down.
Marvel Entertainment has released the first trailer for Black Panther, revealing the Afrofuturist awesomeness of Wakanda and introducing a badass cast of characters to join T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman).
The Door in the Hedge is a collection of four longish short stories, all reimaginations of fairytales, and first published in 1981. I must have first read it not long after that. Way back then, not many people were retelling fairytales, and the only other such book I’d come across was Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. The Door in the Hedge isn’t that at all, and it’s interesting to think why not. They’re both unquestionably feminist reimaginations of the same kinds of European stories. But Carter was dragging her fairytales kicking and screaming and thrusting them bloody before us, while McKinley wants them still to be fairytales. Just… fairytales where the princesses have agency, where they are active and do things rather than having things done to them, but where they can still, after all, live happily ever after.
It’s nearly impossible for me to choose five favorite horror novels. I simply can’t name a favorite (except in one case, as you’ll see below). But I can narrow it down a little and compartmentalize my preferences. In that way, even though I’m certain I’m forgetting something, the slight won’t seem too terribly egregious.
I grew up in rural North Carolina, amidst tobacco fields and scuppernong grape orchards, and the Missouri Ozarks, amidst scorpions and tarantula herds. Living in those areas, I developed an appreciation for the folktales and ghost stories that run rampant among country folk. That upbringing has wormed its way into many of my own stories. With books like Harrow County, with Dark Horse Comics, I’m able to revisit some of my old haunts, if you’ll pardon the pun.
In a stylish, smart, new military science fiction series, Richard Baker begins the adventures of Sikander North in an era of great interstellar colonial powers. Valiant Dust combines the intrigues of interstellar colonial diplomacy with explosive military action.
Sikander Singh North has always had it easy—until he joined the crew of the Aquilan Commonwealth starship CSS Hector. As the ship’s new gunnery officer and only Kashmiri, he must constantly prove himself better than his Aquilan crewmates, even if he has to use his fists. When the Hector is called to help with a planetary uprising, he’ll have to earn his unit’s respect, find who’s arming the rebels, and deal with the headstrong daughter of the colonial ruler—all while dodging bullets.
Sikander’s military career is off to an explosive start—but only if he and CSS Hector can survive his first mission.
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In 1977, Universal Television had the rights to several different Marvel Comics characters, and Kenneth Johnson was given the opportunity to develop one of them. Johnson had come to prominence as a writer/producer on The Six Million Dollar Man, and he created the character of Jaime Somers, who was later spun off into her own series, The Bionic Woman, for which Johnson was the show-runner.
Inspired in part by Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, Johnson decided to take on the Hulk.
When I was four years old, my dad piled my brother and me into the back of our 1978 Buick station wagon and took us to the drive-in to watch The Empire Strikes Back. I trembled with excitement for the whole ride, and when we got there, I bounced around like a bumblebee on crank waiting for the sky to grow dark and the opening credits to roll. When John Williams’ brassy fanfare finally belted out from the speakers, I squealed and clapped my hands and climbed into my dad’s lap.
I promptly fell asleep and didn’t wake up until it was over.
I’d missed the whole thing, but it didn’t matter: my older brother had seen it, and my cousins and my friends, and they all talked about it—incessantly. When it finally came out on VHS, I felt like I’d already seen it, not once, but repeatedly. The Empire Strikes Back had seeped into my consciousness through osmosis.
Do you have some nails and basic tools lying around? Do you need to arm some fairies, denizens of Redwall, or a few of Cinderella’s mouse pals? You can! You can make them tiny perfect swords!
There’s a lot going on in the final trailer for the second season of Netflix’s Stranger Things: Will has graduated from coughing up slugs to seeing something giant, monstrous, and very much not in his head; Eleven is channeling Ellen Ripley with her hair and “heeere’s Johnny!”; and all the boys look to be taking a visit, Goonies-style, to the Upside Down.
Seeking transcendence, or going beyond the boundaries of self, is a fundamentally human quest. The journey may be interpreted as the relationship between human and divine, but it may also be described as the connection between the ordinary and the ideal, the imperfect self and a perfected self, the limited human consciousness and the universal mind. This theme has fascinated me for years, so much so that it formed the core of my PhD thesis.
These books show the perils and joys of a life lived beyond the boundaries of self, a life that finds the divine in the human, and the human in the divine. Suffering is usually involved, but also ecstasy … and sometimes the end of the world.