First Chords of a New Universe: Benjamin Percy’s The Ninth Metal

Here’s the thing about writers: they write. When I was a young reader venturing into the world of superhero comics, it surprised me when I’d see named I recognized from the DC and Marvel universes showing up on the spines of paperbacks; I’m pretty sure I still have copies of Chris Claremont’s First Flight and Jim Starlin and Daina Graziunas’ Among Madmen around here somewhere. But that shouldn’t have been as much of a shock as it was—the generation of British comics writers that followed (think Alan Moore, think Neil Gaiman) worked across formats from the outset, and that’s been the status quo ever since.

Some of the writers who made an impact on superhero comics in the last decade came from a prose background—Scott Snyder, G. Willow Wilson, and Eve L. Ewing among them. Benjamin Percy also falls pretty neatly into this category, with a body of prose work that includes everything from Red Moon, a sprawling werewolf epic, to the unnerving narratives found in the collection Suicide Woods. Percy has also written a host of superhero books for Marvel and DC, including runs on Green Arrow and Wolverine. But unlike many a writer with a foot in both camps, Percy also seems curious about seeing what he can transplant from one to the other; thus, his new project, dubbed The Comet Cycle, of which his novel The Ninth Metal is the first part.

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Elves, Murder, and Gallons of Tea: Katherine Addison’s The Witness for the Dead

When The Goblin Emperor came out in 2014, a self-contained, standalone fantasy novel felt like a breath of fresh air. I can just read this one book and have the whole story in my head! I don’t have to plan years of my reading life around waiting for the next volume, or processing a cliffhanger ending, or worrying that the next book will be told entirely from the POV of Night Watchman #3 when all I want to know is whether Abused Princess #4 is still alive or not.

And then I actually read The Goblin Emperor, and I cursed its standalone-ness, because I loved all of those characters so much I wanted story after story with them.

As you might imagine, the news of a sequel filled me with joy, and what I was especially happy about was that it wasn’t the continuing story of Maia, Perfect Cinnamon Roll Emperor. Katherine Addison has stayed true to the idea that his story was self-contained. Instead, she’s given us a sequel about Mer Thara Celehar, the Witness for the Dead, who proved so vital to the early days of Maia’s reign. And I’m ecstatic to say that Celehar’s book is just about as good as the young Emperor’s—but this time it’s a fantasy/mystery hybrid!

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Listen to Brian Staveley’s Short Story “The Last Abbot of Ashk’lan”

Back in 2015, Brian Staveley published his debut novel, The Emperor’s Blades, an epic fantasy about an emperor’s three children who have to figure out how to take over after his untimely death.

With its release, Staveley wrote a short tie-in story called “The Last Abbot of Ashk’lan,” about one of the characters that we met briefly, and now you can listen to the story, thanks to Brilliance Audio.

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8 SFF Books That Reimagine Literary Classics

One of the most fun turns in culture has been watching writers from a variety of backgrounds take established Western classics and treat them like glorious playgrounds. I personally like many of the books that are considered classics, or part of “the canon”—especially when I was still a student, I enjoyed the sense of testing myself against the books my teachers assigned, and I found that in top-down structure rewarding. I think an agreed-upon canon is an absolute, non-negotiable foundation for a healthy culture. But: the most vital phrase there is “agreed-upon.” Since…well, forever, really, the canon was populated by as many dead white men as U.S. currency, ignoring or actively quashing voices that didn’t agree with a specific narrative about Western civilization.

The current wave of books that are deconstructing and rebuilding the classics are a fantastic addition to the move to make the canon actually representative of our culture—a move that needs to be fought for ceaselessly as our culture literally lives and dies by it. Here are eight books that are doing the work of reshaping the canon to reflect humanity a little better.

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In Star Eater, Kerstin Hall Creates a World Like No Other

Engrossing, horrifying, and vivid, Kerstin Hall’s debut novel Star Eater is a hard one to talk about. This is in part simply because there’s so much there there—so much inventive worldbuilding, so much carefully structured power, so many things I want to exclaim over. As with many complicated things, it’s occasionally boiled down to something both accurate and not, a hook like “cannibal cat-riding nuns in space!”

This description isn’t wrong, but it’s nowhere near the whole picture, either. There are cats the size of horses; there are cannibal not-really-nuns and horrifying zombies (called Haunts); there is something weird about the world of Aytrium, with its Pillars and vague references to the Edge. But this isn’t a book about the meticulously created world. It’s about corrupted power, and the sacrifices necessary for change.

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Download a Free eBook of the First Malazan Fantasy Book–Gardens of the Moon–Before June 26!

We don’t want to alarm you, but it’s time to fight the a moon.

Friends, enemies, and frenemies, lend us your clicks and please download a FREE copy of Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson, the first book in the epic Malazan Book of the Fallen fantasy series.

Then…prepare yourself for the kick-off of its SEQUEL series coming this November!

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Reading The Wheel of Time: A Series of Ambushes in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 33)

This week in Reading The Wheel of Time, we’re covering Chapter 54, which really doesn’t go the way anyone planned. Rand, Nynaeve, Moghedien… nobody gets what they are expecting, in the World of Dreams or elsewhere.

It’s interesting to watch Rand go after Rahvin this week. We’ll see that he’s a formidable and terrifying opponent, but he hasn’t been built up as an antagonist the way Lanfear has been, or the way Ishamael was before her. So even though the events themselves are intense, it feels less intense and important than the confrontation with Lanfear last week. And Nynaeve is having her turn at a thematic payoff with the culmination of her confrontations with Moghedien.

Granted, what happens to Mat and Aviendha is a really big deal, but more on that on the other side of the recap.

[If you come out too close to him, he will sense it.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Learn About the Power of Storytelling From LeVar Burton

The latest brilliant person to join the ranks of MasterClass teachers is none other than LeVar Burton: actor, director, podcast host, Reading Rainbow icon, and upcoming Jeopardy host (for a week in July). Burton’s class, The Power of Storytelling, will “help you connect authentically with any audience.”

As Burton says in the promo video, “Storytelling is one of the primary building blocks of civilization. Everything that is important to us as a species has been contained in stories.”

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Five Classic SF Stories About Lost Home Worlds

To quote Douglas Adams, “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” The Milky Way is ancient, a hundred thousand light-years wide, and contains four hundred billion stars, give or take. It would be easy to misplace a particular world in space and time; a number of SFF protagonists have done so. Consider these five vintage works in which home worlds have been lost.

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The Malazan Saga Returns: Read Chapter Four of Steven Erikson’s The God Is Not Willing

New York Times bestselling author Steven Erikson continues the beloved Malazan Book of the Fallen with The God Is Not Willing, first in the thrilling new Witness sequel trilogy—publishing November 9, 2021 with Tor Books.

Picking up right after the conclusion of The Crippled God, this opening entry in a truly epic saga continues the story of the unmatched warrior, Karsa Orlong, as he returns to his people. Karsa must travel the breadth of the world and cross paths with many of the survivors of the final cataclysmic showdown in order to make it back home.

Read Chapter Four below, and find previous excerpts here.

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Clawing Toward Hope: Andre Norton’s No Night Without Stars

No Night Without Stars was a formative novel for me. It came out in 1975, and I read it while it was still new. It gave me ideas, and a few names that I loved the sound of and adapted for my own work in the following decade or two.

All that was left of it when I picked it up again, decades later, was a memory of names and a dim recollection of the plot. Unlike, say, Moon of Three Rings or The Crystal Gryphon, it hadn’t stayed with me. It read almost like new, but through the lens of 2021 rather than 1975.

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The Kyo Come to Visit: Clearing Up Some Important Questions in CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner Series

When we last left our heroes, they had brought a handful of Reunioner kids from the station to the planet to visit Cajeiri. During their visit, all hell breaks loose (because of course it does), and Tatiseigi, the notorious human-hating curmudgeon, develops a fondness for the human kids when they admire his collection of artefacts.

At the beginning of this duology (Tracker, Visitor), the kids and Jase go back up to the station, where politics awaits. In the middle of an extremely messy intra-human conflict, the kyo show up. Because they know so little about the kyo, everyone decides that it’s best if they send the same three people as last time up to the station to meet the envoys, so Bren, Cajeiri, and Ilisidi venture up to the station. The human conflict comes to a head while they’re there, and they have to fix it before the kyo arrive. They do so, and Bren can get back to the important task of figuring out how the kyo language works. [Read more]

Luca Should Have Owned Its Accidental Allegory and Become Pixar’s First Queer Film

Made during the 2020 quarantine, Luca is Pixar’s next attempt to make adults and children alike cry with tender tales of family, friendship, and love. The story of a young sea monster named Luca (Jacob Tremblay) and his unlikely friendship with fellow sea monster Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), Luca had the opportunity to do beautiful and unexpected things. But the Pixar method is wearing thin these days, and there’s not enough uniqueness in the film to make it stand out among their offerings.

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