Reading Paper and Fire: Book 2 of the Great Library by Rachel Caine

We return for book two of Rachel Caine’s five volume Great Library series. In book one Caine introduces her alternate history set up: The Great Library of Alexandria, which in our historical timeline was destroyed in late antiquity, not only survived into the modern era but thrived and eventually took control of all permitted transmission of knowledge in the world.

This speculative idea is the foundation of Caine’s story. She uses it as a springboard to do what science fiction does best: Ask questions about the present day. Who controls ideas? Is knowledge more valuable than people? Is progress inevitable? Will authoritarians prevent technological and social advances in the name of stability, if by stability they mean their own grip on authority? Does power corrupt? Is the sky blue? This list barely scratches the surface of the questions Caine asks in the series, and we hope readers will chime in with their own observations.

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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Scientific Method”

“Scientific Method”
Written by Sherry Klein & Harry Doc. Kloor and Lisa Klink
Directed by David Livingston
Season 4, Episode 7
Production episode 175
Original air date: October 29, 1997
Stardate: 51244.3

Captain’s log. Torres is in the Jefferies Tube to track down a power issue, only to find Seven working on a junction. Seven decided to do some work to improve astrometrics, but did it without checking with Torres first. Seven’s work messed up a project Torres was working on in engineering.

[“How did he sound? Annoyed? Amused?” “He sounded Vulcan—what more can I tell you?”]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Five SFF Books Driven by Terrible Choices and Appalling Judgment

Many people can assemble the available evidence, weigh it carefully in the light of past experience, and make a rational, sensible decision. Many more of us are sensible…most of the time. Then there are those who cannot turn down a dare, cannot gauge risks rationally, cannot listen to useful advice. Bad for them, but sometimes amusing for observers, and often just what an author needs to generate plot, suspense, and excitement.

Here are five SFF novels that involve appalling judgment.

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A Little Something Extra: Masters of the Vortex by E. E. “Doc” Smith

In this bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books, Alan Brown looks at the front lines and frontiers of the field; books about soldiers and spacers, scientists and engineers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.

Down in New Orleans, they have a term, “lagniappe,” which Google defines as “something given as a bonus or extra gift.” And that is a perfect description of the novel Masters of the Vortex. It is a book full of new characters and new “scientific” principles, set in the universe of the Lensmen, but not connected to the continuity of the main series of novels. And as it marks the final book in my reviews of the Lensman series, it also gives me a chance to look back at the series as a whole.

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The Future Isn’t What it Used to Be — Star Trek: Discovery’s “Far from Home”

When we got to the end of Discovery’s first season, I was incredibly disappointed to learn that the ship was on its way to Vulcan to pick up their new captain. (We never did find out who that was supposed to be.) Instead, they rendezvoused with the Enterprise, and Pike took over as temporary captain.

The disappointment was that Saru wouldn’t be the new CO of the ship.

[No, but you do look like a man who is pain-free and enjoys mixing metaphors—keep at it, crankypants.]

Ten Scientastic Episodes of The Venture Bros.

In a year of seemingly infinite suck, the cancellation of The Venture Bros. may not represent the most devastating thing to be sacrificed to 2020’s ravenous maw. For avid fans, though—myself included—the news still stung. Over seven seasons and sixteen years (or seventeen, if you want to include the 2003 pilot, which aired a year and a half before the first season began), we’ve watched the show go from a simple, adult-themed parody á la Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law to something richer, more complex, and—oh man, I can’t believe I’m saying this about a series that featured an iron-jawed villain named Baron Ünderbheit—surprisingly moving. We’d endured extended interregnums as Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick (né Christopher McCulloch), the show’s creators (and pretty much sole writers, as well as making up a fair chunk of its voice cast and post-production team), labored to crank out each (occasionally awkwardly-truncated) season. [Don’t stop now, young adventurer! Read on!]

10 African SFF Novels That Offer a Breath of Fresh Air

In fiction, we are exposed to new places. With speculative fiction, we are exposed to new possibilities. There are new ideas of science, of magic, of horror lingering in books from authors Western readers insist have unpronounceable names. These books offer fresh perspectives into people or places we thought we knew. African SF&F grapples with unique themes like colonialism and the recovery from this past. There are witches and wizards, infusion of cultures and traditions that will stun the reader. Not all magic happens using a wand, and people perform magic in their native tongues too.

Here are 10 books by African writers offering a breath of fresh air.

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My Bedroom Used to Be the Embalming Room: The Haunting of Hill House (Part 3)

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 with Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, first published in 1959. Today we’re covering Chapter 2. Spoilers ahead.

[“Perhaps someone had once hoped to lighten the air of the blue room in Hill House with a dainty wallpaper…”]

Series: Reading the Weird

Join Us For Trivia Night! Presents: Nerd Trivia for Nerds

Join us on Wednesday November 11th from 7-9pm EDT for a night of nerdy trivia! is hosting our first ever trivia night, and we want you to be a part of it. We’ll be asking general nerd questions, covering everything from Dune to Disney, so it’s time to show off your expertise and put all those hours of Lord of the Rings marathons to good use—not, of course, that they aren’t useful otherwise. We are always in full support of your LOTR rewatches.

We’ll be joined by some special guests, including Sarah Gailey, Christopher Paolini, P. Djèlí Clark, A.K. Larkwood, and Mark Oshiro! 

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“Oh, Frak” — Avoiding the Censors the SFF Way

Every culture has its own set of taboos surrounding bodily functions, religion, and naming things. In Anglophone cultures, our taboos generally involve waste excretion, particular body parts, sexual acts, and Christian deities. But we can still talk about these things (with varying degrees of comfort) by replacing them with non-taboo words, or we can “soften” them to non-taboo forms by changing something about the word itself. This column will unavoidably include cusswords, though I will try to keep them to a minimum…

[What’s more satisfying: frak or frell? And why?]

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