A Brief History of the Megastructure in Science Fiction

I was recently reminded of the golden age of megastructure stories. As this is not yet commonly accepted genre shorthand, perhaps a definition is in order.

Megastructures are not necessarily simple. In fact, most of them have rather sophisticated infrastructure working away off-stage preventing the story from being a Giant Agglomeration of Useless Scrap story. What they definitely are is large. To be a megastructure, the object needs to be world-sized, at least the volume of a moon and preferably much larger. Megastructures are also artificial. Some…well, one that I can think of but probably there are others…skirt the issue by being living artifacts but even there, they exist because some being took steps to bring them into existence.

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Five Books With Criminals Who Save the Day

Good guys are traditionally the ones who come to the rescue and save the day, but more and more—in both film and fiction novels—we’re seeing the opposite. Villains and criminals who decide to put their evil quests and troubled morals to the side, and fight for a bigger cause.

These villains show us the best and worst sides of ourselves: the fact that we can make mistakes, be selfish, take wrong turns and fail to get everything right the first time. But they also show us that one bad decision—or even a series of bad decisions—doesn’t define us. That it’s never too late to change, make amends and learn from our mistakes.

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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “The Swarm”

“The Swarm”
Written by Mike Sussman
Directed by Alexander Singer
Season 3, Episode 4
Production episode 149
Original air date: September 25, 1996
Stardate: 50252.3

Captain’s log. While Voyager is getting supplies, Paris and Torres take a shuttle to investigate some odd sensor readings. They don’t find anything for several hours, but eventually they do track something—and then they come under attack by an alien ship that beams two people aboard and shoots them both, speaking in a language the universal translator can’t handle.

[Computer, delete the diva.]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Jack the Ripper Is Probably the SFF Killer You’re Looking For

People love an unsolved mystery—especially one far enough in the past as to allow wild speculation. Has there been a case that’s invited more outlandish theories than Jack the Ripper’s? The combination of grotesque details, gaslit setting, creaky conspiracy theories, and the eerie suddenness of the murders onset and ending have all lead to hundreds of retellings. Some of the most interesting have been stories that careened straight into the uncanny, giving us Jacks who can travel through time, haunt bridges, and possess wax figures.

Perhaps the writers of the tales below couldn’t bring themselves to believe that such a monstrous man was entirely human? Whatever the root of the fascination, we’ve stalked the Ripper straight out of the alleys of Whitechapel and into these eight SFF tales.

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Space Opera Done Right: Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro

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.

Primary Inversion, published by Tor Books in 1995, was one of those debut novels that caused the science fiction field to sit up and take notice. It had a little bit of everything: There were star-spanning empires, battling space fighters, technological speculation rooted in cutting-edge science, paranormal powers, romance, drama, and adventure. The headstrong female main character was well realized and appealing. Stanley Schmidt, then editor of Analog, provided a cover blurb that read, “An impressive first novel….Really new science that just might be possible.” The author, Catherine Asaro, showed from the very start that she was going to be a formidable presence in the science fiction community for quite some time.

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Five Doomed Armies in Science Fiction

As previously mentioned, July 1 is Canada Day. There being only 365 (sometimes 366) days in a year, date-space collisions are inevitable. On July 1, two major events in Canadian history collide, one happy, one sad. The sad: on July 1, 1916, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment took part in the Battle of the Somme. 780 men went into combat. 68 showed up for roll call the following day. Having one’s signature regiment annihilated to bring an unpleasant war to a swift end would be tragic enough, but in this particular case, the geniuses running the war on both Allied and Central Power sides managed to drag out the carnage for another two years. The loss of the cream of a generation had consequences for Newfoundland that echoed for decades, not least of which was their eventual merger into Canada. Which is to say, July 1 isn’t as jolly a day in Newfoundland as it is in other parts of Canada.

Armies sacrificed for no obvious purpose and meaningless wars are not entirely unknown in speculative fiction. Here are five examples from that golden age of such stories, the Vietnam War era, and its literary aftermath.

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The Wheel of Time Has Cast Two Whitecloak Leaders

The Wheel of Time television series is back again with more casting news! Which, given their current production pause, is exciting for all of us because it gives us more information to chew over. This time, we’ve got Whitecloaks on the brain…

(Note: The comments section for this piece will most likely contain spoilers for the Wheel of Time series.)

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Potluck Devils: Stephen Graham Jones’s “The Spindly Man”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

This week, we’re reading Stephen Graham Jones’s “The Spindly Man,” first published in Ellen Datlow’s Fearful Symmetries anthology in 2014 and available in the September 2016 issue of The Dark. Spoilers ahead. (Also spoilers for Stephen King’s 1994 story “The Man in the Black Suit,” which you can find in The Weird.)

[“Proof,” he said. “We’ve all got proof, man. I bet every one of us has a story like this kid’s. Don’t we?”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

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