The Wild Cards universe has been thrilling readers for over 25 years. From the darkly brilliant imagination of Victor Milán, the novelette “Evernight” takes readers down to the depths of the Parisian catacombs.
Candace Sessou is known to be many things: the ace known as The Darkness, a skilled negotiator in the field of diplomacy, a refugee with neither home nor family after fleeing a war-torn Congo. When she hears that her brother Marcel also survived but is now on the run as a wanted terrorist, Candace tracks him to the Parisian underground… only to strike a deal with dangerous forces in order to save both their lives.
The world as they know it is ending; a new one is taking its place. Among the doctors and nurses of a clinic-turned-fortress, Kath is coming of age in this new world, and helping define it. But that doesn’t make letting go of the old any easier. “Where Would You Be Now?” is a prequel to the novel Bannerless, a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award.
A fantasy novelette about two brothers, both obsessed with movies—one a not-very-successful screenwriter, the other an academic. When one dies from a drug overdose, his brother travels to Hollywood to make amends and find out what happened.
In the 23rd century, there is a radiant world of endless summer where peace is maintained through emotional surveillance performed by a peculiar device called the Intercept. When Violet Crowley, the sixteen-year-old daughter of New Earth’s Founding Father, is smuggled an artifact covered in mysterious markings, it’s up to her and her friends to decipher the message. “The Tablet of Scaptur” is a standalone story set before the events of The Dark Intercept (available now from Tor Teen).
A group of friends, a pair of lovers, and the tussle between love, addiction, and what comes next. Otto, a former addict, grateful and indebted to his lover Trevor, is faced with temptation and the threat of disaster, but he’s fighting it. Fighting it in a future where matter can be reprogrammed and anything could happen, good or bad.
It wasn’t quite love at first sight. But it was close.
I still remember the exact moment it happened. It was one hour and fifteen minutes into the pilot. When Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds walks onto the deck of Serenity, sizes up the hostage situation unfolding, and shoots the undercover Alliance agent in the head without breaking his stride, I literally rose off of my dorm bed and whooped. It was the kind of surprise that made me realize Firefly wasn’t going to be just like any other show. I fell, and I fell hard.
That almost never happens, when it comes to me and television. Usually, I need several episodes to fall in love with a new series. That’s sort of the point of TV, in my experience; you’re supposed to slowly build affection over several hours of investment. Pilots can be hard to love for that reason. It’s no small task to introduce a new cast of characters, establish a world, and explain any relevant backstory all while trying to get people to care enough to come back for more. When the show is science fiction or fantasy, the job is even more difficult.
I can count on one hand the number of pilots that made me fall in love with a series right away. So with Firefly, Joss Whedon’s short-lived space western, I fully expected to need time to get into it—although as it turns out, the pilot was all it took. The bigger surprise, though, was that my love of Firefly would help me discover the love of my life.
The literature of the fantastic is a fruitful place in which to examine gendered questions of power. People have been using it to talk about women’s place in society (and the place of gender in society) pretty much for as long as science fiction has been a recognisable genre. Joanna Russ and Ursula Le Guin are only two of the most instantly recognisable names whose work directly engaged these themes. But for all that, science fiction and fantasy—especially the pulpishly fun kind—is strangely reluctant to acknowledge a challenge to participation in demanding public life (or a physically ass-kicking one) faced primarily (though not only) by women.
Pretty sure you’ve already guessed what it is. But just to be sure—
Pregnancy. And the frequent result, parenting small children.
Welcome to the Culture Reread! Today is the first proper post of the series, and we’re off with the prologue and chapters 1 and 2 of Consider Phlebas.
Consider Phlebas, the first Culture novel that Banks completed and published, appeared in 1987. It takes place against the background of a long and destructive war between the Culture and the Idirans. The Culture, of course, is more or less human as we know it, post-scarcity, essentially socialist, and, until the war, largely thought of as a bunch of hedonistic pacifists; the Idirans are three-meter-tall tripedal beings bent on a war of religious conquest. At the time of Consider Phlebas, the war has been going on for four years, with enormous casualties on either side and no sign of surrender either way. One might expect this novel to be the story of some key conflict in the course of that war, something history-changing—whether that’s the case, well, we shall see.
Back in 2015 a movie called Seventh Son flopped its way through theatres. As soon as I saw the trailer, I remarked loudly that it looked like somebody turned their Dungeons & Dragons campaign into a screenplay. I said this with scorn, and I did not go to see the film. This seems to have worked in my favor, as one reviewer from the Chicago Reader called it “a loud, joyless mess.”
I read slush for a poetry quarterly called Goblin Fruit, and, being that our submission guidelines request poems of the fantastic, we get occasional submissions that smack slightly of D&D. These pieces often feel like they were written in-game by someone’s half-elf bard character, probably while drunk off his ass at Ye Olde Inn and Taverna.
We know (or can guess) how we’d react to an alien encounter—sci-fi has begged the question from War of the Worlds to Lilo and Stitch. But how would any of us deal with an alien leaving us behind?
Leah Thomas’ When Light Left Us picks up where family-friendly alien stories like E.T. and Close Encounters leave off: after the alien visitor has left the Vasquez family, after the hazmat tent has been cleared away, and after all the action—the great romance, the betrayal, the delight and wonder of a strange new world—has ended. Hank, Ana, Milo, and their mother Maggie don’t fade to black once their guest, a strange consciousness they call Luz, suddenly disappears. Sometimes, they wish they could. Instead, they do their best to figure out how to make lives in the holes that Luz left in his wake. For the Vasquez kids, this means relearning how to use the parts of themselves that Luz had (literally) possessed. And for Maggie, this means forgiving all those Luz-shaped holes, her own most of all.
One of the most popular comic books during the horror boom of the 1970s was TheTomb of Dracula, which from issue #7 on was written by Marv Wolfman, with art throughout its run by Gene Colan, both grandmasters of the field. Focusing on Marvel’s version of Bram Stoker’s creation (itself inspired by the historical figure of Vlad the Impaler), Tomb of Dracula had as its heroes a collection of vampire hunters, some of whom were members of the Harker and van Helsing family from Stoker’s novel, as well as (among others) a reluctant vampire named Hannibal King and an African-American vampire hunter who simply went by the name Blade.
In 1998, a feature film starring Blade was released, only loosely based on the comic. It was only Marvel’s second actual theatrical release (after Howard the Duck in 1986, also a product of the 1970s comics market), and first success, as the film was a huge international hit, spawning two sequels in 2002 and 2004.
A novel within a novel. A comic, painting, or song within a novel. Many writers enjoy the playfulness of creating fictitious works of art that no one will ever read, see, or hear.
I, too, love to play this game. Fictitious paintings and photographs lie at the heart of my genre-crossover novel, Sleeping Embers of An Ordinary Mind. It’s been immense fun to write, and during the long drafting and editing process, I’ve re-visited several novels, and read new releases, that share this compelling theme. Here are five of my personal favorites.
When Mr. Sorensen—a drab, cipher of a man—passes away, his lovely widow falls in love with a most unsuitable mate. Enraged and scandalized (and armed with hot-dish and gossip and seven-layer bars), the Parish Council turns to the old priest to fix the situation—to convince Mrs. Sorensen to reject the green world and live as a widow ought. But the pretty widow has plans of her own.
We’re pleased to reprint Kelly Barnhill’s “Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch”, originally published on Tor.com in August 2014. The story now appears in Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories, a new collection of Barnhill’s short fiction arriving February 20th from Algonquin Books. It will also be featured in Worlds Seen in Passing, an anthology celebrating ten years of Tor.com short fiction, available this September.
Want to hear The Tiger’s Daughter author K. Arsenault Rivera talk about epic lands beyond Middle-earth and Westeros? Get tips from L.E. Modesitt, Jr. about creating complex fantasy worlds like the Recluce universe? Have Annalee Newitz answer your pressing questions about whether the future is dystopian? (She wrote Autonomous, she would know.) A bevy of Tor/Forge and Tor.com Publishing authors will be at the Tucson Festival of Books from March 10-11 to touch upon these and other topics! Click through for the complete schedule, including panels and signings.
Most of the French salon fairy tale writers lived lives mired in scandal and intrigue. Few, however, were quite as scandalous as Henriette Julie de Murat (1670?—1716), who, contemporaries whispered, was a lover of women, and who, authorities insisted, needed to spend some quality in prison, and who, she herself insisted, needed to dress up as a man in order to escape said prison—and this is before I mention all of the rumors of her teenage affairs in Brittany, or the tales of how she more than once wore peasant clothing in the very halls of Versailles itself.
John Kessel is one of those much-lauded authors (with two Nebula Awards and a Shirley Jackson Award to his credit, among sundry other accolades) of whom I’d never heard before I was offered his latest book to review. Is Pride and Prometheus representative of his work and career? I don’t know, but I hope so. This is a fine, measured novel, deeply interested in the social conditions and conventions of its setting, and deeply interested, too, in human nature and human frailty.
Warner Bros has released the final trailer for its nostalgia fest Ready Player One before the movie’s release next month. While this trailer treads a lot of the same ground as previous ones, with the “Pure Imagination” cover and footage of Parzival leading a resolution in the digital OASIS, there’s also plenty of footage of Wade Watts, and certain fellow gunters, out in the real world.
From authors Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell comes The Tangled Lands, a fantasy novel told in four interlocking parts about a land crippled by the use of magic, and a tyrant who is trying to rebuild an empire—unless the people find a way to resist.
Khaim, The Blue City, is the last remaining city in a crumbled empire that overly relied upon magic until it became toxic. It is run by a tyrant known as The Jolly Mayor and his devious right hand, the last archmage in the world. Together they try to collect all the magic for themselves so they can control the citizens of the city. But when their decadence reaches new heights and begins to destroy the environment, the people stage an uprising to stop them.
Available February 27th from Saga Press, The Tangled Lands is an evocative and epic story of resistance and heroic sacrifice—it is a fantasy suited for our times.
Sightwitch, the latest in Susan Dennard’s Witchlands series, is available now—and to celebrate, we want to send you a galley copy of it, along with copies of Truthwitch and Windwitch, and a nifty pair of Witchlands socks!
Ryber Fortiza was a Sightwitch Sister at a secluded convent, waiting to be called by her goddess into the depths of the mountain. There she would receive the gift of foretelling. But when that call never comes, Ryber finds herself the only Sister without the Sight.
Years pass and Ryber’s misfit pain becomes a dull ache, until one day, Sisters who already possess the Sight are summoned into the mountain, never to return. Soon enough, Ryber is the only Sister left. Now, it is up to her to save her Sisters, though she does not have the Sight—and though she does not know what might await her inside the mountain.
On her journey underground, she encounters a young captain named Kullen Ikray, who has no memory of who he is or how he got there. Together, the two journey ever deeper in search of answers, their road filled with horrors, and what they find at the end of that road will alter the fate of the Witchlands forever.
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I spent eighteen months after university working in Paris, and ever since then the City of Light and the fiction it inspires have been close to my heart. Paris has always been a magnet for artists, both celebrated and struggling. Perhaps most famous were the glitterati visitors of the early twentieth century: Hemingway, the Scott Fitzgeralds, Dalí and Picasso, Josephine Baker and Peggy Guggenheim, to name just a few. And it’s a place ripe with potential for the speculative, from the bohemian revolution—synonymous with absinthe and hallucinogenic visions—to the emergence of the Surrealists. No surprise, then, that this city has also inspired the imaginations of science fiction and fantasy writers.
About a year ago, I attended a panel on worldbuilding in young adult literature. All of the authors on the panel were young, brilliant, dynamic women. They wore flower crowns and they talked about mapmaking and spreadsheets. They were impressive as all get-out. I have never felt more intensely envious in my life.
I was jealous of their flower crowns, of course. I was also jealous of the easy way they talked about going in-depth on planning color schemes for each chapter they wrote, and the Pinterest boards they referenced for their character aesthetics. I was jealous of the way their worldbuilding all seemed to start from the ground up, because that seemed to me to be a whole other level of professional-writer-ness. My worldbuilding has always leached out from my character development—I write how a character moves, and their movement defines the world they live in. The women on this panel were talking about writing thousands of words about the world their characters inhabited, all before they put a single line of dialogue on a page. They were clearly worldbuilding masters. I was in awe.
It only took seven words for my awe to become fear. One of the writers leaned forward and grabbed her mic. She looked down along the table, her flower crown tipped at a jaunty, devil-may-care angle. Her lips brushed the mic, and her voice was a little distorted by her enthusiasm, and she said “Okay, but can we talk about maps?”