History, Queer Romance, and Fantasy Combine in the Work of KJ Charles

I didn’t read any romance books growing up. Or at least, not anything that would today be categorized as Romance, with a capital R. As an immigrant child I mostly read books chosen for me by my parents, who were keen to make sure I retained the language we spoke at home and who didn’t always have a lot of available books to choose from, in the pre-digital age.

I did read a lot of science fiction and a lot of historical fiction, among other things: Asimov, Sheckley, Bradbury, Dumas, Sabatini, Jules Verne (all of whom I read in translation). In almost every genre, works by male authors tend to be considered the “classics” and “mandatory reads,” so perhaps that was why I read relatively few women authors. And perhaps that’s why now, as an adult, it’s particularly glaring to me that books categorized as Romance, overwhelmingly written by women, are so often shunned from the spotlight of mainstream SF/F, no matter how many science fiction or fantasy elements they contain.

So, let me tell you about KJ Charles, an author you should check out if you haven’t already, if you enjoy fantasy books.

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Mira Grant’s Murderous Mermaids Science Thriller Rolling in the Deep Optioned for Film

Rolling in the Deep, Mira Grant’s (a.k.a. Seanan McGuire) science horror novella about a documentary crew who venture into the Mariana Trench in search of a mermaid hoax, only to discover that mermaids are real and very deadly, is becoming a movie! Variety reports that Branded Pictures Entertainment will produce the adaptation, with Pet Sematary director Mary Lambert at the helm.

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Rivers of London Series Sweepstakes!

The seventh book in Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London urban fantasy series, Lies Sleeping, is available November 20th from DAW—and to celebrate, we want to send you a set of the whole series from DAW and Del Rey!

The Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring him to justice.

[Read on for more about the book, and comment in the post to enter!]

A Specialty in Transformation: Marina and Sergey Dyachenko’s Vita Nostra

Sasha Samokhina has always been an average sort of girl, if a bit overly studious—at least, that’s what she always thought before meeting the strange and imperious Farit Kozhennikov while on vacation with her mother. The bizarre tasks Kozhennikov sets her to as she goes through her final year of high school leave her with a pile of strange gold coins, used to pay for her entrance to a college she’s never heard of and has no desire to attend. But Kozhennikov gives her no choice but to attend the Institute of Special Technologies, where the lessons in Specialty are at first completely incomprehensible and the students’ transgressions and failures are punished by harm to their families. Yet Sasha continues to push forward in her studies… and soon she finds herself transformed as she discovers the truth of the “Special Technologies” she’s studying so fervently.

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Blood Relations: My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Korede has her fair share of concerns in life: a declining familial fortune and social position, a frustrating job as a nurse in a large hospital with an irresponsible staff, a lack of romantic prospects, and a gorgeous but immature younger sister who has an unsavory habit of murdering her boyfriends. However, these problems don’t overlap until the afternoon Ayoola comes to visit Korede’s workplace and picks up the handsome young doctor Korede herself has feelings for—bare weeks after her most recent violent indiscretion and subsequent body disposal.

My Sister, The Serial Killer is a high-tension, hideously comedic work of literary horror fiction, a memorable debut from Nigerian writer Oyinkan Braithwaite. Korede’s role as a terse and smart narrator who also happens to lack self-awareness creates a fascinating dual experience for the reader, one that allows Braithwaite to deliver scathing social commentary in scenes her protagonist coasts past without comment or is herself at fault in. The mundane realism of the text—social media, crooked traffic cops, the dichotomy of being wealthy enough for a house maid but not enough to avoid working—makes the ethical questions of murder, consequences, and justification for protecting a family member that much sharper.

[A review, some spoilers.]

Pull List: Blackbird and Jook Joint Remind You To Never Underestimate Women

October may be done and dusted, but horror comics are a year round affair as far as I’m concerned. Alright, so technically Blackbird isn’t a horror comic—it has a similar feel as Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina—but Jook Joint most definitely is. Either way, if these two creeptastic Image series aren’t already in your subscription box, you need to rectify that, like, right now.

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When the Girl Rescues the Prince: Norwegian Fairy Tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”

In the second century AD, the Roman writer Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis interrupted the winding plot of his novel, Metamorphoses, or The Golden Ass (a title used to distinguish the work from its predecessor, Ovid’s Metamorphoses) to tell the long story of Cupid and Psyche—long enough to fill a good 1/5 of the final, novel length work. The story tells of a beautiful maiden forced to marry a monster—only to lose him when she tries to discover his real identity.

If this sounds familiar, it should: the story later served as one inspiration for the well-known “Beauty and the Beast,” where a beautiful girl must fall in love with and agree to marry a beast in order to break him from an enchantment. It also helped inspire the rather less well-known “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” where the beautiful girl marries a beast—and must go on a quest to save him.

I like this story much more.

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The 17 Best (and Worst) Cartoon Sidekicks of the 1980s

After years wandering the wilderness, Princess Adora and her bad-ass alter ego—She-Ra, the Princess of Power—is starring in a series of new adventures on Netflix. While I’m thrilled to binge the new show, I’ll always have a soft spot for the original 1980s series—partly because of the amazing sidekicks that tagged along her adventures in Eternia. This got me thinking about some of my favorite sidekicks from across the varied landscape of 1980s kids’ cartoons, which, naturally, resulted in a ranking list post.

THESE ARE MY OWN PERSONAL VIEWS. IT’S OK IF YOU LIKE SNARF.

I mean, I think you might want to talk to a therapist, but it’s probably OK, cosmically speaking.

But by all means tell me about your faves in the comments.

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Seth Dickinson’s Masquerade and The Monster Nationalism

Baru Cormorant hasn’t always been a traitor, and she hasn’t always been a monster. In another life, she is an islander and a prodigy, a lover and a daughter. She is a subject and a citizen, or something in between. When the empire of the Masquerade invades and seduces her home, Baru is reduced to her heritage, even as her opportunities and worldview expand. She is torn between a multitude of selves, some faithful and some masked, but none of them untrue. This is the stuff of empire: not just to unmake a people, but to remake them.

Seth Dickinson’s Masquerade series doesn’t explain our political moment, nor is it a metaphor for 20th century fascism. It instead approaches a much earlier form of despotism, rooted mostly in 19th century imperialism and Enlightenment science. Dickinson deftly rearranges these historical elements into a thrilling second-world fantasy series, taking them away from the realm of allegory and allowing the story to weave new interpretations into old ideologies. The Masquerade has received accolades from reviewers for its world-building, diversity, brutal consequences, and compelling characters, and all of this is right and true. But I’d like to address the elephant in the room.

[The elephant is Foucault.]

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Fifty-Six

Good morning, true believers (::sniff::). In today’s reread, Alice, Aubree and I will be taking another journey into Dalinar’s visions, this time back to the Recreance—when the Knights Radiant dropped their Shards and abandoned Roshar. There are so many questions in this one to tackle. Why did they do it, really? It can’t possibly be as simple as the big reveal at the end of the book lets on, can it? And what’s going on between Hoid and Harmony? And… well, read on, dear followers, as we discuss those and more. (And freak out a little over the surprise guest at the end of the chapter, of course.)

[“I’ve always been here. Always with you, Dalinar. Oh, I’ve watched you for a long, long time.”]

Series: Oathbringer Reread

You Meet a Man in an Inn: Jean Ray’s “The Mainz Psalter”

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 Jean Ray’s “The Mainz Psalter,” first published as “le Psautier de Mayence” in Le Bien Public in May 1930, and translated into English by Lowell Blair for the Ghouls in My Grave collection in 1965. Spoilers ahead.

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Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Fight With a Vim and You’re Dead Sure to Win: Adam Nemett’s We Can Save Us All

If there’s not an official sub-genre for “edgy, dissolute fantasy set at elite American universities,” we should step into the void and name it ourselves. Ivorypunk. GrimIvy. Because, let’s face it—the New England university setting is an immensely popular secondary world. Think of remote towns filled with disengaged, drug-addled youths: screwing their brains out, dodging classes, lazily committing felonies, also as part of their search for some sort of greater existential purpose. Add a touch of fantasy into the mix and the metaphoric stew gets all the thicker. From The Secret History to The Magicians (and the former is a fantasy novel, bring it), there’s a long, quasi-nihilistic-and-deeply-enjoyable tradition of reading about America’s best and brightest, snorting and bonking their way through a Quest for Meaning.

We Can Save Us All is the latest entry to this tradition. All the Bacchanalian misadventures and soul-searching, but, this time, caped and cloaked as superheroes. Adam Nemett’s debut novel features a group of disillusioned and dissolute Princeton students, groping around for their place in the universe. Our ostensible hero is David Fuffman, a sort of bearded (neckbearded, in fact!) everygeek. Committed to a (largely conceptual) love of comic books, romantic angst and the “cooler” parts of his grandfather’s wardrobe, David’s an oddball, even by Princeton standards.

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Read an Excerpt from Through Fiery Trials, David Weber’s Next Safehold Novel

With new alliances forged and old regimes fractured, Merlin—the cybernetic avatar of Earth’s last survivor and immortal beacon to humanity—and the colonies of Safehold have many adventures ahead in Through Fiery Trials, the continuation of David Weber’s military science fiction series. Available January 8th from Tor Books.

Those on the side of progressing humanity through advanced technology have finally triumphed over their oppressors. The unholy war between the small but mighty island realm of Charis and the radical, luddite Church of God’s Awaiting has come to an end.

However, even though a provisional veil of peace has fallen over human colonies, the quiet will not last. For Safefold is a broken world, and as international alliances shift and Charis charges on with its precarious mission of global industrialization, the shifting plates of the new world order are bound to clash.

Yet, an uncertain future isn’t the only danger Safehold faces. Long-thought buried secrets and prophetic promises come to light, proving time is a merciless warden who never forgets.

[Read an Excerpt]

What Really Happens After the Apocalypse

Right now, the largest and most deadly wildfire in California history is burning. Last year, Hurricane Harvey drowned southeast Texas under punishing, endless rain; a month ago, Hurricane Florence did the same to North Carolina. Apocalyptic-scale disasters happen every day (and more often now, as climate change intensifies weather patterns all over the world.) Apocalyptic disaster isn’t always the weather, either: it’s human-made, by war or by industrial accident; by system failure or simple individual error. Or it’s biological: the flu of 1918, the Ebola outbreaks in 2014.

In science fiction, apocalypse and what comes after is an enduring theme. Whether it’s pandemic (like in Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Stephen King’s The Stand), nuclear (such as Theodore Sturgeon’s short story “Thunder and Roses” or the 1984 BBC drama Threads), or environmental (Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140, and a slew of brilliant short fiction, including Tobias Buckell’s “A World to Die For” (Clarkesworld 2018) and Nnedi Okorafor’s “Spider the Artist” (Lightspeed 2011), disaster, apocalypse, and destruction fascinate the genre. If science fiction is, as sometimes described, a literature of ideas, then apocalyptic science fiction is the literature of how ideas go wrong—an exploration of all of our bad possible futures, and what might happen after.

Most of apocalyptic literature focuses on all the terrible ways that society goes wrong after a society-disrupting disaster, though. This is especially prevalent in television and film—think of The Walking Dead or 28 Days Later where, while the zombies might be the initial threat, most of the horrible violence is done by surviving humans to one another. This kind of focus on antisocial behavior—in fact, the belief that after a disaster humans will revert to some sort of ‘base state of nature’—reflects very common myths that exist throughout Western culture. We think that disaster situations cause panic, looting, assaults, the breakdown of social structures—and we make policy decisions based on that belief, assuming that crime rises during a crisis and that anti-crime enforcement is needed along with humanitarian aid.

But absolutely none of this is true.

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