“Smokin’!” — The Mask and Son of the Mask

The Mask started out as a concept Mike Richardson came up with for a sketch in APA-5, an amateur press fanzine Richardson was involved with in 1985. Later on, Richardson formed Dark Horse Comics, and gave the concept to Mark Badger, who did a feature called The Masque in the anthology comic Dark Horse Presents. The more familiar version—with the big green head, the massive teeth, and the general mode of chaos—debuted in Mayhem in 1989, eventually getting his own four-issue miniseries, the first of several, in 1991, which continued throughout the 1990s.

They were popular enough to become part of Dark Horse Entertainment’s stable of films, for which it was one of their biggest hits.

[There can’t be two idiots with pajamas like these…]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Over the Garden Wall: A Sweet, Strange Journey into The Unknown

If you’ve ever seen Over the Garden Wall, chances are you’ve seen it more than once—it’s a show that rewards repeat viewings. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a bit hard to explain—it’s an Emmy award-winning animated miniseries that first aired on the Cartoon Network in November, 2014. It’s weird, and beautiful, and not like anything else you’ve ever seen, and features the voice talents of Elijah Wood and Christopher Lloyd, along with John Cleese, Tim Curry, singer Chris Isaak, and opera singer Samuel Ramey, among others. I recently rewatched it, as I tend to do every November. Here’s why.

Everyone in my family dies in November.

[Spoilers Ahead.]

The Only Harmless Great Thing Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a galley copy of Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing, available January 23rd from Tor.com Publishing!

The Only Harmless Great Thing is a heart-wrenching alternative history that imagines an intersection between the Radium Girls and noble, sentient elephants.

In the early years of the 20th century, a group of female factory workers in Newark, New Jersey, slowly died of radiation poisoning. Around the same time, an Indian elephant was deliberately put to death by electricity in Coney Island.

These are the facts.

Now these two tragedies are intertwined in a dark alternate history of rage, radioactivity, and injustice crying out to be righted. Prepare yourself for a wrenching journey that crosses eras, chronicling histories of cruelty both grand and petty in search of meaning and justice.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on December 14th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on December 18th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Eight Kloo Horn Players Sadly Absent from Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I’m sure when you were a kid watching Star Wars, you just assumed that the instruments being played by Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes (note: if you just called them “the cantina band” I’m really not sure what to do with you) were variants on instruments that you have already seen or played upon. Look, it’s an oboe! That one’s a space saxophone! How wrong you were, my young friend. How misguided. That instrument that Figrin D’an is playing is called a kloo horn. It’s totally different from our lousy Earth instruments. (It’s not.) And the Star Wars universe is full of musicians who loved that instrument, at least according to the Legends canon.

Here are eight of their stories. Eight. There are eight whole stories here, somehow. Eight’s gotta be a magic number somewhere, right?

[Read more]

Ursula K. Le Guin’s Essential Internet Writing, Now Between Two Covers

No Time to Spare, a collection of nonfiction drawn from Ursula K. Le Guin’s blog, draws its title from a statement she made at the very beginning of her first full post: “I am going to be eighty-one next week. I have no time to spare.” Anyone looking at her career must wonder if she ever had spare time. After all, in addition to her science fiction and fantasy novels and collections, almost any one of her which could cap a lesser writer’s career, she’s published realistic fiction, a dozen volumes of poetry, several essay collections, a writing guide, and translations from both Portuguese and Chinese. I’m probably forgetting several things: the list of Le Guin’s publications that opens No Time to Spare, though it runs two pages, is far from complete.

Le Guin attributes her decision to start a blog to reading a selection of Portuguese Nobel winner José Saramago’s internet writing, though with, she avers, “less political and moral weight.” I do not know the Portuguese for “blog,” but perhaps it’s more euphonious than the English word, which Le Guin hates: “it sounds like a sodden tree trunk in a bog, or maybe an obstruction in the nasal passage.” In any case, the form suits her. Le Guin is, in fact, a better political thinker than the great Saramago, and even the essays she worries are most “trivially personal” are so animated and so entertaining that no reader can skip them.

[Read more]

Star Wars, Full Circle: A New Fan’s Take On The Force Awakens

Having only seen the prequels, I didn’t really get Star Wars—so in preparation for The Force Awakens (and beyond), I finally watched the original trilogy.

When it came time to forge ahead, I thought what if this is just a repeat of the disappointing prequels? The opening theme to did not reassure me, nor did the opening crawl. I’d seen them before, after all, attached to movies I loathed. And I didn’t trust J. J. Abrams to do the job right, either.

But with the original trilogy fresh in my head, I came to (mostly) love The Force Awakens.

[Read more]

Quality over Quantity: The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum

Sometimes, a story hits you like a ton of bricks, and you immediately resolve to look for more by that author. For me, “A Martian Odyssey,” by Stanley G. Weinbaum was one of those stories. I read it in an anthology I’d found at the library, but couldn’t find other books by him on the shelves. Years later, though, I came across a collection with his name on it and immediately shelled out $1.65 to purchase it. And then found out about Weinbaum’s untimely death, which explained why I couldn’t find any of his other works. It was soon apparent that he was not a “one-hit wonder,” as every story in the collection was worth reading.

[Read more]

Star Wars and the Long Arc of the Rebellion

Whatever happens in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, things look to be tough for the Resistance against the First Order. By the end of Episode VIII, we’ll likely find ourselves at something of a cliffhanger for our heroes because, well… that’s how suspense and trilogies tend to work. But what does the arc of the rebellion look like? How does the Resistance differ from its earlier counterpart, and what will their trials be going forward? Taking a closer look at other Star Wars media (including books and television) can clue us in….

[Read more]

See Tamora Pierce on Tour for Tempests and Slaughter!

Legendary fantasy author Tamora Pierce returns to Tortall in the highly anticipated first book in the Numair Chronicles, Tempests and Slaughter, a must-read for any fantasy lover!

Arram Draper is on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness—and for attracting trouble. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram realizes that one day—soon—he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In Tempests and Slaughter, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.

Tempests and Slaughter will be available February 6 from Random House Books for Young Readers, and Tammy is going on tour! Check out the full list of dates and venues below.

[Read more]

Let Me Tell You About My Dream: H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Very Old Folk”

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.

Today we’re looking at H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Very Old Folk,” first appearing as a letter to Donald Wandrei on November 3 1927, and first published in the Summer 1940 issue of Scienti-Snaps. Spoilers ahead.

[“For many nights there had been a hollow drumming on the hills…”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Binti: The Night Masquerade Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a galley copy of Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti: The Night Masquerade, available January 16th from Tor.com Publishing!

Binti: The Night Masquerade is the concluding part of the highly-acclaimed science fiction trilogy that began with Nnedi Okorafor’s Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning Binti.

Binti has returned to her home planet, believing that the violence of the Meduse has been left behind. Unfortunately, although her people are peaceful on the whole, the same cannot be said for the Khoush, who fan the flames of their ancient rivalry with the Meduse.

Far from her village when the conflicts start, Binti hurries home, but anger and resentment has already claimed the lives of many close to her.

Once again it is up to Binti, and her intriguing new friend Mwinyi, to intervene—though the elders of her people do not entirely trust her motives—and try to prevent a war that could wipe out her people, once and for all.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 2:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on December 13th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on December 17th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Blood and Sand

Roma Victrix. The Republic of Rome is on a relentless march to create an empire—an empire built on the backs of the conquered, brought back to Rome as slaves.

Attia was once destined to rule as the queen and swordmaiden of Thrace, the greatest warrior kingdom the world had seen since Sparta. Now she is a slave, given to Xanthus, the Champion of Rome, as a sign of his master’s favor. Enslaved as a child, Xanthus is the preeminent gladiator of his generation.

Against all odds, Attia and Xanthus form a tentative bond. A bond that will spark a rebellion. A rebellion that threatens to bring the Roman Republic to its end—and gives rise to the legend of Spartacus…

Blood and Sand is a stirring tale of two slaves who dared take on an empire by talented debut author C. V. Wyk—available January 16th from Tor Teen.

[Read an Excerpt]