content by

Charlie Jane Anders

Fiction and Excerpts [13]

Fiction and Excerpts [13]

Unlocking the Full Brilliance of Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle

Ursula K. Le Guin left us with a wealth of stories and universes, but my favorite might be her Hainish cycle. I recently read, or re-read, every single novel and short story in the Hainish universe from beginning to end, and the whole of this story-cycle turned out to be much more meaningful than its separate parts.

Some vague and/or minor spoilers ahead…

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Five Fantastic Recent Books about Humans Colonizing Other Planets

Humanity has accomplished a great many things since we started mastering technologies like writing and agriculture. But we still remain confined to this one tiny planet, without even a permanent presence on our own moon, and the dream of interplanetary colonization remains just that. So it’s a good thing we have a lot of great books in which humans go to live on other worlds.

When I was working on my new novel, The City in the Middle of the Night, I was inspired by a bunch of great books featuring humans colonizing other planets. Here are five recent colonization books that are especially fantastic.

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Series: Five Books About…

Why Science Fiction Authors Need to be Writing About Climate Change Right Now

The future is arriving sooner than most of us expected, and speculative fiction needs to do far more to help us prepare. The warning signs of catastrophic climate change are getting harder to ignore, and how we deal with this crisis will shape the future of humanity. It’s time for SF authors, and fiction authors generally, to factor climate change into our visions of life in 2019, and the years beyond.

The good news? A growing number of SF authors are talking about climate change overtly, imagining futures full of flooded cities, droughts, melting icecaps, and other disasters. lists 382 SF books with the keyword “climate” from 2018, versus 147 in 2013 and just 22 in 2008. Some great recent books dealing with the effects of environmental disasters include Sam J. Miller’s Blackfish City, Edan Lepucki’s California, Cindy Pon’s Want, Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140, and N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. It’s simply not true, as Amitav Ghosh has suggested, that contemporary fiction hasn’t dealt with climate issues to any meaningful degree.

But we need to do more, because speculative fiction is uniquely suited to help us imagine what’s coming, and to motivate us to mitigate the effects before it’s too late.

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Putting Your Worst Foot Forward: Why You Should Play to Your Weaknesses as an Author

Everyone faces the same steep learning curve when it comes to writing genre fiction. There are a lot of moving parts in a science fiction or fantasy story, and they all take tons of practice to master. The good news is that everybody, even novices, already has things that they’re good at—like you might have a knack for snappy dialogue, or a proficiency at worldbuilding. The bad news? The things you’re good at could become traps, if you rely on them too much.

That’s why, at least sometimes, it’s better to lean on your weaknesses as a writer. Your strengths will still be there when you need them, but often the only way to get better at writing is to develop the skills that you lack. This can be scary and frustrating—after all, part of what makes writing fun is that sense of mastery that you get when you know what you’re doing—but vulnerability and insecurity are often where the greatest rewards come from, as a writer.

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Read an Excerpt from Charlie Jane Anders’ The City in the Middle of the Night

“If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams… And from there, it’s easy to control our entire lives.”

January is a dying planet—divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk. And living inside the cities, one flush with anarchy and the other buckling under the stricture of the ruling body, is increasingly just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.

Sophie, a student and reluctant revolutionary, is supposed to be dead, after being exiled into the night. Saved only by forming an unusual bond with the enigmatic beasts who roam the ice, Sophie vows to stay hidden from the world, hoping she can heal.

But fate has other plans—and Sophie’s ensuing odyssey and the ragtag family she finds will change the entire world.

From author Charlie Jane Anders, The City in The Middle of the Night is a haunting, futuristic tale of a young girl who just might save humanity—if she can stay alive. Available February 12th from Tor Books.

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Leigh Bardugo Just Wrote One of the Best Wonder Woman Stories Ever

This is the summer of Wonder Woman, thanks to her runaway hit movie and her outsize role in our ongoing debate over female heroes in pop culture. But they’ve saved the best treat for last: bestselling YA author Leigh Bardugo just published a Wonder Woman novel called Warbringer, and it’s everything I ever wanted from Diana.

Minor spoilers follow.

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How Randyll Tarly Answers Game of Thrones’ Most Baffling Question

Randyll Tarly is not the nicest person on Game of Thrones. He named his son Dickon. He bullied his other son, Samwell, and gave him the choice between joining the Night’s Watch and death. In George R.R. Martin’s books, he’s horrible to Brienne of Tarth — when he’s not tormenting Dickon’s father-in-law or attacking his wife’s family.

But still, Randyll Tarly has had a, shall we say, rough time lately on the TV show. Even by the standards of Game of Thrones, which tortures everyone. And in the process, Randyll provided an answer to the most baffling Thrones question right now.

Spoilers for recent episodes below…

[Legitimacy, xenophobia, and Westeros as a failed state…]

Spider-Man: Homecoming Settles Some of the Hottest Debates About Superhero Movies

The new Spider-Man movie is a breath of fresh air, featuring a young version of the character who’s still figuring out his place in a world of colorful heroes. Even after so many Spidey films, and a slew of other superhero movies, Marvel Studios’ first Spider-Man film still feels like something special. Without giving any spoilers, this movie is light, funny and heartfelt.

But Spider-Man: Homecoming also feels unusual because of the way it manages to settle some of the most contentious debates over the nature of superhero movies, and heroic narratives generally. These include arguments about wholesale destruction, dark storytelling—and who, exactly, these movies are really for.

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Doctor Who’s Missy Is Way Better When She’s Being Bad

At least since Tom Baker left the starring role of Doctor Who back in 1981, fans have wondered if the time-traveling eccentric could ever become a woman. And the show’s producers, over the years, have enjoyed trolling the fans by hinting that it might be possible this time, or by making extreme statements about why the Doctor must always be a bloke. (And then there’s Joanna Lumley…)

But meanwhile, for the past few years, one of Doctor Who’s most important characters, the Master, has been female-bodied. As fans know, she now goes by Missy, and as played by Michelle Gomez, she’s like Mary Poppins crossed with the Joker. And this year’s series has turned out to revolve around Missy, and whether she’s finally on her way to becoming a good person.

And I have to say, I vastly prefer Missy when she’s being bad.

[Spoilers for recent episodes follow…]

The Wild Magic of Karaoke

Some people don’t like karaoke. Some people even consider karaoke some kind of abomination, in which amateur singers inflict their dreadful tunesmithing on their fellow humans. I do not understand those people. To me, karaoke is a vital cultural tradition, that takes the best aspects of pop music and our pomo “remixing” and participatory culture and makes them even more amazing.

I have been a karaoke fiend for as long as I can remember, and I even once managed to be featured on Japanese television, doing a particularly energetic performance at a Tokyo karaoke bar. I used to be the designated karaoke-bar reviewer for a local San Francisco newspaper, and I adore any chance to bust out with a crazy over-the-top performance.

[Theatrical, weird, possibly queer, and definitely subversive…]

Growing Up, Wonder Woman Was the Hero I Really Wanted To Be

When I was a little kid, we bought a hardcover collection of classic Wonder Woman comics at a yard sale for a couple bucks. It was the fancy Ms. Magazine edition, with an introduction by Gloria Steinem, and it was full of these bonkers 1940s storylines about Nazis, Dr. Psycho, and Atomia, queen of the Atomic Kingdom.

I read that book until the covers fell apart, and then read it some more. I have a super vivid memory of being in bed sick, with a sore throat, and reading a scene where Wonder Woman gets captured. I thought to myself, “How is Wonder Woman going to escape from these bad guys when she has a sore throat?” And then I remembered that I was the one with the sore throat, not Wonder Woman.

I loved Doctor Who, growing up. I obsessed over Star Trek and Star Wars, and Tintin and Asterix. But the hero I identified with, deep down, was Wonder Woman.

[Here’s why…]

The Most Popular Movie in America Right Now Is All About Toxic Fatherhood

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 begins with one of the first movie’s trademark groovy 1970s songs, “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass, as we pan into an idyllic forest scene in 1980. A man and a woman drive past a Dairy Queen and go into the woods, and we realize we’re meeting Peter “Starlord” Quill’s father, played by a digitally-facelifted Kurt Russell. It’s comforting, friendly—until we go inside the strange flower that Peter’s dad has planted, and we see glimpses of some biological monstrosity, as the music echoes. This sequence is our first clue that the mystery of Starlord’s paternity will have turn out to have an ugly resolution.

Warning: Enormous spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ahead.

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Margot and Rosalind

On International Women’s Day, several of the best writers in SF/F today reveal new stories inspired by the phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted”, raising their voice in response to a phrase originally meant to silence.

The stories publish on all throughout the day of March 8th. They are collected here.

[Read “Margot and Rosalind” by Charlie Jane Anders]

Series: Nevertheless She Persisted

Karaoke Is Magic!

In this ongoing series, we ask SF/F authors to describe a specialty in their lives that has nothing (or very little) to do with writing. Join us as we discover what draws authors to their various hobbies, how they fit into their daily lives, and how and they inform the author’s literary identity!

Some people don’t like karaoke. Some people even consider karaoke some kind of abomination, in which amateur singers inflict their dreadful tunesmithing on their fellow humans. I do not understand those people. To me, karaoke is a vital cultural tradition, that takes the best aspects of pop music and our pomo “remixing” and participatory culture and makes them even more amazing.

[Read more]

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