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Cole Rush

5 Stories About Embracing Found Family

Some of our favorite SFF protagonists tend to form their own circles, building communities with those that love them for who they are. Around the holidays, these stories offer a gentle reminder that there are many ways to define family, and plenty of reasons to spend time bonding with the people who mean the most to you even if you’re not strictly related.

These five stories celebrate found families and the wonderful, unconventional love they share.

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5 SFF Sports I Would Try in a Heartbeat

My favorite fantasy worlds tend to be jam-packed with fascinating nuggets of worldbuilding, details that help to flesh out the setting and give us a better sense of the places and societies in which the story unfolds. Sports and games, in particular, can contribute to our understanding of the culture of a fantasy or sci-fi world, even if they aren’t central to the narrative. These pastimes—whether played for fun or for much higher stakes—bring the structure of competition into magical and futuristic worlds, and hell, I just wanna give them a go!

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Yangchen Could Be the Future of the Avatar: The Last Airbender Franchise

Many moons (or should I say Princess Yues) ago, I wrote a column on F.C. Yee’s excellent Kyoshi duology, and all the reasons I’ve been pining for an on-screen adaptation of those books. Today, I’m making the case for why Yee’s latest novels deserve a place on our screens. If you’re a fan of the Avatar universe, The Dawn of Yangchen and The Legacy of Yangchen would be amazing to see on-air (pun absolutely intended).

With ATLA and Korra co-creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko currently helming Paramount’s Avatar Studios, there’s hope for an eventual Yangchen series or movie.

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Five SFF Captains I Would Follow to Hell and Back

In any situation, there are leaders and there are followers. Normally, I’d classify myself firmly in the former category… but when I read or watch fantasy stories? Whole different ball game, folks. Plop me into an SFF world and I’m bound to follow my captain’s orders, provided the captain is sensible and kind (though a little gruffness doesn’t hurt).

My favorite SFF captains have an unshakeable confidence about them—a knowledge that their power and decisions are capable of changing the world, and that there are always risks and costs involved. They do their duty bearing this burden, and I’d follow them to the ends of the earth (and beyond).

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Behind the Mask: Five Mysterious SFF Fighters

Imagine for a moment the distinct narrative thrill of seeing a masked character appear for the first time. Who could it be? What are they hiding? Is it a character we already know and love, shirking their identity in favor of this mysterious persona? 

In fantasy stories, masks often stand in for identity, or a character’s understanding of who they are. Donning a mask obscures a face and creates someone entirely new. Storytellers in fantasy capitalize on this duality, treating us to wonderful, compelling character development both behind and beyond the mask. So let’s talk about some favorite examples…

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5 Video Games That Teach Valuable Lessons About Failure

Video games are master classes in dealing with failure. The medium welcomes and rewards failure in ways other forms of media can’t. When the player is in control, success pushes the narrative forward while failure brings it to a standstill…but not completely.

Many games shape their mechanics around failure, weaving the player’s inevitable deaths into the core story. Losing a life or dying in a video game is seldom the end of the line. Doing the wrong thing can lead to a successful outcome, or it can provide crucial information that informs a more successful attempt down the line.

Due to their unique playable nature, video games teach important lessons about failure. The five games below each taught me something about failing, what it means, and how to cope with it. And as a bonus, they’re all incredibly fun to play…

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In Loving Memory of the Books I’ll Never Read Again

Which books will you never read again?

Not because they’re bad or boring, but because you love them. You love what they mean to you, or what they meant to you when you turned that final page.

Relegating a book to the realm of wistful memories and fond nostalgia can involve some powerful feelings that are all wrapped up in both the story itself and the circumstances under which you first embraced it. I’ve laid to rest a pile of novels from my youth that I likely won’t revisit. I don’t want to squash my younger self’s joy by experiencing these books once more and taking on the very real risk that I’ll leave disappointed.

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Five Fantasy Swordsmen I’d Never, Ever Want to Challenge

Reader, I am not what most would describe as “fit.” Dexterous, sure; I can play ping pong, darts, or Spikeball with the best of ‘em. I walk 10+ miles per week. I’m not particularly strong, but I’ll help you move for the right price (pizza). The biggest thing I lift with any semblance of regularity isn’t a dumbbell—it’s a fantasy book. The bigger, the better.

And within those fantasy books, particularly the more epic ones, I’m treated to swashbuckling and magic-fueled training montages. Lately, I’ve been drawn to stories about fantasy swordsmen and their workout regimens. More specifically, I enjoy reading the action scenes in which they dispose of their enemies with lethal swipes of their chosen blades. I’ve started to ask myself during these fights: “How long would I last in one of these battles?”

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Five Games for People Who Love Fantasy, Puzzles, and Escape Rooms

I’ve always felt like escape rooms occupy a similar mental space as fantasy books. There’s something thrilling about walking into a room full of puzzles and curious trinkets, then solving a series of riddles to free yourself and your friends from the clutches of whatever narrative the room constructs. I’ve done escape rooms themed around zombies, wizards, and even The Legend of Zelda. Every time, I feel fully entrenched in an alternate world, and it scratches the same escapist itch as a fantasy novel.

I tend to look for the same kind of experiences in games, be they video games or board games. Recently, I’ve been on a kick of escape room-esque games with a fantasy bent. If you, like me, enjoy the unique intersection of these three delightful mediums, I present the following: my five favorite fantasy games that have a distinctly escape room vibe.

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I’m Cuckoo for These Fabulous Fantasy Clocks

Time is quite literally of the essence today, folks! We’re diving into the wibbly-wobbly world of fantasy clocks, in which time can be molded, anthropomorphized, or simply measured with remarkable flair.

Examples of intriguing clocks, watches, and timepieces abound in fantasy worlds. I’m certain the five below, though they’re my personal favorites, don’t begin to cover the many ingenious time-related devices in the fantasy pantheon. So, as always, please hit me with your own favorites in the comments below!

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Five Non-Disney Animated Movies Everyone Should Watch

We’re in the midst of an animation renaissance of sorts, with new and electrifying creative visions bursting into the mainstream. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the latest groundbreaking phenomenon to hit the zeitgeist; the sequel expands on stunning success of the previous movie, which redefined the rules of animated storytelling and captured the hearts of mainstream audiences all at once.

For folks who grew up in the ’90s and the preceding decades, Disney tended to dominate the scene when it came to animated films. That’s not to cast aspersions on the House of Mouse, but in my experience, many of those Disney kids didn’t continue loving animation into adulthood, which means they’re missing out on some truly great art and storytelling. I’ve written twice before about this very topic, so this is a loosely related third installment in my animation saga, which began by questioning seemingly negative attitudes toward the medium, then continued with a deep dive into three specific test  cases.

Now, to complete the trilogy, I thought I’d simply discuss five of my favorite animated works not made by Disney. I’m also leaving Studio Ghibli out of the mix, since their work is already widely popular, though consider this sentence a blanket recommendation for pretty much any and every Ghibli movie…

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All the Way Down: Five of the Greatest Turtles and Tortoises in Fantasy

They’re slow. They’re steady. They win races against arrogant bunnies. Turtles and their tortoise brethren have long been fabled creatures—they may be seen as purveyors of wisdom, or transport characters to new worlds. In some myths (and some newer stories as well), they hold parts of the world (or all of it) aloft.

Once, these creatures carried the weight of Aesop’s pithy morals. Now, they shoulder so much more, and our fantasy stories are often better off with turtles and tortoises in the mix. Here are five of my favorite turtles and tortoises in fantasy, and I hope you’ll add your own in the comments below!

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