content by

Diane Callahan

Why My Love for Pushing Daisies Hasn’t Died, 15 Years Later

As of this writing, it’s been 15 years, 17 days, and 21 hours since Pushing Daisies premiered on ABC. The show was part romantic comedy, part murder mystery, and part musical, all liberally sprinkled with a heaping spoonful of sugar, spice, and everything nice.

The story centers on an anxiety-riddled baker named Ned who makes pies and wakes the dead. In childhood, he watched as a truck hit his golden retriever and discovered that he possesses a very odd, special power: Ned can bring corpses back to life with a single touch. His next brush with death happens soon after, as his pie-baking mother dies suddenly when a blood vessel bursts in her brain. Though young Ned revives her with his magic touch, he’s horrified to learn that if he lets the dead live for more than a minute, another living thing in close proximity will perish. The cost of resurrecting his mother is the death of his neighbor—the father of his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte “Chuck” Charles.

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What Is “Curio Fiction”? Finding a Name for a Fantastical Subgenre

There’s a particular subgenre of speculative fiction that scratches an itch for me like no other. It’s where you find yourself in a world very much like our own, except one thing is slightly… off. Perhaps there’s a movie theater that plays only memories, or the story centers on a child who learns the language of cats. Or in this familiar-yet-unfamiliar world, everyone wears electronic bracelets that monitor their moods.

These stories place the fantastic alongside the mundane, yet their speculative elements feel subtle compared to other works classified as fantasy or science fiction. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, for example, has a contemporary setting that features one distinct speculative element: the titular midnight library, which is a manifestation of purgatory that allows the main character to travel along alternate life paths.

It’s a fantasy novel, certainly, but to group it with the fantasy worlds of Brandon Sanderson or Robin Hobb feels akin to calling cereal a soup. They’re related but distinct categories.

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Five Life Lessons From Ella Enchanted on the Novel’s 25th Anniversary

Some books are simply meant to be reread again and again. My well-loved copy of Ella Enchanted attests to this fact. With its wrinkled spine and its pages crisp with age, the novel is made more magical with each life milestone we’ve shared together. This year marks the book’s twenty-fifth birthday and the third time I’ve reached that “happily ever after.” I have now stepped into Ella’s adventures as a child, a teen, and an adult.

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Eight SFF Books That Echo Famous Works of Art

Although novels and visual art may seem like vastly different media, both are forms of storytelling—ways of seeing and understanding the world. We paint mental images from words on the page, and we conjure up narratives from brushstrokes on a canvas. Just as one might pair different wines with particular cheeses, so can we match authors with artists, each bringing out the flavors of the other’s work.

Below, I’ve paired eight fantasy and science fiction books with works by famed artists that echo the thoughts and emotions these stories evoked for me…

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Weird as Hell: Falling in Love With Speculative Poetry

Reading poetry sometimes feels like battling a giant squid: overwhelming, disorienting, and more than a little slippery. Poems can be elusive beings, evading comprehension and dissection. When you take an already chimeric beast and give it appendages of fantasy, science fiction, horror, or mythology—well, then it becomes another monster entirely.

Even just a few years ago, I would steer clear of poetry tables at book festivals, feeling that it was too frustrating of an artform to fully grasp. But now writing and reading poetry is a weekly pleasure for me, and I recently read the 2021 Rhysling Anthology—which specifically celebrates speculative poetry—from cover to cover.

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