Tor.com content by

Matthew Kressel

Fiction and Excerpts [1]
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Fiction and Excerpts [1]

What It Means to Be Human: Five Works of Fiction That Explore Blade Runner’s Core Themes

One of the reasons the original Blade Runner film has endured as a classic is its compelling exploration of what it means to be human. As the replicants struggle to extend their artificially brief lifespans, the seminal film probes our notions of empathy, slavery, identity, memory, and death, in profound yet subtle ways.

Blade Runner asks many questions of its audience. Does our capacity for empathy correlate with our humanity? Are we the sum total of our memories, or something more? Do our lives have meaning if no one remembers the things we’ve seen and done when we’re gone? How does questioning someone’s humanity perpetuate the institution of slavery? And what do our fears of a robot uprising tell us about our own human insecurities?

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Why Blade Runner is More Relevant Than Ever

When the original Blade Runner film was released in 1982 to mediocre box-office sales and lukewarm reviews, few could predict the film would have such a lasting legacy. For nearly three decades, the film’s neon-saturated, overcrowded, rain-swept dystopia served as the default backdrop for dozens, if not hundreds of science-fiction films. Even the Star Wars prequels borrowed (or ripped-off) the film’s noirish cyberdream vision for some of its urban landscapes. But more so than its look, Blade Runner’s themes have survived long past its inception date.

Consider the future Blade Runner that posits for November, 2019: a society of haves and have-nots. A world where the rich literally dwell above the poor in luxury skyscrapers, or migrate Off-world with personal servants/slaves. Meanwhile, the mass of citizens crowds below, eking out dreary lives, struggling against entropy and despair to make frayed ends meet. It’s a world of crumbling infrastructure and collapsing social order, a world of decadence and decay. Take away the neon and the incessant rain, the flying cars and the Off-world colonies, and you have a world not too different from the one we inhabit today.

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How to Run a (Successful) Reading Series

So you want to run a reading series, do you? That’s fantastic news! The more places authors have to showcase their work, the better. But while running a reading series may seem like a cakewalk to the casual outside observer, there are many things you must consider to make sure your series is successful.

I’ve been co-hosting the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series in Manhattan alongside Ellen Datlow for over eight years (the series itself has been running since the late 90s), and in that time I’ve learned many things about how to run a successful reading series, some of which I’ll share with you here.

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What Are the Best and Worst Aspects of Cyberpunk? Authors Weigh In On Writing—and Reading—the Future

Cyberpunk. It’s about cybernetics, neuroscience, nanotech, and transhumanism—and much more than that. The upcoming anthology from Hex Publishers, Cyber World, looks at how the technological changes we all face have inspired new stories to address our fears, hopes, dreams, and desires. All this as Homo sapiens evolves—or not—into its next incarnation.

Some of the most talented science fiction writers of today contributed to Cyber World, which presents diverse tales of humanity’s tomorrow. Today six of those authors answer the question “What are the best and worst aspects of cyberpunk, as either a reader or a writer?” Read their answers and tell us your own thoughts in the comments!

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Series: Cyberpunk Week on Tor.com

Five Fantasy Books with Awe-Inspiring Settings

In the best fantasy novels, settings are characters too. These created worlds are as rich and alive as the characters that inhabit their colorful landscapes. Of course characters — strong and fascinating ones — are integral to a compelling plot. But a great setting adds layers of dynamism and complexity to characters’ struggles. It’s Middle-earth and Westeros, Oz and Earthsea, Pern and Amber, and all the other fantastic worlds we love to inhabit which mold and shape the characters moving inside them into something greater.

The most memorable fantasy worlds feel as if they are real places that we’ve visited. In fact, we have visited them, in our minds. This is why we build interactive maps of Kings Landing, why we feel the hot ashen winds of Mordor on our cheeks, and why we can still taste the Mad Hatter’s tea on our lips.

[Five awe-inspiring settings that have stuck with me]

Series: Five Books About…