content by

Mur Lafferty

Fiction and Excerpts [1]

Bookburners: Season 4, Episode 1

Magic is real, and hungry—trapped in ancient texts and artifacts, only a few who discover it survive to fight back. Detective Sal Brooks is a survivor. Freshly awake to just what dangers are lurking, she joins a Vatican-backed black-ops anti-magic squad: Team Three of the Societas Librorum Occultorum. Together they stand between humanity and magical apocalypse. Some call them the Bookburners. They don’t like the label.

Everything in the Bookburners’ lives falls into two categories: Before London and After London. Before London, things were strange, sure, but After London… “strange” doesn’t even begin to describe it. Magic is everywhere—and the Bookburners can only be in one place at a time.

Having cut ties with the Vatican, the members of the former Team Three are a little at a loss. Their old roles don’t feel right anymore; their old job seems almost quaint, considering how much magic flourishes in plain sight. But with the return of an old enemy, they find a renewed purpose. And this time, they know that the only thing they can depend on in this world is each other.

Season 4 of Bookburners—a serial created by Max Gladstone and co-written with Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty, Andrea Phillips, and Brian Francis Slattery—launches June 13th from Serial Box.

[Read an Excerpt]

V: “Red Sky”

Season finale! Val gets kidnapped in the middle of labor! Erica gets invited to a dinner with Anna and Lisa and Tyler to discuss Live Aboard! Erica wants to kill all the eggs!

They really want us to know it’s the season finale.

Jack finally starts playing the, “let’s manipulate Chad” game by giving him a fake message to give to Anna. While talking to Chad, Jack tells him to drop the message in medical bay, but Chad takes the message straight to Anna. She reassures him that there are no V Fifth Column members, it must be for Live Aboard humans. She tells him to deliver it. He takes it to Joshua who refuses it, not trusting Chad. They try to warn other Fifth Column members but they’re caught, Joshua placed behind a force field. Chad visits him and Joshua tells him he’s been played, Anna gave him an aneurysm instead of removing one, and how to find out the truth. Chad goes down the scary red corridor to find a woman being tortured.

[Babies and explosions and surprises after the cut]

V: “Fruition”

We’re catching up to the finale of V!

Cylon- er, secret V FBI Agent Malik briefs Erica on the “Fifth Column” attack on the V girl. Erica’s pretty astonished to realize it’s Lisa, she is beaten badly, has a “V” carved into her cheek, and, oh yeah, Lisa’s a V. Erica and Malik show Lisa some mug shots, and she identifies Hobbes and another man as her attackers. Anna and Joshua go to visit her, shocking Erica that Lisa is Anna’s daughter. Erica and Anna meet, Anna playing distraught mother. Erica watches her closely. Tyler and Lisa have a tearful reunion. As they talk, Joshua introduces himself to Erica and tells Erica that Anna beat up Lisa, and that Parker and Hobbes have “answers” and she needs to find them.

They have a press conference, pointedly shutting out Chad Decker. He is greatly concerned. Anna says that the V are leaving because of the cruel treatment the humans have given them. Chad frets and offers to help, Marcus tells him he’s just a journalist, his job is to report news, not editorialize. Chad does an impassioned editorial, telling people that the Vs saved his live, and people had to get behind the Vs, “Show the world how much Anna means to you.” This causes the governments to promise to go after Fifth Column if the V stay. Anna finally lets Chad in, and he calls her on manipulating him. She asks for his Fifth Column contact, telling him he’s already compromised his ethics once when he editorialized his story.

[Chad Decker has no ethics…]

V: “Hearts and Minds”

V is over for the season! And yet we’re behind in our recaps. I blame TiVo, the rhinovirus, and streptococcal pharyngitis. So first we’ll cover “Hearts and Minds,” then “Fruition,” then the season finale, “Red Sky.”

“Hearts and Minds” starts with the old “here’s how it ends, then we’ll show you how it begins” ruse. First we find Ryan, Hobbes, and Father Jack shooting down a V transport, then discovering charred humans, complete with a heartstring-pulling teddy bear (and later we see a pink Nintendo DS JUST LIKE MY DAUGHTER HAS), not V soldiers. Uh oh. Then we see Anna and Marcus crowing in their very subdued, elitest, V way, that the Fifth Column took the bait and shot down the shuttle with human remains.

Flashback twelve hours, and Joshua is calling Ryan to warn him about the shuttle. He tells Erica, Father Jack, and Hobbes that they have to bring it down. Jack prays for guidance and is interrupted by Chad, still doing a clumsy and direct, “Hey I wanna join your SEEKRIT CLUB! Can I join it? I understand it’s SEEKRIT,” attempt to get into the Fifth Column. Father Jack breaks when Chad mentions how he rides the shuttles. He tells him to stay away from the shuttles, as his parishioners are whispering.

Chad runs to Anna and squeals, but is unwilling to give up Father Jack. Anna and Marcus come up with other plans for the day’s shuttle schedule, and plan to tighten security on the ship even more.

[Chad Decker]

Tor Story Podcast 020 – “Firstborn” by Brandon Sanderson

Dennison stepped into the hologram, walking until he stood directly behind his ships. There were about two dozen of them—not a large force, by Fleet standards, but bigger than he deserved. He glanced to the side. Non-commissioned aides and lesser officers had paused in their duties, eyes turned toward their youthful commander. Though they offered no obvious disrespect, Dennison could see their true feelings in their eyes. They did not expect him to win.

Well, Dennison thought, wouldn’t want to disappoint the good folks.

We have another archived story for you this week:  “Firstborn” by Brandon Sanderson.

[Dinner with Father after the cut]

V: “Heretic’s Fork”

V is starting to get a little more action, just a little. What’s interesting is that the Vs still don’t know any of the Fifth Column members, while in the old V, Mike Donovan was known and wanted early on. Erica is still going to work at the FBI, after all.

We start the episode on the heels of last week, with the sniper saying that the Vs threatened his family if he wouldn’t kill the Fifth Column group, and he doesn’t know where the missing hard drive is. Hobbes says he’s lying, and moves to beat him more, but Father Jack stops him. Later, Hobbes shows the prisoner a little torture device called the Heretic’s Fork which wedges under the chin, but Father Jack interrupts. Erica goes to find the sniper’s wife to find out if she knows where the hard drive is. Turns out the Vs hadn’t threatened the family, but had healed their daughter’s paralysis. Erica snoops and finds the missing hard drive and pockets it. The hard drive has been wiped of most of the names, and the sniper refuses to help, totally loyal to the Vs who healed his daughter. Erica threatens the sniper with Hobbes, and he still refuses to talk. She and Jack leave the room, and shortly Hobbes joins them with the information they need.

On the mother ship, Anna finds out about the baby. She tells the doctors it is a mongrel and they must accelerate the Live Aboard program. She orders Joshua to catch the parents, dissect them to figure out how it happened, and destroy the baby. Later she tells Lisa that Tyler is to join the Live Aboard program, where he’ll remain on the ship until “he’s no longer needed.” Lisa is not terribly pleased at this statement. Then Anna tells Marcus to release a soldier to hunt Ryan and Valerie.

[And just what IS up with the mama of the hybrid baby? I hope they name him/her]

Tor Story Podcast 019 – “Four Horsemen, at Their Leisure” by Richard Parks

After the Apocalypse the Horsemen rode off in separate directions. We met up now and then over the centuries, stayed together for awhile as the mood took us, broke apart again. The last time we were together we had a grand old time. War turned his back for a moment, and Pestilence tried to give him a cold. War chopped Pestilence’s head off and kicked it like a soccer ball. It was a good kick. Three hundred yards across the blighted landscape, easily. By the time Pestilence’s headless body managed, scrabbling across the dust and debris, to feel its way to where the head had rolled, we were pretty sure he wouldn’t try that again. A pity, really. I hadn’t laughed so hard since the Apocalypse.

After that we separated again, which was why I happened to be alone, riding along on a manifestation of a horse that I’d named Patience, brooding as is my habit, and almost didn’t notice when I came across the impossible.

A pine seedling.

Sorry for the delay, folks, the producer was sick last week. So this week we bring you last week’s new story, “Four Horsemen, at Their Leisure,” by Richard Parks

[Death, War, Pestilence, Famine, and none of them brought a trowel after the cut.]

V: “We Can’t Win”

Boy, nothing like a stomach virus to throw off your SF watching. Or rather, watching is fine, but anything else is right out. So sorry for the delay, but onward!

This episode let me down a little bit. It started out with a cheap dream (subconsciously, Chad both desires and fears Anna. SHOCKER!) and then moved to some lazy dialogue.

Tyler: You let me believe you broke up because of that stupid bike wreck!
Erica: I didn’t know you felt that way! If I’d known, I would have told you!
Tyler: Yeah, but you didn’t.
Erica: Uh, what the hell is wrong with you; are you deaf? I just said I didn’t know…

OK, that last line I made up. Call it “What Should Have Been” theater.

Let’s recap the episode, shall we? After the violent sex dream, we have Anna and Chad heading to Geneva to a summit to introduce blue energy, a clean, sustainable energy. The council doesn’t want to let her speak, however, the Secretary General saying that they’ve done enough damage to the drug industry and they don’t want her messing with the power industry. Anna then saves a country from a monsoon, giving them blue energy and rescuing stranded refugees, making the council love her. Except for the Secretary General, who is convinced that they’re not acting like visitors, they’re acting like they’re staying here.

[But they]

Carla Ulbrich’s new album: Live from Outer Space

I’ve been a fan of Carla Ulbrich since I heard her hysterical folk-inspired guitar songs two years ago. There was “I Have To Kill You Now,” where she sings about taking antihistamines and then not remembering anything she said during an interview, and then there was the Dr. Demento favorite “What If Your Girlfriend Was Gone?”

Recently I was thrilled to find her new album, Live from Outer Space. While Ulbrich often focuses on just plain humor rather than geek-specific humor, she does have some truly awesome geek-flavored songs on this album.

The first is, of course, “Duet with a Klingon” (which I played on the weekly podcast a couple of weeks ago) where she parodies “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.” I’d quote it, but I don’t have a Klingon dictionary handy to insert the Klingon’s part of the duet, but I recommend a listen. Trust me, it’s hysterical.

But I can quote another geeky song on the album, which is “The Force is the Force,” a parody of “A Horse is a Horse.”

The force is the force, of course, of course
And no one can tell you about the force
Except of course a Jedi Knight
And most of them are dead!

[The colon takes another run, and copyrighting swear words after the cut]

V: “John May”

Yay! We get to find out who this mysterious John May is! So why the hell is Anders from BSG in the opening scene? And why is Ryan trying to kill him?

Synopsis: Ahhh, flashback. Ryan is with the Vs, hunting John May, the first resistance leader of the V. They fight and then Ryan gets caught in a bear trap (a bear trap? Really?) so they have a breathless conversation about the power of human emotions. Ryan would probably rather talk about the power of the bear trap. John May has a chance to kill Ryan, but runs instead.

Back to present day where Ryan is telling the other resistance who John May was. They worry about Georgie on the mother ship as well as whether he’ll talk under torture. Ryan says they need to communicate with the mother ship, and to do that they need a device John May had. They’re off to upstate NY to see John May’s stepson.

Anna dozes on a couch wearing a golden gown. The V nap in style. Marcus, her second in command, reports that George isn’t talking, and they are having trouble getting people on their “Live Aboard” program. She says she’ll address the public. “I want those bodies.”

Krycek—I mean, Joe, Tyler’s dad, and Lisa meet at the bathroom door. Instead of saying, “Holy shit, there’s someone in my house,” he has a look of confused delight. I know she’s a pretty girl, but I don’t know anyone who’d be pleased to find someone in their house first thing in the morning. She introduces herself, then Joe gets the skinny from Tyler (“I slept on the couch, Dad. Promise.”)

[Secrets and lies after the cut.]

Tor Story Podcast 018 – “First Flight” by Mary Robinette Kowal

Eleanor Louise Jackson stood inside the plain steel box of the time machine. It was about the size of an outhouse, but without a bench or windows. She clutched her cane with one hand and her handbag with the other. It felt like the scan was taking far too long, but she was fairly certain that was her nerves talking.

Her corset made her ribs creak with every breath. She’d expected to hate wearing the thing, but there was a certain comfort from having something to support her back and give her a shape more like a woman than a sack of potatoes.

We have another archived story for you this week:  “First Flight” by Mary Robinette Kowal.

Promo: Merciless Storytellers

[Time travel back to 1905 after the cut]

V – The New Series

We’re coming in on the new V series a little late, so I wanted to do a little run down on where the show has taken us, especially as compared with the previous incarnation. (A post about the April 13 episode “John May,” directed by ST:TNG’s Jonathan Frakes, will be up shortly!)

In addition to comparisons with the previous V, comparisons to Battlestar Galactia are inevitable, as it was another SF show with a successful reboot. It had its share of gender-bending and controversy, and ultimately became a show that stood on its own and didn’t need the legacy to prop it up. We can only hope V will have the same success (and it won’t close on such a WTF? series ender. But that’s a BSG issue that I won’t get into here.)

Like BSG, the reboot of V has gender switches, although the characters don’t have the same names and personalities, which probably is why there was no outcry. The resistance leader/single parent is female now (Erica Evans), the V leader is female (Anna), the reporter who finds himself as the propaganda voice for the Vs is male (Chad Decker), and the confused teen that gets involved with a V is male (Tyler Evans). Tyler’s story will be interesting, since a wrenching unintended pregnancy has much more weight (heh) on a girl than a boy, but we have yet to see if the V’s plan for Tyler includes impregnating Anna’s daughter, Lisa. We do already have an unintended human/V pregnancy from a sleeper fifth column V, Ryan, who unintentionally gets his girlfriend pregnant. “I thought we couldn’t breed with the humans!” he complains to a V ally. “Didn’t you see Jurassic Park?” she (should have) said.

We have a priest, Father Jack Landry, like the old V, but unlike the old V, Jack is not a fucking idealistic moron, and also happens to be young(ish) and hot. He also doesn’t seem to need to spout scripture at every opportunity to try to guide the humans on the holy path. I am wondering if they’re going to build sexual tension between Erica and Father Jack. I’m seeing it, but maybe it’s just wishful thinking.

Another similarity the shows have is an odd controversy seen only by a few. Personally, I wondered why no one freaked when the humans (the good guys) in BSG worshipped twelve gods and the Cylons (genocidal bad guys) worshipped the One True God. Sounded an awful lot like an anti-Christian sentiment to me, but I don’t recall seeing anyone angry about it. V’s controversy (and this is something I read online, it never occurred to me personally) is that it launched on the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s presidential victory, the Vs are bringing hope, change, and universal health care, they’re beautiful and young and ultimately dark and twisted underneath. Some object that it’s a clear comparison to the Obama administration. Considering that the first V miniseries also presented the Vs as bringing hope and promising medical and other technology, it seems to be a far-fetched controversy.

And hey, the show is SF, and it has a female protagonist and female antagonist. How did they get the suits to approve that? Awesome.

[But enough of that. Let]

Tor Story Podcast 017 – “The Film-makers of Mars” by Geoff Ryman

Remember the first time you saw Nosferatu, and the vampire looked like a crossbreed between a human and a rat? Well Santa’s Elves looked like little Nosferatus, only they were three feet high and deranged. One of them was licking a child’s doll between her legs. You could hear the whole audience go Ew!

Rat teeth stuck out; fingernails curled in lumps like fungus. One of them snarled at Santa, and the old guy cuffed it pretty smartly about its pointed ears, then knocked it to the ground and gave it two smart kicks to the groin.

Then the reel ended.

Amy looked at me, her face seesawing between wonder and disgust. “That was a children’s film?”

The festival director bounced up to a lectern, trying to look spry. He joked about the movie. “It was called The Secret Life of Santa Claus and I think that must be the first X-rated Santa feature.”

We have another archived story for you this week:  “The Film-makers of Mars” by Geoff Ryman.

[More movies after the cut]

V – A Retrospective, Pt. 2

In preparation for the return of the new V television series, I decided to get reacquainted with the old, as it originally aired when I was ten years old (so it’s been a while). I remember the peeling of skin and the flashing lizard tongues, Marc Singer’s manly chest and… that’s about it. So I figured since I’ll be covering the new series V for, I’ll get immersed in classic V. This is Part 2; see Part 1 about V: The Miniseries.

Any geek has learned that labeling something “final” (Final Battle, Final Fantasy, etc) is pretty much saying “the followup/sequel/next chapter will be along soon.” And so it is with V: The Final Battle, a miniseries to follow V: the Miniseries, and the prelude to V: The Series.

When we last left our human rebels, we had young Robin, the teen seduced by Dreamy Lizard Boy (a.k.a. Brian), realizing she was pregnant. Our rebel heroes, Mike Donovan and Julie Parrish, had defended their base against a V attack (brought on by the panicked betrayal of scientist Robert Maxwell, and so far, in the several hours of story, we have never gotten a hint that anyone discovered his betrayal, or that he feels guilt for causing his own wife’s death.) The future, while not necessarily bright, at least exists for a human rebellion.

[Lizard baby lizard baby lizard baby! And, uh, more plot stuff after the cut.]

Tor Story Podcast 016 – “Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction” by Jo Walton

In the Papers (1)

In the seventh week of the mining strike in West Virginia, armed skirmishes and running “guerrilla battles” in the hills have led to the Governor calling in

You can reap the benefits with no need to leave the safety of your house or go among unruly college students! Only from


April issue on newsstands now! All new stories by Poul Anderson, Anson MacDonald and H. Beam Piper! Only 35 cents.

We have another archived story for you this week:  “Escape to Other Worlds With Science Fiction” by Jo Walton. We have some bonus content this week, Carla Ulbrich’s song “Duet with a Klingon.”

Promo: The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd

[A little more coffee after the cut]

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