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Sarah Tolf

New Greyjoy Chapter from The Winds of Winter Revealed at Balticon

George R.R. Martin read from a new The Winds of Winter chapter at Balticon over the weekend. Given the choice of hearing from Mercy, Aeron, or a “fake history” regarding Aegon’s sons, fans overwhelmingly voted for Aeron Greyjoy, AKA Damphair, the youngest of Balon’s brothers and a priest of the Drowned God. Titled “The Forsaken,” Martin promised a dark chapter that would appeal to “Ramsay fans.” Yeesh…

Several redittors have compiled a comprehensive summary of the chapter, which details the Damphair’s fate following the Kingsmoot. Spoilers abound, of course, and we warn you that Martin wasn’t kidding about how brutal the whole thing gets. And check out our full list of available chapter excerpts and summaries from The Winds of Winter.

Series: A Song of Ice and Fire

In Space, No One Can Hear You Snuff It

Animator Tom Lucas’s short film “Death in Space” depicts a series of hapless astronauts, scientists, and explorers who hilariously blunder their way towards their own demise. Told in 2-second clips, the lesson for future galactic adventurers is clear: everything is trying to kill you, so please stop harassing the alien wildlife, pressing mysterious buttons, and relying on shoddy equipment…

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Playwrights, Magicians, and Zombies: 15 Fictional Shakespeares

We’ve been performing Shakespeare’s plays for 400 years, but we’ve been telling stories about the Bard himself for nearly as long. From speculation about Shakespeare’s “lost years” to doubts about the authorship of his plays, Shakespeare is an elusive character in our historical record. Even the common belief that Shakespeare both was born and died on April 23rd dates back to an 18th-century scholar’s mistake; in truth, his birth date is unknown. We’re not even entirely sure what the man looked like—the famous Droeshout portrait was commissioned 7 years after Shakespeare’s death, so all we’ve got is Ben Johnson’s word that it’s a good likeness of the poet.

It’s no wonder, then, that our modern fascination with Shakespeare extends into our favorite fictional realms: From a starring role in a big budget historical romance to a cameo appearance as a Master Builder in The Lego Movie, we relish the chance to rub elbows with “Shakespeare” in any number of unexpected settings. Below, I’ve gathered some of the best (and weirdest) stories that make use of the immortal Bard.

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Series: Shakespeare on

Knock it Off, Apollo

Jo Walton’s The Just City and its sequel, The Philosopher Kings, posit a world in which the ancient Greek pantheon of gods is real, and exists outside of time. Athena is therefore able to establish a Utopian city based on Plato’s Republic centuries before Plato ever writes it, populated by mortals (and one incarnate god) from a wide swath of history.

But as grateful as the Masters and Children of the city are to have a bona fide goddess on their side, perhaps they’d better brush up on their mythological history. Because the Greek gods? Nothing but trouble.

[8 simple rules for dealing with gods]

Here’s Where Everyone in Game of Thrones is Before Season 5

What, you don’t remember that time Trogdor helped Daenerys burninate Meereen? With so many characters and plot lines (not to mention major deviations from books) it’s easy to lose track of the finer details from Game of Thrones—like how did Stannis get all the way over there, and who the heck is Hizdhar zo Loraq, anyway? So with the new episodes just over the horizon, here’s a handy refresher guide to where all the key characters are before the start of season 5.

Spoilers ahead, naturally.

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Our Favorite Eleventh Doctor Episodes of Doctor Who

Doctor Who has been one hell of a rollercoaster under Matt Smith and Steven Moffat’s reign. The quality of the episodes themselves has been markedly variable, as reflected in our own reviews, and for a little while the staff here was worried that we’d always be down about the show, or that we were chronicling the decline of the series.

Even if that had been the case (the 50th anniverary episode and its surroundings celebration did a huge, wonderful job at rejuvenating the series), Doctor Who is still the best damn sci-fi show on television. As we stand here, mere days from the fall of the Eleventh, we’re feeling thankful for all the sheer oddity that his episodes have added to the series as a whole. We pick our favorites below!

[Come along, honorary Ponds]

Series: Doctor Who on

Disney’s Most Magnificent Bastards

Villains in animated films tend to have a bit of an edge in the whole Magnificent Bastards department. All the best villainous actors of stage and screen do a fair amount of scene chewing (I’m looking at you, Tim Curry), but animated villains can take things to a whole other level. Disney villains in particular have a way of worming their way into our hearts, thanks in no small part to campy theatrics, quippy dialog, and the occasional musical number. And they often have the sartorial chops to carry it off courtesy of some fantastic design work.

But in order to truly rise to the ranks of magnificent bastardry, a villain needs substance—some motivation or believable character flaw an audience can connect with. We don’t have to actively root for the bastards (though sometimes we do), but we do need to understand their point of view. I mean, we may love to hate Cruella de Vil, but it’s hard to actually sympathize with her end game of acquiring a puppy-coat. So which Disney villains make the grade?

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Series: Magnificent Bastards on

Labeling Kurt Vonnegut: From Science Fiction Writer to Pornographer

In Back to School, Rodney Dangerfield’s character Thornton Melon is assigned a paper on Kurt Vonnegut’s novels. Melon shirks responsibility and instead pays Vonnegut himself to write the essay. Unfortunately, the paper earns an F for the obvious forgery and the following critique from Melon’s professor: “Whoever did write this doesn’t know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut.”

And perhaps Professor Turner is right. After all, Vonnegut didn’t even know he was a science fiction writer until reviewers got hold of his first novel, Player Piano. Two decades (and several novels) later, Vonnegut cheekily admitted, “I didn’t know that [it was science fiction]. I supposed that I was writing a novel about life.”

[So it goes]

Series: Banned Books Week 2013

Divided, It Fails: Defiance‘s Multiplatform Narrative Strategy Doesn’t Quite Work

The Syfy original series Defiance just wrapped its first season last week, and I have… opinions.

Defiance takes place in 2046 on the former site of St Louis. In 2013, the Votanis Collective, comprised of several alien species, came to Earth in search of a new home after their own star system collapsed. During the “Pale Wars” that followed, a terraforming accident transformed the Earth into a strange new landscape. After the war, several Votan species integrated into human society while others remained in the badlands.

The show is a pretty straightforward interpretation of science fiction in a western style, and I was initially intrigued by the idea that Earth itself is recast as the unknown frontier. Shoshana Kessock has already discussed Defiance’s somewhat problematic adherence to western tropes here on, but I think the show suffers most from its haphazard approach to world-building and storytelling.

[Read more.]

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