Has Cloud Atlas Author David Mitchell Given Us The Greatest Writing Tip Of Our Time?

John Hornor Jacobs, author of Southern Gods, Incorruptibles, and Infernal Machines recently met up with fantasy author Sanford Allen, who related a meeting with David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas and the World Fantasy Award-winning The Bone Clocks. Apparently, Mitchell spent a bit of time buying Allen drinks and asking for stories of Allen’s time as a touring musician.

But this was not just a pleasant evening out for two writers talking shop—this was also an opportunity for Mitchell to share the art of “IWATH,” or, to spell it out, “I WAS THERE.”

Jacobs shared the anecdote on Twitter, explaining the concept of IWATH:

Subversive Victoriana: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

If you recall my last entry for TBR Stack, I found Artemis to be a fun read; while Andy Weir’s stated aim is to write exciting SF, not make a political statement, part of the fun for me was investing in Jazz Beshara’s financial troubles. In Theodora Goss’ The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, the politics are much more apparent—this is a feminist retelling of Victoriana, after all. But it’s also an examination of class, mobility, propriety, and finances, and how they echo through women’s lives, and constrain them.

In short, this book is about opportunity, and its specific relationship to women’s bodies.

Miss Mary Jekyll is the daughter of the esteemed Dr. Henry Jekyll, who died when she was only eight years old. Her mother, always a fragile woman, gradually descended into madness after her husband’s death, raving about a horrible face appearing ...

The Man in the High Castle’s SDCC 2018 Panel Teases a New Resistance – and a Premiere Date!

The Man in the High Castle will return on October 5th…and it’s already been renewed for a fifth season! The dystopia takes place in a timeline where the U.S. lost World War II, and was subsequently divided between a Nazi Annex in the East, and a Japanese colony in the West. The show hosted a lively panel at San Diego Comic-Con featuring actors Alexa Davalos, Rufus Sewell, Stephen Root, and Jason O’Mara, and executive producers Isa Dick Hackett and Dan Percival, showed an extended clip of Season Three, and discussed the difficulties of creating alternate timelines.

I’ve rounded up some panel highlights below!

  • Apparently the Nazis have learned they’re in a multi-verse..which means there are more worlds to conquer. Not good.
  • Rufus Sewell’s Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith has to become even more dedicated to his Nazism, because “there’s no retiring from the Reich.”
  • Meanwhile, Stephen Root said that ...

Nightflyers Used Alien’s Camera Lenses for Maximum Terror in Space

When Nightflyers‘ Executive Producer Jeff Buhler decided to adapt the George R.R. Martin science fiction/horror mashup for Syfy, he didn’t screw around: “We paid homage to the greats: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Psycho, Alien. The lenses were actually the same ones used for Alien.”

Buhler and the cast discussed their new show at San Diego Comic-Con. Check out some panel highlights below!

Let’s begin with a warning. This IS a George R.R. Martin adaptation, so, as Angus Sampson put it: “We don’t get to know what happens before each episode, so we’re always wondering, ‘Am I going to die this week?’”

Jodie Turner-Smith discussed the mission, saying, “What’s driving the Nightflyer out there is that we have to find a place to transplant the human race.” Her own character, Mel, was “genetically engineered to be off-planet.” But as the murders being, it becomes clear ...

The Thin Line Between Monster and Warrior: Maria Dahvana Headley’s The Mere Wife

Hwaet!

Maria Dahvana Headley’s The Mere Wife has finally been loosed upon the world. I say finally because I think the world needs this book. In Headley’s hands, Beowulf is revealed to be the perfect story to bring forward from the depths of Western history. Headley has turned it over, poked its squishy underbelly, asked it a bunch of questions, and come out with an entirely new version of the tale, exploring new perspectives and revealing truths new and old.

It’s also a great, heart-wrenching read.

If you’ve read Beowulf you probably remember the basic story, but maybe not the ending. The hall of Hrothgar, mighty king, is being besieged by a monster named Grendel. The mighty warrior Beowulf comes, pulls Grendel’s arm off, and he dies. Grendel’s mother, also a monster, comes in vengeance. Beowulf slays her, too. The people love him and feel safe, and ...

Final Frontier Town: Artemis by Andy Weir

Most heists that I’ve seen are either criminals in for one last score, super glitzy fluff like the “Oceans” movies or The Italian Job, or desperate political heists like Rogue One. When they’re about money they’re usually about money as a macguffin, and when they’re about class it’s usually in an escapist way, watching Danny Ocean or later his sister Debbie slink around in gorgeous clothes and glittering settings. While author Andy Weir tends to say that his books are pure fun, Artemis is one of the few heist stories I’ve come across that, for me at least, is explicitly about money and about class.

Artemis is a frontier town, with a frontier town’s haphazard structure, uneasy diversity, and DIY justice. There’s one cop, a former Mountie named Rudy who polices the city. There’s an Administrator, Madame Ngogi, a Kenyan economist who essentially created Artemis as ...

Incredibles 2 is a GREAT Action Movie, with an Even Greater Message

I don’t know if Disney•Pixar’s Incredibles 2 is the best superhero movie this year (I mean, Black Panther) but it is the first time this year that as I walked through the theater to leave, I seriously considered ducking into the 10pm showing and watching it all over again immediately. It also has the greatest action I’ve ever seen in a super hero movie—the only thing that even comes close is the opening of X2, with Nightcrawler bamfing through the White House. The action sequences are breathtaking in the sense that I literally held my breath during a couple of them. And again, as a hardbitten, cynical movie critic I tend to spend my movie time watching myself watch the movie, gauging audience reactions, analyzing themes. Here I was just…happy.

And yet! There were also enough messy, contradictory ideas built into the film that I was able ...

How Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice Avoids the Dreaded Infodump

For this post I’m going to slap my editor’s hat on, adjust it until its angle achieves jauntiness, and talk about the bane of my editorial existence! So many times I begin reading a story, full of hope for what’s to come, only to be met with a wall of bland facts, pale character introductions, narrators who want to introduce me to everyone they’ve ever met before they’ve even introduced themselves, or even…genealogies. As a writer, I completely understand this urge: you love your characters. You’ve spent time creating a world, deciding everything from the color of its sky to what your characters eat for second breakfast—naturally you want to stuff all of this knowledge into your reader’s eyeballs as quickly as possible. Unfortunately this can very easily become an infodump—per TV Tropes: “exposition that is particularly long or wordy”—and speaking as en editor, infodumps are the worst.

...

How to Talk About Punk and Sex and Evolution and True Love: John Cameron Mitchell’s How to Talk to Girls at Parties

Elle Fanning and Alex Sharp in How to Talk to Girls at Parties

Is there anyone more earnest than a punk? In all the universe the only people who feel things more than punks are, maybe, kids in love for the first time. John Cameron Mitchell’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” understands this, and squeezes every drop of heartfelt, un-ironic, anguished emotion by combining these two forces into a movie about a young punk’s first love. In Mitchell’s hands, this eerie short story is transformed into a weird, day-glo, feminist, queer-as-hell movie that only he could have made.

This film is not for everyone, but if you love it, you’ll really love it.

John Cameron Mitchell’s three previous films cover a ton of ground: Hedwig and the Angry Inch is America’s greatest cult musical, Shortbus is an incredibly raw and moving exploration of sex and love, and Rabbit Hole is a bleak chronicle of grief. ...

How to Talk About Punk and Sex and Evolution and True Love: John Cameron Mitchell’s How to Talk to Girls at Parties

Elle Fanning and Alex Sharp in How to Talk to Girls at Parties

Is there anyone more earnest than a punk? In all the universe the only people who feel things more than punks are, maybe, kids in love for the first time. John Cameron Mitchell’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” understands this, and squeezes every drop of heartfelt, un-ironic, anguished emotion by combining these two forces into a movie about a young punk’s first love. In Mitchell’s hands, this eerie short story is transformed into a weird, day-glo, feminist, queer-as-hell movie that only he could have made.

This film is not for everyone, but if you love it, you’ll really love it.

John Cameron Mitchell’s three previous films cover a ton of ground: Hedwig and the Angry Inch is America’s greatest cult musical, Shortbus is an incredibly raw and moving exploration of sex and love, and Rabbit Hole is a bleak chronicle of grief. ...

Ghosts, Bombs, and Rings! The Expanse: “It Reaches Out”

Holy crap did all of last week’s set up pay off for The Expanse! The week’s episode, “It Reaches Out,” wound tighter and tighter until a final ten minutes of action that made me want next week’s installment RIGHT NOW.

But alas, I’ll have to wait. Can I just mention how happy I am that this show is going to keep going after this season? Because I want all the seasons.

Now that poor idiot Maneo has crashed into The Ring, the stakes have somehow gotten even higher—contact with The Ring essentially liquified him, while seemingly leaving his suit and ship intact, and everyone witnessed it. The Earther contingent on the Thomas Prince challenge Anna, asking if her God is waiting beyond The Ring. She allows that she doesn’t know, but then snaps back with: “If we are going to meet God as a bunch of angry fools we should ...

Fifty-One Portals to the Future, in Story Form: Gigantic Worlds

I’ve been meaning to read Gigantic Worlds for two years, and I’m so glad I finally got to it! A 2015 collection of science flash fiction, Gigantic Worlds is assembled by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto (full disclosure: I know both of them, and they’re great) and published by Gigantic Books, a spinoff of Gigantic magazine. The variety here is frankly astonishing, and reminded me of just how cornucopic SFF is: I could get lost in the story of a man-eating Skin Monster on one page, and on the next, read about an eerily prophetic automated fortune teller.

The conceit of the book is that its stories are portals to other worlds and possible futures. The contents are grouped into sections titled Terra, Hydro, Ignis, Atmosphere, and Cosmos, and according to the editors it’s possible that if you read them in the ...

Interstellar Ring Cycle — The Expanse: “Delta V”

This week’s episode of The Expanse, “Delta V,” shook up its usual storytelling style to jolt us into a new plotline. I think it worked well, although it did take me a few minutes to catch up—I’m guessing those of you who have read the books were on firmer footing.

But we got some fantastic shake up, a gruesome special effects setpiece, and a couple of my favorite Amos scenes so far.

So what did everyone think? The Ring is freaking terrifying. I’m so excited.

I should also note, The Expanse still isn’t quite saved yet, so keep up your enthusiasm on various platforms, and hopefully I’ll be able to report good news soon!

We begin with a prologue that I honestly thought might be a dream for a few minutes. It’s been a little more than six months since Pastor Anna exposed treason and Holden captured Jules-Pierre ...

Post-Apocalyptic Roadtrip to Nowhere: Philip K. Dick and Roger Zelazny’s Deus Irae

Thus far I’ve liked most of the books I’ve read for TBR, and even found things to admire in books I didn’t exactly enjoy, like Anna Kavan’s Ice. This one, though…I respect what it was trying to do? I found the basic plot fascinating. But I don’t tihnk I can actually recommend reading Deus Irae as anything other than a record of a very different time in SFF.

As I’ve mentioned, the idea with TBR Stack is that I’m literally pulling things down from my “to be read” shelf and diving in. Every once in a while there will be some external impetus (I’d been meaning to read The Confessions of Max Tivoli, so when author Andrew Sean Greer won the Pulitzer a few weeks ago I figured that was a good nudge) but normally my selection process ranges anywhere from “random” to “haphazard.” Hence, ...

Unstuck in Time: Andrew Sean Greer’s The Confessions of Max Tivoli

Welcome to TBR Stack! As of last week, this column is one whole year old! And speaking as someone who is terrible at both commitment and deadlines, I’m pretty proud of this fact, hence the exclamation points.

Realizing that I’ve been at this for a year has also made me think a whole lot about time, and it’s passage. I’ve been meaning to read Andrew Sean Greer for a while now, and since he just won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction last week for his comic novel Less, I figured that was a great excuse to dive into an earlier work of his that carefully walks the litfic/specfic divide. The Confessions of Max Tivoli follows the life of a man who ages backwards through time. He’s born with the mind of an infant but the body of a wizened 70-year-old, and as he simultaneously ages and de-ages, he and ...

Avengers: Infinity War is a Reminder that Pop Culture Won’t Save Us

Many people have been name-checking Empire Strikes Back in their comments on Avengers: Infinity War. But as I left the theater this weekend, I found myself thinking about The Last Jedi, and… Frodo? I will talk about Infinity War a lot but I have to work through a couple of points about pop culture heroism in general first, so come along with me on a journey through multiple franchises, won’t you?

(SPOILERS for Avengers: Infinity War and The Last Jedi.)

The heart of the anti-Last Jedi backlash was the treatment of Luke Skywalker. Sure people complained about the (great, imo) decision to make Rey a Nobody from Nowhere, and yes, people were annoyed by the sidequest to free the Chocobos of Canto Bight. But the beating heart of people’s frustration with Last Jedi is the fact that everybody’s hero, good-hearted Luke Skywalker, orphaned son of a cursed ...

Where to Start with the Works of Martha Wells

Martha Wells got her start writing Godzilla fan-fiction  as a small child, creating enormous, detailed maps of Monster Island on typing paper. After spending her college years writing and attending workshops like Turkey City, she made her first sale in 1993, when Tor Book accepted her novel, The Element of Fire. Over the course of a twenty-five-year career, Wells has jumped between high fantasy in the Raksura series, court intrigue and magical knavery in her Ile-Rien books, and far-future tech conspiracy in the Murderbot Diaries. She’s written Star Wars tie-ins, and expanded the world of Magic: The Gathering, as well as writing wonderful YA and two innovative, highly original stand alone fantasy novels for adults.

Whether you like snarky droids or intricate magic, whether you prefer sprawling series or self-contained stories—Martha Wells has written something that belongs on your bookshelf. But when you go a little deeper in Wells’ ...

Celebrating Thirty Years of My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies

Two Studio Ghibli classics are turning thirty this year. One is Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro, and the other is Isao Takahata’s devastating Grave of the Fireflies. We initially planned to rerun this article in celebration of this anniversary. Sadly, we are also now honoring the iconic Takahata, who passed away on April 5th at age 82. In addition to mentoring the younger Miyazaki and co-founding Ghibli, Takahata produced all-time classics of Japanese cinema, pushing animation in new directions, and working tirelessly to perfect new forms. From Only Yesterday to Pom Poko to the stunning Tale of Princess Kaguya, all of his films deserve your attention.

But now we return to the studio’s seemingly strange choice to premiere My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies as a double feature in Japan. (I do not recommend recreating this experience!) Together, three decades ago, Miyazaki and Takahata gave ...

Grave of the Fireflies

Keanu Reeves’ Constantine is a Terrible Hellblazer Adaption, But a Damned Good Modern Noir

When Constantine briefly shone on NBC, one refrain was that no matter how bumpy the series’ run was, at least it wasn’t the Keanu Reeves version. But really, on re-watching 2005’s Constantine, I found it works—for all the reasons it shouldn’t. The fact that the actors were all given scripts that varied wildly in tone? Shouldn’t have worked. Casting Gavin Rossdale? Shouldn’t have worked. The costuming? OK, the costuming all works perfectly—Gabriel and Balthazar have both matched their socks to their ties! And the pocket squares… I can’t even think about the pocket squares.

But the biggest way Constantine works is by using Hellblazer as a jumping-off point, rather than a stone-carved outline to be slavishly followed. In doing so, it creates a moody piece of modern, metaphysical noir.

The film draws on Garth Ennis’ classic Dangerous Habits arc, which diagnoses Constantine with terminal lung cancer. In a theological ...

Constantine and Gabriel
Stormare as Lucifer

Mothers, Love, Bones: Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

Any author who wants to write horror has a decision to make. Supernatural? Splatter? Is this horror featuring men with rusty weapons who chase down helpless people, or is this a ghost story by a campfire? Is there a cosmic battle driving humans mad? Is there a curse? A serial killer? A hook hand? Revenants? Demons?

Samantha Hunt’s third novel, Mr. Splitfoot, is a horror story, though the kind of horror that tends to bob and weave with the reader. This review will be split, like a cloven hoof. I will speak in vague generalities for about five paragraphs, and then I will dig into spoiler territory. This is a book that relies on surprise and plot twist, so if you haven’t read it, and would like to, be warned.

Mr. Splitfoot is a rural Northern Gothic—which is basically a southern gothic but with more snow ...