John Joseph Adams to Launch New SFF Book Line for HMH

John Joseph Adams Books HMH SFF line

Earlier this year, John Joseph Adams—editor of LightspeedNightmare, and countless anthologies—curated the first edition of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Today, HMH announced that Adams will be editor-at-large of John Joseph Adams Books, a new line at the publishing house that will curate science fiction and fantasy titles.

Bruce Nichols, senior VP and publisher at HMH explained in a press release the publisher’s decision to have Adams launch their new SFF line:

After working with John as the series editor for [Best American Stories], we realized he is the perfect person to help us curate a focused, high-quality fiction list.

The first three titles from John Joseph Adams Books will be simultaneous hardcover and paperback editions of three Hugh Howey novels: ShiftDust, and Beacon 23. All three will be available in February 2016. Adams discussed his excitement in exploring ...

Supergirl Tackles That Pesky Question About Secret Identities

Supergirl Stronger Together review

After watching the decent and surprisingly feminist Supergirl pilot, our office had one pressing question: How can Kara Danvers expect people to not realize she’s Supergirl? Her first few heists are vigorously documented in the press and on social media, and one of the major plots of the second episode was Kara’s boss Cat Grant demanding a one-on-one interview with Supergirl. A secret identity can only last you so long, right?

Spoilers for Supergirl 1×02 “Stronger Together.”

I was pleased to discover that the Supergirl writers came up with exactly the same answer that I gave Chris Lough when we were debating this issue in the Tor.com offices. In the episode, it’s James Olsen—who Cat is putting the pressure on to set up this “girl talk” interview—who gently breaks it to Kara that Cat will never suspect her:

James: She will look Supergirl right in the face, and she ...

Supergirl Stronger Together review
Supergirl Stronger Together review

Supergirl is a Metaphor for Being a Modern Woman

supergirl-deo

As pilots go, CBS’ Supergirl is about what you would expect: The 42-minute episode is basically an expanded version of the three-minute preview we saw months ago. At the time, io9 claimed that sequences of Kara Danvers running through National City in twee sweaters, quailing before her bitchy boss, and grinning dumbly at cute boys resembled the Black Widow chick lit parody that Saturday Night Live had released just weeks prior. But Supergirl is very aware of the preconceived notions stacked up against it, as evidenced by the meta conversation between Kara (Melissa Benoist) and the fearsome Cat Grant (Callista Flockhart) about the latter branding the former:

Kara: “If we call her Supergirl, something less than what she is, doesn’t that make us antifeminist?”

Cat: “What do you think is so bad about ‘girl’? I’m a girl, and your boss, and powerful, and rich, and hot, and smart. So, ...

Supergirl Cat Grant Callista Flockhart
Supergirl pilot review Melissa Benoist
Supergirl heat vision
Supergirl Kara Alex
Supergirl James Olsen Mehcad Brooks Melissa Benoist
Supergirl Melissa Benoist Girl Scouts

Last Song Before Night is Written Like One of Its Own Epic Songs

Last Song Before Night epic songs archetypes characters Ilana C. Myer

In the land of Eivar, music and magic were once woven together inextricably. But when a small contingent of the Seers—poets who performed enchantments through song—turned to forbidden blood-magic, Davyd the Dreamweaver was forced to strip all Seers and poets of their magic: “A word was a word, no more.” Yet generations later, poems and their words retain nearly the same power as spells: Empires are built and undermined by poets who often wield more influence than even their royal sponsors. Ilana C. Myer’s debut novel Last Song Before Night tracks a group of young poets and their muses (their loves and enemies) as they unwittingly play into a prophecy to bring the magic back to Eivar.

The very words that Last Song Before Night venerates, protects, and unearths in turn shape the structure of the book itself. The narrative arcs and the characters adopt the style of the words they describe—that is, the ...

You Have No Choice But to Cry When Watching The Iron Giant for the First Time

watching The Iron Giant for the first time crying

Tor.com has done the impossible: It’s found someone who hasn’t seen The Iron Giant. But while I had never watched the movie, I was well aware of the emotional real estate it had carved into the hearts of most of my peers. I also knew that when I finally did watch it, I was going to have to walk away from the experience somehow changed: Feels, or it didn’t happen.

Despite jumping straight from picture books to reading Entertainment Weekly and becoming a pop culture writer, I have weird holes in my movie education. Sometimes it was bad timing, where I was too young when a movie came out (The Usual Suspects) to catch it. In the case of The Iron Giant, however, I should have been their target audience: I was 11 when it came to theaters, and as big a fan of animated movies as your ...

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Iron Man nuke The Avengers sacrifice
Wreck-It Ralph Diet Cola Mountain sacrifice
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watching The Iron Giant for the first time crying
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How Evil SFF Empires Create Ideal Citizens

The Traitor Baru Cormorant Ancillary Justice empires ideal citizens

While they fall on somewhat different points of the morality spectrum, both the Imperial Radch and the Empire of Masks share the same goal: to colonize other alien (whether foreign lands or planets) cultures and convert these peoples into ideal citizens. Here, “ideal” doesn’t necessarily mean “right,” it means one who embodies the culture: uniformity among the many conquered peoples, with clearly-defined codes of conduct, and an aesthetic that sums up the society’s core values. It also comes at the expense of the varied cultures over which they steamroll, condemning and erasing diverse identities.

It’s horrifying and engrossing, and keeps us reading despite the revulsion that bubbles up. But what most keeps us engaged in Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant is the fact that both series’ protagonists—Justice of Toren One Esk, a.k.a. Breq, and Baru Cormorant—have personal vendettas against their systems while they’re in the process of trying to destroy ...

The Traitor Baru Cormorant Seth Dickinson UK cover
Ancillary Justice fan art One Esk

Court of Fives and the Importance of Making Race Explicit in YA Fantasy

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott mixed-race heroine fantasy

At the We Need Diverse Books: In Our World and Beyond panel at BookCon 2015, Shadowshaper author Daniel José Older advocated for counter-narratives in sci-fi and fantasy that push back against the status quo. Authors can achieve this, he said, by considering “diverse rhythms, diverse narrative structures, diverse ways of being, diverse conflicts.”

When it comes to the creation of characters and cultures, homogeneity stands in the way of greater diversity, and vague descriptions surrounding characters of color feeds directly into that problematic homogeneity. Readers searching for their reflection in the books they consume bring their own assumptions and preferences to the character; and while vagueness regarding a character’s race can allow a wider range of readers to identify with a book’s protagonist, it can also weigh a character description in favor of white readers, sometimes leading to extreme cases of book covers being whitewashed.

That’s part of ...

New “Dystopian” Little Women Might be Missing the Point

Little Women gritty dystopian remake wtf

Little Women is described as a hyper-stylized, gritty adaptation of the 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott, in which disparate half-sisters Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy band together in order to survive the dystopic streets of Philadelphia and unravel a conspiracy that stretches far beyond anything they have ever imagined—all while trying not to kill each other in the process.

What the actual f***? Have The CW’s executives actually read Little Women? Probably not, though they likely patted themselves on the backs for having Rory Gilmore be seen reading it on Gilmore Girls a decade ago.

Lifetime already tried transplanting Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy into modern-day, and it was disastrous. I never thought that there could be a worse version of the adaptation where Jo ghost-writes tweets for a pop star and then Amy leaks said star’s naked photos from Jo’s phone… but here we are. Let’s take ...

Little Women gritty dystopian remake wtf
Little Women gritty dystopian remake wtf

Comic Book Creators Share How Diversity Bleeds Into Their Work

Gotham Academy Becky Cloonan

On the heels of We Need Diverse Books’ Diversity in SFF panel at BookCon two weeks ago, the second annual Special Edition: NYC also took time to focus on diversity and how it impacts some of the most popular comic book series and graphic novels being published today. The convention did so through three panels: Representation Beyond Characters: How Diversity Bleeds Into Work#BlackComicsMonth: Diversity in Comics, and Creating Comics: The Real Stories.

I was able to attend Representation Beyond Characters and Creating Comics. The former’s panelists were primarily people of color; the latter was all-female, including several women of color. Both talked about sneaking small but relatable details into worldbuilding, the difference between work-for-hire and creator-owned comics, and how publishers have responded to calls for greater diversity. Though the panels took place at different points during the con, they presented a refreshingly diverse lineup talking about real issues in modern storytelling.

...

DMC comic book cover
Wonder Woman Rescue Angel
X23 Marjorie Liu
Black Canary Annie Wu
DC Bombshells Marguerite Bennett
Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan

We Need Diverse Books Talks True, Political, Global Diversity in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

We Need Diverse Books Presents In Our World and Beyond BookCon 2015

A year after its establishment, the We Need Diverse Books movement brought two engaging panels to BookCon 2015, partnering with bestselling authors to address the need for greater diversity in sci-fi and fantasy and children’s literature. In the panel In Our World and Beyond, SFF authors Kameron Hurley, Ken Liu, Nnedi Okorafor, and Daniel José Older, along with Saga Press Executive Editor Joe Monti, discussed the obstacles to depicting full representation of marginalized characters in SFF.

The panel discussed whether SFF should be political, and even tackled the term “diversity” itself—how politically correct it is, and the difference between a U.S.-centric diversity movement and the adoption of more global perspectives. Read on for the highlights!

Diversity is Truth

From the start, Older (author of Half-Resurrection Blues) established that “diversity is about the truth. When we’re not writing books that show the [truth] of the world, we’re lying. A lot of the history ...

Debut Tor Authors Play “Would You Rather: SFF Edition”

Tor Books The Next Generation panel BookExpo America 2015

The “Tor Books class of 2015″ (a.k.a. Tor Books’ next generation of debut authors) took to the stage at this year’s BookExpo America to talk about their forthcoming books. In keeping things college-themed, moderator John “Principal” Scalzi asked each panelist a series of Would You Rather questions—all about shadowy cabals, magical music, and sentient animals, of course.

Seth Dickinson, Ilana C. Myer, Lawrence M. Schoen, and Fran Wilde gamely played along with the Would You Rather shenanigans. The moral and ethical dilemmas that ensued were a great way to get to know each author, as well as their predilections when it comes to cats versus dogs, earworms, and their preferred methods for stirring the pot when it comes to rebellion. Each author got Would You Rather questions related to his/her book, but all of the panelists were allowed to throw in their own answers. And at the end, they took this cute ...

The Traitor Baru Cormorant Seth Dickinson
Last Song Before Night book cover
Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard book cover
Updraft Fran Wilde

No Strings, But Plenty of Switches in the Whedonverse

Avengers: Age of Ultron Hulk Black Widow lullaby

From the first trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron, with its creepy rendition of Pinocchio’s “I’ve Got No Strings,” we know that Ultron seeks to free himself, and the human race, from the physical and metaphorical strings holding them down. But while he delights in the fact that, upon achieving artificial intelligence and something approaching the Singularity, “there are no strings on me,” there are still switches. Throughout the movie, characters (both good and bad) and plot developments are activated through the use of code words or literal buttons.

In fact, for the past ten years and more, in almost all of his properties, Joss Whedon has placed entire dramatic arcs around a switch being thrown. Sometimes it serves simply as a deus ex machina, but on other occasions, Whedon has used the trope to explore issues of control and ownership, over both men and women.

[Read ...