Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapters 7-10

In chapter 6, we went to the ballet and soaked up Graf Station’s local color. Chapter 7 opens with a dramatic discovery—the blood in the docking bay was synthesized. This launches us out of the tourist section of the story and back into the mystery.

The important thing about this section is the clues:

  • Someone synthesized Solian’s blood, then dumped a large quantity of it on the floor in the docking bay.
  • Someone shoots and Miles and Bel as they leave a meeting with the convoy’s passengers. At the time, they are accompanied by one of the convoy’s passengers, another Betan herm named Ker Dubauer.
  • The weapon used in the shooting was a modified rivet gun.
  • The attacker is not immediately apprehended.
  • Ker Dubauer is a dealer in exotic animals, and is travelling with uterine replicators full of his merchandise. Ker needs to service the replicators, and may need to ...

Bouncing Through Realities: Andre Norton’s Quest Crosstime

This is a really interesting entry in the Norton canon. It’s a sequel to a pretty standard boys’ adventure, The Crossroads of Time, and Blake Walker rides the crosstime shuttles again, this time as an established wardsman. The book was published in 1965, and in the almost-decade between the two, science fiction was starting to change. For one thing, it had discovered girls.

It’s still Blake’s story. Every human with an important job, or any job at all really, is male. It’s still a man’s universe. And yet, there is an actual, living, breathing, more or less normal human female main character who gets a brief bit of viewpoint, and who has actual, real opinions and personality. She’s the first character we meet in fact, though once Blake arrives, the narrative immediately shifts to him, even at the end, when the story would have made a whole lot more ...

Everyday Magic: Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

If there’s one thing I’ve learned reading Robert Jackson Bennett, it’s that when you think you know what he’s going to do at any given moment, you’re most likely going to be wrong. You think he’ll go right; he goes left. You think he’s going to climb a fence, and instead he barrels right through. Most often, when he hits a dead end and you suspect this is where you catch him, he grins, steps onto the empty air and begins to walk into the sky.

And in his latest novel, Foundryside, Bennett is firing on all cylinders, taking what at first seems to be something a little standard, a little rote, and infusing exhilarating new life into it through expert writing, complicated and distinct characters, and an intriguing, deadly, wonderful new city called Tevanne, where reality can be shuffled like a deck of cards, provided you can justify ...

Miles Morales Is Not Peter Parker: Why New Characters Don’t Solve the Problem of Diverse Representation

In response to my recent article stating why Idris Elba playing James Bond would improve the character, some asked why anyone needs established characters to be portrayed with greater diversity. Why can’t we just be happy with new characters that are like the established characters that better represent a diverse world?

It’s a very common question that seems reasonable. On its face, it concedes that representation matters, that “Representation in the fictional world signifies social existence; absence means symbolic annihilation.” But this response is a dodge, a form of derailment. Yes, obviously creators should tell new stories with new characters—but that is not nearly enough.

New characters don’t answer the central question, which is: Is being white, straight, and male somehow intrinsic to the established characters, the iconic heroes, the role models for millions? I think that the answer is no, and I think that diverse casting is ...

Six Characters With Whom You Should Never, Ever Go Camping

Perseids Watch is an annual foray out to the unmapped wilds of New Dundee, Ontario, there to observe the Perseid meteor show. This year’s Watch has just passed for another year, and without any more mysterious disappearances in the course of the event.

The chances that you or someone close to you will vanish into the wilderness are even greater if you are a fictional character. Particularly a secondary character (known in the SF field as a redshirt). If you are, you should definitely read the following essay, which discusses the protagonists with whom you should never, under any circumstances, go camping. They will survive. You probably won’t.

Odysseus was skillful and cunning; he survived the decade-long Trojan War and came up with that notorious horse gambit. But Odysseus was not canny enough to avoid pissing off the god Poseidon. This is why it took Odysseus ten years to find ...

37 New Epic Fantasy Books Coming Soon

Just as the prophecy foretold…

Between now and summer 2019, there are a staggering number of new and returning epic fantasy novels in the works. Thieves, mercenaries, royal bastards, princesses’ doubles, armored saints, and many more fill the pages of these tales (some illustrated!) of alliances forged, wars waged, magic lost and rediscovered.

For every end, there is a beginning…

For every epic fantasy trilogy or series wrapping up in the coming months, there are just as many new sagas unfolding. Some return to familiar fantasy lands—Middle-earth, the Forgotten Realms, Osten Ard, Earthsea, Westeros—for new adventures, while others draw upon real-world settings and mythologies, like Morocco or India’s Mughal Empire, to create dazzling new epics.

Adventure awaits…


Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett (The Founders Trilogy #1)
August 21, Crown

In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite ...

Announcing the 2018 Hugo Award Winners

Hugo Award 2018 finalists

The winners of the 2018 Hugo Awards have been announced! You can read the full list below.

The 2018 Hugo Awards were presented on the evening of Sunday August 19th, 2018 at a ceremony at the 76th World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, California. 1813 valid nominating ballots (1795 electronic and 18 paper) were received and counted from the members of the 2017, 2018, and 2019 World Science Fiction Conventions. For the 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards, 204 valid nominating ballots (192 electronic and 12 paper) were received.

Congrats to the finalists and winners!


2018 Hugo Awards Finalists

Best Novel

  • The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi (Tor)
  • New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
  • Provenance, by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
  • Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)
  • The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Best Novella

  • All Systems Red...

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:

Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen Series is Coming to HBO Next Year!

HBO is adding superheroes to its roster of bratty dragons and robot cowboys: the latest adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal comic Watchmen has officially received a series order! And…it’s premiering next year? And the cast is enormous?

Click through for all the details we’ve got so far!

According to EW, the show will hit the network some time in 2019, along with Game of Thrones‘ final season and the long-awaited return of True Detective. There still aren’t many details on the show, which will be headed up by Damon Lindelof, but we do know that they’re keeping the basic premise of a society that treats once-legal superheroes as outlaws. HBO has also announced a giant cast, including Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Adelaide Clemens, Andrew Howard, Tom Mison, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Lily Rose Smith and Adelynn Spoon…. but they haven’t specified who is ...

The Greatest Dads in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and the Universe

Parents tend to get shortchanged in dramatic genre stories, but that just makes the inspiring ones all the more noticeable! So today, the office is recalling its favorite dads (and others who fill that role) in science fiction, fantasy, and anywhere! You know who they are. They’re the guys who stuck around to serve as inspiration and support to their (often heroic) children… and who managed to survive the dramatic whims of their creators!


Benjamin Sisko (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)

Ben Sisko best dad

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine opens with Benjamin Sisko fighting for his family amongst the backdrop of the adventures of Captain Picard and the Enterprise crew, and over the course of seven years and a war that spans the galaxy, the show never loses sight of what is truly important to Captain Sisko: his family, and his son Jake.

“That was something else you ...

Arthur Weasley best dad
Giles wizard cap
Eye of the World
Sully Monsters Inc smile
Finding Nemo Marlin best dads SFF Father's Day
best dads fathers in SFF Batgirl Jim Gordon Commissioner Gordon Father's Day
Gomez Addams knife tango
ST: TNG The Offspring
Keith Mars Who's your daddy
All-Star Superman Jonathan Kent eulogy

Blurring Reality: The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg

When Clare arrives in Havana Cuba for the Festival of New Latin American Cinema—giving a different name to every other new acquaintance and becoming stranger to herself with every displaced experience—it’s nothing new to her, not really. As a sales rep for an elevator company, Clare is used to travel and to interstitial places. She loves the non-specificity of hotel rooms and thrives on random encounters. What she doesn’t expect to find in Cuba, though, is her husband Richard: five weeks dead, standing tall in a white suit outside the Museum of the Revolution.

What follows in Laura van den Berg’s novel The Third Hotel is a reality-blurring rumination on the power of grief and alienation. Interspersed with Richard’s scholarly writings on horror movie tropes, and with Clare’s reflections on her own past and identity, the novel inches further from an explanation of her haunting with every step it takes ...

Weapon Blech — X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Wolverine was introduced in 1974 at the end of Incredible Hulk #180 by the late, great Len Wein & Herb Trimpe, inserting himself into a battle between the Hulk and the Wendigo. A Canadian secret agent, codenamed Weapon X, Wolverine spent issue #181 fighting both Hulk and Wendigo, failing to stop either one. A year later, Wein used him as part of his new team of X-Men introduced in Giant-Size X-Men #1, and he quickly became the most popular of those new characters; his combination of snotty-brawler personality, tendency to explosive violence, and mysterious past proved to be incredibly compelling, particularly in the hands of Wein’s successor, Chris Claremont, and his longtime collaborator, Canadian artist/co-plotter John Byrne. He became Marvel’s most popular character, matching, if not supplanting, Spider-Man as the company’s flagship hero in the latter two decades of the 20th century.

When the X-Men hit the big screen in ...

Poe Dameron Has a Mission For a Few Good Rebels in First Star Wars: Resistance Trailer

Star Wars Resistance trailer

Following the wrap up of Star Wars: Rebels, there are two new animated Star Wars series on the way; one is a revival of the much beloved Clone Wars, the other is a show that leads up to events in the current ongoing trilogy, Star Wars: Resistance.

The first trailer is here!

We’ve got some Voltron-style animation, some Legend of Korra-esque characters, and Poe Dameron to pull the whole thing together. Take a peek:

Given the success of the past two series, the show seems like a sure thing at this point. Granted, it usually takes them about a season for them to pick up speed, so we might have to reserve judgement until we’ve seen a bigger bulk of episodes, but it’s still exciting! Having Poe Dameron around to occasionally help our new heroes bluster through will certainly help things along. Just… don’t think about ...

Mirage Author Somaiya Daud on Her Moroccan-Inspired Fantasy World

Somaiya Daud’s debut epic fantasy novel Mirage follows Amani, an eighteen-year-old dreamer living in a world controlled by the all powerful Vathek empire. All Amani wants is freedom: freedom to explore, write poetry, and travel to far off places. These dreams are shattered when Amani is kidnapped from her small village and taken to the royal palace, where she must act as a body double for the beautiful, but hated, Princess Maram. Amani’s new life comes with luxury, glamour, and the Princess’s stunning fiance, Idris. But it also comes with the understanding that at any moment, Amani must be prepared to sacrifice her life for the Princess.

Daud stopped by the Macmillan Audio studio to talk everything Mirage: from how her own Moroccan roots inspired this story, to how her writing bridges the gaps between sci-fi, fantasy, and history. She also explained how the audiobook enhances the novel’s poetic ...

When Will SF Learn to Love the Tachyon?

Readers of a certain age may remember the excitement stirred up when various physicists proposed to add a third category of matter to:

  1. matter with zero rest mass (which always travels at the speed of light), and
  2. matter with rest mass (which always travels slower than light).

Now there’s C: matter whose rest mass is imaginary. For these hypothetical particles—tachyons—the speed of light may be a speed minimum, not a speed limit.

Tachyons may offer a way around that pesky light-speed barrier, and SF authors quickly noticed the narrative possibilities. If one could somehow transform matter into tachyons, then faster-than-light travel might be possible.

Granted, that’s a very big ‘if’ and, for reasons explained in this essay, tachyon drives are NOT a means of travel I’d ever use. But hey, the siren song of narrative convenience overrides all the wimpy what-ifs. Sure, getting every single elementary particle comprising the ...

NPR Picks The 100 Greatest Horror Stories of All Time

NPR has done us a great service! In honor of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, they asked all of us who love being scared to nominate their favorite horror tales, and assembled a fantastic panel of judges to select the 100 most terrifying. Their picks include everything from classics like Dracula, The Haunting of Hill House, and the aforementioned Frankenstein, to more morden scary stories like Let the Right One In, The Ballad of Black Tom, and Experimental Film. We’re especially excited to see a number of friends-of-Tor in this chilling compilation, including Sarah Monette, Victor LaValle, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Nalo Hopkinson, Kai Ashante Wilson, and Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.

Think you can get through all 100 by Halloween?

The choices were divided into categories so you can find your flavor of horror with ease: “Foundational Horror” includes classic tales from Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” ...

Escaping the Default Future When Writing Science Fiction

At one point in my new novella The Million, our hero Gavin is crossing Europe by airship. Gazing out the windows, he sees this:

There were no settlements. Elephants, boars, lions, and the ancient bull of legend, the aurochs, wandered at will. Now and then the zeppelin would pass one of the museum cities. Often, nothing remained but the cathedrals, which had been built to last. Some cities had been tended well, and thousands of years of architectural glory were on display, all of it lovingly tended by the bots that walked their plazas and alleys.

Dusk chased the sun into France and Iberia, and the Alps rolled by. Their peaks were the last to catch the light, and the mountaintops blazed like a thousand bonfires for a few minutes before night fell entirely. Now the land below was invisible, cloaked in a blackness it had not seen while ...

Queers! In! SPAAAAAACE!!! Emily Skrutskie’s Hullmetal Girls

Aisha Un-Haad is out of options. Her parents are dead, her brother is dying of a terrible disease, and her sister is about to start working in the dangerous dyeworks. Without money, their lives will get exponentially worse. Aisha does the only thing she can: surrender her freedom to become a mechanically enhanced soldier. Called Scelas, they are living weapons for the oppressive regime that rules the fleet of generation ships on which the last humans live.

Key Tanaka has little memory of her life before becoming a Scela or what drove her to undergo the life-threatening procedure. Aisha wants to protect her family, and Key to unlock her missing memories. In order to do that they and their teammates, willful Praava and awkward Woojin, must join the ranks of the Scela elite. But what happens when they’re ordered to kill, maim, and conspire against citizens at the behest of ...

Warner Bros.’ Three Merrie and Looney Versions of “The Three Little Pigs”

Walt Disney’s Three Little Pigs was an instant legend among animators, then just starting to develop their craft. It also was an instant legend among film studios, who saw that for once, a cartoon could be a bigger draw than the main feature.

Naturally, rival Warner Bros had to get into the action, with three different cartoon takes on the three little pigs.

And equally naturally, their first take was a direct slam and parody of their great rival.

Animation director Friz Freleng (1905-1995)—born Isadore Freleng, and occasionally credited as I. Freleng —had actually worked for Walt Disney before Disney was even Disney, in the very early Laugh-o-Gram days. Enjoying the work, he followed Walt Disney to California in 1923 and worked on many of the very earliest Disney cartoons, including those focused on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. In 1929, he left Disney for reasons that remain somewhat disputed, though ...

The Wheel of Time Showrunner Rafe Judkins: “I Plan to Lean Heavily Into The Concept of Reincarnation.”

The Wheel of Time

For the past several weeks, Rafe Judkins, showrunner of Amazon Studios’ The Wheel of Time television series, has instituted #WoTWednesday on social media: He’ll share peeks at scripts (just the episode titles, alas) or his marked-up copies of Robert Jordan’s books, as he and the writing staff embark on the epic undertaking of adapting this beloved fantasy series for the small screen.

This week, Judkins was in Fiji, and so for #WoTWednesday he talked about eastern religions and philosophies, most notably reincarnation.

[Note: Mild spoilers ahead for Book 6.]

In an Instagram post at the Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple in Nadi, Fiji, Judkins got to thinking:

For #WoTWednesday this week, since I’m in Fiji where 30% of the population is Hindu (and the 10 dollar coin is actually a mandala of the Kalachakra or “Wheel of Time”) I thought I’d talk a little about the philosophy of the ...