What Manga, Anime, and Japanese History Teaches Us About Loving Robots


This post is by Jonathan Alexandratos from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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After losing to Angelique Kerber in the Australian Open a couple of years ago, tennis star Serena Williams said, “As much as I would like to be a robot, I am not. I try to. But, you know, I do the best that I can.”

The implication is that if Williams were a robot, she would be a perfect, match-winning machine. A consequence of being human is our inherent fallibility. How many Western narratives are built on this very premise of robotic perfection and efficiency?  The Terminator can, well, “terminate” with such precision because the T-800 is a cyborg from the future. Marvel’s Ultron is a superpowered threat because of the cutting-edge technology that goes into creating the villain. Ava’s advanced programming in Ex Machina makes us recognize that, of course, the A.I.’s cunning can outwit a human. And let’s not even talk about the menacing efficiency ...

The Monster at the End of This Episode — Star Trek: Discovery’s “Saints of Imperfection”


This post is by Keith R.A. DeCandido from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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One of the themes of the second season of Discovery is fixing what was broken—or at least off-kilter—in the first season. Some of these are carried a bit too far. Honestly, I don’t need Pike not liking holographic communicators to “justify” why they didn’t have them in “The Cage” in 1964. (I also don’t need them to explain why the Enterprise used printouts in that failed pilot episode.)

But with this episode, they address one of the biggest fuckups of season one, the death of Hugh Culber in “Despite Yourself.”

First of all, full disclosure, this episode was written by Kirsten Beyer, who is an old friend of your humble reviewer.

Second of all, let’s address the elephant that has been taking up a lot of space in the room since “Despite Yourself” aired thirteen months ago. The solution to how Culber has been brought ...

Gone to the Dogs: City by Clifford D. Simak


This post is by Alan Brown from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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In this bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books, Alan Brown looks at the front lines and frontiers of the field; books about soldiers and spacers, scientists and engineers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.

Sometimes, a book hits you like a ton of bricks. That’s what happened to me when I read City by Clifford D. Simak. It didn’t have a lot of adventure, or mighty heroes, chases, or battles in it, but I still found it absolutely enthralling. The humans are probably the least interesting characters in the book, with a collection of robots, dogs, ants, and other creatures stealing the stage. It’s one of the first books I ever encountered that dealt with the ultimate fate of the human race, and left a big impression on my ...

The Song


This post is by Erinn L. Kemper from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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A powerful near future story about two people on a whale-processing rig: one a researcher, the other a worker—and the discovery they make by listening to whale song.

 

 

Whale song echoed through the water in long, wistful moans. A pod calling to one another, repeating the same refrain.

Dan paused in his inspection of the pier and floated at the ten-meter mark. A slight chill filtered through his wet suit and he tucked his gloved hands into his armpits to keep them warm.

Beyond the steel lattice that supported the oil rig—repurposed and renamed SeaRanch 18—ranged the twilight murk of open sea. No hulking shadows drifted along the edges of visibility. If the whales came within eyesight, their song would give him one bitch of an earache.

Pods rarely ventured near the rig. Some orcas had been acting up, but that was in a distant feeding ground. And ...

Sleeps With Monsters: Quiet Novels About Changing The World


This post is by Liz Bourke from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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This week I want to talk about a pair of short, independently published novels that deal with marriage, communities, and the process of change in conservative societies. It takes hard work and hope to begin to change the world, but the work is worth doing.

Those novels are M.C.A. Hogarth’s Healer’s Wedding, set in the “Pelted” space opera universe, the first book in a new duology; and Stephanie Burgis’s Thornbound, the second full novel in her “Harwood Spellbook” series, set in a country that resembles 19th-century England—but a 19th-century England ruled by a council of women where it is only socially acceptable for men, women’s helpmeets, to learn magic.

Healer’s Wedding takes place a year after the end of the Chatcaavan War, the events of which formed the backbone of Hogarth’s “Prince’s Game” series. Most of it sets itself on the Eldritch homeworld, ...

Attack the Block Helped Set the Course for the Last Decade of SciFi Films


This post is by Joe George from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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When I recently took my seven-year-old daughter to see The Kid Who Would Be King, I did so out of parental obligation, not out of personal interest. Much to my surprise, I was rewarded with an exceptionally well-crafted adventure film—one with a winning and diverse cast, exciting setpieces, and entertaining supporting performances by Patrick Stewart and Rebecca Ferguson. None of this would of been a surprise to me, however, had the trailers touted the fact that the movie was directed by Joe Cornish.

Then again, I shouldn’t be too surprised. With only one directing credit to his name, and a few co-writing credits alongside Edgar Wright on The Adventures of Tin-Tin and Ant-Man, Cornish is hardly a household name, especially since his directorial debut came out in 2011. But, oh, what a debut it was…

Like The Kid Who Would Be King, Attack the Block could be ...

Attack the Block Helped Set the Course for the Last Decade of SciFi Films


This post is by Joe George from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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When I recently took my seven-year-old daughter to see The Kid Who Would Be King, I did so out of parental obligation, not out of personal interest. Much to my surprise, I was rewarded with an exceptionally well-crafted adventure film—one with a winning and diverse cast, exciting setpieces, and entertaining supporting performances by Patrick Stewart and Rebecca Ferguson. None of this would of been a surprise to me, however, had the trailers touted the fact that the movie was directed by Joe Cornish.

Then again, I shouldn’t be too surprised. With only one directing credit to his name, and a few co-writing credits alongside Edgar Wright on The Adventures of Tin-Tin and Ant-Man, Cornish is hardly a household name, especially since his directorial debut came out in 2011. But, oh, what a debut it was…

Like The Kid Who Would Be King, Attack the Block could be ...

Space Oddity — Star Trek: Discovery’s “An Obol for Charon”


This post is by Keith R.A. DeCandido from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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Three takeaways from the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery:

1. The hell with the Picard series and the Section 31 series, I want the adventures of Number One starring Rebecca Romijn. She’s due for her own command anyhow. Get on that, CBS!
2. There are few things more conducive to making a subplot sing than to put Tig Notaro, Mary Wiseman, and Anthony Rapp in a locked room.
3. Doug Jones remains the rock star of Discovery.

Thanks to some unauthorized digging around by Number One (who apparently likes cheeseburgers with habanero sauce), they’ve managed to track down Spock’s shuttlecraft. Unfortunately, they’re snagged en route by a sphere that seems to attack the ship. Part of the damage to the ship includes engineering being locked off by systems failures, and the mycelial-network life form that attached itself to Tilly takes advantage of the chaos to take possession of ...

SF Stories That Cut the Vastness of Space Down to Size


This post is by James Davis Nicoll from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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Collapsing Empire Cover

As previously established, three-dimensional maps present increasingly intractable problems for two-dimensional media. SF authors who want to create a coherent map for their setting (even one they never plan to share with their readers) can make the task easier for themselves by using one simple strategy: instead of permitting travel between any two stars, they can restrict travel to a few systems. Authors need only keep track of the connections between systems, not the 3D relationships between the stars.

One way to achieve this is by placing limits on the space drive’s useful range. The roleplaying game 2300 AD provides an example: stutterwarp drives generate lethal radiation if used to cross distances longer than 7.7 light years. While 2300 AD did, as explained in my previous article, provide a 3D map of near space, it was more relevant to know what stars (or massive bodies that could discharge ...

Five Fantastic Recent Books about Humans Colonizing Other Planets


This post is by Charlie Jane Anders from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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Humanity has accomplished a great many things since we started mastering technologies like writing and agriculture. But we still remain confined to this one tiny planet, without even a permanent presence on our own moon, and the dream of interplanetary colonization remains just that. So it’s a good thing we have a lot of great books in which humans go to live on other worlds.

When I was working on my new novel, The City in the Middle of the Night, I was inspired by a bunch of great books featuring humans colonizing other planets. Here are five recent colonization books that are especially fantastic.

 

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

A missionary named Peter goes to an alien planet where humans have just begun to colonize, leaving behind an Earth that is going through huge, potentially ...

On the Origins of Modern Biology and the Fantastic: Part 8 — Isaac Asimov and Messenger RNA


This post is by Kelly Lagor from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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“To succeed, planning alone is insufficient. One must improvise as well.” —Salvor Hardin, Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov loved a cozy mystery, the kind involving few suspects that are solved by the logical deductions of a brilliant mind. In his two most famous series, logic was a prevailing theme. In the Robot series, Asimov used logic on a small scale to extrapolate and examine the impact of his Three Law of Robotics and in his Foundation series, psychohistory applied logic and a scientific approach to mass psychology to avert a dark age after the collapse of the Galactic Empire. Furthermore, near the end of his life, Asimov used logic to tie the two series together, rooting psychohistory in an extrapolation of the three laws, thus tying the fate of humanity to a singular partnership between a robophobic detective, Elijah Baley, and a humaniform robot, R. Daneel Olivaw, in ...

Articulated Restraint


This post is by Mary Robinette Kowal from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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Being a Lady Astronaut means being twice as dedicated, and twice as good as everyone else. And sometimes, handling a test run that has turned deadly serious. Mary Robinette Kowal visits an off-stage incident in her The Calculating Stars series.

 

 

MOON COLONY EXPANDS TO 100 COLONISTS

Sep. 26, 1960 (AP) — The International Aerospace Coalition announced today that the lunar colony, established last year, is ready to expand to hold 100 colonists. This is the next step in preparing to colonize Mars, although many still question the necessity of such an endeavor…

 

Six thirty in the morning was a brutal time to start work even without a sprained ankle. Ruby Donaldson tried to tell herself that being sore and exhausted was good practice as an astronaut. Limping up to the third floor of the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, she gave thanks that no one else was in the ...

Meanwhile, Back in the Klingon Empire… — Star Trek: Discovery’s “Point of Light”


This post is by Keith R.A. DeCandido from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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One of the difficulties with creating serialized dramatic fiction in a large universe is that you’ve got a lot of different hands in the pot over the years. Star Trek has been produced for more than five decades, with writing staffs far and varied and wide. Hell, all four show-runners of the original series (Gene Roddenberry, Gene L. Coon, John Meredyth Lucas, and Fred Freiberger) are now deceased, as is the one person who served as show-runner for each of the first three live-action spinoffs (Michael Piller). We’re talking about seven television series and thirteen movies produced by six different studios (Desilu, Hal Sutherland, Paramount’s movie division, Paramount’s TV division, Bad Robot, and Secret Hideout).

Given that, Star Trek has remained remarkably consistent. And their track record for addressing the inconsistencies has actually been pretty good.

I bring all this up because sometimes it just takes one slight makeup change ...

Mapping the Stars for Fun and Profit


This post is by James Davis Nicoll from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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A recent discussion here on Tor.com, one which mentioned C. J. Cherryh’s starmap, reminded me of a few remarkable roleplaying games (one of which was reviewed here ages ago). Remarkable because they were fun to play; notable in this context because each game wrestled with a then-intractable problem: user-friendly starmaps.

When you read a novel, short story, etc., you may be given hints as to star locations and the distances from star to star. Most of us just take those vague gestures at maps as given and focus on the exciting space battles, palace intrigues, and so on. Only a few nerdy readers (ahem!) try to work out star positions and distances from the text. And only a few authors (like Benford and McCarthy) provide maps in their novels. There are reasons why maps are generally left out, and who notices an absence?

Roleplaying games ...

Five Inhospitable Planets from Science Fiction


This post is by Kelly Jensen from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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There’s just something extra special about a backdrop of bubbling lava, snapping tentacles, poisonous forests, sinkholes, cracking ice, an unbreathable atmosphere, or the approach of a blistering sunrise that amps up the excitement factor. The story was probably already pretty good, but now everyone might die on the way to wherever they’re going. And they might die horribly because someone thought it was a good idea to visit Paradise Not.

That someone could easily be me. I have a habit of putting my characters in horrible places and I’m going to place the blame on some of my favorite books and movies. We’ll start with Ursula K. Le Guin, who is known for testing every limit her characters have—and then some…

 

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

This is not the first book of Le Guin’s I ever read, but the one I remember the ...

Is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress Heinlein’s All-Time Greatest Work?


This post is by Alan Brown from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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In this bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books, Alan Brown looks at the front lines and frontiers of the field; books about soldiers and spacers, scientists and engineers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.

For good reason, Robert A. Heinlein is often called the Dean of Science Fiction Writers, having written so many excellent books on such a wide variety of topics… which can make it hard to pick a favorite. If you like military adventure, you have Starship Troopers. If you want a story centered around quasi-religious mysteries, you have Stranger in a Strange Land. Fans of agriculture (or Boy Scouts) have Farmer in the Sky. Fans of the theater have Double Star. Fans of dragons and swordplay have Glory Road. Fans of recursive and self-referential fiction have ...

All the New Science Fiction Books Coming Out in February!


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Come February, will it be the frigid cold of the dark side of January (the planet, not the month), or will the sun burn us in its unforgiving light? There’s no way to know, but Charlie Jane Anders’ The City in the Middle of the Night will tell you how to find the happy medium between both! This month’s science fiction releases also includes the Library of America edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home, Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti trilogy collected in omnibus form, contemporary Chinese SF in translation, and a most ambitious undertaking that honors the memory of the late Gardner Dozois—the very best of the very best SF of the year! With so many short stories, novellas, and new novels, there’s something for everyone.

Keep track of all the new releases here. Note: All title summaries are taken and/or summarized from copy provided by the publisher.

...

Instruments of Our Own Destruction: Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett


This post is by Martin Cahill from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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Vigilance, a new novella by Robert Jackson Bennett, is a love story between America and its guns—and as with all toxic relationships, someone’s going to get hurt.

In a near-future America undergoing a fast, steep decline—a nation where the young have left for safer and brighter ports, while an older generation hangs on by its fingernails to the old vision of what America could be—a right-wing news organization has found the exact thing to prey on their fear. This America, much like our own, is both fascinated by and numb to the horrors of mass shootings: people are still willing to watch the coverage, and not yet sick of it enough to turn away from the brutality. So John McDean, one of the lead marketers for Our Nation’s Truth television network, has turned shootings into a reality TV show: Vigilance.

Bennett spares no detail in painting a picture of ...

In “New Eden” Was Captain Pike Wrong About Star Trek’s Prime Directive?


This post is by Ryan Britt from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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Turns out that Captain Pike is so hot for the Prime Directive, he will literally jump on a phaser and die rather than interfere with a culture’s natural development. Except when it comes to giving out space batteries. Space batteries are fine. The point is, on some level Pike’s actions in the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery — “New Eden”—might scan as hypocritical. But, that’s not exactly Pike’s fault. Maybe General Order One, better known as the Prime Directive, is inherently hypocritical.

Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery season 2, episode 2, “New Eden.”

For diehard Trekkies, the Discovery episode “New Eden,” was a classic Trek premise insofar as it presented a classic ethical dilemma, with an interesting twist. Members of Starfleet aren’t supposed to interfere with the natural development of pre-warp cultures, but what if those cultures aren’t indigenous to the planet they live on? In “New ...

Simple Pleasures Are the Best — Star Trek: Discovery’s “New Eden”


This post is by Keith R.A. DeCandido from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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Back in the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander William Riker, expressed an interest in directing an episode of the show. The producers decided to go ahead and give him a go. Star Trek had very little track record in that regard, and only on the movie side: Leonard Nimoy directed the third and fourth Trek films, with William Shatner directing the fifth. (“Captain Kirk is climbing the mountain, why is he climbing the mountain?“) But they gave Frakes “The Offspring” to direct, a script in which Riker’s role was fairly small.

He was not only the first Trek actor to direct a TV episode, he became one of the best, and now is one of the most in-demand TV directors around. More followed in his footsteps, and some became just as in-demand (Roxann Dawson, Robert Duncan McNeill, ...