Top 10 imaginary drugs in fiction

From the mind-bending potion in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Don DeLillo’s cure for the fear of death, these are some of the most potent hits in literature

Science-fiction writers are always looking for ways to bring about change, whether in society, in the nature of the physical world or in the human mind. And making up new drugs is a powerful way of inducing alteration on all these levels.

In my own work I’ve invented drugs such as Vurt, Metaphorazine, Lucidity, Wave, Haze and many more. My latest novel A Man of Shadows sees people enjoying a concoction called kia, shortened from chiaroscuro, a time-altering drug created from a flower that blossoms only at dusk.

Continue reading...

Top 10 imaginary drugs in fiction

From the mind-bending potion in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Don DeLillo’s cure for the fear of death, these are some of the most potent hits in literature

Science-fiction writers are always looking for ways to bring about change, whether in society, in the nature of the physical world or in the human mind. And making up new drugs is a powerful way of inducing alteration on all these levels.

In my own work I’ve invented drugs such as Vurt, Metaphorazine, Lucidity, Wave, Haze and many more. My latest novel A Man of Shadows sees people enjoying a concoction called kia, shortened from chiaroscuro, a time-altering drug created from a flower that blossoms only at dusk.

Continue reading...

“This is so fucking cool!”—Star Trek Discovery‘s “Choose Your Pain”

Star Trek: Discovery episode Choose Your Pain

In 1966, Star Trek put a black woman and an Asian man on the bridge, and made them bridge officers, a year later adding a Russian man to the mix. In an era of civil rights unrest, war in southeast Asia, and the ongoing cold war with the Soviet Union, showing those three working together with the white folks (not to mention the pointy-eared alien) was huge.

In 1993, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine put a black man at the top of the ensemble, and had an Arab doctor. The former was so radical that it had rarely been seen before or since, and the latter is also vanishingly rare.

And now, in 2017, Star Trek Discovery finally gives us a main character on a Trek TV show who is not heterosexual.

It’s kind of appalling that it took until the last year or so for any Trek to acknowledge ...

Star Trek Discovery episode Choose Your Pain Culber and Stametz
Star Trek Discovery episode Choose Your Pain Rainn Wilson as Harcourt Fenton Mudd
Star Trek Discovery episode Choose Your Pain Captain Lorca
Star Trek Discovery episode Choose Your Pain Saru

Approaching Gene Wolfe with Awe and Trepidation

Two feelings predominated my first reading of Gene Wolfe: awe and trepidation. The awe was for Wolfe’s mastery of prose, tone, setting, voice, mood, and incident: I had not realized that science fiction could be so fraught with meaning, so numinous and so horrifying, or that any writer could so successfully marry apocalyptic drama, baroque landscapes, and violent action with pensive introspection and rueful reflection. The trepidation? I didn’t know that anyone could sustain this level of accomplishment for four volumes and a thousand pages. Could he really be this good? As it turns out, he really was.

After twenty pages of The Shadow of the Torturer, I wanted nothing more than to set aside my schoolwork and social life and read all four volumes of The Book of the New Sun cover to cover. But, reflecting that this would leave me without any New Sun books to read ...

Provenance by Ann Leckie review – good old-fashioned space adventure

A new saga from the Ancillary Justice author features an aristocratic young heroine in a gender-neutral universe

Ann Leckie’s 2013 debut, Ancillary Justice, flared like a meteor through the skies of contemporary science fiction. A near unanimity of critical acclaim, enthusiastic adoption by fans and a clean sweep of all the major SF awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C Clarke, Kitschies and BSFA – unprecedented for a first novel – made it the genre event of the year.

All the hullaballoo looks, perhaps, a little odd in retrospect. In many ways Ancillary Justice is a good old-fashioned space adventure, set in the ruthless galactic empire of the Radch, which is quasi-Roman with a few British Raj touches (a lot of tea gets drunk). The narrator, Breq, is the last of what was formerly a huge collective consciousness running the spaceship Justice of Toren. The Radch way is ...

On Context, Clones, and the Unknown: Tade Thompson’s The Murders of Molly Southbourne

Let’s talk about clones and narratives. As anyone who’s read or watched a story dealing with clones can attest, introducing cloning into a narrative allows storytellers to explore a host of themes: nature versus nurture, the notion of what makes a person unique, the question of what happens when human rights and rampant corporatism collide. In a myriad number of books, stories, televisions shows, and films, cloning has been used to illustrate a wide array of themes and questions—ultimately getting to some genuinely primal ones. What makes us human? What does having the power to replicate a person imply for humanity? And what would it be like to discover that you yourself are not unique?

These themes have been explored in a host of acclaimed books, including a few classics of the genre. Kate Wilhelm’s award-winning 1976 novel Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is one example. In its opening ...

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Expanded Course in the History of Black Science Fiction: Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed

In February of 2016, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination published an essay by me called “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction.” Since then Tor.com has published my in-depth essays on nine of the 42 works mentioned. The original “Crash Course” listed those 42 titles in chronological order, but the essays skip around a bit. This tenth one talks about Ishmael Reed’s magnum opus, Mumbo Jumbo.

JES GREW

Mumbo Jumbo is the story of a life-giving epidemic known colloquially as “Jes Grew,” a spiritual cure-all for soullessness sweeping across the continental U.S. during the 1920s. If the book has a human hero it’s Papa LaBas, a self-anointed houngan—that is to say, a priest of ancient African mysteries. LaBas searches alongside Jes Grew for its long-lost sacred text in the hope of grounding and legitimizing it, and thus defeating the prudish rulers ...

Everfair by Nisi Shawl