Supergirl is getting another supervillain, and he's a big one. The CW announced Thursday that the show's currently airing fourth season will soon introduce the most iconic nemesis in the entire Superman family: Lex Luthor, the megalomaniacal genius, businessman, and occasional world leader who's been battling the Man of Steel and his allies for decades.
Netflix, the deep-pocketed streaming juggernaut and original content provider, has been pumping out and promoting a wealth of high-profile blockbuster and indie fright films for the past 10 years. Many of these spooky offerings are their own proprietary productions but most are Hollywood studio treats that evoke gobs of gooseflesh and waking nightmares.
From the Holiday Special to The Mandalorian, the Star Wars race that counts Boba and Jango Fett among its numbers has a long history in and out of the narrative of the galaxy far, far away. It’s one that Star Wars has long been enamored with—but its portrayal has ebbed and flowed in fascinating ways over the last four…
Warning! The following contains adult themes being discussed in a borderline adult, yet mostly immature, manner. If you are weird about sex, girls talking about sex, or just have a minimal sense of humor, turn away now. Otherwise, don't say we didn't warn you.
When you think about massive, visual effects-driven blockbusters released in 2018, one of the first films that undoubtedly comes to mind is Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios' epic culmination of a decade of shared-universe storytelling. Infinity War has dominated much of the moviegoing public's imagination this year, and with good reason, but as massive as it is, its smaller-scale (pun intended) follow-up was in some ways just as ambitious.
Deadpool's Brianna Hildebrand praises Ryan Reynolds for making her character Marvel's first openly gay superhero on film @ Syfy Wire
While the Merc with a Mouth is battling bad guys like Colossus with the X-Force, his real-life alter ego is doing some seriously good work on behalf of the gay community.
Deadpool 2 star Brianna Hildebrand is crediting Ryan Reynolds as the reason her X-Men hero Negasonic Teenage Warhead has a girlfriend in 20th Century Fox's summer hit, saying he suggested the idea in his capacity as a producer on the movie.
Development: The Terror Season 2 confirms director and WWII setting; CW painting Dorian Gray comedy; more @ Syfy Wire
Do you have the time? Never mind, put your watch down, we know what time it is. It's time for another round of development news from the world of genre entertainment! In this round-up, we're heading back in time to the Second World War, admiring a supernatural and comedic painting, and kvelling over a surprising character reveal for Arrow Season 7.
io9 got a peek at The Curse of La Llorona at San Diego Comic-Con—and now everyone else can join us in our excited (yet petrified) anticipation with the arrival of the film’s spooky first trailer. The movie is by first-time feature director Michael Chaves, who was just hired for a little movie called Conjuring 3.
Halloween is approaching and we have the most chilling, spooky, and downright creepy podcasts for you to get your scare on this season.
American Horror Story may have had a rough few seasons, but Apocalypse has so far felt like a return to glory. In the latest episode, the horror anthology came back to the beloved “Murder House” that started it all. We got some classic murder and mayhem, along with a few surprising happy endings—culminating in a major…
Star Wars: Episode IX has some big shoes to fill after following the controversial hit The Last Jedi, but J.J. Abrams' return to the series will have plenty of support from one series mainstay: Mark Hamill. That's right, Luke Skywalker himself is appearing in the new film after disappearing into Force dust at the end of the previous film.
Piranha-like creatures capable of biting chunks of flesh from their victims appeared some 150 million years ago, according to new research.
The first Ant-Man really kickstarted what has become a Marvel tradition of de-aging actors to play their young selves with some impressive VFX. But its recent sequel took that heady fantasy of turning back time to some uncanny levels with its flashback scenes starring Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer as Hank Pym…
Into the Night is a totally '80s comedy-thriller starring Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer, featuring a memorable performance from the late great David Bowie. There’s murder, intrigue, car chases to cheesy music, gold chains on hairy necks, and, best of all, our Jeff’s bedhead and corduroy jacket. That’s right — almost two hours of a sleepy Goldblum running around like he slept in his office again because he has a tight deadline to meet.
Myth and Miyazaki: Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl on the Lush Visual Fantasy of Isola @ Barnes & Noble: Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Inspired by the work of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, and a fascinating journey all its own, Isola is a visually stunning story of two formidable women on a quest. The Gotham Academy team of Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, and colorist Msassyk have joined letterer Aditya Bidikar (Motor Crush) for a very different type of story: the Queen of Maar is under the influence of an evil spell (she’s been transformed into a tiger), and the captain of her guard will stop at nothing to save her—even though the only hope of reversing it lies half a world away on the mythical island of Isola. The art is lush and bright—hands down, this one of the best looking books you’ll read this year—and the story unfolds with minimal text and maximal visuals.
The first collected trade edition is out this month in an exclusive B&N edition featuring a variant cover, design pages, pre-production materials, and a 10-page prequel tale. Writer Brenden Fletcher and artist Kark Kerschl were kind enough to chat with us about the book, a passion project for them both.
Brenden, you’ve talked about Miyazaki as an influence on all of your work, and his touch is certainly very present here. How does Ghibli figure specifically into the development of Isola?
Brenden: Karl and I labored on a project, the spiritual predecessor of Isola, for nearly a decade before we threw in the towel and moved on to other work. That story had been influenced by a lot of the surface elements of Miyazaki’s earlier films. I think we were both more than a little in love with his worldbuilding at the time.
When we were finally able to dive back into creating our own world, we pulled liberally from our previous unpublished work, but looking back now on how it all shook out, I feel like the elements of Miyazaki’s influence that found their way into Isola exist primarily in its tone, atmosphere, and approach to character-building [versus] a collection of similarly inspired designs. You can still see Ghibli in the visual language, but I think Miyazaki’s DNA runs a lot deeper.
Likewise, Karl, the book’s visual style is striking. What were your design inspirations?
Karl: I tried out a few different visual styles when I started work on Isola, but ultimately I defaulted back to something comfortable—a look inspired by traditional animation. I like flatly-colored characters and lush, painted backgrounds, [and that’s] the way I’ve approached the last few projects I’ve drawn. Fortunately, Michele Assarasakorn joined our team as colorist and brings a unique palette to the whole book. This being a fantasy world, we’re trying to take real world elements and abstract them with bold colors to make them more alien. Some direct inspirations include the Ghibli films (of course), Tolkien, and the Dark Souls and Zelda series of video games.
Is there other mythology that inspires the story and world? It has the feel of old folklore.
Brenden: Oh, wow, I’m glad it feels that way to you. It was certainly our hope to create something with a timeless feel. With that in mind, we pulled from a lot of myth while crafting the larger [mythos], and continue to do so for the smaller episodes in the ongoing comic book series. Influences we wear on our sleeves are the old Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen and the ancient legend of Orpheus and Eurydice. You’ll find bits and pieces of our favorite stories littered throughout Isola if you look long enough. You’ll also note that the world we’re creating is populated with its own myths, stories, and songs that all play a part in influencing Olwyn and Rook on their journey, for good or for ill.
The connection between Rook and Queen Olwyn, two very different women, is central to the book. Can you talk a bit about it?
Brenden: What can we say without spoiling the story too terribly? Ha! The relationship is the very core of our story. I think their personalities, while on opposite ends of the spectrum, are quite complimentary. They’re almost like Felix and Oscar from The Odd Couple, pushing and pulling each other in unpleasant ways, but usually with the best of intentions, and always, in the end, bringing out the best in one another. At the center of any conflict Olwyn and Rook might have is a great love and deeper understanding than either woman is willing to admit.
And duty to their kingdom—can’t forget that duty is always getting in the way of what could otherwise be a perfectly healthy friendship. Olwyn was born into royalty, and that kind of upbringing and station is tough to shake, even when you’re trapped in the body of a blue tiger. Rook, on the other hand, has barely set foot in the kingdom of Maar her entire life, and isn’t very at home around the political scheming and stiff, upper class nonsense she’s meant to endure as the queen’s newly appointed captain of the guard.
You can see why it might take these two a little time and a few hundred miles of hiking to get comfortable enough to open up about their feelings.
Isola reunites the team from Gotham Academy. I’m curious how the three of you came back together for this. What was the development process like?
Brenden: Isola was in the works before we got the Gotham Academy gig. Karl and I had just wrapped an Assassin’s Creed graphic novel and were searching for our next project. After letting our previous personal project sit on the shelf unpublished for so many years, we felt it was time to get back on the horse and kick into a new creator-owned story.
We were only a few months into development when out studiomate, Becky Cloonan, got the call from DC Comics to make a new Batman-family series with a YA flavour. Becky was committed to another project at the time and couldn’t do the series on her own, so she asked us to join. The rest is history!
Karl: Gotham Academy went through some creative shifts in the coloring department, but we quickly landed Michele Assarasakorn (MSassyK) as our full-time colorist, and she became an indispensable part of the team. We asked her early on to work with us on Isola. Because we have a history of collaboration, we’re able to make decisions fairly quickly, and we put together palette maps and thematic beats that inform the flow of the story. It’s all actually quite fluid, in that details change dramatically in the process of creating the book.
The story is very much told through images, with long stretches very minimal dialogue. Does that create special challenges for either of you, either as an artist or as a writer?
Brenden: I don’t think I could do this book with any other illustrator. It’s crafted to play to Karl’s strengths. He’s uniquely gifted at bringing animals to life on the page, giving them an emotional journey without needing to fully anthropomorphize them. They appear to live and breathe and emote in a way we can empathize with.
It would certainly be easier to tell this story if Olwyn, while trapped in the form of a tiger, could speak to Rook, but I think the dynamic we’ve set up feels more convincingly real (as much as a partnership with a magical tiger queen can feel real, I guess), and the conflicts that ensue, more dynamic and interesting.
The animal characters (particularly Queen Olwyn) have tremendous personality, even without dialogue. Was that tough to convey?
Karl: Rook and Olwyn’s characters were very well established before I ever set pencil to page (or stylus to screen, to be more exact). Brenden and I talked a lot about their personalities, histories, and relationship, and that backstory informs the way I portray them. Making a tiger emote is a bit of a challenge, but if you look closely, the acting is all in her body language. There are some subtle facial expressions, but I feel pretty comfortable with Olwyn. Rook is actually a greater challenge, because her feelings are much more complex. She doesn’t have a great handle on her emotions, so there isn’t really a shorthand for her expressions—they’re different all the time. She’s less of an archetype, so I can’t rely on the usual behaviors. I think it took a whole story arc for me to really get comfortable with her.
And in closing, a shameless reference to some of the B&N exclusive content—can you talk a bit about the 10-page prologue, and what it adds to the story?
Brenden: The prologue sets up the conflict at the heart of Isola while offering insight into the paths the queen and her future captain were on before they intersected. We see critical moments in the relationship of Olwyn and her brother Asher, and a little of Rook’s life in the field, serving in the Circle Guard. But maybe the most intriguing part of the prologue is that it offers very strong hints at what’s to come in later volumes—there’s a character introduced in those pages who doesn’t otherwise appear in the first volume, but plays a very important part in the overall tale. I’m really excited for people to come back to this prologue story in time, and recall how that character and these events set the plot in motion.
The Internet had a collective bone to pick with Jason Blum over the horror master's regrettable views on women filmmakers. And it seems he's listening.
On the Origins of Modern Biology and the Fantastic: Part 7 — Robert A. Heinlein and DNA Replication @ Tor.com
The Exorcist deserves more love. No, not the the first one. The third one.
Moviepass is making headlines once again, and as you can probably predict, the news isn't very good. After a whirlwind summer that found the company constantly trying to stay afloat, the New York Attorney General's office is launching a probe into its parent company, Helios and Matheson.
Jon Favreau offers a look at the voices behind his Lion King remake. Star Trek producer Heather Kadin promises Discovery and Picard will feel different from each other. The DC/CW superhero crossover teases both Lois Lane and a familiar Superman location. Plus, what’s to come on Supernatural, and a clever new Daredevil…
Astronomers have found an immense supercluster of galaxies 11 billion light years away... and it's still in the process of forming!
Battlefield V's War Stories may not be the pinnacle of historical accuracy, but you can't deny the authenticity. At least until it's time to respawn at an earlier checkpoint.
Back to the beginning of the end.
MIB: Chris Hemsworth reveals Men in Black reboot has officially wrapped, drops one last onset pic @ Syfy Wire
Here come the Men In Black... because these new and improved galaxy defenders have completed their work on the reboot.
Although the Final Girl dates back to some of the earliest slasher films, the actual concept wasn’t fully refined or named until 1992. Author Carol J. Clover coined the words “Final Girl” in her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. However, Clover had a fairly narrow definition of what a Final Girl could be. And while the initial Final Girls had to be morally superior, chaste, and virginal, modern heroines don’t have to follow those rules anymore.
"From the hangings of innocent men and women during the witch-trials hysteria of 1692, to the savage beginnings of the American Revolution to the murder and mayhem ensuing over a 300-year period, New England's history is stained with blood."
Gaming roundup: Spider-Man hypes The Heist; For Honor announces Marching Fire; Loot Crate goes digital @ Syfy Wire
Marvel's Spider-Man has started to hype the first round of DLC ahead of next week's release, button masher For Honor adds a quartet of characters, and Loot Crate gets into the digital gaming business in our latest gaming roundup.
What is this, a crossover episode? We've known that Mr. Frodo Baggins of Bag End — whoops, apologies — we've known that actor Elijah Wood would be turning up to voice a character at some point on the new Star Wars animated series, Star Wars Resistance.
The middle of October is upon us, which means that Halloween is inching ever closer—as is the annual io9 Halloween costume show! Have you been working on your spooky get-up for the season? Come share it, and have a look at some of your fellow commenters’ fancy work so far!
Science fiction has always presented itself as an avenue to boundlessly reimagine the infinite possibilities of existence. It’s dystopian backdrops are — more often than note — the ruined landscapes of idealistic, noble and brave protagonists, with antagonists portrayed as somewhat misunderstood and broken down. The genre has been positioned as an escape from the monotony of oppressive human structures, led by characters unblemished by the primitive, calculated and efficient system of anti-black racism.
We rounded up 10 female horror directors for Jason Blum, who seems to have trouble finding them @ io9
With the release of Blumhouse’s rebooted Halloween just a couple of days away, studio head Jason Blum has been doing his usual round of interviews touting the studio’s success. But rather than letting Blum rest on the laurels of Get Out and Halloween, Matt Patches of Polygon asked Blum about a less flattering aspect…
The Life of Captain Marvel has been teasing major changes to Carol Danvers’ long and at times befuddling comic book origins. After bringing in a shocking twist last month, its new issue this week has lifted the lid on a huge new backstory for Carol—and she’s not the only one affected by it.
If you grew up watching the Rugrats Chaunkah special in the '90s, then you're gonna love what Boom! Studios has cooked up in honor of the Festival of Lights. The publisher is releasing a one-shot holiday-related comic book, Rugrats: C is for Chanukah #1.
Maisie Williams says Arya Stark’s final scene in Game of Thrones is ‘beautiful’ and ‘perfect’ @ Syfy Wire
A girl has no regrets.
Exclusive: British director Matthew Holness on his freakish new indie horror flick, Possum @ Syfy Wire
It's a rare gift indeed to conjure up a seething atmosphere of dread in modern horror films, with today's offerings often feeling like tired retreads of previous cinematic manifestations.
Lois Lane is already fitting right into the Arrowverse.
It's become a nice midseason tradition for fans of The CW's various DC Comic-based shows to celebrate their interconnectedness with a big crossover team-up, and 2018 is already shaping up to be perhaps the most ambitious yet. Titled "Elseworlds" and arriving this December, the three-night event will introduce new threats, new locales, and new allies, including ace Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane.
A few horror franchises made strides this week, while a deep dive into the DC catalog adds tertiary characters to its already tertiary storyline.
Producer Jason Blum has built his empire in horror, churning out such films as Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Sinister, The Purge, and literally dozens of others including the new Halloween. And yet, somehow Blumhouse Productions hasn't had a single theatrical horror release directed by a woman.
We can't let go of The Grudge. The J-horror franchise that Ju-On kicked off in 2000 has seen a slew of Japanese sequels as well as an American remake series. Soon, the next chapter will come from emerging horror auteur Nicolas Pesce. But don't call it a reboot.
Because we exist in an era when, by the year 2023, 100 percent of all new movies made will be comic book sequels, remakes and reboots, we are getting a possibly R-rated Batman spin-off starring The Joker that’s set in the 1980s, apparently doesn’t have Batman in it, is modeled after a Scorsese mob flick and is titled,…
Near the end of Astounding, Alec Nevala-Lee’s new history of “John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction,” the author quotes Asimov to the effect that very few people would know of Campbell were it not for Asimov’s own constant references to the man. Asimov then goes on to predict his own work would be destined to suffer the same fate, though that bit proved false. The fact is, for all his influence as editor of Astounding Science Fiction magazine (later Analog Science Fiction and Fact) and as a writer himself, Campbell is very little known outside of academic circles, save that he’s the namesake for an award honoring new voices in the field. Of course, magazine editors don’t generally make the history books, and Campbell’s place in the pantheon is further complicated by his uncanny ability to alienate many of the same people who he raised up. Nevala-Lee’s book serves as something of a Campbell biography, but ultimately encompasses much of the early history of modern science fiction, and serves as a corrective that places Campbell, warts and all, back at the center of the genre at a time when the rules had yet to be written.
Campbell began his career as a physicist, and wrote science fiction himself. Though he produced one classic work in Who Goes There?, the novella that formed the basis for the various film versions of The Thing, he gave up writing fairly early to take over as publisher of Astounding Magazine, then a struggling pulp. Over his first decade, he discovered or nurtured many of the names still synonymous with the era, including Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, L. Ron Hubbard, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov. There are cameos from many of the greats of early modern sci-fi in this book, but Hubbard, Heinlein, and Asimov are the primary focal points, representative of the types of interactions that Campbell had with writers in his stable.
One of the book’s biggest draws is the window it offers into the deeply interconnected lives of these golden age writers. We (or at least, I) tend to picture pulp writers toiling away alone in cramped, smoky rooms. Astounding reveals how Campbell, as an editor, groomed and tried keep a hold on writers who he found talented and reliable. Robert Heinlein was a natural, a man with with deep and complicated politics who was, for many years, Campbell’s very good friend. Isaac Asimov was a persistent amateur who grew through his own determination (and under Campbell’s tutelage) into one of the most popular and prolific writers of all time. L. Ron Hubbard was a natural storyteller, indifferent to science fiction but nevertheless a reliable yarn-spinner, who became far more far more famous for… other reasons.
The lives of these men were intertwined for decades, in and out of wars and through life crises. Nevala-Lee makes a compelling case that they formed an essential brain trust of the era’s SF. There were other publishers, other magazines—but not many. And Astounding, with Campbell at its head and with a stable of prolific writers on call, led the way. That being said, there were factions and divisions even in the earliest days, and it’s fascinating and amusing to read about vintage trolling campaigns, competing conventions, and near-violent confrontations between Campbell’s adherents and other fan groups. Time is a flat circle, you know, though flame wars waged by mail naturally took a LOT longer.
As another corrective to the idea of the solitary writer, Astounding considers in detail the collaborations that led to some of the great works of the era; Campbell felt that he didn’t need to write once he took charge of the magazine because his fingerprints were on everything that went out. As a slightly younger and more impressionable writer, Asimov in particular did some of his most iconic work with Campbell whispering in his ear. The famed “Three Laws of Robotics” were devised in collaboration between the two, and the Foundation series, though written by Asimov, is arguably more reflective of Campbell’s worldview and his notion of a new, hypothetically more scientific branch of psychology which might someday help to perfect humanity. What became Scientology was born of discussions between Campbell and Hubbard about a future in which the human brain would be as easily corrected to as a computer, and he was an enthusiastic early adopter of the nascent religion, continuing to develop Hubbard’s ideas even after it became clear that serial fabulist Hubbard was taking things in an alarming direction.
Throughout his career, Campbell worked to steer science fiction toward a new vision of humanity and the future. He genuinely hoped and believed that by encouraging people to use science and technology to move forward, the genre could change the world to a greater extent than any other form of literature. It’s in the story of his early work with what became Scientology, though, that we see hints of the dark side of that grand vision. His ideal of a perfected humanity is what lead Campbell to work so closely with Hubbard, and it also led him down some strange roads. He felt strongly that ESP was just an undiscovered science, he supported a lot of fringe medicine, and held strong opinions on precisely who was worthy of being perfected.
To put it bluntly, Campbell also held some truly repugnant views. In his younger days, he seemed to harbor the type of casual racism (and homophobia) that wouldn’t have been terribly surprising to encounter in any white man of his era. But it hardened into something even uglier as he grew older, and as the counterculture that he once felt a part of left him behind. Throughout his life and career, he fixated on the idea of brilliant, strong, heroic men who would deliver humanity into a brighter future through wit and grit. Of course, in those stories, the types of people who might lead that charge wind up looking an awful lot like himself.
While his friends were off fighting the Nazis, Campbell seemed to be harboring dreams of the übermensch. Women weren’t entirely excluded from his vision of the future, in that they had roles to play, but dark skin would have likely been a deal-breaker. Astounding isn’t really a book about racism in mid-20th century publishing, but the faces attached to names that appear again and again in accounts of Campbell’s inner circle of trusted writers tend to look a lot alike. As a result, it’s hard not to draw a straight line to a present in which we’re still fighting a perception that science fiction is a white man’s game; without making it a central focus, Nevala-Lee seems to be arguing that what some still see as an inescapable truth about science fiction is much more the result of an influential editor purposefully limiting the genre’s horizons by excluding people who didn’t look like him. (Samuel R. Delaney, one of SF’s leading talents then and now, and not incidentally black, merited from Campbell a compliment on his talents, but also a hard pass on his fiction.) All of that is to say, a history of Campbell’s work is as much a history of those he excluded.
Alec Nevala-Lee’s Astounding is an essential and long-overdue history of the golden age of science fiction, as reflected through the prism of some of its most significant contributors. As a central protagonist of sorts, John W. Campbell is revealed to be a figure, no question—so too are Asimov, Hubbard, and Heinlein. Nevala-Lee smartly doesn’t dodge exploring their darker sides; instead, he paints a fully shaded picture of an era. The tropes of the genre we know and love didn’t come out of nowhere, but were formed over decades by the determined, often brilliant, unarguably flawed, and very human minds that worked to shape it—usually under deadline, and with the aim of landing a paycheck big enough to keep food on the table. Though the story of Astounding isn’t the whole story, it is an astounding history, and essential guide to a defining era of science fiction.
The post An <i>Astounding</i> Work of Science Fiction History appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.
"Pisces and werewolves get a raw deal in this life, and if you're a Pisces werewolf? Forget about it." Clare and Sara reveal the star signs of your classic horror faves.
From Garfield Minus Garfield to Jim Davis’ own "Primal Self" from Garfield: His 9 Lives, the lazy fat cat that loves lasagna is a surprisingly deep well of existential horror. And now, thanks to one artist’s sketch exercises in the month of October, we have some new artwork to add to that genre mashup canon.
Hell House LLC's producer weighs in on found footage and how Paranormal Activity changed horror more than most people realize.
Every monster has an origin story, and for the vampires who haunt the Japanese Bloodthirsty trilogy, that story begins in the late 1960s or early 1970s. While attending a wrap party, film and television director Michio Yamamoto was overheard chatting with somebody about what he would like to do for his next project. “I’d like to make a film that would really make audiences scream," Yamamoto stated.
Not only are the stars of Westworld getting raises for the upcoming third season, but it looks as though the lead actresses are getting paid as much as their male counterparts. Per The Hollywood Reporter, which first broke the news, stars of HBO’s Emmy-nominated sci-fi/western drama Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright and Thandie Newton will all be getting $250,000 an episode.
1985's "Once Bitten" brought us a sexy, seductive female vampire who took the lead in de-virginizing the youth for the sake of her beauty and mortality -- and it's the kind of female vampire lead we need to see more of in this day and age.
The #ownvoices hashtag has been percolating on social media for some time now. It’s generally used to signify a work of fiction by a minority writer, writing a story from within their own community and/or describing their own lived experience. Some will bristle at the implications, decrying that we are all human, and can therefore write from myriad human perspectives—whether non-neurotypical, or non-heteronormative, or that of racial minorities. And while that can absolutely be true (writers should, can, and do write from perspectives not their own), sometimes people writing about the experiences of others fall back on stereotypes or unthinkingly incorporate deeply ingrained prejudices into their work, perhaps despite their best efforts, and often without being aware they are doing so. They are not, after all, members of the community they seek to describe; their perspective is inevitably from the outside looking in.
The #ownvoices hashtagseeks to remedy this experience gap, pointing out fictions about and from the identities in question. They are, in other words, stories from inside looking out. Heretofore, this hashtag has been largely used to classify young adult fiction. While I can see the pedagogical reasons for this, maybe us olds would be well served by identifying #ownvoices in narratives written for us as well. Science fiction often deals with the alien—the discovery and slow understanding of other cultures, civilizations, and peoples. As such, science fictional or fantastic fiction can be a rich canvas on which to explore the differences that already mark us, stretching our understandings and misunderstandings that much farther. For people who have been marked as other within their own lives, this fictional extremity can be the sort of alienating canvass that resonates.
To that end, here are 13 works that tell stories from the intimacy of cultural identity and the extremity of the SFFnal. I do not pretend this list is anywhere near exhaustive; it’s more a starting point for further inquiry. What novels would you add?
Kindred, by Octavia Butler
Octavia Butler was far from the only woman of color writing science fiction in the 1980s and ’90s, but she is one of the few who got any cred for it. She deservedly racked up a prodigious number of awards—including a Nebula Award for Best Novel for Parable of the Talents, several Hugos, and a number of other prizes. Her subversive, racially charged vampire novel Fledgling, which would’ve the first in a trilogy were it not for Butler’s untimely death, put a stick of dynamite to genre tropes that had gone unexamined and undisturbed for decades. But probably her most vital work with regard to race is Kindred, which tells the story of Dana, an African-American writer, and her white husband, as they travel through time to the lives of Dana’s slave ancestors. The novel echoes historical slave narratives, but with the twist of a modern black woman’s perspective. Kindred puts the lie to the pablum that “you have to judge writings of the past by the worldview at the time.” Well, yes, but whose? Certainly slaves did not hold to white notions of white supremacy. They were too busy trying to survive a vicious and immoral system, as expertly detailed by Butler. The book has become a classic, much taught in schools. Just last year, it was translated into graphic novel form, losing none of its power or relevance.
Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse
After picking up a Nebula for her short story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience” (which also eventually won the Hugo and several other awards), Roanhorse went on to crush it with her debut novel, Trail of Lighting. It’s a gritty, post-apocalyptic fantasy that takes place on what was once a Navajo reservation, now referred to as Dinétah. A decade or so has passed since the drowning of the world, a sudden, inexplicable apocalypse that brought with it the return of Native gods and monsters. Maggie Hoskie is a monster hunter with a past who is pulled back into the trade in an escalating series of events. There are dozens of “Indian princesses” in urban fantasy, and Maggie is a direct refutation of that trope: a prickly, likable, and sometimes scary Diné woman riding out the end of the world.
Mapping the Interior, by Stephen Graham Jones
Jones’s novella tells a story of something between a haunting and a possession. It is a retrospective fiction, told by an adult about a pivotal time in his childhood. The depicted events occured when the narrator was 12 years old, living for the first time with his mother and younger brother outside the reservation, after the death of his father. The boy is a sleepwalker, and becomes convinced he’s seen his father, in full fancy dress regalia, visiting his brother in the short, dark hours. His brother isn’t quite right, and is frequently sent to specialists and targeted by school bus bullies; soon, their father’s spectral visitations begin to take on a more sinister feel. Mapping the Interior is less about the generic “sins of the father” than a wholly creepy, razor sharp examination of a life lived on the edges of two cultures—fully immersed in both, and yet…
Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor
The Hugo and Nebula award-winning Binti starts off as a strain of the space academy story: the title character is the member of a small ethnic minority, and the first of her people to be accepted to a prestigious intergalactic institution of higher learning, Oomza University. Leaving the Himba people is life-altering step for Binti, one which will forever unsettle her place with the culture of her birth. But this displacement becomes so much stronger when the Meduse, a hostile alien race, attack the transport ship which was to shuttle her to her galactic education. Binti plays with tropes of boarding school and military fictions—groups of ethnic minorities on the train to Hogwarts or the Great War explicating their cultures in quick, easily legible gestures—confounding expectations and going nowhere you expect. Binti brings her culture with her, inevitably, into space, and it makes all the difference.
Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed
Saladin Ahmed’s Nebula-nominated debut tells the story of Abdoulla, a ghul-hunter in his silver-haired years who gets dragged back into the trade by an old flame; never mind that all he wants to do is hang out drinking tea. In order to defeat a dark sorcerer, the ghul-of-ghuls, he enlists the help of old accomplices, a mage and an alchemist. He is also aided, somewhat begrudgingly, by a Dervish apprentice and a girl who might also be a cat. The novel is notable in several ways. First, and maybe most obviously, it takes place in a Middle-Eastern inflected fantasy landscape, instead of the usual Tolkien-esque Europe. Second, Abdoulla is no ingenue, but an old dude whose knees creak and who gets maudlin, in the small hours, about the one that got away. The world Abdoulla inhabits—especially his bustling, cosmopolitan city—is beautifully realized.
The Poppy War, by R.F. Kuang
R.F. Kuang’s celebrated debut is another boarding school fiction, of sorts. Rin is a talented war orphan from a nothing Southern province in a country not dissimilar from early 20th Century China. (Kuang is a scholar in Chinese history, most specifically this period.) Passing the brutal exam to gain entrance to the imperial military school in Nikan seems like the ticket out of her small, mean life, but her first months at Sinegard are one setdown after another. She is simply out her depth alongside the wealthy and politically connected students who have trained since birth to stand with Nikan’s elite. She ends up falling in with Jiang, Sinegard’s resident weirdo professor, who is more likely to end a conversation with fart noises than teach his proscribed classes on lore. With him, she begins to learn the ways of shamanism, a practice more mythical than practiced in Nikan. Jiang’s teaching will be put to the test when Nikan resumes hostilities with the neighboring Federation, and Rin must decide how she will use her skills to fight those who would destroy her people.
Midnight Robber, by Naolo Hopkinson
The backstory for Jamaican-born Naolo Hopkinson’s beautifully textured Midnight Robber is almost too complex to sum: a young girl, Tan-Tan, is taken by her disgraced mayor father from the Caribbean-colonized world of Toussaint to the planet’s strange, alternate-universe twin, peopled largely by criminals from Toussaint (like her father). Tan-Tan matriculates under her dad’s rough care in a place where reality is stretchy. There, creatures of Caribbean myth are real, and Tan-Tan grows into a person of lore herself—the Midnight Robber, a sort of Robin Hood who spouts the poetry of the Carib. The language of the novel is a complex patois, something you must lower yourself into slowly, even while it roils. It is a heady mix of the SFFnal and the folkloric.
Half-Resurrection Blues, by Daniel José Older
While urban fantasy by its very nature takes place in urban landscapes, sometimes the genre can be very white, even though big cities usually aren’t. Older’s Half-Resurrection Blues is a direct refutation of this white-washing, taking place in a New York peopled by the very plurality you can actually find on the streets of Brooklyn. (Older worked as a paramedic in these very neighborhoods, and his writing has a detailed sense of place.) Carlos Delacruz is half-dead, having awoken from his murder without memories of his pre-death life. The ghosts who find him and nurse him back to a sort of half-life decide he looks Puerto Rican, so that’s how he thinks of himself. (This is one of many half-jokes about race in America you’ll find in this novel; the metaphor of existence in two worlds is operative on several levels.) Delacruz must run down another halfie who is threatening to break down the border between life and death, which brings Delacruz into contact with several Brads, a giant Hasid, junkies, trolls on bikes known, a santero, and maybe, just maybe, the love of his life. (Half-life. Whatever.) Half-Resurrection Blues is an active novel with really lovely language, twisted with street grit, and so good, you’re glad it’s the start of a series.
Lost Gods, by Micah Yongo
Lost Gods follows a matriculating young person, Neythan, as he graduates to the brotherhood of assassins known as the Shedaím. In his first excursion as a full member, he’s betrayed by one of his fellow students, framed for the murder of another. Neythan starts off on half-quest, half-chase to bring his classmate and betrayer to justice, even while he’s pursued by the brotherhood in turn. The novel also follows several others in the rich tapestry of life in the multi-cultural empire, from the sharif, to exiled wanderers. Lost Gods is based on African folklore, a game of thrones more beholden to the Middle East than the West.
Borderline, by Mishell Baker
The title of Baker’s first novel in the Arcadia Project series, Borderline, refers to several things, the way good titles always do. There is the borderline between the fae world and our own, which is policed by the aforementioned, government-rocognized Arcadia Project. There’s the borderline between the beautiful fiction of Hollywood and the less than beautiful perpetrators of that particular mirage, as explicated by its L.A. setting, and a plot that concerns the mixing of movie magic with the literal kind. And then there’s borderline personality disorder, a diagnosis the principle of the novel, Millie, shares with her creator. Millie came to Hollywood as a young filmmaker, but after a disastrous affair with a professor, she tried to jump from a rooftop to her death; she survived, and lost the use of her legs. The Arcadia Project finds her convalescing, waiting for the insurance money to run out. They want her to help run down a fae who has jumped the bounds (another borderline), and figure she is a safe bet: if she tries to go public about the existence of the supernatural, no one will believe her. Millie is a winsome first person narrator, nowhere near perfect, but self-aware, and managing her BPD as best she can.
The Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu
At about the time when Ken Liu’s debut novel was published, the sci-fi novel Ken Liu translated into English from Chinese, The Three-Body Problem, won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. Grace of Kings went on to pick up several prestigious nominations itself. Like many good translators, Liu has a gift with language, and on a prose level, The Grace of Kings is lovely indeed. The novel incorporates a fair amount of both history and folklore about the fall of the Qin dynasty and the rise of the Han way, way back in Chinese history, enhanced with a silkpunk aesthetic and something like jokes about accounting. Chinese history—with its sweep of millennia and dynastic machinations—is perfectly suited to epic fantasy, a genre which has heretofore largely cribbed from medieval and renaissance Europe (with notable and important exceptions, of course). Liu tells something like a national origin story, with all of the attendant tall tales, mythologizing, and invocation of the gods such an enterprise incurs.
Jade City, by Fonda Lee
The titular Jade City is the capital of an island nation a generation or so past occupation by a foreign power. This occupation was repulsed by the Green Bone warriors, an ethnic minority who have the cultural lore and genetic predisposition to wield jade, a mineral resource that can confer superhuman powers on its wearers. Without adequate training or natural disposition, jade can drive a person to suicide. Two generations ago, Green Bone warriors were hungry freedom fighters with bonds forged in blood; now they are warring clans presided over by both cautious old men and hungry young upstarts. The Green Bone warriors are at war with themselves. Jade City is a sprawling story of crime families in conflict, and owes much to Hong Kong action films as it does to The Godfather, set in a cosmopolitan city with nevertheless a deeply traditional culture.
An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon
Aster is a lowerdecker on a generation ship bound for the promised land, a vessel ruled by a religious and racial autocracy; in plainer terms, the HSS Matilda is, years out from port and years into its voyage, a spacefaring slave ship. We first encounter Aster when she is amputating the frozen foot of a child whose deck had its heat cut by the upperdeckers, not as punishment, precisely, but more as operative cruelty. Aster struggles with personal pronouns a bit in this interaction—is this the deck where all children are referred to as “they” (which is Rivers Solomon’s own preferred pronoun)? The dozens of lower decks have complex local mores and lingo, sexual orientations and gender expressions. (A variety Aster sometimes has trouble with, because she is non-neurotypical, and has trouble reading other people’s emotional states or discerning nuance.) Aster is asked by her friend Theo, a biracial doctor who ministers to the upperdeckers, to investigate the poisoning of the Sovereign, who lies on his deathbed. This outrages Aster; the Sovereign presides over the horrors of the lower decks. But his poisoning seems to have something to do with Aster’s mother’s death many years earlier, so maybe, Aster thinks, she can use the death of someone much more powerful as a means to her own deeply personal end.
What authentically told stories do you recommend?
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At first, this new clip from Sunday’s episode of Star Wars Resistance seems innocent enough. It’s Kaz and a new character, voiced by Elijah Wood, on speeder bikes racing toward a ring. Then, you read that sentence back. Elijah Wood is going after a ring! And he even tells Kaz that he can’t let him pass!
Producer Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions are no longer Hollywood outsiders, no longer practitioners of mysterious alchemy that creates hits from unproven directors and tiny budgets. The company has been around awhile, producing sequels and prequels to its big franchises like The Purge and The Conjuring, minting filmmaker stars like James Wan and Jordan Peele, and taking in over a billion dollars at the box office.
A Spotify ad designed to look and feel like a short horror film has been banned in the United Kingdom, thanks to (if that’s the right phrase) the U.K. consumer watchdog group, the Advertising Standards Authority.
The horror-themed ad features a bunch of young, pretty, hip people using Spotify to play the Camila Cabello song “Havana,” which awakens some sort of doll/mannequin/robot from hell, which stalks the hapless music lovers. But of course, after a parent complained that the ad upset their kids, the ASA looked into it and said, absolutely not.
Back in 1986, I subconsciously decided I liked a new Marvel Comics heroine without actually reading any of her books. Her name was Dakota North and, 32 years later, I’ve finally read her series.
It's national treasure Jeffrey Lynn Goldblum's birthday on October 22, and thus we at SYFY FANGRRLS have dedicated the entire month to the celebration of our favorite moments, movies, outfits and noises from this absolute zaddy of a man. (And if you don't know what "zaddy" means, Google it, because Jeff Goldblum already knows.)
Human history is littered with boundaries and horizons identified and later crossed. In the relatively short cosmic timescales since our birth, our enterprising species has crossed landmasses and vast oceans. We’ve populated all but the most extreme of earthly environments, and we’ve strived to understand the world around us and our place within it.
Happy 20th Anniversary to Practical Magic, the Witchy Rom-Com That’s Really About the Bonds Between Women @ Tor.com
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