SF/F Saturday: Uprooted/The Speed of Dark

In my last installment of this series, I said that I wanted to read more sci-fi and fantasy written by women. That plan is already paying dividends, as I've checked off two books by authors on the list I hadn't read before and thoroughly enjoyed both of them: Uprooted, by Naomi Novik, and The Speed of Dark, by Elizabeth Moon. Here are some short reviews and thoughts.Uprooted, by Naomi NovikA fantasy rooted in Russo-Polish mythology, Uprooted starts out like a fairy tale. It's set in a … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: The Top 100 Women Authors

My familiarity with the classics of sci-fi and fantasy is patchy, and I've been trying to make it more systematic. As part of that goal, I want to diversify my reading selections, and pay adequate attention to the excellent women and minority authors who are too often overlooked in favor of the white male authors who've historically dominated the field.So, I was very pleased to see this top-100 list of SF/F novels by female authors from BookRiot. I was curious to see where I stacked up in … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: Mystery Science Theater 3000

The whole East Coast is snowed in after last night's blizzard. If you're feeling a touch of cabin fever, I've got a suggestion for how to while away the time.Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a cult-classic TV show that came out of Minnesota in the late 1980s. It's about a mild-mannered janitor named Joel (series creator Joel Hodgson), who had the misfortune of being employed by two mad scientists. As part of their evil, never-fully-specified plan to conquer the world, they kidnap him, shoot … [Read more...]

Open Thread: Star Wars

I saw The Force Awakens last night, and I have thoughts, so here's an open thread to discuss the movie. Warning: spoilers ahead!As Lore Sjoberg once said, the best Star Wars will always be the one that reverts you to the wide-eyed 8-year-old you were when you saw it for the first time. By that standard, this movie delivers the goods. It doesn't just hit all the nostalgia buttons, it plays them like a symphony: the scavenged, used-future technology, the desert and ice planets, the colorful … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: Jessica Jones

I have a new favorite show to recommend: Marvel's Jessica Jones, just released in its entirety on Netflix. It's technically a superhero show, but unlike any superhero show I've ever seen before.Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is a private eye living in the New York City neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen. She doesn't look intimidating, but she has superhuman strength: she can throw a man twice her size across a room, twist a padlock off a door with her bare hands, or jump so high and so far that … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: The Culture

For all its virtues, Star Trek was a series that often failed to do justice to its own ideas. We're told that Starfleet is just one small part of a vast, advanced utopian civilization, but that means that the settings and characters of the various TV shows were atypical representatives of the Federation. We only ever saw brief glimpses of what ordinary life in such a society would be like.Iain M. Banks, who died tragically early in 2013, did better with his Culture sci-fi series. Like the … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: The Half-Made World

Something I've often wondered is why so many great or classic fantasy stories are set in a real or fictionalized Europe. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, Robert E. Howard's Conan series, Terry Pratchett's Discworld, The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell... the list goes on and on. And it can't just be chalked up to European fantasy authors being more popular, since some of the authors of these … [Read more...]

SF/F Sunday: Goodnight Stars

Earlier this week, I posted about the "Sad Puppies'" reactionary campaign to hijack the Hugos. I have an addendum to that: two nominated authors, Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos, have announced that they're withdrawing their works from consideration.Both Bellet and Kloos were part of the Sad Puppies' slate, although neither sought out that support. In respective public announcements, they both stated that they don't wish to be associated with the SPs' campaign, nor do they want anyone to harbor … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: Terry Pratchett’s Death

I was devastated to learn that Terry Pratchett, the renowned fantasy author, died this week at the unfairly early age of 66. Pratchett had been suffering from early-onset dementia for several years, and while he was a vocal advocate of assisted dying, his own passing was natural. (He also worked almost right up to the end: his final Discworld book, The Shepherd's Crown, is set to be published posthumously this year.)The sad news was broken by family on his Twitter account, in a form any … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: The Years of Rice and Salt

I've been getting into alternate history novels lately - The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove, Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp - and one of the better ones I've read is Kim Stanley Robinson's 2002 book The Years of Rice and Salt. I've read Robinson's Mars trilogy, which I thought was interesting but lacked a strong central concept to drive the plot, but this book is an accomplishment.The classic strategy of alternate history is to pick some important historical event, assume … [Read more...]