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Posted by Chris Lough

New Mutants Arvin Bautista

Filmmaker Arvin Bautista has made a rock ‘n roll “New Mutants” fan film featuring lady glam rocker Lila Cheney and it is WONDERFUL.

Here’s the backstory: At some point in the comics in the late 1980s or early 1990s the X-Men got ate up by some aliens and were gone for a while. Professor X got left behind and became TOO SAD to make more X-Men, but lots of mutantkind still needed training to control their powers and what, do you want Magneto to do it? No! So the Professor eventually brought on some new students, who became known as “the New Mutants.”

Just like the new team from “Giant Size X-Men #1,” these new kids were a diverse lot, hailing from Vietnam, Brazil, a Cheyenne reservation, Scotland, and Kentucky. As time went on, they added students from Russia, outer space, and some bizarre secret Roman kingdom. (Remember: comic books.) Their adventures were a lot of fun, and Bautista’s music video below for “I Will Steal Your Heart” really captures the greasy, squeaky tone of the characters at that time.

It also features TONS of cameos from the X-Men comics books of that era. See if you can spot them all! (There’s a LOT. Seriously. I think the only thing the video is actually missing is a poster for a “Cats Laughing” show.)

Oh Cannonball, you’re such a cute little dope. (And did anyone catch the harsh burn that gets made about Kitty Pryde?)

Great job, Bautista! Here’s hoping Bryan Singer sees this and immediately orders you to make this into a feature length teen X-Men romp.

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Posted by Amanda Rutter, Bill Capossere

Malazan Reread of the Fallen Blood and Bone

Welcome back to the Malazan Reread of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Three (Part Two) of Ian Cameron Esslemont’s Blood and Bone.

A fair warning before we get started: We’ll be discussing both novel and whole-series themes, narrative arcs that run across the entire series, and foreshadowing. Note: The summary of events will be free of major spoilers and we’re going to try keeping the reader comments the same. A spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.

 

Blood and Bone Chapter Three (Part Two)

Summary

SCENE ONE
Saeng wakes from her nightmare of the calling down of the Crippled God. Believing the army has moved on, she and Hanu head back toward home, with her moving along a giant cave bear they encounter. She finds her home trashed by looters and/or soldiers. A neighbor tells her the Thaumaturgs came and took everything—the animals, the foot, any health men or women, leaving only old people and babies. Saeng grows impatient with the old woman’s meandering, but then takes pity on her. She heads to her Aunt Chana’s house, where she was told she could find her mother. Her mom seems oddly unconcerned about things, and warns Saeng that the soldiers had asked about her specifically, saying she was an agent of Ardata. Saeng is shocked none of the villagers said anything, and her mom tells her of course not; “You’re related to half the people here. And everyone’s proud. You’ve kept the Nak-ta quiet for more than ten years now. No one’s been taken in that time.” Seeing how surprised Saeng is, her mom says, “Poor Saeng. You always held yourself apart. You spent more time with those awful spirits than the living.” Saeng answers that her mother was right and she now knows what she needs to do, where she needs to go. Her mother says of course you do honey, and Saeng says good bye and returns to Hanu, telling him their mother is safe.

SCENE TWO
Hannal Leath, “abbess of Tali’s monastery of Our Lady of the Visions,” is rudely interrupted post-coitus by the news that the Queen of Dreams is on her way, as evidenced by the glowing contemplation pool. Frantically getting dressed, she wonders what she’s done.

SCENE THREE
In the inner sanctuary, Hannal watches as a hand exits the pool of “quicksilver liquid.” She reaches out for it despite the painful cold and slowly yanks the Queen of Dreams up and out, even as her hands begin to bleed and smoke. The Queen of Dreams flops out less than gracefully and as Hannal prostrates herself, the Queen tells her to stop and just help her up, adding, “if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s people groveling… Every time I try to talk to someone it’s ‘sorry this’ and ‘forgive me that’ and ‘I’m not worthy’” She also tells her not to avert her eyes.

SCENE FOUR
Hannal tells the Queen they’re honored by their goddess’ appearance, and when the Queen objects she’s no goddess, Hannal says they choose to call her that and the Queen answers that’s their choice. Hannal wonders if she’s there to punish them, referencing what had happened in the grand temple on Kartool when all the priests had been killed. The Queen reassures her and then, reading Hannal’s thoughts about how the Queen is middle-aged and not so good looking, tells her abbess “the actual truth is always far from pretty.” When Hannal asks why the Queen is there then, she says simply because it’s the closest doorway she could use to where she wants to be. As the Queen continues, Hannal does a “la la la la I shouldn’t hear this la la la,” but the Queen tells her knowledge is never the issue; it’s what one does with it. Adding that “an opportunity is approaching… to pose challenges… and to demand answers.” She then asks if her bodyguard/champion has arrived yet, someone wearing a cloak and hiding her face. Hannal first says no, but then recalls an “odd itinerant” that’s been hanging out and talking to nobody. The “beggar” is brought to the chamber and reveals herself to the Queen, shocking Hannal with the nearly plain white mask she (Ina) wears (high ranking Seguleh). They make plans to head for the harbor.

SCENE FIVE
They head for the harbor.

SCENE SIX
The Queen calls up a strange looking ship and as the Queen boards, she tells Hannal she’s going to have “a long-delayed chat with an old acquaintance.” Wondering who that might be, Hannal thinks her temple has lots of good archivists and researchers to try and find out. The ship moves off, “driven by no means discernible to her.”

SCENE SEVEN
Golan reads old reports of the area that are neither encouraging nor helpful, discussing “man-leopards” and “carnivorous bird-women.” The report says they saw structures, but then were defeated badly by an attack of four thousand natives, numbers Golan dismisses, as he does the alleged “monsters.” He asks if Skinner’s group has returned yet (the answer is no) and then thinks how “it suffices only that Skinner deal with them [whatever monsters/natives truly exist]”

SCENE EIGHT
Golan is called upon by his Masters, who tell him there are “troubling disturbances among the lines of power.” They are happy to hear the army should arrive in one moon’s time and tell him they’re already moving along its path. The communication ends and he’s called out by his aide U-Pre and told that a soldier out on guard returned and then attacked his fellow soldiers, leading to unsettling rumors of possession and ghosts. Examining the bodies, Golan notes that the attacker’s wounds are severe and yet he somehow ignored them to wreak devastating and “frenzied” blows of his own. He then points out a bit mark of “the yellow recluse” and tells U-Pre to warn the men of the poisonous spiders. And the other poisonous spiders. And the poisonous scorpions. And the poisonous centipedes.

SCENE NINE
In the forest, Kenjak meets with one of his men—Thet-mun—and is told the other in his band are hungry and unhappy, while Myint isn’t thrilled with the idea of taking the Thaumaturg. Frustrated, Kenjak says that’s not the plan. He asks if Saeng (“the bitch”) is still heading toward the fangs and when told yes, he wonders if maybe she really is Ardata’s agent. He tells Thun-mun he’s taking the army to Chanar Keep, which terrifies the young man. When Kenjak says he told the Thaumaturgs he’d introduce him to Khun-Sen, Thun-Mun says there’s no way then he’s going. Kenjak replies that’s OK, he and Loor (his right hand man) will go, but Thun-mun needs to tll Loor to get it cleaned up. Then he says they’ll get Saeng and Hanu, though Thun-mun has his concerns about that as well. They make their farewells.

SCENE TEN
Upon returning to camp, Kenjak is taken (roughly) to overseer Tun where he tells him he’s found the trail and they’re about three days behind. He suggests a short cut via Chanar Keep, explaining Saeng hasn’t taken it for fear of Khun-Sen (though he screws up and uses the past tense). Tun, though, thinks he’s lying to pretend he isn’t a raider himself, and agrees to go to Chanar Keep.

 

Amanda’s Response

Saeng is shown as being very compassionate here—as well as her concern about her mother, as Bill mentions below, she shows a lot of concern for the elder, Mae. It does help us start to feel sympathy for this character. Saeng and Hanu are a nice duo to read.

I’m not so amused by the way Saeng’s mother is then presented as acting without too much concern. It seems as though that is played too much for laughs, considering Saeng is shown to have been so very concerned. It’s followed by a nice moment where Saeng is given to realise that the village are willing to protect her, and won’t give her up.

Hannal’s introduction in this novel is brilliant, especially the point where she tries to talk to the acolyte in a majestic way, but her voice comes out all high-pitched since she has been somewhat caught in the act.

This is great as well: “An arm emerged—and not a shapely dancer’s arm: a thick, muscled limb, and quite hairy. My goddess has the arms of a washerwoman!” Esslemont’s talent at comic writing has improved immeasurably over the last few books.

The laughs keep coming, with the Queen of Dreams impatiently telling her prostrate priestess to help her up.

Why does the Queen of Dreams deny the fact that she is a goddess? Although the dark dustings of a moustache certainly don’t help her image!

Who does this mysterious ship belong to? Are we supposed to guess from the description?

Hmm, Hannal seems overly curious about the Queen of Dream’s acquaintance—it suggests that she might set her researchers to try to find out who it is. Curiosity can be very dangerous.

Considering we’ve heard that the Thaumaturgs have been taking people and setting villages on fire, and all manner of other hateful things, it is no real surprise that Bakar should write this: “…and farther along the river we did come upon numerous populated urban centres whose inhabitants were unrelenting in their hostility and antagonism to our advance…”

We’ve seen the man-leopard, so I wonder if we will also see the bird-women and snake-women?

It strikes me that at some point Golan is going to find himself surprised by a great city in the jungle, and many thousands of natives, simply because of how quickly he denies the idea that is might be true.

With Ardata being so associated with spiders, is it possible that she could be sending these yellow recluses to sow fear into the ranks of the Thaumaturgs? Himatan is being beautifully developed, and I love Golan’s description of all the common bugs that are able to kill the soldiers in a range of horrible ways.

 

Bill’s Response

Given what’s been done to him, it makes sense that Hanu would understand having nightmares, and I like the very subtle, underplayed way that’s played here with just his “mental shrug of understanding.” I’d also guess that in a forest filled with ghosts and spirits, her people that having been turned into giant monster soldiers probably have their share of nightmares as well

Saeng’s concern for her mother, especially given her difficulties with her, does a nice job of endearing her to us. And I love how that concern is repaid by first finding out she’s OK, and then that relief coming immediately with the mom pressure/guilt trip of learning her mother’s been telling everyone Saeng went off to the temple (though turns out moms are always right…) Even her fellow villagers, whom we were primed to dislike earlier thanks to the Saeng-centric POV about how they treated her don’t come off so bad.

I love this whole scene with Hannal Leath, beginning with the great opening of her being interrupted post-coitus, her wish that she could reprimand in true aggrieved-superior fashion, the “impressive tenting” that compels the gaze of the poor acolyte, her curse “great impotent gods!,” the way she thinks of using tongs or a fork to pull the goddess out (now that’s a great image, all she needs is one of those funny barbecue aprons—Grill of the Gods or something). But then even with all the humor, you have to be impressed with her dedication over the next few minutes as she does stick her hands in there even knowing what will happen and then keeping them there. And then back to the humor with the far from graceful entrance, her “quit averting your eyes” annoyance, and her much-to-the-dismay-of-her-abbess-moustache. And the whoops—“that odd itinerant is really an agent of our goddess?” panic (good thing they’d been feeding her at least).

That’s an interesting ship QoD calls up. Will we learn how it moves?

And who is the old acquaintance she’s heading off to see? Ardata? Kallor? Spite in the Dolmens? K’azz? Someone else we’ve yet to meet?

That’s a nice writing move from watching the weird ship sail away to Golan reading about a river journey. So what do you think the odds are of Golan’s views that this is all pretend and/or exaggeration—the city, the numbers of natives, etc.? Generally underestimating the numbers of natives doesn’t go well in my reading experience. Nor does calling them “ragged-arse people” as you think of how you’ll utterly destroy them.

So we know the Thaumaturgs transform people, since we’ve seen Hanu. We get a little more detail here with references to escaped “experiments” that apparently could have led to stories of “bird-headed men and snake women.” A little Island of Dr. Moreau going on with the Thaumaturgs?

And more potential players into the mix, as his masters are coming along behind them.

Love the warning by Golan about the yellow recluse (sorry U-Pre, not at all rare, quite common actually), the “other poisonous spiders. And the scorpions of course [of course]. And the stinging red centipedes.” Lovely place. And his aide’s oh so dry (I hear Jarvis’ voice) “I am ever so reassured, sir” to the news that the centipedes won’t actually kill you necessarily. So far I’d argue Esslemont is showing quite the deft touch in the book with the humor.

Despite the humor, it’s getting really hard to like the Thaumaturgs so far

I like the connection with the anteater and the ants, though one has to wonder with Kenjak pointing out the lesson of the ants and the wasp so bluntly if this is true foreshadowing or some misdirection.

There are so many plans within plans, so many secrets, so many alliances that aren’t really alliances due to planned betrayals or alliances that we don’t know if they’ll be alliances for real or not. Even with Kenjak there are hints of dissension amongst his people, begging the question will they be reliable or not? All this who knows what underneath is mirrored nicely by the setting—a jungle whose vegetation hides so much (especially so much of danger) and that is pitted with hidden sinkholes and caverns, where so much is said to be “underground”. Plot meet setting. Setting meet plot.

After training and working as an accountant for over a decade, Amanda Rutter became an editor with Angry Robot, helping to sign books and authors for the Strange Chemistry imprint. Since leaving Angry Robot, she has been a freelance editor—through her own company AR Editorial Solutions, BubbleCow and Wise Ink—and a literary agent for Red Sofa Literary Agency. In her free time, she is a yarn fiend, knitting and crocheting a storm.

Bill Capossere writes short stories, essays and plays; does reviews for the LA Review of Books and Fantasy Literature, as well as for Tor.com; and works as an adjunct English instructor. In his non-writing and reading time, he plays ultimate Frisbee (though less often and more slowly than he used to) and disc golf.

The Devil You Know Sweepstakes!

Feb. 12th, 2016 04:30 pm
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Posted by Sweepstakes

The Devil You Know KJ Parker sweepstakes

We want to send you an advance copy of K.J. Parker’s The Devil You Know, available March 1st from Tor.com Publishing!

The greatest philosopher of all time is offering to sell his soul to the Devil. All he wants is twenty more years to complete his life’s work. After that, he really doesn’t care.

But the assistant demon assigned to the case has his suspicions, because the philosopher is Saloninus—the greatest philosopher, yes, but also the greatest liar, trickster and cheat the world has yet known; the sort of man even the Father of Lies can’t trust.

He’s almost certainly up to something; but what?

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 11:30 AM Eastern Time (ET) on February 12th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on February 16. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

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Posted by Stubby the Rocket

Hannibal Valentine: Top Image

Artist Brandon Bird has given us many gifts over the years. There was Shia LaBeouf as all the Doctors. There was Christopher Walken building C-3PO. But maybe his best work yet is a series of Valentines Days stickers celebrating the Greatest Love Story of All Time: Hannibal. The stickers (which he calls ‘Hannibal-entines‘ because of course) also highlights Hannibal’s stellar supporting cast, so if you love Jack Crawford or #TeamSassyScience, we have a sticker for you! Beware, though, these tokens of love contain spoilers if you haven’t watched the whole show.

This sticker captures the immortal moment when Hannibal sniffs Will Graham, and Will realizes that there might be more to this relationship than he thought…and the audience realizes there might be more to this show than they ever anticipated.

Hannibal Valentine: Hannigram

Sweet Valentine sentiment? Or sick burn on Jack Crawford’s detecting skills?

Hannibal Valentine: Jack Crawford

Team Sassy Science! Team Sassy Science 4-Eva!

Hannibal Valentine: Sassy Science

Oh, but we’re missing a member of #TSS…we love this joke. Love it. But this plot twist still hurts. Too soon, Valentine’s Day stickers!

Hannibal Valentine: Beverly

Check out Brandon Bird’s site for more stickers, cards, and art!

 

 

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808lhr:

Know your self-worth Pt. 2

Hey!  Remember these?  I redesigned the previous four AND I’ve added Peridot!!  I’ve actually made these as stickers now, and you can buy them at my redbubble store!!  Along with a few other things there!!  Go check it out :3

Commissions l Redbubble 

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spacecadetpoe:

Civil War Emoji headers!

please like and/or reblog if you take!
+ feel free to ask for any of them with a different colour!

all headers | request here

Good Girls

Feb. 12th, 2016 03:00 pm
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Posted by Glen Hirshberg

Good Girls Glen Hirshberg Tor Books excerpt

Glen Hirshberg’s Good Girls—available February 23 from Tor Books—is the standalone sequel to Motherless Child.

Reeling from the violent death of her daughter and a confrontation with the Whistler—the monster who wrecked her life—Jess has fled the South for a tiny college town in New Hampshire. There she huddles in a fire-blackened house with her crippled lover, her infant grandson, and the creature that was once her daughter’s best friend and may or may not be a threat.

Rebecca, a college student orphaned in childhood, cares for Jess’s grandson, and finds in Jess’s house the promise of a family she has never known, but also a terrifying secret.

Meanwhile, unhinged and unmoored, the Whistler watches from the rooftops and awaits his moment.

And deep in the Mississippi Delta, the evil that spawned him stirs…

 

 

1

In the heart of the hollow, at the mouth of the Delta, the monsters were dancing. Their shadows slid over the billowing green walls of the revival tent, rolling together, flowing apart. To Aunt Sally, rocking and smoking in her favorite chair in the shadows of her pavilion tent out back, their movements seemed hypnotic, lulling, like nimbus clouds across the moon, rainwater down glass. They kept her company, the shadows did. They were all the company she had ever kept or needed. Looking past the hollow down the mossy bank, she could see the moon out for its nightly stroll down the slow-sliding surface of the Mississippi, through the clustered cattails, the swamp roses, and spider lilies. As she watched, the moon seemed to turn, as it did every night, and nod in her direction.

Howdy, neighbor. Mind if I smoke?

Almost peaceful, Aunt Sally thought.

Except that someone—one of the younger monsters—had gotten hold of the stereo in there, under the big tent, and unleashed some of that shuddering rumpus music. Thunder-and-swagger music. It didn’t last long, Caribou saw to that. Just long enough to put a big jagged crack right down the center of the evening. Break the mood. Remind Aunt Sally just how far from peaceful she’d been feeling lately. How very, terribly bored.

Probably, she thought, she should try to remember some of the younger monsters’ names, although the truth was, she couldn’t imagine what for. Had she even known their names when she’d made them? She couldn’t remember, now, but suspected she had. All she could remember with any certainty was the surprise, every time, when it did happen. When they sat up after she had finished, patting in wonder at what ever holes she’d torn in them. And she remembered her delight for them, or maybe simply for what she’d done. She’d always assumed she would understand what made it happen, someday: the transformation instead of dying, or after dying. Some of it, she knew, was simply that she’d wanted it to happen. But she never had quite figured it out. Neither had Mother, or any of the very few others who’d achieved it, accidentally or otherwise. And the fact was, Aunt Sally had stopped worrying or even wondering about it a long, long time ago.

Should she tell Caribou she had taken a secret liking to a little thunder-and-swagger music from time to time? The idea—the look of horrified disbelief, of shattered sensibility she could already envision on his gaunt, luminous sickle-moon face—made her smile, faintly. At least, she was fairly certain that she was smiling. According to Caribou, her mouth never moved, these days, except when she was Telling, doing Policy. Not even when she ate.

The music reverted to old, familiar favorites. No drums, no guitars, just a piano and a muted trumpet loping and leaning, ducking and bobbing. Victoria Spivey moaning and sighing, surrounded by snakes. That song, too, had sounded like shuddering rumpus back in its day, when Victoria Spivey had played it. Way back when Aunt Sally used to dance, too, instead of sitting out back watching the dance. When she did for herself, instead of for others. Back when she and Mother used to light out for the shacks, the little towns, the helpless husbands and sad, hungry boys, on the best, most memorable nights. The two of them twisting and spinning, in a sweatbox-cabin full of people who sweated and spun wherever she and Mother spun them.

She did miss that, sometimes. Occasionally. The doing for herself. More, she missed Mother, although that word—“miss”—wasn’t the right one. Aunt Sally did not “miss.” She simply remembered.

And because she remembered, she wondered, from time to time, exactly where Mother had gone and got to, now, with that weedy little monster she had somehow made—how had that happened? Why had that happened?—and then gotten herself addicted to. Foolish Mother. Gone these so many years. How many, now?

Aunt Sally blew smoke through her motionless mouth, the cloud of it closing over the starlight, spreading thin, dissipating. In the cattails down-hollow, frogs bleated, cicadas sawed. All the night creatures, humming their hunger. She watched the tent, the shadows on its rippling walls. Too many shadows. For the first time since… oh, when? That year the Riders came down here, created some rumpus of their own, got the whole countryside so stirred up and boiling and ripe? For the first time since then, Aunt Sally found herself musing on the world out there, just on the other side of the cane fields and pecan trees. Full of people to set spinning. Not that they’d spin any differently than the ones here did.

How many of the dancers in that tent, she wondered, watching the walls, actually were hers, were creatures she had made? Caribou, of course, but the others? Any of the others, come to think of it? Maybe she couldn’t remember their names because they weren’t hers, after all. Maybe all of hers—and there hadn’t been so very many, truly—had long since left her side. The thought jarred, even alarmed her, a little.

Was that true? It could be true.

Drawing her shawl tighter on her cold, cold arms, Aunt Sally pushed her bare feet into the night-wet grass and set her chair rocking. Had Mother been her last? Sometimes, Aunt Sally forgot she had even made Mother. Certainly, she
hadn’t meant to. What God There Was—which was what she had always called what ever God there is—had apparently sensed that she needed a companion, was going to die of boredom or loneliness without one. And for once, What God There Was had shown mercy, fulfilled a wish she hadn’t realized she was wishing.

Or else—more likely—He’d sat up there in His hollow, outside His own tent, watching the shadows He had made. He had gazed down the years and seen a new opportunity, a whole new sort of suffering he could inflict on His long-suffering Sally: He’d give her a companion. And then her companion would leave her.

So in the end, was any of it her doing? His?

Either way, it had happened. She had been bored, lonely, both. So bored and lonely that she could no longer imagine herself before or after boredom or loneliness. And then she had found Mother and made her.

Maybe that was what happened in those moments. Maybe the changing really was caused or catalyzed simply by need, when the need was strong enough.

Or maybe when the need was most reciprocated? Or did the process require a specific sort of need, at a specific time? Or was it chance? Luck?

Policy?

To herself, rocking in the grass, watching the moon vanish downriver, Aunt Sally snorted. Smiled. Thought she smiled.

Where was Mother now? Still chasing her Whistling fool, no doubt. And Aunt Sally had to admit it: her fool really could Whistle, and also sing. How many years could singing and Whistling fill? More, apparently, than sitting in her chair, just there, beside Aunt Sally, rocking together, listening to the cranes and alligators in the swamp. Watching their children grow.

The flap at the back of the revival tent parted, and Caribou emerged, white as moonlight, long as a river-reed, eyes round and dark and skittish as a deer’s. He stopped a moment before approaching, settled his white tails-coat on his hanger-thin shoulders, straightened his bow tie. To Aunt Sally’s surprise, he had a companion in tow. She’d seen this one before, of course, but not for a while. She thought she might have known his name, once, but hadn’t the slightest idea of it, now. What did it matter?

And what could he possibly want or wish for that Caribou would believe she might acknowledge or grant?

“Tuck your shirt in,” she heard Caribou say.

His companion—bearded, in a flannel work shirt that looked warm, to Aunt Sally, comfortable, yes, she liked that shirt—mumbled out of his drunken mouth. But he risked a single glance in Aunt Sally’s direction, caught sight of her, and did as he was told.

How long, Aunt Sally wondered, since she had even spoken to any of them but Caribou? Were they stopping coming to her? Forgetting she was out here, even? Surely not. But the nights did keep stretching out, now, spooling away down the grasslands, slow and muddy as the Mississippi, bored by their own movement, moving anyway. With a sigh, she waved a hand at Caribou, the sign to approach.

“Your stocking’s down again,” Caribou said to her as he stepped out of the moonlight, under her canopy, into her circle of shadow. And Aunt Sally sighed again, this time in something like contentment. It was Caribou’s voice, more than anything, that she enjoyed. That impeccable tone. Groomsman, servant, grandson, lover, all at the same time. Her lily-white Man of the South, who did whatever she told him.

It had bored Mother, that tone. Mother liked her lovers louder, or full of music.

“So pick it up,” she snapped.

Caribou’s mouth twitched—in delight, controlled delight, he knew she preferred his exasperation—and he started to raise one of his ridiculously long arms in protest. Then he dropped to one knee to fix her stocking. Aunt Sally smiled. Thought she smiled. She ignored Caribou completely, pretended to focus on his companion. Silly devil-goatee beard, big fat bruise on his pasty-white cheek, as though he had been fighting. Abruptly, she did remember something about this one: he had a tattoo of a wasp on his neck. There it was, when he dropped and tilted his head to keep from looking at her too directly, seemingly crawling up his throat toward his ear. Right where she had told him his dream said he should get it. Gullible, pasty goatee-moron.

“Aunt Sally,” he said, all respectful and proper, the way Caribou always told the ridiculous ones they had to be. “We’re hungry. And tired.”

Again, she sighed, feeling Caribou’s fi ngers crawling up under her skirt, reattaching her stocking. Lingering, not lingering? He liked her to wonder. She liked him to wonder if she did.

“So you’re speaking for all of them, child?” she purred, and whatever Caribou’s hands were or weren’t doing under her skirt, they stopped. He looked up from under his elegant, artfully gelled swoosh of blond hair, like a baby anticipating a story.

Well, Aunt Sally couldn’t resist that. Never could. She smiled—thought she smiled—at the wasp-goatee man, and patted Caribou on the top of the head, let her fingers spread along his scalp, through all that beautiful, beautiful blond.

“It has been awhile,” she said.

“Yes,” said Wasp-goatee, all mesmerized. “We were all saying so.”

“And the nights do get long.”

“So long.” The moron’s voice, his whole body, quivered.

“And you think it’s time for a Party?”

Under her skirt, Caribou’s hands tightened on her thighs. Then they started sliding up. He couldn’t help it, poor boy. He was so utterly hers, always had been. He gazed up at her from way down deep in his hypnotized deer-eyes. “Yes,” he said. “Aunt Sally, let’s. It has been so long.”

“It has,” she said, and closed her legs. She shoved Caribou back, hard, on his haunches, and grabbed the gaze of the goateed one, held it until he started to sway. “A Party. We’ll need some guests.”

“Guests. Yes,” said the goateed one.

Once more, Aunt Sally thought of Mother. She wondered if she could get word to her, somehow. Invite her to a celebration, in honor of her return home. Preferably without her Whistling fool, though she could bring him, too, if she had to. Either way, maybe Mother would come. Maybe she would stay this time.

Aunt Sally smiled. Thought she smiled. “Good. Well, then. In that case.” She stretched out her own beautiful long-fingered hands, nodded at Wasp-goatee. “Come here, son. Tell Aunt Sally what you’ve dreamed.”

 

2

Rebecca, come on,” Jack said, leaping free of his spinning chair in mid- spin to alight in front of her. He spread his arms, grinned, and the suction-cup dart sticking out of his forehead waggled like an antenna. “Do the thing.”

Beside Rebecca in the next cubicle over, Kaylene’s stream of muttering intensified. “Come here, little Pookas. Come here, little Pookas, comeherecomeherecomehere…” Her fingers punched repeatedly at her keyboard, and out of the tiny computer speakers came the twinkling music and popping sounds that accompanied so many of Rebecca’s nights working the Crisis Center, as Kaylene’s Dig Dug inflated and exploded her enemies.

“Comeherecomeherecomehere SHIT!” Kaylene, too, leapt to her feet, joined Jack in front of Rebecca’s desk. Her beautiful black hair had overrun its clip, as usual, and poured over her face and shoulders.

“Tell Rebecca to do the thing,” said Jack, grabbing Kaylene around the waist and glancing over his shoulder. “Marlene, put the book down, get over here.”

“Rebecca, do the thing,” Kaylene said. “MarlenePooka, don’t make me come over there.”

In the far corner of the room, where she always set up so she could study but never stayed, Marlene sighed. She stood, straightened her glasses, put a hand through her red-orange, leaves-in-autumn hair. Not for the fi rst time, Rebecca felt a flicker of jealousy about Marlene: too much work ethic and hair color for any one person. Especially a person who could barely be bothered to comb all that hair, let alone care about it, and who also knew when it was time to put the Advanced Calculus and Cryptography textbook down and come help her closest friends bug her other closest friend.

Then, as always, Rebecca’s jealousy melted away as Marlene took up her position, linked arms with Jack, and grinned down at Rebecca, still seated at her desk with the Campus Lifeline Crisis Center manual she knew by heart tucked right where it belonged against the special blue Campus Lifeline phone, complete with idiotic life-preserver logo. Rebecca watched them beam down at her. Jack and the ’Lenes.

For an awful, ridiculous second, she thought she was going to burst into tears. Happy tears.

“Rebeccccaaaaa,” Jack chanted, and the suction- cup dart on his forehead bobbed, whisked the tears away. “Read our minds…”

“Okay, okay, okay, stop waggling that thing at me.” Controlling her smile, Rebecca glanced across their faces. Her eyes caught Kaylene’s.

“Do. Your. Thing,” Kaylene said.

“Fine. Stop thinking about her,” said Rebecca. “She’s safe now. Mrs. Groch’s looking after her. And she’s got you, now. She’ll figure it out.”

Fuck you, Rebecca,” Kaylene said, and burst out laughing. “How do you do that? I haven’t said one word about the Shelter to night. I don’t think I’ve said a word about it this whole week. I don’t remember saying one thing to you about—”

“She’s a witch,” Marlene said, through her perpetually exhausted Marlene-smile. “Do me.”

It took Rebecca a second, only because she wanted to check herself, make sure. Then she shrugged, nudged a strand of her own mousy brown bangs out of her eyes. “Too easy.”

“Oh my God, you bitch, you’ve got Twinkies,” Kaylene said, broke free of Jack’s arm, and dove for Marlene’s backpack. Marlene started to whirl, give chase, but there was no point. Kaylene was already elbows deep in Marlene’s backpack, shoveling aside organic chem textbooks, notebooks, calculator, tissues, until she came up with the crumpled pack in her fist. Strawberry flavor, tonight.

“Really?” Kaylene said, straightening. “You weren’t going to share these?”

“Actually, I wasn’t even going to open them, I don’t think. They just… called to me out the PopShop window.”

“Well, now they’re calling me.” Kaylene tore open the package and offered Marlene a piece of her own late-night snack. Marlene’s perpetual and permanent late-night snack. The secret, she claimed, of all-night cramming.

“My turn,” said Jack, putting his hands behind his back, standing at a sort of parade rest in his baggy shorts and blue bowling-team button-up shirt, with the dart sticking straight out from his head.

“You look like a unicorn,” she said, and Jack’s green eyes blinked, then flashed in his cookie-dough face. That was what he actually looked like, Rebecca thought. Not a unicorn, but a cookie. Purple-frosted, with spearmint leaves for eyes.

Over his shoulder, through the floor-to-ceiling windows, she could see the black gum trees melting into their moon-shadows along Campus Walk. The light from this room was practically the only light in the quad, which didn’t seem particularly strange at 1 a.m. in East Dunham, New Hampshire, in early August, with the great majority of UNH-D students still elsewhere for another few weeks. And yet, tonight, the dark looked deeper out there, for some reason.

Because I am so aware of this island in it, Rebecca thought, and felt herself fighting back tears again, grateful tears. Because I am so happy I washed up here. She glanced into the corner, saw Marlene’s hair spilling into Kaylene’s, red into black, as they elbowed each other and fought over strawberry Twinkie crumbs. Then they were up, laughing, Kaylene making biting-mouth motions over her fingers like a Ms. Pac-Man, burbling like a Dig Dug.

“Well?” Jack said. “Come on. What am I thinking?”

Focusing on the dart in Jack’s forehead chased the tears, instantly. But as soon as Rebecca lowered her gaze to his eyes, she blushed, without knowing why. Without wanting to think why.

“Come on,” said Jack.

Quietly? Nervously? Was that a little croak?

“Rebecca. What am I thinking?”

On the desk behind her, Rebecca’s computer pinged. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Joel’s name pop up in its seemingly personalized, permanent chat window. Poor Joel.

“You guys go on,” she murmured, not quite meeting Jack’s eyes again. “Go play.”

“That isn’t quite what I was—”

“You weren’t thinking Human Curling? Tell me you weren’t thinking Human Curling.”

“Human Curling!” Kaylene whooped, dragging Marlene back between cubicles toward Jack.

“I can’t,” said Marlene. “You guys, it’s two weeks until school.” But she was only protesting out of habit, Rebecca thought. Duty. She was hardly even trying, tonight.

“Kaylene, let go.”

But now Jack had Marlene’s other arm. And there they stood in front of her. Her Crisis Center shift mates. Her every-single-day cafeteria meal buddies.

Her friends.

“Someone’s got to man the phones,” Rebecca said, ignoring the pings behind her as Joel tapped out his lonely messages from the kitchen worktable at Halfmoon House. He’d be sitting in no light, at this hour, Rebecca knew from long experience, from so much shared insomnia at that table in that house at these hours, the only sound the wind whipping leaves down the cracks in the gutters, owls in those trees, loons on the lake. Poor Joel.

But why would he be poor? Why did she always feel bad for him? Certainly, he never seemed to.

“Rebecca,” said Jack. “This is your Captains speaking.”

“Jack and the ’Lenes,” said Kaylene.

Even Marlene joined in, smiled tiredly. “Jack and the ’Lenes. Come on, Bec.”

“Not tonight,” said Rebecca, and wondered if she sounded as happy as she felt.

“Oh, it’s tonight,” said Kaylene.

“It’s tonight, it’s tonight, it’s tonight,” Jack chanted. “Why won’t you come? Seriously. It’s the middle of summer. It’s the middle of the night. It’s the middle of East Lake NoAssWhere, New Hampshire. No one’s going to call. And if they do, they’ll just get forwarded to the Hospital center. To, you know, professionals.”

“Who aren’t their peers.”

“Is it a money thing? How about if tonight’s on me? Rebecca, seriously, I know you don’t have—”

“It’s not a money thing,” she said, too fast, and halfhonestly. There was always the money thing, of course. But that wasn’t the reason. How could she even explain the reason?

Was there even one?

Only Joel. And the phones, which were supposed to stay manned at least another hour. And the fact that this feeling—this accompanied sensation—was still new in her life. And wading around too much in it—or setting out across it—felt foolhardy. Dangerous. Like testing fresh ice.

“You take Crisis Center rules pretty seriously, don’t you?”

“So do you, Jack. Or you wouldn’t be here.”

“The rules are not the Center.”

“We are the Center,” Kaylene said, and grinned at Rebecca. And… winked? Gestured with her chin toward Jack, and his ridiculous dart?

Then, somehow, the ’Lenes were shutting down their desk lamps, and Marlene had packed her backpack, and they were out the door, arms around each other’s shoulders, doing their leaning thing, first to one side, then the other. Their voices echoed down the empty corridor as they stomped and leaned their way down it, fluttered up staircases and sounded the silent classrooms overhead.

Jack, meanwhile, had shut down his computer, collected his supplies. But he’d dawdled, doing it, and now he paused once more in the doorway, his face half in shadow, the only remaining light coming from Rebecca’s lamp. He folded his faintly pudgy arms across his pudgy chest, which made him look twelve, like someone’s little brother, or else like a jester. A harlequin. And also like Jack.

“Is it me?” he said. “Is it my rad thrift- store blue bowling shirt?” He plucked at his pocket, with the name Herman stitched across it. “How about I man the phones, and you go Human Curling with the ’Lenes. You could use it. They’re good for you.”

“They’re good for everyone,” Rebecca said.

As if on cue, both ’Lenes appeared at the windows, on the path, standing together, joined at the hip. When they saw that she was looking, they did the lean. One side, the other. Kaylene beckoned, calling Rebecca out, into a world Kaylene was so obviously sure she belonged in.

And therefore, did? Rebecca wondered. Was that all it took?

“So it is me,” said Jack.

“It really isn’t.”

Unfolding his arms, Jack waved his fingers in front of Rebecca’s face as her computer pinged again. Joel, seeking contact. Jack’s fingers continued to wave in her face like a mesmerist’s. “Rebeccccaaaaa. You are getting very hungry. And thirsty. And Curly. You want to come play Human Curling with Jack and the ’Lenes.”

When Rebecca just sat, arms folded over the logo on her UNH-D hoodie, and smiled, he lowered his hands and stared into them, as though baffled that his spell hadn’t worked.

“Maybe tomorrow,” she said.

“Tomorrow,” said Jack. “You’re coming tomorrow. Plan on it. Book it in your Rebecca-Must-Plan-Everything-Years-in- Advance book.”

“I might,” she said.

“You just did.” Jack thrummed his dart, and it vibrated at her.

“Someone could really take that the wrong way,” Rebecca said.

“But not you, apparently.” Sighing, he smiled sadly—as sadly as Jack knew how, anyway—and left.

She watched the windows until he appeared. Instantly, the others adhered around him like charged particles, forming a nucleus. Kaylene glanced up once more at Rebecca, scowled, then waved. Jack waved, too, but over his head, without looking back. Then they were off, crossing from shadow to shadow down Campus Walk toward Campus Ave, where they’d skirt the forest, the edges of the little subdivisions full of tiny, mostly subdivided shingle houses, many of them empty for the summer, and make their way, at last, to Starkey’s, which had to be the only non-pub within fifty miles still open at this hour. They’d eat Mrs. Starkey’s awful canned-pineapple pizza, drink a pitcher of her Goose Island Night Stalkers: cranberry juice; white grape juice; seltzer; some rancid, secret spicy powder; and gin. And then, if Mrs. Starkey was feeling friendly, or else Jack waggled his magic fingers at her, she would give them the keys to the rink in the giant shed out back, and they’d grab brooms and push-paddles out of the cupboards in there and Human Curl to their hearts’ content.

It’s an orphan thing, she muttered inside her head, standing there in the dark. She was talking to Jack and his unicorn horn, but the phrase was Joel’s. Just one of the thousand things he had taught her during her four and a half years under his and Amanda’s foster care at Halfmoon House. That reluctance. That inclination toward solitude. You either have to learn to pay it no mind, or learn to mind it enough to do something about it. One or the other.

Like most of the things Joel and Amanda had taught her—most of Joel’s things, especially, she had to admit—that idea had made more sense back when she’d lived with them. Had seemed so comforting. It made less sense these days, or maybe just seemed too simple, not at all helpful, now that she lived on her own, had a little rented room she called home, even if it didn’t feel like home, yet. Not in the way she’d always assumed—been told—her own room would feel.

Stepping closer to the giant windows, Rebecca flicked on the lamp on Marlene’s desk. And voilà, there she was, out there in the world. At least, there was her refl ection superimposed over the path: little Chagall girl in a blue UNH-D hoodie, more pale-faced and mousy brown than glowing blue, but floating, anyway, up amid the lower leaves of the gum trees, her narrow face tinged green by the grass, blue by the moon.

Flicking off Marlene’s lamp, she watched herself vanish, then retreated to her own desk, pulled up a chair, tapped her sleeping computer awake.

RebeccaRebeccaRebecCaCaCaCaRebecca. Her name scrawled, and was still scrawling, across Joel’s chat window, as though he were tagging her screen from inside it.

Hiya, Pops, she typed.

Instantly, the scrawling stopped. The ensuing pause lasted longer than she expected. It lasted so long that she actually checked her connection, started to type again, then decided to wait. Around her, the whole building seemed to settle. Rebecca could feel its weight, hear its quiet.

Please don’t call me that, Joel typed. I’m not your dad.

I know. Don’t be ridiculous.

I know you know.

So don’t be ridiculous.

Pause. If she closed her eyes, Rebecca could see him there so clearly: his coal-black skin even blacker against whichever filthy white work T-shirt he’d worked in this particular day, the light from his laptop the only light in that long room, at that long wooden table. His wife gone to bed hours before, without bothering to tell or even locate him. His current foster kids—just two, right now, though he and Amanda generally liked to keep four at Halfmoon House, because that helped it feel more like a boarding school, which was exactly how Amanda wanted anyone she brought there to think of it—upstairs in their beds, possibly sleeping, possibly sneaking reading or headphone time of their own now that Amanda-chores and schoolwork were over.

On the lake, less than a mile away through the woods, there would be loons, Rebecca knew. The night-loons.

How’s Crisisland? Joel typed.

Empty, Rebecca answered, but didn’t like how the word looked. She deleted it, started to type Serene instead—which wasn’t quite right, either, just closer to right than “empty”—but Joel was faster.

SMACKDOWN??!!

Joel’s enthusiasm worked like Jack’s wiggling fingers, but was even more powerful, or maybe just more practiced. Or familiar, and therefore comfortable. And yet, what Rebecca typed back was, How’re my girls? How’s Amanda?

Tiring. Fine. SMACKDOWN??!! And then, before Rebecca could respond: I mean, the girls are tiring. Testing us. Amanda’s fine. I guess. Hardly saw her today, as usual. Working hard. Trudi still mostly talks to her socks.

Trudi was the newest Halfmoon House resident, one of the youngest Joel and Amanda had ever decided to bring there, barely ten.

She’ll come around. You’ll reach her, Joel. You always do.

Hey, R: maybe you could take her out rowing when you come tomorrow? Or—take her Human Curling!

Surprised, Rebecca straightened in her chair, her fingers on the keys. She thought about Amanda. Amanda would most definitely not be encouraging—or allowing—Rebecca to do any such thing with Trudi.

You know Human Curling? she typed.

I invented Human Curling.

Liar.

Okay, I didn’t. But you have to admit, I could have. It’s something I would have invented if your man Jack hadn’t.

Which was true, Rebecca thought sadly, staring at the screen. Human Curling was exactly the kind of thing Joel would have invented—and played, with everyone—if he’d had time. Or a wife who played with or even enjoyed him. As far as Rebecca had ever seen, Amanda just worked and taught her foster orphans how to survive the hands they’d been dealt and made rules. Like the one about seeing things clearly. Calling them what they were. And so, not calling Amanda “Mom” or Joel “Dad.”

Meanwhile, all unbidden, Rebecca’s fingers had apparently been typing. And what they’d typed was: Jack’s not my man.

Too slowly, again, she moved to delete. Again, Joel was faster.

A man after my own heart, your Jack. I do like your Jack, by the way. Fine man, your J—

SMACKDOWN! Rebecca typed, already opening the game site in a new window, calling up a string of letters for them to unscramble, make words from. READY?

What, for you? I don’t have to be ready for you, Rebecca. I barely have to be awake.

Rebecca grinned. Middle-of-the-night Joel. Checking in on his former charges, as he did almost every night, and which he had promised he would never stop doing until and unless he was sure they didn’t need him anymore. Talking trash to his computer in the quiet dark of his house. As alone as she was.

Can you feel it? she typed. That rush of wind? That’s me, surging past you.

You can’t win, Rebecca. If you Smack me down, I will become more verbose than you can possibly imagine.

Laughing, she typed her name into the left-hand SMACKER 1 box on the game site, waited for Joel’s name to appear next to SMACKER 2. Then the scrambled letters appeared, that awful, thudding cartoon hip-hop beat kicked in, the robot-Smackdown voice said, “Lay ’em down. SMACK ’EM.” And they were off. She got three words right off the bat, then a fourth, was typing a fifth, her fingers flying, when she realized her phone was ringing.

The Crisis Center phone. The one on her desk.

Joel, I’ve got to go, she typed fast into their chat window, and then closed it. She couldn’t have that open, didn’t want to risk distraction. He’d see eventually, whenever he looked up. He’d know what had happened.

And anyway, her phone was ringing. First time in weeks.

Rebecca had been working the Center too long to rush or panic. She allowed herself a moment to get centered and comfortable on her chair and in her head. Out of habit, her eyes flicked to the Quick Reference charts pinned to the cubicle walls, with their ALWAYS DO and DO NOT EVER lists, not that she needed them, or ever had, really.

You’re a natural, Dr. Steffen had told her, the first time she’d left Rebecca alone on a night shift. The best I’ve ever seen, at your age.

Switching off her lamp, settling into the dark, Rebecca picked up the receiver. When she spoke, her voice was the professional one she had mastered, had hardly had to practice: neutral, friendly, comforting, and cool. Anonymous. Almost exactly like her regular voice, she thought, then squashed that thought.

“Hello,” she said. “I’m so glad you called. To whom am I speak—”

“But should I?” said the voice on the other end. Sang, really. And then it made a sound.

Whistling? Wind? Was that wind?

Rebecca straightened, found herself resisting simultaneous urges to bolt to her feet and spin to the windows. Run from the room.

What the fuck?

“Should you have called?” Rebecca shushed her thoughts, commanding herself to relax as she leaned into the phone. “Of course you should have. It’s great that you called.”

“So it’s going to get better,” said the voice.

Was that a question? It hadn’t sounded like one. And… shouldn’t that have been her line?

One last time, Rebecca glanced at the Crisis chart. Then she turned away from it, relaxed in her chair. She was a natural, born for this if she’d been born for anything. “Starting right now,” she said.

Again came that sound on the other end of the line. Wind or whistling. Then, “I think so, too. Maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s time.”

“Time?”

“Is it good, do you think? Dying?”

Rebecca pursed her lips, made herself relax her hands on the tabletop. “Where are you?” she asked.

“High. Close.”

To the edge? To her? How would he know where he was calling, and why would she think that?

High, as in on drugs? Or in the air?

“The end. Lonely Street,” the voice whispered.

No. Sang.

“Is it beautiful there?” Rebecca heard herself say. Then she was staring, astonished, horrified, into the darkened windows, the shadowed summer leaves over Campus Walk. “I’m sorry, that was a really stupid question. What’s your—”

“It is, actually.” And he sounded surprised, her caller. Small, lonely, and surprised. “You know, it really is beautiful here. Hear it?”

Rebecca clutched the phone, watching the window as though it were a teleprompter that would tell her what the ALWAYS DO answer to that might be. Hear what? Nothing about this conversation was going in the direction it was supposed to.

But she was sure of one thing, or almost sure: this guy wanted to talk more than jump. Or what ever the hell he had been thinking of doing. So that was something. She would talk.

“What makes it beautiful?”

“The roofs,” he said. And he made a whimpering sound.

This time, Rebecca actually lifted the phone from her ear and stared at it. She wondered, briefly, if this were a pop inspection, some new Crisis Center supervision thing Dr. Steffen had invented. Then she decided it didn’t matter. Either way, she had a job to do.

“Roofs.” Nodding, though she had no idea at what, she leaned forward on her elbows. “That’s fantastic. What about them?”

“How far they are from the ground. The beautiful ground, where my Destiny would have walked with me.” Then he whistled, low and mournful.

It was like a song, almost, less what he said than the way he said it. Sang it. Was that why she had tears in her eyes?

“Listen. Why don’t you tell me your na—”

“And they’re all peaked! The roofs are. They have little attic rooms underneath, under the peaks. I just saw a little girl in one, with a night-light. She looked so alone up there in the middle of the night.”

“Yeah, well. Story of my life,” Rebecca murmured—as though she were dreaming—and realized she was blushing. Jesus Christ, was she flirting, now? Maybe she’d better stick to the chart, after all. “But no one has to be alone. Really. I should know. And I’m here with you.”

For answer, she got footsteps. Her caller, walking across whichever roof he’d picked to climb out onto. Then he whistled again, and went silent. As though…

Abruptly, Rebecca whirled in her chair, banging her knee on the desk as she took in the empty carrels surrounding her, the long, dark Crisis Center room, the linoleum corridor beyond it where the lights hadn’t flickered and nothing had moved.

Nothing at all.

On the other end of the phone, she heard neither whistle nor whimper nor breath. Swallowing her panic, keeping it out of her voice, she said, “Are you still there?”

“I think she’s gone to bed. Our little girl, in her attic room. All my girls have gone to their beds.” And there was that whimper again. Rebecca was almost certain he was crying, now.

“Except—” she started, but he overrode her.

“Except you.”

And suddenly—again—Rebecca had no idea what to say. Also for no reason she could understand, she wanted off of this call. And that made her feel like shit, and also rallied her. This guy wasn’t creepy; he was desperate. “You know,” she tried, slow and gentle, “one thing I really have learned, talking to people who phone here: no matter how bad you feel, no matter what you think you’ve done, it’s never too late to—”

“My Destiny killed my Mother.”

Rebecca stopped talking. She sat in the chair and waited. But her caller said nothing more. This was nothing new, she told herself, nothing she hadn’t dealt with before. So often, what the callers said didn’t make sense. And yet, the sense was there, if you listened. And the sense didn’t matter much, anyway. Not at the crisis moment.

And so, when she sensed it was time, she said, “I guess destinies do that to mothers. Sometimes.” She was leaning on her elbows again, pressing the phone against her ear, her mouth to the receiver. It was almost as though her lips were resting right against her caller’s ear. Her words didn’t even feel like words she would say; they were someone else’s words, pouring through her. “At least, that’s what I’ve been told. It’s what people told me about mine.”

Then she jerked, twitched her shoulders in alarm. Never, ever, insert yourself into a Crisis conversation. DO NOT EVER rule #2, right there in bold at the top of the chart.

“Then my Destiny’s mother killed her,” said the caller, and Rebecca gave up even trying to make sense of this conversation. She just listened.

But there was no sound in her building, and none on the other end of the line. The black gums waved silently out there, in a breeze she could neither hear nor feel.

“And yet, it’s a beautiful street,” she heard herself say.

To her relief, the person on the other end of the line whistled again; this time, there was no mistaking that sound for wind or anything else. “Yes it is,” said the voice. “You’re right. Again.”

“On a beautiful night.”

“So beautiful. Yes.”

“Full of people worth talking to, staying up late.”

This time, the silence felt different, seemed to yawn open against her ear: he-just-jumped silence. Panicking, Rebecca scrambled to her feet.

But he hadn’t jumped. “You’re very good at this,” he said, and then he said something else. “What you do.”

Or, Oh, you’ll do?

Rebecca pushed out the breath she’d been holding and closed her eyes, gripping the phone as if it were her caller’s hand. A hand she had somehow, in spite of all the mistakes she had made, managed to grab. “Tell me where you are,” she said. “I can have someone with you in five minutes. There are people just waiting to help. People who really want to help. Let me…”

The caller whimpered again. Unless that was giggling. Hysteria setting in.

“Will you let me send them?” Rebecca asked. “Please?”

“I’ll come see you,” said the caller.

And then he was gone. Rebecca could tell. He hadn’t hung up, just wasn’t there. Which meant he really had gone and…

“DON’T!” Rebecca shouted, grabbing uselessly at the edge of her desk. She waited for the splat. But none came.

And yet, her caller was gone. Had she just babbled some poor guy right off a ledge and out of the world?

Her eyes flew to the window, Campus Walk, the trees out there. Her own shadow, barely visible among them.

She’d lost one. Failed somebody, in the most brutal way one person could fail another.

She didn’t bother second-guessing herself or hesitating. She punched the speed dial on the Crisis phone and called the police.

Excerpted from Good Girls © Glen Hirshberg 2016

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Posted by Mahvesh Murad, Jared Shurin

Dragons of Winter Night Dragonlance Chronicles Reread

Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread!

Last week we (finally) got Silvara to confess her big secret! Well, we didn’t—but Fizban did. And he’s so beyond the Fourth Wall that he’s probably reading this now. (Hi Fizban!) With Silvara spilling and Fizban fussing and Laurana listening and Gilthanas gawking and Tas taking off, we’re now out of a) alliteration and b) the Kagonesti storyline. And, frankly, thank the gods of Good, Evil and Neutrality for it.

Let’s see what our other friends are up to, shall we?

 

“The Red Wizard and His Wonderful Illusions!” and “The Knights Trials”

Summary

You may not remember, but the last time we saw #TeamTanis, they were hanging out on the outskirts of the nightmare realm of Silvanesti. It was, to say the least, a tough time. And Tanis—you may be surprised by this—was feeling a little sorry for himself.

Now—mmmph day-weeks-months? later—well, let’s see.

We pick up in the occupied city of Port Balifor, on the Eastern edge of the continent (that is, if you’re following on a map, the opposite side of #TeamLaurana).

William Sweetwater is an innkeeper by trade, and his inn, The Pig and Whistle, is seeing dark days. The town is occupied (casually) by the armies of the Dragon Highlords. This part of the world is pretty uninteresting (scattered communities of humans and—good lord—Kender). So, rather than the rampant destruction we saw in Solace, Port Balifor is just kind of… there. Arguably (and in a fascist kind of way), William could be better off. The Highlords’ troops are well paid, and they like their booze. But William’s not all that appreciative of his new overlords, so he’s tripled his prices and watered his booze. Now his inn is almost empty—except for his friends—and he’s happy again. Well, relatively.

When #TeamTanis rocks up, William’s initially a little nervous. They are a weird-looking lot, after all. But William and his friend spot that the road-weary travellers are just that—and not Highlord spies—so they accept them with a rough welcome. William’s even happy to give them free food and drink, but Riverwind won’t take it. Things are getting tense, but Raistlin (of course) defuses the situation—a combination of sleight of hand and magical illusion makes the inn’s crowd happy, and earns them a night’s meal.

Raistlin (again) has solved the problem. The party is stony broke. They need to get passage on a ship to Sancrist. Plus, they need to be able to wander through occupied territory without causing a stir. Raistlin—or, “The Red Wizard and His Wonderful Illusions”—is the key. His combination of illusion and illusion is exciting. A show is born.

The rest of the party add their talents as well. Goldmoon sneaks in some songs of the Old Gods, and stealthily recruits more clerics—right under the noses (beaks?!) of the draconian soldiers. Caramon lifts things, because he’s Caramon. Tanis sees in the dark. (Which seems like a terrible idea, right? That’s basically showing off his elf blood!) And Tika—sigh—wears an alluring costume and dances.

They stay for a month, earning a reputation that even impresses the Highlord’s armies. Their cover set and purses full, they purchase a gaudy wagon and hit the road. The chapter ends with Tanis being glum, and thinking about his absent friends—especially Sturm.

SMASHCUT

Sturm is on trial—by the Knights of Solamnia. Derek (remember him? he was the really obnoxious dudebro knight) is accusing Sturm of all sorts of terrible things, including cowardice.

The Knights, we learn, have come down in the world. At a Trial like this, there should should be a High Clerist, a Grand Master and a High Justice. Sadly, only one of the positions (Justice) is filled, and the other two have stand-ins. Twenty other Knights are in the crowd, watching Sturm get verbally flensed by Derek.

The legal debate—who doesn’t love a courtroom drama?—is tense. Sturm technically should get the right to answer his charges, but in this case, he’s kind of hosed (legal term). He’s a squire, Derek’s a full-on Knight of the Rose (highest rank!). There are no witnesses. Which would mean Sturm would have to say that Derek is lying, which is, of course, simply inconceivable.

Lord Gunther, stand-in for the Grand Master and this chapter’s POV character, is a little miffed by this. He likes a bit of actual justice in his justice, and he’s not so happy about how Derek’s scheming seems to be undermining, you know… everything. Gunther helpfully explains the current state of Knightly politics. He and Derek are rivals for leadership. Derek’s return with the dragon orb has given him a big boost. Everyone loves Derek except for the youngest Knights (of the Crown), who think he’s kind of a dick, and would like a little progression in their order.

Gunthar slyly presents a few questions to Sturm. There’s a bit of three-sided courtroom chicanery, as Gunthar, Sturm and Derek all bat terms around. Is Sturm a coward? Well, he didn’t want to fight elves. But are the elves enemies? Were they… etc. etc.

When pressed—ordered, even—Sturm says not that Derek lied, but that he’s misrepresented him to “further his own ambition.” Derek’s pretty unhappy about this, and the room explodes into calls for duels and satisfaction. The arguments rage all through the afternoon. The younger knights think Sturm’s the bee’s knees. The older ones are furious. Sturm acts composed, but is a total mess—this is what he’s lived for, and there’s no point to it all.

Finally, Sturm is called forth for judgement. Much to his despair, he’s immediately stripped of his trapping and his titles (and his pay, which everyone finds amusing). But Gunthar goes on… the Lord points out that Derek doesn’t have witnesses, either. So in this legal stalemate, well… he’s going to make Sturm a knight anyway! Woohoo! And Sturm’s now going to be in command of a division of Knights that’s travelling to Palanthas! Woohoo! A joint command, shared with Derek and a crony! Eek!

The room explodes. Sturm is baffled and befuddled. He’s a Knight! Knights kind of suck! Argh! Afterwards, Gunthar gives Sturm a pep talk and the young Knight (understandably) breaks down in tears and then passes out, exhausted.

The next few days pass quickly, as Sturm has to resupply (he can’t wear his old armor, because of the stupid edict). After a brainstorm with Gunthar, he also realises that he has witnesses—Laurana and Gilthanas. Both elves of royal birth, both people that will vouch for the events as he saw them. Plus, the elves and Knights are headed towards a summit meeting, so this may happen earlier, rather than later. On that… quasi-cheerful? note, Sturm boards his ships and heads forth with his men to the city of Palanthas.

 

Monster(s) of the Week

Draconians and goblins, mostly hanging out.

Can anyone figure out the Highlords’ military strategy? This seems to be yet another random place that they’ve occupied. The military expansion must be costing a fortune. And who pays their goblins well?! Isn’t that the entire point of using goblins?! And—mild spoiler?—isn’t the entire purpose of draconians that you don’t have to pay them?!

 

Notable Quotes

“The people of Port Balifor…. had no knowledge of what was going on in the outside world.”

Broken record, but, again, the lines of communication in Krynn are TOTALLY BAFFLING TO ME.

“Tika offered to dance… Raistlin was dubious, but Tika sewed a costume for herself that was so alluring that Caramon was—at first—totally opposed to the scheme. But Tika only laughed at him.”

I think this borders on the right side of cute. Tika does make her own choice, and Caramon doesn’t have a say, and she’s (again) contributing to the party. But it is also… eh. I dunno. I like that she’s a useful party member, but I wish that use wasn’t based on her sexy wriggling skills.

That said, Goldmoon is referred to as “the most beautiful woman that William had ever seen” and “so beautiful was she that not a murmur escaped the crowd.” Just in case you forgot.

“Though he had won his victory, he was appalled by what the knighthood had become.”

Sturm’s got a point. And it is hard not to sympathise with the poor fellow. He’s spent his entire life wanting to be a Knight. Don’t forget he’s been dressing like one without ever even being officially sworn in—like that one kid in high school that used to wear Marine Corps fatigues all the time. The first knights he encounters for a while? Total dicks. And then when he gets to knight HQ? A wriggling mass of snakes. Sure, he’s been roped in, and, yay? But… this feels like the fulfilment of a dream than more punishment.

 

Jared’s Take

Maybe I’m high on the air of freedom, but, wow—these chapters are great! I’ve always been a fan of the books’ intermittent trick of flipping to third-party POVs, and I think, here, it is done incredibly well.

First, William is… well, kind of adorable in a very, very niche way. In the classic guides to Dungeon Mastering, the shtick for developing Non-Player Characters is to make them one-trick ponies. It makes them easy to remember and easy to role play. That’s our William, with his birthmark of a pig! I’d bet anything he’s a relic from the actual campaign…

But setting that aside, he’s also a really good device in a few different ways. First, again, we get the “average person’s” view of the war (“bamboozled; grumpy”) and of the party. Remember when we saw the team through Tika’s eyes, and they were stone-cold killers and amazing badasses? Well, by contrast—here’s a group of starving, dirty adventure-hippies that can’t even afford cheese. They’re struggling. This isn’t exactly Abercrombian gritty realism, but it also isn’t Forgotten Realms, where people roll out of their Vorpal Beds +2 and conjure magical breakfast. They’ve got practical problems in Krynn.

Second, I’ve a huge soft spot for literary and cinematic moments where ordinary people save the day. In a sense, William is just as “important” to the completion of the Great Quest as, I dunno, Riverwind. (I’d say Raistlin, but really, Raistlin is the only reason stuff gets done.) It is a nice moment to see people with average ability scores, ordinary lives and an absence of spell-slinging superpowers step up and lend a hand.

William, and the assistance of a bunch of extraordinarily ordinary people in an occupied backwater, are also in stark contrast to the Knights of Solamnia. These are our armored saviours?! They’re useless! They’ve got a fleet and plate mail and rituals and and and… good god, they’re spending their time on politics?! I really enjoy this scene (I’ve also a huge soft spot for legal dramas) and the main theme—the Knights are too busy following the rules of ‘Good’ to actually be Good—is pretty apparent.

Not to harp on about the alignment system of Krynn again, but it is interesting how the balance of Good and Evil (currently tilted towards Evil) is being restored. The traditional institutions (the elven kingdoms, the Knighthood) are struggling. But the grassroots campaigns—the young knights, the good-hearted innkeepers, the random members of the crowd who become clerics, our heroes—are cause for optimism.

 

Mahvesh’s Take

I really wish I felt as strongly about mediocre medieval courtroom drama as Jared does, I really do. But… wow, I really don’t. It’s good to see that everyone is out of the woods and in the clear, but I’m not sure we needed this courtroom action to move stuff along. Or maybe we did. I’m a bit meh about Sturm’s issues, to be honest. I didn’t even feel bad for him when he finally broke down into tears. I feel like the Knights really put a lot of pressure on themselves, you know? This whole code they have… it’s very stressful. It kind of feels like the entire societal construct of masculinity that forces men into certain stereotypical roles, and in this case it’s one that Sturm has taken on for years by complete choice. So in that regard, I’m glad Sturm got to break down and cry when he wanted to, and I’m glad Gunthar was there for him. I guess the whole bro code is maybe okay after all?

Having convinced myself of this (though not of the mediocre courtroom drama), I’m still glad when we move on from Sturm and the bros he wants because  Jared is right—the Knights are just too busy figuring out what it means to be good to do any actual good and it’s quite frustrating. So let’s move on to our actual heroes. Raistlin being reduced to a common magician in a pub?! But who am I to complain when the mage seems okay to do this to get some cash together? Never say he isn’t of actual practical help, he of the horrible cough and limited physical strength. And look! He’s even willing to let the others help! Tika’s dancing, Goldmoon’s singing and we’ve got a full on variety show here. I do wish the women were not reduced to helping via their physical appearances (whether it be Tika’s body or Goldmoon’s beauty and voice), but they do make the decisions to help and both appear to be doing exactly what they want, regardless of what the men in their lives may or may not feel about it.

These two chapters were a bit of a slow start to book 3 for me, but they are a bit of a breather, a resettling of sorts, a balance being found once again before we head out to greater adventures. Evil may be spreading, but the good guys are building their strength and they will move forward to vanquish whatever may come their way. They may not be tearing evil asunder yet, but oh there is thunder in their hearts.

Mahvesh loves dystopian fiction & appropriately lives in Karachi, Pakistan. She writes about stories & interviews writers the Tor.com podcast Midnight in Karachi when not wasting much too much time on Twitter.

Jared Shurin is an editor for Pornokitsch and the non-profit publisher Jurassic London.

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tiebun:

not-a-space-alien:

proofreading my own writing like wow.  u sure do love those commas, buddy.  what if u tried to cool it with all those commas, pal.  all those run-ons, friend.  why don’t you tone it down, my guy

Also like, Wow. What were you trying to write here? this makes no sense, what’s that word supposed to be? What a stupid typo. Okay, that CLEARLY is not even close to being the right word. God damn it, It’s you’re not your! You know better than to make that mistake! Where did you go to school you idiot?!!!!

Mark Reads ‘Soul Music’: Part 9

Feb. 12th, 2016 01:00 pm
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Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the ninth section of Soul Music, the effects of the Music take hold of Ankh-Morpork, and Susan makes a decision. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

The Patrician

Well, given that Death said that Buddy would eventually die in a few days anyway, I wonder if that’s the connection between Buddy and the Patrician. The Patrician is uniquely concerned with the way things unfold in his city, and the outbreak of “music” is certainly something that would grab his attention. Why? Because the music that The Band with the Rocks In creates goes around the Guild rules, and the Patrician has no interest in maintaining a world that is out of order. On top of that, he’s also keenly aware of the fact that people in Ankh-Morpork often open “the door of reality” and let terrible, terrible things into this world. Basically? His section here is him saying, “Well, it’s happening again. Time to kill someone off to maintain order.”

That “someone” is gonna be Buddy, right?

Death Note

The parallels between Susan’s plan and a certain show I just started watching this week for Mark Reads is not lost on me. Susan is somewhat interested in the mystery of Buddy, but it’s not her primary concern. Yes, she wants to know what the “music” is using Buddy for, but I think Susan has a bigger issue she wants to tackle: she wants to change Death. As Death, of course. She finds Death’s view of human life unacceptable, so she’s gonna do what humans do best.

She’s gonna change it.

Except… oh lord.

She’d save lives. The good could be spared, and the bad could die young. It would all balance up, too. She’d show him.

That’s… that’s a really bad idea. A colossally bad idea. She mistakes her Duty as being capable of “saving” someone, when that’s not part of the whole arrangement. People die every day, and Death’s job isn’t to stop that. They’ll die without his intervention anyway. Thankfully, she realizes that maybe this is a bad idea:

But of course it’d be childish, she told herself, to think that she could go in waving the scythe like a magic wand and turn the world into a better place overnight. It might take some time. So she should start in a small way and work up.

So, I’m guessing that she’ll discover that this plan of hers isn’t feasible, and it’ll happen fairly quickly. The magic is in Buddy’s soul, and I don’t see a way she can “save” him. His lifetimer already ran out! As Death, she can’t just give him more, can she?

The Wizards

Did the wizards get arrested for dancing? I was a little confused on this point, because I couldn’t figure out which exact behavior got them arrested. Was it public drunkenness? Did they just dance a lot? Aside from Ridcully and Satchelmouth, who else in the Drum would have even dared to call the Watch? Weren’t they all under the spell of the music? Alas, the idea that the Dean and the other wizards are slowly becoming punk rock is pretty pleasing to me, so I’m not complaining. I deeply, deeply support the Dean’s studs on his leather jacket. BORN TO EAT BIG DINNERS is a beautiful message.

So what’s going on in the High Energy Magic Building? I’m guessing that the Music is sweeping in through there, too. That would explain the names, though I admit that I feel like some other joke is going over my head here. At the very least, these wizards will be able to approach the magical “science” behind the music with an open mind. Whether Ridcully accepts their ideas is another matter entirely, but he seems far too suspicious of the transformation of the wizards to not heed their advice.

The Band + The Manager

OF COURSE DIBBLER WOULD FASHION HIMSELF AS THE BAND’S MANAGER. Now, I’ve been lucky enough to tour with a number of bands who all had wonderful tour managers and general managers, so I never once got to see the behavior that Pratchett satirizes here. It’s definitely real, even if Pratchett takes it to a stereotypical extreme. Plenty of bands get taken in by the promise of wealth and fame, and many times, that’s because their managers are the prime perpetrators of this kind of exploitation. I think that The Band is particularly vulnerable to this in Soul Music because they’re caught in the midst of something they don’t understand. Look, they’re clearly aware that something has taken them over when they play. None of this comes natural to them, but when they’re on stage and Buddy is playing that guitar, it does seem natural. Amidst this confusion, Dibbler swoops in and offers them something concise and stable.

It seems like Fate, doesn’t it? They get ahold of the perfect instrument; they play two raucous shows; they’re given twenty bucks by Dibbler. It’s all falling into place! So, maybe they are confused, and maybe, deep down, they’re each having an existential crisis about what’s unfolding. But it all fits together too well, and for the moment? None of them are ready to truly question the magic at all. It just exists, and now they’re a part of it.

Mark Links Stuff

I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

Otterday! And Open Thread

Feb. 12th, 2016 01:01 pm
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Posted by Mindy

sea-otter-hakkei-sea-paradise-jiji-view0014024070

Today’s otter is lying on its back in the water with an orange frozen love heart on its chest. Apparently this is Yu-tan an Alaskan Sea Otter who lives in Japan. Photo from Yoshizen’s Blog and they got it from Jiji Press.

Please feel free to use this thread to natter about anything your heart desires. Is there anything great happening in your life? Anything you want to get off your chest? Reading a great book? Anything in the news that you’d like to discuss? Commiserations, felicitations, temptations, contemplations, speculations?


Filed under: arts & entertainment, Culture, Miscellaneous Tagged: fur & fluff, open thread, otterday, otters

What’s Next? Mass Gap Cupcakes?

Feb. 12th, 2016 01:00 pm
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Posted by Stubby the Rocket

Gravitational Wave Cake

You may have heard some exciting science news yesterday: scientists confirmed that they’ve detected gravitational waves! And that’s groundbreaking, an incredible moment in human history, and supports a theory that Einstein wrestled with 100 years ago. But what we’re really interested in is that cake. You see, when Goddard Space Flight Center research associate Erin Lee Ryan tweeted that picture of a cake, she was unwittingly breaking an embargo on the gravitational wave announcement by about 15 minutes. Hilariously enough, this isn’t the first time she’s broken an embargo with a pastry pic, but, well, “That’s how we’d get people from other labs to come over, by telling them we had food.”

But what’s even more interesting to us is… how do you choose a top-secret baker for your scientific-breakthrough-celebration-cakes? Is there like a secret branch of Carvel all ready to go with “Yay for Describing CP Violation!” written out on Fudgy the Whale’s grinning mug?

Microwave Nachos for One

Feb. 12th, 2016 07:30 am
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Posted by J. Kenji López-Alt

Microwave Nachos for One
The microwave is a highly underrated tool for nacho construction. Contrary to popular opinion, the microwave will not make chips soggy and is excellent at melting cheese efficiently. Get Recipe!
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jennytrout:

catbuddy:

hanternoz:

h-he’s just wearing glasses

F U L L  G E E K

I’m looking forward to the part of the movie where he takes off his glasses, puts on a prom dress, and walks down some stairs to the tune of Sixpence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me”, proving that he was really a swan all along.

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