Okay but seriously the MCU missed its chance to establish tony and steve as friends, and in the trailer when Steve says “but he’s my friend” and tony says “so was i” there is absolutely no actual emotional impact to it. But imagine natasha saying that, imagine steve saying “i’m sorry nat; you know i wouldn’t do this if i had any other choice, but bucky’s my friend” and natasha saying “so was i” like just imagine Natasha playing the lead in civil war instead of iron man, imagine marvel getting over its sexism long enough to recognize that absolutely no one cares that steve and tony are fighting but everyone cares steve and nat are just imagine
Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. While we’ve had a bit of a hiatus, I’m glad to be back—and discussing a recent short story collection by a writer whose work I usually very much enjoy, Nalo Hopkinson. Falling in Love with Hominids contains one original story, “Flying Lessons,” and seventeen reprints spanning the past fifteen or so years. It’s a wide-ranging book, though as Hopkinson’s introduction argues, it is possible to trace the development of the writer’s appreciation for our human species throughout.
This, for me, was also a fascinating look back at reading I’ve done over the past several years. Five of the stories I’ve discussed here previously (“Left Foot, Right” from Monstrous Affections; “Old Habits” from Eclipse 4; and “Ours is the Prettiest” from Welcome to Bordertown; “Shift” and “Message in a Bottle” from Report From Planet Midnight). However, I’d previously read at least half in previous publication—more than usual for most collections.
As for the stories that stuck out to me the most from this delightful smorgasbord, there are a handful. I tended to appreciate the longer pieces more than the flash work, but the flash work remains interesting, often for what it reveals about Hopkinson’s pet projects and the things she finds enjoyable as a writer.
“The Easthound” (2012) is the first piece in the collection and also one of the ones that stood out most to me—both because I hadn’t encountered it before and because it’s a strong showing. As a post-apocalyptic piece, it combines a few familiar tropes: a world of children, where the coming of adulthood is also the coming of the disease that turns them into werewolf-like monsters who consume their nearest and dearest. Hopkinson combines the Peter-Pan-esque attention to staying a child as long as possible with a much darker set of notes, like the children starving themselves intentionally to slow their development. The language-game the protagonists play to occupy themselves in the fallen future is intriguing as well. Overall, I felt that the ending was a bit obvious in coming—of course it’s her twin; of course she’ll change right after—but that the emotional content of the story doesn’t suffer for it. The payoff just isn’t in the actual conclusion.
“Message in a Bottle” (2005) is perhaps my favorite of the collection—even though I’ve covered it once before, reading it again was still a pleasure. It’s multifaceted in terms of its character development, action, and emotional arc. The protagonist’s interactions—with his friends, his girlfriends, the child Kamla, and others—do the work of building a deep and often conflicted character in a very short space. I also appreciated the science fictional elements: the children aren’t actually children, and art is what fascinates the humans of the future, but not art the way that we might think of it. Kamla and Greg’s interactions in the last part of the story are spot-on in terms of the discomfort, the difficulty communicating over age and generations and social position, and the ways that people speak past each other. It feels like a solid and coherent whole as a narrative.
“The Smile on the Face” (2005), a young adult story, mixes mythology with personal growth. It’s a lighter touch after some of the previous stories, and gives the reader a glimpse into Gilla’s understanding of embodiment, race, and desire as a young woman in contemporary teen culture. It has its typical elements, particularly in the form of the rude and abusive young men who mistreat Gilla and the pretty popular girls who are willing to believe rumors about her, but it’s the other bits that make it stand out: the way that even those boys and girls aren’t stereotypes, for example. The boy who Gilla does like, Foster, still speaks with and is friends with boys who aren’t as kind—because people are complicated and difficult and fucked up, particularly as kids. The representation of friendships, desire, and self-love are the best parts, here.
“A Young Candy Daughter” (2004), one of the flash stories, is tight and compelling. In it, Hopkinson explores the “what if god were one of us” theme—by giving divine power to a young girl, daughter of a single mother, who meets our protagonist as he’s collecting donations for the Salvation Army. The child wants to give people sweets, and her mother is long-suffering in trying to help her understand how to help people without causing them harm; the protagonist is awed by the instance of a miracle in his daily life, and also by the prettiness of the mother, whom he will likely be seeing again (or so the end implies). It’s short, sweet, and a neat exploration of a familiar “what-if.”
“Snow Day” (2005) is more fun for what the author’s note tells us it is: a challenge piece where Hopkinson had to include the titles of five “Canada Reads” nominee books in the text of the story. As a story, it’s brief and treading a little close to too quaint—talking animals, aliens coming to allow us to go explore other possible worlds (even the tropical fish)—but as a prose experiment, it’s impressive. The only title I picked out was the difficult-to-manage Oryx and Crake; the rest blend in admirably well. Sometimes these little pieces are enjoyable just for what they show of an author’s style.
“Flying Lessons,” the only original story to the book, wasn’t one of my favorites though—it’s a flash piece that, so far as I can tell, is primarily illustrating the protagonist’s experience of child sexual abuse by her neighbor. I expected more from it, particularly since the topic is so intimately awful, but it doesn’t quite get there.
“Men Sell Not Such in Any Town” (2005/2015) is the closing story, another flash piece. This one deals with the work and worth of poetics, and the pulling out of emotions—an insightful note to close a short story collection on, particularly a collection that has run an emotional gamut from coming-of-age to horror. It’s another good example of the shortest form: fast, a good punch of feeling and concept.
Overall, Falling in Love with Hominids is a worthwhile collection that goes together well—and these are some of the stories I liked best. Hopkinson is a talented writer, whose interest in topics like embodiment and desire comes through in many of these stories; I appreciated reading it quite a bit.
Brit Mandelo is a writer, critic, and editor whose primary fields of interest are speculative fiction and queer literature, especially when the two coincide. She can be found on Twitter or her website.
Have you ever been walking along and felt the creepy, unsettling feeling that something was watching you? You met Betobeto-san, an invisible yōkai, or folklore creature, who follows along behind people on paths and roads, especially at night. To get rid of the creepy feeling, simply step aside and say, “Betobeto-san, please, go on ahead,” and he will politely go on his way.
What we know of Betobeto-san and hundreds of other fantastic creatures of Japan’s folklore tradition, we know largely thanks to the anthropological efforts of historian, biographer and folklorist, Shigeru Mizuki, one of the pillars of Japan’s post-WWII manga boom, who passed away yesterday at the age of 93. A magnificent storyteller, Mizuki recorded, for the first time, hundreds of tales of ghosts and demons from Japan’s endangered rural folklore tradition, and with them one very special tale: his own experience of growing up in Japan in the 1920s through 1940s, when parades of water sprites and sparkling fox spirits gave way to parades of tanks and warships.
Trickster-fox Kitsune, dangerous water-dwelling Kappa, playful raccoon-like Tanuki, and savage horned Oni are only the most famous of Japan’s vast menagerie of folklore monsters, whose more obscure characters range from the beautiful tentacle-haired Futakuchi Onna, to Tsukumogami, household objects like umbrellas and sandals that come alive on their 100th birthdays, and tease their owners by hopping away in time of need. Such yōkai stories have their roots in Japan’s unique religious background, whose hybrid of Buddhism with Shinto animism adds a unique moral and storytelling logic to these tales, present in no other folklore tradition, whose twists and turns—unexpected within Western horror conventions—are much of why fans of the weird, creepy and horrific find such extraordinary power in the creations of Japan. Most accounts of yōkai and Japanese ghosts are regional tales passed down at festivals and storytelling events in rural parts of Japan—and, like many oral traditions, they dwindled substantially over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with the rise of cities, and of centralized and city-dominated entertainments provided by cheap printing, radio, film and television.
Shigeru Misuki spent decades collecting these stories from all corners of Japan, and setting them down in comic book form, so they could be shared and enjoyed by children and parents across Japan and around the world, as he had enjoyed them in his childhood. While most of Japan’s 20th century manga masters had urban roots, Mizuki grew up in the small, coastal town of Sakaiminato, delighting in local legends told to him by a woman he describes in the memoir he titled after her, Nononba (the first Japanese work ever to win grand prize at the world famous Angoulême International Comics Festival.) Mizuki’s father was deeply interested in international culture, especially film, and even acquired the town’s first movie projector, hoping to connect his family and neighbors to the new arena of the silver screen. This childhood exposure to both local and global storytelling cultures combined to make him eager to present the wealth of Japan’s folklore on the world stage.
Mizuki’s most beloved work Hakaba Kitaro (Graveyard Kitaro, also called GeGeGe no Kitaro) debuted in 1960, and follows the morbid but adorable zombie-like Kitaro, last survivor of a race of undead beings, who travels Japan accompanied by yōkai friends and the talking eyeball of his dead father. In different towns and villages, Kitaro meets humans who have run-ins with Japan’s spirits, ghosts and underworld creatures. Sometimes Kitaro helps the humans, but he often helps the spirits, or just sits back to watch and mock the humans’ ignorance of the netherworld with his signature creepy laugh “Ge… ge… ge…” Kitaro’s adventures also chronicle the social history of 20th century Japan, as the yōkai themselves struggle to adapt to cultural changes and economic doldrums, which lead to the closing of shrines, dwindling of offerings, and destruction of supernatural habitat. Adapted into dozens of animated series, movies and games, the popularity of Kitaro made yōkai tales a major genre, but Shigeru Mizuki’s signature remained his commitment to chronicling the rarest and most obscure stories of Japan’s remote villages, from the Oboroguruma, a living ox-cart with a monstrous face, reported in the town of Kamo near Kyoto, to the thundering Hizama spirit of the remote island of Okinoerabu. In fact, when a new animated movie of Kitaro was released in 2008, it screened in six different versions to feature the local folklore creatures of different regions of Japan. In addition to Hakaba Kitaro, Mizuki wrote books on folklore, and encyclopedias of Japanese ghosts and yōkai.
Mixuki was also one of the most vivid chroniclers—and fiery critics—of the great trauma of Japan’s 20th century, the Second World War. Drafted into the imperial army in 1942, Mizuki experienced the worst of the Pacific front. His memoir Onward Toward Our Noble Deaths (whose English translation won a 2012 Eisner award) describes his experience: unwilling soldiers, starving and disease-ridden, sent on suicide runs by officers who punished even slight reluctance vicious beatings. In fact Mizuki’s entire squad was ordered on a suicide march with explicitly no purpose except honorable death. Mizuki alone survived, but lost his arm, gaining in return a lifelong commitment to further the cause of peace and international cooperation. In earlier works—published when criticism of war was still unwelcome and dangerous in Japan—Mizuki voiced his critique obliquely, through depictions of Japan’s economic degeneration, and through his folklore creatures, which, in his tales, are only visible in times of peace, and are driven out and starved by war and violent hearts. Later he wrote more freely, battling historical revisionism and attempts to valorize the war, through works like his biography Adolph Hitler (now in English), and the unforgettable War and Japan, published in 1991 the educational youth magazine The Sixth Grader, which confronted its young readers the realities of atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese army in China and Korea.
Mizuki’s magnificent 1988-9 history Showa (recently released in English translation) is a meticulous chronicle of Japanese culture and politics in the decades leading to and through the war. It shows the baby steps of a nation’s self-betrayal, how nationalism, cultural anxiety, partisan interests, and crisis-based fear-mongering caused Japan to make a hundred tiny decisions, each reasonable-seeming in the moment, which added up over time to a poisonous militarism which saturated the culture from the highest political circles all the way down to children’s schoolyard games. Its release in English is absolutely timely. If the dystopias which have so dominated recent media are tools for discussing the bad sides of our present, doomsday ‘what if’ scenarios where our social evils are cranked up to a hundred, Showa is the birth process of a real dystopia, the meticulously-researched step-by-step of how social evils did crank up to a hundred in real life, and the how the consequences wracked the world. Phrases like “slippery slope” are easy to apply in retrospect, but Showa paints the on-the-ground experience of being in the middle of the process of a nation going mad, making it possible to look with new, informed eyes at our present crisis and the small steps our peoples and governments are taking.
Shigeru Mizuki’s contributions to art, culture and humanitarianism have been recognized around the world, by the Kodansha Manga Award and Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize, the Eisner Award and Angoulême festival, the Japanese Minister of Education award, Person of Cultural Merit award, and a special exhibit of his work for the 1995 Annual Tokyo Peace Day. His works have long been available in French, Italian and many other languages, but, despite Mizuki’s eager engagement with English-speaking fans and his eagerness to share his message with the worlds vast English audiences, his works were slow to come out in English because his old-fashioned “cartoony” art style—much like that of his peer and fellow peace advocate “God of Comics” Osamu Tezuka—does not fit the tastes of American fans, accustomed to the later, flashier styles of contemporary anime. In Mizuki’s last years, thanks to the dedicated efforts of Montreal-based publisher Drawn and Quarterly, he finally oversaw the long-awaited English language release of his memoirs and histories, along with the Kitaro series (more volumes still coming out), which Drawn and Quarterly aptly describes as “the single most important manga you’ve never heard of, even if you happen to be a manga fan.”
One of Japan’s most delightful folklore traditions is Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai, a gathering of one hundred supernatural stories. A hundred candles are lit, and participants stay up all night telling tales of ghosts and spirits, extinguishing one candle at the end of each tale, so the room grows darker and darker, and the spirits—attracted by the invocation of their stories—draw near. A Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai is rarely finished, since few gatherings can supply a full hundred stories, and, as the dark draws in, most participants grow too frightened to snuff the last candle. But the millions touched by works of Shigeru Mizuki are well prepared to finish, armed with well over 100 stories, and with a powerful sense of the vigilance and hard work necessary if we want to welcome peaceful yōkai back to a more peaceful world.
Now that I’m out of the haze of binge-watching Jessica Jones and writing about it, I’m settling back in to watching Supergirl (which just got picked up for a full season!) through what feels like a new lens. Compared to the literal and figurative darkness of Jessica Jones‘ contained miniseries-like structure, Supergirl is sunny and optimistic and open-ended. And whereas Jessica Jones devoted its entire first season to sexual assault and mind control, and the PTSD resulting from these, Supergirl tackles more of the day-to-day sexism women face. There is some overlap, however, such as with the issue of anger: Jessica Jones harnesses hers as fuel, whereas Kara Danvers must restrain hers.
Spoilers for Supergirl 1×06 “Red Faced.”
A problem I’m finding with Supergirl is that it’s too pat: Each episode introduces a problem, only to wrap it almost all the way up 42 minutes later. I’ve said before that I would prefer to see more lead-up to important debates such as the constant strain of dealing with mean girls and trolls, or working yourself to exhaustion trying to do everything. The latter plotline does bleed over a little into 1×06, when Kara finally snaps at Cat Grant:
Cat: “Finally. I have been screaming your name over and over for the past minute and a half. Ninety seconds I have been boiling alive in my office. Ninety seconds, each one of which, if amortized to reflect my yearly earnings, is worth more than your yearly salary. One second of my time is ninety times more valuable than your pointless, sad, pathetic—”
Kara: “Don’t talk to me like that! Please. I work so hard for you. I don’t ask questions, I don’t complain, and all you do is yell at me and tell me I’m not good enough, and it’s mean. Why are you so mean?”
And then she makes this face:
Reader, I cheered. Of course, we knew that Cat was doubling down on her criticism of Kara because her awful mother was delivering bitchy commentary on how she couldn’t possibly invite Cat to a party with Toni Morrison because “what would you even talk about?” Katherine Grant’s derision of her daughter’s career path smacks a little of cliché, but it’s still exactly what this show needs: The battle between old and new media isn’t all that different from boomer-era women looking down their noses at Millennial girls. But the entire reason that these women’s weapons are sharpened barbs is because the alternative is Supergirl rage-screaming her way through a tornado or blowing up a robot with her laser eyes.
And by “alternative,” I mean that that is exactly what Supergirl does. But only after Cat responds to Kara’s outburst with coolly evaluating pride, forwards her calls so they can leave the office, and proceeds to get sloshed on martinis. During their little bonding session—set to Fleetwood Mac’s “You Can Go Your Own Way”—Cat shares an anecdote from her days of being Kara’s age and working at The Daily Planet:
“Here’s the thing, Kara: Everybody gets angry. Everybody. And there is no pill that will eradicate this particular emotion. I know this, because if there were such a pill, I would be popping those babies like Pez…. This is about work, and anger. Whatever you do, you cannot get angry at work. Especially when you’re a girl. When I was working at The Daily Planet, Perry White picked up a chair and threw it out the window… because somebody missed a deadline, and no, he did not open the window first. If I had thrown a chair—or, my God, if I had thrown a napkin—it would’ve been all over the papers. It would’ve been professional and cultural suicide.”
And this was before social media! In the episode’s cold open, Supergirl saves a gaggle of middle schoolers from getting flattened by two guys in expensive cars gripped by road rage… only for the kids to whip out their phones and document Supergirl’s “scary” strength. (Fickle little shits.) She has to be a benevolent protector without erring on the side of nightmare; she must never make the residents of National City wonder, “What happens if she gets mad at us?”
Cat’s ultimate advice is that Kara find a release: boxing, or yoga, or some way to channel that energy. What she winds up “channeling” is lasers into the body of Red Tornado, a humanoid robot developed by the military to fight Kryptonians. That plot was even more cliché, with General Sam Lane (yes, Lois and Lucy’s dad) setting up Supergirl to fail and whining when she causes the robot go rogue. (She doesn’t, but we already knew she’d get blamed.) So, I was glad to see Red Tornado get summarily dealt with… except that there’s one odd moment I’d like to get other viewers’ reads on.
After Alex Danvers kills the scientist who was neurologically controlling Red Tornado, the robot keeps going after Supergirl, because apparently it’s developed sentience. Yet Supergirl doesn’t hesitate to turn the full force of her laser eyes on the robot, blowing it(? him?) into smithereens. I had hoped that, with all of our cultural commentary around artificial intelligence, there might have been some consideration of the robot as a sentient being. Instead, it remains an object—the object of Supergirl’s fury, as she takes out all of her frustration on it. I’ll hand it to her, in that moment she looked actually scary, instead of a sweet girl.
Cat’s other advice is for Kara to find the anger behind the anger… and it turns out to be her frustration that she’ll never have a normal life. But oh, to her surprise, she discovers in the last scene that for some reason, she can bleed. Has she temporarily used up her powers? Is this the punishment when a woman shows anger? We’ll find out next week…
Can we talk about General Lane’s dis of James Olsen?
“You ally yourself with people you think are special, but that doesn’t make you special. And I think you know that.”
Best line of the episode, and another example of carrying a plotline from prior episodes that I’d like to see more of. James has already wrestled with his dependence on Superman and others’ perception of him as a starfucker. Moving from Metropolis to National City hasn’t been easy, and he’s still carrying some angst with him. And with Lucy quitting her job for the military to effectively take James’ side, I’m curious how we’ll see his relationship with Supergirl develop.
Also, how quickly Lucy goes from “oh, I didn’t think Supergirl was all that impressive” to “let’s be allies!” was laughable. I’m really not sure what the writers are going to do with her, aside from fridging her at some point. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see another strong female character, but so far she hasn’t thrilled me.
Second-best line, from Winn after Alex asks him for help discovering what happened to her father:
“That’s a dirty pull, Danvers, you know I have daddy issues.”
hades isn’t a badass. hades named his three-headed-guard-of-the-underworld-dog spot. hades whispers to his flowers to make them grow. hades grows fruit. there’s no sun in the underworld.
hades isn’t a badass. stop saying this false thing
In myth, Hades’ most remarked upon traits are 1) how responsible/reliable he is, 2)how sober-minded he is, 3)how dedicated, implacable, and long-remembering he is, and 4)how boring and grim most of the other Olympians think he is to be around. Oh and notably, that if you play him a song he likes, he’ll basically give you anything you ask for(though not without conditions).
Hades is, canonically, a gigantic nerd. If they’d had trainsets, he’d have been the Olympian who collected trainsets, meticulously corrected with exacto knife and hobby-paints the errors toy-makers introduced to those trainsets, and then endlessly talked about those trainsets to anyone sat next to him at Thanksgiving Dinner :| When he wasn’t trying to rope them into an interminable discussion about gardening or divine law, that is :| :| He’s the sort of god who frequently handed out punishment like giving someone a million-piece puzzle where every piece is shaped the same, that resets itself at the start of every day if you don’t complete it, and then he keeps the last piece on his person at all times as a secret private joke for eternity because he finds you personally distasteful(not even because he’s mad at you or hates you particularly; he just doesn’t like you as a person) :| :| :| He is. A Gigantic. Nerd.
He’s also like one of the only gods who is faithful to his wife. And he listens to her like when she asks for a soul to be released and he’s like “But honey, the rules.” And she just gives him that look and he goes “Yes dear,” and lets the soul go with the easiest freaking instructions ever in a myth. And the human still fucks it up. Not his fault Persephone, not Hades’ fault this time. Essentially, Hades is sorta like the accountant suburban dad who collects really specific figurines and gets really grumpy when people mess up his lawn. Do you know how hard his wife worked on those roses? He is calling his attorney. Oh wait, he is also an attorney.
Filed under: Favorite Myths
Everybody knows it’s Persephone that you’ve got to watch out for.
We want to send you a copy of Douglas Schofield’s Time of Departure, available now from Minotaur Books!
Schofield’s debut novel is a genre-crossing mystery full of spellbinding twists. Florida state prosecutor Claire Talbot is as tough as they come, and not everyone loves her for it. Newly promoted Felony Division Chief, Claire has about as many jealous detractors as she does supporters. Some colleagues are openly skeptical about her youth, her abilities, and even her gender. When a highway project construction crew unearths two skeletons in a common grave, Claire reopens an investigation into a string of abductions that took place before she was born. While researching the file, she meets retired cop Marc Hastings, who once worked on the case. He maneuvers his way into the investigation—and into Claire’s life.
Marc has an uncanny familiarity with Claire’s habits, and she begins to realize that not all is as it seems. The detective urges Claire on, mysteriously convinced that only she can solve the case. Together, they unearth more graves. But then, disaster strikes … and Claire finally discovers what Hastings knew all along. It’s a secret almost too shocking for a sane mind to grasp. The key to the killings may lie deep in Claire’s own past. But what if Claire’s past lies in her future?
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We read fantasy for many reasons, and one of the best reasons is to delight in the wild variety of animal characters that act as the companions, guides, benefactors, and occasional thorn-in-the-side of their fictional humans. Here we’ve corralled and caged some of our favorites—from wolves bonded to humans, half-rats on the run from the law, patriarchal anthropomorphic tigers, and uplifted elephants—into a prose-based Noah’s Ark allegory! Check out all the creatures great, small, and telepathic below, and be sure to add your own favorite fantasy animals in the comments.
All of these titles can be found in the Tor Store on iBooks for your December reading needs!
Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, by Lawrence Schoen
In a distant future, no remnants of human beings remain, but their successors thrive throughout the galaxy. These are the offspring of humanity’s genius—animals uplifted into walking, talking, sentient beings. The Fant are one such species: anthropomorphic elephants ostracized by other races, and long ago exiled to the rainy ghetto world of Barsk. There, they develop medicines upon which all species now depend. The most coveted of these drugs is koph, which allows a small number of users to interact with the recently deceased and learn their secrets.
To break the Fant’s control of koph, an off-world shadow group attempts to force the Fant to surrender their knowledge. Jorl, a Fant Speaker with the dead, is compelled to question his deceased best friend, who years ago mysteriously committed suicide. In so doing, Jorl unearths a secret the powers that be would prefer to keep buried forever. Meanwhile, his dead friend’s son, a physically challenged young Fant named Pizlo, is driven by disturbing visions to take his first unsteady steps toward an uncertain future.
Rosemary and Rue, by Seanan McGuire
The world of Faerie never disappeared; it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie’s survival—but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born. Outsiders from birth, these half-human, half-fae children spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October “Toby” Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas…
Toby ends up with an unlikely companion in the form of Spike, a “Rose Goblin”. Rose Goblins are flower fae, and look like cat shaped rosebushes. Since they’re covered with pink and gray rose thorns, petting them is a risky proposition. They rattle their thorns to talk, and they smell like peat moss and roses. Spike keeps an uneasy peace with Toby’s cats, Cagney and Lacey, and he looooves car rides.
King Rat, by China Mieville
China Mieville’s urban fantasy take on the Pied Piper story takes us into a London only rats know. Saul Garamond is half-rat, so he’s able to fit into tight spaces when necessary, and maybe more important, he can eat just about anything. After he’s framed for his father’s murder, he is rescued by King Rat, and taken on an epic journey. Can the rat kingdom ally with the birds and spiders to defeat the Piper? Or will the Piper’s entrancing music mean the death of them all?
A Companion to Wolves, by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear
A Companion to Wolves is an “animal companion” story that digs its claws into what such a relationship would actually become. Njall is a young nobleman with a bright future, but when he finds himself drawn to the life of a wolfcarl – a warrior bonded to a fighting wolf – his name, life, and deepest ideas of identity are all challenged. He becomes Isolfr, bonded to the queen wolf, Viradechtis, and joins in the constant fight against trolls and wyverns that keep polite society safe.
But life in the wolfhealls is anything but polite, as Isolf learns how to let another animals culture and sexuality into his own mind. He must decide where his honor lies, and discover the lengths to which he will to go when it, and love for his wolf, drive him.
The Fox Woman, by Kij Johnson
Yoshifuji is a man fascinated by foxes, a man discontented and troubled by the meaning of life. A misstep at court forces him to retire to his long-deserted country estate, to rethink his plans and contemplate the next move that might return him to favor and guarantee his family’s prosperity.
Kitsune is a young fox who is fascinated by the large creatures that have suddenly invaded her world. She is drawn to them and to Yoshifuji. She comes to love him and will do anything to become a human woman to be with him.
Shikujo is Yoshifuji’s wife, ashamed of her husband, yet in love with him and uncertain of her role in his world. She is confused by his fascination with the creatures of the wood, and especially the foxes that she knows in her heart are harbingers of danger. She sees him slipping away and is determined to win him back from the wild…for all that she has her own fox-related secret…
To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis
Ned Henry is badly in need of a rest. He’s been shuttling between the 21st century and the 1940s searching for a Victorian atrocity called the bishop’s bird stump. It’s part of a project to restore the famed Coventry Cathedral, destroyed in a Nazi air raid over a hundred years earlier. But then Verity Kindle, a fellow time traveler, inadvertently brings back something from the past. Now Ned must jump back to the Victorian era to help Verity put things right–not only to save the project but to prevent altering history itself. And what, readers, could be so important that it will set history back on course?
Obviously it’s a cat.
Princess Arjumand, beloved pet of the spoiled Victorian Tossie Mering, whose descendants are the ones trying to restore Coventry. And that’s to say nothing of the dogs Ned needs to deal with…
Jennie, by Douglas Preston
On a research trip to West Africa, Dr. Hugo Archibald of the Boston Museum of Natural History encounters an orphaned baby chimpanzee. Archibald decides to bring the ape, whom he names Jennie, back to Boston and raise her alongside his own two young children as a kind of scientific experiment. Jennie captures the hearts of everyone she encounters. She believes herself to be a human being. She does almost everything a human child can, from riding a tricycle to fighting over the television with her siblings to communicating in American Sign Language.
Told from shifting points of view of those closest to Jennie, this heartwarming and bittersweet novel forces us to take a closer look at the species that shares 98 percent of our DNA and ask ourselves the question: What does it really mean to be human?
Tailchaser’s Song, by Tad Williams
Tailchaser’s Song is a classic quest, complete with brave deeds, epic songs, and devious villains. The fact that it’s all about cats makes it even better! Fritti Tailchaser is a large ginger tom who leaves his home to search for his friend, Hushpad. Along the way he encounters a variety of other cats, as well as some Growlers (dogs), while trying to avoid the dangers of M’an–those deformed descendants of cats who have strayed so far from a proper, wild, life.
The Discworld Series, by Terry Pratchett
It’s turtles all the way down! They carry the whole world on their mighty shells. And if that’s not enough animal love, the Librarian is an orangutan! But our favorite critter in the whole series has to be Greebo, Nanny Ogg’s scarred, one-eyed, nigh-homicidal tomcat. He’s eaten at least two vampires, taken down at least one elf, and spent some time as a human. In all of Discworld he fears only the Nac Mac Feegle, a rooster named Legba, and Granny Weatherwax’s little white kitten, You.
A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Hamilton
This is the remarkable story of one endearing dog’s search for his purpose over the course of several lives. More than just another charming dog story, A Dog’s Purpose touches on the universal quest for an answer to life’s most basic question: Why are we here?
Surprised to find himself reborn as a rambunctious golden-haired puppy after a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey’s search for his new life’s meaning leads him into the loving arms of 8-year-old Ethan. During their countless adventures Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog.
But this life as a beloved family pet is not the end of Bailey’s journey. Reborn as a puppy yet again, Bailey wonders–will he ever find his purpose?
Heartwarming, insightful, and often laugh-out-loud funny, A Dog’s Purpose is not only the emotional and hilarious story of a dog’s many lives, but also a dog’s-eye commentary on human relationships and the unbreakable bonds between man and man’s best friend. This moving and beautifully crafted story teaches us that love never dies, that our true friends are always with us, and that every creature on earth is born with a purpose.
The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling
The Harry Potter series features one of the greatest fictional animal lovers, Rubeus Hagrid. Hagrid literally sees the best in every creature, be they dragon, hippogriff, blast-ended skrewt, or humble flobberworm. (Plus his cabin, already the most welcoming place at Hogwarts, is made even better by Fang the Irish Wolfhound.) And while Scabbers turns out to be less than ideal as an animal companion, Hermione’s cat, Crookshanks, and Hedwig, The Greatest Owl of All Time, more than make up for him.
The Builders, by Daniel Polansky
Yeah, the last job didn’t end well.
The Captain’s company has kept a low profile since then, eking out an existence in the shadow of the war they lost. But that doesn’t mean the memories have faded, or even that the wounds have scarred. It’s all still fresh to the Captain. He finally sees a shot at vengeance, but how many of his old company are left? And how many will join the old mouse on one last tour? Opossum sniper Boudica, stoat assassin Bonsoir, and the sinister salamander named Cinnabar all answer his call, but will they be enough to settle the score? The Builders are out in the world raising all kinds of hell right now, plus you can read an excerpt here!
Ringworld, by Larry Niven
The Kzinti are a race of warrior cats, somewhat similar to anthropomorphic tigers. The males prize heroic acts in battle above all else, and earn their names through valorous deeds. The females are treated as chattel, and at a certain point alien biotech was used to drop them to a level of sub-sentience. Telepaths occur occasionally, and are forced to ingest certain drugs to enhance their power. Kzinti fur is usually a combination of yellow, orange, and black, but the rare fully-black cubs are inducted into the cult of the Black Priests. The Kzinti are featured throughout the Ringworld books (in fact the Ringworld is a home to one of the few groups of intelligent female Kzinrretti) and have appeared Star Trek: The Animated Series.
The Golden Compass, By Philip Pullman
Philip Pullman’s fantasy already earned a place on this list thanks to Iorek Byrnison the armored bear. But what puts this book over the top, animal-wise, is the inclusion of the shape-shifting daemons! Each human has a daemon (kind of a personification of their soul?) which takes on different animal forms until their human goes through puberty, at which point they set into one form. Lyra’s daemon, Pantalaimon, changes shape constantly, but favors being a pine marten, Lord Asriel’s s a regal snow leopard, and Mrs. Coulter’s is a treacherous golden monkey.
Through Wolf’s Eyes, by Jane Lindskjold
Firekeeper has no memory of her human family, but her pack has raised her well. When she decides to reenter human society, a blue-eyed wolf named Blind Seer comes with her, and they soon befriend a peregrine falcon named elation. The two animals have to help their human navigate a complex new world of court politics, as rival factions fight for the throne, and Firekeeper’s life is threatened.
Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb
Nighteyes is a flea-infested pup when Fitz buys him, planning to release him into the wild. The wolf has other plans, though, and stays with Fitz until the man allows them to Wit-bond, and Nighteyes shares his skills, and his real name. Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated like an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him sectetly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz’s blood runs the magic Skill–and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family. As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.
The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
The Babel fish, “by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different cultures and races, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.” It’s small and yellow, looks a little like a Terran leech, and fits fairly well in a human ear canal. As for food “It feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centers of the brain, the practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language: the speech you hear decodes the brain wave matrix.” It also has both proved and disproved the existence of God. Pretty good for a tiny little space fish.
Dune, by Frank Herbert
Sandworms live underground on the desert planet Arrakis. They excrete the spice mélange, which is the preferred party drug of the people of the Dune universe. They’re also known as Shai-Hulud, and look sort of like huge lampreys, with rows of crystalline teeth. They can grow to be over a thousand feet long. Riding a sandworm is a rite of passage among the Fremen, the indigenous population of Arrakis, and it becomes the key point in Paul Atreides rise to power, as his mastery of, um, wormsmanship gains him loyalty from his people, eventually leading to near-worship.
Beastmaster’s Planet, by Andre Norton
Telepathically linked to his team animals, Storm served valiantly in the war that eventually defeated the alien Xiks, though victory could not prevent the aliens from destroying Earth. With his homeworld gone, Storm emigrated to the colonized frontier planet Arzor. Will he be able to use his skills as Beast Master, and the loyalty of his animal partners, to save his new home?
The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next is a literary detective in Jasper Fforde’s series about an alternate Great Britain where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality, and literature is taken very, very seriously. At the intersection of literature and cloning is Pickwick, Thursday’s pet dodo, and at the intersection of literature and detection is Thursday’s biggest case! When someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature and plucks Jane Eyre from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday is faced with the challenge of her career.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is in theaters only one week before Christmas, and judging from this series of photos featuring Stormtroopers assembling a Christmas tree, Kyle Shearrer and Philip Joe Shearrer, Jr. are really really into the spirit.
You can look at the photo-story starting here, or watch a video slideshow of them below. Pay attention! There’s more than one story occurring in these hilarious pictures. (Silly Stormtrooper…that fork doesn’t go there!)
[via Nerd Society X]
Hi! The Wheel of Time Reread Redux is, once again, a-go-go! Whoo!
All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on Tor.com.)
The Wheel of Time Reread is also available as an e-book series! Yay!
All Reread Redux posts will contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 46: To Come Out of the Shadow
“Rand would kill someone who did a thing like that,” Elayne said. She seemed to be steeling herself. “I am sure he would.”
“Perhaps they do,” Nynaeve said, “and perhaps he would. But men often mistake revenge and killing for justice. They seldom have the stomach for justice.”
I am fully aware that the expectation of some folk would be that I would approve of this statement, given that it paints women in a more favorable light than men. That is because of the widely-held assumption that feminism automatically values women over men; that it has decided women are “better” than men and that they therefore deserve more consideration/reward/respect than men do.
The reason for this, of course, is because this is exactly what patriarchy believes, except in reverse. And since feminism is perceived to be patriarchy’s polar opposite, the assumption (or, in many cases, accusation) is that feminism’s aim is to flip the tables entirely, and make men the oppressed gender in return for the oppression they have visited on women. An eye for an eye, so to speak.
But all that means is that a lot of folk still do not understand what feminism is—or, at least, what I understand feminism to be.
I admit it is tempting to believe that Nynaeve’s statement is true, because one is always tempted to root for the home team, so to speak, but it is actually my belief in feminism which prompts me to reject it. Because feminism, as I understand it, is not the belief that women are better than men, but merely the rejection of the idea that men are better than women. Which is not the same thing, believe it or not. True feminism, in my book, seeks not for proof of superiority, but for proof of parity.
Many people believe very strongly that there are fundamental differences between men and women, aside from the obvious physical ones, and maybe there are, but the more I look at it, the more it seems to me that those differences are either unimportant, wholly culturally imposed, or both. In the deepest, most essential ways, I believe, we are all the same—or at least we have all the same potential to be one way or the other.
To me, people are people, in the end, for both good and ill. Desire for revenge is not a gendered trait, any more than the ability to mete out fair justice is the sole province of one sex or the other. I’ve known both women and men who are lousy at being fair, and women and men who are lousy at being unfair. I’ve known women who are willing to go to any lengths to avenge a slight, and men who cannot be roused to retaliation no matter what you do to them. And vice versa.
The capacity for mercy or for vengeance is not a function of what genitalia you have; it is a function of who you are as a person, what your life and experiences and culture and innate intelligence tell you is the right (or wrong) thing to do in a situation.
This is what I believe, anyway. I know there are a lot of people who will disagree, and that’s okay. There are a lot of theories out there, and mine is just one of them. But I do tend to resent it when people assume that because I am a feminist that I must think women should “win” over men. Because that assumption kind of completely misses the point.
I have also tended, perhaps erroneously, perhaps not, to attribute the same reasoning to the gender-based statements the characters of WOT make. Meaning, I tend to believe that when Jordan had Nynaeve say the above statement, for example, he did so to make a gender-flipped point—that in a patriarchal society, that is exactly the sort of seemingly-rational-but-ultimately-nonsen
Which is really rather well demonstrated, I think, by the fact that Egwene (and Elayne) most definitely wanted vengeance over justice here. Whether they were right to want it is beside the point; the point is, Egwene’s actions in this chapter in themselves disprove Nynaeve’s assertion that women are always better suited to dispassionate dispensation of judgment. Because that’s just as much crap as saying that men are the ones better suited to it.
So, sorry, Nynaeve, I love you, but you are wrong on this count. Even if I actually entirely approve of the brand of justice you meted out, I believe it’s because you are awesome, not because women are.
And in just the same way, incidentally, is Egwene’s semi-disastrous decision to take on the Seanchan troops in the street completely a result of what she personally had gone through at their hands. And I still want to be mad at her about it, but really, on reflection it’s sort of difficult for me to be, because, well, I don’t know about anyone else, but in her shoes? I’m not sure I would have done any different. Nynaeve had the luxury of impartiality, in that she hadn’t been tortured and semi-brainwashed for days on end, but Egwene did not. Her actions were still unquestionably foolish, of course, but they’re also pretty understandable, if you ask me.
Ingtar: so it turns out that Ingtar is in pretty rarified company, because with the story finished, I can now state with mostly-confidence that other than Tomas, Verin’s Warder, no other Darkfriend we meet in the series ever truly repents his or her Darkfriendliness the way Ingtar does. And I mean truly repents, on a moral level, not just the “oh shit I’m about to be fed to a Trolloc I NOW SUDDENLY REGRET ALL MY LIFE CHOICES”, wholly selfish kind of repentance we see from random Darkfriends throughout. If I’m wrong about this I’m sure someone will let me know, but even if so it makes Ingtar something of a unicorn.
(Verin doesn’t count on this score, because she was a double agent from the start. Not to mention, from what she told Egwene in TGS, she never had a choice in the matter to begin with. Unless you count “or death” to be a “choice”, which, well, I guess it is one, but Verin’s way was so much awesomer, you guys.)
Anyway. Of course, one must consider the fact that he was right next to three of the strongest ta’veren in forever, but I prefer not to let that tarnish his redemption. I don’t remember if Rand’s benediction for Ingtar got me choked up the first time, or the first Reread time either, but it kind of did this time, a bit. It probably did the other times too, because I am a sucker for a good noble sacrifice.
Speaking of which…
Chapter 47: The Grave Is No Bar to My Call
As is right and proper for an epic fantasy series, the Wheel of Time has quite a few Crowning Moments of Awesome to choose from, and this chapter is most definitely one of them. TGH’s climax is not the best of them (not in my opinion, anyway), but it was definitely the most awesome so far. And this is blissfully true despite the fact that logistically the scene makes no sense at all.
I complained about it in the original commentary, but I really rather understated the case, because trying to summarize this chapter was ridiculous. Condensing action sequences down without making them incomprehensible is always difficult, but when all the participants in it are literally floating around in a both metaphorical and actual fog… well, I remember wanting to bang my head on my keyboard a couple of times during this one. Especially as at the time I was still laboring under the delusion that I should continue to keep the chapter summaries short and sweet. This chapter really should have been my clue that that was just not happening anymore.
You may also note that the original commentary post (and this one too) is headed by the ebook cover art for TGH, by Kekai Kotaki, rather than the dead tree Darrell K. Sweet version. It was not so originally, of course, but once all the ebook covers were released I made the rather whimsical decision to go back and replace the DKS covers with the ebook covers on the posts that covered whatever the ebook art depicted. I’m not sure it worked for all of the books, because I think some things got broken when Tor.com moved to its new infrastructure, but this one carried through just fine, apparently, so that’s nice.
Ironically, though I quite like the ebook cover art for TGH, it’s not actually much more accurate than the DKS version (which I’ll discuss in the next post), since unless I missed something, there were no Trollocs at the battle of Falme. But hey, it still looks pretty cool.
Anyway, to get back to the chapter itself: it’s kind of difficult at this point to drum up the same sense of wow so cool at the revelations Artur Hawkwing et al dropped in their conversation with Rand, since I am rather more than familiar with them by now, but I still vaguely recall how enthralled I was the first time around and how much more awesome the chapter was back then too as a result.
Also, Hawkwing would totally be the captain of the rugby team, and Lews Therin probably wouldn’t even be all that upset about it.
Hurin: aw, Hurin. We do see you again after this book, it turns out. Sniffle. Though I guess he didn’t get to be a Hero of the Horn after all? Not that we saw, anyway. Oh, well. It was still nice of Hawkwing to say, anyway.
Lastly, I’ll note that my question in the original commentary, about whether Ripped-Out Birgitte would meet Original Recipe Birgitte if the Horn got blown again, was neatly sidestepped in AMOL by having the ripped-out version get killed literally moments before Olver blew the Horn and summoned her and the rest of the Heroes back. Convenient, no? Heh. Also, talk about your short turnover periods.
Although, the lack of a Gaidal Cain (at least as far as I recall) at the Last Battle indicates that even if Birgitte hadn’t died before the Horn was blown, she wouldn’t have met her doppelgänger. Which I suspected in any case, but it was still fun to think about.
But, all quibbles and asides aside, in conclusion: Aw yeah, sweet, sick, killer, dude, awesome, who’s your daddy, bitchin’, Yay.
And that’s our slang for the nonce! Y’all come on back next Tuesday for the conclusion to this particular puppy! Again! Whee!
How does a bastard, orphan, son of a Sith and a queen
Dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot on Tattooine…
And here I thought my favorite remix of the Star Wars Cantina music would always be the disco theme. On The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last night, J.J. Abrams revealed yet another talented collaborator on the new Star Wars trilogy: Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda!
Turns out that Miranda—who wonderfully nerds out about theater, rap, and nearly everything else under the sun—approached Abrams during the intermission at Hamilton and joked, “Hey, if you need music for the Cantina, I’ll write it!” And it also turns out that John Williams was too busy writing the score for The Force Awakens that he actually asked Abrams to find someone else to update the famous Cantina theme. So when Abrams emailed Miranda to take him up on his offer, the response was, “I’ll drop everything!”
Well, in actuality, Miranda juggled his Star Wars collaboration alongside starring in Hamilton most days and nights a week, as he clarified on Twitter:
So, here’s the important question… Are we returning to Mos Eisley on Tattooine? Or have Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes relocated to Jakku, or another destination in The Force Awakens? Is it the same guys, or have they passed on their infectious music to their descendants? Forget the Rey/Finn/Kylo Ren mysteries, let’s find out what happened to the Modal Nodes! On a similarly tongue-in-cheek note, Abrams’ news prompted the creation of the hashtags #LinManuelsStarWars and #Force4Ham:
On Jakku you can be a new man…
if you ever feel bad about yourself just remember that if you were a fictional character people would probably love you for all your flaws and quirks and mannerisms that you probably hate so just remember that okay ilu
why is this literally the most uplifting post I’ve seen in weeks thank you