Tag Archive | fantasy

We Have the 2021 Hugo Ballot… and a really looooooooooong time to fill our our ballots!

This year's trophy, base designed by John Flower.
The 2020 trophy, base designed by John Flower. More pictures and an explanation of the design of the base are here: http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-trophies/2020-hugo-award-trophy/ (or click on the picture)

Hugo 2021 List

The Hugo finalists were announced on Tuesday on the DisCon III YouTube channel, and it is a really good ballot, again. I’ll first just give the list, then follow up with my comments.

Best Novel

  • Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury US; Bloomsbury UK)
  • The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor; Solaris)
  • Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tordotcom)
  • Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga; Solaris)
  • Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tordotcom)

Best Novella

  • Finna, Nino Cipri (Tordotcom)
  • Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom)
  • Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey (Tordotcom)
  • Come Tumbling Down, Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom)
  • Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tordotcom)
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo (Tordotcom)

Best Novelette

  • “The Inaccessibility of Heaven”, Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny 7-8/20)
  • “The Pill”, Meg Elison (Big Girl)
  • Helicopter Story, Isabel Fall (Wyrm)
  • “Burn or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super”, A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny 5-6/20)
  • “Monster”, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld 1/20)
  • “Two Truths and a Lie”, Sarah Pinsker (Tor.com 6/17/20)

Best Short Story

  • “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse”, Rae Carson (Uncanny 1-2/20)
  • “Metal Like Blood in the Dark”, T. Kingfisher (Uncanny 9-10/20)
  • “Little Free Library”, Naomi Kritzer (Tor.com 4/8/20)
  • “The Mermaid Astronaut”, Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 2/27/20)
  • “A Guide for Working Breeds”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Made to Order)
  • “Open House on Haunted Hill”, John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots 6/15/20)

Best Series

  • The Daevabad Trilogy, S.A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager)
  • The Lady Astronaut, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor; Solaris; Audible; F&SF)
  • The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager)
  • October Daye, Seanan McGuire (DAW)
  • The Interdependency, John Scalzi (Tor; Tor UK)
  • The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells (Tordotcom)

Best Related Work

  • A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler, Lynell George (Angel City)
  • Beowulf, Maria Dahvana Headley (MCD x FSG Originals)
  • FIYAHCON, L.D. Lewis, Brent Lambert, Iori Kusano & Vida Cruz
  • “George R.R. Martin Can Fuck Off Into the Sun, or: The 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony (Rageblog Edition)”, Natalie Luhrs (Pretty Terrible 8/20)
  • The Last Bronycon: a fandom autopsy, Jenny Nicholson (YouTube)
  • CoNZealand Fringe, Claire Rousseau, C, Cassie Hart, Adri Joy, Marguerite Kenner, Cheryl Morgan & Alasdair Stuart

Best Graphic Story or Comic

  • Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, Octavia E. Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (Abrams ComicArts)
  • Die, Volume 2: Split the Party, Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Stephanie Hans (Image)
  • Once & Future, Volume 1: The King Is Undead, Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Dan Mora (BOOM!)
  • Monstress, Volume 5: Warchild, Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)
  • Ghost-Spider, Volume 1: Dog Days Are Over, Seanan McGuire, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa, Rosie Kämpe, and Ig Guara (Marvel)
  • Invisible Kingdom, Volume 2: Edge of Everything, G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Christian Ward (Berger)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
  • Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
  • The Old Guard
  • Palm Springs
  • Soul
  • Tenet

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Doctor Who: “Fugitive of the Judoon”
  • The Expanse: “Gaugamela”
  • The Good Place: “Whenever You’re Ready”
  • The Mandalorian: “The Jedi”
  • The Mandalorian: “The Rescue”
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: “Heart” (parts 1 and 2)

Best Editor, Short Form

  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • C.C. Finlay
  • Mur Lafferty & S.B. Divya
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Sheila Williams

Best Editor, Long Form

  • Nivia Evans
  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Sarah Guan
  • Brit Hvide
  • Diana M. Pho
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

  • Tommy Arnold
  • Rovina Cai
  • Galen Dara
  • Maurizio Manzieri
  • John Picacio
  • Alyssa Winans

Best Semiprozine

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • Escape Pod
  • Fiyah
  • PodCastle
  • Uncanny
  • Strange Horizons

Best Fanzine

  • The Full Lid
  • Journey Planet
  • Lady Business
  • nerds of a feather, flock together
  • Quick Sip Reviews
  • Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog

Best Fancast

  • Be the Serpent
  • The Coode Street Podcast
  • Kalanadi
  • Claire Rousseau’s YouTube channel
  • The Skiffy and Fanty Show
  • Worldbuilding for Masochists

Best Fan Writer

  • Cora Buhlert
  • Charles Payseur
  • Jason Sanford
  • Elsa Sjunneson
  • Alasdair Stuart
  • Paul Weimer

Best Fan Artist

  • Iain J. Clark
  • Cyan Daly
  • Sara Felix
  • Grace P. Fong
  • Maya Hahto
  • Laya Rose

Best Video Game

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  • Blaseball
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake
  • Hades
  • The Last of Us: Part II
  • Spiritfarer

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book (Not a Hugo)

  • Legendborn, Tracy Deonn (McElderry; Simon & Schuster UK)
  • Elatsoe, Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido)
  • Raybearer, Jordan Ifueko (Amulet)
  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher (Argyll)
  • A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Del Rey UK)
  • Cemetery Boys, Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads)

Astounding Award for Best New Writer

  • Lindsay Ellis
  • Simon Jimenez
  • Micaiah Johnson
  • A.K. Larkwood
  • Jenn Lyons
  • Emily Tesh

In every category other than the Artist, Video Game, and Editor – Long Form, at least one item from my nominating ballot made it to the final ballot. And in eleven categories two or more items I nominated made the final list.

On the one hand, I suppose this means I have similar enough tastes to much of the regular Hugo nominating community. On the other hand, this means that in a whole bunch of categories I have a lot of reading/watching to do. On the gripping hand, well, that means I have to read a bunch of stuff for the next few months! Which, as a bibliophile, that’s a good thing.

Let’s get a little specific: in the novel category, two books I nominated made it. All four of the other titles that made it to the ballot were already on my radar to read. In fact, two of those four I’ve already bought, I just hadn’t started reading them, yet.

I should mention that four of the six people who made it to the ballot in Fan Writer are people I nominated. And honestly, the other two are people whose works I’ve read and if I could have nominated more than five people they very well might have made it to my nomination list. Which means that much like last year, this is going to be a very painful category to rank. Some of these I read some much that they basically feel like extended members of my family, so I want to put them all at position number 1 on my ballot. Dang it!

I feel like one particular entry in the Best Short Story list requires an entire post or more on its own — and it already got a post on this blog 13 months or so ago! So I’m not going there.

The only book that I nominated for the Lodestar Award, A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking is a book I loved so much last year that I bought many copies of it to give to various friends and family members for Christmas and birthday presents. I also wasn’t absolutely certain it belong in the Young Adult category, so I nominated it for both Best Novel and Beat Young Adult Novel. In addition to how awesome I think the book is, full disclosure, I should mention that while I don’t expect the author to remember me, the two of us have had dealer’s den tables across from each other at certain conventions, so I may have an extra level of bias in regard to her work.

Finally, thanks to the uncertainties of the pandemic, the committee running this year’s WorldCan has decided to reschedule to convention for a date when they are certain they can host an in-person convention. So instead of being in the latter half of August or the first bit of September as has been tradition for a number of years, this year’s WorldCon will begin on December 18 in Washington, D.C. Way too close to Christmas and in the middle of Advent season for a lot of people.

Bucky and Sam try to find their place in the “New World Order”

© Disney+

I’m going to try to give a review of episode one of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier without doing a recap and avoiding plot spoilers until the end. This episode is a good opening act, establishing where are characters are emotionally and situationally since the end of Avengers: Edngame. The trailers I had seen had made this seem mostly like a action adventure not unlike one of the theatrical Avengers movies, with more than a bit of the buddy cop vibe that some of the solo MCU movies pulled off. That isn’t quite what we get in the first episode.

I have to admit, while I have been looking forward to this show, I was wondering really what the writers had in mind for these two characters. What do they have in common other than they were each, at different stages of Captain America’s life his best buddy and sidekick. Which doesn’t seem like enough to build a good character repartee.

The first episode acknowledges this by showing us that the two characters are not interacting with each other at all. Bucky his working with a psychiatrist to try to recover both from years of being a brainwashed assassin, and the trauma of being one of the people snapped out of existence by Thanos, only to suddenly come back into existence five years later, to find a world that has moved on.

Which is another thing that he and Falcon/Sam Wilson have in common. In Sam’s case, he’s come back from the blip to find his parents dead, and his sister struggling to keep the fishing business that has been in their family for generations afloat, on top of being a single mother.

Before I talk about any of more of the set up, I should pause here to talk about the opening. On certain parts of the fannish internet a lot of women are losing their minds over the very opening where Sam is seen using and iron and an ironing board to iron a button-down dress shirt. There are memes out there already about how sexy women find it when a man knows how to iron his own shirt. As a man who owns an iron and an ironing board and has been known to iron dress shirts and slacks and such before going to certain important social events where one is expected to dress up, the scene didn’t quite have that effect on me. It seemed, to me, perfectly in character based on how self-sufficient Sam had been shown to be in the first MCU we ever saw him in, Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Sam was ironing the shirt because he was attending a ceremony at the Smithsonian related to the Captain America exhibit there. The scene’s purpose in the story is to establish that, despite having Cap himself hand over his shield at the end of Avengers Endgame and telling Sam to take over the role of Captain America, Sam doesn’t believe that he—or anyone else—should take up that mantle.

We next see Sam in an incredible aerial battle, where he is working with U.S. government forces to try to rescue an US Air Force officer from terrorists. It is an incredible scene that looks good enough to appear in one of the theatrical MCU releases. It clearly establishes that despite his misgivings, Sam is more than capable of stepping into Captain America’s shoes. The sequence will remind you a lot of the opening of Winter Soldier, and not just because the leader of the badguys is Batroc, who was the leader of the bad guys in that fight, as well.

Bucky’s sequences with his psychiatrist and some people he has tried to befriend do a great job of showing you how much of a struggle it is for him to try to lead an ordinary life. He’s trying to make amends for as many of the bad things he did during the years he was brainwashed by Hydra as he can. And his scene include a couple of particular heart wrenching moments in that regard. While Sam is working for the government as a contract operative, Bucky is apparently just working under conditions of a pardon. Regularly meeting with his psychiatrist is one of those conditions.

The first episode also sets us up with at a terrorist organization and at least one antagonist that we can assume will be the source of conflict for the rest of the series.

I was a bit worried when we reached the end of the episode, because I had assumed this series was going to be eight to ten episodes long, and they had done a good enough job putting pieces on the board in this one that I was worried the middle episodes would drag. I have since learned that the series is only six episode long, and presuming more of them with be about 43-minutes long as the first episode was, that probably is just enough to tell the story without needing any filler.

I do have a few spoilery comments on this one, which will be behind the cut-tag below. Before we get into that: may I remind you that this show appears on Disney+, and the Disney corporation is refusing to pay Alan Dean Foster and other authors money they are owed for media tie-in novels.

Spoliers ahead!

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Seriously, every single sentence below is full of spoilers…

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Seriously, turn back now!!!

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I warned you!!!

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Seriously, spoilers ahead!

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Read More…

WandaVisions Wraps Things Up in the Awesome “The Series Finale”

© Disney+

Having now seen the entire series1, I can sum up my feelings quite succinctly: It’s f-ing awesome2!

It did not end the way I thought it would. Thank goodness it didn’t end the many weird ways that some fans, fancasts, and so-called leakers were predicting. The show ended much, much better than any of those predictions.

The last episode took the meta of all the earlier episode titles all the way to 11: “The Series Finale.” It was fun, it didn’t have plotholes, it didn’t introduce wild twists (but it had more than one surprise3). Most importantly: it is a complete story. It did not feel as if it was just setting us up for the next show4.

It also is exactly the kind of story I, for one, needed right now. But I can’t explain why without spoilers. But before I warn you not to click through or otherwise read further, may I remind you that the Disney corporation is still refusing to pay Alan Dean Foster and other authors money they are owed for media tie-in novels.

Anyway…

Spoliers ahead!

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Seriously, every single sentence below is full of spoilers…

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Seriously, turn back now!!!

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I warned you!!!

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Seriously, spoilers ahead!

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Read More…

WandaVision gives us some answers and fills in Wanda’s backstory

© Disney+

The penultimate episode of WandaVision gave us a lot of answers, revealed a lie or two, and set the stage for a big battle. I think it also showed us that this show should not be thought of as a spin-off. It has leaned into the things that television does well, telling a story more nuanced that any of the big movies are able to with their set pieces and epic battles. Not that next episode won’t have a battle, because that seems inevitable at this point.

Episode eight, “Previously On” is not as delightful as episode seven, nor as fun as episodes one through six, but we’ve reached the point where answers must be forthcoming, and since the show centers around Wanda’s trauma, that means things have to be a bit more serious, at least for no. I can’t say more without spoilers, so the rest of the review will be behind a cut-tag

Before I get into it: this show appears on Disney+, and may I remind you that Disney corporation is refusing to pay Alan Dean Foster and other authors money they are owed for media tie-in novels.

Spoliers ahead!

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Seriously, every single sentence below is full of spoilers…

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Seriously, turn back now!!!

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.

I warned you!!!

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Seriously, spoilers ahead!

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Read More…

WandaVision goes Modern while really breaking all the walls

© Disney+

Things really got moving in this episode, “Breaking the Fourth Wall.” I think we may have learned enough that it’s possible to start making some judgement calls on some of the plot and delivery decisions made in earlier episodes. Despite the fact that there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth during the first about hour after the episode became available for streaming. Disney+ was experiencing problems. For some people the service crashed completely and didn’t come back for a while. A lot of others experience multiple long pauses in the middle of the action. Many are inferring that a lot more fans of the show are waiting up on Thursday night until the episode becomes available, and simply overwhelmed the system.

This episode gave us a couple of answers to questions swirling around the underlying mystery and hinted at more to come. I’ve seen a few people already claiming that the reveal near the end of this episode completely eliminates a few other fan theories, and I think those people are jumping the gun. Which I will get to below. But before I get into any spoilers, I think it is worth mentioning that for the first time in the series there is a post-credits scene. I won’t tell you what it is above the break, but just in case you’re one of those people who stop playing or skip to another show once the credits start, you might want to stick around this time.

One more thing before I get into it: this show appears on Disney+, and may I remind you that Disney corporation is refusing to pay Alan Dean Foster and other authors money they are owed for media tie-in novels.

I can’t say more without spoilers, so…

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Seriously, every single sentence below is full of spoilers…

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Seriously, turn back now!!!

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I warned you!!!

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Seriously, spoilers ahead!

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Read More…

WandaVision Brings Tricks, Treats, and a Growing Menace

© Disney +

Last week brought us the 6th episode out of 9 of WandaVisiom, entitled “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” I’m still enjoying the series a lot. But I realized after I finished my review last week, that if the answers to the various mysteries they are aiming to aren’t close to my guesses, the series may have gone completely off the rails. Two of my favorite fan writers have commented that it’s nearly impossible to review this series because you can’t tell whether things make sense if you don’t know the ending. So maybe it’s okay that I’m somewhat conflicted. This review is so late because I kept trying to write it without it being a long recap of the episode.

Before I begin my spoiler-heavy review, because this show appears on Disney+, I am morally obligated to tell you that the Disney corporation is refusing to pay Alan Dean Foster and other authors money they are owed for media tie-in novels.

This is the first episode where I was completely clueless as to who they were doing an homage to during the opening credits. I mentioned previously that due to various life events I watched virtually no television in the 1980s, right? So, due to very different life events1, I wound up missing a lot of television and other pop culture events in the 1990s.

Other viewers, more knowledgeable than myself tell me that the show skipped over the 1990s entirely to make a full-throated embrace of Malcolm in the Middle which aired from 2000 until 2006. And I’ll take their word for it.

The rest of my review/partial recap is rife with spoilers, so don’t scroll down or click below if you don’t want to be spoiled!

I can’t say more without spoilers, so…

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Seriously, every single sentence below is so full of spoilers you need a vomit bag…

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Seriously, turn back now!!!

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I warned you!!!

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Seriously, spoilers ahead!

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Read More…

Bullying, gender, and the importance of horses – or, more of why I love sf/f

Across the Green Grass Fields is the sixth book in Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series;

I read the sixth book in the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire a bit over a week ago. While I tried for several days to write a review, I realized that I couldn’t really talk about it without talking about the fifth book in the series, and how that left me feeling. But for some reason I didn’t write a review of the fifth book last year. My draft of the review of the sixth book wound up having more than a thousand words about the fifth book, so I decided to separate them and publish that review last week. And now I think I can tackle the sixth book.

There are spoilers ahead, though I try to avoid the biggest ones.

I was predisposed to love this series before I read the first bopok, after hearing the author explain that the inspiration for the first story was her own reading of tales (when she was a child herself) in which a child or group of children were transported to a magical world where they had a world-saving adventure but then were forced to go back home and just be ordinary kids again! And as a kid I had felt exactly the same way as I reached each of various fantasy books that I read.

For reference, I wrote about the first three novellas in this series here. And then I wrote about the fourth book (which left me sobbing uncontrollably) here, and the fifth here.

When Seanan McGuire explained how she came to write the award-winning first story in the series, she mentioned specifically the original My Little Pony cartoon as one of her inspirations. I was exactly the wrong age when the original series came out, but the more recent My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic series roped me in. So much so that for several years now with a group of friends I have been running a tabletop roleplaying game using the Fate system to run a campaign in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic universe, with the twist that we are crossing the series over with the Cthulhu Mythos (with a heavy sprinkling of things like Ash vs Evil Dead).

The upshot of all of this is, that once the title of the sixth book, Across the Green Grass Fields and the official blurb was released, I was essentially vibrating in great anticipation for the book. Because it was going to be about kids crossing through a portal to a world of adventure, but also specifically the original world which had inspired the author to start the series. So since this story would be about the aspect of this theme about which the author feels most passionate, presumably it would be one of the stronger entries in the series. Given that the fifth book was “merely” Really Good, but was therefore a letdown (for me) from the Stupendously Incredible that was the fourth book, I really wanted this book to wow me.

So, the book follows a young girl named Regen—who happens to be really into horses—who is having a bit of difficulty navigating grammar school. She had two very good friends, until one of those friends did something which the other friend felt wasn’t properly girlish and thus needed to be shunned. Regen feels very badly for the shunned friend, but also feels she can’t risk losing the regard of the bullying friend. There is some discussion to be had about whether deciding to stop being friends with someone should be regarded as bullying, but I’m afraid I come down on the side of the shunned girl’s mother that this behavior is a form of bullying.

Some years later, Regen begins feeling more insecure around her remaining friends because they seem to all be going through puberty and she isn’t. When she talks to her parents about it she finds out that she is intersex, specifically she has androgen insensitivity. They explain how the doctors discovered it, and reassure her again and again that this doesn’t mean anything is wrong with her. It’s just she won’t undergo puberty on her own, but she can with hormone replacement therapy.

This revelation bothers Regen even more. The next day at school she makes the mistake of telling the bully who she thinks is her friends. This does not go well, and she flees the school grounds, intended to go the long way back home. In the wooded area she is walking through toward home, she finds a mysterious door, which she goes through, and she winds up in another world.

She meets some of the inhabitants (a family of centaurs), and is informed that whenever a human comes to the Hooflands (which is what they call the world) something big will happen, and the human will save the world. Regen doesn’t want to save the world, particularly when she hears some of the stories of humans who came before her who all disappear after saving the world.

The Hooflands are inhabited by a lot of mythical creatures, all with some kind of hoof or other. The unicorns seem to be dumb animals (and are raised as livestock to be eaten by the centaurs). There are kelpies, fauns, perytons, and so forth. Some of species do not get along with others. Kelpies, for instance, are describe as mindless beasts and monsters.

Regen lives with the centaurs for a time. The happy family is disrupted because the Queen of the Hooflands puts a bounty on Regen. The centaurs relocate to a place where they think the Queen can’t find them and live there more or less happy for several years. Until it becomes clear that the Queen is evil and is hurting the other inhabitants of the Hooflands, so Regen sets out to try to save the world (without vanishing afterward).

There was, for me, a big problem with the book. The opening chapters, while Regen is dealing with the difficulties at school and discovering that she is intersex and so forth was extremely compelling. You know how some people yell at the TV when a character does something foolish? I was talking to the book when it became clear that Regen was about to tell the bully about her gender. I knew it was going to go badly, and McGuire had me on the edge of my seat about how badly it would go and what happened next.

But, again, this is how I experienced the book, not long after Regen arrived in the Hooflands almost all dramatic tension evaporated. I literally fell asleep while reading the second half of the book. Twice. It took me two more days than it ought to have to finish it because it just wasn’t grabbing me.

I’ve read other reviews of people who absolutely loved the book and found it rivetting to the end. The writing is good. There is not a big glaring plothole or anything like that. I just wasn’t able to make myself care about what happened to the Hooflands. I kept wanting to know what was going to happen when Regen got back. It just didn’t feel like anything important was at stake within the Hooflands part of the story.

This doesn’t mean that the book was badly written. It means this falls into the category of books that aren’t for me. This is not the first time that I have encountered this phenomenon with an author whose stories I otherwise adore. For whatever reason, this one didn’t grab me.

And I’m not happy about that! Because I really wanted to adore this book. I wanted it to move me the way book four did.

I might try to re-read it again later. Maybe I was just not in the right place mentally that week for it to resonate for me.

I still highly recommend the series. As mentioned above, there are people out there who absolutely loved this one. So maybe you will, too. I’m still looking forward to the next book. I hope it’s one that grabs me.

WandaVision Goes Even More Meta in “A Very Special Episode…”

© Disney+

Time for a review of the latest episode of WandaVision: “A Very Special Episode…” Since I keep taking too long to finish these, I’m going to try to do a bit less verbose in my recapping and focus on reviewing. And before we get into that, I want to mention up front that while I thus far love this show playing on Disney+, it is still unfortunate that the Disney corporation is refusing to pay Alan Dean Foster and other authors money they are owed for media tie-in novels.

This week’s episode continues the trend seen in the first three where Wanda, Vision, and the town of Westview moves through the decades with styles, decor, and so forth evoking sitcoms of a particular era. This episode has moved into the 80s, and while i recognized the styles and at least the homages during the opening sequence to Family Ties, but I have to confess that while I am familiar with a lot of the sitcoms of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, I didn’t watch much TV during the 1980s1. So I probably missed a bunch of subtle stuff in this one.

This episode moved back and forth between the viewpoint of Wanda and Vision inside the reality bubble, and the scientists and agents outside. With some direct interaction that did not go very well. It was interesting, it was intense in places, and the mystery managed to deepen some more. I don’t think I can say more without spoilers, so if you don’t want to read those, stop now!

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Seriously, spoilers ahead!

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Read More…

When the lightning burns, the wolfsbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright – or, more of why I love sf/f

I have been trying to write a review of the sixth book in the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire, and realized that I couldn’t really talk about it without talking about the rest of the series, and I had somehow neglected to write about the previous book when I read it last year, so I need to talk about it before I jump into the latest. So, this will be a review of the fifth book. For reference, I wrote about the first three novellas in this series here. And then I wrote about the fourth book (which left me sobbing uncontrollably), here.

I should preface this with this statement: before I read the first book in this series I was predisposed to love them, as the author had explained on a panel at a sci fi convention I attended, that the inspiration for the first story was her own reading of tales (when she was a child herself) in which a child or group of children were transported to a magical world where they faced danger, monsters, and adventure but managed to save that world… and then were forced to go back home and just be ordinary kids again!

And I definitely loved the first book in the series, as well as the next several sequels.

The fourth book, In An Absent Dream was—for me—the most devastating, but the first three had been pretty moving.

When the first teasers for the fifth book came out, I must admit I had mixed feelings. The first book had introduced us to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a refuge for those children who were not happy to be sent back to mundania after having slipped through the shadows into another world. Among the children we met in the first book were the twin sisters Jack and Jill, who had been to a world of horrors. And they had turned out to be central to the mystery of the first book. The second book in the series is a prequel to the first, and tells the story of how Jack and Jill (or Jacqueline and Jillian as they were known by their parents) went to that world, had their adventure, and come home.

It was clear from both the announced title of the fifth book and its official summary that we were going to be treated to yet another adventure involving Jack and Jill. And while I had enjoyed the first and second book in the series, there had been a whole lot of other characters introduced in the first and third books whose stories I really wanted to learn more of. So giving yet one more book to Jack and Jill, who had already had two books, seemed like it was giving the shaft to some of the other characters.

On the other hand, the magical world that Jack and Jill had traveled to, known as The Moors, was based on the old Universal Horror movies of the 1930s and 1940s. And I loved those particular movies, which had contributed quite a bit to how much I had loved the second book in the series, Down Among the Sticks and Bones. So I wasn’t really complaining about getting to spend more time there.

McGuire has explained several times that the series is set up thusly: odd-numbered books will be set at the school and involve groups of children who have already had at least one magical adventure on their own working together to solve a problem, while even-numbered books will be straight up Portal Fantasies where we see one or more children going to one of the magical worlds for the first time, and how that transforms them.

So. Come Tumbling Down begins with Jack unexpectedly coming back to Eleanor West’s school after taking her deranged sister back to the Moors and needing help. Several characters accompany Jack and her resurrected girlfriend, Alexis, back to the Moors to try to stop Jill from doing something truly horrible that will (among other things) cause great harm to her sister, Jack. Not to mention cause a lot of other bad things to happen to the mostly innocent bystanders trying to live their lives on The Moors.

It is clear right away that something is very wrong. Jack and Alexis explain the situation, and beg some of the students of Eleanor West’s school to come back with them to The Moors to stop Jill’s evil plan, because Jack can’t do it without them. A couple of the other wayward children we met in earlier books, as well as at least one we haven’t seen before this book answer Jack’s call and go back with her to the Moors.

We get to see aspects of this world that weren’t covered in Down Among the Sticks and Bones, which is cool. But as the rest of the quest unfolded I had a bit of a problem. Most of the characters that Jack persuaded to come back weren’t actually needed to complete the quest. Honestly, exactly one, and only that one and only for one specific task of the characters that Jack begged to come back with her did anything that actually contributed to solving the problem. All of the other actions that contributed to the solution were performed by Jack on her own. So most of the characters (including one who paid a very significant price) were not needed after all. Their only purpose in the plot was to get hurt (or worse) to create some tension, and not actually to contribute to the final solution.

It can be argued that Jack didn’t know that when she pled her case early in the book… but the author should have known that, and should have structured the story somewhat differently.

Mind you, I enjoyed the quest, its solution, and the new things we learned about the Moors. I just think the author dropped the ball at a couple of points in the plot, is what I’m saying.

However, the over all story—most importantly the explicit revelation that what some people call a monster can actually be the hero of the tale—was very entertaining and quite good. So like every other story I’ve read by this author, by the end despite some things not going the way I thought, I was still left mostly happy with that tale and looking forward to the next story in the series.

But it didn’t feel either as tight nor as poignant as the fourth book. And maybe I should just accept that sometimes an author hits their stride on every single aspect of a book in an incredible way, and other times they only hit it on say three out of five major components.

I mean, I liked the book. I went back to reread it and enjoyed it the second time. And as soon as I knew their was another book in the series coming out I preordered it. Which means, I guess, that I’m saying some of the books in this series are Incredible and Stupendous, and others are merely Really Good.

And that’s okay.

WandaVision Interrupts the Program to Give Some Answers, and Raise More Questions

© Disney +

Time for the next installment in my weekly WandaVision episode review. I reviewed the first three episodes here. I’ll try to to stick to one episode at a time going forward.

This week’s episode, entitled “We Interrupt This Program” gave us a lot of answers while raising many more questions. It is also chock-full of connections to and characters from other parts of the Marvel universe. Which is cool for nerds such as myself. But I want to stress that you don’t have to be familiar with all of those other things to understand. The show is still doing a fairly good job of framing this story in a way that people who aren’t familiar with the other properties can follow and be just as perplexed about what’s going on as the rest of us. There is one bit at the beginning of this episode that might need a bit of extra explaining for someone who isn’t Marvel obsessed, but even then they gave some explanation that I think might have been enough for those not familiar.

So, I’m going to limit the body of this review to only what happens on screen, and if I feel the need to squee about any of the bonus things along the way, I’ll toss that into footnotes.

The only non-spoilery thing I can say is that this episode tells us what was happening from the point of view of government agents and scientists who are outside of Westview. Which is way the viewers (us!) gets some answers, obviously.

I can’t really say anything more without spoilers, so, if you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now.

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Seriously, spoilers ahead!

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Read More…

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