9 Tips for a Very Spooky Halloween

9 Tips for a Very Spooky Halloween

Approximately one out of every seven Halloweens falls on that worst day of all: Monday. There is no joy to Monday. It is the inherent opposite of fun. Monday stymies spooky energy and shackles the spine-chilling Halloween winds. Our great nation has faced many trials, but Halloween on a Monday might be our direst hour.

But like a shining jack-o-lantern in the darkness, I am here to bring you a number of tips to make every waking moment of your Halloween Monday as spooktacular as possible. Think of these as Microspooks.

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Book Review: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Book Review: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

 

For our honeymoon, my wife and I went up to sunny New England. We road-tripped from Burlington, Vermont to Bar Harbor, Maine and stopped at every. Single. Used. Bookstore. The best honeymoon we could hope for, really. In Burlington, we stopped on Church Street at a little place called the Crow Bookshop, which deals in new, used, and out-of-print books. Their sci-fi/fantasy section wasn’t huge, which seems to be standard for hippy/literary bookstores. But there, next to the five millionth copy of Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World, was a book I’d never even seen before: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor.

I’ve read Binti, Dr. Okorafor’s Hugo-winning Afrofuturist novella, but other than that I’m a relative newcomer to her writing. I went into Who Fears Death with almost no expectations. I was blown away.

The plot summary, in brief:

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Hugos 2016: O Joyous Day

Hugos 2016: O Joyous Day

Today, I bring you a tale of a battle between good and evil, the forces of justice aligned against a self-proclaimed Dark Lord.

Yes, the 2016 Hugo Awards.

In the past few years, the Hugos have become an ideological battleground between hate-slurping trolls and everyone else. For the purposes of this post, the story began with the Sad Puppies, a group of relatively-conservative science fiction and fantasy writers and fans who believed that SFF awards were being unduly distributed to the ever-present specter of the “social justice warriors.” Believing that the Hugo awards in particular were being doled out based on Political Correctness and not on merit, the Puppies organized voting slates to take the genre back to its middle-class-white-man roots.

But things got nastier when the ever-lurking, loud-shouting, goblin goon of hatebloggers, Vox Day, stepped in to organize the Rabid Puppies. The Rabids, as you might guess, are fueled almost entirely by externalized self-loathing. Famously, Vox Day was kicked out of the Science Fiction Writers of America when he referred to Hugo-nominated African-American woman N.K. Jemisin as a “savage.”

This year, the Puppies – the Rabid ones,  that is – were back in force, with their own hand-crafted voting slate, cleverly designed to get a few legitimate titles nominated. Counter-slates popped up from Puppy Detractors (sometimes referred to as Puppy Kickers) in response; these counter-slates sometimes adopt a scorched-earth policy of voting to award no Hugo in any category where a Puppy candidate might take home the rocket.

All these factions and slates came to a head in the 2016 Hugos, and I’m here to walk you through it.

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Lovecraft Was Very Racist: Six Passages To That Effect

Lovecraft Was Very Racist: Six Passages To That Effect

Few people in the history of fantastic horror have mastered the pure capacity for total dread like H.P. Lovecraft. The early-1900s fantasist is the father of the eldritch, the cosmic, the mind-shatteringly weird. (This, by the way, makes Dunsany and Poe grandfathers of the eldritch, etc. But I won’t track the lineage any further).

Lovecraft mastered the art of the horrible…and managed to be an occasionally horrible person at the same time. H.P. Lovecraft was, for all his wonderful writing, an utter, unabashed racist.

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N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy Is Good Stuff

N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy Is Good Stuff

I’ve spent so much time in the belly of A Song of Ice and Fire that reading a new fantasy series – a complete fantasy series – is like dunking my head in a bucket of cold water. It’s like pink lemonade on a July Sunday. A good book makes me want to write, to tell everyone about it, to think about it, to community it. That’s how it was with N.K. Jemisin’s Inhertiance Trilogy.

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Straight Outta SciFi – PAINBOTS

Straight Outta SciFi – PAINBOTS

In Robot Lore, Asimov stands king. His short story collection “I, ROBOT” is the ur-text, the foundational cornerstone for all Robot Stories that followed. In “I, ROBOT,” he set out the now-famous Laws of Robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

The laws went through all sorts of iterations (someone out there should really write a History of Robot Lore). As robotics has become a real, physical, tangible field, the Laws have pervaded real-world thought on how our future overlords should interact with us.

Recently, a team of researchers at Leibniz University of Hanover have boldly gone where no scientist has gone before, and made tremendous strides towards canonizing the Third Law. These researchers taught a robot to feel pain.

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Too Like the Lightning – Review

Too Like the Lightning – Review

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer is the first book (of 4) in the Terra Ignotaseries. Appropriately-named for a series that takes the charts and maps drawn up in the 18th and 19th centuries and says, “alright, but what’s over there?”

The book is “written” by Mycroft Canner, a convict in the year 2454, bound to a penance only a social engineer could dream up: eternal servitude to his fellow man. Myrcoft’s world is, as the publisher’s summary says, a “hard-won utopia,” divided into a number of “Hives,” pseudonations not bound by geography. Mycroft is the guardian of a young boy with miraculous powers. An anonymous crime drags Mycroft through the inner circles of all the world leaders, and also threatens to reveal the secret of the boy he’s promised to protect.

That sort of sums it up, but not really. Because this book is about 70% Experience and 30% incredible, intricate plotting. Mycroft’s conceit in writing this book is to adopt the voice and style of an 18th-century philosopher. Ada Palmer (the real life author, in case you forgot), is a historian – but you’d figure that out just by reading this book anyway. The references to Enlightenment thinkers whip dizzyingly by; everything from little throwaway jokes to massive plot points draws on one historical reference or another. The world-building comes straight out of Enlightenment thought – and admits as much to the reader. We’re told that the great men and women who created this world intentionally modeled it on philosophers from all eras of human history.

There’s enough History in this book to write a dozen dissertations, but I want to draw your eyes to the all-important Language.

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