Friday, November 30, 2018

Holiday Gift Guide: TV and Movies

Welcome to the final instalment of the annual Holiday Gift Guide where the flock takes a break from talking about all the awesome and not so awesome things to, well, talk about some more of the awesome things that you might want to consider for your Holiday shopping this year. Today, it's movies and TV!

A Quiet Place (recommended by Joe)

Maybe I just watch fewer movies than I used to now that I have two small kids, but A Quiet Place was genuinely unsettling and frightening. If you're not aware, it's the story of a family navigating some post apocalyptic future where making noise is a near immediate death sentence. The need for real silence makes any rustle, any deviance from otherwise excessive precautions a moment of terror. How do you raise children in that situation? How is it even possible? One of the best movies of 2018.

A Netflix Subscription specifically to watch the Dragon Prince (recommended by Adri)

So, obviously there are quite a few reasons one might give the gift of bottomless on-demand TV this holiday season, but I'm here to recommend what could be an impersonal gift for a very specific purpose: introducing your loved one to the magic of The Dragon Prince. This show, created by some of the writing team that brought us Avatar: The Last Airbender, delivers the same sense magic and adventure to a fantasy world that's more western in its sensibilities but still provides plenty of nuance and diversity. We follow Callum, step-son to the King, and his half brother Ezran, as they encounter an elf assassin named Rayla and get sucked in to a quest to save both their own kingdom and that of the dragons and elves from endless war. Throw in some entertaining critters and a complex, funny set of antagonists with realistic motivations, and you've got a recipe for immense success. There's only 13 episodes so far, making it perfect for an evening marathon, and while there's lots of plot threads left to explore by the end, at least you've got the entire of Netflix to follow up with (starting with She-ra!)

Avatar: the Last Airbender Blu-Ray (Recommended by Paul)

Perhaps this happened to you, it happened to me. When the first DVD sets of the MG/YA groundbreaking series Avatar: The Last Airbender came out, there were numerous complaints of bad pressings of DVDs, DVDs that would not work, and a general lack of good quality in the set. The blurry line problem annoyed me no end, even on a small television. For an amazing series with strong story and characters that introduced anime concepts to many views of all ages, it was a disappointing production.

Gleefully, now, A:TLA is now on Blu-Ray, and the production here is top-notch. No issues with physical or image quality now. The series holds up still as one of the best SFF series of any type, animation or otherwise. Like Harry Potter, the series does start and is primarily oriented toward MG and YA readers, but the deeper themes and ideas emerge as the series progresses and grows. Watch it.

Annihilation (recommended by brian)

When I consider gifts of films, I often lean on films that provoke discussion. Annihilation will provoke discussion. It’s full of mysteries, incomplete answers, and unsettling scenes. So many unsettling scenes. Whether you read the novel it’s based off of (closer to “inspired by”, really) or not, I can safely recommend Annihilation because it’s weird and unsettling without taking the unpleasant but all too frequent route of using sexualized violence to provoke a reaction. It’s closer to body horror, but it’s not that either. It’s poking on bits of your brain that expect things to look and act a certain way, but they don’t. Even if you don’t find it as unsettling as I did, there’s enough to talk about in the film that it makes a great gift.

Black Panther (recommended by Adri)

February 2018 might feel like it was fifty years ago, but I have it on good authority (i.e. the laws of time and space) that its been less than one solar orbit since Marvel's big-screen Wakandan adventure helped put Afrofuturism on the cultural radar of a whole lot of new people. Smart, visually stunning and totally rewatchable (seriously, this is the only movie of 2018 that I've watched more than once), Prince T'Challa's rise to become king and see off an external challenger who threatens the integrity of his ultra-high-tech, secretive African nation is the very definition of unmissable. Hopefully it will be shaping the direction of superhero and science fictional aesthetics - and Hollywood's opinion of what stories are worth telling - for years to come.

The Expanse Season 3 (recommended by Adri)

"We set out to #savetheexpanse. And it has been saved - but not for me..." Such is the experience of every Earther outside the select regions of the planet blessed with the original broadcast of The Expanse Season 3, which never found its way to TV or Netflix before the show switched over to Amazon Prime. If you're feeling lucky, however, the Blu-ray of this season is now available and reports suggest it's actually region free, making this dramatisation of the tail end of Caliban's War and opening of Abaddon's Gate just that little bit more accessible to anyone who hasn't seen it. In its book form, the Expanse has grown into one of my favourite science fiction series, and the first two seasons of the dramatisation brought the crew of the Rocinante and the wider solar system to life brilliantly with a perfect cast and strong adaptation. Despite being one of those aformentioned geographically unlucky fans, I've heard nothing but good things from season 3 as well, and I'm happy to recommend it for others to enjoy before I finally get my hands on it some time next year.

POSTED BY: Adri is a semi-aquatic migratory mammal most often found in the UK. She has many opinions about SFF books, and is also partial to gaming, baking, interacting with dogs, and Asian-style karaoke. Find her on Twitter at @adrijjy.

Feminist Futures: Woman on the Edge of Time

Dossier: Piercy, Marge. Woman on the Edge of Time [Knopf, 1976]

Filetype: Book

Executive Summary: After attempting to protect her niece from an abusive pimp, Connie Ramos is brutally beaten and then institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital where she is frequently medicated and not believed that *she* is the victim and not the aggressor. Connie has a history of mental illness, drug abuse, and had previously lost custody of her child. 

It is as part of that mental instability that Piercy reveals Connie can see and hear Luciente, a woman from the future who wishes to show off that nearly utopian future as something Connie needs to aspire to because it is women like Connie who can help make that future come true. 

Traveling somehow to 2137 Connie is introduced to a possible future that has solved pollution, racism, classism, sexism, and has upended every social and political structure in order to build a better world than the one Connie knows.

Feminist Future: From the opening scenes of the real world dystopian hellscape of 1970's era poverty, mental illness, and sex trafficking, Marge Piercy paints a damning picture of instutionalism and the social politics of poverty and mental health. It rings all too true and echoes the horror stories many of us have grown up reading.

That part of Woman on the Edge of Time isn't the feminist future. At the time Piercy was writing, that was telling the truth through contemporary fiction. The feminist future is Connie's initially inadvertent time travel to the year 2137. This is a vision of the future offering a return to a more pastoral and cooperative society. As mentioned in the Executive Summary, that future has solved the problems of pollution, racism, classism, sexism, greatly reduced crime to almost nil, and the nature of the community is so foreign to Connie that she can barely accept how it could work or that, despite the hell she is traveling from, it could even be desirable. 

On the surface (and a bit deeper), it is a utopian future. There is still conflict, but that conflict is far away. The ruined Earth is not fully healed and restored, but it is well on its way. The society of Mattapoisett has eliminated hierarchy. Everyone contributes based on their skills and inclinations. There is widely available mental health care without stigma. Oh, and children are raised by three non biological mothers, some of which are male.
"How can men be mothers! How can some kid who isn't related to you be your child?"

[. . .]

"It was part of women's long revolution. When we were breaking all the old hierarchies. Finally there was that one thing we had to give up, too, the only power we ever had in return for no more power for anyone. The original production: the power to give birth. Cause as long as we were biologically enchained, we'd never be equal. And males never would be humanized to be loving and tender. So we all became mothers. Every child has three. To break the nuclear bonding."
Piercy envisions a far more equitable society, balanced and harmonious in all (or most) ways. That Connie is Mexican-American (her full name is Consuela) is completely unremarkable in the future she visits. Mattapoisett is a comfortably mixed race community where gender and sexual preference is unimportant.

Hope for the Future: Marge Piercy presents an ultimately hopeful future, but offers no promise that it will be achieved. One of the central points to the scenes set in the future is that Luciente is hoping that Connie will be one of the change agents to help move society a step closer to making that future a reality. On the surface, the idea that a lone individual forcibly locked into a mental hospital and non voluntarily undergoing experimental treatment could be a focal point for change seems somewhat absurd.

On the other hand, the bestselling book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks details how the cells of a poor woman, taken without her knowledge or permission, became vital to the development of vaccines and other advances in medicine. So, whether from an act of resistance or a violation of Connie's autonomy, perhaps Connie could be that change agent. Perhaps there is a future where she is out of the facility and her actions spark a movement. 

There's no way to know, of course, because Woman on the Edge of Time ends with ambiguity. Not only do we not know if that future was true, we don't know if Connie's resistance put humanity on the course of positive change or if it will move to the corporate hell that she glimpsed in a different visit to the future.

Legacy: Consistently mentioned among the most notable feminist science fiction novels of the 1970's, Woman on the Edge of Time has maintained its status as a major feminist novel for the last forty years. It may not be in the first tier of novels mentioned (for that, you would consider works like The Female Man or The Dispossessed), but it is pretty firmly in that next list of titles discussed.  

It is notable that when Wiscon included a Retrospective Award when presenting the James Tiptree Jr Award in 1995, Woman on the Edge of Time was included. It is also notable the novel has remained in print and a new edition published in 2016, marking the novel's 40th anniversary. Not many otherwise classic works can say the same.

In Retrospect: To the point that we consider "literary" fiction as its own genre rather than a false marker of quality, Woman on the Edge of Time is arguably more of a "literary" novel than it is a speculative fiction novel. 

I'm a "big genre" reader, meaning that if a novel has speculative elements it's part of the genre. So, by no means am I pushing Woman on the Edge of Time out of the genre. It's stone classic and there is no question that it is an integral part of the genre. One of the more interesting aspects of the novel, though, is whether Connie's time travel is all in her mind or not. 

If it is all in her head, this is a straight up literary fiction novel detailing the horror and barbarism of experimental mental health care when the novel was written in the 1970's.

More than forty years later, it holds up. Perhaps some of the details of institutionalism have changed, and hopefully for the better, but the presumed lack of humanity of the poor and the ill is something we see all too often today. The power and pain in Piercy's storytelling is just as strong today as it must have been when readers first encountered this novel in 1976. The portrayal of Connie's medical "treatment" after being involuntarily committed is incredible in its raw alienation.

Whether readers accept the future setting of Connie's time travel as something that really happened or if it is viewed as part of Connie's mental illness (or drug abuse), the simple fact is that Woman on the Edge of Time is a straight up gripping novel that has stood the test of time.


For its time: 4/5
Read today: 4/5.
Wollstonecraft Meter: 8/10

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 2017 & 2018 Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Tip of the Hat: The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)

Just before Halloween, Netflix released the limited series The Haunting of Hill House, based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson. The book already inspired an iconic film adaptation in 1963, The Haunting, and for my money, The Haunting is as good as classic horror movies come. It also inspired The Legend of Hell House from 1973 by way of writer Richard Matheson’s largely derivative source novel Hell House, and then a forgettable filmed remake with Liam Neeson in the 1990s.

And Shirley Jackson is a titan. Not only is her original book more than worthy on its own merits, but she also wrote one of my favorite novels, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and left a legacy of short stories that belong on any one of multiple literary Mt. Rushmores. Everybody has to read “The Lottery” in high school, but the fact she has not remained a household name is a huge oversight. But...

I say all of that to say this: I really, really like Shirley Jackson, and was so worried the creative team behind this 10-episode limited series would swing and miss. I need *not* have worried. This show is a masterpiece. There are simply not enough good things I can say about it, and I regret I wasn’t able to get a review together in time to be relevant. So instead, I simply tip my hat to a profound, intelligent, and moving work of art. That’s also a real long horror movie.

A Masterpiece of Adaptation

Executive Producer and series director Mike Flanagan and his team of writers laid the foundation with a truly inspired adaptation. In Jackson’s original, a paranormal researcher named Dr. Montague assembles a team of sensitives to stay in Hill House, reputed to be the most haunted house in the United States. Hill House was built by Hugh Crain, an eccentric millionaire, and various violent deaths descended on his family, centering on the house. Montague hopes to prove scientifically that the spirits, and therefore the paranormal at large, are real, and assembles his team with the tough, worldly Theodora, the shy, reserved Eleanor Vance, and Luke Sanderson, heir to the house. It soon becomes apparent that Eleanor has a strong connection to the house, or vice-versa, and seems to be in danger of losing touch with reality or succumbing to the house’s ill will, depending on your read.

How best to modernize what has been called the greatest haunted house novel of them all? Turns out, you start with nobody knowing the house is haunted, and make Hugh and his wife Olivia house flippers with a big family. Let the original haunting and horror befall the Crain family and their little children, and then, as adults, force them to revisit the house after their own experiences have formed the basis of the house’s reputation. From little things, like names — the way Eleanor Crain becomes Eleanor Vance, one of the Crain daughters being named Shirley — to big character stuff like giving Luke Sanderson’s alcoholism to one of the grown Crain children, and plot moments that are either direct quotations from the book or subtle homages, I could simply go on and on and on about the decisions made to both honor the source material while fully owning a new telling with a strong vision.

There is a certain fatalism regarding human cruelty that runs through Jackson’s work. That is largely absent in the adaptation. There is certainly a fatalism — bad things, real bad things, are going to befall these people, through no fault of their own — in that the train is coming and no one will be able to stop it. But this family, however estranged from one another, have a shared love for each other at the core of their various relationships, and this pull provides the adaptation with a profound emotional shape and resonance.

A Masterpiece of Design and Direction

Episode 6. Ye gods.

The whole season is beautifully directed, but Episode 6 has an utterly astonishing long-take in it that took my breath away on every level. From staging, to conflict writing, to set construction, to blocking, to dialogue and performance, to surprise and terror, there is simply no parallel that I’m aware of in film. I know about Welles, I know about Hitchcock, Altman, Cradle Will Rock, Birdman, and I’m telling you I’ve never seen anything like it.

I could, and have, gone on and on in fine detail (wake my wife up and ask her), but I’ll leave it here. I hope Shirley Jackson would be proud. To steal a line from Ornette Coleman, beauty is a rare thing, and for this novel to succeed, and its film adaptation to succeed, and now this television adaptation to succeed on a bewildering scale...I am simply happy to be a fan that gets to experience it.

Posted by Vance K — cult film reviewer and co-editor of the Hugo-nominated nerds of a feather since 2012. Musician and Emmy-winning producer. And look, a bunch a damn Emmys better fall like rocks on this version of Hill House. Just saying.

Thursday Morning Superhero

After a two-week hiatus it is good to be back in the driver's seat for another edition of Thursday Morning Superhero. The end of the year is rapidly approaching and I am reminded that it is nearing the time to reflect on the state of comics in 2018.

Pick of the Week:
Daredevil #612 - Charles Soule wrapped up an amazing run as he wrapped up "The Death of Daredevil" and set the stage for Chip Zdarsky to take over the reigns. While Soule may not have been able to tie up all of the loose ends he created, he brought Daredevil back into Hell's Kitchen and allowed him to return to his roots. Drawing strong parallels to the current situation in the White House, Daredevil's final fight is leveraging the system to remove Kingpin from power following an illegitimate election. In one of the final scenes in the courtroom Soule brought out Marvel's star power with cameos from Captain America, Spider-Man, and She-Hulk to name a few.  While the ending will give you pause and cause you to re-read some of the final panels again, Soule did a great job setting the stage for a new creator to take over on the Man without Fear. I thoroughly enjoyed Soule's run and would rank it up near Mark Waid's run which remains my favorite.

The Rest:
Stranger Things #3 - This mini series is nearing its conclusion and it has been an interesting peek at Will's time in the Upside Down. If you ever wondered how Will communicated to his mom and maintained hope he could survive then this series is well worth your time. In a particularly devastating scene, Will returns to try and talk to his mom only to find his dad boarding up his only window into reality. He is pleading with his dad, but he doesn't hear him leaving Will feeling hopeless. I can't see this book appealing to non-Stranger Things fans, but if you enjoyed the Netflix series I highly recommend giving this one a whirl. If it is successful maybe they will consider a spin-off set during the time of season two. My only wish is that it featured more flashbacks of Will and the boys prior to his abduction.

Darth Vader #24 - I will admit that the current arc of Vader has me scratching my head and being highly entertained at the same time. I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and feel it might be the best Star Wars comic in the Marvel arsenal. It gave us the Dr. Aphra spin-off and has finally provided insight into Vader's rise to power. As Dean noted in our Holiday Gift Guide, this book accomplishes what the prequels never did and is must read material for Star Wars fans. Having said that, this current arc and Vader's return to Mustafar features a horde of insects and a Sith Master's spirit rising from the dead to teach Vader about his misunderstanding of what the dark side truly is. The highlight in this issue was watching Vader command his army of Storm Troopers in battle. Watching how he inspires them with his actions on the battlefield highlight how he may indeed be the chosen one. This issue fell a bit flat, but I am looking forward to the conclusion and am still enjoying this series.

POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Holiday Gift Guide: Toys and Collectibles

Welcome to our annual Holiday Gift Guide where the flock takes a break from talking about all the awesome and not so awesome things to, well, talk about some more of the awesome things that you might want to consider for your Holiday shopping this year. Today we'll talk about toys and collectibles.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Action Figure (Recommended by Joe) 

Since we're living on the cusp of a dystopian future (and for some we're a lot closer to that future than others), we might as well celebrate one of the guiding lights of the resistance. As much a symbol at this point as strident voice on the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has her own action figure and it's really everything you might want to show your support for a dissenting voice.

Masters of the Universe MUSCLE - Trash Can (Recommended by Mike)

This garbage can full of tiny action figures is a double nostalgic blast from the past. I loved M.U.S.C.L.E. men as a kid and had epic wrestling matches with my tiny plastic figures. The good folks from Super 7 have merged M.U.S.C.L.E. style figures with Masters of the Universe and the result is an absolute delight. In addition to the Skeletor Trash Can pack that is pictured above, there is a second wave that includes Orko, Fisto, Battle Cat and more!

BattleBots Remote Control Fighting Robots (Recommended by Vance)

BattleBots is a show where people build robots that tear each other apart with saws and spinners, or smash each other with hammers, or roast them with fire. Basically, all you should need to know is that it's a show where robots fight. Now Hexbug has teamed with the BattleBots people, and you can buy toy remote control robots that will fight. I don't know what more I need to say, here. You can get mini versions of some of the popular bots from the show, or a kit where you can build your own from snap-on parts. You are literally Prime Shipping away from robots fighting in your living room, and I'm not sure why you're still reading this when you could be fighting robots.

Locke and Key: Legacy Edition Anywhere Key (Recommended by Mike)

Have you ever wished you had the ability to go anywhere in the world? The Anywhere Key, when used with a door, allows you to travel anywhere in the world. Just have that location in mind when you open the door and viola! The Legacy Edition may not quite work that way, but these replicas fro Skelton Crew are beautiful. I have a handful of their keys and pins and the craftsmanship is second to none. As of the typing of this blog there were still signed versions (signed by Joe Hill) available while supplies last.

Funko's Cereal: Retro Freddy Funko (Recommended by Mike)

If you are looking for a gift that provides the Saturday Morning cartoon vibe then Funko's Cereal is a perfect fit. Including an awesome prize in the bag, Funko's Cereal are part of this complete breakfast. I ordered a box when it first dropped and was very pleased with the quality of the cereal itself. From the box design, the cereal that turns your milk red, and the mini Freddy, this gift is ready to be enjoyed in your pajamas watching G.I. Joe, Transformers, or whatever cartoon you grew up on.

Alfred Hitchcock 1/6 Scale Collectible Figure: Mondo Exclusive (Recommended by Mike)

If you want to give the movie lover on your list a unique and memorable gift you can't go wrong by gifting them a replica figure of the iconic director. Featuring a director's chair, multiple cigars, a freaking raven, a clapboard, a butcher knife and four interchangeable hands, this high end collectible will be a standout on your shelf. Maybe you could even start a Hitchcock on the Shelf tradition at your house!

POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.

Feminist Futures: The Women Who Are About To...

Opting out of the patriarchy in Tiptree and Russ.

"This will never be found.
Who am I writing for, then?"

Following on from my essay last week about feminist separatism in SFF, I wanted to move on to look at two stories which rely on women "opting out" of patriarchy not on a separatist societal level, but on a destructive, individualistic one. These are "The Women Men Don't See", a novelette by James Tiptree Jr. (also known as Alice Sheldon), published in 1973; and We Who Are About To..., published in 1976 by Joanna Russ. Each story offers a different perspective and tone to what is ultimately the same question: what does it take to truly escape from patriarchy?

(Note: this is a spoiler-heavy essay which discusses themes and events all the way through both stories -- proceed at your own risk!)

I'm nowhere near well read enough to make authoritative sweeping statements like this, but I'm going to go for this one anyway: The Women Men Don't See must be one of the best and most timeless genre stories out there today, not to mention one of the most riffed-upon story titles (although, frankly, almost every title in the Her Smoke Rose Up Forever collection is excellent). It's a title that's hard not to link to Sheldon/Tiptree's own status maintaining a cis male cover identity in science fiction, while presenting as female in her daily life. That "The Women Men Don't See" manages to be a successful and readable-in-2018 story is even more impressive given that it contains an utterly insufferable male narrator, through whose flawed lens the real story is filtered.

Don Fenton is a man travelling through Central America on his way to a fishing spot in Belize (except, of course he isn't), when a change of plans puts him on a plane with a mother and daughter on their way to Chetumal. When the plane goes down, Don, pilot Esteban, and the two women - who we gradually learn are called Ruth and Althea Parsons - find themselves stuck in the jungle, and after taking a trip away from the plane wreckage for supplies, Don and Ruth find themselves even more isolated with each other. The mundane aspects of the story take what to Don - and therefore the reader - comes across as a complete left-field shift into the supernatural when a speedboat full of aliens comes to collect them. Ruth has made contact with these aliens, and has seen in them an escape from the patriarchal structures in which she and her daughter must operate.

Don Fenton's narration puts a filter of misogynistic, racist sleaze over nearly every event in the story. He is outright objectifying towards Captain Esteban, constantly referring to his Mayan heritage through odd remarks about appearance and discussion of outdated, stereotypical customs. Indeed, Esteban is probably sexualised more than either of the Parsons: although Don does get in an early opinion on Althea -- otherwise a largely absent player in the story -- and spends a fair bit of time thinking nasty things about Ruth while the two are stranded together. Within the novelette, Tiptree has limited space to bring nuance to the other characters, especially given the limitations of Don's viewpoint, and its only Ruth that really comes out as three dimensional, even while central mysteries around her actions remain. Ruth's conversation about the reality of women's lives is literally one of existence in the margins, where it is only possible for women (note, both of these stories are very binary) to operate in the cracks left behind by male power and violence. This position is perhaps a little lacking in intersectional nuance, given that Ruth is a white woman who has been able to raise a daughter alone with money left over to charter a plane in the Yucutan, but it's one that fits the story to great effect: you can almost feel Don winding up the smug retorts for a conversation about "women's lib", only to be shut down by a woman who completely fails to follow her side of the script.

What's most fascinating, and repulsive, about Fenton is that his narrative is told in past tense - he is telling us a story with the foreknowledge of what these women will do - and yet he is still incapable of centring them in the story, or of reevaluating their emotions in light of the information he gains at the end. At one point, after being stranded with Ruth Parsons for a day, he watches her gutting fish and marvels at her strength and resourcefulness, before literally dismissing it: "I blink away the fantasies and see a scared little woman in a mangrove swamp". Yet, it is this woman who defies Don (and his gun), makes contact with an alien species and leaves the planet and the patriarchy behind, an unthinkable act for the actual patriarch. It's a highly effective way to underline the point about coexistence, and I can only assume from the fact that this story didn't blow Sheldon/Tiptree's "cover" that it's a believable portrayal of a man by someone writing as a man, at least in the context of mid-70s science fiction.

While Tiptree's characters only crash in the Yucutan, Russ sends her castaways much further afield. The narrator of We Who Are About To... is a passenger on an automated spaceship that crashes, stranding eight passengers (five female, three male, the only demographic detail the book feels the need to aggregate) on an uncolonised planet with limited supplies and no hope of rescue in their lifetimes. The narrator is immediately fatalistic about the group's chances of survival, which rubs up against the optimistic colonising spirit of the rest of her compatriots. Within days, they are attempting to set up long-term plans for childbirth (discussing the ideal "rota" to ensure genetic diversity before even establishing safe food and water supplies) while she seeks the most painless, drug-assisted way to kill herself. Compounding the difficulties Russ' narrator has with her fellows are their quickly evolving relationships with each other: initially, a black woman called Nathalie emerges as leader, using her intelligence and willingness to get things done to assert authority; however, she quickly ends up in a violent altercation with Alan, the youngest and physically largest of the men, who takes issue with her telling him what to do. The narrator laments that "patriarchy is coming back, has returned (in fact) in two days", and there's a clear sense of building tension as the interactions within the camp start to strain.

Except, of course, this is a 100-page barely-novel, not a slow-burning social drama, and no sooner have these tensions been established than Russ' narrator's desire to die comfortable and alone is brought into sharp, fatal conflict with her fellow humans. Ironically, it's fatal for them first, not for her: after leaving with less than her share of resources to a nearby cave (travelling off on a "broomstick", no less), she is hunted back down by the remainder of the group, who try to punish her for her non-compliance. Despite the first person narration, we don't really get a sense of her emotional response to this; she not only kills the group who try to bring her back, but goes out of her way to shoot the last two women (an old, rich mother and her chronically ill, adoptive daughter) back at the camp as well. This takes place just over halfway through the book. The remaining half is her slow starvation, complete with hallucinations and meditations on her life and choices (though much remains obscured from the audience - in particular, we never learn what she means when she mentions she is "not exactly an amateur" at the "game" of dealing death). This makes for an unusually structured story, but one which allows for a great deal of depth to be given to the narrator's motives and thoughts as she processes what is happening to her, which come to a more personal climax towards the end of the book.

Taken purely from the perspective of the ends it achieves, Russ' narrator's violent rejection of her compatriots' survival plan is pointless: she herself notes the multifaceted absurdity of killing people who tried to kill her to stop her from dying, and her reasons for believing that the rest of them would have died as well are all too compelling. However, We Who Are About To... isn't about the narrator's choices, or even the outcomes of those choices, so much as the lengths she must go to in order to make them. Once she starts exploring that unwillingness to compromise, we also get hints at how this plays into her life before the spaceship, which one of her hallucinations characterises as "starving" in a parallel to her current end state. In the language of more recent media, the narrator is "non-compliant", and while it appears that her previous life in a technologically comfortable 21st century gave her the scope to live out her choices safely, its only in this hostile, isolated environment where "freedom" is truly possible - in what turns out to be the emptiest of victories. Its a choice Russ' narrator shares with Ruth Parsons, whose glimpses of past also hint at a life lived deliberately in the margins, out of the reach of male power.

And, while the stories end in very different ways, ultimately they share a simple message: if you're inside the patriarchy, life without its influence is literally unknowable, both to the characters and to us as readers. The experiences they share are somewhat limited in their speculative scope - centring relatively privileged, well resourced women who have had certain choices to get to the "point of no return" they end up at - and neither offer much in the way of hopeful progress. But both hold up very well today as vital, defining works from two of the most important voices in feminist science fiction from the 1970s, and are well worth looking up.

POSTED BY: Adri is a semi-aquatic migratory mammal most often found in the UK. She has many opinions about SFF books, and is also partial to gaming, baking, interacting with dogs, and Asian-style karaoke. Find her on Twitter at @adrijjy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Holiday Gift Guide: Games

Welcome to our annual Holiday Gift Guide where the flock takes a break from talking about all the awesome and not so awesome things to, well, talk about some more of the awesome things that you might want to consider for your Holiday shopping this year. Today, we're talking gaming - mobile, console, PC, tabletop and board games!

For the Boardgamers:

Carcassonne: Big Box 2017 (Joe)

Do you want to play a game set in medieval France that is all about building roads and cities and making sure that your farm can touch as many cities as possible? You do, actually, because that game is Carcassonne and it is absolutely delightful and wonderful. I won't go so far as to say that has taken over my house, but it is the board game my wife and I have played significantly more than any other in the year that we've had the game. 

The Big Box (2017 Edition) collects the base game, 9 mini expansions to the game, and two of the most popular full expansions (Inns and Cathedrals, Traders and Builders). It's a big jump into the game, but if you're the sort of player who likes expansions and trying new rules, you'll want to jump right in to this Big Box edition.

If you are looking for a blast of nostalgia then Fireball Island from Restoration Board Games is the game you want under your tree. Vul-Kar has returned and is not happy. Players make their way around the island picking up treasures and snapping pictures.  You can try to steal the heart of Vul-Kar, but watch out for the rolling embers and fireballs that will make your adventure a dangerous one.  Featuring a bigger board than the original and some optional expansions, Fireball Island looks amazing on the table with its stunning 3-D board and shiny marbles.

For the person who plays games but you don’t know which ones:

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Brian):

I know I called Assassin’s Creed Odyssey “a popcorn game, tasty but void of nutrition or substance.” It still is popcorn, but who doesn’t like popcorn? Odyssey is a game made for wide appeal to the wildly diverse audience of “people who play video games”. If you’ve got a friend or cousin you need a gift for and all you know is that they play video games, you can’t really go wrong with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. It’s lengthy, diverse in gameplay options, and features a cast of characters they probably heard of at some point in school. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a safe choice to get someone who enjoys video games.

PlayStation Plus/Xbox Game Pass (Dean):

If you have a gamer in your life, they have had a busy, expensive few months. Red Dead Redemption 2 and Fallout 76 and currently occupying my personal time and money, so someone taking care of my PlayStation Plus subscription for a bit would be incredibly appreciated - and not terribly expensive for the gift giver! It makes a great stocking stuffer, and it's something any gamer will put to good use.

For the person you want to talk about video games with:

Kentucky Route Zero is an adventure game without the esoteric puzzles. It’s more about exploring spaces and talking to people. There are no wrong choices. It’s a journey through surreal locations mostly made of beautifully crafted flat polygons and populated with lonely people. Its minimalistic design and lack of punishment makes it accessible to nearly everyone, even if the slow pace will turn some people off. Sometimes funny, sometimes somber, always thoughtful, Kentucky Route Zero is a great game to play with a friend and talk about just what’s going on. It’s also a gift that keeps on giving as it’s not quite complete yet. The fifth and final act has been in development since the release of the fourth act in 2016. It’ll be finished eventually, but good stories sometimes take a while to tell. 

For the Roleplaying Gamer:

You may have recently heard of the passing of RPG legend Greg Stafford. Greg Stafford was a key figure in a number of roleplaying games, and founded a number of a couple of roleplaying game companies, including Chaosium. What is best known for, the single RPG word; Glorantha.
Glorantha is Stafford’s greatest creation, an ever evolving and growing mythic world that he channeled and filtered from an unfathomable outside source as much as he wrote down. Glorantha is a bronze-age like fantasy world like very few. The world is flat, with the boundaries in all directions leading to the realm of the Gods. There are thousands of Gods, and the world has been changed radically several times in its history…including one of those changes being the invention of time AND history. But there are some things that are the same—or are they? There are Elves—but they are living plants. There are Dwarves, workers in the world machine who hope to be purified into creatures of metal. There are trolls—but they eat evil creatures of Chaos. And then there are the Durulz, or as everyone else calls them, the Ducks. Yes, Ducks. Ducks are figures of comedy, not the strongest race on Glorantha by any standard, but they are dedicated undead-hunters. 
There have been a few systems like Runequest and Heroquest that have tried to capture the world of Glorantha and allow it to be a playable world and system, but there is a large learning curve when you have a system *and* a vastly complicated world to try and navigate. Glorantha often gets admired but not played and that is a terrible shame! Glorantha is such a rich place that it should be explored and loved by more gamers than it is.

But, you regular gamer, you can play and run Glorantha, and relatively easily, too, without too much of a stick shift change in systems. You, oh GM of the weekly D&D group, can give your PCs the richness of Glorantha, too. Let me introduce you all next to 13th Age. 

13th Age emerged in the explosion of D&D like systems that occurred around the creation of 4th Edition. 13th Age’s D&D like mechanics and character builds and creation are relatively easy for D&D players to port into. Hit points, Hit Dice, Saving Throws, character classes and races, spells and the like are all very much in line with what a D&D player might encounter. It’s not a formless D&D clone, however, with meddling Icons that influence the world at large and have connections to players. The escalation die provides new mechanics and tempo for combat. Every PC has “one unique thing”, which provides story hook and ideas for GMs to incorporate PCs history into the campaign. 13th Age is my favorite of the current crop of D&D and D&D like games.

13th Age in Glorantha, recently released by Pelgrane Press, is the fusion of these two that gives you a roleplaying experience in Glorantha, with the D&D like engine of 13th Age that you will find relatively easy to pick up. It expands some of the rules of 13th Age to allow for Gloranthan concepts such as runes to work within the rules of the core system, replacing the Icons of the base system as the focus for character relationships with greater powers.

Together, now you can roll dice and wade into the desperate fight against the tyrannical Lunar Empire, support your tribe against its rivals, deal with monsters, or explore ruins from past ages of the world. The default location for characters and their people is the tumultuous Dragon Pass, an area of Glorantha full of history and dangers. The locals are under threat, there are numerous colonies of creatures benign, neutral and dangerous alike, and there are surprises around every corner. In other words, its like any sandbox D&D world full of adventure. And with the prophesied Hero Wars about to erupt…perhaps the heroes might become Heroes.

Or the GM and players alike can really get into the spirit of the mythic root of Glorantha, and travel into the God Time, into the realms of myth, and reenact the stories of their Gods, to gain power for themselves and for their tribe. With great risk, comes great rewards, for the PCs and their loved ones alike.

Together, 13th Age and the 13th Age in Glorantha do what earlier iterations of Glorantha sometimes fumbled to achieve for many gamers: to give gamers a chance to explore and make the wild, mythic, magical world of Greg Stafford their own. Including the Ducks.

One of the best parts about giving people games is that you usually get to play them! So it's kind of a gift you give yourself, as well. D&D is entering the public consciousness in ways it didn't seem to before, and a lot of people are genuinely excited to try it, where it used to be, well, the sort of people who frequent sites such as this. So maybe you have friends and/or family who have said they want to give it a shot. The starter set includes everything you need to get going - a rues manual, ready-to-play adventure that is pretty easy to jump right in to DM'ing, character sheets and dice. Oh, and it's under twenty bucks.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Holiday Gift Guide: Books and Comics

Welcome to our annual Holiday Gift Guide where the flock takes a break from talking about all the awesome and not so awesome things to, well, talk about some more of the awesome things that you might want to consider for your Holiday shopping this year. Today we'll talk about books and comics, but throughout the week you'll have any number of things to consider (games, apps, movies, and more). 

The Hainish Novels & Stories (Boxed Set) (recommended by Joe)

So you've read some Le Guin and you're ready to do a deep dive into some of her most critically acclaimed work. Look no further than this handsome boxed set from the Library of America, collecting ALL of the Hainish novels and short stories in two volumes.  Including The Left Hand of Darkness, and The Dispossessed, The Hainish Novels is an essential one stop shop for excellence in science fiction

Worlds Seen in Passing: 10 Years of Short Fiction (recommended by Adri)

If you're reading this, it's very likely that you'll already be familiar with the work going on at the web spinoff from Tor Books has become a go-to place for articles, book previews, online short fiction and, more recently, its own novella and novel publishing line. Worlds Seen in Passing specifically celebrates ten years of the site's short fiction outputs by collecting some of the best from 2008 to the present, and it makes for an extraordinary line-up packed with adventure, tragedy, humour and heart. Perhaps more importantly for an anthology whose contents are available for free online, it's all bound up in a gorgeous hardcover which looks great on the shelf and invites dipping in to your favourite stories without the awkwardness of reading from a glare-y device screen. Whether you're buying for a long-time fan of short fiction, or for a genre lover who hasn't caught the short story bug yet, this collection is bound to be appreciated.

The Vela (Serial Box) (recommended by Joe)

Coming in early 2019 from Serial Box, The Vela is the first season of a hunt for a missing refugee ship that might turn into something impacting the entire universe. Honestly, the only thing that I really need to know is that the episodes will be written by Yoon Ha Lee, Rivers Solomon, Becky Chambers, and SL Huang. That's a powerhouse lineup of writers and I cannot wait to see how this all comes together.

Darth Vader: Vol 1 (Comic) (recommended by Dean)

Darth Vader is one of, if not the,most iconic villains in all history. This series explores much of who he is and what makes him tick. They prequels wanted to do this so bad, and the execution was so terrible, we are all stuck with the enduring "noooooooooooo" in what should be a great film moment, but instead is one of unintentional comedy. The comics manage to actually redeem that (to the extent that is possible) and build on it in a deep, gripping fashion. It's a deep dive into who Vader truly is and his tumultuous journey, and a must own for any Star Wars fan.

Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History (recommended by Paul)

This the definitive work that shows the growth and evolution of the artwork used in the Dungeons and Dragons games over the last 40 years. It’s an amazingly deep dive into a look at the game, not just as its art, as filtered through the changing depictions of everything. From the first handdrawn maps of the original developers of the game, to the modern sleek art of today, the book’s art unlocks the evolution of the game through imagery and essays. While the book is mainly arranged by chronology, starting from the precursors of D&D in the 1970’s and running up to today, my favorite feature is “Evilution”, where the book breaks this format to show how an iconic monster or character, like, for example, the fearsome Beholder, has evolved across multiple editions. Features like this give a cohesive and complete view of how the art and the imagery of the game has evolved and changed over time. And, joyfully, the book has some of my favorite art in the game’s history, like “Emirikol the Chaotic”. Anyone vaguely interested in Dungeons and Dragons will love this book. It’s compulsively dippable back into anytime, to be inspired to write, dream, and of course, roleplay.

Escape from New York, Vol. 1: Escape from Florida (Comic) (recommended by The G)

Has that special someone in your life always wished there was a better, more fitting sequel to Escape from New York? Well, turns out Boom! Studios has got your loved/platonically loved one covered. In this one, Snake Plisskin finds himself in Florida, which is a sort of fanatic state run by a pair of homicidal twin teenagers preparing to invade the rest of the US. It's...not exactly the sequel I would have written, but it's definitely a lot better than Escape from LA.

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 2017 & 2018 Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan.

Feminist Futures: A Door Into Ocean

Dossier: Slonczewski, Joan. A Door Into Ocean [Arbor House, 1986]

Filetype: Book

Executive Summary
This is the story of a planet of women, the Sharers of Shora, and what happens when they come back into contact with a patriarchal society after thousands of years of isolation. Shora, a completely ocean-covered planet, is in a binary system with Valedon, a “normal” world; the latter is one of the ninety-odd members of a galactic order decimated by a long-ago calamity, which has led the remnants of humanity to adopt strict prohibitions on certain types of technology, notably nuclear power. The million inhabitants of Shora have only recently been “rediscovered” by Valedon, and have escaped notice of this remnant government, but the situation is not going to last: the representative of the Patriarch (did I mention that the ruler of the galactic order is literally called "The Patriarch"?) is due to visit, and thanks to increasing trade between the two planets, he’s finally putting Shora on his agenda.

We get a couple of interesting snapshots of Valedon’s caste-based society, and its internal conflicts and interactions with the galactic patriarchy. However, most of the book’s narrative and effort is expended on fleshing out Shora itself. Plotwise, this is a book of two halves. The first is a slow build introducing the characters, their worlds, and the conflicts between them: Sharers Merwen and her daughter Lystra; a Valan called Berenice who is part of the first family to re-establish contact with Shora; and a Valan boy called Spinel, who undertakes an “apprenticeship” with Merwen and becomes the lens through which we learn about more alien aspects of Sharer culture. Inevitably, despite Berenice’s best efforts, Valedon ends up sending a military force to subdue Shora, headed by her fiance Realgar, and the second half deals with the fallout from and resistance to this occupation, and its ultimate effects on both societies.

Feminist Future
The Sharers’ entire existence relies on immense knowledge of and adaptation to the ocean world around them, but the “men = technology, women = nature” stereotype is undermined by their reliance on advanced biological engineering to maintain their existence. The Sharers themselves are a product of this engineering: they are hairless, with webbed hands and large feet, and they develop a symbiotic relationship with a dermatological microbe that helps store oxygen and prolong the time they can spend underwater, while also turning their entire skin purple. They are all female, and must also use their technology for reproduction. Sharer women are considered adults when they take a “selfname”, which is supposed to represent their own worst trait – “the impatient”, “the inconsiderate”, “the lazy”, and they are then encouraged to spend their adult lives disowning that name.

Reinforcing their alien-ness, to the Valans if not to the audience, is a completely different outlook on life and society, based on the concept of (you guessed it) Sharing. This approach borders on silly at times, and I was unconvinced by the linguistic representation in particular; we are told, in the language, that there is no distinction between subject and object for verbs, so “dog eats bone” and “bone eats dog” are literally the same sentence, represented on the page by “the dog shares eating with the bone”. Slonczewski illustrates this by having Merwen, one of the major Sharer characters, mysteriously say “oh, but does not the bone eat the dog?” a few times, except with examples picked to be a bit more convincing. This linguistic element is by the far the most prominent weak link in the otherwise excellent worldbuilding.

Hope for the Future
On a community level, yes. Despite trials and losses (of which the greatest may be… their innocence…) the Sharers manage to overcome the Valan invasion through a combination of non-violent resistance, quiet reasoning and good old fashioned winding people up. The galactic patriarch hanging in the background adds useful short-term constraints on Valan behaviour: they can’t commit genocide against the Sharers, because genocidal technology is a power which can only be employed by the patriarch, and he won’t hesitate to use it against them next time he is in town – such is the balance of power when masculinity is on the line. However, it also leaves a cloud over proceedings at the end, with Sharer society safe from Valedon but perhaps not from the return of an overwhelming and unreasonable masculine force.

A Door Into Ocean is pretty gender essentialist, and the biological engineering of the Sharers means it also embraces eugenics, at least in terms of physical adaptation to Shora's environment. In its defence, the plot does try to contextualise this somewhat: yes, the Sharers are an idealised version of a "feminine" society, but the explanation is not because they’re all female – rather their extreme living environment in the best way they can requires utter adherence to a cooperative, communistic way of life. Sharers still make difficult choices, fall in love, fall out of love, deal with criminals using a dismal understanding of mental healthcare (not that idealised after all...), and fail to live in close proximity to their annoying mothers. But they don’t have more than isolated incidents of murder or violence and or stratification within society, because their society is too precarious to allow those things, and their grasp of technology allows them to still make those precarious lives comfortable and well-connected in a way which doesn’t map onto any human society that I’m aware of. The conflict with Valedon pushes them into more difficult internal debate, particularly regarding the development and use of biological weapons which would be well within their capacity, but the justifications for using these are very different to the usual rationale for inflicting violence on an enemy. On the other side, the Valans and their different factions are a little more broadly painted and generally ended up blending together for me, although I was pleased that most of the military units were depicted as having women at all levels below the very top, and one of those women in particular is very much an ally to patriarchy and instrumental in keeping the conflict going, reinforcing the idea that we are watching a clash of societies and not some narrow, patriarchy-dependent Battle of the Sexes.

The two POV Valans blend well in that mix, and it’s telling that of these two, it’s Spinel who ultimately takes the teachings of Shora to heart, though not by completely rejecting the things he’s learned from his own upbringing. Spinel starts off extremely uncertain and closed off to the Sharers, having been brought unwillingly to the planet to satisfy his parents. However, his experiences on Shora, and a brief return to Valedon, allow him to re-evaluate his own identity and the ways in which one can derive meaning and status in a community. Of course, there’s also an inevitable romance with Lystra.  I can’t say the book needed this romance specifically, but their overall relationship is useful for providing an in-universe answer to the “is The Other human?” question which plagues the characters on both sides for most of the book.

LegacyA Door Into Ocean was published in 1986, the same year as Pamela Sergeant's The Shore of Women and two years before Sheri S. Tepper's The Gate to Women's Country. It won the John W. Campbell Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (not to be confused with the John W. Campbell award given to best new writers), making Slonczewski the first woman to win the award. Despite this, A Door Into Ocean doesn't seem to have maintained the same level of cultural relevance as other titles in its subgenre, which is a shame because I think it's actually one of the best of the bunch. Slonczewski's biology-driven science fiction puts me in mind of authors like Julie E. Czerneda, who also incorporates a lot of biological science into her books, and A Door Into Ocean also deserves a place among the canon of speculative fiction which makes use of "hard" science beyond the manly domain of astrophysics where too many conversations about hard science fiction still start and end.

In Retrospect: It’s ultimately hard for me to separate my enjoyment of this book out from the fact it ticks a lot of my personal boxes: ocean planet, brilliant interactions between women, and a set of political tensions that has an interesting, complex conclusion. I also feel it avoids some of the missteps that make some of its contemporaries make. There’s a lot here to enjoy even for a less partial reader, both in terms of the worldbuilding and technology, as well as in its approach to conflict. If you’re not sure whether you like novels about planets of women taking on the patriarchy, you could do a lot worse than to start here — despite its more essentialist moments. 


For its time: 4/5
Read today: 3/5
Wollstonecraft Meter: 7/10

[Note: this review has been adapted from a 2017 review originally published on Adri's Book Reviews. In the 18 months since I wrote the original, I've learned and changed my opinions on the portrayal of all-female-societies and how they impact the marginalisation of trans and non-binary genders and sexes in fiction. The content of this review has been updated to reflect that and, though I'm leaving the original alone for posterity, I consider this updated version to be the one that reflects my current feelings on the text.]

POSTED BY: Adri is a semi-aquatic migratory mammal most often found in the UK. She has many opinions about SFF books, and is also partial to gaming, baking, interacting with dogs, and Asian-style karaoke. Find her on Twitter at @adrijjy.

Friday, November 23, 2018

6 Books with Sarah Chorn

Sarah Chorn has been a compulsive reader her whole life. At a young age, she found her reading niche in the fantastic genre of Speculative Fiction. She blames her active imagination for the hobbies that threaten to consume her life. She is a freelance writer and editor, a semi-pro nature photographer, world traveler, three-time cancer survivor, and mom to one six-year-old, and one rambunctious toddler. In her ideal world, she’d do nothing but drink lots of tea and read from a never-ending pile of speculative fiction books. Her first book, Seraphina’s Lament, is set to publish in January 2019.

Today she shares her Six Books with Us.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I’m currently listening to Circe by Madeline Miller. I read this book not too long ago, but I frequently read a book and then listen to the audiobook, especially if something about the book is particularly gripping. Miller has a way with words that just enchants me, and listening to her audiobooks absolutely captivate me. Circe is an amazing retelling of some mythology, which she does so very well. It’s like listening to a painting. Fantastic stuff.

2. What upcoming book you are really excited about?

Rejoice by Steven Erikson, because IT IS STEVEN ERIKSON. Enough said.

3. Is there a book you're currently itching to re-read?

I’ve had a bit of a hankering to re-read K.J. Parker’s Engineer Trilogy recently. Parker is one of my all-time favorite authors. I love his prose, how he plays with words, and how smart his books are. The Engineer Trilogy were my first Parker books I came across, and I fell in love with them. I haven’t read them for some time, but I’ve got an itch for some smart, morally gray characters and he seems to fit the bill.

4. How about a book you've changed your mind about over time - either positively or negatively?

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence was a book that I really didn’t like the first time I read it. I hadn’t really read a book with an antihero like that before, and I couldn’t buy into the character’s age. It just didn’t work for me. I didn’t get the thrill. Then, for one reason or another, I reread it, and I loved it. I loved Jorg, I loved his dubious morality, and his tortured soul. I loved watching him sort of grow up, and weave in and out of these larger-than-life, horrific situations. Mostly, I fell in love with Lawrence’s prose. I loved, LOVED how he could pair such ugly situations with such beautiful writing.

5. What's one book, which you read as a child or young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?

My answer here is probably going to be a little weird, but I’m going to say The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It’s such a sad book, and I always loved it despite that sadness. It was one of my favorite books growing up, but what’s always stuck out to me is how beautiful the story is despite how sad it was. I love that, I suppose, the blance of grace and tragedy in art, and that’s something I’ve tried to carry with me throughout my own writing, and reading, for that matter. I love when people bring ugliness, sadness, pain, darkness, etc. to life in beautiful ways.

6. And speaking of that, what's *your* latest book, and why is it awesome? 

Seraphina’s Lament is going to be published in late January, 2019. Why is it awesome? I’d say probably it’s a combination of things.The setting is loosely based on the Holodomor, which was Stalin’s starvation of Ukraine, where millions of people died. It was a brutal period of time, and I have tried to weave a lot of my research of Stalinism and the Holodomor into this secondary world I’ve created. More than that, though, are the diverse characters. For example, my protagonist is disabled, and suffers from chronic pain with an injury that mirrors my own. Being able to bring that to life in my story has been a very neat experience for me. I’ve also established a communist government (though I call it “collectivism”), including some of the main decisions that led to the Holodomor - grain requisition, collective farming, secret police, labor camps, counterrevolutionaries, the buying of animals and farm tools by the state, the closing down of many holy sites and churches in small villages, and etc. which I don’t think you see much of in fantasy, and some of the ugly results, like people who are so hungry, so starved, and so insane with it, they turn to cannibalism to survive. It’s dark, but so is my mind.

POSTED BY: Paul Weimer. Ubiquitous in Shadow, but I’m just this guy, you know? @princejvstin.