Science Fiction Feed

The Manhattan Projects; or, ‘These Ain’t Your Momma’s Physicists’

Manhattan_projects_4The Manhattan Project was a now legendary U.S. military programme responsible for the creation of the atom bomb, operating between 1939 and 1946. The scientists that worked for the project have become legendary figures in their own right; Robert Oppenheimer, Richard Feynman, Enrico Fermi to name just a few. Regardless of the moral implications of what came out of it, the Manhattan Project was an undeniably impressive feat of science and a major step forward in the human understanding of physics.

Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitarra and Jordie Bellaire take this incredible human achievement and add in murder, cults, corruption, sex, drugs and the most kick-ass Albert Einstein you’re ever like to see. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Manhattan Projects.

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Readers of Gor: Tarnsman of Gor

GOR - Boris Vallejo

In which Silvia Moreno-Garcia of Ka-Na-Da and Molly Tanzer of Ko-Lo-Ra-Do discuss Silvia's re-read and Molly's first read of John Norman's famous (notorious?) Tarnsman of Gor. 

Tarnsman_of_gor_vallejo_coverSilvia: Tal, Molly Tanzer of Ko-lo-ra-doh. I guess before we get into this review of both the first Gor book and the first Gor movie, I’d like to ask how you discovered these things even existed.

Molly: Tal, Silvia Moreno-Garcia of Ka-Na-Da. May your tarn never get lice.

I actually heard about Gor from John C. Wright, that now-notorious Puppy-supporter and extreme moral panic-monger of the SFF community. In a rant about the SyFy channel’s pledge to be more inclusive by having more GLBT characters on their shows, Wright mentioned Gor derisively:

“I am hoping, of course, that future shows will also portray sadomasochism and bondage in a positive light---we are all looking forward to FLASH GORDON'S TRIP TO GOR, I hope.”

Well, given Wright’s own (possibly former? Who can say) interest in S&M, or at least spanking teenage girls, I had to google Gor - if it was so extreme as to offend him, what could it be? I remember thinking it actually seemed strange I’d never heard of the series if it was so saucy. But the back cover copy of the first one didn’t seem particularly salacious (or LGBT-friendly?), so I sort of forgot about it, because it wasn’t a rabbit hole I felt like going down that day. Years later I learned they were famous for being about sexy slave girls or something, and became intrigued.

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Breaking the Glass Slipper on "Writing Characters of the Opposite Gender"

Assassin's QuestAs humans living in the twenty-first century, I’d like to think we’ve come a long way towards achieving equality between the sexes and rejecting established notions of gender. But is it far enough? After all, we’re still having these debates, highlighting prejudice, challenging ourselves to ‘think outside the box’. If gender equality truly existed, there’d be no need to stage this conversation.

In fiction, men write women and women write men on a regular basis, some more or less successfully. Both genders ought to be able to relate to each other at the very least on an intuitive level without resorting to dangerous and unhealthy stereotypes. But, as Emma Newman recently discussed, there are still male readers who are hesitant to pick up a book authored by a woman, or featuring a female protagonist.

Why is that? Personally, I’ve never had a problem reading a book written from a male perspective; in fact the majority of epic fantasy I read growing up featured male protagonists. Why then are some readers unable or unwilling to relate to women?

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Breaking the Glass Slipper on "15 of the Amazing Women Writing Genre Fiction"

Copper PromiseWhen Breaking the Glass Slipper was asked to identify some of the issues facing female writers in genre, the very first thing that each of us replied was ‘discoverability’.

Why is it that, with the exception of long-established authors, books by women do not seem to be as widely publicised as those authored by men? Our first episode considers ‘best of’ lists, which certainly play a part in discoverability. They also remain the clearest example of inequality. Why, we wondered, do these lists not feature more than the token woman? What material are the makers of such lists drawing from? Where exactly is the problem?

Well, admitting that there is a problem for starters.

Ignorance is as bad as outright sexism when it comes to the struggle facing female writers. Discoverability is a huge issue. Our sales and therefore careers depend on our ability to reach as many readers as possible. When a great swathe of the population is closed off to us, it isn’t only our finances that suffer; it’s genre fiction too. Female voices are desperately needed if SFF is both to flourish and to retain its longstanding distinction as the genre that challenges the status quo.

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Review Round-up: Narabedla, Cold Silver and A Colder Sun

Three fantasy titles of all shapes and sizes - Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Falcons of Narabedla, Greg James' Under A Colder Sun and Alex Marshall's A Crown for Cold Silver

200px-Falcons_of_narabedlaMarion Zimmer Bradley's The Falcons of Narabedla (1957)

Mike does radio things in a Government Lab. Electricity happens, and, ker-wham, he's mind-ported to Narabedla, Last of the Rainbow Cities. Mike's consciousness rests in the body of Adric, one of Naradebla's arrogant ruling class. Adric's mind isn't totally gone, but sort of repressed, helping Mike/Adric get dressed and occasionally resurfacing in a plot-pushing kind of way.

M'Adric is thrown in at the deep end. Fortunately, there are a lot of people around who are happy to elaborate on Narabedla's history, culture and current events. M'Adric learns that the rulers of Narabedla all have a captive Dreamer under their thrall - a powerful, wish-granting psychic - more djinn than mortal. Adric, in his pre-Mike days, seems to have done something naughty and loosed one of the Dreamers. Now the entire system is under threat. Will there be a revolution? Should there be a revolution? Plots within plots, betrayals within betrayals - including Mike and Adric scheming against one another. From within the same body!

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Matthew Blakstad on "Je suis Tay"

Je suis Tay

For the past few days the internet has revelled in the precipitous downfall of Microsoft’s chatbot, Tay. This software-generated teen was hyped by its creators for the intelligent algorithms that would make it progressively smarter, the more it chatted to human beings. Well, Tay certainly became more something – but it wasn’t smart. Within a few days, prompted by persistent needling from Twitter users, the bot began to produce anti-semitic and sexist rants. Then, for good measure, it started extolling the virtues of one Donald J Trump. Familiar stuff from human users of social media, but it was rather striking to see these views expressed by a robot.

SockpuppetA few days later, Tay returned, repatched and instructed to play nicely this time; but in a matter of hours, it had to be taken down yet again, having descended this time into a drug-fuelled meltdown.

 

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The Wake: Shades of Horror and Adventure

WAKE-part oneI started writing this article several times, and came to realize two things.

First, that The Wake is simply too stuffed full of interesting things to talk about that I couldn’t possibly cover them all in the few hundred words I have, and second, that all I really wanted to talk about was the colouring.

Colourists get so little attention in the comic book world, yet their contribution is staggering and undeniable. What Matt Hollingsworth brings to The Wake (written and pencilled by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy respectively) draws out many of the themes of the book and lays them right on the page, hidden in plain sight. What’s more, The Wake is a book that illustrates the different effects colour can have excellently by neatly dividing itself into two parts - the first horror-inflected and the second full of high-stakes adventure.

At this point I’d like to say that The Wake is a book that really benefits from being read cold and with little knowledge of the twists and surprises that are waiting.

Unfortunately that makes it pretty hard to talk about without giving it all away. So I urge you, if you don’t want the surprises ruined for you, stop reading now and go read the book - you have been warned.

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Susan Jane Bigelow on "Laying Down the Cape"

BrokenCan a superhero ever really stop being a superhero? Can they quit, or retire, or even escape the heavy burden of expectation and difference for a while? That question is maybe the most important one in the entire Extrahuman Union series.

The question of whether a superhero can quit is a complicated one. The reason is that there’s a piece of being a superhero that’s all about what you do, and another piece that’s about what you are.

Those two pieces seem very different at first, but maybe they’re more similar than we think.

When we first meet the character of Broken in the book that bears her name, she’s alone on the street. She’s no longer in the Extrahuman Union, which is less a voluntary organization of superheroes like the Avengers or the Justice League, and more a convenient prison to stash superpowered humans in so they won’t cause any trouble. And she didn’t just leave: she escaped.

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One Comic travels to Bitch Planet

Unnamed

We each came to this issue of Bitch Planet with a different level of familiarity with the series - so how this one-off story worked for all our perspectives made for an interesting starting point.

Fun-fact: Bitch Planet was almost one of the first titles we ever reviewed, so it's good finally to get under its skin.

Are we ready to get the Non-Complaint tattoo too? Listen and find out.