Science Fiction Feed

Friday Five: 5 From The Future Fire

The Future Fire X

This week we're handing the reins over to Djibril al-Ayad, editor of The Future Fire. The magazine is celebrating its tenth anniversary. If you're interested in supporting both The Future Fire and its long tradition of critically-lauded anthologies, you can back it (and receive lovely goodies) here.

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The Future Fire’s tagline, as it has evolved over ten years of publishing, promises “Feminist SF, Queer SF, Eco SF, Postcolonial SF and Cyberpunk,” all this in the service of social-political speculative fiction and showcasing underrepresented voices.

I’ll try here to recommend five awesome stories that demonstrate what we mean by these five categories (and what we’d like to see more of in the zine). I’d love more recommendations from you along these lines in the comments!

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A Fast Click to The Long Way

TLWHey, guess what's out today? Again? In a new way?

Becky Chambers' award-winning and absolutely sensational The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is now available in both ebook and glorious hardcover. 

The story of The Long Way is pretty well-known at this point, but, in case you want to relive it, here's the Guardian on how this kickstarted debut novel became one of Hodder & Stoughton's summer blockbusters.

Here are how a few people have reacted to the book:

"It is a quietly profound, humane tour de force that tackles politics and gender issues with refreshing optimism." - Guardian

"Humane and alien, adventurous and thoughtful, vast in its imagination and wonderfully personal in the characters it builds. But above all else, it is joyously written and a joy to read." - Claire North

"A joyous, optimistic space opera. Although it isn’t shy about tackling Big Questions, Planet is a heart-warming debut novel that will restore your faith in science fiction (specifically) and humanity (in general)." - Tor.com (uh, me)

"Does The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet really live up to the buzz? The answer is a resounding, and unconditional, YES!" - SFF World

"A refreshing, joyous book that skips neatly around convention, and – with the flick of a page – sucks you utterly into its world, so much so that you become reluctant to leave the Wayfarer and its crew" - Stark Holborn

"This is an impressive debut from an exciting author. If the series continues in this vein, we’re sure to have a new sci-fi classic on our hands." - We Love This Book

"Imagine smashing the groundbreaking, breathtaking science fiction of Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch saga against the salty space opera of The ExpanseThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet lacks the wall-to-wall action of that latter, and some of the former’s finesse, yes—nevertheless, Becky Chambers’ debut is a delight." - Tor.com (not me)

"What it is, rather, is a book about friendships, about chosen families and how they form, about being on someone else's side, about banding together while still being yourself. It's about people making a living in a hard universe, together. It's full of heart, and I loved it.... It was the most emotionally satisfying book I've read so far this year." - The Eyrie

"In a perfect world, all books would give me the warm fuzzies the way The Long Way To A Small, Long Planet did. It is a delightful novel, full of witty repartee, nice people being nice to each other and developing warm and important relationships be them romantic or not. I can’t wait to read more from Becky Chambers." - The Book Smugglers

And, in case you need some introduction to Becky's writing - you can find her blog hereher columns for us (yay) here, and, hell, here's a (very) short story.

Or, better yet, just buy the book. (Amazon / Waterstones / Foyles / Audible)


Zot! The Complete Black & White Collection by Scott McCloud

Cogolj3cB8gXEthAl52IhcKIKW2pmYA+Gl!w8rbMsYH!BRIAG5OUet9tcq9F2XjffXkZsjELHH1dotzfe59Az0QlsOj5uNIjDVK!VrUaAbeWsW1OYzkgsRAdZgmVYczuThe first two-thirds of Zot! (1987 - 1991) are certainly enjoyable enough. Scott McCloud creates a fun, thoughtful, and zany superhero pastiche featuring the invulnerable teenaged Zot and his Earth-pal, Jenny.

Zot fights surreal foes who are rarely menacing, except in their ability to provoke existential crises. The 'villains'  often embody abstract concepts, and rare do little more than rant and, er, make art. These portion of Zot! are oddly charming, although not spectacular - perhaps because, as a superhero epic, we're expecting more in the way of action. Or, at the very least, palpable tension.

The superhero stories pick up some assistance from the notes at the end of each arc. I'm generally not so fussed about this sort of whatnot, but McCloud is nothing if not a thoughtful creator. Especially as a reader that's not familiar with art and its history, having McCloud explain his influences and ambitions was surprisingly useful. Similarly, McCloud draws thoughtful connections between Zot! and its autobiographical inspirations as well - how his personal life changed his work (and possibly vice versa).

If Zot! stopped two-thirds of the way through, it would've been an educational read, and an enjoyable one. And that's about the end of it.

But... then there's the final third of the collection, the 'Earth Stories'. Which elevates Zot! to being one of the best comics ever created.

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One Comic + Puns = A Bad Match

Mercury-Heat-1-00

Over at One Comic Mansion ("One Comic Assemble!") we try not to talk for talking's sake, as seen in this not-even-twenty-minutes show about issue one of Mercury Heat. We got in, said what we needed to, and got out again. And in passing, we talked a bit about a series called Whiteout from Oni Press, which you should definitely check out.

But back to the matter at hand. Listen here, or add the show to your feed: 


Friday Five: 5 Contemporary Comic Book Classics

CopperheadAs Jon noted in an earlier post, the One Comic crew really enjoyed taking the piss out of the ludicrous Comixology blurb for Alan Moore's Providence #1. A very good comic, definitely. "A breathtaking masterpiece of sequential art"? That's a very tall order.

(Here's our review, by the way. Our verdict? "Dunno.")

That said, what contemporary comics are masterpieces? Classics in the making? Or just 'important'? Or, to phrase it more accurately, "Today is Friday and I really need a post, so here are five comics I've liked recently."

So let's get to it...

Copperhead (Jay Faerber / Scott Godlewski)

Summary: SPACE WEIRD WESTERN PUNK NOIR. A sheriff with a mysterious past rocks up to the backwater world that's her new home. What should be a quiet rural (SPACE-rural) posting immediately heats up with theft, murder and alien-monster attacks.

Why it might be a masterpiece of sequential art: SPACE WEIRD WESTERN PUNK NOIR. A tidy little mystery, well-integrated SF elements, excellent Western inflection, and the sort of rebellious punk atmosphere that comes from casually revisionist themes and badass art. 

Why it might not be a masterpiece of sequential art: SPACE WEIRD WESTERN PUNK NOIR. It is, you know, what it is. Firmly encamped in genre traditions, and happily bouncing around inside the boundaries of (multiple) genres.

Breathtakingness: A light gasp of elation.

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Friday Five: 5 Terrific Techy Ladies in Sci-Fi

Brave New GirlsThis week's guest is Mary Fan, co-editor of the brand new Brave New Girls. The anthology collects science fiction stories featuring "brainy young women who use their smarts to save the day". That is to say: it not only brings readers a whole pack of awesome role models, but they're also clever stories featuring brains over brawn.

All proceeds from Brave New Girls are being donated to a scholarship fund set up by the Society of Women Engineers, so buy with confidence - you're not just reading about bright futures, you're helping make them. With no further ado, we'll hand over to Mary...

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It’s no secret that there aren’t a lot of women in science and tech, both in the real world and in fiction. Which is a shame, really. There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem around this issue—are techy women not depicted in sci-fi because they’re rare in real life, or are they rare in real life because girls don’t see themselves depicted in those roles and therefore don’t pursue those careers? The fact is, pop culture is a powerful influencer, especially on girls and teenagers. And the scary thing is, your career is dictated by decisions you make as an impressionable kid (think about it… the college major you pick at age 19 determines whether or not you’ll become a research scientist).

While there are plenty of ladies in sci-fi, they’re usually not put in the science and tech-based roles. The scientists, hackers, engineers, etc. are usually guys. But every so often, you’ll stumble upon a character that makes you go, “Yes! More of her, please!” Here are five brainy sci-fi ladies who use their smarts to save the day:

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Pygmalia: Robocop (1987 & 2014)

This year I’m selecting twelve Pygmalion stories—or stories that contain echoes of the Pygmalion myth—and essaying on them. I already have a few in mind, but please feel free to suggest others in the comments or on Twitter @molly_the_tanz 

Robocop 1987It’s a two-movie column this month at Pygmalia! In a fit of madness I watched the 2014 Robocop remake and realized it could sort of be considered a Pygmalion story, which led me to re-watch the original Robocop, which is much better… even if it’s less of a Pygmalion story. Let’s see if I can straighten out my thoughts into something coherent below…

Robocop (1987) and Robocop (2014)

Robocop is the story of… uh, if you haven’t seen it, probably you still know it’s about “Robocop,” who is part robot, part cop. (Or “part robot, part man, all cop,” according to the poster). Anyways, how much of Murphy is man or robot cop is debatable—and debated—in the original and the remake. In both, the eponymous Robocop, Alex Murphy (the cop part of Robocop), is injured in the line of duty, terribly, and then is reconstructed into a really scary machine man—ostensibly to better protect the city streets of Detroit, but really, there’s more going on than that. 

In Robocop 1987, Robocop is the pawn of Bob Morton, AKA Agent Rosenfeld of later Twin Peaks semi-fame (he was also the voice of the villain in Mulan. The more you know!). Morton works for OCP, a shady tech firm who develops weapons for the Army, which has also been signed to privately revitalize the overworked and underfunded Detroit P.D. When the movie begins, it doesn’t seem like OCP has really put any actual money (or weapons) into the hands of cops; instead, they developed genuinely scary robot monsters called ED-209s in the hopes that they’ll clean up the streets better than the cops.

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Friday Five: 5 Great Steampunk Writings that Aren't Actually Steampunk

This week's Friday Five host is Andrew Kane, co-creator, producer, writer, and voice actor for Rude Alchemy: serial radio theatre-style podcasts melding history, mystery, horror, and comedy available for free on iTunes, Stitcher, and www.rudealchemy.com. He has written plays for children and adults including The Resurrectionists (developed by 1812 Productions) and Little Red (developed by Montgomery Theater). He plays guitar and sings in the roots-punk band Old Town Wake.

He is also, judging by the list that follows, a man of impeccable taste...


In the land of speculative fiction, steampunk has blossomed from spunky upstart to sub-genre titan. Steampunk and its lesser-appreciated nieces and nephews cyberpunk, dieselpunk, biopunk, nanopunk, etc. have stirred the imagination of millions worldwide, spawning blogs packed with colorful stories, tumblr accounts dripping with gorgeous fan art, and conventions teeming with velocipede-riding, mustache-twirling, hoople-skirt wearing true believers. People, steampunk has its own World’s Fair.

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