Magical Words Link Roundup 5-2-2017

While apocalyptic beliefs about the end of the world have, historically, been the subject of religious speculation, they are increasingly common among some of the leading scientists today.

If the last decade has proven anything, it’s that people love a good zombie apocalypse. Something about the mindlessness of a shambling horde of undead just feels right to us right now—almost as if we know, somehow, the end of the world is nigh, and it isn’t going to be pretty.

Physicists have come up with a plan to build a real-life time machine that they say is mathematically consistent with known physics. And here’s the best part: they’ve named the machine a “Traversable Acausal Retrograde Domain in Space-time,” the acronym for which is actually TARDIS.

The Circle, the film based on the novel by Dave Eggers, presents a dystopian view of the direction Silicon Valley is taking the world.

One of the most exciting new science fiction shows on the Web right now isn’t exactly fun. The Handmaid’s Tale, currently streaming its first three episodes on Hulu, may repulse you, incense you, or just make you cry. But like a good workout that makes your muscles burn, the hurt of watching this series eventually results in something great.

Recently, Seanan McGuire and J.Y. Yang have talked on Twitter about copyeditors making changes which fundamentally alter the story, and not for the better. The change in question: redacting the use of the singular they—used by nonbinary characters—to whichever binary gender the copyeditor felt like substituting.

While finding biosignatures on places like Mars would be incredible, perhaps we’re overlooking something critical in the search for life in our solar system, specifically intelligent life. Take that, tiny microbes.

Judith Tarr says, “Lately I’ve been chewing over the question of horses (and animals in general) and human speech. I never liked talking-animal stories, but I never really understood why. Now I believe I do.”

Zapping an opponent may be closely associated with science fiction, but that doesn’t mean all the weapons of science fiction are guns that do some kind of zapping.

I mean, maybe Gal Gadot’s had a Jimmy Kimmel appearance that flew under the radar or something, but the fact that it was Jimmy Kimmel basically means that nobody will ever know about it because that requires watching Jimmy Kimmel to begin with.

Assassins are ubiquitous throughout fantasyland. Sharp-eyed readers (or even dull-eyed ones) will notice that their hooded forms often adorn book covers, and that they frequently appear – rather improbably – not to mind being the sole focus of our attention.

Magical Words Link Roundup 5-1-2017

Happy May Day! When I was a kid, I used to get up early on May Day (when it fell on weekends, of course) pick honeysuckle and arrange it in paper baskets I’d made the night before, and then leave the baskets on my neighbors’ porches. Yes, that was me. I know you’ve all been wondering all these years. *laughs* But on with the linky goodness!

American Gods” premieres Sunday night, but before you immerse yourself, maybe you’d like to acquaint yourself with seven interesting secrets hidden in the pages of the novel.

Making movies is hard. You have to cram a coherent plot, well-rounded characters, and up to three flashbacks of Bruce Wayne’s parents getting murdered into 90 minutes — or three hours if you’re Zack Snyder. That’s why filmmakers tend to use stock characters and recurring cliches, so they don’t have to waste 15 minutes explaining that the guy in glasses is a scientist.

Robin Hood might have been based on a real historical figure, or he could be a composite of several. He might not have existed at all. Does it really matter?

Riordan’s public decision tells us that he is aware that Native children read his books and that he wants to do right by them. In doing right by them, he’s also doing right for all children who read his books.

A supervoid is unlikely to explain a ‘Cold Spot’ in the cosmic microwave background, according to the results of a new survey, leaving room for exotic explanations like a collision between universes.

Sometimes, breaking the rules is the only way to tell a really fascinating story. Here are 10 rules of SF and fantasy that more authors should consider breaking from time to time.

“Every author has their own process they go through. I thought I’d see if I could pinpoint how I get from the thrill of finishing that first draft to nearing the point of publication.”

There is too much truth in the starving artist stereotype. Whether it be writing, painting, sculpture, dance, singing, opera, or artistic vandalistic impressionism, the arts have rarely led to the road paved with gold.

You’ve been trying to get into freelance writing for a while now. You read blogs, buy books, and attend webinars. You’re doing everything right. (Or at least you think you are.) But you’re getting nowhere fast.

Magical Words Link Roundup 4-26-2017

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected president, sales of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale spiked.

io9 explains why they believe you should reread “American Gods” before you watch the new show.

Searching for exoplanets like Proxima b is not as simple as gazing through a telescope and pointing them out.

Unless you spent your childhood living in a cupboard under the stairs or being prepared for ritual sacrifice by your cult pseudo-family, you probably have fond memories of the stories you enjoyed as a kid.

There are plenty of movies that everyone knows star magical or supernatural characters, like Harry Potter, the Marvel movies, or Fast And Furious parts 5 to infinity. And that’s fine! The problem is when supposedly non-fantasy films feed us plots that seem realistic, but are basically essentially wizardry in disguise.

Con season is fast approaching, and with it, room parties. So it might be good to know that while you might think you’re a good judge of your own inebriation, according to a recent study, we actually determine our state of drunkenness based on the people we’re drinking with.

Is there anything more validating than bonding with a friend over something obscure? Some of the best friendships began with phrases like “You watch that?!” or “You do that, too?!”

Seanan McGuire says, “Let’s talk about the power of something closed, whether or not it’s been forbidden; the mystery of the trapdoor that leads up into the attic, the powerful draw of the locked hatch that leads down into the cellar, the irresistible temptation of someone else’s fridge or medicine cabinet.”

Magical Words Link Roundup 4-25-2017

Fantasy Cafe features Fran Wilde, author of Updraft, Cloudbound and Horizon, for their Women In SF&F Month series.

The reason we don’t write more disabled characters is because disability frightens us: it can spring out of the woodwork, surprise us around a corner or suddenly strike and flip our lives upside down.

When you write scenes with physical conflict, the injuries need to be realistic.

There are a number of reasons why someone would choose to defend a specific location: to protect property or the lives of inhabitants; to secure a strategic location; to offset an opponent’s superior advantage; or because they have no other choice.

A group of aurora enthusiasts have found a new type of light in the night sky and named it Steve.

The end of the world seems bound to be a big event, and it’s tempting to assume that the cause will be appropriately large—perhaps a nuclear exchange, maybe, or a giant asteroid. But some of science fiction’s most terrifying and fascinating apocalypse stories take things in just the opposite direction. What if the end of the world, they ask, was caused by the smallest possible thing: An alien bacteria, or a strange new type of virus?

Noah Michelson says, “I first began writing poetry when I was in high school to escape the constant and merciless torture inflicted on me by the homophobic monsters I called my classmates.”

Magical Words Link Roundup 4-24-2017

There are some books that a writer really should have in their own personal for-keeps libraries. These are the books that you’ll keep coming back to, over and over, through your career.

There’s a weird moment near the end of Shakespeare’s most realist and domestic comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor, when the plot to expose Falstaff’s failed sexual exploits gets all “Midsummer Nights” dreamy.

Uhura: “Xenolinguistics. You have no idea what that means.”
Kirk: “The study of alien languages. Morphology, phonology, syntax…”

Dino Ignacio and his five-year-old daughter Harley showed their appreciation for Fisher in a unique fashion by interacting with Leia cosplayers. *Warning – you may need to have tissues handy.*

What do you call it when writers are all collected together?

Garrett Calcaterra put together this list of notable climate fiction (cli-fi) written specifically by science fiction and fantasy authors.

Sign up for Nicole Givens Kurtz‘s mailing list and get a free copy of Recruited: A Cybil Lewis SF Mystery.

In the Republic of Gilead—which once was Cambridge, Massachusetts, until the state was overthrown by a theocratic, totalitarian regime—women are defined solely by their assigned roles and the men who govern them.

I don’t know who said you couldn’t for the first time in your life. It might have been your parents, or a teacher, or a well meaning family friend. But somewhere in your origin story, someone told you that you were wrong, you were too small, you couldn’t, you can’t, you won’t.

It’s important to eat healthy when you’re writing. Read what happened when this writer committed to eating three eggs every day for breakfast.

Party Talk!

The weather’s changing, the flowers are blooming, and the writers are starting to emerge from their winter cocoons. Everyone has a drink, and we’re answering the question, “What kind of music do you listen to when you write? (If you prefer to write in silence, then what kind of music do you listen to in the car?)”

Faith Hunter
I sometimes listen to Country. But usually nothing except talk radio — NPR.

Gail Z Martin
Depends on the mood. For writing—mostly classical, smooth jazz, New Age. In the car—classic rock, Top 40, Sinatra, Buffett.

Melissa Gilbert
I like to listen to thunderstorms when I write. In the car, I have had Lady Gaga’s new album on heavy repeat. I’m also fairly fond of 60s and 70s protest songs.

Misty Massey
I don’t listen to music when I write. I have, in the past – managed to write a first draft while listening to Andres Segovia playing Bach. But after a decade of dance training, I find my thoughts dragged to choreography if I try and write with music playing. But I hate silence. So I turn the television to some random channel and let it run. The voices become white noise, and I can make words. Plus the shows end, which reminds me to get up and move around every hour.
In the car I listen to podcasts. Oh, so many podcasts…

Darrin Kennedy
When I write, it’s either silence or classical. Anything with words is too distracting.

Diana Pharaoh Francis
All kinds. I start not hearing the words in a pretty short time, so it’s just what sort of mood I’m in at the moment. Sometimes hard rock, hair bands, seventies rock, movie scores, operas, Mumford and Sons–Pretty much anything but rap. And dance music. That never blows my dress up either.

Alexandra Christian
I have complicated playlists for every story/ novella/ novel that I’m working on. Often the playlist is like a preliminary outline of the story, so the genre of music varies. For weird western, I have a playlist of old and outlaw country– the darker the better. For Sherlock Holmes, I have Victorian chamber music mixed with some goth, some steampunk, and Britpop. Doesn’t everyone do this??!!

Magical Words Link Roundup 4/20/2017

Maureen Eichner relates, “I felt a freedom to read all kinds of books: books that challenged me, and books that comforted me. Books that were too old for me and books that were too young.”

There are many kinds of humans in the world. That means there’re also many kinds of women. The logic of the above statement says two things: 1) that it is wrong for people speak out about conditions that are uncomfortable, unprofessional, or sometimes even dangerous and 2) that only people with the strength to survive a gauntlet that can include being groped onstage, being mocked publicly, having their work denigrated for no reason other than having been produced by a woman, and a multitude of other forms of harassment deserve careers and the rest are out of luck.

Tara Sparling said, “The other day, I tried a little experiment, and attempted to browse Amazon as though it were a good old-fashioned, bricks-and-mortar bookshop. It didn’t end well. It’s a miracle that my laptop survived the experiment, given my frustration.”

Chuck Wendig presents the things he’s learned after writing 20 books.

Got a hanged man’s corpse? Don’t know what to do now?

With news that a group of brave souls are going to attempt to adapt it into a TV series, the world was forcibly reminded last week that Piers Anthony is still cranking out Xanth books.

The secret to book selling is not so secret anymore. The answer lies in the unspoken pact between an author and reader, which agrees a great cover equals excellent writing. Honestly, we know the premise is false—great stories exist inside shoddy covers and vice versa—but the expectation remains.

Alyssa Wong talks about why “I’m a feminist, but -” isn’t enough.

Good.