This new clip from American Gods Season 2 is worrisome

The first season of American Gods was great. Ian McShane! Ricky Whittle! Gillian Anderson! Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy? Perfection.

And then, after the season wrapped up, shit went down. Show runners left. So did Gillian Anderson. Chaos ensued. The production finally managed to get their act together and BOOM, the trailer for Season 2 was released, promising us more dark whimsy than we deserve.

This new scene released by Amazon, however... isn't great. Maybe it's the fact that we're seeing it out of context. It's a wee bit of story in the middle of a much greater epic. But it feels a little bit off: there's no tension here. The level of creepy that Crispin Glover usually delivers isn't there. It's a quick clip, but damn, does it drag. If Amazon and Starz were looking to whip up excitement in the show's fan base, this seems like a really strange clip to release into the wild.

I'm hoping I'm wrong. I hope that, knowing all the behind-the-scenes drama, I'm reading into trouble that isn't there. But man, I'm kinda worried about the quality of Season 2 now. Read the rest

Flash fiction: Monologue by an unnamed mage

Cassandra Khaw's shockingly good 3-page short story Monologue by an unnamed mage, recorded at the brink of the end takes a genre and an archetype and distills from them a perfect moment that embodies and exceeds both.

Uncanny Magazine:

That they dragged us back, bound in brambles and bronze, that they made us choose between being separated or being part of the vanguard against the apocalypse, all that is of no importance. That we laughed at their ultimatum, that we said yes, that we held hands as they told us we probably wouldn’t come back, that is what matters.

What matters is that I love you and that I will always love you, and I won’t let them have you, even if I have to husk myself of all that I am and splinter the universe again. You’re mine and I am yours, and what are gods to people who have seen the continents fold up like paper planes?

Read the rest

The artist behind these spellbinding witch hats almost stopped making them after her first one

These stunning felted-wool witch hats are the handiwork of a Kentucky-based fiber artist named Kate.

The world of fantasy felted creations is her full-time job now. On top of creating them, which she sells in her shop Felt Wicked Art, she also teaches felting workshops all over the United States and offers downloadable tutorials to would-be hat makers. But she writes that she nearly gave up after making (and selling) her first hat at a craft fair:

I made a few "normal" hats before making my very first witch hat. It would be unrecognizable today as my style, with just a few wrinkles and some embellishments. At that point it was really more of an experiment and I was actually a little self-conscious of it. I took it to a craft fair though and it to my surprise it sold that day. It was a relief that someone else thought it was interesting too, as some part of me still just wasn't sure. And I almost didn't make any more. I didn't want to go through that vulnerable process of making something unique and then asking people to give me money for it. In the end though I just couldn't stop myself from making another one, and then another one, not necessarily because I even wanted to sell them but just because I loved the hats so much! I'm glad I stuck with it."

We're glad you did too!

Kate's bewitching hats are available through her Etsy shop and her website. Read the rest

On the role of truth and philosophy in fantastic fiction

Fantasy and science fiction author and political activist Steven Brust (previously) was this year's Guest of Honor at Philcon, an excellent Philadelphia-area science fiction (I have also had the privilege to be Philcon's GoH, and it's a great con); his guest of honor speech is entitled Truth as a Vehicle for Enhancing Fiction, Fiction as a Vehicle for Discovering Truth, and he's posted a transcript to his blog. Read the rest

Every fantasy map

EotBeholder on Deviantart nails decades of derivative genre fiction and gameplay with "the only fantasy world map you'll ever need."

Wow, almost four years later and this thing just exploded. ... To anyone asking for permission to use this for their own campaigns... I mean it hardly qualifies as "original", so as long as you're comfortable stealing from someone who steals from the people who only steal from the best, knock yourselves out :)

If I could make some additions (which I suppose I could, but, nah) I'd call out the Boring/Doomed Pastoral Village somewhere in the Tiny Bickering Fiefdoms or the Land of Poncy Knights, and also add a Giant Wall to Keep the Monsters Out. Giant walls are so hot right now.

I love the comments and tweets from fans of specific franchises (such as Forgotten Realms or Riftwar) who think it is specifically a parody of their favorite fantasy world. See TVTropes' entry for the fantasy world map and, specifically, the left-justified fantasy maps.

The map of Allansia from the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series is a nice professionally-drawn example.

Previously. Read the rest

UPDATED: The US Patent and Trademark Office is ready to hand over an exclusive trademark for "Dragon Slayer" for fantasy novels

Update: The USPTO has withdrawn this from publication for "further review."

Michael-Scott Earle, a self-publisher of "pulp harem fantasies" is seeking a trademark on the use of "Dragon Slayer" in connection with fantasy novels. Read the rest

Free ebook! Charlie Jane Anders' award winning debut novel "All the Birds in the Sky"

Charlie Jane Anders' Nebula-award-winning 2016 debut novel All the Birds in the Sky is the next Tor.com Ebook Club selection: that means you can get a free ebook, and then participate in a group discussion with Tor.com's most excellent and perspicacious readers. Read the rest

Former Archbishop of Canterbury on Tolkien as a warning against fascism

Here's former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on J.R.R. Tolkien, often seen as a reactionary but also the creator of a myth of Englishness completely opposed to fascism and other rotten boughs of capitalism.

So, how do we now respond to Tolkien’s imagined world, a world that is hierarchical, notoriously short on female agents, and which was accused by the poet Edwin Muir of being populated exclusively by different-sized schoolboys? As with Lewis, the complaint about implied misogyny is regularly coupled with worries about racial stereotyping, the romanticising of violence and the reduction of moral issues to cosmic battles between absolutes.

It is worth noting that Peter Jackson’s superbly visualised film versions of Tolkien’s novels if anything intensify some of these problems. But things are not quite that simple. ...

...he ends up writing, despite himself, a story that is more of a novel than a myth. Myths have no authors, it has been said. Even with the apparatus of invented language and ethnography, Tolkien’s history and “legendary” are haunted by the self-awareness of a particular type of 20th-century author: English, Catholic, academic, intensely aware of the devastation of a very specific England by industrialisation and urbanisation, more stoical than optimistic, yearning for a shared social narrative that would reaffirm certain solidarities of faith and mutual respect; deeply conservative but just as deeply opposed to unexamined power and the tyranny of profit.

Read the rest

Hiroshi Unno's 'The Art of Fantasy, Sci-fi and Steampunk'

I can not read or understand very much of Hiroshi Unno's The Art of Fantasy, Sci-fi and Steampunk, but it is a visual treat!

This tome collects images and art from novels, early fantasy and romance to steampunk. Unno catalogs the incredible maturation of fantasy art work from the 19th century today.

I spent a couple hours leafing through this book, and it will live on my coffee table for quite a while.

The Art of Fantasy, Sci-fi and Steampunk by Hiroshi Unno via Amaozn Read the rest

Pay what you like for DRM-free, award-winning Canadian sf

The Aurora Award Bundle 4 includes ten books that were finalists for, or won, Canada's Aurora Award for excellence in science fiction and fantasy, including the outstanding Napier's Bones and Sean Stewart's monumental Resurrection Man. (Thanks, Derryl!) Read the rest

SON OF COCKY: a writer is trying to trademark "DRAGON SLAYER" for fantasy novels

Back in May, the romance writing community was rocked by a scandal after author Faleena Hopkins started enforcing a trademark over the common word "COCKY" in the titles of romance novels; I predicted then that there would be some sociopaths who would observe the controversy and decide that it was an inspiration, rather than a warning, and start trying to use trademark to steal other words from writers and their titles. Read the rest

Kickstarting Dream Askew and Dream Apart, no-dice, no-GM RPGs about radical justice, queers and Jewish shtetl life

Dream Askew and Dream Apart are "no-dice, no masters" RPGs where players collaborate to tell stories together without dice or dungeon masters: Dream Askew uses the system to create campaigns in "a queer enclave enduring the collapse of civilization" and Dream Apart is set in "a Jewish shtetl in a fantastical-historical Eastern Europe." Read the rest

Exploring the politics and history of alternate universes at the Templin Institute

If you haven't seen any of the videos produced by the Templin Institute, then you are in for a real treat. Templin is a shadowy online organization of deep sci-fi, fantasy, and game geeks who post a prolific number of extremely well-done documentary video essays covering the histories, politics, factions, cultures, and characters behind dozens of sci-fi and fantasy universes.

I have binge-watched dozens of episodes covering aspects of Star Wars, Star Trek, Fallout, Mad Max, Dune, Harry Potter, Warhammer 40,000, Aliens, and many more. They do a really impressive job of putting together these essays using film clips, screen caps, concept and fan art. The writing and narration are also well-done and extremely informative. I learned a lot, even about fictional universes that I already know way too much about.

Recently, the Templin Institute has announced a crowd-contributed sci-fi universe that they are creating themselves. They are going to allow their viewers to submit planets, races, factions, and the like, and the best/most popular ones will be incorporated into the world and future videos. I love this idea. I just hope it doesn't take too much away from their weekly coverage of existing fictional worlds.

You can follow them on their YouTube channel, Twitch, and Facebook. And you can support them on Patreon, if you like what they are doing. Read the rest

Jim Henson's 'Labyrinth' returns to theaters for 3-day fan celebration

David Bowie and his bulge will be viewable on big screens nationwide come April 29, May 1, and May 2. Fathom Events' three-day fan celebration will bring back Jim Henson's 1986 fantasy Labyrinth to select cinemas. Audience members are encouraged to wear costumes.

The event will include exclusive introductions by Brian Henson and Jennifer Connelly. In addition, audiences will enjoy a special theatrical screening excerpt from the award-winning fantasy series “The Storyteller.”

In case you thought you imagined the enormity of his bulge... you didn't:

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Kickstarting a print revival of Amazing Stories, the world's oldest sf magazine

Ira Nayman writes, "I'm the Managing Editor of Amazing Stories, which was the first true science fiction magazine (Hugo Gernsback published the first issue in April, 1926; yes, the Hugo Awards were named after him). In its time, it published such luminaries of the genre as Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, E. E. 'Doc' Smith and Arthur C. Clark, to name a few. Read the rest

Steven Brust's "Good Guys," a hardboiled noir urban fantasy, with everything great about Brust on proud display

Steven Brust is a literary treasure and his longrunning Vlad Taltos series, now nearing its final volume, is a good example of where his strengths lie: hardboiled plotting, snappy dialog, weirdly realistic and plausible depictions of magic, and a sensitive eye for power relationships and their depiction, all of which are on display in his latest, outstanding novel, Good Guys, about the minimum-wage sorcerers who investigate magical crimes on behalf of a secret society.

Monsters Beware! is the long-awaited sequel to Giants Beware! and Dragons Beware! and it is AAAAAAMAZING!

Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre's middle-grades graphic novels Giants Beware! and Dragons Beware! are two of my family's favorite books: Rosado and Aguirre's character design, comedic dialog, plotting, and scenarios are so charming, so funny, so overwhelmingly, compulsively great that we've re-read these dozens of times; now we've got Monsters Beware, the third volume in the series, where the mysteries of Mont Petit Pierre and the intertwined lives of the huge cast of characters from the previous volumes come together.

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