Famous fantasy duos


Abbot and Costello. Woodward and Bernstein. Ben and Jerry. Siskel and Ebert (a moment of silence). Bert and Ernie. Thelma and Louise. Holmes and Watson. The world is rife with...

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Fool’s Errand: Fitz is back


Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb “Alone again. It isn’t fair. Truly it isn’t. You’ve the saddest song of any man I’ve ever known.”  ~Starling Birdsong, minstrel to Queen...

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Brains vs. Beauty: The Women of Harry Potter


Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I feature essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers....

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Recent Posts

WWWednesday: November 18, 2020

Paradox Bound by Peter Clines



Books and Writing:

Peter Clines offers some of his books as gifts to those who can’t afford to buy many gifts this year.

SFWA has collected a packet of information and sample documents for writers who need to protect their intellectual property in their trusts or wills.  Thanks to File 770 for this link.

Writers are unhappy with Audible because its Read More

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It: Entertaining sequel

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by K.J. Parker

I wasn’t expecting a sequel to K.J. Parker’s Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, but was delighted to see one because Parker is on my (very short) must-read list. While How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It (2020) is marketed as book #2 of his THE SIEGE series, it takes place several years later and has a different set of characters, so it’s not a requirement that you read Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City first. I’d recommend that you do read these books in order, though, because the background is a bit helpful and, in my opinion, the first book is better.

Despite the actions of Orha... Read More

Benighted: Book vs. film

Benighted by J.B. Priestley

While growing up in the 1960s, I used to love whenever one of the local TV channels would show one of British director James Whale’s Big 3 horror movies, all from Universal Studios: Frankenstein (1931), The Invisible Man (1933) and, perhaps best of all, the eternal glory that is Bride of Frankenstein (1935). What I was unaware of back then was the fact that there was a fourth Universal horror film directed by Whale, and that bit of youthful ignorance was not entirely my fault. Whale’s The Old Dark House (1932) was, for many years, considered a lost film, and it was not until 1968 that Curtis Harrington (himself the director of such horror gems as Queen of Blood, What’s the Matter With Helen? and Read More

Battle Ground: Pretty much what it says on the tin

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

THE DRESDEN FILES is a weird series, even for urban fantasy. My go-to example for non-aficionados is a wizard riding a polka-powered zombie T-rex through downtown Chicago, and that's not even the wackiest thing that's happened. So it's saying something when I have to acknowledge that the series is in a weird place right now. Maybe I should call it weird plus. Weird squared?

For once, though, when I say "weird," I'm not talking about the content so much as the form. The DRESDEN books have generally followed a pretty straightforward formula: Harry Dresden (wizard private eye, basically) is minding his own business when life ambushes him with at least two crises at once. In the process of juggling his A and B stories (and trying to figure out which is which), Dresden uncovers some kind of complication or dastardly adversary. After a heartfelt discussion with a friend over his doubts that ... Read More

Sunday Status Update: November 15, 2020

Kat: I’ve been distracted by the news, as usual, plus my work, but I did manage to read a couple of books in the last two weeks. K.J. Parker’s How to Rule and Empire and Get Away With It was a sequel of sorts to his (better) Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City. After the U.S. election I read Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, which was enlightening. Basically, research shows that (1) liberals are more “ Read More

Hatch: Oppel’s alien invasion remains full of action

Hatch by Kenneth Oppel

Hatch (2020) is Kenneth Oppel’s continuation of his MG alien invasion tale that began with Bloom. Oppel maintains the fast-paced excitement, keeping his focus on the three young protagonists Petra, Anaya, and Seth, while adding a few new characters as well. Fans of book one will not be disappointed, save by a killer of a cliffhanger ending. Inevitable spoilers for book one ahead.

In the first book, aliens were softening up Earth and preparing it for their impending invasion by seeding our planet with various deadly plant species that weren’t just dangerous to touch or eat but were actively carnivorous, though their biggest danger was a growth rate that was quickly obliterating humanity’s food crops.... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Seventh Annual Speculative Fiction Haiku Contest

Time for our seventh annual SPECULATIVE FICTION HAIKU CONTEST!  Anyone can do this!

As a reminder, here are the rules:

For haiku, the typical subject matter is nature, but if you decide to be traditional, you must give it a fantasy, science fiction, or horror twist. We expect to be told that the peaceful wind you describe is blowing across a landscape of an unfamiliar, distant planet. And if your poem is about a flower, we hope that elegant little touch of beauty is about to be trampled by an Orc. We welcome the sublime as well as the humorous, the pedestrian along with the momentous.

Though you may use the traditional three-line haiku following a 5-7-5 syllable pattern, feel free to break that pattern. Many poets who write English haiku adhere to other expectations:

Written in three lines, though sometimes in two or ... Read More

Bloom: A scary plant pandemic that now seems possible

Reposting to include Bill's new review.

Bloom by Kenneth Oppel

Three kids battle an invasive plant in Kenneth Oppel’s latest middle grade fantasy. Bloom (2020) is mysterious and thrilling all the way through. Our heroes are:

Anaya, who’s allergic to almost everything.

Petra, who’s allergic to water. She used to be Anaya’s best friend until Anaya betrayed her.

Seth, the new kid in town who’s being fostered by farmers.

When black weeds appear suddenly and grow tall overnight, nobody knows what they are, even Anaya’s botanist father. The townsfolk pull out and chop down the weeds but they just come back the next day. Nothing kills them.

It’s soon discovered that these weeds are growing all over the planet and causing sev... Read More

WWWednesday: November 11, 2020

Veterans Day:

From 2010, then Vice-President Joe Biden honors veterans at Arlington National Cemetery.


Books and Writing:

C.C. Finlay is retiring from editing The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction to direct his energy toward his own writing. With the March/Apr, 2021 issue, Sheree Renee Thomas will take the reins.

To no one’s surprise, the Odyssey writers workshop will be online in 2021. It looks like they have some good offerings. The registration deadline is December 7, 2020 and cost varies depending on the workshop. (Thanks to File770.)

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The Wizards of Once: A rock-solid premise

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

What caught my attention with The Wizards of Once (2017) was the opening paragraph, which describes the forests of ancient Britain thusly:

These were forests darker than you would believe possible, darker than inkspots, darker than midnight, darker than space itself, and as twisted and as tangled as a Witch’s heart.

Who wouldn’t want to read a story set in such a place? The hook continues with an introduction to the two main characters: a boy from a wizard tribe with no magic, and a girl from a warrior tribe with a banned magical object. The boy Xar is desperate for magic, and the girl Wish is just as determined to keep hers a secret.

Naturally their paths will cross, and it should come as no surprise to learn that because their respective tribes have been at war for so long, they don’t exactly get off on the righ... Read More