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Worlds Without End Blog

Falling for Falling in Love with Hominids Posted at 8:00 AM by Charles Dee Mitchell


Falling in Love with HominidsThis collection of stories has been my introduction to Nalo Hopkinson. I have read a few other stories in anthologies, but I’ve never settled down with one of her novels, although I have the best intentions of doing so.

Especially after having read Falling in Love with Hominids, which is a pleasure from beginning to end. All of what I have thought of as Hopkinson’s major themes are here: race, gender, feminism and the folklore of her Caribbean heritage. (Unless you are really up on your Caribbean folklore, expect to do some serious googling with a few of these stories. I learned the Jamaican slang term for off-brand sneakers among other things.)

Hopkinson writes a short introduction for each story. In one of these she remembers her response to a student worried about tactics for suspending the reader’s disbelief. Hopkinson’s advice was, “…never give them time to disbelieve.”

I think that must work, because looking over the notes I jotted down in an attempt to remember these eighteen stories, I find descriptions that sound much weirder than the stories as I experienced them.

Delicious Monster – son visits father now living with gay lover. Why is Vishnu to leave with Garuda during solar eclipse?

The Smile on the Face – St. Margaret of Antioch. Google her. Do kids still play post office?

Raggy Dog Shaggy Dog – ruthless orchid pollination

Message in a Bottle – kids with big heads travelers from our future. All species make art.

Emily Breakfast – lazy Saturday morning for gay couple. A stolen chicken. Cats can fly. Chickens breathe fire. Lizard messenger service.

Old Habits – why would one shopping mall have such a high mortality rate?

Nalo HopkinsonSo she doesn’t give the reader time to think about all the strangeness because it surrounds you from the first sentence. Or it could also sneak up on you.

Hopkinson has contributed to the Bordertown Project, a shared world anthology begun by Terry Windling. Bordertown exists on the edge where the mundane world meets the world of magic. That actually sounds terrible to me, but “Ours is the Prettiest,” Hopkins contribution included here, navigates the terrain with grace and humor. And her description of how her protagonist made the transition to Bordertown could describe the process she puts her readers through in her own ficition.

The Change happened slowly… At some point it crossed my mind that the flashily overlit Honest Ed’s Discount Emporium seemed to have seamlessly metamorphosed into a store called Snappin’ Wizard’s Surplus and Salvage… but they were always bulldozing the old to replace it with something else… By the time I had to accept that I was no longer in Toronto and those weren’t just tall, skinny white people with dye jobs and contact lenses, it didn’t seem so remarkable. People changed and grew apart. As you aged, your body altered and became a stranger to you, and one day you woke up and realized that you were in a different country. It was just life. I hadn’t needed to travel to the Border; it’d come to me.

Hopkinson brings the border to us.

Thor: The Dark World Review Posted at 5:41 PM by Jonathan McDonald


Thor: The Dark World

Thor might be seen as the stuffy older brother of the Marvel film franchise family, but Thor: The Dark World proves that there’s plenty of adventure and jolliness to be found in stories about a Norse space god. I enjoyed the first film in the franchise well enough, but like many others I found it to be a bit too origin-heavy and melodramatic. I suppose The Dark World has more than its share of melodrama, but the many lighter asides help balance that out.

You have to give Marvel credit for going whole hog with their goofy cosmology that they’re lifting almost verbatim from the comics. The idea that the Norse cosmology of Nine Realms connected by the World Tree Yggdrasil is in any way comprehensible in conjunction with modern astronomical systems is absurd, but I have a wry admiration for the producers who insist on keeping this conceit going. In The Dark World the Nine Realms are under threat of annihilation by the Dark Elves, a race from the Realm of Svartalfheim, who existed before the current universe, and yearn to plunge all the Realms back into the primordial darkness. The Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) was the leader of the last attempt at darkening the universe by using the artifact known as the Aether, and he was driven to the stars by Odin’s father Bor in a military campaign. Every five thousand years or so the Nine Realms align, giving Malekith the opportunity to try destroying the universe again. It just so happens that this alignment is beginning right now…

Thor has been busy keeping the Nine Realms orderly after the events of the first film. When the rainbow bridge-slash-wormhole device Bifröst was destroyed in Thor, the Realms ceased to benefit from the Asgardians’ beneficent ruling power, and began a quick descent into civil unrest. Thor and his armies are run ragged putting down rebellions of monster armies, and he hasn’t had time–or permission–to visit his human lover Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). That changes when Foster happens upon a hole in reality, one that transports her to another world, where the Aether is waiting to be released. This is the first of a few overly convenient plot devices that get things moving in the film, but when you compare this to the thin gruel of characterization and plot in The Avengers, this movie almost feels like Shakespeare. Which is ironic, considering that Kenneth Branagh is no longer involved with the franchise.

Actually, the comparison to Shakespeare is not without its merits. The Dark World is a melodrama operating on multiple levels: the grand and courtly paradise of Asgard, and the ridiculous comedic realm of Earth, with some dark fantasy realms in between. It’s not unlike many Elizabethan tragedies in the way it transitions between the “high” and “low” players on the stage. On Asgard and the other space worlds, we see betrayal, family conflict, jealousy, battles, and political intrigue. On Earth we have light comedy, romance, humiliations, and screwball humor. It’s surprising how well it all works together. Not that The Dark World is actually anywhere close to the level of Shakespearean drama in terms of artistry, but it’s good that the filmmakers have ambitions.

Chris Hemsworth is solid as Thor, with plenty of opportunity to flex his dramatic and comedic muscles, in addition to his, well, actual muscles. Natalie Portman is decent as Jane Foster, who was sort of a bland character from the beginning, and basically becomes a plot device in The Dark World. Tom Hiddleston has little to do as Loki in the first half of the film, but his interactions with Rene Russo as his mother Frigga and with Anthony Hopkins as Odin are a strong highlight. Christopher Eccleston is surprisingly bland as the movie’s villain, considering some of the more flamboyant roles he has played in the past. Kat Dennings as Foster’s assistant Darcy Lewis gets more than a sidelined role this time, and provides the bulk of the movie’s laughs.

Thor: The Dark World is fun, ambitious, ridiculous, spectacle-ridden, full of plot holes, and a pleasure to experience. Your mileage may vary depending on how serious and logically consistent you want your superhero movies to be, but for what it is, The Dark World is not a bad movie. I would love to see more attempts at creating superhero films that don’t rely so much on silliness and melodrama, and with Hollywood recognizing the financial potential of the genre, maybe some day we will. There are plenty of good superhero comics just waiting to be adapted, after all.

Game of Thrones: In Memoriam Posted at 2:28 PM by Jonathan McDonald


This video from Comic-Con is but a small slice of all the characters who have lost their lives. Or so I’m told; Dave’s the Game of Thrones watcher around here.

Forays into Fantasy: Gertrude Barrows Bennett’s The Citadel of Fear Posted at 9:40 PM by Scott Lazerus

Scott Laz

Scott Lazerus is a Professor of Economics at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison, Colorado, and has been a science fiction fan since the 1970s. The Forays into Fantasy series is an exploration of the various threads of fantastic literature that have led to the wide variety of fantasy found today, from the perspective of an SF fan newly exploring the fantasy landscape. FiF will examine some of the most interesting landmark books of the past, along with a few of today’s most acclaimed fantasies, building an understanding of the connections between fantasy’s origins, its touchstones, and its many strands of influence.

The Citadel of FearIn the midst of the Women of Genre Fiction Challenge, I’d like to direct your attention to Gertrude Barrows Bennett—possibly the most important female writer of speculative fiction that you’ve probably never heard of. Her sustained run of fantasy fiction published between 1917 and 1923—around a dozen stories, including five novels—have led to a growing acceptance of her importance to the history of the genre, following decades of neglect.

Bennett (1884–1948) turned to writing when her journalist/explorer husband died while on an expedition, soon followed by her father, leaving her with a newborn daughter and invalid mother to support. She seems to have stopped writing after her mother’s death. Following her disappearance from public view, and prior to the idea being debunked in 1952, it was quite widely believed that Francis Stevens—the pseudonym under which Bennett’s work was published—was actually a penname of A. Merritt, probably the most popular and influential fantasy writer of the first third of the twentieth century (though much less well-known today). It turns out; however, that the similarities of their writings, which led readers to assume “Stevens” was Merritt, were quite likely the result of Bennett’s own influence on Merritt, who acknowledged his admiration for her works, and the inspiration he received from them. (Mention has also been made of H. P. Lovecraft’s endorsement of her work, but this story seems to have been apocryphal.)

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Teaser Trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Posted at 11:59 AM by Jonathan McDonald


What do you think? Does this mark an improvement over the first movie, or will part 2 of the series be a Two Towers-esque slog? The movie trilogy is clearly a different animal from the novel, and I have to wonder if Desolation will be Peter Jackson’s sandbox for much of the new stuff he’s adding to the story.

George R. R. Martin Responds to Critics Posted at 1:53 PM by Jonathan McDonald


Didn’t like last week’s episode of Game of Thrones? Martin has a few words for the fans.

WoGF Review: Briar Rose by Jane Yolen Posted at 12:59 PM by Allie McCarn


WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeGuest Blogger, Allie McCarn (Allie), reviews science fiction and fantasy books on her blog Tethyan Books. She has contributed many great book reviews to WWEnd including several Grand Master reviews featured in our blog. Allie has just kicked off a new blog series for WWEnd called New Voices where she’ll be reviewing the debut novels of relatively new authors in the field.

Editor’s note:  This review was submitted on the last day of May and counts for the May challenge poll.

Briar RoseBriar Rose by Jane Yolen
Published: Tor, 1992
Awards Nominated: Nebula, World Fantasy, and Locus Fantasy Awards

The Book:

”The fairy tale Briar Rose held a special significance to Becca’s grandmother, Gemma. She told it constantly to her grandchildren, and it became clear that she considered herself the princess in the story. Though her telling differed in some respects to the commonly accepted version, Rebecca always preferred to hear the story from her grandmother.

When Gemma died, Becca and her family realized that they knew very little about her. Her life before she arrived in the United States during WWII was shrouded in mystery, to the point where her family didn’t even know her original name. Rebecca has few clues to work with, but she’s determined to uncover the mystery of her grandmother’s past.” ~Allie

I am kind of surprised that this book appears to be classified as fantasy, since I would probably have called it mainstream YA fiction. I think it will still count as genre fiction, though, since it has won several fantasy awards. Therefore, this is my May novel for the Women of Genre Fiction challenge at WWEnd, and also a review for the Once Upon a Time Challenge (fairy tale category).

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The Wizard of Oz Coming in IMAX 3D! Posted at 11:15 AM by Jonathan McDonald


Wizard of Oz in 3D

It seems that Hollywood studios just can’t stop tinkering with their movies. IGN is reporting that Warner Bros. is remastering The Wizard of Oz into 3D and IMAX format for an October 2013 theatrical release celebrating the film’s 75th anniversary.

“75 years later, The Wizard of Oz continues its reign as a multi-generational favorite, with nearly 100 percent awareness among adults and more than 80 percent awareness among children,” said Jeff Baker, WBHE EVP and GM, Theatrical Catalog. “In this new 3D version, the film is bound to make history all over again — with both past and future fans.”

No word yet on whether or not all the film’s original practical effects will be updated with CGI.

Amazon Instant VideoRent or Purchase The Wizard of Oz (in glorious 2D) from Amazon Instant Video

WoGF Review: Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi Posted at 6:30 PM by Charles Dee Mitchell


WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeGuest blogger and WWEnd Uber User, Charles Dee Mitchell, has contributed a great many book reviews to WWEnd including his blog series Philip K. Dickathon and The Horror! The Horror! He can also be found on his own blog

Mr. FoxWhen I finished Helen Oyeyemi‘s novel, Mr. Fox, I immediately turned back to the opening chapter. It wasn’t that I had so enjoyed it that I planned to read the whole thing over. I was just trying, although it had been only a matter of a couple of days, to remember how on earth this thing had begun.

In the first chapter, Mr. St. John Fox, who despite his high-flown name appears to be the successful author of violent potboilers, receives a visit from Mary Foxe. When he hears her come in, he assumes at first it must be his wife Daphne, a woman we will learn later spends much of her time in her room, depressed and suicidal. Mr. Fox has not seen Mary for six or seven years. He tells her he loves her. They have a brief, odd conversation which ends when Mary says, “You don’t love me. You love that.” She bares her breasts, lifts her dress up over her crotch, pulls her hair, and slaps herself on the face.

How could I have forgotten such an opening? In my defense I can only say that a lot happens in Oyeyemi’s brief novel. In the next pages, Mary appears as an importunate fan and fledgling writer vying for Mr. Fox’s attention in an exchange of letters dated 1936. There is another narrative thread involving Mr. Fox and Daphne. There are interpolated stories, apparently the work of Mr. Fox, although a couple may be Mary’s and some may appear just for effect. And Mary, by the way, is not a real human being. She is Mr. Fox’s muse, a constant cause of Daphne’s jealousy, at least until they get to know one another toward the end of the novel.

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Peter Jackson Teases The Hobbit 2 Posted at 12:53 PM by Jonathan McDonald


Not a lot of info in this one, but Stephen Colbert and Billy Boyd both make appearances, and Jackson teases some Mirkwood-related artwork for the second film.

If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check out the first in my series examining the history of film adaptations of The Hobbit in “Hell is Adaptations: The Hobbit!