A Matter of Oaths: An interview with Helen S. Wright

Power by Paul Calle (1963)A Matter of Oaths highres When A Matter of Oaths was first published in 1987, featuring an older woman as a space captain and centring on two men of colour in an intense, romantic relationship, it was a hard sell: 'I have a rejection letter from a well-known editor saying that they wouldn’t buy the book because the gay relationship was so integral to the plot, even though they weren’t a homophobe, nor were many in the SF audience (!). Apparently, I wasn’t "breaking new ground" and risked "alienating some readers."'

The book follows Rafe, a young webber with a mysterious past, who joins the crew of Bhattya, a patrol ship under the command of Rallya, an aging, grumpy, and talented woman in denial about the end of her career. As an oath breaker, Rafe is shunned by many, but aboard Bhattya, not only is he given a second chance, he also finds support in his quest for his own identity.

When I read the first few chapters of A Matter of Oaths, I realised instantly that it was right up my street. Discovering that it was tragically out of print, I knew I had to track Helen down and see if there was anyway she’d want to work with us (reader, I signed her). To my complete delight, we are going to be republishing her book, bringing it to a new generation of readers, and I wanted to find out what Helen thinks about the changing landscape of science fiction from then to now, and also pick her brain about her writing.

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He Said/She Said: Star Trek, Reboots, Discovery and The Final Frontier

Star Trek Discovery

In He Said / She Said, we're too lazy to write things properly, so we interview one another. A bit like a podcast, but with much worse production quality. 

Jared: Star Trek is something we talk about every now and then (including a whole theme week in 2009!), but even then, we've only ever scratched the surface. I mean, there's a lot of Trek: TOS, TNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise (which I had completely forgotten ever existed), Discovery, a whopping 13 films, and a vast ecosystem of merchandise, books, games and other spin-offs. 

From this whirling mass... which is your Star Trek? When someone (like me) says 'let's talk Star Trek', what comes to mind?

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A Field Guide to Mary Stewart's Romantic Suspenses

My Brother Michael

Stewart introduced a different kind of heroine for a newly emerging womanhood. It was her 'anti-namby-pamby' reaction, as she called it, to the "silly heroine" of the conventional contemporary thriller who "is told not to open the door to anybody and immediately opens it to the first person who comes along". Instead, Stewart's stories were narrated by poised, smart, highly educated young women who drove fast cars and knew how to fight their corner. (Guardian)

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If/Then: The 2017 Pornokitsch Gifting Guide

ODY-C
ODY-C (Matt Fraction and Christian Ward)

[Updated! Now with recommendations from Becky Chambers, Stark Holborn, Adam Kranz, Jesse Bullington, Anne and Jared]

[Updated again! More recs from Jesse!]

[And again! New recs from Kirsty Logan!]

Tis the holiday season! But giving stuff can be hard. Not because you're a bad person (you're great!), but because people are really difficult, and, odds are, they've got all the obvious stuff already.

To help you spend your hard-earned money on the people you love, we've asked our contributors, guests and online-passers-by for some gifting suggestions.

We've all followed a simple 'If/Then' formula - helping you find the right gift for that very specific oddball in your life. (Or, yourself. We don't judge.) We'll keep updating with more recommendations over the next few weeks, so check back for even more assistance with your last-minute panic-buying!

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Fandom, Metalheads, Goodreads and Tactility

Roadside service sign (1955) (via Space Age Museum)
Roadside service sign (1955) (via Space Age Museum)

A touching story

Professor Fiona Candlin has been trying to figure out why we keep putting our grubby little fingers on things in museums:

Touching, Candlin says, is "part of a much bigger, more imaginative encounter with things—trying to somehow make contact with the past." And there are countless ways of facilitating this type of contact, it seems. Recently, she says, a former head of conservation at the British Museum told her about a visitor who came into the Egyptian sculpture gallery and left tins of cat food as an offering for the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet. (Atlas Obscura)

As always, it all comes back to books. Physical books are less convenient, less accessible, less easily purchased, and more expensive. So why do they exist at all? The inertia of tradition can only carry the presence of physical books so far.

Studies Candlin's show that tactility has a deeply, perhaps neurologically, rooted appeal. Can publishers of physical books rely on this mysterious force? Or is there something they can do to build on it?

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From Christie to Bolaño: Adam Roberts' Five Favourite Puzzle Whodunits

Adam Roberts - The Real-Town Murders

I love puzzle whodunits. On account of my crime-novel-loving mother I grew up in a house full of them, which meant that—when I ran out of SF titles—I would pick a green-liveried penguin off the shelf and read that instead: Margery Allingham; Michael Innes; Ngaio Marsh; Edmund Crispin. And of course Agatha Christie. I read huge numbers of such books growing up. I still read them today.

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Eartha Kitt, Yzma's Skin Care, and "Snuff Out the Light"

Yzma

"Snuff Out the Light" is a deleted song from Disney's finest movie, The Emperor's New Groove. You'll undoubtedly remember that Groove was oddly... ungroovy. There's a feisty Tom Jones number to introduce Kuzco and a gruelling Sting number over the credits, but, well, that's it. Unless you count this. All in all, kind of a waste of Eartha Kitt. 

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101 Explanations, or why good people are buying a bad thing

1023300-disney-announces-101-dalmatians-diamond-edition

Anne and I were wandering around Knightsbridge (not our normal stomping ground!) and noticed the rise of, well, fuzziness in luxury fashion. It got us thinking: is fur back?

According to this piece in Business of Fashion on the fur trade, well - yes. And it is because of - wait for it - Millennials. The ultimate irony. After being accused of killing everything from diamonds to desktops, Millennials have actually been murdering bunnies.

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Hubble, bubble, toil and feminism: Witches in comics

Caos1

Halloween is upon us and the usual parade of monster, ghouls and goblins are sure to be out in force. Chief among those will be the 'big three': vampires, werewolves and, of course, witches.

Unlike the first two, however, witches have a real-life history every bit as chilling as the stories in literature and film. The persecution of women (and, less often, men) for the crime of witchcraft is widespread and well known, with the most famous example being the witch trials in Salem in the 1690s. 

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Pennywise and Paper-Thin: Why IT’s clown is too two-dimensional to be terrifying

Pennywise by Caspian WhistlerSo, you know the drill: spoilers ahead.

A few months ago, when we rolled out The Official Pornokitsch Taxonomy of Villains ™, I promised two things: An Obsessed, and a Monster. Half of that promise was fulfilled last month with our look at Khan(s). This month, I deliver on the second half by focusing on the most notorious monster of 2017: Pennywise the Dancing Clown, from Stephen King’s It. I’ll mostly be focusing on the 2017 film version, but will reference other versions as appropriate, since the most famous portrayals – i.e. the novel, the 1990s miniseries, and the latest film – all differ in some respects.

So, let me start with the obvious bit, something we’ve all known in the deepest recesses of our beings since childhood:

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