Ritual Reality: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Tombs of Atuan

Ritual Reality: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Tombs of Atuan

Worldbuilding is exhausting. It requires a massive amount of mental energy to imagine and then codify an entirely new world with all its nooks and crannies, its politics and customs. To expedite this process, many works of fantasy rely on familiar tropes as a shortcut, allowing vast institutions to be explained away by a few [...]

God and Grief: As Cities Burn’s “Timothy” and Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris

God and Grief: As Cities Burn’s “Timothy” and Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris

"It's not the cold making my legs shake," sings Cody Bonnette at the outset of "Timothy", the final, grueling track from As Cities Burn's sophomore LP, Come Now Sleep. As the song unfolds it becomes clear that what's making the narrator's legs shake is, in fact, grief. Across its nearly 13-minute run time, "Timothy" explores [...]

Odd Couples: 5 of the Weirdest and Best Friendships in Fiction

Odd Couples: 5 of the Weirdest and Best Friendships in Fiction

As I watched the Stranger Things 3 trailer for the 40th time, I had the same thought that occurs to my brain every couple of hours: With all due respect to my wife, I will never know a relationship as pure and loving as the Steve-Dustin bromance. For my money, Steve evolving from a self-important douche [...]

The Analogy: Edwin Abbott’s Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

The Analogy: Edwin Abbott’s Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

At the outset of A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit explains how the book was inspired by a student bringing her an ancient koan: How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you? I don't know that Solnit ever satisfactorily answers that question, unless the [...]

Murky Depths: Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Murky Depths: Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Getting Lost is ostensibly a collection of essays on the varying ways that we, as the title suggests, "get lost." Solnit approaches the idea of getting lost through the baseline implication of finding yourself directionless in an unknown place but, much more interestingly, she also approaches the idea from [...]

Slow Down: James Gleick’s Faster and Dead Swords’ Enders

Slow Down: James Gleick’s Faster and Dead Swords’ Enders

Before I even arrived on campus for my freshman year, I had a homework assignment. A copy of James Gleick's Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything had been sent to every incoming freshman at my college and we had been instructed to read it prior to orientation. At the time, this really pissed me [...]

Hunting: Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea

Hunting: Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea

Having loosed a monster that he does not understand and which threatens to destroy him, Ged spends much of A Wizard of Earthsea running. The titular wizard's constant flight eventually leaves him wholly exhausted and on the brink of annihilation, at which point he returns to the mage who was his first master, Ogion. Under [...]

Under Fire: 4 Adults Who Completely Failed in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Under Fire: 4 Adults Who Completely Failed in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

During the interminable hours that are spent rocking my teething son back to sleep in the middle of the night, I've taken to re-reading old books on my Kindle. As I made my way through Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with my son fussing, squirming and, eventually, sleeping in my arms, I couldn't help [...]

Auri & Cheney: Patrick Rothfuss’ The Slow Regard of Silent Things

Auri & Cheney: Patrick Rothfuss’ The Slow Regard of Silent Things

Maybe it's because I'm not a clocksmith or maybe it's because this is a bizarre thing to even consider but I've never been emotionally attached to a gear. Well, more accurately, I had never been emotionally attached to a gear. And then I read Patrick Rothfuss' The Slow Regard of Silent Things and goddamn if [...]