The Harry Potter Reread: The Deathly Hallows, Epilogue

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows US cover

The Harry Potter Reread is gonna cry because how did we actually reach the end of this? Sure, we’ve got a couple movies left, but this is sad! It’s a time for handkerchiefs and toasts!

This week we’re going to deal with one of the most contentious pieces of the Potter mythos. It’s time for the Epilogue….

Index to the reread can be located here! Other Harry Potter and Potter-related pieces can be found under their appropriate tag. And of course, since we know this is a reread, all posts might contain spoilers for the entire series. If you haven’t read all the Potter books, be warned.


Epilogue—Nineteen Years Later


It is a crisp autumn day on the first of September, and Lily Potter is clinging tearfully to her father’s arm because she won’t get to attend Hogwarts for two whole years. His two sons, James and Albus, have continued an argument they were having in the car; Albus is insistent that he will not be in Slytherin House, and James keeps teasing him, saying it’s a possibility. Ginny gives him a look, silencing him. James rushes through the barrier at Platform 9 and 3/4. Albus turns back to his parents and asks if they’ll write to him. Ginny promises she will every day, if that’s what he wants. When Albus points out that James said kids only got letters about once a month, Ginny tells him that they wrote James three times a week last year—and Harry wants him not to believe everything his brother tells him about Hogwarts.

They walk through the barrier and make it onto the platform, which is thick with vapor, obscuring everyone’s faces. Harry can hear Percy giving a lecture on broomstick regulations and passes him by. They finally happen upon Ron, Hermione, and their two children, Rose and Hugo. It’s Rose’s first year at Hogwarts as well. Ron makes a joke about Hermione thinking he’d have to Confund the examiner to pass the Muggle driving test (which he admits to Harry that he did do). Lily and Hugo are talking about what House they want to be Sorted into when they finally go to Hogwarts, and Ron teases that if they’re not in Gryffindor, they’ll be disinherited. Lily and Hugo find this funny—Albus and Rose do not. Hermione insists that he doesn’t mean it, while Ron directs Harry’s attention to Draco Malfoy and his wife, seeing off their son, Scorpius. Ron tells Rose to beat him at every test, while Hermione amusedly tells her husband not to set the kids against each other before they’ve even started school. He advises Rosie not to get too friendly with him either way, since her grandfather would never forgive her for marrying a pureblood.

James rushes back to give the family news—he caught Teddy Lupin snogging Victoire (Bill and Fleur’s oldest). Lily thinks it would be great if they got married, so Teddy could really become a part of the family. Harry points out that he’s over at their house half the week, so they should just invite him to live with them and get it over with. James is excited at the prospect, offering his room to Teddy and deciding he’ll stay with Albus, but Harry nixes that, saying “You and Al will share a room only when I want the house demolished.” Harry checks his watch (one that used to belong to Fabian Prewett), and tells the kids that they better get on board. Ginny tells James to give Neville their love, but James insists that he can’t walk into Herbology and give Professor Longbottom love. He gives his brother a kick and tells him to watch out for thestrals, dismaying Albus, who thought they were supposed to be invisible.

After James has boarded the train, Harry assures Albus that thestrals are gentle anyhow, and that he’ll be approaching the school by boat this time. Ginny gives him a kiss goodbye and Harry gives him basic advice: Don’t forget his tea invitation to Hagrid’s on Friday, don’t mess around with Peeves, don’t duel until he’s learned how to do it properly, and don’t let his older brother wind him up. But Albus asks his father what will happen if he does end up in Sytherin, and Harry realizes that his fear is sizable, one that he’s been hiding this whole time. He kneels down to look Albus in the eye (Albus is the only one of the Potter kids to get Lily’s eyes), and tells him plainly—Albus Severus Potter was named for two Hogwarts headmasters, one who happened to be a Slytherin, and “was probably the bravest man I ever knew.” When Albus protests again, Harry insists that the worst thing that could happen would be for Slytherin House to gain an excellent student. But he also reveals that the Sorting Hat will take his choice into account if he’s that worried… which is something he’s never told his other two children. The doors are closing, and Albus hops onto the train, asking why so many of the students and parents are staring toward Harry. Ron says it’s because he’s extremely famous, prompting everyone to laugh.

Harry walks alongside the train, smiling and waving, though he feels a certain amount of sadness seeing his son slip away. Finally, the train is gone, and Ginny tells Harry that Albus will be all right. Harry says he knows, absentmindedly touching his scar:

The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.


A large portion of Potter fandom hates the Epilogue.

And I do mean hates—or maybe loathes, or disdains, or pick another very angry word. Some of the complaints are valid, of course, but I’m going to say a thing that will probably bug everybody—I think the epilogue is just fine. For a multitude of reasons, actually. So I guess I’m going to have to explain that piece by piece, addressing the common problems that fans often have with this bracket of text.

Let’s start with one of the biggest complaints: The names of the kids.

There are endless memes and jokes over the names given to the kids, and there are a few common jabs in that arena. They are usually 1) none of Ron and Hermione’s kids are named after important elders 2) Why are all the Potter kids only named after people important to Harry 3) OMG ALBUS SEVERUS, R U KIDDING?

Here’s the thing. In Harry’s family, these names are all memorials. With the exception of Lily’s middle name (which is, adorably, Luna), all of the names given to Harry’s kids are after people who died as a result of the war against Voldemort. Molly and Arthur are alive—also, Rowling later said that Percy’s daughter is named Molly, so she has already had her name passed down. Some fans think that Ginny would have liked to have named one of her boys Fred, but it seems only right that George gets to use that name for his kids—which he does. (He and Angelina have two kids, Fred and Roxanne.) This is also why Hagrid’s name isn’t used; he is very alive here, which Rowling makes a point of telling us.

Then why don’t they use Remus Lupin’s name? Harry loved him, after all, and Remus also died as a result of the war. But my guess is that he left that name open in case Teddy wanted to use it for one of his own kids. You can have more than one kid with the same name in a cluster of close families, but that can get pretty confusing. Plus, taking that kind of ownership over someone in Teddy’s family when the poor kid can barely remember his parents is kind of selfish. So they leave that name alone. His first son gets the names of his father and godfather, his second son gets the names of the two men arguably most responsible for shaping his life.

Here’s the thing. It seems to me that people who take issue with the name choices are mostly upset with what they perceive as Harry’s reasoning behind picking those names. As though Harry is saying “these four men were the greatest men to walk the earth and I think my kids would be so lucky to be named after them!” And that’s really not the point. At all. The point is that he knows the flaws of each of these men quite well—and still wants to honor them.

Harry loves his father. His father who has been his protector, his Patronus, since he was thirteen years old. He learns over time that his father wasn’t the idol that he perceived him to be, and he accepted it. Whatever anyone wants to believe, the narrative is trying to tell us that James Potter used to be a jerk, then he got (mostly) better. He was a good husband and a loving father and a brave soldier in a horrible war. He died trying to protect his family. Harry knows that his father wasn’t a perfect man, and he comes to terms with that. But he still loves him.

Harry loves his godfather. His godfather who was the first living link to family that he ever had. His godfather, who was put under considerable strain by the Order of the Phoenix by being shut up in a house he abhorred, who never really emerged from Azkaban as a whole, healthy person. Who rushed to save his godson because he so desperately needed to feel useful, and as a result, got himself killed. Harry is aware that his godfather had a difficult life, that he tried his best, even when he was acting on the wrong impulses. Harry still loves him.

Harry loves Albus Dumbledore. The headmaster of Hogwarts manipulated him from the very beginning, from infancy, in hopes that he would become the right man to win this war against Voldemort. Dumbledore hid essential information from everyone, made every step of the journey as difficult as possible. Dumbledore knew to do this because he came all too close to going along with a man who wanted ultimate power, and he paid the price for that youthful mistake. Harry knows that Dumbledore meant well and cared for him, that he was trying to make up for wrongs he had committed long ago. Harry still loves him.

And yes, Harry loves Severus Snape. Harry knows that the man was petty and cruel, that he was an awful teacher, but that he lived a life that very few would be able to bear up under. He was brave. And he lived that life to make up for causing the death of the woman he loved. Whether or not that love was healthy or wanted, Severus Snape consigned himself to a life of misery to try and make good on that fatal error. He showed remorse for what he had done. Harry knows that Snape never cared for him, that he could only be reminded of James’s arrogance when he looked at him, and only once saw past that to Lily’s eyes. Harry still loves him.

Harry recognizes that each of these men were deeply flawed. But he loves them. (Don’t ever forget, love is the most potent magic in this universe.) And more importantly, he forgives them. Naming his children after them is absolution. It’s the possibility of these names meaning something even better going forward. It’s a second chance that none of them received. Maybe some people think it doesn’t feel realistic for Harry to be so kind in the aftermath of everything he was put through, but that really is his defining characteristic as a human being, so….

(Also, it kind of makes me laugh when people insist that Harry should have named one of the kids after Hagrid as though Hagrid didn’t constantly endanger his life growing up, perhaps more recklessly than Dumbledore ever did. I understand that he never meant to, but that doesn’t make him the one true saintly father figure here.)

So yes, Albus Severus Potter. The name makes perfect sense. But it’s probably more than that, if we’re being honest. Let’s be real here—Albus is probably Harry’s favorite. They have the Lily’s eyes connection, but moreover, Albus is clearly the most like his father out of his siblings. It means something very special for him to have both these names, to the be the one that we’re seeing off on the Hogwarts platform rather than James or Lily. And it’s very important that this particular son, the one who is so scared he might end up in Slytherin House, carries these names. Where this leads—which we will know once Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is available for everyone to read—is still something of a mystery, but we know that it matters.

Which brings me to the next complaint: That all the kids have intermarried predictably (many to their school sweethearts) and had nuclear families in the space of two decades.

There is a particular post on Tumblr where someone (I’m forgetting their username, forgive me) rightfully points out that the reason why this ending might have read hollow to kids in 2007 is because of the world we were emerging into at the time. We were on the cusp of the recession, many of us still kids ourselves. Kids who had no intention of marrying our high school sweethearts, who were coming into our own at the same time the world imploded. Stability was something that none of us could count on, and this idea of the perfect job complete with a pie-in-the-sky family and 2.5 kids just a few years out of school was utterly alien to us.

These criticisms are spot on. There’s only one problem—this wasn’t supposed to be our happy ending.

Look, I’m saying this as a person who has no particular banner to wave in the name of heteronormativity. I’m queer and married without kids, but I don’t personally care much if other people get married and have babies. Do what makes you happy, and enjoy your time on earth. Having said that, this ending makes perfect sense to me.

I think it’s really easy for readers of this series to forget that though many of us grew up with these characters, they’re older than the majority of the readship was at the time. The Battle of Hogwarts occurred in 1998. At the point where this epilogue takes place, Harry and his friends are all about 37-38 year old. James is going into his third year at this point—we know because Rowling Sorted him in September of 2015. That means he was born when Harry was about 25 and Ginny was about 24. That means that Rose, Hermione and Ron’s first kid, was born when they were both about 27.

Here’s another aspect that is often not taken into account: the fact that the wizarding world’s coming of age is seventeen means that having kids in your mid-twenties for them is about the same as having them in your early thirties for the rest of us. Think about it—wizards don’t go to college. They apprentice, many of them getting internships or training programs into the jobs they want straight out of school. (Provided that they don’t take that traditional year off to travel, as Dumbledore wanted to.) In the western world, you’re generally done with your first degree between the ages of 20-22. In the wizarding world, it’s more like eighteen. They have a head start on all of it, so it stands to reason that you might be thinking of getting married five or six years out of Hogwarts, and then having kids a few years later.

A lot of these kids basically marry their significant others from school, which is obviously most true for the trio.  Couple things on that. One, the wizarding world seems to be pretty darn small, at least country to country. The pool for people around their age isn’t crazy big provided they want to stick to England, and marry someone who knows about the magical world. But two—and this is the biggest bullet point by far—these kids came of age during a war for which they were the primary soldiers.

That’s it. Period. Any argument you might have that this is not realistic is derailed here. You know what happens post-wars? (Also during wars, as evidenced by Lily and James and Remus and Tonks?) Lots of people get married and have babies because they can’t believe that they’re alive and everything seems precious. We have an entire generation named for that, thanks to World War II. Did you notice that the name of Bill and Fleur’s first kid translates to “Victory”? (Side note: she was born on the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, likely the second one in 2000.) And, for the record, a lot of those people do marry their school sweethearts. With these kids, it makes even more sense that they intermarry, since it would be really nice to marry someone who fought in the same war and knew what you’d gone through. This idea that these people would want years to find themselves and shop around the dating scene simply doesn’t add up with their life experiences. Harry even says it when he gives up the Elder Wand—he’s had enough excitement and trouble. Now he wants to rest, he wants comfort and safety.

It doesn’t mean that none of these people did anything after the war, that they somehow didn’t live up to their potential. Harry and Ron head the Auror Office, though eventually Ron decides that’s still bit much for him, and ends up working at the joke shop. Hermione continues her crusade for the rights of magical creatures, and Ginny gets to play on a professional Quidditch team before becoming a sports reporter. All of these people have rich lives and accomplish what matters to them. They just happened to decide that having families was equally important. I’d say they’re entitled to that.

The epilogue is here to show us that life goes on, as it always does. Kids get onto the train and head to school, parents say their tearful goodbyes, Teddy Lupin is in love with Victoire Weasley because that’s what happens. It’s life. Draco Malfoy is on the platform with his wife saying goodbye to his son because Voldemort couldn’t shatter any of this, couldn’t destroy the simple turn of the earth. Post-war generations are seldom innovators. They want to return to what makes them feel at home. So here they are, on the platform for the Hogwarts Express. Home. It’s up to their children to take the next step, to make the world more vibrant, a little crazier.

Which is why I dearly hope that Albus Potter gets Sorted into Slytherin House. The wizarding world is ready for change. He’s part of the generation that can make that happen.

All that aside, this epilogue is full of wonderful bits and pieces. Neville is the Herbology Professor! Draco’s kid’s name is Scorpius! Percy still really likes talking about regulations! Teddy Lupin is so much a part of Harry’s family that he basically lives at the Potter house part-time!

What’s more, it seems as though Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny are thoroughly enjoying parenthood, and their kids all seem pretty great. (There’s a fandom tendency to dump on James because at first blush he seems to be some ungodly combination of James, Sirius, and Ron, but I’m not sure that it’s fair to judge the kid for a few lines of nosy dialogue and a kick.) Interestingly, Harry seems to have a slightly hands-off approach to parenting unless he perceives that his input is wanted; he doesn’t make mention of the Sorting Hat giving you a choice of house until it’s clear that Albus is scared, but he leaves him with the advice not to duel anyone until he “knows how.” Which suggests that he knows it’s likely inevitable and mainly wants to prevent sizable accidents.

Which is to say, it’s boarding school and there’s very little you can supervise after a certain point.

Here is the thought I’d like to leave everyone with: What no one seems to truly consider is that this happy ending isn’t meant to be ours—it’s J.K. Rowling’s. A woman who started writing this series to cope with the death of her mother, who had to contend with poverty, divorce, single-motherhood. A woman who ended this series happily married again, with more children and more success than anyone on earth could have dreamed up. This ending belongs to her. She had the draft for it written from the first book, and she manifested it for herself. This is the life she wanted. No war, no pain, just peace.

Personally, I find that beautiful.

Final Thoughts

Wow. We made it.

I was really scared that my memories of this book were too rosy, that rereading it was going to somehow tarnish my feeling about the series. In fact, it might have done the opposite. Sure, I can see the narrative strings better now than I did when I was younger, but the core of the story is still strong as ever. The ending is incredibly well done. The only complaint I really have is that we don’t get enough of Ron and Hermione at the end. I can see why spending too much extra time with them would have been distracting, but considering how much they gave up to this quest, it would be nice to see more from them.

This reread on the whole has really helped to remind me of what made these books so important in the first place, and a lot of that is down to everyone who read along (whether you commented or not). So thanks to all of you for being amazing and insightful, and prompting some really interesting questions and conversations!

Of course, when this book was first released in 2007, we were left with a strange vacuum—what now? Sure, there were a couple of movies left, but that was it. Now we have a brand new film to look forward to, and a two-part play that continues the saga.

Which brings me to an announcement: the Deathly Hallows movies won’t be the end for us, will it? Obviously, we have new information coming up, and following our rewatch of the two films, I will be in London! More specifically, I will be seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child this June while it’s in previews. So, following the movies, I will have non-spoiler and spoiler reviews up, and there will obviously be plenty to discuss. I hope you’ll all join me again either in June or July (when you can finally get your hands on the script!)

So this is sort of ending, but in a way it’s not. Seems fitting—when we started this reread, I had no idea that Potter was going to experience a resurgence. Hopefully, it’s a good one, and we’ll be back in the thick of it, like it’s the early aughts all over again.

Emily Asher-Perrin still thinks that Albus and Scorpius Malfoy should date, even if that’s not likely to happen. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

Pull List: Star Wars: Poe Dameron


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Oscar Isaac took off his helmet, his tousled hair cascading around his face, and Finn and the internet collectively fell in love. And now thanks to the Disney merchandising machine we all have a chance to spend a little more quality time with the greatest addition to Star Wars canon since Mara Jade. Who I guess is technically not canon anymore thanks to The Force Awakens. So…um…how ‘bout the galaxy’s best pilot, eh?


Origin Story

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens with Poe Dameron collecting a vitally important thumb drive with part of a map to Luke Skywalker on it from a mysterious journeyman named Lor San Tekka. Tekka is hiding out in a village on Jakku, a desert planet that years before was the scene of the final stand in the war against the Empire after Leia, Luke, Han, and a gaggle of Ewoks won the Battle of Endor. Poe Dameron is a new series that tells the story of how Poe ended up in Tekka’s tent beginning with General Organa sending him and his crack Black Squadron—Snap Wexley, Jessica Pava, Karé Kun, L’ulo, and Oddy Muva—off into the galaxy to track down Tekka. But Poe’s not the only one after that map. The First Order is hot on his trail and it’s going to take all of Poe and his Black Squadron’s smarts to stay ahead of them.

The first issue of the ongoing series Star Wars: Poe Dameron was released by Marvel on April 6, 2016, with the second on, of course, May the Fourth. Writer Charles Soule (like, literally everything), artist Phil Noto (2014 Black Widow, Star Wars: Chewbacca), and letterer Joe Caramagna (Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel) are the men in charge of bringing to the page the rebellion’s greatest pilot. Plus a bonus Bill Watterson-esque comic at the end of #1 done by Chris Eliopoulos and Jordie Bellaire featuring everyone’s favorite orange and white robo-ball, BB-8. Sadly no bonus comic in issue #2.


To Pull or Not to Pull


Straight up: I loved this comic. I could probably just end this review there, but for your sake I’ll keep going. I am a lapsed original trilogy fan and massive The Force Awakens nerd. Aftermath was one of my favorite books of last year. And the amount of money I’ve spent on TFA merch in the past five months has left a serious dent in my bank account. Frankly, Poe Dameron could’ve been a dozen pages of nothing but Oscar Isaac photos and I’d still give it two thumbs up. Poe Dameron isn’t the best comic book on the market. If I’m being honest, it’s a solid B; not the best ever but far from meh. I loved it anyway and smiled from first panel to last because yay Star Wars!

There’s nothing especially surprising in the series, and since we know how it will to end there likely aren’t going to be any major twists and turns between now and then. Although the series is billed as ongoing, there’s only so many adventures to be had between the Crèche temple and the attack on the Jakku village. In other words, don’t get your hopes up for a bi Poe or any other major canon upsets.

Good news is that the story itself is pretty darn fun in a classic Star Wars way. It’s a fun little side adventure that expands the universe while sitting comfortably within canon. While searching for Lor San Tekka Poe encounters a religious cult that worships a blue egg and has to convince them to help him while also protecting them from the First Order. Captain Phasma sends Agent Terex, an ex Imperial stormtrooper, to recover from Poe the intel he intercepted between a New Republic spy and the First Order. Poe and BB-8 get cut off from Black Squadron and have to rely on their wits to get them out of it.

Poe willingly puts himself in danger to protect the helpless but also has enough faith in his team to trust that they’ll be there when he needs them the most. There are daring acts of heroism, brash piloting, and charming confidence galore. If you read the Star Wars: Princess Leia that came out last year (and if you haven’t, you totally should) you’ll see why Leia has such a soft spot for our dashing hero. In fact, there’s quite a bit of similarity between the two stories—about as much as between A New Hope and The Force Awakens—with both heroes traveling similar arcs albeit with very different end results.


Charles Soule has perfectly captured Oscar Isaac’s puppy dog playfulness. Moreover, he nails the type of characters this updated Star Wars ‘verse contains. I could see a guy like Terex popping up in Chuck Wendig’s pre-TFA books. The original trilogy always felt a little too cloistered to me, but this new expanded universe feels exciting and vast…crunchy and meaty…real.

Phil Noto’s artwork also handily reproduces the cast in fine detail, leaning heavier on realism than most comic books. The combination of Soule’s dialogue and Noto’s art makes the story feel almost like a deleted scene from the movie rather than a standalone title. Occasionally the art tries too hard to be realistic and comes off instead as static as if the images were stills from a camera, but most of the time it flows at a nice clip. The fight/action sequences work particularly well as set pieces. Joe Caramagna has some fun with the sound effects and BB-8’s chirpy “dialogue.” Even Chris Eliopoulos and Jordie Bellaire’s adorable short about BB-8 playing matchmaker to a couple of resistance fighters is squee-inducing.

Like just about every other Star Wars comic book, Poe Dameron is a ton of fun and definitely worth the read, especially if you’re a fanatic like me. For more casual Star Wars fans who don’t have an extra $3.99 lying around every month, hey, there’s nothing wrong with being a trade-waiter. In the meantime, it’s not like you don’t have a ton of other amazing Star Wars fics to read or anything.

Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

Evil Captain America, DC Rebirth, and the Dubious Arms Race of Mainstream Comics

Captain America Hail Hydra twist Nazi wtf Marvel Comics

It’s been an interesting 24 hours in mainstream comics. Both Marvel and DC have made massive changes to big parts of their respective universes, and the comics internet is still reeling from both. Neither change has gone down particularly well—with many readers crying foul over what they perceive as an intentional misdirect or a cheap gimmick—but both tell us an awful lot about the tensions inherent in writing mainstream comics right now.

Let’s start with the Star-Spangled Man with the, it now seems, Insidious Plan. Captain America relaunched yesterday, with a new issue #1 and a new creative team. Jesus Saiz’s artwork has been some of the most consistently impressive in the industry for over a decade; Nick Spencer’s massive ambition and intricate plotting has marked him out as one of the best of the new wave of writers. This is very close to a creative dream team, and it shows: The art is brawny, clean, and expressive, and the script is well-designed and neatly expands Cap’s world. Steve Rogers was, for some time, aged to the point where he couldn’t serve as Captain America anymore and handed the shield off to everyone’s favorite pararescue specialist, Sam Wilson. Now de-aged, Steve is back in the field next to Sam and fellow superheroes Jack Flag and Free Spirit. This is a really smart call because not only does it not undercut SamCap (who’s GREAT, by the way), but it also makes Captain America more of an idea than an individual. Seeing the paragon of virtue represented not by one man, but by a diverse group, is smart and, honestly, pretty inspiring.

Which is why the ending is so shocking.

While extracting Doctor Erik Selvig (Hi, Stellan Skarsgård! Welcome to comics!) from the custody of Baron Zemo, Cap’s life is saved by Jack Flag. He rewards the young man by apologizing and hurling Jack out of a plane to his apparent death. Then he says two words: “Hail Hydra.”

Twenty-four hours after publication, Nick Spencer has received death threats, the issue has gotten massive press coverage. and a lot of people are very, very unhappy. Spencer has been accused of destroying a multi-decade legacy, of rendering Cap meaningless as a character, and of insulting the memory and ideals of the two Jewish comic creators who gave us Steve in the first place.

That last charge we’ll come to in a moment. The first two really don’t stick because, well, firstly Disney just made a billion dollars from the third Captain America movie so Cap 4: The Nazi Years isn’t even in the room, let alone on the table. To be clear, there is no way Cap is going to be a Nazi forever. That would destroy an immensely bankable movie franchise. Not to mention be complete anathema to a character defined by his opposition to those ideals. Spencer’s run will certainly explore the idea, but there’s no way this will stick.

Captain America classic shield World War II Nazis Hydra

Secondly, this—like very nearly every run on very nearly every Western comic that’s gone before it—is going to have little or no long-term impact on the character. Batman used to be paralyzed. Green Arrow used to be dead. She-Hulk… well, She-Hulk has always been fabulous, her wardrobe has just improved. All longform comics, especially superhero comics, eventually return to an equilibrium. They’re a reset button with speech bubbles and an issue number, and this run is no exception.

So, looked at that way, no, this run has not destroyed a multi-decade legacy. It also hasn’t rendered the character meaningless in the slightest. Rather, the views he expresses here seem designed, as the run goes on, to bring what Cap truly is into even sharper focus. That’s why there’s the larger cast, too: because Captain America is an ideal, not an individual. With Spencer taking Cap into dark waters, it looks like the extended cast will be carrying that ideal by themselves for a while.

Which just leaves us with the charge of insulting the memory of his creators. And that’s harder to shake off.

The MCU hasn’t made many mistakes, but arguably one of its biggest is tying Hydra irrevocably to the Nazis. Metatextually, it makes perfect sense to make Cap a World War II veteran because it grounds the movies, and him, in a way that’s helped them immensely. Cap’s role as part of the Greatest Generation has powered him towards a level of fan engagement and investment that’s not been seen before.

Cap is in his seventh decade as a character, and across that time, there have been evil Cap stories. But he has never essentially sworn loyalty to Hitler before; and by having Cap aligned with Hydra, that’s exactly what he’s doing. So in that way, the twin forces of the immensely successful movies and the constant need to do (temporarily) new things with the character push him, and the readers, down a path a lot of them are going to have very serious problems with.

But does this run insult the memory of Cap’s creators, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby? That’s an impossible question to give a universal answer to, especially with only a single issue in print. Some people will say yes; others will say no; and still more will be uncomfortable, interested, and keep reading. That last group, Marvel are gambling, will be the largest. I know I’m part of it.

And speaking of gambles, DC’s own Hail Mary pass has had less of a direct, visceral response but is arguably a far more complex and, in some ways, more troubling move.

Also released yesterday, DC Universe: Rebirth Special #1 is a special issue that lets lots of genies out of bottles. The long-banned romantic relationships between characters are back, the original Wally West has returned to the DCU, and there are hints of much more to come. Most significantly, the issue reveals that the entire cast has had a decade of their lives stolen by a malevolent unseen force that’s been monitoring them. A force that, at the end of the issue, is revealed to be Doctor Manhattan from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen. And he’s preparing to attack again…

This plot will unfold across the next two years in many DC titles, because massive longform continuity is apparently also back. Or, to put it another way: The chances of this ending in two years’ time with the DC heroes all clustered on one side of a cover punching a very large, very naked, and very blue man on the other side?

Pretty high right now.

DC Rebirth cover Watchmen Dr. Manhattan

Could this be Dr. Manhattan’s hand on the cover of DC Rebirth? (Art by Gary Frank)

Alan Moore has, for very good reasons, long been in dispute with DC over a variety of issues, including Watchmen. He’s gone as far as saying on the record that he would prefer the prequel series, Before Watchmen, not happen at all than to be paid for it. It happened anyway. With the decades-long and very public dispute with Moore in mind, tying one of his greatest works to the DC Universe at the atomic level feels, bluntly, like a cheap shot.

In fairness, that may not be the intention. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, writer Geoff Johns said:

I think Watchmen is a great book, but I don’t think a cynical take on superheroes is the truthful one.

Johns’ reasoning is sound—Watchmen was the grim and gritty superhero story that broke out into the mainstream in the 1980s—but using the series this way feels both dangerously backward-facing and reductive. Mainstream comics have constantly buckled under the weight of metatextual commentary for decades now. With that in mind, a two-year visual fisking of Watchmen’s ideas and motifs seems more likely to exhaust than entertain. That’s even before we get to the frankly weird idea that longform continuity is going to attract new readers, or that this won’t play like an extended attack on a book—and a creator—that simply isn’t needed or warranted. Worse still, laying the blame for the excesses of the New 52 at the feet of Watchmen is a little like blaming the career of Michael Bay on John Woo.

So, Captain America is a Nazi and Doctor Manhattan is probably about to be the DCU’s much more naked version of The Beyonder. Like I say: busy 24 hours.

So what do we do, as readers and fans?

Well, the bad news is, there’s no right answer. The good news is that—death threats, harassment, and actual violence set firmly aside—there’s no real wrong answer. Read what you love, step away from things you don’t, and always be open to new ideas. Because as long as mainstream superhero comics are being produced, there will always be something new, and there will always be these choices to make.

And in the mean time? I recommend that you read Princeless. It’s great.

Alasdair Stuart is a freelancer writer, RPG writer and podcaster. He owns Escape Artists, who publish the short fiction podcasts Escape PodPseudopodPodcastleCast of Wonders, and the magazine Mothership Zeta. He blogs enthusiastically about pop culture, cooking and exercise at, and tweets @AlasdairStuart.

Wait. What Happened to the KISSING Part? “The Frog King, or Iron Henry”

Illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1908

You probably think you know the story: the girl, the well, the golden ball, the frog, and that kiss.

You’ve almost certainly heard the saying: “You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs before you can find your prince.”

What you might not know is that in the original German versions, and even the first English translations, the princess doesn’t kiss the frog at all.

And it’s not exactly clear when the two of them managed to make things, well, legal.

“The Frog King; or, Iron Henry,” also known as “The Frog Prince,” dates back to at least the 13th century, and possibly earlier. The tale appears in multiple variants and languages throughout Europe. The Grimm brothers collected at least three versions in German alone while assembling their Household Tales. They chose to start their collection with a version that emphasized two values they felt were especially German and important: obedience to parents, and keeping promises. The popularity of their collection helped make this version one of the best known.

In this 1812 Grimm version, after dumping the frog in the forest because, well, he’s a frog, and how important can a promise made to a frog be, really, the princess is forced to take the frog to her room. It goes remarkably well:

She picked up the frog with two fingers, carried him to her room, and climbed into bed, but instead of laying him next to herself, she threw him bang! against the wall. “Now you will leave me in peace, you ugly frog!” But when the frog came down onto the bed, he was a handsome young prince, and he was her dear companion, and she held him in esteem as she had promised, and they fell asleep together with pleasure.

If something strikes you as missing from that paragraph, you’re not wrong: in this version, unless a frog flung against a wall counts as a marriage vow, the two are not exactly legally married. Also missing: the usual stuff about flowers, chocolates, that kinda thing. The next morning the two drive off together—still legally unmarried—to the great joy of the king’s servant, who feels the iron bands placed around his heart snap off with joy. His name is Iron Henry, and in some versions, the story is named for him, as if to emphasize that the really important part of this story is not the enchantment, or the princess, but rather that keeping a promise has—indirectly—saved the life of a servant.

Edgar Taylor, the first to translate this story into English, decided that his young readers would not want to read about frogs getting thrown into walls (he may not have known that many young readers or encountered many toads) and instead just had the frog sleep on the princess’ pillow and then hop away, which lacks something. Three straight nights of sleeping on the pillow of a princess, however, breaks his enchantment (quick, someone tell Duchess Kate to get in on this), allowing the two to marry and depart for his kingdom with faithful servant Iron Henry. The ending of this is somewhat similar to the other “Frog Prince” story collected by the Grimms, which features three princesses, not one, and again—no kiss.

Indeed, in almost all of the versions of the Frog Prince, the focus is not on the kiss, but on the promise made by the princess or the young daughter that she would play with or marry the frog. The girl only gives this promise because she wants something—her golden ball in more famous retellings, a drink of water (sometimes magical) for a parent in other retellings. She deeply resents the promise. Her parents consistently force her to keep that promise. In some cases—as with the Grimms—this is to emphasize the message that children must keep their promises. Not that we know exactly what would happen if the girl didn’t keep her promise—but we do know that she wouldn’t get to marry (or, run off in sin with) a prince, and that the prince’s servant, Iron Henry, would still have three bands of iron around his heart.

But in the other, more sinister stories, the parents are either panicked by the sudden appearance of the frog, or apparently desperate to keep the magical gifts granted by the frog. In many of these tales, after all, the parent is dying, either of thirst or illness, and can only be saved, or satisfied, by water from the well—water that can only be obtained after the daughter promises to allow the frog to sleep with her for a few nights. The daughter faces a stark choice: allow the frog—a magical, talking frog, at that—into her room and her bed, or face the anger or death of a parent.

Like other fairy tales of beastly marriage, this mirrors, of course, the choices many women in European society faced—with, that is, humans, not frogs. (At least I hope so.) And in many versions, these parents are not just demanding the willing self-sacrifice of their youngest daughters, but are actively, willfully abusive. In one, a daughter is savagely beaten; in another, a daughter is threatened with homelessness if she does not bring back water in a sieve. That leaves the daughter with two choices: a life on the streets, or a frog in her bed. Not surprisingly, she chooses the frog. These are not just tales of finding a true love beneath an ugly exterior, but, like many other fairy tales, stories of abuse, of parents who put themselves before their children, of children forced to make difficult or unwanted choices.

But unusually enough, in these frog stories, many of the daughters resist. Not their parents—but the frogs. They either run off as soon as they’ve gotten what they need, without fulfilling their promises made under duress, or, as in that Grimm version, harm the frog. And interestingly enough, for all that these tales are about obedience and bargains, these protests work. The most successful protagonist of all of these tales, after all, is the one who flings the frog against the wall and instantly gets a prince. In other versions, the daughters must endure the presence of a frog for several nights before his transformation.

What makes the flinging against the wall particularly remarkable is that this happens in the Grimm version, in a collection specifically designed to emphasize what the Grimm’s believed to be core German and feminine values—which did not, for the most part, involve women throwing anything at all. And it happens in a story that otherwise focuses on the importance of keeping promises, that insists that even unfair bargains (a lifetime of friendship and luxury for rescuing a ball from a well) must be kept.

Even if the bargain is made to a creature who, let’s face it, is not exactly the cuddly sort. The frogs may not be fearsome in the same way that, say, the Beast in the various versions of Beauty and the Beast and East ‘o the Sun, West ‘o the Moon might be, but promises to them must be kept, a strong message that even promises made to creatures of much lower status (like frogs) deserve the same attention as promises made to those of the same rank (like princes)—a powerful message indeed in 19th century Germany.

European folklore does have another variant—that of the frog princess, or frog bride. In Italian versions, three sons—usually, but not always, princes—head out to find their brides. The first two sons find either ordinary women or princesses. The third son finds only a frog. But the frog turns out to be better at sewing, weaving, and making polenta (it is the Italian version) than the two human brides. The second the frog is transformed into a lovely girl, the youngest son and prince learns to stop feeling ashamed of his frog bride, and introduces her with pride to his parents.

Which is to say, the beautiful human girl is a target of abuse, a daughter who can be sacrificed for the wellbeing and health of her parents. The ugly frog girl is a clever, skilled bride.

And in all versions, the frogs, not the humans, are the ones capable of transformation, of magic.

But, er, what about the kiss?

That seems to have been an addition to English translations, although exactly when it was added is not all that clear. It’s not in Edgar Taylor’s softer 1823 translation, for instance, or in many of the other 19th century English retellings and transformations. But somehow, by the 20th century, the kiss had turned into the best known, most central part of the story, to the point where readers opening Grimms’ Household Tales may find themselves startled by the versions they find there.

It’s only a guess on my part, but I suspect that The Frog Prince and other related tales became somewhat confused with some versions of Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty, where the enchantment is ended with a kiss—from the girl in the first version, from the prince in the second. And somehow, what became important was not the promise, not the threat, not a parent forcing a child to obey, but the transforming kiss—the hope that yes, people, or at least frogs, are capable of transformation and change.

Children’s novelist E.D. Baker kept the kiss, but otherwise took a different twist on all this when she wrote The Frog Princess, a novel where the princess does try to help out the frog by kissing him—only to find herself transformed into a frog. This does mean that her wedding to an awful prince needs to be put on hold, which is a plus, but since adjusting to the life of a frog is not exactly easy, she and the frog prince head off to try to break the curse. It’s a short, amusing novel, and if not exactly deep, the first few chapters do allude to the restrictions placed on princesses, in a nice nod to the anger simmering beneath the earliest published versions of the tale.

Disney, less interested in anger, and more interested in humor, used this novel as a starting point for their own take on the story. But I like to think they also had the stories of the skilled frog princesses in mind when they started developing The Princess and the Frog.

Mari Ness lives in central Florida.

False Hearts


Twin sisters Taema and Tila, conjoined until the age of sixteen, are in their mid-twenties when they’re drawn into a deadly battle for control of a drug that facilitates a disturbing form of lucid dreaming.

One night Tila stumbles home, terrified and covered in blood. She’s arrested for murder, the first homicide by a civilian in decades. The San Francisco police suspect involvement with Verve, an illicit narcotic that allows violent minds to enact their darkest desires in a terrifying dreamscape, and they offer her twin Taema a chilling deal. If Taema assumes Tila’s identity and obtains the information needed to take down the city’s drug syndicate, the police may let her sister live. But Taema’s investigation stirs up ghosts from the twins’ past.

Raised in the closed cult of Mana’s Hearth and denied access to modern technology, Taema and Tila dared to dream of a life beyond the walls of the compound. When the heart they shared began to fail, the twins escaped to San Francisco, where they were surgically separated and given new artificial hearts. From then on they pursued lives beyond anything they could have previously imagined.

But that freedom comes with a price; once unable to keep secrets from each other, Taema and Tila learn the true cost of lies.

Laura Lam’s adult sci-fi debut False Hearts is available June 14th from Tor Books. Read an excerpt below, and check out “Through the Eyes of a Bluebird,” a companion story set in the mysterious commune of Mana’s Hearth.



Chapter One

I’m starting where it all falls apart.

Tila is late for dinner.

We meet twice a week, once at her place and once at mine, though lately it’s always been at my apartment in Inner Sunset. She says she’s staying late at work, but I never know if that’s true. I hate it when she keeps secrets. It used to be that we couldn’t.

Outside, fat drops of rain drum against the glass window. The sunset has faded to darkness, a few stars just bright enough to shine through the San Francisco fog. I pace across the living room, peering at the blurred view of the city skyline, the green shimmer of the algae farms in the bay, the lights of the hovercars flying past. I paid a lot extra to have the penthouse for this view, but at the moment it does nothing for me. All I can do is be irritated at my sister.

Back in the kitchen, I push the curls from my face. I use my auditory implants to ping Tila, but there’s no response. I turn on the wallscreen, but the moving images and sounds irritate me, and I shut them off. The scar on my chest twinges. It’s psychosomatic. There’s no way it could actually hurt, not after so many years. I rest my fingertip on the top of the rough line of healed skin. It’s been almost a decade to the day since the surgery.

I sigh and set out the food, the time flashing in the corner of my ocular implants until I send it away. Her shift at Zenith supposedly ended over an hour ago. She works at the hostess club at the top of the TransAm Pyramid. Not a bad gig, but not for me. I don’t think I’d be as good at pretending.

I’ve made Tila her favorite curry, adapted from a recipe from the Hearth. I could have ordered it from the replicator in the corner of the kitchen, but I needed the distraction of doing something with my hands. It’s time to tell her I quit my job this afternoon, and I accepted a new job offer I couldn’t refuse—in China. I don’t know if Tila will want to come with me.

Or if she should.

The doorknob turns. I stand and rub my palms along my skirt. Tila flies in, disheveled and wild-eyed. Her short, teal hair is wet and plastered to her skull, contrasting with my brown curls. Her clothes are flashy where mine are plain. Her face is different than mine now too, from trips to the flesh parlors. They’re not drastic changes, but we no longer look identical.

It isn’t until she rushes to me and clutches the front of my shirt, on either side of my scar, that I realize she’s covered in blood. She’s wearing a man’s coat I don’t recognize, and it gapes open, dripping onto the floor. Her light blue dress is splattered red, the rain smearing it into a garish watercolor.

My mind takes a beat to process it. “Are—are you hurt?” I ask, trying to pull back to go for the first aid kit. But if it’s that much blood, she might need more than bandages. Fear rushes through me, and I can’t seem to catch my breath.

She doesn’t answer right away. Her mouth flaps open, and then shuts. She lets go of me, backing away from the door. “Not my blood. You have to help me, T. Oh God, you have to help me.”

I tense. Not my blood. “If it’s not your blood, whose is it?” My breath comes faster, hitching on the inhale. My sister feeds off my fear, grabbing my shirt so hard the fabric rips. “What the hell is going on, Tila?” I ask.

Expressions of fear and guilt flit across her face like shadows. “Please, Taema. Please. I have to get out of the city right now. Both of us do. Hide out somewhere. The Sierras? If only Mana’s Hearth would let us claim sanctuary.”

Mana’s Hearth is exempt from Pacifica jurisdiction. That she would mention going back, despite everything that happened ten years ago, and that she wants to bring me too, is what tells me just how serious this is. “Tila, slow down. What have you done?”

“I haven’t done anything, Taema. It didn’t happen the way they’ll say.” I can see the whites of her eyes, the tension lines around her mouth. Despite her surgery, her face reminds me too much of that last day in Mana’s Hearth when we thought we would die in that redwood forest.

The tips of my hands tingle and my vision swims. “OK. OK.” I force myself to try and calm down. “What haven’t you done?”

Sirens sound outside the high-rise apartment. I startle— you hardly ever hear them in San Francisco anymore. They’re growing louder.

Tila presses against me. “Oh God, they’ve found me. Must have tracked my VeriChip. I knew I should have torn it out. Can I hide? There must be somewhere I can hide!”

Her panic is infectious, but I have to be the pragmatic twin she expects. The twin she needs. “No point. All the police will have infrared sensors. If you didn’t do this, then it’ll be fine, right? They’ll take you in for questioning and then let you go.” I don’t want to be the calm twin. I want to grab her, shake her, demand she tell me what has happened and whose blood she’s wearing.

Tila only sobs, resting her hand just below my collarbone, right on my scar. I rest my hand on hers. I can feel the mechanical beating of her heart. Despite our obvious terror, our hearts beat at their same, steady pace.

“It’ll be all right, T,” I say. “I promise.”

She looks at me, dangerous and untamed. I barely recognize her. “You can’t promise that, T. You can’t promise that at all.”

Red and blue lights flash outside the window. A police hovercar floats outside the balcony, rain falling off its sides. The searchlight illuminates the room, paralyzing us in the bright beams. Three police jump down onto the tiny balcony, their boots splashing in the puddles on the concrete. Tila’s shaking, burrowing close to my side. I wrap my arm around her, but I’m shivering just as badly.

They open the sliding glass door, but too hard. The glass shatters. Fragments spill into my living room, as if the rain outside has crystallized.


“Really, now,” I say, looking at the glass and rain scattered across the living room. Fear shifts to anger. “Was that necessary?”

The police look between us. They are all wearing bulletproof Kalar vests over their sleek, dark blue uniforms. Cops almost never wear Kalars, not in this city that prides itself on its lack of crime. The whites of their eyes shimmer in the light with their extra implants.

An Indian-American woman with curly hair tamed in a knot at the nape of her neck clutches her gun, shifting her stance. The other man, white and brown-haired with a face so generically good-looking I’ll forget what he looks like as soon as he leaves the room, begins to make a perimeter of my apartment. Perhaps he thinks extra backup is hiding behind the couch. The last man, their leader, is black with a gold tattoo I can’t make out peeking over the collar of his uniform. He narrows his eyes at us, focusing on Tila and her teal hair: “Tila Collins?”

She doesn’t answer, keeping her head bowed.

He steps forward and grabs her upper arms. For a second, I fear she’s going to resist and try to run for it, but then she goes limp.

“What’s going on here?” I ask. “She says she hasn’t done it, whatever you’re after her for.”

They ignore me. Gold Tattoo says, “Tila Collins, you are under arrest for murder in the first degree. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you.”

When was the last time he had to read anyone their Miranda rights?

Gold Tattoo pulls Tila from my grasp. My hands fall useless at my sides. Tila tilts her head up at him and spits in his face.

Gold Tattoo wipes the spittle away, expressionless.

The wind leaves my lungs as the full implications sink in. Murder. There hasn’t been a murder by a civilian in San Francisco in years. Not since Pacifica was formed after the United States fractured forty years ago. Not since VeriChips and implants and cameras on every corner.

“Tila?” I ask as Gold Tattoo marches her back to the hovercar, handing her over to Curly Hair. I sound forlorn, lost.

She throws a pleading glance over her shoulder as they push her inside. “Taema!”

Within moments, they are all gone save Gold Tattoo. He towers over me, but he looks so young. He might not be, with flesh parlors everywhere, but it’s hard to find him terrifying when it looks like he only learned how to shave yesterday.

A sob lodges in my throat. It’s all I can do not to break into pieces in front of this man. One moment, I was annoyed that dinner was growing cold, and now my apartment is a mess and my sister is accused of murder. I can’t wrap my head around the word. Murder. It’s Tila. My sister. I know her better than I know myself.

Don’t I?

“Miss Collins?” There might be a hint of concern behind the brusque tone. He’s close enough that I can make out his tattoo: a California grizzly bear.

I find my voice. “My sister’s just been taken for murder. How do you think I feel?”

He has no answer to that. Within moments, the sirens blare again as they take my sister away from me.

“Who’s she meant to have murdered?” I ask, my voice tight. That word again. It’s ugly.

“A body of a man was found at Zenith under suspicious circumstances. I can’t say anything more.”

My hands ball into fists. Gold Tattoo notices the movement, his hand resting on his gun. My lungs burn from holding in the sobs.

He pauses. I realize why he’s stayed behind.

“I’m to go in for questioning too? Why didn’t you take me with Tila?”

He shifts slightly. “Yes, Miss Collins. We’re to take you in as a precaution. You’ll be going to the station. Your sister is being taken elsewhere.”


“I’m not at liberty to say.”

I fold over, trying to take in deep breaths but still hyperventilating.

“Miss Collins.”

I hold up a hand. I think of the Hearth, how Mana-ma taught us to control our emotions. Let the darkness float away. Let in only the light. I imagine the chapel on the hill at the center of the town, the five-pointed symbol carved on its side, the birdcalls that floated through the open windows on a spring day. Despite my hatred of her, her techniques work.

I stand up, smoothing my features, shaking my head a little from side to side. “Yes. We have the same DNA. You’ll want to make sure I didn’t do it.”

He says nothing.

“Am I under arrest?”

“No. You’re being detained for questioning. Please grab your things, Miss Collins.”

I look around at my apartment. The wet footprints all over the carpet. The shining bits of glass. The food cold on the table, the plates laid out for a meal we will never eat.

I grab my coat and purse.

As he leads me down the stairs, curiosity seems to get the better of him. “I shouldn’t ask, but do you really think she didn’t do it?”

I pause. I still think he’s been waxworked—he’s too highly ranked to be any younger than late thirties—but his eyes aren’t quite as jaded as a lot of older people masquerading in younger bodies.

My hand snakes toward my sternum again, pressing against the faint seam where they unzipped me and Tila and took us apart a decade ago. Underneath, my mechanical heart beats, beats, beats.

“I know my twin better than anyone else. If she says she didn’t do it, then she didn’t.”

I’m sure I believe it.

Ninety-nine percent sure.

Excerpted from False Hearts © Laura Lam, 2016

Words of Radiance Reread: Chapter 82

Words of Radiance Reread

Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on! Last week, Dalinar’s forces finally joined battle against the red-eyed Parshendi at the center of the Shattered Plains. This week, Kaladin reaches a difficult decision back at the warcamp, while Dalinar and Adolin continue to press the battle.

This reread will contain spoilers for The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and any other Cosmere book that becomes relevant to the discussion. The index for this reread can be found here, and more Stormlight Archive goodies are indexed here.

Click on through to join the discussion!




Chapter 82: For Glory Lit

Point of View: Kaladin, Adolin, Dalinar, Kaladin
Setting: the warcamp palace, the center of the Shattered Plains
Symbology: Spears, Chanarach, Nalan

IN WHICH Kaladin hobbles toward the palace, hoping he’s not too late; at the king’s door, he finds two strangers in Bridge Four uniforms; he disables them and enters the king’s chambers, to find Elhokar unmoving on the couch.

… Adolin fights Parshendi by the light of Navani’s fabrials; they are trying to keep him distracted and out of the main battle; he considers the singers and their position against a rock formation; An Idea occurs.

…Dalinar shouts at the Stormfather; the Stormfather answers; the battle goes badly for Roion’s forces; Dalinar calls upon Navani and her fabrials for help; their desperation maneuver succeeds in providing an opening; he hopes it’s not too late.

…Kaladin rouses a drunken Elhokar and attempts to escape; one of the guards has recovered and stabs the king; Kaladin kills him and leads the king away, both bleeding profusely; Moash and Graves catch up with them.

Quote of the Week

“Fleet kept running,” Kaladin growled, getting back under Elhokar’s arm.


“He couldn’t win, but he kept running. And when the storm caught him, it didn’t matter that he’d died, because he’d run for all he had.”

“Sure. All right.” The king sounded groggy, though Kaladin couldn’t tell if it was the alcohol or the blood loss.

“We all die in the end, you see,” Kaladin said. The two of them walked down the corridor, Kaladin leaning on his spear to keep them upright. “So I guess what truly matters is just how well you’ve run. And Elhokar, you’ve kept running since your father was killed, even if you screw up all the storming time.”

“Thank you?” the king said, drowsy.

You made it, Kaladin. You woke up. Thank you.

Off the Wall

There is one you will watch. Though all of them have some relevance to precognition, Moelach is one of the most powerful in this regard. His touch seeps into a soul as it breaks apart from the body, creating manifestations powered by the spark of death itself. But no, this is a distraction. Deviation. Kingship. We must discuss the nature of kingship.

—From the Diagram, Book of the 2nd Desk Drawer: paragraph 15

It’s almost like genius Taravangian was giving himself a hint about where to get updates, but if so… it make me even less inclined to trust the Diagram. I just can’t get past the feeling that any information gained through a splinter of Odium might be a bad thing.

One thing I need to note: I don’t (at this point) see Taravangian as “evil” per se; I do question the validity and benevolence of the Diagram.


Dalinar, Navani, and Adolin, for all the vital work they’re doing in this chapter, are almost placeholders: they remind us that the battle is still happening out there somewhere, and things are pretty desperate. And for some reason Dalinar can now have waking conversations with the Stormfather.

Okay, that’s not quite all, but it really is the bulk of their sections. Adolin fights like a one-man army, but it becomes apparent that they’re mostly trying to keep him busy, out of the main battle. Being Adolin, once he figures out that they’re trying to divert him from the singers, he immediately sets to work to figure out how to get there. I love me some stubborn, I do.

Meanwhile, Dalinar has a few arguments with the Stormfather, but a messenger brings bad news from the front lines, and he has to get back to being a general. He turns to Navani for a miracle to rescue a large chunk of his army, and… she gives him two. Go, Navani! (See the Ars Mechanica section for more on this subject.)

Now, the main focus of the chapter: Kaladin. The previous chapter gave him the revelation he needed to finally understand what he needed to do about the “Patriots” and their plans. This chapter, he puts it into action, though the wisdom of the path he chooses is… questionable.

Kaladin stumbled into the entryway. No guards at the doors. Bad sign. Should he have raised the alarm? There weren’t any soldiers in camp to help, and if he’d come in force, Graves and his men would know something was wrong. Alone, Kaladin might be able to see the king. His best hope was to get Elhokar to safety quietly.

I can’t help thinking that this was… well, stupid. Obviously it makes for a more satisfying resolution to have Kaladin up here alone, but it really would have made more sense for him to either ask the ardents for help, or send a messenger to the Bridge Four barracks asking for the few left in camp to join him. On the other hand, this is Kaladin we’re talking about. Between his normal stubbornness, his pain, and the effect of his new understanding, he’s not thinking as clearly as could be wished.

Speaking of “satisfying resolutions” though,

But storm it… the king tried. He actually tried. The man was arrogant, perhaps incapable, but he tried. He was sincere.

While I freely acknowledge that sincerity and effort don’t somehow make a bad king into a good one, this piles weight on the side of “You don’t get to kill a man just because he isn’t what you think he should be.” Imperfection—even downright foolishness and incompetence—isn’t adequate justification for murder. Having faced that, he continues to work through the implications of his choice.

Which leads to the QOTW, and two further realizations. One, there is something in Elhokar for Kaladin to respect: perseverance. Even though he constantly failed to live up to his father’s standard of charisma and leadership, or his uncle’s standard of military skills and integrity… even while knowing he was failing to live up to the high bar set by his predecessors, he still kept trying to do better. That’s not nothing.

Two, there’s a little more he needs to grasp. He’s now figured out that disliking someone is not adequate reason to let them be murdered, but he knows there’s something more, something missing. He still doesn’t entirely know why he needs to help Elhokar in particular. Fortunately, he’s reached the point where he can act on what he has while trying to figure out the rest, and so when Moash comes to finish the job, Kaladin is actively trying to save the king’s life. That final recognition will have to wait for next week, but he’s only a hair away from everything slipping into place.


Day Zero continues.


One has to assume that the connection Dalinar has with the Stormfather really is his impending Bondsmith-hood; he can now hear the Stormfather while awake and functioning, even though no one else can.

“I am the one left behind,” the voice said. It wasn’t exactly as he’d heard it in the visions; this voice had a depth to it. A density. “I am the sliver of Him that remains. I saw His corpse, saw Him die when Odium murdered Him. And I… I fled. To continue as I always have. The piece of God left in this world, the winds that men must feel.”

While I keep getting mad at him for being so unhelpful, this does rather evoke pity.

Question: is his use of the term “sliver” deliberate and correct? If so, that means he was “a human intelligence who has held all or a very large portion of the power of a Shard and has since released it.” (He doesn’t appear to have entirely released it, but since the Shard has been splintered, maybe that doesn’t matter.) But if he’s now a Sliver, who was he before? Jezrien? Ishar? Someone else?

(By the way, has Brandon confirmed any Herald identities in the books yet?)

It’s also worth noting that Adolin remarks on the absence of the Thrill during this battle. Based on Taravangian’s information, this may be an indication that Nergaoul (presumably the Unmade responsible for the Thrill) has left the Shattered Plains for more interesting conflicts. I don’t recall all the theories floated during the TWOK reread regarding the origin of the Thrill, but according to Taravangian’s Interlude, it is attributable to “an ancient, evil spren.” This does not sound like a positive enhancement.

Ars Mechanica

This chapter sure was Navani’s turn to shine.

Fortunately, the darkness had been pushed back somewhat, as Navani had sent fabrials to bathe the battlefield in an extraordinarily even white light.

They have to be burning through Stormlight at a ferocious pace, but it’s better than fighting in the dark, I expect.

With Roion’s forces in deep trouble, Dalinar demands a miracle from Navani, and she produces one:

He was too distant to see her glare, but he felt it. Fortunately, she waved workers away from her current tarp and began shouting orders to her engineers. The women ran up to the chasm, where a line of rocks was arrayed. They were attached to ropes, Dalinar thought, though he wasn’t sure how this process worked. Navani shouted instructions. …

The engineers backed up at a barked order from Navani, and the workers shoved the line of some forty rocks into the chasm. As the rocks fell, tarps jumped fifty feet into the air, pulled at the front corners and centers. In an instant, a long line of improvised pavilions flanked the chasm.

I love that this is exactly the fabrial we saw her working on way back in Chapter 35, but in a much more practical application—not to mention less energy-intensive—as she raises a bunch of rain shelters, rather than a fighting tower. But this is merely the set-up for the third critical fabrial: the dehumidifier.

“We really should have had more time to test this,” she warned to Dalinar, folding her arms. “Attractors are new inventions. I’m still half afraid this thing will suck the blood out of anyone who touches it.”

It didn’t. Instead, water quickly started to pool around the thing. Storms, it worked! The fabrial was pulling moisture from the air. Roion’s archers removed bowstrings from protected pockets, bending bows and stringing them at the orders of their lieutenants.

Honestly, here in the wetlands there are times I’d sure like to have a dehumidifier that actually worked this quickly and effectively!

Heraldic Symbolism

Chana: Brave, Obedient, Guard

Nalan: Just, Confident, Judge

I think those are both scattered throughout the chapter, but I would suggest that both are primarily reflecting Kaladin’s arc. Chana is his choice to protect Elhokar, to guard him against the Shardbearing assassins no matter how hopeless it looks. Nalan, for all that he’s currently a mess, still represents justice—and Kaladin has finally realized that “I think you’re a bad king” doesn’t justify murder.

Shipping Wars

Okay, this isn’t really part of the wars, but this little line looks both forward and back:

What had Shallan said about these inner plateaus? And the rock formations on them?

Looking back, this reflects the conversation just before the attempted assassination back in Chapter 68—the last conversation Adolin had with Shallan before the bridge collapsed and dropped her into the chasms. Looking forward… Well, we’ll get there soon. I’ll leave it for next week.

Just Sayin’

I think there must have been a good one in here somewhere, but I can’t find it now. Y’all will have to put it in the comments.

That’s it for now; next week, we’ll continue the two battles, as rocks are slain and arguments are… argued.

Alice Arneson is a long-time commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. She is, unfortunately, fresh out of clever quips and words of wisdom.

Wolf’s Empire: Gladiator Sweepstakes!

Wolf"s Empire Gladiator Claudia Christian sweepstakes

We want to send you a galley copy of Claudia Christian and Morgan Grant Buchanan’s Wolf’s Empire: Gladiator, available June 28 from Tor Books!

When her mother and brother are murdered, young noblewoman Accala Viridius cries out for vengeance. But the empire is being torn apart by a galactic civil war, and her demands fall on deaf ears. Undeterred, Accala sacrifices privilege and status to train as a common gladiator. Mastering the one weapon available to her—a razor-sharp discus that always returns when thrown—she enters the deadly imperial games, the only arena where she can face her enemies.

But Fortune’s wheel grants Accala no favors—the emperor decrees that the games will be used to settle the civil war, the indigenous lifeforms of the arena-world are staging a violent revolt, and Accala finds herself drugged, cast into slavery and forced to fight on the side of the men she set out to kill.

Set in a future Rome that never fell, but instead expanded to become a galaxy-spanning empire, Accala’s struggle to survive and exact her revenge will take her on a dark journey that will cost her more than she ever imagined.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 12:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on May 26th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on May 30th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor:, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Let This Amazing, Gigantic Star Wars: A New Hope Infographic Flow Through You Like the Force

Star Wars infographic A New Hope retelling

With Star Wars: A New Hope so ingrained in our pop culture for almost 40 years, it would seem as if there are no new ways to retell it, right? Well, illustrator and graphic novelist Martin Panchaud has given new life to a classic story: He recently gifted the Internet with SWANH, a 403-foot infographic adapting A New Hope into a form that is both simpler and more complex than the movie version. The style was drawn from Chinese culture, as Panchaud explains on the website: “This long ribbon reminds the ancient Chinese script rolls that had to be rolled in and rolled out simultaneously in order to be read. I like this stretch between ages, cultures, and technologies. However, internet likes short stories and summaries, quickly understandable contents. With my work I aimed to create a contrast to that.”

But why choose Episode IV?

Star Wars series has had a heavy impact on pop culture and they continue to influence trough generations. It is a modern form of mythology and the IV episode is where it all began.

Other than this Star Wars is a childhood memory. Maybe some of you may recall your very own and personal sensations you had when you first saw the film. My visual style leaves more space for the individual imaginary universe.

Star Wars went far beyond cinema. On the official side there are all the merchandising products and on the other hand, there is an enormous amount of underground fan art, reenactments and costume conventions. All of them are made spontaneously with no other goal than to be a part of the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars continually inspires and touches its audience through generations. It has become alive and evolves with the zeitgeist.

It’s amazing how Panchaud’s interpretation is both personal and open-ended: Despite turning all of the characters into circles (or, in Darth Vader’s case, a very Imperial hexagon), you can still tell who’s who and follow all of the emotional and action beats. His sense of framing is excellent, from using lightsabers to set off Vader and Obi-Wan’s final battle to depicting both panicked sides of the trash compactor scene through Artoo’s explorations into the Death Star’s mainframe. Of the 150+ images, it was difficult to choose my favorites, but here are some key moments:

Star Wars infographic A New Hope retelling

Star Wars infographic A New Hope retelling

Star Wars infographic A New Hope retelling

Star Wars infographic A New Hope retelling

And now, here is SWANH in its entirety. Sit back, relax, and get ready to scroll.

Midnight in Karachi Episode 56: James Smythe


Welcome back to Midnight in Karachi, a weekly podcast about writers, publishers, editors, illustrators, their books and the worlds they create, hosted by Mahvesh Murad.

Author James Smythe—recently nominated for a Clarke Award for Way Down Dark—joins the podcast this week to talk about trigger warnings, middle book syndrome, and his potential fantasy series ‘Dragatha Christie’. Smythe’s Australia trilogy continues with Long Dark Dusk (available now) and Dark Made Dawn, publishing October 2016 from Hodder & Stoughton.


Listen to Midnight in Karachi Episode 56 (37:44):

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Midnight in Karachi Episode 56: James Smythe

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If you have a suggestion for Midnight in Karachi—a prospective guest, a book, a subject—please let me know at and we’ll see what we can do for you!

Who Tells Your Story: The Hidden Figures of NASA History

Janelle Monae (left) with Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures

Moogfest began as a one-day music festival celebrating both Robert Moog and electronic music in general. Over the last decade, it has grown into a multi-day symposium/festival with a scope that goes well beyond music and the circuit-driven gear that is used to make it. The daytime programming now includes discussions about transhumanism, cyborgs, race, and gender—and this year, the Afrofuturism programming track included a conversation with musician Janelle Monae and screenwriter Allison Schroeder, moderated by Kimberly Drew, who is Associate Online Community Producer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Their conversation was billed as “Women and Afrofuturism”, but much of the discussion centered on the forthcoming film Hidden Figures, written by Schroeder and starring Monae, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer. The film is a look at a little-known piece of space exploration history: the African-American women who worked for NASA during the Gemini and Apollo missions. In telling this story from the past, Schroeder, Monae, and the rest of the film’s team find a way forward; by revealing this untold story of women of color, they want to demonstrate the possibilities for others, whether in art, science, or both.

Hidden Figures is based on the forthcoming book by Margot Lee Shetterly. For the film, Schroeder has chosen to focus on three women—Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan, in the period from 1958 to 1962. They were three of the so-called “colored computers”—a wince-inducing term to modern ears, but at the time the term “computers” was an actual NASA personnel classification. This cohort of black women mathematicians and engineers made the calculations that got John Glenn into orbit, Neil Armstrong to the moon, and Jim Lovell back to earth. Outside of NASA, it’s very hard to find information about these women, but Schroeder and Shetterly found that the agency itself is more than willing to share its archives, and to get the stories out.

Allison Schroeder has her own NASA ties—both her grandparents worked for the agency, her grandmother as an engineer, and Schroeder herself worked as an intern. In describing her enthusiasm for the story of Hidden Figures, she was passionate about how she wanted the heart of the story to be the friendship and mutual support amongst Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughan—”a love story to feminism”. For Schroeder, NASA is “a magical place”, bigger than any one individual. “If you could help, you were on the team,” she said, adding that one of her goals in the screenplay was to depict an organization where these women of color earned the respect of their peers and managers on the strength of their talents.

Janelle Monae is best known for her SF-inflected music, in particular the albums The Archandroid and Electric Lady. Hidden Figures is actually Monae’s second film—her first, Moonlight, will be released in September. In Hidden Figures, Monae plays Mary Jackson, the youngest of the core trio, and also the firebrand, who “says what women don’t get to say”. Jackson started working for NASA on the wind tunnel, and despite obstacles—an initially unsupportive husband, schools that would not admit her without a petition from the courts, skeptical professors—she became the first female engineer to work for NASA. Monae said that she saw a lot of herself in Jackson: in her fight for justice in her family and in the world, and in her refusal to be oppressed. It was important to her, Monae said, to “make sure I’m taking care of these voices that are being ignored”.

“I’m tired of our history getting overwritten,” Schroeder said, meaning the history of anyone who isn’t white and male. “We need to redefine what a hero looks like.” Monae agreed. “The world is changing fast,” she said, and a movie like this is key in representing women and people of color in music, film, art, and also STEM fields. She said that when she read the script, she found herself asking, “What else has been hidden from me?”—surprised that she, a woman and an SF fan, had never heard of these stories. Schroeder noted that two deaf women had developed the system that we use now to classify stars, another story of women in STEM that needs to be reclaimed. Dean also emphasized “the power of conceptualizing your own identity”—instead of saying that these women “defied the norm”, it’s more important to say that “they were their own norm”, implicitly rejecting the default white male narrative.

Schroeder, a self-described optimist, spoke about how she wanted her screenplay to portray not just the systems of oppression around Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughan, but also “people doing the right thing”, as a way of encouraging audiences to check their own actions. She acknowledged that some viewers might question why she, a white woman, had undertaken a story about women of color; what was important to her, she said, was telling stories outside of her own experience. Naturally, both Schroeder and Monae are hoping that the movie is a success—not only on behalf of the women portrayed in it, many of whom have passed on, unrecognized—but also as a message to contemporary audiences about diversity of narratives, role models, and possibilities for themselves. “We’re looking back,” Schroeder said, “but I hope we’re looking back in a new way.”

Karin Kross lives and writes in Austin, TX. She may be found elsewhere on Tumblr and Twitter.