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Sigourney Weaver, in conversation about Aliens

On April 26th, the Town Hall in New York City held a 30th-anniversary screening of Aliens (4/26; the film takes place on the planet LV-426)… followed by a conversation and audience Q&A with Lt. Ripley herself, Sigourney Weaver. AND SOMEHOW I WAS IN THAT ROOM!!!

She said lots of amazing stuff. This is me, trying and probably failing to capture some of the highlights.

“I haven’t seen this film for many years, and it’s great to see it on the big screen with such an appreciative audience. It’s so magnificently constructed as a story. All the Marines are such wonderful characters, so beautifully played. In Alien, we didn’t get the chance to really know Ripley, with all her levels. I love her isolation at the beginning of Aliens, the fact that she’s outlived everyone she knew, the world she knew is gone – but The Company doesn’t change.”

“People being in danger is a great catalyst for Ripley – in her mind, she’s earning the right to stay alive. In a situation like that, you do what you have to do. You don’t have time for thought and emotion, and maybe you don’t want those things anyway.”

“The Queen wants to protect her children, too. The face-off at the end between the two mother figures is so important to the themes of motherhood and nurturing that are throughout the film.”

“Using the bazooka was very cathartic for someone who’d been fighting for gun control. I get so excited when I read a script that I don’t always read all the stage directions, so I was very surprised to see so many guns on set, and when I mentioned to Jim ‘I’m not sure about all these guns, you know I’m against guns,’ he said ‘I suggest you read the script again. Because it’s pretty much all guns, all the time.’”

“Unfortunately, I think we have more corporations like Weyland-Yutani now than we did when we made this movie. There’s such an emphasis on profit over everything, no matter the personal or environmental costs – when Paul Reiser tries to justify his actions, these are comments you could read in the paper tomorrow: ‘What we’re doing here is really valuable,’ ‘You don’t understand,’ ‘There’s a lot of money invested in this.’ If anything, our society is going further in this direction, which for me makes Aliens more resonant.”

“In Neill Blomkamp’s sequel, we see a lot more of Ripley and Hicks. It’ll happen, but we have to wait until after Prometheus 2. In fact I just finished a project with Neill that I can’t tell you about, but it was really exciting.”

“In Aliens I was so grateful to have a role where I could get the job done without some skimpy outfit, or something super glamorous. I mean, I don’t want to horrify audiences – I’m sure I wore some makeup, but getting glammed up wouldn’t make sense for this character or what she had to do. I was really fortunate to work with a director who respected that. It’s true that Ripley is a great woman character, but by the end she’s acquired a lot of Everyman, and there’s something that lots of different people can identify with.”

“Gale Ann Hurd [producer of Aliens and tons of other amazing stuff, including The Walking Dead] is very cool and calm and Ripley-like, very diplomatically making everyone move in the same direction.”

“Science fiction is one of the rare spaces in this business where you can tell original stories. And it doesn’t get the respect; critics can’t get their heads around it. This is an exploration of what it means to be human. This is what happens if you don’t take care of climate change.”

The Q&A was mostly full of ridiculous waste-of-Ms-Weaver’s-very-important-time questions (“why didn’t the Alien make a cameo in Ghostbusters? That was a real missed opportunity” (“because we had enough to worry about already”) & “if there was a movie that combined Aliens with Star Trek and Star Wars, would you be in it” (“no”)), but there were a couple of bright spots –

The audience member who said “This is the first time I’ve seen Aliens again since doing two tours in Iraq, and I wanted to tell you that your portrayal of PTSD is so real, it was almost difficult to watch. It really resonated with my experience and that of many people I served with, and I wanted to thank you for your portrayal.”

And when somebody asked her why she hated the Alien vs Predator movies, Sigourney said “Well, I don’t hate them, because I haven’t seen them, because I heard that the Alien doesn’t beat the Predator, and I thought, well, fuck that.”

Sigourney Weaver, in conversation, after a 30th-anniversary screening of Aliens
Sigourney Weaver, in conversation, after a 30th-anniversary screening of Aliens

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“Toe the Line:” On Being a 2016 John W. Campbell Award Finalist

On Tuesday, the list of 2016 Hugo Awards finalists was announced. I’m honored to say that this year, in my second and final year of eligibility, I am a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer! I’m very excited and incredibly grateful to everyone who voted for me. You continue to amaze me with your kindness and faith in my stories. Thank you for putting your trust in them, and in me, enough to nominate me for the Campbell Award.

There are a couple of matters I want to address regarding the Hugo Awards this year. As with the previous year, organized slate voting by the Rabid Puppies heavily impacted the list of finalists. Their efforts were spearheaded by Vox Day, who was quoted on Wired last year as saying, “I wanted to leave a big smoking hole where the Hugo Awards were. All this has ever been is a giant Fuck You—one massive gesture of contempt.”

And the contempt is obvious. Of the 80 spots on the list of Hugo finalists, the Rabid Puppies slate-locked 62 slots across categories, including popular works that may have been nominated on their own merit as well as deliberately inflammatory pieces, including a cruel mockery of another 2014 Hugo-nominated short story, among others. It’s ugly out there. People have asked me how I feel to be nominated for an award in a year so controversial, with malicious attempts at hijacking the Hugo Awards in full swing.

This is my answer.

There is no way in hell I’m withdrawing. The fact is, in spite of the Rabid Puppies attempts to lock people like me out of the finalists list through slate voting, some truly deserving folks and their works slipped onto the list (File 770 has a comprehensive breakdown of the Hugo Award finalists list versus the Rabid slate, with non-Rabid picks highlighted in red). Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy, N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti. Brooke Bolander’s “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail off Dead.” Liz Gorinksy. Mike Glyer. And Uncanny Magazine, a new semipro magazine run by Lynne and Michael Damian Thomas.

Uncanny Magazine is one of my favorite new magazines, and to be nominated for a Hugo in its first year of eligibility, despite the Rabid Puppies’ attempts to lock down the finalists list, says a lot about the quality of work that the Uncanny team puts out. More than that, it says a lot about how much fans appreciate Uncanny, and how willing they were to vote according to their own values—enough to bump Uncanny onto the finalists list over a Rabid Puppies slate-voted magazine.

And that’s the crux of it. If you are on this list despite the Rabid Puppies’ slate voting, it means you absolutely, absolutely deserve it. It means that enough SFF fans appreciated your work and contributed their individual voices to overwhelm a slate being pushed by an organized mob of malicious people determined to “leave a big smoking hole where the Hugo Awards were.” And to withdraw is to let them win.

As I’ve said, I am very happy to have been voted onto the Campbell finalists list, in spite of the Rabid Puppies slate. Michi Trota (Uncanny Magazine’s managing editor) and I are the first Filipinas ever to be nominated for a Campbell Award or a Hugo Award in any category. As a community, and as a constellation of communities, we are making history at the Hugos this year. We are changing the face of the SFF world in many ways. We can’t undo what has happened; we can only move forward and try to forge a future—of growth rather than destruction—that we want to see.

George R. R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson have already issued statements urging candidates not to withdraw. I would like to add my voice to theirs. And I would like to encourage you to vote on the merit of the works and folks nominated, slates be damned.

I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
A. Wong.

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Interview at the Washington Independent Review of Books

At the Washington Independent Review of Books, Craig L. Gidney interviews me about portal fantasies, Syfy’s The Magicians, adapting mythology for fiction. Jewish fantasy, Sybil’s Garage, and the follow up to King of Shards, Queen of Static.

You can read the interview here.

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Review: What Stands in a Storm

What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South's Tornado AlleyWhat Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South’s Tornado Alley by Kim Cross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s odd, but I have a thing for tornadoes. I grew up in southern Indiana in the 1970s and 80s when Tornado Alley still ran through the area, (did you know Tornado Alley moves about over the years like a wandering river?), and we had no shortage of incredible thunderstorms, filled with no end of tornado watches. Fortunately I and my family never had direct experience with the devastation a tornado brings, but we came close during the massive outbreak in April of 1974. A tornado went right through our area that day, blew a hole in our neighbor’s garage, destroyed a tool shed in our front yard, tossed about the trailer park a quarter mile down the road, and destroyed a few houses a mile away. We weren’t home at the time, were on our way back from town. My mother stopped the car alongside the highway and made us lay down in the back of the station wagon. I can still remember the green and orange sky. That’s as close as we came. We got lucky. Up until my parents moved out of our childhood home ten years ago, you could still walk the woods behind and see trees that had been snapped-off by that funnel cloud all those years ago.

That 1974 Super Outbreak, as it’s called, was the largest tornado outbreak on record, until the 2011 Super Outbreak came along. WHAT STANDS IN A STORM is a story of that second, and larger outbreak. It relates the conditions that fed those storm, and recounts the stories of some of those who survived the storms, and some of those who did not. Author Kim Cross created the narrative of the book from interviews with the survivors and information given to her by those close to those that died in the storm, be it through saved phone conversations, text messages, or Facebook posts.

I went into the book thinking it’d be more weather-porn, and there is quite a bit of that in here. We get descriptions of what storms are likely to spawn tornadoes, how said tornadoes form, reports from storm chasers during this outbreak, and the weather personnel that reported during the wave of storms over those days in 2011. It’s all incredibly well written, explained succinctly, and very effective.

The bulk of the book, however, is focused on the people affected by the tornado that struck Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on April 27th, 2011. We see how the locals were affected that day, from Tuscaloosa weatherman James Spann, who reported on the storms that day; to 17 year old Johnny Parker, an amateur weatherman who survived, along with his family, a direct hit from a tornado; to Danielle Downs, Loryn Brown and William Chance Stevens, who all died together in the interior closet of a house destroyed only a mile from the University of Alabama campus.

Much of this book is built on the blocks formed from news broadcasts, interviews with survivors and family members of the dead, and overall sleuthing on the subject matter. It’s all wonderfully put together, so that none of the seams of those building blocks show. The book reads smooth and seamless. There are liberties taken with the recounting of the last hours of those that died, of course, yet even though based on only texts and phone calls, it reads as if the author was right there with the deceased in their final moments.

The final section of the book tells the story of the recovery of northern Alabama, specifically Tuscaloosa, and its people. We see the people coming together to help neighbors, volunteer search and rescue missions, people giving up their own last worldly possessions to those that they think are more in need, and communities coming together to feed and house each other. At times, this section was difficult to get through. As someone who’s always been fascinated by tornadoes, it can be hard to reconcile their power and beauty against the damage they do, the lives that they take. Cross gives us an up-close look at the survivors, the funerals, and the memories of those who didn’t survive. If I took anything at all away from WHAT STANDS IN A STORM, it’s to respect their power and be better aware of the consequences of their existence. Cross shows us those consequences, unflinchingly.

Once again, I’ve read a book that I thought would be about one thing, but turned out to be about another. Sure, there’s weather-geek stuff in WHAT STANDS IN A STORM, but beyond that, and thankfully so, Kim Cross has created a fantastic time capsule of April 27th, 2011, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She’s shown not only what mother nature can do, and how it affects those in her path, but also how people come together in the aftermath to heal, take care of each other, and live on.

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Read “One Spring in Cherryville” for free until April 12th

cover-smFrom now until April 12th, you can read my short story “One Spring in Cherryville” for free on the Kindle. After that, it will be $0.99. Let me know what you think, and if you like it please leave an Amazon review! Reviews really do help. Thank you!

Read “One Spring in Cherryville” now.

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Early Thoughts on Rogue One

Jyn Erso, thief/hero.

Jyn Erso, thief/hero.

By now you have seen the trailer for the new Star Wars prequel, Rogue One. If not, well:

So my first thought is: Yes. Damn this looks cool. It’s Star Wars meets the Bourne Identity, and with a kick-ass woman in the lead to boot a la Max Max. It’s the perfect mash-up for the genre, and I’m happy to see something in this universe that doesn’t look like a copy-and-paste of what’s come before.

Except something irked me. I love Forest Whitaker. He was superb in The Butler, and pretty much everything he’s been in. So I don’t fault him for his lines. But in the tail end of the teaser he says, “If you fight…what will you become?”

Now I understand this is a teaser. There are a thousand and one possibilities as to whom he is speaking with (most likely Jyn Erso) and the context in which it was said. But…do we have to go down this fucking road again? You know what I’m talking about. “The Dark Side, versus THE LIGHT!” Why does Hollywood think that heroes always need to be so dark and edgy and corruptible? (E.g. see Batman vs. Superman). One of the fantastic things about Rey in The Force Awakens is her exuberant innocence, a la Luke Skywalker in “A New Hope.” Rey will likely be tested by the Dark Side too, but if my hunch is correct she will not be corrupted. I get that Jyn’s character begins with ambiguous morals — she is a criminal from the get go, but I really hope that this film doesn’t follow that trite old Star Wars character arc of individuals fighting their own inner emo battle of good vs. evil. Fighting for justice does not necessarily corrupt you, and Star Wars often forgets this. This movie looks refreshing and I hope that the characters are as well.

Otherwise, I think this looks pretty kick-ass.

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Goodreads Discussion Group

Goodreads-LogoOver at Goodreads, I’ve started a discussion group for King of Shards and the forthcoming Queen of Static. The group is for general Q&A and discussions about both books. There will likely be spoilers for book one, but I’ll do my best to avoid spoiling Queen of Static. Please come on over and join the discussion!


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Guest Blogging at the Jewish Book Council

Image from Golemchik by Will Exley (Nobrow, 2015)

Image from Golemchik by Will Exley (Nobrow, 2015)

All this week I have been guest blogging at the Jewish Book Council as part of their Visiting Scribe series. Today’s entry is on golems in popular culture. From Rabbi Loew’s 16th century golem, to Frankenstein’s monster, to Hal 9000 and Skynet, to Elon Musk’s warning that artificial intelligence is “summoning the demon,” the golem myth is rife in modern culture. You can read today’s essay here.

My previous posts are:

Shortening the Way – How Frank Herbert’s Dune was influence by Eastern European Hasidic tales of rabbis who could travel vast distances in little time.

Surviving Leonard Nimoy’s Superhuman Salute – The Cohen Priestly Blessing and Star Trek.


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Still here (with bonus modern airships)

In case anyone was wondering.

It’s been almost six months since I last posted (and then about Rising Tide coming out). Since then jobs have been worked, crises have been navigated, and my brain has been allowed to settle back into something resembling a creative state.

But I’ve started to emerge from my coccoon and I am greeted by this news:

Lockeheed Sells New Airships for $480M

The idea of modern airships is a key part of what helped shape the world of Falling Sky and Rising Tide, but I haven’t seen much movement of late, so this is exciting, particularly the heavier-than-light technology that allows them to hover (something I’ve used in the books, without necessarily explaining it).

Helps to invigorate me as I work on the last novel…



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Queen of Static Cover Reveal

So it went like this: my sister sent me a link to someone who had given a great review of King of Shards on Goodreads, and while there I noticed another book was listed besides mine: Queen of Static, the next book in the Worldmender trilogy. So then I went over to Amazon and Queen of Static was there as well, and then I thought, Well if it’s up on Amazon and Goodreads there is no reason whatsoever not to share it publicly with my readers! 

So, voila. I present to you the cover to Queen of Static.

The art is by the super-talented Leon Tukker. I worked closely with him to create this image, which depicts the palace of Abbadon in Sheol and the surrounding city. The synopsis of the book is below the image.

Nu???? What do you think? I always appreciate feedback!

Queen of Static by Matthew Kressel

Queen of Static by Matthew Kressel

Following the events of King of Shards, both humans and demons continue their quest to control the Lamed Vavnik, the thirty-six righteous men who sustain the Earth against the persistent hunger of the twisted creatures who inhabit the Shards, the broken remains of shattered universes. Daniel Fisher, both cursed and empowered by his acceptance of his role as Earth’s protectors, seeks to warn the righteous men of the coming demonic attack, while Mashit—the Queen of all demonkind—forces a quartet of captive Lamed Vavnik to her will, bringing new growth to her burning realm.

Meanwhile, Daphna, Mashit’s daughter, visits Earth and adopts the guise of a liberated Ukrainian slave girl cum pop superstar in order to bring all of humanity under her control. As humanity rushes to embrace the new celebrity and worship at her feet, Daniel struggles to convince the scattered Lamed Vavnik of the threat which faces them all, but they refuse to accept their true nature.

Queen of Static continues the Worldmender Trilogy, a series that The Huffington Post has referred to as a “unique fantasy cosmos” and one that NPR has called a “feast for hardcore fantasy fans.”

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