Scifi/Fantasy Scenes I Can Never Get Enough Of

This post came to me when I woke up at the crack of dawn to type out a scene for a WIP so apologies if I get a little rambly–short and sweet isn’t something I can achieve at 5 AM (or ever). But yeah, the title says it all! These are scenes that get me swooning every time I encounter them in SFF (though you can obviously find them in other genres too).

I’ve gotten used to doing lists of five with Top 5 Wednesday, so I’ll list five for now and save the rest for a part 2! (So she says)

 

Competence Porn

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I have no idea if this is the official name for the trope, but I saw it in an article years ago so that’s what I’ve been calling it ever since. It basically describes the rush of pleasure we get when we see or read about characters doing the things that they’re experts at. It’s something we see in superhero and heist films all the time.

With books, I find the effect most potent when the character does their expert thing in front of an audience:

An investigator moving through a crime scene–eyes bright, brain whirling–and describing step by step, in lurid detail, what’s transpired in the room.

A new recruit stepping into the sparring circle and demonstrating to a gaggle of sneering, catcalling soldiers what real swordplay looks like.

Our brains think competence is super sexy and I can’t say that I disagree.

 

The Unmasked Hero

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That moment when the secret princess/prince/person of important personage who’s been hiding their identity for multiple books finally rips their mask off to the world and goes, “Yes, I am that person of important personage. Quake, you tiny mortals” (in those exact words, yes).

It’s deliciously validating and sets shivers down my spine every time.

 

A Moment of Respite

Out of all the moments in the Realm of the Elderlings books–ones with dragons and intrigue and horrific raiders and heart-pounding battles–there’s one that is an absolute favourite of mine. And it’s a scene where the characters do a bunch of chores together.

There’s no action. No intrigue. No talking about what they have to do next. Just three characters basking in each other’s friendship, telling stories, lazying around, and living moment to moment.

In terms of plot, it’s a useless scene.

And it’s also a brilliant scene. Because while inconsequential to the plot, it’s 100% percent consequential to the characters, and the book–the series–can’t exist without it.

And we see it in video games all the time. Remember the guitar scene in Bioshock: Infinite? Completely unnecessary. Completely optional. The entirety of Mass Effect‘s Citadel DLC? Wholly skippable. And yet also not.

I love, love seeing characters take a break from the saving-the-world business to do mundane things and talk about mundane things, because though they may not know what tomorrow will bring–what horrors they’ll face–today they’re here and alive and together. And in that brief moment they’re no heroes tasked with slaying dragons. They’re just people having a good time.

And later, when everything goes to shit, it’s these moments that the characters and you, the reader, remember the most.

 

Two enemies forced to work together

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This relates to the enemies-to-lovers trope as they’re both basically about sticking two characters in one room and seeing what kind of sparks will fly. It doesn’t matter the situation. Maybe they’re literally stuck in a room and have to work together to get themselves out. Maybe a bigger, badder baddie has entered the picture so they reluctantly agree to pool resources because the enemy of my enemy and all that. However it happens, I love the banter that comes out it and I love seeing them grudgingly save each other’s hides all the while slinging insults. And if by the end of it they realize that they actually work really well together? Even better.

 

Protagonist and Antagonist having a nice drawn-out conversation

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I feel like we see this in manga/anime/light novels more often than in western media and I always use Fate/Zero as an example. The show dedicates the entirety of one episode to setting three enemy characters down in a circle and having them engage in a debate on what it means to be a good king. Opinions clash. Harsh words are exchanged. Beliefs get shaken. And you glean more about the characters in those 20 minutes than you do in all previous episodes combined.

And what’s even more interesting is what happens after such a conversation.

Maybe the protagonist spirals into a crisis of faith, but after some intensive soul-searching, emerges with a stronger, more comfortable hold on their ideals. Or maybe not–maybe they start crumbling under the weight of their newfound doubt which gets their goals skidding in wild directions. Maybe both characters come away from the exchange rattled and holding pieces of one another that they never wanted in the first place.

There are few things I love more than seeing two enemy characters challenge each other intellectually and spiritually, and this one conversation can take the story in an infinite number of fascinating directions.

Plus I just want something a little more stimulating than an antagonist monologuing for three pages with the protagonist quipping at the end with a “Fuck you.” (Unless the former is arguing the merits of murdering puppies and small children and suggesting the protagonist join them in this endeavour. Then yes, a hearty “FU” would be the preferred response.)

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What do you think about these? Any of your favourites that you’d like to share?

Review: The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins – The Best (and the only) D&D Graphic Novel I’ve Read

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Title: The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins
Author: Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, Carey Pietsch (Artist)
Publisher: First Second Books
Release Date: July 17th, 2018
Genre(s) and Subject(s):
Graphic Novel, Fantasy, D&D
Page Count: 256 (paperback)
Goodreads

Rating: 8.0/10

 

 

I tried to not make this a review about The Adventure Zone The Podcast because you can 100% read this comic as a standalone, but I’ll just say this: if you’ve never listened to TAZ before, I highly, highly recommend that you give a couple of episodes a try. Even if you’re someone who’s like, “D&D what? Fantasy who?” I have converted non-gamers and fantasy naysayers into worshipers of this podcast. My friend, whose only knowledge of RPGs came from what she saw on The Big Bang Theory, is now a fanatic. The McElroys will do that to you.

It will fill your life with giggles, rainbow dust, and baby penguins. In fact, here’s a baby penguin imploring you to please, oh pretty please, go check out TAZ:

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C’mon. How can you deny that face?

And if you’re thinking, “But I already watch/listen to Critical Role! I don’t need another D&D podcast in my life. That’d be cheating!”–trust me, TAZ is an entirely different beast. So think of it as loving your significant other but also loving your dog. Nothing wrong with that! (…Right?)

  • Podcast HERE
  • Full transcripts of the episodes HERE

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First, let’s introduce our main cast and crew:

Taako
Meet Taako (pronounced “taco”), an elf wizard played by Justin McElroy. He used to star in a cooking show called “Sizzle It Up with Taako”, but it ended in a bit of a disaster, so he’s now stuck being a full-time adventurer. (He’s also super queer but we don’t find that out in this first arc)

Pietsch’s early sketches of Taako showed him to be white in skin tone, but due to backlash from the fandom, he’s been changed to…blue. Which is fair.

 

Magnus

 
Here’s Magnus Burnsides! Played by Travis McElroy! He’s a human figher who lives by the motto of “act first, think later,” with his catchphrase being “Magnus rushes in!” He’s proficient in many things including animals and vehicles. (And wolf-throwing, apparently)

 

 

 

 

Merrle

 

Merle Hitower Highchurch, a dwarf cleric played by Clint McElroy (father of these goofballs). He carries around an Extreme Teen Bible to help educate the modern youth on the good word of his god Pan. His favourite go-to spell is “Zone of Truth” (which makes everyone in the immediate area tell the truth).

 

 

And finally we have Griffin McElroy as the illustrious Dungeon Master.

Our heroes’ tale starts out with an offer from Merle’s cousin, Gundren Rockseeker, who claims that he has “the last job [they’ll] ever need to take.” Which sounds, well, pretty awesome!

…And a little too good to be true.

The trio soon find themselves neck deep in a cave full of goblins (“gerblins”), tangled up in goblin gang politics, uncovering a mysterious artifact, and having some nice tea with an enemy.

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I can only imagine the sheer head-splitting frustration that comes with trying to adapt an audio-only improv media, so kudos to the McElroys and Carey Pietsch for pulling it off.

The art is perfect. It’s cute and dynamic and everything from the characters’ facial expressions to the scenery is done with a lot of care and detail. We get the iconic moments from the podcast plus some new scenes that will delight both the veterans and the newcomers.

The story itself is goofy, action-packed, and super charming (and filled with swears, so probably not something you want to be reading to your kids). This first arc is kind of your standard fantasy adventure, but it lays down the foundation for the rest of the campaign story, where the really crazy and exciting stuff happens.

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Despite me yelling at you to go listen to TAZ, I’m aware that not everyone can access them, so I’m happy this comic provides a way for more people to get acquainted with these beloved, idiot characters and the start of an adventure that’s stuffed to the brim with imagination, gut-splitting humour, and a lot of heart.

So buckle up, folks. It’s going to be a wild ride.

July Plans – Sci-Fi, Gerblins, and Discworld

One day–one day–I will do a monthly TBR post right at the start of said month and angels will weep in joy (and flood the world and usher in a post-apocalypse). But alas, today is not that day.

These are the books that I will 100% get to by the end of this month, either because I have to or because I really, really want to. I’m on a bit of a sci-fi kick lately and that seems to be carrying into July, as there are 3 on this list! (Fantasy purist teenage-me would be flabbergasted)

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Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers:
Currently reading through this one and I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s like a cross of Mass Effect and a cozy soap opera, and I can see why people call the series “hopepunk.” It’s my first experience with a Chambers’ novel and it sure as hell won’t be the last.

And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness (Illustrated by Rovina Cai):
Moby Dick but flipped upside-down, with whales hunting a mythical man. I just finished it the other day and it’s weird but it works. And I just adore Ness’ stories in general. If the guy announces one day that he wants to write an Austen-esque anthropomorphic animal erotica, I’ll just nod and say, “When can I preorder?”

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Redemption’s Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky:
A high fantasy novel that I know very little about (the blurb is rather vague), but I liked Tchaikovsky’s previous books and I’ve heard good things about this one from Susy, so I’m looking forward to diving into it.

Empire of Silence (The Sun Eater 1) by Christopher Ruocchio:
I’ve been craving a large, sprawling scifi epic and this looks to hit all the marks. It’s been compared to The Name of the Wind and from what little I’ve seen, the prose is just my kind of flowery.

Temper by Nicky Drayden:
Drayden’s debut Prey of Gods was a fun blend of sci-fi and fantasy, and Temper looks to continue that trend, albeit in a slightly darker direction. It features twin brothers, jealousy, and a whole lot of demons. Very exciting.

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Dragon Age: Hard in Hightown by Varric Tethras

The Adventure Zone: Here there Be Gerblins

It probably says a lot about me that my two most anticipated reads of this month are a 72-page video game tie-in novelette and a comic book adaptation of a D&D podcast. Dragon Age and The Adventure Zone are two of my favourite things in the world and it is fairly ridiculous how excited I am for these books.

DISCWORD READ-A-THON

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For those who have missed the original announcement post, Nicole and I are launching our Discworld Readathon this month, starting with The Colour of Magic! Each month we’ll read through one book in the Discworld series and post our reviews on the last Monday. You can join in for any month and stop at any time.

It’s my first official foray into the Discworld universe and I’m very excited to get to know all the characters whom I’ve heard so many great things about.

If you haven’t yet signed up for July and would like to join in, leave a comment below and we’ll add you to our list!

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What are you most looking forward to reading this month?

Top 5 Wednesday: Favourite Non-Written Novels

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic.

This is my first post for rewind month and my chosen topic is: Favourite Non-Written Novels (comics, manga, audiobooks, etc). I’m going to cheat a little here and showcase five of my favourite graphic novels and five of my favourite manga. Because choices–they’re hard.

Graphic Novels

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  • Saga (Written by Brian K. Vaughan; Art by Fiona Staples):
    Hands down the best scifi graphic novel out there.
  • Descender (Written by Jeff Lemire; Art by Dustin Nguyen):
    Think Artificial Intelligence (the movie) but not as depressing. The worldbuilding is fascinating and intricate, and the artwork is done in gorgeous watercolour.
  • The Wake (Written by Scott Snyder; Art by Sean Murphy):
    While I hate how the ending of this one-shot graphic novel was handled, the first half is just absolute perfection. It’s about a Marine Biologist who gets sent to an underwater oilrig and discovers ancient creatures that humans weren’t meant to find. It’s spine-tingling horror at its finest.

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  • The Woods (Written by James Tynion IV; Art by Michael Dialynas):
    An entire highschool (the building plus the students) gets transported to a different planet on a whole different universe, and a group of teens must figure out a way to survive. It’s fun, exciting, and super super diverse. The series has also been greenlit for a TV adaptation at Syfy!
  • Unsounded (Written and illustrated by Ashley Cope):
    Unsounded has to be the best fantasy webcomic out there. Ashley has created a world that is ludicrously rich and complex and characters that dig into your heart with tenacity. There are 12 1/2 (meaty) chapters so far, and it updates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Manga

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  • Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura:
    This sweeping pseudo-historical epic spans 31 volumes and I had to restrain myself hard from devouring it all in one week. Set in an alternate 18th-century Japan, it stars a teenage girl named Rin, who’s on a quest for vengeance, and her companion/bodyguard Manji, who’s been cursed with immortality. The artwork is the beautiful balance of sensuous and violent, and the characters (especially the antagonists) are all wonderfully complex. The series took 20 years to finish (1993 to 2012), and Samura has said that he never wants to draw a single kimono ever again. And you know what? Fair enough. He’s earned a break.
  • 20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa:
    Honestly, I could add all of Naoki Urasawa’s work on this list and be happy with the result, but if I must to pick a favourite, it’s got to be 20th Century Boys. It’s a coming-of-age story to end all coming-of-age stories. It’s also a part mystery, part scifi, and part superhero/supervillain story. Words can’t do this masterpiece justice. Just go check it out.
  • A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima:
    A Silent Voice gives one of the best depictions of the pains of childhood and bullying I’ve encountered in recent memory. The MC is not immediately likeable from the get-go–he’s a bully who’d tormented a deaf girl to the point of her switching schools. Years later, he’s wracked with guilt and is determined to do whatever it takes to make it up to her. It’s a hard read but a necessary one–filled with as much hope and compassion as pain and horror.

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  • Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori:
    OHSHC was (and still is, in my opinion) the bar to beat for Shoujo mangas. It’s a reverse-harem story that subverts usual reverse-harem tropes. Starring the most unlikely heroine and a group of eccentric boys, this series is at once funny, charming, and heartwarming.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP:
    This was the very first manga series I’d read as a kid and it’ll always hold a special place in my heart. The story just radiates with so many positive themes–friendship, love, courage, just to name a few. It was also probably my first introduction to queer characters in fiction, which is pretty wild.