8 Silent Films Every Sci-Fi and Horror Fan Should See


Genre films have been around basically as long as cinema itself—which means audiences have been shrieking at monsters and marveling at space adventures for over 100 years. Technology may have changed rather dramatically, but a lot of the core stories are still remarkably similar.

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The New Child’s Play Trailer Unveils Mark Hamill’s Dastardly Doll Voice


The Chucky renaissance plunges forth with another trailer for the upcoming movie reboot—as ever, not to be confused with the otherwise unrelated in-the-works Syfy TV series from franchise creator Don Mancini. This new trailer is the one we’ve been eagerly awaiting ever since it was announced that Mark Hamill would be…

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5 Recent Novels That Blend Sci-Fi and Horror

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Horror and science fiction often go hand in hand. Fear of the unknown, encounters with the alien, life in a world that can be tipped upside down in a single moment: the two genres are often entwined, gifting a dose of fear to sci-fi and a dash of wonder to unknown horror. Below are five books and series that are made more effective by their blurring of the lines between the scary and the speculative.

The Luminous Dead, by Caitlin Starling
Caitlin Starling’s debut novel is set on an alien world, but its core of psychological horror comes less from the fear of the extraterrestrial monsters lurking in the dark than the all-too-human ones we carry around in our own minds. Caver Gyre Price has been hired to descend into one of the most dangerous underground systems on her colony world, guided only by a single handler, Em, who treats her with little respect and is actively keeping secrets from her. Though she is supposedly the only one active down below, Gyre’s grip on reality begins to fray as her mind unravels from too many hours spent alone in the blackness. As she encounters alien lifeforms, uncovers information about Em’s true mission, and begins seeing things, the facts of what is real and what is not are called into question. Starling keeps the tension high and reality slippery enough that you’ll be as in the dark as Gyre, right up until the end.

Annihilation (The Southern Reach trilogy), by Jeff VanderMeer
While the whole Southern Reach trilogy belongs on this list, the first book in VanderMeer’s incredible series sets the tone for the two that follow. Four woman are sent into the mysterious Area X, a bubble of land that has been touched by something alien; the previous expeditions have either never returned, or they’ve come back changed. Together, these four women must do their best to understand what Area X is,  what it wants, and how it’s changing them. VanderMeer’s work is delicate but unceasingly intense, only increasing the tension as we slowly learn what lies within Area X, and see the effects the place has on both the women exploring it and the land it encompasses. There is beauty in the horror, as we see first-hand the evolution of the familiar world into an alien landscape; by the end of the novel, your notions of what makes us human, who (or what) deserves dignity will be thoroughly tested.

The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders
Nebula-winner Charlie Jane Anders’s latest novel is a stunning, cleverly constructed journey across a tidally locked world unfit for the survival of humans, who have nevertheless done just that by gritting their teeth, innovating systems to keep themselves ordered and alive, and carving out an existence on a sliver of land that barely tolerates life at all. Xiosphant, one of the main cities on the planet of January, has no night or day; its time is regimented to the second, and all of its citizens must live by that established clock. Likewise, they must always be on constant guard against any number of terrifying creatures that exist outside its boundaries, called by all-too-friendly names any human from Earth would know (bison, crocodile), but exceedingly alien, and often exceedingly deadly. Gods help you if you wander to either side of the twilight, where you’ll either freeze to death in minutes on the one side or burst into flames on the other. Anders’s world is a hard and terrifying one, but her novel champions our ability to adapt and survive, even as it questions whether the systems we build to do so are worth the horrors they may encompass.

Spaceman of Bohemia, by Jaroslav Kalfar
Jakub Procházka is going to be the first Czech in space; not only that, but he’s going straight to Venus. Given the chance to escape the planet and possibly atone for the crimes of his father, Jakub leaps, and leaves behind his life on Earth—including Lenka, the woman of his dreams. However, on his solo mission, disasters crop up at every turn, starting with the massive alien spider named Hanus who stows away in his shuttle (the two soon become friends of a sort). Kalfar’s debut is a fascinating mixture of absurdism, humanity, and horror; soon after he sets off on his mission, Jakub grows increasingly unsure of whether he’s losing his mind or communicating with a higher or possibly extraterrestrial power. As the narrative moves back and forth between the past and the present, the horror—of isolation of being stuck in space, on a collision course with an uninhabitable planet, and partnered with a massive spider—only intensifies, and Kalfar milks it for all its worth. Jakub’s mission becomes one of survival, not just against the void of space, but his own mind.

The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older
Let’s round out of list with an unconventional choice: while not specifically a work of horror, Malka Older’s Centenal Cycle trilogy does touch on chilling aspects of paranoia, fear, and the dangers of power being placed in the wrong hands. Across three books (Infomocracy, Null States, and State Tectonics), Older introduces us to a near future world order in which the majority of governments have splintered into smaller, manageable districts called centenals, whose citizens get to choose their governments exactly specified to their minutiae and preferences. All of this bureaucracy is overseen by Information, a worldwide data gathering service that not only monitors the massive communications server, but also helps facilitate the elections that determine which government will hold a Supermajority across all the centenals. While we’re firmly with the characters who could be considered the good guys throughout the books, Older doesn’t shy away from exploring the side effects of such an omnipresent, data-dense surveillance systems, forcing us to consider the terrifying implications of a quasi-utopian vision of the future.

What boundary pushing sci-fi/horror novels do you love?

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In the Darkly Humorous All My Colors, a Jerk Rewrites a Novel Only He Can Remember

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Todd Milstead is a jerk. His friends barely tolerate him (and only because he supplies them with free food and booze), he treats women terribly, and his ego far eclipses his nonexistent writing talent. Perhaps the only real skill he has is a perfect memory: at will, he is able to accurately quote entire passages from books, if not entire books.

During yet another obnoxious dinner party, Todd begins to quote from a bestseller called All My Colors and is shocked when no one else can remember it. At first he shrugs it off, assuming the others are just far less well-read, but when he tries to find a copy of the book and prove everyone wrong, he quickly realizes that he’s the only one who remembers it.

Facing a divorce and the realization that his life is about to take a turn for the worse, Todd decides to take advantage of his perfect recall to recreate the book that doesn’t exist. He knows it was a bestseller before, so why not “write” All My Colors himself and make some cash off of it?

The new novel from Veep and The Thick of It screenwriter David Quantick—which shares the name of the fictional, in-narrative tome—chronicles the fast-paced, darkly humorous tale of Todd Milstead’s sudden rise to fame and his equally sudden demise. Quantick shatters the notion that a character must be likable for a story to succeed: throughout, Todd remains an insufferable, irredeemable jerk. Even when he briefly seems to reform for the better, the reader can sense that there hasn’t been a real change in him, and, soon enough, he returns to his inconsiderate ways.

It is the strength of Todd’s awfulness that keeps us reading: he may be a caricature of every “Guy in Your MFA,” but that only makes us eager to see him get smacked down for his arrogance. Although we’re lured by tantalizing hints that he might get away with his scheme, we ultimately cheer for him not to. The journey toward Todd’s inevitable comeuppance is a real ride, and the reveals along the way more than satisfy the mystery that opens the novel—why is Todd the only one who can remember this particular book? —even if things might come together with an ease (and a villainous monologue) that belies the author’s roots in television.

Under a surface layer of pulp horror, All My Colors challenges ideas of ownership that feel relevant to our current creative climate. As publishing struggles to embrace diversity and welcome stories that are inclusive of underrepresented parts of our community, one question often arises: whose stories do we prioritize? Written by whom? How do stories about a multiracial cast of characters written by white authors, or stories about trans characters written by cis authors, fit into the framework of diversity that we now want to promote?

Neither I nor Quantick are here to give universal, straightforward answers to these questions. All My Colors asks us to soul-search—to ask ourselves why we want to tell certain stories and what drives us to create narratives; to question our own intentions and motivations, and the dissonance between our public and private selves. Rather than being a treatise on inspiration, Quantick’s story is about the consequences of theft and the entitlement we display when we treat a person’s real life narrative as an object to be possessed and sold.

Quantick spins the tired trope of a book about someone writing a book into a darkly humorous story about ego and comeuppance, one that, for a moment, lets the reader believe in a just world where jerks get their due punishment. The dark humor in All My Colors will leave you grinning, your teeth shining and so very, very sharp.

All My Colors is available now from Titan Books.

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7 Stephen King Books Almost as Scary as Pet Sematary

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The recent release of the second feature-film adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary has reminded both hardcore and casual fans of the author’s work that, yep, it’s still the scariest novel he’s ever written.

Whether you think the new film delivers the scares better than the so-so 1989 version, the source material still stands as the single piece of writing King’s oeuvre that scares its own author the most—upon finishing it, he reportedly found the book so disturbing he stuffed the manuscript into a drawer, intending never to release it. It was his wife Tabitha King who suggested he resurrect it, and it went on to become one of his foundational works, proving that, at least in this case, sometimes dead isn’t better.

King’s voluminous catalog of books isn’t all horror and scares. He’s written fantasy, a trilogy of crime novels, plenty of nonfiction essays and books, and even some humor. But if you want full-bore heebie-jeebies similar to the bleak shocks Pet Sematary delivers, you have plenty to choose from. Here are seven Stephen King books almost as terrifying as Pet Sematary.

Skeleton Crew
King’s second collection, published back in 1985, contains several all-time terrifying short stories from early in his career. There’s “The Mist,” the trapped-in-a-supermarket-by-Eldritch-horrors story that inspired both a film and TV series adaptation, and the very gruesome “Survivor Type,” which introduced fans to the concept of auto-cannibalism. But the tale that might stick with you the most is “The Jaunt,” a nasty little piece of science fiction about an overly curious kid and the perils of interstellar teleportation that originally appeared in Twilight Zone Magazine.

The Stand
1978’s epic story of an apocalypse by superflu virus and what happens after was the first to show what King could do with a huge cast of characters and a spine-busting number of pages. It’s memorable not only for its high body count, but for introducing creepy recurring “Walking Dude” villain Randall Flagg, and for a nightmarish set piece in which two characters must travel through the Lincoln Tunnel, which happens to be full of corpses. The extended edition of the novel (which is now the only one available) adds texture, a whole new supporting character, and a coda that gives the ending a darker spin.

Doctor Sleep
Your mileage may vary on whether the sequel to The Shining is scarier than its predecessor, but the story of a grown-up Danny Torrance dealing with a supernatural force of psychic vampires has a lot going for it, all of it horrifying. Rose the Hat and her gang of True Knot RV travelers, who prey on kids with “the Shine,” are as violent and repellent as any of the vampires in ‘Salem’s Lot, or any of King’s other works.

Full Dark, No Stars
Perhaps King’s bleakest collection of shorter works, this one is preoccupied throughout with death. “1922” is a brutal story of rural revenge and marital betrayal. “Big Driver” is the rare Stephen King rape-revenge story. “Fair Extension” contemplates the nastiness of human nature and schadenfreude. And “A Good Marriage” is about a woman who discovers she was unwittingly married to a serial murderer, one inspired, in King’s writing, by the real-life BTK Killer.

Under the Dome
The unfortunate TV series adaptation got bogged down in weird character turns and goofy special effects, but the novel is a lengthy, detailed look at how everything falls apart in a small town in a pressure cooker, cut off from the rest of the world by a mysterious, impenetrable dome. Once things start going wrong, King doesn’t let up on the accelerator, sparing few of his lovable (or not so lovable) townies along the road to a bloody finale. These 1,000+ pages are littered with some of the author’s most squirm-inducing death scenes.

Not all of King’s scariest books need a supernatural hook to spook readers. Annie Wilkes, the obsessive fan who cares for author/car-crash victim Paul Sheldon in Misery, is equal parts fussy, compassionate nurse, and, let’s say, overly persnickety fan of his bodice-ripper book series. It doesn’t take long for Paul to realize that the woman in whose care he has found himself is unhinged, to say the least, and that she’s not going to care for what happens to her favorite fictional character in his latest book. The horror in this one comes from the plausibility of the setup, and how realistically King portrays Annie’s bipolar disorder, Paul’s disabling addiction to painkillers, and the necessary mental escape Paul finds in writing.

One of King’s lesser-acclaimed books, this 2014 novel involves a small-town minister named Charles Jacobs who suffers a tremendous loss and then spends the rest of his life on a mission to harness electricity toward questionable ends. The story is told through the eyes of Jamie, who befriended Jacobs as a small boy, and who becomes linked to the former preacher’s obsession. There are plenty of light moments throughout the narrative, including an entertaining section about Jamie’s days as a rock musician, before drug addiction sidelines him. But the horrifying ending, which gives us a visceral idea of King’s vision of Hell, is one of the darkest turns in any of his fiction. Like Pet Sematary, this one that will stick with you.

What’s your pick for Stephen King’s scariest work?

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8 Movies Featuring Reanimation (That Aren’t About Zombies)


It’s aliiiiive! The Bible gave Jesus an encore after death, but Frankenstein is what really brought reanimation to the horror-movie forefront, and the genre’s been embracing it ever since. We’re not talking standard-issue zombies here—in honor of Pet Sematary, we’re counting up our favorite corpses who’ve bounced back…

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Ambiguity Reigns in the Hypnotic Stories of The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

To enter the world of Caitlin R. Kiernan is to enter a world where dreams become nightmares, nightmares become reality, and transformation—horrible, beautiful, or sometimes both—is a constant.

Kiernan was a Nebula Award nominee for her novel The Drowning Girl, but she is most prolific in short fiction. Those looking to explore her work in brevity will be well-served by The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan, a new collection that cherry picks from her voluminous body of stories published between 2003 and 2017. Each of them stands alone, but there are thematic links throughout, and a common preferences for eschewing easy answers in favor of eerie ambiguity.

“No story has a beginning, and no story has an end. Beginnings and endings may be conceived to serve a purpose, to serve a momentary and transient intent, but they are, in their truer nature, arbitrary and exist solely as a construct of the mind of men.” So says a fictitious monk in “Bradbury Weather,” which harkens back to Ray Bradbury’s stories about Mars.

The style of the stories is chiefly stream-of-consciousness with a single narrator, and though I’d hesitate to classify them as horror, some of them are certainly horrific. Some are fantasy, some are science fiction. One isn’t any of those things.

The collection opens with “Andromeda Among the Stones,” whose narrator, in describing her family’s life in a home constructed above a portal to somewhere decidedly Other, is uncertain what is real and what might be a symptom of the madness of the world around her. It sets the tone nicely for the rest of the book, beginning with a quote from H.P. Lovecraft: “I cannot think of the deep sea without shuddering.”

It’s a statement that might apply to any number of the stories in this collection that connect the vastness of the sea with an unknowable other world; the sea reappears in five other stories: “Houses Under the Sea,” “The Ammonite Violin,” “Fish Bride,” “Mermaid of the Concrete Oceans,” and Tidal Force.” It is never quite an enemy—more as an unknowable force—though sometimes it is personified, as by the lover of the narrator of “Houses Under the Sea,” who cannot decide if their lover was the leader of a cult that committed mass suicide via drowning or… something else.

Earth, another unknowable entity, is far less benevolent, leading girls into wells or under rocks and subjecting them to a transformation that destroys their essential self. The girl fairy of “A Child’s Guide to the Hollow Hills” is devoured by just such a force.

The more science fictional stories also truck in indelible images to haunt your imagination. There is art made from human bodies in “A Season of Broken Dolls.” In “Bradbury Weather,” a woman searches for the lover who has gone in search of a new religion and taken the mark that will trigger a transformation, though of what sort is not exactly clear until the end. The narrator finds it horrific. But does her lover agree? Perhaps she’s now a part of something greater, something forever.

The astronaut narrator of “Galapagos” is also attempting to save a doomed lover after the lover’s spaceship passes through a mysterious cloud. The astronaut finds her lover, but not in the same form or, indeed, any form she recognizes. She’s told to leave, and she survives, but at the cost of her sanity. But again, it’s unclear: is the transformation that horrific, or is it only horrific because the narrator deems it so?

Some of the stories are a bit more grounded in the familiar. “Ape’s Wife” is the story of the many realities of Ann Darrow, the woman who fascinates King Kong. “The Prayer of Ninety Cats,” is about Elizabeth Bathory, mass murderer, witch, and subject of a movie that haunts the person at the center of the tale.

The stories favor narratives that are anything but linear; the narrators often double back on themselves, a technique that further immerses the reader in their world.

“I am dreaming. Or I am awake. I’ve long since ceased to care, as I’ve long since ceased to believe it matters which. Dreaming or awake, my perceptions of the hill and the tree and what little remains of the house on the hill are the same.” — from “One Tree Hill (The World at Cataclysm)”

The last story, “Fairy Tale of Wood Street,” is one of the most straightforward: a woman realizes her lesbian lover has a tail, and wanders through the rest of her day, wondering if she’s only imagined it. When the truth of the lover is revealed, this time there’s acceptance; the narrator realizes she known this person for much of her life as a friend, even if she is something more of magic than humanity.

Though these stories are ambiguous, I won’t be: as the title suggests, this is a terrific collection from one of the best writers of her generation.

The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan is available now.

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Pet Sematary Tries to Dig Deep But Maybe Should’ve Been Left in the Grave


The best movie remakes take inspiration from source material that’s already strong, then innovate enough to justify their own existence. The worst ones, on the other hand, beg the question “Why?” Pet Sematary, based on a Stephen King novel that was previously adapted in 1989, falls somewhere in the middle.

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A Vein of Sci-Fi Horror Runs Deep in The Luminous Dead

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Gyre Price is a young, desperate, reckless, and a liar—and talented enough that those qualities don’t matter. Not on this job.

On an alien world where the chances of leaving are slim to none, opportunity is found not in the stars, but beneath the stone: Gyre is one of a group of cave climbers hired by corporations to delve for minerals, water, and other mineable resources. She isn’t the least bit qualified for the job, but she’s good enough to fake it, and the money it pays will deliver her only chance at leaving the planet to search for the mother who abandoned her.

Outfitted in a state of the art suit monitors and feeds her—and shields her presence from the mysterious, monstrous Tunnelers that dwell within the plane—Gyre’s life depends on the reliability of the tech and the skill of her team of handlers, who are ostensibly steering her toward the safest paths from the surface… Except there is no team, there’s just Em. Brilliant, cold, and tactical, Em has no qualms with using drugs on Gyre without her consent, manipulating her, and keeping her in the dark (both literally and metaphorically) as she works toward her own ends.

Together, Gyre and Em delve into one of the most dangerous cave systems on the planet, for a purpose that Gyre doesn’t know and Em won’t reveal. And though she’s certainly isolated on her journey, Gyre may not be alone in the dark.

That’s just a hint of the horrors lurking within The Luminous Dead, the fantastic horror sci-fi debut from Caitlin Starling. It’s a novel as claustrophobic as the premise suggests, yet despite the fact that much of the action unfolds in conversations between just two characters, it never feels constricted. Even as Starling increases the narrative pressure with every page, she dives just as deeply into the psyches of her main characters, giving us room to root for both Gyre and Em in different ways, playing with expectations and inviting readers to shift their alliances from one woman to the other through carefully controlled character reveals. As danger closes in on all sides, we’re never quite sure who love, who to hate, or who to trust.

And oh what dangers there are: treacherous drops, vicious riptides flowing through underground pools, an alien fungus that infects everything it touches, and the Tunnelers, ravenous creatures drawn to disturbances in the rock, Gyre’s suit batteries running low, missing supply checkpoints, and more. There is much to fear down in the dark.

The novel also crawls deep into Gyre’s own mind: the further down she goes, the more she allows herself to be fueled by paranoia, grief, and anger, the less reliable a narrator she becomes. Starling balances this distorting reality with careful skill; by the climax, you, like Gyre, may no longer be sure of which way is up.

The Luminous Dead is a survival story in the vein of The Martian, with a psychological horror twist—the journey of two women climbing knowingly into the jaws of darkness, but not without a hope of seeing the light of day again.

The Luminous Dead is available April 2.

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