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Randee Dawn

Six Books You’ll (Probably) Never Be Able to Read

As headlines have been informing us recently, censorship is very much alive and well across the United States—but there’s a difference between a book you’re not allowed to read and one you simply can’t read. The subset of non-censored reading material out there that actively seems to dare readers to make any sense of it is deep and vast. From codices to puzzles to straight-up art projects, books that aren’t meant to be read (or are essentially impossible to read) present the bibliophile with a true conundrum: Just how hard should you have to work to read and enjoy a book?

Here, then, are six publications that you’re free to try to track down, but which have a seriously select group of readers nonetheless…

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Goblin Markets and Other Uncanny Fantasy Shopping Experiences

Shopping seems like a fairly innocuous task for a character in a book to undertake. After all, how tough could it be to get some milk, bread, and a bit of cheese? But the truth is, markets—whether of the goblin, faerie, night, or miscellaneous varieties—are more likely to be eldritch pits of danger, filled with challenges and some truly ugly (as well as breathtakingly magical) moments.

Authors rarely set an entire book within the confines of a market experience (though stories like Fran Wilde’s “Unseelie Brothers, Ltd.” might center around a particular fey-run shop), but the fantasy markets their characters encounter are often critical inflection points where heroes, villains, and sidekicks collide. Journey with us to nine unique, fantastical fictional locales to buy and sell your wares—and maybe learn a few things about yourself, and your world, in the process.

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Five Authors Who Adapted Others’ Stories (Plus Their Own)

Here’s a sad truth about writing for most authors: This is not a lucrative business. Years can go by between publications, and there’s never a guarantee anyone will end up earning royalties on their books. So it’s no wonder that several legends of speculative fiction have cast their gaze toward Hollywood over the years…and took up jobs penning screenplays and teleplays for books and stories written by other authors. The five authors we’re highlighting below wrote their own successful works of science fiction, fantasy, or horror, but also adapted books and stories originally penned by other writers for both the big and small screen (and of course, you’ll note some overlap with this previous article, where we looked at six authors who’d done well adapting their own works).

So without further ado, here are some famous names you’ll definitely recognize… and some of the scripts they wrote that you might not know they had anything to do with!

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Six Authors Who’ve Successfully Adapted Their Own Work

As an author, it’s hard to let go of your words. But authors fortunate enough to adapt their own works can hold onto their stories and help to shape them a little bit longer (and add some shiny new credits to their IMDb pages in the process). But not every writer gets a shot at self-scripting; Hollywood loves to work with familiar names, and sometimes authors lack the skills or experience necessary to translate their fiction into a whole other medium.

So while we eagerly await the upcoming self-adaptations from the likes of N.K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth trilogy); Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (This Is How You Lose the Time War); and George R.R. Martin (maybe? It’s kind of hard to keep track…), let’s look at six fantasy and science fiction writers who brought their books (and shorter works) to the big and small screen, albeit sometimes with a little help.

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Seven Stories About Fictional Writers That Need a Reality Check

Somebody’s got to write movies and TV shows—Hollywood’s dream factory doesn’t spontaneously create scripts (though, with AI coming, who knows what the future will bring…). And when the scribes of L.A. go on strike, as the Writers Guild of America may do very soon, the whole industry quakes.

So why is it so dang difficult to get actual writers to write about other writers in a realistic way?

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Weaponized Diamonds, UFOs, and Neck-Biters: More Fantastical Story Arcs From Soap Operas

Whatever you may believe about soap operas is probably… accurate. They’re dated, interminable, look inexpensively made; they repeat storylines and often perpetuate dated stereotypes about what “family” is supposed to look like. But the soap opera is also an incredible, unique form of storytelling that has endured since even before radio, sometimes pushing boundaries and featuring radical storylines; they’re constructed under enormous pressure (shows like General Hospital crank out five hours of entertainment per week with no reruns) and are often considered “boot camp” for young actors just starting out in the business.

And sometimes, they need a break from all of the “who’s the daddy” and “wedding of the decade” stories. Which is how we—and they—end up here: taking a slight breather from outlandish DNA tests and secret love triangles to enjoy some totally bonkers spec fic arcs sure to quicken the pulse of fantasy, science-fiction and horror fans everywhere. When soaps open themselves up to the genre universe, inserting their typically mundane characters into over-the-top tales filled with laser beams, time travel, and even super powers, it’s enough to give you whiplash of the best possible kind. We love the urban fantasy vibe of these tales, in which the ordinary lives alongside the impossible.

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Darling! Bow Down Before These Great Divas of Fantasy

Divas are divine. Literally: “Diva” derives from the Latin word for “divine,” or a “goddess,” and it’s no small thing to label a person (or a character) as such. Diving into a book and discovering a diva lurking within brings an immediate rush, because divas are super confident of their place in the universe—and absolutely positive that the sun spins around them, not the other way around.

Not only that, divas have a way of taking the wheel in a story, in part because they operate under a totally different set of rules: namely, their own. As an author who’s recently written a loose cannon—er, divine diva actor—named Fiona Ballantine in my upcoming book Tune In Tomorrow, I promise that these characters sometimes they surprise even their creators.

Yet when we think of divas in literature, fantasy might not be the first genre to come to mind. There’s Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, or Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, or Rhoda Penmark in The Bad Seed. But divas exist everywhere—from opera (their natural habitat) to reality TV to wrestling. So why not fantasy? And, for that matter, there’s no rule that says divas have to be cisgender women, or even human—divas tend to transcend labels and confound expectations; it’s all part of the gig.

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Five SFF Takes on Reality TV

Reality TV is a horror show. Except when it’s hilarious. Few genres can walk that fine line between sublimely terrifying and divinely ridiculous, which makes reality TV a particularly special kind of programming. It’s no surprise that Squid Game, last year’s must-watch series and this year’s Emmy Award darling, became such a big hit with the idea of a reality TV show aired to a tiny, elite audience that paired children’s games (and glorious sets that reminded us of the playground or nursery) with bloodshed. Now Netflix (which aired the series) is even creating an actual Squid Game: The Challenge reality competition series. No bloodshed, of course, but 456 contestants will be able to scramble for $4.56 million, the biggest cash prize a competition show has ever offered.

When reality TV goes to the movies, however, there tends to be approximately 90 percent less fun and games and 100 percent more totalitarianism. Here are five instances of reality TV reimagined for the big screen, and there’s a commonality to nearly all of these movies: The shows live in lurid colors (often crimson) and their ubiquity is trumpeted in exclamation points: They’re the Most Watched TV Shows Ever!!! in their dystopian near futures… a phrase that implicates all of us in the audience along with the warped minds who came up with the concepts in the first place.

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Six Odd, Unusual, and Unconventional Dragons

Dragons are cool. Giant scaly (or feathered) winged beasties, hovering in the skies or lurking in deep, dark caverns. Some are bearers of luck, some wreak havoc with a belly filled with fire. And many seem to be really into sitting around on a giant gold pile (though why is murky—are they hoping to bring back the gold standard?). So, yeah, dragons in fantasy literature are the coolest creatures out there (yes, I know, they can also be extremely hot), and their presence lends a grandeur and majesty to any story. Depending on the story, they may be metaphor for the human condition, they may be aliens we live among, or they may be an existential threat unlike any you’ve ever encountered before.

…Except that not all dragons are like that. In fact, some of the most memorable creatures in fiction stick with us because they are the exact opposite of all of those things we’ve come to expect. So I’ve dug into the hoard—shh, don’t tell them!—and come up with some real gems from across fantasy literature…here are my favorite offbeat, eccentric, and reluctant dragons of unusual ability (and sometimes size).

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Lost Cities, Demonic Possession, and Talking Dolls: The Fantastical Story Arcs of Soap Opera

You watch soap operas.

C’mon, you know you do.

Even if you don’t regularly tune into the four remaining daytime ones still in existence—Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, or General Hospital—you still watch soap operas. Why? Because you are a genre fan. You love your grand, sweeping, dramatic, romantic, world-shaking science fiction or fantasy or horror films. You nitpick over who did what to whom and when and on what alternative timeline and who came back from the dead on shows like Game of Thrones or Star Trek. Or movie franchises like Star Wars or Harry Potter or Twilight or anything in the Marvel Comics or DC Comics universe. These entertainments bend their story to the breaking point and twist their plots it into pretzel logic…and we love it.

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