Petra Mayer

ElfQuest is something unique in the world of comics: It's one of the longest-running fantasy series ever — and it's been the passion project of just two people for its whole life.

There there were few comics shops, fewer conventions, and not a lot of women were making comics when creators Wendy and Richard Pini began their epic quest in 1978. But now that quest is over, and they're on a farewell tour called Forty Years of Pointed Ears.

Tangier Island is in trouble — though that's kind of nothing new. The little island in the Chesapeake has been home to a small, self-reliant community for centuries, and it's been washing away little by little for just as long. But now, climate change is driving the waves higher.

David Bowie kind of bookends the 1970s – between "Space Oddity" in 1969 and its sequel "Ashes to Ashes" in 1980, music and science fiction crossed the streams in a way that hasn't been seen before or since – from Bowie to Funkadelic, suddenly, space was the (musical) place.

Seanan McGuire published her first book in 2009, and since then she's written more than two dozen novels across multiple fictional universes, from urban fairy fantasy to cryptozoology to zombie horror — and this year, she achieved her lifelong dream: to write an X-Men comic.

She says she knew she was a storyteller when she was three years old, "because that's when people started saying, she sure is a little storyteller, isn't she?" And when she saw the old Ray Bradbury Theater TV show, well, that was it: "A career path was set."

Today is cosplay day! As the con goes along, people start busting out better and better costumes, and we spent a few hours today seeing the extremely impressive sights. Oh, and did we mention — WE were part of those sights? Mallory dressed up as the Kate Bishop version of Hawkeye, from the Young Avengers, acknowledged by many people who saw her to be the BEST Hawkeye. And I was Spider Jerusalem from Transmetropolitan — a hero to journalists everywhere. We sat down behind the convention center at San Diego Comic-Con to talk about our favorite outfits.

Petra: Today is Thursday, but as far as I'm concerned, it's Doctor Whosday, and I'm starting the day by going to BBC America's press conference for their flagship show, and then ... and then ... I get to go on my first-ever trip to the famous, possibly infamous, Hall H, where only the biggest of wheels roll through.

Petra: Ah, the fresh hopefulness (a New Hope, even) of the first day of San Diego Comic-Con! Your feet don't hurt (yet), your nose isn't peeling (yet) and you haven't faced down the dark night of the soul that comes from acknowledging your deep desire to elbow aside that five-year-old dressed as Wonder Woman to get into the line that might let you buy this year's favorite toy — if they don't sell out before you get to the front. Tough luck, little Amazon.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The science fiction writer Harlan Ellison has died. He wrote short stories, screenplays, novels, TV scripts, even comics and won multiple awards over a nearly 60-year career. NPR Books editor Petra Mayer has this remembrance.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Voting in this year's Summer Reader Poll is closed — and you've given us more than 6,000 of your favorite horror novels and stories to sort through. So while my shambling hordes of undead minions (OK, the interns) get to sorting and tabulating the results, let's meet the expert panelists who've agreed to help us build the final list. (Really, running the Summer Poll is just an excuse for me to hang around with authors I admire, but shhhh ... don't tell anyone.)

Editor's note: The poll is now closed! Thanks for voting.

This year's summer poll has me hiding under the bed — whether or not there's a monster there — because, in honor of the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein, we're celebrating horror. And I, your faithful correspondent, was scarred for life by a battered copy of Cujo I found in a summer house when I was a kid — so I hope you appreciate the sacrifices I'm making here to bring you the best of everything creepy, chilling and downright terrifying.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Ursula Le Guin has died at 88. Her books included "A Wizard Of Earthsea" and "The Left Hand of Darkness." She wrote science fiction and fantasy with a literary flair and a feminist sensibility. NPR Books editor Petra Mayer says she influenced countless writers who came after.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Philip Pullman introduced readers to his alternate Oxford, full of magic and danger, in the His Dark Materials trilogy, beginning with 1995's The Golden Compass. The story of young Lyra Belacqua, her soul-companion Pantalaimon, and their battle against the oppressive forces of the quasi-religious Magisterium became a massive world-wide hit. Now, he's returning to that world in The Book of Dust, which will explore how Lyra came to live in Oxford.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Faith "Zephyr" Herbert was the breakout star of Valiant Comics' Harbinger super-team. Now headlining her own Eisner Award-nominated series, she's an ebulliently nerdy — and yes, plus-size — superheroine who fights crime and marauding aliens in the streets of Los Angeles while holding down a day job at a Buzzfeed-esque website. (And making lots of Buffy and Doctor Who references. Faith is my kind of gal.)

Any self-respecting comics fan cringes at the phrase "comics aren't just for kids anymore." But any self-respecting comics fan also has to admit there are some great kids' comics out there — especially right now.

Before I left for San Diego Comic-Con this week, I checked in with Lucy Strother, a fourth grade teacher in Philadelphia whose students just love comics. "We have like a comics and graphic novels bin in the library and it's perpetually empty because the kids are so obsessed with comics and graphic novels," she says.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now to a famous British export - "Doctor Who."

(SOUNDBITE OF MURRAY GOLD'S "DOCTOR WHO THEME")

Back in May, we asked you to tell us about your favorite comics and graphic novels — and you rose to the challenge. We got more than 7,000 nominations, so while you all are lolling around in the frosty air conditioning (or outside in the sun ... weirdos) we've been working away to whittle those thousands of nominations down to an awesome list of 100. Also, OK, I read a lot of Elfquest. For work! Really!

The first comic book I ever read was an obscure DC title that I begged my parents to buy for me from a rotating rack at a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop.

When Ruthanna Emrys first read H.P. Lovecraft's classic story "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," she already knew the basics: It's about a creepy New England harbor town populated by strange, froggy-looking people who turn out to be monstrous, sacrificing humans to their dark gods under the sea.

In the dark forests outside Poughkeepsie, N.Y., two sisters live alone. Lexa, mute, communicates only with her unnerving rag doll. Addison, the elder, gets on her motorbike after dark and ventures into the city, now deserted and terribly transformed after a mysterious incident called the Spill — which claimed both their parents.

Paula Hawkins' 2015 book — The Girl on the Train — was a massive bestseller. A tense domestic thriller with a boozy, unstable narrator, it caught the imagination of a reading public desperate for the kinds of dark deeds and desperate women Gillian Flynn pioneered in Gone Girl a few years earlier.

John Scalzi's novel The Collapsing Empire kicks off a new series set in — you guessed it — an interstellar empire teetering on the brink of collapse. The Interdependency sprawls across light-years of space, held together by a strange dimension called the Flow, which enables humans to span the immense distances between planets. But the Flow is failing, changing, fluctuating — cutting off some planets forever (including Earth). And in the Interdependency, no planet can survive without supplies from the others. So what's an emperox to do?

Neil Gaiman was 6 years old when he first met the Norse god Thor — although he wasn't the red-bearded hammer-slinger of legend. "Marvel. Marvel's Thor came first," he says. "I was reading the reprints of Marvel's Thor in an English comic called Fantastic. ... Dr. Don Blake found this stick in a cave, banged it down and transformed into Thor, and the stick transformed into the hammer." Gaiman says he spent a lot of his first decade looking for likely sticks, "just on the off chance that they might the Thor stick, and might transform into a mighty hammer.

I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Margaret Atwood today, about the sudden popularity of her dystopian classic The Handmaid's Tale. You can hear that story here. But there was one thing that didn't make it into the finished piece — a moment when I asked Atwood what she thought the next big trend would be in dystopian reading.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Pages