The Hell of It February 25, 2015 The Hell of It Peter Orullian What will he wager? Schrödinger’s Gun February 18, 2015 Schrödinger’s Gun Ray Wood Maybe in some other timeline it would have gone smooth. Acrobatic Duality February 11, 2015 Acrobatic Duality Tamara Vardomskaya The two of her are perfectly synchronized. The Language of Knives February 4, 2015 The Language of Knives Haralambi Markov They share the rites of death, and grief.
From The Blog
February 26, 2015
Introducing the Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch
Keith DeCandido
February 23, 2015
Oh No, She Didn’t: The Strong Female Character, Deconstructed
Ilana C. Myer
February 20, 2015
Evil Eighties: The Paperback Horrors of Lisa Tuttle
Grady Hendrix
February 19, 2015
The Pinocchio Factor
Jen Williams
February 17, 2015
The Mummy was the Indiana Jones Successor that We Deserved
Emily Asher-Perrin
Showing posts by: Chris Lough click to see Chris Lough's profile
Oct 29 2014 10:15am

19 Strange Things Hiding in The World of Ice and Fire

The World of Ice and FireThe World of Ice and Fire history compendium is out this week and true to the nature of the fantasy series that birthed it, it is a massive and massively detailed read. Tie-in books can often be cynical cash-ins: repeating information that is readily available, or asserting non-canonical facts within a shared universe, or charging a ridiculous amount of money for a shoddily written and shoddily illustrated product. But AWOIAF avoids all of these aspects of tie-in books, containing a novel’s worth of material from series author George R. R. Martin, supplemented and fact-checked by heads Elio Garcia, Jr. and Linda Antonsson.

While there is some repetition, most of the material is brand new, offering new details for known peoples and lands and including tons of material about the lands at the edge of the map (and then some).

It’s also a gorgeous piece of work and you can see why the author and publisher needed extra time to work on it. Nearly every page is illustrated, from simple pencil and ink portraits in the margins to enormous painted spreads. There are a variety of styles on display, but they’re all consistently high quality and give you a very real sense of what it was like to inhabit this strange, strange world.

And it is strange. Hiding in this heavy tome are some interesting details about the world and characters of A Song of Ice and Fire, including what may be a look at the future of the series.

[Read more]

Oct 26 2014 12:33pm

The Power of Trees Compels You! Doctor Who: “In the Forest of the Night”

Doctor Who: In The Forest of the Night

Once upon a time there was an episode of Doctor Who written by a prolific and praised author of children’s books. This episode took its title from a famous poem by William Blake and was the Tyger the solar flare and the Lamb the ignorance of humanity in attempting to defoliate the trees? Or was the Tyger the actual tiger we saw briefly? Or perhaps it was Clara’s selfishly exploratory nature and how it decided that children are boring and watching a solar flare from a TARDIS is better (because it is)?

Hush, child, the episode said. You are thinking about this too hard. This is a fairy tale, laid over you as a blanket and woven of the dreams that come to you in between the borders of fantasy and reality. You may idolize this Doctor for attempting the same ferocity of thought as you, but even his immortal hand or eye cannot frame this fearful symmetry.

[Read more]

Oct 22 2014 2:00pm

Who’s Your Daddy? Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “A Hen in the Wolf House”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 2, episode 5: Hen in the Wolf House

Yeah! Now this is how you do an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! Whip those plotlines around like a meth-addled Simon Belmont, tangle them up, introduce a Marvel superhero, and convey the emotional conflict from last week more potently in two brief scenes than you did in the entirety of last week’s ignorable episode. “A Hen in the Wolf House” was a lean, energetic installment that moved a ton of plotlines forward while giving almost everyone a moment to shine. And it didn’t even have to include the vampire cow!

[But obviously I’m glad it did.]

Oct 16 2014 1:19pm

Palpatine’s Newly Revealed First Name is More Appropriate Than You Think

Palpatine first name

Star Wars: Tarkin, the next novel in the news series of canonical Star Wars universe novels coming from Del Rey, has a casual surprise for its readers: the revelation of Emperor Palpatine’s first name.

It’s a reveal that makes you pause for a second. Don’t we already know his first name? Surely that got slipped in somewhere, in a deleted scene or an EU novel or on the back of some toy packaging. Is this really the first we’re hearing of it, more than 30 years after the character showed up?

Apparently so, according to Wookieepedia. Ladies and gentlemen and Jedi and death stick enthusiasts, say hello to Sheev Palpatine. He’ll be oppressing you for the next few decades.

[Read more]

Oct 15 2014 2:05pm

You’re Hitting Yourself. Stop Hitting Yourself! Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “Face My Enemy”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2, episode 4: Face My Enemy

Welcome back to another week of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This particular episode, “Face My Enemy,” was screened at New York Comic Con this past weekend, with a quick walk-on hello from Coulson himself, and the excitement afterwards was ELECTRIFYING! No, wait, the other thing, tepid.

I already thought it was kind of weird that they didn’t screen the forthcoming Mockingbird episode, since that was the most exciting takeaway from their SDCC panel, and after showing us a clunker like “Face My Enemy” I was even more confused. Having Agent May beat up Agent May is a really fun idea (just like it was on Alias), but they kind of forgot to write an episode around it. Why shine a spotlight on that?

[Read more]

Oct 14 2014 11:17am

Robert Downey, Jr. Reportedly Co-Starring in Captain America 3, Marvel Phase 3 to be “Civil War”?

Robert Downey Jr Captain America 3 Marvel Civil War

Variety has reportedly scooped the plot of Captain America 3 and the blueprint for Marvel’s Phase 3 slate of movies, post-Avengers: Age of Ultron. The outlet reports that Robert Downey, Jr. has been in ongoing negotiations with Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios to star as Iron Man in Captain America 3.

No other outlets have yet independently confirmed the news, and Marvel itself has not commented on the rumor. If Variety’s report is true, this could have big ramifications on the future of Marvel movies. Spoilers and speculation ahead, folks.

What is Civil War? How does it play into the current movies and Marvel’s other plans? Let’s break this down into an FAQ.

[Read more]

Oct 13 2014 2:45pm

What Would You Like to Believe About Yourself? Doctor Who: “Mummy on the Orient Express”

Doctor Who season 8, episode 8: Mummy on the Orient Express

How do we talk about this episode, this Downton Abbey mixed with Agathie Christie mixed with steampunk mixed with monster movies that is somehow a quintessential Doctor Who episode, that is so specific to this Doctor and this companion and yet somehow a perfect overall statement on a character and show that spans more than 50 years and certainly more than 50 main characters?

“Mummy on the Orient Express” didn’t have to do to much to be an enjoyable outing in comparison to other Who adventures. (Really, with that title, it just had to be more than a warmed-over “Unicorn and the Wasp.”) It didn’t have to be the emotional, atmospheric, mystery thriller that we got, didn’t have to be an episode where we found ourselves hanging on to every word and every clue. Where by the end we felt as exhausted as Clara does on the beach, thankful for the sun in our face.

[Read more. Spoilers for the episode ahead.]

Oct 10 2014 1:12pm

We Came This Close to a Doctor Who Musical

Arthur Darvill New York Comic Con Doctor Who Musical

If you have an opportunity to stick around for an Arthur Darvill spotlight anywhere, do so. What was billed as a Q&A turned immediately into a one-hour impromptu stand-up session by the ceaselessly funny Darvill, formerly known in my heart as Rory Pond from Doctor Who and now just known as Arthur F’in’ Darvill.

While the audience and I shared this dream of humanity, Darvill let slip that the camaraderie between him, Karen Gillan, and Matt Smith almost resulted in a Doctor Who musical, jokingly but not jokingly titled It’s Bigger On The Inside.

[Then he sang some of it for us.]

Oct 9 2014 4:20pm

“If Everyone Had a Little More Hodor in Them it Would be a Nicer World.” Hodor & Podrick NYCC Highlights

Hodor Kristian Nairn Podrick Daniel Portman New York Comic Con 2014

Hodor and Podrick wouldn’t be a bad idea for a Game of Thrones TV spin-off sitcom, at least if Kristian Nairn and Daniel Portman’s joyous presence at this year’s New York Comic Con is any indication. The two actors held court with Wikia Director of Programming Eric Moro, Game of Thrones Wikia founder and series expert Adam Whitehead, and Wikia Marvel and DC Database founder Jamie at the Game of Thrones fan forum panel.

Read some highlights from their banter at the panel, including which Marvel heroes they would be, and how what this world needs now is Hodor, sweet Hodor.

[Read more]

Oct 8 2014 2:00pm

Who’s That Girl? Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “Making Friends and Influencing People”

Agents of SHIELD season 2 episode 3: Making Friends and Influencing People

“Making Friends and Influencing People” is my favorite episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season two so far. Last season’s run-out from the events of The Winter Soldier saw the show dedicated to fleshing out its heroes and setting them at cross-purposes in order to make them stand out better. (Always a challenge when your ensemble dresses in black and spends the majority of their time in shadowy nondescript settings.) It also used a big flashy threat to focus them into action.

That focus and flash is gone but the enemy isn’t and the show seems to be putting a great deal of thought into how to grow this season's threat in the same manner it grew the main characters last season. In essence, how do you keep Hydra interesting when you’ve already seen them do nutty things on TV and in the movies?

[Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “Making Friends and Influencing People”]

Oct 1 2014 2:00pm

No Sleep Till Ever. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “Heavy is the Head”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2, episode 2: Heavy is the Head

“Heavy is the Head” is essentially the part 2 to the season’s premiere episode “Shadows” and while the plot is mostly concerned with mopping up the mess from the events of the premiere, during its quieter moments it builds a flickering tension in regards to Coulson’s new role as the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Last season saw him progressing to a more open approach with his team, to where you could feasibly see him thinking of them as his teammates rather than his subordinates. Now that his vista is greatly expanded, he’s forced to think of them as subordinates once more, and that could edge Coulson out of a show that’s meant to be centered around him.

[Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “Heavy is the Head”]

Sep 29 2014 3:30pm

Some Things You Can’t Get From a Man in a Blue Box. Doctor Who: “The Caretaker”

Doctor Who season 8, episode 6: The Caretaker

If Clara takes care of the Doctor, who takes care of Clara?

You notice it in the way the Doctor suddenly sees Courtney Wood as real when she proudly touts that she’s a “Disruptive Influence.” You know it in the way Clara and the Doctor now casually joke about how she’s his conscience. And once Danny Pink meets the Doctor and discovers the other half of Clara’s life, you see it in the choice he has to make. This is who Clara is, Danny, and if your life with her is to go forward then you don’t have to be a soldier, but you do have to be a caretaker.

[Doctor Who: “The Caretaker”]

Sep 24 2014 2:30pm

Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Went Well At All. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “Shadows”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2 episode 1: Shadows

Is this love? Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I think this might be love. If you keep this up it will almost certainly be love and we will leave New York City and buy a house in Long Island that we hate forever.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is back and telling stories about a world where men absorb asphalt for kicks and Coulson wonders what the hell to even do about that. Except this time...this time...Coulson’s got it under control. He’s had months to cobble a new S.H.I.E.L.D. together and he and SkyeBangs, the Skye with the bangs, May, and the rest are so good at their jobs they don’t even talk to Coulson they’ve just got this handled, okay?

[Oh expectations]

Sep 22 2014 12:00pm

Lock In and the Vacuum That Gender Creates

Lock In John Scalzi gender

John Scalzi’s near-future thriller Lock In throws out plenty of larger issues to consider in regards to robotics technology: where the consciousness truly sits, the civil and legal rights of non-human humans, the definitions of disability, and how current societal expectations of class and wealth affect these issues. What may not become immediately apparent to the reader, even after finishing the book, is what Lock In has to say about how the fluidity of gender would evolve in a world where one can exist separately from one's body.

By virtue of being a procedural thriller, Lock In is a quick read, and it’s easy to miss this aspect of the book, especially because the reason it is notable is primarily due to its absence. We see the main character, FBI detective Chris Shane, in a variety of mechanical bodies, avatars, and briefly in the flesh. We are given a multitude of perspectives with which to define Chris.

Spoilers ahead for Lock In. Make sure you've read the book before proceeding.

[Read more]

Sep 13 2014 9:00pm

If You Want a Monster to Hunt, You’ll Get It. Doctor Who: “Listen”

Doctor Who season 8, episode 4: Listen

We just saw one of the greatest episodes of Doctor Who, or one of its worst. And I can’t decide where “Listen” ultimately falls.

It’s an uneven episode of television, juxtaposing tense and imaginative scenes against long, drowsy passages of banal writing. Its ending is magnificent, managing to shock while tying together the emotional journeys of all the characters involved. But it also feels like cheating. Like we didn’t quite earn the peek behind the curtain that we got.

“Listen” is impactful, that’s for sure. But I need to parse these mixed feelings about the episode, as I suspect their origins are grown from being a viewer who is perhaps too familiar with the subject matter. I’d like to end this analysis on a positive note, so we’ll start by getting the bad bits out of the way.

[Doctor Who: “Listen”]

Aug 30 2014 9:00pm

Locked in a Room With His Greatest Enemy. Doctor Who: “Into the Dalek”

Doctor Who Into the Dalek Peter Capaldi

If you want to find out who the Doctor really is then lock him in a room with his greatest enemy: the Daleks.

This has been one of the few truths of Doctor Who as a show, even more so after its return in 2005 and the introduction of the Time War plot establishing that the Doctor sacrificed his own people to rid the universe of the Daleks once and for all. As an unyielding trickster, the Doctor thrills in subverting the universe’s expectations and inspiring others to do the same. This trait is embedded deeply in the Doctor’s fictional history. He’s not going to bow to the constraints of Time Lord society, he’s going to steal a TARDIS and get the hell out of there. He’s not [whatever his Gallifreyan birthname is], he’s the Doctor. Just the Doctor. And you can’t force him do anything he doesn’t want to do.

Unless you’re the Daleks.

[Doctor Who: “Into the Dalek.” Spoilers ahead.]

Aug 27 2014 11:53am

Oh Crap, Shadows That Eat People are Real and They’ve Been Protecting Our Books For Centuries

Vashta Nerada Doctor Who

No, you’re overreacting.

So, a few years ago Steven Moffat introduced a monster to Doctor Who called the Vashta Nerada who were basically a cloud of microscopic carnivores and who you could only tell were around because suddenly you had an extra shadow and oh crap they’re going to eat you they ARE eating you and there’s nothing you can do.

We find out that these critters actually live in books because their natural habitat is trees and book paper and oh look, this guy over at Scientific American is pointing out that there are REAL animals on Earth who are basically this annnnd they’re scorpions. Book scorpions.


Aug 20 2014 9:00am

Rentable You: John Scalzi’s Lock In and the Terror Hiding in its Future

John Scalzi Lock In

Amongst the shoot-outs, robot fights, and political intrigue of John Scalzi’s new novel Lock In (yes, there are robot fights!) is the looming sense that even though this near-future is intimately comparable to modern day we are nevertheless seeing our initial lurch towards a truly science fiction society. A key worldbuilding aspect of Lock In’s future is the presence of hardware and software that can be installed within a person, thereby allowing them to extend their awareness into robots. Did your robot just get hit by a truck? Good thing you had the pain turned down and the auto-disconnect toggled on.

But this awareness goes both ways, and one of the squirrellier aspects of the capital-F FUTURE that Lock In explores are the beginnings of a world where you can be shoved out of your own mind. Where the last barrier of privacy is breached and you become rewritten.

[Read more]

Aug 14 2014 10:30am

Peter Capaldi is the Doctor and You Should Be Worried. Doctor Who: “Deep Breath”

Doctor Who Deep Breath Peter Capaldi

By the end of “Deep Breath,” Peter Capaldi’s debut episode as the Doctor, you’re not going to know how to feel about the Doctor anymore. But that’s alright. Sort of. Because neither does he.

Capaldi’s casting as the Doctor made waves when it was announced in August 2013. The actor is a known quantity, utterly unafraid of depicting the rough edges of humanity, and a simultaneously inspired and insane choice for such a beloved character as the Doctor. As viewers we have become accustomed to the frivolity of Matt Smith and David Tennant, and the emergence of Capaldi in the role hinted at a dramatic shift away from Doctor Who’s lighter tone. Perhaps too much of a dramatic shift?

[Non-spoiler review of Doctor Who “Deep Breath”]

Aug 11 2014 3:15pm

Did Will Arnett Hide an Arrested Development Reference in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Arrested Development easter egg Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie isn’t at its best when making pop culture references but it seems that Will Arnett still managed to sneak in a cheeky Arrested Development reference for eagle-eyed malcontents such as myself. Some spoilers ahead.

[The Arrested Development easter egg in TMNT]