A Long Spoon December 18, 2014 A Long Spoon Jonathan L. Howard A Johannes Cabal story. Burnt Sugar December 10, 2014 Burnt Sugar Lish McBride Everyone knows about gingerbread houses. Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North December 9, 2014 Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North Charles Vess Happy Holidays from Tor.com Skin in the Game December 3, 2014 Skin in the Game Sabrina Vourvoulias Some monsters learn how to pass.
From The Blog
December 9, 2014
The Eleventh Doctor’s Legacy Was Loss and Failure
Emily Asher-Perrin
December 9, 2014
Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2014
December 8, 2014
How Fast is the Millennium Falcon? A Thought Experiment.
Chris Lough
December 8, 2014
Tiamat’s Terrain: Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange
Alex Mangles
December 4, 2014
Potential Spoiler Leak for Star Wars: The Force Awakens Reveals Awesome Details
Emily Asher-Perrin
Showing posts by: Leah Schnelbach click to see Leah Schnelbach's profile
Dec 19 2014 11:00am

A Complete Ranking of Every Adaptation of A Christmas Carol

A Muppet Christmas Carol

Did you know that there are roughly 12 BILLION adaptations of A Christmas Carol? Seriously, go look at the Wikipedia page for “Adaptations of A Christmas Carol and you’ll see I’m rounding down. So, in light of that, I’m not actually covering all of them in this post. I should also mention that I always had issues with A Christmas Carol growing up. A horrible person is shown visions of his own personal Hell, and we’re supposed to believe it’s somehow miraculous when he decides to be nicer? Wouldn’t it be more miraculous if he stayed a jerk? But as I’ve gotten older, and lived long enough to see myself become the villain... well, the story’s grown on me.

I’ve also become something of a connoisseur of different adaptations, so I’ve decided to give an absolutely definitive ranking of ACC adaptation, from worst to best. I’ve used many factors to create this list, including use of repertory cast, faithfulness to source material, inventiveness, and my own constantly-shifting mood.

[Festively redemptive drumroll, please.]

Dec 10 2014 12:00pm

We Need a Kink in Our Stories: BDSM Characters in Your Favorite Genre Fiction

Farscape, Scorpius, John Crichton

Look at a beloved genre TV show, movie, or comic book. Is there simmering sexual tension marked by shifting power and the exchange of control? Do the characters strut around in leather corsets and wield whips? Does someone get tied up? You’re looking at BDSM (variously standing for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) at play. Which really doesn’t come as a surprise, because geeks are kinky as all get out.

Older, more conservative narratives would have us believe that people who engage in BDSM are somehow wrong or depraved. But the sheer presence of kinky characters across so many stories—whether hiding in children’s shows as jokes for the parents, or in the case of Farscape’s Scorpius, hiding in plain sight—simply proves how universal the notion of power exchange is.

Remember your safe words, ’cause it’s time to meet our favorite fictional kinksters!

[Read more]

Dec 10 2014 10:30am

What Happens When You Strip a Story of Its Morals and Purpose? Ridley Scott’s Exodus

So, what do you expect to see when you watch an Exodus movie? (1) A Pillar of Fire, (2) A Burning Bush that Talks and is Also God, (3) the Parting of the Red Sea, (4) pre-Freudian rods that turn into pre-Freudian snakes, and (5) at least a couple plagues. This version of Exodus has some of those things, but not all—we’ll get into what it leaves out in a minute. But it also adds a few things that are just fascinating.

[Spoilers for the entire film are sprinkled throughout the post, so beware.]

Dec 2 2014 12:10pm

God said to Abraham, Kill Me a Son? Sleepy Hollow: “The Akeda”

All right, Sleepy Hollow. We’re going to have to have a conversation. You can’t… you can’t keep doing this. Look, I’m putting a lot of time and work into this relationship. I care about you. I look forward to the time we spend together. But sometimes I wonder if you care as much as I do.

Let’s take tonight, for instance. I cleared my schedule for you. Do you know, I missed two different events to be with you! But it was all OK. It was all fine, until some serious spoilery-ass stuff happened that I’ll talk about below.

[read more]

Dec 1 2014 9:00am

Songs That Did (and Didn’t) Work in Genre Movies and TV

Seal Kiss From a Rose Batman Forever

An animated girl-power narrative undermines its entire message with a cringingly cheesy soundtrack. A way-modern band shatters the illusion of a period film. Two superheroes decide to consummate their relationship in-costume, only for the mournful strains of Leonard Cohen to completely kill the mood. Music choice is everything, but especially in genre stories where you have a specific world and tone to match.

Many unsuitable songs are shoehorned into genre movies and television series, the worst ones coming off so anathema to the scene being set that they make viewers say “huh?” Below, we list songs that did that for us, but we also list instances where the music paired with a movie absolutely kills it. Relive the greatness and badness of these songs! (And add your own!)

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Nov 29 2014 8:00am

C.S. Lewis: Moral Fantasist

CS Lewis Artwork by David A. Johnson

Today would have been C.S. Lewis’ 116th birthday.

C.S. Lewis had three different lives professionally. He was an academic, a medievalist who taught at both Oxford and Cambridge and published extensively in his field. (His book Allegory of Love still considered a classic). He was also a Christian Apologist and lay-theologian, with works like Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Screwtape Letters exploring faith and doubt. Finally, the career that made him famous and became his lasting legacy was that of a fantasy and science fiction author. His Chronicles of Narnia are classics of children’s literature, and have sparked devotion and serious exploration from authors like Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, and Lev Grossman.

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Nov 26 2014 12:00pm

Learning Empathy From Robots: How MST3K Explained My Parents

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Thanksgiving marathon

This week marks a milestone for all of humanity—Sunday was the 25th anniversary of the first broadcast of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The first ever episode, “The Green Slime” was shown on a small Minneapolis cable-access channel called KTMA on November 24, 1988. This is also the 22nd anniversary of the Turkey Day Marathon, which aired annually on Comedy Central from 1991 until 1995, and which will be returning this year! Joel Hodgson is curating an online marathon that will be available this Thursday starting at noon Eastern Time.

[In the not-too-distant past]

Nov 26 2014 7:00am

Frederik Pohl Made Doing Literally Everything Look Easy

Frederik Pohl David A Johnson

Frederik Pohl was one of those people who seem to make up the constellations of science fiction, a man who seemed to live five or six different lives in the time most of us only live one.

He was born in 1919, and his family travelled constantly in his early childhood, before his family settled in Brooklyn. He co-founded The Futurians, and belonged to that group as well as the Young Communist League during the 1930s. He left the Communists in 1939, joined the Army in 1943, and remained a sci-fi fan throughout. After World War II he worked as a writer, editor, and SF literary agent. He was married five times and had four children. He did, almost literally, everything.

[Read More]

Nov 25 2014 12:15pm

I’ll Be Your Mirror. Sleepy Hollow: “Magnum Opus”

Sleepy Hollow Magnum Opus

So, I was going to begin this piece with an apology for the disjointedness to follow. But, you know what? No. My writing is disjointed because while I was watching one of the most racially diverse shows on TV, a show that puts a black family in the center of a battle between good and evil, the Ferguson indictment reports came in.

[Pop culture as mirror]

Nov 18 2014 2:00pm

How We Met Abbie and Jenny’s Mother: Sleepy Hollow, “Mama”

Oh man a lot happened in this episode! Like a lot! There was a huge misdirection, a lot of healing, some possible resolution of a giant plot arc from last year, setup for the second half of this season, and a Captain Irving-based twist! But that’s not even the thing that impressed me the most. You know what impressed me the most? Everybody loves a good abandoned mental hospital. They are probably the greatest modern horror setting, having handily replaced cemeteries and abandoned carnival grounds. Well, Sleepy Hollow just gave us a whole episode of “abandoned mental hospital” vibe within a currently functional mental hospital.

[Read More]

Nov 14 2014 10:00am

An Uncut and Non-Remastered List of Star Wars Editions!

Star Wars Uncut

The thing that makes Star Wars truly great is Greedo shooting first. Wait, come back, I’m being serious! The original Star Wars trilogy was an incredible cultural touchstone, and obviously Star Wars merchandise and expanded universe novels created a whole world for fans to inhabit. However, the moment when Star Wars became truly great was the moment in 1997 when a generation of fans had to examine what this film meant to them, and why it was so important that Han shoot first. This moment galvanized an already fervent fandom to, if you don’t mind me mixing my geek metaphors, play Sam Beckett in the SWU, going back to earlier prints of the films to put right what Lucas had made wrong.

Using the sort of film tech popularized by Lucas himself, the fandom dove in and started making new editions of the original trilogy, and then turned their scalpels on each of the prequels. Rather than accepting anything as “canon,” they made their own. Now, as a flurry of new films loom, causing hope, fear, and trembling, I’ve rounded up nine different ways you can experience Star Wars into one handy list!

[Read More]

Nov 11 2014 11:00am

The Coldest Story Ever Told: Sleepy Hollow, “Heartless”

After the perfect mix of character building and taut action last week, “Heartless” felt a little slack to me. But, the show continues building layers into Katrina’s character, and ends on a note that made me truly worry for Ichabod’s poor tortured heart. Plus its hard to go wrong when you send Ichabod into a nightclub.

[Sadly, he never picks up a glow stick...]

Nov 10 2014 7:00am

Neil Gaiman Created a Pocket Universe For Us All!

Neil Gaiman art by David A. Johnson

Over the course of his decades-long career, Neil Gaiman has redefined what it means to be a comics writer. He has blurred the lines between “genre” work and “literary” work, and he has broken down the old model of the solitary writer through a unique relationship with his fans.

Born this day in 1960, Gaiman spent his childhood largely in the library. His family was Jewish and Scientologist, but he went to a series of Church of England schools, and as he prepared for his Bar Mitzvah, he would talk the rabbis into telling him obscure stories from the Talmud and Mishnah rather than just focusing on his rote Torah portion. Between the exposure to all of these different faiths and their attendant stories, and his own time clocked reading every mythology book he could get his hands on, by the time he reached his teenage years he could speak myth and legend as fluently as English.

[A Life Furnished in Moorcock, and Tolkien, and Lewis, and Chesterton, and...]

Nov 8 2014 8:00am

Bram Stoker Created a Horror Classic from the Anxieties of his Age

Bram Stoker Art by David A. Johnson

Bram Stoker’s interest in the macabre seems to have been with him from his youth. While at Trinity College, Dublin, he became a member of the University’s Philosophical Society, and the first paper he presented was “Sensationalism in Fiction and Society.” After graduation, he married his classmate Oscar Wilde’s ex-fiancé (it took a few years for them to mend the friendship, but Stoker ended up being one of the friends who visited Wilde in France after his incarceration) and worked as a theater critic for the Dublin Evening Mail. The paper was owned by Sheridan Le Fanu, who ended up being a far larger influence on Stoker’s creative life a few years later.

[From many influences, Stoker created a unique classic]

Nov 4 2014 12:00pm

I Voted! Sleepy Hollow: “Deliverance”

Sleepy Hollow Deliverance

Well, Sleepy Hollow finally did the unthinkable: it made me like Katrina. They actually used her in this episode, and in a situation that could have been a giant cliché pile, Katia Winter acts the hell out of her role, and Katrina and Ichabod seem like a real couple for the first time. Plus, some thematic arcs are paid off!

[Read More]

Nov 2 2014 7:00am

Write All the Genres, Lois McMaster Bujold!

Art by David A. Johnson Lois McMaster Bujold

Lois McMaster Bujold is already one of the greats. She has been nominated for 12 Hugo Awards, and has won for “Best Novel” four times (a tie with Robert Heinlein) for The Vor Game, Barrayar, Mirror Dance, and Paladin of Souls. She was also nominated for eight Nebulas, and has won for Falling Free, The Mountains of Mourning, and Paladin of Souls. She’s won a Mythopoeic Award for The Curse of Chalion, and three Locus Awards—two for Best Science Fiction Novel (Barrayar and Mirror Dance) and one for Best Fantasy Novel (Paladin of Souls).

The true mark of her greatness, however, is her wide-ranging mind and imagination. Having created a massively successful space opera in the Vorkosigan Saga (with a massively popular hero, Miles Vorkosigan) Bujold went on to tackle the fantasy and romance genres as well.

[From wormholes to medieval Spain...]

Oct 28 2014 11:30am

Ichabod and Abbie are All About that Bass in this Week’s Sleepy Hollow: “And the Abyss Gazes Back!”

Sleepy Hollow: And the Abyss Gazes Back

So let me open by saying that this week’s Sleepy Hollow features a super-cool mythological beast called a Wendigo, and that as I typed it up I had Blacklist on in the background (Spader’s voice, man…) and there was a character on the show named Windigo. So, cross-network synergy? But most importantly there is yoga, alcohol, and the chilling return of Captain Frank Irving!

[Wendigo where I send thee...]

Oct 21 2014 1:00pm

Witchy Woman vs. Weeping Woman! Sleepy Hollow: “The Weeping Lady”

Sleepy Hollow The Weeping Lady

In this week’s episode we meet a Weeping Lady of the Hudson, and we get more complicated backstory for Ichabod and Katrina! These two are slowly being revealed to be the, I don’t know, Kanye and Kim? of the colonial Northeast. So much drama! Plus Abbie once again finds herself in danger!

[Read More]

Oct 21 2014 8:00am

Happily Remixed and Mashed-Up Ever After: Modern Fairy Tales!


Fairy tales aren’t just a great way to pass an evening in front of the fire, they’re also an excellent way to examine our culture. Looking at the ways we adapt and parody fairy tales can show us the ways our society is changing. The rise of bad-ass versions of Snow White and Hansel and Gretel speak to the ways modern pop culture wants to empower the powerless, while the popularity of Once Upon A Time allows adolescent and adult fairy tale fans to revel in romantic combinations that were impossible in the original versions.

The best thing about these stories, though, is the way they can provide modern artists with building blocks to create something new! I've collected a by-no-means-exhaustive list below that covers everything from a hitchhiking Little Red Riding Hood to a cyberpunk Cinderella!

[And yes, some helpful animals get a cameo.]

Oct 21 2014 6:00am

Imaginative Anthropology: In Celebration of Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K Le Guin Art by David A JohnsonUrsula K. Le Guin was raised by an anthropologist and a writer. Not just any anthropologist: her father Alfred L. Kroeber, was the first person to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology in the United States, and after graduating from Columbia University he founded the first anthropology program at Berkeley.

This was where Le Guin grew up, in a redwood house near the school, and spending summers in Napa Valley. The descriptions of it sound idyllic, actually like something out of one of Madeleine L’Engle’s novels. She sent her first story to Astounding Science Fiction when she was 11, but was unfortunately rejected. During World War II her three brothers were away in the military, and she spent the summers of her teen years sharing the house with her parents.

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