The Golden Apple of Shangri-La September 23, 2014 The Golden Apple of Shangri-La David Barnett A Gideon Smith story. Selfies September 17, 2014 Selfies Lavie Tidhar Smile for the camera. When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami September 16, 2014 When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami Kendare Blake A Goddess Wars story As Good As New September 10, 2014 As Good As New Charlie Jane Anders She has three chances to save the world.
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Ryan Britt
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Fri
Dec 20 2013 12:00pm

Our Favorite Eleventh Doctor Episodes of Doctor Who

Best Doctor Who episodes Eleventh Doctor

Doctor Who has been one hell of a rollercoaster under Matt Smith and Steven Moffat’s reign. The quality of the episodes themselves has been markedly variable, as reflected in our own reviews, and for a little while the staff here was worried that we’d always be down about the show, or that we were chronicling the decline of the series.

Even if that had been the case (the 50th anniverary episode and its surroundings celebration did a huge, wonderful job at rejuvenating the series), Doctor Who is still the best damn sci-fi show on television. As we stand here, mere days from the fall of the Eleventh, we’re feeling thankful for all the sheer oddity that his episodes have added to the series as a whole. We pick our favorites below!

[Come along, honorary Ponds]

Fri
Dec 20 2013 11:30am

God Bless Pastiche! The 7 Best Non-Traditional Christmas Carols of Film and TV

If I had a pet reindeer, or any kind of creature that resembled a fawn or Bambi-style animal, I’d name it Dickens. Come on. How adorable would it be to have a little pet deer named Dickens? Here Dickens! Come have a sugar cube! That’s a good little Dickens. What’s your favorite story? What’s that you say, “A Christmas Carol?” Well, I don’t feel like reading to you, because you’re a little deer, so let’s watch a movie or a TV special instead. Whatyda say?

And then, as a gift to Dickens, I would have to compile a list of movie and TV adaptations of Charles Dickens’s awesome book—A Christmas Carol—and I’d want those adaptations to be somehow a little bit different from their source material, because deers like stuff that’s new.

What are the best non-traditional versions of A Christmas Carol? These.

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Thu
Dec 19 2013 11:00am

Candy Caine: The Sweetness of A Muppet Christmas Carol

A Muppet Christmas Carol

When I say A Muppet Christmas Carol is sweet, I don’t only mean the movie is heartwarming and saccharine. It’s those things, too, but it’s also a film that delivers a uniquely badass adaptation of Charles Dickens’ ridiculously famous novella.

Darker and less goofy than other Muppet flicks, A Muppet Christmas Carol manages to capture the phantasmagorical texture of the source material while at the same time turning out a bonafide family film, though not necessarily a kid’s movie. While you might read a child A Christmas Carol aloud, you probably wouldn’t give them the original novella for them to read on their own. And it’s the same with this movie. Despite its Hallmark Card exterior, A Muppet Christmas Carol might be the most adult of the Muppet films.

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Wed
Dec 18 2013 8:00am

The Man Who Demolished Boring Science Fiction: Alfred Bester

Alfred Bester art by David A. JohnsonThinking about telepaths when telepaths are in the room is hard because they know you’re thinking about them. This is why—on most days—I’m glad I never actually had the chance to meet science fiction legend Alfred Bester, because my thoughts about him would have been disgustingly gushing and I’m sure he would have heard those thoughts because he was likely a real deal telepath and I would have been embarrassed. I’m kidding. I’m super sad I didn’t get to meet him! (But he was probably a real telepath.)

Today would have been Bester’s 101st birthday. He won the first Hugo award for a novel ever, and made everything in SF way more fun. Here’s why he’s still the best.

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Mon
Dec 16 2013 1:00pm

From Bow Ties to Sneakers: Fashion Tips from the Doctor

Other than maybe Han Solo, in the universe of sci-fi fashion, most leading men have let us down. Captain Kirk is cool, sure. But you can’t go out dressed like him without getting some serious pit-stains. I always loved the outfits from Logan’s Run, but it gets cold in big cities sometimes. Battlestar Galactica? Come on. T-shirts and ugly wifebeaters? What is that?

All in all there’s only one hero of time and space out there who knows how to dress. And his name is the Doctor.

[Read more]

Mon
Dec 16 2013 10:00am

All the Whos Down in Whoville are Aliens

If you’re going to watch a heart-string tugging Christmas special with children on or around the holidays, why you’re not watching the 1966 animated adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is beyond me. Hell, I used to babysit for twins who liked watching it in the middle of August, and why not? The original 1957 picture book and the ‘66 cartoon version are genius and showcase Theodore Geisel at possibly the tippy-top of his powers. Not only does The Grinch story make Christmas vaguely secular with a snap of its fingers, it does so without offending anyone and with silly amounts of originality.

But just what are the Whos down in Whoville? Are they human? What is the Grinch? What’s the connection between these Whos and the Whos living on the speck-of-dust planet in Horton Hears a Who!? Are those Whos who Horton heard the same species of Whos of which Cyndi Lou Who (who was not more than two) is a member?

[Read more]

Mon
Dec 16 2013 8:00am

Philip K. Dick Scanned Our Brains, Darkly

In his afterword to a 1977 paperback collection called The Best of Philip K. Dick, PKD writes about the notion of questioning reality. At one point, Dick says the world made “sense” to him:

“I used to dig in the garden, and there isn't anything fantastic or ultradimensional about crab grass...unless you are a sf writer, in which case, pretty soon you're viewing crabgrass with suspicion. What are its real motives? And who sent it in the first place? The question I always found myself asking was, What is it really?”

Looking back on his work today, on the 85th anniversary of Dick’s birthday, the escape from the conspiracy of the mundane is a concept that certainly dominates the oeuvre of perhaps the most famous science fiction author ever. And why not? Don’t we all wish our lives were a little more interesting, a little more fantastic than perhaps they are?

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Mon
Dec 16 2013 8:00am

Celebrating Arthur C. Clarke’s Odyssey

Today we mark what would have been the 96th birthday of the great Arthur C. Clarke. Often credited with making fantastic predictions in his science fiction that actually came true, Clarke is among the most recognized and celebrated authors of the previous century. Perhaps the hardest of “hard science fiction” writers, Clarke was the authority on futurism and concepts both mind-bending and fascinatingly plausible. Known best for the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey and the epic film of the same name, Arthur C. Clarke is probably the writer most responsible for making futuristic space travel look realistic in our mind’s eye.

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Mon
Dec 9 2013 3:00pm

Liev Schreiber Searches For, Then Murders Originality in The Last Days on Mars

Is Liev Schreiber cursed? No matter how likeable the actor is, it seems he’s always stuck in some weird soulless movie which makes you wish he could escape and find his way into a better movie. This makes his new film—The Last Days on Mars—a fitting metaphor for his career: soulless space zombies (analogs for terrible films) try to kill poor Liev, while he endures anxiety-inducing flashbacks to a mistake he made on a space station (the rest of his career) before the film began. What’s frustrating about The Last Days on Mars? Well, sadly, it’s not that it could have been good. With a script like this, there’s no way it even orbits the planet “good.” Instead, what’s rough about the Last Days on Mars, is you keep wishing it was actually worse.

[Read more]

Fri
Nov 29 2013 10:00am

Happy Birthday, Madeleine L’Engle!

Today marks the birthday of an author who forever changed the way we feel about time travel, alternate dimensions, and dark and stormy nights. Madeleine L’Engle was born on November 29th in New York City and started writing almost right away. Her first story was composed at age 8, and she went on to pen a universe of novels, poems, and non-fiction throughout her amazing and inspirational career.

L’Engle is probably best remembered by science fiction fans and children throughout the world for A Wrinkle in Time and its many sequels in both the Kairos and Chronos series. These books set an impossibly imaginative standard for children’s fantasy adventure books. In A Wrinkle in Time, L’Engle appropriated the opening line “It was a dark and stormy night” from an 1830 novel Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. But truly, in the same way Sherlock Holmes hijacked “the game’s afoot!” from Shakespeare, “a dark and stormy night” now completely belongs to A Wrinkle in Time. Whether you’re a little kid or a grown-up cynical reader, that opening line tells you one thing: get ready!

Madeline L’Engle was a deeply spiritual writer who effortlessly blended her faith with her science fiction. Perhaps her greatest gift to us was the mainstreaming of The Tesseract, or more simply: the wrinkle in time. When Mrs. Who explains the concept to Meg, the latter gets very excited about her newfound comprehension of this awesome spacetime warp: “I got it!” Meg says. “For just a moment I got it! I can’t possibly explain it now, but there for a second, I saw it!” This is how readers of Madeline L’Engle will always feel. We glimpse these beautiful adventures in our mind’s eye, but to fully explain their brilliance is almost impossible.

 

This post originally ran on November 29, 2012

Fri
Nov 22 2013 12:00pm

The Most Horrifying is Yet to Come! 5 Insane Cliffhangers from the 1960s Batman

Batman Adam West

“Same bat-time, same bat-channel” is so firmly implanted into the cultural storehouse of catchphrases for a very good reason. The two-part cliffhanger format of the 1960s Batman is a big part (along with how it’s perfect in every way) of why this kitschy show worked. But even serious Batman fans might not be aware of some of the more ridiculous methods of doom super villains cooked up throughout the years...

[Bat traps]

Mon
Nov 18 2013 5:00pm

Why Skyfall Part Deux Might Really Become Thunderball: Reloaded

Life Magazine Thunderball Sean Connery James BondIf you tell strangers in a bar that Kim Basinger was in a James Bond film, most will be shocked, and not just because after three rum and cokes you’re randomly talking about Kim Basinger. (Again!) Instead, the confusion comes because poor Kim occupies a quasi-fake 1983 James Bond movie called Never Say Never Again, which, outside of Highlander 2, is the saddest Sean Connery performance in our dimension. (Though somehow directed by Irving Kershner!) Never Say Never Again is also randomly a remake of the “real” James Bond film Thunderball, and came into existence because a guy named Kevin McClory kind of owned aspects of the story, and 007, too. Over several decades, an epic legal battle between McClory and MGM was waged, which as of just last week has been seemingly, finally, resolved. Thunderball is now totally owned by the “legit” James Bond studio, MGM.

So, with director Sam Mendes coming back for a sequel to Skyfall, could MGM’s recent Thunderball acquisition mean Daniel Craig’s James Bond is headed back underwater?

[Read more]

Mon
Nov 11 2013 4:30pm

Time Travel, Actually? Richard Curtis’s About Time

Richard Curtis About Time Rachel McAdams Domhnall Gleeson

Silently weeping while watching one of the films of Richard Curtis doesn’t make you a sap, loser, or hopeless romantic; it makes you human. While the carbon copies of his overly sugary work (read: Garry Marshall’s New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, et al.) are totally insulting to a normal person and should only be watched while drinking Mountain Dew spiked with Captain Morgan and eating a bag of Cheetos, real-deal rom-coms like Love Actually, or Four Weddings & a Funeral demand to move you to tears of feel-good joy. It’s not an option with these movies. You. Will. Cry. So, does Richard Curtis’s latest—About Time—accomplish the same moments of laugh-out-loud chortles coupled with involuntary sobs?

Of course the answer is yes, but I’m not really sure why, nor do I know what the movie is really about.

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Mon
Nov 11 2013 9:30am

Listen, Kurt Vonnegut Changed Your Life

Today would have been the 91st birthday of beloved author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Throughout his career as a writer and a human being, Vonnegut shouldered many labels: sci-fi writer, satirist, humorist, humanist, political activist, and cranky old man. Luckily for us, he was all of those things and more. But best of all, Kurt Vonnegut was a man who reminded us that our primary function on Earth is to “fart around, and don’t let anyone tell you any different.”

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Wed
Oct 23 2013 9:30am

Was Doctor Who’s “Vincent and the Doctor” Cribbed From This 1964 Short Story?

Some days, before boarding the subway, I like to grab an old book from my shelf that I’ve never read, and randomly open it to any odd page. Last week, it was a dog-eared Ace paperback called World’s Best Science Fiction 1965, which contained a bunch of great science fiction stories published in the previous year. The story I opened to was called “A Niche in Time” by William F. Temple. As I began reading, I gasped. Was a time traveler visiting Vincent Van Gogh and was it reminding me very much of the 2010 Doctor Who episode “Vincent and the Doctor?” In the words of the tenth Doctor…OH YES!

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Mon
Oct 21 2013 12:00pm

Living on the Starship Enterprise Would Actually Be Depressing as Shit

Even though Star Trek was on a notable roll of excellence in the early 90s, nobody told the playground bullies. Being made fun of for constantly talking about Star Trek isn’t something I’m bitter about at all, mostly because, in the end, I proved to be an early adopter of what everyone would soon realize is possibly the greatest thing EVER.

But, I still remember a few teary moments when I wanted to be beamed up by Scotty, Chief O’Brien, or whoever-was-running the beaming on Deep Space Nine—and that’s because I wanted to escape and be accepted and nurtured by all the nice Star Trek people. And even as an adult, I still have teary moments, and occasionally find myself wordlessly whispering that I want to be “beamed up,” to be saved from it all.

Until the terrible epiphany hit me recently. Actually living on the Enterprise would be really depressing.

[Read more]

Tue
Oct 15 2013 4:00pm

Lemony Snicket’s When Did You See Her Last? as Pleasantly Confounding as Ever

There’s a very real chance that the Lemony Snicket books are too smart for their own good. If you can detect every single literary allusion contained in any of Snicket’s book, but specifically in When Did You See Her Last? then I want to meet you! Smarts and friendship are still the real currency of the Snicket universe and the latest in the new series both continues the mysteries and adventures laid out by the previous volume, while still managing to be its own stand-alone romp.

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Tue
Oct 1 2013 9:30am

Ursula K. Le Guin Encourages Stealing, Went to High School With Philip K. Dick

Ursula Le Guin

Being effortlessly wise is a quality we generally associate with mystics, gurus, and people called The Dude. But if you’ve had a chance to hear what Ursula Le Guin has to say about genre writing, writing in general, or just the act of being a person in the world, you’ll feel like you’ve found your guru.

The latest issue of The Paris Review contains a fantastic interview with Le Guin, conducted by the author John Wray. A fan of genre literature and an equally big fan of Le Guin herself, Wray seemed to Socratically draw out some gems from Le Guin. Here are some highlights:

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Wed
Sep 25 2013 5:00pm

Original Sin: The Complex Irony of Frankenstein and Its Impact

If a child dressed as Dr. Frankenstein for Halloween or Purim, all the other children would label that costume “mad scientist.” The recognizable thing about the story of Frankenstein is its Frankenstein-ness, not the actual book itself. Like the creature of the novel, it’s as though Mary Shelley’s awesome book became a problem all on its own. Why has it been banned in the past? Probably because of a very specific misreading of the book. But the weird thing about this book is how even people who would never think of banning it are wrong about it, too!

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Wed
Sep 18 2013 12:30pm

Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam is The Hunger Games for Grown-Ups

MaddAddam Margaret Atwood

Dystopian fiction might seem hot now thanks to The Hunger Games, Divergent, and other post-some-kind-of-cataclysm tales, but the subgenre is far more complex than a simple trend. And while Margaret Atwood doesn’t want you to call her a science fiction writer, she has been showing humanity how to get down in the muck of it for a good portion of her career. With the release of MaddAddam, Atwood is wrapping up a trilogy of sorts which began with 2003’s Oryx and Crake. What makes Maddadam and its previous installments so unique though is the way Atwood treats dystopia not just as a metaphor but as a real, complex, and ultimately human event.

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