Tor.com content by

Emily Asher-Perrin

Star Wars: A New Hope is Sheer, Unbridled Joy

One of my favorite stories about what it was like to see Star Wars: A New Hope when it was released in 1977 comes from my father. He went to see the film with his friend and roommate at the time, and when Vader’s Star Destroyer came into frame in the opening sequence, stretching on and on into infinity, the guy sank into his chair and shouted to the theater “Oh shit, this is it!”

I love that story because it elucidates something so significant about that first Star Wars film; when it first came out, no one had ever seen anything quite like it.

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Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune: Dune Messiah, Part One

We’re back to reading! Welcome once again to the Dune Reread, where we are getting a jump start on Dune Messiah! The next books run a bit faster, so I will be going through them in bigger chunks—Dune Messiah will probably be about 3-4 parts on a reread. There will be more overall summary rather than in-depth recapping. So for now, let’s dive into the current conditions of House Atreides and their galaxy-wide empire.

Index to the reread can be located here! And don’t forget this is a reread, which means that any and all of these posts will contain spoilers for all of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. If you’re not caught up, keep that in mind.

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Series: Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune

Is Space Opera Merely Fantasy Set in Space? (Hint: No, Of Course Not)

It’s important to remember that the term “space opera” was first devised as an insult.

This term, dropped into the lexicon by fan writer Wilson Tucker, initially appeared in the fanzine Le Zombie in 1941. It was meant to invoke the recently coined term “soap opera” (which then applied to radio dramas), a derogatory way of referring to a bombastic adventure tale with spaceships and ray guns. Since then, the definition of space opera has been renewed and expanded, gone through eras of disdain and revival, and the umbrella term covers a large portion of the science fiction available to the public. It’s critical opposite is usually cited as “hard science fiction,” denoting a story in which science and mathematics are carefully considered in the creation of the premise, leading to a tale that might contain more plausible elements.

This had led some critics to posit that space opera is simply “fantasy in space.” But it isn’t (is it?), and attempting to make the distinction is a pretty fascinating exercise when all is said and done.

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Series: Space Opera Week

Let’s Dismantle Romantic Comedies—and Sexism—With the Help of Colossal’s Beautiful Monster

Early on in Colossal, our protagonist Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is sitting in her friend Oscar’s bar with a couple of his pals. She finishes her anecdote, and Garth (Tim Blake Nelson) pipes up with those six magic words, “You know what your problem is?” He then proceeds to tell a story that is in no way related to Gloria at all.

And bless her grouchy, alcoholic heart, she stops him mid-sentence and says, “Sorry, what does this have to do with me?”

It may not really seem like a big deal, but these sorts of small jabs that point to bigger problems is precisely how Colossal builds itself up. It chugs along, picking up steam and gathering mass until is has the power of… well, a monster. A great big skyscraper-high monster.

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Syfy’s Dune Miniseries is the Most Okay Adaptation of the Book to Date

Syfy (previously known as the Sci-Fi Channel) went through a minor renaissance in the late 90s and early aughts, producing television that set the bar for a lot of fascinating entertainment to come. Without shows like Farscape, Battlestar Galactica, and Stargate, it is doubtful that the current television milieu—where shows like Westworld and American Gods are considered high quality entertainment—would exist in the same form.

This was also the same era in which they developed two Dune miniseries. The first came in 2000.

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Series: Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune

20 Years On, The Fifth Element is Still One of the Best/Worst Sci-Fi Films Ever

On May 9th 1997, a weird little sci-fi action flick called The Fifth Element was released in theaters, from the same man who had recently brought audiences Nikita and Léon: The Professional. It was widely lauded/derided for being the one of the best/worst science fiction films ever made. It delighted/pissed off everyone who had the chance to see it. It was nominated for prestigious awards/Golden Raspberries, and is regularly cited for how well/terribly it tackled gender themes, design, and humor.

Twenty years later, no one can seem to agree on where it belongs in the pantheon of sci-fi cinema—and it’s safe to say, that is part of its unyielding charm.

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It’s May the 4th and You’re Going to Learn About The Ewok Adventures Because Life is Unfair Sometimes

Strap in, kiddies (and adults who I am calling kiddies), we’re going to have a nice chat about the strangest corner of the Star Wars universe that is completely unknown to the majority of children who grew up on the prequels and their successors. I’m talking about two whole made-for-tv movies that centered on those lovable fluffballs the Ewoks, and their forest moon full of fairies and witches and castles and all sorts of other crap that the Empire and Rebel Alliance didn’t seem to notice when they landed.

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Jodorowsky’s Dune Didn’t Get Made for a Reason… and We Should All Be Grateful For That

Jodorowsky’s Dune is a documentary about Very Important Men making Very Important Art, and as such, it has very little to do with Frank Herbert’s novel at all. In fact, you could go so far as to say that it has nothing to do with Dune, either philosophically or artistically.

And that’s for the best, really.

[Content warning: discussions of rape]

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Series: Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune

The Value of A Life: “Thin Ice” Was One of the Best Doctor Who Episodes in Years

Everybody loves a good sci-fi story with a monster that lives underwater. Everybody loves a good sci-fi story set in the past. Everybody loves a good sci-fi story that furthers the development of characters they already love.

But this week’s Doctor Who episode, “Thin Ice,” wasn’t just a good sci-fi story with a monster and fancy top hats. It was a pact with the audience, a renewal of faith. It was a reminder of the show’s philosophy toward life, even with the frequently murky moral space it occupies as a complicated piece of fiction.

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5 Books That Get Ruined If You Take Away a Key Piece of Technology

Once the new tech stops being shiny…what then are you left with? Cory Doctorow’s new book Walkaway is all about living in that post-shininess era of technology. What do you keep? What do you allow to fade? And what can be used to truly create a better future?

Walkaway narrows down to see what technological advance truly holds everything together, but Doctorow isn’t the only one who understands that our lives, and the stories they create, tend to hang on a single piece of tech. Here are just a few premises that are casually, irrevocably destroyed when you remove a vital piece of helpful, fictional technology.

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The “True Nature of the Force” is Way More Complicated Than You Think

This is an updated version of an article that ran in 2012.

It started off pretty simple—there was a young man who wanted to become an agent of good, like his father before him. He would use a mystical energy known as “the Force” to become powerful enough to defeat darkness. Once he did, the universe would be restored to its balanced state, freedom would spread throughout the galaxy, and all would be well.

But you know what? Balance is not good triumphing over evil. Balance is balance. The seesaw doesn’t tip in either direction here, so… what does that mean for Star Wars? Well for one, it may be time to reevaluate everything that we know—or think we know—about the nature of that galaxy far, far away. And the given the questions raised by the final words in The Last Jedi’s trailer, those questions are more pressing than ever.

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David Lynch’s Dune is What You Get When You Build a Science Fictional World With No Interest in Science Fiction

There were many attempts to get Dune to the screen on the wave of its popularity. The version that finally came through was David Lynch’s 1984 film, made after both Alejandro Jodorowsky and Ridley Scott tried their hands at the project and ran short on funding and dedication respectively. Lynch was asked to direct and write the screenplay with no knowledge of the book and no particular interest in science fiction.

You can see where this was all destined to go wrong, can’t you?

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Series: Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune

Doctor Who Reaches Way Back to Its Roots for Season 10 Premiere

Doctor Who is always a new show. Every couple of years it transmutes itself into something new and different, and every time fans wonder if they will like that something. So there’s no way to predict with utter surety whether or not the collective fandom will enjoy the new road. Some will. Some won’t.

That said, season ten’s premiere feels like a homecoming—in more ways than one.

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