content by

Leah Schnelbach

The Quiet Dedication and Bravery of Dr. Sally Ride

Born on this day in 1951, Sally Ride initially pursued tennis seriously, becoming a nationally ranked player before college. She also double majored at Stanford, earning BAs in both English (she loved Shakespeare) and Physics (she also loved lasers). But physics won out, and she earned her PhD in 1978—the same year that she earned a place in NASA’s astronaut program, in an application process that included 1,000 women, and eventually selected six female applicants.

[The first American woman in space]

Series: On This Day

“Between Utter Chaos and Total Brilliance.” Daniel José Older Talks About Teaching Writing in the Prison System

Yesterday Shadowshaper and Bone Street Rumba series author Daniel José Older shared a thoughtful meditation on prison culture on Twitter. Older holds writing workshops for kids in juvenile detention, and he wanted to convey the despair that is built into the system. The thread attracted thoughts from those who have worked in prisons in various capacities.

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Check Out the New Star Trek Teaser Trailer!

Last night’s CBS upfronts gave us previews of the absolutely necessary MacGyver reboot, and Joel McHale’s new show The Great Indoors which some of us are excited for because Joel McHale. But, come on, the important part was a tiny tantalizing tease of new Star Trek! Les Moonves introduced a mini-trailer and revealed the new logo for the show, which will premiere on CBS in January 2017, before moving over to the CBS All Access streaming platform. Click through for the teaser!

[Boldly go to a new logo!]

Luke Skywalker is on a Highway to the Danger Zone in this Star Wars/Top Gun Mash Up!

Happy thirtieth birthday, Top Gun! That piece of over-the-top ’80s action was one of my favorite movies when I was a child. Even better than the film, though, is its perfectly overwrought video – since it distills all of the action of TG into three minutes set to the Kenny Loggins classic, “Danger Zone.” Now, freaking genius human Weston Wong has combed through all of the extant Star Wars cinema to create a  gorgeous trailer that riffs on the original beauty of Top Gun‘s dogfights and explosions, times every shot perfectly, and proves that the maxim “the further on the edge, the hotter the intensity” is as true as the belief that the Force binds the galaxy together.

All that’s missing are cuts back to Loggins himself sweating and lip-synching his pure, immortally smooth heart out in a seedy hotel… and taking photographs of a ceiling fan for some reason?

[Porkins is Goose! Porkins is Goose!]

The Time John James Audubon Made Up Fake Species to Punk a Fellow Naturalist

John James Audubon, the famous naturalist and author/illustrator of the classic work Birds of America, was apparently also the Ashton Kutcher of his day. When fellow naturalist Constantine Rafinesque sought out Audubon, during a journey down the Ohio River, he was only hoping the man would give him some information on plants. Instead, Audubon fed him a series of lies.

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Roll All the Critical Hits with this 120-Sided Die!

Over one hundred and fifty years ago, a French-Belgian mathematician named Eugène Catalan worked out the design for the disdyakis triacontahedron – a 120-sided die. Theoretically it was the most mathematically fair die that could exist. Now, we are pleased to report that we live in a world in which the disdyakis triacontahedron can thunder across gaming boards, thrilling all who watch with its many sides. The New Yorker profiled the creators of the D120, Robert Fathauer, Henry Segerman, and Robert Bosch, and you can read more about them, and check out the die in action, below!

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Dungeons and Dragons was “a Revolution” for Junot Diaz

It’s baffling to us now, but in the early 1980s many adult minds genuinely considered Dungeons and Dragons to be “satanic”. The game, with its dice and little figurines and complex rules (so basically Monopoly with critters?) was seen as an introduction to demonology, and was blamed for teen suicides and murders.

The New York Times recently took a look at this moment of panic, and confirmed that the only real result of a childhood spent playing D&D was: a life spent in creative industries. Authors Junot Diaz and Cory Doctorow talked to the paper about how Dungeons & Dragons set the course of their lives.

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Huge Adult Ideas Taught to Us By Weird Movies

When you’re a kid, the adult world is filled with mysteries. Adults talk about things that are literally and figuratively over your head. If the news comes on, you’ll catch fragments of conflicts that don’t make any sense. If you happen across films or books for adults, there might be scenes that baffle you, since you lack the context.

Sometimes the best way, or even the only way, to understand these huge ideas is through movies. Why don’t people want to live in a shiny new building? What is “light speed”? And how can responsibility ever be fun? Emily and I rounded up a few movies that helped us figure out these huge concepts when we were kids.

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A Sci-Fi Story As Told Through 9 Innings of Baseball

Baseball and science fiction share more of a fanbase than one might suspect, and every couple years or so a new sci-fi/fantasy baseball story piles into the dugout. Inspired by Harry Turtledove’s House of Daniel, the latest novel in this grand tradition, we wondered… could you tell a brand new story using bits from sci-fi baseball stories both new and old?

You can. And the result is suitably weird. (Anything can happen in the second half of the game. Anything.) Thanks go to Justin Landon for piling us high with sci-fi/fantasy baseball literature recommendations. We also pulled suggestions from Steven Silver’s impressive list of baseball-themed genre stories over on SF Site.

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The One Big Lesson Fiction Writers Can Learn by Writing a Comic Book

Author Victor LaValle has written many types of books over the years, from Slap-Boxing with Jesus, a short story collection that took readers to New York in the 70s, to The Ecstatic, a novel about a young schizophrenic man and the family who tries to save him, to most recently, The Ballad of Black Tom, a novella that turns an H.P. Lovecraft story inside out to explore the legacy of racism in America. In an enlightening post for The Center for Fiction, he talks about how he and his friend, Pym author Mat Johnson, left the Columbia MFA program feeling pretty solid as writers. They both published books fairly quickly, and began to feel like real, professional authors (something that’s notoriously hard for even the best writers to do.)

But then Johnson got a job writing a comic book and, as he realized that somehow his well-honed workshop skills weren’t working, he turned to LaValle to talk about what could be going wrong.

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Why Are We Still White-Washing Characters?

Well, we may have done it. We may have hit peak whitewashing last week. Between Calvin Trillin’s well-intentioned but tone deaf New Yorker poem, Tilda Swinton making her first appearance as The Ancient One in the Doctor Strange trailer, and the first image of Scarlett Johansson as Major Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell (above), this past week seemed to drive home the idea that Asian culture is packaged as “other” and that Asian characters can be turned white on a whim.

Over the last week, there have been several responses from the internet. I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite reactions, but more importantly, I want to look at the larger question: why is Hollywood still whitewashing Asian characters?

[Why is this still being done?]

Practical Effects, Impractical Emotion: Syfy’s Hunters

Going into Hunters, Syfy new alien-terrorism show, I asked myself one question: is this following the path of The Expanse, or Childhood’s End? I’ve found The Expanse to be an often brilliant, modern, gripping sci-fi epic, while I found Childhood’s End to be rich in ideas, but cheesy in execution. Having now watched the first two Hunters episodes, I can say that the show falls solidly in between those two poles. I do think that it has great promise, however. I’ll give you my (non-spoilery) thoughts below!

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Preparing Myself for Death with Joe Versus the Volcano

At the dawn of the ’90s, a film was released that was so quirky, so weird, and so darkly philosophical that people who turned up expecting a typical romantic comedy were left confused and dismayed. That film was Joe Versus the Volcano, and it is a near-masterpiece of cinema.

There are a number of ways one could approach Joe Versus the Volcano. You could look at it in terms of writer and director John Patrick Shanley’s career, or Tom Hanks’. You could analyze the film’s recurring duck and lightning imagery. You could look at it as a self-help text, or apply Campbell’s Hero Arc to it. I’m going to try to look at it a little differently. JVtV is actually an examination of morality, death, and more particularly the preparation for death that most people in the West do their best to avoid. The film celebrates and then subverts movie clichés to create a pointed commentary on what people value, and what they choose to ignore. Plus it’s also really funny!

[May you live to be a thousand years old.]

In Praise of Daredevil’s Karen Page

Cards on the table time: I love action, I’m intrigued by Catholic guilt and its relationship to vigilante justice, and I love long-winded conversations about morality, so Daredevil is an easy sell for me. Going into the Netflix’s second season I was a little nervous, because (a) I’m not into Punisher, and (b) I tend to get sick of Elektra. So how is it that in a season featuring a Punisher who made me cry, an Elektra I found riveting, plus many (many) long-winded conversations about morality, the one element of the show I can’t stop thinking about is Karen Page?

I didn’t even like Karen Page last season.

(Note: Spoilers for season 1 and 2 of Daredevil.)

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