Tor.com content by

Leah Schnelbach

Looking Back at Princess Mononoke After 20 Years

Princess Mononoke is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. Personally, I consider it Miyazaki’s masterpiece, beyond even Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away. Since the film has been re-released in a few theaters, I want to look back at the movie, and talk about what I think is the most remarkable aspect of a remarkable film.

Princess Mononoke was not a sure bet. Miyazaki hadn’t made a truly serious film since Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind back in 1984, and most of his studio’s movies were aimed at children. But Miyazaki looked back at early sketches he’d done in the 1970s, that featured a girl married off to a monster, and felt the need to make a film about the battle between civilization and wilderness. He created a male protagonist, and axed his monster (it looked a lot like the Totoro’s friend the Catbus) and decided that the princess herself would be the monster. Over two years he pulled a film together at a pace that can only be considered heroic—out of the 144,000 cels created, Miyazaki personally redrew over 80,000. The film that emerged was complex, ambiguous, and definitely not for small children. It delved into Japan’s past, offering a look at people on the cusp of modernity, and portraying pre-modern Japan was far more diverse than previously traditional depictions.

[Read more]

Journey to the Future-Past with the Sci-Fi Art of the 1970s!

We here at Tor.com are huge fans of the future. As we step tentatively out into 2017, we find ourselves looking back to the weird, wonderful, and sometimes fantastical future of the 1970s. Specifically, the future that is being archived, tweeted, and tumbled by 70s Sci-Fi Art! The twitter feed highlights original art, movie stills, and even architectural designs from (or sometimes inspired by) the 1970s, and we love every single one of them.

Join us for a journey through the Future-Past, starting with a look at the suburbs of our great moon colony…

[…PastFuture?]

Adam Savage Tours a Weta Workshop Sculptor’s Mini Labyrinth Maze!

Is there anything more joyful than watching someone explain their passion to an appreciative audience? In the video below, Johnny Fraser-Allen walks Adam Savage through his gorgeously detailed model of the Labyrinth from, er, Labyrinth. Fraser-Allen began work at Weta Workshop straight out of high school, after being inspired to go into film by repeated viewing of Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. Now he’s been commissioned by River Horse Games to create figures and illustrations for their Labyrinth tabletop game, and he gleefully shares his work with fellow maze-enthusiast Adam Savage, whose model of The Shining‘s iconic hedge maze is currently touring the country with the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition.

Click through for the video!

[Read more]

The Morning in Publishing: January 5, 2017

The Missoula Public Library shared this shot of Odessa, Texas’ Little Free Library receiving a visit from a pair of Leias. The library was built by students at The University of Texas of the Permian Basin’s STEM Academy, and is described as being “barely a foot shorter than the average Wookie.” Once you’ve finished drying your eyes, we recommend clicking through for the best in today’s publishing news, which includes a remembrance of Carrie Fisher, reading suggestions from The Millions, and storytime with Tom Hardy!

[Read more]

Snow Crash, Infinite Jest, and Our Cyberpunk Present

Please enjoy this encore post on the literary intersections of cyberpunk, originally published on June 8, 2016.

If you walked into a middle-class early ’90s living room, it would look pretty similar to what you’d see today: TVs, personal computers, video game consoles. Our stuff is just smaller now, and we use some of it to stream information and entertainment rather than using cartridges and discs. I would guess that because of this sudden influx of home-based technology, the mid-90s saw a giant spike in worry about what that tech would do to our humanity.

And so into this world came two giant, happily maximalist books that seemed determined to cram every bit of pre-millennial tension into their pages. One was Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, and the other was Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson.

[Read more]

8 Huge Adult Ideas Taught to Us By the SFF Movies of Our Childhoods

Please enjoy this encore post on SFF movies with adult lessons, originally published April 2016.

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.

[Read more]

19 SFF Stories That Take a Positive View of Religion

Please enjoy this encore post about religion in SFF, originally published November 2016.

Of all the genres, science fiction and fantasy are the ones where humans can tackle their deepest societal problems and thought experiments. Because of this, it’s a natural place for people to explore ideas about religion, faith, and the meaning of life…

Religion can also be an emotional and contentious topic for people. For people who choose to leave a religious tradition, science and science fiction can become the home they didn’t find in a church or temple, and can also provide a way to critique the life they left. For others, the flexibility of the genre allows them to express their faith, or their questions about their faith, in deeper ways than any other medium would allow.

I thought it would be interesting to look at some examples of books and short stories that have tackled religious questions in respectful and positive ways. While these stories sometimes go to uncomfortable places, they each take faith seriously, and would be worthy additions to the TBR stacks of believers and non-believers alike.

[Read more]

Lights, Please? A Charlie Brown Christmas and the Search for Holiday Truths

Fifty-one years ago Charlie Brown looked into the shining void that is Christmas, and became a hero.

Here was a child who acknowledged the sadness beneath the festivity, the loneliness, the aching search for meaning under tinsel. This half hour met the challenge thrown down by Rudolph, raised the bar for the Grinch, and created the template that has been used by nearly every animated special, sitcom, and even drama since the 1960s. Charlie Brown dispensed with all merriment, demanded to know the meaning of Christmas, and got a perfect answer.

[Read more]

Enter a World Where Mecha Robots are Common in Eastern Europe, and Bears are Our Friends

Artist Jakub Rozalski blends the early 20th Century farmland of Eastern Europe with startling mecha, trained bears, and werewolves to create jarring scenes of life during and after war. These paintings are part of the world of “Scythe” a complex board game Rozalski kickstarted a few years ago, but we think they work wonderfully as stand-alone art pieces! The painting seem to take place in a world where giant Mecha warriors were used during World War II, as in this terrifying scene of a beach invasion. Even more interesting, however, are the paintings that seem to show life after the war, when these former battle machines are incorporated into everyday pastoral life.

[Read more]

The Morning in Publishing: December 21, 2016

One of the greatest gifts Twitter has given us this holiday season is the “Holiday a Book” hashtag. With entries like “The Fault in Our Scarves“, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secret Santas“, and “Lord of the Five Golden Rings” it was tough to pick an absolute favorite, but we finally had to go with the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy account’s homage to Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem. We have more gifts for you in our publishing news roundup!

[Read more]

Is Survival Victory Enough? The Man In The High Castle: Season Two

Amazon’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle was a surprise hit last year, quickly becoming one of the streaming service’s most popular shows. This season saw the departure of showrunner Frank Spotnitz, which led to a messier show, but overall The Man in the High Castle was a powerful meditation on fascism, family, intellectual freedom, and whether survival alone can ever count as a victory.

The season opens on Obergruppenführer John Smith’s son Thomas heading off for his day at Fritz Julius Kuhn High School, and leading everyone in the Pledge. Fritz Julius Kuhn was the head of the German American Bund, a group who tried to convert Americans to Nazism and held a horrifyingly popular rally at Madison Square Garden in 1939. In our reality he was sent to prison for embezzling money from the Bund, but in Thomas Smith’s he’s a hero of the Reich, and the Pledge the kids recite is a declaration of lifelong devotion to Adolph Hitler.

[Light spoilers to follow]

Princess Mononoke to Return to Theaters in January 2017!

Could there be a better way to begin 2017 than with one of Hayao Miyazaki’s greatest films? Miyazaki’s environmentalist epic, Princess Mononoke, will return to theaters for two showings this January, in a co-presentation from Fathom Events and GKIDS. If you’d like to see the original Japanese version with English subtitles, January 5th is your day. But, if you’d like to see the English-language version featuring a script by none other than Neil Gaiman, it will be back in theaters on January 9th for the first time since 1999! Gaiman tweeted about the special screenings to let fans know of his involvement with the project.

[Read more]

Celebrate A Good Old-Fashioned Victorian Christmas With Drunken Birds and Angry Goats!

One of the best things about being on the internet as the holidays approach is getting to see all the Ephemera of Christmas Past. For instance, would you like to see a collection of mid-20th Century women posing with their trees (which are often aluminum!!!)? Here you go. Would you like to learn about Christmas Monsters? Yes, yes you would. Would you like to bask in the glorious weirdness of Victorian Christmas cards, like the one above, in which the annual Robin Christmas Party has gotten completely out of control? Click through!

[Read more]

Check Out the Trailer for Mary and the Witch’s Flower, a New Film from Studio Ghibli Alums

While we may not have Studio Ghibli anymore, we do have some hopeful news for the future: several Ghibli veterans have teamed up to found Studio Ponoc, and their first feature comes out this summer! Mary and the Witch’s Flower is based on Mary Stewart’s children’s classic, The Little Broomstick. The Japanese trailer is out now, click through to watch it!

[Read more]