content by

Leah Schnelbach

Marvel’s NYCC 2015 Panel Talks of Punishers and Purple Men, and the Extraordinary Jessica Jones

This year’s Marvel panel at NYCC 2015 was an odd beast. As everyone on stage excitedly talked about their Netflix original shows delving into darker and grittier territories than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they also talked about how much they all loved each other, and, indeed, it often felt like a Thanksgiving family reunion. If your weird cousin who you only see once a year was The Punisher. Jeph Loeb moderated two panels, one for the Daredevil cast and crew, and one for Jessica Jones. He also showed us an all-too-brief clip from Daredevil Season 2….and the first episode of Jessica Jones. Since he explicitly asked us not to spoil anything, and since I fear Marvel’s wrath like I fear nothing else, I will say only two things, below the cut.


The X-Files Panel at NYCC Asks Hard Questions about Love, Conspiracy, and The Lone Gunmen

They asked us not to record or spoil anything, so I won’t tell you anything about the episode except: A.) It’s really good. B.) I think fans of The X-Files will dig it. It’s also a genuinely surreal experience to watch an episode of the most paranoid show in history while black-suited security guys stalk through the halls looking for pirates. What I can talk about is the fun and emotional panel that followed the screening – click through for highlights!

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Tor: The Next Generation Proves that Tor’s Future is in Good Hands!

Tor: The Next Generation stormed New York Comic-Con this year! John Scalzi moderated a lively panel featuring Tor authors Fran Wilde (Updraft), Lawrence Schoen (Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard), Seth Dickinson (The Traitor Baru Cormorant) and Ilana C. Myer (Last Song Before Night). Scalzi opened the panel by warning that author panels “have the potential to be awful and boring” so he’s turned the whole ordeal into a game of Would You Rather! The panel revealed many important truth, chief among them that Seth Dickinson is a modern military genius, and that, no matter the odds against her, Fran Wilde will find a way to game the system. Check the panel highlights out below!

[With elephants!]

The Pilot for The Expanse Is a Tense Socio-Political Thriller Inside a Gritty Space Opera

SyFy gave the crowd at NYCC a sneak peak of The Expanse, hosting a showing of the pilot episode, plus a panel featuring executive producers Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, and stars Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, and Florence Faivre. Expository text tells us that Earth (now run by the U.N.), Mars, and the Outer Planets – an asteroid belt mined for its resources – have been locked in an uneasy balance but now Earth and Mars have begun escalating a Cold War over who controls the Belt, while Belters themselves are beginning to demand more rights. The adaptation of James S.A. Corey’s novels has been described as Game of Thrones in space, and at least the pilot made good on that blurb.

[Click through for highlights from the panel!]

The Trailer and Panel for SyFy’s Hunters Promise Allegory with an Emphasis on Gore

The SyFy channel is continuing its trend of producing thought-provoking TV with a new series, Hunters, coming next year. Based on Whitley Streiber’s Alien Hunter books, the show was developed by Natalie Chaidez , a former producer of The Sarah Connor Chronicles and SyFy’s current 12 Monkeys series, and Gale Anne Hurd, the legendary producer behind The Terminator, Aliens, and The Walking Dead. It follows F.B.I. agent Flynn Carroll as he joins the ExoTerroismUnit, a secret government agency who capture the aliens, called Hunters, who live among us. His partner, Regan is a Hunter who has taken  the humans’ part, and she’ll be key to helping him find his kidnapped wife. Click through for the full trailer!

[Bring Prac Back!]

The Martian will Restore Your Faith in Science

Let me begin with the obvious: The Martian is a great, tense, often terrifying tale of survival and ingenuity. It’s a celebration of the human desire to explore in the face of doom, and it makes me wish I was better at science. It’s also hilarious. While the book was considered a little too techie at times (NASA loves it, astronauts love it, and if you watch Andy Weir’s Author Talk at Google you’ll see that the nerds over there really really love it) the story has been turned into a film that is accessible and often fun, without sacrificing scientific accuracy.

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Our Apocalyptic Missions, Ourselves: Sleepy Hollow Returns with “I, Witness”

Sleepy Hollow’s back! Is that something we should care about? I just don’t know! I’ve been telling my colleagues at that I expected this season to suck. I assumed the magic would be gone, and after all the last-minute deaths, narrative shifts, and the disappearance of Orlando Jones, I felt too jerked around to care anymore. But this Season 3 premiere seemed dedicated to getting back to basics, and strengthening the core relationships that were the whole reason the show became a surprise hit in the first place.

[I want to believe.]

H.G. Wells Invented Everything You Love

H.G. Wells is considered one of the fathers of science fiction, and if you look at a brief timeline you’ll see why he’s so extraordinary:

  • 1895: The Time Machine
  • 1896: The Island of Doctor Moreau
  • 1897: The Invisible Man
  • 1898: The War of the Worlds
  • 1901: The First Men in the Moon

So basically for four consecutive years Wells got out of bed on New Year’s Day and said, “What ho! I think I’ll invent a new subgenre of scientific fiction!” And then he took a year off, only to return with a story about a moon landing. If it wasn’t for that gap in 1900, he probably would have invented cyberpunk, too.

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Series: On This Day

The Great Stephen King Birthday Cinema Celebration!

I love Stephen King, as a writer, as a proclaimer of the greatness of genre literature, and, maybe most of all, as a guy. He was the first author I knew who—actually, scratch that. Stephen King was the first author I knew.

I recognized the names of children’s authors, and some of the bigger pulpy adult authors that my parents read (my mother was a huge Dick Francis fan, and our house had the requisite copies of Clan of the Cave Bear and Shogun) but King was the first author I saw being interviewed on TV. He was the only author I knew who wrote introductions to his own books, and I got a real sense of him as a person form reading them. Later, when I read Danse Macabre and On Writing, I discovered that he could carry that conversational, regular-guy writing style through an entire book, and the more I write myself, the more impressed I am. I think what really came through, more so even than in his fiction, was his weird, dark sense of humor.

It is in this spirit that I present to you, oh my brothers and sisters and neithers and others, a Stephen King Movie Moment Retrospective.

[Including the second-funniest moment in Maximum Overdrive.]

Series: On This Day

Language and Code Switching in Kai Ashante Wilson’s The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps

It’s a question every writer asks as they begin work: how do I build my world? How do I create a universe teeming with life, vibrancy, heartache and hope, rather than a flat set filled with cardboard cutouts? One of the best, most immediate ways is to imbue your story with unique language. This technique has been used by many classics of SFF, but my favorite recent example is The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson.

I already loved Wilson’s story “The Devil in America,” published here on in. And when I read Stories for Chip, a collection of fiction and essays honoring Samuel R. Delany, I was really taken with his inventive story, “Legendaire.” But now, in Wildeeps, he’s added an extraordinary voice to the Sword and Sorcery subgenre.

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A Post-Mortem for Hannibal, the Greatest Television Show of All Time

I’m not going to try to give you a Hannibal finale recap. First of all, there’s nothing I could say that wouldn’t be a spoiler. But more importantly, the finale was such a perfect consummation of three years of storytelling, and such a jewel of thematic elements playing out through characters’ decisions, that I think the time is better spent A) telling all of you out there who haven’t watched the show why you should have been watching it, and B) imploring you to go catch up on it all now. Because it isn’t necessarily over, and if enough of us pour out our love through Hulu binges and Blu-ray sales, we might still get a movie or follow-up miniseries. Also, Bryan Fuller’s next project is American Gods, and if anyone cancels it before it comes to its full, Fuller-approved fruition, I may have to quit media entirely. And I need to pay rent, people.

[So trust me when I tell you that this finale was on the Breaking Bad end of the spectrum, not the Dexter, and we’ll move on from there.]

The Varied Life of Jack Vance

There’s one thing I’ve learned from researching our founding SFF authors: writers used to be a hell of a lot cooler. Not to insult any of our modern masters—far from it! They’re doing their best with the era they were dealt. But skim over the history of Harlan Ellison. Take a look at Robert Heinlein’s life, or Kurt Vonnegut’s, or Frank Herbert’s or Philip K. Dick’s. You’ll find stories of street brawls, epic rivalries, tumultuous love lives, hallucinations.

And then you get to Jack Vance, and the more you read the more you expect to learn that the man wrestled tigers for fun.

[Actually, he wrestled with more interesting things than tigers…]

Series: On This Day

What James Tiptree Jr. Can Teach Us About the Power of The SF Community

Ordinarily when I write an On This Day tribute, I find a theme to discuss. When you get to James Tiptree, Jr., however, finding a single theme becomes difficult.

Tiptree was born a century ago, on August 24, 1915, and then again in a grocery store in 1967. Over her life she was known as Alice Bradley, Alice Bradley Davey, Major Alice Bradley Sheldon, and Dr. Alice B. Sheldon, and she wrote as both James Tiptree, Jr. and Raccoona Sheldon. Throughout her life she performed a high wire act that combined genderfluidity with mythmaking. Some writers and fans have found the Tiptree theme to center on gender, on feminist history, on the power gained from anonymity, on queer identities in SFF. Obviously none of these themes are incorrect; what I’m focusing on, however, is the extraordinary story of Tiptree’s relationship to the SF community as a whole.

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Series: On This Day

Ray Bradbury: The Best Writing Teacher You Could Ever Have

Today would have been Ray Bradbury’s 95th birthday, and there are many, many stories you can tell about Bradbury’s life and career: Fahrenheit 451 was written in nine days, and cost the young author $9.80 in typewriter rental fees; Truman Capote got “The Homecoming ” published in Mademoiselle after it was rejected by Weird Tales; it took several years of working with editors at Knopf to find his voice; Ray Harryhausen was the best man at his wedding, and the two were lifelong friends.

All of these make for a colorful life, but I really want to talk about Ray Bradbury: the best writing teacher you could ever have.

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Series: On This Day

Diana Wynne Jones Subverted Fantasy Even as She Celebrated It

Diana Wynne Jones never quite took her fantasies seriously. Any time she had the chance to subvert your expectations of the brooding Byronic wizard, or the master enchanter, or the fantasy kingdom wracked by war, she took it. Taken as a whole, her books act as both a love letter and a critique to the Fantasy genre.

Born this day in 1934, she was raised by parents (both professional teachers) who neglected their children, remained emotionally distant, and only provided their three girls one book a year to share between them. What might have fostered resentment instead led Wynne Jones to be self-reliant: she made up for their lack of books by making up her own stories.

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Series: On This Day

Discover Delight, Ingenuity and Joy with Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany!

It’s only fitting that Stories for Chip, an anthology honoring professional polymath Samuel R. Delany would feature a ridiculous variety of stories. It’s also only fitting that they would be inventive, incisive, and filled with joy. Edited by Nisi Shawl and Bill Campbell, Stories for Chip includes fiction from every corner of fiction both “literary” and “genre,” as well academic essays on Delany’s place in SFF, and a few personal reminiscences from friends.

That variety in and of itself tells you something vital about Delany: over his career he has written science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, porn, historical essays, writing advice, and comics, and he’s inspired people in every one of those realms. In a basic way, his very presence in the community inspires because how many black gay intellectuals who also run respected undergrad creative writing programs are there in SFF?

[Stories in this anthology like grains of sand…]

Ranking the Corpse Art of Hannibal!

From the depths of my mourning for Hannibal’s cancellation, I wanted to think about the good times, and focus on some of the show’s best corpse sculpture.

See that picture up there where Will Graham is happily fixing a boat motor, surrounded by his loving puppies? That is the last happy picture you will see in this post. This post is literally made of (fictional) dead people. So proceed with caution. Also, there will be spoilers for the ENTIRE SERIES.

[So, so many dead people.]

You Beautiful Monster: The 20-Year Struggle to Make Clive Barker’s Nightbreed

Clive Barker has had a bumpy film career. After writing scripts for Underworld and Rawhead Rex, and being underwhelmed with the results, he decided to try directing his stories himself. So he adapted his story “The Hellbound Heart,” and created the classic Hellraiser. Unfortunately, for the next movie he wanted to do a thoughtful, dark fantasy adaptation of his story “Cabal,” but his producers just really wanted a slasher movie.

[Because the world needed more of those…]

If Someone Asks You if You’re a God, Do You Say Yes?

It’s a perennial question among comics fans: flight or invisibility? This is a simple test to see where your values are. If you answer flight, you’re a free-spirited romantic. Invisibility? You’re a skeevy perv not fit for human society. Insist that those choices suck, and that you want something really cool like invincibility or teleportation? Then your friends will just yell at you.

[The real point of the question is to force you to make a choice.]