Tor.com content by

Leah Schnelbach

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Will Get Movie Sign on April 14th!

Netflix has given us the news we’ve been waiting for: MST3K will premiere on April 14th! And to be extra swell, they shared a new cast photo. The new cast features Jonah Ray as host Jonah Heston, Hampton Yount as Crow, and Baron Vaughn as Tom Servo, plus Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt as a new generation of Mad Scientists hell-bent on mayhem.

Now who’s joining us in the theater?

The Unlikely Philosophy of Joe Versus the Volcano

Please enjoy this repost of an article that originally ran on April 12, 2016. 

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.]

This American Afterlife: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I hate the phrase “now more than ever.” I hate the implications that come with it, the idea that one moment of history is somehow more fraught than all the others. And yet, part of me wants to say that we need George Saunders’ first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, now more than ever, because I want you to drop everything and read it. Like, right now. (OK, read this review first, but seriously right after that.) The truth is, this book would have been vital if it had been released in 1950 or 1980, or on September 12, 2001. It will still be necessary in three hundred years, whether or not humans are here to experience it—maybe by then the cockroaches and ants that inherit the earth will have learned to read, and it can inspire them to be better than we have been.

Over a thirty-year writing career, George Saunders has crafted a very precise tone in his stories—wry and absurdist, with an occasional flash of sadness so deep that you start crying before you understand why. His stories make for a particularly good lens to view our current climate, and I always feel like I understand life in modern America better after I’ve read his work. So it might seem odd at first that in his debut as a novelist, Saunders has decided to excavate a moment from our nation’s past. Bardo’s story is simple and based in heartbreaking fact: Abraham Lincoln’s third son, Willie, died of typhoid fever in 1862. Since the Lincolns didn’t have a family plot in D.C., Willie was buried in a borrowed tomb in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown. His mother was too distraught to attend the funeral; the president went to the service, and then, according to stories circulated at the time, returned to the crypt late in the night to hold his son’s body one last time.

Saunders takes this sliver of grief and turns it into a meditation on loss which in turn becomes a consideration of the Civil War and the existence of America itself.

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Series: Genre in the Mainstream

Doctors Without Space Borders — The Expanse: “Godspeed”

This week’s episode of The Expanse focused on two plotlines, rather than fragmenting into multiple points-of-view—on the one hand, Avasarala and her hunt for the truth; and on the other, Miller, Fred Johnson, and the Rocinante crew try to deal with the proto-molecule on Eros Station. I think this served the storyline well, since it ratcheted the tension up to heights we haven’t seen yet this season. It also left us on a fantastic cliffhanger.

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Victor LaValle Combines Frankenstein with Cyborgs and Political Consciousness in New Comic, Destroyer

Destroyer, the comic LaValle is creating with artist Dietrich Smith, introduces us to Dr. Jo Baker and her son, Akai. When Akai is shot by police on his way home from baseball practice, Dr. Baker is devastated. But when no one is charged with his murder, she is enraged, and she turns to history and science to find a way to save her son. You see, Dr. Baker just happens to be a descendant of Victor Frankenstein’s last living relative, Edward. And she just happens to have worked on a top-secret government re-vivification project with Akai’s father. She is able to bring Akai back as a postmodern cyborg Prometheus, but he’s still a child, and he’s nowhere near as set on vengeance as his mother. Luckily for her, her ancestor’s original, un-killable monster still stalks the earth, and he might be ready to come back from Antarctica and make humanity pay for the pain they’ve caused him.

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The Morning in Publishing: February 14, 2017

The Audio Publishers Association (APA) has announced finalists for the 22nd annual Audie Awards® competition! Nominees include Brandon Sanderson’s The Bands of Mourning, with narration by Michael Kramer, Naomi Novik’s League of Dragons with narration by Simon Vance, Connie Willis’ Crosstalk by with narration by Mia Barron, and John Scalzi’s The Dispatcher with narration by Zachary Quinto. The winners will be announced at the Audie Awards Gala on June 1, 2017, at the French Institute Alliance Française in New York City, and you can see all the nominees here, but before you leave, might we interest you in some more publishing news? We’ve gathered up all of the highlights below.

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8 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books Sexier Than Fifty Shades

Please enjoy this encore post celebrating all things kinky SFF, originally published February 2015.

Fifty Shades of Grey opens this weekend, with many audiences worried that the movie will repeat the mistakes of the book in depicting an unrealistic, unhealthy BDSM relationship. But it doesn’t have to be this way—after all, sci-fi and fantasy authors have written believable power exchanges and sexual agency into their books and comics for decades. Instead of headdesking over Christian and Ana once again, pick up these books by Samuel R. Delany, Octavia E. Butler, Matt Fraction, and more.

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Goodnight, Moon. The Expanse: “Static”

This week’s episode of The Expanse is titled “Static.” We all know that static in sci-fi and horror shows is no good right? That it’s always a conduit for evil? This episode sees Miller dealing with the fallout of his trigger-happiness, Amos bonding with a sociopath, Naomi dancing like no one is watching, and Avasarala taking a gamble.

(Spoilers ahead, naturally.)

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Confronting the Horror of Time: Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

There are three things that scare me. Really, deep-in-the-marrow scare me.

(1) Since I was a tiny child I’ve been afraid that I’ll be convicted of a crime I didn’t commit and be given the death sentence for it. This fear has persisted to this very day, despite the fact that my gender and the whiteness of my skin has protected me from being falsely accused of anything.

(2) That I’ll be flung out into the vacuum of space without a suit. (I’ve discussed this at some length in my recaps of The Expanse.) Now, you have to understand, I’m terrible at math, and there is no way I’m ever joining NASA or going to space. I’m stuck here. So this is an oddly specific fear, and yet there it is.

(3) Japanese horror. I mean, even just typing that? Even just thinking about that? Will probably affect how I sleep tonight. Ringu destroyed me. The Ring destroyed me. Ju-On destroyed me. Dark Water destroyed me, and Dark Water isn’t even that good.

So when I started reading Universal Harvester, and characters began speaking in ominous tones about a videotape that went wrong, I had to pull my blankets around me. By page 60, I was freaked out enough to take a break.

Such is the power of John Darnielle’s writing.

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The Expanse Returns with a Two-Hour Season Premiere: “Safe” and “Doors and Corners”

The Expanse returned last night with an action-packed double episode. Season Two picked up the threads from last season’s finale, with Chrisjen Avasarala investigating the corruption within the UN, the crew of the Rocinante trying to learn the truth about what they witnessed on Eros Station, and Miller…well, Miller leans against walls spitting out sarcasm like he’s in some sort of noir-one-liner competition.

I’m recapping the highlights of the episode below, join me in space!

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Groundhog Day Breaks the Rules of Every Genre

In honor of the season, please enjoy this encore post, originally published February 2, 2014.

Groundhog Day succeeds as a film because of the way it plays with, subverts, and outright mocks the tropes of each of the genres it flirts with. While some people would call it a time travel movie, or a movie about small town America, or the most spiritual film of all time, or a rom-com, it is by breaking the rules of each of those types of films that it ultimately transcends genre entirely.

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Leave Your Heart in San Francisco with 10 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Stories!

What is it about San Francisco? Out of all the cities in the world, that golden port seems to attract some of our most forward-thinking writers. Even if it only served as the headquarters for Starfleet and the foundation point of The United Federation of Planets, that would mark it as a hub of speculative fiction, but it has also given a setting to some of our favorite novels and novellas.

From futuristic gumshoes to magical happenings on the BART, here are ten stories that turn San Francisco into an SFF playground.

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Turtles All the Way Down: Beauty and Brutality in The Red Turtle

Much like Kubo and The Two Strings, the new Wild Bunch/Studio Ghibli co-production The Red Turtle opens with a desperate, storm-tossed character washing up on an island. But where Kubo was an action-packed quest that also contained a meditation on trauma, mourning, and family, The Red Turtle is a stark, sparse story of survival. Basic physical survival, yes, but also the survival of the human spirit and the search for joy amid the harsh realities of life.

It is also, just to get this out of the way, gorgeous. If you love Studio Ghibli in particular, or even animation and film more generally, you owe it to yourself to seek this one out.

Light spoilers below.

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