Tor.com content by

Leah Schnelbach

How Can We Make the Good Omens TV Series Even More Perfect?

The adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens is picking up steam! We already have the perfect Crowley and Aziraphale (in case you didn’t know, it’s DAVID TENNANT AND MICHAEL SHEEN), but that’s just the beginning of the casting process. We have some suggestions for the rest of the adult characters—we’re not casting the kids ’cause kids are hard. They just… grow up, and change rapidly, and then your perfect ensemble cast is destroyed. Let us know what you think of our ideas, and make more suggestions in the comments!

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Finding Your Way in the World: Kiki’s Delivery Service and Whisper of the Heart

Studio Ghibli is known for making coming-of-age films, and for films with complex female characters, but there are two in particular, made 6 years apart, exemplify these traits better than any of their other work. One is considered an all-time classic, while the other is a lesser known gem. One gives us an alternate world full of magic and flight, while the other stays purely grounded in this world. But taken together, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Whisper of the Heart celebrate the single-minded passion of the artist, and the need for young women especially to ignore societal pressures in order to create their own destinies.

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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

The Horror of Home Ownership: Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It

Obviously the best haunted house novels are not about ghosts. The best ones are about, for instance, the constricted role of women in US society in the 1950s (The Haunting of Hill House), the constricted role of women in US society in the 1890s (The Turn of the Screw), the horror of slavery (Beloved), the trap of capitalism (The Family Plot). The cool thing about Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It is that she knows that we know that, and introduces us to what the book is really about almost immediately. Then she scares the hell out of us anyway.

So what is it about? A young couple, Julie and James, decide to leave city life for a suburban home. James is in therapy for a gambling addiction that drained his personal back account, and was just about to nibble at the couple’s joint account; Julie suggests a move both to head this inevitability off and to give them a fresh start.

This… does not go as planned.

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Series: Genre in the Mainstream

Fables for the Modern Age: Osama Alomar’s The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories

As a writer, fables have always eluded me. I am not a pious person, but when I try to write a fable, I try so hard to make it meaningful that it comes out pious, pretentious, overwrought. Osama Alomar does not have that problem. His book, The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories, is a delicate, sometimes hilarious, and often starkly heartbreaking collection of modern fables. Alomar worked with C.J. Collins to translate his Arabic stories into English, and while some of them seem like they could be from land in any time, others like “The God of Virtues” dive into hypermodern questions—“What if Satan joined Facebook?”—and many wrestle, either directly or obliquely, with the ravages of war.

No matter the topic, however, Alomar manages the trick I never can: his parables are never didactic. They’re warm, human, occasionally terrifying, but at no point do you feel the author sitting you down to deliver wisdom. These fables are jewels, each facet showing you a different corner of humanity.

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Finding Horror in the Details: Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Yoko Ogawa has been gifting Japan with dark, obsessive fiction for over thirty years, but only some of her work in currently available in English. Ogawa’s debut The Breaking of the Butterfly won the 1988 1988 Kaien literary Prize, and since then she’s written a number of bestselling and award-winning novels and short stories, two of which were adapted into films. In 2006, she teamed up with a mathematician, Masahiko Fujiwara to write a non-fiction work about the beauty of numbers titled An Introduction to the World’s Most Elegant Mathematics. She won 2008’s Shirley Jackson Award for Best Collection for The Diving Pool.

Revenge, which came out in 1998 in Japan, was translated into English by Stephen Snyder in 2013. It’s what’s referred to as “a collection of linked short stories”—but here the links tend to be macabre hinges that hint at a darker and far more frightening world than what we see on the page.

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“I Knew I Could Rely on Thor!” Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Gives us a Sneak Peek of Season 2

The first season of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency turned out to be a delightful surprise, and this Season 2 preview clip already has us excited for the show’s return!

Max Landis’ adaptation of Douglas Adams’ book took some genuinely weird turns, but remained grounded in human emotion…for the most part. This clip seems to show us the aftermath of Season One’s cliffhanger ending, so beware of spoilers!

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The Expanse Promises War in Season 3!

Entertainment Weekly Executive Editor Dalton Ross moderated a panel for Syfy’s The Expanse at San Diego Comic-Con, with actors Stephen Strait, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Cas Anvar, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Frankie Adams, and Executive Producer Mark Fergus. The conversation ranged from love to war, and they announced a new cast member! Elizabeth Mitchell, late of Lost, V, and Once Upon a Time, will join the cast and bring a “spiritual perspective” to the series.

Click through for more highlights from the panel!

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Be Thrilled by the New Trailer For Stranger Things 2!

The trailer for Stranger Things Season 2 has doubled down on the ’80s nostalgia, with prominent turns from Dragon’s Lair, Ronald Reagan, and Mr. Vincent Price. Obviously the kids ain’t afraid of no ghosts after what happened to them last season, so this trailer sees them donning Ghostbusters costumes for Halloween and capturing…something…in their trap. And no, Will Byers can’t quite shake what happened to him.

Click through for the full clip!

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Blade Runner 2049 Brings the Future to San Diego Comic-Con 2017!

While there was no new Blade Runner 2049 trailer at SDCC, director Denis Villaneuve did take the stage with screenwriters Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, and stars Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Lennie James, and of course Harrison Ford. Plus, Jared Leto appeared in hologram form, because he Method Acted so hard he is literally in the future now.

The panel gave a breakdown of the post-Blade Runner timeline, so if you want that information as you head into 2049 click through! Otherwise, beware of spoilers.

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“We Have to Find God First.” The Preacher Season 2 Trailer Hits the Road

If you were waiting for the introduction of Herr Starr, wait no longer: the trailer for Preacher Season 2 just premiered at San Diego Comic-Con, and it features Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy hitting the road, the Saint of Killers hitting the bar, and the aforementioned Herr Starr hitting, um, people.

Plus the best use of Bell Biv Devoe’s classic “Poison” that I have ever heard.

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Looking for the Heart of Whiteness: Mat Johnson’s Pym

Like many of my favorite books, Pym goes from an innocuous to ridiculous to horrifying very abruptly. For about the first 150 pages, I’d be comfortable saying that Pym was one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. Then it abruptly turns into a particular type of horror story. It does get funny again, but I don’t want to spoil it for any of you who may want to read it, so I’m going to dance around a bit and talk about the opening.

Pym is an intricately-plotted response to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. The original Pym follows the titular character as he survives bad seas and mutinies to sail down toward the South Pole. He comes upon a land called Tsalal, an island inhabited by natives who are so “black” they even blacken their teeth. (Much of the Tsalal section is about Pym’s horror of blackness.) After the natives betray them, the group flees to Antarctica along with one kidnapped Tsalalian. Pym’s story ends as they encounter a giant shrouded white figure, and the book ends with a postscript explaining Pym’s death. Mat Johnson’s Pym presupposes this story is rooted in historical fact, and takes off from there with a wide-ranging tale that travels from New York to Gary, Indiana to Antarctica.

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The (Non-Spoilery!) Moment in Spider-Man: Homecoming That Made Me Cry

I want to talk about one of the moments in Spider-Man: Homecoming that made me cry. (Don’t worry, this is not a spoiler!)

During the end credits, a cartoon version of Spider-Man runs around New York doing cute New York-y things. He goes to MoMA, and sees a Lichtenstein, which then morphs into a Lichtensteined Spider-Man.

This doesn’t sound like a huge deal right? But here’s why it made me tear up. Roy Lichtenstein created a lot of amazing art, but he also took comics images and used them in his painting. I don’t think he was doing this to shine a spotlight on things people considered “low” culture (as Warhol did) and I don’t think he was commenting on comics as a valid medium. He was more interested in what could be done with the images themselves, out of context. There are several warring opinions on his work, but as far as I’ve been able to see he wasn’t creating his paintings to acknowledge comics as art.

And now, in the end credits to Marvel’s best movie in years, their working-class friendly neighborhood every-teen takes that art back.

A Sober and Verbose Reflection on Robert A. Heinlein

Today we commemorate Robert A. Heinlein, who was born on this day in 1907. He is a giant in the science fiction genre, but like most giants, his path to literary greatness was tangled and circuitous. His naval career ended in the 1920s when tuberculosis scarred his lungs. He attempted real estate and silver mining, ran for political office in California, and only began writing to make a mortgage payment. His first story, “Life-Line,” was published in the August 1939 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, after Heinlein realized that Astounding paid more than the prize money for the contest he had originally entered. This began a long relationship with Astounding’s editor, John W. Campbell, who published much of Heinlein’s work through the 1940s.

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Series: On This Day

My Muse is a Rat: 10 Years On, Ratatouille Is Still Inspiring

When I went to see Ratatouille in 2007, I was trapped in a terrible job. I was exhausted all the time, I felt completely uninspired, and spent a sickening amount of energy questioning myself, beating myself up, hating every decision I’d made that led me to that moment in my life, and creating a vomitous feedback loop of self-loathing. When I went to the movie with friends, I was paying for two hours of forgetfulness. Two hours to stop thinking about my life, and lose myself in a cute Pixar story. I remember hoping I liked the short.

And then the film started, and I didn’t get forgetfulness—I got a much-needed slap in the face.

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