Tor.com content by

Ryan Britt

Zootopia is the Best Science Fiction Movie of 2016

Talking animals are popular for two obvious reasons:

  1. They’re cute.
  2. Everything they say and do is probably about us.

Good science fiction is very often social commentary about “real” things dressed up in a way that is both close enough to the truth, and complexly unique enough to be its own brilliant thing. Which is why the odyssey of Bunny Police Officer Judy Hopps in Zootopia is socially conscious science fiction storytelling at its finest.

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Just Try to Escape the Voice of Kevin R. Free

Between the Night Vale World Tour and the novel version of Welcome to Night Vale, fans of phantasmagorically delicious podcast had a pretty great 2015. Now that 2016 is here, what should fans of Night Vale be getting excited about? Well, if you love horror, H.P. Lovecraft, and the genre-spanning writing of Victor LaValle, then maybe you want to listen to Kevin R. Free—“Kevin” on Welcome to Night Vale—narrate LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom!

We sat down with Kevin to get his thoughts on Welcome to Night Vale, voicing sci-fi/horror books, and what it’s like to be famous online.

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Star Trek’s Best Writer/Director EVER Has Joined the Crew of CBS’ New Star Trek TV Show

Star Trek fans of every shade just received the best news: writer/director Nicholas Meyer is joining CBS’ new Star Trek television show, which is set to debut in 2017 with Bryan Fuller producing.

Not sure who Nicholas Meyer is? He’s the guy who saved Star Trek from obscurity and made it smarter than you ever realized. Here’s why this is possibly the best geek-related news of the past 20 years.

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The Oscars Forgot to Nominate The Force Awakens For Best Picture

Let’s pretend for a second that The Academy Awards is designed to accurately represent the best achievements in a given year in the field of cinema. We know that it doesn’t—and the #oscarssowhite problem more than proves that—but let’s just say that the Oscars should be providing a representation of movies that were both relevant to the culture and were “good”: achieving the balance between entertaining people and doing something somewhat new in the field of cinema. I think The Academy Awards should have honored this approach by nominating Star Wars: The Force Awakens for Best Picture.

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William Shatner’s New Memoir Leonard is Surprising and Moving

Whether they’re in their Kirk and Spock guises, or just being themselves, it’s hard to prefer William Shatner to Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy just seems more comfortable and real of the two, whereas Shatner appears to be putting on airs. Over the years, William Shatner seems to have figured this out and embraced the fact that no one will ever totally take him seriously. All of this makes the publication of a memoir written by him about Leonard Nimoy both look like a cynical cash-grab and a disingenuous maneuver of faux-love.

But if you’re a Star Trek fan, or casually interested in Leonard Nimoy, Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship With a Remarkable Man reveals that not only is Shatner a good guy, but that Leonard Nimoy may not have been the cool one, and did in fact fight all sorts of demons both inside and out.

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Stephen Hawking Is a Perpetual Beacon of Hope

If you know even little bit about Stephen Hawking, then you know that you’re dealing with someone so extraordinary that his life and work might seem to be fashioned from the pages of science fiction. As a physicist, Hawking pushed our understanding of black holes into new frontiers, but as a person, he is nothing short of an enduring example of someone who just will not give up.

Today is his 74th birthday: happy birthday, Professor Hawking!

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Series: On This Day

Sherlock’s “The Abominable Bride” Is a Live-Action Think Piece About Sherlock

In both the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel A Study in Scarlet and in the latest installment of BBC’s Sherlock—“The Abominable Bride”—we’re told “there is nothing new under the sun.” This mirrored sentiment explains the preponderance of fan fiction and fan writing in general, but also the tendency for the show Sherlock to feel more like fanish creation than a straight-up adaptation. So, if fandom be the food of our love for Sherlock Holmes, then “The Abominable Bride” isn’t really a new episode of Sherlock at all, but rather, a nearly endless hall of mirrors in which Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss do what they do best with our notions of these great characters: they play.

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A Science Fiction Halo Rests Slantedly Over Isaac Asimov’s Amiable Head

No one knows the exact date of Isaac Asimov’s birth…not even the amazing Asimov himself! In Memory Yet Green, citing dodgy birth records, the author writes that his birthday could be as early as October 19th, 1919, but that he celebrates it as January 2nd, 1920.

Who are we to argue with Asimov’s calculations? Happy birthday, Professor Asimov!

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Series: On This Day

God Bless Pastiche! The 7 Best Non-Traditional Christmas Carols of Film and TV

If I had a pet reindeer, or any kind of creature that resembled a fawn or Bambi-style animal, I’d name it Dickens. Come on. How adorable would it be to have a little pet deer named Dickens? Here Dickens! Come have a sugar cube! That’s a good little Dickens. What’s your favorite story? What’s that you say, “A Christmas Carol?” Well, I don’t feel like reading to you, because you’re a little deer, so let’s watch a movie or a TV special instead. Whatyda say? And then, as a gift to Dickens, I would have to compile a list of movie and TV adaptations of Charles Dickens’s awesome book—A Christmas Carol—and I’d want those adaptations to be somehow a little bit different from their source material, because deer like stuff that’s new.

What are the best non-traditional versions of A Christmas Carol? These.

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The Man Who Demolished Boring Science Fiction: Alfred Bester

Thinking about telepaths when telepaths are in the room is hard because they know you’re thinking about them. This is why—on most days—I’m glad I never actually had the chance to meet science fiction legend Alfred Bester, because my thoughts about him would have been disgustingly gushing and I’m sure he would have heard those thoughts because he was likely a real deal telepath and I would have been embarrassed. I’m kidding. I’m super sad I didn’t get to meet him! (But he was probably a real telepath…)

Today would have been Bester’s 102nd birthday. He won the first Hugo award for a novel ever, and made everything in SF way more fun. Here’s why he’s still the best.

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Series: On This Day

Philip K. Dick Scanned Our Brains, Darkly

In his afterword to a 1977 paperback collection called The Best of Philip K. Dick, PKD writes about the notion of questioning reality. At one point, Dick says the world made “sense” to him:

“I used to dig in the garden, and there isn’t anything fantastic or ultradimensional about crab grass…unless you are a sf writer, in which case, pretty soon you’re viewing crabgrass with suspicion. What are its real motives? And who sent it in the first place? The question I always found myself asking was, What is it really?”

Looking back on his work today, on the 86th anniversary of Dick’s birthday, the escape from the conspiracy of the mundane is a concept that certainly dominates the oeuvre of perhaps the most famous science fiction author ever. And why not? Don’t we all wish our lives were a little more interesting, a little more fantastic than perhaps they are?

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Series: On This Day

Celebrating Arthur C. Clarke’s Odyssey

Today we mark what would have been the 97th birthday of the great Arthur C. Clarke. Often credited with making fantastic predictions in his science fiction that actually came true, Clarke is among the most recognized and celebrated authors of the previous century. Perhaps the hardest of “hard science fiction” writers, Clarke was the authority on futurism and concepts both mind-bending and fascinatingly plausible. Known best for the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey and the epic film of the same name, Arthur C. Clarke is probably the writer most responsible for making futuristic space travel look realistic in our mind’s eye.

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Series: On This Day

The Pros and Cons of That Star Trek Beyond Trailer

I needed help. Paramount put out a trailer for Star Trek Beyond, a movie that I think I kind of need to be good and evocative of Star Trek, and I thought it was the worst thing ever.

In flew Ryan Britt, noted Star Wars and geek culture expert, to assure me that the trailer wasn’t the worst thing ever. That there were, in fact, some good takeaways!

Being of two-and-a-half minds about everything, we thought we’d list out the pros and cons of the latest trailer for this thing we love called Star Trek. Because there’s truly a full spectrum of reaction here. So let’s consider the trailer beyond our own perspective!

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Why Peter Capaldi is the Über-Doctor

In Paul Cornell’s recent comic book series Doctor Who: Four Doctors, he has the 12th Doctor saying: “Posh Doctor and Baby Doctor seem to think I’m Scary Doctor.” The fact that this dialogue is in a Doctor Who comic book and not on the actual show is totally a crime, but it’s also immediately recognizable as being a legit Peter Capaldi quip—something he would definitely say if he was faced with both Matt Smith’s (Baby) and David Tennant’s (Posh) Doctors. But, with the ludicrously awesome one-two punch of this season’s finale—“Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent”—Peter Capaldi’s Doctor isn’t just Scary Doctor or Angry Doctor or Aging-Rocker-Who-Wears-a-Hoodie-Doctor. Instead, he is the Every Doctor, all the Doctors all the time; the über-Doctor!

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Series: Doctor Who on Tor.com

Happy Birthday, Madeleine L’Engle!

Today marks the birthday of an author who forever changed the way we feel about time travel, alternate dimensions, and dark and stormy nights. Madeleine L’Engle was born on November 29th in New York City and started writing almost right away. Her first story was composed at age 8, and she went on to pen a universe of novels, poems, and non-fiction throughout her amazing and inspirational career.

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Series: On This Day