The Golden Apple of Shangri-La September 23, 2014 The Golden Apple of Shangri-La David Barnett A Gideon Smith story. Selfies September 17, 2014 Selfies Lavie Tidhar Smile for the camera. When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami September 16, 2014 When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami Kendare Blake A Goddess Wars story As Good As New September 10, 2014 As Good As New Charlie Jane Anders She has three chances to save the world.
From The Blog
September 23, 2014
It’s All About the Benjamins in Sleepy Hollow: “This is War”
Leah Schnelbach
September 23, 2014
The Death of Adulthood in American Culture: Nerd Culture Edition
Lindsay Ellis
September 22, 2014
Five Brilliant Things About Doctor Who “Time Heist”
Paul Cornell
September 19, 2014
“WCKD is Good,” But The Maze Runner is Bad
Natalie Zutter
September 17, 2014
How Goldfinger Bound Sci-Fi to James Bond
Ryan Britt
Showing posts by: ryan britt click to see ryan britt's profile
Mon
Jun 9 2014 4:00pm

Don’t Look Back in Vampire: Penny Dreadful Ep. 5 “Closer than Sisters”

If you’ve ever seen the Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye joint White Christmas, then you know there’s an earworm of a song in it more pervasive than anything Frozen has embedded in our collective unconscious. And that song is Irving Berlin’s “Sisters,” as performed by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.* Its relevant lyric, the one that kept turning over and over in my head while watching the latest Penny Dreadful was this: “And Lord help the Sister who comes between me and my Man!”

Vanessa Ives is in full flashback mode in “Closer than Sisters,” and all the questions we may have had about why she hangs around with Sir Malcolm, what her relationship was with Mina, and what kind of haircuts she used to rock, are all here, laid plain in her super creepy letters to the past.

[Read more, spoilers]

Mon
Jun 9 2014 1:30pm

Plenty of Extra Lives: The Edge of Tomorrow

The Edge of Tomorrow review

There’s this part in the second level on the easy path of StarFox 64 when a giant, wildly impractical robot-spaceship adversary pretends to give up for like three seconds. This trick only works the first time and when you know what’s coming a second time, you’re already thumbing your spaceship to safety way before anything crazy happens. The most unrealistic thing about video games isn’t talking foxes or giant robots, but instead, the idea that not only can you have do-overs, but that the do-overs themselves are necessary to success.

The Edge of Tomorrow—the latest Tom Cruise sci-fi action summer action vehicle—is exactly like a lot of video games because its narrative structure combined with its shoot-em-up aesthetic makes the do-over both seem simultaneously cheap and essential.

[Read more, very light spoilers]

Mon
Jun 2 2014 3:00pm

Hungry Like Hartnett: Penny Dreadful Episode 4 “Demimonde”

Penny Dreadful Demimonde

One of my favorite things about Penny Dreadful is how realistic it is. Seriously! Save for Dorian Gray and Sir Malcolm, everybody on this show seems to have a job and that job is directly related to the plot. In a world of Vampires, undead corpses, and guys who wear leather pants, it’s nice to know that the economics make sense. Frankenstein wouldn’t have met these people if he didn’t need cash, and ditto for gun-slinging Ethan Chandler. Now, at the midway point of its first season, the Dreadfuls properly introduce us to the best of Victorian industries and get decidedly meta with a gruesome and revealing invitation to the theatre.

[Read more, spoilers]

Tue
May 27 2014 10:30am

Harlan Ellison Taught Me How to Be Interesting

Harlan EllisonIn the 1990s I was watching a promo documentary about Babylon 5—likely playing out its 5th season on TNT at the time—and in it J. Michael Straczynski related the best piece of writing advice his friend Harlan Ellison ever gave him, which was something to the effect of “stop sucking.” This might be one of those fuzzy memories where the meaning I derived from it is more real than the actual quote, but it stuck with me. Harlan Ellison inspired a lot of writers and provided a gateway for many of us into New Wave science fiction. And he did it with a lot of personality. Today is his 80th birthday, and I’m sending him this birthday card.

[Read more]

Tue
May 27 2014 10:00am

Keats and Frankenstein Are On Your Side: Penny Dreadful Episode 3 “Resurrection”

I really hope Morrissey is watching Penny Dreadful. Even better, I really hope Morrissey shows up as a character on Penny Dreadful, because though a slew of classic Victorian novels are being homaged throughout, I also feel like the brooding and literary lyrics from the Smiths belong here, too. In “Resurrection,” the questions of modernity versus a romantic aesthetic are aired as we begin to learn the dark past and creepy deeds of Victor Frankenstein.

[Read more, spoilers]

Tue
May 20 2014 10:00am

Han Solo Has Always Been the Lead of Star Wars

We’ll never really know if it was the money or a mind-trick that convinced Han Solo to ferry Luke, Obi-Wan, and the droids to Alderaan, and the riddle of the actor who played Solo for three movies is equally unclear. Fittingly, or jarringly, Harrison Ford’s relationship with Star Wars is exactly like his character; always picking “Should I Stay our Should I Go,” by the Clash as his karaoke song with one boot out the door. Ford almost wasn’t in The Empire Strikes Back and wanted Han to die in Return of the Jedi. And now that he’s in Episode VII, flippant rumors are circulating that he’s the co-lead, along with two of the younger actors.

But none of this should come as any surprise, because Han Solo has always been the lead of the classic Star Wars films.

[Read More]

Mon
May 19 2014 1:30pm

If Someone Asks You if You Are Dorian Gray; You Say Yes: Penny Dreadful Ep. 2, “Séance”

Penny Dreadful episode 2, Seance

Last week, in the premiere of Penny Dreadful, we were introduced to the machinations of Sir Malcolm and Vanessa Ives and their quest to recruit quasi-literary characters into their un-merry band of gothic compatriots. With Dr. Frankenstein in their employ, Malcolm and Ives are doing battle with vampires, maybe mummies, and Jack the Ripper. Their hired gun—Ethan Chandler—has some sort of deep dark secret and in “Séance” the plot of this genre mash-up thickens while questions of mortality, eternal life, and the end of the world are considered in hushed—and occasionally possessed—tones.

Plus there’s a lot more sex in this episode than in the first one. Actually, I’m confident there’s more sex in this episode than both of Timothy Dalton’s James Bond films combined.

[Read more]

Mon
May 19 2014 12:00pm

Godzilla Banks on Nostalgia, Keeps Other Monsters From Having Babies

Godzilla 2014 movie review

It’s not exactly The Blair Witch Project, but the new Godzilla is initially a little hesitant to give you a full, proper ogle at its titular monster. There he is on a TV. There he is out of the corner of someone’s eye. Wait, I think I saw part of him from the window of this air-train taking the protagonist to a flight I’m sure won’t get delayed because of Godzilla. Wait, is Godzilla late to his own movie? Fortunately, when you do see the big G in all his tall swinging, blue-fire-breathing action, you can’t help but think to yourself “Whoo-hoo! You show em’ Godzilla!” Actually, maybe I said that out loud.

But who are these other creatures he’s battling and is this movie really positing Godzilla as global monster-buster?

[Read more. Spoilers]

Mon
May 12 2014 5:00pm

Full Frontal Frankenstein: Penny Dreadful Premieres with “Night Work”

Like bad pennies always turning up, idioms are totally the most pervasive things, possibly, ever. Here’s one that frustrates me: it does what it says on the tin. I dislike this idiom because it probably reminds me of that Monty Python sketch in which I learned “tinny” words were bad, but more importantly because when used in reference to fictional narratives, it feels silly. Saying a whodunit is a whodunit or a rom-com is a rom-com is no defense (nor praise) of writing, storytelling, or creation of pop art. And yet, here is Penny Dreadful, showing up on cable and doing exactly what it says on the tin: being dreadful and doing it cheaply.

[Light spoilers for Penny Dreadful’s “Night Work”]

Mon
May 5 2014 4:00pm

Science Fiction Saves the Dictionary: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

Hands up now if you think lexicographers and/or their visual artist daughters make great protagonists of action-packed novels. Nobody? Okay, what about a book about slimy tech-start up young-jerkface whipper-snappers who unleash a virus on the entire world because they want to make money fast; does that sound awesome?

If I’ve lost your interest in either of the above, then you’re probably not going to like the new novel The Word Exchange. But if you’re like me and the notion of dictionary lovers as heroes and smarmy new-media guys as villains sounds great to you, then this is our book of the year.

[Read more]

Thu
May 1 2014 2:00pm

Working Class Star Wars Comics Were Something to See: Rogue Squadron

Star Wars X-Wing Rogue Sqaudron comicsTeenaged Ryan often felt it was in everyone’s best interests to let the people at Dark Horse Comics know how they were doing with the Star Wars property, and after having a letter published in the fourth issue of the original run of Shadows of the Empire—in which I complained that the dialogue from Rogue Squadron was unrealistic—I felt I had to make amends. The first issue of Rogue Squadron: The Warrior Princess published a letter from me in which I mentioned, in essence, that in terms of the portrayal of the rogues, these comics were way better.

Which is insane of course, because teenagers never know how good they have it, and I was no exception. Like the novels they were related to, the Rogue Squadron comics were an unprecedented, risky, and unique Star Wars which we all should run back and reread right now.

[Read more]

Tue
Apr 29 2014 10:00am

Star Wars, What is It Good For? The Real History of Science Fiction

Star Wars A New Hope Opening

When I was a little kid, my father enjoyed altering the famous Star Trek preamble “Space…the final frontier,” to “Space…the stuff between Ryan’s ears.” We’ll never know the illness that causes so many fathers to be sooooo hilarious all the time, and my Dad was no exception. But just like “space” meant different things to my Dad and me, it also means a lot of things to a lot of different people: a Final Frontier, a place where No One Can Hear You Scream, and also lots and lots of gas.

The latest installment of the BBC’s documentary series The Real History of Science Fiction decided to talk about space, and was about as successful as my Dad’s bad jokes, meaning the show was mostly dumb, bloated, and occasionally, a little bit charming.

[Read more]

Thu
Apr 24 2014 9:00am

The Best Star Wars Book, or the Best Star Wars Novel? Stackpole’s I, Jedi

Star Wars I Jedi Micheal Stackpole Today, I doubt anybody would let Michael A. Stackpole get away with what he did in 1998. If you were to ask me, right now in 2014, what I thought of a Star Wars novel written in the first person featuring a character who never appears in any of the novels movies, running through a plot which retcons events of beloved novels from a few years before, I’d say there’s zero market for such a book.

I, Jedi is a niche inside of a niche inside of niche, which is actually why it’s wonderful. And though it might not be the best Star Wars book of them all, it is easily the best Star Wars novel.

[Read more]

Wed
Apr 23 2014 1:00pm

Godzilla in the Mist: Rediscovering the 60th Anniversary Restoration of the Classic Film

Gojira Godzilla 1954

Right now, and for the rest of the summer, touring in select movie theatres in America is a cinematic 60th Anniversary Restoration of Ishiro Honda’s immortal monster film Gojira, or as we came to know him in the US, Godzilla. And with Bryan Cranston getting ready to do battle with the big G in the newest American reboot of Godzilla, this is the perfect time to revisit the first footprint from “the king of monsters.” And I do mean literally, because even in 1954, that footprint shows up way before the monster does.

[Read more]

Mon
Apr 21 2014 3:00pm

Robots for Dummies? The Real History of Science Fiction

Terminator Robots

Everyone loves Arthur C. Clarke’s wonderful aphorism that “any sufficiently evolved technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It’s such a good description of how science, and its application—technology—can be so grossly misunderstood and reduced, while simultaneously be awe-inspiring. Hell, Natalie Portman even quoted the line in Thor.

But what about the cousin of science and technology: science fiction? Can we handily attach a pithy, Arthur C. Clarke-style aphorism to SF, too? Well, after viewing the first episode of The Real History of Science Fiction, the new serial documentary from the BBC this weekend, I think we can. But it’s not pretty. Ready? Here it is: Any sufficiently popularized science fiction can be made indistinguishable from bullshit.

[Read more]

Mon
Apr 21 2014 1:00pm

Transcendence: Resistance to Johnny Depp is Futile!

Transcendence Johnny Depp

I waited until the movie theatre lights were turned on after Transcendence ended with the hope that a secret post-credit sequence would reveal this movie to be a surprise prequel to either the impending rebooted-Battlestar Galactica, a movie version of Doctor Who, or even another new Star Trek. This isn’t to say I was offended by the derivative premises of Transcendence at all, instead, like the A.I. version of Dr. Castor (Johnny Depp) himself, I wanted the movie to expand outward and take over other movies!

Artfully unpacked, the film offers a classic (and suddenly urgent) science fiction question: when consciousness exceeds particular established mores, at what point do we freak out? Or to put it another way: when does an all-powerful computer brain cease to be benevolent?

[Read more]

Thu
Apr 17 2014 11:00am

When Being Rogue Isn’t Rogue Enough: X-Wing #4 The Bacta War

Star Wars X-Wing The Bacta War Michael A StackpoleThough he wanted to love it, an old friend of mine grew irritated with the N64 version of Rogue Squadron because after getting bombarded with unseen TIE Fighter missiles, he threw up his hands saying the game was “way too hard.” For him, a Nintendo Star Wars experience should be more like the films: fun, with action and adventure that’s easy to experience and quick to digest.

And because Rogue Squadron (the entity) exists in that 1996 video game and also in this 1997 novel, my friend’s frustration might be the most perfect metaphor for how to think about the X-Wing novels. They’re fun, and chocked full of great Star Wars stuff, but after a while, they start to seem like a lot of hard work.

[Read more]

Thu
Apr 10 2014 11:00am

Go Ahead, Touch Wedge’s Face! X-Wing #3: The Krytos Trap

In the first half of X-Wing: The Krytos Trap, Wedge Antilles, the commander of Rogue Squadron, hails a cab, goes to a hanger bay, and gets his faced touched by an insect-man. If there is anything better to be reading right now, I’d like you to really think about the case you’re making. For all you aspiring writers out there, the next time you’re in a workshop talking about someone’s story or poem or essay, you might want to ask them if they’ve considered putting a scene in there where an insect-man delicately touches someone’s face. It’s just a suggestion.

The Krytos Trap is my favorite of these books so far. I originally read these when they were new and I was between 13 and 14-years-old. Rereading them as an adult (non-insect) person and professional writer, I’ve got to say, wow, these books sure knew how to have fun.

[Read more]

Mon
Apr 7 2014 3:30pm

Aliens Don’t Eat Chocolate Cake: Under the Skin and the Science Fiction Art Film

In my favorite scene in Jonathan Glazer’s new thriller/satire/science fiction film—Under the Skin—Scarlett Johansson’s unnamed protagonist (she had a name in the novel!) tries to eat a piece of chocolate cake in a crappy restaurant and nearly chokes. Every head in the place turns to look at her like she’s a crazy person, but in fact, she’s just an alien and can’t eat cake, or really anything. This, I’m guessing is the split on how most viewers will regard the relative quality of this movie: you’re either the “regular” people staring in disbelief, or you’re the alien wondering what the hell is wrong with everyone.

[Read more]

Thu
Apr 3 2014 10:00am

Out of the Cockpit and Into the Black Sun: X-Wing #2 Wedge’s Gamble

I really like the contemporary remake of Ocean’s 11 and its various sequels because I like complicated schemes with lots of moving parts which only make sense in a certain fictional context.

The second Michael A. Stackpole book in the X-Wing series is very much like one of those movies, and if you picture George Clooney as Wedge Antilles, Brad Pitt and Tycho Celchu and Matt Damon as Corran Horn, it really, really works. The Rogues are up for covert action and this time, they’re letting some scum and villainy run amok!

[Read More]