A Kiss with Teeth October 29, 2014 A Kiss with Teeth Max Gladstone Happy Halloween. This Chance Planet October 22, 2014 This Chance Planet Elizabeth Bear We are alone, except for the dog. Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza October 15, 2014 Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza Carrie Vaughn A Wild Cards story. The Girl in the High Tower October 14, 2014 The Girl in the High Tower Gennifer Albin A Crewel story.
From The Blog
October 31, 2014
Penguin Classics Halloween Sweepstakes!
Sweepstakes
October 30, 2014
Rich and Strange: “Witch, Beast, Saint” by C. S. E. Cooney
Amal El-Mohtar
October 29, 2014
19 Strange Things Hiding in The World of Ice and Fire
Chris Lough
October 28, 2014
Fairy Tale No More: Doctor Who is a Science Fiction Show Again
Ryan Britt
October 27, 2014
Seven Science-Fiction Heroes with Swashbuckling Swagger
David Cranmer
Showing posts by: ryan britt click to see ryan britt's profile
Mon
Jun 30 2014 4:00pm

Getting What We Paid For: Penny Dreadful’s Season 1 Finale, “Grand Guignol”

Penny Dreadful Grand Guignol

Coupling grotesque supernatural thrills with our culture’s insatiable nostalgia for Victorian pomp isn’t a bad bet for any TV show. Back when Dracula and Frankenstein were turned into their 1931 film counterparts, making an hour-long movie based on a book was also a safe bet, because the recognition of those novel titles helped to ensure butts where squirming around in those seats. Not quite a hundred years later, we’re still digging on Dracula and Frankenstein, albeit now with these newer, subtler-and-yet-more-obtuse versions of them.

With the season finale of Penny Dreadful, the easy question to ask would be: did it deliver on its various promises? But then, you have to remember it didn’t actually promise all that much in the first place.

[Read more]

Wed
Jun 25 2014 10:00am

Party Like Dick: The Charming Audacity of Radio Free Albemuth

Very early on in the film Radio Free Albemuth, we’re straight-up shown an alien satellite in orbit shooting a zap-beam into the head of Nick Brady (Jonathan Scarfe), the movie’s protagonist. This scene almost dares us to just accept what is going on, but when you’re making a Philip K. Dick movie, a disconnect between reality (even a science fictional one) and “normal stuff” is bound to happen. And instead of avoiding that inherent disconnect, this film embraces it. Because if you’re not willing to have a tonally jumbled movie, one in which the movie itself seems to almost parody the human experience, then you can’t adapt Dick.

[Read more]

Mon
Jun 23 2014 3:00pm

Demonspotting: Penny Dreadful Ep. 7 “Possession”

Lemony Snicket’s (Daniel Handler) next-to-last Series of Unfortunate Events books, The Penultimate Peril, managed to get nearly every single character from the previous books all checked into the same hotel. I was thinking of this during the penultimate episode of Penny Dreadful’s first season, not only because so many unfortunate things happen on this show, or because most of the characters remind me of Brett Helquist illustrations from the Snicket books, but because like so many penultimate installments of a story, all the characters get shoved into one room. Here in the land of the Dreadfuls, it’s to deal with Vanessa Ives’s demon possession, and the results are both horrifying and homage-ridden.

[Read more]

Mon
Jun 23 2014 9:30am

You Wanna Get Nuts? Let’s Get Nuts! The Schizophrenic Excellence of 1989’s Batman

Twenty five years ago today, Michael Keaton uttered the words “I’m Batman,” twice. The first was while wearing the iconic rubber bat-mask complete with eye-makeup underneath, but later he repeated this sentiment with his regular non-Bat face, too. All these years later, many of us either love this film or loathe it, but which is the correct way to think about it?

Like the duplicitous nature of Batman himself, the answer is you should both love it and be suspicious of it. Batman (1989) is great because its mash-up of good decisions and bad decisions make it an accidentally perfect tribute to the Dark Knight.

[Read more]

Tue
Jun 17 2014 1:00pm

8 Great Science Fiction Movies Where No One is Murdered

Star Trek IV

Being the genre of the future, or at the very least, of speculation, science fiction needs to both be awesomely creative and, more importantly, relatable to its audience. As such, sci-fi movies often fall back on plot devices and tropes common across all genres, especially to ratchet up the tension and keep things exciting—and what’s more exciting than death? And murder is even better—the more ruthless the bad guys(s), the more we’ll root for the good guys.

But, just like a good majority of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories don’t have a dead body in them, cool science fiction movies are not required to feature death and killing if they don’t want to. With high stakes expected by mainstream audiences, it’s tempting to kill characters off, but here are a few sci-fi flicks that manage to forego death (almost) entirely.

[Read more]

Mon
Jun 16 2014 4:00pm

Shoot-Out at the Undead Corral: Penny Dreadful Ep. 6 “What Death Can Join Together”

Penny Dreadful What Death Can Join Together

It’s no spoiler that in the Harry Potter books He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is actually named Voldemort. And though those books didn’t make Voldemort’s name a spoiler at all, Rowling did pull back the curtain on Voldemort’s whole deal fairly slowly, giving us just a smidgen of information about her particular dark lord with each book. But if you’d already known who Voldemort was, say, because he appeared in an older book or TV show before, then the slow reveal of his machinations may have gotten a little old.

The latest Penny Dreadful keeps on teasing out the existence of “the vampire” or “Dracula,” but continues to relegate their version of this famous monster to not only to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named status, but instead to He who must not be named, clothed, understood, or seen for more than a few seconds at a time.

[Read more]

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]