Classic SF Radio Dramas to Engage Your Imagination

You can have your Star Treks, your X-Files and your Expanses. I prefer my SF dramas on radio, partly because I was raised on CBC Radio, BBC World Service and CKMS, and partly because (as Stan Freberg pointed out) radio’s visual effects are so convincing. We live in a golden age of online archives; many of the classic anthology-style science fiction shows are online. That said, not all radio shows are created equal.

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Star Trek: Picard Finale Means Season 2 Could Be Loaded With Nostalgia

As Jean-Luc Picard once said to Data: “Nicely done!” The finale of Star Trek: Picard has wrapped-up the show’s first season, and managed to finish off a few loose threads from Star Trek: Nemesis at the same time. (No, a Shinzon Tom Hardy cameo tragically did not appear.)

But, one feature of the Picard season 1 finale was a decided restraint against fan service or an outpouring of what we think of as conventional nostalgia. For the most part, the finale—and the series as a whole—focused on finishing what it set up, and little else. This means that when Picard season 2 happens, The Next Generation nostalgia could go into overdrive. Here’s why.

Spoilers ahead for Picard episodes 1-10.

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Loki Showrunner Michael Waldron Says Disney+ Show Will Explore God’s “Struggle with Identity”

Disney+’s upcoming Loki series is shaping up to be a deep-dive into the God of Mischief’s psyche. Although plot details have thus far been kept tightly under wraps, showrunner Michael Waldron revealed in a recent episode of The Writers Panel podcast that the show will be exploring Loki’s identity issues.

Potential spoilers ahead for the Loki Disney+ show.

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The Magic of Steven Universe in 3 Episodes

Steven Universe comes to an end tonight. I had planned to undertake a massive Steven Universe rewatch to prep for the finale, and, of course, a GIANT ESSAY to go along with that rewatch, cause all I wanna write, and all I wanna type, is a GIANT ESSAY (GIANT ESSAY).

But all of my planning has gone the heck agley at this point, because I’ve ended up watching this show in lockdown, glued to Twitter and panicking over medical reports and hate crimes. Rather than just a fun rewatch, Steven Universe has become bright life saver. Maybe shaped like a donut? Here in my apartment, the Crystal Gems always save the day.

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The Picard Maneuver — Star Trek: Picard’s “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2”

Rather famously, playwright Anton Chekhov believed that stories should not have extraneous details. On several occasions, Chekhov wrote about this in letters, variations on the theme that if you have a gun on the wall in your story, it should be fired by the end of the story, or it shouldn’t be on the wall in the first place.

This season of Star Trek: Picard has hung a good many guns on the wall, and while Part 2 of the season finale fires most of them, it doesn’t quite fire them all, and a few of them misfire badly. Having said that, it’s a most satisfying conclusion to the season.

[To say you have no choice is a failure of imagination.]

A Weighty Sequel: Rewatching Pixar’s Toy Story 2

For decades, Disney executives never bothered with sequels, apart from the occasional follow-up to an unusual project (The Three Caballeros, which if not exactly a sequel, was meant to follow up Saludos Amigos), or cartoon short (the Winnie the Pooh cartoons in the 1960s.) But in the late 1980s, struggling for ideas that could squeak by the hostile eye of then-chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, animators proposed creating a full length animated sequel to the studio’s only real success from the 1970s—The Rescuers.

The result, The Rescuers Down Under, provided an opportunity for Disney to test out its new CAPS software, and if not exactly a box office blockbuster, did at least earn back its costs. And it happened to coincide with a sudden growth in the VCR market, along with cheaply made, direct-to-video films. The combination gave Disney executives an idea: cheap, direct to video sequels of their most popular films that could also be shown on their broadcast and cable networks.

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The Magic of Libraries: Where Fantasy Meets Reality

Libraries are magical. We know this, as readers: Rare is the book lover who can’t recall the moment of sheer wonder and exhilaration the first time they understood what it meant to use a library. All of these books! For free! (As a librarian, I still feel the same way—just remember to bring them back, please and thank you!)

Depictions of libraries within the fantasy genre have certainly embraced this magical feeling…and run with it.  Fantasy libraries can be (almost) neatly categorized into three essential magical types: the library containing all books regardless of written-status; the library where the books speak to each other; and the library as portal to other worlds/places. But what’s truly magical about these fantasy categories is the way these magics correspond with the way libraries work in the real world.

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History and SFF: Footnotes in Fantasy Storytelling

The key to a credible analysis of history is for historians to credit their sources. The most efficient way to do this is to add a footnote. A footnote, as all of you probably know, is a small, elevated number that is placed after information taken from another text. At the bottom of the page there is a corresponding number, and next to this second number the information about the source can be found. Here, historians sometimes also include commentary that is not immediately relevant to the discussion, but needs to be said to make sure that all flanks are covered.

We historians spend a lot of time getting our footnotes right before we send a book or article off to being published. It’s painstaking and pedantic work—but love them or hate them, footnotes are crucial for scientific rigor and transparency.

Footnotes can be found in SFF, as well. But where historians use footnotes to clarify or to add additional helpful commentary, fiction authors have the freedom to use them to obfuscate and complicate their story in intriguing ways. Let’s look at a couple of examples…

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Rewatching Pixar’s A Bug’s Life

In its initial release, A Bug’s Life had the dubious fortune of getting released in a year with not one, but two computer animated films about bugs, a deliberately created rivalry that did neither film any favors. Since then, A Bug’s Life has had the dubious honor of being perhaps the least remembered of the Pixar films, and perhaps the least regarded—depending upon how you feel about the various Cars films and, more recently, The Good Dinosaur—rarely if ever listed among the Pixar “greats.” At the time, however, it was proof that just maybe Pixar could be more than a one film wonder.

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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Projections”

Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
Season 2, Episode 3
Production episode 117
Original air date: September 11, 1995
Stardate: 48892.1

Captain’s log. The EMH is activated to an empty sickbay. The computer states that there is nobody on board, but the ship is at red alert, and there are no escape pods left. The last log entry is a chaotic one by Janeway, which gives incomplete information, only that they’re under attack.

[Don’t panic!]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

A Beginner’s Guide to Slavic Fantasy in Translation

In recent years, fantasy settings based on various non-Western cultures have popped up more and more often as the genre has sought to expand beyond the pseudo-medieval European realms and folklore and mythologies most immediately familiar to readers in Western Europe and the US. With the growing popularity of works featuring previously ignored cultures and subject matter, or which seek new approaches to spinning classic adventures in a different light, Slavic settings and stories are beginning to occupy an unexpected place in modern fantasy literature.

There is a special flavour that sets these stories apart, reflecting a culture which inspires both Western writers and local Eastern European writers alike. While the high fantasy settings that characterize the writing of Tolkien and so many other classic works of classic fantasy remain captivating, so too are the Slavic vodyanoys and rusalkas, the vast expanse of the Russian Empire, and the myths and legends of the Balkans.

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Surviving Perilous Times: Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague De Camp

In this bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books, Alan Brown looks at the front lines and frontiers of the field; books about soldiers and spacers, scientists and engineers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.

I’ve always found that one way to feel better about your life is to read a story about someone with even worse problems than you, and seeing how they overcome those difficulties. Time travel stories are a good way to create problems for fictional protagonists. The author drops a character into a strange new environment—something challenging, like the waning days of the Roman Empire, for example. They will be equipped only with their experience in the modern world, and perhaps some knowledge of history or technology. And then you see what happens… Will they be able to survive and change history, or will inexorable sociological forces overwhelm their efforts? And when that character springs from the fertile imagination of L. Sprague De Camp, one of the premiere authors of the genre, you can be sure of one thing—the tale will be full of excitement, and a lot of fun, to boot.

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