Forty Years Later, What Makes John Carpenter’s The Thing So Effing Scary?

Some masterpieces of cinema are simply doomed at the box office and destined to be savaged by critics. Very often the culprit is bad timing, or a weak marketing effort, or internal disputes at the studio. All three of those played a role in the brutal reception that greeted John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), which is today recognized as one of the most effective, shocking, and suspenseful horror movies of all time.

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A Needed Twist on Cyberpunk: The City Inside by Samit Basu

The best spec fic/cyberpunk writing is often less wikipedian and more of a wave—an artful sprinkling of jargon and worldbuilding that’s just familiar enough for a reader to recognize the near-future rhythm of a different reality. It’s less about constant, flat exposition and more about the right vibes to hint at what flavor of -topia we’re dealing with. In the case of The City Inside, it’s everything everywhere all at once, treading both familiar speculative ground, yet somehow making the topics that fuel our present-day paranoia—omniscient apps, social media as a service, the disintegrating borders between flesh and digital—fresh and new.

Samit Basu’s latest novel is a masterclass in smart, human-driven science fiction, told with delectable wit and gorgeous, visually-driven prose. He does an effortless job at leading the reader by the nose through an extrapolated, tech-gilded version of New Delhi—one based from existing social and political forces that endanger India’s most vulnerable and marginalized populations including dalits and Muslims.

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Ms. Marvel Takes Us to Karachi in “Seeing Red”

This week Ms. Marvel takes us to Karachi! “Seeing Red” was directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, and written by Sabir Pirzada and A. C. Bradley & Matthew Chauncey from a story by Pirzada. This episode was a bit cluttered for my taste, but the action sequences were fun, and the show is still so grounded in character that I’m happy to go with it.

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As Unpredictable as Humans: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

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.

Today, I’m revisiting a classic collection of tales from one of the giants of the science fiction field, Isaac Asimov. As a writer, Asimov loved coming up with a good puzzle or conundrum that required a solution, and some of his best known works address the creation of machines whose operation was guided by logic. Despite their logical nature, however, the robots in the stories included in I, Robot prove to be just as unpredictable as humans, giving the characters plenty of mysteries to grapple with

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Power in the Blood: True Religion and Transformation in C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces

I’ve been reflecting on Till We Have Faces and all the different things we could discuss. There’s more to say about Greek philosophy and how it’s reflected in the book, and about the Christian symbolism and nature of myth that Lewis smuggled in, or about the constant dualities which become, over and over, unifications. But I’m afraid we’d end up with more words than the book has itself, so I’ve decided to limit myself to two more articles. In two weeks, we’ll explore how Lewis’ views of women shifted and changed over the years, and how this book is, in many ways, a rebuttal to his own previous views.

But first, this week we’re going to talk about an underlying theme of Till We Have Faces: Lewis’ thoughts about how a true religion must function.

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A Master Class in Writing Horses: Horse by Geraldine Brooks

In one of those happy coincidences that often befall the writer-by-trade, while I was pondering the nature of the racehorse and the psychology of the stallion, I happened across a review of a new book that looked as if it would focus on both themes. Geraldine Brooks’ Horse is the work of a famously meticulous researcher who is also a devoted horse person. And it shows.

I did not know anything about the author when I read the book, except that this is far from her first novel, and she’s won a Pulitzer Prize. Therefore I expected some of what I got: highly polished prose, visibly topical characters and themes, and a familiar device of literary novels, the interweaving of a carefully described past with a present that explicitly reflects it.

What I also got was an engrossing read, with twists and turns that left me breathless. Wild coincidences and bizarre connections that actually, historically happened. And a deep, true knowledge of and love for horses.

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Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Dead Stop”

“Dead Stop”
Written by Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong
Directed by Roxann Dawson
Season 2, Episode 4
Production episode 031
Original air date: October 9, 2002
Date: unknown

Captain’s star log. Tucker and Archer survey the damage done by the Romulans last episode. They don’t have the parts to do a proper repair on the outer hull of the saucer. As it stands, Tucker doesn’t think they can do more than warp two or so, which means it would take the better part of a decade to get back home to Jupiter Station.

Archer has Sato send out a general distress call, on the theory that they’ve answered enough of them over the last year. A Tellarite ship answers, saying they can’t help, but there’s a fantastic repair station not far away. They can get there in a few days at warp two, so Archer sets a course.

[You look pretty good for a dead guy…]

Series: Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

15 Years Later, Ratatouille’s Message About Art Still Inspires Me

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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Five Stories About Sending Teens Into Space

Why send teens into space? They are the ideal astronaut candidates: They are less likely to grasp the inherent risks involved in space travel, so might be less terrified to know they are about to be launched into space by a rocket built by the lowest bidder. Also, if things don’t turn out well, losing a fifteen-year-old in the vast emptiness of space is arguably less costly than losing a seasoned, experienced adult.

…or so the authorities in some SF settings would argue.

In our real world, space efforts are kneecapped by namby-pamby nanny-state-isms like safety and basic human decency. Not so science fiction creators, who have gleefully jumped on the story potential of TEENS…IN…SPACE.

Consider these five works about space-going teens.

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Immortal Combat: Nicola Griffith’s Spear

If revisionist takes on all things Arthurian are your cup of tea—or, perhaps, your cup of mead—it’s likely been a good couple of years for you. Lavie Tidhar’s novel By Force Alone comes to mind as one recent work that took an intriguing approach to a familiar story; Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora’s comic Once and Future blends a deconstruction of myths with intense action sequences.

There’s also Sword Stone Table, an anthology of Arthurian retellings edited by Jenn Northington and Swapna Krishna—which, it turns out, is part of the origin story for Nicola Griffith’s new novella Spear.

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“A little strategic violence” — The Umbrella Academy Season Three Continues to Bring the Bugnuts

The second season of The Umbrella Academy ended with a nasty cliffhanger, as the Hargreeves kids came forward in time from 1963 after saving the world from nuclear armageddon only to find that the Umbrella Academy doesn’t exist, and in its place is the Sparrow Academy, still run by Sir Reginald Hargreeves (played by Colm Feore, the character now alive in 2019) but with six new children as his students, plus the also-still-alive Ben.

What follows is a worthy third season that keeps the themes of TUA from prior seasons while giving us some new stuff.

[I stopped tracking what was possible a long time ago.]

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