#SaveSpidey: MCU Fans, Jeremy Renner, and Ryan Reynolds React to the Sony/Disney Spider-Man Schism

Yesterday, fandom was rocked by the devastating news that Spider-Man has been exiled from the Marvel Cinematic Universe because of a failed deal between Sony and Disney. (At least for now–negotiations aren’t completely dead and this could just be a power play to make one side give in.) Fingers were pointed, jimmies were rustled, and as the implications set in (Will Spider-Man have to be recast yet again? How many times are they going to make Uncle Ben die? How DARE they? etc.), social media exploded with calls to #SaveSpidey.

(Possible spoilers for Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home, so click at your own peril.) 

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“Being Vulnerable Does Not Make You Weak”: Lauren Shippen on Podcast-to-YA-Love-Story The Infinite Noise

As podcasts and especially audio fiction grow in popularity, the medium has seen a crossover from listening to reading: Welcome to Night ValeThe Adventure ZoneAlice Isn’t Dead, and Steal the Stars have all been adapted from fiction podcasts to books that expand the worlds between your headphones into engage your imagination in new ways. With The Infinite Noise, Lauren Shippen, creator of The Bright Sessions and The AM Archives, takes TBS’ most beloved love story—between superpowered empath Caleb and Adam, who “keeps him green”—and builds it out into a poignant story about the challenges of connecting with someone.

Shippen, who also wrote Stitcher’s forthcoming audio drama Marvels, talks the tricky shifts from writing dialogue-only scripts to prose novels, plus headcanons and finding strength in vulnerability.

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The Flash Gordon Serials of the 1930s Changed the Face of Sci-Fi

One of the first things I watched when I signed up for Netflix was a suspense serial from the silent film era called Phantomas, and while it was very enlightening to see this first step in the evolution of recorded crime dramas, ultimately it… wasn’t very good. Maybe that’s not fair—it had its moments, but I would have a hard time recommending it to anyone but the most curious film archivists.

Thanks to the growth of streaming services, a vast archive of antique entertainment is now easily accessible to the public, though whether it should be or not is a matter of personal opinion. In the case of the Flash Gordon serials that Universal created from 1936 to 1940, the debate over such material’s worth is a significant matter to science fiction fans. The serials, starring Larry “Buster” Crabbe as Flash (a character who had first appeared in newspaper comic strips a few years prior) made a powerful impression which is evident in much of the sci-fi films and shows that followed. You can see a clear impact on EC comics like Weird Science, on the original Star Trek, and of course the 1980 Flash Gordon film. George Lucas acknowledged the influence of the serials on Star Wars—a film he made when he was unable to acquire the Flash Gordon film rights.

[So the pre-WWII serials are significant, but are they actually worth watching?]

Guillermo del Toro’s Antlers Has a Chilling First Teaser

With Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark still in theaters, Guillermo del Toro is treating us to another literary horror adaptation containing one or two creepy illustrations. This one is called Antlers, an adaptation of Nick Antosca’s short story “The Quiet Boy,” and Fox Searchlight just released its atmospheric first teaser.

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Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus Bypasses Nostalgia to Focus on Sheer Gothy Fun

I don’t do nostalgia. I tend to think that looking back is a trap, a quicksand that will pull you down into a belief that your culture and your era was somehow superior to what kids are into now. I hate (hate) the endless recycling of older properties. If you’re going to revisit a show or a book, give it a new angle or a twist or a quirk. The new She-Ra, for instance, queers an already pretty queer show, and the new Rocko introduces a trans character—they’re telling stories that weren’t really tellable in the ’80s and ’90s. They justify their existence.

Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus doesn’t quite give us a new twist, but by ignoring all the obvious nostalgia opportunities and focusing on a solid, ridiculous story, Jhonen Vasquez has given us a return to form that turns out to be incredibly fun.

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800 Panicked Questions We Have About Spider-Man No Longer Being in the MCU

New York’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

As reported by Deadline, Sony and Disney have failed to reach new agreement terms after months of negotiations and have essentially nixed producer Kevin Feige and Marvel’s involvement from further Spider-Man films.

So we just have a few questions, the first one being How dare you?

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Sleeps With Monsters: Books That Spark Joy

Last column out, I mentioned that I woke up one day to discover I hated every book I read. Shortly afterwards, I made a resolution, at least for now, to only read books that—to borrow a phrase—”sparked joy” and left me feeling delighted with my experience of the narrative. (Or at the very least, pleased.) This has had the beneficial effect of removing a significant number of volumes from my to-be-read shelf.

And increasing my pleasure in reading significantly.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

Just Out of Sight: Echoes, Edited by Ellen Datlow

“I don’t believe in ghosts, but I love ghost stories,” opens esteemed editor Ellen Datlow in her introduction to Echoes. The anthology’s central focus is the ‘ghost story’ but within that framework it ranges wide, across the world and through the decades, from familial dramas to wartime haunts and more. Echoes is an absolute behemoth of an anthology, with all pieces minus three reprints original to the book.

That makes for roughly seven hundred pages of never-seen-before spooky stories by writers ranging the gamut from Nathan Ballingrud to A. C. Wise, Stephen Graham Jones to Indrapamit Das, and so on. Stories are set in India, in Britain, in the US. Some are ghost stories with science fictional settings, others purely fantastical, others still realist—but there’s always the creeping dread, a specter at the corner of the story’s vision. The sheer volume of work Datlow has collected in Echoes fills out the nooks and crannies of the theme with gusto.

[A review.]

Long-Distance Hikers Love Fantasy

Take away the Ents, the Nazgûl, the Orcs, and all those pesky battles and Elven deliberations from The Lord of the Rings, and really what you have is a series about one very epic hike. But how epic is it? Well, it depends on who you ask. Tallying up how many miles it took for Frodo and Sam to get to Mount Doom is a popular past-time for LOTR fans, and if you visit New Zealand, where Peter Jackson’s trilogy was filmed, there are plenty of hiking tours designed to put you in the Hobbitses’ foot-steps.

The Venn Diagram of Tolkien-lovers and hiking fans doesn’t end there. As it turns out, there’s a whole sub-culture of thru-hikers—those who hike long-distance trails end-to-end—who are also huge fantasy readers.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch Extra: What We Left Behind

We hereby present this review of the documentary What We Left Behind in the same format as “The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch” by the same author that ran on this site from 2013-2015, and a similar format to the current “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Reread” of the post-finale DS9 fiction.

What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine
Directed by Ira Steven Behr
Original release date: May 13, 2019
Stardate: n/a

Station log. Ira Steven Behr, the show-runner of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for most of its run, gets together a massive number of people involved with the show to talk about it on the occasion of the show’s conclusion happening twenty years ago.

[If people aren’t bothered by it or don’t like it, then you’re doing something wrong…]

Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

From the Two Rivers: Casting and Race in The Wheel of Time

“It’s about my story, isn’t it? That’s what this is all about. He didn’t want to publish my story. And we all know why—because my hero is a colored man.”
—Benny Russell, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, “Far Beyond the Stars”

“Momma! There’s a black lady on TV and she ain’t no maid!”
—Caryn Elaine Johnson, age 10, watching Star Trek in 1966, 16 years before becoming Whoopi Goldberg

Last week the producers of Amazon’s Wheel of Time television adaptation announced the cast for what can reasonably be called the show’s main protagonists, insofar as a 15-book series with over 2000 named characters and 147 unique point of view characters has main protagonists. In the books, the five characters announced today serve as the reader’s eyes for over 40% of the action, whether counting by words or by POVs. These characters matter—they are among the most famous characters in all of Western fantasy, with over 80 million copies of the Wheel of Time novels sold in the past thirty years.

Three of the five actors are of African ancestry or are Aboriginal Australian.

The announcement has sent shock waves across much of the fandom, and for an important reason: it serves as explicit rejection of an implicit promise made a very long time ago.

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Rick and Morty and Nihilism: Why We Embrace A Show That Cares About Nothing

When I decided to major in English, my parents thought I might use this highly versatile degree to pursue law or medicine. Little did they know that I’d end up applying that (much too) expensive education to analyzing a television show about a drunken, sociopathic mad scientist with a flying space car. Rick and Morty, created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, is pretty much an instant cult classic. Kayla Cobb calls it “a never-ending fart joke wrapped around a studied look into nihilism,” and personally I think she hits the nail on the head with that description. There are probably a thousand different philosophical lenses through which you could study this show and never get bored. And probably someone who is better versed in philosophy should do just that (because yes please!)

The best I can do is follow my own layman’s curiosity down the rabbit hole. What exactly is it about this show’s gleeful nihilism that appeals to so many fans, the vast majority of which would not consider themselves nihilists in any sense of the word? The draw of the show is strong for Millennials in particular, which is odd, since we’re the ones who obsess over Queer Eye’s unbridled optimism, Marie Kondo’s blissful joy, and Steven Universe’s wide-eyed hopefulness in equal measure. In a society enamored by the concept of self (self-care, self-responsibility, self-love), what is so fascinating about a fantasy world that revolves around the destruction of any sense of individual importance? As Morty so succinctly tells his sister, “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die…Come watch TV.”

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