When Superheroes Use Finesse Rather Than Fists to Save the Day

Superman is strong enough to move entire planets with ease, but what good does his prodigious strength do against an opponent who attacks psychologically rather than physically? Dr. Manhattan possesses a host of powerful abilities, but yet in Watchmen, it’s a human who achieves what the misanthropic blue superhuman cannot. What good is Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth against someone who yields truth as a weapon and cannot be pummeled into submission?

Superheroes are dominating movies and TV shows, with no sign of slowing down. While I couldn’t be more elated to witness some of my favorite titles and characters become pop culture icons, I also want to see some variety and more depth. For instance, rather than saving a city, world or entire galaxy, what would it look like for an all-powerful superhuman to save people by communicating with them and better understanding them rather than fighting for or protecting them? To get an idea of the possibilities, here are some examples of superhumans who save individual people, all without using physical force.

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Six Perfect Episodes of MST3K to Help You Really Just Relax

Imagine this: a person stuck inside, all alone with nothing to do but watch movies (while occasionally receiving confusing and misleading reports from the people who are ostensibly in charge). That might seem to describe most people in the world right now, but it’s actually about the future. The not-too-distant future, in fact…

It is, of course, the premise of the cult TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000, the show in which robots Cambot, Gypsy, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot join a human host to make fun of terrible movies. Inspired by the 1972 Douglass Trumbull film Silent Running, series creator and original host Joel Hodgson created a joyful, scrappy celebration of humor and comedy in the face of loneliness and powerlessness. Even as the series changed channels, casts, and hosts over the years, that basic hopeful message remained consistent: Even in the direst situations, you can try to keep your sanity with the help of your (synthetic, if necessary) friends.

For that reason, MST3K is the ideal comfort watch for times such as these, when we’re all scared, stuck, and alone, together. [Read more]

Exploring the People of Middle-earth: Fëanor, Chief Artificer and Doomsman of the Noldor (Part 2)

In this biweekly series, we’re exploring the evolution of both major and minor figures in Tolkien’s legendarium, tracing the transformations of these characters through drafts and early manuscripts through to the finished work. This week’s installment is the second in a short series on that most infamous of Noldorin Elves: Fëanor, father of seven sons and creator of the Silmarils.

In the previous installment, we spent our time looking at the close relationships in Fëanor’s life and evaluating them in order to better understand his temperament and character. Already, we’ve seen Fëanor’s penchant for unnatural isolation, his pride, his possessiveness, and of course, his prodigious talent. His faults only increase as his skill grows.

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Saving Aerith: Life and Death in Final Fantasy VII

Narrative video games provide the perfect platform to examine narrative framing and the viewing experience. The player moves the hero character, their in-game avatar, through the game world via a series of maps, each of which is shown from a different camera angle that the player may or may not be able to change or control. These camera angles, particularly those which the player is not allowed to control, help to shape how players feel about the heroes they embody. Camera angles used in in-game cinematics play much the same role in narrative video games as they do in films, provoking emotion and awe in the audience member. When players can no longer control the game’s camera, at the moment of the cutscene, they lose the authority and autonomy they held as the player/hero and becomes merely a player/viewer.

Released in 1997, Square’s Final Fantasy VII puts players in control of Cloud Strife, a mercenary hired as a bodyguard for flower seller Aerith Gainsborough, who is wanted by the corporatocratic government entity known as Shinra, and is murdered in the final scene of the game’s first act.

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Watch the First Teaser for Peninsula, the Sequel to Train to Busan

Last month, director  Yeon Sang-ho revealed that he’s made a sequel to his critically acclaimed 2016 zombie movie, Train to BusanEntitled Peninsula, it takes place four years after the events of the first film, when the zombie outbreak has completely decimated South Korea, leaving it an infested wasteland. Now, Well Go USA Entertainment has released the first teaser.

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Oathbringer Reread: Chapter One Hundred Twenty-One

Welcome back to the Oathbringer reread! We’ve moved on to the next chapter, finally, but it’s still the same long day. This week, we’ve only got eleven point-of-view segments to look at! There are a few uncommon ones, too, so come on in to the aftermath of The Battle of Thaylen Field.

[We can win. But each victory scars us a little more.]

Series: Oathbringer Reread

Rules for Healthy Relationships (with Deep Ones): Shibata Yoshiki’s “Love for Who Speaks”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

This week, we’re reading Shibata Yoshiki’s “Love for Who Speaks,” translated into English by Stephen A. Carter. This version is first published in Asamatsu Ken’s 2002 Night Voices, Night Journeys anthology; we haven’t been able to find publication information for the original Japanese version. Spoilers ahead.

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Series: The Lovecraft Reread

All the New Young Adult SFF Books Arriving in April!

They’re all behind you, you can feel their hearts beat in time with yours. You feel strong, and the magic is strong in you. But the task ahead is risky and unsafe. All you can do is charge forward. This month’s YA titles are about taking a leap into the unknown: gather your friends to steal the Holy Grail in Sword in the Stars by Cori McCarthy & Amy Rose Capetta; enter an academy full of monsters and vampires in Tracy Wolff’s Crave; and join a memory thief working against the crown in Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova.

Head below for the full list of YA SFF titles heading your way in April!

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Reread — The Dominion: Olympus Descending

Worlds of Deep Space Nine #3
The Dominion: Olympus Descending
David R. George III
Publication Date: February 2005
Timeline: December 2376, thirteen weeks after Unity

Progress: After his recent stint in the Alpha Quadrant, Odo is back in the Great Link. However, he doesn’t spend all his time in the shapeshifter sea. Sometimes he hangs out on Jem’Hadar Attack Vessel 971, buddying it up with a new Weyoun clone and a Jem’Hadar named Rotan’talag (who, like Taran’atar, is not dependent on ketracel-white).

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Illustrating Flyaway: Kathleen Jennings on Creating Art and Prose Together

Until recently, I’ve been known more as an illustrator than as a writer (although I’ve always done both). But I rarely do both together.

Although writing and art draw from the same storytelling aquifer, they come up through different wells. Ideas sometimes shift fluidly between the two in the early stages of a project, but usually one—art or words—will quickly take over. In fact, it becomes a challenge to strip an idea entirely of words, or to create a painterly impression using only text, and a challenge for my editors to bring me back to the purpose of a comic.

I’ve been trying to bring writing and images together more often (for example, in short stories for some patrons on Patreon). And when I began a practice-led MPhil at the University of Queensland, researching “The Visual Evocation of the Beautiful Sublime in Australian Gothic Literature”, it was with the grand plan of doing just this with the creative component, which became Flyaway.

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Murderbot and Chill: TV Recommendations for Our Favorite Terrifying Murderbot

Have you read Murderbot? If you’ve read Murderbot then you know Murderbot is the BEST. Martha Wells’ series balances tense action with a delicate commentary on trauma, while a giant mystery slowly unfolds over the whole series, and she spikes each book with acidic bursts of sarcasm. When we meet Murderbot, it’s on a job at an archaeological dig, trying to keep its clients alive while hiding the fact that it’s hacked its governor module and has free will, and, thus, the ability to MURDER. It doesn’t want to murder, it just wants to hang out and watch all the serials it’s downloaded, but since the humans keep getting into all kinds of dumb-and-potentially-deadly situations, it has to keep hitting pause and going off on rescue missions.

This is the great innovation of Martha Wells’ series. Unlike Marvin or Data or any of the other depressed/tragic robots and androids and cyborgs we’ve met in media, Murderbot A) does NOT want to be human (it doesn’t even want to look human) and B) it just wants to be left alone to marathon-watch media.

Relatable Content.

So when we were thinking of ways to celebrate our favorite Murderbot, we decided that the thing it would love most was a list of stuff to watch, should it ever come through a wormhole that leads to Earth in 2020. Some of these are obvious choices; some of ‘em might need some explanation. We’d love it if you add your own thoughts below!

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The World Beyond Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was my least favorite Narnia book as a kid, but on this re-read it climbed the charts toward the top. I even shed a few tears before closing the book.

My problem with Dawn Treader as a kid was, well, nothing really happened. The Pevensies (plus one) appeared in Narnia, ran around on a ship for a while, then went home. There were adventures, sure, but it felt like one of my school buddies reciting their oral report at the end of summer break: I went here and this happened, and then I went here and saw this thing, and then I went home.

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Series: The Great C.S. Lewis Reread

Ken Liu on Writing, Translating, and the Future of the Dandelion Dynasty

Ken Liu is the Nebula and Hugo award-winning author of The Dandelion Dynasty series. To celebrate his new short story collection, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, he dropped by r/Books for an AMA, where he dispensed writing advice, gave fans a sneak peek at the future of The Dandelion Dynasty, discussed being on both ends of the author-translator relationship, and much, much more. Here are the highlights!

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