The Sandman’s Standout Episode Is a Great Work of Adaptation

There’s a lot of pressure on the (hopefully) first season of The Sandman. The show had to cover the first two major arcs of an iconic comics series, introduce dozens of new characters, and multiple fantasy realms, all while finding a consistent tone in a story that starts as a series of episodic chapters before turning epic, and starts as horror before turning into fantasy. (They also had to ditch a bunch of DC Comics continuity.) And, just as the comics had to do back in the ‘80s, the show needed to find a way to keep people invested after the bloody meatgrinder of John Dee’s visit to the 24-hour diner.

In the comics run, Issue #8, “The Sound of Her Wings”, is when The Sandman becomes The Sandman. It reestablishes the story’s theme, gives us new empathy for Dream, and introduces Dream’s sister, Death. It’s also a nigh-perfect issue, a compact jewel of a story that feels enormous. So in the midst of the pressure to get The Sandman as a whole right, the episode that adapted “The Sound of Her Wings” needed to capture a certain spirit to lead viewers onto solid ground, and send them off into the second half of the season.

I think Episode Six does this beautifully well, and it does it through tiny choices in adaptation.

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The Ultimate Fantasy Beast: The Dragon

When it comes to fantastic beasts, the one, the only, the genuine original, is the dragon. Dragons are fantasy. So much so that one of the most popular examples of all, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragons of Pern, despite its origins in good old-fashioned spacefaring science fiction, not only carries the label of fantasy, it’s inspired numerous younger authors.

Dragons are everywhere. Just about everyone has a version. Many are based on the Western dragon: scaled, winged, breathes fire. Some incline toward the Eastern variety: sinuous, often wingless, allied with air and water. They’re magical, mystical, and immensely powerful.

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Damn, That’s Good: Pseudo-Profanity as SFF Worldbuilding

You’re reading your latest SFF obsession and you hit a string of back-to-back profanities: “Fuck! Shit! Damn!” The rogue stubbed her toe during a challenging stretch of a treacherous climb. 

I see segments like this and I chuckle. There’s an odd, intangible pleasure in seeing a swear word taking up space on a page. “Hey, I say that when I stub my toe, too!” (Of course, I’m not climbing cliffs or buildings. I last stubbed my toe chasing my cat, who refuses to swallow his pill.)

SFF authors have proven time and again that profanity can be an art form. I look to Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard sequence as the gold standard, here—the series elevates swearing to the realm of artistic achievement. But for every book blending the familiar profanities we know and love with magical lands and spacefaring civilizations, there’s a work that substitutes new terms that take the place of common expletives to great effect. 

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Lisa Frankenstein Features Cole Sprouse as a Victorian Corpse and That’s Really All We Need to Know

Lisa Frankenstein, the feature debut of director Zelda Williams, has a lot going for it, but this one detail is just too good: Cole Sprouse (Riverdale’s Jughead Jones, above) plays a “handsome Victorian corpse” who is reanimated by an unpopular high school student in 1989. Important question: Can we have him in lacy collars and velvet? Please? (Note: I do not care if this is historically accurate. The heart wants what the heart wants.)

The very loose take on Frankenstein is written by Diablo Cody, who knows her way around teen horror (Jennifer’s Body).

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Exploring the Depths of Middle-earth With Artist Kip Rasmussen

When I first came across Kip Rasmussen’s work, I knew it was exceptional, and that I’d probably like everything he made. His paintings present all the best components of high fantasy: long hair flowing from beneath helms, brazen swords, gleaming spears, fire-breathing dragons, primordial godlike beings, imposing pinnacles of rock, and an insanely huge spider. Yup—these were scenes right out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium, instantly recognizable as features of Middle-earth. But curiously, only a few of them depict characters in The Lord of the Rings itself. Here was a Silmarillion-leaning artist. Oh, hell yeah.

When I contacted Kip to ask permission to use some of his work in my Silmarillion Primer, he just happened to be mulling over three ideas in his mental queue and he was quick to ask me to choose which subject he’d tackle next. I chose “Tulkas Chaining Morgoth,” so when he finished it later, it was right on time for the War of Wrath segment of the Primer. That made me very happy. And now, once again, I’m debuting a new painting in this article: Kip’s take on that legendary conflict between a certain lionhearted shield-maiden and a certain overconfident lord of carrion.

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A Very Metaphysical Techno-Satire: Adam Roberts’ The This

In the years before social media turned into an outright nightmare most of the time and the algorithm powering YouTube veered past the uncanny valley and into something monstrous, there was a moment when random things would come up online that had the power to delight. Among them: people coming up with attack ad-style videos about 19th century philosophers. I have no idea what the context behind these was, but the Kierkegaard and Kant ones were and are hilarious. (There was also an attack ad directed at Nietzsche which seems to be lost to history.) You wouldn’t necessarily think that this combination would work, but it does.

Such is the case, too, with Adam Roberts’ memorably-titled The This. In his notes following the novel, Roberts writes that the writings of Hegel were a primary source of inspiration for him, and that this novel “follows, and is in some respects in dialogue with, an earlier Kant-novel of mine called The Thing Itself.” But while that novel was set in the recent past, The This is largely set in the near future—except, of course, for the scenes set in the bardo.

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Yellowjackets Continues Its Excellent Casting, Adding Lauren Ambrose for Season 2

There’s a new adult in the Yellowjackets cast—which means at least one more of the ’90s teens survived their harrowing crash in the wilderness. Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) has been cast as an adult version of one character, and fans of the show can probably guess who. But in the interest of spoiler protocol, you’ll have to read on to find out!

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Long After Last Call: Natalka Burian’s The Night Shift

New York is a city in which the fabric of space-time seems particularly flexible. It’s not just how the subway, rushing inconsistently at all hours, feels like it could open onto any moment in the past. (It is a time travel portal in Russian Doll and Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop). It’s not just the way the city’s history is right there, all the time, in the names of places, the name of the island of Manhattan itself, the gaping space in the downtown skyline that some of us can never not see. 

It’s the way the city is layered with the places it used to be. Things can change so fast that if you live in a neighborhood for more than a few years, you don’t just see a present-day bodega, burrito place, inevitable Starbucks; you see all the places those storefronts used to be, the bars long closed, the coffee shops transformed. “But that was New York,” Emma Straub writes in This Time Tomorrow, “watching every place you’d kissed or cried, every place you loved, turn into something else.”

Natalka Burian’s The Night Shift is set in New York City in the early 2000s (a narrative act of time travel in itself). Jean Smith just quit her job; her beloved boss, famed psychotherapist Myra Goldstein, got a little too friendly and curious about Jean’s past, which Jean doesn’t talk about. She throws herself into not just one new job but two: bartending at Red and Gold in the evenings, and working at a bakery following her bartending shift. The hours are long and late and the distance between the two businesses is just a little too far for convenience.

That’s where the shortcuts come in.

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