Tor.com content by

Leah Schnelbach

The New MST3K Kickstarter Reached Its $2 Million Goal In Only 36 Hours

MST3K is BACK, baby! And this time it’s creating its own streaming platform! Once again, we have Kickstarter to thank for bringing us more movie riffing. On Wednesday April 7, Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson launched a new Kickstarter campaign to bring the show back again on a custom streaming platform if they could reach $2,000,000 raised in 30 days.

Only 36 hours later, the goal had been met.

Which means that we’ll be getting at least 3 new episodes with the current cast in 2022! Also, we’ll be getting a Gizmoplex!

Wait, what?

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The Real Ghosts Were the Friends We Made Along the Way: Téa Obreht’s Inland

Let us begin at the ending, where I tell you that the final page of this book is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

I’m not going to quote it here, because spoilers, but I want you to come into this essay knowing that if you read this book, and I hope you do, the ending will most likely make you cry, both because of the content and the sheer gorgeous writing. Téa Obreht’s Inland, a follow-up to her instant-classic The Tiger’s Wife, is a haunted Western. A frontier ghost story, it focuses on the kinds of people who don’t often get to star in tales of the Old West. It’s a funny, weird book, that has often, over the last few weeks, jumped into the front of my brain and demanded attention.

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Is It a Fall or a Flight? Oliver K. Langmead’s Birds of Paradise

Birds of Paradise has two books wrestling within it. One is completely successful, while the other has moments of brilliance, but also a few more problems. Oliver K. Langmead has written a swooping, poetic novel that meditates on ecology and human’s responsibility to our home, that is also, at times, a bumpy road novel. Birds of Paradise gives us breathtaking passages about love, and heartfelt descriptions of natural beauty, and wraps them up in a battle between nigh-immortal beings, and grasping, grubby humans.

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Portraying Grief in SFF: From Beloved to WandaVision

Speculative fiction is uniquely equipped to tell stories about grief. With science fiction there’s a whole arsenal of clones, robots, and time travel that can allow mourners to confront their lost loved ones. In fantasy it’s easy to blur the lines between life and death and visit the dead. And obviously horror’s whole deal, from Frankenstein to ghost stories to zombie apocalypses, is about what happens when we confront death.

Thanks to WandaVision, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

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30 Coins Is a Beautiful Explosion of Horror Tropes

If you like horror, Silent Hill, religious conspiracies, or love triangles, you should probably watch 30 Coins. If you enjoy yelling “WHAT???” and “ARE YOU KIDDING ME???” and “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING???” at your TV, you should definitely watch 30 Coins. And if you think that what Catholicism really needs is more human/spider hybrid monsters, I have fabulous news for you. Also a lot of questions.

The show’s 8-episode arc just wrapped up on HBOMax, after running on HBO Europe earlier in the winter. The overall arc is an excellent work of religious horror, but where the show truly shines is in committing to different types of horror in each episode, and it gives us everything from spooky ouija sessions to mirrors that might actually be inter-dimensional portals, to possessed revenants, but somehow director/writer Álex de la Iglesia and co-writer Jorge Guerricaechevarría make all of these elements tie into the overall conspiracy plot.

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12 SFF Reboots of Nostalgic Sitcoms I’d Like to See

As we’ve learned from WandaVision, combining SFF elements and classic sitcom tropes can create delicious televisual chocolate and peanut butter. The rumored revival of classic ’90s sitcom Frasier made me think about how much fun it would be if one of these inevitable reboots did something really cool. Like, why not take some beloved characters and relocate them to a magical realm? Or fling them into SPACE?

Call it TGI-Fantasy. TGI-SFF? Or maybe Must-See-Sci-Fi.

Here you go.

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Willy’s Wonderland Never Quite Reaches Its Cult Horror-Comedy Aspirations

Willy’s Wonderland is a would-be cult horror movie starring Nicolas Cage. I debated about instead sneaking in a review of Cage’s (severely underrated, IMO) turn in Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead, and seeing how long I could sustain the bit, but I finally decided that I should, you know, do my actual job. And the more I thought about it, the more I found that I had something to say about this movie.

I’m certainly not going to say that Willy’s Wonderland is good, but it serves a purpose.

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John Wick Is a Portal Fantasy

The first John Wick begins as a film we’ve seen many times before. A hitman has retired. He was drawn into “normal” life by love, and for a while he had a house in a suburb, drove his car at legal speeds, and went for romantic walks with his wife. The two of them probably had a takeout night, and a favorite Netflix series. But, as in all of these kinds of movies, the normal life is a short-lived idyll, violence begets violence, and the hitman is Pulled Back In.

The thing that makes Wick so beautiful is that what he gets Pulled Back Into is not the standard revenge fantasy. Instead being Pulled Back In means literally entering another world, hidden within pockets of our own. Because in addition to being a great action movie, John Wick is a portal fantasy.

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The Stand Is Half of a Great Television Series

I’ve been trying to think through how to write about The Stand. I really liked parts of it, and I bounced hard off other parts. But I think the moment that sums the show up best is that, towards the end of the series, there’s a scene where a character has sex with the Devil. The Devil usually appears as Alexander Skarsgård (exactly how I would appear if I were the Devil) but while the two character are having sex, his usual glamour slips a little, and the scene flashes between a romantic scenario in a rose petal-strewn hotel room with a naked Skarsgard, and some gross and rather violent writhing in a desert, which ends on a closeup of a terrifying monster screaming directly into the camera.

And then, we cut to a Geico ad!

This encapsulates the strongest part of The Stand, which is when it leans into the High Cheese with Serious Undertones And Actual Stakes that is Stephen King at his best. And packaging that between ad blocks adds a frisson of joy to the whole enterprise.

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Is It Possible That Johnny Mnemonic’s Future Is Better Than Our Own?

In May 1995 we received a bold vision of the future. A glittering world where physical cities merged with cities on the internet. Where bodyguards wore chainmail tank tops and carried pink, glitter-encrusted hand grenades. Where payphones still existed but you could phreak them with mobile, red plastic phones… which were almost as large and conspicuous as the payphones themselves. Where mini-discs were successful.

And the more I think about it, this vision wasn’t just a cyberpunk lark, it was a warning. A bleating klaxon of what awaited us.

That warning was Johnny Mnemonic.

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Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow Might Be Coming to FX

JESUITS! IN! SPAAAACE!

Per Variety, Queen’s Gambit co-creator, director, and showrunner Scott Frank is adapting Mary Doria Russell’s classic novel, The Sparrow, for FX. Frank is said to be “writing every episode” of the limited series, with Johan Renck, late of Chernobyl and Breaking Bad on board to direct, and Better Call Saul’s Mark Johnson joining as executive producer.

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A Lightly Annotated List of Number 22’s Mentors in Pixar’s Soul

One of the best aspects of Pixar’s Soul is a running gag about all the famous people who have tried to mentor the recalcitrant Number 22, voiced by Tina Fey. We meet a few of these figures via flashback (and Den of Geek has a great educational post about these on-screen mentors), but what caught my attention was 22’s Wall of Fame. Number 22 has a massive collection of name badges, presumably of everyone who has ever tried to guide them, and with some creative screengrabs I was able to read quite a few of them.

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Looking for the Fun: A Conversation With Author Charles Yu

Charles Yu has been writing award-winning, genre-bending work for nearly twenty years now, including the short story collection Third Class Superhero and How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, which was the runner-up for 2011’s Campbell Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. His work in television includes being a writer and story editor for the first season of Westworld, and his latest novel, Interior Chinatown, recently won the National Book Award in Fiction, a rare moment of joy in 2020.

Just before the new year, Yu and I spoke about the novel, writing techniques, and his new novelette, The Only Living Girl on Earth.

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A Charlie Brown Christmas Perfectly Captures a Complicated Holiday

Charlie Brown looked into the shining void that is Christmas, and became a hero.

Here was a child who acknowledged the sadness beneath the festivity, the loneliness, the aching search for meaning under tinsel. This half hour met the challenge thrown down by Rudolph, raised the bar for the Grinch, and created the template that has been used by nearly every animated special, sitcom, and even drama since the 1960s. Charlie Brown dispensed with all merriment, demanded to know the meaning of Christmas, and got a perfect answer.

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The Midnight Sky Takes Us Into Space—and a Bleak Near-Future

Space movies are usually about hope. Usually, if a character heads off into the harsh vacuum of space, it’s because they’re exploring, or learning, making contact with aliens, or transforming into StarBabies, or trying to create a far-flung future for humanity. Because of that, I find it fascinating that The Midnight Sky, an adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton’s novel, Good Morning, Midnight, becomes a rare example of a bleak space movie. It’s an interesting, and often moving, addition to the space movie canon that never quite figures out what it wants to be.

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