Tor.com content by

Emily Asher-Perrin

7 SFF Martyrs Who Give Saint Valentine a Run for His Money

In many ways the conception of Valentine’s Day feels a bit like a science fiction thing, or at the very least, an urban legend. Unlike Saint Patrick, who totally, for real, drove snakes out of Ireland (maybe), details about exactly what Saint Valentine did are dubiously muddled and/or non-existent. The essential fact is this: at some point there was a Saint Valentine who was certainly a martyr, so it might as well be for love!

But when you stop to reflect on it, science fiction and fantasy is lousy with martyrs, and we probably know much more about them than we’ll ever know about Saint Valentine. Here are seven martyrs who keep sci-fi and fantasy going, mostly because they seem to always come back after they’ve died!

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Dumbledore is Not “Explicitly” Gay in Upcoming Fantastic Beasts Film and That Makes No Sense

Last week it was revealed that J.K. Rowling’s screenplay for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will pretty much avoid the subject of Albus Dumbledore’s sexuality. Despite the fact that Dumbledore’s youthful infatuation with Gellert Grindelwald is a key factor in informing their meetings later in life, particularly during the point at which this film is set, as Grindelwald grows in power and Dumbledore is trying to avoid doing his utmost to stop him—a point in time when the shattered relationship between these two men is shaping the wizarding world in untold and terrifying ways.

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Identifying with “Uncool” Characters: Why I Love The Jungle Book’s Bagheera

When I was a kid (like a kid kid who was under the age of ten), I had a very specific pet peeve regarding the entertainment that I consumed. It centered around the inevitable bashing of any character who showed an inclination toward logic, pragmatism, and worry. My thirst for adventure—oddly—developed gradually, over time. As a very small human, I had an overly-developed sense of caution about the world, and so I was drawn to characters who looked before leaping, who made plans, who considered dangers.

What I’m trying to say is, I hated Disney’s The Jungle Book because no one listened to Bagheera.

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Star Wars: The Rebellion Won Because They Treated Their Droids Like People

It’s no great secret that R2-D2 is the real hero of Star Wars. In fact, that might be the fandom’s favorite joke of the past four decades—everyone would be dead, multiple times over, without that rolling trash can’s help. Same goes for C-3PO, if we take into account how Artoo relies on him to redirect the bad guys with his babbling and multitude of diplomatic excuses.

But the truth of the matter is a bit uglier than that. Because the only reason that R2-D2 is capable of helping in the first place is because he’s treated like a person… instead of an expensive piece of hardware.

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Small Stories, Big Worlds: Why I Love Epic Stories That Stay Personal

You know when you’re reading Lord of the Rings, and you really wish the book would just let us spend some time with Rosie Cotton while she’s busy slinging ale at the Green Dragon?

Or is that just me?

Fans of science fiction and fantasy love good worldbuilding. But setting the stage by creating a magnificent new realm usually means the plot focuses on major historical arcs in said world. Once you’ve set up so much, developed all the minute detail, it makes sense to do the broad strokes and really create a mythology. How to Save the World; How to Win the War; How to Shape Reality With a Few Simple Building Blocks. They make great blockbuster film trilogies. They demand the creations of fan wikis and doorstopper guidebooks. They are the stories we take comfort in whenever the world seems a bit too claustrophobic.

[But there’s something special about the stories that start small…]

Wow, People Are Really Mad at Poe Dameron

I mean, I’m not. But other people are.

At first glance, there’s an interesting theme at work in The Last Jedi. That theme seems to turn on practically every female character in the film looking to their male cohort and saying “Don’t do that!” and the men turning around and saying “I’m definitely going to do that!” And then things go generally wrong and we all plant our faces in our hands and sigh.

[But it’s so much bigger than that…]

Luke Skywalker Isn’t Supposed to Be “Nice”

It’s that time again. Time for me to talk about Luke Skywalker—Jedi Master, colorful milk enthusiast, champion spear fisherman, galactic treasure—and the multitude of ways that he continues to be generally fabulous while no one notices. Even now, when it should have become pretty darned obvious. When there is an entire film dedicated to the obviousness of this.

And yes, I am talking about The Last Jedi.

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Space Opera is More than “Fantasy in Space”

It’s important to remember that the term “space opera” was first devised as an insult.

This term, dropped into the lexicon by fan writer Wilson Tucker, initially appeared in the fanzine Le Zombie in 1941. It was meant to invoke the recently coined term “soap opera” (which then applied to radio dramas), a derogatory way of referring to a bombastic adventure tale with spaceships and ray guns. Since then, the definition of space opera has been renewed and expanded, gone through eras of disdain and revival, and the umbrella term covers a large portion of the science fiction available to the public. It’s critical opposite is usually cited as “hard science fiction,” denoting a story in which science and mathematics are carefully considered in the creation of the premise, leading to a tale that might contain more plausible elements.

This had led some critics to posit that space opera is simply “fantasy in space.” But it isn’t (is it?), and attempting to make the distinction is a pretty fascinating exercise when all is said and done.

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Do Not Ever Ask For a Cup of Jawa Juice at the Spaceport Cantina

The pantheon of fictional booze is plentiful and fun to ruminate on while sipping other non-fictional types of booze. But for every Romulan Ale and Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, there could be something far more sinister lying in wait.

What I’m saying, Star Wars fans, is don’t ever head into the Mos Eisley cantina (known as Chalmun’s, to the locals), and order a cup of Jawa Juice.

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Not Some New Man: The Hidden Pattern Behind the Doctor’s Regenerations

Regeneration can be confusing for even the most ardent Doctor Who fan. Our intrepid hero literally becomes a new person and the adjustment is always a little heartbreaking, as though you have to say goodbye to one friend in order to gain another. The process itself is woolly; the Doctor himself admitting upon his seventh transformation that it was “a lottery” and that he had never been any good at it.

But does regeneration make sense, even if you’re no good at it? I think it does. In fact, I’d argue that the events leading up to each regeneration have a very heavy impact on how the next incarnation turns out. Though he can’t pick out faces and then discard them the way other Time Lords can, subconsciously, the Doctor is clearly and cautiously reconstructing himself, adapting according to his triumphs and failures each time.

Don’t believe me? The pattern is there. Check it out:

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Die Hard is Great, but Shane Black is the King of the Christmas Explosion

Another holiday, another hot take…. But seriously, this annual “Die Hard is the best Christmas film ever” thing has gone bananas. There are so many Christmas films out there—why has this become the hill we die on?

I’m going to be extra aggravating and contrary because Die Hard is not the greatest Christmas movie ever. But there is someone in Hollywood who regularly cracks out amazing Christmas films. He happens to be the guy who named Die Hard.

[It’s Shane Black]