content by

Leah Schnelbach

Revenge Comedy: And I Do Not Forgive You by Amber Sparks

Amber Sparks’s previous collection, The Unfinished World, was one of my favorites of 2016. (You can read my review of it here!) So naturally I was excited when her follow-up, And I Do Not Forgive You, landed on my desk. I’m happy to report that I was correct to be excited: this collection is wild ride through rage and gender upheaval and death and ghosts and fairy tale tropes that constantly slalomed around my expectations.

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The Fantabulous Birds of Prey is the Batman Returns Sequel We Need

I have waited many a year for a proper sequel to Batman Returns, and I’m happy to tell you that Birds of Prey is IT. It’s the first comics film that really captures the spirit of those first two Tim Burton Batman films—big and brash and cartoony but also gothy and noir. When it wants to be fun it’s the MOST fun, but when it wants to go dark and, especially, highlight the ways people who present as women, or who the characters and society within the film perceive as women, are crushed by society, the filmmakers are more than happy to make the audience sit with their discomfort. Birds of Prey gives us five antiheroic women who are worthy heirs to Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selena Kyle.

Except there are mallets. And roller-derby. And a funhouse. And a hyena.

Go see it!

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23 Retellings of Classic Stories From Science Fiction & Fantasy Authors

We love a good retelling—whether it’s a favorite fairy tale, ancient myth, or epic tale, it’s always great to see old things made new. Part of the reason we love these stories is because they’re so malleable; with themes that span the breadth of the human experience, tales of love, revenge, and adventure can find a home in any place and time, with characters that feel both familiar and fresh at the same time.

As we started thinking about of favorite retellings of classic stories, so many brilliant adaptations, updates, and re-workings came to mind. Here are just a few that we adore! Please feel free to add your own in the comments.

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And Now for an All-Too-Brief Tribute to Terry Jones

What I found about Terry was difficult is he cared passionately about everything. We all care about some things, but we don’t care so much about others, so we can compromise on them. Terry cared about everything. It didn’t matter how tiny the detail. –John Cleese

When I saw the news about Terry Jones I felt an odd sense of urgency: I should write something, but I was so afraid I’d mess it up that I froze. This doesn’t happen to me often and it’s taken me an entire day to figure out why: Terry Jones is not my personal favorite Python (that’s Palin) but I think he was the most important Python.

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Do We Even Want to Talk to the Animals? Dolittle Is a Mess Unworthy of Its Cast

Does everyone else remember the summer of 2008? When the first Iron Man came out, and people were ecstatic about how great Robert Downy Jr., was as Tony Stark, and then like two months later he showed ridiculous range in Tropic Thunder (while also doing a cool riff on his dad’s classic indie film, Putney Swope) and then like a year later Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes adaptation came out, and RDJ was great in that, too?

It looked like the beginning of an incredible career resurgence for RDJ—and then the MCU happened, and it all worked even better than we’d hoped! But after a decade of Iron Man, we were excited to see what big project RDJ would tackle for his first big post-Stark role. Would he go prestige drama? Indie? Over-the-top comedy a la Tropic Thunder?

Or… would he cobble together a collection of his Holmes’ tics—with an accent that veers wildly between “the one he used in Restoration,” “almost-Jack-Sparrow,” and “not-quite-Mrs.-Doubtfire”—and valiantly attempt to portray a depressed, grief-stricken widower in a scene where a polar bear and an ostrich argue in voices provided by Kumail Nanjiani and John Cena?

Join me, on a perilous journey: an attempt at reviewing Dolittle.

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The Rise of Skywalker Shows Us the Path of Resistance

A thing that often gets a bit lost in discussion of Star Wars is that the Empire and the First Order are, essentially, Space Nazis. Through all three Star Wars trilogies, the villains are members of an authoritarian regime that wants to conquer every world and culture in the galaxy, flatten any kind of rebellion or free thought, and crush individual liberty. Every other fandom argument aside, what the series is about is resistance to oppressive rule, sometimes through fighting and guerilla tactics, sometimes through non-violence.

I’m going to put my cards on the table and tell you I didn’t like The Rise of Skywalker all that much, mostly because I didn’t think it took enough time with that central theme. (Also FinnPoe, but that’s a whole other article.) However, there was one element that the film did quite well, and to talk about it I need to sidetrack us a little bit into Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life.

Bear with me.

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Excellent Writing Advice from Erotica Author Chuck Tingle

You know how sometimes you’ll read a particular author and find that their cadences and word choices are creeping into your own head-voice? Or sometimes into your writing? I ask because I have spent these last few days reading a lot of Chuck Tingle, and my brain is currently a CAPSLOCK wonderland filled with buckaroos and sentient jet-skis.

The purpose, you ask? Well, aside from the sheer joy of proving love, I thought it might be a fun quest: is it possible that such an eccentric body of work could yield practical writing advice?

Is Living Corn handsome?

Do Space Raptors like to invade butts?

The answer, dear readers, is yes.

Trot down below the break, buckaroos, to find some classic Writing Ways.

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2010-2019: A Decade of Change in Science Fiction & Fantasy

This December brings us to the close of a truly extraordinary and transformative decade for SFF. Epic series like The Wheel of Time finally concluded as A Song of Ice and Fire rose to mainstream prominence on television (with Wheel of Time to follow suit?). Newer stars like N.K. Jemisin rose, while familiar faces like Neil Gaiman published some of their most innovative work yet. We saw the rise of fiction that dealt directly with the ongoing Climate Crisis, works that wrestled with the tumultuous political shifts, cozy space opera, gritty space opera, and literal space opera, with like, actual singing. Zombies faded from favor while orcs and goblins and fishmen found their time to shine. Readers went from celebrating Strong Female Characters to asking for Complicated Female Characters, and the literary landscape became much more inclusive for writers who had previously been marginalized. And, as in every decade, the villains threatened to steal the show entirely.

Four members of the fam, Publicity Coordinator Christina Orlando, writers Leah Schnelbach and Natalie Zutter, and Tor Books’ Senior Marketing Manager Renata Sweeney sat down for a rollicking, five-hour-long conversation about the decade in genre, discussing trends, favorite books, the heroes and villains who have stuck with them, and even a look forward to some titles that will help define the next decade.

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Rian Johnson’s Looper and the Art of the Supervillain

Like approximately 2 billion of you, I went to see Joker last month. And as the ensuing conversations about The State of Society and Is Violence Ever Justifiable and Angry Men and oh yeah What About The State of Cinema and Wait, Batman Canon! swirled around, I realized that the biggest disappointment for me is that the film simply did not work as the supervillain origin story it purported to be. Despite Joaquin Phoenix’s goddamn superb performance, the film wallowed too much in its own in misery for two and a half hours, and where it simply did not work was as a supervillain origin story.

But there are two other films that take the rise of supervillainy seriously: Unbreakable, a dark tale that pre-dates the current wave of comics films, and Looper, a time-travel story that hides its super-powered villain till the final act.

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Knives Out Is So Much More Than This Generation’s Clue

Knives Out could have been a lot of things.

The trailers promised a fun whodunit, a Clue for a new generation. A smirky, snarky role for post-Captain America Chris Evans. A return to quirky genre films for a post-Star Wars Rian Johnson.

And be assured, it is all of those things.

But rather than coasting on the film’s considerable visual style or the script’s sharpity sharp sharp wit, Rian Johnson has taken the coziest, tropiest of genres and used it to tell a story about America—and he’s made my favorite movie since Mad Max: Fury Road.

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