Tor.com content by

Leah Schnelbach

Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House Finds the Beating Heart of Shirley Jackson’s Tale

Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House is easily one of the best things I’ve seen on Netflix. It’s consistently scary and moving, creepy and heartfelt, and creates one of the best, most multi-dimensional views of a family I’ve seen since Six Feet Under.

And as a work of horror, Hill House works because it’s an adaptation. It takes Shirley Jackson’s novel as more of a sketch than a blueprint, and it frees itself to riff on the horror genre as a whole.

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Eight SFF Stories Written in Verse

Sometimes there is a tale so epic, so lyrical, so otherworldly that plain old prose can’t do it justice! That is when serious writers break out the verse. We’ve collected eight books—some horror, some myth, one science fiction, and one YA—that use verse to pluck their readers away form the workaday world and into stories that bend reality.

Let us know if we’ve missed any of your favorites in the comments!

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Boys Playing with Balsa Wood: First Man Grapples with Darkness in the Heart of Space

I watch space movies not because it is easy but because it is hard. I watch them to remind myself that my country used to do great things, the same way that I read the work of Black authors, Latinx authors, Indigenous authors, Asian-American authors, to remind myself that my country has always been a son of a bitch.

First Man is the rare space exploration movie to honestly confront both of those sides of America. It’s been criticized by some people for not being patriotic enough (because it doesn’t focus on the moment Neil Armstrong planted an American flag on the moon) but it’s actually a complicated work that explores the idea of patriotism and masculinity, and the way those can become entangled. What results is a film that is by far the most interesting, and harrowing, film I’ve ever seen about the U.S. space program. 

[Yes, even more harrowing than Gravity.]

Five Movies Featuring Inanimate Objects From Hell

If horror films are to be believed, every car and toaster on the planet is just waiting for the chance to kill all humans—the moment our unassuming stuff becomes sentient, our houses are filled with nigh unstoppable death machines.

I’ve gathered five of my favorite schlocky horror movies starring lethal inanimate objects, listed in no particular order, and with a few caveats: no dolls or haunted houses! Both have enough examples to constitute their own subgenres, and would take over the whole list if I included them. Plus? Creepy Dolls are probably real, and I do not need to wake up to some hollow-eyed Chatty Cathy standing at the foot of my bed with a knife….

[Speaking of beds…]

The Cast of American Gods (Plus Neil Gaiman) Hit the New York Comic-Con Stage to Talk Season Two!

The American Gods panel was huge, in that most of the cast was onstage. It was huge, in that every actor had a ton of answers to each question, and it was huge-hearted in that literally the second it was over the cast came out the front of the stage to sign things and dispense hugs to the crowd of fans that gathered at the front.

Really the panel was like a giant warm hug, but I’ll do my best to round up some highlights below!

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Empathy for the Devil? The Man in the High Castle Toys with Our Emotions in an Excellent Season Three Premiere

The Man in the High Castle returns to Amazon today! One of the concerns I had coming into Season Three is that at this point they’re well beyond the scope of the original novel, and heading off into uncharted territory. While the show’s worldbuilding has always been exquisite, I was nervous that they wouldn’t be able to sustain it.

I got to see a sneak peek of episode one, “Now More Than Ever, We Care About You,” at New York Comic-Con last night, and I’m happy to say that for the most part, the opening hour of Season Three holds up to the previous seasons—and in a few moments, even surpasses them. I’m so excited to see where they take these characters. I’ll give you a largely spoiler-free discussion below, along with a few highlights from the panel discussion the followed the episode. I will be discussing events from the last two seasons, so watch out for potential spoilers if you’re not caught up!

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We Have Some Questions About the Dark Phoenix Trailer

We watched the Dark Phoenix trailer. At the end, we had a few questions. Primary among them was: Should the movie really be titled Dark Phoenix? Or should it be called “Professor Xavier’s No Good Very Bad Mistake”?

Look, judging a movie by a trailer is typically unfair, even if the trailer is pretty clear about what you’re getting into. But this isn’t an issue with the Dark Phoenix trailer all by itself. (Although we do have one substantial clarification we’d like.) This is an issue with the X-Men film series at large, and how these characters have been presented to us over their tenure on screen. And that issue is roughly the size of three guys: Professor X, Magneto, and Wolverine.

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And I Feel Fine: One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses by Lucy Corin

Lucy Corin’s One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses merrily scoffs at genre boundaries. Some of the stories contained herein, like “Smog Monster Versus Godzilla,” are realistic and heart-wrenching, and follow a recognizable arc. Others, especially the stories gathered under an umbrella of “Apocalypses” can be a single sentence, a series of questions, a fable, a margin note.

I’m glad to be with Lucy Corin, here, at the end of all things.

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Want Something to be Thankful For, Punks? MST3K Returns Thanksgiving Weekend!

We’ve got movie sign…again! After giving us the Thanksgiving 2017 miracle of announcing the show’s renewal, The A.V. Club is now reporting that the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 will flood into our televisions—and hearts—like so many quarts of gravy on Thursday, November 22.

Which, by the way? Is the show’s 30th anniversary! That’s right, the first-ever episode of MST3K premiered on Minneapolis’ KTMA on Thanksgiving Day, 1988.

Hi-keeba, indeed.

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Some of Stephen King’s Best Cameo Roles

I love Stephen King, as a writer, as a proclaimer of the greatness of genre literature, and, maybe most of all, as a guy. He was the first author I knew who—actually, scratch that. Stephen King was the first author I knew.

I recognized the names of children’s authors, and some of the bigger pulpy adult authors that my parents read (my mother was a huge Dick Francis fan, and our house had the requisite copies of Clan of the Cave Bear and Shogun) but King was the first author I saw being interviewed on TV. He was the only author I knew who wrote introductions to his own books, and I got a real sense of him as a person form reading them. Later, when I read Danse Macabre and On Writing, I discovered that he could carry that conversational, regular-guy writing style through an entire book, and the more I write myself, the more impressed I am. I think what really came through, more so even than in his fiction, was his weird, dark sense of humor.

It is in this spirit that I present to you, oh my brothers and sisters and neithers and others, a Stephen King Movie Moment Retrospective.

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Metal Never Dies: We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

Where to even begin? I loved this book. If you’ve ever loved any genre of music you should read it, and if you love horror you should read it, and if you’re obsessed with the plight of the American working-class you should really, really read it.

Grady Hendrix’s latest extravaganza of horror is wild and fun, genuinely terrifying in places, and also somehow heartfelt. It’s like The Stand and Our Band Could Be Your Life had the best baby (Our Stand Could Be Your Life?) and somebody slapped a Viking helmet on it and taught it to shred a guitar.

[Review: We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix]

Uncovering Speculative Fiction Lurking in Four Literary Collections

Usually I use TBR Stack to dive into a book I’ve been eyeing for months or even years, hoping each time that I’ll be able to breathlessly recommend it to you. This time I’ve decided to do something different: I’m recommending four books.

Or, more specifically, I’m recommending some excellent speculative short fiction, and one essay, that I found lurking in otherwise realistic collections. Sara Batkie’s Better Times, Everyday People, edited by Jennifer Baker, Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, and Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ The Heads of the Colored People are all great recent collections that each contain speculative gems.

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