content by

Leah Schnelbach

The Very Model of a Major Modern Gothic: The Keep by Jennifer Egan

Meta-novels are my favorite. I think it’s just that I love layers: be it trifle or lasagna or tree rings or Hawaiian shirts over tank tops, long, onion-y conversations with people who are willing to open up and reveal hidden pasts—I like having to work for fun.

Which is why Jennifer Egan’s 2006 quasi-neo-gothic The Keep is the perfect October book for me. There are sections that are creepy, a few that are genuinely terrifying, but it’s all wrapped in a narrative that plays with the conventions of the gothic novel and the ghost story.

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Moviegoing During a Pandemic

The debate about going out to movies during what is still very-much-ongoing pandemic keeps spiking every time Denis Villeneuve or Christopher Nolan gives an interview, and every time a movie trailer ends with the proud declaration: “Only in Theaters.”

Because obviously, it’s not quite as simple as: “don’t go to in-theater movies yet, it still isn’t safe”—the way we experience art is important, the communal nature of moviegoing is important, and supporting the work of artists, especially marginalized artists, is important. As the months have gone on, the three of us have talked endlessly about our relationship with movies in general and theatergoing in particular, and after the one-two punch of seeing The Green Knight and Shang-Chi together we decided to hash out some thoughts.

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JAMIE WEPT: Jamie Clayton to Play Pinhead in Hulu’s Hellraiser Reboot

We’ve got a new Pinhead! Jamie Clayton, recently seen in Sense8 and The L Word: Generation Q, has been announced as the iconic character in David Bruckner’s new adaptation of Hellraiser for Hulu. Author/director/general-Hellraiser-architect Clive Barker has also joined the project as a producer.

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Religious Horror and Horrific Religion in Midnight Mass

Of all the subgenres of horror, religious horror tends to be my favorite. When it’s good, you get all-time classics like Rosemary’s Baby, Hereditary, and The Exorcist. When it’s over-the-top, you get operatic shit like The Omen, Hellraiser, or, for my money, Constantine. And when it commits to being goofy as hell, you get… The Conjuring series. Even the bad examples of the genre will provide decent exorcism scenes or fun Satanic cults. And religious horror has inspired fantastic comedy like Good Omens, SNL’s Exorcist II, and some of the funniest scenes in This is the End.

This essay is going to dive into Midnight Mass’ place in the tradition of religious horror, and the Catholic iconography used—and it’s going to spoil everything, so if you want a light spoiler review you can head over here, but otherwise this essay assumes you’ve watched the whole show.

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Midnight Mass Offers Up Raw, Unsettling Horror

Mike Flanagan’s latest horror series is just as traumatizing as his adaptations of Haunting of Hill House and Haunting of Bly Manor. Midnight Mass gives us an isolated, inherently spooky setting, a whole town of troubled folks with secrets, some beautiful, twisting monologues, and more ACTING than I’ve seen all year. This series is a raw, sometimes gory, deeply unsettling take on religious horror.

In some ways it’s better than Flanagan’s previous Netflix outings, but even more than Hill House and Bly Manor, it’s a character study being told through horror. Let me begin by saying that Midnight Mass is beautiful and unique, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Or, to quote myself from a group text on Friday night: “i’m 40 minutes in on midnight mass and its everything I could ever want.”

Here is some lightly-spoilery blathering about Midnight Mass!

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What If… “Thor Were an Only Child?” Turns Earth Into a Party Planet

After two darkity dark dark What If…?s, it’s a giant relief to get an episode that’s purely fun. In this week’s episode, Thor is fully the frat bro we met in his first movie, and he comes to Midgard to throw a planet-wide party.

Several days later, the party’s still jumping ’cause Frigga ain’t home, and things begin to go awry.

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Seven Things I Want to See in a Quantum Leap Reboot

Reboots, expansions, and continuations are everywhere these days on television. In recent years, genre properties from Mystery Science Theater 3000 to Star Trek have made small-screen comebacks, and now there’s news of another a sci-fi classic returning: Quantum Leap!

Theorizing that a Quantum Leap reboot could once again tackle social issues and provide hours of thought-provoking television, while also providing nostalgia-trips for the Millennial generation, Leah Schnelbach stepped into this article… and wrote a list of things she’d like to see in a new Quantum Leap.

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What If… “Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?” Gives Us a Violent Alternate Reality

Yes, MORE violent.

This episode was difficult. There are some extraordinary moments, but the overall story is so relentlessly bleak that it was probably the toughest for me to watch so far. I’m also not sure I’m okay with how they handled Killmonger, who was, after all, right about a lot of things? (Although so was Nakia, obviously, and I prefer her methods.)

Let’s dive in!

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Stephen King’s It Taught Me About the Shape of Stories

I remember reading IT over a weekend.

Can this possibly be true?

Have I tangled IT up with some of my other fevered reading experiences?

I remember sitting on my middle school bus with my knees pressed into the seatback in front of me, balancing IT on my denim skirt. That’s where I was when I read about Pennywise (“There was a clown in the stormdrain.”) and where I read about a group of kids attacking a couple for being gay and open about it, and I can feel my knees digging into the drab green faux leather, and I can see the lightwash denim on either side of the book, and I can feel hairs prickling up off of my knees cause I hadn’t started shaving yet, despite the skirts (and yes, that did cause me problems) and I remember trying to harden myself as I read—trying to accept the vicious death of a 6-year-old, and the horrific murder of a gay man, because this was a Real Adult Book and this was training for life in the adult world.

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What If… “ZOMBIES???” Gives Us the Earth’s Mightiest Flesh-Eating Ghouls

Do you have a zombocalypse plan? Do you note possible entry points when you walk into rooms, think through escape scenarios, have at least a vague idea of where you could hole up until the whole thing blows over?

The world in this week’s What If…? really needed a zombocalypse plan.

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A Ghost Story: Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri

I like to use TBR Stack as an opportunity to find books that I might not otherwise read. Either to try titles that are maybe more SFFH-adjacent than straight up SFFH, or to finally read older genre classics that I’ve missed. My hope is that maybe I’ll find a book that you, person reading this, has never heard of, or just never gotten around to, and maybe I’ll nudge you into adding it to your own TBR stack. Every once in a while, I get to a book I’ve been meaning to read and realize that I have to write about it. That was the case with Piranesi—that book built a new support wall in my brain right before last winter Got Really Bad, so I couldn’t help writing about it. This month’s book is kind of like that.

I added Tokyo Ueno Station to my list right after it won a National Book Award last November, and then when I finally got to it I read it over the course of a few hours and was so haunted by it that I wanted to try to talk about it here. Is it SFFH? I’m not sure. It’s certainly a ghost story, but kind of a true ghost story? Let’s see how this goes.

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Choose Wisely: Ranking 25 Memorable Deaths in SFF

Like all of our good ideas, this one came up in our work Slack. If you had a choice, would it be better to be Blobbed to death (i.e. killed by the The Blob, in the Steve McQueen classic, The Blob) or Thinged to death (i.e. murdered and taken over by the alien from The Thing from Another World/The Thing)? And yes, obviously, “Neither, thanks!” is a valid response, but if you had to choose?

And like so many Slack conversations, this turned into a serious discussion of the deaths in various science fiction, fantasy, and horror universes, and which ones would suck the most. Here is our absolutely comprehensive and irrefutable list, ranked from worst to, well… tolerable? Please give us your death preferences (deatherences?) in the comments.

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