Tor.com content by

Leah Schnelbach

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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Six Intergalactic Holiday Specials for a Very Cosmic Christmas

Lots of shows decide they need a little Christmas come December, but they’re not quite sure how to do it. Do you talk about the big Jesus-shaped elephant in the room? Do you just focus on Santa? Do you, I don’t know, cast Juliana Hatfield as an angel or make miracles happen on Walker, Texas Ranger?

This late-December urge becomes extra fun when sci-fi shows try it—they don’t usually want to deal with the religious aspect of Christmas, but they still have to find a way to explain Santa and presents (and maybe just a dash of Christianity) to aliens who are already confused enough just trying to deal with humans. So most of them fall back on humans teaching aliens about “goodwill” or “being kind to others.” This leads to some amazing moments, as we’ll see.

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The Stand Needs More Reality in Its Horror: Episode One, “The End”

I’ll admit, when I read The Stand back in high school I didn’t expect to live through it years later. Hell, when I volunteered to review CBS’ adaptation the pandemic hadn’t hit yet. As a result, my review might be a little more intense than I initially planned.

It’s weird to watch a show about a terrifying pandemic, while you’re in a terrifying pandemic, and then the ads pop up and the people in the ads mostly act like things are normal. It’s weird to watch a show that opens with people clearing dead bodies out of a room, and the disposal crew are mostly wearing N-95 masks, but then one dude is just wearing a bandanna, and my whole brain screams: “Those don’t work! Get a better mask!” before I remind myself it’s just fiction. Before I remember that it isn’t just fiction.

But I did my best.

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The Blessed Meaninglessness of The Nightmare Before Christmas

December’s a minefield. Most of the year you can watch movies or TV shows, and you more or less know what you’re in for. If you’re watching the latest Martin Scorsese movie, things will probably get heavy. If you’re watching a sitcom, the stakes will probably be low. Even now in the era of prestige TV and extremely niche indie films—when the writing is, I think, sharper than it’s ever been, and creators feel free to hop genres and assume their viewers’ intelligence—you can usually decide how much depth you want to deal with, and tailor your viewing accordingly.

But not in December—in December even the wackiest comedies have to stop the action long enough to meditate on capital-M Meaning, and the grittiest dramas make room for capital-M Miracles, in order to acknowledge the annual cultural fulcrum that is Christmas.

In all of my searching I have found only one film that ignores this tradition of meaning-making. That movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas.

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23 Modern SFF Twists on Classic Stories

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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The 17 Best (and Worst) Cartoon Sidekicks of 1980s Television

After years wandering the wilderness, Princess Adora and her bad-ass alter ego—She-Ra, the Princess of Power—is starring in a series of new adventures on Netflix. While I’m thrilled to binge the new show, I’ll always have a soft spot for the original 1980s series—partly because of the amazing sidekicks that tagged along her adventures in Eternia. This got me thinking about some of my favorite sidekicks from across the varied landscape of 1980s kids’ cartoons, which, naturally, resulted in a ranking list post.

THESE ARE MY OWN PERSONAL VIEWS. IT’S OK IF YOU LIKE SNARF.

I mean, I think you might want to talk to a therapist, but it’s probably OK, cosmically speaking.

But by all means tell me about your faves in the comments.

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Naked in the Dark: A Definitive List of the Lord of the Rings Characters That F*ck

When it came to sword genealogies, J. R. R. Tolkien left little to the imagination. But when it came to discussing which of his iconic characters were noble heroes in the streets/Uruk Hai in the sheets, Professor Tolkien was far more reticent.

Thus we have taken it upon ourselves to answer an eternal question: which Lord of the Rings characters, shall we say, laid waste to Helm’s Deep? Who’s always down for Second Breakfast? Which ones hopped the Buckleberry Ferry to Bonetown? Who reassembled the Shards of Narsil into a mighty sword?

OK, that last one doesn’t work. We admit that.

Anyway, which LOTR characters definitely got it on? Join us as we answer that question for a smattering of Middle-earth citizens, arranged from the most libertine to the most chaste…

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