Tor.com content by

Leah Schnelbach

The Good Place Is Television’s Most Divine Will They/Won’t They

I admit this to you, dear readers, on the privacy of the internet: I am that person who did not want Scully and Mulder to get together. (Although, for what it’s worth, I am also that person who did want Will and Hannibal to get together.) When I was very smol, and watched Cheers, I loved Will They/Won’t They. But pretty much every subsequent iteration has left me cold. Things I hate: when a sitcom becomes about the tension between two people, because I don’t think that’s enough of an engine for an ensemble show; that until very recently the trope has been relentlessly heteronormative; the way Will They/Won’t They makes romantic love the prime motivator and ultimate focus of life; that it sexualizes everything in an already extremely sexed-up television world. But most of all, I hate the way this tension has ruined a lot of great TV friendships and professional partnerships.

Having said all of that, I want to take a moment and a few thousand words to celebrate one particular, potentially mythic Will They/Won’t They: Eleanor and Chidi on The Good Place.

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IT: Chapter Two Delivers Scares, But Wants to Make You Feel Things

IT: Chapter II has danced into theaters, with the weight of the phenomenal IT: Chapter I, Stephen King fandom, and an outpouring of thinkpieces about the book all hung about its frilled grease-painted neck.

So, does it work?

I have seen the film, all two hours and 49 minutes of it, and I’m happy to report that my answer is a resounding: Sometimes?

Sometimes!

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What 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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Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus Bypasses Nostalgia to Focus on Sheer Gothy Fun

I don’t do nostalgia. I tend to think that looking back is a trap, a quicksand that will pull you down into a belief that your culture and your era was somehow superior to what kids are into now. I hate (hate) the endless recycling of older properties. If you’re going to revisit a show or a book, give it a new angle or a twist or a quirk. The new She-Ra, for instance, queers an already pretty queer show, and the new Rocko introduces a trans character—they’re telling stories that weren’t really tellable in the ’80s and ’90s. They justify their existence.

Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus doesn’t quite give us a new twist, but by ignoring all the obvious nostalgia opportunities and focusing on a solid, ridiculous story, Jhonen Vasquez has given us a return to form that turns out to be incredibly fun.

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Around the World in 28 Alternative Cities!

When you spend time in science fiction and fantasy, you expect to get lost in bucolic Shires, bustling Diagon Alleys, and maybe the occasional wardrobe-based analog of Heaven. But why stop there? Join us as we tour the globe à la Phileas Fogg, taking off from a magical London and heading more-or-less east. We’re making stops in a haunted Cairo, a super-powered Delhi, a steampunk Seattle, an alt-history Montreal, and a near-future São Paulo—let us know in the comments if we missed your favorite genre-tinged city!

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An Ode to Beetlejuice’s Otho, the Best Character in 1980s Film

Did the 1980s give us a better movie than Tim Burton’s 1988 masterpiece Beetlejuice? (Well, OK, yes, Amadeus, but there are no ghosts in Amadeus.)

As a kid I identified with Lydia, of course—yanked away from her home and living with a wicked stepmother. Then the poor, terrified Maitlands, who just wanted their own space decorated their own way. Once I moved to New York, Delia seemed much less awful, and much more like an artist trying to make it in a city that will eat you if you’re not careful—who is forced by her husband to start over in a tiny town that she hates. And obviously, more recently, Betelgeuse the freelancer spoke to my soul.

But the older I get, and the more often I watch the movie, the more I admit to myself that there is only one true role model in this film, and that is Otho.

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Pennyworth Is Best When It Commits to Crazy

I want to be fully onboard with Pennyworth because it is, in the parlance of our times, batshit. Sometimes the erratic, overstuffed plot works beautifully, as when young Alfred Pennyworth earns his pay with some troublesome night club ruffians. Other times, as when young Alfred Pennyworth attempts to romance a Posh Girl, things are a bit bumpier. But even then, there are dirigibles floating over London? There are shadowy conspiracies afoot? There is a chance meeting with a certain gentleman named Wayne?

Overall, if you like Gotham, you like British spy stories, you like terrifying female villains, you just really like the Batman mythos a whole lot? You’ll find a lot to love in Pennyworth, and so much insanity that even the stuff that doesn’t quite work goes down like a skillfully-shaken martini.

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It’s Not Pain, It Just Feels Like Pain: Becoming Superman by J. Michael Straczynski

Do you know a writer? Give them this book. Are you now, or have you ever been, a writer? Get this book.

J. Michael Straczynski’s memoir Becoming Superman takes us into his grandparents’ and parents lives, through his own impoverished, deeply messed-up childhood, through his early life as a writer, and finally into the ups and downs he’s faced making a career in Hollywood. Along the way he meets Rod Serling, becomes friends with Harlan Ellison, joins the Jesus Movement (briefly), writes for everything from The Twilight Zone to The Real Ghostbusters, completely revolutionizes the way stories are told on television with Babylon 5, and creates one of the best-ever Netflix originals with Sense8. All while trying to solve a real-life murder mystery in his family’s past, and giving us a detailed look at the pathology of abuse.

And he dispenses solid writing advice throughout the book.

Maybe most important, though, he’s given us a book whose animating principle is a consideration of choice. How does a person raised without a sense of morality make decent choices? Can they change, and if so, how? How does a desperately poor, abused kid learn how to make moral and artistic choices he can be proud of?

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A New Janet! Dogs are Serenaded! Highlights from The Good Place Season 4 Panel at SDCC 2019

The Good Place panel opened with scenes from the upcoming fourth and final (sniff!!!) season, which apparently involved a bay elephant telling the secrets of the universe. With that out of the way, a panel made up of Ted Danson (Michael) Kristen Bell (Eleanor) Manny Jacinto (Jason) William Jackson Harper (CHIDI!!!), Darcy Carden (JANET! JANET!) and Michael Schur (Creator God) shared tales from the set and talked aobut saying goodbye to their characters. We’ve rounded up some highlights below!

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“We Ship Braime!” “The Night King Will Rule Westeros!” And Other Highlights From Game of Thrones‘ Panel at SDCC 2019

Some of Game of Thrones‘ cast gathered one final time to discuss Season 8 (and THAT FINALE) at San Diego Comic-Con. Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark), John Bradley West (Samwell Tarly), Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth), Raleigh Ritchie (Greyworm), and Conleth Hill (Varys) all appeared, regaling Hall H with spoilers for a panel that closed with no time left for Q&A.

We’ve assembled highlights below—obviously this post is dark and full of spoilers!

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