Tor.com content by

Leah Schnelbach

We’ll All Float On, Anyway: Stephen King’s IT

First thing first: IT is terrifying. People in my theater shrieked, gasped, applauded, hid—I think it’s one of the most reactive crowds I’ve ever been in, and it was great. And that’s all before we get to the evil clown. Bill Skarsgard takes Pennywise in even darker and more screwed up directions that Tim Curry’s over-the-top malevolence.

I’ve never wanted to see a horror movie more than once in the theater. Even if I love one, I tend to wait until Blu-ray or Netflix for repeat viewings. But IT? I want to see IT again, big, soon. It’s a great horror movie, wrapped up inside an almost-perfect coming-of-age film, and even with a couple of missteps I think it’s going to be a classic.

[Read more]

Upping the Stakes of the Haunted House Story: David Mitchell’s Slade House

There is entirely too much David Mitchell on my TBR Stack. On the one hand, I want to devour every book he’s written. On the other hand, I don’t want to read them all until I know when his next one is coming out.

…I’ll admit this is a good problem to have. David Mitchell has written seven novels, all parts of a grander “über-novel” that I’ll talk about a little more below the cut. Since I’ve been on a haunted house kick I decided to dive into his latest book, Slade House, but belatedly realized it’s really a sequel to The Bone Clocks. I decided to try reading them in reverse order, to see how that affected my experience, and I’m happy to say I can recommend my method. I’ll talk about both books a bit, focusing on Slade House, and trying not to spoil either.

[[they might be unspoilable, actually…]]

The Reboot of The Tick is Nigh Perfect!

Is The Tick the greatest of the ’90s reboots?

I really truly madly deeply loved the MST3K reboot, and I hope they get another eleven seasons. But MST3K is like solar energy—an endlessly renewable resource. There will always be cheesy movies, and jerks like me will always love snarking on them, and hearing others’ snark. The Tick, though, was more explicitly of its time—specifically, the late ’80s and early ’90s. Created, like the Ninja Turtles, as a direct response to Frank Miller’s gritty style of comics, The Tick was an absurdist beacon of sunshine that defined Saturday morning in the ’90s, and became a live action cult classic right before 9/11.

Having considered all of that we have to ask ourselves: did this reboot work? Is it necessary? A beacon of mighty blue hope for troubled times? Well chums, I’m ecstatic to say that the new series is pretty much perfect. The characters have been updated fantastically, the superhero parodies are hilarious, and that core Tick/Arthur relationship is lovely. So let me say here in this paragraph, go watch it!

And now I will make with some light spoilers, so don’t read on unless you’re caught up.

[Read more]

The Tick Reboot Gives Us the Hero We Need

Is the world ready for a Post-Watchmen version of the Tick? Honestly, I didn’t think I was, but Amazon’s new reboot of The Tick won me over by the end of the pilot. When I saw the first images of Peter Serafinowicz in the suit I was apprehensive. I loved the original live-action version of The Tick, because it was distinct from the comic and cartoon, but just as funny. And Patrick Warburton’s suit, bright blue and obviously plastic, looked cartoony in a way that fit with the show’s tone, and provided a solid connection to the look of the animated series. But that first shot of Serafinowicz? The suit looked weird. It looked like a suit. I had visions of uncanny valleys dancing in my head.

I’m happy to say that, at least in the opening episode, The Tick makes the suit work. And it makes everything about the show work by embracing and then oh-so-gently mocking the current gritty superhero landscape.

[Read more]

Giving History a Better Ending: Marvel, Terrorism, and the Aftermath of 9/11

I’m going to state that the idea of being crushed beneath a building is fundamentally different for New Yorkers than for most USians. People’s minds go to different places based on what they fear. In Florida, I feared tornadoes and hurricanes in the way that Californians fear earthquakes and Hawaiians fear tsunamis. Now I live in New York (and work in a historic building no less) and I fear building collapses in that same way—a dull throb behind all of my conscious thought, occasionally bubbling up into a nightmare.

It’s this aspect of New York that has marked the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and set it apart from the DCU. Marvel is New York. As was said over and over again at the Defenders SDCC 2017 panel, New York is another character in the MCU. As was made clear by Spider-Man: Homecoming, changes to the city itself reverberate through the lives of its characters. In a way that the DCU, with its fictional cities, can never match, New York’s (real and fictional) buildings are the skeleton of the MCU. And that skeleton has been permanently marked by 9/11/01, and the ongoing fight against terrorism in the world. I would argue that it’s this aspect that gives the MCU films a dimension of emotional resonance that transcends their status as popcorn movies.

This post contains spoilers for the entire MCU, the Netflix/Marvel productions, the Spider-Man Trilogy, the Amazing Spider-Man Duology, and The first two X-Men films.

[Read more]

How Can We Make the Good Omens TV Series Even More Perfect?

The adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens is picking up steam! We already have the perfect Crowley and Aziraphale (in case you didn’t know, it’s DAVID TENNANT AND MICHAEL SHEEN), but that’s just the beginning of the casting process. We have some suggestions for the rest of the adult characters—we’re not casting the kids ’cause kids are hard. They just… grow up, and change rapidly, and then your perfect ensemble cast is destroyed. Let us know what you think of our ideas, and make more suggestions in the comments!

[Read more]

Finding Your Way in the World: Kiki’s Delivery Service and Whisper of the Heart

Studio Ghibli is known for making coming-of-age films, and for films with complex female characters, but there are two in particular, made 6 years apart, exemplify these traits better than any of their other work. One is considered an all-time classic, while the other is a lesser known gem. One gives us an alternate world full of magic and flight, while the other stays purely grounded in this world. But taken together, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Whisper of the Heart celebrate the single-minded passion of the artist, and the need for young women especially to ignore societal pressures in order to create their own destinies.

[Read more]

Diana Wynne Jones Subverted Fantasy Even as She Celebrated It

Diana Wynne Jones never quite took her fantasies seriously. Any time she had the chance to subvert your expectations of the brooding Byronic wizard, or the master enchanter, or the fantasy kingdom wracked by war, she took it. Taken as a whole, her books act as both a love letter and a critique to the Fantasy genre.

Born this day in 1934, she was raised by parents (both professional teachers) who neglected their children, remained emotionally distant, and only provided their three girls one book a year to share between them. What might have fostered resentment instead led Wynne Jones to be self-reliant: she made up for their lack of books by making up her own stories.

[Read More]

Series: On This Day

The Horror of Home Ownership: Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It

Obviously the best haunted house novels are not about ghosts. The best ones are about, for instance, the constricted role of women in US society in the 1950s (The Haunting of Hill House), the constricted role of women in US society in the 1890s (The Turn of the Screw), the horror of slavery (Beloved), the trap of capitalism (The Family Plot). The cool thing about Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It is that she knows that we know that, and introduces us to what the book is really about almost immediately. Then she scares the hell out of us anyway.

So what is it about? A young couple, Julie and James, decide to leave city life for a suburban home. James is in therapy for a gambling addiction that drained his personal back account, and was just about to nibble at the couple’s joint account; Julie suggests a move both to head this inevitability off and to give them a fresh start.

This… does not go as planned.

[Read more]

Series: Genre in the Mainstream

Fables for the Modern Age: Osama Alomar’s The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories

As a writer, fables have always eluded me. I am not a pious person, but when I try to write a fable, I try so hard to make it meaningful that it comes out pious, pretentious, overwrought. Osama Alomar does not have that problem. His book, The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories, is a delicate, sometimes hilarious, and often starkly heartbreaking collection of modern fables. Alomar worked with C.J. Collins to translate his Arabic stories into English, and while some of them seem like they could be from land in any time, others like “The God of Virtues” dive into hypermodern questions—“What if Satan joined Facebook?”—and many wrestle, either directly or obliquely, with the ravages of war.

No matter the topic, however, Alomar manages the trick I never can: his parables are never didactic. They’re warm, human, occasionally terrifying, but at no point do you feel the author sitting you down to deliver wisdom. These fables are jewels, each facet showing you a different corner of humanity.

[Read more]

Finding Horror in the Details: Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Yoko Ogawa has been gifting Japan with dark, obsessive fiction for over thirty years, but only some of her work in currently available in English. Ogawa’s debut The Breaking of the Butterfly won the 1988 1988 Kaien literary Prize, and since then she’s written a number of bestselling and award-winning novels and short stories, two of which were adapted into films. In 2006, she teamed up with a mathematician, Masahiko Fujiwara to write a non-fiction work about the beauty of numbers titled An Introduction to the World’s Most Elegant Mathematics. She won 2008’s Shirley Jackson Award for Best Collection for The Diving Pool.

Revenge, which came out in 1998 in Japan, was translated into English by Stephen Snyder in 2013. It’s what’s referred to as “a collection of linked short stories”—but here the links tend to be macabre hinges that hint at a darker and far more frightening world than what we see on the page.

[Read more]

“I Knew I Could Rely on Thor!” Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Gives us a Sneak Peek of Season 2

The first season of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency turned out to be a delightful surprise, and this Season 2 preview clip already has us excited for the show’s return!

Max Landis’ adaptation of Douglas Adams’ book took some genuinely weird turns, but remained grounded in human emotion…for the most part. This clip seems to show us the aftermath of Season One’s cliffhanger ending, so beware of spoilers!

[Read more]

The Expanse Promises War in Season 3!

Entertainment Weekly Executive Editor Dalton Ross moderated a panel for Syfy’s The Expanse at San Diego Comic-Con, with actors Stephen Strait, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Cas Anvar, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Frankie Adams, and Executive Producer Mark Fergus. The conversation ranged from love to war, and they announced a new cast member! Elizabeth Mitchell, late of Lost, V, and Once Upon a Time, will join the cast and bring a “spiritual perspective” to the series.

Click through for more highlights from the panel!

[Read more]

Be Thrilled by the New Trailer For Stranger Things 2!

The trailer for Stranger Things Season 2 has doubled down on the ’80s nostalgia, with prominent turns from Dragon’s Lair, Ronald Reagan, and Mr. Vincent Price. Obviously the kids ain’t afraid of no ghosts after what happened to them last season, so this trailer sees them donning Ghostbusters costumes for Halloween and capturing…something…in their trap. And no, Will Byers can’t quite shake what happened to him.

Click through for the full clip!

[Read more]