Tor.com content by

Leah Schnelbach

Hannibal and Steven Universe Are the Same Show

Since Hannibal hit Netflix last month, a lot of people have been discovering it for the first time, while others are using it as a convenient excuse for a rewatch. I saw a fellow Tor co-worker refer to it as comfort television, and was started to realize I agree. This is a brilliant, difficult, graphically violent show about serial killing, but yes, watching it is relaxing.

A day later I saw a discussion about works of art that define different eras, with the poster positing that Hamilton was the defining work of the Obama era. That made me wonder about the defining works of our current era, and the more I let the question jangle through my brainmeat the more I came back to Hannibal—although the show is a few years old (originally airing 2013-15), it seems to be coming into its own now in a way it never did while it was on NBC. But the more I thought about, a second answer bobbed to the surface, and revealed a startling truth: The defining works of art of this era tell the same story, and those two works are Hannibal and Steven Universe.

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The Terror of Identity: I Hold a Wolf by the Ears by Laura van den Berg

Laura van den Berg gave us an unsettling novel of existential horror and grief with 2018’s The Third Hotel. Now she’s back with an excellent, similarly unsettling short story collection, I Hold A Wolf by the Ears, that grabs readers by the hand and leads them through stories of sisterhood, abandonment, natural disaster, and the hatred and horror that lie at the center of a society that is stacked against women.

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If You Love Bill and Ted, You Have Richard Matheson to Thank

When writers Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson began playing two characters named Bill and Ted, it was mostly as a fun improv exercise. It was Chris Matheson’s dad, Richard Matheson, the author of I Am Legend, Hell House, What Dreams May Come, and many, many other amazing stories, who told them they could “make a whole movie” around the pair.

This revelation startled me, and it seemed to surprise moderator Kevin Smith as well! Smith opened the Most Excellent Comic-Con Panel for Bill & Ted Face the Music by nodding to Bill and Ted’s status as a comedy team that inspired his own Jay and Silent Bob, and went on to say that he got to watch B&TFM to prep for the panel, and that he spent the last half hour of the movie bawling because it was a “transcendent” experience. You can watch the whole charming panel with writers Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson, cast Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, and William Sadler, and director Dean Parisot (who also did Galaxy Quest holy crap!!!) here, or hop down for a few highlights!

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Keanu Reeves Talks About the Joys of Being Choked by Tilda Swinton at the Constantine 15th Reunion Panel!

Constantine is 15 years old! It has a learner’s permit! San Diego Comic-Con At Home hosted a delightful conversation between star Keanu Reeves, director Francis Lawrence (it was his first movie! Who does that???), producer Akiva Goldsman, and Collider’s EIC Steven Weintraub. You can watch the video or click through for some highlights!

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Celebrate George Romero’s Legacy and His Epic Novel The Living Dead

George A. Romero was one of our greatest writers and filmmakers and he shaped modern cinema as we know it. One of his best-known innovations was the creation of a new kind of zombie aesthetic. With Night of the Living Dead, Romero took the idea of the zombie (so often used by white filmmakers to cast Black characters and culture as monstrous) and reshaped them into a rich story about class bias and the evils of white supremacy—that also happened to be a perfect, bone-rattlingly scary movie.

While Romero worked in many genre, he returned to zombie stories again and again. One of his projects, an epic novel about the zombie apocalypse that was unfinished at the time of his death, but now completed and shaped by author Daniel Kraus. The Living Dead, will be available from Tor Books on August 4th. As part of San Diego Comic-Con At Home, film scholar and journalist Richard Newby spoke with Kraus and Romero’s partner, Suzanne Desrocher-Romero, about the novel and Romero’s legacy.

You can watch the full panel, or head below for highlights from the conversation.

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“I am not a hero. I don’t relate to heroes.” Charlize Theron Discusses Her Action Career

In the wake of Netflix’s The Old Guard, San Diego Comic-Con rightly decided to celebrate Charlize Theron’s career in bad-assery. Theron joined IGN’s Terri Schwartz for a fun Q&A on the importance of Ripley, using fear as a motivator, and out-driving Mark Wahlberg.

Watch the whole conversation here, or skip down for highlights!

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Horror is Queer at San Diego Comic-Con (And Everywhere Else)

Sometimes a Comic-Con panel goes beyond being fun and becomes inspirational. The panel for Shudder’s upcoming Horror is Queer documentary did just that, as the panelists dug into the joys and terrors of being weird, queer, and creative. Writer Jordan Crucchiola moderated the conversation between the documentary’s director, Sam Wineman, Nay Bever, co-host of the podcast Attack of the Queerwolf (which, let’s face it, is the best name a podcast has ever had), Lachlan Watson, most recently seen as Theo Putnam on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Don Mancini, creator of the Child’s Play franchise (who described himself as Chucky’s agent), and Bryan Fuller, who went ahead and made the subtext text on Hannibal. They talked about formative horror experiences, and attempted to define exactly what we mean when we talk about queerness and horror.

You can watch the full panel here, or hop down to read highlights from the panel.

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Language and Code Switching in Kai Ashante Wilson’s The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps

It’s a question every writer asks as they begin work: how do I build my world? How do I create a universe teeming with life, vibrancy, heartache and hope, rather than a flat set filled with cardboard cutouts? One of the best, most immediate ways is to imbue your story with unique language. This technique has been used by many classics of SFF, but my favorite recent example is The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson.

I already loved his story “The Devil in America,” published here on Tor.com in. And when I read Stories for Chip, a collection of fiction and essays honoring Samuel R. Delany, I was really taken with Wilson’s inventive contribution, “Legendaire.” But now, in Wildeeps, he’s added an extraordinary voice to the Sword and Sorcery subgenre.

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23 Retellings of Classic Stories From SFF Authors

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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Jack the Ripper Is Probably the SFF Killer You’re Looking For

People love an unsolved mystery—especially one far enough in the past as to allow wild speculation. Has there been a case that’s invited more outlandish theories than Jack the Ripper’s? The combination of grotesque details, gaslit setting, creaky conspiracy theories, and the eerie suddenness of the murders onset and ending have all lead to hundreds of retellings. Some of the most interesting have been stories that careened straight into the uncanny, giving us Jacks who can travel through time, haunt bridges, and possess wax figures.

Perhaps the writers of the tales below couldn’t bring themselves to believe that such a monstrous man was entirely human? Whatever the root of the fascination, we’ve stalked the Ripper straight out of the alleys of Whitechapel and into these eight SFF tales.

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A Few of Our Favorite Angels in Fantasy Fiction

Angels are a natural fit for SFF. In appearance they can range from the most shocking beauty to the utter grotesquerie. They are conduits between one plane of reality and another, tasked with trying to help very different species understand each other. (What is an angelic encounter but a first contact story?) And according to some traditions, they have their own high drama built right in, a tale of celestial war, a fall from grace, and a new and terrible kingdom forever building itself as a monument to horror.

See? Pretty dramatic. I’m not going to retell that story, though, that’s too much drama even for me. Instead I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite angels from books, film, and even video games. Come add yours in the comments!

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We Have Always Lived in a Horror Movie: Shirley

I suppose it was inevitable that Shirley Jackson star in a horror movie. She did, after all, write “The Lottery”—the one piece of rural horror that almost every child in the U.S. reads before high school—and what may be the greatest haunted house story of all time, The Haunting of Hill House. When she wrote a bestselling domestic memoir she didn’t call it Life with Father or I Remember Mama or anything so saccharine, she went with the title Raising Demons. When “The Lottery” caused a sensation and interview requests poured in she told reporters she was a witch—sometimes, she meant it. So it makes sense that in 2014 author Susan Scarf Merrell cast her as a rather sinister presence in a psychological horror novel, Shirley. Now filmmaker Josephine Decker has adapted the novel into a movie with Elisabeth Moss perfectly cast as Jackson, Michael Stuhlbarg bringing his own brand of creepiness as her professor/lit critic husband, Stanley Hyman, and Logan Lerman and Odessa Young as Fred and Rose Nemser, the fresh-faced couple that comes to live with the Jackson-Hymans.

This is a non-spoiler review, but I can’t imagine it’s a spoiler to say that things do not go well.

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Definitively Ranking Every MST3K Short

Compared to most cult-inspiring TV shows, MST3K is a shambling beast. They’re all two hours long! And if you’re trying to watch with an opinionated group of viewers—say your family and friends at Thanksgiving—you have to navigate which host to go with, whether TV’s Frank is there, Corbett vs. Beaulieu vs. Yount… it gets complicated. The best way I’ve found to avoid all of those issues is to go with the shorts. They’re quick, the hosts don’t matter as much, and they’re so deeply weird that they make for a pure, concentrated does of MST3K. And so I present, this definitive wholly subjective ranking of almost every short!

My hope is that this list helps you, yes you, better enjoy—and maybe induct some new members into—the greatest pop cultural cult of all time.

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What If I Told You John Wick Was a Portal Fantasy

The first John Wick begins as a film we’ve seen many times before. A hitman has retired. He was drawn into “normal” life by love, and for a while he had a house in a suburb, drove his car at legal speeds, and went for romantic walks with his wife. The two of them probably had a takeout night, and a favorite Netflix series. But, as in all of these kinds of movies, the normal life is a short-lived idyll, violence begets violence, and the hitman is Pulled Back In.

The thing that makes Wick so beautiful is that what he gets Pulled Back Into is not the standard revenge fantasy. Instead being Pulled Back In means literally entering another world, hidden within pockets of our own. Because in addition to being a great action movie, John Wick is a portal fantasy.

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