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Leah Schnelbach

Incredibles 2 is a GREAT Action Movie, with an Even Greater Message

I don’t know if Disney•Pixar’s Incredibles 2 is the best superhero movie this year (I mean, Black Panther) but it is the first time this year that as I walked through the theater to leave, I seriously considered ducking into the 10pm showing and watching it all over again immediately. It also has the greatest action I’ve ever seen in a super hero movie—the only thing that even comes close is the opening of X2, with Nightcrawler bamfing through the White House. The action sequences are breathtaking in the sense that I literally held my breath during a couple of them. And again, as a hardbitten, cynical movie critic I tend to spend my movie time watching myself watch the movie, gauging audience reactions, analyzing themes. Here I was just…happy.

And yet! There were also enough messy, contradictory ideas built into the film that I was able to think about it, too.

Before we go below the cut: The first few paragraphs of this review are non-spoiler, but I do go into a bit more depth later on. I’ll warn you before we get into spoiler territory. Also, and more important: there are flashing lights and hypnotic screens in the film that might be triggering if you have epilepsy, so please be cautious if you need to.
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Existentialism in SPAAAAACE: The Expanse, “Dandelion Sky”

This was a surprisingly talky episode of The Expanse! “Dandelion Sky” touched on free will, determinism, the nature of consciousness, the nature of fear…there was a lot going on as our intrepid space people drew ever closer to The Ring. There are spoilers below, obviously, but also a content warning as I’ll be talking about suicide, specifically how it was depicted in this episode, so if you need to tread carefully or simply not read that part I’ll drop another warning in when we get there. (And if you haven’t seen the episode yet, note that it shows a suicide, in a blunt, graphic scene, so if that’s something you don’t want in your head, just read a recap for this one.)

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How Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice Avoids the Dreaded Infodump

For this post I’m going to slap my editor’s hat on, adjust it until its angle achieves jauntiness, and talk about the bane of my editorial existence! So many times I begin reading a story, full of hope for what’s to come, only to be met with a wall of bland facts, pale character introductions, narrators who want to introduce me to everyone they’ve ever met before they’ve even introduced themselves, or even…genealogies. As a writer, I completely understand this urge: you love your characters. You’ve spent time creating a world, deciding everything from the color of its sky to what your characters eat for second breakfast—naturally you want to stuff all of this knowledge into your reader’s eyeballs as quickly as possible. Unfortunately this can very easily become an infodump—per TV Tropes: “exposition that is particularly long or wordy”—and speaking as en editor, infodumps are the worst.

In the interest of slaying this monster, I’m going to walk you through the opening pages of Ann Leckie’s Hugo Award-winning Ancillary Justice—which gives the reader the perfect amount of info, without becoming too dumpy.

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Bursting Space Bubbles: The Expanse, “Intransigence”

So THAT’S Melba’s deal. Well I should have guessed that! I feel so silly now.

This week’s episode of The Expanse, “Intransigence,” continued the dangerous trajectory the Roci started last week. It tied some loose threads together, gave me one of my favorite scenes yet, and set up what I’m guessing will be an absolutely terrifying hour of television next week.

Join me in spoiler territory!

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How to Talk About Punk and Sex and Evolution and True Love: John Cameron Mitchell’s How to Talk to Girls at Parties

Is there anyone more earnest than a punk? In all the universe the only people who feel things more than punks are, maybe, kids in love for the first time. John Cameron Mitchell’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” understands this, and squeezes every drop of heartfelt, un-ironic, anguished emotion by combining these two forces into a movie about a young punk’s first love. In Mitchell’s hands, this eerie short story is transformed into a weird, day-glo, feminist, queer-as-hell movie that only he could have made.

This film is not for everyone, but if you love it, you’ll really love it.

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Ghosts, Bombs, and Rings! The Expanse: “It Reaches Out”

Holy crap did all of last week’s set up pay off for The Expanse! The week’s episode, “It Reaches Out,” wound tighter and tighter until a final ten minutes of action that made me want next week’s installment RIGHT NOW.

But alas, I’ll have to wait. Can I just mention how happy I am that this show is going to keep going after this season? Because I want all the seasons.

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Fifty-One Portals to the Future, in Story Form: Gigantic Worlds

I’ve been meaning to read Gigantic Worlds for two years, and I’m so glad I finally got to it! A 2015 collection of science flash fiction, Gigantic Worlds is assembled by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto (full disclosure: I know both of them, and they’re great) and published by Gigantic Books, a spinoff of Gigantic magazine. The variety here is frankly astonishing, and reminded me of just how cornucopic SFF is: I could get lost in the story of a man-eating Skin Monster on one page, and on the next, read about an eerily prophetic automated fortune teller.

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Interstellar Ring Cycle — The Expanse: “Delta V”

This week’s episode of The Expanse, “Delta V,” shook up its usual storytelling style to jolt us into a new plotline. I think it worked well, although it did take me a few minutes to catch up—I’m guessing those of you who have read the books were on firmer footing.

But we got some fantastic shake up, a gruesome special effects setpiece, and a couple of my favorite Amos scenes so far.

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I’m Your Venus, I’m Your Fire—The Expanse: “Immolation”

The Expanse may have been cancelled, but we still have seven episodes left! And I for one am still hoping that if enough of the audience watches the show live (gasp!) and tweets along, either Syfy itself or a Streaming God will hear our pleas. This week’s episode, “Immolation,” gave us some amazing action, a few resolutions, and—dare I say it?—at least one happy ending.

At least, it’s happy for now.

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Post-Apocalyptic Roadtrip to Nowhere: Philip K. Dick and Roger Zelazny’s Deus Irae

Thus far I’ve liked most of the books I’ve read for TBR, and even found things to admire in books I didn’t exactly enjoy, like Anna Kavan’s Ice. This one, though…I respect what it was trying to do? I found the basic plot fascinating. But I don’t tihnk I can actually recommend reading Deus Irae as anything other than a record of a very different time in SFF.

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Always Beta Test Your Mutiny! The Expanse: “Triple Point”

This is an all-space episode—don’t look for Earth, cause you won’t find it. Also, after several character building episodes, “Triple Point” is just action and tension alllll the way down. There are three threads: The UNN Agatha King menaces the Martian ship Hammurabi, and they, along with the Pinus Contorta crew, converge over Io. Meanwhile Jules-Pierre Mao and Dr. Strickland work on their nefarious plot below.

Come talk about it with us, won’t you?

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Aftermath in SPAAAACE! The Expanse: “Reload”

This week’s episode of The Expanse, “Reload,” was another connective tissue episode. There were a few spikes of pure action, but for the most part this episode was about the ever-cascading consequences of “IFF.”

Plus, spoiler alert: Errinwright still hasn’t been kicked in the shins. What the heck, show? Hurry up and kick that jerk already.

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Unstuck in Time: Andrew Sean Greer’s The Confessions of Max Tivoli

Welcome to TBR Stack! As of last week, this column is one whole year old! And speaking as someone who is terrible at both commitment and deadlines, I’m pretty proud of this fact, hence the exclamation points.

Realizing that I’ve been at this for a year has also made me think a whole lot about time, and it’s passage. I’ve been meaning to read Andrew Sean Greer for a while now, and since he just won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction last week for his comic novel Less, I figured that was a great excuse to dive into an earlier work of his that carefully walks the litfic/specfic divide. The Confessions of Max Tivoli follows the life of a man who ages backwards through time. He’s born with the mind of an infant but the body of a wizened 70-year-old, and as he simultaneously ages and de-ages, he and his family have to decide how to create a life for a person who will be forever out of step with society.

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Avengers: Infinity War is a Reminder that Pop Culture Won’t Save Us

Many people have been name-checking Empire Strikes Back in their comments on Avengers: Infinity War. But as I left the theater this weekend, I found myself thinking about The Last Jedi, and… Frodo? I will talk about Infinity War a lot but I have to work through a couple of points about pop culture heroism in general first, so come along with me on a journey through multiple franchises, won’t you?

(SPOILERS for Avengers: Infinity War and The Last Jedi.)

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Can We All Just Agree to Ignore the Biggest Threat in the Universe? The Expanse: “Assured Destruction”

OK show, I have but one request: can Pastor Anna kick Errinwright in the shins next week?

This week’s episode of The Expanse, “Assured Destruction,” gave us the War Room of the UN, the protomolecule labs on Io, and two different hints that Amos has the most interesting backstory of anyone on the show. It also featured two of the Game of Thrones-iest sequences yet. But before I get into that, a quick recap.

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