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Stubby the Rocket

Our Favorite SFF Spins on Jack the Ripper

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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Traumatic Moments From SFF We Watched as Children

Movies and TV shows aimed at children are always a delicate mix of cutesy innocence and potentially weighty subject matter—kids might get bored of endless sunshine without any conflict, but go too dark and you risk mauling delicate sensibilities, Return to Oz-style. And kid-friendly SFF can be tricky to navigate for even the most well-meaning guardian, after all what harm could be lurking in a puppet-filled fantasy adventure? Of course, there are also the traumatic moments we inflicted upon ourselves, staying up late only to peep at the screen through our fingers. Even if you had a storybook childhood, the odds are low that you escaped without being emotionally sideswiped by an intense moment or two…

We’ve polled our extended Tor.com family, and gathered up the moments that shaped us into the warped creatures we are today.

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17 Factual and Fictional Books About Space Exploration

The Space Race encapsulates both the best and the worst of aspects of U.S. history. On the one hand, there is humanity’s drive to learn and explore. All space programs have no choice but to celebrate the wonders of mathematics, physics, and engineering. (To put this into ’80s film terms: no matter how jock-ish an image an astronaut wants to put forth, it’s still nerds who get us into space.) Space exploration doesn’t just raise the possibility that humanity will find new homes across the galaxy, but it also leaves technological innovation in its wake.

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6 SFF Characters Who Commune With Animals

If you’ve ever felt a connection to a favorite animal friend—an adorable pet hamster, a beloved dog, or the nervous possum who lives under your porch but will sit just outside of the circle of porchlight on summer evenings while you watch fireflies and nurse a beer—you know there’s something magical about it.

Fantasy fiction often makes this magic explicit, in the form of characters who can speak more or less directly to creatures great and small—we’ve gathered up a few of our favorite animal lovers (and their familiars) below. We know we’re barely scratching the surface, so if we missed your favorite, come howl about them in the comments!

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9 Fascinating Spaceship Societies

We often dream of traveling to other worlds, but what if space is your world? What if the ship you live on and the walls that contain you are the only society you’ve ever been exposed to? Science fiction is full of great big rockets that function like planets—transplanting the best and often the very worst of their homeworlds to the stars—and shepherd civilizations among the stars. Here are some of the most thought-provoking examples that we can’t stop wondering about.

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8 Twists on Classic Gothic Stories

Here at Tor.com we love a good Gothic. The spooky houses that seem to have personalities of their own, the sinister men with murky pasts, the plucky heroines fighting against all the creepiness to learn the truth or find love or just get the hell off this storm-toss’t windswept cliff already. While traditional Gothic tales are often based in white, Euro-centric Romanticism, some 20th and 21st Century authors have remixed classic Gothic elements to lovingly tell stories about people of color, queer people, and women who want to write their own narratives rather than just being the madwoman in some dude’s attic.

Join us for sun-baked Australian tales, a story that swaps the moors for Mexico, and the book that as far as we’re concerned still stands as The Great American Novel, and tell us about your favorite Gothic tales in the comments!

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Chilly Winter Books to Read by a Roaring Fire

With many parts of the U.S trudging through one of the snowiest months on record, you may find yourself settling down beneath the blankets with a mug of something hot and a good book or three. Some prefer to escape in fantasies of deserts and warmth, but we’re doubling down this season with a list of wintry reads featuring frozen tundras, majestic ice castles, and at least one magical wardrobe…

Bundle up and read on, and please let us know if we missed your favorites in the comments!

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23 Modern SFF Twists on Familiar 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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14 of Our Favorite Groundhog Day-Style Time Loops in SFF

The now-classic Groundhog Day flirts with (and breaks) the rules of multiple movie genres: romantic comedy, time travel narrative, small town dramedy, spiritual redemption tale—and it’s also given birth to an entire subgenre of its own. The “Groundhog Day episode” is a mainstay of many television series, and the plot even pops up in films, novels, and short fiction. It’s a fun way to play with established characters, putting your faves through the emotional wringer while trying to solve a murder or stop a crime. And it can be an equally effective tool for riffing on entire genre tropes; mixing in high school drama, slasher horror, or other well-worn genres can lead to some fascinating mashups. And in (almost) all cases, the protagonist stuck in the time loop comes out on the other side all the better.

We’ve compiled a list of our favorite Groundhog Day riffs and the most memorable time loops in SFF. Take a break from listening to “I Got You Babe” for the nth time and check out these 14 recursive tales.

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Eight of Our Favorite In-Universe Superfans

It’s safe to assume that if you’re here on this site you’re a huge fan of something. Maybe it’s Brandon Sanderson’s writing, or V.E. Schwab’s. Maybe it’s DC Comics, or Marvel’s Netflix shows. Maybe it’s all things Star Wars, or maybe it’s the sci-fi genre as a whole. Fandoms can be enriching, they can be found families, they can be outlets of boundless creativity.

And one of of our very favorite things in modern pop culture is that after many years of fans being derided for being too nerdy or even creepy, many films and TV shows have started including characters that are themselves fans, to create a meta Greek chorus.

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Seven Flying Fantasy Creatures (That Aren’t Dragons)

When it comes to fantasy creatures, we feel like dragons get all the credit. And we get it, they’re flashy and scaly and there’s fire-breathing and they have unnerving laughs, but they aren’t the only awesome flying buddies around. Just being able to fly is impressive enough, right? Right??

It seemed like a good moment to pause and give a little love to our favorite non-dragon air steeds. Here they are…

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All the Stuff That Brought Us Nerdy Joy in 2020

Wow, 2020! Sure has been a…wait. It’s only been a year? And it’s not even over yet?? Are you serious???

This can’t be right.

Whatever. Sorry. We here at Tor.com have looked back through this terrible glacial age of a year, and found the nerdy moments that shone as diamonds in a sea of dross. Our joy came in unexpected ways—from celebrity sourdough starters to Oscar Isaac’s magnificent beard to rage-fueled Umbrella Academy members—but we were grateful for each precious drop of serotonin. Are we whistling in the dark? Possibly. But couldn’t it also be argued that, in times like this, we have more need than ever to find brightness, and life, and hope?

Some of us happen do that through geeky pop culture.

So please enjoy this list, and please tell us about your own moments of nerdy joy in the comments!

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