Spider-Man's Alter Ego, the Night Monkey, Gets the Official Trailer He Damn Well Deserves @ io9

When the whole Spider-Man controversy went down, one of the most common jokes was that Marvel should make a Night Monkey movie. After all, the Night Monkey was just Spider-Man in a different costume. No one would ever notice! That makes the below trailer, coincidental or not, even better than it already is.

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This levitating, self-solving Rubik’s Cube doesn’t need people — or gravity @ Syfy Wire

1p>Years and years after we’d already given up on ever becoming the kind of commonplace brainiacs who can solve a lowly puzzle like the Rubik’s Cube, along came the self-solving version in 2018, just to freshen up our half-forgotten, long-repressed sense of failure. 

Well, the self-solving Rubik’s Cube 2.0 is now here to revive our self-loathing all over again, and this time it just feels downright mean. Not only can this new version do everything the old one can; it can do it while literally levitating in space! And beyond having a human hand to scramble it and place the geometric brain teaser over its conductive field, it doesn’t need people at all.

Human Controller on YouTube

The magic self-resolving puzzle comes courtesy of Japanese YouTuber Human Controller, who first introduced the world to the gravity-bound version late last year. To create a cube that can self-align all 54 of those little colored squares into nice, neat rows, the original cube used a 3D-printed, motor-driven mechanism tucked out of sight in the puzzle’s core. 

The new, improved levitating cube retains that mechanism, but adds magnets inside the block that repel their polar complements, hidden away inside the magnetic base below. Once the cube’s been scrambled and lightly balanced above the base, all that’s left is to sit back and watch as the servos and magnets work their mesmerizing magic. 

As games intended to occupy and challenge humans go, this may be the first that completely transcends its original reason to exist in the first place. It’s almost ontologically perfect — a puzzle that can solve itself, with no people required, and look mind-bendingly cool while doing it.


Raincoats: The scariest children's garment in horror @ Syfy Wire

1p>Jessica Rabbit's dress, a Handmaid's uniform, and Dorothy's ruby slippers are all instantly recognizable costumes that have a striking color in common. Red can be interpreted in several ways depending on the context, swinging between desire and death. In costume design, it is a purposeful choice that pulls focus toward the person wearing it. It is the color of the cape worn by Little Red Riding Hood, with the garment acting as a predator's beacon. In the 1973 psychological horror film Don't Look Now, the image of a young girl in a red Mackintosh is a repeated symbol which acts as both a reminder and harbinger of doom.

A plastic raincoat of a different primary color is one of the most memorable motifs in both the 1990 TV movie and the recent cinematic adaptation of Stephen King's It. The image of Georgie in yellow is a playful one as he follows his paper boat down the rain-soaked street; what could go wrong? A storm drain encounter with Pennywise transforms this moment from childlike innocence into a Stranger Danger PSA. He is the canary down the coal mine, but instead of noxious gas, his death is far more violent. The color of this jacket is reminiscent of the sacrificial bird, but it is also a traditional color for wet-weather attire that actually dates back to 19th century Scotland.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Costume designers Monique Prudhomme and Janie Bryant didn't pick this shade because it is traditional or pops well on film; instead, they turned to the source material itself: "Dave Gardener, who had stayed home from his job at The Shoeboat that day because of the flood, saw only a small boy in a yellow rain-slicker, a small boy who was screaming and writhing in the gutter with muddy water surfing over his face and making his screams sound bubbly."

The color choice is a direct reference to King's words, as the vivid hue is powerful both in the imagination of the reader and in the visual language of film. Georgie dies wearing this particular coat, so this is how Bill sees his younger brother in his nightmare visions. His brother will never grow up, trapped in his childhood attire for the rest of eternity — and because Bill didn't go out with his sibling into the rain, it will forever haunt him as something he could have prevented.

Nothing bad can happen when you are wearing the color of sunshine, but King takes this expectation and turns it on its head, thereby ruining yellow raincoats for parents everywhere. Pairing this primary color with the red of Pennywise's signature balloon (although Tim Curry's Pennywise favored an array of colors) not only makes for a strong motif throughout the movie, but it also delivers two distinct marketing images.

Credit: British Lion Films 

A colorful children's raincoat should light up a dreary afternoon, but between It and Don't Look Now, it is stained with death. Christine Baxter is playing outside her family's English country family home after a downpour. Her entire outfit, aside from her boots, is red: a plastic macintosh coat, tights, plaid skirt, and turtleneck. She is instantly visible across the skyline as her brother cycles nearby.

Her parents, Laura and John, are inside the house; John is casually doing work on this relaxing Sunday afternoon. He restores old churches and is going through slides taken in Venice. An image of a figure clad in a red overcoat strikes him as odd, the hood is up so there are no identifying markers.

Credit: British Lion Films 

Suddenly he bolts upright and runs out of the house toward the pond, in which Christine has dropped her red and white ball. She has fallen while trying to retrieve it; despite the beacon-like color of her coat, it feels like an eternity before he finds her. When he finally does, it is too late. The image of Sutherland howling at the air with his daughter dressed all in red is an indelible moment in cinema.

Credit: British Lion Films 

A little girl in a red coat representing death is also used to great effect in Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, with flashes of color breaking through the monochrome palette. The impact of that choice emphasizes the horrors of a real event, ensuring the audience can't look away at that moment.

In Don't Look Now, director Nicolas Roeg and costume designer Andrea Galer don't strip the rest of the characters of this color. John's scarf, the psychic sisters' socks, and the mysterious figure in Venice all wear this shade. A lot of the Venice scenes take place in churches; everything from the stained glass windows to the drapery is crimson. Contemporary adverts on the walls, bathroom scales, and the clothes of several background actors are all in this particular primary color wheelhouse. It is as if there are reminders of Christine everywhere.

Credit: British Lion Films  

The two sisters who claim they can see Christine describe her outfit in convincing detail, but unlike Bill's vision of Georgie, this reveal is met with great happiness by Laura. It is not a nightmare for Laura to imagine their daughter is sitting between them in this Venice restaurant. However, John cannot get on board with what he believes is a ludicrous story, despite the accuracy.

When John chases after the small figure in the film's tense climax, it is as if he is attempting to make up for not getting to his daughter in time. In a city surrounded by water, Venice holds up a mirror to the Baxter family tragedy — except John can't save Christine and he definitely can't save himself as he has ignored every warning that has been thrown in his direction; rather, he runs toward death with reckless abandon.

Credit: British Lion Films 

Red is the color of danger and yet John doesn't see it as a warning, but a signal his wife is right about their daughter still being with them. As with Christine and the pond, he is too late and the red that soaks the screen is his blood. The killer dwarf is dressed similarly to his daughter, but this version of Little Red Riding Hood sees the victim falling foul of this disguise. Venice has been plagued by a serial killer, but no profiler could've foreseen this outcome.

Since It and Don't Look Now cornered the colorful raincoat market there has been some notable nods to both. In Now and Then (1995), there is an encounter with a storm drain that almost ends in tragedy, but the figure the kids are scared of swoops in and saves the day. Teeny's screams for help are answered, but her yellow slicker ensures that "Crazy Pete" can actually find her through the downpour.

Credit: Netflix

More recently, Eleven and Max showcased bright raincoat style during a rain scene in Season 3 of Stranger Things. In "The Case of the Missing Lifeguard," the teens ride their bikes through the miserable weather to find Heather, the lifeguard they think is missing. When they turn up at the Holloway home in rather dramatic fashion, Eleven uses her abilities to open the front door, which frames the teens and their bold coats in the doorway. It is a badass image that gives power back to a garment associated with child death. They are walking into a dangerous environment, but leave unscathed before cycling off in the rain.

A raincoat is meant to protect from the elements, a colorful raincoat ensures a person is visible. In Don't Look Now and It, the latter is devastatingly accurate. This garment can't protect them from accidental drowning or killer clowns; instead, it is a bold symbol of the guilt their loved ones must endure until they can face their own literal demons.

Read This Fanfiction: Commaful's slideshow fanfic is the future of the art form @ Syfy Wire

1p>Welcome to Read This Fanfiction. Once a digest, now a deep dive into the world of fan-created written works. Join us twice a month as we examine authors, platforms, trends, scandals, and more from every corner of the fanfiction universe.

From snail-mailed newsletters and zines to Yahoo Groups to LiveJournal to Dreamwidth and Fanfiction.net, fanfiction has had many homes over the years. With the rise of Hugo Award-winning Archive of Our Own, many migrated there, with its dedication to protecting fanfiction writers and astounding tagging system. While AO3 may be the big platform for fanfic these days, it's not the only one. People are finding other ways to post and present their fics, and one such platform doing it quite a bit differently from any other site is Commaful.

Founded by Sydney Liu and Ryan Choi, Commaful came about as a reaction to their friends only skimming their writing and as an experiment to see if presenting work in a more visual manner would be more compelling for those with short attention spans. Spoiler: It worked.

Hundreds of thousands of monthly readers and over 100,000 pieces of original written work and fanfiction later, Commaful has quickly grown to be a force of nature in its own right.

Credit: cory14 | Commaful

Commaful uses slideshows to showcase the original writing, poetry, and fanfiction of its users and community. Liu and Choi call it "multimedia storytelling," but essentially, they're like PowerPoints or picture books. It's a medium that is particularly attractive to younger people, a fact Liu confirms, citing that their userbase is mostly used by those between aged 14 to somewhere in their early 20s.

"However, the site has readers and writers of all ages from senior citizens sharing old war stories to college professors and high school teachers," Liu tells SYFY WIRE. "You'll find pretty much any age over 14 on the site."

It's also geared toward those who may have difficulties reading long chunks of text or don't read or write in a traditional manner. Liu says multiple users have told them they have never read a book outside of school, but find Commaful a lot of fun to use. It's also starting to attract major attention from professionals. Kobe Bryant's new YA novel promoted on the site through exclusive snippets, for example.

"For many people who love having daily writing habits, these short format is a great medium for them to express themselves," Liu explains. "As an example, Steve is a high school Spanish teacher who has written for over 180 days in a row, posting a poem or short story a day."

Fanfiction makes up a leading portion of the works on Commaful, with romance being the leading category (of course). As far as the most popular fandoms, Harry Potter and Star Wars take the lead, unsurprisingly. But what is writing fanfiction on Commaful actually like? What is the community there?

"Many of the most popular fanfiction pieces on the site are short, making drabbles, ficlets, and one-shots very popular on Commaful," Liu explains. "Many fanfic writers get very creative with how they format their stories and bring their fics to life."

Credit: tubass, artizi, atwojay | Commaful

The platform definitely favors shorter stories, given the fast nature of flipping through images and text, but Liu assures that many long-form stories have done very well on the site. As to the format itself, Liu says that it's lead to a number of unique takes on fanfiction.

He cites this Detective Pikachu and Avengers crossover using PowerPoint and the Commaful creator tool and this work wherein the creator partnered with a photographer on Facebook to make a Spider-Man story using adorable Spider-Man toy photos.

Liu really drives home the community aspect of Commaful, claiming it's one of the friendliest around. Comments encourage engagement and interaction, and users can private message one another to brainstorm story ideas, collaborate, and become friends. That said, with a younger audience, the community's moderation rules are extremely important, especially when it comes to harassment and abuse.

"Throughout Commaful’s early days, we have focused on removing destructive feedback and abusive behaviors from the site," Liu says. "Sharing writing publicly is an extremely vulnerable thing to do so we want to make sure people have a safe place to do it." He says there's a "report" feature available to all users and that all reports are reviewed manually. They also have someone monitoring the site, looking for abuse, spam, and other violations.

"We currently hide most mature stories on the site from public view for our younger readers and plan to introduce more complex rating systems in the future to allow for a wider range of audiences and stories to be discovered on the site," Liu says, explaining that right now the tagging system on the site is relatively simple. Creators tag their stories with the fandom and genre, as well as anything else they might find pertinent. People can filter or discover via these tags, and they're working on fandom-specific feeds that feature popular and trending stories.

Credit: Commaful

As an image-heavy platform, Commaful is dedicated to making sure all images are sourced and credited responsibly, working with artists directly for some images and utilizing some built-in partnerships with image providers that automatically attribute images. When a user uploads or uses a photo that isn't attributed, Liu says they take DMCA requests seriously and make sure there's an amicable solution for the creative.

So, what do Liu and Choi want people to get out of Commaful?

"For readers, the hope has always been to provide a place for people to fall in love with great stories, despite busy schedules and tons of distractions," Liu says. "For writers, we hope Commaful will help them stretch their creativity and find new audiences. We’ve been told by a number of writers that the format really pushes them to think in new ways, taking advantage of unique aspects of the format to tell their story. And with unique stories, come unique audiences. With Commaful, we hope people will find the stories fun and less intimidating to start. Easy to fit in during quick breaks or on a commute."

So next time you're on the subway or stuck in line at Starbucks, why don't you swipe on through a piece of fanfiction? You may be surprised at just how fun it is.

Commaful is available online, as well on iOS and an upcoming Android app, which you can currently beta.


Will Game of Thrones win everything? Emmy predictions 2019 @ Syfy Wire

1p>With 32 nominations, is Game of Thrones going to be the fire-breathing beast that takes over the Emmys this year?

SYFY WIRE's Angélique Roché, Jackie Jennings and Adam Swiderski just had a serious discussion on whether that will actually happen (and what kind of chance any other series have when they're up against dragons).

Game of Thrones does seem almost unconquerable, if you ask Angélique, who admitted it wasn't the answer she wanted, but more like the right answer. The GoT fandom reached dizzying heights this year, flying almost as high as one of Daenerys' dragons. There were even limited-edition Game of Thrones Oreos. You know a show is going to score big at any awards show if it earned its own Oreos.

But what about The Good Place, The Handmaid's Tale, Russian Doll and all the other fantastic series in the dragon's shadow?

 

Adam believes it's probably going to be a situation like The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) at the Oscars, where the awards were really given out for the body of work and not just the finale. The actors have proven themselves beyond worthy. You also have to admit that, whether you were dying to find out who got killed off in each episode or couldn't care less, Game of Thrones really did elevate TV.

The Good Place also deserves a mention as the rare genre comedy to make it to the Emmys. They even got into philosophical questions, so with that and the amazing acting (including all the improv) it has a shot.

So what about next year? There will be a serious probably if The Dark Crystal doesn't get a treasure trove of nominations. The Boys is also a kickass contender. Some of the shows Disney+ is coming out with, like The Mandalorian, could possibly get in.

Want to hear more of our speculation? You have to watch to the end!

This article was contributed to by Elizabeth Rayne.

Behind the Panel: Comic book blind spots @ Syfy Wire

1p>Confession is good for the soul, according to the old proverb.

It’s always refreshing to relieve oneself of baggage, no matter how serious or trivial. Why am I talking about this at the start of a comics-centric column? Because today I want to clear my conscience of the burdens I carry. Even though I have been a diehard comics reader for 40+ mostly uninterrupted years, I have a great many comic book blind spots.

What are comic book blind spots, you ask?

Credit: DC Comics

Quite simply, they are titles/series/one-off issues that are notable or historic for any number of reasons. Think The Killing Joke, The Dark Phoenix Saga or The Sandman. These are books that inspire panicked gasps from people whenever they hear the words, “never read it.” This was one of the topics I was most interested in discussing when the idea for a BEHIND THE PANEL weekly column came up, because I have quite a few. I bet every comics fan reading this has several of their own. It’s unavoidable. There are TONS of great comics that are being produced on a regular basis right now. Now add in 80 years of comics and you’ll see why blind spots are simply a part of that comics life.

To be clear, I’m not looking for absolution. I love comics as much as any sane person can love an inanimate object printed on paper telling tales of men in tights. For a long time, though, I was mainly a fan of the Big Two and superhero tales. As I grew older (and hopefully a tiny bit more mature), my tastes evolved and I was drawn to creator-owned titles and non-superhero stories. But there are only 24 hours in a day; sometimes TV, movies, or sleep wins out in the eternal war for my free time.

OK, let’s get to it. Sharpen those arrows of outrage, here are three of my Comic Blind Spots...

DC Comics

I have never read The Authority by Warren Ellis/Bryan Hitch. In fact, in scanning my databanks, I discovered I have fallen woefully short in my Ellis reading. I’ve never read his ‘Extremis’ storyline in Iron Man, never read Planetary, or even his and Cully Hamner’s OGN Red. FYI, whenever I get approached at a convention or DM’d on Twitter/IG about who I should interview next for Behind The Panel, Ellis is a name mentioned more than once. I’m not even sure he would even say yes, but I’m certainly not making the request until I’ve read more of his oeuvre.

I’ve also never read Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. In fact, until Young Animal’s ultra-trippy take on the team, I don’t think I had read a single DP comic, period. Whenever I tell someone I haven’t read Morrison’s DP, it garners the most aggressive ‘ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!’ reactions of any of my blind spots. Not even close.

Lastly, I’ve never read a single issue of Fables. Yep, I’ve never set eyes on one of Vertigo’s most popular titles. And because I’m an honest person, when I interviewed artist Mark Buckingham for our four-part Vertigo podcast retrospective, I admitted my personal shame. Buckingham had a good laugh about it.

I’ve read nearly every single Spider-Man, FF and Avengers comic, and enough Batman books to start a Gotham City support group. But I also didn’t read Watchmen until I was in college and Kirby’s Fourth World in its entirety until after I graduated. Your comics checklist mileage may vary from mine. That’s OK. The discovery of something new and amazing is part of the fun of being a geek.

Check out the poll and do your civic duty — VOTE! Let me know which one I should read first. And while we're being all honest and sharing, hit me up on Twitter/IG/Facebook to reveal your own comic book blind spots.

Here's your weekly reminder that Behind the Panel is a video and audio series, too. Our video series is chock-full of my in-depth interviews with amazing comic book creators. The Behind the Panel podcast is an audio documentary series that provides unique insight into your favorite creators and stories. Check 'em out, we think you'll enjoy them.

Batman's Sexy Vacation Dad™ Getup Might Be His Best Costume Yet @ io9

Because everyone spends so much time going on about Nightwing’s ass and Catwoman’s inexplicably exposed armpits, it can be easy to forget that Bruce Wayne is very much a sex symbol in his own right. But artist Clay Mann has been trying to remind everyone with his illustrations in DC’s ongoing Batman

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George R.R. Martin Discusses That New, Targaryen-Focused Game of Thrones Prequel @ io9

The time of the Targaryens is coming to an end. Well, fictionally speaking. A Song of Ice and Fire creator George R.R. Martin has offered a few details about the recently-revealed prequel show focusing on House Targaryen, sharing a taste of what we can expect should it get picked up to series.

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The 10 Best Deals of September 17, 2019 @ io9

We see a lot of deals around the web over on Kinja Deals, but these were our ten favorites today.

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Cospets: This cat cosplays a purr-fect pirate @ Syfy Wire

1p>Harlock might have been named after an anime space captain, but this kitty is about to transform into a different kind of cat-ptain.

Chrissy Salazar, a cosplayer herself, knew exactly what to name this particularly fluffy ball of fur (with his very own built-in eye patch) when she rescued him, as she told SYFY WIRE's Whitney Moore. Harlock: Space Pirate is the anime she got the name from. She's also into other space captains like Han Solo and, of course, Captain Tight Pants.

Even though Harlock is deaf and has no teeth, he still has quite the adventurous personality and had to be picked up when he wandered off more than once! He's also a polydactyl. Meaning, he has extra toes that come with extra toe beans, which just add to the cute factor that much more. He's both regal and roguish at the same time.

 

Our costume designer Katheryn Renfroe wanted to appeal to Harlock's roguish side, so she decided to take him from space captain to pirate captain. If you remember the Halloween episode of Garfield were the lazy tabby got excited to dress up as a pirate an go demanding candy at random people's doors, this is kind of like hat, only better.

To turn Harlock into a rebel prince-gone-pirate, Katheryn decided to give him the quintessential pirate tricorn hat with a huge feather, plus a tasseled jacket with his very own insignia on the back — a feline Jolly Roger with with extra toes on the paws. The distressing done to the costume was meant to reflect all the wild adventures he'd been on. He didn't need another eye patch.

Is the fluffy fiend ready to sail the high seas, strike fear into every salty dog and challenge Jack Sparrow to find out where all the rum's gone? You've got to watch the video to find out!

This article was contributed to by Elizabeth Rayne.

A New Age of Epic Fantasy Dawns in Joe Abercrombie’s A Little Hatred @ Barnes & Noble: Sci-Fi & Fantasy

About a decade ago, a then-fresh faced Joe Abercrombie arrived on the fantasy scene with The First Law, a bold, daring, and merciless trilogy that was at once familiar and utterly unlike anything else on the market. Though the books never broke out beyond the genre’s core market of readers, they set the tone for the next decade, and helped coin a new subgenre: grimdark, a corrective to the wave of idealistic epic fantasy that peaked in the ’90s. The Blade Itself and the books that followed it spun and subverted familiar tropes—a barbarian with heart, a foppish soldier, a cunning politician, a wizard playing marionette master—with gleeful skill, keeping readers on their toes and culminating in one of the most satisfying concluding volumes ever penned.

In the following years, Abercrombie returned to the setting with three stand alone novels (Best Served Cold, The Heroes, and Red Country) and a book of short stories (Sharp Endsbut fans have clamored ever since for a true sequel. Finally, he returns to The Circle of the World in A Little Hatred, the first volume in The Age of Madness, a new trilogy set a generation after The First Law.

“We are entering a new age, Your Highness.”

Returning readers will note that the world of The First Law has greatly changed in the span between books: the smog of industry blackens the once clear skies; smoke stacks tower above the city of Adua, scraping the sky and signaling humanity’s ambition to break God’s shackles; unemployment soars as machines replace human workers. Industry has come to Abercrombie’s world, but its presence is no mere window dressing; the tremors set off by the changing times will shake its very foundation—and form the framework of the narrative: the growing civil unrest a building block, and new-found capitalism, the mortar.

The cast is expansive, with characters who fall on many points along the spectrum, from those leveraging the changing world for their own personal gain to those caught in the avalanche of progress; from ambivalent princes wrapped in blinders of privilege, to those who simply cannot give up the old ways. With a twist of his trademark subversion, Abercrombie employs one of the book’s oldest characters—the Arch Lector returning readers will recognize—to lecture Prince Orso, playboy royal, about the inevitable arrival of the new age. 

“My daughter recently helped finance the building of a large mill near Keln,” replies Arch Lector Sand dan Glokta. “In that mill is a machine, operated by one man and powered by a waterwheel, that can card as much wool in a day as nine men could the old way.”

“I suppose that’s a fine thing for the wool trade?” ponders Orso, naively.

“It is. A fine thing for my daughter and her partners, too. But it is not so fine a thing for those other eight men, who used to card wool and are now looking for new ways to feed their families.”

A new age has indeed come to The Circle of the World, bringing a new reality with it. And with change comes a new type of story.

The First Law introduced unforgettable, invariably flawed characters, and Abercrombie sets himself a difficult task by skipping forward a generation to offer readers to a whole new cast, most of whom are the children of reader favorites (and not-so-favorites) from the original trilogy. Though the novel is perfectly welcoming to new readers, it adds a bit of extra tension for those returning to the saga: Can these newcomers live up to the feats of their parents? Will they carve a new place in the hearts of Abercrombie’s fans? 

For the most part, the newcomers live up to their forebears. Some might be related to the old cast by blood, but the author has made a point of ensuring their stories are not retreads. Like her father, swordsman-turned-torturer and Keng’s Inquisitor Sand dan Glokta, Savine shows readers how to win battles and influence the world with your mind; unlike him, she does so with charisma and charm. Prince Orso and fellow noble Leo dan Brock are like two sides of a coin. Young and naive, both born to privilege, desiring desperately to prove themselves, they see a light on a far away mountain top but have no idea how to get there. Orso wears a crown he doesn’t want, while Leo dan Brock fights every day to keep the mantle of “The Young Lion” attached to his tired shoulders. Born with “the Long Eye,” a magical power of foresight, Rikke survives in the brutal north, keeping a few steps ahead of the bloodthirsty Stour Nightfall that razed her city—but can she see far enough ahead to stay alive? Like the characters in The First Law, these characters are compelling in isolation, and though their stories intertwine, each holds a unique place in the overall narrative, contributing to its larger themes while exploring far-flug facets of its world. 

At a macro level, A Little Hatred is a book about how society adapts and reacts, sometimes violently, to change. As industry rises in Adua, it’s impossible to escape Abercrombie’s thorough consideration of labour issues and the rise of capitalism. Savine is a bloodthirsty financier whose money winds throughout the city. As unrest grows among the commoners, who are rapidly losing their livelihood to the advent of more efficient machinery, she becomes caught up is labyrinthine plots involving actors from every corner of the socio-economic spectrum. 

At one point, a character named Sarlby is catching up with an old friend, Broad. Former soldiers in a kingdom that can’t afford a war, they’re both searching for a new urban life in the city of Valbeck.

“What do you make of Valbeck?”

“It’s all right, I guess.”

“It’s a fucking slag heap. It’s a fucking meat grinder. It’s a fucking pit.”

“Aye.” Broad puffed out his cheeks. “It’s a pit.”

“Fine for the rich folks up on the hill but what do we get? We who fought for our country? Open sewers. Three families to a room. Filth in the streets. The weak preyed on by the strong. There was a time folk cared about doing the right thing, wasn’t there?”

“Was there?”

But Sarlby didn’t hear. “Now all a man’s worth is how much work can be squeezed from him. We’re husks to be scraped out and tossed away. We’re cogs in the big machine. But there’s those who are trying to make it better.”

There, in a conversation between world-weary former soldiers, friends formed of blood and circumstance, we find the novel’s most pertinent question: How does one change the world from the bottom of the pile?

A Little Hatred also considers how younger generations must live in the world built by their parents and grandparents. Some, like Savine, use their family’s prestige and position to shore up great influence and wealth; others, like Orso, squander their gifts; and yet others, like Rikke, find that even being the child of a hero doesn’t change all that much.

Few fantasy series have used the scope of time so effectively to examine how society’s progress affects their characters and world. The setting is a character unto itself, experiencing its own process of growth and change, trauma, and uncertainty. Abercrombie returns to the tropes and character archetypes we saw in The First Law, but as the world changes around them, so to do the roles they play within it: charismatic princeling Orso must grapple with the royal family’s fading power in the face of industry and hawkish financiers; Savine’s sharp mind allows her to move through society with an authority that would have been impossible a generation earlier. These are fascinating examinations, and they tell readers as much about our our world as they do about Abercrombie’s fictional one.

In all the ways that matter, Abercrombie delivers fans exactly what they’ve always expected from the Lord of Grimdark: a critical, compelling epic fantasy loaded with wonderfully drawn characters, the bloodletting tempered with sharp social commentary and a touch of satire. (Also: bad sex scenes.) It also welcomes newcomers by focusing on a new generation of (anti-)heroes facing new challenges in a world their parents hardly recognize. It’s doesn’t feel like a stretch to say Abercrombie’s on his way to writing another masterpiece of epic fantasy—though one vastly different than his first.

A Little Hatred is out now, and a limited number of signed copies are still available from Barnes & Noble.

The post A New Age of Epic Fantasy Dawns in Joe Abercrombie’s <i>A Little Hatred</i> appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

How Alex Garland uses color in Annihilation and Ex Machina @ Syfy Wire

1p>Color is very much a part of our daily lives, except for the unfortunate few who can't see color at all. Colors surround us in almost every waking moment, and they shape our mood and perception in ways we don't always understand. But in film, colors are rarely chosen by chance. Instead, the color palette simply becomes another canvas for the filmmakers to tell their stories.

In SYFY WIRE's latest video, we're taking you to school! Film school, that is, by looking at the two feature films by director Alex Garland: Ex Machina and Annihilation. Garland's cinematic outings offer very striking visuals and the colors themselves mark the path of the characters' journeys. It's worth noting that the protagonists of both stories, Caleb from Ex Machina and Lena from Annihilation, are represented by the color blue. That color grounds them in the real world of the movie, even as events in both stories take a fantastical turn.

Within Annihilation, beautiful colors like pink are visually recoded to signify danger. Note that pink flowers are always seen in the Shimmer shortly before some of Annihilation's most alarming sequences. Ex Machina also plays with the colors found in nature mixed alongside the stark black and white colors located in Nathan Bateman's compound.

The color white comes to symbolize rebirth for both Lena and Ex Machina's Ava. For Lena, her humanity is called into question after everything she experienced in the Shimmer. As for Ava, she turns out to be far too human for her maker to anticipate. But we can't say that Garland didn't warn us. Adding reds to Ava's clothing choices was a dead giveaway that she was dangerous.

For more color theory tidbits from Garland's films, check out the full video!

How the Pop Culture Event MondoCon Has Changed, and So Have I @ io9

When MondoCon 5 unofficially began at midnight this past Saturday morning, I thought I knew what to expect. When it ended Sunday evening though, it felt like I’d experienced not just two days of geeking out over posters and art, but a coming-out party for a new generation of poster collectors.

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One for the Ages: An oral history of Age of Apocalypse, the X-Men’s massive crossover, 25 years later @ Syfy Wire

1p>The year is 1994 and it would not be underselling anything to say it's a high point in a soaring era for Marvel's merry band of mutants. The X-Men are still riding the wave of the record-setting sales on 1990's X-Men #1 by industry superstars Jim Lee and Chris Claremont, and at this point, there are no less than seven monthly titles and a quarterly book devoted to new stories in the X-Universe.

It's the sort of franchise success of which publisher dreams are made, so it's more than a little bit baffling when Marvel reveals its plans to cancel all of its monthly X-titles and replace them with a game-changing storyline, known as the Age of Apocalypse. It's a fitting name, given the shock so many X-fans are feeling in the wake of the big announcement.

But as we know now, it all worked out, to say the least. The story, stretched over the course of a four-month event, tracked how the removal of Professor Xavier would lead to a dark dystopia ruled by the X-Villain Apocalypse. Grim stuff, but a stroke of brilliance in hindsight. Not that it was any one person's grand idea — at Marvel, it takes a team to make something this big happen.

To look back on the event 25 years later, SYFY WIRE spoke with many of the contributors who worked on the story, which still stands as one of the most logistically challenging and enduring X-Men sagas of all time.

At the time, what was known as the X-office over at Marvel's New York publishing headquarters was no stranger to expansive crossovers within the X-Men Universe of titles. Dark Phoenix, Days of Futures Past, The Brood Saga, The Mutant Massacre, Inferno, Fatal Attraction — all game-changing events in X-history. Yet this would top them all.

Ben Raab (Assistant Editor, Age of Apocalypse): We did have a brain trust. Bob Harras, Scott Lobdell, and Fabian Nicieza were sort of the core minds behind this. Bob being the group editor at the time, I think this was before he was officially Editor-in-Chief for all of Marvel.

Fabian Nicieza (Writer): The entire project, I believe, started with editor Bob Harras showering. It was at some point within that lathering cycle that he came up with a question.

Scott Lobdell (Writer): I remember I was in New York. It was raining. I passed a payphone and figured I'd check my messages. There was a message from Bob who was like "what if Jubilee went to the X-mansion and everybody there claimed they were X-Men, but she didn't know any of them?" So I called back and said, "That would be awesome, but what if they really were the X-Men? What if she was wrong? And she was actually in a world where suddenly everything she knew about the X-Men was wrong."

Nicieza: He presented it to Scott first, since they were more simpatico with that kind of story development together. The two of them talked out the possibilities, then pitched it to me.

Lobdell: Bob and I eventually got together in person. We started talking about "how can we create a world where the X-Men aren't really the X-Men?" Eventually, we decided that the only thing that would really change the team is if Professor X had died. So we're like "Can we go back in time and kill Professor X?"

Nicieza: I loved the idea and we knew it would become even bigger than our usual publishing budget-expected crossovers.

Lobdell: Originally it was just going to be in Uncanny X-Men, like the original Days of Futures Past story. The more we talked about it, we said, "If we did kill Professor X, it would change virtually everything there is to change about the X-Men. Is this too crazy for our crossover?"

Raab: Bob was a big Star Trek fan. I think the Next Generation episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" had a huge impact on the conception of this story. That idea of Tasha Yar getting a second chance. This other new reality is created, and it inspired what we wanted to do with AoA.

Lobdell: Bob and I realized that it was going to be a Legion (the son of Professor Xavier) who would kill the professor, primarily because of his ability to move back through time. Well, why would Legion want to kill the Professor? That didn't make sense to me. It was Mark Waid, I believe, who at that point had been moving his way over into the X office who suggested, "what if he wasn't trying to kill his father, but actually wanted to kill Magneto but the Professor got in the way?"

The time travel element would take us back to a point wherein Magneto and Xavier's early life where they weren't just allies, but friends as well.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Lobdell: There were other details that needed to be ironed out. Jubilee wouldn't work as that character who would remember the world as it was, so we went with Bishop (who was trapped in the past with a team of X-Men who had traveled back to stop Legion. Their failure to stop Legion resulted in Bishop being alone and stuck in the new timeline). He had come back from an alternate future into our time, so he would be the one most likely to realize that something was completely wrong about this new world. Yet to everyone around him he would come across like a war veteran suffering from PTSD.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Nicieza: I wasn't very involved at all with the early stages, to tell you the truth. That was the point where I was writing six monthly titles and had a full-time editorial job, so I wasn't in a position to grind that out. I had navigated a lot of heavy lifting on the Avengers' Operation Galactic Storm and Nomad's Dead Man's Hand crossovers, was working on the New Warriors/X-Force crossover, I didn't have the bandwidth to worry too much about another X-crossover.

Lobdell: I was in Bob's office and I remember this really clearly. I often get in trouble for saying what I think are patently ridiculous things that ultimately get me in trouble because people don't realize that what I'm saying is clearly the most ridiculous thing I can think of at the time. But in this case, Bob was on the phone and he goes "I don't know. Oh, that's an interesting question" — [then] puts his hand over the receiver [and asks]: "The guys in marketing are wondering how they're going to market this as a series." And I go, "Tell them we're canceling everything! We're canceling all the X-books and we're starting over with new number ones." And he goes, "Okay!" He takes his hand off the receiver and repeats what I said. He hangs up and is like, "Yeah, they said they love it! They're all excited."

And so it went. Marvel proceeded to rebrand its eight monthly titles (Uncanny X-Men became Astonishing, Wolverine became Weapon X, Cable became X-Man, etc.). Although to the world at large, pre-internet, and with no indication that this was only a four-month event, this looked like the end of the X-line entirely. Fans were not thrilled.

Raab: When the books were canceled, fans were freaking out. This was when people would call up the Marvel offices and ream us out. I'll never forget I was on the phone with this one fan who was like so pissed and I said, "Look, just wait and see, give it a shot." And after the books finally came out, the guy called me back and was like, "Yeah, you're right!"

Lobdell: There's also a conversation that we had about Generation X, which had just started and it would have been only up to Issue 5 going into Age of Apocalypse. We realized that if we don't do anything with Generation X, just ignore AoA and kept it going, then we run the risk of saying, this book isn't an important part of the X-Universe.

Nicieza: The line-ups were pretty much handed to all of us. These are the altered books and the characters in them. I honestly don't remember jockeying for characters or anything like that. Although I loved the idea of AoA, my enthusiasm level for the X-books at that point was in serious decline, so I decided to just go along for the ride.

Raab: At the initial lunch where we had almost everyone who would be working on this in, we tried to hash out the main questions. So what are the different books going to look like? What's Uncanny X-Men going to look like when it morphs into Astonishing X-Men? What's adjectiveless X-Men [going to] be when it becomes Amazing X-Men? How does Wolverine become Weapon X? etc.

Lobdell: At a point in the lunch, we sat around and we started asking if you could start things from soup to nuts — who would get what character, what character is going to which book?

Raab: The creative rosters were kind of decided upon early. Like Scott would write Astonishing and Fabian doing Amazing, etc. But there was leeway within the context of the larger story to tell whatever version of the story they wanted to tell. X-Men: Alpha and X-Men: Omega were going to bookend [the] entire crossover, but each story could sort of be its own journey for those individual characters in those individual groupings along the way.

Lobdell: You know in those days, you would read a crossover and have to read all 23 parts of it to makes sense. I was adamant and Bob was supportive of saying, "Let's not do it that way. These characters need to be here by the end of your fourth issue to lead into X-Men: Omega. How you get them there is completely in your hands." It took people a bit from our fellow creators to roll with it. At first they were like, "Well, you're just leaving us out here." And I go, "We could tell you where to go, but I think we're giving you the freedom. Go have fun with it."

Nicieza: I'm sure that's what Bob said in theory, but it wasn't remotely that in practical application. Because Scott and Bob had no real idea exactly how this story was going to end, many of the titles had to do a tremendous amount of juggling on the fly to patch in new ideas or fixes all for the sake of establishing an ending we didn't have yet.

Lobdell: I have gotten better over the years as far as plotting out a story six months ahead. But back then I used to infuriate Fabian. Fabian usually has like 25 issues planned for whatever book he's working on. I was like if someone said to me "Hey that's a great cliffhanger," I would be like, "Yeah, I can't wait to figure out what happens next." Rational being, if I could surprise myself, I could surprise the reader. For me, if you planned too far ahead it would be like chewing your food twice.

Raab: Also Howard Mackie eventually got involved as he and Bob were very good friends.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Mackie, a seven-year Marvel editorial veteran who had left his staff position to write full time, was at the time enjoying a great deal of success penning many Marvel titles, chief among them the ultra-successful relaunch of the Ghost Rider franchise.

Howard Mackie (Writer, Ghost Rider and X-Men Chronicles): I was up at the Marvel offices, as I often was back then. I wound up coming in the day the sales figures for Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and Punisher: Hearts of Darkness came out. While I don't remember the numbers, I know they were very good. I went into the bullpen and all the way on the other side was my buddy Bob Harras, who yells across the room "Howard, walk with me!" He said, "Have you ever wanted to do anything for the X-office?" I said, "Not really!" But that conversation became a Gambit mini-series. And suddenly I was in the X-Universe.

Logistically, it was going to be no small feat wrangling eight different creative teams to come up with new stories to fly under the AoA banner.

Mackie: So Bob, for whatever reason, pulled me into one of the X-Men summits he was holding, which he did periodically for writers and artists. He said, "Well, why don't you come?" To which I said, "Bob, I don't actually work in editorial anymore." To which Bob says, "Yeah. But you're good at this stuff. So why don't you just come in?"

This was as Scott was starting to become more of a force in the X-office, but Chris Claremont was still there. I ended up trying to act as a bridge between them. It's at this meeting where they started to lay down the concepts for AoA. I thought it was intriguing. I ended up doing a lot of stuff that other people at that meeting either were uncomfortable doing or couldn't do. I was a cat wrangler at that point. I was brought in to try to make nice between some opposing forces that existed in the room at the time. I had a reputation of being a nice guy, and as someone who knew how to get people to work well with each other. Keep in mind, I had no writing assignment for the project at this point, and I was a full-time writer with books completely unrelated to this. But editorially, I was brought in strictly because of my ability to do that.

Raab: Another question was: What new characters are going to be introduced?

Lobdell: We sat around and we started talking if you could start things from soup to nuts who would get what characters and what character go in what books. If you remember Fabian, whore that he was, and I say that with nothing but affection, he was like, "I want Magneto, and Storm, Quicksilver, and Wolverine and Gambit." He was clearly front-loading his book with the popular characters at the time. And I countered with, "I want Changeling, you know, the guy Professor X switched places with? But what if in here, he calls himself Morph like the character from the TV show, and he looks like a number two pencil eraser until he picks a shape?" I went on to ask for Sunfire, with his skin burned off, and Sabertooth with Wildchild on a chain. All the while Joe Madureira, God bless him, is sitting across from me like "What are you doing?"

Credit: Marvel Comics

Raab: Joe would turn in designs for characters like Sunfire or Blink. We would see these redesigns and think, "These are amazing!"

Ken Lashley (Artist, Excalibur/X-Calibre): I think I had done only a handful of issues and I think I started in issue number 70. I had done maybe single digits in issues to that point. I remember back in those days, anything under 100,000 copies was cancellations. [Note: compared to today when 100,00 copies represents a Top 10 selling book] I think X-Calibre at the time was in the 90s, like 95,000. So they hired me, this kid from Canada, and the book sort of took a positive jump. It was my first job in the business, and a year in I'm doing AoA. So looking back, I was very fortunate to be on a book that size, not realizing what I was getting myself into.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Tony Daniel (X-Force/Gambit and the Externals): I was with Marvel for about two years where I worked on X-Force. I remember thinking it was a radical move but one that could be fun as hell to work on. I remember thinking that this was a huge event. I was happy I was a part of it.

Steve Skorce (Artist, X-Man): Jeph Loeb and I were paired off by editorial. They'd tasked all the X-writers with reimagining their respective books' characters in a world where Professor X never lived to create the X-Men, a dystopia where humanity was being systematically expunged, and there were very few safe places for them left in the world. Jeph imagined a version of Cable that stripped away all of his tropes; he became a boy without a past searching for purpose instead of a middle-aged man with a mission, and whose power was unfettered by the techno organic virus. Instead, he was threatened by his own destructive potential and the manipulation of secret enemies and Apocalypse himself. I was on cloud nine, I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever heard and was feeling so lucky to be working on it.

Lashley: Again, I'd only been in the business for like five minutes. So character design wise, I think Joe Madureira did the Nightcrawler redesign. I did the Juggernaut and some other characters that were in my book.

Daniel: I redesigned all of the characters that were in Gambit & the X-ternals. It was fun putting my own spin on my favorite characters. I remember how much fun I had drawing Jubilee and Gambit. They were my favorites. And Strong Guy was fun too, because I like drawing huge characters.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Skroce: I did plenty of versions and revisions but that's generally how it works. I was inspired by the stillsuits from David Lynch's Dune, not sure if it's easily recognizable but it's in there. It was really inspiring seeing everyone else's concepts as well. They were exciting days!

Lashley: I remember it sold a crazy amount of issues. If I remember correctly, my first AoA issue sold something like 400,000 copies, which is insane. Also considering all the X-Men books during the event, mine was the least selling book all of them. I know this sounds crazy, but I got a percentage check from that issue and I bought a house with it, which is the house I still live in today.

Skroce: I worked alone from my apartment in Vancouver in those days — this was pre-internet and my interactions with Marvel were all by phone, so my behind-the-scenes experiences were mostly me by myself, drawing, but I remember the fun and enthusiasm I had in those days. I worked so many long hours but I never regretted it, and I still don't.

Lashley: AoA would probably be the thing that I'm most known for and it's crazy for that to be something I did 25 years ago. People still come up to my table when I go to do a show, and are like "Hey, can you draw me a picture of Nightcrawler or Mystique from AoA?" I look at those pages, and a part of me is a little embarrassed because I say to myself "Oh man, I'm so green, I didn't know what I was doing." Another part of me is so proud because you're getting the chance to be part of it, although a very small part, of one of the coolest storylines in comic book history.

Skroce: I knew the book was going to do well just because it was part of this big event, but a lot of people took to Nate Grey. Whenever I'm at a con, I always meet people who loved that character and era of the X-Men. He's got a lot of classic Marvel DNA in him: Young man, trauma survivor, and an orphan who's been endowed with great power and has to choose how to wield it.

Lobell: We were surprised by the sales of X-Man. There was some discussion because it was such a hit and we were three months ahead and that ended up with us saying "Can we extend it past AoA?"

Skroce: We found out near the end of the third issue that X-Man became an on-going series, but I'm sure the massive success of the AoA had something to do with it. People wanted more! I think it's still the comic I've done the most consecutive issues of. The hours I put in back then!

The post-script to AoA saw the births of new characters in addition to Nate Grey, many of whom still appear in the current line of X-books to this day. It was an unmitigated success for Marvel at the time, though looked back upon more fondly by some than others.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Nicieza: My relationship within the group dynamic — from a working standpoint, not a social one — had become severely strained, so the entire process was antithetical to how I like to write. Most fans remember AoA as a tremendously cool project that turned mainstream superhero publishing upside down for several months, while I remember it as a tremendously cool project that turned mainstream superhero publishing upside down for several months and that was an incredibly unsatisfying work experience.

Raab: It was a decision to try and do something different. The '90s being what the '90s were, with the rise of Wildstorm, Image, and Todd McFarlane, there was always this sense of "we've got to come up with something cool," you know? You had the fall and rise and all these different factions that are sort of drawing the attention away from the big two you could say. What could we do to shake things up and get everyone excited? It became Age of Apocalypse.

I Have No Idea What's Going On in Lego's Bonkers New Ad, But I Kinda Love It @ io9

I’m not sure Lego fully intended that its new advertising campaign elicit a reaction that is pretty much just “uh, what?” but if it was? Mission accomplished.

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WIRE Buzz: American Gods prays up Marilyn Manson for S3; Tinder chooses its own adventure; more @ Syfy Wire

1p>It's time to get on your knees and pray because Marilyn Manson has been cast in the third season of American Gods, Deadline confirms. Per the report, Manson is playing Johan Wengren, the blood-loving frontman of Blood Death, a Viking death metal band that supplies power to the character of Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane).

"As a long-time admirer of his estimable talent as an author, artist, musician, and actor, it is dope indeed to be working with Mr. Manson in Season 3 of American Gods,” showrunner Chic Eglee said in a statement to Deadline. "Bringing his specific energy, wit, and boundless enthusiasm for all-things-Neil-Gaiman to the role of Johan, a Norse ‘berserker’ in service to Odin, his performance promises to be disturbing, original, and uniquely entertaining."

Credit: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Based on the 2001 novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, American Gods tells the story of how old world deities (like Mr. Wednesday and Orlando Jones' Anansi) attempt to stay relevant in a modern world that is more consumed with technology and consumerism than classic worship. The main threat to these fast-fading gods is Mr. World (Crispin Glover), the deity of 21st Century globalization.

Season 3 of the series is expected to premiere on Starz in 2020. The show co-stars Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Bruce Langley, Yetide Badaki, Pablo Schreiber, Mousa Kraish, Omid Abtahi, and Demore Barnes.


Tinder is known for connecting people romantically, but according to Variety, the dating app has been working on a choose your own adventure series under our noses this entire time. It's been so secretive, that the show is all ready to be streamed online next month.

Consisting of six episodes, the still-untitled project "is set against an impending apocalypse, one of the insiders noted, and asks the question 'Who would you spend your last night alive with?' The show will upload directly to the Tinder app, and users will be able to swipe right or left (the service’s basic function of approving or denying a potential love match) and advance the plot as they see fit," reads Variety's description.

Credit: Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Image

Directed by music video alum, Karena Evans, the series recently finished shooting in Mexico City. While it will first debut on Tinder, the show's producers are reportedly thinking about bringing it to a traditional streaming platform like Netflix. That company already proved it understands the format after releasing Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

That being said, the experimental entertainment (which runs just over two hours and is code-named "Project X") was made to be viewed vertically on a smartphone. The whole thing was shot for around $5 million and stars "up-and-coming" actors.


RLJE Films has scooped up the U.S. distribution rights for VFW, a horror-action movie about a group of elderly war vets who protect a teenager from an unhinged drug dealer and his army of "punk mutants," writes Deadline. The film, whose title is the acronym for "Veterans of Foreign Wars," was written by  Max Brallier & Matthew McArdle and directed by Joe Begos (Almost Human).

 Stephen Lang (Avatar), William Sadler (Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey), Fred Williamson (From Dusk Till Dawn), and Martin Kove (The Karate Kid) all play the titular army vets.

Credit: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic & Steve Granitz/WireImage & David Livingston/Getty Images & John Lamparski/Getty Images

“We are so excited to work with the legendary Stephen Lang,” RLJE Films’ chief acquisitions officer Mark Ward said in a statement run by Deadline. “With Joe Begos at the helm, we have no doubt that the movie will create waves at this year’s Fantastic Fest and set the momentum for the upcoming release.”

This news come just days before the project will enjoy its world premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin this weekend.


Here's a Great Deal On a Sega Genesis Mini Bundle @ io9

Why House of Whispers is one of the best Sandman Universe stories in years @ Syfy Wire

1p>When Neil Gaiman's Sandman series kicked off in 1989 under DC’s newly formed Vertigo line with editor Karen Berger, it was unlikely that anyone could have known the profound effect it would have on bringing new readers to comics. Gaiman’s tendency to have one foot in literature and one in mythology brought a crowd of hybrid readers to mainstream comics. A lot of people got into comics through the Sandman, and the series now enjoys a status as a must-read.

However, when Gaiman’s Sandman wrapped, we were left with dozens of characters and a limitless universe to explore that went on in titles like The Dreaming and Lucifer. Many creators have gone on to create new worlds through the Sandman mythology. Regardless of which creative team you’re reading, the universe is well-known for bringing the quality.

Yet, the specific series that brings us here today is Nalo Hopkinson's more recent House of Whispers. Like Gaiman, Hopkinson is a lifelong devourer of literature, and this perspective has given readers one of the most revitalizing titles to come out of the Sandman mythos in years.

House of Whispers, written by Nalo Hopkinson, art by Dominike Stanton and John Rauch, lettering by Deron Bennett

Across (the Sandman) Universe

Though the Sandman series was well-known for bringing in folktales and myths from a wide variety of different cultures, House of Whispers builds specifically on the tales of African gods. Set in New Orleans, this story divides its attention between a group of imperiled gods and three sisters who get tied up in these affairs of the supernatural. While House of Whispers is rooted soundly in Sandman history — with ongoing appearances from Cain, Abel, and their gargoyle Goldie — it segues and creates a whole new cast to work with, in a way that could easily be detached from the initial premise to operate on its own merits. By taking the initial concepts and working them into a whole new kind of story, House of Whispers holds true to the spirit of the Sandman Universe while becoming something all its own.

Author Nalo Hopkinson is best known for her novels like Midnight Robber and the Salt Roads, which offered an early look at the mix of history, horror, fantasy, and powerful emotional grounding that we also encounter in House of Whispers. The premise behind all the current Sandman Universe stories is that the God of Dreams has abandoned the Dreaming and left its denizens to fend for themselves. This has produced many fascinating spin-offs, but House of Whispers is perhaps the story that most tonally matches much of the heyday of the original series, which featured a lonely, dying God, trying desperately to make amends and settle his affairs before his inevitable end.

The Sandman has always been about the interweaving of different mythologies into a nebulous core, and no book yet has done that quite so effortlessly as House of Whispers.

House of Whispers, written by Nalo Hopkinson, art by Dominike Stanton and John Rauch, lettering by Deron Bennett

So What’s It About?

This story begins with a game of telephone. A seemingly innocuous misunderstanding leads a young woman to die, but she gains the power to bring death to others simply by touching them. Meanwhile, the Dreaming begins to struggle. Abandoned by its king, its citizens scramble to hold the amorphous realm together. While that's going on, the realm of the dream god Erzulie Freda also hits turbulence. Freda is the keeper of the realm that Voodoo worshipers visit when they sleep, and her happy houseboat is lost to her as she is plunged into the river and lost in the Dreaming. These catastrophes are all interconnected, and these characters must work together to save themselves. Much as the original series utilized real-world unexplained ailments such as “sleepy sickness,” Hopkinson offers a supernatural explanation for Cotard’s Delusion, in which people believe that they are dead while they seem perfectly fine.

This all leads us through powerful metaphysical realms while opening up a new world of characters, such as the bizarre Uncle Monday — an alligator god who, much like his avatar, borders between being terrifying and beautiful, and the outspoken human child who seems to know more about what’s happening than anyone realizes.

The creative team on this book has knocked every issue out of the park. Not only does Hopkinson’s writing give us new characters and ideas to toy with, but the gorgeous covers by Sean Andrew Murray do nothing but enhance the fluid and expressive interior art of Dominike Stanton. The purple, blue, brown, and gold color themes John Rauch brings to the table create a tone to the pages that set them apart from the general look of most other Sandman books. The lettering by Deron Bennett interweaves the panels together in a way that makes what could easily become unwieldy blocks of text into flowing prose. This is a team of people that are able to see eye-to-eye in their own individual duties in a way that makes the finished pages nothing short of comic book perfection.

In the end, every single book that comes out of the Sandman Universe is good. From Sandman #1 through The Dreaming and into our modern age, the mark of quality that these stories bear is consistent. This is a franchise that has remained compelling through countless creative teams, and there is certainly something to be said for that. Yet, if you’re looking for something that adds a little bit of fun and mystery, a lot of queer and Black representation, and some bonkers new gods thrown into the mix, House of Whispers has been one of the most underrated books of the last year, and it more than deserves to be added to your pull list.

House of Whispers, written by Nalo Hopkinson, art by Dominike Stanton and John Rauch, lettering by Deron Bennett

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.

These Incredible Star Wars, Spider-Man, and Jaws Posters Are Available Right Now @ io9

It’s rare that you can buy not one, not two, but three absolutely incredible, limited edition posters at the same time—but today is one of those days.

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Spider-Man who? Far From Home's hilarious new trailer all about Night Monkey @ Syfy Wire

1p>Spider-Man: Far From Home, star Tom Holland and director Jon Watts’ second webslinging outing together, was filled with deception. Mysterio isn’t who he claims to be, Happy and May aren’t quite honest about their relationship, and all those Elementals seem like they’re hiding something. But the biggest lie of all is that Spider-Man is the star of this film. In fact, the European hero stealing the show (and the hearts of fanboys like Ned) is the Night Monkey. And now he’s got his very own trailer.

The Sunset Simian. The Primate Who’s Out Late. Yes, the Night Monkey is Peter Parker’s alter-ego while he’s on vacation. This is partly so his class doesn’t figure out that Spider-Man happens to go where he goes (which doesn’t work) and partly because Ned is a terrible superhero name improviser. However, the trailer for the Night Monkey — which apes films like The Dark Knight — is a very funny way to promote Far From Home’s home release.

Check it out:

The night truly belongs to the Night Monkey. Jokes aside, Spider-Man: Far From Home used its humor, all-black stealth suit, and post-Endgame scheduling to turn its summer fling into a $1B+ endeavor. Not bad for the first Marvel film in a post-Iron Man world. But one pressing concern remains: will the Night Monkey become an Avenger?

Spider-Man: Far From Home is out in its digital release now and will have its physical home release on Oct. 1.

Netflix's Big Mouth Continues to Be Aggressively Horny in First NSFW Season 3 Trailer @ io9

As destructive as Big Mouth’s impulsive Hormone Monsters can be, they’ve actually ended up being rather good influences on the teens they’ve been assigned to guide through puberty over the show’s past two seasons.

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Theme Park News: The big Disney Parks changes we're hyped for (and shook by) @ Syfy Wire

1p>Vogue has its September issue, Entertainment Weekly serves up a Summer Movie Preview and in this corner of deep theme park nonsense, we have the inaugural Fall Thingy, discussing what we're looking forward to, what we're disappointed that's going away, and what's coming down the pike once Christmastime kicks off *checks calendar* incredibly soon.

We're just eight weeks away from snow falling on Main Street, USA, so grab your pumpkin spiced iced latte (preferably with cold foam!) and tuck in for some festive autumnal nonsense:

WHAT WE'RE TOTALLY HYPED FOR:

Epcot FOREVER!

From BBQ beef to a literal bag of bugs, here's what we're amped on seeing before forgetting to write 2020 on every bill, check and bank statement:

- Oogie Boogie Bash. Disneyland Resort is kicking things up a notch with this updated (and likely upgraded) version of the former Mickey's Halloween Party, which starts tonight at Disney California Adventure. I'll be in attendance later this week — brace for a recap next Tuesday — and I'm going to eat so many Kit Kats in the shadow of the Mad Hatter in these newfangled treat trails that I cannot WAIT.

- Epcot Forever. YES, loving IllumiNations is the official currency of being a die-hard Disney Parks person, but whatever! I hate it. I hate it? I hate it. I cannot wait to be pandered to with a nighttime show that's all about the beloved kookiness and history of EPCOT, rainbow space uniforms and all. Fan service at its finest while the rest of the park crumbles around us to emerge anew? Perhaps, but I'll take it!

- America Pavilion's new restaurant, which will bring barbecued meats and a bunch o' beers to Epcot's World Showcase before the year's end. Each time I've walked past since the announcement of Regal Eagle Smokehouse, I've drifted away on a mental cloud wondering what kind of mac n' cheese they'll serve because you know they're gonna serve some good mac n' cheese.

- Taking the Skyliner between Disney's Hollywood Studios and EPCOT starting September 29 because I love me some novelty transportation (and the stations look gorgeous.)

- Rise of the Resistance, which I've gambled all my future joy on. COME FOR ME KYLO REN!!!

WHAT WE'RE... NOT SO STOKED ABOUT

Our sweet train on its near-final ride out of town.

The incoming changes that don't excite us — and the entertainment we are less than pleased to see go away:

- Main Street Electrical Parade, which closes on September 30. I could barely enjoy the dazzling spectacle of vintage characters and bright lights at Disneyland this past week because I knew it could be a long time — possibly forever? — until I see it again. It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, fine whatever, but I'm already mega depressed that I got my love back only to lose it once more. My friend Rachel pointed out how nice it was to see characters we don't often spot in nighttime performances (Pinocchio! Elliot the dragon! Those psychotic twirling turtles!!), and she's right. The amount of glee that filled my human body during this parade can never be matched by Paint The Night — a wonderful parade, sure, but one that personally could never occupy the American Flag float-shaped hole in my heart.

- Arendelle Aqua. My one food rule as a theme park reporter is to never eat blue — you'd be shocked by how restrictive this can actually be — and this teal-tinged situation seems like my stomach's own personal scare zone. Pass!

- Christmastime. It's not because I disavow the holiday spirit — I'm listening to A Charlie Brown Christmas as I type this, so understand my hypocrisy up top — it's just that I feel the Haunted Mansion's 50th Anniversary did not last as long as it should have. A nitpick, perhaps, but this is about justice. Yes, there was that late-night event and some cool souvenirs, but its commemorative food bled right into Halloweentime (pun not intended) and with the Disneyland attraction donning a Jack Skellington costume 'til early January, I feel the fearful fete could have lasted just a bit longer, and possibly have had a bigger presence throughout Hallow's Eve season.

- And, last but not least, the news that set me into a full-tilt tizzy over the weekend: Walt Disney World cutting The Muppets Present... Great Moments In American History as of early October. (PR would not confirm directly, but puppeteers confirmed it would be ending over the weekend.) The problem here isn't just that they plucked my favorite thing out of Magic Kingdom, which happened to be an informative and fun performance that energized Liberty Square and offered live puppetry while highlighting criminally underused characters who just keep getting the short stick. It's that Disney Parks seem to be pulling every Disney obsessive's most-loved entertainment out of the park.

There are still nighttime spectacles, Fantasmic! showings and fireworks lighting up the sky, but repeat guests who have fallen in love with the smaller shows like Pixarmonic Orchestra's raucous tunes, Laughing Stock Co. at Golden Horseshoe Saloon and Red Car Trolley News Boys at Disneyland Resort are seeing their favorites removed. While one-time visitors may never know they were there, those of us who return time and time again to do more than just hit the rides will feel their loss like a ghost haunting our regular locales.

This week's news of the Muppets closure — along with Royal Majesty Makers and the Lightning McQueen Pit Crew — is the latest in a pattern of Disney pulling "non-essential" entertainment out of the parks. Around this same time last year brought the closure of Jedi Training: Trails of The Temple, two live bands and an Oswald meet-and-greet at Disneyland Resort, and Magic Kingdom's Captain Jack Sparrow's pirate tutorial as well as additional Walt Disney World entertainment. It reads like small, innocuous cuts here and there, but the sum of its parts among fans has become too great to ignore.

Plenty of other performances remain on offer throughout the parks, sure, but in times of budgetary changes, entertainment often receives the hacksaw the hardest, and just because it's not a building doesn't mean it's expendable. If you happen to be reading this from a TWDC IP address, let me put it plainly: the "Disney difference" is being eroded in front of our eyes under the assumption that no one will notice or remember. They do, and oh, how they will.

A LIL' HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS RECAP:

Hey look it's a grown woman being terrorized by cartoon clowns:

 

As a reformed easy scare — okay, a current one, considering stepping inside the Us house was Not! An! Option! — I had an utter blast at Halloween Horror Nights last week. The Ghostbusters house was a joy, Killer Klowns from Outer Space was a delightful neon-hued nightmare scape, and as much as I hate chainsaws (ugh), my adrenaline was at such a high that I was able to have a work call 'til 11pm afterwards. Wide awake without spending another $5 at Starbucks? That's a win!

Jenna's full-scale review has the goods, but if you've also been to scared to step foot inside the houses, give it a go this year, truly. Those two properties are the easiest entry into the world of scare mazes, and my Fraidy Cat's Guide to HHN will give you all the essentials (earplugs! dark colors! Be Midwestern!) you'll need to make it through seamlessly. Not mentioned in there is how having a few cocktails can help immensely, if that's your bag — and while we're at it, consider this a shameless plug the tortilla chips at CityWalk's Antojitos, because they're incredible. Incredible!

THIS JUST IN: A FACELIFT WE CAN GET DOWN WITH

Breaking news this Tuesday morning! Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland has a new look and we are INTO IT:

For reference, here's the old version. Not as cool!

And with that, it's time for the news!:

LINKS LINKS LINKS

- Walt Disney Archives' 50th Anniversary is on the way, and with it will come a museum exhibit.

- Sign me up for the first issue of this Star Wars fashion magazine, please.

- I regret not owning these vintage-style HHN glasses, even with the $5 price increase.

- OMG the best part of those Disney character bedtime calls is definitely them recounting the minutiae of their day.

- Mmmmmm can they please sell me one of these Pascal Audio-Animatronics as a pet!?

- Running Universal, which first debuted at Universal Studios Hollywood, is coming to Universal Orlando Resort.

- Disney+ low key launched this week in Netherlands and it looks pretty fantastic so far.

- You can get those Stranger Things selfies at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort.

- Maybe... don't read the leaked ingredient list of Galaxy's Edge's green and blue milk.

- The Disney x Target crossover seems to have begun and we are into it.

- Disney World: where robots are literally stealing our jobs.

8 Cool Details About Making The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance From Its Incredible Documentary @ io9

A wonderful thing happens when you roll the credits on the final episode of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: you’ve finished watching one of the best TV shows of the year. But then another wonderful thing happens: The Crystal Calls, an almost hour-and-a-half long making-of documentary, immediately queues up.

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WIRE Buzz: Big Bang Theory's massive streaming deal; The Invisible Man wraps; Birds of Prey debuts poster @ Syfy Wire

1p>Earlier this year The Big Bang Theory ended its 12-season run on CBS as one of the most successful multicamera sitcoms ever. Now, it's entering the streaming world with a massive new deal that further cements its place among the most valuable syndicated shows on the market. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the soon-to-launch WarnerMedia streaming service HBO Max just closed what is "easily a record-setting" deal to bring the hit series, about the love lives of a group of nerdy best friends, to streaming for the first time.

HBO Max will exclusively feature all 12 seasons of The Big Bang Theory as part of a five-year deal with Warner Bros. Television. At the same time, Big Bang also extended its deal with TBS, where it's been in syndication for several years, through 2028. All told, the deal is worth billions to the creative team behind The Big Bang Theory, according to THR's sources. 

The Big Bang Theory deal is the latest in a series of campaigns by existing and upcoming streaming services to secure as much binge-able content for their respective libraries as possible. HBO Max's recent deals also include shelling out more than $400 million over five years for exclusive streaming rights to Friends, while NBCUniversal's upcoming Peacock streaming service landed rights to The Office, and Netflix just picked up the exclusive rights to Seinfeld when that perennial hit sitcom concludes its deal with Hulu. Now The Big Bang Theory, fresh off a triumphant final season that made it the longest-running multicamera sitcom of all time, has cashed in. 

HBO Max launches next Spring. 


Though they've had a couple of false starts in recent years, the future is starting to look brighter for the legendary Universal Monsters, and that's thanks in large part to The Invisible Man, writer/director Leigh Whannell's upcoming reboot of the title character. Whannell's own horror film pedigree — thanks to films like SawDead Silence, and Insidious — combined with the outstanding cast he's assembled and the potential energy of a new take on a classic story all have us anticipating something exciting, and now the film is one step closer to completion. 

Whannell announced on Twitter Monday that production has wrapped on the film, and that he's now heading into the editing room to begin postproduction, a few months ahead of the film's release next year. 

Whannell signed on to make a new version of Invisible Man back in January as part of a new push by Universal to reinvigorate its Monster franchises after the "Dark Universe" project floundered upon the release of The Mummy in 2017. The plan back then was to make a new Invisible Man film starring Johnny Depp, but Whannell's involvement seemed to wipe the slate clean, and we're getting his take on the project without Depp's involvement. 

The Invisible Man is produced by Jason Blum of Blumhouse and stars Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Storm Reid, Aldis Hodge, and Harriet Dyer. It hits theaters Feb. 28, 2020.


We've still seen precious few glimpses of Birds of Prey outside of a few images and a fabulous teaser that debuted in front of It Chapter Two earlier this month, but what we have seen of the film presents a wonderfully playful tone and a sense that Harley Quinn has indeed been emancipated from the pull of The Joker we saw her reckoning with in Suicide Squad. Of course, she couldn't have gotten here without a little help from her friends, and that's the highlight of the latest glimpse at the film. 

The new poster for Birds of Prey (subtitled and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, just to underline the point) features Margot Robbie's Harley as the dominant presence, but like a cartoon character who's just been hit a little too hard on the head, she's surrounded by little birds dancing in her field of vision. These are the new friends Harley will contend with throughout the film, including Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), the villain Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), and Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). The poster also debuts a new tagline: "Mind Over Mayhem." Check it out:

Directed by Cathy Yan from a script by Christina Hodson, Birds of Prey is in theaters Feb. 7, 2020.


Romance Cute Monsters, Become a Super Sentai, and More in Tabletop News @ io9

Welcome back to Gaming Shelf, io9&#39;s regular column about board games and tabletop roleplaying games. The holidays are slowly creeping up on us, which means game companies are starting to tease out some pretty exciting stuff. And then, of course, you have that whole... Monopoly thing.

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Save $10 On Your Link's Awakening Preorder, If You Can Live Without the Dreamer Edition @ io9

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening | $50 | Rakuten | Promo code DS9

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From Christopher Pike to L.J. Smith, the YA horror books that ruled the '80s and '90s @ Syfy Wire

1p>Teen sleepovers are one of the first places in which horror as entertainment is encountered. There is a comfort and a thrill in watching as a group, even if you spend most of the movie hiding behind your pillow or peeking through your fingertips. Scary movies offer a visceral experience, but before Freddy, Jason, and Michael made an impression on me, young adult horror novels introduced a thrilling and terrifying world that made high school seem a little less frightening in comparison. Sure, there was plenty to worry about, but murder was thankfully not on that list. 

Prolific YA horror authors including Christopher Pike, R.L. Stine, Lois Smith, and L.J. Smith have shaped many readers (myself included) with high school tales featuring teens, drugs, ghosts, and death. 

Credit: Scholastic 

The Point Horror series was launched by Scholastic in 1991, which also included titles written by R.L. Stine, Richie Tankersley Cusick, and Diane Hoh that pre-dated this official banner name. For those who read Goosebumps but wanted something racier, Point Horror was for you. With vague titles including The Babysitter, Beach House, Silent Witness, The Train, and The Boy Next Door, your mind could run wild before you had even read the first page. Sometimes the occasional supernatural event would occur — like a dead girl who wants to trade lives with someone living (The Accident) or something as out there as a time warp that allows a killer to strike in two different decades (Beach House). Prom Dress, meanwhile, offered a sinister twist on Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants; instead of jeans that look great on everyone, this fancy frock had deadly intentions. 

Another underlying theme running throughout this series (as well as scary YA in general) is the fact that dating is an emotional horror show — but in the context of these stories, it often leads to pain that can be deadly, too. Adolescence is already stacked with nightmarish scenarios, but most teens won’t have to deal with a boyfriend returning from the grave or a dead girl wanting to play body swap. Crank calls, creepy houses, and terrible guys inhabit the world of these novels, novels that I couldn’t get enough of when I was 13. Even if the narrative structure was similar, these stories were gripping and thankfully far more terrifying than anything I would experience. Even with the dip into the occasional ghost or vampire encounter, a lot of these stories still found time to focus on regular teen jobs, after-school activities, and dating dilemmas. 

Credit: Schloastic

Considering how much time I spent reading this series, nostalgia dictates a lot of my feelings toward these books. But like anything you revisit, the passage of time is not always been kind. Teen Creeps is a very funny podcast that looks back on many prolific YA horror authors and series. Hosts Kelly Nugent and Lindsay Katai certainly have plenty of material to riff on — including the cheesy cover taglines (see the above cover for a perfect example of this). 

Teen Creeps kicked off with Christopher Pike's first YA novel Slumber Party. Pike is typically more adult in tone than the Point Horror series, and Die Softly features a lot of cocaine and sex references while telling the story of a classic high school perv named Herb who puts his photography skills to creepy use. In a Rear Window-esque moment, he happens to capture what looks like a murder on his homemade timer set-up. Coincidentally, the killer (spoiler alert) is a cheerleader called Alexa who would’ve gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for Herb and his camera, although he captures her on film after she has drugged and stabbed him to death. 

Unlike a movie, which a parent can see as soon as they walk in the room, there is something secretive about this genre of books. Even with titles like Die Softly and blood-splattered cover designs, the gory details and references to sex are often hidden in the pages themselves. 

Credit: Simon Pulse 

Romance and horror go hand-in-hand in vampire stories, and while L.J. Smith is now probably best known for The Vampire Diaries, my introduction to the notion of sexy vampires came courtesy of Nightworld: Secret Vampire. This story ticks several YA classic story tropes, including forbidden love and a character with terminal cancer. Horny teens, telepathic twins, and an unknown supernatural world with its own set of rules are all part of this series.

As with Point Horror and Christopher Pike, these books take something familiar (a crush, or lengthy illness) and add an element of fantasy. Real-life is scary, but these stories take it to the next level.

Credit: Random House 

Other established teen and tween series dipped their toe in the horror waters, including the Sweet Valley High thriller collection that included titles such as Deadly SummerMurder in Paradise, and A Stranger in the House, covering pretty much every scary movie and urban legend trope throughout its publication run. Even The Baby-Sitters Club churned out some creepy tales in the Mysteries spin-off series. In Mary Anne and the Secret in the Attic, “Mary Anne wants to learn about her mother, who died when Mary Anne was a baby, so she goes into the attic and searches through her father's box of photos and papers. There she finds a deep secret.” Never look in the attic, Mary Anne.

There is comfort in the familiar, so the pulpy nature of Point Horror or Christopher Pike is a security blanket made up both of murder and of making out. There are, of course, plenty of horror books for teens to read that came before this period (see: Stephen King and Shirley Jackson) and the current YA market place is crowded with exciting titles — but while they may not have necessarily aged well in content, the '80s and '90s were prime years for teen horror, both on-screen and on the page.   

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.

Jin Yong’s A Hero Born: A Legendary Chinese Epic Travels West @ Barnes & Noble: Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Against the backdrop of the Jin–Song Wars, two Song patriots, Ironheart Yang and Skyfury Guo, make a vow: if their unborn children are of the same gender, they will be sworn siblings. If they’re of different genders, they will be married. Before their wives Lily Li and Charity Bao can give birth, their village falls under attack. Justice Duan—a Song army officer secretly working for the Jin—kills Skyfury Guo. Ironheart Yang, Lily Li, and Charity Bao are forced apart as they flee, none of them aware of the others’ fates.

The balance of A Hero Born—written by Jin Yong, first serialized in China from 1957 to 1959, and only now translated by Anna Holmwood—picks up the story years later, following the journey of Skyfury Guo’s son, Guo Jing, who has joined the Mongolian hordes on the steppes with his mother Lily. There, he becomes sworn brothers with Tolui, one of the sons of Temujin, later known as the great Genghis Khan. Guo Jing is a slow but good-hearted boy, and, under the tutelage of the Seven Freaks of the South and with the assistance of other mentors, he hones his archery and martial arts skills to become a formidable warrior. He faces deadly challenges and powerful enemies while uncovering the truth of his heritage and past.

Though this is a tale drawn from history, don’t mistake A Hero Born for purely historical fiction. This book, and the many that followed it in the Legend of the Condor Heroes series, are part of a Chinese narrative tradition known as wuxia, which straddles the line between genre and non-genre, realism and fantasy. While set against real events, Jin Yong imagines sequences of exaggerated, fantastical martial arts impossible to perform in real life. The real historical figures that dot the pages are fictionalized versions of themselves. Furthermore, the way Legends of the Condor Heroes is received in its original cultural context grounds the series on the fantasy and speculative fiction side of the literary spectrum.

It’s difficult to convey the popularity and cultural impact of Jin Yong’s long-running saga. The publisher’s comparisons to J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin are apt as thematic parallels—The Lord of the Rings and A Game of Thrones are similarly vast epics featuring countless heroes mired in conflicts that span both time and space. But even those lofty comparisons fall short with regard to Jin Yong’s ubiquity in the sinosphere, where the novels have sold some 300 million copies. When I visited my mother and told her I was writing about A Hero Born, she excitedly led me to her bookshelf to show me her complete set of the Legend of the Condor Heroes in the original Chinese. (My father also has a complete set in his home.) While Tolkien and Martin have a wide reach, helped along by movie and TV adaptations, you would still be hard-pressed to find complete sets of their books outside the homes of genre fans.

This edition of A Hero Born also includes the original illustrations that accompanied the novel as it was first serialized. Such illustrations often adorn the pages of Chinese classics, highlighting the action and intensity of the scenes they’re embedded in. I only wish that it also included a map, if only to show readers the different historical borders of the era, and to help them orient themselves when the text refers to “the North” and “the South.”

As a translator myself, I appreciate the difficulty of tackling such an iconic work, especially one so rooted in the culture and history of present-day China. I don’t have the space here to comment on the technicalities of translation choices or where they might differ from the ones Holmwood has made. Instead, I’ll simply note that the prose reads fluidly, although translations of names and combat moves could have been more poetic and adapted to anglophone traditions. But any stiltedness in the work is no more jarring than that found in any fantasy dating from the 1950s, or the poetic license of, say, Thor’s flowery dialogue in the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Any fan of epic fantasy, political intrigue, brilliantly choreographed fight scenes, and coming of age stories will feel perfectly at home reading A Hero Born.

The anglophone world has its share of high fantasy classics, but so too does the rest of the world. A Hero Born is a timely expansion of the high fantasy canon that will broaden the horizons of anglophone speculative fiction readers. Prepare to enter an action-packed world of larger-than-life heroes and deviously wicked villains. Let your imagination soar.

A Hero Born is available now. The next volume in the Legend of the Condor Heroes, A Bond Undone, arrives in March 2020.

The post Jin Yong’s <i>A Hero Born</i>: A Legendary Chinese Epic Travels West appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

The New Birds of Prey Poster Is a Dizzying Display of How Harley Quinn Sees the World @ io9

One of the the major reasons why it’s so easy to get excited about Warner Bros.’ upcoming Birds of Prey, even though there’s been little word on what the movie’s actually about, is that somehow, against all odds, the studio seems to have finally grasped that the public is more than ready for a different kind of DCEU…

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How Does the New Interstellar Object Differ From 'Oumuamua? @ io9

The second interstellar object on record has visited our solar system, according to astronomical observations made in recent week. But how does this new visitor differ from ‘Oumuamua, the first interstellar object?

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Community was basically the Russo Brothers' Avengers before The Avengers @ Syfy Wire

1p>Ten years ago, on September 17, 2009, the world was graced with the pilot episode of the cult-classic Community, from fractious showrunner Dan Harmon and executive producers Joe and Anthony Russo. Today, of course, you probably know those producers better as the celebrated directors behind a run of Captain America movies and then Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, but there was a time when their success within the big-budget world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was less than assured.

What, after all, could two directors known primarily for their work on critically-acclaimed but low-rated sitcoms bring to the world of laser-firing superheroes?

Everything, it turns out. Because Community was a testing ground for the Avengers franchise that the Brothers would soon helm, a straight-up rough draft of their time in the MCU. And while we understand that Community was ultimately (for most of the time) Harmon's brainchild, the Russos' deep involvement in the series, as producers and directors, makes it impossible to ignore the many, many examples of the divergent properties' similarities.

Credit: NBC

Community's de facto leader Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), is, essentially, Tony Stark, a clever and charismatic asshole who, by almost all metrics, should be a villain. And yet his growth and eventual redemption make up the heart of the franchise.

Alison Brie's Annie Edison, meanwhile, is Captain America, a do-gooding rule follower who grows into a sex symbol, and whose oft-contentious relationship with our primary hero takes center stage in several installments.

Yvette Nicole Brown's Shirley Bennett, meanwhile, is Hawkeye: consistently underestimated, loaded with deadly barbs, and constantly concerned about her family. Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) is Thor, a sarcastic outsider with a not particularly high opinion of humanity. (Her "I lived in New York" catchphrase is basically Thor's "Back on Asgard...") And Black Widow's jumpsuit is filled by Jim Rash's Dean Craig Pelton, a not-always-well-written character and master of disguises, played by an award-winner.

 

The Hulk, meanwhile — both the "Hulk smash!" and Hulk smash varieties — can be found in Chevy Chase's Pierce Hawthorne. He's both a sad and lonely man capable of turning into a rage monster at a moment's notice, and someone who thinks he's the smartest guy in the room, prone to declaratively spouting theories that don't make a ton of sense upon closer inspection. (We understand the yawning gap between Chase and Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo as people, fear not.)

Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) pulls double duty as Vision and Ant-Man, both as an emotionless repository of knowledge who learns to love and be human — a character arc that really started in Captain America: Civil War and not the Joss Whedon-directed Age of Ultron — and also as the comic relief that ultimately brings the multiverse into the franchise.

Finally, Donald Glover's Troy Barnes is pretty clearly the Winter Soldier, a capable and layered character that is nonetheless only seen as another hero's best friend, who ultimately leaves the team and gets his own TV show. (And, even though he didn't play a large part in the Russos' Avengers movies, it's worth pointing out that Ken Jeong's Ben Chang is basically Loki, the enemy turned occasional ally prone to sowing chaos.)

But the similarities don't stop there. Let's take a look at some of the plots of the Russo Brothers' MCU contributions, shall we?

In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Russos' first Marvel movie, it's revealed that HYDRA, a covert and ancient group of fanatics, has been pulling strings behind-the-scenes for decades, a disclosure that sends everything into chaos. Drop the comic book trappings and it's exactly the overarching plot of the third season of Community, wherein it's revealed that the AC Repair School, a covert and ancient group of fanatics, has been pulling strings behind-the-scenes for decades, a disclosure that sends everything into chaos.

 

Or, if that's too broad for you, there's "For a Few Paintballs More," the second half of the second-season finale, directed by none other than Joe Russo. In addition to another secret infiltration, the episode is also heavily inspired by a famous '70s film (Three Days of the Condor/Star Wars) and prominently features a super weapon (helicarriers/a paintball-firing Gatling gun hidden in an ice cream truck), a one-off kiss that's never mentioned again, and a good guy-turned-bad guy (Bucky Barnes/Pierce) whose redemption is left in doubt.

Captain America: Civil War finds our heroes fractured along ideological lines, a near-constant story in Community, perhaps best exemplified by "Cooperative Calligraphy" (directed by Joe Russo), wherein our heroes are literally stripped down, divided into two groups, and shouting at one another. Avengers: Infinity War and "A Fistful of Paintballs," the first part of that second-season finale, both follow a one-man force of destruction (Thanos/the Black Rider) who chews through our heroes, leaving them to confront their worst fears.

And then there's Endgame, the movie that introduced the notion of a multiverse to the MCU by explaining that the removal of an Infinity Stone from the primary timeline would cause a new one to branch out. Fans of Community might note that this is an astoundingly similar conceit to the multiple branching timelines that stem from the roll of a die in "Remedial Chaos Theory."

 

But that's not all: Endgame's climax features a number of previously-defeated heroes appearing from circular portals to save the day, which is also the how climax of the Joe Russo-directed, mock U.N.-themed "Geography of Global Conflict" plays out.

Thor's much-ballyhooed arc of depression and redemption, meanwhile, was lifted wholesale from the arc of Neil (Charlie Koontz) in "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" — directed by, you guessed it, Joe Russo. In both stories, a depressed and overweight warrior is struggling, hoping to redeem himself through the vanquishing of his foe. Along the way, he loses his iconic mystical weapon and has to prove himself worth to get it back, before ultimately making a new group of friends. Also, there's a lot of unnecessary fat jokes at the depressed hero's expense. It's Thor's Endgame plot, essentially.

This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. Community was famous for jumping genres with ease, not unlike the Russos' ability to infuse the MCU with homages to '70s spy thrillers, The Leftovers, and heist flicks. And because life isn't all sunshine and rainbows, there's also the questionable handling of LGBT characters in both franchises, and an utter lack of Hispanic representation.

It's in "Paradigms of Human Memory," though, where the executive-producing Russos truly show their hand, with Jeff straight-up saying, "I believe it's the universe's way of molding us into some kind of supergroup."

Troy brings up the analogous Traveling Wilburys — but I think we all know what group of super people he was actually talking about.


The one with Jennifer's Body [Strong Female Characters #57] @ Syfy Wire

1p>We're back with another episode of our SYFY FANGRRLS Strong Female Characters podcast, and we're here to remind you that we are definitely still socially relevant.

That's right, folks — it's the 10-year anniversary of Jennifer's Body, a gloriously feminist horror-comedy film worthy of all the love it's retroactively receiving. This week, Courtney is joined by SYFY FANGRRLS contributing editor Carly Lane and contributor Sara Century for a deep dive into those groan-worthy early reviews, the film's most powerful moments, its depiction of complicated female friendship, and why Megan Fox deserved much, much better.

Check out our latest episode below.

From rebellion leaders to scream queens and everything in between, women have shaped sci-fi and fantasy since its inception. Each week FANGRRLS founder and managing editor Cher Martinetti, contributing editor and author Preeti Chhibber, and associate editor Courtney Enlow celebrate the countless badass women in geek culture through funny, witty, and unfiltered deep dives into the nerdverse.

Click here for the podcast's RSS feed, and check out all previous episodes of the podcast here.

Why @ io9

Forget The Office, Friends, or even goddamn Seinfeld. Apparently, the highest-valued television show in the history of the world is a humorless screed about a bunch of neeeeeeeeeeerds. CBS’ The Big Bang Theory is back with what might be the most-expensive streaming deal of all time. Just when I thought I was free.

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First trailer for Stephen King and Joe Hill's 'In the Tall Grass' brings terror to Netflix @ Syfy Wire

1p>It remains a very good time to be a Stephen King fan. We're fresh off the release of IT Chapter TwoDoctor Sleep is headed to theaters later this year, and a new season of Castle Rock premieres on Hulu next month — but even that's not the full extent of new King adaptations we're getting this year. Netflix has just unleashed the trailer for In the Tall Grass, a film based on a novella by King and his son Joe Hill, and it's here to make sure even beautiful fields can become battlegrounds of terror. 

King and Hill (best known for novels like NOS4A2 and his comic book series Locke & Key) published the novella in two parts in Esquire magazine in the summer of 2012, and now writer/director Vincenzo Natali (SpliceHaunter) is bringing it to the screen. As the trailer shows, the story picks up with some rather potent Children of the Corn vibes, as siblings Cal (Avery Whitted) and Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) make a stop next to a massive field of high grass when they hear a voice crying for help. It all looks very picturesque. There's even a historic old church looming in the background, but as Cal and Becky venture out into the grass to look for the boy who's crying out, they find that it's hard to get back out. 

The trailer is particularly adept at raising new questions as it goes, providing just enough of a teaser that we feel like we have to keep watching to find out what's behind all of this. New people emerge from the grass, characters seem to be losing all sense of time, and then there's that terrifying voice on the phone that Becky thinks might be here own. Like so many of the best King stories, it begins with a simple premise — What if the figure of speech "in the tall grass" manifested itself in a literal, terrifying way? — and twists it into something that feels like it won't let you go until the tale is done. We can't wait to see how it all plays out.

In the Tall Grass hits Netflix October 4, making it ideal viewing for the Halloween season.

The First Trailer for Netflix's In the Tall Grass Makes Even Grass Itself Petrifying @ io9

This is worse than peak hay fever season. Well, actually, if you suffer from hay fever, this trailer is probably just gonna make your chest tight in sympathy.

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Ghostbusters 2020 will hand off franchise to younger generation of heroes, says Dan Aykroyd @ Syfy Wire

1p>Jason Reitman's mysterious Ghostbusters project kicked off production this summer, but beyond a slew of casting confirmations, we know precious little about its plot. Thanks to some new insights from Dan Aykroyd, however, we now know that the movie will end with the OG 'Busters passing the spirit-hunting torch off to a new and younger generation of heroes.

"It feeds beautifully into the first two stories and hands it off to a new generation," the actor/comedian told Entertainment Tonight while checking out the Ghostbusters-themed maze at Universal Studios, effectively building on his recent comments made on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast. "Of course, I'll try to get my old pal, Mr. [Bill] Murray, to see if he can drop in. I'll be making a call there."

That "new generation" will be played by Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things), Mckenna Grace (Captain Marvel), Carrie Coon (The Leftovers), and Paul Rudd (Avengers: Endgame). If Aykroyd can convince Murray to come back one more time, then these never-before-seen characters have a chance to receive advice not only from the great Ray Stantz and Peter Venkman, but also from Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), and Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts). Hopefully, they can get Rick Moranis to reprise the role of Louis Tully as well since Harold Ramis (Egon Spengler) passed away in 2014.

Today, Hudson, who wasn't sure whether he'd even get the call, revealed via a Cameo message that he coming back for the new Ghostbusters movie, and that he's in the middle of helping film it right now.

"I'd love to be a part of it, but no matter what, I have total respect and love [for Jason] and I appreciate his work," Hudson told SYFY WIRE at San Diego Comic Con back in July. "The fact that he's working with his dad, Ivan, I know it's gonna be a great movie, I'd love to be a part of it, but if it doesn't happen, I just want fans to know that it's not because of me. I keep reading that everybody else [is coming back]. Sigourney signed up, I'm like, 'I'm over here' ... So, we'll see."

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Original Ghostbusters director, Ivan Reitman, was also present for the Halloween Horror Nights demonstration and was able to shed some light on Rudd's character, saying: "He's a seismologist, who's comes to this small town because they've been having mysterious earthquakes. He's also teaching summer school there, and he's extraordinarily funny."

Yesterday, we speculated that the alumni might just appear in small cameo roles (like some of them did in Paul Feig's interpretation), but since Aykroyd said that 2020 will tie into the first two movies and open the door for a brand-new set of Ghostbusters, it removes nearly all doubt that cameos would be the route to take. The old guard imparting their wisdom unto a batch of doe-eyed recruits would carry more emotional weight and give the familiar faces the send-off they truly deserve. Passing on the legacy is an idea that's been kicked around for a while as the gap between Ghostbusters II and III got larger and larger. The series eventually explored it in projects like the short-lived Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon and the 2009 video game, which Aykroyd described as "essentially the third movie."

Written by Jason Reitman and Gil Kenan, Ghostbusters 2020 (it's still without an official title) hits theaters on July 10 of next year.


Lenovo's New Avengers Augmented Reality Game Is a Glitchy Glimpse into a Future Past @ io9

For the past few years, hardware manufacturers and game studios have been valiantly trying to sell the public on the idea of virtual and augmented reality being a core aspect of the future of gaming. Their efforts have been in vain for the most part because, outside of hyper-controlled environments, entry-level gaming…

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Tuesday's Best Deals: 44-Drawer Organizer, Flash Storage Blowout, Taco Holder, and More @ io9

An Akro-Mils 44 Drawer Hardware Cabinet, a PNY Gold Box, and an American Metalcraft Taco Holder lead off Tuesday’s best deals from around the web.

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Chosen One of the Day: Two Paul Rudds @ Syfy Wire

1p>Yesterday the trailer dropped for the new Netflix series Living with Yourself, a show that will feature Paul Rudd living his best "Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills" life playing opposite himself. The show is directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who we know from Little Miss Sunshine and FANGRRL fave Ruby Sparks. They also directed the music video for "More than Words" by Extreme, which is a thing I just learned and has now just become my whole entire day.

But mostly the reaction to this very intriguing looking program was this: Two Paul Rudds? YES PLEASE.

I mean think of it. THINK OF THE IMPACT. Two Rudds? Two whole entire Rudds?! Can the universe even handle such negative aging? Will it form an age suction and cause US all to age more rapidly to make up the difference? Will we all agree that this is ultimately worth it to keep our Pauls Rudd so youthful and vibrant? Silly question. Obviously. AGE ME, RUDD GODS. TAKE MY YOUTH. I'M BARELY USING IT.

In fact, why stop there? What's better than one Paul Rudd? Two Paul Rudds. What's cooler than a million Paul Rudds? A BILLION PAUL RUDDS. Replace all of us with Paul Rudds. Frankly, the rest of us haven't been holding up our end of the bargain. There are only so many people who deserve to populate the planet. It's pretty much just Paul Rudd. 

We accept and welcome the Great Ruddening. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but a billion Rudds running around being handsome. Just like in the Bible.

Battlestar Galacticast: Remembering Season 2, Episode 17: 'The Captain's Hand' @ Syfy Wire

1p>Welcome back to Battlestar Galacticast ... time to talk Battlestar Galactica Season 2!

As you wish, goddammit! Join Tricia and Marc as they revisit Season 2, Episode 17: "The Captain's Hand," guest-starring the late, great John Heard, aka The Dad From Home Alone. Dig Marc's impersonation of Foghorn Leghorn, which ends up sounding more like a basic cable baptist preacher. Also, what kind of lover is Apollo? And how is it that Tricia has never seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? Also, how many times can the phrase "You have your pound of flesh; I suggest you take your victory and move on" be said in one podcast?

Listen and learn.

Click here to subscribe via Apple Podcasts.

Click here to subscribe via Spotify.

Click here to subscribe via Google Podcasts.

In The Secret Garden Debut Trailer, a Magical World Unfolds @ io9

It’s the story of a young orphan, a sick boy, and a secret garden that unlocks something special within them, branching out into the lives of everyone else. The first trailer for the latest adaptation of The Secret Garden, from the folks behind Paddington, is here to bring a little more magic into the world.

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NBCU's streaming service Peacock unveiled, led by Battlestar Galactica reboot @ Syfy Wire

1p>NBCUniversal’s foray into the streaming wars has been a long time coming, but now the mysterious competitor to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and more has a name — and a few reasons for genre fans already overwhelmed with choice to tune in. 

Peacock, playing off NBC’s classic logo, will be an ad-supported service that launches in April of 2020. While that’s in the near future, the big push, according to chairman of direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises Bonnie Hammer, will come with July’s Olympics. “Nobody has it but NBCU and Peacock,” Hammer said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

Among popular exclusive offerings like Parks and Recreation and The Office (to compete with the hotly-contested sitcom stalwarts of Seinfeld and Friends), Peacock will launch with shows like Bates Motel, Battlestar Galactica, Psych, and dozens of non-genre comedies and dramas in its back catalog. The film lineup at launch includes sci-fi, fantasy, and horror standbys like Back to the Future, E.T., Jaws, and the Fast & Furious franchise.

But that’s just the older stuff, the bingeable stuff. What about the new? Well, that’s led by one of the more exciting announcements of the day: new Battlestar Galactica. The franchise that’s given generations of sci-fi fans reasons to mistrust Cylons is getting another refresh, this time from Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail. While Ron Moore’s version gave Glen A. Larson’s ‘70s series a critically-acclaimed facelift, Esmail’s will similarly keep the world of the Twelve Colonies fresh and modern — that said, his version will be inspired by Moore’s, rather than Larson’s. As for SYFY WIRE’s part, our deep-dive podcast Battlestar Galacticast has kept fans hooked on the show with its celebrity guests and episodic insight.

The new Battlestar Galactica isn’t the only original series coming to Peacock. True-crime drama Dr. Death (starring Alec Baldwin, Jamie Dornan, and Christian Slater), dystopian adaptation Brave New World, (with Demi Moore and Alden Ehrenreich), mystery One of Us Is Lying, Telemundo show Armas de Mujer (which joins thousands of hour of Spanish-language content), and limited series Angelyne join a bevy of comic content (like Rutherford Falls, co-created by The Good Place’s Mike Schur) that will launch with the service.

While the stateside service (not global yet) will begin its launch in April, details on pricing or a specific launch date are not available.

(Note: NBC Universal and its parent company, Comcast, own SYFY WIRE.)

This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Stan Lee’s Last Heroic Story, a Space Opera with Psychic Cats, and a Wuxia Epic Travels West @ Barnes & Noble: Sci-Fi & Fantasy

A Little Hatred, by Joe Abercrombie
In Adua, science is beginning to rise even as violence remains the most reliable force in the world. Hillwoman Rikke tries to control the Long Eye, which gives her a glimpse of war to come, but doesn’t warn her of the arrival of Stour Nightfall and his armies—looking for her. She flees with a band of friends and her father, the Dogman. As they fight Nightfall’s forces, Prince Orso in the south marches to support them for his own ends—but a rebellion in the city of Valbeck draws him away, leaving Rikke and the others to fend for themselves as Abercrombie once again spins up a complex and multilayered epic fantasy in his First Law universe—a perfect jumping-on point for new readers.

Gamechanger, by L. X. Beckett
In a 22nd century world devastated by an environmental disaster called the Setback, the restoration of the climate—the “Clawback”—is humanity’s most vital work.  Cherub “Rubi” Whiting is a star of virtual reality games, but her true calling is the law. Her first client as a public defender is Luciano Pox, a terrorist inexplicably opposed to the restorative work of the Clawback. Pox might also be the most dangerous man in the world, the embodiment of the singularity, or an agent of an alien force—if not all of the above. As her father hunts the people responsible for the world’s near-collapse, Rubi must get to the bottom of the mystery in this potent vision of humanity’s future. With the imaginative verve of cyberpunk classics like Snow Crash and a bracing—but not fatalistic—assessment of the mess we’ve made of the planet, this is a bracing, believable vision of what’s to come. (Note: L.X. Beckett is a pseudonym for award-winning author A.M. Dellamonica.)

Dark Forge, by Miles Cameron
The author of the Traitor Son Cycle returns with the second book in the Masters & Mages trilogy, following Cold Iron. It continues the story of a talented young mage named Arnathur, who finds himself compelled to train under a legendary sword master after revealing his surprising skill with a blade, only to begin questioning that path as he’s drawn into the intrigue surrounding a growing revolt. Now serving on the frontlines as a scout and courier, Arnathur discovers his job is more dangerous—and more vital—than he ever imagined. Cameron brings an intimate knowledge of history and warfare to a remarkably complex, real-feeling work of epic fantasy.

Chilling Effect, by Valerie Valdes
Valerie Valdes delivers a hilarious debut that honors the tropes and epic feel of space opera, tracking the misadventures of reformed criminal Eva Innocente and the crew of her cargo ship La Sirena Negra. Eva has left the risks and profits of crime behind for straight, low-paying work, but when her sister Mari is kidnapped by the crime syndicate known as the Fridge, she must break every rule, law, and promise to get her back—all while dealing with a hold full of psychic cats, an emperor who wants her punished for rejecting his advances, and a crew-slash-family that won’t be amused to discover she’s been lying to them. It all leads to a revelation that proves the kidnappers were in it for far more than just the ransom.

A Hero Born: The Definitive Edition, by Jin Yong, translated by Anna Holmwood 
Under the pen name Jin Yong, Louis Cha Leung-yung was perhaps the greatest wuxia writer in China’s history, and this, his most famous work, is only now finally available in English in the U.S. Set during China’s Song Dynasty, the story begins when Skyfury Guo and Ironheart Yang meet a Taoist monk named Qiu Chuji who gives them weapons and a promise of kung fu training for their unborn sons. When Guo is killed and Yang presumed dead, Qiu Chuji makes a bet with the Seven Freaks of the South: they will each train one of the sons, and 18 years later a duel between them will determine who was the better teacher. The intrigues and adventures play out against the power struggle for control of China, as vast and sprawling as anything you’ve ever encountered in Western fantasy.

System Failure, by Joe Zieja
Zieja returns with the final installment of his Epic Failure series, a droll military sci-fi trilogy that is anything but. The galaxy in chaos as the Two Hundred Years peace is under assault. The fleets of Thelicosa and Merida are massed at the border, but have managed to step back from the final plunge into all-out war, but events keep pushing them closer and closer to the brink—events driven by the corporate power that made most of the technology both militaries run on, Snaggardirs. The corporation is scheming to own everything; a disastrous war is just what they need to make their market dreams come true. Luckily ex-smuggler-turned-accidental military genius R. Wilson Rogers is back—along with his crew of allies and disgruntled robots—to save humanity again? (That question mark is not a typo.)

A Trick of Light: Stan Lee’s Alliances, by Stan Lee and Kat Rosenfield
We still haven’t gotten used to a world without Stan Lee—but thanks to the publication of his first ever adult novel (co-written by YA author Kat Rosenfield), we don’t have to just yet. Working within the Alliances universe Lee co-created with Ryan Silbert and Luke Lieberman, Lee tells the origin story of a superhero duo: Cameron, who emerges from a freak accident with the power to manipulate technology, and Nia, born with a brain capable of superhuman feats of hacking and programming. When the human race is threatened with extinction from a mysterious force, these reluctant heroes have to combine their powers and fight for the rest of us—which sounds like the ideal story to serve as Stan Lee’s swan song. The book has earned high prize from writers within the comic book world and and without—including card-carrying geek literary novelist Gary Shteyngart, who compared it to “a bracing espresso first thing in the morning.”

Wonderland: An Anthology, edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane
If anyone ever tries to argue the merits of perpetual copyright to you, you can hand them a copy of this new anthology of stories inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as exhibit A in your argument as to how inspiration often inspires innovation (Exhibit B: this list of SFF re-imaginings of the Sherlock Holmes stories). Editors and frequent collaborators Marie O’Regan (a three-time World Fantasy Award-winner) and Paul Kane (the award-winning editor of more than 90 books) have assembled a deep bench of fantasy novelists—among them M.R. Carey, Genevieve Cogman, James Lovegrove, Juliet Marillier, Lilith Saintcrow, Angela Slatter, and Jane Yolen—who contribute stories that show a different, often stranger side of Carroll’s Wonderland, interpreting it through lenses historical, horrific, science-fictional, and metafictional.

What new science fiction & fantasy books listed above have made it onto your TBR?

The post This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Stan Lee’s Last Heroic Story, a Space Opera with Psychic Cats, and a Wuxia Epic Travels West appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

The Man Behind Mr. Robot Is Bringing Battlestar Galactica Back [Updated] @ io9

All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again. Because literally, that’s what they’re doing, they’re rebooting Battlestar Galactica again.

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WIRE Buzz: Dawn of X rises again; Andy Muschietti still developing The Jaunt; more @ Syfy Wire

1p>Marvel Comics has big plans for its multitude of mutant-centric series, and the upcoming 'Dawn of X' relaunch proves it. 

The relaunch comes in the wake of the events of Powers of X and House of X, two six-issue mini-series penned by writer Jonathan Hickman. This new era for mutant-kind will incorporate six separate titles, including New MutantsExcaliburMaraudersX-Force, Fallen Angels, and a new X-Men series also written by Hickman — who'll also co-write the upcoming New Mutants series. 

Marvel also released a trailer ahead of the 'Dawn of X' launch next month, which features a lot of familiar faces. 

'Dawn of X' will kick off on October 16 with the release of Hickman's new X-Men series. New issues will be available weekly until mid-November. 

(via The Hollywood Reporter)


Next up, while It: Chapter Two continues to reign terror on the box office, director Andy Muschietti is staying close to the work of Stephen King

Muschietti was first attached to develop a film version of The Jaunt back in 2015, which is based on one of King's stories. Now, almost five years later, the project is finally coming together. 

"[The film] has been in development with Plan B for a few years. We tried to crack it and now we finally have a writer that can do it," Muschietti said. "I would love to. It’s tough to crack because it’s such a great short story, and then you have to expand it into a great film narrative. It took a while, but now I think we got it. I don’t want to tell too much."

The Jaunt was first published back in 1981 and is set in the 24th century where teleportation is commonplace. The catch (because there's always a catch), is that travelers have to be under anesthesia or risk a terrible existential breakdown.

It doesn't sound like the easiest material to adapt to the big screen, but this is the guy who managed to put The Ritual of Chüd in It: Chapter Two, so if anyone should take a stab at it, it's this guy. 

(via Bloody Disgusting)


Finally, we're getting a (somewhat) better look at three of the principal characters from the upcoming DCEU flick Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

The images, from artist Tula Lotay, are actually the covers to three upcoming paperback collections that DC is putting out in December to build on the hype for Birds of Prey, centering on Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), and The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). While they aren't actual photos of the actors in character, they give the clearest idea as to how the trio will appear onscreen so far. 


Black Canary's collection will consist of Brenden Fletcher's Black Canary #1-12 and Black Canary Sneak Peek #1, Harley's will include Harley Quinn #1-7, Harley Quinn: Future’s End #1, along with a story from Secret Origins #4, while The Huntress' consists of Greg Rucka's Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood #1-6.

Birds of Prey will wreak havoc on theaters starting February 7, 2020. 

(via Comic Book)


Another Familiar Face Confirms Their Return for Ghostbusters 2020 @ io9

Danny Trejo is willing to direct Machete Kills’ spacebound sequel himself if necessary. Andy Muschietti is working on and adaptation of Stephen King’s The Jaunt. Showtime has dropped Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Kingkiller Chronicles adaptation. Plus, Jon Favreau wants to do a new Star Wars Holiday Special, and the Scooby…

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Record breaker: Astronomers find the most massive neutron star known. Probably the most massive one ever. @ Syfy Wire

1p>A team of astronomers has made an important observation that has helped significantly narrow down a question that's been nagging at scientists for years: How big can a neutron star get?

I won't keep you in suspense… but the price for getting the answer early is understanding it, so you have to promise to read the rest of this article, too. OK?

OK. They measured a neutron star that appears to be the most massive ever seen: 2.17 (±0.1) times the Sun's mass. That is a whopping big neutron star.

Or I should say a little one: Even though it's more than twice the mass of our Sun, it's only 30 kilometers across!

 

The neutron star is called PSR J0740+6620 (PSR stands for pulsar, and the rest is its coordinates on the sky). This is no ordinary neutron star, either. It's a millisecond pulsar, meaning it spins incredibly rapidly, very roughly about 346.531996493212 times per second.

Haha, "very roughly," I kill me. But that accuracy is correct! It has a powerful magnetic field, and as it spins it sends out blips of radio energy we can detect on Earth. These pulses — hence the term pulsar — are very, very stable in time, so the rotation speed can be measured with ridiculous accuracy.

But it gets better. The pulsar is part of a binary system, with a white dwarf companion, and they orbit each other every 4.7669446191 days (and yes, that number is known to that accuracy as well, and so it's just fun to write out). And even better than that, the orbital plane of the two is seen edge-on from Earth. Even though the white dwarf is only a few thousand kilometers across, it's big enough that the neutron star goes behind it once per orbit. When it does that, we get an eclipse of the neutron star.

That's critical! The white dwarf is the remains of a dead star that was once like the Sun (see below), with a lot of mass crunched down into a ball the size of Earth. It has ferocious gravity… not as fierce as the neutron star's, but enough to literally bend space around it in a measurable way (using Einstein's equations of relativity). Every time the neutron star passes behind it, the warping of space by the white dwarf's gravity delays the pulses from the neutron star. This delay is teeny tiny — just 10 microseconds. But the neutron's stars pulses are so regular that this delay can be measured!

Pulses from a neutron star (smaller blue sphere) are delayed slightly by the gravity of a white dwarf (bigger sphere) as they pass by, allowing in principle the mass of the two stars to be determined. Credit: BSaxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF

The beauty of this is that the delay depends on the mass of the white dwarf. But the orbital period (which, remember, is measured to incredible accuracy) depends on the sum of the masses of both stars. Once they measured the delay, they got the mass of the white dwarf, which gave them the mass of the neutron star: 2.17 times the Sun's mass.

The white dwarf, by the way, is only (only!) about 0.258 times the Sun's mass. That's a little on the lower side of average, but not too surprising.

So why is this a big deal? It's because if you pile mass onto a neutron star, it'll collapse into a black hole. Knowing how massive they can get before pulling themselves down into an infinite hole is useful in understanding black holes.

Moreover, neutron stars are the densest "normal" objects in the Universe, and matter behaves very oddly when it gets that dense. It's impossible to replicate in labs, so we have to let nature be our lab. That in turn tells us a lot more about what goes on inside neutrons stars. Let's step back a bit further for a moment…

Artwork depicting the magnetic field surrounding a neutron star. Credit: Casey Reed / Penn State University

Like charges repel, and so negatively charged electrons repel each other (this is called electrostatic repulsion). But there's another repulsion they can undergo, too. If you squeeze normal matter really, really hard (like applying the kind of pressure you see in the core of the Sun), a quantum mechanical effect kicks in called electron degeneracy pressure. It's complicated (duh, it's quantum mechanics), but if you squeeze electrons together that hard the electrons repel each other due to this pressure, and it's far stronger than the usual electrostatic repulsion. When the Sun uses up all the available hydrogen in its core, the helium that's created will become so dense it will undergo this kind of pressure, and we say the core is degenerate.

This pressure is so strong it can keep the core of a star intact even if the mass of that core is up to 1.4 times the mass of the Sun. Above that, though, electron degeneracy pressure fails. It's not strong enough to support the core, and the core collapses. It'll shrink from the size of the Earth down to a ball just a couple of dozen kilometers across. At that point, another QM effect kicks in: neutron degeneracy pressure.

This is similar to electron degeneracy pressure but it happens between neutrons. It's a much stronger effect, though, and can support masses up to a little more than twice the Sun's mass. Above that, the core will collapse again and form a black hole.

But what exactly is that number? Calculations made using theoretical considerations get an upper limit of about 2.16 times the Sun's mass. Interestingly, the neutron star binary merger detected by LIGO-Virgo in 2017 allows another way to get that upper limit, and they found it to be… 2.17 solar masses. Huh.

So these observations match theory pretty well, and that's a good sign. This also makes PSR J0740+6620 the most massive neutron star known. If the numbers are correct, it's the most massive one we'll ever find. Perhaps though one even heftier will eventually be found, and astronomers will have to go back to their equations and figure that one out. But for now, it's a record breaker.

One last thing: The observations were done using the mammoth 100-meter Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. It was part of observations made with NANOGrav, a project that looks at lots of pulsars in the galaxy to measure their pulse timing. The idea is that if somewhere in the Universe two black holes merge, they'll send out ripples in space called gravitational waves. As these waves pass through the pulsars it'll change the timing of the pulses. If enough pulses from enough neutron stars are measured, it may be possible to detect gravitational waves this way. It's a cool idea, and I really hope it pans out (follow astronomer Chiara Mingerelli for more info on this).

I don't usually write about cosmic records getting broken, because in general they're incremental. Like the most distant so-and-so ever seen, things like that. But this is actually a critical and even fundamental record; if a neutron star gets more massive than this, then it'll wave bye-bye to the Universe. And this research helps scientists probe the interiors of neutron stars, at least theoretically, giving them insight on one of the Universe's most bizarre objects.

BoJack Horseman’s Kate Purdy on inclusivity and ambiguity in her animated show Undone @ io9

We’re still feeling the trippy effects of Amazon’s Undone, the new series from BoJack Horseman’s Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy that combines computer animation with oil paintings to create gorgeous, shifting worlds. The show’s technical ambitions are clear from the first scene, in which an overcome Alma (Rosa…

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This Artist Paints Endangered Animals to Remind Us What We're Fighting For @ io9

Alexis Kandra has been drawing animals for years, but she never drew them with a moral message. They served as symbols—for danger, peace, or mystery. Kandra, a contemporary artist, is now painting animals to help raise awareness about their impending probable doom.

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Save $20 On Anker's High-End, 30 Watt, App-Enabled Soundcore Motion+ Speaker @ io9

This isn’t your typical soda can-sized Bluetooth speaker that can sort-of fill a medium-sized room with sound. No, the Anker Soundcore Motion+ is a 30W behemoth. An absolute unit. And with Hi-Res audio certification, it isn’t just loud; it sounds great too.

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Today's PNY Gold Box Is Here For All of Your Storage Needs @ io9

Link's Awakening Dreamer Edition and Amiibo Are Back In Stock, If You Hurry @ io9

Update 2: The game is back in stock at GameStop! Might as well add the amiibo while you’re there, since you’ll get free shipping.

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Zombies are (sort of) real, because long-dead bodies won’t stay still @ Syfy Wire

1p>While corpses won’t keep crawling after you even when they’ve been hacked in half and their intestines are trailing behind them, like that memorable Bicycle Girl scene in The Walking Dead, they don’t always act as dead as they should.

The (un)dead can keep moving around for over a year after death. Australian scientist Alyson Wilson found that unpleasant detail out after following the movements of a corpse that was hanging out at a body farm for 17 months. Wilson realized that human corpses refuse to rest in peace after photographing the zom-body’s movements, flying from Cairns to Sydney to check on it at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER) every month. Her subject just couldn’t stay still.

"Once I observed a movement in a previous study, I started researching and couldn't find anywhere in the world that looks at quantifying the movement, so I thought ‘okay, I'm going to do this,’” Wilson, who recently published her findings in Forensic Science International: Synergy, told Agence France-Presse.

By the way, if you don’t know what a body farm is, it’s an isolated stretch of land where bodies (from willing donors) are left exposed to the elements so the process and effects of decay can be studied. Body farms have given scientists new insights into what happens beyond the grave. Postmortem studies are also an important assist to law enforcement when it comes to solving real-life murder mysteries — despite the horror movie implications.

So what supposedly causes this not-quite-dead-yet phenomenon?

“We think the movements relate to the process of decomposition, as the body mummifies and the ligaments dry out," Wilson explained.

As they mummify, bodies can do things like fling their arms out, which is what happened to the cadaver Wilson monitored. She and her research team were trying to improve how time of death is estimated. It was after using time-lapse cameras that they realized the dead move around on their own. However macabre this might sound, it can really help police get a more accurate reading of the time of death, which can in turn put unsolved cases to rest.

"They'll map a crime scene, they'll map the victim's body position, they'll map any physical evidence which is found, and they can understand the cause of death," she said.

If you watch cold case documentaries, you often see police going over evidence that can possibly point to when exactly the victim died. That evidence can be anything from tissue decomposition, to insect activity, to more untraditional things such as indications of changing seasons. Postmortem movements could fill in a gap when everything else has reached a dead end.

At least there was no proof that corpses are going to act like real zombies and shamble towards the living with a hunger for brains.

(via Agence France-Presse)


Jon Favreau wants to make another Star Wars Holiday Special, but he needs your help @ Syfy Wire

1p>Looks like it might be time to break out the Life Day decorations. 

While Jon Favreau's upcoming Star Wars series The Mandalorian isn't set to debut until November, the filmmaker may have his sights set on another (purposefully forgotten) corner of the space opera's lore for Disney+. And, without hyperbole, it is probably not an idea many people would have guessed.  

Fresh off receiving the inaugural Stan Lee World Builder Award at the 2019 Saturn Awards last weekend, Favreau spoke to Entertainment Tonight (see below) about the future of Star Wars, and what other stories he may want to tell in a galaxy far, far away. Specifically, the 1978 TV odyssey known as The Star Wars Holiday Special

"I was the one bringing The Holiday Special to the table, that's my generation," proclaimed Favreau, referencing a panel he'd done with Dave Filoni about the future of the blockbuster franchise in film and TV. "I love The Holiday Special — certain sequences more than others — but I love the introduction of Boba Fett and that rifle that he had. That animated piece still holds up. It's pretty cool. I draw inspiration from that. I would love to... someday maybe someday on Disney+ we'll do a Holiday Special, too. I gotta pitch that to them."

Favreau, seemingly determined to make this happen, points directly to the camera and tells everyone watching, "If you wanna see a Holiday Special, let Disney+ know." 

We'll wait...

...The Holiday Special unceremoniously ended Star Wars' original 18-month theatrical run when it aired on CBS Nov. 17, 1978. Set on the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyk during their winter holiday, Life Day, it featured most of the film's original cast and none of its charm or budget. It was not well-received, aired only once, disowned by George Lucas, and not even Mark Hamill can sit through the whole thing. Today, it only manages to live on via unofficial copies floating around on YouTube. For now.  

However, as Favreau notes, it did bring Boba Fett into the fold 18 months before Darth Vader warned him about "no disintegrations" in The Empire Strikes Back. Given that The Mandalorian is set in the underworld of galactic bounty hunting, it makes sense that Favreau would go back to our first glimpse of that side of Star Wars.  

Given that Favreau seems... genuinely serious about this idea, leaving it up to the internet to rally around the idea is certainly one way to get things done in Hollywood these days. After all, it was the online rallying cries that brought shows like Lucifer, Timeless, and The Expanse back from cancellation. And while it couldn't deliver Idris Elba as James Bond, it might be able to give us an all-new Star Wars Holiday Special. One that could be... good? 


Disney's New Bedtime Hotline for Kids Lets Yoda Creep You the Hell Out Before Sleeping @ io9

As another reminder of Disney owning a good chunk of the things we love, the company’s newly relaunched, limited time Bedtime Hotline service has added some characters from its most popular acquisitions. One of them I feel maybe has kind of the opposite effect of putting your kids to peaceful sleep, though.

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Animated Funko movie headed to the big screen courtesy of Warner Bros. @ Syfy Wire

1p>After lining the shelves of collectors the world over for years, Funko is making the leap to the big screen. 

Warner Animation Group is set to develop an animated feature based on Funko collectibles, per a report from Deadline. The deal will further strengthen the relationship between Warner Bros. and the ubiquitous toymaker, who've had a merchandising relationship that dates back two decades. 

The Oscar-nominated animator Teddy Newton (in 2010 for Best Short Film, Animated for Disney-Pixar's Day & Night) will be in charge of the overall storyline, while fellow animation veteran Mark Dindal will direct. In a statement about the deal, Funko CEO Brian Mariotti stressed that this was about making a good movie, and not a two-hour marketing presentation for the brand.

"We’re thrilled for this opportunity and are committed to make an amazing Funko movie that stands on its own merit," said Mariotti. "This isn’t about selling toys or building a brand. The team at Warner Animation Group have a unique vision of what the first film should be and we are extremely excited to take this journey alongside them." 

While details are still scarce this early on, rumors about a Funko-based animated film started back in January, which hinted that the film would center on the Funko Pop! figures. This would make sense, given they're synonymous with the Funko brand. There were also rumors that characters ranging from Darth Vader to Deadpool, Harley Quinn to Hellboy, and even the ponies from My Little Pony would be making an appearance. 

None of that has been confirmed at this point, but a Funko movie does have mega-crossover potential written all over it. Especially considering the success Warner Bros. has had bringing LEGO to the big screen. And while The LEGO Movies and Ninjago relied largely on original characters, The LEGO Batman Movie dove gleefully into the studio's menagerie of characters. It's purely speculative at this point, but given Funko's mass appeal, it would make sense to follow the same path for their bobble-headed characters.  

Any thoughts on who you'd want to see in a Funko movie? Let us know in the comments!


Sleep tight, you must: Yoda, Spidey & more await your call on the Disney Bedtime Hotline @ Syfy Wire

1p>Soon will you rest, yes…but hopefully not forever sleep. When it’s time to turn out the light and get some shut-eye, Disney’s hoping you won’t have to force yourself off to never-never land — at least, not as long as Yoda’s waiting at the other end of a phone line to soothingly guide you there with some gentle bedtime affirmations.

Enlisting the all-star help of Yoda, Spider-Man, Elsa, and more Disney standouts, the Mouse House has just brought back its Disney Bedtime Hotline, a toll-free way to hear from your movie pals — be they cartoons, friendly neighborhood heroes, or Force ghosts from a galaxy far, far away — before signing off for the day.

Aimed squarely at kids but entertaining in its own right for grown-ups, the hotline is returning for a limited time after first debuting last year with a dial-a-buddy bedtime messaging service that featured the essentials: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy (a soothing voice if ever we’ve heard one). This time out, Disney’s reaching deeper into its franchise playbook, recruiting characters from Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar. 

Calling the hotline at 1-877-7-MICKEY presents you with a menu where you can number-select from among a sandman-approved list of Disney greetings.

**SPOILER WARNING! (If there is such a thing as far as goodnight wishes are concerned.)

Some highlights include:

  • Mickey, who tells you about his day at the dog park, reminds you to brush your teeth, yawns sleepily, and then sends you off with a swell-sounding “I hope ya have some really fun dreams!” 
  • An amazingly Tom Holland-like Spidey voice, who recounts the web-slinger’s busy day of saving the neighborhood (including a cat-in-a-tree rescue) before confessing that “sometimes it takes a lot outta me, so I gotta get some sleep. You probably should too.” 
  • Toy Story’s Woody, who wakes the whole cul-de-sac with a billowing “Hey-howdy hey, partner!” before explaining that everything in your bedroom has to look just right in case Bonnie peeks her head in: “Now listen up, okay?…Let’s make sure the room is set, okay? Night light on? Check! All the toys in their places? Check!”
  • Yoda, who gets the best sleepytime script by far. Grousing at “adventure — Hmph!” and “excitement — Hmph!”, the sage Jedi master pulls liberally from his decades-long list of bankable phrases, cooing that “the day draws to a close for young Padawan” and advising you to “close your eyes and reach out with your feelings” so that you can “feel the Force surround you — like a blanket, it is.”

If you call the hotline, you can bypass a lengthy marketing menu and skip straight to the bedtime stuff by pressing “2” as soon as the line picks up. Or, if you’re down to hear about a kid-centric Disney Store tie-in, wait through the menu, where you can sign up for the “Disney Bedtime Adventure Box” — a subscription-based, monthly shipment of dreamy Disney goodies including stickers, pajamas, and story books.

The service is available only through the end of the month, meaning you've got about two weeks to work your way through all six character greetings. Oh, and rest easy, parents: Yoda deftly dodges the whole “forever sleep” thing. Even if your kids have seen him say his farewells in Return of the Jedi, phone Yoda won’t confuse them about just how long a nap they’re actually agreeing to — so tuck them in for a good night’s rest. Earned it, they have.


Colin Baker Regrets Not Filming His Doctor Who Regeneration @ io9

The Sixth Doctor was a controversial figure, on screen and off, by the end of his tenure on Doctor Who. At the time, Colin Baker’s exit was so tempestuous the actor did not return for the traditional hand-over of the role to his replacement, Sylvester McCoy. It led to one of the dodgiest wigs in Doctor Who history,…

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Paul Rudd Plots to Murder Paul Rudd in the First Trailer for Netflix Series Living With Yourself @ io9

We’ve known Paul Rudd was going to play a guy forced to face off with himself for over a year, but the first trailer for Netflix series Living With Yourself is finally here—and it looks like the existential black comedy void that’s been gaping within us since we finished Russian Doll is finally going to be filled.

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Gaming: Apple Arcade debuts early; Shenmue III teases gorgeous new world; more @ Syfy Wire

1p>Well, that’s one Apple that ripened quickly. Only days after peeling back the full details on Apple Arcade, its go-anywhere gaming subscription service, Apple has opened free beta access to the service three days ahead of schedule — so long as you’ve updated your mobile device.

Via C|net, the Cupertino tech giant has gone ahead and made Apple Arcade live for anyone who’s signed on early for the iOS 13 public beta, three days before Apple releases the service into the wild. Anyone who’s taking part in the iOS beta will be granted a chance to sign up for Apple Arcade, which includes a one-month free trial, starting today (Sept. 16).

Apple revealed tons of details about its much-buzzed gaming subscription service at last week’s iPhone event, including a targeted Sept. 19 launch date, a single-price signup cost of $4.99 per month, and a preview of more than 100 gaming titles — some old, some new — heading to the platform from a long list of established game developers. A single subscription account grants access to six separate login options, effectively making Apple Arcade a fixed-price family affair, and the service works with any device in the Apple product ecosystem, including Apple TV.


After years of anticipation and a few unexpected bumps along its crowdfunded journey, we’re only two months from the arrival of Shenmue III. And in what’s probably the best overall look yet at the new, current-gen gaming world developer Ys Net has carved out for the modern-day sequel to the Sega Dreamcast classics, a new trailer from last week’s Tokyo Game Show (TGS) is serving up a whirlwind tour through all the game’s colorful eye candy. 

Check out Shenmue III’s gorgeous and surprisingly diverse environments in the “Spirit of the Land” TGS clip below:

PlayStation on YouTube

Essentially serving as a visual crash course for all the cities, villages, and vividly-realized natural areas we’ll be moving through on Ryo’s journey, the clip shows off a diverse mix of the exotic (sprawling temple grounds in the moonlight) and the pleasantly mundane (a quiet and lonely market stall at night). 

Coupled with Ys Net’s earlier release of the “A Day in Shenmue” trailer, which shows off all the ways Ryo can spend his time outside of the main story, the new clip gives us a pretty good indication that the game has its ambitious sights set on being a worthy successor to its pair of intensely beloved predecessors. It’s all headed our way soon: Shenmue III arrives for PlayStation 4 and PC on Nov. 14.


Hideo Kojima personally walked TGS fans through a flood of new gameplay and story clips for Death Stranding last week, at once shedding light on the enigmatic game with a star-studded cast, while leaving fans with perhaps even more questions about what it’ll actually feel like to walk around a shattered American landscape in the shoes of lone soldier Sam (Norman Reedus). 

PlayStation on YouTube

In addition to an hour-long deep dive into the actual gameplay (you can check out the Japanese-language stream of that clip here), Kojima also shared a lengthy new story trailer that introduces Sam to Amelie (voiced by Lindsay Wagner), the mysterious character who serves as a bridge between the ragtag paramilitary factions vying for political control; the remnants of what used to be the U.S. government; and a hidden-dimension world. 

While the self-contained clip tells an interesting story, fitting it in with Kojima’s larger plot remains as elusive as ever — but as any veteran of the Metal Gear franchise can attest, that kind of deep, labyrinthine storytelling is a feature and not a bug. We can’t wait to finally dive into Kojima’s first post-Metal Gear game when Death Stranding arrives for PlayStation 4 on Nov. 8.


She-Hulk 101 @ Syfy Wire

1p>Jennifer Walters is a superhero who made her first appearance in the first issue of her own title. Though that title was only to last 25 issues, She-Hulk has gone on to become one of Marvel's most ubiquitous characters. Created by Stan Lee and John Buscema in 1980, She-Hulk might not have been the most well-thought-out concept in her early days, but over the last 40 years, she's had time to become a fan fave.

Savage She-Hulk #1, written by Stan Lee, art by John Buscema, Chic Stone, lettering by Joe Rosen

Hulky Beginnings

Hulk was at the height of popularity after the recent debut of the TV series in 1978, and so Marvel was scrambling to find new ways to market the property to as many readers as possible. It was none other than Stan Lee who wrote the first issue of the She-Hulk, one of the last Marvel characters he would ever create. A woman known as Jennifer Walters received a blood transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner, who took off immediately, and the two didn't see each other for some time.

In She-Hulk's first run, Jennifer Walters spent a lot of her time confused about her transformation into the Hulk, and most of the series consisted of her dating some pretty weak romantic interests while attempting to conform to the villain-of-the-week format set by the Hulk television show.

Originally, Walters followed her cousin Bruce's template, prone to brooding and anger at her personal misfortune. In the final issues of the series, however, she did an about-face and decided that she actually far preferred her time as the She-Hulk to her life as Jennifer Walters. Though she wouldn't fully embrace this transformation until later, this gave us a glimpse of the She-Hulk to come.

Fantastic Four and Solo Glory

She-Hulk was always more reasonable and easier to work with than her cousin, and very seldom prone to the same destructive outbursts, so she did time with various superhero teams like the Avengers. She developed a close friendship with Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four and has joined the team since on a few occasions when a member was out of commission. She enjoyed a lengthy stint in her own title again in the late '80s and early '90s, though that series regularly went far off the rails and included enough sexist asides to make it significantly less fun to read today than one assumes it was in its time.

However, this was when readers also began to see She-Hulk as the primary fourth-wall-breaker — that is, until characters like Deadpool and Gwenpool adopted that role later on. Stylistically, this was reminiscent of the then-current show Moonlighting, which featured a similar joke structure. When the run ended, She-Hulk once again returned to a sort of guest appearance status in the Marvel Universe. She showed up occasionally in the Incredible Hulk series, but mostly disappeared from the limelight.

Solo Avengers #14, written by Chris Claremont, art by Alan Davis

The She-Hulk We Know Today

Though much of She-Hulk's fourth wall breaking has gone by the wayside, it's been replaced with genuinely insightful character beats. All through the early 2000s, she was the star of her own series, which focused on the intersection between her work as a lawyer and her work as a superhero. She defended many of her fellow costumed crusaders in a court of law, all while trying to navigate her own tumultuous love life. She briefly joined the Future Foundation with Scott Lang, arguably one of Marvel's most genuinely fun books of the last 20 years.

Yet, Jennifer is no moral lightweight, and she proved that through the Civil War arc. During the World War Hulk storyline, Iron Man and other superheroes had banished Hulk from Earth, quite literally shooting him into space so that he might become someone else's problem. Jennifer found out about this and attacked Iron Man, who condescended to her and attempted to make light of her concerns. Jennifer's general interest in keeping the peace was put under fire during this time, and of all the heroes during World War Hulk and Civil War, her actions are reasonable and purely motivated. That aside, she and her cousin Bruce don't interact that often, so it's always heartwarming to see her continued struggles to have his back.

A 12-issue series written by Charles Soule put She-Hulk at the head of her own law firm, and this is where Jennifer Walters fully took on the persona we know her for today. She became her own boss with the explicit interest of representing superheroes and villains, which put her at odds with much of the superhero community at times. She finally went head to head with that other Marvel legal mind Matt Murdock in the courtroom, and we recommend you read that story for yourself to find out how that goes because it's a heck of a lot of fun.

After that series ended, She-Hulk returned to guest star status, but she's been increasingly prominent in the Marvel Universe through books like A-Force and appearances in Hellcat and various other comics.

Ultimately, readers love She-Hulk. Out of all of Marvel's properties, she is a character that has the ability to function well in any book. She works great on a team but has no trouble in the spotlight. Her versatility and her sense of humor keep her in a better headspace than most of Marvel's superheroes. Though she isn't always perfect, she is on top of her game as a lawyer and as a hero because she takes both jobs equally seriously. Her interest in doing the right thing doesn't always make things easy for her, but she always perseveres in the end.

The pending She-Hulk TV series recently announced by Marvel at D23 is promising, and we're hoping it will finally afford Jennifer Walters all the clout she deserves. Under no circumstances should anyone read a She-Hulk comic and dismiss her as "just a lady Hulk," and hopefully, this upcoming show will give her a chance to finally come into her own in the MCU.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.

The 10 Best Deals of September 16, 2019 @ io9

We see a lot of deals around the web over on Kinja Deals, but these were our ten favorites today.

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The Hole in the Ozone Layer Is Being Super Weird—but in a Good Way @ io9

‘Tis the season for the hole in the ozone layer to undergo its annual growth spurt in the skies high above Antarctica. It’s still early days, but scientists say this year’s version is behaving unusually and that it has the potential to be the smallest hole observed in over three decades.

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Exploring Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge's many hidden gems and custom thrills @ Syfy Wire

1p>If you ever get over the initial shock of going to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge for the first few times — after making sure to get into the Cantina, nabbing that scrap metal building spot, or getting on Smuggler's Run — you'll soon realize you're just skimming the surface of what the land has to offer for Star Wars fans of all ages.

Visit enough and you'll stop worrying about missing your reservation slot, and that's when the real excitement begins. When you're just taking it all in, you begin to notice the details and Easter eggs all around you. From sights to sounds and things you can eat or buy, there are so many things that you begin to notice, new things that enhance the experience every time you go off-planet to the Black Spire Outpost.

On a recent trip, SYFY WIRE ventured into the park to find all ways to engage with the story (if you have time) and see how much we could find.

Credit: Sabina Graves

A STAR WARS STORY STARRING YOU

When you inquire more about the world around you, you're invited to explore and create your part in Galaxy's Edge. Finding the tools to do that is part of the fun and a lot of it starts with engaging with the characters.

After the first few visits, you'll start to get the hang of Batuu greetings: "Bright Suns" during the day or "Rising Moons" at night. Sometimes you'll hear the local gossip, like about the bar owner Oga and the quarrel between her and an old lover that resulted in those blaster holes outside her cantina. And yes, those things are canon.

Other times there's more gray area stuff, such when you meet Batuu civilians who have backstories. Take Cynthia and her Porg Hermione with the pearl necklace, for example, who let you know more about the creatures you can find in the Marketplace. In time, you find out little things that make a lot of sense, including how civilians like Cynthia don't live in the Outpost, but commute there to work and can be from one of 3 different areas: Galma, Peka, or Surabat.

Credit: Sabrina Graves

It truly feels as if you're on another planet when your journey is soundtracked by John Williams, who wrote a suite for the land, which is layered with ambient sounds such as a ship taking off above you or a Wookiee taking a shower. Every little detail is imbued with pure Star Wars DNA, as WDI's John Kessler and Lucasfilm's Gary Ridestorm worked closely to create the mix for the land. The ambiance makes you believe you're about to be invited into a story you're going to help bring to life.

We felt empowered to become a hero, timely because we soon noticed a blue-haired girl who is hiding from the First Order. Feeling bold, we ask if she's Vi Morandi, General Leia's top spy, and identify ourselves as a supporter of the Resistance who would like to help. And this is where things get interesting: She asks us to come up with a code name, and we decided on Batuu-Bon, the name of the best dessert in the land. It's a small chocolate cake that is waaaay better than any flavor of the kinds of milk you can try and by far the superior treat.

Credit: Sabina Graves

DATAPAD EXPLORATION

After making sure to have downloaded the Disney Play App, we show Vi our Datapad (phone) and she asks us to infiltrate the First Order by joining the Galaxy's Edge RPG element of the app and hack into one of their ships for credits.

Credits on Batuu are the currency — the credits you bring into the land (your money) can be used to buy things, but the credits you gain through play are narratively purposed and digitally amassed through missions; they earn you titles, but no real items outside of the app.

A lot of signs in the park are in English but Aurebesh-ish; there is a good deal of actual Aurebesh to decipher on the app by using the translate option. One of the cool things we encountered while hiding from the brightest of suns in the well-air-conditioned Dok-Ondar's Den of Antiquities was a new creature we'd never seen before. Aside from the baby Sarlacc that Han and Chewie traded in, there is now currently a swamp creature from Naboo on display: the Ollopom, a very cute aquatic rodent.

Seeing it float up and down in its tank was delightfully surreal and a good break from our missions. That, and also looking at some of the unique items inside that were part of the movies that you could actually take home, including Padme's Japor Snippet necklace, Yoda's pouch, and lights used in Dagobah.

Credit: Sabina Graves

BLENDING IN

In our case, our mission involved moving through the labyrinth of the Black Spire outpost from the Resistance base to the First Order area. Luckily, we were prepared, outfitted in our GLD Landing Officer jacket, and we picked up a stealth Resistance insignia keychain to readily make ourselves known to allies. Getting creative with a look can be done before visiting Batuu by creating Star Wars universe-inspired looks through Disneybounding or finding pieces to complete it at Black Spire Outfitters.

Credit: Sabina Graves

Eventually, the brightest of suns had us in need of hydration, so we picked up essentials such as a carbon detonator and water smuggled to Batuu from our planet. While resting in the docking bay, we found some interesting numbers overhead of our table in the architecture. If you notice, each number represents the year of the release dates of the films in the original trilogy! The shuttle that sits atop the docking bay also mirrors the numbers as a great nod to the films.

There are so many little things as you walk around that can catch your eye. You can find mini speeders stacked along the walls along the marketplace corridors. There you can also encounter the former resident of a trash compactor who now dwells in the bathroom pipes near a drinking fountain. Keep an eye out for them.

Credit: Sabina Graves

HEROIC MOMENTS

Be aware that when you have your datapad out, the First Order will accost you if they trace your connection while you're hacking into areas by lighting up control panels or scanning coded hidden things around the land. Seeing your missions activate lights on walls and sounds is all fun and games until they attract questions from the baddies. They'll come to you and inquire what you're doing on your datapad and if you're working with the Resistance. You better get good at Jedi mind tricks or playing oblivious Galactic tourist to get them off your trail. There are so many factions, so be sure to pick the one you most align with and be careful who you trade things with. You don't want to lose any valuable data.

You can also do cool things by tuning into communication signals sent around the outpost with secret correspondence from characters you might recognize and that delve into their expanded stories. Even some of the faces that pop up giving you missions are directly from the current films such as Lt. Connix (Billie Lourd).

Credit: Sabina Graves

Some of the real-world moments you may experience include helping Chewie fix an X-Wing or seeing Rey place a wish on the wish tree in Savi's courtyard (and if you're lucky to find a scrap you can put a wish on a branch yourself). There are small and big moments all around but making a wish is a big goal.

THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES

Eventually, we reach the other side and hack into Kylo Ren's ship, doing some damage in the name of the Resistance and completing Vi's mission. It was such a fulfilling day but I think the biggest surprise is finding more things along the way that splinter off on more potential adventures.

There's so much we collected, including Star Map pieces from droids and communication signal logs being sent around the outpost, some of which mentioned more recognizable characters. All of this reveals an ever-expanding world being built throughout Galaxy's Edgel There are even things that were tricky to get, such as the Easter egg Data Pad mission in the cantina where we could find a piece of DJ-R3X's memory and also listen to him spin new tracks — but that required acquiring reservations for the bar.

Pro-Tip: You can try to get reservations every morning from home on the Disneyland app and don't have to be in the park to do it. The same goes for Savi's Scrap Metal Building, which we haven't done yet and can't wait to experience in order to follow the path of the Jedi.

Credit: Sabina Graves

Everything about Galaxy's Edge is so integrated that you can pick up on your journey easily when you return and you'll still find something new every time. Datapad Imagineer Anisha Deshmane recently shared that the Disney Play team plans on planting more seeds as films, books, and new shows come out in order to bridge the stories you make with the stories you love.

"We want to make it as current as we possibly can," she explained at the most-recent D23 Expo. "Anything from items and stories from the films and streaming shows will be seen but unfold along the way. The Digital aspect will be where we see the latest parts of the story unfold quickly. This is the first time we see it be part of the experience and push the rest of the story to be something new and unique. We are going to start to see that become an integral of the experience."

That's what makes going to Galaxy's Edge so amazing: You're participating in an adventure that allows you to discover more about the universe you love while feeling like you're a vital part of it no matter if you're eight or 900 years old.

The 20 Wildest, Coolest, and Most Unique Films We Can't Wait to See at Fantastic Fest 2019 @ io9

It’s that time of year when some of the most insane, original, and glorious genre films in the world descend upon Austin, Texas for Fantastic Fest, one of the world’s foremost genre film festivals. Over the past 15 years, some incredible films have played Fantastic Fest (see some previous coverage at these links) and…

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WIRE Buzz: M. Night Shyamalan slates 2 new movies; Jupiter's Legacy loses showrunner; more @ Syfy Wire

1p>Following the release of 2019's GlassM. Night Shyamalan will stick with Universal Pictures for his next two movies, Variety has confirmed. While we don't know a lot about these projects, it is confirmed that they will open on Feb. 26, 2021 and Feb. 17, 2023 respectively. Since the writer/director exclusively operates in the genre space, we can probably assume that both features will fall within horror, sci-fi, or fantasy.

"M. Night Shyamalan continues to create exciting, highly original stories that keep global audiences on the edge of their seats,” Universal Pictures president Peter Cramer said in a statement run by Variety. “There is no one like him: he is a master filmmaker working at the height of his powers, and we are honored that he has once again chosen Universal to be the home for his next two incredible projects.”

Credit: Erik Voake/Getty Images for ADCOLOR

“There are wonderful studios out there, but Universal has made it a mandate to release original films,” the filmmaker said in his own statement. “They are the best at finding an audience for new stories with unexpected tones. I believe original films are crucial to the longevity of the theatrical experience. I am so excited to be working with them again and bringing new stories to the movie screen for years to come.”

Shyamalan is currently anticipating the debut of Servant on Apple TV+. The psychological thriller will consist of 10 episodes and star the likes of Rupert Grint (Harry Potter), Lauren Ambrose (The X-Files), Toby Kebbell (Kong: Skull Island), and Nell Tiger Free (Game of Thrones).


Netflix's adaptation of Jupiter's Legacy by Mark Millar just lost its showrunner and executive producer, Steven S. DeKnight, Variety also reports. DeKnight, who had also showrun Marvel's Daredevil and directed Pacific Rim Uprising, allegedly parted ways with the comic book series over creative differences. DeKnight has an overall creative deal with the streaming service, but according to this story, he's trying to get out of the contractual arrangement before it expires next year.

Jupiter's Legacy centers on the children of demi-gods as they struggle to live up to the mantles of their parents.

Credit: Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

Four out of the eight episodes for the first season have reportedly been filmed already. DeKnight wrote and directed the pilot. With his departure, however, Netflix is currently looking to fill his spot as soon as possible.

There's no premiere date or window for the show, which stars Josh Duhamel, Ben Daniels, Leslie Bibb, Mike Wade, Matt Lanter, Elena Kampouris, and Andrew Horton.


During an appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, actor/comedian Dan Aykroyd confirmed that he would be appearing in Jason Reitman's Ghostbusters film that will be released next summer. 

“I’m not in the pictures so much anymore. We’ve got the Ghostbusters movie that we’re working on now and I will have to be performing in that," he said, describing the movie as "really good."

Aykroyd did not say whether or not he'd be reprising the role of Ray Stantz or if he'd simply make a small, unrelated cameo role like he did in the 2016 movie from Paul Feig. He also touched on the creative differences that he and original Ghostbusters director, Ivan Reitman, had with Feig. That said, he emphasized he still really enjoyed the all-female version that was the center of great controversy.

"It's gonna be Ghostbusters' third movie that directly links back [to the originals]," he said, getting back to Jason's take on the franchise, adding that they're working to get Bill Murray on board. "It'll be most of the original people and then young stars ... It's gonna be great. I'm so excited about it and it's just wonderful to be able to go back and revisit that."

These comments jive with what Sigourney Weaver said back in June about her coming back alongside Aykroyd and Murray. Not long after that, Reitman revealed via Twitter that the original cast members had read the new screenplay. Aside from the three we just mentioned, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, and Annie Potts are all able to come back as Winston Zeddemore, Louis Tully, and Janine Melnitz respectively. Sadly, Harold Ramis passed away in 2014 and is therefore not able to reprise the role of Egon Spengler.

Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things), Mckenna Grace (Captain Marvel), Carrie Coon (The Leftovers), and Paul Rudd (Avengers: Endgame) have also been cast, which is why Aykroyd mentioned "young stars."

Ghostbusters 2020 will begin to haunt theaters everywhere July 10 of next year.


And finally, you can take a look behind-the-scenes of Zombieland: Double Tap with the sequel's stars in a brand-new featurette.

Double Tap shambles into theaters looking for fresh brains Friday, Oct. 18.


Is That White Chocolate or the Surface of Mars? @ io9

A new image of dunes on the Martian north pole looks a lot like a candy bar.

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The First Trailer for In the Shadow of the Moon Injects a Sci-Fi Twist Into a Gritty Serial Killer Tale @ io9

Just seeing “directed by Jim Mickle” is enough to sell me on a movie—the indie filmmaker is the guy behind genre-bending films like vampire road movie Stake Land; cannibal-family saga We Are What We Are; and neo-noir crime drama Cold in July. His latest is coming to Netflix, and it looks like it could be his best yet.

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How to maximize your terror at Universal Studios' Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights @ Syfy Wire

1p>Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights opened for another Halloween season on Friday the 13th — which was also a full moon — so it was the perfect night to get the spooky festivities started. SYFY WIRE got a chance to attend the Fan Preview Night for the event, and we're still shaking in our boots. These were the big highlights for us this year, along with some tips for how to try to avoid getting too scared, if that's what you're into.

There are a number of new mazes this year, including ones based on Jordan Peele's Us, Ghostbusters, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, and Creepshow. There is also an updated Stranger Things maze, a new Universal Monsters maze based on Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, the return of Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses, and Holidayz in Hell. The Curse of Pandora's Box is all new, and we're seeing a return of The Walking Dead. There are a few other goodies out there, including a Jabbawockeez show and some of the regular park attractions.

When you first enter the park, you're going to be accosted by scare actors dressed in all sorts of horrifying costumes. No, they can't touch you, but they can get awfully close. So close, in fact, that if you're anything like me and might as well have a "scare me" sign on your head, you're going to be screaming before you get near a maze. The scare actors seem to be a little lighter than they've been in previous years, but they look amazing. There are little pockets as you go along where you get a breather from them, but look in every direction, including up. There are actors on stilts, ones with chainsaws, ones around the new Kung Fu Panda area, and, of course, clowns.

If you want to get to some of the mazes on the lower level of the park, and you absolutely don't want to miss these, you're going to have to go through the tunnel of terror. (Our name, not theirs.) It's full of scare actors who look like they're having a blast, running at you with chainsaws, lead pipes, and general creepiness. One thing to note, though, is that if you have an issue with strobe lights, you might have to have someone walk with you so you can keep your eyes closed. A lot of people had their hands up over their faces as they walked, and the scare actors seemed to notice this and leave them alone. Not me, though. No one left me alone. Seriously, did someone tell them I was coming?

Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood

Do not — I repeat — do not miss the Jabbawockeez show. The dance troupe is outrageously good. The show is at the "Special Effects Show" venue near the Simpsons area, and it's incredible. It's a short show, and if you have Express Pass and sit in the front of the section reserved for you, they might drag you up on stage. Not only are these masked dancers incredible, but the laser light show is going to blow your mind, especially toward the end. It's a short show, the music is great, and it's going to give you a break from the monsters for a bit. The audience was screaming and dancing along to the music, and laughing their butts off at the comedy. If you haven't seen them dance before, just take a look at their Twitter feed for highlights.

Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood

Ghostbusters might be at the front of the pack when it comes to maze standouts this year. This one is based on the classic 1984 film, and it has all the big scenes you want. We've got the library, the firehouse, Gozer, and a certain man made of marshmallow. The line was long for this one, even with Express Pass, but you can't miss it. The outside of the maze is pretty fantastic as well. Even cooler is that this one, along with Creepshow and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, are on the lot, so you're getting a look behind the scenes of your favorite films while freaking yourselves out.

There are tons of places to pick up light-up hats and glasses, as well as libations to fill those glasses out there, so don't worry about being so far from the rest of the park. Ghostbusters is full of jump scares, so while it's not a scary movie by itself, you're going to scream your head off anyway. You might love Slimer from the Ghostbusters cartoon, but he's still going to scare you here.

Maze Pro Tip #1: If you want to see what's coming and not scream and make your date/friends laugh at you, get behind a bunch of other people and follow closely behind them. We tried it like that, as well as at the front of a group, and let's just say there is more screaming if the actors see you coming by after a pause in people.

Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood

Another big standout this year was the Us maze. Freaked out by Jordan Peele's work, were you? Oh boy, are you going to shriek while walking through this maze. There are jump scares galore, and the actors they picked look so much like the actors from the film that it's like you're reliving it in person. Scissors are everywhere, and though we don't want to give anything away, let's just say the use of mirrors is really well done. Like Ghostbusters, this maze is really true to the film, and will likely be around for more than this year.

Maze Pro Tip #2: If you don't want to be scared silly, keep your hands at your sides. If your face says that you're freaked out and your hands are clenched, the actors know they have a target. If you want to be scared, go ahead and telegraph it. They can see you coming a mile away.

Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood

Another great one this year is the classic monster maze Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. It's based on the 1943 film, of course, but you don't have to have seen it in order to enjoy this one. It's a reimagined tale (as per the press release), but what we saw is going to have classic movie buffs going through this more than once. Forget thinking that classic movie monsters aren't scary. Seriously, forget it. You're going to be freaking out. The same goes for Creepshow. That said, you can take your friends who are a bit gore-shy to these. Maybe skip the House of 1000 Corpses with them, though. All the mazes based on the films are pretty dead-on (sorry, not sorry). If you have limited time, though, and you might with the lines, we definitely recommend Frankenstein.

Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood

Another one you can't miss is Stranger Things. We have to say, though, this wasn't so much scary as it was fun. This has been updated for Seasons 2 and 3 and is, again, super true to the source material. There are fewer jump scares here from actual actors and more from animatronics. You are, however, going to get wet. We didn't see a sign letting you know, and I got hit in the face with water. My friend/monster protector had a phone out and it got hit as well.

Maze Pro Tip #3: Yes, you can take pics, but we got held up in a few lines where people couldn't stop taking them. Aside from the water that might get your phone, you're also probably going to drop it when an actor sees you and targets you for it. As a former scare actor, I can tell you that we look for you guys. It's sort of a bet to see if we can make it fly out of your hand.

One more thing to note: Some of the actual theme park rides are open during the event, including Revenge of the Mummy - The Ride, Transformers: The Ride - 3D, The Simpsons Ride, and the newly revamped Jurassic World - The Ride. We got on that one with Express Pass with no waiting at all, and for comparison, I was there three weeks ago and waited three hours. If you get a chance, check it out. It's a short ride, but it's worth it, since everyone else is going to be screaming as they run from clowns with chainsaws.

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood runs select nights from September 13 through November 3 and runs from 7 p.m. until 1 or 2 a.m., depending on the night. There are multiple passes as well. You can get all the info at HalloweenHorrorNights.com. Happy haunting!

 

 

Reality TV, Disney kids, and gender-blind casting: The origins of the sci-fi stunner Freaks @ Syfy Wire

1p>With Freaks, co-writers/co-directors Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein usher sci-fi fans into a joltingly original dystopian tale that starts with a little girl (Lexy Kolker) locked in a ramshackle house. Her dad (Emile Hirsch) claims they have to stay inside or else be killed by bad guys. But Chloe longs for sunshine, friends, and the tasty treats promised by the smiling man (Bruce Dern) in the jingling ice cream truck. As she ventures out with a fistful of cash and ruthless defiance, this curious kid will discover a world filled with wonders and terror.

With a mystery box narrative, compelling performances, and an electrifying emotional core, Freaks has become one of SYFY WIRE FANGRRLS' most anticipated movies of the fall. So, following the film's Quebec premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival, SYFY WIRE sat down with Lipovsky and Stein to discover the origins of this super, scary story. And we were pretty stunned to discover its path to creation looped through Disney shows, real-life family conflict, and DYI designs. But it all began with a reality show.

Lipovsky and Stein built their careers together, helming kid shows like Ingress Obsessed, Mech-X4, and the live-action Kim Possible movie. But their collaborating began 12 years back, when the two were aspiring filmmakers cast on the reality competition series On the Lot. "It was American Idol for filmmaking, and we were competitors," Lipovsky explained. "America would vote and send the worst filmmaker home. And that happened all throughout the summer of 2007. We actually were put together in the same hotel room on the very first audition episode and became friends."

Though produced by celebrated auteur Steven Spielberg and reality-TV impresario Mark Burnett, On the Lot didn't take off. "Nobody watched it," Stein said. "The ratings were terrible because there was no drama. Literally we were up late, working on it, read each other's scripts, and talking about editing software."

Lipovsky concurred, "The funny thing about that show? You put a whole bunch of indie filmmakers together, there's not a lot of drama. They just all help each other and become friends and stuff."

"It was like filmmaking nerd summer camp," Stein added.

"So we became best friends and we went off to try to have our careers," Lipovsky continued. "We each directed separately. I did some horror films, and Adam did some comedy stuff. Eventually, we just started having the same struggles. Our career still wasn't doing what we hoped it would 10 years later. And we were like, 'Okay, well, screw it. We've just got to make something no matter what.'"

To start this something, the directing duo took advice from acclaimed indie filmmaker Mark Duplass, who gave an inspiring lecture at SXSW in 2015 called "The Cavalry Isn't Coming." Lipovsky recalled, "It was basically like, 'Ask yourself, what do you have right now? What do you have, actually, right now? You probably have an uncle who's got something. You've got a dad who owns something. You've got a friend ⁠— what are all those things in, right now?'"

"He said, 'We had a puffy chair, a van, and us,' and that was their first movie," Stein said, referring to the Duplass brothers' heralded debut, The Puffy Chair.

This got Lipovsky and Stein thinking about what assets they had that could help them make a movie. Stein found a tireless source of inspiration at home. "I was a new dad at the time," he said. "[My son] was 4 or 5, and we were constantly just amazed at seeing the world through my son's eyes and how he was discovering things about the world and things he thought about the world that were so strange. That perspective of a little kid was so fascinating to us. And we started thinking, 'What if you told a sci-fi story through a child's eyes and put the audience in the perspective of the child?'"

"Where they don't know what's real or not real, just like a kid doesn't," Lipovsky noted.

To which Stein added, "And because it's a sci-fi world, you really don't know what's real and what isn't."

This is how the central conceit of Freaks was born. However, the child hero at the film's center was originally conceived as a boy, to be played by Stein's son. Keeping to their Duplass plan, Stein and Lipovsky had intended to write, direct, and star in the film, playing the furtive father and the enigmatic ice cream man, while Stein's son would play its protagonist. But as the project gained steam and funding, plans changed. Before long, Freaks had enough of a budget to hire a casting director, professional actors, and even some names, like Emile Hirsch and Bruce Dern, who was the first to sign on. "It's still very low-budget," Stein said. "But it had that kind of DNA of it's just us and our friends making a movie."

The more robust budget also meant that they could also hire a child actor for the lead role. And with the possibilities in casting now wide open, these co-helmers went into that process gender-blind, auditioning boys and girls for the part. "We just thought, 'We've got to find the most amazing kids no matter what gender they were,'" Stein said.

To that end, the lead role was written gender-blind. "I don't think we ever really considered sort of boy or girl," Lipovsky said. "Because in our minds we were going to audition both. So we just really concentrated on what she wanted — what the character wants." He added, "Our design wasn't really about the girl experience. It was just about the child experience."

Still, they began to hope for a girl, considering how audiences might be more instantly unnerved by the dad's dubious behavior if it were directed at a daughter. "Because she's a girl and she has a father who you're not so sure about," Lipovsky said. "Immediately, I think the audience is more concerned about her. If it was a boy and maybe a mother they may not have been, or a boy and a father, they're not as immediately concerned."

"We thought maybe this is better as a girl, but let's just see who we find," Stein agreed, adding, "Then we found Lexy and it was 'Don't look back.'"

Once cast, the 10-year-old actress had an intimidating feat head of her. Nearly every scene in the film has Lexy Kolker at its center, often with swaths of dialogue and tricky emotional beats. Yet, tasked with shouldering a sophisticated sci-fi drama with a subgenre secret hidden in its core, Kolker proved a marvel. Far from the over-the-top performances delivered in children's television, she turned in a portrayal that was riveting in its restraint, vulnerability, and wrath. And a bit of this is owed to Stein's son.

"We knew from watching my son that kids are fierce," Stein said. "Kids have strong emotions and go through deep thoughts." He lamented, "You don't really see that on-screen very much. And so it was a matter of 'We've just got to find a kid who can access that and be truthful with that in her life,' because that's what the movie was all about. It was about exploring that perspective of this child."

"And all the things she wants are things that any kid would want," Lipovsky said. "She wants to know what's outside. She wants to have ice cream. She wants a friend. She wants to have control. None of that is necessarily about gender. It all feels true to anyone. Anyone can relate to those deep, deep desires."

Now that Freaks has made its way to theaters, anyone can have a chance to discover Chloe's story, experience her perspective, and discover her secrets.

We've Got the Exclusive Cover Reveal and Opening Lines of Martha Wells' Murderbot Novel, Network Effect @ io9

Martha Wells’ Hugo- and Nebula-winning Murderbot Diaries novella series, which kicked off with 2017&#39;s All Systems Red, is reaching a milestone next year with its fifth entry: the first Murderbot novel. It’s titled Network Effect, and though it won’t be out until May 2020, we’ve got an exclusive peek right here.

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Rick and Morty creators offer chance for fan to get animated into upcoming episode @ Syfy Wire

1p>Oh, Squanch! If you’ve ever wanted to be one of the zany characters on Rick and Morty, now’s your chance! The show’s creators, Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, have announced via Rick and Morty’s official Twitter feed a contest in which the winner can hang out with them … and appear on the show.

“We're introducing a new character this season,” the tweet promises. “You!”

The tweet continues: “Enter to win an opportunity to be drawn into a future Rick and Morty episode and hang out with creators #DanHarmon and @JustinRoiland in LA!”

 

In the accompanying video, Roiland explains that those wishing to be drawn into an episode of Rick and Morty should go to Prizeo.com and donate $10. One lucky so-and-so (and a friend) could win a trip to Los Angeles, meet Roiland and Harmon, and tour the Rick and Morty production studio.

“We are a real hoot to be around,” Roiland promises in the video.

And in addition to all of this (airfare and hotel accommodations are included), the winner will of course get drawn into a future episode. WUBBA-LUBBA-DUB-DUUUUUB!

Donations go to NEXT for AUTISM and Bergen County’s United Way.

“This is for a great cause and aside from that, think about how cool it would be to put inside the world of @RickandMorty,” Roiland tweeted on his personal feed.

 

So get schwifty and enter for a chance to be turned into a sentient pickle. Or a pencil. Or a Floop Floopian. Or most likely a wholly original character. Seriously, what are you waiting for? It’s $10 and goes to a good cause. As Harmon chastises in the video, “Open your heart, you animal.”

Rick and Morty Season 4 premieres on Adult Swim this November. And that's the WAAAAaaaaAAAY the News Goes ...

Jurassic World Short: Battle at Big Rock @ Bureau 42

Set after the events of Fallen Kingdom, this short shows what the world has become after the fallout of that film.

Vampironica Returns For Another Bite of Her Own Comic Adventures @ io9

Archie Horror’s literal re-vamp of Riverdale’s highest-class high schooler Veronica Lodge has already given us plenty to sink our teeth into—whether it’s in her debut miniseries or her ongoing crossover with Jughead: The Hunger. But it’s once again time for Ronnie to spread her bat wings and fly solo, and io9 has the…

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WIRE Buzz: Living With Yourself trailer clones Paul Rudd; Creepshow first reax; more @ Syfy Wire

1p>Remember that bonkers Netflix miniseries we told you about a few weeks ago where Paul Rudd gets cloned and then has to fight said clone for control of his life? Well, we now have a trailer for Living With Yourself, and it looks to be even more nuts than the initial description we got with the first-look images.

Case in point: Once Rudd's main character, Miles Elliot, is duplicated, he's buried in a shallow grave by the folks who cloned him, so his better half can take total control of Miles' everyday existence. This doesn't work out so well, as you might expect, and Miles, fresh out of the dirt, becomes locked in a battle for his wife (Aisling Bea), job, and very identity.

Watch the trailer below and enjoy the pitch-perfect use of "Everybody Plays the Fool" by The Main Ingredient.

Written by Timothy Greenberg (The Daily Show With Jon Stewart), Living With Yourself is directed by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (the duo behind Little Miss Sunshine) and premieres on Netflix Friday, Oct. 18.


The embargo on reviews for the first episode of Greg Nicotero's reboot of Creepshow for Shudder has lifted, and reactions to the horror anthology are now coming online. Fortunately, it sounds like Nicotero & co. have been able to replicate the frightening magic first created in 1982 by writer Stephen King and and director George A. Romero, a veritable genre dream team.

"This new take uses the same effects as on screen text bubbles and transitions that look like panes in a comic to give that same feel as the film. And while these stories are fairly gory and violent, the material is firmly tongue in cheek and never takes itself too seriously," writes Alex Maldy of JoBlo. "Thankfully, Shudder embraced the nostalgia here and allowed the creative team to deliver something fun and pulpy. This Creepshow is fun and fills a void on the small screen that will make horror fans very happy."

The two segments sent to the press were "Gray Matter" (based on the short story by King) and "The House of the Head" (penned by Bird Box author Josh Malerman). One deals with a tainted beer that causes its drinker to mutate into a flesh-eating slug creature, while the other revolves around a little girl's dollhouse that comes alive via a haunted being living inside of it. And despite both segments not having finished effects or titles (per Maldy), that apparently didn't detract from them being enjoyable to watch.

"Creepshow is more than your average horror television series," says Mat Elfring of GameSpot. "It speaks in multitudes about horror in general. It's more than bloody, mutilated bodies and overly-adult situations. Horror, as a genre, can take many forms and is the most versatile of any of the movie genres. While certain stories and styles within Creepshow may not appeal to everyone, Shudder's new series is a love letter to horror as a whole. This first episode offers up one extremely strong story and another that falls flat. Not everything we'll see on this series will be a home run, much like every other anthology series, but the opening episode of Creepshow is exceptionally promising."

Creepshow premieres on Shudder Thursday, Sept. 26. The anthology will feature appearances from Adrienne Barbeau, Giancarlo Esposito, Tobin Bell, David Arquette, Tricia Helfer, Dana Gould, Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Davison, DJ Qualls, Big Boi, and Kid Cudi.


In a new video from Amazon, TV creator Rafe Judkins announced that The Wheel of Time series has finally kicked off principal photography today. Sadly, today also marks the 12th anniversary of Robert Jordan's passing in September of 2007. The celebrated fantasy author died in the middle of writing the last three Wheel of Time books, which had to be finished by Brandon Sanderson. Years later, Jordan's beloved novels of epic worldbuilding are getting the live-action adaptation they deserve.

Rosamund Pike is leading the cast as Moiraine. The rest of the cast is comprised of Josha Stradowski, Daniel Henney, Madeleine Madden, Marcus Rutherford, Zoë Robins, and Barney Harris.

There's no word on when we'll see the first season of The Wheel of Time, but since the show just started shooting, it's probably safe to assume that it won't debut until 2020 at the very earliest.

It's also not the only sweeping fantasy series being shot by Amazon, which is also working on a big (BIG) budget prequel companion to J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.


The Legion Of Superheroes arrives in this Superman #15 exclusive @ io9

DC Comics’ revival of the Legion of Superheroes kicked off last month with the first appearance of the new Legion in Superman #14, sending the future heroes back in time to witness the creation of the United Planets at the core of their 31st Century superhero team. That idea comes courtesy of Jonathan “Superboy” Kent,…

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