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Author: Blaine Dowler
Original airdate: April 17, 1956
Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/w-blaine-dowler2/message
Go to Source
Author: Blaine Dowler
The 2019 Nebula Awards were presented in an online ceremony this weekend. The best novel winner is:
A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker (Berkley)
Our congrats to Sarah Pinsker and all the other nominees.
Locus has the full list of winners in all categories.
This win puts Pinsker on our Award Winning Books by Women Authors list for the 2nd time this year.
Riverland by Fran Wilde
The award was announced with the Nebula winners over this weekend.
Our congrats to Fran Wilde and all the nominees:
What do you think of this result?
Black holes don’t just devour things. They also spew enormous gas outflows into space, and when the supermassive black hole that lurks at the center of our solar system did that 6 million years ago, it may be the reason behind mysterious bubbles in the void.
What are now known as Fermi Bubbles are two gargantuan orbs of dust, gas and cosmic rays on either side of Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole. They were first discovered in 2010 by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Telescope. Gargantuan doesn’t even begin to cover it—they stretch 50,000 light years across. They also kind of look like a psychedelic hourglass in the colorized NASA image above (otherwise the human eye would be unable to see them). Now astrophysicists Ruiyu Zhang and Fulai Guo believe that these bubbles and their surrounding gamma rays and X-rays emerged when our supermassive black hole belched them into being.
“Despite numerous studies on the bubbles, their origin and emission mechanism remain elusive,” Zhang and Guo said in a study recently published in The Astrophysical Journal, explaining that they “[used] simulations to study the scenario where the cosmic rays in the bubbles are mainly accelerated at the forward shocks driven by a pair of opposing jets from Sgr A*.”
By running simulations of the massive outflow event, which was happening just as humans began to walk on two legs, the scientists found that intense gas jets on either side of Sgr A* were able to produce such bizarre bubbles on either end of the black hole. You don’t mess with outflows that escape a black hole. Powerful and wide enough outflows can rip through the black hole’s surrounding halo of gas and create immense shock waves. In the simulations, these shock waves forced the gas into the same shape as the Fermi Bubbles as they compressed and heated it. The edges of the shock waves pushed the bubbles further and further out into space.
Observations that had previously been made also matched up with the simulation results. Simulated jets of gas had energy levels consistent with those emitted by supermassive black holes in other galaxies, and the temperature the gas skyrocketed to when it was heated by shock waves was also consistent with that revealed by X-ray observations of the bubbles.
“The forward shocks compress the hot halo gas, and at low latitudes, the compressed gas shows an X-shaped structure,” Zhang and Guo explained.
The entire process took about a million years, which is how long it took for those uber-powerful jets to die down, and can explain the bubbles’ strange morphology. It took another 5 million years for the bubble to reach the almost unfathomable size they have now reached. The most cosmic ray acceleration was thought to have taken place in the heads of the bubbles during the first two million years of their existence, but even though expansion slowed down, they still continued to get more and more monstrous. There are also bubbles around the bubbles, radio wave structures which the scientists believe could have been the result of a smaller shockwave event later on.
Could there be other supermassive black holes belching bubbles right now? If it happened here, it could happen anywhere out there.
Peering up into the far reaches of the galaxy with unrivaled clarity, a new infrared telescope designed and developed by astronomers at the Australian National University (ANU) will help stargazing scientists hunt down some of the cosmos' most elusive heavenly events, all from the comforts of our home planet.
The Dynamic REd All-Sky Monitoring Survey, aka DREAMS, will be installed at the historic Siding Spring Observatory in northern New South Wales and is engineered to rapidly scan and closely monitor the entire southern sky in search of cosmic occurrences as they manifest out of the inky void.
With plans to share the telescope with international researchers, its creators hope their next-generation device will elevate Australia to the pinnacle of the evolving field of transient astronomy, which is the study of rare cosmic treasures in close to "real time."
Expected to be finished in 2021 and nearly 10 times stronger than its closest rival, DREAMS is being built housing a fully automated 0.5m telescope fortified with an advanced infrared camera. In each detailed snapshot, DREAMS is able to capture 3.75 square degrees (20 times the size of the Moon) of the night sky, and should be able to map the breadth of the southern heavens over the course of three clear nights.
Due to their ability to cut through the distorting galactic haze and distant cosmic obstructions, infrared telescopes are far more potent than traditional optical telescopes when it comes to searching for the more uncommon space spectacles like quasars, pulsars, interstellar mergers, supernovae, galaxy formations, neutron star collisions, gravitational wave sources, and the myriad mysteries of black holes.
"This new infrared telescope makes it possible to see beyond the dust and debris that block your view with a telescope that operates in the visible wavelengths," lead researcher Professor Anna Moore, Director of the ANU Institute for Space (InSpace) tells SYFY WIRE. "It will scan the entire southern night sky in the infrared, making constant images, almost like making a video. It will help us look for elusive cosmic events that happen in days, weeks or months and not millions of years.
"An example of the kind of event we are hoping to see is called a neutron star merger," she adds. "We know that neutron star mergers create conditions that make metals such as gold and platinum. We are searching for all these elusive and rare events. To see them, we need to be able to search across large distances, every night. This imaging could unveil new stars, nebulae, mergers, galaxies, supernovae, quasars and other sources of radiation new to science.
"We hope to have the DREAMS infrared telescope up and running by mid-2021 and the data will be shared across the world so researchers can be anywhere and have access to the tremendous amount of data that it will produce."
Dr. Tony Travouillan is lead technical manager on the ambitious DREAMS project and considers the exciting undertaking to be both innovative and economical.
"Surveying the sky in the infrared has always been limited by the cost of the cameras and not the telescope," Dr. Travouillon explained in a statement. "The development of infrared cameras using Indium Gallium Arsenide technology, with the help of our collaborators at MIT, has given astronomers an economical alternative that we are the first to implement on a wide field survey. We are using six of these cameras on our telescope. It gives us a scalable design that minimises instrument complexity and cost."
The finalists for the 2020 Locus Awards have been announced. Here they are for the novel categories:
What do you think of these lists? Any surprises? Any favorites?
If something like that doesn't scream total annihilation, it’s hard to say what does, except this time it just missed. Scorched earth and flattened trees were all that was left of the mysterious object after it passed dangerously close to the Tunguska region of Siberia in 1908. Theories have ranged from a black hole colliding with Earth to a clash of matter and antimatter to an alien spaceship crash-landing. An eyewitness even swore the sky was being ripped in two. But why no crater? No debris? Now Vladimir Pariev and his team of Russian scientists believe that is because an iron meteor just barely missed Earth before its immense momentum and mass blasted it back into space.
“Probably, the most realistic version explaining the Tunguska phenomenon is the through passage of the iron asteroid body as the most resistible to fragmentation across the Earth’s atmosphere,” Pariev said in a study recently published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Meteors usually shatter into pieces as they hurtle through Earth’s atmosphere. Any space rock smaller than a football field across will shatter a few miles above the surface. The atmosphere vaporizes the space rock into shards that its intense kinetic energy soon morphs into heat, so anything that remains is just cosmic dust floating around. For over a century, this was believed to be the reason scientists kept scouring for evidence that eluded them.
An alternate theory was that a comet left that gaping wound in Siberia. Comets are made of ice, so the problem with that is that the ice would have been totally vaporized long before the estimated trajectory of the object ended. It seemed like a dead end until—wait, what if the meteorite was made of iron?
What was being overlooked for so long is the stuff that rock could have been made of. Pariev and his team simulated the close encounter with objects made of stone, ice, and iron shooting across the atmosphere about 6 to 9 miles above the surface. An iron meteor would have been the only one capable of keeping most of its mass throughout its trajectory of about 1,864 miles without being crushed to pieces or vaporized. Some of it would escape as gas and plasma, but a negligible amount in comparison to the rest of the object. The speed at which it passed over Tunguska was enough to generate a sonic boom that flattened trees and left the land charred.
But why was there no actual proof of this hunk of iron ever found? Any dust that fell to the ground would have been indistinguishable from iron that originated on Earth.
“Maximum resistance to fragmentation is characteristic of iron [space objects], which is associated with the high homogeneity of their internal structure. In contrast to the iron … the internal structure of stone and ice [space objects] is heterogeneous with an abundance of numerous microcracks,” Pariev explained as to why anything made of rock or ice would have been doomed, adding that the new iron theory “is supported by the fact that there are no remnants of this body and craters on the surface of the Earth.”
Anything like the Tunguska event is only supposed to happen every 100-200 years. Still, if you look up and it seems like the sky is splitting open, just run.
If the writers had had their way.
Life, uh, finds a way ... to hitch a ride into outer space.
SpaceX and NASA made history today by sending a pair of astronauts into low Earth orbit — the first launch from American soil since the United States' official rocket program ended back in 2011. While Dragon Crew capsule members Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are the obvious stars of the inspiring mission, they've been slightly overshadowed by a third and tiny passenger: a sequined dinosaur plush (identified as a TY Flippables Tremor Dinosaur) that served as their zero-g indicator.
One might even say that the plush (which allegedly belongs to one of the astronauts' young sons) has gone viral on Twitter, effectively putting the "Dragon" in "Dragon Crew."
Personally, we like to think the prehistoric stowaway represents a Jurassic Park-inspired analogy. Elon Musk is to American space travel as John Hammond is to bringing back dinosaurs from extinction. Or something along those lines. Cut us some slack, it's been a long day of reporting on Demo-2, and besides, the SATs haven't used the analogy section in years.
Getting back to the topic at hand, zero-g indicators are, as the name suggests, objects that let astronauts know when they've entered a state of microgravity once the engines cut off. Think of the floating pen in 2001: A Space Odyssey or the cute little globe with eyes, a mouth, and stubby limbs that was used on a Falcon 9-Crew Dragon capsule test launch from last year.
That's one small step for man, one giant leap for all dinosaur-kind. Here's what the internet had to say about the sparkling and long-necked space explorer ...
To infinity ... and BEYOND!
In a historical moment that won't have people looking back on 2020 with a wave of PTSD, SpaceX and NASA successfully launched the Dragon Crew capsule (containing astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley) into the Earth's orbit. This first step of turning space travel into a commercialized industry is a watershed moment in the history of humankind. It's exciting, inspiring, and exactly the boost of optimism we need in a time when so many of us feel trapped by the global pandemic.
Sure, we've still got a long way to go, but the classic sci-fi stories of us setting up shop on other planets (whether in this solar system or beyond) don't seem as impossible as they once did. The final frontier is on its way to being tamed.
Demo-2 is, of course, just a test, an incremental step toward interstellar adventure, but its history-making success is symbolic of what our species can achieve when it looks toward achieving a goal that benefits all of us. The image of the Falcon 9 booster rocket piercing the heavens is bringing people together and making them feel profound emotions.
It's like being flung back to that magical moment in 1969 when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon. Thanks to the internet, we can all share in the overwhelming enthusiasm, even if we're not able to physically celebrate together.
Here's what Twitter had to say about the launch ...
It’s been a little over a year since the last episode of Game of Thrones aired, giving us a lot of time to reflect on whether or not we were satisfied with how things ended up. This is true for the actors who brought those characters to life, too. And for Kit Harrington, at least, it turned out okay.
This year, as the world reels from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, we will be robbed of a key summertime activity: attending one of the Disney Parks. (Indeed, this is the longest the Disney Parks have ever been closed.) As we endlessly watch videos online of our favorite rides, shows, and attractions, we’ve also become even more nostalgic about the rides that came before and are no longer open at all.
So it’s with that spirit in mind that we look back at 15 of our most dearly beloved (and badly missed) Disney attractions, from both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
This is a really long finale, said the joker to the thief. At roughly 141 minutes, the three-parter that ended Battlestar Galactica way back in 2009 wasn’t a short ending by any stretch of the imagination. But the original cut, which clocked in at around four hours, was even more extensive. The only problem was, it…
F. Tony Scarapiducci, Space Force’s like-loving media manager, may not leave the planet in Netflix’s new comedy, but it’s not the first time that actor Ben Schwartz has been in a space-related series. He recently voiced Sonic the Hedgehog, who is technically an alien, and he famously helped provide the lovable droid BB-8’s beeps and boops in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sometimes Schwartz forgets about that one, though.
“Oh crap — you know, every now and then I forget I'm part of Star Wars?” Schwartz tells SYFY WIRE when his role in a galaxy far, far away comes up, clearly excited about the reminder. “I guess what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to make a Ben Schwartz Cinematic Space Universe — the BSCSU — and I'm just trying to populate it with as many characters as I can, so I can ultimately do some sort of an Avengers-like thing where we all come together.”
On Space Force, which is now streaming on Netflix, Schwartz’s F. Tony (known as F*** Tony behind his back and, sometimes, to his face) is one of the many banes of General Mark Naird’s existence. The general, played by Steve Carell, got the unenviable task of launching the new branch of the armed forces, and F. Tony is there to make Space Force go viral. Boots on the moon are nothing compared to retweets on Twitter. The character’s name is an obvious homage to F*** Jerry, the joke-stealing social media “celebrity” who played a hand in promoting the infamous Fyre Festival, and Anthony Scaramucci, President Donald Trump’s short-lived, foul-mouthed White House director of communications, but Schwartz says the similarities stop at the names.
“One of the first things I did was make sure that [my performance] was nothing like either one of them, because I didn't want them to feel like I was parodying them at all,” Schwartz says, adding that he also wanted to make F. Tony distinct from his scene-stealing Parks and Recreation character. “I didn't want it to feel like a parody of someone that's already been made. I wanted to make a new character. One of the first things that [showrunner Greg Daniels] and I talked about, even on the audition stage, was 'Let's make sure this character is different from John Ralphio.’”
“The way that I thought of the character was: Imagine a media manager who really cares about likes and stuff, then gets fired from their job at American Apparel or Urban Outfitters. And now their only option left is to work for the Space Force,” Schwartz explains. “For him, it's a battle with Steve Carell's character of explaining why this is even relevant. His job is actually pretty integral to spinning things for or against the Space Force.”
As with almost all of the show, Schwartz’s character isn’t a direct parody or reflection of the real Space Force, which was officially created almost a year after Netflix started making the show. Instead, he’s an archetype. Even though F. Tony is annoying, he occasionally has some good ideas. He’s got to sell the public on Space Force, after all, and the concept of militarizing space is certainly a little questionable.
For Schwartz, who you can also catch on Netflix in his improv special Middleditch & Schwartz, watching Space Force is less about debating the merits of the endeavor so much as it’s exciting to see people succeed. General Naird wants to accomplish his mission, Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich) wants to accomplish scientific research, and F. Tony “wants to show that he's not just a piece of s*** and that what he's doing matters.”
Perhaps above all, Schwartz just thinks that space is exciting — especially the idea of a normal person going to space (he cites “Deep Space Homer,” an episode of The Simpsons wherein Homer becomes an astronaut, as one of his favorite episodes of television).
“I remember watching Double Dare and I could not believe that kids were allowed to go to Space Camp if they won. I thought that was the coolest thing I've ever heard of in my life,” he recalls. “You can't believe that human beings can go all the way up to the moon and land on it. I think there's a super-human aspect to it, and a 'bigger than us' type of feeling. And so I think people are drawn to that. Or at least when I was a kid, I absolutely was.”
Ad Astra! After the manned Demo-2 launch was scrubbed on Wednesday due to poor weather conditions, SpaceX and NASA were successful in their second attempt at sending astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station aboard a commercially produced rocket (the Falcon 9) and capsule (Dragon Crew).
"Every single nut and bolt on that spacecraft and these rockets was sweated over by a human being making sure that it was right and correct. And the fact that those guys are now in orbit is a testament to the dedication of all those people. It's really thrilling," Adam Savage said on Discovery's Space Launch Live: America Returns to Space.
Behnken and Hurley are expected to dock with the ISS by tomorrow morning. As astronaut Cady Coleman wrote on Twitter, getting to space is not the longest part of the mission ... it's the "parallel parking."
You can check out SpaceX's livestream of the launch below:
The mission (which launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida) is a major scientific test that makes history in two ways. The first benchmark is the fact that this is the first time in almost 10 years that astronauts have been sent into Earth's orbit from American soil. The second milestone carries even greater implications for the future of human space travel. If the mission is a total success, and it's not over until the astronauts reach the ISS, then the government can begin turning over launch responsibilities to the private sector. That opens up the door for an airline-like industry of trips to space, which paves the way for our species to start colonizing the cosmos.
"The commercialization effort means we want everybody to be able to fly into space," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a small Q&A with NASA Communications member Derrol Nail.
"We want to establish a commercial environment in low Earth orbit, so we can focus on the hard job of exploring beyond our home planet," added Bob Cabana, director of Kennedy Space Center. "To establish that presence in our solar system beyond planet Earth; establish a sustained presence on the moon, get to Mars [and] establish a presence there. We can't do that if we're locked here in low Earth orbit. And commercial crew, with both SpaceX and Boeing, that's the beginning of a whole new era of spaceflight."
The weather conditions were looking a bit iffy today, but the 50-50 odds didn't end up putting a damper on the liftoff.
"What got us last time was the electricity in the atmosphere and, of course, today, there are, in fact, buildups," Bridenstine told Nail. "It doesn't look like there are thunderstorms at this time, but they are expected. The question is: 'When do those thunderstorms go away and when do those thunderstorms materialize, where are they located?' ... Given the fact that we are in late May in Florida, we have to take every shot we can get. It's not likely that in a couple of days it's gonna be any better than it is today, so we are a go for launch right now and we are hoping that the weather will hold up ... The trend is better today than it was on Wednesday."
"I am there with you guys in spirit. Bob, Doug ... good luck," Star Trek's OG Captain Kirk said. "I know you’ll be fine. I’ll be watching and got everything crossed: arms, legs, I’m tied in a knot. Can’t wait for you to get back safely."
"For us at The Planetary Society, more rockets means more exploration. More people in space means more exploration. More countries involved in the endeavor of spaceflight means more exploration," Nye added. "This is how we know the cosmos and our place within it. So congratulations, SpaceX, here's wishing your team, and the crew especially, a safe journey and the joy of discovery. Let's go!"
[NOTE: This is an updated version of the article I wrote for the first launch attempt on Wednesday 27 May 2020. That attempt was scrubbed minutes before launch due to weather concerns, including the potential for lightning strikes along the flight path of the Falcon 9.]
[UPDATE (19:50 UTC 30 May, 2020): The Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon with Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board lifted off on time for their historic journey as the first astronauts to launch to orbit on a commercial rocket. Everything went well, and they are currently on their way to the International Space Station, due to arrive Sunday morning for docking.]
The last time human beings launched from American soil into Earth orbit was on 8 July 2011 — 8 years, 10 months, and 23 days ago. It’s been 3,250 days.
That is planned to change today, when a SpaceX Falcon 9 is scheduled to roar into orbit for the Demo-2 flight, a Crew Dragon atop the 70-meter-high stack, with two astronauts on board: Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
The launch is scheduled for 19:22 UTC (3:22 p.m. Eastern US time).
If all goes well they’ll be at the International Space Station in about a day, whereupon the Dragon will dock automatically with ISS at the Harmony module, and Behnken and Hurley will begin work with the Expedition 63 crew already on board. They’re scheduled to remain from about 1 to 4 months, returning to Earth for a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean no later than late September.
Everything related to hardware and wetware (humans, that is) looks good; on 22 May the rocket performed a successful “static fire” test: A full-up test including fueling the rocket and a short propellant burn to make sure all is well. Also, on the 27 May attempt all systems were looking good; only the weather was a problem and ultimately caused the launch to be scrubbed. The flight passed its readiness review on Monday, 25 May, and is go for launch.
Weather is still an issue for today’s attempt. As I write this update the chances are 50/50 due to bad weather in the area around the Florida launch facility. If they cannot launch today, the next backup date is tomorrow, Sunday, 31 May, at 19:00 UTC (3:00 p.m. Eastern). But the weather isn’t looking good for then, either. More windows for launch open in early June, if needed, but they have not yet been announced.
These dates represent what are called instantaneous windows, meaning that if the Falcon doesn’t launch right on time, they’ll have to wait for the next window. The reasons for this are many, but mostly they have to launch when the ISS orbit aligns with the launch facility. The payload is heavy, and there is a limited amount of fuel in the rocket to get the Crew Dragon to ISS. If the launch opportunity is missed, waiting even seconds means the geometry of the flight won’t get the Crew Dragon to ISS.
There is a lot riding on this mission. When the Space Shuttle Orbiter Atlantis touched down for the last time on 21 July, 2011, the Shuttle Transport System program had already been canceled by President Bush. The Constellation program was started to design and build a replacement vehicle, but was plagued with cost overruns and schedule delays. President Obama canceled that, but there wasn’t much to replace it with. NASA wound up saddled with the Space Launch System, which I have been very clear about as a gross waste of time, money, and effort — it will cost at least a billion bucks to launch (and that’s not including the many billions spent designing it), is non-reusable, and is basically a jobs and pork program by certain members of the Senate.
During the gap in America’s ability to launch a crewed mission, we’ve had to rely on the Russian Soyuz rocket, and they have been price-gouging NASA for some time. But they recently lowered their prices, announcing it in a somewhat petulant manner to my ear. Why? Because of SpaceX.
When the private space company SpaceX started up it had many problems — getting to space is hard — but step by step they’ve made progress, amazing progress. Their first rocket, the Falcon 1, had three failed launches before achieving orbit in 2008. Since that time The Falcon Heavy has launched three times, all successfully. In 2012 the first Dragon capsule berthed with the ISS, and has been back up a score of times, with several capsules reflown to space, some more than once.
The Demo-1 flight was in 2019, with the unoccupied Crew Dragon launched and successfully docking with ISS. Now, a year later — after delays, to be sure — Demo-2 is ready to fly.
When it does, and if it’s successful, it will mean astronauts can once again launch on American-built vehicles from American soil. A source of pride? Certainly. But it will also save NASA a ton of money. SLS and the Orion capsule have already cost about $40 billion (2020 dollars), and it’s unclear when they will launch humans. Falcon and Dragon have cost a fraction of that, and going into the future will cost far less per flight, too.
I’ve thought about this gap in American human spaceflight, mostly in terms of history. After the Apollo-Soyuz mission, which splashed down on 24 July 1975, it was almost 6 years before the U.S. launched astronauts again on the first Space Shuttle flight. At the time that seemed interminable … but who recalls it now? The Shuttle flight was itself historic, of course, but four decades later that gap is more of a footnote in spaceflight history.
The flight of this Dragon is historic as well — it’s the first crewed launch into orbit by a commercial company. But I wonder if, in a few decades' time, the gap will seem more incidental than influential. A political failing that slowed but did not stop the urge to explore space.
Mind you, the next flight of the Dragon with astronauts on board, called the Crew-1 mission, is scheduled for 30 August. That’s just three months from now. Clearly NASA is confident about this demo flight, but it also shows that flights to space may become a lot more common in the near future. Once Boeing’s Starliner starts flying as well we’ll see what the future of crewed spaceflight really is.
Oh, and incidentally, that last flight of Atlantis in 2011? The pilot was Doug Hurley. He is literally spanning the gap in U.S. human spaceflight, a single human bridge across the years that brings all of humanity a step closer to being a spacefaring species.
May they have clear skies and a smooth ride to orbit. Ad astra.
You can watch the launch live at these streams:
The Discovery and Science Channels will also be covering it live.
Update: The Demo-2 had a successful launch.
The first launch of a crewed spaceship from North America since 2011 was cancelled earlier this week, and hopefully, will happen today at 3:22 EDT / 1922 GMT. If successful, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley’s journey to the International Space Station will be the first time a privately-owned company has made the trip.
Some additional information and coverage:
These are not great times, and, while some might consider the launch a distraction from more serious matters here on earth, I see nothing wrong with demonstrating that we can do great as well as low things, and that history has moments of triumph alongside the times we will want to (but shouldn’t) forget.
Facebook will not remove an incendiary post from President Donald Trump essentially calling for authorities to enter Minneapolis and open fire on Americans protesting police brutality there, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Friday. Earlier in the day, Twitter flagged identical posts on both the official White House…
Fans in need of another animated body-swap romance may have just found one with a twist from the director of Sailor Moon.
Upcoming Netflix anime film A Whisker Away — helmed by Tomotaka Shibayama and Jun'ichi Satô, who directed TONS of beloved throwback anime and worked on plenty of classics like Neon Genesis Evangelion — tells the story of Miyo Sasaki, aka Muge, who turns herself into a cat to get the attention of her crush, Kento Hinode. Really ... just watch the trailer.
If the boy you like doesn’t like you back, running away to an island full of magical cats is definitely ... one solution. Written by Mari Okada, A Whisker Away looks like it’ll blend plenty of fantastical and romantic elements within a magical world that grapples with very real emotions. Who cares if there's an Animorph at its center?
A Whisker Away hits Netflix on June 18.
Up next, a book about interstellar immigrants is getting the big-screen treatment from Columbia, as the studio has snapped up the rights to Geoff Rodkey’s book We’re Not From Here.
Deadline reports that the author’s story about a human family that moves to an alien planet — think Solar Opposites in reverse, and for kids — will be directed by Mike Mitchell (The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part). Rodkey, a screenwriter in his own right (with films like Daddy Day Care and The Shaggy Dog under his belt) will adapt the script himself.
His next book, the apocalyptic Lights Out in Lincolnwood, will be published next summer.
Last but not least, what better way to take the mind off the horrors of the real world than by seeing a good horror flick?
It's no Blair Witch, but The Wretched is cementing a little place in film history, as Variety reports that IFC Film's low-budget horror flick is set to top the box office for the fifth weekend in a row. The last time such a rare milestone had been reached was Marvel blockbuster Black Panther in 2018.
Four weeks into release, the supernatural thriller has grossed $664,000. Okay, so that's not exactly the gargantuan $530 million Black Panther raked in during its first month, and it's not going to land anywhere near the final box-office tally of 1999's seminal micro-budget mega-hit, The Blair Witch Project.
The caveat, of course, is the coronavirus, which has caused most studios to pull their films from the release schedule except for the more niche distributors. As a result, that's cleared the field for much smaller indie fare like IFC's The Wretched to grab the relatively meager number of moviegoers who are willing to brave the COVID-19 outbreak and visit the few theaters that remain operating. This as the country slowly re-opens following two and half months of lockdown.
Per the trade, the bulk of the ticket sales have come from seasonal drive-ins, which have turned to screening indies and classics like Jaws to replace the tentpoles that they regularly program.
It was a decade ago when award-winning writer Kieron Gillen (Wicked+Divine, Die) and gaming journalist Jim Rossignol first dreamed up a world of "Pseudo-Dukes," "Eldritch Hyper-Popes," and "Captains of Hyperbole." Having collaborated creatively on so many projects in the gaming world, Ludocrats was a concept they’d toyed with for a while. Several years, two artists, and one pandemic later, and Image Comics is publishing Ludocrats, a 5-issue mini-series that Gillen has amusingly referred to as “the greatest comic of all time.”
The book was initially developed with artist David Lafuente, but the team struggled to make the schedules work. Then artist Jeff Stokely (The Spire) came on board, and the writers were so impressed with his work that they decided to completely rebuild the book instead of asking Stokely to mimic Lafuente's style.
Ludocrats’ main characters are Baron Otto Von Subertan and Professor Hades Zero-K. Together they are out to rid the kingdom of the vapid and banal ... one nuptial at a time. You see, the Baron only performs adjudications at weddings. Where the Otto is a raucous exhibitionist, Hades is more level-headed and calculated. That’s relative in a world where the punishment for being boring is an arranged marriage that culminates in the beheading of the groom. The comic is Asterix and Obelisk meets I Hate Fairyland, with a bit of Monty Python to offset the gory bits.
Where most comics feature stories that are metaphors for broader themes, Ludocrats’ characters are personifications of the metaphors themselves. The aristocracy worships the absurd, and the populace must conform to some form of literal ridiculousness or meet a bloody end. SYFY WIRE talked with the hilarious writing team about why drinking, Dune, and double entendres are essential to the writing process — and a welcome diversion right now.
What’s it like releasing a comic like this in the middle of a pandemic?
Kieron Gillen: It’s certainly weird putting out a book like Ludocrats now, and sitting and working out the firework display of dumbness when you see the world around you. I’m also reminded of part of the inspiration for the book — back in a particularly bleak 2006, I found monthly solace in the joy that was NextWave. With everything around it so dark, it was just this candy floss joy, and I’m grateful for it. Dropping a distraction like this seems the right time for it.
That helps me keep on writing, anyway.
Jim Rossignol: Much as with Kieron, it’s about friends and family support networks. Thank goodness for the internet, on this one occasion … But I also have kids who need schooling, which is providing me with some much-needed focus, and uh ... math problems.
Jeff Stokely is such a versatile artist. Did you give him much direction?
KG: With a comic which leans berserk, Jeff just responded to what’s in the scripts, which we, in turn, integrated back into the scripts (both in lettering and in later issues). It’s not a book you’d do in the style of The Spire — that it's the comedy that needs more of that. It’s a book which is designed to push expression as much as we can, across the whole team.
JR: Artists in any medium work best when the material they are producing has a sort of momentum to it. You can definitely see that with Jeff doing Ludocrats. He built up a style, created the characters, drew the initial takes on the world, and by that point he had a head of steam which meant the comic could go crashing on into extreme visual creativity. It’s been a thrill to see that unfold in real time.
Kieron, your recent work is steeped in both history and philosophy; where did this wacky gory story come from?
KG: I’d immediately raise an eyebrow at the false dichotomy in that question. Ludocrats is enormously silly but absolutely grounded in thought. Oh Jim, paint me with your words as if I were one of the "Philosophy of Boredom" girls.
JR: Well, the extent to which goofing off with pals should be sacred. I think if you read something like, say, a biography of Peter the Great, who once had a beheading competition with his drinking buddies, then you can see where our attempts to create caricatured lunacy are really just clutching at the straws of possibility.
What is the philosophy behind this story, then?
JR: The philosophy in Ludocrats that might not be immediately obvious beyond the gore and wildness, but it is this: Why should the extremes of sensual existence not be democratized? Why shouldn’t those with unlimited wealth and power be obliged to share some of the qualitative ludicrousness of their existence with everyone? Make the world a better place, sure, but don’t forget to make it weirder as you do so.
Are the characters in the story archetypes?
KG: They certainly have a degree of that kind of primal energy to them, right? I suspect, to jump on the philosophy mentioned, Otto and Hades are the Dionysian and Apollonian side, respectively. One is chaos embodied. The other is a creature of graphs. Which, to turn away from philosophy, this is pure straight man/funny man dichotomy out of double acts from the beginning of the performance. “Straight man,” in the Ludocratic world, is a relative term, of course.
What’s the craziest line you’ve written in the story so far?
KG: Picking one is tricky, as there’s basically one on every page. “With nothing worse than a light coating of semen from a death-dealing caterpillar, we’ll make our escape!” — from the second issue captures a little of the horror of writing Ludocrats.
JR: There’s a line in the backmatter line which reads, “Quake in abject indignation as the tale of these complicated quiddities of the Ludocracy carve a euphemistic glyph into the heaving flank of anticipated narrative.” I quite like that.
Jim, what has been the biggest challenge being on the creator end of the spectrum?
JR: Getting to grips with how a comic is made. I’ve worked on magazines and published books, and the team required here is almost more complicated. The artist, flatter, letterer, colorist, all requiring collaboration with the writer and editor. It’s far closer to the technical production feat of making video games (which I have spent the past decade doing) than I might otherwise have realized.
What was the collaboration process like?
JR: Initially boozy, later more focused, and always determinedly creative. We both love images and ideas and stretch them and pull them apart between us. We have slightly different senses of how things should be approached, or what is funny, but appreciate how the other does things. Bringing different tastes and abilities to a collaboration is always essential, and I think we do that with the practice you get from decades-long knowledge of the other person.
KG: About 95 percent of writing Ludocrats is leaning back, blinking, wondering what on earth is on the comic. The main advantage of co-writing it is that Jim and I can point at each other and blame the other one for it. The main advantage of the extended development time is that we can no longer be sure who’s to blame.
(If you’re interested, the other 5 percent of Ludocrats is correcting typos.)
How do you worldbuild a universe that literally makes no sense?
JR: A mix of knowing what works in terms of absurd jokes, and free association. Letting ideas connect from one to the next in ways that are unexpected is the key to making this sort of world creation work. Doubling back, subverting expectations, and being extremely stupid in an artful way. Kieron likes to point to how Monty Python was educated people figuring out how stupid they can be. I agree with that, although Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer were more of a direct influence on my own absurdism!
Image Comics mentioned that this is an adult mashup of Asterix and Obelix meets Dune. What made you chose those stories as your inspiration?
JR: It was less an inspiration than a sort of reference for explaining what the hell we were up to. That said, Asterix and Obelix and Dune are both landmark influences on me, although probably not by choice. They were just the atmosphere I grew up in and the books I had when I was a child. I feel like Ludocrats compared favorably, but perhaps I am obligated to say that!
KG: We can say whatever we want. No one tells us what to do.
When Warner Bros.' first live-action blockbuster featuring DC Comics' ancient wizard hit theaters in 2019, Shazam! not only performed well at the box office and delighted critics and audiences alike with its tongue planted firmly in cheek, it also offered up a shout-out to another iconic DC superhero.
Early in the film, Shazam (Zachary Levi) drops a few references to the larger DCEU, and then promises Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) to invite his good buddy Superman to drop in at their elementary school.
And Superman does … sort of.
In a mid-credits sequence, the Man of Steel turns up in the school's cafeteria — from the torso down, however. As a result, we never see Sup's face or the man who's been playing him for the last seven years, Henry Cavill. Part of the reason the actor was missing was due to the fact that when Shazam! was in production, he had exited the role after talks with the studio regarding Superman's future went nowhere following the critical and commercial disappointment that was 2017's Justice League.
As enjoyable as Shazam! was for moviegoers, the absence of Cavill annoyed the geek set enough that they took to social media to complain to director David F. Sandberg — who, a year later, apparently still hasn't heard the end of it.
But with Warner Media's new streaming service, HBO Max, launching this week and featuring the entire DCEU film output, including Shazam!, Sandberg decided to make things right. Having shot and posted several shorts on his own during his time in lockdown due to the coronavirus, Sandberg couldn't resist giving his DC flick the homemade upgrade as well — though we should note Cavill's Clark Kent/Kal-El cameo is unrelated to the news that broke earlier this week, that he's now in talks to reprise Superman in future DCEU movies.
And visually speaking, the homemade results — not unlike Henry's faux mustache in Justice League — are hilariously
up, up and away way, way out there. Check out Sandberg's tweet below and you'll see what we mean.
Per the trades, Cavill is not expected to don the cape again for the fabled Synder Cut, Justice League filmmaker Zack Snyder's unfinished version of the big-screen superhero collective, which is now destined to premiere on HBO Max in 2021. However, expect to see Cavill's Superman turn up in some forthcoming DC standalones, most likely Aquaman 2, Suicide Squad 2, or The Batman. Granted, after watching the clip above, Shazam! 2 would make the most sense to us.
Either way, we're happy Cavill's back. Let's just hope success, um, doesn't give him a big head.
How many times have we watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and salivated over the scene where Violet Beauregarde swipes an experimental candy and immediately pops it into her mouth to enjoy the simulated flavors of an entire roast beef dinner, complete with blueberry pie and ice cream for dessert?
Now researchers led by scientist Homei Miyashita at China's Meiji University have outdone Wonka's magical three-course meal gum. They've created a digital gadget that utilizes five multicolored gels infused with ion electrophoresis, which can be manipulated to create different tastes interpreted by the brain as various flavors when you lick it.
Sounds kinda weird, but then again, our gray matter is a mysterious organ when it comes to processing electrochemical signals!
The new study published on the Miyashita Laboratory's official site describes an invention branded the Norimaki Synthesizer, a hi-tech taste display that employs the sorcery of ion electrophoresis in five gooey gels that contain certain electrolytes. The rainbow of synthetic substances supply controlled amounts of each of the five basic tastes (sweet, bitter, salty, sour, and umami or meaty) to apply a random taste to the user's tongue — similar to modern optical displays producing various hues from the lights of the three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue).
When applied to the hungry user's tongue with zero voltage, the person can experience all five individual tastes. However, when an electrical stimulus is applied, the cations in the gel move to the cathode side and away from the tongue, allowing the chemicals to serve up a weakened taste. Scientists attached to the savory project have developed a drool-worthy display that manifests an arbitrary burst by individually suppressing the sensation of each of the five basic tastes to create a harmonious blend that can be mixed to produce a wide range of flavors without actually swallowing the gels.
"Like an optical display that uses lights of three basic colors to produce arbitrary colors," Miyashita explained in his research paper, "this display can synthesize and distribute arbitrary tastes together with the data acquired by taste sensors. The synthesizer has allowed users to experience the flavor of everything from gummy candy to sushi without having to place a single item of food in their mouths."
In today's virtual-minded world this just might be the perfect tool to stave off hunger pangs, but expect some incredulous looks from fellow citizens when you pull out your lickable display in public!
A prototype of the Starship vessel that SpaceX hopes will one day rocket humans to Mars exploded Friday on the test pad. The Starship prototype lost in the blast isn’t related to the Crew Dragon vessel scheduled to send humans into space in Saturday’s planned SpaceX launch in Florida.
The Starship explosion, captured in the video below, happened during ground testing of the reusable craft, which SpaceX is designing as a lower-cost and repeatable means of one day making interplanetary travel routine. The mishap — which NBC News reports occurred just after a test firing of the current Starship SN4’s massive Raptor engine — marks the fourth time a Starship prototype has been destroyed in testing.
The explosion created a massive fireball and sent a thunderous crackle through the air, captured in ground-level footage shared by private NASA news website NASASpaceflight.com:
So far, SpaceX has not commented on the incident, but it's not expected to pose any late logistical challenges that could affect the timeline for Saturday’s hugely anticipated launch of the Crew Dragon craft atop its Falcon 9 rocket. Delayed from May 27 due to inclement weather, that launch is set to take place at 3:22 p.m. ET on Saturday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Unlike the Raptor rocket, which is still comparatively earlier in development, the Falcon 9 that SpaceX and NASA are partnering to launch people to the International Space Station has more than 100 real-world liftoffs under its belt, according to The Verge.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk had previously vowed to maintain a fast pace in getting Starship ready for its ambitious goal of taking people to Mars. A month after the failure of a Starship prototype during cryogenic testing last November, Musk tweeted that SpaceX was sticking with the goal of getting a working prototype ready to fly in as little as “2 to 3 months.” More recently, Musk said SpaceX would scale back the pace to focus more of its resources on its human space flight partnership with NASA.
The few first weeks are easy. The next couple of months, maybe a bit harder. But after almost four years in space, under deep isolation as part of an experiment, you’d be willing to do anything to return home. In the Black Mirror-esque short film 1460, one man has to decide how far he’ll go to survive.
Welcome back to Toy Aisle, io9's regular roundup of all things good, plastic, and distressingly expensive on the internet lately. This week: McFarlane wades into the world of 40K, Figuarts updates its Wonder Woman figure just in time for 1984, and Lego drops another extremely fancy Technic sportscar. Check it out!
It’s time to bark at the moon and howl with joy, Universal Monster fans. The studio is bringing another one of its classic movie monsters back to life … and things are about to get a little hairy.
Variety is reporting that Universal is moving forward with Wolfman, which is being developed as a starring vehicle for Ryan Gosling. Studio execs have been meeting with potential directors for the monster movie, including Cory Finley (HBO's Bad Education). Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo (Orange Is the New Black) wrote the script, which is based on a pitch by Gosling.
Details on what this new take on the classic character will look like are scarce, but the media outlet is suggesting that, like this year's The Invisible Man, it will be set in the present day and be similar in tone and style to the Jake Gyllenhaal-led thriller Nightcrawler … albeit a bit furrier.
The article doesn't mention whether Blumhouse will be involved. But considering Blumhouse turned Universal's The Invisible Man into a monster hit — and has a first-look deal with the studio — we'd expect Jason Blum's horror studio to be involved somehow.
SYFY WIRE reached out to a Universal rep for comment.
Universal attempted to resurrect its stable of classic monsters with 2017’s The Mummy, but the Tom Cruise vehicle didn’t turn out to be the franchise-spawning hit the studio hoped it would be. So it went in a completely different direction with The Invisible Man, and with the help of Blumhouse, the Leigh Whannell-directed film became a box-office smash, earning $122 million off a $7 million budget. Now, according to Variety, the plan is to take a creator-driven approach with the Universal Monsters over the Dark Universe’s attempt at establishing a sense of continuity among films.
This Wolfman movie is just one of many monster projects we expect to see from Universal. A new Dracula feature is also in the works, while Saw and Aquaman director James Wan is developing another monster movie for the studio.
SYFY WIRE and Universal Pictures are both owned by NBCUniversal.
This week, it was announced that TriStar would be moving forward with a sequel to the '80s fantasy favorite Labyrinth. The Jim Henson/Terry Jones/George Lucas movie has long been beloved among genre fans, and a sequel-slash-reboot has been the subject of rumors for many years. According to Deadline, Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson will helm the sequel, while Maggie Levin will assist on screenwriting duties and the Henson family are on board in producer roles. Nothing is currently known about this film in terms of story or character.
As a Labyrinth fan whose pop-culture tastes and love of geek fiction as a whole were shaped indelibly by the film, I — as you can imagine — had a lot of feelings on this news. It would be all too easy to descend into the usual "don't ruin my childhood" tantrums or complain about how Hollywood doesn't make anything original these days, but that approach would be both reductive and boring as all hell. I've no beef with expanding upon a rich lore and the untapped potential of Henson's creation. Indeed, the story is so rich in ideas and prescient themes that it makes a lot of sense to bring Labyrinth into the 2020s.
Still, the apprehension of fans is understandable. There's a lot in Labyrinth that, to put it bluntly, a whole lot of people just don't get. The film is one of the best depictions of female maturation and desire in pop culture of the '80s. Labyrinth's tale of a young woman clinging to the symbols of her childhood who is thrown into a mystical world to retrieve her baby brother from the Goblin King (played by the legendary David Bowie) resonates because it uses the trappings of fantasy to tell a story that feels hugely relatable to many adolescent girls. That liminal space between being a kid and a full-blown adult is a hugely confusing place to inhabit, simultaneously terrifying and alluring. The film endures to this day for that very reason.
So, what can a sequel made 35 years later offer audiences that will build upon those themes while bringing the story into a new millennium? We have some ideas of how we would want to see Labyrinth 2: Masquerade Boogaloo unfold.
ONE: The new protagonist must be a heroine.
A lot of theories bandied about for the sequel focus on Sarah's all-grown-up baby brother Toby. This is the plot that the manga sequel follows, partly because it seems like the most obvious continuation of the original story. We respectfully disagree. Labyrinth is a deeply feminine tale, in terms of both aesthetics and themes. Could the story be rejigged to focus on a dude? Sure, but we have decades of fantasy canon for that too. Labyrinth retells the classic hero's journey through such a specific gaze that it would be creatively richer to retain that lens.
TWO: Understand 21st-century pop culture.
Go back and watch the scene in Labyrinth where we get a peek inside Sarah's room. You'll see the plethora of pop culture that defines not only her but the Labyrinth itself: The Wizard of Oz; Where the Wild Things Are; Grimm's Fairy Tales; posters for musicals like Cats (honestly, it explains a lot about Sarah that she's into Cats). Most of her tastes are pretty timeless, the sort of stuff you read as a small child, which is a key part of Sarah's growth. Each item in her room appears in the Labyrinth as a friend or foe.
These stories endure to this day, but, for us, the most fascinating way to build upon this lore in a sequel would be to dive into the pop culture of the 21st century. Would a modern heroine still be obsessed with those old stories, or would she find solace in online fandom? Maybe her tastes skew more into the post-Hunger Games YA dystopia or, yes, the sparkly vampires of Twilight. Does she love superheroes like the Avengers, or maybe she's immersed in the '80s nostalgia of stories like Stranger Things and the Stephen King revival kicked off by It? Maybe she'd be a FANGRRL (yay) who understands the power of SFF to explore the darker side of her own mind or as an antidote to such things? Teens today are way savvier about pop culture and progressive ideas than they were in the '80s. That should be reflected in a Labyrinth sequel.
THREE: Understand adolescence of the 21st century.
Female maturity has always scared the world. Society has gone out of its way for centuries to smother young women who dare to grow up and start questioning everything around them. There's no period in time where being a teenage girl isn't fraught with strangeness, but imagine trying to go through it now. The 2020s is the age of always-online, #MeToo, p*ssy-grabbing President, "lady Ghostbusters ruined my childhood," Facetime-away-your-flaws, like-and-subscribe chaos. If the Labyrinth is a means for Sarah to confront her fears, then imagine how much effing scarier it would be for someone growing up now.
Think about the horrors around every corner for an adolescent who has to navigate everything going on in 2020. What would the Goblin Kingdom look like to a young woman who deals with social media bullsh** every day and lives in the Trump age? Moreover, what new tools would her adversary have at their disposal to try to crush her? When Sarah dances at the Masquerade ball, she fears the other guests laughing at her, mocking her eagerness to be all grown up beyond her maturity level. Think of how horrifying such a moment would be if you'd grown up used to the barrage of online misogyny and rape culture of geek fandom and social media.
FOUR: Keep Labyrinth horny.
Did you know that Labyrinth is mega-horny? And we're not just talking about David Bowie's package (ooh, now I believe in Modern Love). Part of Sarah's journey through the labyrinth of her own psyche is confronting the reality of her growing sexuality, something that is both scary and hypnotic in its appeal. She focuses in on Jareth, who looks uncannily like the actor her mother abandoned her family for, but soon realizes that such fantasies are just that. It's a surprisingly adult exploration of something that pop culture typically shies away from. Hell, it's 2020 and you're still way more likely to see male adolescence tackled in fiction, and even then it's usually in a comedic fashion. It wouldn't make sense to dilute the inherent sensuality of Labyrinth. That's its secret, Hoggle: It's always horny.
FIVE: But what about the Goblin King?
The internet has exploded with potential casting choices for our new Goblin King. Nobody could ever replace Bowie, of course, but some of the names being thrown about are solid. Tilda Swinton is a popular pick, as are Tom Hiddleston and Janelle Monae. We have a different idea.
Okay, hear us out: Bring back Jennifer Connelly and have Sarah be the new Goblin King. Think of the possibilities! Imagine: Sarah returns to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take over the throne in the hopes of bringing a more merciful rule to the kingdom. She wants to be an empathetic presence to lost souls who find themselves in the Labyrinth, a leader who can help young people through their troubles and find joy and friendship along the way.
Unfortunately, the Labyrinth has always been a reflection of some kind of the real world, and we know how our planet feels about women in power. Sarah's rule is plagued by subterfuge and patriarchal nonsense, and the poison of the outside world seeps into the Labyrinth, turning something comforting into a toxic cesspool that actively pushes away and punishes the women whose dreams, fears, and desires helped to build the city in the first place. The only way to overcome this, to defeat the evil that pollutes both worlds, is for our heroines to take the journey.
Admit it: That would be super cool!
The not-so-secret appeal to the practice of reading tarot cards is that people have always longed for ways of gleaning their futures in spiritual ways. The appeal of a franchise like CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura is that it borrowed heavily from tarot traditions to tell a sprawling story about a young girl’s quest to…
With Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge still closed amid the pandemic, Disney World decided to borrow a couple of its stormtroopers to help enforce social distancing at the newly reopened Disney Springs. In a video posted by Attraction Magazine, you can see two troopers on a balcony festooned with First Order banners telling guests to "move along" (so they don't congregate in large numbers), complimenting people's "face coverings," spouting facts about the bantha life cycle, or else wondering how they got roped into their current guard duty.
"How did I get this assignment? I'm stationed on a [Star] Destroyer. I should be guarding a flight deck right now," says one.
"I think of every appointment as an opportunity to exceed the expectations of my commander," replies the second.
"Someone's helmet is a little too pressurized," says the first.
Check it out:
According to the Disney World website, the troopers were stationed there in an effort to weed out members of the Resistance. It doesn't look like they succeeded, but their banter is delightful and you can clearly tell the cast members playing them had a blast, even if the temperature inside their outfits was probably sweltering from the Florida heat.
"If you do see them, it’s probably best to snap a photo from afar and 'move along,' as Stormtroopers may not appreciate you getting too close," reads the Disney Parks blog. "And, if you’re feeling particularly brave, sport some of the Resistance gear you may have picked up on a visit to Batuu! Of course, if you’re more of a First Order sympathizer and want to fly those colors … well, the Stormtroopers will appreciate that, I’m sure."
The fact that Disney is bringing actors back to interact with guests is a hopeful sign of recovery (remember, Star Wars loves the recurring theme of hope) for costumed performers and the theme parks that hire them.
The rest of Disney World is scheduled to open back up on Saturday, July 11.
Neither snow nor rain nor mudhorn ...
A Vermont-based mailman took the concept of wearing a face mask to an entirely new level by creating a USPS-themed Mandalorian helmet straight out of the Star Wars universe. The postman behind the galactic headgear is Hinesburg resident Sean Avram, who has also specialized as an airbrush artist and face/body painter for the last 15 years (you can currently catch him on Season 1 of Skin Wars). Now known to the internet as "The Mailmandalorian," Avram has transformed into a package-delivering bounty hunter, spreading joy and happiness throughout his route in the Colchester system and the wider galaxy beyond.
"I wanted to make something cool and positive and bring some levity to the front line as I delivered the mail," he exclusively tells SYFY WIRE. "So many of us love Star Wars, and even if we don't, most of the terms, styles, and characters are known to people ... The mail is also a connection that touches everyone in America. Everyone has a mail carrier. The Mailmandalorian merges two worlds, bringing a galaxy far, far away closer to us and giving us a greater connection to each other."
The helmet, which you can check out in the post below, is actually a spruced-up Boba Fett helmet made for kids that Avram bought seven years ago at a Kmart clearance sale for five bucks. He actually purchased two, but the first one got painted in the style of the Boston Bruins for his nephews. Since mail-people are required to have a "COVID barrier and sunglasses," Avram (a member of the cosplayer community) figured he'd kill two womp rats with one stone and use the remaining helmet as a two-in-one protection against the virus and UV rays.
"If I painted it, I'd have to paint something that told people I was an actual mail carrier and not some weirdo running up their neighbor's driveway with an Amazon package," he says. "I thought the easiest thing to [do] would be to paint it to look like a mail truck ... This is a fairly simple paint job compared to what I normally do. I masked off the 'T' with painter's tape, cleaned and prepped the rest of the area, primed it with automotive paint, and then used tape to mask off the red and blue areas. I cut a stencil to achieve the USPS logo on the forehead and had the whole project done in one evening, start to finish."
The next day, Avram took a selfie and posted it online before heading out to work. By the time he got home, the image had gone viral.
"I had no clue of the scope that I was dealing with ... People loved it right off the bat," he adds. "I've read thousands of comments now, and I'm blown away by how positive they all are. People are having fun with it, and that makes me feel good. There's a million Star Wars quotes and a million things that you can do with the mail, so shtick is very easy to generate. The one I like to say is 'I can bring your mail in warm, or I can bring it in cold. This is the way.' It's also really easy to stare people down with a Mando helmet on."
When someone on Reddit suggested he acquire some Beskar for the rest of his costume (and Avram has teased a full USPS getup), the Mailmandalorian replied: "Right now, all I have is government-issue aluminum."
Well, there you have it. If you want to make your own Star Wars armor, you don't necessarily need precious metals from Mandalore or Emily Swallow's Armorer (although we'd trust her to cover our escape any day). You just need some creative initiative and good ol'-fashioned bantha grease.
"I think my picture gave social media users a chance to be positive and spread something cool and fun about the Postal Service that was non-political," Avram continues. "My supervisor exclaimed the other day, 'The helmet made everyone like the mail again!' And really, that's all I wanted. I didn't make this go viral, the fans did, and that's why it's awesome."
Boba Fett (played by the prequels' Temuera Morrison) will be making an appearance in Season 2 of The Mandalorian, which is slated to premiere on Disney+ this October. Rosario Dawson, Timothy Olyphant, Michael Biehn, and Katee Sackhoff are also set to appear in the show's sophomore outing as characters new and old. Behind the camera, Robert Rodriguez (Alita: Battle Angel) and Peyton Reed (Ant-Man and the Wasp) are among the filmmakers tapped to direct.
Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito, and Baby Yoda are all reprising their roles.
"I can't wait to have a name for the child instead of 'Baby Yoda,'" Avram says, referring to what excites him most about Season 2. "But all in all, I'm all about the Darksaber. Walter White wouldn't have messed with Gustavo Fring if the Pollos Hermanos had a Darksaber handy."
Season 1 is now streaming alongside an eight-part docuseries that goes behind the making of the show. Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian drops new episodes every Friday, with three left to air. A third season of The Mandalorian is already in the works, too.
Welcome back to Look of the Week! Celebrating the best in TV and film sartorial excellence, past and present across sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and other genre classics!
Christopher Nolan movies overlap thematically, but they also have a penchant for well-dressed characters, from Arthur’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) impeccable three-piece suits in the mind-bending Inception to Bruce Wayne’s classic rich guy tailoring. Joining the stylish ranks is John David Washington in the (maybe) soon-to-be-released Tenet. The plot of the forthcoming thriller is still a mystery on the whole; the new trailer threw up even more questions than answers. Nevertheless, it is clear the Protagonist — Washington’s character has not been named beyond this moniker — will be serving up sartorial wins throughout.
This is Nolan’s third project with the Oscar-nominated costume designer Jeffrey Kurland (they have previously worked together on Inception and Dunkirk), and while we know very little about Tenet, the marketing campaign is drawing some comparisons to the 2010 dreamscape heist of Inception. Reuniting with Kurland, there are some visual links between the two movies, featuring the Protagonist in timeless costumes that could easily fit into the world (and wardrobes) of Arthur, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), and Eames (Tom Hardy). There is even a costume that is a near match to one of Arthur's — more on this below.
Rather than traveling into the subconscious or even through time, he will experience a world that goes beyond this familiar sci-fi device. Armed with the word “Tenet,” an inversion of reality and time is up for grabs and maybe also how the world will end. Again, details are spotty, but what we do know is Washington is set to join the ranks of stylish secret agents, which cinema has long been drawn to.
From James Bond to Ethan Hunt (Kurland also designed Mission: Impossible - Fallout), a spy requires a GQ-ready closet, as well as the physical abilities to endure the challenges an antagonist dishes out. In the case of Tenet, the open collar/no tie casual leaning vibe adds to the menace of Kenneth Branagh's villain (the jury is out on his Russian accent). The quick flashes of Washington rocking a series of suits and tailored separates indicates he is up to this challenge.
John David Washington covers the Esquire Summer 2020 issue, which features a few exclusive new images from Tenet. One of the stills underscores that it is not a neutrals-only suit show for the lead. The dusty pink suit instantly stands out, but the trailer and on-set photographs (some from the paparazzi) have previously revealed other colorful flourishes, including a burgundy casual jacket and a separate shirt. For a sci-fi thriller shot across seven different countries, a closet to match this jet-setting spirit is a must. It isn’t all formal attire either; the speedboat moment showcases a cool AF Washington rocking a fitted gray polo shirt. A dark chambray shirt, a white henley, and tactical gear also pepper the quick flashing imagery of the trailer.
"Tenet" is a word the Protagonist is told will “open the right doors” but is there a dress code demanding swish attire? Or did everyone involved with this covert operation already favor high-end garb?
Trying to prevent something worse than armageddon requires a steady hand, a level head, and access to the best tailors. But the Protagonist isn’t the only character curating a striking image via clothing, and while Robert Pattinson hasn’t quite got a hand on describing the movie — both his GQ profile and the comments he makes in Esquire reveal the struggle of promoting this movie — his debonair look indicates his eccentricity in comparison to the Protagonist.
The scarf detail and one-button jacket give him a vacation aesthetic while also seemingly nodding to director Christopher Nolan’s personal clothing preference. This cosplay of sorts is further enhanced by the floppy blonde ‘do RPatz is sporting. The exclusive Esquire shot shows this also unnamed character sporting a light linen suit, which gives the air of a gentleman who wouldn't look out of place in a Hercule Poirot story. His unconventional suggestions including crashing an airplane — Nolan did actually crash a 747 into a building for his sequence — do mesh with his man-out-of-time attire.
Briefly appearing in the new trailer in a scene with Washington and Pattinson, Himesh Patel quips, “Bold I’m fine with. I thought you were going to say nuts.” Again, there isn’t much to explain what the hell is going on in this scene or even what role Patel is playing; however, his brown leather jacket and plaid shirt are more casual-cool than his counterparts. This '70s-adjacent ensemble doesn’t say a lot about the time inversion but it does showcase the cyclical nature of clothing trends. You don’t need a secret phrase or technology to manipulate quantum physics when fashion can do this with ease.
This look suggests a degree of effortlessness, so perhaps he is up for (almost) anything. In fact, Patel’s character is dressed similarly to Arthur in the first dream layer of reality in Inception. Considering it is the same designer, it is hard to believe this is a coincidence. Sure, it is a pretty ubiquitous combination of garments, but Nolan's meticulous nature would suggest this is no accident.
It is no secret that the women of Nolan's movies don't tend to fare too well — don't expect a wife character to make it to the end of the film, for example — and Elizabeth Debicki appears to be in a sticky predicament. She isn't only subjected to stressful scenarios, as Debicki does get to chill in the back of the sweet looking speedboat with Washington at the helm, wearing pretty boat-ready attire (though not quite as glam as her Man from UNCLE villain). She also gets a taste of the Kurland's exquisite tailoring in a red skirt suit, which is notable as the only bold use of this color within the costume palette of the trailer.
The new trailer also removed the July 17 release date, and while it has yet to take the same delayed route as every other summer blockbuster, it will not come as a surprise if it does (as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic). The press tour rolls on with pre-arranged magazine covers featuring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, and neither is giving much away about the world of Tenet. No matter how much time and reality are manipulated within the narrative, there is nothing confusing about the sharp sartorial points these mind-bending movies are dishing out.
Before Kung Fu Panda ever sold a single bowl of noodles or practiced even one flying front kick, Panda Khan was pop culture’s most famous fighting panda. Created by Dave Garcia and Monica Sharp, Panda Khan has been on the down-low for quite a few years now. However, the iconic panda is well known to nostalgia lovers, who remember him as a regularly featured character in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book crossovers. Not only that, the karate-smashing Panda even had his own action figure; in 1990, Playmates included him in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy line, where he enjoyed success as a non-Turtle one-off piece, much in the same fashion as Usagi Yojimbo (aka that random rabbit in the TMNT toy line).
While the Panda Khan character might be recognizable to hardcore Turtles fans and toy collectors of the '90s, he was never featured in the highly popular Ninja Turtles cartoon show. Issues of the original comic book series The Chronicles of Panda Khan (with and without the TMNT crossover issues) had a burst, but the character tumbled out of the spotlight in the late '90s and early 2000s. He dwindled away and disappeared into the pop-culture ether.
Until now, that is. Panda Khan has had its rights signed exclusively to Gaelstone Media in Ontario, Canada. This acquisition means a brand-new animated series, and yes, you’ve guessed it ... new toys!
"The team at Gaelstone and I were so very fortunate to meet Dave Garcia and Monica Sharp, the amazingly kind and generous creators of such a timeless character," Gaelstone Media’s CEO, founder, and co-creative director, Jon Robert Bryans, tells SYFY WIRE. "It was enormous for us, and we worked so hard to make it happen."
“I wanted to grow the brand of Panda Khan into something it wasn’t the first time around [when he was part of the TMNT universe] but deserved to be," he continues. "Panda Khan does come with pre-existing lore in the comic books, but we will be taking him in a slightly different direction with the animated series. We at Gaelstone Media have created a universe (not unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe), and Panda Khan was a perfect addition to it: The Anthroverse."
While the idea of an interconnected world featuring stories of various anthropomorphic characters may seem like a tall order, Bryans assures SYFY WIRE that he has it all figured out. In fact, one of the properties in this world, entitled Action Mice, has already been snatched up: A full season of Action Mice is now in production and will premiere on Amazon Prime.
Intrigued by the notion of this Anthroverse, we asked Jon Bryans to elaborate on his vision, not only for Panda Khan and the in-production Action Mice, but the bigger vision overall.
“As I was saying about The Anthroverse, it’s big,” Bryans explains excitedly. “The Anthroverse is the universe in which Gaelstone Media’s flagship titles all exist. Staged like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, each title will be a standalone property. However, they will all link with and cross over with the linchpin property, Action Mice. Building the story, Action Mice will set the tone and pace for the other properties in The Anthroverse, such as Ranger Rabbit, Kennel 9, FireFROGS, Agents of F.E.L.I.N.E. (Federal Law and Intelligence Enforcement), Panda Khan, and Dire Wolves. It’s going to be huge.”
Panda Khan’s original creators Dave Garcia and Monica Sharp have been working in step with Bryans to flesh out every bamboo stalk and fuzzy ear along the way. While the two continue to work on issues of The Chronicles of Panda Khan comic book (which will differ from the Panda Khan animated series that Gaelstone has in development), Gaelstone wants to ensure that because of the character’s whimsical beginnings, the two creators are happy with the panda’s treatment.
“Dave and I were living together in 1978 when he did several assignments for an art class at Cal-State Long Beach, including a watercolor of a cute panda from Washington eating breakfast at the D.C. National Zoo," Sharp explains. “I told him, 'Oooh, that's cute! I want it!' And he said, ‘It's yours after it's graded.’ But his professor talked him into entering his paintings into an art show, and Dave sold them all. I gave him the sad girlfriend guilt trip, so he promised to make me another panda watercolor. I was left waiting for a long time!”
By the time Sharp and Garcia married in February 1980, Sharp was still waiting on that panda. But along the way, the comic-creating duo began creating worlds (and a small person) together!
“First, we were published in a fanzine called The Grape Press by Richard Harris,” Sharp says when we asked about the couple’s journey into comics. “Then we took the painting and zine art to San Diego Comic-Con and showed it around. With various meanderings along the way, we signed a contract with Wendy and Richard Pini, the creators of ELFQUEST. We had befriended Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman during this point, and TMNT was the biggest pop phenomenon of the time. So in 1986 we started self-publishing.”
Garcia and Sharp continued working full time jobs and creating comics together. Then, 30 years later, their friend Mickey Clausen, who does color work on The Chronicles of Panda Khan comic book, got the two in touch with his friend Bryans from Gaelstone Media. Bryans was interested in Panda Khan, and it opened a dialogue. He pitched his vision for the character to Garcia and Sharp, and everyone was all in.
News of Panda Khan’s resurgence is making waves among the pop culture sphere with nostalgia lovers, TMNT fans, and people who simply loved Panda Khan and have kept up with his stories over the years. And there's only more to come down the line.
“With the growing number of followers across social media and an astoundingly positive response from old and new fans alike, Panda Khan is on the precipice of firmly setting itself in The Anthroverse and the imaginations of kids the world over,” Bryans says. “We over at Gaelstone know that Panda Khan is a fantastic character and never had a moment of doubt that snagging him was a phenomenal choice. But getting to see and hear the excitement hum among fans who wanted to see Panda Khan on TV as kids and didn’t get to? That is what makes everything we’re doing matter most. We want to tell good stories ... Panda Khan is a good story. And we know he will become that classic nostalgic character for a whole new generation of children and fans alike.”
Around 150 million years ago, things weren’t always as lush as Jurassic Park made it seem. Dinosaurs sometimes had to deal with famine — and that was when they turned to eating each other.
The Late Jurassic was dominated by theropod (which appropriately means “beast-foot”) predators like Allosaurus, which usually ambushed prey hanging out at watering holes. Sometimes those watering holes dried up, which meant plants would also wilt, and as sauropod dinosaurs that depended on those plants perished, things got dire. Carcasses were scavenged to the bone. Without herbivorous prey, the carnivores would succumb to starvation, and those that survived and hungered for flesh didn’t have much of a bias against gnawing on their own dead.
“If prey was scarce — for example, if the dry season was particularly harsh, predators probably turned to any resource they could find,” paleontologist Stephanie Drumheller-Horton of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, told SYFY WIRE. “Any animal that died would have stuck around on the landscape for months, if not years. This gave a whole succession of predators, scavengers, and decomposers a turn at breaking down the remains further.”
Drumheller-Horton and her research team, who recently published a study in PLOS ONE, investigated theropod remains that were unearthed from the Mygatt-Moore quarry in what is now Colorado. Allosaurus, a vicious carnivore comparable to T. Rex, left behind tooth marks that could have meant cannibalism. Previous studies of the prehistoric environment at that site revealed that it would have encountered wet and dry seasons. During the wet season, water levels would rise high enough for the landscape to have plenty of watering holes where predators like Allosaurus would ambush their prey. Problems arose when many of those watering holes vanished during the dry season, taking the supply of easy meals with them.
Allosaurus would have had to put in much more effort to find its dinner when a harsh dry season brought hunger. During tough times for predators, anything that dropped dead was up for grabs, including the same species, as Drumheller-Horton found out from Allosaurus bones that were slashed with marks from the teeth of other Allosaurus. This monster also fed on (and was fed on by) other carnivorous dinosaurs such as Ceratosaurus. Such marks could have also been made by two Allosaurus fighting each other, especially over what was left of something’s rotting flesh. It is possible that one might have killed the other in the process and taken advantage of the free meal.
“Many modern-day predators will scavenge or even cannibalize one another. Meat-eaters generally won’t turn down a free or convenient meal, especially if food is becoming scarce. Even rats in major cities are becoming particularly aggressive and resorting to cannibalism,” Drumheller-Horton said. “Being an opportunistic generalist, which is how we interpret Allosaurus, can give a predator an edge though. If times are lean, the ability to change over to another food resource can help get animals through tough times.”
Bite marks are rare in dinosaur bones. Whether that is because scavenging behavior is not well documented, or because museums only want the the most pristine fossils to show off, remains something of a mystery. Theropods also tended to avoid chewing on bone to get to the marrow, while the opposite has been documented in ancient mammals. With teeth like serrated knives, Allosaurus had a bite that is still identifiable over a hundred million years later. If it really did devour the corpses of its own kind, which is more likely than just a fight since there are no signs of healing on bones with those marks, this is the first evidence of cannibalism in this species of dinosaur. However, it isn’t the only one that got desperate during dry spells.
“We actually do think other theropods probably exhibited this behavior, but before our study, it was previously documented in only two other groups: T. rex and Majungasaurus. The T. rex example was also interpreted as scavenging, similar to what we saw in our study. In Majungasaurus, it’s less clear if they were looking at evidence of fighting, predation, or scavenging,” Drumheller-Horton said.
Cannibalism is gruesome enough in itself (at least to us). Humans who ritualistically consumed human brains as part of a funeral rite were found to have contracted kuru, a rare disease caused by an infected protein that lives in brain tissue and causes brain damage in those afflicted. Not much is known about whether dinosaurs risked infection with disease-causing microbes or parasites from eating the flesh of their own kind, but Allosaurus still could have been risking its own life by scavenging regardless.
“It’s certainly possible, but it’s very hard to tell from these fossils. Certainly it doesn’t stop many modern groups from cannibalizing one another, but this behavior can cause problems related to disease and parasites,” Drumheller-Horton said. “The fossil record of parasites almost entirely comes from coprolites (fossilized droppings), so we do have some evidence for these kinds of health issues in the fossil record, just not at Mygatt-Moore.”
So prehistoric predators weren't immune to getting eaten themselves, even if their own kind went for them after death. It was a dinosaur-eat-dinosaur world out there.
While everyone’s busy brushing up on new skills, why not pick up something to appease the artist in you? Unleashing your inner Bob Ross is probably easier said than done, though. We’ve moved past easels and paints, so you might need something a bit more high-tech to keep up.
A murdered teen is resurrected as a revenge-driven alien who picks off the gang members who killed him in a series of deadly car races. That’s the basic plot of The Wraith, the 1986 film written and directed by Mike Marvin. I had an odd affinity for it growing up but hadn’t watched from the beginning in several…
Right out of the gate, The Mandalorian's Baby Yoda became an instant cultural icon, quickly upstaging everything else in that galaxy far, far away. But the adorable Child of unknown origin (brought to life by practical puppetry) wasn't created overnight. As the latest episode of Disney Gallery reveals, series creator Jon Favreau looked at countless pieces of concept art until finding the perfect, most adorable one. One of the unused drawings is the, um, eye-catching creation you see above — a creature more in line with the bizarreness of the infantile Rotta the Hutt.
"We all, I think, had a vision for what [the] bad version of it was," Favreau says in Episode 5, which goes into great detail about the show's many practical effects. "We got lots and lots of drawings. Some of them were too cute, some of them were too ugly, some of them were the wrong proportions. But they were all informing, as we gave notes on each drawing, Dave [Filoni] and I started zeroing in on what it was."
Based on his VR work with Gnomes and Goblins, Favreau wanted a creature that would emote through its eyes and ears, rather than through overt facial cues.
In the end, it was Lucasfilm concept design supervisor Christian Alzmann who hit the jackpot with an image (below) "that had [Baby Yoda] wrapped up in what looked like a piece of a flight jacket or something, we didn't know," Favreau explains. "And his eyes were a little weird, he looked a little out of it. There was something a little off with it, but we found it charming and that became the rallying image that we said, 'This is good.' And it developed from there."
With a character design eventually locked down, Legacy Effects then spent three months or so building the puppet that would enthrall audiences all over the world. Bringing the Child to life took a group of three to four puppeteers, each one controlling different body movements. "That's really when it became The Baby," Favreau says.
"Even though there's maybe a person wearing a suit or it's actually a robot covered in silicon, it's still a creature that we all want to relate to and the audience will relate to," adds cinematographer Baz Idoine in the docuseries. "You shoot them like any other actor that's acting in a scene, where they have intent and meaning and a purpose and have their own arc. You want to be able to photograph that in the correct manner. The great thing was these creatures were fantastic."
The episode also gives us a look at the teleplay's initial description for Baby Yoda in the Season 1 premiere. After reading it, Filoni did a quick sketch of the Sistine Chapel-like image — Favreau compares it to E.T. as well — of Mando (Pedro Pascal) and the Child reaching out to touch one another.
Literally everyone involved with the project, in front of and behind the camera, has fond memories of Baby Yoda on set.
"Working with that little puppet was like working with a little baby," says Gina Carano, who plays former shock trooper Cara Dune, in the docuseries. "Everybody, even hair and makeup, would walk up and talk to it. Like, it was, 'Oh, look at the little baby today, how's the baby feeling?' In the back of your head, you're like, 'It's not real, but I'm talking to it, too.' It was just so real. If you're in a scene with that little baby, you're completely gonna lose the scene no matter what."
New episodes of Disney Gallery premiere on Disney+ every Friday (three installments of The Mandalorian breakdown remain). Season 2 of the main series is expected to make its debut on the streaming platform this October.
You can check out plenty of other Baby Yoda concept illustrations in the gallery below...
The new Netflix comedy Space Force is a weird show for weird times. Relishing in the kind of absurdity that can only exist in our reality, the series follows General Mark R. Naird (Steve Carell, who co-created the show with Greg Daniels) as he attempts to get "boots on the moon" and establish this new branch of the military. Space Force features an abundance of comedy icons, from Carell to Lisa Kudrow to the late Fred Willard to the delightfully weird John Malkovich, but one stand-out among the pack is Tawny Newsome — comedian, musician, actress, and myriad other things (as she says, she's overextended). Newsome spoke to SYFY FANGRRLS about her character, Angela Ali, Spaceman First Class (nothing embarrassing or comical about it) and how she's staying positive these days.
So, Tawny. How's your quarantine going?
Courtney, I cannot complain. I am not a nurse or hospital worker. What a weird time to have one of the most frivolous jobs in America, to be told at every turn that there's nothing about me that is essential, which is just fine.
You're a performer in so many different areas — improv, music, television, and so on. How are you finding ways to stay creative? Is that harder now? I know it's hard for me and I'm only in one.
It's actually great for me because I do too many things, as you very nicely put in a different way. I'm going to go ahead and say I'm overextended. So for me, having everything slow down has really given me a chance to focus on music. I've been writing a ton of music with friends, and to take any sort of production pressure off of it, because who knows if we'll get to play these songs live anytime soon. But just writing them and creating them and having it be a studio project has been really therapeutic.
It seems like you're staying positive.
Yeah, I don't experience much doom or gloom. I think it's just because I'm fortunate. I was employed all of last year, so I'm in an OK place to not be employed until we figure this out. That's not where most people in the world are, so I have to stay positive just because I feel so fortunate and good.
How would you describe your character, Angela Ali?
She is a lot like me in that she has a mastery of different — I won't say masks, like it's deceitful, but she's got a different face that she puts on at work. She's got a different face that she puts on with her boss, with her boss's daughter, with Jimmy [O. Yang], who plays Dr. Chan. I think the writers were so open to input and we all collaborated together on the characters that you really get to see this fully rounded out person, I hope. That was my intention anyway. She's a military person, but she also has a math degree, but she's also very funny and into weird nerdy stuff. I think you just get to see a lot of sides of her. Yeah, I guess that speaks to me being an over-extended, constant multitasker, too.
At the beginning, in the first episode, you start out a straight man to Steve Carell's character, but over the course we really get to know her and see these various sides of her personality.
Yeah. I think it's funny because I was obviously nervous, a little understandably I hope, to work with Steve Carell, just because he's the king. I just looked up to him for years and years. Couldn't be nicer and more like a regular normal dude. So I quickly wasn't nervous anymore, but I think you do see her journey through the season mirrors my journey of getting comfortable with him and with everyone and with the role on set too. Because yes, in the pilot, she's nervous. She's starting a big new job. When I filmed the pilot, I was nervous because I was starting a big new job.
Between this and Star Trek: Lower Decks, you're carving out a space niche. Have you always been interested in sci-fi?
I've definitely always been a moderate fan of sci-fi. I've always watched Star Trek. That was something that my parents and I watched from when I was really young. It was actually appropriate and something they wanted to watch that a kid could watch too. So yeah, definitely, I've always been a Star Trek person. I don't know how I got to be this full time space dude though. I mean, it's very funny. I'm sure there are people who know way more about space, who should be the ambassador. A lot of times people will tweet me the actual US Space Force Command logo next to this Star Fleet Command logo, because someone suggested that they are quite similar. I'm just like, "Yeah, I don't know what my life is right now either, you guys. This is weird."
It's such a weird plot, but it's also obviously based in reality. It's a weird time right now. What's it like being funny and being in a comedy, but it's also kind of real life?
What's so weird, Courtney, is that everything was written before we got any info about the actual Space Force. I think literally they announced that they were going to create a Space Force, and Steve and Greg went and wrote the pilot. It was literally just a premise. Then our team of writers, with Steve and Greg, wrote the other nine episodes well before they had a logo, a flag, a uniform, any of that stuff. So any similarities or anything, is just such weird parallel thinking. Because what our writers really did was, they really took "what if these people, what if these types of people, top of their class, military people, scientists from all over the world, all were thrust together and forced to figure this out." So that's already a great premise. Then to have the real world events dovetailing or not, I don't know. It's very surreal and weird, but I want to make sure everyone knows, we were weird first.
You originated the weird of it all.
Yeah. I'm sure the military was doing their own weird stuff before we came along. They thought of it separately and it's very strange to see the parallels.
There's a ton of improv talent on the show. There's you, there's Ben Schwartz, there's Jessica St. Clair. Pretty much everyone involved is famous improvisers. Is there room for improv on Space Force or is it pretty locked into the script?
There's definitely room from the standpoint of Greg is open to it. Steve is open to it. The writers are chill. The only reason why there isn't a ton of improv — there is some — but the only reason why there isn't a ton is because it is so big. There's so much going on. There are tanks rolling down an alleyway towards you while 200 background actors do flips and stuff dressed in camel gear. There's so many moving parts that a lot of times the steady cam doesn't have time to whip around and wait for me to decide which is funnier, hats or socks, or whatever bullsh** I was going to come up with. Sometimes I'm just trying to spit out the words so the other much bigger stuff can happen. I couldn't do that to these sweet stunt people.
What are you FANGRRLing over right now?
I've been a long time fan of Homeland and they just ended the final season. I did not want to watch the series finale for so long because I didn't want those characters to stop existing. That sounds so sad and lame, but I was just like, no, Carrie and Saul need to still be out there spying around. I finally brought myself to watch it. Then a friend recommended to me the podcast, Wind of Change. Oh my God, have you listened to it yet? It's two things that I love: espionage and rock music. You have to listen to it. It's all about how there's this CIA rumor that the U.S. government wrote the song "Wind of Change" by Scorpions. It's an incredible podcast. Anyway, I guess I've been FANGRRLing over spies lately. I don't know what that says about me. Maybe I'm trying to examine essential jobs for the future.
That's your next phase, being a spy.
Yep. Improv probably comes in really handy in spy work.
Probably, yeah. And you're used to trying on costumes and stuff like that. I say we bring back Alias and it's you.
OK, I'll do it. I accept the job. Thank you so much.
Space Force is now streaming on Netflix.
It's almost impossible for Star Wars fans to agree on anything, but the safest bet around is that pretty much everyone loves The Child, aka Baby Yoda, aka Yoda Baby. In the latest episode of The Disney Gallery: Star Wars: The Mandalorian, we saw that the cast and crew of The Mandalorian also have a deep love for this puppet creation, simply called "Baby" by most of them.
The biggest delight of this new installment of the behind-the-scenes show was seeing the delight, love, and wonder in the eyes of Werner Herzog as he discussed working with it. Deborah Chow recounts how Herzog forgot that it was puppet at all, and began directing it. She was then directing Werner Herzog who was himself directing a puppet, and that's either the way the world ends or begins, there's no middle ground.
Our heroes on Jabba the Pod (Brian, Caitlin, and Matt) are back to discuss the latest episode, as well as everything that has gone down this week in the Star Wars world. Take a listen below, or wherever you get your podcasts. Jump on Werner's magical train and build the baby.
As the architect of two of the most acclaimed Batman miniseries in recent memory, writer/artist Sean Murphy (The Wake, Chrononauts, Tokyo Ghost) has injected new life into the Dark Knight for a new generation. Now, he's headed back to that world — and taking it to the far-flung future of the DC Comics universe.
Next year, Murphy will deliver Batman: Beyond the White Knight, the third chapter in his riveting Black Label Batman saga that erupted in 2018 with DC Comics' Eisner Award-nominated Batman: White Knight and continued with this year's sequel, Batman: Curse of the White Knight. Both of these sophisticated, psychological tales explored hidden historical facets of Bruce Wayne's tortured psyche as he confronts old foes like the Joker and Azrael.
SYFY WIRE recently spoke with Murphy, who is currently engaged in an Indiegogo campaign for his new sci-fi/fantasy graphic novel The Plot Holes, on this fresh, forward-thinking Batman miniseries for DC Black Label. He opened up about taking the story to the future of Batman Beyond, potential Bat-tastic spinoff projects, and why Batman brings out the very best in his artistic sensibilities.
What Dark Knight-centric projects can you tease in the aftermath of Curse of the White Knight?
Well, DC came to me and asked if I wanted to do spinoffs, that I would manage, or write, get an artist for, or I would just come up with the plot and then they could hire a writer and an artist to do that.
We have a big announcement for that coming up in the next month, which I can't talk about now. They definitely want to expand the "Murphyverse" as they call it. [laughs] After The Plot Holes is done I plan on doing Volume Three of Batman, which is called Batman: Beyond the White Knight.
How will the plotline play out in your upcoming Batman saga and what are you most excited about?
This will take place with Terry McGinnis in the future as years have passed since Curse is over and this will be more of a Blade Runner Batman type of thing. Matt Hollingsworth is on it as well, he's with me on everything. It won't be until 2021, probably summer, maybe a year from now you might see issue one. I'm not sure. Volume One, The White Knight, was a political thriller. Volume Two was a historical thriller. And Volume Three will be a sci-fi thriller.
So I'm looking forward to drawing flying cars and all that kind of stuff again. The last time I got to do sci-fi was Tokyo Ghost, and I really enjoyed it. So it will be interesting to take that and interpret it through Gotham, of what Gotham will look like in the future, now that Bruce Wayne has been exposed, and all his money has been donated to the city.
What happens to a city that's been infused with that kind of funding? So he's basically going to be getting out of jail and seeing a brand new city. He's going to realize that before, Batman was the most technically advanced person out there. Now every cop is twice as advanced as Batman ever was. How is he going to be Batman now that he's low tech? And he has to track down this "guy" named Terry who stole a Batsuit. [laughs]
Can you hint at any of the villains that might make an appearance?
I haven't actually thought about it. I need to go back and watch the [Batman Beyond] cartoon. I know that the villains in that are heavily based on Spider-Man villains. I'll probably use Derek Powers, the CEO of Wayne Tech who took over Bruce's Company. But I really don't know yet. I tend to stick with villains that are a bit more grounded. The Joker gang is cool. There's a gang of playing card thieves too, the Royal Flush Gang.
Why does Batman bring out the absolute best in your creative work?
I have a childhood connection to all the cartoons, watching them as a kid. I'd seen He-Man and Thundercats and all that stuff, but nothing really reached me like Batman did. Even years later looking back, the plot, the writing, still holds up. I think a lot of it is just Storytelling 101. It's just so good. I have a hard time imagining myself writing X-Men or tackling any of these other colorful characters.
For me, Batman is a pulp character. I've always been attracted to people like Zorro and The Rocketeer. I love classic pulp-type characters. And the hypocrisy of Bruce Wayne I think is really interesting. The deep dive into the mental problems of the villains is fascinating. There's so much to be done. My whole original approach was, why doesn't Joker just go after Batman legally? It seems like there's plenty of victims out there and collateral damage. You could easily social media your way against Batman, destroy him without having to break the law if you really focused on it. And that's basically what he did.
What's Batman going to do to an online attack? Tweet back? He just doesn't work that way. I feel like Batman's really leaving himself open to that. It's kind of a book that points out the flaws about Batman that we all know, but don't want to think about because it kind of destroys the illusion. My goal was to celebrate those things and point to them but not throw in the character completely. Like, "Hey, you ever notice this about Batman?" Well, so did the Joker. And here's why he did this and here's what Batman does to fight back.
Watch for DC Black Label's Batman: Beyond the White Knight sometime in the summer of 2021.
The final chapter of director Duncan Jones' "Mooniverse," as seen in his cerebral sci-fi films Moon and Mute, is eschewing the traditional theatrical route and rising over the horizon as a new sci-fi graphic novel co-written by Eisner-nominated author Alex de Campi (Smoke, No Mercy).
Adapted from an unproduced screenplay Jones wrote following his mind-warping 2011 film, Source Code, MADI: Once Upon A Time In The Future will be released in a premium hardback edition following a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. It will be published this fall by Z2 Comics.
Jones, the British-born son of David Bowie and Angie Bowie, imagined MADI as a road-trip story and as a semi-sequel to his cerebral movies Moon and Mute. The trilogy shares the same near-future territory and thematic material, but MADI also stands as a thrilling solo adventure.
The writing duo of Jones and de Campi is complemented by an accomplished stable of international illustrators including Glenn Fabry, Ed Ocaña, Simon Bisley, James Stokoe, Chris Weston, Pia Guerra, Christian Ward, and Duncan Fegredo, all of whom have delivered indelible imagery to all their projects here in America and on the British comics scene.
MADI's crowdfunding campaign has already blasted past its initial funding goals with a whopping $260,000 tally, so far, and there are several stretch rewards currently in the works. The Kickstarter runs through June 18 and the graphic novel is scheduled to be released in November of 2020.
SYFY WIRE chatted with Jones and de Campi about MADI's globe-trotting, ex-commando heroine Madi Preston, and learned what jolting sci-fi surprises fans can expect when the book arrives this fall.
What got you out of the director's chair and into the comics domain for this project?
Jones: Well, I wrote a film script many years ago, just after I'd come off the back of Source Code, which was quite successful. I was thinking now that I've had two well-considered, financially successful movies in a row, I'm going to go out and make this big crazy ambitious science fiction movie. It ended up being more difficult to make than I expected and exceedingly expensive, so I decided to put it on hold. We didn't end up doing it, but I absolutely loved the story and felt it was something worthy of being made in one way or another.
Cut to many years later, I ran a little poll on Twitter, and asked for people's submissions on who they thought would be the most interesting comic artists to work with if I ever got an opportunity to. I reached out to the four top runners in that poll and commissioned them to do one page from that story as an experiment to learn about what making comics was like, the kind of questions and feedback they'd be expecting, and how much it costs. I love that process and felt very excited about it. It made me feel like maybe this would be the way to tell this story. I reached out to people I knew in the comics world and asked them who I could work with. I need a guru. I need a comics sherpa to guide me up this mountain. And they put me in touch with Alex.
De Campi: It was more of a jump than an easing in. There was very much a feeling out of whether this was a person I could work with. 'Can I trust this stranger from the internet to help create this book from a story he's very emotionally attached to and had a lot of opinions about?' It was always Duncan's story. Most of my career is creator-owned work by choice. Which is kind of rare in comics. I've had so many great experiences over the years. Twisted Romance was very much me trying to write specifically to different artists' styles and was one of the projects I sent Duncan to show him what I could do.
Creating a beautiful thing is an egotistical reward in itself. It doesn't have to be "your thing," it can be "our thing." And it was the challenge of bringing this to life fairly quickly and dividing it up between different artists. Give me a story puzzle that involves creating an interesting and easy structure for the ready, that's also quite innovative, and I'm the happiest person in the world. I can go on and on about what a great collaborator Duncan is and how much fun it's been.
Can you take us on a speed run of Madi's plot and how it relates to Moon and Mute?
Jones: The story follows the adventures of this group called J-Squad, veterans who used to be in a special forces unit in the United Kingdom. They were known as drone troops, essentially soldiers who've had cybernetic enhancements put into them that allow them to be controlled by someone back at base. When they left the military they still had this technology in them but it's very expensive to maintain.
So they've had to end up working for the private sector. The problem is, the more missions they go on to try and keep things up to date, the more deaths they incur because of the injuries they're receiving. Madi, one of the members of this group, decides this is a no-win situation and they'll stay in indentured servitude forever. So she's going to do this off-the-books mission to pay off her debt and get free of it but it obviously doesn't go the way she planned.
De Campi: I can't summarize it any better than Duncan did, really. [Laughs.]
Jones: These three stories, Moon, Mute, and Madi, are more of an anthology than anything. Thematically, what connects them, other than the shared universe they inhabit, is the idea of parenthood, which is something I'm in the middle of right now, and having responsibility for others. In all three of those stories, it's about the challenges of being responsible for someone in an unexpected way. That goes for Sam Bell in Moon, who suddenly finds himself with this older version of himself, and for Leo in Mute, who finds himself halfway through that story with someone he's responsible for. And then Madi, she's going to discover herself responsible for someone she wasn't expecting in that story as well.
De Campi: These were all people who were barely able to be responsible for themselves in a way. And you don't need to have seen Moon or Mute to enjoy the book. You can have no knowledge of them at all. You should see Moon and Mute because they're good.
Why take this endeavor to the masses as a Kickstarter campaign?
De Campi: I'd done two Kickstarter campaigns beforehand and both of us are engaged with our broad fanbase on Twitter around the world. I was keen on floating the idea of a Kickstarter because I thought it would be really fun to do and get some attention on the book. I wasn't sure Duncan or our publishers would receive it well. It's really tough right now with the pandemic and comic stores are only just reopening now. Getting eyes on any sort of book is very difficult in this market. The Kickstarter audience is a very supportive audience for graphic novels.
More people are likely to encounter something they enjoy on Kickstarter than they would walking into a comic shop, especially now. And they can act as a sort of pre-marketing for the book store release. It was a way of increasing the profile of the book and maybe we'll pay our print bill up front, wouldn't that be great. And it went a lot further than that!
Jones: Just to mention how wildly successful Alex's idea was, I think we're at over $170,000 dollars right now and we were looking for $50,000. So it's been a huge success that's paid off.
MADI features the talents of several accomplished British artists. How did you get into the U.K. comics scene?
Jones: I always wanted to ask Alex at some point how she has such a familiarity with the U.K. comics scene. For me, working with all these amazing 2000 AD artists is a huge deal. I guess you could say it's the equivalent of Heavy Metal and Marvel having a baby. [Laughs.] It's the British gold standard for comics.
De Campi: I lived in London for 10 years and broke into comics on the U.K. scene, so I'd go to the monthly comics pro drink club that was in a little basement pub at the Phoenix Theater in SoHo. If you wanted to have a quiet chat that was a good place, and it was cheap and dark. So I spent much of my twenties drinking with Chris Weston and a lot of these people on the scene.
One day 2000 AD called me up and asked if I wanted to write Judge Dredd for them. And that's the equivalent of DC calling you and asking if you want to do Batman. It's a marquis British comic book character and they're not likely to just hand off to a random writer. Judge Dredd, I'd argue, is harder to write than Batman. The fascism and violence are not actually celebrated in Judge Dredd, it's always this undercurrent and satire to it. Whereas the fascist elements in Batman and American comics are overtly celebrated and considered something to strive for.
How did you adjust to the medium of comics after working in screenwriting and films?
Jones: I wasn't a complete comics virgin. I had a bit of a dry run at it with Glenn Fabry and making a graphic novel for Mute. Although that never panned out and we ended up making the movie before we finished the comic. But I knew there were things I didn't know well enough. That's why Alex coming to the rescue was such a huge deal for me.
It was really educating me on some of the nuances on how they should be formatted, and also the kind of decisions you leave up to the artist where you have to push back a little. It is similar and dissimilar to storyboarding. There's a pickiness in storyboarding because you need to know how one shot leads into the other. Whereas there's a different artistic interpretation in comics where it's a flow of storytelling, but it doesn't move in the same way a camera does. The individual panels have to do work the storyboards don't.
What do you hope readers take away most from this deluxe edition of Madi?
De Campi: The book is oversized, and even the cutdown softcover is bigger than a normal trade paperback. And we got these amazing artists from a broad variety of styles and backgrounds in comics. That was one of the things I was so excited about. I wanted people to have this wonderful escapist experience, especially in these times, with this giant, beautiful book with a really gripping story and discover some new artists they might really dig.
Jones: When I was a kid, my dad had this pretty phenomenal library, and I'd always go picking around through it and find all these things I probably shouldn't be looking at, but couldn't help but be fascinated by.
One of the things I remember finding The Trigan Empire graphic novels. They were these beautiful, thick graphic novels which was kind of a retelling of the Romulus and Remus story but done in a science fiction setting. It absolutely blew my mind and the art was gorgeous. It was definitely one of those moments where I totally bought into the worldbuilding, in the same way I would have been by Star Wars at roughly the same time.
And Zippy the Pinhead, which was a very different approach to putting ideas into a graphic novel. [Laughs.] Both of those were formative for me. I realized anything was possible in that medium. What I'd love is that people read Madi and it would expand their expectations of what can be in a book.
A little more than a decade ago, Battlestar Galactica aired its three-part series finale over the course of two weeks, closing a chapter of sci-fi history that was both unexpected and, by the time it was all over, immensely influential. Whether you like how the show concluded its epic story of humanity's survival in what turned out to be our own distant past or not, it's hard to argue the level of ambition applied to those final hours of the series. According to series creator Ronald D. Moore, though, his original plans for the Battlestar finale were actually even more ambitious.
You may recall that the original runtime of "Daybreak," the series finale that included one regular episode and then a double-length conclusion a week later, was quite long when it first aired. The broadcast cut comes in at nearly two-and-a-half hours, and the extended cut put together for the DVD and Blu-ray release later added even more footage. In a new interview with Collider, Moore explained that these cuts, even the extended home video one, were actually shorter than his original vision. When it was originally scripted, "Daybreak" was both longer and much more intricate in its structure, which relied even more heavily on flashbacks that the final product.
“The original cut was probably closer to four hours. There was a different structure in the script than what ended up on screen. The structure in the script was much less linear – it was very non-linear," Moore said. "I was doing flashbacks and current stuff and mixing up the flashbacks. You would see the end of Laura’s story before you saw the beginning of it and then you’d come back to the present. Then you’d see another piece of Adama’s story. It was really very challenging. When you read it…it was like “Wow!” It was really a huge thing to wrap your mind around. Everyone got really excited about it."
You may recall that the broadcast cut of "Daybreak" includes flashbacks to life in the Twelve Colonies before the Cylon attack, but they're presented at the beginning of each installment of the finale rather than more heavily interspersed into the narrative. So, what convinced Moore to straighten the timeline out a bit?
"When you laid it out like that in film it was really hard to follow," he explained. "As much as I wanted it to work, people around me were going 'I’m not sure it works. Maybe you should make it linear.' Then I started feeling like maybe you’re right. So it just became a more linear piece in that all the flashbacks lined up chronologically instead of doing them all the flashbacks out of order. Once you did that it changed the fundamental structure. There were some scenes that worked and some scenes going too long. So that’s the difference between the four hour and the three hour was. It was really just changing the structure, tightening up, and making the usual cuts and edits you do on almost any piece of film to just get it down to its fighting weight.”
Even without Moore's nonlinear structure to hang the story on, "Daybreak" remains a truly massive piece of television packed with major and minor developments, and even some of those strange bits of seemingly divine inspiration that would occasionally push Battlestar out of the realm of sci-fi and into the realm of the magical ("There must be some kinda way outta here"). Over the course of its three parts the story covered everything from a Cylon truce to a rescue mission to a battle at a black hole and, finally, the arrival on our own prehistoric Earth. There's even an epilogue set tens of thousands of years later, in our present. Even by Galactica standards it's a lot, so perhaps Moore was right to ditch his ambitious plans to play with the timeline. Still, he's not necessarily opposed to revisiting that original cut, even if it did turn out to be a bad idea.
“I frankly haven’t seen it myself since that initial viewing. I probably have it burned on a DVD someplace. I’m sure if I asked Universal where the masters are they’d say, 'oh yeah we have all the masters in a salt mine somewhere' and then they’d never be able to find them. It exists," Moore said. "It was put together that way. It would be fun to watch it again. There is also a version of the mini-series that was never seen to that was much longer. But a lot of times longer is not better. I’m used to watching original directors cuts and early cuts of episodes and movies and they’re always long but that doesn’t mean that they’re better. They just have more stuff and some of that stuff just needs to go because it’s not working or the joke is not playing. A lot of the editing of these things is really to its betterment. But, that said, I wouldn’t mind…it’d be kind of a hoot to find the original cut and take a look at it.”
When the dinosaur-snuffing asteroid hit Earth some 66 million years ago, it produced a subterranean pool of magma roughly nine times larger than the current caldera at Yellowstone National Park, according to new research.
Time again for STAR WARS WEEKLY, the SYFY WIRE series that rounds up the most important news of the week from a galaxy far, far away.
Think of us as your own personal Star Wars Holocron.
STAR WARS: JEDI TEMPLE CHALLENGE
The Star Wars Kids YouTube channel announced a new show coming this week and it seems tailor-made to kids of the '80s and '90s to share with the kids of today. Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge is a throwback to shows like Nickelodeon staples Double Dare and Legends of the Hidden Temple — only this one is set in the Star Wars universe.
Hosted by Ahmed Best, the man behind Jar Jar Binks, the show takes kids through Jedi trials and grants them the rank of Jedi Knight for their troubles. He's joined by Mary Holland (Veep) as a protocol droid. Sam Witwer, the voice of Darth Maul in the Star Wars animated universe and Solo: A Star Wars Story, provides the voice of the Dark Side. It's produced by the Emmy-award winning minds behind The Star Wars Show and looks to be exactly the sort of thing Star Wars needs.
The show debuts on Wednesday, June 3 on the Star Wars Kids YouTube channel with the first two episodes. The season consists of 10 episodes in total.
Why is this new series hitting YouTube instead of Disney+? Lucasfilm's Mickey Capoferri has this answer: "With so many children and families home and looking to Star Wars for hope and entertainment, we wanted to make Jedi Temple Challenge available to as many young fans as possible by airing the series on our Star Wars Kids network for everyone to enjoy."
STAR WARS: TALES FROM GALAXY'S EDGE
If you've wanted to step into the world of Galaxy's Edge but haven't been able to make it to Disneyland or Disney World (especially given the pandemic), the wonders of VR will soon make it possible. ILMxLAB announced this week there is a VR adventure set in Galaxy's Edge coming soon that will expand the storytelling and lore of the theme park setting, bringing it right to your living room.
Continuity-wise, the adventure takes place between Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, just like the theme park does. It's set in the outskirts of Black Spire Outpost where you'd normally find other Disney themed areas. The intention of the game, according to StarWars.com, is to put you in a VR environment where your decisions drive the action forward in an unprecedented way. The game will also feature new characters as well as legacy characters, giving us some hope of getting to interact with Rey or Kylo Ren.
Star Wars: Tales From Galaxy's Edge is scheduled to come out later this year.
THE HIGH REPUBLIC, DELAYED
The next big storytelling initiative from a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars: The High Republic, was set to start in just a few months. The multi-media project would look at a never-before-seen part of the timeline. We've been covering it in this space for a while, even while it was still known as the secret "Project Luminous."
Fans are just going to have to wait for this exciting chapter of Star Wars to begin, though. The High Republic has been delayed until next year due to "general marketplace delays" stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
"Given these unprecedented times," Lucasfilm Publishing's Creative Director Michael Siglain wrote in a press release," we have made the decision to move the launch of Star Wars: The High Republic to January 2021 to ensure that the launch is as grand and epic as it deserves to be."
STAR WARS UNDERWORLD
Ronald D. Moore is a well-known name to most fans of science fiction. He was one of the chief architects of Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: First Contact, and SYFY's Battlestar Galactica. It's slightly less well-known that George Lucas hired him and others to write more than 50 episodes of a never-produced Star Wars television series dubbed Underworld.
Star Wars Underworld remains a bastion of ideas that are still being mined for Star Wars lore even today; Coruscant's Level 1313 and Palpatine's first name, Sheev, both came from Underworld.
Moore recently had a wide-ranging interview with Collider, and the subject of Underworld came up — which is good news for anybody who wants to know more about tantalizing Star Wars what-if.
"It was pretty much one big storyline," Moore said. "It was one long tale with episodic things that would happen. You know, there would be certain events [that] would happen in this episode or this episode, so it was sort of an episodic quality to some of it. But it was telling a larger narrative, in terms of the story of those particular characters in that setting."
In these days where wearing a mask in public is mandatory for those wanting to prevent the spread of coronavirus, one letter carrier at the USPS went viral for the mask he chose.
This is the way.
THE BIG MAN
John Boyega produced a social media video that Star Wars fans are going to want to watch over and over again. It's George Lucas giving in to the power of the Dark side, one might say.
Boyega's social media presence since completing his work on Star Wars has been at times raw and emotional, but also funny and heartfelt. And the videos he makes are incredible. And, more than anything, he tells it like it is.
Until next week: May the Force be with you!
Voodoo may not be one of comics' best-known characters, but she is one of the coolest underrated antiheroes ever to grace the page. A telepathic alien of mixed ancestry with murky motivations and a lack of tolerance for deception, Priscilla Kitaen has been a breakout character waiting to happen for going on three decades now.
One of the founding members of WildC.A.T.S, Priscilla has been quite literally to the ends of the earth, but she remains perhaps the only truly grounded member of the team. While most of her appearances focus around her interactions with villains and teammates, Voodoo as a character is much more interesting than most of whom she's been paired up with by a pretty wide margin.
What Even Are The WildC.A.T.S
The WildC.A.T.S were a relatively basic concept that got a lot more complicated as time went on, but essentially this is a covert action team composed mostly of human-alien hybrids. They are recruited by the billionaire Marlowe to join in his fight against the alien race the Daemonites, who have long been at war with the Kherubim species. Ultimately, the team discovers that the Daemonite and Kherubim war actually ended a long time ago, with the Kherubim having emerged as the winners. The remaining Daemonites live in impoverished neighborhoods and struggle to survive the cruelty of the victors of the war, while the WildC.A.T.S discover that they have been merely along for the ride.
Voodoo is both Daemonite and Kherubim and served as the point-of-view character for the first WildC.A.T.S story. She works in a strip club and is immediately much more down-to-earth than anyone else on the team. The WildC.A.T.S save her from certain death at the hands of the Daemonites. When they go into deep space to meet the alien species they have been fighting for, she is thrown to the wilds due to her Daemonite ancestry, and she becomes disillusioned with her teammates. Easily seduced by promises of power, they barely notice what she and the rest of the Daemonites are going through, and the fallout is almost too much for the team to bear.
Priscilla Kitaen, This Is Your Extremely Improbable Life
After leaving the WildC.A.T.S, Priscilla starts working at a new strip club and begins studying actual voodoo in her first solo series, but that series is not an easy read and it doesn't particularly go anywhere. She ostensibly rejoins the WildC.A.T.S in Volume 3, in which she pairs up alongside (and eventually starts a romantic relationship with) former teammate Maul despite his emphatic lack of appeal. She loses her legs but is taught to regrow them only a few issues later by a Daemonite elder, which is just one example of the bonkers things Priscilla casually survives throughout her time with the team.
She is present for the fourth and fifth incarnations of the book, but only just barely. After the WildC.A.T.S were bought along with the rest of Wildstorm by DC Comics, Voodoo was rebooted along with several other former teammates for New 52. Her second solo series fares only slightly better than her first, pitting her against her own clone in a story that gets well away from itself within its first few pages. On the other hand, watching Priscilla versus Priscilla is a lot of fun at certain points, giving a tangible presence to her often conflicted inner monologue.
Yet We Are Forced to Stan
Priscilla has one of those characters who just keeps getting sucked into continuity rabbit holes, so it's amazing that she's made her way back from Limbo so many times. It certainly says something about the appeal of her character that fans and creators keep returning to her despite having what amounts to a fairly questionable run of stories under her belt. There's still a lot to like about Voodoo. She's funny, realistic, tenacious, and had a deeper understanding of the unjust underbelly of society than any of her other teammates. While the other WildC.A.T.S fly off into isolation and detachment at the drop of a hat, Voodoo is always there to call them back to reality.
Positive portrayals of sex workers or acknowledgment of a character's bisexuality in comics are slim, so it's important that Voodoo's autonomy is emphasized in her sexuality as well as in her career of choice and that she never apologizes for it. In fact, her career as a dancer is quite possibly the most stable thing in her life. It is also true that most of Voodoo's appearances have been men writing men interacting badly with her, which hasn't given much time to develop strong personality traits besides "tough girl, doesn't cry!" and "cool girl, not like other girls!" Her character is strong enough that even with all the tropes, she still has some of the best dialogue in comics.
Priscilla recently showed up in Warren Ellis' The Wild Storm, which reimagined a lot of the original Wildstorm characters. For Priscilla, that meant a career switch from a dancer to a pop star. This change didn't particularly go anywhere, and she is a minor character in the arc. While The Wild Storm is one of the best comics of the last few years, it's also kind of a bummer to see Voodoo's history as a sex worker, as well as her overall presence, reduced. We're hoping she makes a comeback soon.
Voodoo is one of those characters who are a lot more interesting than comics have allowed them to fully become as of yet. She may not have gotten her due, but she has a strong fan following. Priscilla is a lot of fun even when the stories she shows up in aren't exactly great. Her rebellious commitment to actually enjoying her life certainly stands out in stark contrast to every other member of the WildC.A.T.S, whose depressive inner monologues tend to define much of the series. Indeed, sometimes the differences between her and her teammates are so great that writers don't seem to know quite what to do with her, but even then, she still manages to class up this team of grungy warriors and assassins she finds herself on. Here's to you, Priscilla Kitaen!
Disney has produced dozens of animated musicals over the decades, with hundreds of songs in their repertoire. It might be hard to quantify the best songs Disney has ever made (although the answers can probably be found on The Little Mermaid soundtrack), but we can give an opinion on which songs are best from each film.
The badly written dystopian fiction that is our global pandemic continues.
A gang of monkeys attacked a laboratory assistant and escaped with a batch of coronavirus blood test samples, it has been reported.
The bizarre incident saw the troop of primates launch their assault near Meerut Medical College in Delhi, India.
According to local media, the animals then snatched COVID-19 blood test samples that had been taken from three patients and fled.
Welcome to The Week in Gaming, the place where we pause each week to take a look at the video game news beats both big and small that you might be missing — while also taking a peek around the corner at what's ahead. Check in each Friday for news (and occasionally even views) on everything from sprawling RPGs to Metroidvania platformers to the latest in VR and free-to-play. We'll even throw in a good old-fashioned board game every now and then!
The mists that still obscure what we know about the PlayStation 5 could begin to dissipate in a matter of days. Sure, we've seen the radically redesigned two-tone controller and even glimpsed some stellar-looking gameplay footage — but Sony's successor to the enormously successful PS4 still doesn't have an arrival date, and Sony hasn't yet shared so much as a grainy close-up to give fans an idea of what their next piece of hardware looks like.
That could change next week, if a recent report is on target. Citing sources "with direct knowledge of the matter," Bloomberg is reporting that Sony is planning a PS5 info event for early June; possibly as early as Wednesday, June 3 — though that date, the report cautions, isn't set in stone.
What seems clearer, though, is that Sony is looking to tap some of the typical June gaming buzz that fans have come to expect from E3, which is canceled this year due to coronavirus precautions. Even though Sony had no plans for a stage presence at this year's E3 to begin with, June is when console makers and game developers roll out some of their biggest announcements — often years in advance. And even as the pandemic has forced one event cancelation after another, companies are dialing up new ways to virtually engage fans over the summer.
It sounds as if the June event is only the first in a series of online reveals Sony has planned for the PS5, and that the company likely won't unveil everything there is to know about the console all at once. "Other PlayStation 5 events may follow in the coming weeks and months, and Sony is not expected to reveal every essential detail on the console during its first presentation," Bloomberg reports.
With Sony still on track to get the PS5 onto store shelves by its holiday 2020 target window, we can afford to be circumspect about all the hype. Regardless of whether we find out tons of new PS5 info next week or at the last minute, we're only half a year away from having every question answered either way. And in the meantime, there are still some pretty big PS4 releases on the way to keep us busy.
Speaking of that very thing, Sony devoted its entire State of Play event this week to highlighting a huge chunk of previously-unseen gameplay from The Last of Us Part II — and it looks killer. Stalking across a wasted American landscape on what (so far) has looked like more of a solo adventure for Ellie shouldn't be this pretty — but it appears to be a visual testament to Naughty Dog's ability to wrest the most out of the PS4's tech, right at the end of the console's lifespan.
The original The Last of Us was one of the PS3's most visually impressive games, and yet Part II looks like it's made a true generational leap beyond its universally acclaimed predecessor. In the top clip above, creative director Neil Druckmann says Part II spans a huge diversity of post-apocalyptic places and environments, and adds some RPG-lite mechanics that make your character (and your gear) look like they're changing over the course of the whole experience. It's a safe bet Ellie (and her rifle) will be wearing scars that feel satisfyingly well-earned by the time the credits roll.
One of the things that set the first game apart was its deftness at interweaving gameplay with a story that grew with its endearing characters — and now that we've seen what the intervening nine years have done to an older, wiser, and unmistakably tougher Ellie, we're true believers in the idea that The Last of Us — now heading to HBO as a series — is a franchise with staying power.
Online leaks abound for TLOU Part II, and the best way not to be spoiled (short of avoiding the internet altogether) is to warily take your news straight from the horse's mouth (as well as from us, because we're definitely not spoiling this game!) Our touchdown in Jackson, Wyoming is nearly here: The Last of Us Part II releases as a PlayStation 4 exclusive on June 19.
For a studio anchored by a handful of enormous big brands (Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and Dragon Quest all say "hi!"), Square Enix and its roster of go-to development studios have a history of breaking out totally new gaming IPs that, as the NieR franchise is proving, tend to resonate with fans and stick around for second and third helpings.
That's what's got us intrigued by Outriders, the brand-new sci-fi space shooter that Square Enix announced with few details at last year's E3. Now the publisher, along with Polish developer People Can Fly, is opening a new floodgate of info on the team-based online game, debuting this week the first in a series of "Outriders Broadcast" videos that take a deep dive to show what this mysterious title actually looks like in action.
The lengthy walkthrough introduces us to the First City, a now-ruined outpost on a distant planet, where people struggle for survival in the aftermath of a freakish storm that killed off most of the city's human colonists. Left for decades to fend mostly for themselves, the stranded survivors now take sides in a deteriorating and dystopian world beset by wild extraterrestrial weather, pockets of radiation, and monsters that don't always keep to their natural habitat.
Outriders is being developed to have a long shelf life, and it shows. This is one of those games that comes with an absolute ton of background lore and class customization info to unpack, so the 26-minute clip above just scratches the surface. The third-person shooter lets you pick from sci-fi-sounding versions of RPG character classes like Pyromancer (a medium-range class that conjures fire) or Trickster (a close-range fighter skilled in subterfuge), to name only a couple, and its menu and customization options look robust enough, all on their own, to keep players busy for days. Get up to speed with future Outriders Broadcasts in the months leading up to the game's generation-straddling "Holiday 2020" release for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC.
Fortnite forges ahead: Fortnite's Chapter 2 - Season 2 has been winding down for a while, and now it looks like it'll keep right on winding down just a little bit longer. After a previous month-long delay to the start of Season 3, Epic Games revealed this week that it's bumping the end of Season 2 another week, from June 4 to June 11.
If that feels like an eternity in Fortnite time, there's a silver lining: Epic isn't letting those final days go by without teasing the same kind of Doomsday drama that turned the map-changing Season 2 reveal into a pop culture phenomenon last October. Like that server-melting countdown, Season 2 is going out with a live event called "The Device," which Epic already is urging players to show up early for next weekend.
Will we be sucked into another black hole? Will players spend an entire day eagerly staring at a blank screen waiting for Season 3 to be born from the cosmos? In-game teasers appear to hint at something shark-themed… though this is still Fortnite, which means whatever we think Epic might be teasing remains wide open to the broadest possible interpretation. To secure your spot for The Device, cancel all your plans Saturday, June 6 and be ready to go before 2PM ET.
The cute Final Fantasy returns: Back in the day, Nintendo GameCube owners were limited to getting their Final Fantasy fix primarily via the cutesy, chibi-styled Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. The action-RPG started life as a Gamecube exclusive, and turned out to be a great team-focused game in its own right — even if it didn't come with a proper Roman numeral at the end of its title.
Fast-forward to the present, and Square Enix is dipping deep into the well of nostalgia once again. The studio is giving the 17-year-old game a huge overhaul that adds new features and updated graphics for what the studio's Duncan Heaney pledged this week, via the PlayStation Blog, will be "far from a simple re-release." More importantly, the remastered game now has a new trailer (below) and a midsummer release date.
Those definitely aren't the grainy GameCube graphics we remember (just check out the detail on that giant Malboro!) Better still, the remastered version won't be limited to just one platform. Team up to beat back the miasma when Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition arrives for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Android and iOS on Aug. 27.
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge goes VR: If a visit to a Disney theme park to take in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge seems like a far, far away dream, at least you'll soon be able to get there in VR — while making a game of it in the process.Vader Immortal VR developer ILMxLAB announced this week it's bringing Batuu to your headset with Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge, a virtual romp through the same lands you'll find at the theme parks — including a cast of familiar Star Wars characters populating the outskirts of Black Spire Outpost.
There aren't a ton of details (so far, the release window is simply pegged as sometime later this this year), but Disney and Lucasfilm are aiming to bring plenty of overlap between the real-life parks and the virtual version. "Now our guests can immerse themselves in these stories both inside and outside our parks," Disney Imagineering Creative Executive Scott Trowbridge said in a statement. Vader Immortal delivered more than we'd hoped for — especially on the immersive graphics front — so we definitely won't say no to touring Batuu in VR, away from all those pesky real-life theme park LARPers.
BlizzCon changes: Fans saw it coming, but this week Blizzard Entertainment made it official: The Overwatch and World of Warcraft developer announced it's canceling this year's BlizzCon, originally slated for November in Anaheim, opting instead for a digital-only fan event "most likely" to be held sometime early in 2021, as event EP Saralyn Smith wrote at the BlizzCon website. The decision, wrote Smith, came after Blizzard realized there wasn't a clear way to plan around all the public health unknowns that could arise, owing to the coronavirus pandemic, between now and November. For now, Blizzard's still ironing out the details of what its first-ever offsite fan con will look like (not to mention exactly when it'll be), so stay locked in to Blizzard's social media for updates, which we'll pass along as they appear.
Borderlands: This one's a no-brainer: From now through June 4, both Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel are available for free at the Epic Games store. Borderlands 2 takes players back to explore more of Pandora in a truly bonkers race against Handsome Jack — one of the jerkiest video game bad guys ever. The Pre-Sequel takes things into the outer-space environs of Pandora's orbit, setting players on a bouncy reduced-gravity moon mission (among other things) that explores the shameless backstory of how Jack got that way (and we mean bad...not handsome.) Grab 'em both for free while you can at the Epic Games Store.
PS Plus: Not to be outdone, Sony has cued up a pair of classics for its free PS Plus June lineup: Star Wars Battlefront II and Call of Duty: WW2. We're especially misty-eyed about Battlefront II recently reaching the finish line of its well-supported cycle of new content updates, so consider this one a chance to snag a retrospective look back at a game that definitely got better with time. The free download period starts June 2, and you can scope out details for both deals over at the PlayStation Blog.
When audiences finished the Oscar-winning film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, there was one particular scene that stuck in everyone’s minds: the moment Miles Morales officially became Spider-Man. After many minutes of self-doubt, Miles finally took a leap of faith and we all realized he wasn’t falling, but…
Five months after launching, Disney+ has finally restored the first 19 seasons (and part of the 20th) of The Simpsons to their original 4:3 aspect ratio. Back in November, viewers realized almost immediately that all episodes of the long-running Fox cartoon were being presented in the 16:9 widescreen format, which undercut certain visual gags.
Once this began to dominate headlines, Disney released a statement, saying it had adopted a general aspect ratio "in order to guarantee visual quality and consistency across all 30 seasons."
Fans were not very happy about this, especially since the 16:9 format wasn't utilized until 2009 when the 20th season was already underway. Nevertheless, Disney took the feedback to heart, making a promise early on to fix the issue, and announcing last month that the original aspect ratios would be available in late May.
To enjoy episodes in their original size, fans can simply head to the "Details" section of the show's Disney+ page and move the toggle widget to their desired setting.
Tom Ellis is officially on board for a devilish sixth season of Lucifer on Netflix, TVLine confirmed today. Now it's up to the streamer to renew the series, which has yet to roll out its two-part fifth season, whose writer's room wrapped in early February.
In early March, it was reported that Ellis was interested in returning to play the title character, but a major contract dispute threatened to damn Season 6 (likely consiting of 10-13 episodes) to an eternity of purgatory. Luckily, it sounds like the actor found a way to barter for his immortal soul, er, we mean acting talents.
Ildy Modrovich and Joe Henderson will return as showrunners.
Ellis briefly appeared as Lucifer on The CW's Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover back in December.
Netflix goes full giallo in the first trailer for Curon, a supernatural mystery series from Italy. Announced last March, the show follows a mother and her teenage kids as they return home to a cursed village in Northern Italy. Instead of a warm welcome back, the family encounters strange rituals and persistent warnings to get out while they still can.
The series was created and written by Giovanni Galassi, Ivano Fachin, and Tommaso Matano. Ezio Abbate (Suburra) serves as head writer.
Take a look below:
The spine-tingling atmosphere and slightly off-kilter (though no less beautiful) cinematography on display in the trailer give us the promise of a scary good time. From Deep Red to Suspiria, Italy has never let us down in the horror genre.
Curon premieres on Netflix Wednesday, June 10.
One of the few new films in theaters right now – well, it's in drive-ins — is the Slamdance hit The Vast of Night, which also starts streaming on Amazon Prime on Friday. It's an unusually quiet sci-fi exercise that draws you in with its long, hypnotic tracking shots and muted performances. The movie is set in a small town in New Mexico in the 1950s — the golden age of sci-fi to which it alludes — and it focuses on a teenage switchboard operator named Fay (Sierra McCormick) and a late-night radio DJ named Everett (Jake Horowitz).
The pair are having an uneventful evening in their uneventful town when things suddenly start getting weird. Lights begin flickering, a strange sound is heard on local phone lines, and a man calls in to Everett's show with a very curious story to tell. So, Fay and Everett join forces to investigate.
The movie's director, Andrew Patterson, talked with SYFY WIRE about his filmmaking influences, hidden Easter eggs to keep an eye out for, and why it would be worth your while to play a part of the movie backward.
In addition to releasing this on streaming, Amazon partnered with drive-ins to get this movie up on screens — very 1950s. How did that come together, and what would make a good pairing for this movie in a drive-in double feature?
Almost as soon as we realized that this wasn't going to be able to have the theatrical release we intended, everyone sort of realized, "Wait a minute… what about drive-ins?" I think over 30 drive-ins jumped in. I think some are running it with Super 8, which is kind of a spiritual predecessor to our movie a little bit. In a lot of cases, the drive-in had to pair it with something that would get more people to show up and then be surprised by our quiet, tiny movie. If I were going to pick the film before it, I might pick Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If I were going to pick to film after it, I would probably pick Ridley Scott's original Alien movie from 1979.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers would set up some of the Easter eggs you've hidden in the film, like the reference to a Grimaldi family….
I'm trying to remember how many Easter eggs are in there. We also named San Mirial Valley after Santa Mira in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
And Everett's radio station, WOTW, that's for The War of the Worlds, right? But…
Are you going to give me flack about there not being "W" call letters west of the Mississippi? That's my favorite, when people try to call us out on that. But if you dig into it, even to this day, there are at least a few "W" call letters west of the Mississippi. Trust me, with as much research as we did, we did not make that mistake.
Another Easter egg is that the movie is supposed to look like it was shot on the Universal Studios backlot. A lot of movies — Back to the Future, Gremlins — all used the exact same courthouse, so all those towns look exactly the same. We wanted it to feel like a Twilight Zone, the first episode of which was also shot on that backlot. And we actually included some slightly inaccurate things in our film to evoke the spirit of a movie or TV show that was shot on that backlot, because then they wouldn't have bothered doing much research on a small town in New Mexico. So that's sort of a joke. Yann Demange's movie '71 was also an influence for the aesthetic. When I saw that movie in 2014, I was gobsmacked by how it works and how fast it was. The thing I had never seen before was how they lit that movie, the characters never landed in perfect pools of light. Everything looked available. I really wanted to make a movie that looked that way.
This is a film about the art of listening, a concern that's woven into the audio design and the story itself. We have to strain to understand some characters at first — we don't see them in close-ups and they're talking very fast, and talking in slang, too. By the time we do get some close-ups, the characters are struggling to hear things themselves. It made me want to rewatch certain scenes to make sure I got them.
That was always the intention. I cut my teeth watching dozens of Robert Altman movies, where what you just described was the point. I remember working as a projectionist in 2001 when the movie Gosford Park came out, and at every showing, somebody came out and said, "We can't hear what they're saying." We would turn up the volume, but people weren't used to the fact that so many little details that don't necessarily concern the plot would be talked about all over the movie.
The fall before we made this movie, Aaron Sorkin's movie on Steve Jobs came out, and I remember, 15 seconds into it, going, "I'm going to have to rewatch this." Richard Linklater movies — Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight — were also heavy on my mind, in terms of using that kind of dialogue to get to know the characters. And All the President's Men taught me that you could build a mystery around phone calls. An actor like Jake Horowitz, who plays Everett, can take me to places with his eyes that I couldn't go to if I cut to that other side of that phone call. Same with Sierra McCormick, who plays Fay, when she discovers a sound. You can go into a trance watching them unfurl this mystery.
The movie also contains soliloquies from often-unheard voices — women, people of color. So the message isn't only that we need to listen, but who we need to listen to?
One hundred percent. This movie was written before the #MeToo movement, but we wanted to have really strong roles for women, people of color, and people over a certain age. There was a discussion whether we could lower the age of our old lady in the third act, but if you listen to her story, if you change when she was born, you change the whole story. That added an interesting layer to the possibility that most of what was going on was the truth.
Where did the old lady's chant come from? What language was that?
That's something our actress Gail Cronauer came up with. I'm pretty sure you can play it backwards. I'm excited to see if people pick up what cryptic message might be in there. Another thing to listen for — we did a very slight wink to 2001: A Space Odyssey. One of our musical themes is the first three notes of that, which is foreshadowing where this story is headed.
What about the strange sound that everyone is trying to decipher — that sort of mumbling, clicking thrum? How did you create that?
Oh my word! It was two brilliant sound designers working for six months to create something new. It's a lot of different, overlapping things. There are instruments in there. There are human throat noises. There is feedback. We wanted it to not be threatening — to draw you in, not freak you out.
Without spoiling anything, how did you decide how much to solve the mystery at the end?
It was complicated. If you show nothing, people get annoyed. And everyone has a different idea of what they want to see at the end of a movie like this. We wanted to strike a balance of hitting the right note, and more importantly, we wanted to capture what it would feel like – the human experience of something you've never experienced before. We really tried to hone in on that, and not go towards something else. Some viewers won't agree — they'll expect a different ending than the one we gave them. I can tell you that the movie they want may exist somewhere else, but it's not The Vast of Night. [Laughs.]
Streaming is more important than ever. As huge numbers of people stay home during the global pandemic, many have turned to the plethora of services for a much-needed escape. At the start of each month, most streaming services do a little shuffle, adding new movies and taking some off, and we’re here to help with your…
HBO Max’s odd and decidedly messy release this week just got a little stranger. Despite promising a number of popular titles that the company said would be available immediately in a press release last week, those titles were nowhere to be found as of Wednesday. And now, it appears the company has yanked the memo from…
Welcome to the latest episode of Who Won the Week, a weekly podcast in which SYFY WIRE looks back at the week that was and the stories that are blowing up the geek-o-sphere.
Lots to talk about this week! Henry Cavill might be returning as Superman in one way or another and Josh Gad has managed to gather pretty much every cast member of The Lord of the Rings for a virtual reunion. Meanwhile, The Mandalorian has inspired some Golden Globes changes and there's going to be a Labyrinth 2, of all things. Also, our own Brian Silliman geeks out as he interviews Natasia Demetriou and Harvey Guillén of What We Do in the Shadows.
To contact us about the podcast, feel free to drop us an e-mail, or tweet at us with the hashtag #whowontheweek! And if you like what you hear, please be sure to rate and review us on iTunes! Let us know what you think the biggest stories going are, what you might want to hear in future episodes of the 'cast, and whatever else is on your mind.
It's almost June, and Pride Month is right around the corner. SYFY's about to go all out, so it makes sense that the LGTBQ+ love was going to spread to all corners of the genre world. Pixar has always been light on representation, with the most recent LQBTQ character in the animation giant's roster being Onward's tertiary lesbian cyclops cop, but now Pixar has broken ground with a touching new short film featuring a first for the company: a gay protagonist.
The star of "Out," a new nine-minute Pixar short that debuted on Disney+, is Greg. He's got a boyfriend, Manuel. Their relationship is the key to the plot, because Greg hasn't yet come out to his visiting parents. The tale, which also includes a body-swap plotline with Greg's dog, is all about finding the courage to be yourself — a touching, natural fit for a Pixar film. Fans can get a glimpse of it in the trailer below.
Take a look:
Written and directed by longtime Pixar animator Steven Clay Hunter in his directorial debut, "Out" is pleasantly straightforward about Greg (loosely based on Hunter, according to AP News). It's not a mere implication or afterthought added in by the cast during post-premiere interviews. It's the text. "Just look them in the eyes and say, 'Mom, Dad, I'm — this is my boyfriend, Manuel,'" Greg says in the short, holding a picture of the couple. Then there's a kiss.
GLAAD's director of entertainment media, Jeremy Blacklow, called the short "a huge step forward for The Walt Disney Company in establishing itself as a welcoming home for stories about all loving couples and families," while others around the world have felt the love:
And the person feeling it the most is, perhaps, Hunter himself. “The first time I drew Greg and Manuel holding each other in the bedroom, I was bawling my face off,” Hunter told the AP. “All this emotion came welling up because I realized I had been in animation for decades and I had never drawn that in my career. It just hit me.”
“The relationship of Manuel and Greg is something I went through,” the filmmaker explained. “I wasn’t out to my family, and I was in a relationship but they didn’t know about him. It took a toll on our relationship, and we ended up breaking up because of that. And that breakup led to me coming out to my family, over the phone in a conference room at Pixar.”
Now, thanks to the Pixar SparkShorts program (through which Hunter also worked on "Purl"), the story has come full circle. The short was greenlit, then completed last December. Fans can watch "Out" on Disney+ now.
You step outside, finding the usually bustling streets peaceful and empty. Despite a weather forecast pushing 80 degrees, the air is refreshingly cool. And while your schedule is filled with work, errands, and work that’s basically just one big errand, in this little moment you have no responsibilities at all. What is…
It’s Channel Zero meets Red Riding Hood—with a little bit of Midsommar thrown in there for good measure. Netflix has released the first trailer for its Italian fantasy series Curon, about twins who return to their mom’s hometown, only to find it’s the center of a dark, evil, and possibly wolfy, curse.
Space Force, the Netflix show, is not about Space Force, the real-life sixth branch of the armed forces. Well, not exactly. The comedy, which reunites showrunner Greg Daniels with his The Office star Steve Carell, tracks the early days of the nascent Space Force as it tries, with mixed success, to get boots on the moon and militarize space. There's a Twitter-happy president expecting huge results, and some very familiar-seeming members of Congress wanting to hold the Space Force accountable. But Space Force is not a direct parody of the real entity, which was officially created late last year.
"It's really a parallel universe," Daniels tells SYFY WIRE. "We're sort of creating this imaginative comedy show where we're just doing our version of Space Force."
"There are jokes about politicians, and it's important to be able to laugh at the leaders in a democracy," Daniels adds, although it's important to note that President Donald Trump is never explicitly named. "But it's not like a late-night show. It's not a mean-spirited show. It's sort of taking a long view. We're not just hitting this joke and then tomorrow we'll do a joke about something else. Whatever's in the news that day."
It's almost a coincidence that Space Force is premiering on Netflix just as the real Space Force is just getting off the ground, so to speak. The idea, Daniels recalls, came from Netflix, which pitched it in a meeting with Carell, who then brought it to Daniels. This was back when Trump was just talking about maybe, one day, making Space Force a reality. In fact, Netflix gave the series the green light in January 2019, just under a year before the Space Force was officially founded.
So, rather than make a one-to-one comparison with the real Space Force, Daniels and Carell created their own version.
"It's a way to do a military show that hasn't been done," Daniels says, noting that while the stakes are certainly much higher than something like The Office, which was about selling paper, Space Force is "still a character comedy." Carell's character, General Mark Naird, is a dedicated Air Force veteran who is not exactly qualified to head up the newly launched (and largely mocked) Space Force. It's largely through interactions between Naird and his chief scientist, Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich), that Space Force tackles the big question underneath all that character comedy: Is militarizing space a good idea?
Daniels looks back at the Space Race and mankind's first "giant leap" and can't help but feel a little "wistful" about an era when space exploration was more cooperative and scientific rather than nationalistic and militarized. Mallory and Naird regularly butt heads; the scientist thinks their mission is an affront to science, while Naird thinks Mallory is being naive about the threats they face.
"Both those ideas have a lot of validity, and I don't think the show needs to tell you what to think," Daniels says, adding that his own view on the necessity of a Space Force changed while doing research for the show. During a meeting with SpaceX, he recalls hearing SpaceX engineers talk about how they saw a need for security for all of the things they were putting up in orbit.
"You realize, 'Oh, OK, this is a sensible reaction to the way the world is going,'" Daniels says.
As for where the real Space Force is going, it remains to be seen how much the real deal will end up resembling the Netflix version.
"It is kind of funny to see," Daniels says. "Like, we had camouflage fatigues and they put out camouflage fatigues. We had a flag and they put out a flag."
Susie Mancini, Space Force's set director, tells SYFY WIRE just how much effort they put into their version of the Space Force flag.
"They showed [the real] flag, which didn't make me feel bad about our flag at all, if I can be honest," Mancini says with a laugh, recalling how she spent literally months studying existing armed forces seals to extrapolate unique design elements for her carefully constructed emblem. "I feel like the real Space Force flag — it's a great flag — but it's really, really similar to Star Trek."'
"I feel like we spent more time designing the logo than they did, but that's just me," she adds.
A little friendly design competitiveness aside, Space Force isn't trying to look down on the real Space Force, although your mileage may vary on whether this first season should have been more pointed. Daniels compares it to older military comedies like Sgt. Bilko and Gomer Pyle, saying he hopes military audiences will see that the show is "acknowledging the absurdities and the frustrations that they go through and see them being portrayed with love and respect."
For actors like Ben Schwartz, who plays Space Force's insufferable social media manager, F. Tony Scarapiducci, the overlap between reality and fiction is a little more personal.
"When we wrapped, someone said, 'You know, someone has your job, right? Like, there is a social media manager of the actual Space Force,'" he tells SYFY WIRE. "I hadn't even thought about that yet, so I was like, 'Oh my God.' But I'm not poking fun at the actual human being above the job there, but rather just the idea of what [the job] represented months and months ago when they announced the show."
There’s no shortage of trauma for the Avatar gang, whether it’s your mother dying to protect you as the last waterbender; being 12 and trapped in an iceberg for a hundred years, then awakening to find out there’s a war you have to stop; or having aggressively overprotective parents who can’t see how amazing and capable you are — the list goes on.
Uh, spoilers below for this ... 15-year-old show, I guess?
None of these kids are without their tragedies, so when Zuko finally shows up to the Western Air Temple with a “Hello, Zuko here,” he gets to learn all about it. Our favorite angst-ridden, angry, heavily traumatized boy gets to learn ALL about the Gaang and their histories — including Sokka.
Oh, Sokka. In Book 3: Fire, Zuko and Sokka end up on a mission together, which is P R I M E for bonding — except they’re both awkward as hell, so of course it starts with the following:
Sokka: … Pretty clouds.
Zuko: Yeah. Fluffy.
But they go deeper — Zuko starts talking about his family, being a traitor to his nation, the girl he left behind. This is where Sokka decides it’s a good time to commiserate, “My first girlfriend turned into the moon.”
And Zuko, bless him, stops, considers what he just heard, and then gives a nigh-perfect reply.
“That’s rough, buddy.”
That is rough, buddy.
Poor Phillipa Georgiou. We didn’t get to spend all that much time with Michelle Yeoh’s noble captain of the Shenzhou in Star Trek: Discovery before she got a Klingon knife to the chest, but her performance lived on as she got to take on Georgiou’s cartoonishly villainous Mirror Universe self. But as fun as that is,…
Joss Whedon has made a lot of cool stuff during his lengthy career, from a couple of The Avengers movies to cult hit sci-fi shows like Firefly and Dollhouse. But the thing he’s most proud of, even after bringing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes together for a billion-dollar blockbuster? A quiet, poignant, Season 5 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In an interview with Metro, Whedon looked back at the legacy of “The Body,” the 2001 episode of Buffy that focused on the unexpected death of Buffy’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) mother Joyce (Kristine Sutherland). Though the show was a critical hit and did plenty of daring things on a weekly basis, “The Body” focused on the heartbreaking moments just after Buffy discovered her mother’s body at home.
For a show that’s featured vampires, demons and other dimensions, Joyce meets a much more pedestrian end, having died of natural causes. Whedon wrote and directed the episode, and looking back, says it remains the work he’s still most proud of for the raw spotlight it shines on how we process death — and how even a supernatural warrior like Buffy is helpless to stop it: “I think ["The Body"] is probably the best thing I’ve done and the best thing I will ever do,” he said. “And I’m OK with that. You know, there are worse epitaphs.”
Whedon said the episode resonated with people much more than he ever expected. He said he based it on the helplessness and emotions he felt in the wake of his own mother’s death when he was in his late-20s due to a car crash. But in hindsight, realized the story was a universal one, focused on a “good kind of pain created from her situation that was particularly personal.”
“You know, [the episode] did a lot of stuff I didn’t mean for it to do. In the sense of, I just wanted to tell a story about grief, in particular its dull eccentricities. I didn’t want any lessons, I didn’t want any catharsis,” he explained “And then, so many people were able to deal with their own grief because they watched it and I was so shocked by that… It doesn’t give you anything. Death is the thing [Buffy] cannot fight, but it also renders her meaningless. She’s not on a lot of committees, she doesn’t have a lot of hobbies, it takes away her identity.”
One of the most uncomfortable things is the lack of music in the background during these scenes. It’s just uncomfortable silence lingering for minutes on end, forcing you to watch as Buffy falls apart, scrambles, then falls apart all over again.
“There is something extremely important about this episode not having music because music tells you where to go, it’s like, what’s happened?” Whedon explained. “You don’t know where we’re headed, or what to think. [The] experience of this grief is, you know, a band-aid in the process of being ripped off. And once it’s off, it’s off. It’s so airless.”
If you’re looking to weep openly in the middle of the day and revisit “The Body,” the full run of Buffy is streaming now on Hulu.
As far as personal philosophies go, I’m one of those people who believe in the power of the sun and of sex to heal the mind, body, and soul. Taking in both, and often, is good for one’s physical and emotional health. However, both require some measure of protection. Mmm-hm. Fortunately for you, Sex Week has come and…
Making planets isn't easy*.
Stars form in the centers of disks of material that can stretch for many tens of billions of kilometers. The stuff from the disk falling into the center forms the star, but farther out where it's cooler is where planets tend to form. Usually, for stars this young planetesimals — chunks of rock and metal and ice from 1–100 km in size — likely dominate, the precursors to actual planets.
But a lot can go wrong. Too close to a star and it gets cooked. Too far and there may not be enough material to gather to create an actual planet.
The neighborhood matters, too. Most stars form in open clusters, some with tens of thousands or more stars. Astronomers have thought for some time that just where the star is located in the cluster makes a big difference in whether it can form planets or not, and that conjecture now has new support from a series of observations of a huge, relatively nearby cluster.
YeGADS. Pretty, ain't it?
Westerlund 2 is about 13,500 light years away, and huge; the total mass of stars in it is about 36,000 times the Sun's! Most stars that form are lower mass than the Sun, so this means there could be over 100,000 stars being born there. They're divided into two distinct clumps, which you can see in the Hubble image above; one is smaller and above the larger one. Careful analysis has shown the two clumps are about the same age, between 0.5 and 2 million years old. So these are very young stars indeed.
To the lower left you can see a mix of glowing gas and darker dust, the basic building material of stars. The dust clouds are elongated, pointed toward the middle of the cluster. That's real, and due to the most massive stars in the cluster. Some of those stars, called O and B stars, are beasts, huge and luminous. There's a binary in there called WR20a with two stars each about 80 times the mass of the Sun orbiting each other; together they blast out over a million times the energy the Sun does! Yikes.
These stars emit a lot of high-energy ultraviolet light, which eats away at the dust in a process called photoevaporation. Basically, those stars are eroding the material around them (note the central part near the stars is mostly clear of gas and dust).
And that, it turns out, is central to our story.
Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers observed the stars in the cluster for three years, looking for changes in their brightness. Very young stars like these are known to be highly variable, and measuring that brightness change can tell you a lot about the stars, including how fast they rotate, whether they have starspots (like sunspots), and how they grow, and also give physical characteristics of the material around them.
The astronomers looked at a total of 9,268 stars in Westerlund 2, ranging in mass from dinky red dwarfs with 1/10th the mass of the Sun up to very luminous stars almost 6 times the Sun's mass. They found that 30% of those stars are variable for various reasons.
Of those, 5% are what they call dippers — the light from the star suddenly dips, then goes back up again. These are very likely from stars with disks we see very nearly edge-on, and disk material is circling around and blocking some of the starlight from our point of view.
In other words, these are the stars that could be forming planets even as we watch.
And this is where things get very interesting indeed: When they plotted where these stars were, they tend to be in the outskirts of the cluster, avoiding the central regions. In fact, they don't seem to exist in the center of either clump making up the overall cluster!
Why? The obvious explanation is, again, photoevaporation. The massive stars tend to be in the centers of the clumps (close encounters between stars are common, and when that happens the more massive stars tend to sink to the cluster center, and the lower mass ones move outward; this process is called mass segregation). So the center of the cluster is where most of that lethal UV comes from, and, apparently, lower mass stars that form there get their planet-forming disks destroyed by that light.
Well, you know the real estate cliché: location, location, location not near massive OB stars in a dense cluster or else your protoplanetary disk will get vaporized by a flood of ultraviolet light.
Most real estate agents shorten the phrase though. Makes sense.
Our Sun has planets (I leave the proof as a logic exercise for the reader), so if it too formed in a cluster maybe it was in the suburbs, or it was in a smaller cluster with fewer massive stars. We don't know, but we're learning more about how this works all the time.
Westerlund 2 is a fascinating place, and a spectacular one, too. But given what lurks at its heart(s), I'm glad it's so far away.
*Just ask Carol Marcus.
If you happened to find yourself in 17th-century Naples, you were in for a rough time. The Plague of 1656 was in full swing and would claim an estimated 300,000 lives in Naples alone. If you were one of the unlucky souls to come down with the buboes and high fever symptomatic of the disease, a visit from the plague…
Aesop was a serious classist, and he’s at it again.
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Author: W. Blaine Dowler
We all know the tragic image of behemoth ancient beasts staring up at a fateful streak of light bearing down fast. The cataclysmic asteroid strike that Earth withstood 66 million years ago, wiping out nearly every single living, breathing dinosaur on the planet, caused a serious dent in its crust, and rendered the entire globe nearly uninhabitable for thousands of centuries.
In a new research paper and simulation published in the online journal Nature Communications, U.K. scientists led by Imperial College London's Gareth Collins have determined that this doomsday space rock struck our Big Blue Marble at precisely the best angle to inflict maximum damage, in a perfect storm of conditions which triggered the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction.
Lurking beneath the Yucatán Peninsula and the Gulf of Mexico, the buried Chicxulub crater spans more than 90 miles in diameter. It was created when an errant 6-mile-wide asteroid or comet collided with Earth to end the Age of Dinosaurs, along with most every species of flying reptiles known as pterosaurs. This new study estimates the steep trajectory of the Chicxulub impactor to have been a "just-right" Goldilocks-style angle from horizontal, setting up the ideal situation for detonating millions of tons of vaporized rock into the sky.
Reconstructing that impact with measurements and data collected directly from the Chicxulub crater, Collins and his crew discovered that the unwanted cosmic intruder blasted into our atmosphere at a blazing 20 kilometres per second before hitting home.
"The Chicxulub impact triggered a mass extinction because it threw up huge quantities of dust and gas out of the crater and ejected this material fast enough to disperse around the globe," Collins tells SYFY WIRE. "Our work shows that the asteroid that struck Earth to form the Chicxulub crater followed a trajectory from NE to SW and collided at a steep angle to the surface — about 60 degrees above the horizon. The angle of attack is important, because it dictates how lethal the blow was. A 60-degree impact angle is a more lethal because it ejects more material fast enough to engulf the planet — even steeper impacts might make a bigger crater, but they throw out debris more slowly so most of it does not get as far; very grazing impacts, on the other hand, don’t generate anywhere near as much debris."
"An older idea was that the impact angle was much shallower and the asteroid came from a different direction (from the SE)," Collins explains further. "Our work suggests a different direction and angle based on observations that show that the crater’s central uplift is leaning slightly to the southwest and our new 3D numerical simulations of the impact that are consistent with these observations. Everyone knows that the day of the Chicxulub impact was a bad day for the dinosaurs — our work shows it was even worse. The impact was a perfect storm."
"What is most remarkable is that anything survived at all and how rapidly life recovered, albeit without the dinosaurs," Collins adds. "Our work provides the starting point for understanding the knock on effects of the impact on the climate and food chain, but much more work remains to be done to fully understand the immediate and longer-term aftermath of the impact and the subsequent chain of events that led to the mass extinction and then recovery."
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