10 Cult Favorite (or Should-Be Cult Favorite) Movies Lurking on Disney+ @ io9

You’re addicted to The Mandalorian, and you’re looking forward to all those Marvel shows on the way. But your Disney+ subscription doesn’t only contain must-see TV and nostalgia-burnished Oscar winners! The studio dug deep to fill up its new streaming service, and it shook loose some wonderful weirdness.

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Wednesday's Best Deals: Refurbished iPad Pros, Screen Protectors, Aerogarden, Under Armour, and More @ io9

A wireless charging accessory Gold Box, Jachs waffle knits, giant Snickers bar, and a heating pad lead off Wednesday’s best deals from around the web.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine | Dorky Geeky Nerdy #43 @ Bureau 42

Heading out to the edge of the Final Frontier. Our third Star Trek episode and my personal favorite. Enjoy!

Episode #43 | Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Joker director Todd Phillips in talks for sequel, along with another DC story @ Syfy Wire

1p>It seems like director Todd Phillips’ newfound openness to a Joker sequel with “thematic resonance” wasn’t just talk: The supervillain film broke an R-rated record at the box office and made a cool billion for Warner Bros. Now it seems like Phillips is in talks to go back to the gritty world of DC.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Phillips not only has “the rights to at least one other DC story,” acquired in a meeting with Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich. That's a big departure from Phillips' original experience pitching his gritty, standalone takes on DC heroes that he described back in August, when he divulged that he'd suggested the creation of something called DC Black, a label at Warner Bros. specifically used to test out alternate takes on famous comic characters. Warner Bros. wasn't impressed. “They’re like, ‘Calm down with the label — how about you do one movie?’” Phillips said. And then that movie went on to make $1B, netting Phillips himself a cool $100M thanks to a deal favoring a percent of the adjusted gross.

But that's not the only change for Phillips and the DCEU: he's also in talks to return to the Clown Prince of Crime’s story. Phillips would return to helm, and he’d also co-write with his Joker screenwriter, Scott Silver. And Joaquin Phoenix would theoretically be there too — the actor has sequel options from the original film.

It seems escaping the pull of what is now the highest-grossing R-rated film in history was impossible, as Arthur Fleck’s Joker origins were seeming to ensnare Phillips for a second film back in August. However, what exactly that sequel film would explore is up in the air. 

The Batman director Matt Reeves is already populating his Gotham with a rogues' gallery of A-listers for his film on the Caped Crusader's early days — it’d be weird to have two Batmen running around in the DCEU. As for Joker’s main squeeze, Harley Quinn, well, she’s got a new TV show and upcoming film all about getting away from the villain.

Where do you think a sequel to Joker could go? And who would it involve?

Critics say Shyamalan's 'Servant' pushes boundaries for Apple TV+ with creepy, twisty tale @ Syfy Wire

1p>Here's a quick riddle for you, dear reader. What do you get when you cross a fake child, a creepy nanny, and the City of Brotherly Love? Why, you get executive producer M. Night Shyamalan's new horror series on Apple TV+, of course!

Created by Tony Basgallop, Servant doesn't premiere on the streaming service until Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, Nov. 28), but reviews are currently trickling online, and they sound like a much-needed shot in the arm for Apple after the somewhat tepid reactions to the company's launch titles like See and (to a more positive extent) For All Mankind.

While some critics find it hard to envision the series going for six seasons (Shyamalan, director of the first two episodes, said at NYCC that he sees it as a six-year installment plan), they find Servant to be one of the best shows on Apple TV+ so far. Scary, bizarre, and filled with mysteries that result in the director's patented twists, it is a sure and promising sign that the subscription service is certainly willing to take major risks with its original programming.

Ok, so what's this thing even about? Well, you might want to sit down as we describe the basic premise because it's as weird as they come. Servant follows Philadelphia couple, Sean and Dorothy Turner (Toby Kebbell and Lauren Ambrose), who hire a strange nanny (Nell Tiger Free) to look after their toddler, Jericho.

So far so good, right? Time to strap in because here's where things get surreal: Jericho actually died when he was a few weeks old and in order to help her cope with the terrible loss, Dorothy got a beautifully-crafted fake baby made, which she now sees as real. The appearance of the nanny, Leanne Grayson, only takes us further down the rabbit hole.

It's time to put the faux baby down for its nap and find out what critics are saying about Servant...

"Servant is fascinating to look at and, at first, contemplate. But its slithering, reversing structure elides the fact that it must move the plot forward only infinitesimally each episode in order to conserve it, and that this is a shortish feature in the costume of a ten-episode drama. That’s its biggest, and least welcome, twist of all." -Daniel D'Addario, Variety

"Shyamalan has said he needs six seasons to tell Servant’s full story, which feels… inflated. After watching all 10 episodes, it’s hard to imagine the mystery sustaining more than two seasons or so. But it’s far too early to quibble. Right now, Servant is delivering the kind of giddy thrills you want from horror: Things are going from bad to worse for the Turner family, and I can’t help but enjoy it." -Kristen Baldwin, Entertainment Weekly

"Based on the first four episodes, the best thing that can be said about Servant is that it never drags its feet. Thanks to its half-hour runtimes, the series makes sure to hit viewers with one surprise after another. By the end of the first episode, it’s very likely fans of this kind of show are going to want to tune in for more." -Merrill Barr, Forbes

"Throughout the 10-episode first season, it often feels like some big twist is waiting at the end of this episode, or the next, or the next one after that, until you’re finished and the payoff doesn’t quite live up to the hype. That’s not to say there aren’t secrets or surprises, moments of charged excitement and heart-shaking pain, as well as strong acting and some of Shyamalan’s more accomplished constructions." -Ben Travers, IndieWire

"Servant can be a frustrating watch, with its oddball ensemble manifesting as eerily, purposefully translucent, but it’s a compulsive one. The 30-minute episodes help—every minute feels purposeful, symbolic, or some combination of the two—and there’s a hysterical quality, both in its performances and plotting, that gives its austere, shadowy aesthetic a surprising spark ... The heightened performances work not only in the context of the high-concept plot, but also the upscale townhouse in which Servant primarily unfolds." -Randall Colburn, The A.V. Club

"More than anything else, Servant disproves the popular notion that Apple's original shows will be safe, uncontroversial, family-friendly and free of sex. Servant, with its difficult premise, themes of adult anxiety, and at least scene of sexuality, is absolutely none of the above. It's the sort of show — a wild and daring idea from an established and talented creator — that Apple TV+ should be lining up to make in the upcoming streaming wars." -Stephen Silver, Apple Insider

"Shyamalan directs the first two episodes himself, setting the general look and tone of the series with lots of close-ups that creates a deeper intimacy with the characters ... Comparisons to Rosemary’s Baby and other ‘70s horror films are quite easy to make, yet to me, it’s more like the original Dark Shadows series, a slowly-building drama where every episode creates a new layer of tension to the story. There’s also an aspect of the recent Korean film Parasite in the way that the idle rich treat the 'help'." -Edward Douglas, Comics Beat

"Servant is far from perfect. It requires a ton of suspension of disbelief, does way too much mystery-wise, and may be insensitive to mothers who have lost children. But it's creepy, compulsively watchable fun, with a distinct personality. It shows that Apple is willing to make shows that are pretty dark, pretty risky, and not particularly aspirational. It's a beautiful house, but the people who live there are lunatics who hate each other. That's the kind of setup you always want from a psychological thriller, no matter who's making it." -Liam Mathews, TV Guide


James Gunn Is Playing Coy About That Character We All Know Is Coming to Guardians Vol. 3 @ io9

A new Star Wars TV spot shows off some of Rey’s new skills. Another horror reboot is headed our way. Updates from Doctor Who, Titans, and more. Plus soccer-playing cannibals! Delicious spoilers ahead.

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Arrow producer reveals Canaries spinoff series will be set in 2040, not the present day @ Syfy Wire

1p>The status quo on Arrow has gone through some monumental shifts this season, with Oliver’s future children sent back to the present day to help out with the pending Crisis on Infinite Earths. But what does all that time travel mean for the proposed Green Arrow and the Black Canaries spinoff series about that future team?

Producer Marc Guggenheim has opened up on Twitter about the spinoff to confirm it does take place in the future, 2040 to be precise. When word broke about the project a few months ago, fans assumed it would be set in the future of the Arrowverse. But when the Crisis sent those future heroes back to the present day, fans started theorizing it might strand Oliver’s future children Mia and William (along with Diggle’s adopted son Connor) in the present to have them directly take up Oliver’s mission in the wake of Crisis.

 

But now we know that won’t be the case. With Guggenheim’s confirmation the series will be set in 2040, it indicates the future team will return to their proper place in the timeline once the Crisis crossover is complete. Which makes sense, as the backdoor pilot episode focused on the future team will be the first episode of Arrow to air after Crisis in late January, so it’s safe to assume the episode will follow the future team once they return home. The backdoor pilot will then be followed the next week by the proper Arrow series.

 

As The CW looks to diversify its superhero lineup, setting a story in the far flung future is definitely a way to do that. Letting the future team crossover with the present is proving a great way to tighten up that connective tissue, but it seems that’ll just be a temporary measure. Green Arrow and the Canaries will be set in the future.

But, who exactly will be taking up the Green Arrow mantle in 2040? Mia, Connor, Old Man Roy, someone else entirely? So many questions. Here’s hoping that backdrop pilot provides a few answers.

Arrow airs Tuesdays on The CW. Crisis kicks off next month.

A Joker Sequel Is Happening and Now More DC Origin Stories May Be on the Way @ io9

Wanna hear a joke?

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Whack 'em or nuke 'em: How to deflect a killer asteroid @ Syfy Wire

1p>A new paper just published by scientists from various NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration labs looks at the best way to prevent an impact from an asteroid headed toward Earth.

Their conclusion: Above a certain size, roughly 300 meters across or so, the best thing to do is nuke it. Seriously! But not for the reason you think.

In (really terrible) movies and such, a nuclear weapon is planted onto an incoming asteroid, and the rock is blown to smithereens. But this won't work! For one thing, you can't be sure what will happen with the pieces. Instead of one big asteroid headed toward you, now you might have hundreds of slightly smaller ones. Radioactive ones.

What you really want to do is have what's called a standoff detonation. You blow up the bomb at some distance from the asteroid (generally 50–1,000 meters away from the surface). The goal isn't to shatter it, but to heat it. A lot.

Even then, this isn't what you think! There's a thermal pulse from the bomb, a flash of heat, but that's not the main way this works. Instead, the bomb generates a huge pulse of high-energy X-rays. These penetrate the surface and are absorbed by the material there.

A model of asteroid deflection tests how one like the 500-meter wide Bennu would react to a 1-megaton nuclear weapon (black dot) detonated just off the surface. Red areas vaporize and push the asteroid off-course, other colors are where material is heated but not vaporized. Credit: LLNL

The pulse is so big that a lot of energy is deposited into the asteroid — like, a lot a lot — which vaporizes the material. This happens so quickly (a fraction of a millisecond!) that the material expands violently. You get a very large amount of gas expanding extremely rapidly… which is pretty much the description of how a rocket works. This expanding gas pushes on the asteroid, creating a force that changes its velocity a little bit. And by that I mean the scientific definition of velocity: Not just the speed but the direction, too.

That's exactly what you want! Over time, even a small change in speed can cause the asteroid to miss Earth. The amount of deflection depends on a lot of factors: The mass of the asteroid, its shape and size, the material on the surface, the porosity of that material, its structural strength, the type of bomb, the explosive yield of the bomb, and the standoff distance of the explosion. In fact that's what this research was trying to figure out, how all those factors play into the amount of deflection.

They used extremely sophisticated computer models that take into account all these physical factors to see how efficient the explosive mechanism is in moving a threatening asteroid. As a test subject they chose Bennu, a 500-meter wide rocky rubble pile that is currently being scrutinized by NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission. The reason for this is that we have a lot of good numbers for it, including its shape, density, and so on, but also because as the mission goes on we'll get even better numbers for it. It's a sample-return mission, too, so scientists will be able to find the exact composition of the surface material, aiding further models.

What they found is that surface vaporization via nuke works pretty well for an asteroid like Bennu, giving a deflection of about 6 centimeters per second. That's not much — a housefly can outpace that — but with a lead time of 13 years that'll do. In other words, if we have at least that long before impact, a standoff nuclear detonation is sufficient to deflect it.

It gets better. Although they couldn't model this in detail, they note that the rapidly expanding vaporized material will create a pretty big pressure wave, compressing the solid material below it. This is similar to what happens, ironically, in an asteroid impact! This compression carves a crater into the asteroid surface, and that material gets ejected too. This adds an extra kick, deflecting the asteroid even more. They estimate that for asteroids like Bennu this can reduce the needed lead time to only 3 – 4 years. That's pretty good news.

They compare this to a kinetic impactor, literally slamming the asteroid as hard as you can with a rocket. This will also change the speed and direction, like someone on the defensive team in American football hitting the quarterback. They find that this works well up to an asteroid size of 300 meters, but bigger than that and a nuke is more efficient.

There's still a lot of modeling to be done — while they ran through several physical parameters, there's still a lot we don't know about asteroids. And there are issues with this method, including the Outer Space Treaty, which specifically forbids detonating nuclear weapons in space. Now, if a 500-meter wide asteroid has Earth in its crosshairs, I suspect the UN might be amenable to loosening that part of the treaty for that specific case! But the politics of all this isn't something we can ignore, either. I wonder how the public would react to this?

And it's more complicated than that. What if there's, say, a 20% chance it'll hit in 10 years? Those aren't convincingly high odds, but are they high enough to risk launching a megaton-class nuclear weapon into space? What if the detonation works, but instead of missing the Earth it just moves the impact site to a different country? These are just examples, but I can easily imagine the actual situation being a lot murkier than in the movies.

Maybe by the time we see a big enough asteroid to be threat heading our way, we'll have a bigger presence in space, and there will be other opportunities to push it away. But for now that's not the case, and love 'em or loathe 'em, the least we can do is investigate the possibility of different methods, including using nuclear weapons. I hope it won't come to that, but if it does, we may all be glad for research like this.

Steven Universe: Future's Got a Release Date and a Mysterious New Teaser @ io9

Steven Universe: Future’s opening sequence is a joyous celebration of how far Steven and the Crystal Gems have come since they began fighting to save the Earth and free the rest of Gemkind from the Diamonds’ authoritarian rule. But because this is Steven Universe we’re talking about, it was never a question whether…

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Consumer DNA Testing May Be the Biggest Health Scam of the Decade @ io9

At the start of this decade, the federal government called out consumer DNA testing as a burgeoning scam industry. Little did we know how it would explode in popularity.

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Pick Up This Giant Snickers Bar Because You Can (And There's a Coupon) @ io9

Snickers Giant Chocolate Candy Bar 1-Pound Bar | $7.50 | Amazon | Clip the coupon on page

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Oliver and the future team head to Russia, Roy Harper returns in the latest Arrow @ Syfy Wire

1p>Thanks to some not-yet-explained time travel shenanigans, Oliver is getting a chance to meet and train his adult children this season — and now the gang is heading into a throwback Russian mission to steal some super-weapon plans.

Spoilers ahead for “Prochnost,” the latest episode of The CW’s Arrow, which aired Tuesday, November 19, 2019.

This week the action is split across two complementary missions: Oliver, Mia, Laurel and William go to Russian to acquire plans for a weapon they think can take on the Monitor; and Diggle recruits Roy back into action to help him steal plutonium to power this super-weapon.

First up, Russia: We get a nice training montage between Oliver and Mia. After an icy start, their relationship seems to be heading in the right direction. To that end, Oliver takes them to Russia on his mission to acquire these mysterious plans for a pulse wave generator they think can take down an inter-dimensional being like the Monitor. Of course, as fans know, Oliver has a long and complicated history with Russia. As expected, it all comes back to haunt him. The quick fight club mission to trade for the plans goes awry when the Bratva show up, and they’re still not big fans of Oliver Queen these days.

Mia gets captured and used as collateral on Oliver, who gives up the plans to save her life (which only makes her resent him more). Oliver is still understandably grappling with the dual concept of the kid he saw in a crib a few months ago is now a fully-grown woman (and is also still in that crib, as if that wasn’t confusing enough). But he finally realizes he has to let Mia fight her own battles, so them team up for a fight club two-fer while Laurel and Oliver’s old pal Anatoli steal the plans. You can’t have a Russia story without Anatoli, and it was great to see him get one last appearance — and on the right side of history this time around.

The Russia mission is complicated even more by Laurel working as a bit of a double agent, propositioned by Lyla to do the Monitor’s bidding to steal the plans before Oliver can get them. After a crisis of faith, a pep talk from Anatoli helps her make the decision not to betray Oliver. Instead, he reveals Lyla’s betrayal to Diggle and Oliver. We still don’t know exactly why Lyla is working with the Monitor, but she obviously has her reasons. The story ends with Lyla having Oliver, Diggle and Laurel knocked out and seemingly captured.

The CW

As for Roy and Diggle: After splitting from Thea because of his blood lust, Roy is living a quite life incognito working as a mechanic. He’s reluctant to return to the world of super-heroing, but after Diggle explains the stakes he returns for One More Mission. Diggle uses the mission as a chance to explain to Roy everything they’ve learned about the future from Mia, William and Connor. He tells Roy that, despite his self-doubt, he really does become a hero in the future, helping lead the young team to save the city decades from now. The trick to keeping his bloodlust in check? Having a team around him to help keep him straight.

So, Diggle hopes they might can shave a few decades off that recovery time and have Roy get back in the saddle now. The offer works, and Roy decides to stick around and help Team Arrow through the looming Crisis. So yes — Roy is back! At least, you know, for a few more episodes until the show ends. Le sigh.

Next week: Oliver is in his memories, another reality, or something else entirely. Whatever’s happening — Capt. Lance is back! 

Barry and Ralph go full 007, Central City gets a new protector in latest Flash @ Syfy Wire

1p>There’s no doubt The Flash can have plenty of fun with a gimmick episode, and seeing the Arrowverse take on some James Bond cliches was well worth the trip. It’s a full on, suave spy mission — shaken, not stirred.

Spoilers ahead for “License to Elongate,” the latest episode of The CW’s Flash, which aired Tuesday, November 19, 2019.

Ralph’s search for the missing Sure Dearborn continues this week, as he heads off with Barry to crash an elegant party to try and dig up a lead on her whereabouts. But to do it, they have to suit up. No, not in super-suits, but actual suit suits. Having Barry tag along with Ralph into this world of intrigue and spy action was a fantastic showcase for how these heroes differ. We’ve rarely gotten to see Ralph in his own world showing off his skills and absolutely killing it — here, Ralph really is a poor man’s James Bond (in a good way). It’s also a great contract to Barry’s fish out of water. Take the man out of the super suit and put him undercover, and yeah, he doesn’t exactly know what to do.

It might just be an hour-long episode, but they manage to check off all the classic James Bond tropes. We get the accented bad guy; the suits; the gambling; the smooth talking; and even a wildly complicated bad guy plan to kill Barry and Ralph, complete with a friggin’ giant laser. Though the super spy duo don’t have much luck finding Sue, they do stumble upon an arms manufacturing auction to sell off a weapons satellite capable of taking out any city from orbit — and they’re planning to erase Central City from the map as a demo.

Of course, Barry and Ralph save the day, but this time we get to see some old fashion fist fights in tuxedos, 007-style. And of course, they manage to stop the bomb with just one second left on the timer. How else do you think that would go?

The story is a great way to shine a light on just how much Ralph has grown over the years to become a selfless hero all his own, worthy of the spotlight. Barry sees it, too, and announces to the city that Elongated Man is officially a new city superhero on the same level as The Flash himself. With the Crisis looming, Barry’s looking to make the transition as smooth as possible when he potentially vanishes to save all reality. It’s been a long road, but Ralph has absolutely earned his very own superhero logo. Now he just needs his own drink at Jitters. They even turn the tables on Barry and honor him for his work as a crime scene investigator all these years. No super alter ego required.

Assorted musings

The CW

Our old pal Chester has finally finished having his molecules reassembled and tries to get his old life back, complete with a total fail to ask out the barista he’s been crushing on. But, Camille gets to use him as a trial case for her new meta human lawyer gig, and helping Chester get his life back on track gives her the confidence to get her new practice off the ground. Oh, and she invites Chester to hang around STAR Labs, so could he be a future member of Team Flash?

Our rugged new version of Wells, aka Nash, also gets some screen time this week. He teams up with Iris’ intern Allegra to use her powers to find the Eternium so he can hopefully bust open the gateway to the Monitor. He also spills pretty much every secret about the multiverse, and Barry’s secret identity, along the way for good measure. 

The episode ends with Bloodwork back in the fray, jumping Ralph and seemingly throwing him off a balcony. Hopefully the newly-minted Central City guardian is alright next week.

Next week: Bloodwork tries to corrupt Barry with his freaky blood powers, with the Crisis just a few more weeks away.

Tangible holograms go beyond anything Star Wars ever dreamed of @ Syfy Wire

1p>Any Star Wars fan worth their Jedi (or Sith) rank knows that iconic moment in Episode IV when R2-D2 acts like a futuristic answering machine and beams a hologram of Leia pleading for help. Obi-Wan was her only hope back then. Not anymore — sorry, Obi-Wan.

Holograms are sci-fi brought to life, and the technology has now gone beyond that galaxy far, far away, making it possible to actually touch them. What is even more amazing and possibly creepier is that they can talk to you. While researchers haven’t yet tackled the type of hologram projector built into R2, a team at Sussex is now making talking, tangible images.

“[Other holographic displays] they are slow, have limited persistence-of-vision capabilities and, most importantly, rely on operating principles that cannot produce tactile and auditive content as well,” said Ryuji Hirayama and colleagues in a study recently published in Nature.

Hirayama’s team shattered these obstacles by using their prototype of a multimodal acoustic trap display (MATD). It uses a duo of horizontal plates with many tiny ultrasonic transducers to create a 3D sound field. A pocket of low-pressure air traps a (surprisingly low-tech) 2mm-wide polystyrene bead.

The bead is levitated as that pocket of air moves around, and its direction can be changed just by adjusting the transducers. It zooms through the air at speeds fast enough for your brain to perceive the movements as visible shapes.

With this method, an object can seem to materialize in front of your eyes in less than a tenth of a second. The display includes LED lights whose colors make these images even more realistic. Sound effects and music can also be added to make it seem as if the image is actually talking, like all those dead musicians who are showing up on stage again.

Now for what Luke and Obi-Wan would probably wish existed on Tatooine. These images can be seen from any angle because they are already created in 3D space. What makes them real to the touch, as opposed to the tweaks that can make it fly around in different directions, is another type of manipulation of the ultrasonic field.

The proto can only use one bead and 10 cubic centimeters of air, but future iterations with more powerful transducers and multiple beads could create more realistic holograms. There is software that can make sure the beads don’t smash into each other, though it’s still going to be complicated moving around more than one bead to create more complex images in midair. That still doesn’t make it impossible.

If holograms that look like cinematic special effects start showing up in Galaxy's Edge someday, you’ll know where they came from.

(via The Guardian)


Gravity-defying jet suit smashes Guinness world record with 85 mph flight @ Syfy Wire

1p>It’s official: Now you can go fast enough in a jet suit to get a whopper of a speeding ticket. In a record-smashing attempt at testing the limits of the latest version of his jet-equipped flying suit, inventor and Gravity Industries founder Richard Browning has obliterated the world record he previously set back in 2017 — and the video evidence is pretty mind-blowing.

Making like Tony Stark and suiting up himself for a run at the record, Browning strapped in on a blustery day at Britain’s Brighton Pier last month, and took off over open water for a bracing 85.06 mph, Iron Man-like view of the world below. When he landed, he’d been informed that he’d shattered his old record of 32.02 mph — almost a leisurely balloon ride by comparison. 

Gravity Industries on YouTube

Pretty impressive, right? Check out how the pebbles on the beach scatter under the thrust as Browning does his vertical takeoff. The 3D-printed suit nearly tripled the old record, exceeding Browning’s aim of making it into the 70 mph range. “I had hopes that we could get into the 70s here, on the day, in the conditions that were going to be whatever they were going to be,” he told C|net, “but to go, then, even 10 miles an hour even faster than I'd ever been before — couldn't be happier.”

Browning added that 85 mph is “just the beginning,” and that he can envision a future when jet suit speeds could exceed 150 mph. But getting to true Iron Man territory should be a safe and methodical process, he said. “[W]e’re going to do that in steady, sensible kind of steps. 85's pretty good for now.”

Gravity Industries began the flying suit project in 2017, naming the first version the Daedalus Mark 1, but the company’s website appears to have dropped the Daedalus moniker and now simply refers to the suit as “Jet Suit.” Browning told Guinness that “almost everything” about the suit has been improved since the older model set the first record, including the move to all-3D printing to save weight, as well as the addition of leg wings and “leg straights,” which make takeoffs more aerodynamic and speed the transition from liftoff to flight.

Browning is also planning a racing series that lets pilots show off the suit’s handling capabilities — not by “going fast in a straight line as such, but maneuvering around obstacles like a Red Bull Air Race,” he told Guinness. Maybe by then Gravity’s Jet Suit will come with a heads-up display, so F.R.I.D.A.Y. can dish out real-time commentary (and flying tips).


The New Funko Hollywood Is an Essential Pop Culture Destination @ io9

We here at io9 love Funko Pops. We write about them. We buy them. We’ve talked about them being decimated. We’ve even made a pilgrimage to Funko Headquarters in Everett, Washington to visit the flagship store. That place is incredibly epic, as it should be, but it doesn’t come close to touching the toy company’s new…

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WIRE Buzz: Concept art for The Mandalorian's Baby Yoda; a Vikings sequel; more @ Syfy Wire

1p>When it comes to The Mandalorian, the first live-action series to come from the Star Wars galaxy, there's one specific character that people just can't get enough of. Fans have shown big love for this little star, and new concept art revealed by Jon Favreau (the show's creator and writer) shows that this character has been adorable ever since conception. 

We're of course talking about the "Yoda Baby," which will have to suffice as a name until the series tells us otherwise. It is doubtful that this little creature actually is Yoda (a clone is possible, but...eh), but we still don't even know what the species of Jedi Master Yoda (and Yaddle) actually is. Names don't matter as much when the cuteness runs this strong, however. 

Favreau took to Twitter today to reveal some early concept art for the Yoda Baby, and we can't really handle it.

No question about it, this adorable little bundle of the Force was a hit ever since he was first drawn. The artwork is very true to what we see on the series, so the team likely knew that they had a winner here. Judging by the massive success of the series (and the popularity of this character), they weren't wrong. Yoda Baby has always been adorable. 


From adorable to strikingly violent and fierce, we go now to news from the world of Vikings. Fans of the series have reason to be excited today, as a sequel, titled Vikings: Valhalla, has been picked up by Netflix

Deadline reports that the streamer has picked up the sequel series right as the flagship show is heading into its sixth and final season on History, noting they "heard" that Netflix has preordered 24 episodes from Vikings creator Michael Hirst

The sequel will take place 100 years after the first series, and will involve the stories of some serious Viking legends: Leif Erikson, Freydis, Harald Harada, and Viking descendant William the Conqueror. The original series is not actually available on Netflix (it can be found on Hulu and Amazon Prime), but the House of N is "expected to pursue SVOD rights" to the series, per Deadline. 

Hirst said in a statement, "I am beyond excited that we are announcing the continuation of our Vikings saga. I know that the millions of our fans across the globe will be thrilled by the belief being shown in our show by MGM and Netflix. Jeb Stuart, a truly wonderful writer, will bring new story-lines and a powerful visceral vision to stories about some of the most famous Vikings known to history.“

The only downside to this announcement? If the new series takes place 100 years after the first one, we won't be seeing any familiar faces or fan favorites from classic flavor Vikings


From Vikings to fantasy-horror: Brian Oliver (New Republic Pictures) and producer Bradley J. Fischer have attained the rights to The Elric Saga, a series of works by Michael Moorcock. 

Deadline reports that the duo are beginning to "shop the property for the series," with Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead) and Vaun Wilmott (Star Trek: Discovery) on board to write the adaptation of the series, which mixes fantasy, horror, and sci-fi.

The original books by Moorcock offer plenty of story for a show, as they take place in multiple dimensions of reality as well as alternative universes. Moorcock is actually credited as having coined the term "multiverse" in 1963, and it's safe to say that the term has become rather popular since then.

The first book in the saga, Elric of Melniboné, was released in 1972. It comprises 11 novels in total, a number of short stories, and has also been adapted into graphic novels. 

Yoda Baby, Vikings, and the Elric Saga...what would happen if you put all three of those things together? Something fantastic, that's what. 


Star Trek 4 back on track with Legion creator Noah Hawley writing and directing @ Syfy Wire

1p>The current Star Trek film series that's been in a holding pattern since the release of Star Trek Beyond in 2016 is back on track. Deadline reports that Legion and Fargo creator Noah Hawley is in "final talks" to write and direct the next installment for Paramount Pictures, setting the stage for a fourth film featuring the "Kelvin Timeline" cast first introduced 10 years ago in Star Trek

J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot production company, which launched the current film franchise with Abrams directing in 2009, will return to produce this installment alongside Hawley's own company, 26 Keys. The Kelvin Timeline crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise — including Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, and Simon Pegg — are expected to return for the film. 

Deadline's report also notes that this project is separate from the long-discussed Star Trek project from director Quentin Tarantino, which is also still in development with Abrams. That film, a proposed R-rated project with a script from The Revenant writer Mark L. Smith, has been the most exciting thing in Trek movie news over the last couple of years, though we still know very little about it. Now, we know that it exists separately from the next film in the Kelvin series, though exactly how separate remains to be seen. 

In the three years since Star Trek Beyond arrived to somewhat lackluster box office returns, much of the excitement in the Star Trek franchise has been centered on the small screen, thanks to the ever-expanding universe of shows on CBS All Access, which already includes Discovery, and will soon include the Next Generation sequel series, Picard. That shift, coupled with the underperformance of Beyond, meant that it wasn't clear if or when we'd seen Pine, Quinto, and company back on the bridge of the Enterprise. Now, while we don't have a release date for the new film, we at least have a little more hope. 

Hawley has a knack for taking beloved properties and putting his own distinct spin on them. He broke through in the TV world when he did just that with Fargo, then proved he could do it again with comics on Legion. Earlier this year he made his feature directorial debut with the Natalie Portman-led drama Lucy in the Sky, and now he'll reportedly get a shot at one of the biggest movie sandboxes available. 

What do you think of Paramount's choice to lead the next phase of Star Trek on the big screen?


Star Trek 4 Is Back On, This Time From the Maker of Legion and Fargo @ io9

Kirk and Spock may be coming back to the big screen and from a very exciting filmmaker too.

Read more...

The Future of Star Wars Movies? Kathleen Kennedy Explains the Vast Possibilities @ io9

What’s next? It’s the question on everyone’s mind when it comes to Star Wars movies. After next month’s The Rise of Skywalker, the next movie is technically scheduled for 2022. However, even that movie may be in doubt after the recent departure of D.B. Weiss and David Benioff.

Read more...

Five sci-fi and fantasy series that should be on TV @ Syfy Wire

1p>Game of Thrones is over, but a spin-off may be coming. Amazon’s Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings series are well on their way to our screens, and a Tortall universe series based on the works of Tamora Pierce has just been announced, but there is so much room for fantasy and science fiction books that have been largely underappreciated by the masses and deserve to be seen.

Mostly because I want them on my screen.

Nerd Study Hall: Is My Hero Academia the perfect starter anime? @ Syfy Wire

1p>If you're eager to get into anime but have no idea where to start, the answer might just have green hair and a cape.

SYFY WIRE's Morgan Johnson is that person—the one who’s never watched anime (except Studio Ghibli films) but can't decide which series to binge first. Our own Lauren Nicholas and Max Tedaldi, both experienced otaku who know their way around the beautiful and sometimes bizarre world Japanese animation, are going to give Morgan a crash course on My Hero Academia and why it might be the perfect show to start what will inevitably turn into an anime obsession.

Just in case you've never watched My Hero Academia or read the manga—that's a whole other thing to obsess over—Izuku Midoriya is that caped not-quite-crusader with green hair that must rarely see a comb. He starts out as just a kid with no superpowers in a world where 80% of people are born with a power, or "quirk." Spoiler: Izuku does get a quirk that transforms him into a meta-human. He also gets into a super-elite superhero academy that's not unlike the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. It's going to take a lot more than just that to make him earn his spandex as a real hero.

If you're into X-Men like Morgan is, this is basically that in anime form and even weirder in the best possible way. Anyone who can't get enough of superheroes and their unnatural powers will probably enjoy My Hero Academia and also recognize all the superhero tropes that get taken to another level. She's definitely onto something there.

About Izuku. Some people think he's extremely annoying in the beginning, but remember that many protagonists in anime start off as insufferable little you-know-whats until they really start to mature. In the case of Izuku, he makes strides from zero to hero in Seasons 2 and 3 after all that hero school orientation stuff is out of the way. Those problems do get replaced by the threat of supervillains. Come on, what do you expect in a story about a group of teen heroes, not all of whom are entirely self-aware yet?

Watch on to find out what else makes Max, Lauren and Morgan think My Hero Academia is Plus Ultra!

This article was contributed to by Elizabeth Rayne.

One fan's journey from Dark Crystal lover to creating the Podling language @ Syfy Wire

1p>When you really, really love a piece of storytelling, the notion that you may one day get to be a part of it may seem like a dream. In the case of author J.M. Lee, this dream became a reality when he began working on The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

Lee is an author who had some short fiction published, but his first published YA novel was Shadows of the Dark Crystal, a job that he got back in 2013 thanks to a contest dubbed The Dark Crystal Author's Quest. What was only supposed to be one book turned into four, and soon enough the prequel series was being created — Lee's time in Thra only grew from there.

SYFY WIRE caught up with Lee to discuss his passion for all things related to The Dark Crystal, the Netflix prequel series, his assortment of tie-in books, and most importantly... his creation of a language for Podlings.

Credit: Penguin Random House

"The Dark Crystal was a huge part of my childhood, and my awakening as a creative person," Lee says. "It was one of the first films I saw that showed me that fiction and fantasy doesn't always have to be happy… that beauty isn't necessarily always a certain type of beauty."

It was this passion that led him to submit to the aforementioned The Dark Crystal Author's Quest contest, where the winning author was rewarded with a commission for a YA novel that took place before the events of the film. "They had been developing several attempts to do a prequel treatment for The Dark Crystal, so they'd accumulated a certain amount of information, lore, characters, and just general information that had been used in these prequel treatments that never got off the ground," Lee says.

Naturally, when Lee's agent brought the contest to his attention, he was interested. He also ended up winning and receiving a contract for what would eventually become Shadows of the Dark Crystal. Though the contest only involved one book, plans were soon made for it to become a quadrilogy before Shadows was even released. It was while he was knee-deep in copyedits for the second book, Song of the Dark Crystal, that he received a mysterious email from the Henson Company, asking him if he was interested in working on a prequel TV series that would become Netflix's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, a show that itself took years to develop.

Lee was obviously interested, and so he flew off to Los Angeles and joined the writers' room. He was in a unique position because his tie-in books had already laid some of the groundwork that would end up in the series.

The books take place in the same world and time period as the show, but they weave in and out and tell the tale from different perspectives. Some characters that Lee himself invented were prime material for the series.

"Tavra is a great example because I introduce her," Lee says. "Tavra was created for Shadows, and I developed her throughout Song. There was kind of a big thing that happens to Tavra during Song of the Dark Crystal that is sort of a major character moment for her... I'm not sure we would have gone forward with it if the show had been greenlit at the time."

"When we started the show, we had to work around the first two books that had already been published," he continues. "Then the final two books of the four-book series were able to work around the show, because the show's scripts had been finished." It's no small thing that Lee got to create a character like Tavra for his books, who ultimately ended up on the series, voiced by Caitriona Balfe (Outlander).

"Because of her role, because she's the daughter of the All-Maudra and she has a very narratively useful role, she was a very attractive character for the TV series," Lee says.

Lee was a staff writer, and he himself wrote the second episode of the series. But possibly the biggest surprise of all was that he ended up creating a language for the Podlings.

"Over the course of being in the writer's room it just came up that I have a degree in Linguistics," Lee says. "At a certain point, I got an email asking if I would ever be interested in developing Podling. We always knew that we wanted Hup to speak Podling mostly. That was an element that had always been an idea for Hup, but we hadn't really planned how the Podling was going to be developed at the time because you're not really thinking about those details when you're doing there first pass on scripts and concepts."

This would turn out to be a "dream job" for Lee, who says "You never go into linguistics and think, my job is I want to specifically develop fantasy languages for television." How then, did he begin the immense task of creating an entire fantasy language?

"I looked at the script and saw what we needed, and then I said alright, we're definitely gonna need some grammar because Hup speaks in full sentences," Lee says. "I started with some basic grammatical structures and then decided on what sound sets we were gonna use the sounds that were using for Podling in the original film, to make sure that it sounded like the same language."

He continues: "I built it up from there, looking at what we needed, the vocabulary that we needed. I also wanted to make sure that the language was built in a way that it was easy for the performers to read and to perform. I worked a lot with Victor Yerrid, who is the performer and the puppeteer for Hup because he was the one who was going to be doing most of the Podling speaking."

How much actual Podling exists then? As Lee says, "We have a full grammar, I think the document is about 20 or 30 pages. It's flexible enough, if I got an email when they were recording something on set, 'we need a translation for this line now,' the language is definitely robust enough to be spontaneous in that way. It does take me a second to create vocabulary words, but the grammar is pretty solid. I definitely didn't go out of my way to create a 2,000 word lexicon for words that no one is ever gonna say."

Are there choice words or sayings that Lee was fond of that didn't make it into the series? As it happens, yes.

"There is one. As a linguistic exercise, I always imagine what kind of idioms are used. There's one idiom that I made up that I don't think got used," Lee says.

He was kind of enough to look up the exact phrase for us, which is, "Apopotaba apopiapodpopod." That translates to, "Three Podlings laughing," an ancient Podling idiom that roughly means, "It can't be helped, guess there's nothing we can do about it."

Credit: Penguin Random House

Aside from the fourth and final of his tie-in books recently hitting the shelves (Book 3 is titled Ties of the Dark Crystal, and Book 4 is Flames of the Dark Crystal), Lee has also written two more books that will enhance the essence of fans everywhere — Heroes of the Resistance: A Guide to the Characters of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a handy guide to the show and it's characters, and Aughra's Wisdom of Thra is a small book of wisdom from the mighty Aughra.

Lee wrote all of Aughra's sayings himself, though there are Easter eggs and references to the original film within the book. One such instance comes in the case of our favorite Aughra saying found within: "Once someone's dead, they could be anywhere."

As Lee told us, that saying is inspired by the original film; when Kira tells Jen that his dead master "could be anywhere." Lee adds, "One of my favorite things about Aughra is that she's so of the earth. Her wisdom is practical, but also abstract in a way. It's also kind of irreverent. There's a quote in the book: If you sit in the river, no one will notice...especially not the river. Everything around us has a sentience, but that doesn't mean that it's always thinking about you."

The books Flames of the Dark Crystal, Heroes of the Resistance: A Guide to the Characters of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, and Aughra's Wisdom of Thra are all available right now, as are Lee's first three tie-in books. The series is streaming on Netflix, and if you haven't checked it out yet, well, all we have to say is this: "Three Podlings laughing."


Kathleen Kennedy hasn't decided on one of the 'endless possibilities' after The Rise of Skywalker @ Syfy Wire

1p>As the final sneak peeks at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker filter in, fans of the long-running and iconic sci-fi series may be wondering what exactly awaits them once the Skywalker saga hangs up its robe and lightsaber. The Mandalorian is already showing off one possible route on Disney+, but what about the big screen? The movies are where Star Wars began, and the movies are where fans obviously want the future of Star Wars to continue.

The MCU’s Kevin Feige is supposed to develop a future film, while The Last Jedi’s Rian Johnson is still on the hook for an original trilogy. Game of Thrones showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff are no longer in the latter boat, but that’s still quite a few big names being juggled for the future. So how and when do they all play into the franchise? Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has an answer, but fans aren’t going to like it.

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Kennedy explained that right now she really, truly doesn’t know what comes next for Star Wars in a post-TROS world. But that’s only because there are so many directions the sci-fi franchise could go. There are also so many times that the franchise could go to. “We’ve got various things we’re looking at and various ways in which we can begin or not,” Kennedy said. “As you can imagine. You know, do you go back? Do you go forward? All those questions are being asked.” 

And does Star Wars even need to stay in that particular galaxy far, far away now that the Skywalker saga is over? That’s something else Kennedy has considered: “Do we stay in this galaxy? Do we go to another?” she asked. “The universe is never-ending. The good news and the bad news. They have endless possibilities. It’s liberating, it’s exciting, and it creates a lot of pressure and anxiety as well.”

That liberation comes as The Rise of Skywalker releases some final footage reveling in its finality — including the line "We're all in this 'til the end." Take a look:

Perhaps the ending of the Skywalker saga will be better recieved by Star Wars creator George Lucas than the beginning of the latest trilogy. Kennedy briefly touched on Lucas' disappointed reaction to The Force Awakens: “I think there’s plenty of examples where people create something that is fundamental to who they are, where it’s difficult letting go and watching that become something different. So I think initially, that was difficult for George – I don’t think he anticipated how hard that would be."

J.J. Abrams, who directed that film and is returning for The Rise of Skywalker, now has another chance to win Lucas over...but this was also a chance for Abrams to contribute his own piece of the galactic puzzle. "He had to make it his own," Kennedy said of Abrams. "Every director who comes into a movie has to make something their own; they have to find themselves in the storytelling. And then that's going to become a different point of view. And I think that's all George was reacting to."

The Rise of Skywalker's end will be judged by Star Wars' fans and creator alike when it hits theaters on Dec. 20.

What are our favorite kid characters doing now? @ Syfy Wire

1p>Ever wonder what some of your favorite kid characters would be like when they grew up? We do.

Kevin McAllister from Home Alone spent his childhood — or at least his holidays as a kid — booby-trapping burglars, watching inappropriate movies and eating way too much ice cream. It's the kind of thing that screams either genius or delinquent. So what could he be now? A loaded tycoon who can afford his own private island? A basement dweller with terrible credit still gorging on copious amounts of ice cream?

What about the sadistic CEO of a security company that employed Medieval torture weapons?

That last one sounds like more of fit for Pugsley Addams, who used to get electrocuted for fun. Pugsley may also have a future in baking horror-themed cakes. His signature design would probably have a disembodied hand sticking out of it. As for his sister Wednesday, if she had kids, would she name them Thursday and Friday? Maybe one of them would be named Monday. She does have a cruel streak.

Someone who might appeal to the adult version of Wednesday is Cole from The Sixth Sense, whose famous words soon turned infamous with "I see dumb people" memes, could have turned into the next Long Island Medium sans the signature hair and nails. She digs up corpses, he sees dead people. Sounds like a match.

Atreyu, the young hero of The NeverEnding Story, might be scarred for life. Nobody rides a fluffy flying dog-dragon-thing like Falcor or crosses the Swamp of Sadness and just forgets about it.

Want to know what we think other characters turned into? Watch on!

This article was contributed to by Elizabeth Rayne.

The 10 Best Deals of November 19, 2019 @ io9

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

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To 15 Years of World of Warcraft, and All the Pups I've Loved Before @ io9

This coming weekend, on November 23, the Warcraft franchise marks some significant birthdays. Not only is it 25 years since Blizzard’s fantasy series first kicked off with the release of Orcs and Humans, it’s also 15 years to the day since Azeroth became open to all in World of Warcraft, changing video games forever.…

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This Angry Birds 'venting machine' gives you a prize for hitting it. Seriously. @ Syfy Wire

1p>If society's tragically hectic pace has got you feeling more than a little frustrated these days, Angry Birds may have just come up with the perfect, guilt-free sponge to absorb all that pent-up angst.  

In celebration of the mobile gaming juggernaut’s 10-year anniversary, developer Rovio has devised a real-life way to reward anyone who just needs a good, totally sane and healthy aggression session to release all those pent-up demons. Behold the “Venting Machine” — a vending machine-sized punching box that can take a licking and reward you for giving it, quite literally, your best shot. 

Angry Birds on YouTube

Padded with punch-absorbing foam that’s happy to soak up all the damage you feel like dishing out with your hands, the Venting Machine more than lives up to its name. Billed as “the only vending machine that accepts anger as payment,” the big red box comes packed with a vending dispensary that offers up an Angry Birds-themed treat once you’ve expended all your energy. There’s even a front-facing camera that records all your hilarious flailing, so if you’re among the lucky few who gets a turn when the giant red punch box makes its public debut in New York’s Times Square this week, your rage will even be broadcast on a giant public billboard.

Of course there’s a good cause behind Angry Birds’ good-natured appetite to invite all the punishment you can dish out. Rovio’s November #BringTheAnger campaign “aims to show how anger can be converted into positive action” by partnering with UNICEF to raise awareness alongside a $100,000 donation to UNICEF’s Education in Emergencies fund, which supports education for children in conflict zones throughout the world.

So far, Rovio hasn’t said what its plans are for the Venting Machine beyond its New York debut, but it sounds like an idea with too much anger-satisfying potential to just languish away in storage after this month's one-and-done. The box flies in on Nov. 21 for its high-profile date in Times Square. But we’re waiting with slingshots drawn, in the hope that one day there’ll be a Venting Machine just an angry arm’s length away — no matter where you are.

Choices and consequences: The cast of The Man in the High Castle prepares for the end @ Syfy Wire

1p>After four seasons, The Man in the High Castle is ending its run on Amazon Prime. This adaptation of Philip K. Dick's classic novel presents a nightmarish vision of a world conquered by the Nazi Germany and Japan with the United States split up between them. However, hope hasn't been lost and pockets of resistance remain devoted to freedom.

Perhaps one of the most notable accomplishments of the show is the way that it dived into shades of gray. Joel de la Fuente's Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido is a prime example of that. As an instrument of the Japanese empire, Kido has done some horrific actions, but he also has a sense of humanity and regret. However, that doesn't mean he won't face the repercussions for his actions.

"I think that living in a world that we do in High Castle, everyone does have to answer for their actions at some point," said de la Fuente. "In Season 4, that time comes for Kido. You see him in his personal life a lot more, and you see how that affects how he has to relate in his professional life and then he has to make choices... The first half of the season really takes care of how he feels about the empire. Where he's been, where he goes. It's the end of a way of being that he's had for decades."

"I think Kido wants to be remembered as a man and as a father before anything else," added de la Fuente.

For more insights from the cast of The Man in the High Castle, check out the full video!

Henry Cavill Is Not Ready to Give Up on Superman @ io9

Everybody’s been saying it: Henry Cavill is no longer Superman. The one person who hasn’t said that, though, is Henry Cavill himself. And now, in a new interview, the current cinematic Man of Steel sets the record straight.

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A blood-sucking conflict begins in first trailer for V-Wars on Netflix @ Syfy Wire

1p>The Vampire Diaries is over, but Ian Somerhalder's blood-sucking journey is just beginning in the first trailer for V-Wars on Netflix — and this one looks a whole lot bloodier. 

Produced by IDW Entertainment, the series follows Dr. Luther Swann (Somerhalder) as he contends with a virus that begins to turn human beings into ravenous vampires. As more and more individuals begin to transform, the world is plunged into a deadly conflict between humankind and vampire-kind. Still unaffected by the disease, Swann is forced to fight against his best friend, Michael Fayne (Adrian Holmes), now a leader of the fanged foes.

It's a nice twist on the exsanguination horror sub-genre that recalls Richard Matheson's subversion of vampiric afflictions in his celebrated 1954 novel, I Am Legend.

Watch the hemoglobin-packed trailer below:

"It's more about the science instead of supernatural fantasy," Somerhalder said of the show back in September. "These creatures come as a result of a disease. They're not 165 years old; it's happening brand new, in real-time. You're experiencing it as it's happening. What that does to the world is going to be insane."

Created and showrun by William Laurin and Glenn Davis (the minds behind Aftermath), V-Wars also stars Jacky Lai, Peter Outerbridge, Kyle Breitkopf, Laura Vandervoot, Kand imberly-Sue Murray.

Check out the new poster as well:

Credit: Netflix

Season 1 of V-Wars debuts on Netflix Thursday, Dec. 5.


Variant covers are killing comics... again @ Syfy Wire

1p>Since the dawn of the Comics Age, the cover has been an indispensable tool for reaching an audience. It is the first impression the creative team and their characters make, so you'd best come with your A-game or you might get left on the shelf. I find a great comic book cover irresistible. To this day, I still make the occasional impulse buy based solely on cover art that grabs my attention, provided they followed Stan Lee's instructions on how to create a compelling cover.

Having said all that, I will state loudly and proudly that I can't stand variant covers.

Jen Bartel/Marvel

I despise them, loathe them, wish a medieval pox on them.

Not because I don't like the actual artwork depicted on said covers, mind you. The Jen Bartel variant for the upcoming Thor #1 is a thing of beauty. And I certainly don't begrudge artists like J. Scott Campbell who have built a lucrative career on stellar exclusive covers. My problem is that variant covers have become a crutch to support the financially limping comics industry. They also bring out the worst in retailers, publishers, and collectors.

Publishers — not just DC and Marvel but Archie, Image, IDW, and others — use variants as a way to soak the customer and juice sales numbers. It's not a new phenomenon by any means. It's been going on for several years, as the comics industry seems bound and determined to repeat the same mistakes that nearly destroyed it in the 1990s. It's disheartening, as sometimes seems as if the comics business is trying to bury itself.

Retailer variants, store-exclusive variants, and convention exclusives are just some of the variants offered these days. Nearly all of them are meant to squeeze the consumer out of an extra buck while creating an artificial 'collector's item.' DC Comics released 80 different covers for Detective Comics #1000, all gorgeous and about 77 of them completely unnecessary. Marvel did cover variants for its mega-successful House of X/Powers of X limited series, and both of the Big 2 regularly have Cover A and B variants for new books. In fact, Marvel's brand new 2099, Deadpool and Annihilation Scourge titles, dropping in stores November 20, all have multiple covers available. It never ends.

I'll focus my little diatribe on what I consider to be the worst offenders: Cover variants and Incentive variants.

Marvel 

Cover variants are standard comics with unique covers drawn by various artists that publishers allow stores to order, depending on how many copies of the standard (version A) they order. The ratio could be anywhere from 1:25 to 1:100.

Incentive Variants are actually designed to help comics shops. If a store orders a certain number of copies of a new Spider-Man comic, they qualify for a copy of a special, ultra-limited variant. The idea is selling that incentive variant for big money will help the store owner break even on the larger order.

Because, in case it's not clear yet, the new comics business is really, really tough. Imagine being a comics shop owner and your business model was reliant on buying a certain quantity of a certain product to qualify for a SINGLE, slightly different version of that product, in order to break even. Does that sound like a healthy business to you?

Kyle Hotz/Marvel

Not to pick on Marvel, but it recently offered 'Bloody Variants' tied to the Absolute Carnage crossover event. Aside from the blood splattering around the title, what made these books variants were that they contained one-page stories that connected to Absolute Carnage. Marvel reportedly shipped the variants out on a random basis, not a specific buy ratio as is the norm with cover variants. That meant some stores didn't have enough of the Bloody variants to satisfy customer subscriptions, let alone enough to put on the shelf for walk-in customers. What does that do? It puts stores in a position to play favorites with customers, which is never a good business practice. It also opens the door for less-scrupulous stores to, once they figured out the variants had exclusive content, set copies aside and instantly mark them up to grab a few extra dollars from customers.

A recent conversation with David Finch helped me see another bit of fallout from variant covers. Finch, who has drawn his fair share of incredible covers, variant and otherwise, pointed out that some of the variant covers he's done will only be seen by a fraction of the potential audience. Think about that for a moment. Shouldn't the goal of having an artist like David Finch draw a cover be to have the widest possible audience see it?

I know some people think, 'What's the harm? If you don't want it, don't buy it.' That's certainly a fair point. Collectors aren't blameless in this. Someone, after all, is buying up Retailer Variant copies on eBay and at conventions. But decades of buying patterns makes it fairly easy to note that comics fans/collectors are completists by nature. Publishers know this and are taking advantage of their customers and their collector mentality, apparently because they can't figure out any other way to improve their bottom line.

I understand companies need to get creative with their marketing strategies in the face of perpetually troublesome market conditions. The comics business is tough; I get that. Even Todd McFarlane, who has openly complained about the dangers of variant covers, had 18 different versions of that extra-sized comic by artists like Campbell, Jerome Opena, Greg Capullo and Jason Shawn Alexander. But at least he saved the cover outburst for a truly historic occasion like Spawn issue #300. Most publishers do this on a monthly basis.

Jerome Opena/Image Comics

Variant covers are a lazy option with potentially dire long-term consequences. Every time I walk into a comics store and see multiple covers of a single issue, I get uneasy feelings of déjà vu. I've seen how this story ends, and it's not a happy ending for comics. Publishers are playing with fire, going down the same roads they traveled in the '90s, when bad decisions nearly killed the industry. When today's customers decide — as many of us did back then – that enough is enough and walk away from comics, the industry will have only itself to blame.

I love getting feedback, positive or negative. Find me on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook and let me know what you think of the column.

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

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

Celebrate Waffle Day With $20 Waffle Knits From Jachs @ io9

Waffle Knits | Starting at $20 | Jachs

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WIRE Buzz: MCU actress boards Mission: Impossible films; White House horror movie; more @ Syfy Wire

1p>After Agent Carter’s Hayley Atwell joined the upcoming seventh and eighth Mission: Impossible films back in September, speculation ran rampant about director Christopher McQuarrie’s next contributions to the franchise after helming both Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossible - Fallout. Who would Atwell play, and who else would be joining Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson? Well the answer to the latter includes another Marvel star: Pom Klementieff.

The Mantis actress (who starred in the Guardians of the Galaxy series before boarding the big MCU team-up) will be joining the same two films as Atwell. McQuarrie welcomed the actress into the two-film fold by tweeting out a picture teasing Klementieff’s femme fatale role. Klementieff responded in kind with her own acceptance of the mission.

Take a look:

While little is known about the details of the plots — maybe Vanessa Kirby has started an all-female gang of shady dealers? — both sequels will be shot back-to-back early next year. The seventh film is planning a release on July 23, 2021, while Mission eight hits theaters on August 5, 2022. 


Next, an all-too realistic genre film is being planned by the filmmaker behind Don’t Breathe.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, director Fede Alvarez is planning to make a horror film described as “The Shining set in the White House” from a script by Joe Epstein. This topical film — along with a reboot of classic slasher The Texas Chain Saw Massacre from Chris Thomas Devlin’s screenplay — comes as part of a first-look deal with Legendary Pictures. Now, everyone just take a second and imagine President Donald Trump cycling around the halls of the White House on a Big Wheel. No word on what president will be losing his or her marbles in this film, however.

This pair of horror films should kick off the working relationship between studio and filmmaker with a bang, especially since Alvarez has had a pair of early genre successes with Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe. Neither new film has a timeline yet set.


Finally, Ghosts — a British comedy about a couple whose inherited country home is very, very haunted — is getting an American remake that should be just as funny and just as spooky.

Deadline reports that New Girl’s Joe Port and Joe Wiseman are bringing the paranormal single-camera affair to CBS. Both will write and executive produce on the adaptation of the 2019 BBC One series. No casting has yet been announced for the stateside show, though the British original has been renewed already for two more seasons. At least there’s a track record of success allowing CBS to not be ‘fraid of no Ghosts.

Editors Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman Are Your Guide to The New Voices of Science Fiction @ Barnes & Noble: Sci-Fi & Fantasy

In this new golden age of speculative fiction, an almost mind-boggling number of excellent short stories are published in print and online every month, and in more venues than I can easily count. While this embarrassment of riches is a good thing, it can be difficult for anyone—even those of us with a keen interest in the field—to keep up. Now more than ever, the best bet for readers interested in getting a grasp on the state of genre fiction is via thoughtfully curated anthologies.

Enter The New Voices of Science Fiction: a carefully and thoughtfully curated science fiction anthology showcasing some of the genre’s brightest stars. Editors Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman have gathered together 20 award-winning or award-nominated stories, published between 2015 and 2018 in venues such as Tor.com, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, Apex Magazine, and others. It’s an informal followup to 2017’s The New Voices of Fantasyedited by Weisman and Peter S. Beagle; that anthology went on to win a World Fantasy Award, and I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say that The New Voices of Science Fiction might garner awards consideration as well.

Each story here is exceptional. Taken together, they cover a wide range of topics, moods, settings, and perspectives on the present and the future. Fans of science fiction will certainly recognize many of the themes and tropes at play—space travel, time travel, robots—but again and again, these sci-fi mainstays are used in unique ways. As editor Rajaniemi says in his foreword, the assembled writers are repurposing the old ideas and “cold thought experiments” of the genre’s history, expanding them “into deep explorations of gender, love, and identity.” It’s this willingness to focus on how individual lives might be affected and shaped by changes in technology, environment, and society that sets these stories apart and gives them their power.

The personal perspective is at the forefront of Amal El-Mohtar’s profoundly moving “Madeleine” (the title a nod to Marcel Proust’s memory-inducing baked goods), which follows a young woman who ends up experiencing disconcertingly real flashbacks after participating in a pharmaceutical study. The individual’s point of view is also forefront in the devastating “Mother Tongues,” in which S. Qiouyi Lu explores the repercussions of a new technology that can remove the knowledge of a certain language from one person and transfer it to another. In the scientifically gritty and charming “A Series of Steaks,” Vina Jie-Min Prasad immerses us in the futuristic business of bioprinting, but also explores how one beef-related project gives two women the opportunity to change their lives.

Elsewhere, tropes are interrogated. Take time travel: in Nino Cipri’s subtle and gripping “The Shape of My Name,” a temporal voyager uses their Mama’s time machine to investigate the secrets and mysteries in their own past. In Alice Sola Kim’s “One Hour, Every Seven Years,” the protagonist returns again and again to a particular even in their childhood on Venus, each time trying to alter the past and the future. Meanwhile, Samantha Mills skates closer to fantasy, exploring time travel of a different sort in “Strange Waters,” set in a world where violent storms at sea can teleport people through the ages, and where a woman is desperately trying to find her way back to the life she left behind.

There are robots here too. Some of them care for human children, as in the unsettling “Tender Loving Plastics” by Amman Sabet. In Suzanne Palmer’s cheeky “The Secret Life of Bots,” we’re granted a riveting (no pun intended) look at the inner workings of a starship, as seen through the eyes of its very determined maintenance robots.

The ramifications of virtual reality are considered from different angles. In Jamie Wahls’s witty far-future entry “Utopia, LOL?” the scope of the artificial is taken to the extreme, while E. Lily Yu ponders the pros and cons of a more near-future online gamer lifestyle in the keenly observed “The Doing and Undoing of Jacob E. Mwangi.” The subject is given a darkly humorous, chilling slant in Rebecca Roanhorse’s multi-award winning “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™,” in which a man’s identity and sense belonging are gradually erased and claimed by an intruder. And in Lettie Prell’s harrowing “The Need for Air”, we encounter a mother who is willing to abandon the real world in favor of a digital existence, no matter what the cost.

Wither the post-apocalyptic? In Sarah Pinsker’s masterful “Our Lady of the Open Road” (inspiration for the novel Song for a New Day) we follow the travels and travails of a rock band in a future shaped by scarcity of resources, in which new communities and new ways of living are taking shape.

Enriched by its ranged and buoyed by the remarkable talents of its contributors, The New Voices of Science Fiction is a must-read anthology for anyone who loves the genre, demonstrating vividly just how vital it remains. As Rajaniemi’s foreward suggests: “Read them, and be changed.”

The New Voices of Science Fiction is available now.

The post Editors Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman Are Your Guide to <i>The New Voices of Science Fiction</i> appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

Astral Chain says I'm a cop, but I'm clearly a lesbian biker cat mom vigilante @ Syfy Wire

1p>Released at the end of August 2019, Astral Chain is a new game from character action game developer Platinum Games, who is best known for their skills creating challenging games focused almost exclusively on tough combat where players have a wide variety of moves at their disposal and a lot of flashy ways to fight increasingly tougher enemies.

Previous Platinum games have tended to focus on combat near exclusively, with very little non-fighting-based gameplay to experience. Games like Bayonetta, The Wonderful 101, and Nier Automata also focus on playable characters who are defined people with consistent, unchangeable plots. You beat stuff up, move down a corridor, and beat more stuff up. You might be lucky and get more than one ending, but you can't really shape who the characters are.

Astral Chain is a little different to those previously mentioned games, as it allows you a greater degree of control over your protagonist. You can name them, alter their aesthetic, choose which open-world non-combat quests to take part in or not, and have a little more control over what they value doing when not fighting.

Source: Nintendo

At its core, Astral Chain is a game about fighting off invisible interdimensional creatures which seem to be ravaging the planet. You do this by capturing some of those creatures, chaining them to you, and wielding them yourself in a unique combat system. These interdimensional beasts, called legions, do not like being chained up in our dimension, but that's a subject for another time.

What is important to note out the gate is that on paper, at least, you are playing as a cop in Astral Chain. You joined the police force in the shoes of your adoptive father, you later get recruited into this special alien-hunting task force, and a bunch of your gear and equipment says police all over it. This manifests in a few ways in the game. You collect information to solve mysteries, you find evidence, you sometimes prevent crimes, and you get to run around wielding weapons openly.

Let's just be direct about this: while a police force can be really helpful in society for helping deal with crimes in progress or the aftermath of crimes, cops as an institution are, at times, pretty messed up. They statistically have a racial bias, they arrest people for crimes based on the letter of the law rather than what's best for those involved or what's moral, and police overreach can have devastating consequences. I may have grown up around cop family members, but I'm not super keen to play as a cop in my escapist fiction.

That's why I went out of my way to be less of a cop in Astral Chain, and more of a Lesbian Biker Cat Mom Vigilante.

Source: Nintendo

So, how did I pull it off? Well, first up is the look. I picked the female playable protagonist and gave her blue hair and an undercut. There's no way her hairstyle is regulation, but she's not changing it for anyone. As soon as the first mission ends, you can remove all the cop branding from your outfit by removing your chest plate and belts. Within minutes, your outfit is revamped into something that doesn't even slightly resemble a uniform. Considering everyone else has to stick to the dress code, I take this as evidence the rest of the force understands my non-cop status.

You, unfortunately, can't remove all of the cop branding from your magic ghost friends, but by making their color palette as close to pure black as possible, you can make the word police really tough to read on them, which is a start.

Then, you focus really hard on very specific sidequests which actually help the community. You pick up trash from the ground and throw it in bins, you find stray cats to take back to the game's dedicated cat lady apartment (yes, it's literally just an apartment where you keep your 20 or so kittens), and you help little lost kids find their parents.

Source: Nintendo

See a kid spray painting a wall or handling a small amount of weed? Just ignore the sidequest. While the game does track if you've found and technically completed all sidequests, these minor blue sidequests don't actually affect your end-of-level ranking and can be totally ignored for the most part. We all know locking up some delinquent teen over a minor offense is just going to ruin their record, stop them getting work, and push them down the more serious re-offender pathway. Turn a blind eye to minor harmless crimes and focus on the big stuff.

Also, those small crime solves are what makes the world worth saving. Kids who get back to parents safe, students having their lost bank cards returned to them safely, cats fed and sheltered, these are the things that make up a world. By keeping those people safe rather than locking up minor criminals, you're leaving a nicer world worth fighting to protect.

Lastly, just think about what you're doing. You're traveling through dimensional portals to fight hellish monsters with literal magic powers. That's not cop stuff, that's vigilante superhero territory.

The fact I knowingly disregard police dress code, minimize or remove my cop branding, ignore petty crimes, help people who actually need help, collect cats, ride a rad motorcycle, and wield literal superpowers is enough for me to play Astral Chain guilt-free — as the story of a lesbian biker cat mom vigilante who just wants to save the world so that there's somewhere nice for her cats to live.

Now you can buy a Black Mirror-style robot that looks like you, or a loved one @ Syfy Wire

1p>In another instance of Black Mirror perilously predicting reality, you can now buy a robot that looks a whole lot like you, or your loved one, or anyone else for that matter. And for your convenience, you can have your robot delivered right to your door. What a world!

You remember Black Mirror’s “Be Right Back” episode, where Hayley Atwell replaces her dead husband Domhnall Gleeson with his android doppelganger? Well, this is pretty much the exact same thing, except you don’t have to be in mourning to find everyday uses for your personal android, at both home or the office. And perhaps another big difference is the android that Russian startup company Promobot is using for its advertising makes Gleeson look like Clooney...  

Now imagine your own self with those eyes and ticky gestures, showing the emotions of fear, surprise, and… most disturbingly, anger!

That’s all possible thanks to the Robo-C, Promobot’s new line of android that comes complete with artificial intelligence; emotions; speech recognition; active face mechanics with 18 moving parts and more than 600 micro facial features; the ability to communicate in seven different languages; and the “ability to create any appearance,” as the video above tells us in the most creepy way possible.

Such appearances don’t have to be limited to you, of course. You can do the lost loved one thing, but as "Be Right Back" predicts, that’s seriously predisposed to backfiring. So why not get someone famous instead, like your own personal Einstein...

Or the android that first made us wary of the machines taking over, The Terminator…

Yes, these are scary times.

The company is advertising their new android to work “both at home and in the workplace,” while noting it “answers customer questions in places like offices, airports, banks and museums,” and it “even accepts payments.” Because it’s hard to find good help these days?  

At home, your freaky doppelganger “acts as a companion” who can read the morning news to you, or run your smart appliances, though we don't recommend letting it drive your car.
   
Your Robo-C can be delivered to your home or office, complete with its own "Robotic complex," "Charging station," and "protective glass Cube." Be forewarned though, if you have it delivered to your office, you may want to warn your co-workers ahead of time.

Predictably, there’s no price listed on the website for your own personal scare-bot, but you are encouraged to contact Promobot regarding the “the conditions for the purchase and delivery of robots.”  

All of which brings up an interesting question: Would you prefer the world be overtaken by robots that look like robots, or ones that look like… well, you?

(via Popular Mechanics)


Crisis Just Shared a Bunch of New Photos, Including Our First Look at Kevin Conroy's Live-Action Batman @ io9

It’s great that the CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths is bringing back different actors who played various incarnations of Superman and Lois Lane, and that the event’s digging deep into WB history to give Smallville and Birds of Prey stans the kind of fan service they could scarcely dream of. But what everyone’s really…

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Kevin Conroy’s Bruce Wayne, Smallville in 10 new pics from The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths @ Syfy Wire

1p>The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths is getting closer by the day, and now the network has dropped a batch of new pics from Night 2 of the super-crossover. They bring three (yes three) different Supermen, and a fascinating take on Bruce Wayne.

The biggest reveal in the new shots is the long-awaited return of Tom Welling’s Clark Kent, aka the Superman from The WB’s former long-running series Smallville. We sadly don’t see Welling’s Clark suit up, but he instead looks to be working on the farm. The other big reveal focuses on acclaimed voice actor Kevin Conroy’s live acton take on old man Bruce Wayne. Conroy has voiced Batman for decades, in animated projects ranging from Batman: The Animated Series, to Batman Beyond, to Justice League Action

Now we finally have a look at Conroy as live action Bruce. He looks to be wearing a (business) suit, though there’s some interesting tech on his shoulders, is that possibly some type of super-suit gear? So many questions, and it’ll be interesting to see if Old Man Bruce pulls out those detective skills to take on the Anti-Monitor.

The other pics focus on the other Supermen that’ll be present in the crossover, including Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman (the version from Supergirl), as well as Brandon Routh’s Kingdom Come-style version of Superman (Routh is pulling double duty as Superman and Legends of Tomorrow hero The Atom this time around). The pics also show a journalistic super team-up between Candice Patton’s Iris West and Bitsie Tulloch’s Lois Lane.

Crisis on Infinite Earths airs December 8-10 and wraps up with a two-hour run on January 14, 2020, on The CW. Check out the shots in the gallery above, and give us your best Old Man Batman and alt-Superman theories.

 

WIRE Buzz: Doctor Who Season 12 wraps filming; Bong Joon-Ho sets up horror project @ Syfy Wire

1p>Brilliant!

Season 12 of Doctor Who on The BBC has finished filming, the show's official Twitter account confirmed today. The post came with a short, 17-second video with some behind-the-scenes footage of the new series, which marks Jodie Whittaker's second outing as the first female Doctor in the series' 56-year history.

Not too long ago, the Doctor Who Twitter account teased something to come on Nov. 23, the 56th anniversary of the show's debut, in 1963. While it's a mystery, we'd put good money on it being a teaser trailer for Season 12, which premieres sometime in 2020.

The new season also marks the debut of new female writers recently added to the staff.

"We’re thrilled that Doctor Who continues to attract some of the most exciting and dynamic talent working in television," showrunner Chris Chibnall said in a statement. "Along with our returning faces, we’re excited to welcome new members to the Doctor Who family. The Doctor Who team is crammed with British television’s brightest writers and directors: we’ve adored working with them, and can’t wait to show you the explosive stuff they’ve created!"


 

Director Bong Joon-Ho (Snowpiercer, Okja) will be returning to the world of genre with his next movie, which is described as a mixture of action and horror. The South Korean filmmaker dropped the news during an interview with Variety.

"I am preparing two different projects. One is a Korean-language one, and the other one is an English-language one. Both projects are not big films," he said. "They’re the size of Parasite or Mother. The Korean film is located in Seoul and has unique elements of horror and action."

Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for HFA

Joon-Ho, who hasn't ventured into horror territory since 2006's The Host, also mentioned that he probably won't direct a superhero movie anytime soon.

"I have a personal problem. I respect the creativity that goes into superhero films, but in real life and in movies, I can’t stand people wearing tight-fitting clothes. I’ll never wear something like that, and just seeing someone in tight clothes is mentally difficult," he continued. "I don’t know where to look, and I feel suffocated. Most superheroes wear tight suits, so I can never direct one. I don’t think anyone will offer the project to me either. If there is a superhero who has a very boxy costume, maybe I can try."


 

Quibi, the upcoming streaming service from Jeffrey Katzenberg, has ordered a series that will put a modern spin on Henry James' 18th-century horror novella, The Turn of the Screw, reports Deadline.

The show was initially planned to be an original show on Freeform.

Deadline describes the supernatural-themed project as a "twisty Gothic soap" that centers on a Mexican-American nanny who is hired to look after two children at their summer home but ends up questioning her sanity when she begins seeing ghosts. Alexandra McNally (Under the Dome) and Josh Berman (Drop Dead Diva) are in charge of development for the show.

Credit: Digireads.com Publishing

If this all seems like deja vu, that's because you've probably recently heard it from Netflix, which is basing Season 2 of The Haunting of Hill House — The Haunting of Bly Manor — on The Turn of the Screw. In addition, the story served as the loose basis for The Turning with Mackenzie Davis and Finn Wolfhard. In 2016, it was reported that Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) would be directing a film adaptation of the James novella, although nothing ever came of it.


Just a Couple of Arselings: The Last Kingdom Podcast - Season 3, Episode 6 @ Syfy Wire

1p>Host Alyssa Fikse and Jessica Toomer are thrilled to see an old friendship renewed in the sixth episode of The Last Kingdom's third season, as Brida and Uhtred rediscover that their bond is still strong even if they're on opposite sides of a conflict.

Edward ends up defying Alfred's orders and sending in the army to help Uhtred and his men, so perhaps this wisp of a boy is on the road to kingliness after all. Still, Alfred struggles to see Edward as a man and Uhtred as an ally, so the post-battle high doesn't last long.

After an unfortunate fight with Sihtric about Skade and her curse, Uhtred hits the road to find Ragnar's grave. There he finds Brida and the two of them set off on a mission to find the seer Storri (last seen with a branch up his a**) to find out how to free Ragnar's soul from Niflheim. You know, low stakes. Along the way, Uhtred and Brida have a heart to heart and realize that they may not want to jump each other's bones anymore, but their bond remains. Yay, Team Friendship! 

Meanwhile, the Danish lords continue to squabble like bratty children and send Aethelwold on a mission that ensures his failure. How are these men in charge of anything, let alone a massive army?

Join FANGRRLS Jessica Lynn Toomer and Alyssa Fikse as they take you back in time and through every episode of Netflix's The Last Kingdom. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!

The Watch's Magical Cast of Cops and Criminals Is Getting Bigger @ io9

The BBC’s upcoming series The Watch based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books already has a rather robust cast playing a group of elite, though scrappy cops fighting to bring peace to their corrupt town where crime’s been legalized. But the show was clearly still in need of some proper villains to give its heroes…

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Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order: The Kotaku Review @ io9

There hasn’t been a better time to be a Star Wars fan. As this is being written, the ninth and final entry in the saga that began with George Lucas’ 1977 film Star Wars is one month away from release, concluding a story over forty years in the making. The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars TV series, is two…

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WIRE Buzz: Project Blue Book S2 trailer visits Area 51; SpongeBob Live! teaser splashes down @ Syfy Wire

1p>Project Blue Book Season 2 doesn't beat around the bush in its first trailer and takes us right to Area 51 as Dr. J. Allen Hynek (Aidan Gillen) feverishly attempts to blow the lid off the government's cover-up of alien life crash-landing in the United States.

Produced by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit), the historical drama about life beyond our own planet returns to the History Channel in late January.

Watch the trailer below:

“UFOs have sparked a cultural conversation that has infiltrated recent news cycles, but the truth is, the allure with this topic goes back decades since the creation of Project Blue Book,” Eli Lehrer, executive vice president and general manager for HISTORY, said in a statement. “Our drama series delves into infamous cases like Roswell and Area 51 and offers a retrospective look at the rich history behind UFO phenomena. Through this season’s entertaining and compelling storytelling, viewers will become immersed in these strange occurrences that are inspired by real events.”

Michael Malarkey (The Vampire Diaries), Neal McDonough (Altered Carbon), Michael Harney (Orange Is the New Black), Laura Mennell (The Man in the High Castle), and Ksenia Solo (Black Swan) co-star.

Credit: History Channel

Season 2 of Project Blue Book premieres on the History Channel on January 21, 2020, at 10 p.m. EST.

Listen to the show's official podcast (hosted by SYFY WIRE's own Tara Bennett) by clicking here.


Are you ready to see The SpongeBob Musical live on Nickelodeon next month? The teaser trailer for the big TV event is here, and it wants you to get as excited as one of those hungry anchovies in the show's pilot episode from 1999.

As an added bonus, the network announced that Tom Kenny, voice of SpongeBob for the last 20 years, will be making an appearance as Patchy the Pirate, a recurring live-action character in the animated show, in the live performance.

“I’ve had a blast portraying live-action suburban buccaneer and President of the SpongeBob SquarePants Fan Club, ‘Patchy the Pirate,’ since the character’s first appearance in Season 2 of SpongeBob SquarePants way back in 2000,” Kenny said in a statement. “I loved The SpongeBob Musical, and I was thrilled to be included in it both in pre-recorded (‘French Narrator’) and songwriter (‘Best Day Ever’) forms! But to now have the opportunity to actually step onstage and perform alongside members of the original Broadway production is truly a unique honor. It’s ‘meta times ten,’ and I think Nickelodeon’s audience will really get a kick out of it!”

The musical features the talents of Ethan Slater (SpongeBob SquarePants), Gavin Lee (Squidward Q. Tentacles), Danny Skinner (Patrick Star), Brian Ray Norris (Eugene Krabs), Wesley Taylor (Sheldon Plankton), Christina Sajous (Sandy Cheeks), Kyle Hamilton, Katie Lee Hill, Curtis Holbrook, Jesse JP Johnson, L’ogan J’ones, Jai’len Josey, Kelvin Moon Loh, Lauralyn McClelland, Vasthy Mompoint, Bryonha Marie Parham, Oneika Phillips, Jon Rua, JC Schuster, Abby C. Smith, Robert Taylor Jr., and Allan Washington.

The SpongeBob Musical: Live On Stage! airs on Nickelodeon Saturday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. EST.


Charles Soule's new novel, Anyone, isn't even out yet and it's already being developed for television.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Carnival Films (an NBCUniversal-owned production company responsible for small-screen hits like Downton Abbey) has acquired the onscreen rights to the sc-fi book, which channels classics of the body-swapping genre like Altered Carbon. Soule will produce the project alongside Gareth Neame, Nigel Marchant, and Joanna Strevens.

Anyone takes place in a world where a woman's determination to find a cure for Alzheimer’s leads to a technology that allows for people to transfer their minds into other bodies for specific periods of time. As with any new frontier of human advancement, a black market crops up around the consciousness-oriented business.

Sex, drugs, and crime become infinitely easier when you can simply leave the body you broke the law with. Set across multiple time periods, Anyone follows the technology's inventor as she tries to put a stop to the dark repercussions of her mind-altering discovery.

Credit: Harper Perennial

"Anyone is a story about having, losing and seeking identity and connection," Soule said in a statement to THR. "I think its themes will resonate strongly in today’s world, and I am thrilled and proud to be working with Carnival to bring the novel to television. They struck me as terrific partners from the first conversation, and I have no doubt we’ll make something amazing together."

"Charles has created a rich and thought-provoking world of infinite possibility and explored it with the greatest of humanity. We thoroughly look forward to working with him to bring this magnificent novel to screen," added Marchant.

This is Soule's second novel after The Oracle Year, which was published in the spring of last year. That book was also acquired by a production company prior to its wide release in stores. Soule is well established in the realm of pop culture, thanks to his work on DaredevilShe-Hulk, and Darth Vader comics over at Marvel. Undiscovered Country, his new Image Comics book co-written with Scott Snyder, is currently being developed for a movie adaptation.

Anyone goes on sale from Harper Perennial on Tuesday, Dec. 3.


Theme Park News: LEGOLAND is going to turn you into a minifigure, for real @ Syfy Wire

1p>Oh, hello there! I haven't been to Disneyland in six days so I am in WITHDRAWAL, people. I have a serious problem! Anyway, there's some fresh news out of LEGOLAND that will, ahem, blow your face off, a few Disney+ tips to guide you through your free time, and plenty of links to keep you busy. Let's get to it:

LEGOLAND IS GOING TO STEAL YOUR FACE

When LEGOLAND New York opens next summer, it'll launch with Bricksburg, an all-new land exclusive to the East Coast park. It's here that guests will be "shrunken" down to the size of a LEGO minifigure — a promise LEGOLAND is making good on, because they will ACTUALLY SCAN YOUR FACE AND MAKE YOU A TINY LEGO BODY.

Yes, like Journey Into Imagination but without the disappointment, the forthcoming LEGO Factory Adventure ride will culminate in a surprise ending with a lifelike presentation of you as a LEGO minifigure, eyeglasses, facial hair, and all. To pull it off, LEGO is utilizing "the world's most advanced motion tracking and facial detection technology," assuring future riders that the on-screen reveal will provide a "shockingly accurate" LEGO version of one's self.

Credit: LEGOLAND

Push those security concerns aside, because I am so inexplicably giddy about this development! I love that years of engineering and software design were all done for the ultimate payoff of making my head look like it was made of plastic. I love the frivolity! I love the technological advancements! And as someone who purchased an American Girl Doll that wasn't Samantha, Addy, or Kirsten but one specifically crafted to look just like me, I LOVE the narcissism that I'll be within the ride. Me!!!!!

LEGOLAND New York boasts that it'll replicate everything from clothing design and color to facial features and accessories within the new ride display, and I absolutely cannot wait to see it.

Does this whole thing sound like the first 10 minutes of a Jurassic Park-like film that will immediately go awry and turn a theme park filled with customers into tiny people trapped in their plastic brick bodies? Yes, it does, and please call upon Chris Miller and Phil Lord to make it, because I want to live within a universe where this exists across all facets of entertainment.

Cannot wait to see this either? LEGOLAND New York opens July 4, 2020 … which, frankly, is not soon enough.

DISNEY+ FOR THE PARKS FAN

Two episodes of The Imagineering Story are now out on Disney+, and if you're not watching, you're missing out. It's a documentary on The Walt Disney Company on The Walt Disney Company's platform, so yes, it skews positive, but it's absolutely lovely. They went harder than they had to, taking viewers inside the Matterhorn basketball court and down into the Magic Kingdom's Utilidors, and I'm counting down the days until Friday's new episode.

BUT, if you're looking to satiate yourself with additional Disney history between weekly episodes, I recommend you take a look-see at Disneyland Around the Seasons. It's a 51-minute reel of vintage parks footage with a peek at It's A Small World's early days and Candlelight Processional and retro Tomorrowland, but none of that matters because you'll want to watch it for the parades.

Don't believe me? Take it from part-time Disneyland resident, Guy Selga:

Fans, including myself, are hoping for more vintage Disney anthology series to pop up on the streaming platform, but according to D23 there's even more insider-y stuff on the way — like a behind-the-scenes look at Animal Kingdom's vast species and a new series, Prop Culture, which dives into the storied objects seen within films like Mary Poppins, TRON, and The Muppet Movie. The second year of Disney+ will even bring a special Ink & Paint series based on Walt Disney Animation's hallowed female artists.

No word on more pups but, hey, can't win them all.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK

This one comes courtesy of @Getterman, who tagged me upon viewing this video, which is the correct reaction. (Thank you again!!) It's the cast of Fantasmic!, Disney's long-heralded nighttime show, performing Fantasmic! In an apartment. Without costumes. Or fireworks. Or absolutely anything other than the kind of positivity and camaraderie that you rarely see outside of college dorm gatherings. Though somewhat inside baseball, it's a pure delight filled with Mickey Mouse choreography and toilet paper waves — and absolutely worth watching.

LINKS! LINKS! LINKS!

- It's official. I'm excited for Frozen II.

- The rhythmic gymnastics episode of Lizzie McGuire is on Disney+, just FYI.

- If you're not hooked on Podcast: The Ride's Downtown Disney District Ordeal, you're doing it wrong.

- Young! Joe! Rohde!!!!

- That's it. We've reached the ultimate point of FOMO.

- Did not realize we've been crushing on Captain America our entire lives!!!

- New at Disneyland: more Star Wars souvenirs!

- Disney Springs just announced its Black Friday offerings.

- Don't expect to land in Orlando without coming face to face with stormtroopers.

- Heading to Disneyland for Christmas? Hotel guests will now have even more time in the parks.

- Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway just released a new poster and ... I don't know what it means!

 

 

I Have to Tell You Something Very Important About Honeybees @ io9

I simply must inform you of this crucial bee fact: When bees get trapped in water, they use their wings as hydrofoils to surf back to the safety of land.

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Amazon's Already Ordered a Second Season of Lord of the Rings @ io9

Even though we’re still ages away from being transported to J.A. Bayona’s take on Lord of the Rings for Amazon Prime, the studio’s confident that audiences are going to want a second season.

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First Global Map of Titan Reveals a Truly Alien World @ io9

Using data gathered by NASA’s Cassini probe, scientists have compiled the first global geologic map of Saturn’s enigmatic moon Titan. The new map reveals a world that’s distinctly familiar, yet completely foreign at the same time.

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The new Star Wars YA novel Force Collector nearly spoiled The Rise of Skywalker @ Syfy Wire

1p>Though the new Star Wars YA novel Force Collector is part of Disney and Lucasilm's "Journey to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" publishing initiative, author Kevin Shinick was as much in the dark about the upcoming film as the rest of us. Last year, after Shinick, who's also a TV producer, writer, and actor, turned in his draft of the book — the tale of a young man coming to terms with his confusing connection to the Force — he got a mysterious call from the Lucasfilm Story Group.

The keepers of canon in all things Stars Wars alerted Shinick that he had unwittingly woven a portion of his tale a little too close for comfort to director J.J. Abrams' plans for The Rise of Skywalker, which opens December 20 and is set to close out the Skywalker Saga of movies.

"The great thing about the Story Group is that their eyes are on everything," Shinick tells SYFY WIRE of the team that oversees continuity in Star Wars film, television, books, comics, video games, and so on. "Right before Christmas of last year, they called and said, 'We have a problem we didn't foresee happening. J.J. just handed in his script, and it seems you just inadvertently wrote a big section of Episode IX.'"

Though they wouldn't elaborate on plot details, Shinick says, "there was a big section in which [Force Collector's main character] went to a specific planet that they were like, 'Yeah, that entire section has to come out.' It shifted the story a little bit, but luckily it did not change the arc of it all."

Star Wars: Force Collector. Credit: Disney Lucasfilm Press

The book (on sale November 19) is actually set about three years prior to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, aka Episode VII, which came out in 2015. It is a time when the Jedi Knights have long disappeared and are widely believed to be nothing more than a myth. The book's young protagonist, Karr Nuq Sin, struggles to deal with the painful visions he experiences when he comes into contact with anything associated with the Jedi Order, though he isn't completely sure they ever even existed.

Most members of the benevolent mystic organization were wiped out during Order 66, the Empire's extermination protocol that was seen in the film Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Karr's skeptical friend Maize describes them as, among other things, "missing laser-sword goons," "telekinetic laser knights," and "intergalactic crime-fighting sorcerers."

Karr and Maize, along with Karr's trusty droid RZ-7 (aka Arzee), embark on a mission to uncover the truth about the Jedi and how, if at all, he might be connected. They travel to worlds familiar to longtime Star Wars fans, including Jakku, where they scope out the stranded Millennium Falcon three years before scrap collector Rey commandeers the ship in The Force Awakens. Onboard, Karr has visions of Luke Skywalker beginning his Jedi training under Obi-Wan Kenobi as seen in the very first Star Wars film, 1977's Star Wars: A New Hope.

"You have a completely original tale, with Karr and Maize and Arzee and all this stuff, but when he touches these objects and he gets these visions, you get a chance to flash back to some of the greater or maybe lesser-known Star Wars moments," Shinick says. "So in some ways, it's the perfect book if you know nothing about Star Wars, and it's the perfect book if you know everything about Star Wars."

Other figures from the canon who show up in the book include Maz Kanata, the smuggler queen first seen in The Force Awakens, and Nabrun Leids, a gas-mask-wearing smuggler briefly seen in the famous cantina sequence in A New Hope.

As the journey progresses, Karr learns to control his visions and begins to piece together the truth about the Jedi. "I wanted to create [a] story about someone who really didn't know everything we know," Shinick says. "We all know this saga frontwards and backwards. But I thought, what if you lived in that galaxy? Would you know what was going on? How relevant would it be to your life?"

Though there is much Star Wars history woven into the tale, Shinick created his main cast with influence from his own personal experiences. The book is dedicated to Shinick's grandmother, Josephine Viola, who inspired Karr's own loving grandmother.

"She was the one I would go off and see Star Wars with and that I could talk about with for hours on end," he says. "I think back now and that poor woman listened to me talk incessantly, and she must have had such patience." And Karr's home planet, Merokia, is named as an homage to the Meroke, a Native American tribe that originally inhabited Shinick's Long Island hometown, Merrick.

Shinick — who has also written for Marvel Comics (including the Superior Carnage miniseries in 2013), was the head writer on Disney XD's Spider-Man animated series, wrote the Star Wars children's book Chewie and the Porgs, and is a longtime contributor to Adult Swim's stop-motion pop culture parody Robot Chicken — hopes this isn't the last time crafting Karr's adventures. "I have more stories to tell with him," he says. "Whether we do another novel or a comic, or who knows what."

For now he's looking forward to finding out exactly how his original Force Collector draft intersected with The Rise of Skywalker. "There are certain speculations that I can make based on what's in my book and the characters I could and couldn't use, but I really don't know enough," he admits. "I'm going to be front and center, just like you, excited to find out how this all winds up."

 

 

Shippers ahoy! Star Wars' Oscar Isaac says Poe brings a ‘sexual element’ to every relationship @ Syfy Wire

1p>Star Wars shippers have made the final trilogy in the Skywalker saga one of the most romantically tense, whether it be between Force-wielding rivals Kylo Ren and Rey or the bromantic Resistance fighters Poe Dameron and Finn. As The Rise of Skywalker nears and the series comes to a close, those potential relationships seem now-or-never. And, for the latter pairing, the actors themselves are spilling details on their in- and out-of-character relationships that could hint at the future of the pair on-screen.

Speaking to Total Film, the two actors were candid about the closeness of their characters — something Boyega says started before the roles were even solidified. When asked about Isaac’s claim that the two could potentially be attracted to each other, Boyega explained that “it all started before everybody knew who Finn and Poe were, in the audition process.”

“They hadn’t cast Poe, so they asked me to do a chemistry read with the two potential Poes they had,” the actor said. “But there’s something about Oscar and me — we like the same things. We play video games with each other. We have very transparent conversations. This guy knows me. Like, he knows me. There’s not one thing that I can’t say to him and I’d feel embarrassed or whatever.” While the actor doesn’t divulge who the other potential (Poetential?) candidate for Dameron was, it’s clear that the casting was a coup, especially since it led to a whole segment of the fandom rallying behind the pair.

“That chemistry off-screen — that’s our dream as actors,” Boyega explained, “for the audience to be like, ‘Yo, these two characters are great together.’ Because we have so much. When people saw that, we were like, ‘Yeah, people can see that we’re actually friends in real life.’”

And for those thinking that there’s more than friendship here, well, Isaac is ready to talk about that, too. When speaking about his relationship with Keri Russell’s new (and mysterious) Kijimi-based character, Zorii Bliss, Isaac explained that the pair had a history ... and it’s complicated.

“Well, every relationship with Poe has a sexual element,” Isaac said. “It’s just kind of the way it is. But with her, you definitely get a sense that things were left kind of messy and there’s some hurt there.” Poe Dameron, interplanetary heartbreaker.

But it’s not all teases and winks from Isaac, who also touched on the plot of the final Skywalker film in his interview. “What’s amazing about the story and the script is that you learn that both the Sith and the Jedi have been playing a very long game,” he said. “From the get-go, there’s been this chess match. All these pieces have been played. And now we get to see who gets checkmate.” So it sure sounds like that prophesied balance that will be brought to the Force will become decidedly unbalanced, once and for all.

This is no stalemate: The Rise of Skywalker is bringing a checkmate when it hits theaters on Dec. 20.

Researchers Create Trash-Talking Robot That Proves Machines Can Get Under Human’s Skin @ io9

Trash talk has long been an effective (but underhanded) tool when it comes to sports, gaming, and other competitive endeavors. But it’s been assumed that it’s a strategy that only works between humans who can deliver remarks with emotional weight. It turns out that’s not the case, as researchers from Carnegie Mellon…

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Cats’ second trailer offers more campy catnip for fans but finally gets to the plot @ Syfy Wire

1p>The internet seems to have only just recovered from the first baffling trailer to the furry, freaky Cats when the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage adaptation dropped another sneak peek on its unsuspecting audience. It's still strange, it's still a lot of animal-human hybrid CGI on respected actors like Idris Elba, Judi Dench, and Ian McKellen, and it's finally getting to the plot. A little bit.

For Cats newcomers, it's probably a lot to take in all at once. Why are Taylor Swift, James Corden, Jennifer Hudson, Rebel Wilson, and Jason Derulo all singing and dancing as felines? Why are they sometimes wearing clothes? Well, the second trailer to writer/director Tom Hooper's take on the musical phenomenon (itself inspired by T.S. Eliot's 1939 Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats) started answering some of the pressing questions brought up by a world in which a character is named Rum Tum Tugger.

Take a look:

As Dench's character explains in voiceover — and the trailer finalizes in text — the film is about a competition among cats to find the one that deserves a new life, reborn in the "Heaviside Layer." Just read our explainer. There's a ball, there's a bad guy cat, and there's lots of choreography. It's not unlike The Hunger Games, except for the fact that it's just a bunch of anthropomorphic cats singing and dancing. The film also stars dancer Francesca Hayward in her big-screen debut as the lead cat.

Cats will boggle everyone's mind when it takes the big screen by storm on Dec. 20.

His Dark Materials Discussion: 'The Spies' plays with the source material for a huge reveal @ Syfy Wire

1p>Adapting a beloved film series for the screen is always a tricky gamble, and sometimes creative liberties have to be taken in order to make something literary into something cinematic. Sometimes that goes well, and other times it ends in a mess that leaves book readers gnashing their teeth. His Dark Materials is managing to walk the line successfully while being faithful, but not slavish, to the source material. Episode 3, "The Spies," features the biggest departure so far — introducing the Parry family much earlier in the story — but honestly, it works. Sowing the seeds for John and Will Parry is a smart move, and will definitely increase their impact when they fully arrive.

"The Spies" continues to peel back the layers of Lyra's birth and upbringing, and with each new reveal we're more concerned for our girl's mental and emotional state. Give the child a break!

We're Alyssa Fikse and Jessica Toomer, and we're here to discuss creepy daemons, love affairs gone horribly wrong, and whether or not spy flies are an effective means of recon.

Warning: This discussion contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 3 of His Dark Materials.

Credit: BBC

A Gyptian Welcome

Alyssa: While Lyra seemed to be in rather dire straits at the end of the last episode, she luckily was saved almost immediately. After jostling around in the Gobblers' van, she just so happened to be found by Tony Costa and the Gyptians! In their desperation to find the lost children, they stumble upon Lyra as they get closer and closer to their goal. They take Lyra (and a Gobbler for questioning) back to the Gyptian ships and she finally gets a moment to breathe and some clothes that are a little less cute but a lot more practical. Ma Costa is awfully mad that Tony was off doing man stuff when he's still so young and she just lost Billy, but he informs her that they're closer than ever to finding the lost kids. Being a mom seems absolutely terrible on this show, tbh.

Jessica: There really is no win in that department, but I'd much rather have Ma Costa looking out for me than Mrs. Coulter (silk jammies aside). Lyra isn't happy to be cooped up on a boat. She still doesn't trust adults, and honestly, who could blame her. But she's definitely more suited to life on the water, with the Gyptians who are holding tugboat rallies trying to devise a plan to get back their stolen children, than in a penthouse wearing petticoats and having tea. At least she can run in those overalls y'all. And run she does, especially when she confronts Ma Costa about the secrets the Gyptians seem to still be keeping from her. This whole "you're not old enough to understand" business is hella irritating and it seems to permeate everything from the business of daemon settling to Lyra's parentage.

Alyssa: TO BE FAIR, Lyra's parentage is hella complicated. Ma Costa does her best to encourage Lyra to be independent — "You'll be whatever you want to be. Your path, your choice, yours alone" — while also shielding her from some of the worst stuff that the Magisterium wants from her. But all of the kitchen tricks in the world aren't enough to keep Lyra completely safe. Childhood is slipping away at this point, for more than just Lyra. Benjamin gets the Gobbler to tell him that they are taking the children North, but they don't have anything else to go on than that. Benjamin wants to get the plans from Mrs. Coulter's apartment, but before he can make his case for this extreme action, the Magisterium shows up trying to find Lyra. I know we've talked about Mrs. Coulter's creepy monkey daemon, but the Magisterium search dogs also gave me the heebie-jeebies.

Jessica: Unlawful search and seizures are always terrifying but add daemon bloodhounds to the mix and they're pure nightmare fuel. The Gyptians do a good job of hiding Lyra but the close call really has her spooked. She doesn't feel safe with anyone at this point, and Ma Costa recognizes that so she extends a bit of an olive branch by revealing more about Lyra's past. A hell of a lot more. While the news that Asriel is her dad was a bit of a shock, it's nothing compared to the reveal that Mrs. Coulter is actually her mother. It makes sense, considering how weirdly affectionate the woman was with Lyra, but when Ma Costa breaks it all down, Lyra's backstory is just heartbreakingly tragic.

Alyssa: Super tragic. Asriel and Mrs. Coulter fell in love, made a baby, and surprisingly, her husband wasn't happy about it. Asriel ended up killing Edward Coulter in a duel (I assume), and he was stripped of all his lands and titles. Mrs. Coulter became a social pariah, and baby Lyra was handed over to a Gyptian nurse (Ma Costa, coming in clutch again) before she was passed on to a nunnery and then eventually whisked away by Ariel to Jordan College during the Great Flood. Honestly, I would read another book/watch another season of TV just to get to see all this backstory fleshed out. THE DRAMA!

Jessica: Right?! Why didn't we start with love affairs and duels to the death?! Alas, we'll have to take Ma Costa's word for it that the love triangle was as juicy as it sounds because Lyra's got bigger problems than dead-beat parents who couldn't keep it in their pants and questions of daemons settling that only bring shifty answers from "wiser" adults. She's got a mom who's gone full batsh*t and will stop at nothing to find her. Lyra, honey, untie one of those rowboats and sail off for a new world. Or at the very least, a new continent in your own world.

Credit: BBC

Proof of Desperation

Alyssa: Full on bats*** is correct. After Lyra escapes, Mrs. Coulter heads to Jordan College and immediately begins destroying what I'm sure is the Master's meticulous book organization system. She wants to know why Lyra is so important and whether or not they're hiding her, but the Master basically tells her to pound sand because she's the one who lost her. While she's antagonizing him, she says this about academic sanctuary: "it's just another way to protect bloated privilege. Tired old me talking in a tired old way about tired old things." Listen. I know the Magisterium and Mrs. Coulter and evil and they're definitely not going to talk about things in a good and progressive way, but this is not a bad point. Even a broken clock gets the time right occasionally.

Jessica: Honestly, I couldn't concentrate on a word she was saying while she was ripping those pages out of, what I'm sure, is a first edition book. Her thugs trashed hundred-year-old tomes, she burned perfectly good novels, it was all too much for me to handle. Talk about heresy. She ends up finding proof of law-breaking at the college though when she discovers some old texts that apparently explain how to read alethiometers, which are forbidden. They've all be confiscated by the Magisterium which means they have to be pretty powerful. And when Mrs. Coulter discovers Lyra's in possession of one? Whew, I'm surprised she didn't burn the whole place to the ground. She did go home, get drunk, and tightrope walk her balcony though so yeah, still an overreaction.

Alyssa: As someone deathly afraid of heights, I did not understand her willingness to stroll drunk along her balcony, but who am I to tell her how to live her life? She throws her insane tantrum destroying Lyra's room to such a degree that she even disturbs her monkey daemon, and then decides to take matters into her own hands since the Magisterium aren't happy with her behavior and also unable to find Lyra amongst the Gyptians, so she sends out a pair of spy flies to find Lyra herself. But yes, even though she is fabulously dressed as ever, Mrs. Coulter is Not Well™.

Jessica: And to prove just how off the deep end she's jumped, Mrs. Coulter breaks the literal law by employing the use of those pesky robot flies imbibed with some kind of evil tracking spirit, to find her estranged daughter. They sniff Lyra's dress and then head to where the Gyptians are docked, deciding how and when they should fight back (with Lyra's help). But because the only clue they have to where the Gobblers are taking the children is "up North," Tony and his pseudo-guardian Benjamin sneak off in the night to pay Mrs. Coulter a visit. They want those maps and plans Lyra was telling everyone about and they almost get them after breaking into Mrs. Coulter's fabulous digs and rummaging through her desk. I say almost because Lyra forgot to tell them about the monkey in the vents and, well, you can guess what happens next.

Alyssa: Unfortunately, their mission goes as badly as it could possibly go. While they are able to find the plans that Lyra told them about, that damned monkey launches himself out of the vent and raises the alarm. While Tony is able to escape through Lyra's bedroom with the list of snatched children, Benjamin isn't so lucky. This whole fight between him and Mrs. Coulter is such a great way to further establish what a threat she is. She is a surprisingly formidable fighter, who gets Benjamin flat on his back with some insanely weird punches that seem to do the trick. Between her absolute lack of remorse or shame over hurting him and her monkey's tightening grip on Benjamin's hawk daemon's throat, this was never going to be a fair fight.

Jessica: It's strangely terrifying watching Mrs. Coulter do her monkey jujitsu on poor Benjamin. It's hard to discern her human nature from her daemon nature. She was entirely animalistic with him in terms of physicality, but she was coldly calculating while she held him hostage and threatened unimaginable pain on him as her daemon held his by the throat. Benjamin knows he's not getting out of this alive but he refuses to give up Ma, Lyra and the rest of the Gyptians so he throws himself down the elevator shaft and his daemon turns to Dust. And, strangest of all, back at the Gyptian boatyard, Lyra is able to "see" this happen because, surprise surprise, she's figured out how to read the alethiometer.

Alyssa: Yep, despite Farder Coram telling her that it would take her years of study to learn how to read the alethiometer, Lyra starts to crack it. If I hear even a whisper of "Mary Sue," I will physically fight someone. Tony returns and confirms that Lyra was correct and he hands over the list of children to Ma. The list is even longer than they knew, so they're heading vaguely North in a desperate attempt to save these kids.

Credit: BBC

Boreal's Mission

Jessica: While the Gyptians are rowing North, Lord Boreal's got his own mission that probably isn't sanctioned by the Magisterium. After he goes to bat for Mrs. Coulter, justifying her raid of the college, he heads back through the portal because ... coffee, yo. He seems pretty shocked to find a boot on his car which makes me really start to question his ability to operate a motor vehicle. Anyone with a working knowledge of traffic laws would know those windshield tickets were really piling up. This was the logical next step. He finds a way around it though and heads to the country to meet with his associate who's been researching the long-lost explorer everyone seems obsessed with at the moment and, guys, it's Hot Priest! Praise Jesus, Mary, AND Joseph for giving me a pixelated photo of Andrew Scott in a Colonel's outfit. I now have another version of the man to lust over.

Alyssa: HOT PRIEST IS JOHN PARRY. The decision to bring in Parry, who isn't really a part of this story until A Subtle Knife in the books, is an interesting narrative choice and a fun easter egg for book readers, honestly. I figured he would pop up with the reveal of Boreal passing between the worlds (another thing from book two), but I was still delighted all the same. The references to Will too? I died. I love Will Parry and cannot WAIT to see him onscreen. But I digress. Andrew Scott is here, at least in pictorial form. It is good. However, the situation with Boreal is bad. He's on a mission, and this is not a man to be trusted.

Jessica: Right, once we get over the glee of seeing Hot Priest back on our screens, we realize that Boreal searching for him is NOT GOOD. Worse, John Parry has been missing for a while. He comes from our world, crossed over into Boreal's, and may have picked up a daemon on the way? It's all very confusing for Boreal, and unheard of, which makes him even more eager to find Parry. And he's going to do that by keeping tabs on Parry's mentally ill wife and young son. Will Parry is, unequivocally, the best, and I was happy to get a glimpse of him as well. God help Boreal if he harms a hair on Will (or Hot Priest)'s head. I will burn this place to the ground, Alyssa!

Alyssa: It's a real concern! However, our more immediate worry is for Lyra. One of the spy flies made it back to Mrs. Coulter and Boreal and they were pretty damn delighted by the news that Lyra was found. I'm not 100% sure how they interpreted the spy fly's message, but the details don't matter. Despite the Magisterium's failure, they now know that Lyra is with the Gyptians and will soon realize that they're heading North. This is bad!

Credit: BBC

What's Next

Jessica: Very, very bad. I do hope though that this means we're finally heading North. It's what Lyra's wanted for 12 f*cking years, and what I've wanted since this show started. Heading North means we might hook up with some witches, fly on some steampunk airships, meet those talking bears everyone's been waiting for. It's all very exciting stuff and I would very much like for Mrs. Coulter and her damn flies to stay in London, thank you.

Alyssa: Exactly. Heading North only means exciting for Lyra, and by extension us, so the sooner they get there, the better. Bring on the witches. Bring on the armored bears. Bring on Lin-Manuel Miranda. I've enjoyed these first three episodes immensely, but I am desperate to meet Iorek. Enough teasing! Get to the main event!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors', and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBCUniversal.

The Inventory Gift Guide For When You’ve Told Him “I Like You” @ io9

For The Inventory this year, we’re breaking out our #SGapproved gift guides into two tiers for men and women - one for when you’ve said, “I like you” and another for when you’ve said “I love you.”

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Vader Immortal Episode III Will Make You Look at Star Wars in a Whole New Way @ io9

It’s rare to get a full Star Wars trilogy in the span of seven months, but that happens this week with the release of Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series - Episode III. It’s the third and final installment in the ILMxLAB series made for Oculus Quest and the ending is the best of the bunch.

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Josh Williamson chips away at Batman/Superman and teases a supervillain war @ Syfy Wire

1p>Although Josh Williamson is one of DC's up-and-coming writers, it hasn't been an easy road to land his dream projects. Williamson guided The Flash's monthly series after establishing himself with his creator-owned comics Nailbiter and Ghosted. However, landing DC's greatest superheroes required some patience and perseverance.

"About two years ago, [DC was] like, 'What do you want to do?'" recalled Williamson. "I was like, 'Batman and Superman, come on!' It was like, 'Uh, no, no. Not yet, not yet.' Then about a year and a half ago, it came up again and I was like, 'I want to do Batman and Superman. When is this gonna happen?' ‘Maybe next year.' I was finally starting to chip away, and then I was able to do it. Now I get to do it in this really big way, in this really big storyline."

Earlier this year, Williamson landed the new Batman/Superman ongoing series, which features the popular bad guy: The Batman Who Laughs. It also ties into DC's current event, Year of the Villain, as well as a new project coming up soon.

"We're doing a story in December," said Williamson. "It's a four-issue series that James Tynion is writing with [artist] Steve Epting, and it's called Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen. It takes all of these pieces we've been building since [Dark Nights: Metal], everything we've been building since No Justice, everything that's going on in Year of the Villain. It all collides in this story. What it really comes down to is Lex Luthor vs. the Batman Who Laughs. And the two of them have opposing ideas about what they want the DCU to be."

Additionally, Williamson told us about how he developed Nailbitter and how it started his relationship with his wife in the latest episode of Behind the Panel. Check it out!

How The Man in the High Castle expanded on Philip K. Dick's work for four seasons @ Syfy Wire

1p>The key to adapting a great book as a TV show is dependent on one major thing: being able to expand upon the original work.

That freedom has been a major factor in the success of The Man in the High Castle, which just launched its fourth and final season on Amazon. Offering up an alternative perspective on 20th-century history with the premise "What if the Axis powers had won World War II?", The Man in the High Castle is based upon the 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick, whose other works have been the basis for notable adaptations such as Blade Runner and Minority Report.

Isa Dick Hackett, Dick's daughter, has been heavily involved in many recent adaptations and is an executive producer on Man in the High Castle. And while she's protective of his legacy, when it comes to bringing her father's stories to a screen of any size, she told SYFY WIRE, she's pretty loose with the reins. "I encourage the writers to use it as an inspiration and a spiritual guide, rather than looking to do literal adaptations," she told SYFY WIRE earlier this month.

High Castle star Joel de la Fuente (who plays Kenpeitai chief inspector Kido) confirms this.

"What she said was that what's always been most important to her has been finding people to collaborate with or to trust her father's work with — not to do a one-to-one idea-for-idea adaptation, but to take the ideas and work within the spirit of those ideas," he said.

This, Hackett says, is because "obviously on a show like this, you're going to need to expand it, and find ways to [do so] while retaining the essence, while retaining the sort of spiritual fidelity to the original and really finding ways to broaden the landscape of the narrative.

"When you have partners that you trust — great partners and great thinkers — there are often ways that they bring to the effort that can both expand it well while retaining that essence of it," she continued. "And so, on this show, of course, that's what we did, and hats off to the writers who did such a fantastic job of expanding and yet you know, still, again, retaining the spiritual essence of it."

De la Fuente noted that Hackett is actually very unusual in that respect, but "she's comfortable enough and knowledgeable enough about her father's work to have an appetite to collaborate with people."

This idea was passed down from the writers to the actors, especially because so many members of the cast, including all of the accumulated actors to which SYFY WIRE was speaking, were playing characters who were not in the books.

Finding out if Dick had originally created the character John Smith was the very first thing actor Rufus Sewell did when he learned about the project from his agent ("I did a very quick Wikipedia scan," he said). That information left him concerned that Smith was added to the narrative to be "a one-dimensional bad guy, to give ballast to it. So that was one of my reservations. But I spoke to them and realized it wasn't quite that. I just did as much research of what people were telling themselves about being the good guys in the midst of Nazi Germany, and the history of it. All of that was very useful."

Adding characters such as Smith wasn't all. In expanding the show beyond the limits of the book, the show's many producers, over the years, have drawn upon not just their own imaginations, but two chapters of an unpublished and unfinished sequel that Dick had begun writing before abandoning the project. This, Hackett said, was because "revisiting the research on Nazis and the extermination camps, and so on and so forth, was so personally upsetting and difficult" for him.

However, Dick's writings (actually, recordings — according to Hackett, these chapters were put down in the form of audiotapes, preserved in the Dick archives) did include Dick's biggest contribution to expanding the show: the concept of a portal between universes. "I thought it was a great inspiration and launching point for the last couple of seasons," she said.

This and other big ideas were pretty essential because, as Sewell said, a good deal of the original novel was contained within the show's pilot episode, while some of it was drawn out slowly over the four seasons. But so much of it was drawn from the imagination of its original author: "All of the really outlandish sci-fi elements that people sometimes accused this production of just inventing are actually genuine Philip K. Dick, based on the same story ideas."

In the original novel, the versions of alternate worlds are depicted by another book, known as The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, while the series transforms this as numerous film reels which are passed around as contraband. "We have to put that same faith in the films into the television series — that power," says star Jason O'Mara.

The fourth season did have some fun with this idea, as the Nazis in power force Hawthorne Abendsen (Stephen Root), the former safeguarder of the films (making him the actual Man in the High Castle) host a Twilight Zone-esque TV show titled Tales From the High Castle. Sewell called out how well these scenes fit into the world of the show, calling them "so spot-on," stylistically speaking.

It's the sort of innovation made possible by years of collaboration, guided by Hackett's careful consideration when it comes to remembering her father's legacy. When approaching any new additions to Dick's work, she says, she begins by asking whether it runs contrary to any of his core values: specifically, empathy, compassion, and "what it means to be human."

As she continued, "That's why you choose certain partners because you have a good idea of their sensibility and what they bring to it. Generally, my job is to encourage that and to encourage people to think outside the box and to bring their talent to the material and help elevate it. Fortunately, we've had really great people on this team, and hopefully the audience sees that in the show."

The Man in the High Castle is streaming now on Amazon Prime.

 

 


Henry Cavill breaks silence on future as Superman: 'I've not given up on the role' @ Syfy Wire

1p>Last fall, it was reported that Henry Cavill (Mission: Impossible — FalloutThe Witcher) would be parting ways with the DC Extended Universe, where he had portrayed a live-action Superman for three films: Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and Justice League (2017).

Shortly after the big news broke, Cavill's manager asked fans to "be peaceful" before adding that "the cape is still in his closet." Now, more than a year later, the English actor is breaking his silence on the matter, teasing that he's most likely not finished with mild-mannered Clark Kent just yet.

“I’m not just going to sit quietly in the dark as all this stuff is going on,” Cavill said during a chat with Men's Health. “I’ve not given up the role. There’s a lot I have to give for Superman yet. A lot of storytelling to do. A lot of real, true depths to the honesty of the character I want to get into. I want to reflect the comic books. That’s important to me. There’s a lot of justice to be done for Superman. The status is: You’ll see.”

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/DC Entertainment

The next DCEU release will be Cathy Yan's Birds of Prey on February 7, 2020. After the failure of Justice League, Warner Bros. is slowing down on shared universe storytelling in favor of more standalone comic book films.

"It didn’t work," Cavill said of the crossover project directed by Zack Snyder, also stating that he wouldn't go back and change a thing about Man of Steel if he had the chance.

You can next see Cavill in action when Season 1 of The Witcher debuts on Netflix Friday, Dec. 20. A second season has already been greenlit. In the fantasy series, the actor will be playing famed monster hunter, Geralt of Rivia.

“In the books, Geralt is fearsome, but he also has this amazing dry wit. We needed someone to play both ends of the spectrum, someone who could see all the trauma of the world he’s in but could also step back and roll his eyes once in a while,” he said during the Men's Health interview.  “It’s funny how much he’s actually like us. Geralt has that thing of trying so damn hard and being misconstrued or not appreciated — of people having a negative opinion of you, despite you actually trying to do the right thing.”


Is It Just Me, or Do the Cats Look More Human Now? @ io9

Tuesday's Best Deals: Thermapen, PowerA Controller, Packing Cubes, Mrs. Claus Funko, and More @ io9

A huge Puma sale, SteelSeries Mouse, Mophie power bank, and an Anker Gold Box lead off Tuesday’s best deals from around the web.

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The Mandalorian hunts down massive audience after only 2 episodes, data shows @ Syfy Wire

1p>People sure do love that Yoda baby. It's only two episodes in on a streaming platform that's only a week old, but The Mandalorian is already a massive hit. 

The flagship original series created by Jon Favreau for Disney+ ranked third among the most wanted digital original series in the U.S. for the week of November 10-16, according to data from Parrot Analytics. The show, set in the Star Wars universe, garnered nearly 40 million demand expressions (what the data firm calls views), following DC Universe's Titans (57 million) and Netflix's Stranger Things (101.6 million). 

Source: Parrot Analytics

Since episodes of the series are being released weekly on Disney+, the analysts at Parrot believe that The Mandalorian has the potential to grow its audience even further, and even possibly take over Stranger Things' No.1 spot. 

When compared to four of the best performing streaming debuts of the year with U.S. audiences — Netflix's The Umbrella Academy, When They See Us, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, and Amazon Prime Video's Good Omens — The Mandalorian was more popular with U.S. audiences after four days of release than these other top U.S. streaming debuts were at the same points in their runs. Four days out from their respective launch dates, viewer demand for The Mandalorian in the U.S. was 58.7 percent, ahead of Good Omens, 35.8 percent ahead of The Umbrella Academy, 15 percent ahead of When They See Us, and 11.5 percent ahead of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

Taking place after the events of Return of the Jedi (but before The Force Awakens), The Mandalorian follows an unnamed bounty hunter who accepts a job to find a mysterious target and bring it back alive. And two episodes in, it's clear that this particular bounty — the aforementioned Yoda baby — is more than this Mandalorian bargained for. (Hey, the show's official Twitter feed already let this proverbial cat out of the bag. Also, yes, we know it's not really Yoda. But we're still calling it Yoda baby, because...come on.)

Disney+ is already a gigantic success, garnering more than 10 million users since launching on Nov. 12, exceeding even the most optimistic of industry expectations. 

 

New Rise of Skywalker Images Have Arrived Along With a Curious Tidbit About 'Ancient' Star Wars @ io9

We’ve been so busy obsessing over The Mandalorian we almost forgot it was getting close to the time Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker features would start rolling out! Ok, not really...

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The Rise of Skywalker will dig deep into C-3PO lore, may continue story of Rey's parents @ Syfy Wire

1p>C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) is the only character to have appeared in every single live-action Star Wars movie (save for Solo), but he'll become a real major — and we mean major — player in The Rise of Skywalker next month.

Based on the trailers released thus far, we know that the anxiety-prone droid will be undergoing some sort of change (courtesy of newcomer Babu Frik) that could wipe away his extensive memories forever. We don't know how 3PO, whose eyes are gonna turn mysteriously red, factors into the fight against the First Order — all we know is that he's an essential component of the story.

“In previous recent movies Threepio has just been kind of window dressing, something on the mantelpiece, you polish it and dust it off when guests are coming,” Daniels recently told Entertainment Weekly. “J.J. and Chris [Terrio, co-writer of the Episode IX screenplay] came up with this aspect of Threepio we had not seen before that’s remarkably clever. They go down deep into ancient Star Wars and came up with something refreshingly new."

Another facet of the plot might be a further exploration of Rey's lineage. In The Last Jedi, the character (played by Daisy Ridley) discovered that her parents were nobodies, junk merchants who sold her for booze.

This anticlimax flew in the face of everything J.J. Abrams had hinted at in The Force Awakens, but it was definitely in line with what VIII writer/director Rian Johnson was trying to do in terms of subverting fan expectations. Of course, there is always the possibility that Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), freshly minted Supreme Leader of the First Order, lied to Rey in order to drive her over to the Dark Side.

“The parents thing is not satisfied — for her and for the audience,” Ridley said while speaking with EW. “That’s something she’s still trying to figure out — where does she come from? It’s not that she doesn’t believe it, but she feels there’s more to the story. And she needs to figure out what’s come before so she can figure out what to do next…"

Now that he's back in the director's chair, Abrams can help wrap up the story he first began in 2015. Without the immense stress of kicking off a new trilogy, he felt more confident going into The Rise of Skywalker.

"We had more reshoots on Episode VII than this one,” the filmmaker admitted to EW, eventually adding that the trailers are only "scratching the surface" of what's to come. “We had more story adjustments on VII than this one. We didn’t know if these characters would work, if the actors would be able to carry a Star Wars movie. There were a lot of things we didn’t know. On this, we knew who and what worked, and everyone is doing the best work I’ve ever seen anyone do. But the ambition of this movie is far greater than Force Awakens. What we set out to do was far more challenging. Everything is exponentially larger on this."

This comment echoes what Abrams recently told Total Film about taking more risks with this film than he did on The Force Awakens.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens in theaters Friday, Dec. 20.


Climate Change Is Even Ruining Pokemon Now @ io9

It’s not enough for humans to screw up our planet. Apparently, we’ve screwed up Earth in the Pokemon universe as well.

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This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Mythpunk, Awakened Dragons, and a Nanotech Fog @ Barnes & Noble: Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Stone Clock, by Andrew Bannister
The third volume of Andrew Bannister’s Spin series wraps up the trilogy with a novel of thrilling scope. A hundred millennia have passed since the events of the last book, Iron Gods, and while the created universe of the Spin is collapsing, the inhabitants of its hundreds of virtual worlds live on in ignorance. But as these artificial realities draw exhaust the Spin’s last remaining resources, a rebellion is gaining momentum, even as thousands of light years away, a member of an alien race that has long studied the Spin from afar uncovers the truth of its origins, and determines to change its fate. If you like space opera on a grand scale, this trilogy won’t disappoint.

Knight of the Silver Circle, by Duncan M. Hamilton
The second book in Duncan M. Hamilton’s Dragonslayer trilogy brings us back to his French-inspired universe, in which hero-turned-sodden country lord Guillot dal Villerauvais deals with the return of dragons after a thousand years. But the dragons’ reemergence is only a harbinger of something darker and even more dangerous. Gill has to somehow figure out how to slay three of the terrible beasts when slaying one required a magical sword and a magical relic. In his moment of need Solène, the young magically-gifted woman he rescued, abandons him, disturbed by her own power and refusing to kill again. Even as Gill works to defend the land, the power hungry Prince Bishop plots against him, willing to risk everything for the magic he carries.

Upon the Flight of the Queen, by Howard Andrew Jones
Howard Andrew Jones continues his riveting Ring-Sworn Trilogy with the champions of the Altenerai setting out to protect the Allied Realms from the savage intentions of the Noar, using subterfuge, fighting skill, simple heroism, and magic to fight against increasingly long odds. The Altenerai numbers are dwindling, and a desperate journey into the Shifting Lands to reseal an ancient alliance that offers the only chance they might have against the dragons of the Noar. As the Altenerai struggle to hold back the Noar, their queen desperately tries to solve the magical riddle of the hearthstones, a feat that might save them all, or doom them.

Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung, by Nina MacLaughlin
Like Maria Dahvana Headley’s The Mere Wife, which reimagined Beowulf from a the perspective of Grendel’s mother, Nina MacLaughlin’s second book drags ancient myth into the #MeToo era. The 30 stories in Wake, Siren gives voices to the woman cast to the side in those foundational texts. Able to speak for themselves, they unsurprisingly have a different viewpoint to share about the heroes and gods that have previously earned top billing. The stories also play fast and loose with setting—some stories retain their original trappings, while others incorporate disparate elements of the everyday (the mother of Adonis makes a frank confession to her therapist; a cyclops harasses a woman online). The cumulative effect is like a scream of rage echoing across time. Call it “mythpunk.”

Silver, by Linda Nagata
The second volume of Linda Nagata’s Inverted Frontier trilogy, set in the universe of her award-winning Nanotech Succession novels, follows 2018’s Edges. The series is set at the twilight of humanity, after most of civilization has been wiped out by the robotic Chenzeme. Hope arrived in the form of a man named Urban, who reappeared among the humans in command of a captured Chenzeme warship called Dragon, but as book two opens, he has lost control of that ship to a dangerous godlike being, Lezuri, who is himself seeking to recover his lost power, which will require a return to an artificial world he created centuries earlier. Urban races to stop him, reaching the artificial planet first only to find it overtaken by a strange machine fog that can rewrite the landscape seemingly at random. If you’re intrigued by the descriptor “nanopunk,” know that no one writes nanopunk like Linda Nagata.

The Cloud Roads: Volume One of the Books of the Raksura, by Martha Wells
In the wake of her success with the Murderbot novellas, Martha Wells’ Books of the Raksura—which we won’t hesitate to call modern classics of inventive fantasy—are getting a new trade paperback reissues. First volume The Cloud Roads tells the story of Moon, who has grown up an outcast from humanity and apart from others of his species, the Raksura—shapeshifting creatures whose natural form is a sort of bipedal winged dragon. Moon has spent his life hiding his shapeshifting abilities, having no memory of what he really is. When cast out by yet another group of humans, he finally meets another shapeshifter—who reveals to him a chance at a new life with others like him. But no sooner has Moon found his new home that he finds it threatened with destruction by the Raksura’s greatest enemies, the terrifying creatures known as the Fell.

What are you reading this week?

The post This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Mythpunk, Awakened Dragons, and a Nanotech Fog appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

This man’s eyes glow like the Eye of Sauron because of a rare condition @ Syfy Wire

1p>Sauron’s gargantuan flaming eye has some competition far away from the fires of Mordor. While he can’t spy on everyone through a Palantír or sense who is wearing a certain ring, a 44-year-old man who went in for an exam at a Texas opthalmology clinic was diagnosed with a rare eye disorder that gives him a paranormal gaze.

This must have been the last thing he expected while trying to find a new eye doctor to treat pressure on his eyes after a recent move. His actual diagnosis ended up verging on science fiction.

Glowing irises don't usually happen outside Lord of the Rings and other fictional universes. Powers like this are usually reserved for supernatural beings like Superman, Captain Marvel, Homelander and yes, Sauron. Unfortunately, it’s not an asset in humans. The man, who preferred to stay anonymous, had unusually high eye pressure. That was already a clue that something strange was going on. He suspected his symptoms were related to a family history of glaucoma, but the eye exam revealed iris translumination — a sign of a disease even eye doctors don’t normally see.

“A diagnosis of pigment dispersion syndrome was made…pigment accumulates [and prevents fluid drainage], thereby leading to increases in intraocular pressure and subsequent optic nerve damage known as pigmentary glaucoma,” said opthalmologists Lance Lyons and Alec Amram of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX, in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Iris transillumination is the shining of light straight through the iris. It might look awesome, as seen in the tweet above, but this symptom of pigment dispersion syndrome results from pigment flaking off the back of the iris and allowing beams of light to pass straight through the eye. The consequences of having what appear to be awesome glowing eyes don’t end there. Those flakes of pigment were what was causing all that eye pressure, because they were blocking eye drainage. It’s just not worth the meta-human cosplay value.

While iris transillumination might look mesmerizing, it’s still a disorder that can lead to worse things if left untreated. An equally sci-fi laser treatment was needed to unclog the man’s eyes and allow drainage of the fluid that was putting so much pressure on his eyes, which was giving him a higher risk of glaucoma than genetics alone. He was also prescribed eye drops to control the intraocular pressure and keep glaucoma from happening.

“The patient underwent selective laser trabeculoplasty but continued to use pressure-lowering eyedrops to control his intraocular pressure,” Lyons and Amram said.

The final shock? This reluctant superhero was found to have 20/25 vision in both eyes, which beats many of us who wear glasses or press contacts into our eyeballs every day.

(via New England Journal of Medicine)

A Black Widow Star Discusses the 'Very Painful' Film @ io9

Disney is doing some shuffling of its newly-acquired Fox animated projects. She-Hulk and Star Wars writer Charles Soule gets an exciting movie deal. Plus what’s to come on The Flash, Van Helsing, Mr. Robot, and more. Spoilers are a go!

Read more...

New observations hint that Jupiter’s moon Europa erupts with water geysers (corrected) @ Syfy Wire

1p>Correction, and it's a big one: When I wrote this, I thought the conclusions based on the observations were much more solid than they were reported in a NASA press release. But after being alerted by a couple of astronomers, and looking things over again, I see that the idea that a plume of water from a geyser is not "confirmed" as I originally wrote, but more like "maybe." The detection by itself was marginally statistically significant, but was part of 16 other observations that showed nothing. I was thinking about the single observation taken alone, but when placed in context of the other observations the statistical significance drops. That means the likelihood of this observation being real — that is, that the light from a plume of water was definitely seen — is lower than I originally stated.

Think of it this way: If you have a box of 100 coins, shake it, and then count the number of coins that are heads you should get a number close to 50, but also likely to be 48 or 52. You get some random deviation from average. The more times you shake it and count, the more likely you are to get a single case where you get what looks like a significant change from average (like, say 70 heads and 30 tails). That's the difference here; if you shook the box once and got that big a swing you’d be right to at least suspect something was up, but if you got it after a lot of trials then you’d be more likely to think this is just an inevitable random swing (low probability events eventually happen if you give them enough chances). This example is something of an oversimplification, but that's the idea.

I apologize for this, and take the blame here! I should have been more careful when looking over the results.

In the end, my conclusion is that this observation is interesting, even provocative, but I would like to see a lot more observations done. If it's repeatable, and repeatable with statistical significance, then we're onto something. Until then, I think this belongs with the earlier observations I wrote about below, which indicated something might be happening, but we still can't be sure.

I've decided to leave my article as is, since correcting it would mean extensive changes. Instead I'll leave it up with this correction/warning, and let it stand as a cautionary tale.  - Phil Plait, 19 Nov. 2019]

 


 

Astronomers have long suspected Jupiter’s moon Europa may have conditions underneath its surface that could support life. We’ve known for a long time that its surface is a shell of ice over an ocean of liquid water, but it’s been difficult to see that water directly. The ice shell is kilometers thick, and all the evidence we have is indirect.

It looks like that’s now changed: Astronomers have just announced the direct detection of water erupting from Europa in huge geysers!

The observations were made using the mammoth 10-meter Keck telescope. Keck can detect infrared light, far outside the colors our eyes can see, and this is critical: When water molecules are struck by sunlight, they can absorb it, vibrate (like weights on springs attached to each other) and re-emit that energy at specific wavelengths of infrared light.

The astronomers observed Europa from February 2016 to May 2017, looking for those wavelengths. Sixteen of those observations produced nothing out of the ordinary, but the 17th — on 26 April 2016 — they caught the right glow. The amount of infrared light they saw implied that about 2,100 tons of water had blasted out into space from beneath Europa’s surface. In liquid form that’s very roughly the volume of a large house. In this case, though, it was in the form of vapor, so occupied a lot more volume.

If you gather up all the water under Europa’s ice shell, and all the water on Earth’s surface, Europa has more. Credit: Kevin Hand (JPL/Caltech), Jack Cook (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), Howard Perlman (USGS)

This is exciting! Europa is a little bit smaller than our own Moon, but the amount of liquid water inside Europa is more than all the oceans and rivers on Earth! The surface of the moon is clearly icy and riddled with cracks, but it’s been unclear if that water can make its way through that thick ice shell.

The culprit here is gravity. And when you’re talking about Jupiter, gravity is a big deal. Europa orbits Jupiter on a very slightly elliptical orbit, and that means sometimes it’s a little closer to Jupiter, and sometimes farther away. The gravity it feels from Jupiter changes over its 3.5-day orbit, and this winds up squeezing and compressing the moon. This generates huge amounts of friction inside Europa, which manifests as heat (like rubbing your hands together on a cold day warms them up). The heat melts the water ice, creating the subsurface ocean (this is exactly the same mechanism responsible for the geysers of water Cassini saw erupting from Saturn’s moon Enceladus).

The surface temperature is so cold, about -170° C on average, that any water there though is frozen into rock-hard ice. That’s why it’s been so hard to see the liquid water directly. Still, apparently, it can squeeze itself up through those cracks, and erupt in 200-kilometer-high geysers.

Evidence for these plumes has been building for a long time. The first observations of them, though not understood as such at the time, were from the Galileo spacecraft, which flew through a plume in 1997. Computer modeling in the day wasn’t good enough to figure out what the observations meant, but later analysis supported the idea the spacecraft had flown through a water geyser.

Then, in 2013, Hubble Space Telescope observations strongly implied water was erupting into space; it saw a molecule called OH-, which is what you get when ultraviolet light from the Sun breaks apart water molecules (that, plus a hydrogen atom). These observations looked pretty good, but OH- molecules can be formed in other ways. Water is the easiest and most likely way, so it’s pretty good evidence, but it’s still indirect.

These new observations show water directly. This happens often in science; you get a hint of something, so you keep looking, and as technology and software get better, your chances of confirming or negating that idea grow. In this case, things went in the positive direction. Hurray!

Artist’s concept of a plume of water erupting from under the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. Credit: NASA/ESA/K. Retherford/SWRI

So what does this mean for life under Europa? It’s been a scientific possibility for a long time now, and to be honest, I don’t think too many scientists have any lingering doubts that the water ocean is there. The good news here is that now we have direct evidence for it. So it’s a step in the right direction.

The next step, though, is a giant leap: Europa Clipper, a NASA mission to the moon. Equipped with instruments that can take mapping images, thermal scans, ultraviolet spectra, magnetic readings, and more (a lot more), it’s a surveying mission that will orbit Europa and try to answer some of the biggest questions we have about the moon: How deep is the ocean? What other molecules are in there besides water (like, organic molecules)? What’s the geography of the surface like?

And, of course, is it possible the chemistry there is right for life to exist?

So yeah, this is all a very big deal. Clipper is being built now, and should launch to Jupiter in the middle of the next decade. It won’t be too long before we have more close-ups of this moon, and have a much better understanding of its surface… and what lies beneath.

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