With a break in the weather, I spent a good chunk of this week up on ladders painting houses with my brother. It's a fun gig, one that gets me outside and working with my hands, and proves to be a good way to lose myself in an audiobook for hours at a time. It was nice to get away from the computer for a while.
Onto this week's newsletter.
All aboard Galactic Starcruiser
Disney has always attracted a certain amount of fanaticism from viewers who spend hours, days, and weeks at its parks, immersing themselves completely in the fantastic worlds that Walt Disney helped create. The parks are one part of that, and when I visited its Star Wars world, Galaxy's Edge back in December 2019, I was blown away by the immersive element of it:
"Immersive is a bit of an understatement. Disney set up an impressive snippet of the world. It’s not as large as I expected, but it certainly does the job of putting you in the franchise. Everywhere look, there’s something cool, from the Stormtroopers on patrol, to really innocuous details, like the weathering on the exterior lights, directions and signs in a Star Wars-ish font, and more. But what impressed me the most (aside from the ride Smuggler’s Run) was the sound.
That TIE Fighter streaming overhead might seem like a bit of a gimmick, but it’s one of the things that really brought the world alive for me. It’s everywhere. The shops have their own background hum, leaving the impression that machinery in the background is working at doing something."
Galaxy's Edge was always just one component of it. This week, Disney announced when you'll get to experience the next phase of the project, Galactic Starcruiser: next spring.
The Galactic Starcruiser is an immersive experience, a hotel that's designed to completely put you in the world of Star Wars, putting you face to face with characters, plenty activities, and more over the course of two nights.
That'll come at a hefty price, however. Two guests? That'll run you $4,809 for a "voyage." Three guests, $5,299, and four guests, $5,999. That's a lot for a family, even for folks who visit the parks on a regular basis.
But while the price is eye-opening, it's in line with what Disney has been doing for decades: putting its guests in the midst of the worlds that it's created. Immersion is something that the entertainment world has been steadily working towards for a long time: 3D movies, surround sound, and shaking chairs are one way that films have sought to bring their stories to life for audiences, LARPS and Renn Faires bring the fantastic to life, and there are certainly plenty of immersive haunted houses and escape room type experiences that help bring adventures alive for those who want to experience thrills and terrors.
Immersion brings stories to life in vivid, tactile detail: surround guests with actors in costume, pump out smells and sounds into the air, and you'll create an experience that goes far beyond print books or movies: it'll bring the world to life for a short while. This is something I spoke with Carrie Vaughn about not too long ago upon the release of her book Questland, in which a nefarious tech billionaire did something similar with their own fantasy world. "It's wanting to separate ourselves from the modern current world," Vaughn noted, "because I think we associate modernity with a lot of stress and anxiety."
I think that's a key thing: it's certainly a stressful time, and when we're not stressing out about the state of Star Wars, we're worried about other things. Boarding Galactic Starcruiser would be a fantastic way to completely check out for a couple of days.
If you can afford it.
I finally finished Brian Staveley's The Empire's Ruin, and man, it turned out to be an excellent read. I was already a fan of his Emperor's Blades / Providence of Fire / Last Mortal Bond / Skullsworn, but while he could have set out to put together another adventure with the same characters in the world, he ended up doing something a bit more introspective about the nature of being and identity as he sends his characters to their limits. It feels like an instance where an author has really leveled up in some significant ways.
I've moved on to C.L. Clark's The Unbroken — I'd stalled out on that for a stupid, technical reason: my audiobook app somehow lost my place, and I ended up moving onto other things while I was away from my hard copy. Now that I'd finished Staveley's book and with a couple of houses/decks to paint this week, it was a good time to jump back into it.
This week in SF/F
Amazon's LOTR: September 2022.
This week's big bit of news is that the upcoming Lord of the Rings series is set to hit Amazon Prime Video on September 2nd, 2022. That's a long wait, and it feels like it shows just how much work will go into it now that production is over. Hopefully, it'll be worth the wait, but I'm intrigued by what it's setting up.
For paid subscribers, I wrote up a post about novels with appendices, and how they show off how an author is thinking about their world and the bigger story that accompanies their book.
Another day, another big adaptation
The latest big series that someone wants to adapt is Mercedes Lackey's sprawling Valdemar series. This series is huge, and some of the folks behind the upcoming Wheel of Time project are behind it. It seems like a pretty solid universe to bring to life, and one with plenty of material to adapt along the way.
ASU Climate Fellows
Arizona State University's Center for Science and the Imagination has announced a new initiative: the Climate Imagination Fellowship, which brings together four authors to help plot out what our future might look like: Libia Brenda, Xia Jia, Hanna Onoguwe, and Vandana Singh. The initiative "seeks to inspire a wave of narratives about what positive climate futures might look like for communities around the world," through original fiction that'll be collected in a short story anthology, Climate Action Almanac, which will be published next year.
ICYMI, here's the August book list.
The Bad Batch gets a Season 2
Ahead of today's penultimate episode, Lucasfilm announced that it had renewed its latest animated Star Wars series, The Bad Batch for a second season. This isn't a huge surprise: the series started out as a successor to The Clone Wars, and judging from fan reactions over the course of the last couple of months, it's remained pretty popular.
The series follows a team of Clone troopers, Clone Force 99, in the aftermath of the events of Clone Wars season 7 and Revenge of the Sith, and tracks out the immediate moments of the establishment of the Galactic Empire. They refused their orders to exterminate the Jedi in the first episode of the season, and ended up going on the run, taking odd jobs from a handler on the world of Ord Mandell.
Some episodes have been better than others — there's been a bunch of the "mission of the week" sorts of affairs, with plenty of cameos and callbacks to some well-loved moments of the franchise, like Captain Rex and one of the Clone Commandos from Republic Commando, Scorch. Presumably, we'll see more of that in the coming season when it returns in 2022.
Curious Fictions is shutting down
Some bad news for short fiction authors: short fiction platform Curious Fictions is being put on "indefinite hiatus," says founder Tanya Breshears. The platform was a neat site that authors could use to put their short fiction on for readers to read or buy. I had put a handful of my short stories up on there, and found it to be a really useful platform for that purpose. Hopefully, it'll be back at some point, because I think it's really something that was valuable to the community, although it sounds like it was something that just didn't get a ton of traction.
HBO Max podcasts
Over the last couple of years, HBO has delved into podcasts for some of its bigger shows, like Chernobyl, Lovecraft Country, and Watchmen. The network has been making some bigger pushes into podcasting lately, and this week, unveiled its slate of projects that'll be coming in the near future.
One of the big shows out of the gate is Batman: The Audio Adventures, which features Jeffrey Wright as batman, which is described as a series that "draws inspiration from the vintage noir atmosphere of the celebrated “Batman: The Animated Series,” the spirited fun of the classic 1960s “Batman” TV series, and the entire 80-plus year history of the BATMAN franchise," which sounds like a lot of fun. No word on when that'll debut, but interestingly, it'll stream only on HBO Max.
There's also a series about Band of Brothers, which I'll certainly be listening to, and it sounds like they'll have a bunch of other companion shows along the way.
RIP J.W. Rinzler
Some sad news: J.W. Rinzler, who was responsible for some fantastic behind the scenes books for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Planet of the Apes, Alien, and Aliens, has passed away. His books are indispensable resources if you're interested in any of those films, beautiful, chunky coffee table tomes that provide a wealth of images and insights into their productions.
I interviewed him a while back on the occasion of his The Making of Alien book back in 2019, and wrote about Aliens exactly a year ago yesterday. He was excellent to speak with, and I'm sad that he's passed away.
Trust and military robotics
Last weekend, Slate published a fantastic short story by Justina Ireland, "Collateral Damage", part of its Future Tense series. The story follows a US Army platoon that's assigned an autonomous robot, and things go... not well. The editors there asked me to write the response essay, in which I spoke about the need for service members to be able to trust and understand their robotic counterparts.
That's all for this week. As always — thank you so much for reading, and let me know what you're reading / writing / enjoying.
Have a good weekend,