This has been a pretty quiet week for me: I took a couple of days to get away from the internet and out of the house with my son, so this is going to be a bit of a shorter newsletter than usual. We’ve spent the last couple of days relaxing, drawing comics (the adventures of Watermelon and The Lightning!), playing Legend of Zelda: Link’s’ Awakening, watching The Clone Wars, and reading. It’s been a good couple of days.
As such, because I’ve been trying to avoid the internet and the news, I don’t really have a “This Week in SF/F”, so I’ve put together a bigger version of this week’s Further Reading to make up for it, so you should get a good snapshot of what’s taken place this week.
Getting out of the house has been good for reading: I’ve finished a couple of books! Finally!
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. I did up a full review of this yesterday, (read it here), but the short version is that I really loved it: I think it’s my favorite book published in 2020, and it’s one that really deserves more attention. It’s about alternate worlds, identity, morality, and more. It’s definitely going to occupy some space in my head for a while.
Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots. I’ll have a fuller review coming of this, but I’ll say it’s been a while since I’ve blown through a book in a single day. This one started out as an audiobook that I started on the drive to my family’s house, then shifted over to my physical copy for the rest of the day.
I’m a big fan of superheroes in prose, and this one follows a woman named Anna who starts off as a supervillain Hench — think Uber, but for henchmen. She’s left horribly injured by a superhero named Supercollider, and ends up working with a major villain to try and take him down. It’s a wonderful look into the morality of heroes and the collateral damage that they can cause. There are a couple of drawbacks, but on the whole, it’s witty, funny, emotional, and gripping.
Whenever I travel, I try and not only bring a bunch of books, but a handful of different types. This trip, I brought along a couple of books that I’d been meaning to read for a while: the aforementioned The Space Between Worlds and Hench, as well as Eliot Peper’s Veil and Mike Chen’s We Could Be Heroes (which I’m finding pairs well with Hench). I’ve also carted along two biographies: J. Michael Straczynski’s autobiography Becoming Superman and Abraham Riesman’s Stan Lee biography, True Believer. I read the latter a while ago and loved it, and am using it for a piece that I’m writing for a place, while True Believer is one I’ve been picking away at.
- Bad Batch, incoming. Lucasfilm has announced when its next Star Wars series will debut on Disney+: May 4th, 2021. This show isn’t a live-action one, but the animated sequel to The Clone Wars, The Bad Batch. The series follows a group of clone troopers who were introduced last season, and as they deal with the new era of galactic order under the Empire. I was lukewarm on the series when it was announced — I’d much rather see a series about the Republic Commandos — but after seeing the trailer for the series last December, I’m a bit more keen on it. It’s not like I *wouldn’t* be watching, but I’m more interested in it now. Hopefully it’ll be good.
- Birbs! This was a subscriber-locked piece that I published on Wednesday, and given that it’s the 25th anniversary of Pokémon, I decided to write about how Pokémon GO helped encourage me to pay more attention to birds, and take a more active role in conservation and environmentalism. Lifehacker picked up the post for syndication, and you can read that here (it’s a little different from the original).
Buying a Superhero. I’m a big fan of NPR podcast Planet Money, which breaks complicated economic news and trends into fairly manageable and understandable (and entertaining!) podcasts. Their latest is a hoot, and one that’s particularly interesting to me: they started looking into buying a superhero.
It’s part of a new series, and they’ve begun by asking how you’d go about doing that — folks at Marvel comics wouldn’t get back to them to sell them a hero called The Doorman — but they do talk to someone at Archie Comics, who essentially told them that the reason companies won’t sell off their IP is because they’re always potentially one story away from a big hit, like Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy.
The latest episode has them looking in a different place: the public domain, and the world of abandoned superheroes. They find a fitting one, and it sounds like they’re bringing in some writers and artists to actually make a comic book.
Cosplayers & Cara Dune. Hopefully, this’ll be the last bit of commentary about Gina Carano and Cara Dune: I spoke with a handful of cosplayers for Cosplay Central about what the actress’s toxic behavior meant for them when it came to depicting the character, and what they’ll do now that she’s out of the franchise.
The short version? Most dropped the character, but might return to it now that she’s gone. I’m happy with the piece, but it’s brought out a raft of annoying people on Twitter who’re trying to bad faith argue about it. That’s what the block button is for.
GRRM’s Roadmarks. George R.R. Martin confirmed some news reports about a new series he’s pitched to HBO, Roadmarks, based on a novel by Roger Zelazny. The project has been ordered to a pilot, and he talks a bit about his own relationship with the late author.
Of course, there are people kvetching about how this means Martin isn’t working on Winds of Winter, but they were already complaining about that.
Halo moving to Paramount +. Viacom’s been working on a Halo series for a while, and it was originally slated to debut on Showtime. That’s now changing: it’ll move over to the company’s streaming service formerly known as CBS All Access, Paramount +.
That makes a lot of sense to me: Showtime is an expensive add-on, and CBS All Access is already the home to another big science fiction franchise, Star Trek. It’s a little funny, considering how diametrically opposed the two franchises are: but hey, you might as well use it a) to capture new subscribers, and b) give Halo a bigger audience that can watch it a bit more easily, especially given how many subscription services are out there.
That shift means that the series is going to be bumped back to 2022, so we’ll have a bit longer to wait, but I’ll be excited to see it when it comes out. The games are some of my favorites (Well, Halo, Halo: Reach, Halo: ODST, and Halo 4 are, the rest are meh, but that’s an argument for another day.) Delaying also means that the series will come after the upcoming Halo: Infinite, which was delayed to later this fall, and which promises a bit of a reboot for the series.
- Lost finale. Vulture has an oral history about Lost’s finale, and it’s an in-depth look into how that divisive episode came to be, along with some interesting insights into the creative process. I’ve been contemplating watching the series again, so this might be the right moment.
New Liu. Ken Liu has a bunch of updates in the latest edition of his own newsletter: he’s got a new novella out on Audible called The Armies of Those I Love, noted that there’s a new film coming out in Japan based on a story of his (no plans on a US release as far as I can tell), and a shoutout to a post I wrote for Tor about some casting updates for AMC’s series based on his stories, Pantheon.
I listened to The Armies of Those I Love on the ride home yesterday, and generally enjoyed it — hopefully, there’ll be a print version out at some point.
- Return to District 10. On Twitter, Neill Blomkamp made a cool announcement: he and his wife/writing partner Terri Tatchell, and actor Sharlto Copley are working on a screenplay for a sequel to his science fiction film District 9. I’m excited to hear that he’s starting work on the project — he told me a couple of years ago when I interviewed him that a return to that world is something that he’s wanted to do for a while — and the original film left open quite a few possibilities for a future installment.
RIP Cinefex. This is a bummer: Cinefex Magazine, an industry publication about cinematic visual and special effects, has announced that its next issue, #172, is its last, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which made it hard to sell issues because retailers were forced to close and advertisers pulled their budgets.
Cinefex @cinefexNOWAfter 41 years of publication, we at #CinefexNOW are sad to report that Cinefex 172, just off the presses, will be our final issue. Many thanks to all our loyal fans.
February 23rd 2021555 Retweets1,745 Likes
Hopefully, it’ll be resurrected in some form when things get better: I have to imagine that an industry publication like itself will leave a big hole for professionals and film critics.
#SnyderCut. HBO Max will debut Zack Snyder’s Justice League in a couple of weeks, and the publicity has begun. Anthony Breznican has an in-depth profile of Snyder and his rise and downfall at WarnerMedia when it came to the DCEU, and it’s an interesting bit of behind-the-scenes drama.
Snyder became a big name with his film 300 and Watchman, and that eventually led him to Warner Bros. as it began to stand up its own DC film franchise with Man of Steel. I’ve never been a huge fan of his stuff — it looks pretty though — and I think there’s a good case to be made for why the DCEU didn’t take off in the same way that Marvel did: his vision just didn’t click with audiences in the same way Christopher Nolan’s Batman films did.
That said, this should be an interesting experiment for HBO Max, given the furor around this particular release. Breznican’s an excellent film journalist, and this is an evenhanded take on what went down, and it’s pretty tragic, given Snyder’s loss and how his version was mangled by Joss Whedon. I’ve only seen Justice League once, and it was pretty bad. Maybe this version will still be out there, but at least it’ll be his?
- Spotify + Audiobooks. A while ago, word broke that Spotify was hiring a head of audiobooks (I wrote about it a while ago here), and back in January, the company has rolled out its first offerings with a total of nine books. Notably, all are in the public domain, but read by some well-known voices. That gets them around buying rights to stream books, but presumably, they’ll dip their toes into that water at some point, now that Audible has done so. Streaming will likely bring some interesting wrinkles with contracts that they’ll have to work around and negotiate, but as they’re growing and building out new content, it would be a good thing for them to go into: people will listen for longer, and if you can simply sign up for an all-you-can-listen-to model with any number of books, that seems like a good thing for authors. I imagine that they’ll do what Audible has done, and develop their own original content as well.
- Spotify + Superheroes. Speaking of, Spotify this week announced that it were expanding its slate of DC podcasts, with heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman, which’ll follow a Batman series that it already announced last year. Companies like Marvel and DC are content companies, and licensing out their properties in mediums like podcasts seems like a no-brainer, given the popularity of the medium.
That said, there hasn’t really been a breakout hit just yet. That doesn’t mean that it’ll happen, but it’s far from a sure thing. Spotify seems content to keep testing, and maybe they’ll figure something interesting out with it.
- Superman redux. And speaking of DC Comics, word broke today that there’s another Superman film in the works. And before you roll your eyes, look at who they’re bringing in to write the film: Ta-Nehisi Coates. He’s well-known for his commentary on race in America, and has considerable experience with comics — what I’ve read of his run on Black Panther is really fantastic. Social commentary is well within his wheelhouse, and if this moves forward, I’ll be really interested in seeing how this ends up.
That’s it for this week. Next week: I’ve got the March book list in the works for Monday with a crop of exciting new reads to check out, as well as a couple of other pieces that I’m putting together for subscribers.
I do have a favor to ask: if you’ve enjoyed this newsletter thus far, and you’re amenable to it, would you be willing to signal boost this to folks on your social media channels with an encouragement to check it out? I’ve found that the best way to get more people to see it is by word of mouth.
I hear frequently from folks that they enjoy it, and I’d love to get it before a wide audience. Thank you in advance — and thank you to the folks who’ve retweeted or otherwise spread the word. It’s much appreciated.
As always, thanks for reading, and I hope that you’ve had a good week — let me know what you’ve been reading!