Tolkien, Marvel, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, repeat

Well, I think it’s finally happening to me: Franchise burnout. I am really not that impressed with HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon,” and Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” prequel series “The Rings of Power” isn’t blowing me away either. And I’m not eagerly anticipating the new Star Wars series “Andor” (Disney+). I feel like I should want to watch all the new offerings from these popular sci-fi and fantasy franchises but honestly, I kind of just don’t care.

I doubt I would have even bothered with the Targaryens or the saga of Tolkien’s elves if it had not been for my husband convincing me to watch with him. Is it just me? Maybe I’m just tired in general. It’s a balmy 110 degrees where I live and it’s draining my will to do much of anything lately, much less care about Westeros or Middle-earth.

I’m happy to see there’s more diversity than I expected from these two series but both shows are still leaning white and blond, especially (most of) the lead characters. I guess they get points for including actors of different ethnicities, even if they are mostly peripheral characters? (I have read that some people are having a problem with any people of color in these shows, which I find confusing and sad.)

There is more diversity than I expected from these series but there’s still a lot of blond going on. Above, Galadriel from “The Rings of Power”; left, Rhaenyra from “House of the Dragon.”

Another issue I have with these series is that the events took place years before the original series. We already know how “Game of Thrones” ended – who cares what happened 200 years before that? (And let’s face it – the end of “Game of Thrones” sucked, which doesn’t help.)

We also already know what happened in “Lord of the Rings.” Do we really need to know what happened thousands of years before Frodo and Sam went to Mordor?

It seems a bit crazy to me that Amazon paid $250 million(!) for the rights to these stories, and they’re based mostly on appendices!

I realize they are banking on the name to draw viewers, but I would have been more interested in seeing something new. I think the post-apocalyptic Koli trilogy by M. R. Carey would be a fantastic miniseries, if they had the right writers and actors attached.

I would also love to see Charlie Jane Anders’ novel “All the Birds in the Sky” adapted to a movie or series. Her YA novel “Victories Greater Than Death” was picked up by Amazon Prime last year and is being developed by Michael B. Jordan’s production company Outlier Society. Hopefully they’ll do a good job with that so we’ll see more of her stories on the big and small screen.

Don’t get me wrong – “Dragon” and “Rings” aren’t really bad, just sort of boring. I guess it isn’t fair to judge them already since they’ve only released a couple episodes; maybe they are just getting warmed up. After all, “The Expanse” was confusing and boring at first, but it turned out to be awesome. So we’ll see.

“Andor” isn’t out yet. It was supposed to premiere on Aug. 31 but I assume its new release date, Sept. 21, is due to Disney+ not wanting it to compete against “Dragon” and “Rings.”

I hate to say this as a Star Wars fan, but why should we care about a prequel to “Rogue One,” which itself was a (boring) prequel? Having said that, I will probably still watch it. It’s Star Wars! (See, that’s how they get you.) Speaking of Disney, there’s another new Marvel series that just started: “She-Hulk,” which looked incredibly ridiculous in the trailer and actually is sort of ridiculous but is also kind of funny, and not as awful as I expected.

I like that it breaks the “fourth wall” and is sort of tongue-in-cheek, and of course Tatiana Maslany is super talented and adorable, which almost makes up for the silliness and the bad CGI.

That’s all for now. Tune in next time when I hopefully will have changed all my opinions on the aforementioned series because they dramatically improved halfway through!

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Anders’ novel optioned for series; plus news & reviews

In cool sci-fi news: I recently read that open-uri20190219-15-r061tbSony Pictures Television has optioned Charlie Jane Anders’ book, “The City in the Middle of the Night,” for series development, with Sharon Hall, who is also an executive producer on “The Expanse.”

I’m super excited about this because Charlie Jane Anders is awesome, and because I love “The Expanse,” so I’ve got my fingers crossed that the adaptation is as cool as the novel, which is set in the future, on the tidally locked planet of January. Because one side is always facing the sun (like our moon), one side of the planet is always dark and cold, and the other is always light and hot. The inhabitants (descendants of humans who fled Earth) live in the strip of dusk between the light and dark sides of the planet.

The main character, Sophie, lives in Xiosphant, an authoritarian city with mandated sleeping hours and curfews. When she gets in trouble with the law, she is thrown into the dark and cold night, and left for dead. But she survives, and is changed by her experience.  There is a lot of crazy stuff going on; I couldn’t put it down. If you like dystopian sci-fi, check it out.

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Charlie Jane Anders

I also read and loved Anders’ other works, her novel “All the Birds in the Sky,” and her short story collection “Six Months, Three Days, Five Others.” You can read my review here:

https://earthtoshawna.com/2018/12/21/short-and-sweet-anders-six-months-and-saunders-fox-8/

No word yet on when we will see the new series. In the meantime, Anders is working on the adaptation of one of my favorite comics, Brian K. Vaughan’s “Y: The Last Man.”

The Vertigo comic centers on Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand. A plague has wiped out every other male mammal, and as far as Yorick knows, he’s the last man on Earth. The series is expected to premiere on FX next year.

Carnival Row

Oh “Carnival Row,” I had such high hopes for you! The Amazon Prime series is about fairies and other mythological creatures forced to flee their homelands to (some version of) Victorian-era London.

I do love cutie pie Orlando Bloom but watching him in his role as a detective is about as thrilling as watching paint dry, and he doesn’t have much chemistry with his love interest, played by Cara Delevingne as adorable fairy Vignette. I’m not sure who was in charge of casting but I suspect the series would be more steamy if they’d found a couple with a little more heat between them. (Is it just me?)

Vignette and Philo phone in the fairy romance on “Carnival Row.”

Don’t get me wrong; I did enjoy the premise of the show (despite the fact that it seems to have stolen Saga’s horns and wings) and it held my interest enough that I wanted to keep watching. There is a lot of mystery, political intrigue and multiple subplots, some of which are really interesting and others which are sort of meh. The big finale was not super satisfying but it seems to have set up a potentially better storyline for Season 2, so I’m still in. 

 The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE

The 1982 film charmed and terrified me when it came out in theaters. (I was 7.) The Netflix prequel series is also charming – and very dark. I guess Netflix is banking on nostalgia. The comical yet smarmy pleading of the chamberlain is here, as is the adorable dog-like creature (known as Fizzgig in the original). I like the Gelfling and Podling puppets. The new series is appealing for those of us who miss Jim Henson’s lovable Muppets.

It’s as true to the original as any  ’80s kid could want, but there’s a lot of emphasis on the “dark” in Dark Crystal. I’m sure this would be hard to avoid in any prequel series, though, as we know from the film that Jen and Kira were the last of their kind – and we know why.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is a little disheartened by the creepiness and oppressive nature of the series. But I am trying to hang in there; I’m only a few episodes in, and I’m reserving final judgment until I’ve seen all 10. Stay tuned.

“Do you think I look Skeksi?”

The Boys

I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away by this Amazon Prime series, based on a comic book. For starters, the story – superheroes as villains – has been done before, in “Watchmen.” But “The Boys” is different enough that it still seems original, and I loved it. It’s (very) grisly, but it’s a binge-worthy thrill ride.

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Jack Quaid and Karl Urban are Hughie Campbell and Billy Butcher, two of the titular “boys,” enemies of the superheroes who turn out to not be so super.

mark-your-calendar-clipart-48 “Ad Astra” opens this weekend. Brad Pitt plays an astronaut who searches for his father in the outer edges of the solar system.

The TV series “Mr. Robot” will return for its fourth and final season on Oct. 6 (USA Network).

“Gemini Man” comes out Oct. 11. Will Smith plays an assassin who is forced to fight a younger clone of himself.

Two sequels will be released Oct. 18: “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” and “Zombieland: Double Tap.”

The new season of the sci-fi series “The Expanse” will air on Amazon Prime on Dec. 13.

And last but not least: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” will be in theaters on Dec. 20.

Credits: “The City in the Middle of the Night,” by Charlie Jane Anders, Tor Books; “Carnival Row,” Amazon Prime, “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance,” Netflix; “The Boys,” Amazon Prime.

 

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Short & sweet: Anders’ ‘Six Months’ and Saunders’ ‘Fox 8’

Have you ever wondered if the human race was created by aliens? Have you ever wondered what you would do if you were the last person on Earth, or what you would wish for if you found a genie in a bottle? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel through time or predict the future?

Well, Charlie Jane Anders has, and her short stories are imaginative and fun to read. Like her novel “All the Birds in the Sky” (which I reviewed a few months ago), this book of short stories, “Six Months, Three Days, Five Others,” is original, fresh, funny sci-fi.

The last story in the book, a side story to “All the Birds in the Sky,” is about a couple who are given a cat by a stranger who tells them it will give them nine years of good luck. (It took me a while to realize it had some of the same characters from Anders’ novel, but when I did, it was like getting bonus features at the end of a great movie.)

Because it’s so rare for me to find short stories I enjoy, and also rare to find original and accessible, readable sci-fi, I wanted to know more about this author. Anders’ bio is an entertaining read.

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Charlie Jane Anders

The pink-haired author’s Amazon profile says she’s the only person to be “a fictional character in a Star Trek novel and in one of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books.”

She co-edited a book called “She’s Such a Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology, and Other Nerdy Stuff,” she organizes Writers With Drinks, and she has put on wacky fund-raising events like a Ballerina Pie Fight. She has won a bunch of awards, including a Hugo for this story collection, and a Nebula for “All the Birds in the Sky.”

Fox 8

Another great book I read recently is George Saunders’ “Fox 8,” a short tale about a fox who learns how to speak the language of “Yumans” by listening at the window of a mother reading bedtime stories to her children.

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 One of Chelsea Cardinal’s sweet illustrations in “Fox 8.” 

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George Saunders

Now you may be wondering, why is this fairy tale-sounding book on a sci-fi blog? And I’ll tell you: Because talking animals aren’t real- they’re fantasy. And I like talking animals. Let’s not get bogged down by technicalities.

It’s a really beautiful book, which is maybe a strange thing to say about a fox who says things like, “Grate Leeder woslike: I have spoken. And something in me woslike: Grate Leeder, bla.”

It is a little bit sad and violent but also funny, and a little bit hopeful too. It’s the first thing I’ve read by the award-winning author (you may have heard of his bestselling novel “Lincoln in the Bardo”), but I’m looking forward to reading more of his books.

These little books would make great last-minute gifts for the (adult) book lover in your life. Merry Christmas!

 

“Six Months, Three Days, Five Others,” Charlie Jane Anders; Tor; October 2017

“Fox 8,” George Saunders; Random House; November 2018

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