Are Audiences Too Lazy to Appreciate ‘Blade Runner 2049’?

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Blade Runner 2049 is something of a miracle—a sequel to a 35-year-old science fiction classic that feels urgent and necessary and which actually improves upon the original in some ways. Writer Sara Lynn Michener is thrilled with the new movie.

“It passed the piss test,” Michener says in Episode 277 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It’s 2 hours and 45 minutes. Both my partner and I had to pee halfway through, and neither of us could go to the bathroom, because we didn’t want to miss any of it.”

Science fiction author Matthew Kressel is a massive fan of the original Blade Runner, and appreciates that the sequel replicates its mood and pacing.

“A lot of today’s Hollywood films don’t have a lot of patience,” he says. “They sort of expect the audience to get bored really quickly, so they’re like, ‘We’ve got to have an explosion every 10 minutes.’”

But the slow pace of Blade Runner 2049 is proving a challenge for many viewers, and so far the movie hasn’t attracted an audience that extends much beyond fans of the original. Michener thinks it’s appropriate that the film, like its predecessor, is a box office disappointment. “They made a sequel to a cult classic,” she says. “It was not designed to work with the Fast & Furious crowd.”

Bestselling author Daniel H. Wilson thinks the movie will pick up steam over time due to its many ambiguities, which compel discussion.

“If your friend hasn’t seen it, well then they damn well better go see it, so that you can talk about it, because I’ve got things I need to talk about,” he says. “That is how this virus spreads.”

Listen to the complete interview with Sara Lynn Michener, Matthew Kressel, and Daniel H. Wilson in Episode 277 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Sara Lynn Michener on Silicon Valley:

“In 2017 the ‘radical visionary’ is a kind of villain and a kind of hero at the same time. Like, we’re not sure whether Elon Musk, for instance, is ever going to go evil. Is he going to just always be altruistic and always be humanistic, or is he at some point going to do something really scary? And so I feel like, especially living in Silicon Valley—you know, the TV show Silicon Valley, I actually can’t stand watching it, because it’s too realistic. It’s not satirical enough to be funny, so it just makes me uncomfortable. … So that’s why when I watched this, when I saw Jared Leto’s character, I was like, this is totally a believable Silicon Valley visionary who’s so caught up in his own way of thinking and his own prejudices that he is a truly terrifying, powerful individual.”

Daniel H. Wilson on AI:

“AI [will] gain the ability to communicate with us like people, to pull those levers of emotion and gesture. … And as human beings, we are completely un-innoculated for this. We have spent maybe 300,000 years—as homo sapiens—interacting via speech and gestures only with human beings. Never in the history of evolution, never in the history of humankind, has there been a moment where we spoke to an artifact in the environment and it spoke back to us. So when that happens, we are going to be completely unable, I think, to defend ourselves, at least for a little while, and that may involve people buying a lot of products because they’re in love—because they’re literally in love—and that scares the shit out of me.”

Sara Lynn Michener on feminism:

“I am not going to be one of those feminists who has a problem with this movie, because I think that the goal of Blade Runner—if it’s going to be true to Blade Runner, which it is, thank goodness—is to show the world as it is. And I think that a lot of feminists have a hard time with that. They had a hard time with it in Game of Thrones, where Game of Thrones is designed to be a very patriarchal society, because it’s reflecting on and talking about patriarchy. Blade Runner is the same. … To me what makes Blade Runner prescient is its bleakness, and I think, as a feminist, I want science fiction to show us a mirror, I don’t want it to break the fourth wall and tell us, ‘Oh by the way, this is bad.’”

Matthew Kressel on dystopias:

“One of the things about the first film that I think is part of the reason it was copied so much is that you have this visual appeal. Even though it’s a dystopia, it’s sexy. There’s something about that world that is appealing. The new film, I do not want to live in that world. … But I like that. I think they really showed that this was a dystopian world 30 years before this film, imagine what happens after that. Things got worse. There’s blizzards all the time, they have to have these giant sea walls to protect them from the water coming in, they have these massive garbage dumps. … It’s gotten so much worse, and kudos to the director and the set designers for not being afraid to take it to that conclusion.”

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Harvey Weinstein is Hollywood’s Silicon Valley Moment

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A few days ago, Chelsea Handler took to Twitter and blew the horn of war. “This is the year of the woman,” she wrote. “From Fox, to Silicon Valley, to Hollywood. We may have lost the election, but it raised sleeping lions.” It was October 8—more than a year after Fox News head Roger Ailes stepped down amidst sexual harassment allegations. A year and a day after then-candidate Donald Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape was released. Three months after Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned amid allegations of ignored sexual harassment complaints within his company 1. Three days after The New York Times published its bombshell exposé uncovering years of sexual harassment allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein—and the very same day he was fired from the studio he had helped found. The lions, it seemed, were awake.

Truth be told, anyone could have written that tweet. But having it be Handler felt right. She’s worked in Hollywood for years, and as her eponymous Netflix show has shown, she knows both Tinsel Town and Silicon Valley well. She was the perfect person to articulate an idea that had been percolating for a while. Harvey Weinstein wasn’t the first person in Hollywood to be accused of sexual misconduct; far from it. Neither were Ailes or the folks at tech companies. But something about them finally facing repercussions has led to a lot of people—survivors and allies alike—being fully fed up.

It took a while to get there, though. As Rachel Maddow pointed out in a segment on her show earlier this week, the rape accusations against Bill Cosby lingered for years; they didn’t start getting widespread attention until comedian Hannibal Buress’ standup routine about them went viral, giving more and more women the courage to come forward. Similarly, in Silicon Valley, Susan Fowler’s blog post about sexist behavior at Uber became a watershed moment for the examination of the treatment of women in tech. In the months since, Google fired James Damore, the author of a sexist anti-diversity memo, women have come forward at other companies to discuss their treatment, and a California state senator has introduced a bill—SB 224—that would update the California civil code to better protect women from sexual harassment in Silicon Valley. Undoubtedly, it’s been a reckoning.

All told, more than a dozen women have come forth with stories about Weinstein’s behavior. What’s been most remarkable, though, is how they’re coming forward. Once the floodgates opened, new stories—and shows of support—started spreading, courtesy of tools Silicon Valley created.

And now, with Harvey Weinstein, that reckoning has come to Hollywood. Obviously, sexist behavior in the industry has been an issue for some time, from the lack of female representation in films and behind the camera to the alleged patterns of behavior from someone like Cosby. (And, lest we forget, Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” comment came from a show called Access Hollywood, captured back in the day when he was “a star.”)

But what has made the story about Weinstein feel so different is the speed and voracity with which his accusers have come forward—and the volume at which they’ve been heard. Just a few days after the Times story, The New Yorker published its own monster investigation that detailed even more allegations against Weinstein, including rape, and that same day the Times published a follow-up piece wherein even more women came forward with tales of misconduct by the producer. (Weinstein has denied the allegations, and said through a spokesperson that he’s seeking counseling. Meanwhile, in the wake of the reports, the New York Police Department has launched a probe into Weinstein.)

If you’re a woman working in the world of entertainment, you may not be particularly shocked about the allegations against Weinstein. But you’re likely surprised at how swiftly people rallied to the side of the women who spoke out, instead of disregarding what they said. All told, more than a dozen women have come forth with stories about Weinstein’s behavior. (I’d give a specific number but it seems to change by the hour.)

What’s been most remarkable, though, is how they’re coming forward. Actress Ashley Judd was amongst the first in the pages of the Times, followed by Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie. Actress/director Asia Argento came forward in the New Yorker piece. But once the floodgates opened, new stories—and shows of support—began to spread, courtesy of tools Silicon Valley created. Cara Delevingne and Kate Beckinsale both shared stories via Instagram. Just yesterday, actress Claire Forlani posted a statement on Twitter saying that she’d been approached by Ronan Farrow, who wrote the New Yorker piece, but had declined to comment since some men around her had advised against it. “You see, nothing happened to me with Harvey,” she wrote. “By that I mean I escaped five times.”

One of the most vocal about Weinstein on social media throughout the aftermath has been actress Rose McGowan, whom the original Times piece identified as having reached a settlement with the producer years ago, following an incident in a hotel during the Sundance Film Festival. Since the story published, she’s taken to Twitter to call for a dissolution of the board of the Weinstein Company, and to call out people in Hollywood who claimed they had no knowledge of Weinstein’s actions.

Early Thursday morning, Twitter suspended McGowan’s account, claiming she had violated the service’s rules. The company later clarified that it was because she had posted a private phone number (probably the one in a screencapped email she’d posted Wednesday). Fair enough, but as half of the internet—including McGowan herself—was all too eager to point out, that was a rich justification coming from a platform that seems to be fine with white supremacist Richard Spencer and doesn’t consider President Trump’s tweets to be harassing. Users even threatened to boycott Twitter today over the actress’ suspension.

Twitter, when explaining its reasoning for the suspension, added it is “proud to empower and support the voices on our platform, especially those that speak truth to power. We stand with the brave women and men who use Twitter to share their stories.” The company, like Facebook, has increasingly come under scrutiny for how it has handled harassment and free speech on its platforms. It hasn’t always done well (just ask Zoë Quinn), but if McGowan and her #RoseArmy show anything, it’s that if women are given a platform to speak out, and are believed, their voices have a shot of being louder than their detractors’.

In a curious twist, Deadline reported earlier this week that there might be a movie in the works about Susan Fowler’s experience’s at Uber. Once upon a time, it could’ve easily been a Weinstein Company movie—but at this moment it’s uncertain what the future of the company looks like. Talking with Maddow in a follow-up segment on her show this week, The New Yorker’s Farrow noted that one of the reasons the women who talked to him came forward was because Weinstein doesn’t wield as much power as he used to. Then he added this: “I actually don’t think this is a Hollywood phenomenon. I don’t think this about Harvey Weinstein, ultimately. I don’t think this is about the film industry, ultimately. The abuse of power is a phenomenon we see over and over again in industry after industry. … [There are] a fusillade of attacks that women face when they speak out and that’s why it’s so brave what they’ve done here.”

Yet, the willingness of sources to speak shows the tides are shifting, the lions are awake, and the powerful—or at least the corrupt among them—are losing their grip. On Wednesday night, Samantha Bee dedicated a full segment to Weinstein on Full Frontal, detailing the reporting on the mogul, as well as conservative media’s attempt to use it to bash left-leaning Hollywood. She ended by noting that sexual harassment is a problem in every industry, not just film. “So listen up creeps of Hollywood: We know who you are,” she concluded. “Women talk to each other, and we talk to journalists, and we talk to lawyers. It’s 2017, and we don’t have to put up with this shit. We are coming for you. Talk to every woman you work with like she has The New York Times on speed-dial. … Talk to every woman like she has me on speed-dial.”

Or, better yet, treat every woman like she has a smartphone—and people who believe her.

1 UPDATE 5:32 ET 10/13/17: This story has been updated to better reflect the fact that Kalanick himself was not the target of any sexual harassment allegations.

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Movies Anywhere Lets You Watch All Your Films in One Place—Finally

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You stocked up on iTunes digital movies a decade ago because it was the only game in town. You’ve got a handful of favorites on Google Play, because at some point you switched to Android. And you stash some classics on Amazon Video, thanks to that one holiday blowout sale you couldn’t resist.

As far as hardships go, having your movie collection sprinkled among a few different digital retailers ranks somewhere below “poured skim instead of half-and-half.” Still, it’s frustrating to have to dig through two or three or four digital shelves to find what you’re in the mood for right now. You also, for the most part, won’t have to anymore, thanks to Movies Anywhere.

The promise of Movies Anywhere is deliciously simple. Once you create an account, any movie you buy from one of five major studios will show up in the app, available on Android, iOS, Roku, and pretty much any other streaming device you can think of.

The promise of Movies Anywhere, which launches right now, is deliciously simple. Once you create an account, any movie you buy from one of the five major studios—Paramount and Lionsgate are holding out, apologies to Transformers fans—will show up in the Movies Anywhere app, available on Android, iOS, Roku, and pretty much any other streaming device you can think of. And before you seize up from a bad flashback to Ultraviolet, the floundering DRM scheme that studios have pushed for years, know that those movies will also all show up automatically in your iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, and Vudu accounts, if you choose to link them.

Not only that, but the service applies retroactively. Meaning that if the movies in your various digital libraries are among the 7,300 available today on Movies Anywhere, they can be in all of your libraries at once. Switching between Amazon and iTunes for whatever reason? It’ll know where you left off.

Technically, Movies Anywhere already existed; Disney launched it three years ago, but only for Disney (or Disney-owned, like Marvel) movies. It also, like so few things in this life, works exactly as advertised; films bought on one platform pop up on all the rest instantly. That reliability comes from Disney’s KeyChest technology, which creates a sort of digital locker for all of your purchases outside of the traditional retail outlets. Think of it like your own personal, movie-only Dropbox bin, which you can tie to your iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, and Vudu accounts.

Or you can just use the Movies Anywhere app, which Movies Anywhere general manager Karin Gilford hopes will become a destination unto itself, not just air traffic control. “It’s feature film-focused,” says Gilford. “Everything from the search, the browsing, it’s all based on that user experience.”

Disney

In other words, it strips away all the clutter that you find in other places: the original series, the streaming options you may or may not care about. If you’re in the mood for just a movie you love enough to already own, the argument goes, Movies Anywhere can get you there better than anything.

There’s no real downside for consumers here; the only question is how many people buy enough digital movies to care that Movies Anywhere exists in the first place.

“I think what they’re doing is just giving consumers more options in the market. Hey, great. There’s consumers who want more options,” says Dan Rayburn, a streaming media analyst with Frost & Sullivan. “Are they providing a service consumers are clamoring for? No, not that I’ve seen.”

The numbers bear that out somewhat. Subscription streaming revenue outpaced digital movie purchases by a factor of three in the first half of 2017, according to the Digital Entertainment Group, an industry organization. Still, those sales are increasing year over year. And Gilford argues that streamlining the buying—and storing—experience can only help.

“Purchase and streaming have always been side by side,” says Gilford. “It’s a formidable revenue stream. Whenever you can improve the consumer experience, you see things.”

That’s especially true if Movies Anywhere manages to win over the two studio holdouts, and adds more retail partners to its stable. It also doesn’t hurt that Movies Anywhere is offering as many as five free movies—Ice Age, last year’s Ghostbusters, Big Hero 6, Jason Bourne, and The Lego Movie—for people who join and link at least two retail accounts.

And even without the freebies, Movies Anywhere gives a certain kind of movie fan—the kind that likes to shop for deals, the kind that hasn’t gone all-in on one ecosystem, or might want to explore another—freedom that was previously unimaginable outside of Disney flicks. It may not save digital movie sales from streaming, but it might just save you some hassle.

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Can a New Political Talk Show Be Relevant Anymore?

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In an early snippet from comedian Sarah Silverman’s new topical series, I Love You, America, her father unwittingly gives the show the perfect logline. “Who gives a shit when the universe came,” he says during a riff on Jews, parenting, and the banality of creationism, “it’s here! What a stupid fucking question.” Silverman herself has described the show, which premieres today on Hulu, as “aggressively dumb.” In contrast to Jon Stewart-era The Daily Show or HBO’s Last Week Tonight, I Love You, America aims to expose our national curiosities by turning issues like mass incarceration and global warming into discussions, not dissertations. “I want people’s defenses to go down so that we can connect,” Silverman told Vulture. “Any political discussion is stuffed in a very bready sandwich of the aggressively silly.”

Through a mix of field pieces and in-studio interviews, Silverman wants to connect “un-like-minded people” and demonstrate just how similar we are by not taking sides, a tough gamble given the current constellation of late night political talk shows happily trafficking in partisan agendas. Speaking about the series, producer Adam McKay said he wants to see the country “get back to a grounded place where we’re not looking at right versus left, but corruption versus honesty.” But will it work?

The polarizing effects of the Trump administration have only heightened the stakes for political talk shows, many of which find themselves at a crossroads. It’s a genre of television that’s no longer as revelatory as it once was. Under the president, the only consistency is the vagary of truth—up is down, and down is, well, a matter of perspective. And while a single-mindedly slanted talk show can run the risk of feeling dogmatic and intellectually deficient, one without a perspective or clear thesis is just as hazardous.

Similar to I Love You, America, Comedy Central’s latest entry in the category, The Opposition with Jordan Klepper, is also trying to navigate that bind, albeit with a decidedly different approach. The show emerges from the shadow of The Colbert Report and operates as a parody of conservative cable news programs; Klepper’s contrarian persona “Jordan Klepper” is a farcical but less combustible version of Alex Jones, the blustering conservative Infowars host and conspiracy theorist.

For years Stephen Colbert was the model avatar for this brand of characterized pundit speak: cantankerous, illogically hilarious, exceedingly confident, and never quick to back down—it was like watching a wittier, more high-brow Bill O’Reilly pick apart the people-first evangelism of liberal DC.

During The Colbert Report’s run, from 2005 to 2014, the hypocrisies that fermented out of Fox News and homogenous conservative media were obvious and embarrassing. President Obama and his dare-to-dream progressivism was an easy target. “Fake news” had yet to become a political buzzword used to discredit even the most reputable media organizations. Facts still held value and the truth was not so easily warped to dangerous ends.

Brad Barket

With Trump’s election, the evils have become much more indistinct—and Klepper wields these incongruities to his advantage. “May you only hear from others what you’ve already been telling yourself,” he trumpeted to his studio audience during the premiere episode. “Jordan Klepper,” like “Stephen Colbert,” is a persona strictly quarantined to television; his views, though, live beyond the medium’s boundaries. They exist in the real world—with real, pernicious ramifications.

Trump has been a great bullhorn in this regard: His presence has fueled a nationalist movement that provides platforms to people like Klepper’s TV counterpart, people who subscribe to culturally monolithic ideologies. But how funny does racism or the partitioning of women’s rights need to be? Must one be reminded of these horrors, night after night? At some point, a joke is no longer worth its consequence.

In one early episode, the matter of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria became a contentious talking point. “When you’re drinking from a creek, it’s not a good news story,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said in a news clip. Providing his own commentary, Klepper then suggested Cruz view the wreckage through the eyes of “someone who has a little bit of distance” from the situation, cuing up a series of tweets from Trump. One referenced local Puerto Rican officials and spewed with his signature flippancy: “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.” With an air of clownish seriousness, Klepper piled on. “Yes, you want everything to be done for you, like some privileged real estate developer’s son,” he prodded. “The president is doing the best he can.”

‘Jordan Klepper,’ like ‘Stephen Colbert,’ is a persona strictly quarantined to television; his views, though, live beyond the medium’s boundaries. They exist in the real world—with real, pernicious ramifications.

The punchline, of course, was that Trump, progeny of a NYC real estate magnate, had not only done little to aide Puerto Rico’s stabilization, but had dismissed Maria’s aftermath next to that of Katrina, which he called “a real catastrophe.” The show’s point was unmissable: it meant to enflame the ironies of untruth, to mock the huckster president and the circus of conservative news that heralds his non-accomplishments. There was just one problem with the segment—none of it was terribly humorous or more imaginatively profound than the penetrating analysis Colbert had perfected years prior.

A talk show is often the victim of its own limits, be it Last Week Tonight’s single-topic framework that drags viewers down a rabbit hole of information or The Daily Show’s “diluted point of view” under Trevor Noah. This is especially true of late-night talk programs like Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Late Night with Seth Meyers, which have veered deeply political in recent months. There’s typically a hit-or-miss opening monologue, condensed guest interviews devoid of real substance, and a closing musical act. It seems less surprising then that in stepping outside of their conventional hosting schtick, both Kimmel and Colbert, this time as himself on CBS’s The Late Show, have struck a chord with Americans, emerging as genuine political firebrands with their raw, humorless commentary on healthcare and gun control.

Public discourse surrounding such thorny issues routinely ends with little policy reform, yet Kimmel has been able to center these discussions with lucidity and compassion. “I just want to, you know, laugh about things every night,” the host said in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting, which claimed 58 lives and left nearly 500 people injured. “But that, it seems to be becoming increasingly difficult lately. It feels like someone has opened a window into Hell.” There was no intended punchline, nor need for an exaggerated carnival act. Kimmel and the undecorated truth was more than enough.

Perhaps, then, this is what Silverman hopes to reveal with I Love You, America—that plain-spoken sincerity from people across our colorful and complicated country can resonate beyond the humor, a kind of antidote for uneasy times.

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‘Valor,’ ‘Seal Team,’ and ‘The Brave’: The Tropes and Triggers of TV’s New Breed of Military Drama

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The opening scene of Shooter, a USA Network drama starring Ryan Phillippe as former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger, could be read as a sort of conservative fable. As with many fables, it begins with the hero encountering an animal in the woods: a wolf whose foot is caught in a trap. Although Swagger initially sees the animal through the sights of his gun, he is moved by its plight and frees its leg, only to be accosted by two bungling, loutish hunters who claim the illegally trapped animal is “theirs.” “Let me guess,” Swagger asks one of weekend warriors, sneering at their cowardice. “Dentist?” When they pull a handgun on him in a moment of machismo, he beats them to the ground and shoots them with tranquilizer darts, asking how they like being hunted when they can’t move.

Like many military dramas, Shooter is half wish-fulfillment and half coping mechanism, an elaborate retelling of a cultural myth that has only grown stronger in an era of perpetual mass shootings: that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Its carefully crafted moments of comeuppance are designed to feed a very specific brand of power fantasy, one where violence is justified—even celebrated—by the moral and physical superiority of its square-jawed hero.

And Shooter, now in its second season, is no lone wolf. Thanks in part to the ascendancy of Trump, the fall season of television features no fewer than three new military dramas that feel painstakingly targeted to red state viewers: Valor, Seal Team, and The Brave. Although each displays its own particular brand of sometimes jingoistic patriotism, all offer insight into the hopes and fears of the conservative male psyche, and how it is torn between lionizing violence and coping with its ruinous effects.

The hero of all four series is, invariably, a white man; his name could be Jason, Adam, Bob Lee or Mike, but he is always a good, God-fearing man. He also has spectacular combat skills, which he deploys both at home and abroad against foes who have little regard for decency and human life. Although spectacular displays of military might in foreign cities are commonplace in these shows, their targets tend to be remarkably free of non-combatants—a convenient narrative, given the thousands of civilian deaths caused by U.S. forces overseas. The heroes of NBC’s The Brave, on the other hand, meticulously ensure that children have cleared the square where they plan to execute a dangerous operation, and then shake their heads gravely when militants murder not just the target they’re hunting but his wife and child, and later drive a suicide bomb onto a beach where children are playing.

(L-R): Neil Brown Jr. as Ray, AJ Buckley as Sonny and David Boreanaz as Jason Hayes in Seal Team.

Erik Voake/CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

While Valor and Shooter don’t entirely avoid the bogeyman of Islamic extremists, they take aim at different fear of Second Amendment-loving gun enthusiasts: the U.S. government itself. Channeling the paranoia of the alt-right—which is often split between deifying the military and distrusting the government—the shows focuses on shadowy conspiracies within intelligence agencies that place average joes in deadly and impossible situations and require them to lethally color outside the lines in order to survive. How else can the overpowered be the underdog? Valor, which premiered on The CW Monday night, focuses on two helicopter pilots who get embroiled in a secret CIA plot that they can only escape by killing a government operative (in self-defense, of course). Shooter goes one step further, as Swagger is framed by deep-state operatives for the assassination of the the Ukrainian president, and is forced to murder his way out of his unjust imprisonment so he can clear his name.

If death must be present—and in stories about guns, it must always be present—then a moral justification must be created that allows our heroes to remain heroes. Their tactics might not be legal or sanctioned by the military, but they are always “right.” When a morally flexible former comrade suggests killing their foes preemptively, Swagger insists that their killing must adhere to the same “code” of self-defense that guided them during war, one that he believes always served the greater good. “Who gets to decide that?” asks his comrade. “Not you and me. It’s always some douchebag that’s 10 levels up with nothing to risk.”

Other shows delve more deeply into the gray areas of modern military combat, particularly Seal Team, the standout series of the bunch. When Senior Chief Petty Officer Jason Hayes (David Boreanaz) and his team are summoned to destroy a Syrian laboratory manufacturing the nerve agent VX, one soldier reminds Hayes that this biological weapon was developed by the American military, which tested it on volunteers in the 1950s before it was outlawed by the Chemical Weapons convention of 1993. “We’re the good guys,” insists Hayes. “We are the good guys, Ray, because we’re not actually using this stuff.” After more than two decades years of the JAG Cinematic Universe (i.e., JAG and NCIS), CBS has polished the formula to a high sheen: moral purity with extended clips.

Despite a low-key disdain for liberal politics—targets of skepticism include “microaggressions,” women who won’t let men buy them drinks and at least one joke about how fears of extremists are “racist”—the military teams we see studiously include women and minorities. Tolerance is a hallmark of a Good Guy, and so these heroes are tolerant, even as the larger ethos of the shows raises an eyebrow at progressive movements. The Brave in particular makes a pointed, clumsy effort to be inclusive, as soldiers announce apropos of nothing that they accept their Muslim colleagues: “Show me a man who believes in something greater, that’s a man I’ll fight beside.” When a female sniper tells her superior that he’s the first commanding officer to look at her and not see a woman first, he sympathetically answers that that “I may not see it, but I don’t forget it. Because I know that getting here was harder for you than I’ll ever understand.” Female soldiers are depicted as competent and fierce, though this doesn’t stop civilian women from serving as perpetual damsels in distress.

(L-R): Matt Barr as Gallo and Christina Ochoa as Nora in Valor.

Quantrell Colbert/The CW Network, LLC.

Valor offers a particularly confused blend of patriotism, female empowerment and sexiness. We meet our hero, Captain Leland Gallo (Matt Barr), in bed—being straddled by an attractive blonde, whom he enlists in an orgasmic call and response of the Army cheer “HOO-AH.” The show also makes a particular effort to show off the curves of its glammed-up helicopter pilot Nora Madani (Christina Ochoa), who veers from listening to a speech about not giving the brass reasons to question the presence of female soldiers to a steamy, rule-breaking hookup with her commanding officer.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of these shows is the way they orbit around American gun culture itself. The latest season of Shooter opens with a mass shooting at a Silver Star Award ceremony packed with Marines; Swagger, naturally, responds the way so many gun enthusiasts want to imagine they would in these crises and yet so rarely can: by picking up a weapon and taking the bad guys out. There’s a horrible and uniquely American irony in this bit of wish fulfillment theater, especially given that Shooter’s premiere was delayed in 2016 not once, but twice: first by a mass shooting in Dallas on July 7 by an Army veteran who killed five police officers, and again on July 17 by a shooting of Baton Rouge police that killed three.

To be fair, this is not a series that has made any secret of its politics; it is a show literally called Shooter with a hero literally called Swagger, and has always embraced gun culture as the solution to gun violence. Its civilian characters routinely open carry; in one scene, after Swagger enters a church and pulls a gun on a former comrade who betrayed him, the priest intercedes and Swagger apologizes for packing heat in the Lord’s house. “Guns?” chuckles the priest. “This is Texas. I see plenty of guns in church.”

Like so many of its peers, Shooter is a parade of gun violence, from the endless headshots of its Afghanistan flashbacks to its contemporary depictions of terrorist attacks and mass shootings. Although Swagger is retired, he continues to behave like an active duty soldier, picking off his foes with impunity on American soil. For a certain brand of gun enthusiast this is the best of both worlds, a fantasy that combines the honor and sanctioned violence of military service with the cowboy mentality of the lone gunslinger.

But rather than unnerving, his vigilante killings feel disturbingly routine after watching him kill dozens of men through the scope of his sniper rifle; spend too much time in a country where bullets are flying and bodies are dropping, and death begins to feel almost normal. Tragically, it’s a description that feels increasingly like it could apply to America as well.

When one soldier in The Brave says that the “bleeding hearts” need to learn that it’s too dangerous to save people in war-torn countries, another insists that “God gave us two hands for a reason”: one to help ourselves and one to help lift up others. “I got better uses for mine,” the first soldier replies. She holds up her gun like a talisman, as though it will ward off the violence that will surely follow, and never, ever stop.

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12 Horror Movies You Can Stream Right Now, From ‘Carrie’ to ‘The Shining’

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Whether or not the horror genre is a regular part of your film-watching diet, it’s hard to make it through the Halloween season without being forced to sit through at least one blood-soaked movie marathon. So if you’re going to have to endure a few hours perched on the edge of your seat, you’d better make sure to get some genuine scares out of it. So brace yourselves: Here are the best horror movies you can find on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.

Carrie (1976)

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) may not have much to say when she’s being pelted with tampons by her gym classmates or locked into a tiny closet by her loony mom so that the gawky teen can repent for her sins, but don’t embarrass this girl in front of a crowd. Sure, she may look like she could be toppled over by a light wind, but when Carrie gets angry, her telekinetic powers come out—and that’s when all hell breaks loose. More than 40 years after its original release, Brian De Palma’s big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel, about a misfit teen who gets the ultimate revenge on the high school students who have made her life a living hell, still manages to resonate—even if you know what’s coming next.

Where to stream it: Amazon

The Shining (1980)

Stephen King may be the literary world’s reigning master of horror, but when it comes to horror movies, he may need to have his head examined. Since its release in 1980, King has made no secret of his disdain for Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel, The Shining, about a young family—dad/writer Jack (Jack Nicholson), meek mom Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and psychic son Danny (Danny Lloyd)—that retreats to an otherwise abandoned hotel for the winter to serve as caretakers so that Jack can write the great American novel. In 1983, King told Playboy that he had, “admired Kubrick for a long time and had great expectations for the project,” but that he “was deeply disappointed in the end result. Parts of the film are chilling, charged with a relentlessly claustrophobic terror, but others fell flat.” He also said that, “Jack Nicholson, though a fine actor, was all wrong for the part.” With all due respect to King, we have to disagree … with every single part of that assessment. Yes, the movie deviates from King’s writing, but what audiences are left with is a powerful journey into one man’s madness, and the horror that isolation can wreak on its victims.

Where to stream it: Netflix

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne), two young Americans backpacking through England, are attacked by a werewolf. Weeks later, David wakes up in a London hospital, and ultimately receives a visit from Jack’s ghost with a warning: If he doesn’t kill himself before the next full moon, he’ll start racking up a body count of his own. Creepy and hilarious—and thanks to creature creator Rick Baker, who won an Oscar for the film, the scene in which David transforms into a werewolf still stands as one of the most impressive displays of special effects ever created for the big screen.

Where to stream it: Hulu, Amazon

The Evil Dead (1981)

Sam Raimi was barely old enough to buy a case of beer when he turned the “attractive youngsters in a cabin in the woods” trope on its head and launched his beloved franchise. Originally shot as Within the Woods, a 1978 short (also starring Raimi’s childhood friend, Bruce Campbell) that helped the director raise money for a feature, The Evil Dead managed to mix horror, comedy, and the supernatural into one uproariously entertaining feature. Five college students, including Ash (Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker), rent a cabin in the middle of nowhere, only to discover a basement full of creepy artifacts belonging to the archaeologist who once owned the place. Among the goodies is the Necronomicon, aka The Book of the Dead, which is … well, you can imagine. Look out, kids!

Where to stream it: Amazon

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick’s microbudget found-footage phenom proved that creativity can trump money and an A-list cast of actors every time. Three film students head off into the woods (where else?) to investigate The Blair Witch, a local legend believed to haunt the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland. The wannabe documentarians, of course, think that the stories are a hoax—until they find themselves stranded in said woods. While The Blair Witch Project didn’t invent the found-footage subgenre, it certainly created a trend—and after it duped moviegoers into believing that the footage was real, it spawned a legacy of viral marketing campaigns that haunts horror to this very day.

Where to stream it: Amazon

High Tension (2003)

Before Hollywood roped him into directing big-budget remakes of The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha, Alexandre Aja was at the forefront of the “New French Extremity” movement (aka “torture porn”). Gal pals Marie and Alex are headed to the country house of Alex’s parents for the weekend in order to do some cramming for school. After a friendly family dinner, everyone goes to bed … until a serial killer comes knocking, and drives off with Marie and Alex in his truck. From there, things just get stranger, and somehow more violent. For those who like their horror movies like a Trump steak—well done and grisly—it all adds up to a satisfying experience. (But bad dubbing.)

Where to stream it: Hulu

The Host (2006)

When South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho imagined what would happen if Seoul’s Han River was polluted with formaldehyde, the answer was simple: the birth of an enormous sea monster with a healthy appetite for human flesh. Expertly crafted, the movie has plenty of scares, but is balanced out with a truly funny script (co-written by Joon-ho, Jun-won Ha, and Chul-hyun Baek) that sees one dysfunctional family doing all it can to remain together amidst the chaos engulfing their city. The film became the highest-grossing movie of all time in South Korea, and held tight to that title for a full eight years.

Where to stream it: Netflix, Hulu

Let the Right One In (2008)

Not to be confused with the 2010 US remake Let Me In, the Swedish film stands out among 2008’s blood-soaked sea of vampire productions (True Blood, Twilight, and more) because it treats its bloodsucker angle as secondary. The character-driven drama is really about the relationship that grows between bullied Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) and his mysterious neighbor Eli (Lina Leandersson), two tweens who share a sense of isolation—and a desire to kill. Its angsty, sweet tale of two outsiders who find a place within each other adds up to one fiercely compelling film.

Where to stream it: Amazon

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Joss Whedon produced and co-wrote this meta-horror film, the new millennium’s answer to Scream. The title alone tells you the setup: a group of college students (including Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth) are looking to blow off some steam, so they head to the most remote cabin they can find. They meet some townies along the way who try and warn them off continuing on the trip, but nope. Cue a rapid succession of horror movie tropes, each one with a knowing wink—and all for a much greater purpose. To say much more would give away too much, but we will say this: always bet on the merman.

Where to stream it: Amazon

The Babadook (2014)

There’s been much talk about the dearth of female directors working today, and Jennifer Kent—who wrote and directed this Australian gem—is just one example of why we need more of them. Just as Kathyrn Bigelow has done in the action realm, Kent offers a slightly different take on the horror genre with this story of a struggling widow who thinks that the monster in her six-year-old son’s pop-up storybook might be real. In the hands of another filmmaker, The Babadook could have been a cheap-thrills-filled one-note story. But Kent and her stars—Essie Davis as Amelia and Noah Wiseman as her son, Sam—turn this into a deeply moving psychological thriller, where grief is the real villain.

Where to stream it: Amazon, Netflix

It Follows (2014)

A prime example of the current wave of smart, terrifying independent horror. It starts out simply enough: Jay (Maika Monroe) and her new boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary) see a movie, then get freaky in a car. Emphasis on freaky: Hugh’s post-coital moves include knocking Jay out with chloroform, tying her to a wheelchair, and informing her that he’s “infected” her with a supernatural spirit that will follow her around until it kills her or she passes it on. While some have reduced the story to a cautionary tale about unsafe sex, that doesn’t give enough credit to writer/director David Robert Mitchell—or to Monroe, who subverts the genre’s “final girl” archetype in some fascinating, counterintuitive ways.

Where to stream it: Amazon, Netflix

The Invitation (2015)

After two years without any contact, Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his new girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) are invited to a dinner party in the Hollywood Hills thrown by his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband, who she met through a grief support group following the death of Will and Eden’s son. The nostalgia is thick, but something seems off to Will; as the night progresses, so does his paranoia. The tension, palpable to begin with, only builds as the movie progresses. You know something’s going to happen, and sort of know what it might be, but a great script and cast—plus perfectly nuanced direction by Karyn Kusama—keep you guessing all along.

Where to stream it: Amazon, Netflix

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At Oculus Connect, VR Progress Is a Game of Inches

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Mark Zuckerberg didn’t waste much time when he walked onstage at the San Jose Convention Center on Wednesday morning to deliver the first keynote address at Oculus Connect, the virtual-reality company’s developer conference. “The future is built by the people who believe it can be better,” he said, announcing that he and his team “want to get a billion people in virtual reality.” That statement didn’t come with a deadline, as Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash (relievedly) pointed out in a later keynote, but it did underscore that Zuckerberg—as he has since Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014—sees VR as the way to future-proof Facebook’s cultural ubiquity.

Until those billion people get into headsets, though, the company seems to be doing its best to make VR easier to use—and as persistent as possible once you’re using it.

Oculus

Since Oculus Connect’s inaugural 2014 edition, the conference has evolved to be an amalgam of horn-tooting, community-thanking, and just-you-waiting. Most of all, though, it’s become a testament to the power of the step, rather than the leap. Companies like Apple and Google may release new hardware every year, but Oculus doesn’t have that luxury; a year and a half into the life of the Rift headset, the company presumably has at least another year before announcing a next generation. So instead, Oculus Connect celebrates incremental improvements to the experiences users have, rather than the devices they use to have them.

Since Oculus Connect’s inaugural 2014 edition, the conference has evolved to be an amalgam of horn-tooting, community-thanking, and just-you-waiting. Most of all, though, it’s become a testament to the power of the step, rather than the leap.

That’s not to say that there was no hardware talk. More details emerged around two “standalone” headsets, which strike a compromise between smartphone-powered mobile VR and higher-quality (and –cost) PC-tethered headsets like the Rift. The Oculus Go, Zuckerberg announced, would essentially be a self-contained mobile headset for $199, available early next year: no phone necessary, no snaking cables, but also no positional tracking, which allows users to move in space. The company also gave an encouraging progress report on Project Santa Cruz, a more powerful standalone headset prototype that uses embedded outward-facing sensors to enable positional tracking. (Earlier this year Google announced similar headsets for its Daydream platform, supposedly coming before the end of 2017, but release dates haven’t been confirmed.)

Oculus Go

Oculus

But for the most part, this morning’s parade of speakers followed a now-familiar script: It’s going great, guys! Jason Rubin, Oculus’ VP of content, trumpeted the robustness of the Oculus Store (2,000 apps launched in the last year!), the three Emmy awards Oculus experiences have won, and the fact that game studio Respawn (Titanfall) would be making a first-person shooter for the company. Facebook’s head of social VR, Rachel Franklin, ran down a list of minor updates to Spaces, the company’s VR app. (None of them, unfortunately, included “preventing Mark Zuckerberg from inappropriately high-fiving people inside a 360-degree video of post-Maria Puerto Rico during a Facebook Live VR stream,” as the CEO did earlier this week.) Everything, it seems, will be getting better—or at least staying good.

The most interesting news, by far, though, emphasized usability and connection over everything else. Zuckerberg himself revealed Facebook Venues, a VR project that would allow people to gather for live events. Oculus product manager Christina Womack showed off new avatars that will be coming to Oculus; their mouths will move to match a user’s words, their eyes will follow interesting objects. And those avatars will receive ground-up safety tools, allowing users to block people not just in one app, but at a platform level. “For VR to thrive,” she said, “people need to feel safe.”

The most interesting news, by far, though, emphasized usability and connection over everything else.

Oculus and Facebook still operate as distinct entities, each working on its own platform; Nate Mitchell, Oculus’ VP of product, announced a number of updates to the Oculus platform that make it familiar to anyone with a videogame console. A new carousel-style popup dock called Dash will follow users everywhere, allowing them to jump from app to app, accept friend invites, or check notifications without retreating back to the hub of Oculus Home. For its own part, Home is becoming much more customizable: Users can create their own space with furniture, toys, and art; they can visit their friends’ Home; and in a nice (if oddly skeuomorphic) touch, all their games now appear in Home as old-school game cartridges that can be launched from inside the hub.

Those are bells and whistles, though; they may help make VR more frictionless, but they don’t help make VR a viable alternative to conventional computing. However, Mitchell also announced that an upcoming update will let people use their desktop apps inside VR, pinning conventional monitor windows as 3D overlays on any VR experience or environment. “Your workspace is infinite,” Mitchell said. “We’re now on a path to replacing traditional monitors entirely.”

Oculus

Sound boring? It shouldn’t. The more reasons you can give someone not just to try VR, but to use VR, the better. A vision of task-management paradise is just as valid as one in which you and your friends hang out together at a concert from four different states. VR right now is a game of steady progress, not moonshots. And in a year with no earthshaking news, it’s helpful to remind developers (and, by proxy, consumers) about how bright the future is—even if the present feels like those billion users are impossibly far away.

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Why the Internet Is Freaking Out Over the Porgs in the ‘Last Jedi’ Trailer

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R2-D2. Ewoks. BB-8. With nearly every addition to the Star Wars film franchise, there has been some new creature or droid that has delighted audiences and found its way onto lunchboxes and pajama bottoms. Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be no different. This time around, though, the fandom’s obsession with the movie’s creature du jour is already in full swing long before the flick hits theaters.

Mere moments after The Last Jedi’s new trailer (above) dropped last night, it started: porg mania. The little creature—a Furby-esque species native to the world where Rey and Luke Skywalker met at the end of The Force Awakens—only shows up for about a second in the new trailer, but its singular cry from the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon was all it took. Soon, tweets, memes, and fan art were everywhere. There was no escaping its giant saucer eyes and frantically flapping wings.

This reaction was by design. Much like the studio did with BB-8 before Force Awakens, Lucasfilm has been touting porgs as the New Cute Thing for a few months now. It started back in July when a D23 behind-the-scenes video a showed the little bugger in development. That was quickly followed by a piece on StarWars.com that touted “We know only one truth: We love porgs” and offered up a full explanation of their cuteness from Lucasfilm story group’s Pablo Hidalgo. “Porgs are native to Ahch-To,” he explained. “In many ways, they’re the Star Wars version of puffins. They build nests. They can fly. Their babies are called porglets. You fall into those deep, soulful eyes. I think a lot of people are going to want a porg as a pet.”

The porgåsbord continued with Lucasfilm announcing upcoming porg toys, Tumblr filling up with fan tributes, and director Rian Johnson talking about how a group of porgs is called “a murder” (like crows). By last night, folks were so invested in them they were sliding into Johnson’s mentions with frustrations that the director had gotten a Twitter hastag avatar for his name while one didn’t exist for the poor little guy. The embrace of porgs has not been universal, though. Some are already dismissing the creatures as a marketing ploy, and wondering if they’re destined to be the new Ewoks—creatures that divide Star Wars fans for years to come.

That nerd war has yet to be fought, however, and we won’t know the outcome until after Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters on December 15. In the meantime, let’s join the internet in celebrating the pug-like puffins while they’re still cute.

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That Flag-Burning Seattle Seahawks Photo Isn’t Fake News. It’s a Meme

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Last Thursday, a member of the Facebook page “Vets for Trump” posted a photo of Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett. In it, Bennett—one of several professional football players who has remained seated during the national anthem at games—dances in a locker room, gleefully holding a tattered American flag. The caption read, “#Seattleseahawks – no more NFL.” The photo was fake, but that didn’t seem to matter; within a day, it had racked up more than 10,000 shares, likes, and comments from furious people all over the country. “Maybe he’ll burn his damn leg off,” one woman wrote, “for sure he’ll burn in hell.”

There are plenty of signs the image is Photoshopped. For one, the pixelated flames look like Bennett actually is burning his left leg off. His right hand appears weirdly small and misshapen. There’s no smoke; the fire sprinklers aren’t going off. Sure, people quickly scrolling through Facebook might not notice this stuff and think it’s real—but even when other commenters pointed out the obvious fallacies, others insisted the photo was still fundamentally true. “Fake or not, when they take the knee it’s the same difference,” one man said.

So, what makes this clearly ‘shopped photo so powerful? Simple. It’s a meme in disguise.

Memes cannibalize existing source material everyone knows in order to tap into ideas or sentiments people connect with. Someone takes a photo, GIF, or drawing and alters it with words, Photoshop, or other images to send a message. That message resonates with other people, who spread it around and adapt it. Often it’s a joke; the Leonardo DiCaprio cheerily strolling through bizarre situations, say, or Kermit the frog giving into his darkest desires via a hooded version of himself. Other times, it’s more political, like the photo of New Jersey governor Chris Christie man-spreading on a beach he closed to the public over 4th of July weekend. Instantly, people began Photoshopping Christie into all sorts of off-limits scenarios, from the Abraham Lincoln’s lap to the Enterprise’s control room.

“They tap into high-arousal emotions, like disgust or anger. That helps them spread,” says Benjamin Lyons, communications expert and postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Politics at the University of Exeter. “And because by nature they’re so reductionist and binary, they tend to draw in those types of reactions.”

It’s impossible to know the intentions behind the Bennett photo, but it’s built exactly like a meme. The creator appropriated an obscure photo of a post-game victory dance—taken by Seahawks photographer Rod Mar nearly two years ago—and altered it. But the manipulation didn’t suss out a meaning that was already there; it created it. Michael Bennett sitting during the national anthem, the photo is saying, is equivalent to Michael Bennett burning the American flag. The event never happened, but that doesn’t matter. The inside implication is still true.

“That resonance ended up being truer to them than the actual facts of the case,” says Ryan Milner, a meme expert at the College of Charleston. “They shared it because it was a representation of what they think about NFL players. So when the facts go against that, they can just go back to what originally resonated.”

This hybrid of fake news meme isn’t necessarily new—a digitally altered photo of a shark swimming down a flooded city street gets passed around every hurricane season. But its power is only becoming more sinister as it gets harder to know what’s real. At best, people may get tired puzzling out the truth. At worse, they might stop worrying about it altogether. “In that way, it’s an exemplar of a new normal,” Milner says.

The problem is no longer just fake photos. It’s the fact people don’t care they’re not real.

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Aliens Would Probably Love Science Fiction

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Charles Yu is the author of the critically-acclaimed novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, and he also helped write the first season of the hit HBO series Westworld. His latest project is the anthology The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, which he co-edited with John Joseph Adams.

“This is something that I’ve always dreamed of doing,” Yu says in Episode 275 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I’ve always liked the Best American series, and to do it in the science fiction and fantasy space just seemed great.”

One thing that impressed him about the book is how many of the stories imagine technological advances that might actually happen. For example, Greg Van Eekhout’s story “On the Fringes of the Fractal” features the idea of “smart pants”—adjustable pants that automatically shift with the latest fashion trends.

“The government could use this book for ideas, for things that they should be developing,” Yu says. “Like someone somewhere at the Pentagon is like, ‘Oh yeah we need smart pants,’ so they’re just getting to work on it now.”

Yu also contributed an introduction to the book, which spins out a science fiction scenario involving parallel worlds and a fictional version of Yu himself. “Given the state of the country and the current administration,” he says, “it seems that we’re either in some kind of forking, branching path where we’ve gone down the wrong one and we need to figure out how to get ourselves out—which will probably involve aliens or some higher-dimensional beings—or we’re in a simulation.”

Yu is hopeful that if humanity is ever judged by super-advanced aliens, books like The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy will demonstrate that we have more potential as a species than it might seem.

“It’s really kind of a document about civilization as it is and as a bunch of really smart, creative people think it should or could be,” he says.

Listen to the complete interview with Charles Yu and John Joseph Adams in Episode 275 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Charles Yu on being a Westworld writer:

“I’ve written a lot of stories that play in that space of some kind of manufactured reality, so I liked the idea of a workplace where the output is to create a reality for paying customers. I also like to read stuff on my own about AI, and I tried to bring some of the philosophy and thinking about consciousness into the room, and hopefully it was useful. If nothing else, it often had the effect of derailing useful conversations that the TV writers were having. So that was probably my main contribution, was to bring everything to a screeching halt with my ridiculous, highfalutin ideas about consciousness. They were usually like, ‘Oh that’s great, but how do we show that on TV?’ And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, right.’”

John Joseph Adams on “The Venus Effect” by Joseph Allen Hill:

“This is one of my favorite things I’ve ever published. … But when it first came out, nobody paid any attention to it, and I was like, ‘No! Everyone’s missing the boat on this,’ and I was trying to flog it as much as I could, to make people realize that it was this really special thing. It didn’t get nominated for the Hugo, but after the Hugo winners were announced, they release the long list where you can see how many nominations something got, and I was pleased to see it actually did get a lot of nominations—about 50 nominations—so I was glad to see that at least. Then I started second-guessing myself—’Oh, I shouldn’t have published it in December, I should have saved it for early the next year.’ But that’s just part of the publishing game.”

Charles Yu on writing his short story “Fable”:

“I wrote that story, actually, using technology. I wrote it in the car, mostly using dictation—which is probably kind of dangerous, because dictation works fine, most of the time, but often I was finding that as I was writing it, it was sometimes turning out sentences that were gobbledygook, and so I would then have to try to remember what I actually said. So sometimes I would be editing on the road—I don’t know if I can be retroactively given a ticket for doing this—but sometimes I would be editing the story on my phone. I basically wrote the first draft while driving back and forth to work, which at that time was the writers’ room for Westworld, and it was a story that just came out one day, which was fun.”

John Joseph Adams on supporting good science fiction:

“The fact that they’re still using the Nielsen model to measure viewership, that makes me crazy. There’s got to be a better way at this point. So it just goes to show how much, as a fan, you really need to get out there and really, really support the things that you love as much as you can, because even if you just watch it every week or whatever, your viewer number might not even be counted. So that’s where the engagement comes into play. You’ve got to get out there and talk about it, or find out the ways that do get counted. … This same sort of thinking applies to books, it applies to magazines. I see people a lot of times talk about how, ‘I’m not going to read that series until it’s finished.’ Well that’s going to make sure the series is never finished, because a publisher won’t continue a book series if everybody just waits until seven books get published to buy it.”

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