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‘Dune: Part Two’ Is a Religious Experience

‘Dune: Part Two’ Is a Religious Experience

The new movie Dune: Part Two, directed by Denis Villeneuve, adapts the second half of Frank Herbert’s classic novel Dune. Science fiction author Matthew Kressel was blown away by the film’s breathtaking visuals.

“I was on the edge of my seat for the whole movie,” Kressel says in Episode 563 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen.”

TV writer Andrea Kail, a lifelong Dune fan, calls Dune: Part Two a perfect movie. “It was like a religious experience,” she says. “Genuinely. It was awe-inspiring, the way you feel in church if you’re very religious.”

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley loved Dune: Part Two, but warns that Dune purists might need to adjust their expectations. “This movie seems like basically a rewrite of the book,” he says. “So many of the scenes I don’t think are in the book—I don’t remember them. So many things are changed pretty dramatically. They’re basically 99-100 percent good changes in my opinion, but it seems like they made pretty dramatic changes to the material compared to the first movie.”

Science fiction author Rajan Khanna had mixed feelings about Dune: Part Two, but is glad that it’s helping to create more Dune fans. “It’s exciting to have certain things enter the modern vernacular that I’ve had in my head for a long time, stuff about spice and sandworms and things,” he says. “I’m happy to see stuff like this succeed. Stuff that we love finally finding an audience and being done well is always great.”

Listen to the complete interview with Matthew Kressel, Andrea Kail, and Rajan Khanna in Episode 563 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Rajan Khanna on Dune vs. Dune: Part Two:

The first film had to set up a lot of the language, especially if you’re not used to Dune, how the world works, how the technology works, the shields and all that. They were very careful in the first film to show how the shields worked and the red meant that something was penetrating. So I think in this film they got to be like, “You saw the first film, you know how it works, now we can just unload it on you,” and I think that worked to its benefit for sure.

Andrea Kail on Paul Atreides and Chani:

In the book it’s more like, “Oh, he dreams about her and it’s destiny,” but we don’t see them actually falling in love. I don’t feel it. In this we see the love story, we see why they fall in love, and it’s sweet and it’s quiet and it’s real. I understand why they love each other. That’s one of the parts where I was crying, that dune scene where he’s telling her about the seas on Caladan, how you swim in the water, and the scene where she teaches him how to sandwalk. It was like watching two kids dancing. It was so beautiful. I was just tearing up.

Matthew Kressel on sandworms:

The earlier adaptations, the Lynch version and the Syfy version, when they ride the worms I’m like, “OK, that looks difficult. It’s like a rock wall in a gym. It looks really hard but I could probably do it.” In this movie, I’m like, “No way.” Just the speed of it and the enormity of it. How do they even see where they’re going? There’s so much sand blowing around. I just thought that was so cool, and the final battle scene where they’re riding the worms into battle and they’re flying the Atreides banner, and you’re like, “Holy cow.” I got chills from that.

David Barr Kirtley on film audiences:

The fact that this seems to have been embraced so fervently by a mass audience just to me is such an encouraging sign that you can make a big budget, serious science fiction movie, and not have to dumb it down, and not have to make it a “crowd pleaser.” So I think people have maybe not been giving audiences enough credit, that people will go to see this sort of movie, even if it’s three hours long and has a downer ending and everything, if it’s good. So that’s just another reason I love this movie and the phenomenon of this movie.


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‘For All Mankind’ Deserves 7 Seasons

‘For All Mankind’ Deserves 7 Seasons

The Apple TV+ series For All Mankind is an alternate history story in which the Soviet Union beats the United States to the moon, leading to a greatly intensified space race. Screenwriter Rafael Jordan was excited to see another science fiction show from Ronald D. Moore, creator of the hit series Battlestar Galactica.

“I’ve been saying for two or three years that this is probably the best show on TV, and it’s not the first time we’ve said that about a Ron Moore show,” Jordan says in Episode 556 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley thinks that For All Mankind will appeal to a wider audience than most outer space shows, since its first season revolves around the familiar and relatable world of the Apollo program. “It starts off with this fairly realistic world of the ’70s, so if you’re someone who’s put off by super science fiction stuff, it kind of eases you into it,” he says. “And then by the time you’re hooked, then the fusion reactors and all that kind of stuff starts coming in.”

For All Mankind also features top-notch dialogue and characterization. Writer Sara Lynn Michener thinks the show will appeal to anyone who likes the knotty domestic drama of shows like Mad Men. “Very few characters, if any, ever feel like they’re just there to provide filler and there to provide something else for the main characters,” she says. “Every time you think that you’re going to write them off as some sort of caricature, you’re wrong, and they’re going to come back around and be real again in a new way, in a refreshing way, and I absolutely love that about this show.”

For All Mankind is currently airing its fourth season, out of a planned seven. Lightspeed magazine editor John Joseph Adams hopes the show becomes one of the rare science fiction series to last that long. “I think this is one of the best science fiction shows probably ever, certainly the best alternate history show,” he says. “Everybody watch it and get your friends to watch it, because we’ve got to get those seven seasons.”

Listen to the complete interview with Rafael Jordan, Sara Lynn Michener, and John Joseph Adams in Episode 556 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Rafael Jordan on alternate history:

For once my background as a musician ties into this, and there’s really nothing they can do about this, but as the timelines start to diverge from reality, they use a lot of specific songs from certain years to create the mood. And I dig that, but also those songs wouldn’t exist any more. They would be different. “Come As You Are” by Nirvana. That song wouldn’t exist in this new timeline. It would be slightly different, because music is a reflection of the times and culture. … In the perfect version of this show they would have had the extra money to hire bands to make fake songs in the style of the times.

John Joseph Adams on the Season 2 finale:

What they figure out is that they can basically cover every inch of them with duct tape. So they basically make spacesuits out of duct tape, because that’s what they have, and they have some kind of face masks that they can put on them. And they explain in excruciating detail, “Any bit of your skin that’s exposed is just going to balloon.” It sounds completely awful, and you can see the angst on their faces as it’s explained what’s going to happen to them. And they have 15 seconds to get from where they are to this control panel on the outside, and it’s so intense. It’s just incredible.

David Barr Kirtley on astronaut Garrett Reisman:

Ron Moore calls [Garrett Reisman] and says, “I have an idea I’d like to bounce off you.” So they meet up, and Ron Moore says, “I’m thinking about doing a show about NASA in the ’70s, or maybe make it an alternate history thing, where we start off that way but then it diverges from actual history. One or the other.” And Garrett Reisman says, “Well, when I was in Russia I saw their lander”—their lunar lander that they built that they never used. And he’s like, “Most people don’t realize how close the Russians actually came to beating us to the moon.” And so they started talking about, “Whoa, what if that had happened? Then this would have happened, and this would have happened.” So that’s where the show’s origin was.

Sara Lynn Michener on Apple TV+:

I remember being very worried when this show came out, because I was literally pleading with people to watch it. Because I desperately wanted it to have all of the seasons, and I had read somewhere that they have a whole planned seven-season arc. And I want to see every bit of it. So I remember when it came out I was just like, “Why am I the only person talking about this show?” … I think Apple TV+ is smart enough to look at the long game and say, “Hey, if we finish this show, we can keep making money off of it in perpetuity,” and that is such a smarter way of doing stuff like this, because they’re aware shows go through ebbs and flows of popularity.


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‘The Beast Adjoins’ Is Seriously Creepy Sci-Fi

‘The Beast Adjoins’ Is Seriously Creepy Sci-Fi

The new anthology The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2021 collects 20 of the best short stories of the year. Series editor John Joseph Adams was particularly impressed with Ted Kosmatka’s story “The Beast Adjoins,” which presents a fresh take on the idea of an AI uprising.

“It’s so great,” Adams says in Episode 492 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It pushes all the sense-of-wonder buttons; it’s got all this cool character stuff in there. It feels enormous. There’s so much going on in the story. I just love it.”

The story riffs on the Von Neumann-Wigner interpretation of quantum mechanics, positing a future in which advanced AIs are unable to function without humans present. Guest editor Veronica Roth, author of Divergent, found the story extremely creepy. “I reached the part where the machines were using people attached to the front of themselves to keep time moving, and I was like, ‘This is revolting. I love it,’” she says. “It has haunted me ever since I read it. I can’t stop thinking about it.”

Fantasy author Yohanca Delgado agrees that “The Beast Adjoins” is an unsettling story. “It’s such a beautifully realized and chilling premise, this reversal of what we imagine AI can do for us,” she says. “There’s a passage where [the AIs] are creating human tail lights—humans in jars that are just an eye and a blob of flesh. It’s such incredibly horrific writing. I’m a huge fan.”

For now “The Beast Adjoins” exists only as a stand-alone short story, but Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley wonders if the story could be expanded. “I just feel like this is such an interesting premise—these AIs that can only function when humans are observing them,” he says. “I feel like there are probably a lot of other narratives you could spin out of that.”

Listen to the complete interview with John Joseph Adams, Veronica Roth, and Yohanca Delgado in Episode 492 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Yohanca Delgado on the Clarion workshop:

“At Clarion I skipped a week, and was just rocking back and forth in a panic in my room, because I was like, ‘I have to write something. I have this idea, and I can’t seem to write something else, but I also feel—you know that feeling when you want to write something, but you’re not quite ready? Like, you don’t feel like you’re the writer you need to be to tackle it yet … And the schedule at Clarion is relentless. I’d already missed a week, I couldn’t miss another one. I talked to Andy Duncan, who is a wonderful human, and basically he was like, ‘I don’t understand why you’re not just doing this.’ Which is sometimes what you need to hear. You need somebody to shake you by the shoulders and tell you, ‘Just go do it.’”

Yohanca Delgado on her story “Our Language”:

“My family is from the Dominican Republic and Cuba. I didn’t know of any Latin American or Caribbean monsters, so I set off on this research project to find them … The ciguapa is this woman—there are some stories that have it be male as well, but I was interested more specifically in the idea of it being a woman—who is very small and charming, in a feral way, and whose legs grow backwards. I found that to be a really interesting monster to think about. What would her powers be? What does it all mean? In researching this, I found that it’s really rooted in indigenous and enslaved folks’ stories. Because her real superpower was being able to escape. And I thought that dovetailed really beautifully with some conversations around gender and gender oppression.”

John Joseph Adams on the pandemic:

“Most people who are publishing a science fiction/fantasy magazine are not doing it as a job—it’s a side thing that they’re doing. They have some other regular job that pays the bills. So maybe because they were saving an hour commute to and from work every day, they had more time to work on their [magazines]. I honestly would have expected there to be a lot more closing up and ceasing publication, just because a lot of people lost their jobs once the pandemic hit, and there was just a lot of belt-tightening that was needed for almost everyone. So I was really surprised to see that everyone was so resilient. Maybe it was partly because everyone was thinking, ‘People need this right now.’ So it was more important to stick around, rather than close up, because we need this to look forward to when we’re dealing with all this scary bleakness out in the real world.”

David Barr Kirtley on “The Pill” by Meg Elison:

“One way in which this story is science fiction, in a really good way, is it doesn’t just present an idea then stick with that static situation, it keeps complicating it and keeps introducing these new twists … One of the things that is often said about science fiction is that a science fiction writer’s job isn’t to predict the automobile—anyone could predict the automobile. Your job is to predict the Interstate Highway System and the suburbs, to look at the second-order effects of these technological changes. And I thought the story functioned really well in that way as a science fiction story, where it’s not just about ‘How does this new technology affect the protagonist?’—though it certainly goes into that—but also ‘How does it affect the wider society?’”


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David Cronenberg Is the Master of Grotesque Sci-Fi

David Cronenberg Is the Master of Grotesque Sci-Fi

David Cronenberg has directed more than 20 feature films in a wide variety of genres, but he remains best known for provocative ’80s sci-fi films like The Fly and Videodrome. Humor writer Tom Gerencer is a lifelong fan of Cronenberg’s artistic vision.

“He is an absolute genius, and he has merged that with an absolute mastery of craft,” Gerencer says in Episode 533 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “Often you see one or the other. You see someone who’s very workmanlike and can produce a good movie, or you see someone who is a genius and is just all over the place, and there are good ones and bad ones. But he is both, and that’s rare.”

Science fiction author Matthew Kressel loves the way that Cronenberg films like Videodrome and Existenz blur the line between biology and technology. “Even though he’s talking about technology, often the technology is not what we think of as technology,” Kressel says. “We don’t see computers and flashing lights. Oftentimes it’s biological, or just sort of in the background, which I thought was very interesting. You don’t really see that take in a lot of film and TV and media.”

Cronenberg has worked with many of Hollywood’s top actors, including Michael Ironside, Jeff Goldblum, and Viggo Mortensen. TV writer Andrea Kail particularly enjoyed James Woods as sleazy TV producer Max Renn in Videodrome. “A lot of Cronenberg’s genius is in his casting,” she says. “He casts the perfect people for his roles. James Woods is perfect for that role. He looks sleazy, he acts sleazy. He’s the perfect person for that, that fast-talking, sleazy grifter who allows the story to get the better of him.”

Person pushing their face through a TV screen with human lips on the screen

Cronenberg’s most recent project is Crimes of the Future, a jaw-dropping exploration of sadomasochism and body modification. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley wasn’t a fan of the film, but he still admires Cronenberg for taking risks. “There are so few science fiction movies that come out now that aren’t franchises and that aren’t tentpole blockbusters and that make serious points and have artistic vision and are original, and this movie is definitely all of those things,” he says. “I wasn’t crazy about it, but you have to respect someone who has an artistic vision and doesn’t just want to put out formulaic films.”

Listen to the complete interview with Tom Gerencer, Matthew Kressel, and Andrea Kail in Episode 553 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Tom Gerencer on Scanners:

It’s absolutely a classic. I was in sixth grade when this came out. Everybody in my junior high was talking about it, everybody was quoting it. Everybody was saying, “I’m going to suck your brain dry.” I had not seen that until later. My friend Greg showed me that scene and I was like, “Holy crap, that is horrifying.” And the scene where the guy’s head explodes, everybody talked about that for years—for years and years and years. And still, to this day, if I think of the word “scanners,” even if I’m thinking of something that has nothing to do with the movie, I will picture that guy’s head blowing up.

Matthew Kressel on The Fly:

The transition of Seth Brundle—Jeff Goldblum’s character—from this nerdy, confident-but-kind-of-shy guy who is clearly attracted to this woman to this insane, murderous fly creature, it was so gradual and perfect. … I had forgotten a lot of the body horror, like where he vomits on the guy’s hand and it dissolves or the arm wrestling in the bar, where he breaks the guy’s arm and the bone pops out. I was like, “Oh right, I forgot about that!” The body horror was, of course, grotesque, but somehow it managed to do it in a way that didn’t feel superfluous or gratuitous. It just felt like it worked with the story.

Andrea Kail on Existenz:

My first thought when [Jennifer Jason Leigh] walks in and everybody claps was, “Oh, a roomful of men clapping for a woman game designer. That is science fiction.” But I really enjoyed it. The story itself hung together really well for me, and I liked the world they create and the dynamic between the two characters. This was the first movie in this series where I actually gagged. The scene where he eats the food in the Chinese restaurant was horrific. And then the NPCs and how they move, when they’re waiting for the dialog. I just really enjoyed this one. I kind of put everything down and really watched it.

David Barr Kirtley on Crimes of the Future:

The idea of people adapting themselves to eat toxic waste is a cool idea. I don’t know if David Cronenberg ever read Paolo Bacigalupi, but it sort of reminds me of Paolo Bacigalupi’s story “The People of Sand and Slag,” which is one of my favorite science fiction short stories. So I think that’s a cool idea, and there were some striking images in here. There’s a scene where Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux are embracing nude while this autodoc kind of machine is cutting at them. I thought that was a cool image. And then there’s this artist who sews his eyes and mouth shut and covers his body in ears and does an interpretive dance, and I thought that was a cool image. So there were things like that in the movie that I liked.


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‘Majority’ Imagines Internet Hate Mobs to the Extreme

‘Majority’ Imagines Internet Hate Mobs to the Extreme

Abby Goldsmith’s science fiction novel Majority tells the story of a group of young people from Earth who get abducted by the Torth, a galaxy-spanning civilization ruled by merciless telepaths.

“There’s a galactic empire, and these people are all neurally, superluminally connected,” Goldsmith says in Episode 550 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “They can communicate instantaneously, and they vote on everything. It’s mob rule taken to an extreme.”

The Torth mentally surveil each other at all times, competing to build audiences of “orbiters,” and summary execution awaits any Torth who goes against public opinion. Parallels between Torth society and the internet are obvious. “Here in the information age, in the social media age, we all see more and more what’s happening,” Goldsmith says. “Social media’s not the best for mental health. We see dogpiles online and that sort of thing.”

Goldsmith has been working on Majority and its sequels since the early 2000s. She says that even back then she had a bad feeling about the direction of internet culture. “I had a friend in high school, and we would get on AOL chat, and she would just lie to people, straight up fool them,” Goldsmith says. “She’d be really manipulative, and I would watch her do that. It was very easy for her to sucker people in. And I was like, ‘Wow, lying is going to be a thing.’”

She hopes her books will serve as a warning about the dangers of social media. “We’re just at the beginning of, I think, an age of this, so I really wanted to explore that and take it to its logical conclusion,” she says. “Mob rule, where everyone votes on everything, we don’t even have that yet in our world. But I think it’s going to come. I think we’re going to see it at some point.”

Listen to the complete interview with Abby Goldsmith in Episode 550 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Abby Goldsmith on emotions:

[The Torth] don’t want intense emotions in their society, so they’ve outlawed that, and by extension a lot of friendliness, that sort of thing, is just out the window. So love doesn’t exist. … I think in science fiction there’s always been kind of a vibe that emotions are bad, and having family and having friends is terrible, like with the Jedi Knights. To be a good Jedi Knight you should reject family and friends, basically. And with Vulcans, it’s like, “Oh, we don’t have sex or relationships. Maybe once every seven years we have an orgy, and that’s it.” And that’s supposed to be a good thing? So I was always like, “Eh, I don’t see that leading anywhere good, personally.”

Abby Goldsmith on the film industry:

I wrote to Disney as a 15-year-old, “How can I work for you?” They sent back a list of all the colleges I should go to, and I was like, “All right, number one on the list is CalArts. I’m going there.” … The year before I graduated there was a job fair, and I got an offer from LucasArts, and they were like, “We’ll pay you $50,000 a year to start, and you can work on the new Star Wars films.” And I was like, “Nah, I’m going to finish my schooling because I’m sure it’ll be easy to get a job, no problem.” And then the very next year Disney laid off 800 feature film animators, and the industry was flooded with those people. So students like me didn’t have a chance. It was pretty ridiculous.

Abby Goldsmith on the Torth series:

Having the whole series prewritten I think in a lot of ways is a superpower. I’ve noticed Michael J. Sullivan with his Riyria series, he did that as well, and the series he wrote is very cohesive for that reason. I think a lot of series authors, they start to meander or lose the thread if they are publishing as they go. You see that a lot with series authors. It’ll dwindle into stats or melee battles, or they’ll just not finish the series, or they’ll end it with a giant, tragic accident where everyone dies. … With the supergenius [characters], I was able to go back and make sure that those supergeniuses were on top of things. So they do come across as smart. They always know what’s about to happen.

Abby Goldsmith on Royal Road vs. Wattpad:

I relaunched the entire series on Royal Road, and part of the reason is that Wattpad has kind of lost a lot of the discoverability features that made it so great. I still had the same readership, but nobody new was coming in. And I’ve heard that from a lot of Wattpad authors as well. People that had a million reads on their series were unable to get anyone to notice their next book. And meanwhile I’m hearing all kinds of crazy stories from Royal Road of authors who would gain a million fans overnight. I knew writers that were earning a full-time living on Patreon from advance chapters from Royal Road. So I was like, “I absolutely have to try Royal Road. It’s no question.”


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