The Full Lid
28th February 2020

Hello there! Welcome to The Full Lid. Every week around 5 on Friday, Lid readers will get a full scale pop culture download of everything I found interesting, or weird, or on occasion delicious, during the week.

Our interstitials for Women in Horror month this issue are all directors. Now, before we get to the contents, Mr. Curry, could you let our readers know where we're spending our time this week?
Thank you, sir!

Contents

New Model Astronauts
Boldly Going
Department of Received Esoteric Printed Goods
Signal Boost
The Good Stuff
Headventures
The Full Lid+ Update
Signing Off, Playing Out

New Model Astronauts

Five years ago, I wrote a piece about Interstellar and the death of the astronaut myth. This year, re-watching a bunch of space movies for work purposes, I found myself revisiting not just Interstellar and that piece but the idea of the astronaut myth itself.

The three guys up there embody it. Fred Haise, Jack Swigert and Jim Lovell, played with three different types of brilliance by the late Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon and Tom Hanks, were the crew of Apollo 13. Trapped in an ailing spaceship and with no choice but to slingshot around the Moon before coming home, the three men were the tip of an exhausted, blunted, terrified spear. The whole of NASA, it seemed, rose up to solve problems and keep them alive. It worked too, and Apollo 13 is far more synonymous now with successful problem solving than near tragedy. That's because everyone involve worked the problem in front of them, solved issues as a team and embodied the astronaut myth to a tee. Modest, softly spoken, brilliant, relentless. White. Male.

I'm not criticizing them, or the people who brought them home, or Ron Howard's movie about the incident. That's on the re-watch list too and it will wreck me just as it always does at one specific moment. Gene Kranz, the crewcut pitbull of a flight director played by Ed Harris, is the engine of the movie. He does not stop moving, thinking or talking until he knows for sure the crew are safe. Then, in a moment that got Harris an Oscar in a kinder world, he sits down and we see a week's worth of terror and care hit him all at once. Or you do, because by that time I've become a living snot bubble.

These are amazing humans, that's undeniable. But what's also undeniable is how fiction has moved the astronaut on, even as history has dawdled.
There is a lot to recommend Interstellar. It's Matthew Mcconaughey's best work by some margiin, TARS and CASE the robots are brilliant and the film treats space travel as something akin to cthonic horror. Everything is vast and wants to kill you. Or it would if it could sense something so insignificant.

That's rarely more true than with Doctor Amelia Brand. Played with similar Oscar-worthy intelligence by Anne Hathaway, Brand burns so brightly with her belief in the myth you could read by it. Almost her first line is 'We're NASA', delivered the way Clarice Starling says 'FBI'. There's power behind it, the weight of the myth lined up behind this brilliant, driven woman who is going to help save us even if it takes everything.

And it does. Brand loses almost every colleague, every friend, the trust she has in her father and is left with nothing but the mission. The last time this happened, as we see in the film, it drove the astronaut mad. Doctor Mann, played with excellently judged self-righteousness by Matt Damon, is an empty spacesuit. He just wants to survive and tells himself the mission is the most important thing, even as he dooms it. Brand, by contrast, wants nothing more than to be reunited with her partner, Doctor Edmunds. After sacrificing everything to reach his world, she discovers he's been killed.

And does the job anyway. 

This, and later when we see Coop and TARS steal a Ranger to come find her, is what the astronaut myth has evolved into at this point: an individual at peace with being out on their own, but acutely aware of how they need other people and what happens when those connections are taken away. 

There is absolutely a reading of Interstellar that says the movie punishes Brand for daring to feel. I disagree with it, but I see it. I also see her as using the astronaut myth less as something she wears on her chest, and more as a shield, a shelter. She buries Edmunds and gets back to work because that's what astronauts do. Serve as a living foundation for others to build on. 

And speaking of Mr. Damon...
Mark Watney, lead character of The Martian, takes Coop and Brand's hard won individuality and grows a beard around it while quoting maritime law. Watney is Damon at his likable shlubby best, a man whose easy Bostonian charm and clear intellect endears him to his crew mates but does nothing to stop the accident that leaves him behind on Mars.

How he survives, and what he does, tells us everything about the astronaut at this stage in western fiction. Watney, to use his phrase, sciences the shit out of the red planet: growing food, rationing what he has and working out a grueling but effective way to get off world. He continually adapts, continually survives and he has no manner of luck at all. The cthonic horror of Interstellar is dustier but no less present here and some of the movie's best moments are it's quietest and bleakest. A grief stricken Watney in his frost-burnt nursery. Watney cowering in bed from a terrifying Martian sandstorm, the weight of his solitude on the planet pressing down harder than the wind ever could.

But two things speak to Watney as an evolution of the astronaut myth. The first is the very real consequences of what happened to him. The film's epilogue shows us where the characters are a few years down the line. Watney's crew, with an exception or two, have retired or been grounded and are watching the launch the same way a retired athlete watches a championship game: excited, envious, terrified. No one gets a free ride, even when it involves saving someone's life and that untidiness is a welcome and emotionally nuanced touch for this kind of story.

It also speaks to what Watney's doing: teaching astronaut candidates how to survive. This is a man who has gone to the literal edge of human endurance and is acutely aware of how many people he owes his life to. He pays that debt back the smartest way he can, by teaching others to survive. And never leaving the planet again. The astronaut has come home and, instead of finding somewhere else to excel, has decided to help others get where he's been. Coop, Brand and TARS would be proud.
As we enter the second decade of the 21st century it seems entirely appropriate that astronauts, now, are less pathfinders and more community builders. The steely eyed missile men of the past are just that, of the past and with the new eyes the new century offers us we can see them in a different light even as we build their successors. First Man did this with great success for Neil Armstrong. Ad Astra did it with far less success, for me at least, even as it handed Brad Pitt one of the best roles he's had in years.

But it's in prose where we're really starting to see these changes take effect. Mary Robinette Kowal's The Calculating Stars is the start of an intensely complex and methodical re-imagining of the space race as one for global survival, with no time for the barriers of sexism and race. The first two books, and various short stories, are out now and I'd encourage you to read them.

Likewise David Wellington's The Last Astronaut explores the cost of human loss and the collapse of crewed spaceflight even as first contact begins to take place.  Elsewhere, novels like Katie Khan's Hold Back The Stars and Temi Oh's Do You Dream of Terra-Two? use astronauts and space travel as a canvas to explore memory, bereavement and hope. In every case the astronauts are a clear evolution of the men of the Apollo program and those who came before. In every case the astronauts are diverse, different, unique and human.

These stories and so many others have put us inside the heads of these extraordinary people and shown us perhaps the last things we expected: the familiar and the exceptional. Familiar in that these character types are totemic, almost elemental. Exceptional in that, even under the suit, the training, the mission and the danger, they're us. Human. Fragile. Brilliant.
Women in Horror Month Spotlight: Directors

Karyn Kusama is one of those directors whose entire body of work is worth your time. Girlfight -- Michelle Rodriguez's breakout role -- is astoundingly complex and nuanced, shifting genre depending on where you stand. Destroyer, her recent sun-bleached LA noir, is one of the best movies I've seen this century and The Invitation, trailed above, is just one of her numerous, always fruitful, excursions into horror.

The Invitation, XX, and Destroyer are all currently on Netflix UK and various other streaming sites and physical media.


New reader? Find The Full Lid archive here.
Follow this link to Boldly Go to my ko-fi.

 

Boldly Going

The funny thing about the passage of time is you don't notice it passing. When I was first putting this piece together, there was a joke at the top about how presumably anyone who thinks Picard isn’t Star Trek because it’s ‘too dark’ had never seen Deep Space Nine. It’s not there anymore because I checked the dates.
 
Deep Space Nine ended 21 years ago
Voyager ended 19 years ago
Enterprise ended 15 years ago

Or to put it another way, someone born the year DS9 ended could vote, drink, drive, marry and leave school in the UK. Likewise Voyager. And anyone who was born the year Enterprise ended? Definitely looks old enough to sneak into 18 certificate movies.

Not that that’s... ANYWAY moving on. 

The point is that Star Trek has been away so long it’s become remembered as the very thing it never actually was: an idealized myth. We don’t remember it, we remember what it felt like, what it tasted like. Emotional impressions are malleable, so even that is ultimately unreliable. Meaning Star Trek as it was, and Star Trek as it was remembered, are two very different things and now occupy a position wherein a lot of fans are completely unwilling to accept the two are equally valid.

Star Trek has never, ever not been political. It’s fiction. Fiction holds a mirror up to nature as one of the last great fictional spymasters once said. It gives you a close-up look at something you couldn’t articulate without it. It’s the glove box within which we handle the difficult, fissile, necessary stuff. It’s a tool to understand and remake the world and that tool changes based on our perceptions, skills and background which are in turn influenced by the political climate of the day. Skunk Anansie really weren’t kidding, everything’s political.

The original Star Trek explored Vietnam, the Cold War and on the big screen the horrifying folly of playing god. The animated series explores the emotional weight of losing a pet. TNG deals with trans rights (albeit accidentally as the brilliant linked video explains), workplace pressures and single parenthood.
DS9’s entire back four years is an extended examination of the moral and physical impacts of war on culture and soldier alike, as well as one of the best explorations of PTSD ever committed to film.

Editor's note: Not to mention birthed the modern serialized season arc format. Don't miss the brilliant DS9 documentary, "What We Left Behind".

Arguably Voyager’s finest hour is about the distortion of facts through the lens of history. Arguably it’s second finest hour is a deep dive into whether the EMH is an individual or an asset. Enterprise has an entire season dedicated to the emotional weight and psychological processing demanded by the 9/11 attacks.

Even the TNG movies do it for god’s sake. Insurrection especially is essentially two hours of the Federation going “Well... YES... technically we are the baddies here but...hey look a pigeon!’. Trek hasn’t just always been political, it’s always run headlong at political threads of the day yelling ‘Let me contextualize you!’

So what’s changed? Us. Or more specifically, our position in time. So much so in fact that it’s almost impossible to not see horror in some of the reactions to Picard. To borrow a line from the other best SF series out there at the moment, some folks seem to be looking around for the adult in the room and realizing to their abject horror, it’s them.

I have nothing but sympathy. Actually that’s a clever lie, I have sympathy and a plan and the plan is to lean into it. Make your peace with eating your cerebral and cultural greens as well as the fun stuff and in doing so, be prepared for your perspective to shift and shift drastically. Genre fiction has always liked the future but loved the past and that’s never more apparent than when a show like Picard launches. The push me pull you of nostalgia versus cultural dialogue is a feverishly strong force and it’s easy to be carried away by it.

But you don’t want that, and we both know it.

You want two things and the first is easy. You want to watch literally any previous Trek? It’s a click away these days for most people. From terrible lumps of orange plastic to young Tom Hardy playing Jean Luc PcEvil (and the worst alien mind rape subplot ever. Which is a LOW ASS bar I'll grant you), all the Past Trek you could want is right there. Likewise, pick up anything by James Swallow, Una McCormack or David Mack for starters and you’ve got a hell of a Trek novel waiting for you. Always awaiting your orders, thrusters on full.

But you want something else too. It’s harder, more challenging and ultimately, more satisfying. You want something that speaks to you now, not then. You want something which will push, will challenge. You want to boldly go, not to the past, but to a future you understand and recognize which, for all it's faults is built on hope. And for that? You need Picard. Because despite nostalgia and our love for the past, in the end, we're all boldly going. Messily, making mistakes, learning and improving and still striving to reconcile that Utopian dream the Federation sings itself to sleep with.

So go boldly. It's worth it.
Women in Horror Month Spotlight: Directors

Chelsea Stardust's back catalogue is shorter than the other women here but no less impressive. Satanic Panic, which I reviewed in last year's bonus Halloween TFL, is a wry urban satire with one blood-caked eyebrow arched. "All That We Destroy" remains one of the best episodes of Into The Dark to date and Marco Polo? Well that's right here...

Department of Received Esoteric Printed Goods

Left to right that's the first in the new series by KB Wagers, Marieke Nijkamp's comics debut as part of DC's new YA line and Oli Jeffrey's horror RPG Quietus. All of them look great and you'll be reading about all of them in more detailed here soon.

The other photo is just to confirm I will in fact never get tired of review copies addressed that way :)
Women in Horror Month Spotlight: Directors

Julia DeCourneau's Raw shares a lot of DNA with Kusama's work. It's a definitive cannibalism movie and a clear-eyed coming of age piece that's as disturbing as it is well realized.

Signal Boost

  • Zinequest 2 is an amazing collection of bite-size RPGs fostered by Kickstarter. You can find them here. Big thanks to Mark Richardson (whose own work is also utterly worth your time) for the tip and I ABSOLUTELY want to do Zinequest 3.
  • This is an excellent piece by Dave Jeffrey from the always-excellent Ginger Nuts of Horror on the way horror fiction deals, or too often fails to deal, with mental illness.
  • Better Than IRL is now available! A collection of writing about what it's like to find your chosen family online. As one half of a very successful formerly-internet-only relationship I wholeheartedly endorse this. Thanks to the magnificent Jadzia Axelrod for the heads up.
  • The amazing TG Shepherd is going through the John Wick movie fight scenes 30 seconds at a time and talking through the choreography, how it works and what it means. This is CATNIP for me and I suspect a lot of you.
  • The splendid looking Princess World which we featured a little while back finishes in just over a week. Help Kevin get the final steps of the way there if you can for this one, it looks tons of fun.
  • Dominion: An Anthology of Black Speculative Fiction has a Kickstarter closing shortly. It's over-funded, because it looks brilliant, so why not jump on and get a copy? Thanks to Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald for the heads up.
  • I was lucky enough to chat to the crew from Haggis and Dragons a couple of weeks ago and they're wonderful. Their show is a D&D liveplay carefully tailored to be as accessible as possible. They edit out dice rolls and anything confusing to listeners, episodes are an hour a time and no more and the whole thing is basically a group of ludicrously charming buddies telling stories at one another. Check it out. and thanks to Haggis Paddy for the heads up.
  • John Miereau's Serving Worlds is an impressive, and under-recognized, SF show. Here's how you can get yourself acquainted.
  • One of the wonderful things about being part of The Magnus Archives is the fan community. They are astonishing and astonishingly talented and this upcoming zine from lilnan is going to be very special.
  • The lovely Tim Niederriter, who we'll see elsewhere in the issue this week, has work in a StoryBundle right now. Do check it out, especially if you don't normally care for steampunk. This may well change your mind.
  • My buddy and fellow Word Make Gooder, Kat Fowler is part of a really fun D&D livestream. They're on Twitch and YouTube. They advertise ahead of time when they'll be playing through their Facebook page. Check them out, firstly because it's fun and secondly to see how much the stream quality has improved. Also, where ARE the pencils?

That's this week's Signal Boost, folks. If you have a project you'd like to see here, get in touch.
Women in Horror Month Spotlight: Directors

Issa Lopez's next pictures have been grabbed by Guillermo del Toro's production company and it's easy to see why from this jaw dropping trailer. The title translates as Tigers Are Not Afraid.

The Good Stuff

It's been a while, how's work going? Well, rhetorical question I'm glad you asked. Pretty good actually and surprisingly varied too. Here's some of what I've got on at the moment:

The Clark Kent Beat

  • If my math(s) is right then my interview with the deeply lovely Nicholas Briggs of Big Finish and prolific (and also lovely) actor Clive Wood should be live in the most recent issue of SciFi Now.
  • I'm currently working on a piece incorporating interviews with Doug Naylor and Chris Barrie for the new series of Red Dwarf for them too as well.
  • An interview with Max Brooks, whose new book, Devolution is out soon and is excellent.
  • And also a piece looking at the 70th Anniversary of Dan Dare, incorporating interviews with the cast and crew of B7 Media's third season of Dan Dare audio drama and Peter Milligan, comics legend and writer of the character's most recent print appearances.
  • I also have a Dare piece focusing on the various audio versions, due to ComicsScene shortly.

Rolling The Dice

  • I am utterly delighted to see this come together. After the War, the memetic horror/community building RPG Jason Pitre and I co-wrote is a project I'm very proud of. This, produced by the pair of us, is how you play it.

Becoming Titans

The first ever Escape Pod print anthology arrives this year! Mur and Divya have an amazing job on this, as have Marguerite and George on managing the project. We're super proud of this (LOOK AT THE LITTLE POD! THEY'RE SUCH A TROOPER!) and I'll be telling you more about it as soon as the pre-order link goes up.
 

No Mattress, Sock or Stamp Required

Over at PseudoPod we're wrapping up a really fun month of pulp science stories including:

PseudoPod 688: The Tunnel Ahead

PseudoPod 689: Ages of Man

PseudoPod 690: The Aetherised Chamber

Headventures

So, remember back in January when I signed up for Silvercloud? Me too! The first appointment went well and I had my second scheduled for a month later. I did my reading, waited and got a voicemail the day before saying my therapist was ill and they'd reschedule shortly.

A month later I got in touch and asked whether there was anything I could do to speed the process. I was told no but that someone would be in touch soon.

A week after that I emailed them again and asked when that was likely to be.

I got a phone call this morning, and a very apologetic email and my next appointment is Monday at 2.30. So yay! With a side note of how decades of neglect and under-funding by governments with varying degrees of sociopathy tend to ensure this sort of thing happens.

Also, there is a weird thing I've noticed. I'm doing... better. A lot of the time a LOT better. My average resting heart rate is down close to beats a minute. We've worked, and succeeded, at putting down some of the stuff that overloaded us last year and changing various habits for the better. All of which is great and at times IMMENSELY disconcerting. Most of last year was lived at the edge of tolerances and to find what amounts to an empty room in my head where it used to be full to bursting? Let's just say sometimes I forget the echo and it scares me. But it's definitely very nice to have the space back.

The Full Lid+ Update

Some of you may have read that Love, Hector the planned spin-off of acclaimed novel and movie Love, Simon will not now air on Disney Plus because it isn't 'family friendly'.

For comparison then:
And here's me saying that earlier today, I confirmed a source for access to Love, Hector and will be covering it in The Full Lid+.

Because love is family friendly, no matter what the mouse says.

Signing Off / Playing Out

Well that was another fast week huh? Hold on tight, looks like another's on the way. Just not any snow (disappointed noise).

Anyway! Do check out any of the 2400+ free short stories covering science fiction, fantasy, horror and YA on the Escape Artists Podcast Network. They're awesome.

As ever, the Team KennerStuart Instagram is active as are the Twitters. You want opinions and food shots? We got 'em!

This work is produced for free. If you like what you read please consider dropping something in the tip jar. Thank you :).

Playing us out this week is Orkestra Obsolete with one of those cover versions that's as delightful as it is oddly sinister. Especially as they have seemingly no social media presence or albums which raises some interesting questions. And to answer one of them, yes, this?
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Agathon Towers · Cheapside Road · Reading, Berkshire RG1 7AG · United Kingdom

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