There are just four months and change left to 2012 — and even if we don't get destroyed by a solar Maya neutrino asteroid, we'll still end the year with a bang. The final third of 2012 is going to be an exciting time to be a science fiction and fantasy lover — with tons of brilliant movies, must-watch television, plus books, comics and more.
Here are 10 reasons we're on the edge of our seats for the astounding science fiction and fantasy entertainment coming this fall.
1. Doctor Who Bounces Back
It seems as though almost everybody agrees now that last year's Doctor Who season, focusing on the saga of River Song, was "overwrought," as the Guardian delicately puts it. The Doctor Who production team has tacitly admitted that the arc-based storytelling went overboard — and the other day, they explicitly promised no arc for season seven, six episodes of which air starting in September. Other reasons to be stoked: the Daleks are apparently badass once again, and the episode "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" may actually live up to its high concept. We're also getting some closure on the Amy-Rory saga, and then the appearance of a brand new companion. Exciting times.
2. A Brand New Janelle Monáe Album
It feels like we've been waiting an android's lifespan for new tracks from our favorite cyberpunk musician. But the wait is almost over — Vanity Fair just reported that Monáe is set to release her brand new single, "The Electric Lady," real soon now. And it's the first single from her new album, also called The Electric Lady. She's been performing "Electric Lady" in concert for a couple months now. In fact, you can hear it at left! (Read our exclusive Janelle Monáe interview here.)
3. Two Completely Demented Oscar-Bait Movies About Science Fiction History
I have a feeling Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master and Ben Affleck's Argo will make a great double feature, once they're both out on DVD. They're both about the intersection of science fiction and real-life craziness, and in both cases a science-fictional fabrication is your salvation from the traumas and manias of the "real" world. One deals with the fucked-up disciple of an even more fucked-up cult leader, whose teachings are full of weird concepts straight out of pulp scifi novels. The other is about a CIA operative who creates a fake, schlocky scifi movie as a ruse to get some trapped Americans out of Tehran during the Iranian revolution. They're like two postcards from an era when schlocky science fiction made more sense than reality.
4. The Origins of The Culture, according to Iain M. Banks
Yes, that's right — a new Culture novel, coming soon. And Hydrogen Sonata sounds like it could be the most rollicking adventure Banks has given us in a long time. Plus he's delving into the origins of the Culture! Holy wow. The Gzilt civilization helped set up the Culture 10,000 years ago, and only decided to join at the last moment. Now, the Gzilt have decided to Sublime, following in the steps of many other civilizations before them — elevating themselves to a "new and infinitely rich and complex existence." But then the Gzilt Regimental High Command is destroyed, and someone named Cossont is blamed. Cossont has to go on the run, with everybody trying to kill her, and find the oldest person in the Culture, someone who's over 9,000 years old. Cossont must learn the truth about what happened in the early days of the Culture, with only an ancient android and a suspicious Culture avatar for company. Sounds like a must-read book for anyone who's obsessed with the Culture. (Read our Culture primer here.)
5. Two Different J.J. Abrams Dystopias
The master of intrigue and WTFery is giving us two messed-up visions of the future this fall. (Although, as with most Abrams projects these days, he's producing them both remotely, from the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise, rather than being hands-on.) His new show Revolution is a surprisingly swashbuckling story of a world without any electrical power at all, where everybody has learned to cope without cars and computers — but a ruthless militia wants to create a brand new order. We saw the pilot at Comic Con, and it was better than most TV pilots — not surprisingly, since it was written by Eric Kripke and directed by Jon Favreau. And meanwhile, Fringe is giving us a final season set in the year 2036, when the world is ruled by the bald, control-freak Observers — and based on what we've seen thus far, this could be the most interesting season of Fringe since the two Olivias changed places. Image via YVR Shoots.
We've all been clamoring for the return of original science fiction to the movies — and this is the real deal. Not a sequel, not a prequel, not a reboot. Rian Johnson (Brick) has created the most well-realized time-travel scheme since Primer — not surprisingly, since he had Primer's Shane Carruth helping him. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a young bottom-feeding assassin who kills hooded people who are sent back in time from the future — until the future version of Gordon-Levitt, played by Bruce Willis, turns up. Time travel and murder go together like shrimp and grits, and this looks to be the perfect delicacy.
7. Best Jacqueline Carey Novel in Years
If you haven't checked Carey out since the original Kushiel trilogy, a decade ago, you'll want to come back to her now. Her new book Dark Currents is her best since Kushiel's Avatar. This is her first venture into contemporary fantasy, a great supernatural detective story. We've read Dark Currents, and it's a fun, light book — that still manages to deal with some pretty weighty issues. It's very different from her Phedre books, but with a heroine who's just as compelling — an enforcer for the Norse goddess Hel, named Daisy Johanssen. (But don't take our word for it — Publishers Weekly named it one of the best fall books, in any genre.)
8. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
The Flaming Lips (who were just on the Colbert Report last night) are turning their 2002 concept album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots into a stage musical at San Diego's La Jolla Playhouse from Nov. 6 to Dec. 16. It's the story of Yoshimi, a young Japanese artist trapped in a robot world and fighting for her life. And apparently there will be a lot of "aerial work and heights" in the show, which "offers an allegory of our modern battle for progressive thought and individuality in the face of blind acceptance and conformity." This is perfectly timed to come right after the end of the 2012 presidential election, and we are seriously considering a pilgrimage to San Diego in November.
9. Marvel Now
Marvel's rolling out their own revamp, in answer to DC's own recent reboot. And comic-book shake-ups generally inspire a chorus of yawns — but this one does include some pretty amazing stuff. Like, Mike Allred and Matt Fraction teaming up for Fantastic Four, which could be one of those epic runs on the title, akin to Mark Waid's or John Byrne's. Also, Journey into Mystery is going to be shifting its focus from Loki to the female warrior Sif, with writing by Kathryn Immonen. And Brian Bendis' All-New X-Men sounds pleasingly nutso, with versions of the five original X-Men coming together from different points in time, including a teenage Jean Grey. And Waid is writing a new Hulk title!
10. The Hobbit
Now that we know The Hobbit really will be a trilogy (you heard it here first), there's been a noticeable reduction in the enthusiasm for Peter Jackson's return to Tolkien's world. But we're still pretty excited — because no matter what, this movie is going to look gorgeous, and it's going to be a fresh dose of epic fantasy hitting theaters in the weary month of December. The story of a slightly more mischievous Gandalf recruiting Bilbo Baggins on a mission that turns out to be fraught with peril just looks like an insane joyride, and we can't wait to see it play out.
Thanks to Annalee and Cyriaque for the input.