Weaponized Diamonds, UFOs, and Neck-Biters: More Fantastical Story Arcs From Soap Operas

Whatever you may believe about soap operas is probably… accurate. They’re dated, interminable, look inexpensively made; they repeat storylines and often perpetuate dated stereotypes about what “family” is supposed to look like. But the soap opera is also an incredible, unique form of storytelling that has endured since even before radio, sometimes pushing boundaries and featuring radical storylines; they’re constructed under enormous pressure (shows like General Hospital crank out five hours of entertainment per week with no reruns) and are often considered “boot camp” for young actors just starting out in the business.

And sometimes, they need a break from all of the “who’s the daddy” and “wedding of the decade” stories. Which is how we—and they—end up here: taking a slight breather from outlandish DNA tests and secret love triangles to enjoy some totally bonkers spec fic arcs sure to quicken the pulse of fantasy, science-fiction and horror fans everywhere. When soaps open themselves up to the genre universe, inserting their typically mundane characters into over-the-top tales filled with laser beams, time travel, and even super powers, it’s enough to give you whiplash of the best possible kind. We love the urban fantasy vibe of these tales, in which the ordinary lives alongside the impossible.

That’s why only one article about the fantastical story arcs of soap opera just wasn’t enough. It’ll never be enough. Because even as they shunt Days of Our Lives from broadcast to streaming (starting September 12), soap fans will continue to seek and find their favorite shows, always ready for more wild stories that draw us in, get us hooked, then beg us to tune in tomorrow. Here are five more unforgettable examples of soap opera’s best forays into fantasy…

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Darling! Bow Down Before These Great Divas of Fantasy

Divas are divine. Literally: “Diva” derives from the Latin word for “divine,” or a “goddess,” and it’s no small thing to label a person (or a character) as such. Diving into a book and discovering a diva lurking within brings an immediate rush, because divas are super confident of their place in the universe—and absolutely positive that the sun spins around them, not the other way around.

Not only that, divas have a way of taking the wheel in a story, in part because they operate under a totally different set of rules: namely, their own. As an author who’s recently written a loose cannon—er, divine diva actor—named Fiona Ballantine in my upcoming book Tune In Tomorrow, I promise that these characters sometimes they surprise even their creators.

Yet when we think of divas in literature, fantasy might not be the first genre to come to mind. There’s Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, or Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, or Rhoda Penmark in The Bad Seed. But divas exist everywhere—from opera (their natural habitat) to reality TV to wrestling. So why not fantasy? And, for that matter, there’s no rule that says divas have to be cisgender women, or even human—divas tend to transcend labels and confound expectations; it’s all part of the gig.

So let’s walk slowly and carefully into the lion’s den, where the divas—some resplendent on their thrones, some brooding in dark caves, filled with malignant motivations—reside, and find ourselves some fabulous fantastical examples. Like, say, the following:

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All hail TV’s goats and GOATs with the Envy Awards

So many great moments in TV, so little time — particularly during the Emmy Awards. Though actors, crew, writers, producers and directors will all get their brief time in the spotlight on Sept. 12, there are hundreds of moments from the past year in television that never get their due. That’s what the Envy Awards are here for: to look at TV not for its great acting, scripts, sets or production values but for the unique moments that also deserve a statue. Or at least the idea of a statue. The suggestion of a statue. A passing mention of a statue.

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The best fantasy books that taught me how to write funny (funny fiction, that is)

Here’s a blog post I wrote for Shepherd.com, focusing on five hilarious fantasy books that inspired me to write my own funny fantasy book, Tune in Tomorrow.

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Five SFF Takes on Reality TV

Reality TV is a horror show. Except when it’s hilarious. Few genres can walk that fine line between sublimely terrifying and divinely ridiculous, which makes reality TV a particularly special kind of programming. It’s no surprise that Squid Game, last year’s must-watch series and this year’s Emmy Award darling, became such a big hit with the idea of a reality TV show aired to a tiny, elite audience that paired children’s games (and glorious sets that reminded us of the playground or nursery) with bloodshed. Now Netflix (which aired the series) is even creating an actual Squid Game: The Challenge reality competition series. No bloodshed, of course, but 456 contestants will be able to scramble for $4.56 million, the biggest cash prize a competition show has ever offered.

When reality TV goes to the movies, however, there tends to be approximately 90 percent less fun and games and 100 percent more totalitarianism. Here are five instances of reality TV reimagined for the big screen, and there’s a commonality to nearly all of these movies: The shows live in lurid colors (often crimson) and their ubiquity is trumpeted in exclamation points: They’re the Most Watched TV Shows Ever!!! in their dystopian near futures… a phrase that implicates all of us in the audience along with the warped minds who came up with the concepts in the first place.

But by going into full bread-and-circuses mode—using gory entertainment to appease and distract the masses—these movies may be making a sharper, more subtle point. After all, if we’re meant to believe that reality TV continues to be wildly popular when so much of the world is struggling or in a state of collapse, it’s hard not to feel like these fictions are reflecting a deeper reality back at us, as viewers and consumers. We’re forced to ask… what do these films say about us?

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These key scenes in the writing nominations get to the heart of the series

A moment of revelation. A slip into magical realism. A character whose arc perfectly exemplifies the show creator’s goals with a series. All of these — and more — are the stuff of “key scenes” in nominated episodes. And any of them can be the turnkey that convinces an Emmy voter to cast a ballot a certain way. The Envelope chatted with nearly every writer of the Emmy-nominated drama and comedy episodes for 2022 to find out what scene that is to them.

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‘It wasn’t great for a very long time’: Sydney Sweeney on the perils of Hollywood

Sydney Sweeney is riding high these days. The up-and-coming actor from Washington by way of Idaho is just 24, yet she’s behind two knockout performances — in the gritty teen drama “Euphoria” and the first season of anthology series “The White Lotus.” Then on July 12, good things got better — she was nominated for Emmy Awards for both roles.

Certainly, none of this happened overnight. Sweeney’s been pursuing her acting dream for 10 years already, proving that talent, plus persistence really can lead to the red carpet. She spoke with The Envelope via Zoom from her hotel in Boston, where she’s shooting Sony’s Spider-Man universe action film, “Madame Web.”

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Six Odd, Unusual, and Unconventional Dragons

Dragons are cool. Giant scaly (or feathered) winged beasties, hovering in the skies or lurking in deep, dark caverns. Some are bearers of luck, some wreak havoc with a belly filled with fire. And many seem to be really into sitting around on a giant gold pile (though why is murky—are they hoping to bring back the gold standard?). So, yeah, dragons in fantasy literature are the coolest creatures out there (yes, I know, they can also be extremely hot), and their presence lends a grandeur and majesty to any story. Depending on the story, they may be metaphor for the human condition, they may be aliens we live among, or they may be an existential threat unlike any you’ve ever encountered before.

…Except that not all dragons are like that. In fact, some of the most memorable creatures in fiction stick with us because they are the exact opposite of all of those things we’ve come to expect. So I’ve dug into the hoard—shh, don’t tell them!—and come up with some real gems from across fantasy literature…here are my favorite offbeat, eccentric, and reluctant dragons of unusual ability (and sometimes size).

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Why turning true-crime podcasts into TV shows is so successful

True-crime podcasts grew in popularity during the pandemic, providing an escape from the real-world circumstances we were living through. Now, those audio tales are coming alive visually for TV and streamers. LA Times reporter Randee Dawn joined host Lisa McRee on LA Times Today to talk about peak true-crime podcast season.

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It’s been 30 years since ‘The Real World’ introduced reality TV. How things have changed.

Thirty years ago, MTV’s “The Real World” opened with its cast members introducing the world to a new-fangled kind of storytelling: “This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house and have their lives taped to find out what happens when people stop being polite … and start getting real,” they said in the show opening. “The Real World,” the first modern foray into reality TV, ran for more than 640 episodes — and changed television in the process.

But co-creator Jonathan Murray (with Mary-Ellis Bunim) says he never expected that kind of success: “‘The Real World’ was very much a social experiment. The idea of covering people 24/7 for 13 weeks nonstop hadn’t been done, and it was exhausting.” Still, he’s back at it, with “The Real World Homecoming” spinoff now in its second season, and says, “With ‘Homecoming,’ we see how people [on the original series] were affected by this social experiment. Most of them seem to feel it was a positive experience.”

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