Sunday, December 31, 2006

I Only Have Time For Quizzes Today

What Battlestar Gallactica Character Are You?



Apollo
You're really a versatile person. Capable of leading, obeying, fighting, protecting and if the situation calls, running really damn fast. Nevertheless, you get the job done, whatever it is. You are strong when you need to be, and when others need you to be, so it always looks like your bringing your game face.
Take The Quiz Now!Quizzes by myYearbook.com

This Was Kind of Fun

What Fantasy Archetype Are you?



The Pillar-of-Strength Love Interest
You are the Pillar-of-Strength Love Interest! You're like Arwen (Lord of The Rings), Guinevere (Arthurian Legend), Princess Leia (Star Wars), Door (Neverwhere), Ginny/Hermione (Harry Potter), and Kahlan Amnell (Wizard's First Rule). You are the protagonist's love interest and you almost invariably love him too. You are strong, resiliant, caring, loving, loyal and virtuous - but you often have to make hard decisions between love and the Right Thing. You and The Mentor usually go way back, and keep your eye out for betrayal of your love from The Traitor. Also, keep guard, you are the favorite hostage of The Totally Wicked Villain.
Take The Quiz Now!Quizzes by myYearbook.com

Happy New Year All!

Well, I'm entertaining again, so I'm limited on blogging time today. I'll try to put up a new post later, but it may not materialize until tomorrow. Also, Crunchy Carpets started a new blog, so hop on over there and say hi.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Farscape

I’m here to talk about the greatest science fiction series to ever grace the Sci-Fi channel. No, I am not talking about Battlestar Galactica, I’m talking about Farscape.

First, a bit of a confession, I do not have cable, and I haven’t had it for over six years. This is a blessing and a curse. Of course I miss the good programming like Deadwood, Venture Brothers, and yes, Battlestar Galactica I have to confess. On the other hand, to me Dane Cook isn’t overexposed and I don’t have to hear an hour of “Booyeah!” and “He… could… go… all… the… way…” when I watch the highlights of my favorite football team.

So I had seen Farscape a few times here and there, but because I didn’t have the cable, I couldn’t follow the storyline. I essentially missed the show’s entire run, but luckily it is in syndication now and that’s where my wife and I got hooked on it (We’ve got a great thing going, she’s made me cooler and I nerded her up). Now we’re watching it on TV and we have the series queued up in Netflix. Eventually we’ll get through the whole thing.

Farscape features John Crichton, an Earth astronaut who is shot through a wormhole while testing a theory in his spacecraft. On the other side of the wormhole is a living ship named Moya and her Pilot. Onboard the leviathan are three escaping prisoners, Zhaan, D’argo, and Rygel. Officer Aeryn Sun is one of the Peacekeepers trying to recapture them, through circumstances quickly becomes a fugitive as well.

They meet a whole host of other characters including Crais, Chiana, Stark, and Scorpius. Scorpius is a commander in the Peacekeepers and wants the secret of the wormhole technology for a super weapon to stop the greater threat of the Scarrans. As the series progresses other characters are introduced, including Jool, Xhalax Sun, Grayza, Jothee, Noranti, Sikozu, Harvey, and Einstein.

The thing that sets this show apart for me is that it’s very PG-13. The characters have adult relationships, and it’s not just good looking couples having sex. There’s conflict and angst and emotion in there. It’s not all anguish and torment though, there’s a lot of humor. John and D’argo in particular interact very well together like when they play rock, paper, and scissors. There’s also a pretty hefty amount of body functions. There’s vomit, urine (of both the non-flaming and flaming variety), and gas. Most of it works, but sometimes it’s a little too much.

Another aspect of Farscape that I like is that there is a lot of character development. Crichton starts out as the fish-out-of-water-trying-to-get-home-the-secrets-to-wormholes-are-locked-in-his-brain character, but as the story progresses he takes better control of his destiny. He strives to uncover the secrets of the wormhole, he develops a relationship with Aeryn (it was inevitable, every time Moya shook, they were thrown together), and when he does get back to Earth it ain’t exactly a happy homecoming. Characters grow on this show unlike their companions on other science fiction programs.

Farscape lasted four seasons before the company that owned the Sci-Fi Channel withdrew funding for the next season. That left a lot of plot threads hanging but due to the massive fan reaction, a mini-series was produced. I haven’t seen it yet so don’t spoil it for me, though I do know what happens to D’argo.

There are some good Farscape sites out there beginning with Official Site and the Wikipedia entry. My site of choice though is Farscape World, it has synopses, reviews, and image galleries for all the episodes. I normally read the reviews after I watch the episode. Sometimes before. That’s not too crazy is it?

Friday, December 29, 2006

Time Travel

I admit it, I'm kind of bizarre. What I like to read and what I like to watch are often two different things. Why? I have no idea. It may be simply because no one has made any of my favorite books into a movie good enough to change my mind. I don't know. One thing I find more fascinating in film than books is time travel. I ran across a list on the website Sci-fi Signal of what readers declared are the best movies about time travel. They are as follows Time After Time Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Back To The Future Trilogy The Time Machine 12 Monkeys Planet Of The Apes Army Of Darkness The Final Countdown Bill + Ted's Excellent Adventure Somewhere In Time I have actually seen most of these, though I don't know if I would rank them exactly in this order. But that's not really the point. I guess to me the point is that time travel is such a fantastic idea. What would any of us do if we could travel in time? Would we be the selfish type and simply look for way to profit individually? Or do you fancy that you would be the type who would try to do something for the greater good? Or do you believe that trying to alter history would likely do more harm than good? All interesting things to think about. And have we ever really seen a movie (or read a book) that addresses the issue as well as we'd like? I remember reading Piers Anthony's book from the Incarnations of Immortality series. This is a whole book devoted to the idea of time as something that is managed and can be changed, but I always felt the book fell short. But I often feel that Anthony has a tendency to ramble in his books. What about the movies listed above? I must admit, Time After Time is a personal favorite. It combines the idea of time travel with the horror of Jack the Ripper set loose in the modern world. Add Malcolm McDowell to the list and I'm a happy movie-goer. And Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is my favorite of the whole series. I don't know if this is because of the time travel element or simply because it was the best one. But I liked the way they tied together how what we do today affects the world tomorrow. A simple concept that they did very well IMO. But I must admit, I am not a fan of Twelve Monkeys. I haven't watched it in awhile, but it didn't do much for me when I watched it. Maybe I'm just not a fan of Brad Pitt in his manic mode. I also enjoyed the lighthearted fare of the Back to the Future series (though the second one kind of stunk) and Bill + Ted. After all, it is kind of fun to watch Keanu Reeves when he still had more than one facial expression. So what do the rest of you look for in a time traveling movie? Is there one out there that you have liked in the past? Or are you still waiting for a decent one to come along? Have you ever read a book on the subject that did it any justice? (H.G. Wells perhaps?) What kind of time travel story would you write?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Dead Months are Coming


Before you party like it's 2007, let's turn our face to what fantastic filmfare is scheduled for release in the coming months. There are two times of year that serious filmgoers dread: August-September and February-March. That's when film studios let the dogs out. The big bangers are still kept for early summer and late fall. But sometimes, just sometimes, some truly wonderful films come out during the off period. However, for sci-fi and fantasy fans, the pickings this Spring look pretty thin.

The new year begins with a trickle. Potentially Guillermo Del Toro's goregeously filmed fantasy, "Pan's Labyrinth" will be released this week. The story of a girl who escapes into a fantasy world to escape the brutal realities of war. While the fanboys will be salivating, the question is: will this film hold a mainstream audience and find any legs. I won't make predictions, but I will ask, in a holiday season that hasn't been boffo, why would the studio do what amounts to a January release? Suspicious.

Following that, two films that will probably slip by unnoticed: "Happily N'ever After" and "The Invisible" . The first is an animated feature from the producer of "Shrek" and it has the same slick, satirical sensibility, if only it didn't have the voices of Sarah Michelle Geller and Freddie Prinze. The second film is another teenager facing a supernatural threat film with oozing teen angst and emotional sincerity. gag.


What's waiting for you in the dead of February? It's "Hannibal Rising", the film which asks the question: Do we really need the story of a young Hannibal Lecter? Also in February, another film that has had a flexible release date (always a bad sign): "Ghost Rider". Based on a mediocre Marvel Comics title, this feature film stars Nicholas Cage, who must be asking himself what's happening to his career. First "The Wicker Man" and now this.

March?

"The Hills Have Eyes II", "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", and "The Reaping". The last actually looks like it may have something, offering itself up as a supernatural horror film with religious overtones. The other two? I'm sure the skaters will love "Turtles" and masochists will seek "Hills" as a temporary fix for their gore habit.

And April? I won't even talk about April.

Now don't get me wrong, there are some good filmfare coming out in the next few month, just not in the realm of Science Fiction and Fantasy (of which I include supernatural horror). You're going to have to wait until May. And then? Look out

May 4--Spiderman 3
May 11--28 Weeks Later
May 18 -- Shrek The Third
May 25 -- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
June 15 -- Fantastic Four, Rise of the Silver Surfer
July 4th--Transformers
July 13--Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (I think Warner Brothers abandoning their usual Christmas release for Potter for a summer release is a mistake)
July 27--The Simpsons Movie
and also later in July --The Invasion, starring Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidmann.

So you see...There's hope. There's hope. Just wait until May. My birth month, by the way. May 17th. Feel free to get me something.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What Sci Fi Geeks buy other geeks for Christmas...


The Rest of the Story

I don't know how many of you remember (or are interested) but I mentioned in my post about my new banner that I made a gift and sent it to someone for Nevins. Well, I can tell you about it now since she got it. I crocheted a red scarf and sent it to Bee over at Muffin53. Click here to see Bee wearing it.

Book Review: Joy Makers


Sometimes a book sits on a shelf for years and something finally makes you pick it up to give it a read. That's how it was with "The Joy Makers" by James Gunn. This paperback has moved with me from one house to another and has called to me for the last thirty years. And for the last thirty years, I've neglected it.

No more.

"The Joy Makers" is an uneven book, basically a reprint of three novellas written by Mr. Gunn in the early to mid-fifties. The narrative thread begins with the arrival of a new business to a typical American town. The entity known as Hedonistic Inc. insinuates itself into the community, guaranteeing happiness for all. A businessman fights the concept until he realizes too late that the guarantee is real, and by then it is denied him. Not a brilliant story, but then the subsequent two novellas open up the story by moving ahead many years to show a society where Hedonism is the law of the land. Dedicating itself then to how people would grapple with true fulfillment and what it would mean to civilization and human destiny, the novel ends with a philosophical twist that might be considered a precursor to "The Matrix".

Several people who are only at the fringe of science fiction may not recognize the author's name. Let me correct that. James Gunn, who will be honored this coming Spring as the Grand Master of Science Fiction at the Nebula Awards Banquet, has been a major force in the field as writer, teacher and editor. Among his more recognizable titles are : "The Joy Makers", "The Immortal" (turned into a rather lame television show), "The Joy Machine" (a novelization of an unproduced Star Trek episode written by Theodore Sturgeon),"The Listeners", and a six volume history of science fiction: "The Road To Science Fiction".

I'm not sure if any of Mr. Gunn's books are available at Barnes and Nobel (the place where books go to die after six weeks), but you can find most of his titles either on Amazon, or available at other places around the net

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Speaking of Derivatives....

What IS the line between inspiration and unoriginality? A book or idea can inspire you. You can come up with a 'clever' idea based on an old premise...a new twist you hope. One of my all time favourite authors is Sheri S. Tepper. I really cannot say enough about this woman's work. Her novels are gripping, thought provoking and compelling. She wants you to think. She wants you to read between the lines. One of her novels...that I haven't re read in a long time, so bear with me, is Beauty. Tepper herself implies 'inspiration' in the Authors Note: "It seems to me sometimes that all beauty is dying. Which makes me hope that perhaps it isn't dead but only sleeping. And that makes me think of Sleeping Beauty and wonder if she, Beauty that is, might not be a metaphor for what is happening to the world at large" perfect Beauty born, Beauty cursed with death, Beauty dying - but with the magical hope of being reawakeneded, maybe by love. The result of all this is Beauty, a novel of the human spirit, a book-length faery tale, a meditation on various questions of religion - or maybe just a prayer." Al Gore would be proud! But...so is it ok for an author to 'use' a faery tale for her or his own purposes? To twist it, tweak it, make it their own? I honestly don't know how original you can be with fantasy or sci fi for that matter. But if you use old ideas in a new way...is that not ok? And as far as Tepper goes. Her sci fi books are great. Raising the Stones was the first one I read and it was incredible....a new take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers really. The Family Tree is about a traditional quest but with a twist. A Plague of Angels introduces us to an Earth changed, and a place where Archetypes exist..but to what purpose? Many of her books have a feminist slant. But not in your face. She uses her stories to show a different perspective on today's issues. I highly recommend her books to all.

Is It as Derivative as I Think, or am I Just Jealous?

First, I have to admit I haven't seen or read Eragon. So maybe I'm not qualified to write this post. But I have heard that the book and the movie are extremely derivative of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. So I do have some preconceived notions about the whole thing. I picked up the book in the book store, and the first page started off with a description of an elf that put me off immediately. Why? Because it seemed to clichéd. I remember the elf having a proud, arrogant demeanor, which I suppose doesn't have to be clichéd if it's written properly. But it didn't strike me as any different than a dozen other similar descriptions I had read. But I wonder, am I giving it a fair shake? Maybe I'm just jealous that a 17 year old got a book published. And I think he wrote it when he was 15, didn't he? So I suppose he can be forgiven if it's a bit derivative. Though Mary Shelley proved that youth doesn't preclude the writing of a mature piece of work when she wrote Frankenstein at 19. So I'd like to hear from anyone who has an opinion on this, especially if you have read the books or seen the movie. Are the opinions I have heard fair, or should I at least give the books a shot?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Writing Assignment

Just a quick note to any who might be interested. Stewart's newest writing assignment is on "weird addictions" and my contribution can be found on my other blog under the name Aftermath.
P.S. Go say hi to my renter!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

DARK WISDOM


They say the short story market is dying. They're probably right, but there's still time to subscribe to some fairly wonderful magazines. Why should you? Because if you are here you are fans of the science fiction and fantasy genres, and the magazines out there will keep the best and brightest of today's writers front and forward, while keeping you up to date on trends in genre literature and elements of the culture.

I have subscriptions to "Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine", "Realms of Fantasy", "Weird Tales", and "Dark Wisdom". I love all four of them, although I never know when another copy of "Weird Tales" is going to arrive, if ever. By the way, if anyone wants to buy me a magazine subscription, which is a great gift, I still would love "Starlog". Just in case anyone wants to step up....anyone? Okay.

Over the next month I'll be spotlighting all four of these magazines to which I subscribe, and probably a few others. Since we have to start somewhere, let's begin with one of my favorites:

DARK WISDOM

"Dark Wisdom," billing itself as a magazine of dark fiction, is a slick, neatly edited 80 page quarterly, published in full color. Originally, a gaming magazine for "Call of Cthulhu" Role Play Game aficianados, the magazine quickly found its legs and evolved into a serious vehicle for horror. Mixing thought provoking and avante-garde work along with more traditional horror themes, "Wisdom" is currently available in all major book chains in the United States, including Barnes and Noble and Borders. It is also available internationally.

At a time when fiction magazines have been losing readership, "Dark Wisdom" has forged a growing subscriber base and continues to evolve from what was once a small gaming digest. It has featured such writers as Richard A. Lupoff, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and "Babylon 5"'s creator J. Michael Straczynski. In reviewing this fine publication, Ramsey Campbell has written: "Dark Wisdom is a feast of the macabre and fantastic, showcasing both top names and those on their way there."

I have contacted Publisher/Editor William Jones and asked him some questions about his publication:

Q: "Dark Wisdom" describes itself as a magazine of Lovecraftian horror. How would you define that?

A: Initially "Dark Wisdom" used the sub-header "A Magazine of Dark Fiction and Lovecraftian Horror." While the contents are still the same, it is now described simply as "Dark Fiction." I consider Lovecraftian ficion to be cross genre -- SF/Horror/Suspense, but always dark. So I used the term Dark Fiction, which was commonly used prior to that. "Dark Fantasy" was, but I consider that part of "Dark Wisdom's" focus.

Q: Where do you see the magazine headed? You also helm Elder Press, a small press that handles mostly horror. Is there anything new happening with that?

A: "Dark Wisdom" has switched to a color format, which is the last stage in print magazine evolution. I hope the content continues to evolve by blending genres (including the "Lovecraftian"). As for Elder Signs Press (ESP), it continues to expand. There are new imprints, which include Mystery, Thrillers, SF, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, and still some Horror. Of course, ESP still looks for multi-genre fiction.

Q: Dark Wisdom has been around for a while, do you ever see yourself putting out a "best of" anthology?


A: I've thought about it. In the market, anthologies tend not to sell well, and "Best of" magazine anthologies are a touch more difficult to sell. This makes such a project a challenge. But as the issues sell out, it would be nice to see some of the fiction collected in print. So: maybe.

Q: A lot of bookstores seem to be cutting back on their horror titles and putting horror in along with fantasy titles. What's happening there? Has horror crested? Is it passe?

A: The 1980s is often called the Golden Age of Horror. The market has decreased, I think, because the focus on "Horror" fiction has become broad. This means publishers and stores tend to sell Horror under different names. I'm not sure Horror has crested, but it might be in transistion. I believe it will always be an important part of fiction, but like the Gothic Romance of the past, it might disfuse into several sub-genres.

Q: What's the most difficult thing you experience about being the editor of a magazine?

A: Time management. As the number of publishers of "dark" short fiction decreases, the number of submissions increases. When another magazine in the same market closes, "Dark Wisdom" sees increased submissions. Trying to give each story an honest reading requires a great investment of time. I also act as the Art Director for the magazine, so after story selection comes the task of deciding the story order in the magazine (so they read smoothly or feel related), the size and style of the artwork, and of course editing. Somewhere in there is responding to submissions as well.

Q: You're located in Michigan. Aren't publishers and editors supposed to be in places like Boston, New York, or LA?

A: It seems that way. However, many of the large printing houses are located in Michigan. I know of publishers in California and New York who use Michigan printers. Likewise, many distribution warehouses are located in this region. This actually gives ESP an advantage in shipping times and costs. But maybe we'll open an L.A. office just to keep up tradition.

Q: If you were going to promote Dark Wisdom, what are one or two things that you would start off promoting about the magazine.

A: I think I have three things. Variety: Fiction, non-fiction, reviews of books, films, and music. Artwork: Like magazines of decades past, Dark Wisdom uses plenty of art to work with the fiction. And this year the magazine was nominated for an International Horror Guild award -- a wonderful remark upon the contributors.

The picture at the top of the posting is "Dark Wisdom"'s most current release, now or soon to be available at the book store. If you wish to know more about "Dark Wisdom" visit its website: http://www.darkwisdom.com/ . You also might enjoy stopping by William Jones' blogspot page at http://williamsramblings.blogspot.com/

Bring on the Cheese

Because the other 8 plans failed...SQT posted last week about some of her kitschy favorites. I’ve been thinking about cheesey sci fi for a long time, probably since my movie-loving friend took me to a bad movie festival when we were in junior high that featured Plan 9 From Outer Space, Horror at Party Beach, and I Was a Teenage Werewolf. It seems to me that you could talk endlessly about cheesy science fiction.

Sure, there’s a lot of science fiction out there that’s smart or well made, Forbidden Planet or the new Battlestar Galactica for example. But for every one of those, there has to be a couple dozen more that occupy the cheese-filled realm like Independence Day or Star Trek TOS.

Insert trilling trumpet fight song hereStar Trek had its share of “smart” science fiction and social commentary, such as Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. But the whole series is most known for its cheap sets, some lame effects, and a hammy William Shatner getting his shirt ripped, then doing a combat roll followed by a double fist punch to his opponent’s stomach.

Desi Arnaz Jr. and Automan!If you really want to talk about cheese though, I think the best thing to do is look at Glen Larson’s body of work. Battlestar Galactica, Galactica 1980, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Automan, Manimal, The Highwayman, and Night Rider have all seen the airwaves thanks to Larson.

Now when I was a kid I never saw much of Galactica, but my dad and I enjoyed watching Buck Rogers a lot. I remember seeing an episode where a robot/cyborg/whatever tracked Buck through a desert and attacked him at some kind of outpost. When Buck threw a computer component at the monster, it became obvious that the impromptu weapon was actually a cardboard box with the appearance of machinery taped to the sides of it.

Beefcake or Cheesycake?Buck Rogers had a lot of cheese going for it. It had roller discos, it had Gary Coleman, child genius, and it had Twiki . Remember this was post-Star Wars, so you had to have cute comedy relief robots. Twiki’s job was to haul Dr. Theopolis around and to make the occasional sardonic comment. Twiki was voiced, of course, by the immortal Mel Blanc and featured that memorable “Bee-dee-bee-dee-bee-dee-bee” whenever he talked. Sure the robot was amusing, I guess, but he also ensured that the show was well entrenched in the “realm of cheese.” He even got to dance with a female robot once at a space disco.

Bee-dee-bee-dee-bee-dee-beeIt seems like the list of cheesy sci fi goes on and on, even calling the genre “sci fi” gives it an air of cheesiness. I think that it sometimes makes the product easier for consumption, my dad was never a fan of SF but he sure enjoyed the goofy, roguish Buck Rogers. I have no problem letting my four-year-old daughter watch Batman, but I think twice about letting her see Farscape (though the last time she did, she assured me that she understood that it was all pretend).

So do you think cheesy sci fi hurts or helps the genre? Just because something is cheesy, that doesn’t mean it’s worthless or substandard does it? Is there something cheesy out there that you really love or absolutely can’t stand?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Where Does Normal End and Crazy Begin?

Stewart over at House of Sternberg has put out another writing assignment. I admit, I look forward to these. I used to write a lot more than I do now and I like the kick in the behind the assignments give me. This weeks assignment is on "Weird Addictions." Before you tune out let me reassure you this post is not my writing assignment. No, the assignment just got me to thinking. I like to ponder the assignment for a bit before I actually write it. Luckily, the assignments are only about 1000 words in length, so I usually have plenty of time to work out in my head what I plan on writing. In fact, I usually plan the whole thing out in my head and spend about 15 minutes actually writing the thing. But this week has been a little different. I wanted to write about a subject I had heard about but had no real knowledge of. So I did what I always do and googled the subject. And an interesting thing happened while I was looking up various fetishes. Star Trek conventions were listed under fetishes. Huh? For clarification I went to dictionary.com and looked up fetish. fet·ish –noun 1. an object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency. 2. any object, idea, etc., eliciting unquestioning reverence, respect, or devotion: to make a fetish of high grades. 3. Psychology. any object or nongenital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation. Ok, I get the first two definitions, those make sense when applied to Star Trek. It's the third application that I have a hard time with. According to this article, Star Trek conventions appear to be a popular stomping ground for pedophiles. I must admit, this really threw me. I've always liked pretty much anything that deals with sci-fi and fantasy, but I think I've always been able to make a pretty clear distinction between reality and fantasy. That said, I never really thought anything of people who liked to go to various sci-fi/fantasy conventions. I would certainly never label someone who does as kinky or assume they have a sexual fixation of any sort. But there seems to be a common attitude that sci-fi conventions of most sorts have some sort of erotic undertone to them. Honestly, I never thought this. But I found some sites that seem to underscore this sentiment. This one offers advice to newbie convention goers. It explains that many of the costumes may be scanty and the etiquette for dealing with some sexually charged behavior. Ok then. So I'm wondering if I have stumbled onto a couple of sites that offer a very limited view of conventions. I know there are some people who post here who have gone to conventions in the past and have had very fun, positive experiences. So why do you think these kinds of articles pop up on the subject? Do you think sci-fi fandom is mostly misunderstood or do you think there is an element of truth to what they are saying? I haven't been to a sci-fi convention, but I already have an opinion on the subject. I think conventions are like anything else and cover the whole spectrum. I bet if I went to one, I would be able to meet a ton of people just like me; someone who doesn't dress up in costume and doesn't know every line of Star Wars by heart. I also bet I could find the rabid sci-fi fan who knows every trivial tidbit of information on Spock. I bet I could also find people who speak fluent Klingon or Ferenghi. Maybe William Shatner was right when he told a group of trekkies on Saturday Night Live to "Get a life." Whatever. But I also think most of those people can distinguish fantasy from fiction. At least I hope so. But at what point does the fantasy go to far? When have we crossed the line into the crazy zone? Personally, I think if no one is harmed in the process, then who cares? But am I being too liberal? Or maybe I am naive. Should society look at conventions as a potential breeding ground of deviants? Should I keep my children far far away? Really, what do you think?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Someone Appreciates Us. Sweet!

Check out Hey There Skippy's reader appreciation week bio on me. There are some things about me I didn't even know. Mike over What's Happening Vegas also has a post dedicated to the "crew" here at the sci-fi/fantasy lovin' blog. Don't you just love all the attention? :)

In Tribute: Peter Boyle

One of my favorite movies is Young Frankenstein. It was the movie that introduced me to a wonderful actor by the name of Peter Boyle. He managed to bring humor and yet a sense of vulnerability to the Frankenstein monster of Mel Brook's classic comedy. Peter died Tuesday at the age of 71. I'll miss him. I used to see him all the time when I worked at Hollywood Center Studios, Everybody Loves Raymond was filmed on the same lot. I never wanted to bother him, so I never did more than wave hello as I walked by. I kind of regret that now. He never seemed like the type to be bothered by a friendly fan and he likely would've had some interesting stories to tell. So in appreciation to an actor I always liked, I'm putting this small tribute to him on my humble blog. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

That Was The Weakness That Was


SUPERHEROES. Gotta love them. Guys and girls in tights, and in the case of some (Powergirl comes to mind), costumes designed to enhance some amazing asset. Okay. So they've got the power. They've got the charisma. They've got fame and fortune, and sometimes they have talented tailors. But what about weaknesses? Achilles had his tendon. Curly had an issue with lindburger cheese. Skipper had Gilligan.

As we face the middle of the week, let's pause and consider this a primer for supervillians. Below is a discussion of superheroes and their weaknesses.

SUPERMAN. Son of Krypton, an all around good guy. I recently interviewed Lex Luthor about him. "Guy's got a problem with remnants of his home planet," said the bald genius.

"How could..?"

Luthor stopped me with a wave of his hand. "Doesn't make sense. I know, but that's Supes for ya. And then, of course, he's quite vulnerable to magic."

DAREDEVIL, a red suited blind vigilante who doubling as a lawyer during the day. Now let's see, what possible weakness could that lithe individual have? I asked Bullseye, a crazed assassin with bad skin: "Sound. Can't see. He uses sound to navigate. Like a bat. Loud sound can screw him up. Got a match? No..okay..yeah. Thanks."

THOR: God of Thunder. Blonde, tall, broad-shouldered, great smile. His half-brother, Loki, who now works as a union organizer in Jersey called me: "The hammer, idiot. That's where he gets his power from. Get the hammer and he's helpless."

IRONMAN: Tony Stark built the armor originally to deal with a heart issue. Jack Bauer, former aid to the Secretary of Defense, told me recently: "Ironman? Easy. Kill the armor, kill the playboy billionaire alcoholic within. All you need is an electromagnetic pulse. Now that I've told you that, I've got to kill you. After I torture you."

TORCH: The ambassador from Latveria recently contacted us: "The Torch? You mean that impudent Johnny Storm? Weakness? Why bother? Make him read a book. Okay, okay, quit bothering me. Use some common sense. The Torch can be extinguished by cutting off his oxygen supply. Now go away."

SPIDERMAN: I couldn't find any apparent weakness, so I spoke to Peter Parker's Aunt May. Parker apparently is a close friend of Spiderman. "I don't know much about him. I worry too much about Peter and he worries about me. He worries and worries..sometimes I think he cares too much about people and it affects his judgement."

Blog Review

Soap Box Jury did a review of my blog (at my request) and gave me a 7/10. Apparently the C grade was due primarily to my busy sidebars. Should I scale back on them? I don't plan on getting rid of the 3 column template, but I could lose some of the content on the sides if I need to. I may also have been graded down based on the copious amount of posting. I wonder if he's suggesting I need to get a life?? Tell me what you think.

The Story Behind the Banner, Part I

Nevins Manafe, the creator of my new banner, asked that I tell you the story behind my new header. I am going to do this in two parts: First, I am going to tell you the real story. Second, I am going to write a story about the picture you see on the banner. Part I I first became familiar with Nevins Manafe through Nate over at Nate is a Blog. I didn't really know what Nevins was about at the time. I had actually made Nate's acquaintance first when I jokingly made a comment about the photo shopped mustache on Nate's face. Nate then challenged me to come up with a story about the mustache and I came up with The Newly Mustachioed Nunchuk Nate and his Mad Ninja Skills. Nate has something of a ninja fixation, as anyone who has visited his blog can tell you. He had written his own ninja story on his blog and had featured Nevins in the story, which is how I came to know the name Nevins Manafe. And that was it for a month or two. I was kind of enjoying my new blog and the people who came to visit me on a daily basis. But like so many blog obsessed people out there I began to want something a little more personalized for my little sci-fi/fantasy journal. I had experimented with free blog banners, as I am sure you all noticed. But I don't like the fact that those banner end up becoming advertising for the banner sites. I have played with adsense on my blog, but I try not to be too heavy handed with if I can help it. So I wandered the net for awhile looking for a way to make my own banner. But I found it wasn't as easy as I had hoped. I had managed to find ways to personalize my blog and incorporate the three column template and collapsible posts on my own. But for some reason the whole customized banner thing was stumping me. And then I remembered Nevins. Nevins had also done a cool banner for Nate and I had seen some of his work pop up on Muffin53 (Empress Bee's website). I knew Nevins' blog was called Barter My Skills but I didn't really know how it worked. So I contacted him through a post on his site and he got back to me within a few hours. I told him I wanted a banner and could he do it for me? He was really nice about it, and said he thought it would be fun and asked what I had in mind to barter for it. Now here I was kind of baffled. I had no clue. I asked him what he normally did and mentioned I could promote his blog on mine, or write a story or whatever he had in mind. Well, it turns out Nevins is a pretty sweet guy. He told me then that he was feeling a little blue because he had broken up with his girlfriend and would I send her a flower and a card? I thought that was really nice and said sure. Unfortunately I found this a little harder than I thought. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm a little tight on money right now due to Christmas and when I looked up some florists online I realized it would probably cost around $40 to send even the smallest bouquet of flowers. My husband understood my desire to have a banner but wondered if it could wait until after Christmas. Feeling bad, but understanding the need to conserve some cash as this time, I emailed Nevins back and told him about my predicament. To be honest I kind of expected Nevins to say never mind on the deal, or say ok, it could wait until the beginning of the year or something like that. Instead he sent me this "You deserve a nice banner, and your family deserve good xmas gift too. well, the idea is giving out something... its not always flower.. you can find any idea that match your budget, and surprise me with it! hehehehe it can be hand made or anything unique and romantic.. the most important for me is the idea." Is that the nicest thing or what? I was so impressed with Nevins and his generosity. So I came up with a gift I could make and send to his former girlfriend and got to work on it. But then there was another hitch. The ex-girlfriend found another guy. Nevins was obviously pretty sad about the whole deal, who wouldn't be? I emailed him with progress on the gift and didn't think much about it when I didn't hear back at first. I didn't know that Nevins was feeling even more blue than before until I visited his site and saw a post that indicated how sad he was. There were a couple of comments left on his site by concerned bloggers who had come to know and care about Nevins. I saw them and became a little concerned myself and left a message saying so. To my surprise Nevins emailed me right back and told me what was going on and did I think he should still send a gift to the ex-girlfriend. Well, heck, how was I supposed to answer that one? To be honest, at this point I was thinking Nevins was way too good for this girl. But I didn't want to be too blunt, so I just asked him instead if he thought it was worth the effort and I would have no problem doing whatever he wished. Nevins impressed me yet again by coming up with a better idea. He suggested I send the gift to someone else. Someone who had shown kindness and caring about him and someone who (I think) would be very appreciative of the gesture. Now, I would love to tell you what the gift is and who it's for, but it's a surprise for someone who might actually read this. So I am going to leave it a minor mystery for now. And THEN, after all this, Nevins emails me back and asks me what I would like my banner to look like. I hadn't even finished my little project yet and he was already set to go. He told me that he works on faith and trust and was ready to get to work. Wow! I didn't have any specific ideas, and just told him I wanted it to look like something that would be appropriate for a fantasy/sci-fi blog. Could I have been any more vague? And he came up with the fantastic banner you see at the top of my page all on his own. How cool is that? His only other request was that I tell you all the story behind the banner. I volunteered to also write a fictional story about the picture, which should show up in a day or two. I also need to finish the gift for Nevins' friend. You see, he did all this and I haven't even mailed the thing off yet. So, needless to say, I am feeling a little inadequate at the moment. But I thought you should all know what a great guy Nevins is. And truly, if anyone wants anything done for their blog, Nevins is the guy to go to. Thanks Nevins.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Is My New Banner the Coolest or What???

Nevins Manafe over at Barter My Skills made this awesome banner for me. I am so psyched! Nevins is a great guy, so if you want anything done for your blog ask him to help you out. He really tries to get it just the way you like it. Oh, and please bear with me while I try to find a new color scheme to fit the banner.

SIXTH SENSE..FEEL GOOD MOVIE

Thought I would post this as a companion to my last posting: "Shyamalamadingdong." A little bit of silliness.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Shyamalamadingdong

"I see dead people." Those words marked the coming of age of a bright and exciting director onto the American scene. Unfortunately, they would also mark the highlight of that director's career thus far. We're talking about M. Night Shyamalan.

What's frustrating about Mr. Shyamalan is that he showed such amazing potential in "Sixth Sense". I'll agree the film wasn't perfect, that it had a heavy handed approach at times, but so much promise was on display and there imagry was horrifying, with some moments that made one's heart race with terror. The scene where Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) looks up and sees the corpses hanging from the rafters is the stuff of nightmares. The moment where the young boy sits in a makeshift tent so that he won't have to look out and see the tortured face of a ghost, draws out the horror by making the audience feel his vulnerability. We suspect that it won't take much for a spectral hand to pull aside the security blanket and go BOO.


Shyamalan HAD America. While some would argue the stress of hoping to better himself was impossible to bear, I would say that it instead freed him to do something creative and experimental.

"Sixth Sense" was followed by "Unbreakable". A precursor of the tv show "Heroes" the film stars Bruce Willis as a regular schmoe discovering he is indestructible. And since a superhero must have a villian: Samuel Jackson plays the foil as a disabled man whose body is as fragile and as breakable as Willis' character is unbreakable.

The film worked. It was brilliant. But I think it affected Shyamalan. Where were the roses thrown at him for "The Sixth Sense"? Where were the adoring fans who rushed his car? How fickle. I think Shyamalan felt a sense of desperation. How to recapture the glory of "Sixth Sense?"

He tried getting the audience back with the messy "Signs." While a brilliant work of directing, the film itself is laughably bad. Its appalling plot shoved two glaring flaws that would ruin the film for the serious sci-fi fan: 1) why did the aliens need crop circles to navigate or mark their territory when they had the technology of space travel? and 2) why would intelligent critters who find water is poisonous to them set up shop on a planet which is mostly water? Stupid. "War of the Worlds" mangled and pureed

After "Signs" came the abomination that was "The Village". I could almost hear Shyamalan's desperation: "Okay, they loved the surprise ending in 'The Sixth Sense', that's what I need to win them back: surprise. Forget logic, forget good dialogue, forget good film-making...give them a surprise. The surprise, unfortunately was broadcast early in the film and when it finally came, the filmgoer felt cheated and abused.

So...the score at this point was two to two. A tie. Good, good...bad..wretched. Surely Shyamalan would stop the bleeding and return to his roots. Surely he would stop trying to write scripts and let someone else write for him. Shyamalan KNOWS how to direct. He just doesn't know how to write.

Enter: "Lady In The Water". A critical and commercial failure. A storyline that stumbles around while being buffeted by theme. Bruised and battered, this film is a mess. One feels that this film will surely keep the studios from giving Shyamalan the freedom he craves. He doesn't know how to handle his freedom.

Michael Bamberger in his book "The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M.Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale ", details the deterioration of Shyamalan as well as his deteriorating relationship with Disney. Shyamalan is obviously his own worst enemy. One quote which has been attributed to the director has him saying that Disney "no longer valued individualism ... no longer valued fighters." Saying this, he left Disney for Warner Brothers. Too bad for Warner Brothers.

One of the New York Post's critics, Lou Lumenick responded to this move and to the movie by saying Shyamalan had "turned into a crackpot with messianic delusions who's one more flop away from directing TV commercials." About the film itself: "A charmless, unscary, fatuous and largely incoherent fairy tale."

I agree. One flop away. Only I don't think it's a question. I think it's a done deal. Shyamlan will make his next disaster and then fall into obscurity. If he is lucky, he may have a chance at a comeback in the next several years. Maybe. Probably not.

So what is that next flop? That last drop into oblivion? Well, at one point there was discussion of him directing the next Indiana Jones film. According to the folks at TheRaider.net, that was dismissed by one of Shyamalan's press people, who said: "There was interest, but it just felt like they were trying to throw mud against the wall and see what stuck."

Another rumor, passed on by cinemablend.com, is that Shyamalan may have received some consideration for directing the next Harry Potter film. Obviously the rumor was sparked by the director's jump from Disney to WB, who churns out the Potter series.

So what is next? The fact that there is no actual word is significant. I will bet that whatever project emerges that 1) It will have a surprise ending 2) It will feature a strong romantic element with subtexts of faith 3) that it will have numerous archetypes at the forefront and finally 4) That it will be the final nail in Shyamalan's cinematic coffin.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

More Bondian Goodness

This is just a quick note to again refer all you Bond lovers over to Dave's Long Box. Can I just say I love this blog? He has a great new post up called The Most Bondian Moments #1-4. I just thought you all should know.

Kitschy Faves

When you look up fantasy TV shows on the net, you'd probably be surprised at how many shows come up. What's fun about that is it reminds you of shows you haven't seen in years. I do tend to be a fan of nostalga, especially in my TV shows, so I'm going to go on another trek down memory lane and show you some of my favorites from years past. One of my earliest favorites was the TV show Bewitched, which ran from 1964 to 1972, a good long run of 8 years. Boy did I want to be a witch when I was a kid. And who wouldn't want to be a witch like Samantha Stephens, as played by the beautiful Elizabeth Montgomery? I would watch the show and think, what would it be like to be able to just twitch your nose and have anything you want? Sheer bliss, that's what! The only thing that never made sense was if Samantha Stephens was going to mostly give up the life of a witch for a mortal, how on earth did she settle on Darrin Stephens-- played initially by Dick York and later by his near twin Dick Sargent? Honestly, I never got that. He seemed more than just a tad uptight didn't he? But I did love the show with all of Samantha's goofy relatives like her mother Endora (Agnes Moorehead) and poor dimwitted Aunt Clara. (Marion Lorne)And didn't you love it when nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz (Alice Pearce) ended up looking the fool? Good times. Another over-the-top favorite of mine when I was a kid was Fantasy Island, which ran from 1978 to 1984. I don't think I ever missed this show if I could help it. What a great idea. People come to a far away island with their personal fantasies to be fullfilled, for a price. And the enigmatic Mr. Roarke, played by noted overactor Ricardo Montalban would somehow mysteriously grant them, no matter how outlandish. Like the Love Boat, Fantasy Island alwasy had an array of guest stars, usually B-list (at the time) types like Bill Bixby and Dack Rambo. And lest we forget, the always memorable Herve Villechaize as Roarke's assistant Tattoo, known for signaling the approach of the visitors by ringing a bell and yelling "De plane! De plane!" I'm not even sure why I liked this so much. I think as a kid we like the idea of an easy solution to problems or living out our wildest fantasies. I know this never completely goes away, which probably explains the success of the series. I also liked the mystery of Mr. Roarke. He was sometimes a little creepy and I always wanted to know the real story behind the character, didn't you? Another series that was entertaining to my childish mind was Mork and Mindy, which ran from 1978 to 1982. It starred a manic Robin Williams as Mork, an alien from the planet Ork, who came to the planet Earth in a giant egg. Who comes up with this stuff? He lives with the much more conservative Mindy, played by Pam Dawber. The show was actually a spin-off from a Happy Day's episode in which Mork plans to take Richie Cunningham back to Ork as an example of a human. Williams was so engaging as the character (in a quite absurd episode of Happy Days no less) that they made a series out of the character. When I think of the show, I am amazed that it made it to TV. I mean, you have an alien who travels in an egg, who ages backwards, says things like "Na Noo Na Noo", does the Vulcan salute to greet people and gave birth (or laid the egg if you prefer) that contained his and Mindy's son Mearth, played by Johnathan Winters. And as goofy as the show was, it kind of worked, at least for a couple of years. Though even as a kid I knew it "jumped the shark" when they introduced Mearth. So there's a small sampling of the shows that helped form my young brain. Scary isn't it? But they were fun and they're fun to look back on. And as always, tell me what you think, and what shows did you like back in the day? You know I love to hear about it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Star of the Guardians

A short while ago, SQT asked if we wanted to see anything reviewed here and I left a comment saying that I wanted to see the Star of the Guardians series reviewed. SQT answered that she never read it and invited me to write one myself. So here we are. The Star of the Guardians is a series of four books (originally a trilogy, then fourth was written to continue/wrap up the storyline) written by Margaret Weis. It’s very epic in scope and Weis calls upon a wide variety of sources for its inspiration and themes. Derek Sagan is a warlord of the republic. He is a Blood Royal, a genetically engineered member of a group of warriors called Guardians. Prior to the events of the book, Sagan turned against his fellow Guardians and the king of the galaxy and helped establish the current ruler, President Peter Robes. Maigrey Morianna, also a Guardian and his lover, has been hiding since. Seventeen-year-old Dion Starfire is the next in line for the crown, but doesn’t know it as he’s been raised in hiding all these years. Along the way they meet General John Dixter, Tusk, Mag Force 7 (who would go on to their own trilogy of books), Bear Olefsky, and many others. Thrown into the mix is the Corasians, an energy-based hive-minded alien species looking to enslave humans, the Order of Dark Lightning, a little political intrigue and backstabbing, and a space-rotation bomb, a super weapon that might save everyone from the alien invaders. As I said earlier, the story is very epic, Sagan is established early as villain, but he is much more complicated. He was trying to do what was right and is now haunted by his actions. He is also a devout Christian and was raised in a monastery. He and Maigrey are lovers and share a link, and of course their relationship is also complex. She has to resolve loving a man who’s done what he’s done and he has to beseech the forgiveness of a woman who he considers a traitor. Through the series, Dion Starfire also grows from some kid on a backwater planet, to a media sensation, to the rightful ruler of the galaxy. In the fourth book, he is married to a woman he doesn’t love and is having an affair with the woman he does love. I don’t recall anything really explicit in the story, but I would say that it’s still not sci-fi for the kiddies. One of the gadgets that the Guardians get to use is the bloodswords. Bloodswords are energy blades that inject a virus into the user through five needles. The energy blade draws on the user’s own power and will painfully kill any non-Guardian who would try to use it. Yes, the bloodswords are an awful lot like a Jedi’s lightsaber, but I think Weis strove to make the weapons distinctive. I grew up in an age where just about every science fiction character got some sort of energy sword – even Robin on the Super Friends carried one around a few times – so I can appreciate a uniqueness that Weis endeavored to develop in these weapons. Margaret Weis throws a lot into these stories. She alludes to myths, history, and even the music of Fleetwood Mac. Don’t ask me where that is though, I never caught it. The Star of the Guardians website is filled with information on character names, historical and mythological guides, and all sorts of other trivia. I recommend that you check it out, though I recommend that you read the books first.

Frank Miller's 300

I am so excited about this movie. Gerard Butler will replace Daniel Craig as the new ripped 'honey.' The action looks amazing. The imagery is so comic book over the top and using Nine Inch Nails is so cool. There is a new trailer available here for you to enjoy. I will be really interested in how this movie plays out at the box office. These guys need to do Watchmen. This is how comic book movies SHOULD be done.

FREE BOOKS!

THE BOOKS HAVE ALL BEEN TAKEN. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO REPLIED.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What Movie Would You Make

There has been a lot of discussion over the last few days over what makes the best fantasy/sci-fi movie. Opinions differ so much that agreeing on what existing movies qualify as good is nearly impossible. So I put it to you, dear reader, to tell me what movie you would make. Would you remake an existing film? Many here have complained that The Pirates of the Carribean is not nearly what it should be. I can't really disagree with the point. I enjoyed it for what it was, but perhaps it is too cynical and slick. Would you remake it into a proper pirate movie? If so, what would your movie be like? Would you make a movie based on a book instead? Some of my favorite movies are based on books; Blade Runner is probably my favorite example of a book-based movie done right. Are there any movies based on books that you think are crap and would like to see re-done in your own vision; or are there books out there just crying out to be made into a movie? I've heard it mentioned a time or two that Enders Game is being considered for a film adapatation, though it is often said to be in "development Hell." Is this a book that should be made into a movie or are there other books that are more deserving? Or do you have an original idea that you think is taylor made for the big screen? Now don't go and give me too many specifics if you are planning on submitting a screenplay, this is a public forum after all. But maybe you have an opinion of things that are just plain missing from fantasy/sci-fi movies that you just know need to be there. And if you can't think of the movie you would make, what would you do to fix the one's that are already out there? Do you think it's possible to take a movie like Pirates of the Carribean and fix it? Or would you just throw it out and start over? What could be done to fix the Star Wars prequels? Are they salvageable, or just plain junk? It's your turn to be the director, what movies would you make/fix if you had the chance?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Seminal Science Fiction and Fantasy


I was reading my own comment for "Fantastic Voyage" and I was so pithy that I inspired myself to write a post.

If you had to create a list of your seminal science fiction and fantasy films, what would they be? Here are my top ten, in no special order:

1)2001: A Space Oddysey (this film made a statement that science fiction could be more than guys in space suits and bad special effects running around zapping BEM ...and if I have to explain what a BEM is, you shouldn't be on this blog.

2)Star Wars: (I can hear Crunchy grinding her teeth. Star Wars was a phenomenon. It stretched the bounds of what film makers could do in the genre. Unfortunately, it also gave birth to the original Battlestar Galactica and the disaster that was Buck Rogers.

3)Superman, The Movie (this movie, complete with a blonde Marlon Brando, is the granddaddy of superhero films. It is dated and features an embaressing poem-song by Margot Kidder, but still worth being in your collection)

4)King Kong (I shouldn't have to qualify that I am NOT referring to the Peter Jackson film. This child of the depression era influenced so many writers and film makers in fantasy and science fiction that we should have a national holiday dedicated to it's initial release)

5)Frankenstein (I am submitting this as sciencefiction film here and not as a horror film, although it certainly is that...this film is the ultimate statement for the theme: there are some things that man were best to leave alone)

6)Lord of the Rings (all of them...I think in the next thirty years, film critics will look back and debate but recognize it as the legitimization of fantasy as dramatic spectacle...sort of like taking Shakespeare and adding faeries. Oh wait. Never mind.)


7)Godzilla (or Gojira, for the purists. This is a cold war film that would echo the fears of those who felt the terror of the nuclear threat. Now I'm talking about the original here, but I'm willing to discuss the rest of the franchise. I am also willing to talk about Godzilla's son, who in one of the film drives a car....I sh*t you not)

8)Metropolis/Shape of Things To Come (yes, I am including these as one entry. They deserve to stand alone. Shape of Things To Come was an astonishing vision, given us by none other than H.G. Wells himself. Metropolis by Fritz Lang was beautiful to behold and a dark social commentary. BRAVO.)

9) The Wizard of Oz (Dorothy, Toto and the Wicked Witch...spectacle and imagination writ large that has bridged the generations for ...well....generations)

10)Toy Story (I thought of throwing Shrek in here, but Toy Story was the first...computer animation which would establish Pixar as a giant and set the trend that continues today with such filmfare as Cars, and Ice Age II)

You'll notice you will not find Conan The Barbarian, The Matrix, The Terminator, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Krull, The Last Starfighter, Barbarella, and Men in Black on this list. Their omission is deliberate.