Geeks Are Sexy's article
For those of you who really, madly, and truly don't mind showing your true colors this Silly Season, there's now an alternative for you! I saw this Etsy store for Castle McQuade featured over on Geeks Are Sexy's website today, and I thought I'd pass it along to anyone reading. The artist features (literally) many holiday-themed properties for ornaments, cards, etc., and it's worth a look even if you're not interested in buying. But why wouldn't you be interested in buying? After all, isn't that part of what the Silly Season is all about?
Geeks Are Sexy's article
Before any of your purists take the time to remind me that Hercules is most definitely not Science Fiction, I'll remind you that this is my space (after all) and fantasy certainly remains a close second. There's a lot of narrative similarities in the way the two properties traffic in world creation, so I hope you'll be kind and give me a pass.
In any event ...
I had the chance to finally see this on home video the other night my lovely wife hit the sack. Good grief. Was I disappointed or what? I'm familiar with the source material upon which this adaptation was based, and I can only assure you that it doesn't give it justice.
Rather than take up space here, I'll give you my link to the review I posted on Amazon.com this morning. Read it and weep, if you dare. Let's just say that Brett Ratner's Hercules was certainly no Chuck Russell's The Scorpion King and leave it at that.
Not An Epic Failure, But No Epic Either
Live long and prosper, folks!
Yes, yes, yes. I've heard it a hundred times. I'm far too forgiving of my beloved Terminator franchise. As I've often said, however, I can't help it that I've found every journey through those dystopian times entertaining: it's just that I know what I like, and I tend to like what I've seen thus far. Each installment has offered me something to think about, and -- for that -- I'm grateful. So sue me.
The new trailer is up, and -- although I have some qualms with a few short sequences -- I think it generally looks pretty interesting. Besides, I try not to get all that invested in trailers because we've all been fooled before (thank you very much, Michael Bay). Here's the link to where I saw it, compliments of our the fine people over at Screen Rant.
Sure, I still hate the name (so far), but there ain't no changin' that now.
Before he helped the summer box office take off in 2014 with his reboot of Godzilla, director Gareth Edwards was responsible for the smaller, quieter Monsters (2010). For a number of reasons, the film didn't create much buzz; I saw it once it came out on home video, as I'm not even sure it played theatrically in my area. Personally, I loved the film. I believed it had the right mix of small character moments to keep me interested, bypassing putting said 'monsters' front-and-center until they were ultimately relevant to the story.
Click below, and check out what else December 3rd has in store for fans of Science Fiction, including a wealth of genre-related birthdays.
Anyone who knows me knows a few things very well, as I've made no bones about 'em throughout the years.
First, I'm arguably one of the most enthusiast Star Wars fans I know.
Two, I rarely -- if ever -- get all that excited by announcements, trailers, casting news, etc. My two cents on those matters is that even the best actor or actress alive can kill a terrific script; so why get all jazzed about the finished product before I get to see the finished product?
Lastly, when it comes to all things George Lucas, I tend to cut the guy some slack creatively. Sure, he's pretty hands off at this point in the Star Wars mythmaking business, but the rumor was this new trilogy was launched off of an outline he provided.
So now the 'Interweb' is all ablaze over the announced name of the impending flick, and it looks like it's going to 'officially' be STAR WARS: EPISODE VII - THE FORCE AWAKENS.
Like I said, I tend not to make too much stuff of things like this, but I did want to sound off with a fundamental curiosity: when exactly could something like The Force go nighty-night? I mean -- it's an energy field, yes? One that binds us, penetrates us, etc., so how exactly could a universal thing like The Force go to sleep?
I know what the rumors are about the storyline (I won't spoil it here because I prefer to deal with things officially put out by the studio), but rest assured I won't be the first to suggest that with a name like "The Force Awakens" I've got a bad feeling about this.
JJ Abrams and company? Feel free to prove me wrong.
I’m not familiar with the work of writer Paul Ruditis, but if BATTLESTAR GALACTICA VAULT: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF THE SERIES, 1978-2012 is any indication then I probably won’t be running out to pick up any of his incisive work elsewhere. Mostly this is because when I think of the word ‘vault’ and I’m imagining being ushered inside of one I conjure up the idea of all kinds of secrets big and small that really aren’t available to the general public at large. Sadly, this ‘vault’ feels more like an affectionate ‘valentine.’
Now – to be fair to Mr. Ruditis – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Little by way of scholarly work has been written about Glen Larson’s original late 70’s series (and he’s followed up that trend by really not offering up much fresh or new here) especially when compared to the media’s fawning reaction to David Eick and Ronald Moore’s post-9/11 reboot (of which there’s been plenty). Perhaps Ruditis surmised that throwing in some facts, tidbits, and asides to both Galactica 1980 as well as the Caprica spin-off series would represent something a bit different than what came before: well, the problem there is that most die-hard fans are more likely to wish those ventures forgotten.
To his credit, the writer scored some interview time with Larson, Eick, and Moore, though based on the reactions within I’m not all that certain their respective dialogues were all that frank or all that long. Basically, Larson recounts a few passing blurbs about the original – in fact, I’m not convinced he divulged anything ‘fresh’ in here as there was nothing that this enthusiast hadn’t heard or read else. It’s Eick and Moore that get the lion’s share of the attention, and why not? It’s clear that Ruditis has bought hook, line, and sinker into their spiel that they not only re-invented ‘science fiction’ but also ‘television.’ That kinda/sorta spins the truth a bit, but no doubt their fans will lap it up approvingly.
I guess what I suspected here would’ve been more behind-the-scenes details about what monumental effort it took to take such risks on these respective terrific series.
See, the original came at a time when Science Fiction and Fantasy was essentially being ‘rediscovered’ by the general public, thanks largely to the successes of George Lucas and Star Wars, and one might think that Larson alone would’ve waxed on a bit more about that fundamental fact or maybe even Ruditis could’ve done his homework and found media critics and/or entertainment historians to comment on that trend, its evolution, and maybe even Galactica’s place in it. I get that perhaps the author didn’t envision his work to contain as exhaustive in detail as say J.W. Rinzler’s explorations of each of the films in the original Star Wars trilogy, nor as obsessed with minutia as are Marc Cushman’s first two volumes in the making of the original Star Trek television show. Honestly, Ruditis’s work here reads like a bloated Wikipedia entry alongside what Rinzler and Cushman pull off.
By contrast, Eick and Moore’s iteration introduced a whole new generation of fans to what Gene Roddenberry was doing in the 60’s with the original Star Trek – using TV stories as allegories about modern times, strife, and events. As much as they like to think they invented that, they really didn’t as SciFi has long been affiliated with allegory. While much has been written on the subject, it would’ve been nicer to see Ruditis pin the showrunners down in areas other than just terrorism and religion (which get some exploration), mostly because I think their Galactica did touch on more subjects. Either that, or Ruditis could’ve spent some time exploring why the critical media embraced the modern version of BSG but largely snubbed the original.
Of course, I don’t mean to imply that VAULT wasn’t worth the time. For the casual fan or even those of us who rarely follow the industry trades it reads just fine. It’s brisk and – despite the packaging – is relatively lightweight. As a plus, it does follow that publishing trend of throwing in two jacket pockets full of show-related reproductions suitable for hanging or merely impressing your friends. I’m a slow reader, but I soared through this coffee-table-sized tome in under two hours … and that just underscores how little precious jewels and/or hidden bonuses had been secreted away in this vault.
Lastly, methinks Ruditis could’ve explored in greater detail the number of failed reboots or restarts that Glen Larson has tried throughout the years. Having followed Science Fiction closely since the mid-70’s, I know that the man has said publicly on several occasions that he was actively engaged in these reboots; while the Bryan Singer attempt here gets some passing mention in the text, that’s all it gets. Is there nada in the vault about why it failed? I would think so … but I’m not the author.
RECOMMENDED. Not awful though sometimes composed with almost fawning admiration as opposed to a recounting of production facts, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA VAULT: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF THE SERIES, 1978-2012 is a brisk read. It’s a largely uncritical assessment of the franchise, though there were a few barbs (understandably) about the lukewarm Galactica 1980. It certainly doesn’t break any new ground, but there are a vast assortment of sketches and some behind-the-scenes photos that detail the work it takes to bring the saga of a star world to stunning visual life.
Recently, I picked up a book from SciFi author Alfred Bester that made me aware of particular run of what were being termed ‘SciFi Masterworks.’ I did a quick Google search, and – after reviewing the lists of titles and authors that were part of the series – I realized that there were quite a few of them I had either never read or never even heard of. (I’ve mentioned before that I’m not what you would classify as a ‘long-time’ reader; I started reading fairly voraciously about twenty years ago, and I have a pretty long bucket list of titles to get through.) I decided it was time that I make my way through a few of these and/or a few others that had been recommended via other sites, so A.E. Van Vogt’s THE VOYAGE OF THE SPACE BEAGLE is the next one up in my adventures.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “An all-time classic space saga, THE VOYAGE OF THE SPACE BEAGLE is one of the pinnacles of golden age SF, an influence on generations of stories. An episodic novel filled with surprises and provocative ideas, this is the story of a great exploration ship sent out into the unknown reaches of space on a long mission of discovery.”
The release I have does site a bit more on the back cover, but methinks you get enough from the above synopsis for me to cover what I’d like to about SPACE BEAGLE. Basically, what you have here is a series of mostly ship-based adventures, one could say something even in the same vein as TV’s wildly popular franchise, STAR TREK, but written in the 1950’s before the Gene Roddenberry property. From what I’ve researched about the tome, it was originally a series of short stories penned by Van Vogt that eventually were linked together by some supporting material and released in a single collection. I can say that knowing this simple fact does alleviate some of the abruptness of ending one chapter before starting the next, so consider yourself properly prepared.
That said, SPACE BEAGLE differs from STAR TREK fairly significantly in tone; instead of having a grandly adventurous and morally-schooled command staff in charge of the ship, what Van Vogt envisions here is a more Democratic process – there’s a captain, but many of the vessel’s decisions are made by consensus of the travelers. They’ll get together, debate an issue, and – yes, that’s right – vote on what course of action is best. As the crew contingent is made up almost exclusively of scientists, this can make for some curious back-and-forth that – while resembling comedy – methinks Van Vogt intended as more tongue-in-cheek satire. (I could be wrong there, but from what reading I’ve done I haven’t come across anything ‘scholarly’ that would make me conclude otherwise.)
So instead of having the grand cowboy (i.e. Capt. Kirk) at the helm, you have pretty much the pushover of an executive officer who essentially allows this population to engage in all sorts of political and/or politicizing shenanigans one might expect more so from a high school student council than you would a legitimate governing body. There’s a fair amount of backstabbing that takes place amongst the figureheads of the larger science-based departments, and it does make for a vastly different dynamic than what one probably expects from the world of space opera these days.
As all stories do require some central protagonist, SPACE BEAGLE has one: Elliott Grosvenor is the ship’s sole Nexalist, an expert representing an all-new science known as Nexialism which (as best as I can describe it) is a discipline that combines the thinking and strategies of all known specialties in order to achieve the best plausible solution for any particular problem. Whereas a biologist may recommend dissecting a specimen of a newly-discovered species so that mankind could best learn more about it, by contrast a Nexialist might better suggest allowing it to roam free in order for its demonstrated behaviors to teach us just how to deal with it. Naturally, this makes for an interesting counterpoint … except when you have to allow the creature to roam your ship at its own pleasure while dining on your shipmates!
Therein lie the element of satire I believe Van Vogt intended. As much as he pokes some obvious fun at specific modes of study or entire doctrines of science, he positions Grosvenor in situation after situation that requires a heavy amount of political play in order for him to achieve any measure of success. Instead of playing the specialist as a ‘know-it-all,’ it’s very clear that others simply perceive him that way, and he’s only intending to do what he perceives is best for the ship and its survival. Granted, not all of it may make perfect sense for a fast read, but I thought the author mostly intended to send up scientists who were firmly entrenched in their particular field of study as being the unintentional ‘curse’ of mankind while also showing that the shortcomings of personal bias are just as deadly for the educated as they are for the more common man.
It’s a terrific experience, though I found the first half of the novel a bit of a ‘slog’ only because it wasn’t as interesting as the latter half. Perhaps that’s because the stakes were raised as the greater adventures came into play, or perhaps that’s even because the more Van Vogt toyed with these ideas he got closer and closer to perfection with subsequent tales as opposed to the first few. Whatever the truth may be, SPACE BEAGLE is clearly worth the time and effort; occasionally meaty because of narrative shifts of view, it’s a much more honest look at what Earth’s collective march to the stars might inevitably look like.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. I have no problem whatsoever admitted that THE VOYAGE OF THE SPACE BEAGLE probably wouldn’t have meant all that much to me when I was much younger because I tend to think a lot of what’s meaningful in there needs a fair amount of maturity to be fully appreciated. Some of the moments play out like soft satire, and methinks a younger mind might’ve missed the point. However, this old dog enjoyed it more and more as the stories wore on, and – by the end – it’s easy to see why some folks consider this one of the better SciFi novels written from a certain era.
As I’ve mentioned before, I nurture an on-and-off again love affair with written science fiction. I started out reading some when I was young – some of it probably a bit meatier than what I could honestly understand at that age – and I’ve gone through ‘spurts’ of reading more and writing my own throughout my life. As fate would have it, I do tend to prefer SciFi of a different era (vintage stuffy largely, works from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s) as opposed to modern day stuff which – to me – seems largely either unrelatable or too infused with the concept of being ‘edgy’ to draw characters that make sense much less be individuals I’d want to follow.
After recently finished Alfred Bester’s THE DEMOLISHED MAN, I wanted another taste of the man’s greatness, so I purchased a used copy of THE STARS MY DESTINATION that was part of the tale’s re-issue as one in the Millennium SF Masterworks imprint. Having just finished it last night, I wanted to get down a few thoughts while they were fresh in my mind.
THE STARS is, indeed, an irrefutable epic, though it’s not without some creative blemishes (in my humble opinion). The story involves one angry nomad named Gulliver ‘Gully’ Foyle who – after being marooned aboard a dying spacecraft in the vacuum of space – believes he’s about to be rescued by a ship known as the Vorga. However, once he sees that the crew of the Vorga knowingly pass him up and go about whatever their space business is, Foyle commits himself to one singular agenda: if it takes him the measure of his life, he will get out of this wreck, he will find them, and he will have them suffer his wrath for abandoning him to die.
Necessarily, the wealth of the narration is just that: Foyle eeks out a plan step-by-step to bring a dead ship back to life, only then to turn his focus on flying it to where he can find civilization and continue his vengeful journey. Along the way, he largely ignores that pain and anguish inflicted on him by others (he’s given a facial tattoo by a tribe of space hippies he encounters that makes him hideous; he suffers some modest setbacks by a curiously flaming vision of man who keeps thwarting his every attempt; etc.), and he remains committed to seeing his brand of justice served. In the end, however, he comes to realize that one’s life mission may not ultimately deliver the redemption sought; instead, it may doom man to an even darker fate.
With as much that has already been written about this novel, I certainly don’t feel I have anything definitive to add. What I can say is that the book has a prologue – one that establishes the time, place, and particulars of what’s to follow – that has to be one of the most brilliant chapters I’ve ever read; it flows with the calculated ease of pure genius, setting the epic stage for the protagonist the way only a literary scholar like author Bester could. Foyle’s race to uncover the identities of those who damned him to that space grave plays out like a loose detective procedural, as do his ongoing attempts to get close to them, drawing the reader further and further into the man’s personal nightmare with great effect. Lastly … the big finish? (I won’t spoil it.) I would imagine some found it more than a bit experimental for its time in literature – I’ve seen it tried elsewhere since it was possibly first done here. In some ways, it felt a bit ‘forced’ to me only in that I thought it went on a bit longer than it needed … but that certainly doesn’t make it any less groundbreaking.
What have I learned from all of this?
Well, I’m definitely going to have to find and read more of Alfred Bester’s works. And I’ll probably be on the lookout for more of these used Millennium SF Masterworks to add to my bucket list.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. There are lesser elements with Alfred Bester’s THE STARS MY DESTINATION which debatably appear a bit dated, but the overall arch of the story and the characters easily establishes the novel as a revelation in science fiction storytelling. Some might dismiss some of Bester’s prose as being more than a bit pulpy in nature, but all should agree that the ideas captured within certainly make this one to read if not one for the ages.
Folks who know me well know exactly how much I love my collectibles.
My den is full of the ones I'm actively displaying, but every room throughout my house is decorated in some way, shape, or form with something from genre entertainment. Be it a trinket, a poster, a picture, an action figure, or some other obscure item, it's here somewhere ... and that's why I love receiving my weekly email from Things From Another World -- aka TFAW.com. It details not only the comic books released on this day in history, but their weekly blitz also highlights all of the spectacular merchandise just released and available for purchase.
The upside to collecting? There's never a better time to start than right now (that's how I justify so many of my impulse buys to my wife), and some of the product lines just keeping better and better.
The downside to collecting? Most of the stuff I just simply can't afford. Don't get me wrong: if I win the lottery, I'll have it all ... but until that time, I'll never stop championing the items, though, which I'm constantly hounding others to buy via Twitter or Facebook.
As this is Wednesday, I received the regular email blast from TFAW.com, so I thought I'd point out some of what's now available.
Star Trek Starships Figure Coll Mag #25 USS Prometheus
Star Trek Starships Figure Coll Mag #26 Tholian Starship 2150
Pop Star Trek Mirror Mirror Spock Previews Exclusive Vinyl Figure
Star Wars Yoda Hoth Statue
Star Wars Rebel Seal Bookends
Get 'em while they're hot so you can be the talk of Nerd Town!
I was one of the few and the proud who championed the entire run of STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS animated program every opportunity I got. Knowing full well that this Prequel Trilogy era didn’t quite work out to many long-time fans’ expectations, I went into TCW with little expectations and was rewarded handsomely for it. The stories pushed the boundaries when there was room to play with the mythology, and more often than not the writers honed in on the treachery, politics, and deceit all Star Wars fans wanted to see in the big budget films, delivering quality narratives, interesting characters, and one more compelling reason to journey back to that galaxy far, far away.
Like most fans of the show, I was devastated when it was cancelled. Sure, I was glad to hear that Disney wasn’t going to completely ignore a regular TV program in Lucas’s universe – STAR WARS: REBELS was announced shortly thereafter – but I’ll always wish for more stories in the war-torn corners of that Old Republic before the Empire took hold.
At first blush, STAR WARS: REBELS would certainly seem like a grand idea. Set in those fragile days before the events of STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE, REBELS is free once again to explore these dark times when the Empire was closing its fist around star systems new and far, and – if SPARK OF REBELLION is any indication – it should enjoy a long life in the minds of those still young at heart.
See, THE CLONE WARS offered storytellers the opportunity to tinker with some meaty issues. Understandably, the galaxy was mired in the chaos of war, so this presented an endless scope of opportunities rich for examination. Conflict. Allegiance. Honor. Duty. Responsibility. Sacrifice. Teamwork. So on and so forth. All one need do is thrown in any quality World War II picture in the DVD player, and you can see the inspirations available. And – in most respects – THE CLONE WARS did a stellar job working through some of its early missteps, eventually settling into broader tales that gave writers two, three, or even four episodes with which to play out character arcs.
By contrast, REBELS felt a bit rushed. Granted, it’s never easy to launch an all-new incarnation of any franchise, but this one seemed dependent upon action to push the story forward instead of relying on characters easily recognizable and their actions understandable. The opening – a bit of thievery between two opposing groups – seemed a bit nebulous (somewhat understandably once you know what’s going on), and it doesn’t get cleared up until fairly well invested into the 43-minutes. While that might work for some, it required a bit of a stretch for me.
Immediately after viewing it, I wondered if the run-time wasn’t the premiere’s greatest disadvantage. After all, THE CLONE WARS launched with a theatrical outing before settling in to its weekly 23-minute format, so audiences were given more material and the familiarity of established characters and settings to sort through. I hate saying it but even if TCW wasn’t your particular ‘cup of tea’ then there still was more to digest with which you could reach that determination. To me, REBELS seemed as if the writers wanted to speed events up to the point wherein the viewer had no opportunity to stop and posit a question as simple as “How did we get here?” and that could be because … well … they only had 43 minutes to work with. Before the audience even knows all of the essential pieces they were whisked off on yet another chase, another battle, another argument, giving SPARK more the feeling that it was culled together for brevity rather than entertainment’s sake.
When you have a half-dozen new characters AND a new time and place AND new circumstances to establish, that’s a lot of ground to cover. As I’ve always said when examining movies and television shows, I’d rather a storyteller take a few minutes extra to get something right than trim a few minutes off only to risk getting it wrong.
For all of the hype I’d heard around the new droid Chopper, good ol’ Chop didn’t seem all that feisty to me in this premiere adventure. Some of that could be due to the fact that with a small handful of characters and only 43 minutes of run-time, scenes were divvied up as needed to keep focus on moving the story forward; as such, SPARK didn’t have all that many character moments. I, myself, saw a few missed opportunities with which to add in more individual flavor, and that’s never a great thing.
Granted, some of this may seem like I’m nitpicking, and – if it does – then I’ll say I hope that only underscores how important I take my STAR WARS properties. I’m all for lightening up the mood, and I’m even a pretty big proponent of keeping something kid-friendly so long as there’s no sacrifice to quality storytelling. REBELS had a few great moments – the ‘big reveal’ regarding the true identity of a lead character, as well as the ominous set-up for the series promised villain – but they were spread out around some frenetic action sequences that looked good though didn’t make much sense.
RECOMMENDED. Always the optimist when it comes to most things George Lucas, I’ll keep my fingers crossed. The Force looks strong with this one, but as it’s airing on Disney / DisneyXD it definitely looks at first blush like STAR WARS: REBELS won’t have the intellectual depth of storytelling that populated so much of STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS in its five/six season run on television/Netflix. That may not necessarily be a bad thing as Dave Filoni and his merry band of animators clearly hope to capitalize on the nostalgia factor: I mean, how cool was it to see actual TIE fighters at work again?