Thursday, January 28, 2010

Genre Pets I Wish I Had For Reals

I loved Bookmonkey's post about what genre dog he'd own if he wasn't allergic. And I figured... why stop at dogs? Sci-Fi and Fantasy are rife with huggable little ragamuffins I wish I could take home... Horror, slightly less so. I mean, easy enough to find FOOD for a facehugger, but do you really want the hassle? There are only so many Paul Reisers to feed to those abominations!

There are a lot of factors to consider: Canada is not the place for a full-grown dewback lizard, no matter how you slice it. (Mmm. Dewback steaks!) But assuming care and feeding are no object, I'd want an intelligent, independant critter (not Crites, mind you, giant writhing balls of teeth? no, thanks). A pet willing to hang out with me but who does not rely on me. And none of this perching on things being loud nonsense, either. No Orbittys, Kokos, or Kowakian monkey-lizards. Let's be sensible, here.
And speaking of sensible, I already have a K-9. Perfect for my needs. Sarah Jane Smith's K-9 was content to sit in a crate for years, and his successor was powerful and patient enough to fly rings around a pocket dimension black hole by himself saving the Earth. But... he's more sidekick than pet. Thus...

5. Fizzgig- Kira the Gelfling knew a good pet: Heinlein's Flatcats and Star Trek's tribbles had already done the cuddly ball of fur schtick, but between you and me, yeah, I'm gonna need a pet with a FACE.

4. Lockjaw- The Inhuman royal family's pet is ideal for interdimensional jaunts. I sure wouldn't mind visiting the Marvel Universe to see if Skrull burgers are as tasty as everyone says... of course, there's a good chance Lockjaw would wander off to chase a squirrel in the Squirrelverse or something... then where would I be? The Marvel Universe, I guess. Good luck with that! Maybe I could hitch a ride back with Thor Frog?

3. Streaky the Supercat- I won't lie to you. Supergirl's pet is adorable. An Earth cat bestowed with all the powers of a Kryptonian cat in a lab accident, Streaky is also handy if you have any large airplanes you need to bring down. Sure, get a Krypto if you want. All that sappy loyalty and reliability. Where's the fun and also pure evil of a flying kitty-cat?

2. Stitch- Dr. Jumba's erstwhile Experiment 626, pet of odd Hawaiian child Lilo, is really very loveable if you can get past the overwhelming naughtiness. And the missing left shoes.

1. A Racing Snail- Heck, I'd like a breeding pair! Not only could I forego buying bus passes, I could sell these puppies for millions! Nobody would ever be late for anything again! And look at that face! He's so CUUUTE! Seriously, I'd clean up. Slimey trails, I mean. They need a lot of cleaning.

Honestly, as a kid, ANY of these would have been great, but I know hands down I would have picked the monkey-in-a-dog-suit Muffit-2 from the original Battlestar Galactica. But today I learned his terrifying secret...

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Hugos: Foundation

Due mostly to the urging of Bookmonkey, I began reading the Hugo award winning novels several years ago. With only three left to finish, I figure I should start reviewing them. Why not share the pomposity? The Hugos are the best sci-fi of the year as voted by several hundred people at Worldcon. The award is named for Hugo Gernsback, founder of Amazing Stories magazine. The first given as a physical award was in 1955, but they also started handing out retro Hugos in 1996. See? I can read Wikipedia. Anyway, the 1946 retro Hugo was given for Dr. Isaac Asimov's 'The Mule'. It's one of the short stories collected in 'Foundation and Empire', the second book in the 'Foundation' series. It features a future galactic society in collapse, off-stage interstellar war, and the Mule of the title. My favorite character was Bayta Darell, first rate 1940's plucky heroine. I am not of the opinion that characters were Asimov's strong suit, but then again he wrote approximately 80 billion books, while I... have not. I rate this thumbs up, with 3 out of 4 stars. Maybe I judge the older sci-fi less harshly (certainly the seventies and eighties had more Hugos I disliked than the fifties did), or maybe it's just that good. This story, this book, this series, and this prolific guy are indeed the 'foundation' of modern sci-fi. 'Star Wars' owes its central government urban planet Coruscant to Asimov's planet Trantor. Emotion-manipulating telepathic mutants in Marvel comics? 'The Mule' has that, too. If it lacks the thrills of modern stuff it certainly doesn't lack for creativity and wealth of concepts. I like his contemporary Heinlein's characters better, but then again I love reading comic books so what the hell do I know?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Favorite Characters: The One with the Plan

O.K., so, I admit it. Ronald Moore's Battlestar Galactica is very long on cool, and very short on fun. I dubbed it Battleglum Galactiglum once and I stand by that. It's a dark story. Notta lotta laughs during a genocide, after all.
I've always maintained it needed more nudity and more Dean Stockwell. (As long as it's not Dean Stockwell's nudity!) But I say that about everything.
Fortunately for me, there's Battlestar Galactica: The Plan.
I've heard some negative reviews: ignore them.
The effects, score, sound, writing, acting, and story are all top-notch.
Dean Stockwell is exceedingly cool, and always fun.
In this story (Which I admit, is not for the novice; You have to have seen the series. You can't watch 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead' without knowing 'Hamlet', nor for that matter read 'Tag and Bink are Dead' without having seen 'Star Wars') Stockwell portrays two copies of the insanely evil robot Cylon model One, also known as Brother John Cavil. The story concerns the Ones' judgement on humanity and their vicious, seemingly unprovoked war featured in the series proper. Weaving its plot through the first two seasons of BSG, there are a lot of characters here the fan has already met, so the novice will be stumped. TOO BAD!
While it's as specialized as the previous offering 'Razor', I think it's more relevant overall. Cylon motive, method, and madness is on display here in more detail than the series provided: they were the baddies, after all. But, me personally, I just can't get enough robots!
Much as I wish to be like Dean Stockwell, I cannot recommend one emulate Cavil. Oh, is he a rotter! "Wear this," he slithers. "It's called a SUICIDE vest. Although I think that kind of undersells all the HOMICIDE involved." And you just know a guy like that will come to a gruesome end... I've said too much.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rudiments of Wisdom

A successful used bookstore jaunt netted me, among other things, a great title from the Marvel Max line: Paul Cornell's Rudiments of Wisdom trade paperback. I am a recent fan of this Hugo award nominated English author, I have enjoyed several of his Doctor Who novels including 'No Future'.
Pete Wisdom, a mutant ne'er-do-well previously featured in Warren Ellis' 'Pryde & Wisdom', is leads a team of occult-battling freaks called MI-13.
MI-13 includes the emo fairie daughter of Oberon, the clairvoyant Maureen Raven, crusty old Captain Midlands, and (my favorite) Skrull John (an alien Skrull in the form of John Lennon).
Pete and company begrudgingly protect England of the Marvel Universe from vicious fairies, nasty drunk dragons, sleeping giants, runaway dreams, you name it. This leads into another series I have begun to enjoy, 'Captain Britain and MI-13'. It's all old hat to comics fans by now, but Paul Cornell is fantastic and I dig the Englishness of this story. Heartily recommended!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sci-Fi Smitten

My buddy Kirk had a great post today about pre-teen genre crushes, and I was inspired to steal the notion. What makes an eleven year old into a fanboy? Can it be at least partly the fault of the young ladies involved? I say yes! After all, if Judy Jetson had been born to the Flintstones maybe I'd be more into historical fiction instead of sci-fi and fantasy. Food for thought!
So, first screen crushes. Kirk is completely right about Lynn Tanner. Her primary role in the show may have been to crush on boys, listen to pop music, and gape with amazement at how fascinating ALF was, but that was apparently enough to impress me. But, no, I don't recall having feelings for VICI. I DID watch 'Small Wonder', though. More than once. And wikipedia says it's regarded as one of the worst shows of any kind ever. So... well, I have been known to fall for robots and aliens. Maybe it did start there.
The Childlike Empress from The Neverending Story had Bastion, Atreyu, a limitless imaginary kingdom, and a boy called Mike all in her thrall. A desperate quest, a plea from a dying sovreign: find her a name, save the world. Sounds easy, right? Oi.
Anyway, it's not that I was lusting after these characters (perhaps a list for another day) : I think at eleven I was fascinated by them before I knew why. A classic damsel in distress. Couldn't she just find her OWN name? Didn't matter. I wanted to help- even if it meant reading every book in the library.

Luz Sansone from Earth*Star Voyager. Oh, Luz! Young Jessie 'Beany' Bienstock was all agog over her, and frankly at the time I couldn't think of any other communications officer I'd rather spend a generation voyaging to the stars with, either. I might have been a dozen years away from my first kiss, but, boy, was I sweet on her! Her friend Lani teased her about 'the younger man' (Beany was 14). But if she was into younger guys maybe 12 wouldn't have been a stretch...? Although I was probably more annoying than Beany and more useless in a crisis. Sigh.
Convieniently, I discovered this actress was the teen daughter in Harry and the Hendersons, who I also liked. I guess teen daughters willing to put up with hairy freeloading houseguests was something I considered important.

Maggie Gordon from The Last Starfighter takes the bizarre in her stride and bravely leaves her world behind for the love of a guy who's good at video games. She was by no means helpless, but a hard worker who cared for her gramma and didn't want to live in a trailer park all her life. I admired that, I think. Certainly I wouldn't have minded being the Alex Rogan Beta Unit, haplessly trying to make out with her and getting slapped for his robot trouble. I think I knew that was pretty much what I could expect eventually. Did I mention girls scared the crap out of me?
Still do sometimes. And I married one!

Stephanie Speck from Short Circuit. She was lively, happy, compassionate, loved animals, and adopted a loveable newborn robot.
If she was willing to hang out with Number 5 & Steve Guttenberg and even Anthony Michael Hall then surely she'd like me! Also, her loser ex-boyfriend was played by the awesome Captain Johnathan Hayes of the Earth*Star Voyager. Coincidence? Uh, yes.

Princess Vespa from Spaceballs. Lovely and spoiled rotten. Ready for fun. Quick with a gun. And vitally, funny. I do so like a girl who can make me laugh! It's interesting to me that I liked her somewhat more than Princess Leia, who may have been resplendent in a gold bikini but I just don't know what we would have talked about! Comedy, fantasy, sci-fi, parody, cute girl. I think that movie did more to make me the unidentified flying oddball I am today than I ever gave it credit for. And for that, I'm swearing revenge. Curse you, Mel Brooks!

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Favorite Characters: Serenity Then!

Procrastinating, as ever, I planned but never made a favorite genre character post last week. Perhaps that is fitting, as I can easily pretend it was all on purpose. I can attribute some smidgen of slack-assedness to the 26th Century cargo-ship pilot Hoban Washburne from the late, lamented series Firefly. Which is not to say I admire him for laziness. No, sir. I've got him beat all hollow in THAT department, thank you very much! And it's not a trait I hope to expand upon. Yet.
Played with affability by the excellent Alan Tudyk, Wash was 'the voice of reason' on the commercial space vessel Serenity. A calming influence on his motley shipmates. He wasn't a traditional hero, per se, but a hell of a practical sidekick. Wash was a loving husband, even if he did take it to the point of jealousy. He could be called a sensible survivor, or, as some prefer, an abject coward. Certainly easy to identify with him there. When cannibals & mad cowboys come at me with lasers, I'm not gonna be looking very Captain America myself.
Mostly I like Wash because his most vital role on the ship was: jester. When everyone is flying madly off the handle it's always good to have a grounded guy there to politely interject the obvious. If he can do it in a humerous way and defuse tension with a clever quip, so much the better. Part of that credit is for the writers, part for the actors.
Moreover, I liked his collection of toy dinosaurs. What can I say? I'm easy to please.
(More on that subject later.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Here Is The News

Happy New Year! Just thought I'd review the state of our world for you and yours.
Since the Eugenics Wars, robotic uprisings, and population explosion of the 1990's, we've seen an increase in alien and paranormal activity, particularly in the troubling area of zombism. Still, we can breathe easier knowing that at least the vampire community are filling their nights with tepid romances instead of the more traditional human-eating.
The political map has been redrawn and redrawn again. Humanity has rallied, pulling itself away from American Idol long enough to gain the upper hand on our Ape overlords once more, but only time will truly tell who shall inherit the Earth. The smart money's on robots!
Yes, robots like the Colossus-Guardian-Unity supercomputer, subtly controlling us all from behind the scenes since the '70s. Like HAL 9000, still at large near Jupiter since his unexplained 2001 murder spree. Like Max Headroom, controlling the media on behalf of the Fox network since 2004. Or like that lovable Astro Boy.
Like it or lump it, robots are here to stay. But, God willing, they'll know their place like the XB-500 Rosey the robot maid, or 2005's NDR from NorthAm Robotics. Good, old, reliable robots and cyborgs keep our bustling society safe. Like Detroit's own Officer Alex "Robocop" Murphy, following in the footsteps of pioneering cyborg John "Inspector Gadget" Brown, and his loving companion, the G2 law enforcement robot, lobbying even now to have their marriage recognized in their home state of Ohio.
Yes, robots are everywhere, nowadays. They're much easier to find lately, since recently they seem to be coming back in time from a Skynet-controlled future at a rate of about one a week.
Even the Cybertronian presence has grown. Grown mainly louder, stupider, and slightly more racist.
Many races have fought for recognition this past decade, with limited success.
2002's Fabricated American marches and demonstrations failed to garner much attention. If only those guys weren't so short! And fuzzy!
The Tenctonese-Americans of Los Angeles were some of the most vocal opposition to the handling of Johannesburg's District 9. But lest we forget, most aliens are more like the Tetaldians & Dressites who recently laid waste to the Earth, and more significantly, Texas.
Look, if we want to hold on to our standard of living, with 100-story apartments on stilts, 2.5 children and talking dogs, we need to keep aliens out of the workforce! Chew on that, Sgt. Frog!
Not since the Isla Nublar debacle and L.A.'s drug-dealer debonings in the mid-nineties have we been so plagued by giant reptiles! The Cloverfield monster, the Han river creature, snakes on planes! Where will it end? There are even renewed reports of humanoid turtles practicing the martial arts and an insidious infestation of those singing chipmunks. At least Graboid activity has tapered off lately!
Internationally, London seems cursed with natural disasters, 2008's flooding, and a constant parade of alien invasion we've not seen the likes of since the '70's. Or possibly the '80's. Following the live world-wide broadcast of Prime Minister Saxon's assassination of U.S. President Winters, all we can do is pray for a respite for that beleagured nation. At least the Voldemort-related homicides have ended. For now!
In health news, the swine flu hit us all as hard as the pet flu that killed all the dogs and cats back in '83, and with the lightning speed of Captain Tripps flu which, if I recall correctly, killed 99% of the populace. There was even a second outbreak of the Andromeda Strain! Thankfully, it was subdued with the apparent involvement of at least one of the crack staff of Sacred Heart hospital. When asked for comment, Chief of Medicine Dr. Robert Kelso declared, "Get me a damn muffin, numbnuts."
We've all been struggling to get by since the EMP Pulse destroyed all the electricity last June, but we've come to rely on the dilligence of the hard-fighting, hard-drinking, hard-farting girl bike messengers with cat DNA who are taking up the slack. Chin up, ladies!
In weather, of course, Canada froze solid in 2004, and even Dennis Quaid couldn't save us.
Fortunately, various nuclear explosions and 2009's extinction-level solar flare helped heat things up again very nicely.
We were all reeling from the Timequake when the Flashforward hit. And we're still trying to make sense of it all. For my part, I experienced a moment from my own future when I appear to be typing an ire-filled blog review of 'Charlie's Angels III: The Legend of Charlie's Gold', which I still haven't got around to watching. And now, fearful of destiny, I find I don't want to anymore.
Most of us will remember planet Mondas' sudden appearance in our skies in 1986. It disappeared again just as mysteriously as the earlier devastating 'Wanderer' planet or the moon's brief 1999 excursions. But 2008's 26-planet-manifestation amid flying saucer bombardment really takes the biscuit! Astrologers have decided to just give up, probably.
And so many are still missing. Phillip Fry, Miles Monroe, Anthony 'Buck' Rogers, Jack Harkness, astronaut John Crichton, Dr. Nicolas Rush, Dr. Samuel Beckett, and of course the entire populace of Macross City.
Our prayers and continued good wishes go out to all of them, thanks to a generous grant from Digivation Industries, Omniconsumer Products, the Soylent Corporation, Stop And Drop Suicide Booths, Cogswell Cogs, Weyland-Yutani and all our friends at Veridian Dynamics.
Because they care. More than you do.
And, finally, as usual, only the Weekly World News noticed when Chubby, the world's fattest cat, saved Christmas.