Monday, May 31, 2010

The Hugos: The Man In The High Castle

I really like the movies 'Bladerunner' and 'Screamers', and I'm fond of 'Total Recall' as well. Even 'Minority Report' and 'Paycheck' were pretty cool. I confess I zoned out halfway through 'A Scanner Darkly'.
The same mind that inspired those movies and others, who asked us to question our identities and the nature of reality asked us to examine one such alternate history in the 1963 Hugo winning novel The Man in the High Castle.

Philip Kindred Dick was a self-described freaky dude, and I can't necessarily condone his excessive divorces and drug use, but wikipedia quotes Dick as liking Robert Heinlein as a person without agreeing with anything he wrote.

If that kooky guy liked someone as different from himself as Heinlein, then I'm gonna hafta say I like PKD, even though I have NOT ONE CLUE what he was writing ABOUT. NOT EVER.

Not in 'Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch', not in 'The Transmigration of Timothy Archer', not even in 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'.

I just don't get it. Paranoid, weird, unfathomable things pouring from the soul of a man who thought he was hit by space lasers and became Elijah the prophet.

If 'getting it' is not the point, then this deserved more than 2.5 stars I gave it. After all, being weird is no crime and usually I LOVE that sort of thing. At the very least, being willing to admit you DON'T know what's going on, what the world really is, or even who YOU really are is at the heart of a lot of science fiction. It's a willingness to QUESTION, to re-examine, that makes science and its fiction great.

Your friendly neighbourhood Bookmonkey loaned me many PKD books in my early twenties.

He'd be glad to recommend some to you.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Blogs Are Hard

You know this.

Either you write them or you read them or both.

And I have no advice to give you to make them easier.

Shall I mention that I chuckle when I see George Takei hawking Sharp Quatro TVs? Because he's awesome.

But is telling you THAT a good use of my time? It was on a commercial that ran while I am half-watching SPACE channel (a repeat of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine- The Way of the Warrior is on. This is also awesome.)

I'm not doing very well at uni-tasking right now, as you're guessed. But now that the Klingons have withdrawn from the Khitomer Accords I'll shut the TV down and finish this little literary abortion.

I don't know what I'm doing.
There's three months gone from the time I set myself to finish writing a novel. Know what I've done? Jack-Effing-Crap.

So, if I review Geo. Alec Effinger's 1972 debut novel 'What Entropy Means To Me' by saying I dislike it in every respect, is that because I'm jealous? Yes. Yes, it is.

Also, I barely understand it, thanks to the generous helpings of intellectal literary references and what may be liberal sprinklings of in-jokes. (It might be a satire, since my personal definition of satire is an unfunny parody, usually with an obscure moral purpose. And if I add that it seems pretentious or self-indulgent it's like admitting I'm not smart enough to understand what he was doing. Which is totally true. I'm not.)

It's a sort-of fantasy quest story with an unreliable narrator Seyt, spinning whimsy about his probably dead brother Dore, while their mad incestuous family of book-drowning royals on the planet Home apparently give each other lobotomies while vying for religious and political power over one another.

Among other things, I think Effinger was suggesting that the fantasy quest novel was dead or overdone. While this is almost certainly true, in some sense, it is rather disheartening to dwell on the opinion that even 40 years ago everyone already knew that everything had already been written already, and by better than the likes of YOU.

It sucks the wind out of my sails whenever I realise that I don't have the creative chops to do what I wish I could do.

And so I blog.

Maybe if I keep practicing I'll be a writer someday.

As The Refreshments put it in their song 'Down Together':

"Whoever said there's nothing new under the sun

Never thought much about individuals, but he is dead anyway."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Long-awaited Levitz Legion!

Today I plunked down my quatloos at Happy Harbor Comics for Legion of Super-Heroes #1, written by Paul Levitz and illustrated by Yildray Cinar. Check out my earlier posts for some Gushy McFanboy devoting a week to the Legion and their kooky adventures a thousand years hence.
So, here's the spoilers. Future! Planet exploding! Brainiac 5 STILL not getting a haircut!
Twenty years since his hundred-odd issue runs on various Legion titles in the seventies and eighties, and I'm excited to see Paul Levitz freed from the Phantom Zone and back in action like Lar 'Mon-El' Gand only less allergic to pencil lead!
This former DC President was responsible for much of modern Legion history and storytelling style. He brought us the Great Darkness Saga, weathered the First Crisis, and so much more.
Their Interlac looks a little rusty (page four's planet Titan Academy and Time Institute seem to be labelled 'ACACDEMY' & 'TIME INSTITUE') and convicted anti-alien bigot and murderer Earth-Man seems to be breaking the Legion code just by being a member, but I'll be a Korbal lightning beast if I don't look forward to next issue. (It's probably a Titanian dialect thing)
What just happened to Imra's kids? What on Oa is a Dyogene when it's squishing around at home like a floating blue slug? Who's Polar Boy's bed-friend on page 36? And how soon will Matter-Eater Lad and company be back from their 21st Century Espionage mission? Now?... Now?... How 'bout now?
Check out the ongoing Legion title for the current events of 3010, and ongoing Adventure Comics (also by Levitz) for some catch-up backstory, and discuss it all at message boards. Welcome to the future!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Time to Ditch Chuck

Or was that chuck Ditch? Nope, there's no TV show called Ditch. Maybe next year.
What am I jabbering about, you ask? This time last year I was looking forward to season 3 of Chuck, a clever little spy-show parody with an attractive and amusing cast.
And at the time, that seemed reasonable.
Yeah, I'm done with that now.
Instead of an untrained, inept but loveable not-a-spy who has no chance with the spy-girl, we have a trained, deadly but difficult to like spy who has, in fact, already GOT the spy-girl. And his wacky secret identity boring life is no more, so mad dog spy Casey has to get a real job cause Chuck has the mad dog spy job. Right? There's not much comedy or drama, and no romantic tension or clever parody left. It's just a so-so spy show these days. I'm not even sure the incomparable Scott Bakula can peak my interest any longer. I'm sad to admit it.
But it got a fourth season!
Better Off Ted? Cancelled.
V? Renewed.
Pushing Daisies? Cancelled.
Chuck? Renewed.
Dogs and Cats? Living together.
Am I complaining too much? Good!
Read a book!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Go, Team Venture!

The recent complete failure of my aged computer to recognise the 'turn on' button as meaningful only serves to remind me how very little I know about everything.

Rather like sham scientist Dr. Thaddeus 'Rusty' Venture in the darkly comic adventure cartoon 'The Venture Brothers' now in its fourth season.

Dr. Venture's primary skill sets include snide remarks and alcoholic self-pity, all the more shameful in a former boy adventure hero now pushing 50. His deceased father Jonas' acheivements outstripped modern conventional science but are now crumbling away unused in the Venture compound.

Beset by hordes of admittedly low-grade supervilains, Venture and his upsettingly naive sons would surely be long dead if not for the protection of stoic and vicious bodyguard Brock Sampson, and the grudgling friendships formed with several oddball superheroes.

Although it's hard to pin this cartoon down by genre (Saturday-Morning Retro-Futuristic Cross-Genre Satire?) and it's in NO WAY for kids under... say 33, it IS really, really fun. I especially enjoyed the third season, with its decreased attention paid to the travails of the young title characters and more spent on backstories and side tales featuring the ludicrous secondary types.

Such as Jefferson, the vampire hunter who only hunts 'blackulas' (you're on your own against Caucasian vampires). Or the inept Monarch and his new missus- Dr. Mrs. The Monarch (formerly Dr. Fiancee, formerly Dr. Girlfriend). The evil duo are hamstrung in their arch-foe efforts by their budget, their thematic but impractical butterfly costumes, and the bylaws of the Guild of Calamitous Intent.

I especially enjoy Henchmen 21 and 24, who I recently spotted at a nerd convention.

Foul-mouthed, occasionally disturbing, and often somewhat mean-spirited, it is still much less repellant than 'Drawn Together' and certainly much funnier.

So watch out for were-odiles, shield your eyes at all times, and never count on a robot called HELPER for anything. Go, Team Venture!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Hugos: Stranger in a Strange Land

Hello, and welcome to my 100th post! Aww, yeah, Titans!
Kids, you may recall that I like the novels of Robert Heinlein, and the 1961 Hugo winner is no exception. 'Stranger in a Strange Land' has the distinction of being the first Hugo winner I ever read, long before Bookmonkey inspired my Hugo-reading project.
In fact, I read it at 17, which was, roughly, 3 million years ago.
It's philosophical, innovative, disturbing, and amazing. As a seventeen year old I was only prepared to call it blasphemous, and I guess it still is. Among its ideas is that everyone and everything that exists- is God.
It's the story of Michael Smith, a man raised by Martians who more or less inspires a religious movement when he returns to Earth for the first time with his outsiders' view of humanity.
The book was beloved by hippies for its thoughts on free love, even prompting a real-world church in California. I know, I know, a new brand of sandwich spread would inspire a church in California. Just joshing, California!
Also from Heinlein, (the man who invented the waterbed) comes the term 'grok', the Martian word meaning a bunch of things, but roughly 'a complete love and understanding of something up to and including eating the item or person in question'.
In this Martian culture, there is so little to live on that the community eats their elders when they pass on, out of necessity. But the process is ritualized for added meaning. They make that person a part of themselves by understanding who he was and what he meant to them, and the dead guy expresses his love for his family and loved ones by sharing ALL that he was with them.
Maybe there's something or someone YOU love that much.
I personally will stick to chicken nuggets, myself, but I'm not the sort of person to stand in the way of true love in any form.
I grok you, humankind.
Thou art God.
And party on, dudes.