Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Ones Who Bump Back

With all the ghouls, vampires, ghosties and Twi-hards roaming the land these days, isn't it nice to know there's an organization who has humanity's welfare at heart?   And don't they deserve some thanks?

Hellboy, that big red son of a witch with the bigger fist. Abe Sapien, Victorian era fishman.  Johann Krauss, bodiless ectoplasmic medium. Liz Sherman, pyrokinetic with the overwhelming destiny.  Kate Corrigan, knows her history.  Just some of the many hard-working, hard-fighting members of the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense)  Just a few of the heroes holding back the end of days and stopping the inevitable demonic apocalypse.  It goes without saying that almost nobody knows about them and they get very little credit.

The excellent writing skills of Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and others, and the fine drawing ability of Guy Davis and Mignola himself have made my recent reading of the Dark Horse comic book series a pleasure. 

And who do I have to thank?  My BFF Kirk, for owning the series and introducing it to me. How about a big hand for him and his lovely wife, on this Halloween, their THIRTEENTH wedding anniversary!

 There are things that go bump in the night, and they're the ones who bump back.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Yes, kids, it's that time of year again.  It's 3010 and the Legion of Super-Heroes needs a new leader!  A stalwart sentient to guide us into the new decade!  

No idea what I'm talking about?  That's o.k., too.  Just put down your crack pipes and your beer bongs and surf the interwebs over to  Click on any brightly colored square with a picture of some damn superhero.  But WAIT!  There's more...

That I should live in such a time!  Paul Levitz back writing the Legion AND MY FIRST LEGION ELECTION!  Yes, I, THE READER can have a tiny say in what fictional character runs a fantasy league of aliens!  I feel more relevant than I did in my civic election of Slumlord A vs Slumlord B, and I CARE ten times more, too!  Sad, really.

But this isn't some phone-in campaign to kill Jason Todd the erstwhile Robin, oh no!  I'm part of a grand tradition since the days when kids wrote on paper and some poor schmo hand-delivered the results to Mort Weisinger.  Or something.

That's why I want to see the first NON-HUMANOID elected.  And if I'm not mistaken, the first extra-dimensional.  Also the first socialist!  I'm talking about Ti'julk Mr'asz of planet Vyrga, Universe-247, the insectoid teleporter also known as GATES.  

Created by Tom McCraw, Mark Waid, and Lee Moder in the fabled 1990's, Gates is the bug bolshevik drafted into the Legion by his hive-minded commie world of exoskeleton pinkos.  Ever since he's been preaching on the proletariat and championing the underbug.  I loved Gates from the moment he urged the (then all-humanoid) Legion "Good luck manning your teenage death squad!"  That's the guy I'm campaigning for right now.

Gates gets to see plenty of action as an interstellar shuttle-bus, and he's been spotted (with his beak closed for once) helping out in a soup kitchen, but never yet in a leadership role.  And no matter what you may think of Gates' politics, you can't let that Earth-first anti-alien xenophobe Kirt Niedrigh win!  That ding-a-ling shouldn't even be on the team!  'Reformed' my Eyeful Ethel!  No tolerance for the intolerant!  Also, and I shouldn't have to say this, attempted multiple murderer.  Torturer.  TURNED THE SUN RED!!!

Or vote one of those other fair-haired rapscallions.  They all have their good points.  Heck, if he was eligible you know I'd vote Matter-Eater Lad.  If you don't vote, the Dark Circle wins!
Vote with your hearts. But know, like me, your hearts want Gates.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Hugos: Rendezvous With Rama

It won the Hugo Award in 1973, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars on goodreads, I don't own a copy anymore and that's that.  

I find it hardest of all to do a review for a book that I liked fine.  Where do I go with FINE?  I can't gush, I can't spew my bile: it's a pretty good, if thick, space adventure in which a giant alien cylinder is discovered, explored, and abandoned when time runs out and it flies away again.  

I liked it, but I didn't love it. (And that COVER!  Is it intentionally inducing the nausea one would feel in outer space?  WTF, Nineteen-Seventies?)

'R With R' is a mystery story which ultimately provides no answers.  Still, I found it to be a good ride, an intriguing puzzle, and a fun adventure, in much the way that the TV show Lost wasn't.  Oooh, SNAP!   Plus, it had a giant biosphere with some robots and some other freaky stuff inside a metal tube in space!  That's better than some lame-ass smoke monster!

Although I understand the sequels have a bad reputation with some, I own them and plan to read them someday, if only so I can discard them as well, making space for more of the drivel I favor.  Or maybe I'll adore them. Who can say?  Mysteries abound.

There was a Niven and also a Heinlein nominated in the same year.  I haven't read them yet.  (Odds are real good I'll be royally pissed at the Hugo peeps for their lack of being in total agreement with me.  Heinlein vs Clarke?  No contest, mac.)

Morgan Freeman loves 'Rendezvous With Rama' and wanted it to be a movie decades ago, and if he hasn't soured on the whole thing, still does.  I'd go watch that, sure.  A world inside a cylinder?  Hook me up with them fancy visuals, brother!  As far as casting, the characters in the novel are all interchangeable space professionals with chiseled jaws (even the girl.  If there WAS a girl. I can't recall any point at which it would've made the slightest difference one way or the other).  

Competent Professionals + 
Giant Mostly Empty Artifact = 
Nobody Getting Laid.

Arthur Clarke was an army guy, briefly married, was knighted, loved scuba diving, and is partly responsible for the invention of the satellite.  Sweet, right?  I use those.  What did Heinlein ever invent?  WATERBED!  Feh!  
Clarke wrote much of the movie 2001, which is VASTLY overrated, and some of the movie 2010, which is keen!

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Favourite Characters: Purple Pushover

I recently re-watched the first season of a brilliant sci-fi program from down under, Farscape (1999-2003).  The whole series came fairly cheap on DVD and I really feel like I got my money's worth.

Created by Rockne S. O'Bannon (way cool name! and he also wrote for seaQuest and Alien Nation), the series concerned the adventures of Earth astronaut John Crichton and a motley collection of escaped prisoners on the run from the corrupt Peacekeeper regime in distant outer space.  Like Blake's 7 with a budget.  And Muppets.

I like all the characters, really.  Butch ex-Peacekeeper gal Aeyrn, fierce warrior D'Argo, grasping deposed monarch Rygel, blue priestess/murderer Zahn, street punk Chiana, tortured lunatic Stark et al. They're all very enjoyable for a group of desperate, self-interested alien jerks.  And it's impossible to hate John.  He's the local boy!

But there's a special place in my heart for the gentle giant most directly responsible for making sure they all stay alive arn after arn, cycle after cycle.  His name and/or species is Pilot. 

Desperate to see the universe but with no space travel of their own, Pilots bond physically and mentally with living bio-mechanical spaceships called Leviathans.  The Leviathan Moya is like a prison crossed with a flying whale and the primary setting of Farscape.  

Pilot's fusion with Moya was exceedingly painful and not completely at a time of his choosing.  He was essentially enslaved and his lifespan was reduced by a third, but he regards the chance to travel in space as worth the sacrifices he's made.  I admire his placid, patient demeanor, his competence under duress. Pilot is usually the voice of reason, the soul of restraint.  He's like Wodehouse's Jeeves if Jeeves were a giant space octopus.
Pilot is a large, multi-limbed animatronic monstrosity from Jim Henson's Creature Shop, operated by Sean Masterson, Tim Mieville, Matt McCoy, Mario Halouvas and Fiona Gentle. His calm, measured tones the performance of Lani Tupu, who impresses me every time I am reminded that Tupu also plays the mad despot Bialar Crace who spends the first season trying to recapture and execute our heroes.

Frell me, that's a great show!  Wildly imaginative, exciting, just plain fun.  Plus I'm totally digging the ongoing comics Boom! Studios is putting out.  

Gotta see me some season two again!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Hugos: The Gods Themselves

Continuing the Hugos with a dismal 'treat': Isaac Asimov's triumphant return to science fiction and the winner of the 1973 Hugo award.

Call me a traitor if you must, I didn't think much of this one.  (It also won the Nebula award, and was the novel Asimov cited as his personal favourite.)  

It may be a joyless slog through the tedious sex lives and monumentally uninteresting jobs of blobs from another dimension, but at least it beat 'What Entropy Means To Me' by George Alec Effinger, a nominee from the same year that is the worst Nebula nominee I have ever read.  (I think that book actively HATED me.)  So, good thing 'The Gods Themselves' won.  I GUESS...

I gave it 2 stars of 5 on  It was o.k.

Frankly, anybody who's heard me complain about C.J. Cherryh knows we haven't come to my least favourite Hugo yet.  

I kind of liked the backstabbing scientists in part one fighting over the rights to a perpetual energy machine that is hastening the death of the Earth's sun.  But I just completely lost interest with the 'hard' and 'soft' extraterrestrials. (That's what she said!)

It's hard (tee hee!) to imagine, but it proves there's a book with aliens and sex that does NOTHING for me AT ALL.  And, oddly, Asimov wrote it in response to criticism that his books never had such things before.  Turns out that was for the best.  If I want sexy sci-fi I'll find more Piers Anthony, Larry Niven, and Heinlein, thanks.

I was a lot happier as a kid reading Asimov's robot detective tales.  Does that guy know robots!  Shucks, boy, howdy!  
And I know this is a low blow, but that is one dog-barf ugly cover.  Seriously.  What were you thinking, Nineteen Seventies?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In The Mood For Something Good

The title of the post is a play on the title of the Foghat album "In The Mood For Something Crude".

I felt it was appropriate; as the guys who sang 'Slow Ride' are the favourite group of Dan Stark, fallen star of 'The Good Guys'.  Played with great cheesy gusto (and a great cheesy mustache) by the inimitable Bradley Whitford, Dan is a formerly excellent Dallas street cop who has intentionally never upgraded beyond the 1980's.  Eschewing the technology and techniques of the present, Dan avoids demon CSI computers and 'smartyphones', navigating solely on guts, damnit!

His partner Jack (Colin Hanks), of course, is better with procedures and social niceties, but his snarky attitude caused the lieutenant (Diana Maria Riva as Ana Ruiz) to pair him up with her other headache and assign this dastardly duo the crimes of lowest importance.  Jack hopes to make good with her, and more importantly with his lawyer ex-girlfriend (Jenny Wade as Liz Traynor).

Add an informant with a heart of gold he's gladly sell you and buckets of other eccentric crooks.

You've got yourself 'The Good Guys', or as Colin Hanks wanted to call it: 'Opposite Buddy Cop Show'.  
You've also won ME over completely, and I feel like that's saying a lot coming from the guy who's barely interested if one of the cops isn't Tenctonese or both of them aren't stationed in Demeter City on the planet Altor.  But, what it lacks in overt elements of the fantastic, it makes up for in clever, inventive silliness, great action scenes and plenty of heart.  I dare you to watch this and not enjoy the leads and their respective ladies.

Hanks may be the funniest uptight straight man since Aykroyd's Joe Friday.  

And Whitford can do no wrong as far as I know. He wins me over like Dan Stark wins the hearts of the ladies.  Oh, yeah.  At least in his own mind.  OH. YEAH.

Plus the upcoming bonus appearance of Gary Cole as Dan's often-cited old partner Frank Savage will be worth the watch, I assure you.

It's seven months old and airs on Fox, which means it has somehow dodged cancellation 47 billion times. MAYBE BECAUSE IT IS NOT TAKING ITSELF TOO SERIOUSLY.  It's not another dime-a-dozen crime drama, it's a crime comedy for a culture that forgets to laugh at itself.

I strongly encourage you to pull over, leap across the hood of your vehicle with great abandon, then watch this show while firing a pretend gun wildly into the air.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Hugos: To Your Scattered Bodies Go

If you're still alive...

...Congratulations!  You missed the cut-off date (2008) to be resurrected after your death on the planet Riverworld.  Sorry.

I, for one, breathe a sigh of relief.  Wherever I'm going, including oblivion, I'm glad it's not Riverworld.  Probably.

From Ringworld on to Riverworld: the 1972 Hugo winner was 'To Your Scattered Bodies Go' the first of five books by Philip Jose Farmer set on a mysterious planet which (as you may have guessed) is virtually all river and riverbank, providing plenty of surface area for every human being who has ever lived & died to live again forever.

So these billions of poor slobs all wake up naked one day on a riverbank where mechanical mushrooms provide regular nourishment, and where if you get killed you are revived again, possibly not in the same spot as before, but somewhere along the winding planet-spanning river in a healthy youngish body with all your memories of life on Earth and Riverworld intact.

Discovering there REALLY IS an afterlife AND it's catered doesn't stop people from wigging out, wandering around, and raping and/or pillaging.  Killing also continues, possibly with more vigor than before since it's become less permanent.

Our main characters in this first book are actual deceased  historical figures such as explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton 
(bearded, above), nutbar thug Hermann Goering (dandling child, left), and ordinary Alice Liddell (the inspiration for Alice, of Wonderland fame).  Also some poor schmo alien being who happened to have died on Earth in the period specified.  And everybody else.  If there's a moral judgement involved in this resurrection it treats Alice in Wonderland as exactly equal to Nazi scumwads, while essentially trapping them on nude beaches together, so GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!

I gave it 3 stars out of 5. It's an exciting and curious adventure, with a mystery to which I still want the answers, so I'll keep reading the series one day. Who the hell set all this up?  WHEN is all this?  WHY did this seem like a good plan?

I remember wondering afterward, and maybe the book proposed these possibilities within itself: is this one of many such worlds?  Is this supposed to be a reward or a punishment? Is this the human races' descendants' idea of a retirement colony?  Or a nursery for backward, vicious children?

Whatever it turned out to be (assuming Farmer ever told us, and if YOU know then don't tell me yet) it's a cinch PJF missed out, too. He died in 2009.  Hope he went somewhere better than Riverworld.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Hugos: Ringworld

Are you sure?

You want to hear about Larry Niven's ringworm?

Ohhhhkaaaay... well, it's a microscopic dermal parasite characterized by the raised circular lesion it leaves on famed septuagenarian sci-fi author Larry Niven...

What?  Ring-WORLD!  Oh, that's much better.  Thank goodness.

Ringworld is the 1970 book that won the 1971 Hugo and my heart.  In all seriousness, this is the best Hugo of the seventies, hands down.  Don't even bother with the rest. Go read it. Now.

Back already?  That was quick!  Ringworld (as you now know) is a rollicking adventure tale set on a world, right, shaped like a ring, y'know?  

IT'S REALLY FREAKIN' COOL!  It has a big, astonishing concept, and even better characters. 
Louis Wu, the 200-years-young misanthrope 
who leaves Earth in 2855 on the spaceship Lying Bastard with the genetically cowardly alien Nessus (left), the brutish felinoid (kitty man) Speaker-To-Animals (below), and the bred-for-luck gal Teela Brown.  

Then some other stuff happens, both sexy and science-y.  
Yes, stuff can be both!
I really, really liked this. 5 stars on goodreads, then I read 'Ringworld Engineers' as well, also very good, then I bought like 20 other Niven books I haven't gotten around to yet but very much hope to enjoy in some semblance of order one day soon.

Niven's contributions to 'Green Lantern' comics are worthy, his grisly/funny essay 'Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex' while no doubt ghoulishly accurate to the horrors awaiting the human in a human/Kryptonian mating fails to take into consideration the several methods by which Superman has been known to diminish his powers.  I imagine Clark and Lois 'do it' under a red sun lamp, for instance.  My evidence?  Lois is still slightly alive.

ANYway.  If you play Halo, then Ringworld is where the concept came from.  If you saw 'The Slaver Weapon' episode of the cheesy seventies 'Star Trek' cartoon (which I adore), or the 'Inconstant Moon' episode of the green cheesy nineties 'The Outer Limits' series, then you owe Larry Niven thanks or whatever remarks you deem appropriate.  Is he weird?  Probably.  His wife puts up with a lot, I bet. Of course, when they married she was Marilyn Joyce "Fuzzy Pink" Wisowaty, which I had to include here because that's frakkin' awesome.

Discovering Larry Niven was the best part of my Hugo reading project.  That and the snooty way I get to lord having read all the Hugos over everybody.