Monday, January 31, 2011

The Hugos: The Snow Queen

You'll never be rid of me! I've ruled this blog for 150 years and I've created my own clone to rule it for the NEXT 150 years! Suck on that, internet!

Sorry, for a moment I thought I was the titular lead character in the 1980 novel by Joan D. Vinge, winner of the 1981 Hugo Award for Best Novel: The Snow Queen.

It's a sci-fi version of the Hans Christian Anderson fable with which witch I am not familiar.

I am, however, familiar with Dune and Star Wars. Take a water planet with big sentient fish instead of a dessert planet with giant worms, then the characters from "Star Wars" only gender-reversed, add a thousand kilograms of court intrigue and you've got 'The Snow Queen'!

That's over simplifying, something I wish this VERY long book had done.

Now, I didn't set out to bash it and I don't want to: I need you to understand that as a dude I don't WANT to trash the efforts of lady writers, but sometimes that's how I'm wired.

So I'll repeat what I said at the time: this would make a good movie, with the right people involved and a lot of luck it could really be the girl geek version of 'Star Wars'. But I only thought it was O.K.

Moon isn't a terrible protagonist, and the Snow Queen is a fine villain. Unfortunately, the romantic interest, Sparks, is impossible to like. He's pretty, easily manipulated, and a sexual captive for the villain, like a traditional princess. Oh, dear, how I hated him.

As I read others' reviews, I noticed a lot of people liked the robot. I don't even remember this character anymore! And I LOVE robots!

I DO remember wind-swept, empty, coastlines and back-stabbing, decadent, palace conversations. Or was it empty conversations and a wind-swept palace?

I'd read this author again, maybe her series with magic cats?

Recommended for those who love fantasy and, ideally, have vaginas.

I still like her better than her ex-husband Vernor.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Frabjous Portmanteau Word

I've got to give credit where credit is due: while I bought a Gil Elvgren page-a-day pin-up calendar for 2011, my buddy Ron bought one for archaic word definitions, and this week we were pleased to learn the name for a word category everyone is already familiar with.

Whenever you use the words blaxploitation, frenemy, or jeggings, you're using what Lewis Carroll called a portmanteau word; "packing two words into one suitcase". He coined the tag in 1871, but the words have been around since at least 1812 and in our ever time-conscious world of information compression (infopression) we mash-up more of them all the time. Sexting. Emoticon. Blog.

While Carroll's poem 'Jabberwocky' is largely composed of invented terms it is hardly nonsense, containing many portmanteaus: the fumious bandersnatch is "fuming & furious", while the mimsy borogoves are "flimsy & miserable".

Now, you can gerrymander about Brangelina over brunch, chortling all the while, and you'll be using portmanteau words and seeing them everywhere.

I was all set to dazzle you with three I came up with myself!

However, Google tells me Piers Anthony wrote 'Pornucopia' in 1989. (Just, as an aside, thanks to my friend Anthony for his recent gift of a buttload of paperbacks, including many of Piers' Xanth titles. You rule, man!)

And there's already a board game called 'Prediculous', which I was going to define as something both predictable and ridiculous, as in "Smallville's getting ANOTHER season? How very prediculous!"

Finally, say it with me, "What awful shade of fake tan does Jersey Shore's Snooki use?"

Answer: Whorange.

Goodnight everyone! Drive safe!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Favourite Characters: YER FATHER'S MUSTACHE!

Naw, that's not a character! That's the best thing my favourite character Jughead derisively blurts in a collection of comics from the 1940's and 1950's.

'Archie Firsts' from Dark Horse reprints is a treasure trove of historical antics and kooky first appearances of classic comic-type characters.

Like Jughead.

Forsythe P. Jones III, created 70 years ago, manages to be a high school student every year since 1941, a fine feat indeed!

Is it the power of his teeny weeny magic beanie?

Somehow related to his adventures with the Time Police?

I now honestly believe that Archie Comics carefully and deliberately present us, the loyal readership, with more than 70 consistent but alternate dimensions (probably many more) and seventy plus versions of Juggie. These plethora of Jugshead iconoclastically sport shirts with an enigmatic "S" on the front, some have an equally mystifying "13" on the back. (Also the bizarre TV Jughead whose hat is pink for some reason.)

From the version your grandfather might have raced in a soapbox derby to the radical '80's drummer dude with the fade haircut, to the guy ordering burgers with his iPhone, it's always essentially Jughead: rail thin, lazier than his dog, winner of every eating contest, and loser (by fervent choice) in the game of love.

I love outlandish tales, and frankly I thought very little of Archie Comics until I started reading them recently. (After all, they only occasionally feature superheroes and space travel!) But they DO feature engaging, funny, essentially ordinary characters in outlandish situations.

I may never have had to transport an eccentric billionaire's stuffed swordfish on a bus before, but now I can imagine it! Thanks to Jughead and his many writers and artists.

Jug may be a sarcastic loafer who eschews the fairer sex in favor of epicurean delights, but perhaps more than any other qualities I admire his pragmatism, forthrightness and loyalty to his friends.

If you have a pal like Jughead you can count yourself thrice blessed! He's the sort of pal I hope to be myself. (THRICE!)

There's even a dimension or two where ol' 'girl-hating' Jughead got hitched. Specifically, a month back in 'Life With Archie', our twenty-something soda jerk married fellow Pop Tates' employee Midge Klump (ex-girlfriend of Moose Mason). In one specific possible future, the proposal took the form of an economic partnership to make it easier for them to attain a small business loan. But... there was more to the story than dollar signs...
I wish them the best in their struggle and can only assume Jug and Midge aren't misguided enough to trade their marriage to Mephisto or Mr. Lodge or anybody else.

Because... it ain't the Archies without the Jughead beat.

Monday, January 24, 2011

TV REVIEW: Generator Rex

Due to the seeming diminishment of new sci-fi TV, I roam farther afield to bring you news of possible merit.

Generator Rex is the latest teen sci-fi super-hero cartoon from "Man of Action", the team of dudes who created the lucrative Ben 10 series-es's. It tells the tale of a future time, 5 years after a horrible 'Event' unleashed tiny mechanisms into the atmosphere. These nanites now infuse every living thing, periodically causing random & drastic genetic changes. Those affected are known as EVOs (Exponentially Variegated Organisms). With one exception these mutants cannot control their abilities and/or have gone mad: Rex (Daryl Sabara).

In the footsteps of shape-shifters like Metamorpho, the T-1000, Star Trek's Odo, but mostly cyborg law enforcer Inspector Gadget, Rex can extrude massive, seemingly mechanical, appendages such as a helicopter backpack, piston powered jumping boots, grasping tongs or cutting shears. And, sometimes, his touch can cure other EVOs.

These abilities make him a prized commodity for Providence, the SHIELD-meets-Torchwood quasi-military agency tasked with saving civilization from rampaging science monsters.

Meet the lovely but no-nonsense Dr. Holiday (Grey DeLisle). And the laconic, no-nonsense be-suited swordsman Agent Six (Wally Kurth). Even the talking monkey Bobo (John DiMaggio) isn't especially pro-nonsense. And he has laser guns.

Somewhat unhelpfully, Teletoon ran the episodes out of sequence, episode 4 first, then 1 & 2. Fortunately, the show is very action-oriented, and not yet burdened with much back-story.

What happened during the Event? How did Rex lose his memory? What are the various oogey-boogey EVOs and clandestine shadowy figures up to next, most especially the head of Providence, White Knight (J.K. Simmons)?

Will the space police known as Plumbers (featured in Ben 10) stop by to help?

O.K., not too likely.

Based on the Image comic 'M.Rex' and very slickly animated, this is a better experience than your average episode of new 'V'. In the fickle world of TV, I give it 2 seasons.

Friday, January 21, 2011

*the works is a beating so intense you'll pray for death

Am I ill-informed, I ask myself?
Yes, I answer.

If you ask me when Jenny was cloned from the
10th Doctor in the Doctor Who episode "The Doctor's Daughter", I'd answer "Why, 6012, of course!" (Except I probably won't even have that same information available later on. I feel like even the useless sci-fi trivia I've jammed my mind with is fading faster all the time.)

But ask me real-world questions like when are Georgia Moffat & David Tennant to be wed, I haven't the slightest clue.

Thank goodness for Conan O'Brien! He's a talk-show host on TBS with fierce red hair and beard, a quick wit, and freakishly long legs he's fated to lose in the war of 2012.

In my early twenties I watched his show because I didn't sleep as much or as early. Enough so that I tended to see (or dream) hot sauce commercials where cowboys lasso big ol' floatin' heads.

But I've lost my thread here... CONAN! Yes, Conan's show on NBC was great fun but I lost touch over the years, and I'm glad to have rediscovered him in time to have seen him rendered by Warner Bros.' Bruce Timm as "official" DC superhero 'The Flaming C' (that's him below there, out- bearding Aquaman and looking all outlandish with his loafers, fishnets, jai alai glove and eternally-smoking oven mitt.)

You never quite know what to expect from Conan, and that's a rare commodity. Talking like a turn-of-the last century radio pitchman, prancing about in women's jeggings, or chasing Gary Busey with his name-emblazoned zeppelin, Conan O'Brien dances on my fun zone till I can't walk. Or something less filthy-sounding.

Thanks also to PVR, a device allowing me, a guy who sleeps at 9 PM, to watch Conan's comedy antics at my leisure. Often while choking over my dinner. With laughter! And with my lady wife. (She, granted, is better at setting the PVR and at all forms of technology, really.)

Thanks to Andy Richter as well, O'Brien's loveable compatriot (lovely picture on right). He's a swell actor and his TV shows get cancelled too fast. I like him SO much, he should probably have top billing over an inanimate device like my PVR. Too late!

Actually, I think all Conan's guests so far this year have been American, so the 'keeping me informed about UK celebrity gossip paradigm' off the top was pointless, really. And how 'real world' IS celebrity gossip anyway?

Don't care. If my argument was going to be that Conan was keeping me grounded and informed, I guess it's partly true. It's more important to me that I be edutained than educated anyway.

Plus I learned the Minty the Candy Cane song. (He briefly fell on the ground.)

And I got this fine image cap for my computer wallpaper:
What is truth, anyhoo? Is there in truthiness no beauty?

The Conan show is a succulent, juicy burger with the works.*

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Favourite Characters: Bad & Bookish

It's a shame my cursory research reveals today's favourite character just wasn't around that much. But she doesn't wear that much, so... wey-hey!

Jennifer Maloy (Ace name 'Wraith') is a super-powered librarian sneak thief created by John J. Miller for the Wild Cards series of mosaic novels edited by the famous George R. R. Martin.

A certain librarian buddy of mine (doesn't dress like this) gave me the first twelve Wild Cards novels for my most recent birthday, and I've just finished book four.

The story continues to unfold for me of an Earth forever altered by the Takis-A xenovirus, an engineered plague from space that killed tens of thousands when it appeared in the 1940's, mutated thousands into hideous 'jokers', and bestowed unfathomable superpowers on lucky hundreds.

Such as Jennifer Maloy, a mild-mannered librarian whose intangibility power (like X-Men's Kitty Pryde or the Justice League's Martian Manhunter & his 'niece') allows her to pass through solid objects like... a wraith. The catch is, she can't be intangible AND carry stolen items AND support much in the way of clothing. It's either booty or boo-tay! Tee-hee!

She's a thief for thrills and a good cause: she steals from the corrupt and gives to battered women and homeless kitties.

Many of the "superheroes" in the Wild Card stories are only vaguely heroic, with many dragging MASSIVE feet of clay. I appreciate Wraith for her titillation factor, but also because she's genuinely kind and good in a primarily grim-and-gritty universe.

(I like the robotic Modular Man & the rotund telekinetic Turtle, too, but they don't make as pleasing a picture in their bikinis.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Hugos: The Fountains of Paradise

Is it gauche to suggest that only a gay guy could invent the space elevator?

Not that a classic tiny, thrusting rocket isn't a little obvious, too, but when it comes to erecting the Earth a mighty, turgid structure, a real MAN'S apparatus, there's nothing like a big, black carbon nano-tube phallus that reaches 1/15th of the way to the moon, pally!

That's the main character of Arthur Clarke's 'The Fountains of Paradise': an elevator 3 times the diameter of the Earth, designed to make 22nd century space travel safer and more economical. Especially if they get to... I mean HAVE to... knock down some monk-covered mountain in Asia.

An engineering feat for the ages.

A machine from atop which to scoff at the gods.

Take that, Zeus! Mine's bigger!

Ahem. Sorry.

I only gave 1980's Hugo-winning novel 2 stars out of 5.
When I reviewed Clarke's 1973 winner here, I was lukewarm but I used the word 'fun' a time or two.

Not so much this time out.

It has all the hot, engineering action and all the cool eastern philosophy you could ever want... certainly more than I did.

Maybe if it was about a nice, tight, wormhole... with boobs...

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I've been languishing in vile illness all week and what didn't make me feel better was the pilot for NBC's 'The Cape'.

I cannot recall a superhero pilot I hated SO much, SO fast. Mindless drivel. Really dumb. It moves so slowly that 2 hours felt like 9. Keep in mind I still watch 'Smallville'(!)

First, I don't like most hundred-year old pulp heroes anyway: from the era when having super-powers meant owning a GUN! And a MASK!

Our brave hero has the powers of 2 carnys and a cape that can do 37 things. (Get caught in a revolving door, get caught in a jet engine... the list probably goes on.)

The performances were fine, slightly over the top but that's for the best. Because the writing was dog vomit. (SPOILERS.)

The terrorist villain Chess frames our hero Vince 'the only good cop in Palm City' by tightly affixing the Chess mask to his head and sending him out to be framed and exploded on camera. Clever move, right? All blame deflected forever... so WHY does the villain continue to dress as Chess? Wouldn't that ruin the whole point of the frame-up?

And why are we meant to trust the carny folk Vince falls in with so quickly? They go from literally threatening to CUT HIS HEAD OFF and dump him in the desert to training him in the Carny Arts in about 20 seconds. The hell?

Finally, and no offense to Cameron the Terminator/River Tam, but the computer genius girl Oracle (sorry, ORWELL) looks pretty foolish fighting the French poisoner Cain.

Not physically, I'm sure the point of the scene was to show us how bad-ass Orwell is: it's that she shouldn't have been goaded into the kitchen to fight this knob in the first place!


2011 will see the end of 'Stargate Universe', but I have a feeling crap like 'The Cape' will run for 10 years.

In the words of Edna Mode: NO CAPES!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Binge on Fringe- Season 2

It's a follow-up post!

I NEVER really do this!

Looking over my tag list for ideas I realized I need a follow-up to 'Binge on Fringe- Season 1', now that I've recently finished Fringe Season 2.

Thanks, as ever, to Ron for providing me with these things to watch.

Yes, I'm still hooked. No, I still don't like anybody. The stiff, dead-inside FBI gal, the unshaven jerk and his appalling father- or IS he?

Spoilers abound in EVERYTHING I might say here, so I don't know how to go about this, but I can tell you I enjoyed the episodes called August, Peter, Jacksonville, White Tulip, Brown Betty, and Over There the most this season.

And there's more specifically 'sci-fi stuff' by volume. More plentiful special effects, too. (Never enough for me. Not ever. You'd need a dump truck full of sci-fi with sci-fi sprinkles on it to make me buy this series.)

But I am forced to admit the writing and performances are TOP-NOTCH. I feel fans of ordinary mysteries and horrors who can suspend their disbelief slightly would be more pleased than I am.

Do you know, I didn't realize the guy who plays Walter Bishop (John Noble) played Denethor in the Lord of the Rings movies until today? He's different kinds of horrible madmen in both, fascinating to watch, like some cobra in human form.
One of my favourite bits was opening credits redone for a 1985 episode.
I'll be watching the remainder of season 3 as it airs.

You got me, Ron! Like it or not.

You should check outside for flying pigs as well: I'm giving the V-make another chance tonight, too.

(Maybe that tooth I lost was my wisdom tooth?)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Favourite Characters: The Mighty One

With the dress sense of James Dean, the hair of Conan O'Brien, named for Phil Hartman and a battered potato wedge, I present a favourite character from a beloved cartoon program:

Philip J. Fry, star of the decade-young animated sci-fi comedy series Futurama, is an old friend, dear to my heart. Created by Matt Groenig, David X. Cohen and company, voiced by the inestimable Billy West, Fry is a reluctant hero in a confusing time.

Frozen from 1999 to 2999 while attempting to deliver a pizza, Fry finds himself... in the Future!

The year 3000 is equal parts utopia and dystopia, with everything everyone could ever want at every moment, and a suicide booth in every food court.

Surrounded by oddball characters and faced with bizarre challenges, Fry confronts his brave new world with a minimum of brains, charm, and skill, yet armed with a maximum of incurable optimism. He's literally not clever enough to be miserable for long.

When he pays attention, he can be counted on to help his chums to the best of his admittedly meager ability.

"I had it all. A low-paying job, several friends, and a bed in a robot's closet. I envied no man!"

Clueless, hapless, but never hopeless, the good-hearted delivery boy with the cobbled-together brainwaves has made Futurama a delight to re-visit since 2000.

Not least the latest DVD package (which my dearest wife gave me this Xmas).

I love that lady like Fry loves Leela. I'm gonna get her SO MANY lizards!

Thrill again and again to the exploits of the Planet Express crew, I say!

To the FUTURE!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Hugos: Dreamsnake

I celebrate the birth of a new year with the last Hugo winning novel of the 1970's.

Praise be to Heinlein, now I can FINALLY start complaining about the 1980's Hugos!

Sigh.  It's true.  I have NO idea what they were thinking in the seventies. With three exceptions I don't have a lot of praise for this decade in terms of Hugo awards.  And while the eighties has my LEAST favourite winner so far, it's not too awful otherwise.

Nor is 'Dreamsnake' AWFUL.  Two stars out of five is something I considered O.K.  The COVER is DREADFUL!  But the story's o.k.

I REALLY got the impression this was for girls instead of me.  But the emphasis on snakes in the story itself means I won't ask my wife to read it and tell me.  She HATES SNAKES, Jacque.  HATES 'EM!

In a post-nuclear world, a noble desert woman with brains, guts, control over her body's autonomic functions, and a bag full of medicinal pet snakes takes on all comers.  Sadly, not sexily.

The whole thing would probably have seemed better if I'd had a medicinal snake to fill with LSD and inject myself.  In fact, I think it should be sold with packets of acid and a snake-training manual.  Couldn't hoit! 
(It would hoit.)

Author Vonda Neel McIntyre, I gotta say, is pretty cool.  She wrote some of the first Star Trek novels I ever read (ripping good adaptations of the 2, 3, & 4th movies) as well as an original Star Trek novel which I quite enjoyed:

'Enterprise: The First Adventure', if I may be so bold, was a much better read by far than 'Dreamsnake'.  Further fuel for the fire in my belly that Hugos aren't ever handed out to franchised or shared world novels.  A pox upon you for trying to be fair and unbiased, Hugo awards!

Grateful I am, beat out a book by C.J. Cherryh, this did. 
Yes.  Talk like Yoda, I do.