Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Hugos: Foundation's Edge

Smart dude, that Isaac Asimov.
Him giant brain win heap big Hugo award 1983. Me think it worth 3 stars on goodreads!

I mentioned already that I liked his robot detective stories when I was a kid, right? Please don't think I'm the lowest common denominator. (I am. I really am.)
For a more insightful review than mine, go here.

Foundation's Edge was not a favourite, nor did I actively dislike it. It's not in my library anymore, but it's readily available if I need it again someday.

It's pretty good, worth my time and probably yours. The whole series, if you please. It's not going to make a lick of sense on its own.

Asimov, Arthur Clarke, and Robert Heinlein were known as 'The Big Three' of science fiction. This might be unfair, but to me Asimov is the third guy. (The Hugo people felt exactly the opposite in 1983, with Clarke's '2010' and Heinlein's 'Friday' nominated but never the bride. Sniff.)

There's few thrills and very little juiciness in this leisurely paced, lecture-filled mystery adventure thousands of years in the future.

Fourth in the lengthy but excellent 'Foundation' series, which has concerned itself with the collapse and rebuilding of a galactic human civilization based on either physical strength or mental force in competition. All under the auspices of the scientific predictions or "psychohistory" of a dead man's hologram. (Hari Seldon, shown here being enigmatic.)

'Foundation's Edge' postulates the formation of a galaxy-encompassing group mind where peace and harmony may be achieved by means of everybody sharing consciousness with everything else.


Do YOU want to feel what a carrot feels while you eat it? I personally have no wish to experience deep sea angler fish sex. Or worse, LOWER life forms! Don't make me use Kardashian neural impulses or swap mentalic energy with Tiger Blood Sheen!

I'm not convinced sharing our every stupid thought is the true road to universal peace.

You wouldn't want to live in my head and frankly I don't have enough couch space in there, not even for the weekend. Stop asking!

Asimov's Galaxia model may be superior to rule by brute force.

Or simply a fine excuse for doddering old scholar Janov Pelorat to do the nasty with group-mind aficionado and local hottie Blissenobiarella. (Bliss for short.)

Group-mind girls just LOVE big brains!

And when you're doing it with a group mind, it REALLY is the nasty.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Favourite Flying Cars

Who says blogging is irrelevant gibberish? Well, me for one. Anyway, I'm back. And aren't you blessed for the experience? Yes, you are. So here's this:


(Why eight? Because that's how many fingers I have left with both thumbs up!)

8. Jennifer Walter's '59 Dodge
Modified by space trucker U.S. Archer and his good buddy Al the Alien, Marvel Comics' She-Hulk briefly owned a green hover car capable of interstellar travel. Ludicrous speed!

7. Guardian Bob's 262 convertible hover car

In his spare time between battling viral invasion in the computer world of Mainframe, 'Reboot''s hero tinkered with this classic red vehicle whose engine never worked properly.

6. Arthur Weasley's Muggle Ford Anglia
Enchanting Muggle artifacts is frowned upon in the wizarding world of 'Harry Potter', but Ron's dad can't resist- nor can Ron and Harry resist illegally driving it to school.

5. The Doctor's "Whomobile"
While stranded on Earth during his third life, the alien Timelord scientist used local technology to construct advanced items he found useful or just really fun. After assembling the rapid roadster 'Bessie', he built this silver number. This painting by Paul Hanley does it better justice than the chroma-keyed onscreen version (no offense, but everything looks better in the imagination).

4. Centauri's Star Car

'The Last Starfighter' offered trailer park youth Alex Rogan a trip to the besieged planet Ryloth in a transforming interstellar ship. Con man Centauri's transport was, it seems, the first computer generated flying car.

3. Gordon Shumway's Melmacian hover car
ALF, the indolent gluttonous narcissist on whom I imprinted at an early age, tooled around East Velcro's mean streets on the planet Melmac in this beauty. Set in 1949, 'ALF: The Animated Series' pilot episode amply demonstrated that poor driving skills and shoddy brake repair need not fail to impress the furry ladies- Gordon's girlfriend Rhonda laughs even while her brash beau shouts at his superior officer in the Orbit Guard: "Look what your building did to my car!"
(On a purely personal note- this cartoon REALLY needs to come out on DVD. Vastly more imaginative comedy than most of the live action series, and while owning the first third of it is better than nothing, I'd dearly love to see the rest of it again.)

2. Dr. Emmett Brown's DeLorean time machine
"If you're going to build a time machine into a car why not do it with some style?"
"Where we're going we don't need ROADS."
Is there a cooler car? I'll tell you. No. And if they're not offering hover conversions in OUR world in 2015, I think you have the right to ask- why the hell not?

1. Luke Skywalker's SoroSuub X-34 Landspeeder

Sold for 2000 credits on planet Tatooine, with absolutely no demand for them since the XP-38 came out. I'm convinced you never forget your first hover car- the 'Star Wars' special editions may have spruced it up delightfully but at 6 years old I didn't think about HOW it was done. It was a REAL flying car. (Mounted on a big stick or with fogged-out wheels.)

I don't own a car. My wife lets me drive hers for errands, and I'm very grateful (especially since I scraped the paint in a parking garage some months back). But the truth is, I was spoiled on real world cars at an early age so hard and for so long that I don't know the thrills of mortal men.

Give me a flying car or give me death! (Presumably one will cause the other.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How ironic. Another day and I would have completed my tunnel.

For over sixty years, Michael Gough was a stellar character actor. And, as usual, I only know him for his forays into the fringes rather than his EXTENSIVE stage career and hundreds of dramatic roles.

Fiendish inventor of the killer android Cybernauts.

Wonderland's potty March Hare and Underland's elderly Dodo.

Twice a powerful foe to the Doctor, once an off-screen husband to the Doctor's companion Polly.

Gough seized the screen in memorable films from 'Top Secret' to 'Sleepy Hollow'.

Also he was a butler in something or other...

THAT VOICE! The man was amazing even when you couldn't see his sublime expressions. He made me laugh, he made me cringe, he sold me Coke.

The game is ended, Celestial Toymaker, until next time.

Rest in Peace, Michael Gough.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Favourite Characters: The Host With The Most

"I can hold a note forever. But it's the change we're listening for. That's what makes it music."

My favourite character from the late, great TV show 'Angel' was Lorne, the demon empath. (Gorgeous pic from Aakami of Poland)

Lorne may be a demon, but he's one heck of a nice guy. Formerly known as Krevlornswath of the Dethwok Clan from the hell dimension of Pylea. Pylea is a barbaric world of swords and slavery. A world with plenty of quests and slaying and no music at all.

He was an outcast and a madman in his dimension because of his non-violent ways. His father always figured they'd eaten the wrong son. In 1996 when he fell through a portal to Los Angeles he never looked that gift horse portal in the mouth. And he never looked back, either. He constructed and became The Host of a karaoke bar he called 'Caritas', Latin for 'mercy'. It catered to both humans and demons, provided they left their grudges outside. If you were willing to let your guard down and sing, he could read your future.

Lorne was portrayed with wit and panache by the late, lamented Andy Hallett.
"Angel" was a strong, well-written show with many fine actors in the regular and guest cast. There's no reason to diminish anyone else by picking a favourite here. (It's just a way to put some 'oomph' in a blog title, baby.) He was a good hearted, sarcastic but supportive supporting character. And chief among his many talents, he had one hell of a beautiful singing voice.

Monday, March 14, 2011

We're Bi-Winning

Long ago and far away
I met my love and she did stay.
Insufficient are these words to say
My soul's fulfillment night and day.

Six years ago I wrote and drew a comic adventure version of my real-life blossoming romance.

Monkey McDevill, whose cape was a bedsheet, fell in love with the unquenchable foul-mouthed angel Lynnyth Van Vavavoom.

In their three modestly illustrated tales of hoversharks and time-traveling dinosaur scientists (available from Happy Harbor Comics they managed to vanquish evil, good, and Spider-Like Man.

Today I celebrate the second anniversary of our real-life nuptials with a modestly illustrated reminder of the heights to which we can soar.
Not to mention the big damn flaming sword and flinging of the poopies we forever wield against our enemies (who are thankfully few, and probably very weak).

Thanks, Trishy. You are best.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Favourite Characters: Rebellious Redhead

A hovercar careens wildly, pursued by police robots on the skyways of the year 4000.
At the controls is Leeja Clane, and she's fed up. Rich and pretty, daughter to a senator, she will smash her gilded cage and seek a world of adventure.

In a moment, she will encounter Magnus, Robot Fighter, a fine specimen of a man.
A beef slab of a dude; a hard, well-muscled mass of tough, gristly guy meat!

Raised from infancy to battle tyrant robots with his bare hands, Magnus is the hero and Leeja will love him immediately, as she must. It's his comic.

Magnus, Robot Fighter 4000 AD was written and illustrated by Russ Manning beginning in 1963. Manning's claim to fame was his work on the Tarzan comic book, and Magnus is the heir to that concept. Orphaned, raised at the bottom of the sea by kind, noble emotional robot 1A, Magnus is devoted to the cause of freedom. He's pledged to end human sloth and decadence via their servile mechanisms, which have taken every responsibility away from man and with it any semblance of self-determination.

It's a fun, bright, earnest comic. Magnus is admirable.

But I find Leeja to be the real character to root for. Magnus never questions his mission, or the possible nefarious motives of a robot who would raise (program?) a human to smash robots.

Leeja, however, has motives and feelings and other girl stuff.

Bored and stifled, she becomes a fugitive for a slight infraction of the posted speed limit, and chooses to stand up to the Pol-Robs. Yeah, OK, she spends the rest of the book mooning over Magnus, but before there was a movement by that name Leeja Clane was a real liberated woman.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Hugos: The City & The City

How to be diplomatic about this?

First, I'll look at China Mieville and know deep in my bones that he can kick my pasty ass.
So... no. I didn't like it. But that's just me! Stop pummeling me!

The City & The City didn't JUST win the Hugo award last year. It won LOTS of awards for genre fiction. And, more importantly, it won the hearts of the book club I'm in. Several excellent gentlemen of my acquaintance including my inestimable BFF Bookmonkey got behind this book in a big, big way.

And I picked it. So... I'm glad they liked it.


From my perspective, it's the bleak, empty tale of a tormented city where everyone is indoctrinated from birth to NOT SEE half of what exists. Complex rules separate into two what is actually one environment. If you breach the rules you wind up in the Breach where you become a Breach and angrily police the Breaches. (Although not made entirely clear, you probably wear breeches.)

Again, FROM MY PERSPECTIVE this is a frustrating, gloomy, meandering, intentionally ambiguous story with unappealing stock characters and a downbeat ending providing zero emotional catharsis.

That said, I ALSO think this story is like the Dagobah cave Yoda shows Luke in Empire; what is in there is 'only what you take with you'.

Upsettingly, I now suspect I have no soul. Certainly no imagination.

I don't like what it says about me that I don't appreciate being forced to THINK or make up my own justifications for a book that doesn't make the effort to explain itself plainly to a dumb guy like me.

But I concocted a moral lesson for myself which (funnily enough) I DO like, paraphrasing what this book MIGHT be saying:

"Social betterment cannot be attained where arbitrary ideological barriers are enforced."

Or: the other guy has a point, too.

Next time on Mike's Best Blog Ever: Something with a flying car, for frak's sake.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Book Review: Miracle Monday

It's even better than author Elliot S! Maggin's previous novel 'Superman, Last Son of Krypton'. There's no origin story to slow things down, and Luthor is significant but not the primary villain. "Miracle Monday" is amazing Superman material.

Superman's character is seriously tested in ethical and physical battle with the demon prince of the netherworld. The demon is called C.W. Saturn. (Hmm, CW... coincidence that the hell-spawned 'Smallville' would later run for an eternity on the CW???)

Also, it's got time traveling historians! Specifically, Kristin Wells, gutsy 29th Century scholar studying Superman while disguised as Lois Lane's anachronism-spewing assistant. (The character would briefly appear in the comics as Superwoman, an apparent darling of Maggin's. She's pre-Crisis, and vanished from comics so completely afterward that I've never heard of her till this week.)
Time travelers AND demons? What the what? The unholy marriage of sf and fantasy works beautifully. It's a high compliment for me that this reminds me of Douglas Adams' stuff; off-the-rails impossible and still internally logical. A sweet thing to behold.
Absolutely more fun than 'Downbelow Station', which won the Hugo Award for the year 1981.

So I hope DC paid the author well, or that it satisfied him to write it, or both. Elliot S! Maggin deserves to be remembered until 2857 and beyond.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Review: Superman, Last Son of Krypton

Elliot S! Maggin did right by me back in 1978 when he wrote this! I gave it 4 stars out of 5 on

So, yes, in my world it deserved the Hugo award more than 'Dreamsnake'.

This novel was recommended by favourite author Mark Waid in a podcast sometime back. Despite the movie tie-in cover it's an original novel set in the Superman comic book world of 1978.

Here Superman can zip across time and space under his own power, and Clark Kent is a TV news anchorman. It features his reluctant team-up with jailbird genius (and hero?) Lex Luthor.

I thought it was a fascinating look at the history of their antagonistic relationship as they struggle to save the entire galactic arm from an alien corporate takeover together. Also starring Albert Einstein and very possibly God.

It's funny and moving. It's a realistic take on arguably the most outlandish version of Superman: the Pre-Crisis Superman. Go big or go home, I say!

I've read or seen Supes' origin story so often that I feel this novel deserves special mention; it has something original to say with what must have seemed (even then) like tired, dated characters.

I started the sequel 'Miracle Monday' right afterwards, and I hope to read more from Maggin in the future. Shouldn't be too hard to find some: he wrote Superman for about ten years in the seventies and eighties.