My wife returned from her trip to Las Vegas bearing delicious Popeye's biscuits and swanky new threads. Then she fixed my computer, which has been unable to log on for days now, which is why you get Monday's post on Wednesday. For my part, the weekend offered various delights at the pinnacle of Fanboy fun, the Toy and Collectible Fair. I managed to blow my wad of tax refund cash on Doctor Who action figures, used $5 Anime DVDs, and the classic 1984 Transformer Jetfire, now living under the assumed name of Rick Hunter's VF-1 ValkyrieVeritech fighter on my living room rug. Now that I see it on the screen, this post seems rather more like a confession than a record of an event: as an adult I should really be beyond this sort of behaviour. I mean, do I really need to hug an astromech droid? (If it's R2-D2, then yes! If it's that ill-fated R4-P17, then... well, yes.) Do I really need to pick a fight with a loudmouthed moron in a Toxic Avengers T-Shirt trying to harass a Happy Harbour vendor for his "outrageous" Canadian prices? (Apparently. Like I told THAT boob: Are you here to have fun or complain? Buy something or move down to the States.) And did I REALLY have to calm down afterwards by shaking the hand of Boba Fett? (Too frakkin' right. His backpack's got jets!) And did I somehow feel the need to pre-buy tickets to the much BIGGER convention in Cowtown later next month? (Do a pair of Exxorian wonder twins wear purple?) There are more sensible things to spend my pittance on. I know this. I know also that at 33 I can't possibly derive as much joy from my toys as the boy of 3 I saw bashing his new Hulk against his stroller. Sadly, there IS no way to defend these choices. Except my partner-in-crime Anthony's tride and true rejoinder: if we're blowing money at least we're not blowing it on blow.
Thanks to my friend Anthony for screening a fine film for me yesterday! It's inspired me to run down 5 favorite zombie comedies, or 'Zom-Coms' as those in the know are calling them when they are not too out-of-breath from being chased by zombies.
Zombieland- The one I saw last night, which actually might be trumping them all by pioneering its own genre: the Zom-ROM-Com. A great cast. A very cool soundtrack. Graphic but cartoonish violence played for laughs, balanced with a very good story, and a good heart. This is definitely the SWEETEST zombie movie I've seen.
Night of the Creeps- This is the most sci-fi of the zom-coms, (and the most Archie-comic-like, too (see Bookmonkey's post for the opinion I share).
Army of Darkness- The most epic, sweeping zombie comedy, and a deserved classic. Time travel, magic, demons, and the time-traveling magic demon known as Bruce Campbell. You can't go wrong with that one. Well, you can if you don't get the magic words exactly right. It's Klaatu, Barada, N*-coff, coff, coff*, isn't it?
Young Frankenstein- certainly has great moments, too. Although, it might not TECHNICALLY be a zombie movie, in the modern sense of the word. Ahh, it's close enough.
Planet Terror- Weirdly, my wife watched this recently. I could hear her from the other room, occasionally laughing but mostly going 'Eeurgh!'. It's a DARK, dark comedy, but worth the watch if you have a strong stomach. It's the goriest zom-com I can think of that was still amusing. I wasn't in the mood to see it again that day, but on the other hand, I'm always up for:
Shaun of the Dead- The zom-com that started it all! And maybe always the finest. We'll just have to wait and see. And in the words of Conan O'Brien's disembodied head 'I'm out of material!' Let me know what zombie comedy is the one YOU think is funniest- intentionally or otherwise.
It won the Hugo in 1959: James Blish's 'A Case of Conscience'. It's the tale of a Jesuit scientist and his exploration of the planet Lithia, populated by godless but happy and crime-free lizard-men. Sometimes there are stories that are not dreadful, neither are they splendid. They are just O.K. For me, this is such a story. This makes them a bitch to review: I can't thumbs up with any enthusiasm or thumbs down with any kind of leg to stand on. I gave it a middle-of-the-road 2 stars out of four. Two stars because I agree with what may be the theme: human greed and human religious conflict have destroyed and will continue to destroy many perfectly nice people. Books where the message has stuck with me have worth even if the story itself isn't any fun. I don't recall LIKING any characters except perhaps the sensible and friendly Spock-like space-lizard Chtexa. It's a very poor showing for humanity overall. It may not be fair to mention it at this juncture (since it was written many years later) but if you want to read a first alien contact story with strong religious overtones 'Speaker For the Dead' by Orson Scott Card was much more impressive. It's quite moving. But it won a Hugo itself and I'm jumping the gun here. Like some plodding human mired in ancient superstition might do when confronted with pleasant but atheist reptiles. Addendum: it may be fair to say that I judged this story with extra harshness because it beat out 'Have Spacesuit- Will Travel' by Robert Heinlein, the favorite book of my childhood and possibly of all time. Or I was overcompensating by being too nice to Blish. You, the reader, must decide. Or not. Your call. This review brought to you by THE SPACE POPE.
Um, sorry, folks. I swear it wasn't censorship. I just happened to forget to review the Hugo winning novel of 1954, Fahrenheit 451. Just file this in your individual libraries of Alexandria wedged between my February reviews of 'The Demolished Man(1953)' and 'They'd Rather Be Right(1955)'. Or, if you're a Bradbury Fireman, burn the review and go back to watching TV. Oh, now I'm just being whimsical. You can't burn computer data! Sheesh! You may have noticed that I like 1950's SF. Four stars here and 3 stars there, all willy-nilly. So here's a shocker: this one only got 2 stars out of 4. And... (sigh) here's why. First, there's my enormous irrational contempt for classics. Does this book deserve the Hugo? Yes. Did the same year yield 'The Caves of Steel' by Asimov and 'Childhood's End' by Clarke, both FUNNER by a factor of four? Yes. But F451 is a classic because its heavy-handed message is just as if not MORE important today: books are VERY damn important. And how can I not approve of that? Second, Ray Bradbury. Sigh. I'm aware of his work. I've grudgingly sailed down the rivers of dandelion wine in 'The Martian Chronicles'. Boy, do I wish John Carter or Dejah Thoris had been there! So, not a big fan. But then again, I've barely touched Bradbury's stuff. So what do I know? (And one of those stars is for 'A Sound of Thunder', which was pretty awesome.) Third, I just don't like any of the characters. Montag is a flatlined jerk, his boss is a two-faced ass, Montag's wife is a suicidal wreck and his potential mistress is disappeared before her perky optimism can get anybody interested in the proceedings. Francois Truffaut (and I can actually feel myself slipping into a coma as I say his name) adapted this book into a movie in 1966, it's a fine adaptation in that it's monumentally dull, but the final shot IS extremely memorable, it's every inch a classic just like the book, and it was Hugo nominated also. You know what won instead? A classic in MY favorite sense of the word: Star Trek's 'The Menagerie'. You know: the one with the green dancing girl and the ape fights! Gotta love that cerebral stuff.
With the 12 hour comic challenge and the 48 hour bitch-virus-from-hell successfully defeated, I wish you a mucus-free Happy St. Patrick's day! In honor of the greenest day, I bring you Earth's greenest Green Lantern (what with Jade being dead and all (oh, Jade, why? why?)) Kyle Rayner. I really dig Green Lantern comics. And my favorite local (Earth) boy in that venerable veridian cadre is the newbie. O.K., that doesn't mean I don't like the rage-o-holic Guy Gardener, the venerable Alan Scott, the non-t.v.-pundit John Stewart, and (despite the excellent recent efforts of the excellent Geoff Johns) last place after a dead green girl, a 31st Century guy (also dead), and an unofficial 24th-and-1/2 Century cartoon mallard: Hal Jordan. It just means I like Kyle, all right? And what's not to like? Created in 1994 by Ron Marz and company, I just gotta resonate with the slacker artist type. I like Kyle for saying what his character has said for 16 years: that a randomly selected pretty good human with imagination and a loving heart is equally as worthy as 'the most fearless man' or 'the most honest man'. Not that I advocate cowardice and dishonesty. It's just that 'Fearless' and 'Honest' as the only criterion in giving out nigh-infinite power results in Guy Gardener (who, though I love him, is a total lunatic). Plus, they hired Sinestro with those qualities. And he's a control freak space dictator. Poor Kyle Rayner is as quick to fall in love as the universe seems willing to kill his lovers. And I can't find it in my heart to blame Kyle as the dead girlfriends pile up like cordwood. I can't help but like a guy who loves, loses, loves again, loses again, loves and loses, loves upon her surprisingly unlikely resurrection and still loses, and now, loves again. Cross your fingers, Dr. Soranik Natu of Korugar, brave red daughter of Sinestro: Kyle Rayner loves you. So keep loving even when the universe is against you, use your imagination, and be human. Like that best of a bad lot of 90's kids: Kyle Rayner.
Oh, the horror! The Horror! Once again I unleash upon an unsuspecting world the full force of my extremely mediocre comic-making abilities! Five years now I've participated with varying degrees of success in Happy Harbor Comics events. Painstakingly rendering entire 24 page comics in 24 hours, 12 page comics in 12 hours, whatever the market will bear. And all for worthy causes, most recently, the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization. All several of my fans have marveled at the exploits of 'superhero' Monkey McDevill, sexy angel Lynnyth Van Vavavoom, space adventurers Stalwart & Tru, and my own autobiographical dinner with Boba Fett. This year, if all goes well, I want to goad myself into completing the superhero comedy novel I've percolated in my head for too damn long (since last summer). So, if I can wrangle a tie-in, I will. Random theme, event, and character are chosen in the morning, which may make a tie-in impossible. But that's the challenge, right? All hail fair Happy Harbor Comics, and Jay Bardyla who sails her. Like a shepherd. In a mixed metaphor of some kind. Oh, Coast City! Why, why?! (And, yes, the grey at my temples DOES indicate my recent and tragic possession by Parrallax the yellow demon of fear.)
You know, it sounds awesome in 'The Muppet Movie' when Orson Welles offers 'the standard rich and famous contract'. Except that every so often, too often, the last line in that contract is 'suicide and/or drug overdose'. Corey Haim, Andrew Koenig, Brad Renfro, Johnathan Brandis, River Phoenix, and many others: I'm counting my lucky stars today that I was never a Teen Heartthrob. Even though I still want to be rich I think I'd prefer to live without fame. And, so many famous writers were drunks and suicides that it's practically a cliche. If I want to be a writer, does that mean eating a gun like Hemingway? Forget it! If the cost of fame is death I'd rather live a thousand years in obscurity. Some douchebag once said 'It's better to burn out than fade away'. To hell with that! Fade and fade more and keep fading and when you're bored of fading go work at TGI Friday's and then keep on fading on. Because there is SO MUCH MORE to being a human than being a holy golden spotlight god. Learn to snuggle up to Obscurity and give it a little smooch: it's where most of us have always and will always live. And it's a billion times better than dead. And here's another cliche while I'm spouting them: don't do drugs. For god's sake, keep away from that shit. Even and especially booze and cigs. You know they kill more than all the rest put together. None of them solve your problems. Except one very permanent solution. I know there's no point to lecturing you guys. Haim's own friends and family were helpless: how much more helpless is some guy who just watched 'Lost Boys' once upon a time? I know it's meaningless to say it, but suicide is just so selfish and sad. Take care of yourselves.
A shout out to my buddy Carlos for the loan of some SF classics (next up: John Carter of Mars!). Specifically, Northwest of Earth, the Complete Northwest Smith by Catherine Lucille Moore. I was most pleased and taken aback: this is very sexy, sensual stuff! Who knew they had sex in the 1930's? Weird. These weird tales neatly employ aspects of all the speculative fiction genres: extensively realized alien worlds of SF, the ancient magics, slaves, and swords you expect from fantasy, and the ravenous, slavering extra-dimensional gods and demons you shiver at in horror stories. Northwest Smith is the Man With No Name in space. His job is morally questionable, his surroundings alien, his past... no doubt unsettling. His pass-times include drinking to excess, plying the space-ways on dubious errands, and pushing back the forces of unspeakable evil gnawing, ever gnawing at the borders of reality. There are plenty of thrills here of all kinds. Plenty of horrors, too, the quiet kind that eat at you later when they're peckish. "Shambleau" remains a darn good cautionary tale. If you take a soul-sucking sex-kitten-slash-Medusa back to your place you'd better hope you have a friend or mild acquaintance to flame-gun her off you. Eventually. The writing is very florid, but don't let it put you off (assuming like me you are deeply, irrationally prejudiced against The Past). Consider 'Nymph of Darkness'. That one was my favorite. Was it the nude, invisible, female object of a creepy cult's worship? Her demonic mode of transport? Or that, like Indiana Jones to come, Northwest's presence in the story isn't even that essential? Check this writer out! Or, if you're of a more fantasy bent, try her 'Lady Conan': Jirel of Joiry. Northwest Smith met Jirel while time-travelling once: she's a feisty 15th century French Xena. Huzzah for cross-overs!
All right, I've heard enough gushing about this and that and songs of praise for moldy old Hugos and crusty primitive CGI! It's time once again for hardcore, no-compromise hating from your old pal, Captain Complainy! I tolerated Battleglum Galacticglum. I even liked it now and then. The thing is, I have very damn little choice when it comes to new TV SF. If I want TV SF, (AND BELIEVE ME, I REALLY, REALLY DO!) then I have to really get in there and scrape the bottom of the barrel to FIND me some TV SF. And, perhaps predictably, that's not what Caprica IS. SF, I mean. It IS on TV. I'll give it that. Caprica is a prequel series to BSG in much the same way Dallas is a prequel to Space Precinct. That is to say, Dallas is set in the past. Well, there IS a kid called Adama. Oh, boy, do I feel sorry for that guy. He could be the best actor in the world (he's not) and he's STILL gonna get a lot of whiny fanboys complaining about him. Me? Not so much. My problems with this show go far beyond one kid doing his best. Minor problem 1: Prequels have worn out their welcome with me. When the show begins we already know: Cylons were created, Cylons were enslaved, Cylons revolted. So... what? Now you're going to SHOW me that? Week by week? For YEARS? Or will, somehow, hilarity ensue? OF COURSE NOT! I don't see any way this won't be misery heaped on misery. The pilot had a grieving father stick his dead daughter's ghost in a battlebot, for Hera's sake. Hilarity ensues? Minor problem 2: Religious cults, racial predjudice, terrorism, narcissism, corruption- all very important topics. All very tired of them now. Major problem 1: 1950's hats don't make it SF! Tatoos, drug dens, lawyers, thugs, corporate scumbags etc etc don't make it SF. What we have here, kids, is called a drama. Call a Tauron a Tauron. Also, I think the people looking for drama are going to be put off if you're occasionally cutting to some robot yanking its own arm out. So, way to alienate old and new audiences. Major problem 2 and Deal Breaker: I have begun a project inspired by A.J.Jacobs' 'The Guinea Pig Diaries'. He called it UNI-TASKING: he tried not to multi-task for a month in the belief that it would make him (I think?) happier or more productive or some damn thing. Anyway, when I started uni-tasking (that is, WATCHING TV when I'm watching TV, rather than trying to read simultaneously or what have you) I discovered I am MUCH more bored than I thought I was. Smallville's latest attempt to be a PG rated Saw movie and Battlebland Galactistink (as I have just dubbed Caprica) are very likely to be my first casualties of this premise: if it cannot hold your whole attention, why give it ANY of your attention?
Thank the User for Teletoon Retro! I can watch the Jetsons now at almost any time of day or night! (Except I discovered I don't ever want to.) But never mind that: I have access at last to the finest Canadian CGI program ever to off-line before it had a chance to fully compile: ReBoot. I hear what all you Sprites are saying out there... you've never heard of it! But seriously, back in the '90's I was exactly the target audience for this clever, parody-heavy adventure set in the world inside your computer: 1. I already had a deep, abiding, and unhealthy love for the movie TRON (similar premise, less jokes). 2. I likes me the green girls. (see... oh, any previous post) Dot was a welcome addition to the veridian pantheon. 3. Mike the TV. Voiced by Michael Donovan, Mike the TV is a hyperkinetic, drivel-spewing machine. (Particularily as a teenager, let's just say I could relate.) Mike was the TV of Guardian Bob, the lead character, who rarely had much sucess with appliances. Mike was so annoying, his own remote control ran away. Mike took a succession of jobs: emcee, game warrior, underling to an insane virus, news correspondant, underling to a second, even crazier virus... The thing is, even under the insidious, will-sapping indoctrination of the well-intentioned virus Daemon, I could still count on Mike to be the FUNNEST possible sort of zealot. I think I like best that a one-joke guy can just plain grow on you until he seems like something more. In a reality CREATED by nerdlings, parody is so much a part of life that almost everything is a joke, and Mike knows it. There's plenty of great characters on ReBoot. Dour Matrix. Inscutable Phong. Tough-As-Nails AndrAIa. The slimiest-bug-in-the-web: Megabyte. So, yes, I admit it. I like the funny. If the nice folks at Rainmaker intend to win me over with their proposed movie follow-up, please copy-and-paste that: I like the funny. ReBoot seasons 3 and 4 were a valiant attempt at a show with more depth, and I feel they suceeded brilliantly. But they never lost track of fun. Even if the movie never comes to pass, ReBoot was an excellent program. And there's always TRON: Legacy!
Bookmonkey's posted his review about a Hugo winner by Fritz Leiber called 'The Wanderer'. My own Leiber for today is 'The Big Time', the 1958 Hugo winning novel. Like almost every other fifties Hugo winner, I liked it immensely and I read it more than three years ago. I liked it well enough to buy my own copy (pictured left) and to want to reread it again. I liked it well enough to give it 4 stars out of 4 on my little review sheet. I can't for the life of me conjure up a lot of details anymore. I remember thinking it would make a great stage play or awesome low-budget movie, since it's all set in one room: a combination operating theater and nightclub for time-traveling soldiers fighting "The Change War". The Change War or 'Big Time' is a war taking place across all of time. Kind of like the Temporal Cold War of Star Trek: Enterprise or the oft-mentioned Time War of 21st Century Doctor Who. Except Leiber did it first. Instead of Time Lords vs Daleks or Romulans vs Humans the Change War is being fought by the Spiders and the Snakes. (our protagonist works for the Spiders, so that SORT OF makes them the good guys?) No one fighting it knows for sure. Also nobody knows what started the war or how it ends (if it ever ends) but they know they have to escalate it ad infinitum to affect the ever-changing timeline. They battle on from the murk of mythology to the uncertain future a billion years hence. It's full of cool concepts: one I was particularly fascinated by was a medical device that INVERTED patients without killing them so the doctor could repair their wounds without cutting the skin. If I may be permitted a 'Yeeurggghhh'? It's a deeply engrossing book with good characters, and it's short and sweet. May I recommend reading it once you've read 'The Wanderer'? Or in publication order. Either way works. (But the Spiders want you to read it in publication order. And the Spiders DEFINITELY have your best interests at heart.)