Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Clare de Lunacon

Clare Deming reports on Lunacon 54


On the weekend of March 18-20, I had the opportunity to attend Lunacon 54 in Rye Brook, NY. This science fiction convention covers everything - from books to gaming to costuming. Lunacon is run by the New York Science Fiction Society and was first held in 1957. Spanning two and a half days, the Hilton Rye Town hosted panel discussions, a masquerade, a dealer's room, art show and sale, filk, gaming and socia events.

Guests of honor this year were Lawrence M. Schoen (writer), Rachael Mayo (artist), and special guest Eric "In the Elevator" Zuckerman. Bios on the guests and other details about the con can be found at http://2011.lunacon.org.

I spent most of my time attending panel discussions on writing. Topics spanned many aspects of the field. I enjoyed discussions of Urban Fantasy, The Biggest Mistakes New Writers Make, Borrowing From the Past, and World-Building for Historic/Fantasy Fiction.

Costumes were abundant, from the LARPers with foam-padded swords to steampunk to Star Trek. I managed to escape the dealer's room with only a couple of t-shirts, but there were several vendors offering books, jewelry, weapons, and accessories.

The Hilton has hosted Lunacon for eighteen years and I found most of the facilities were adequate. However, the service at the restaurant was a bit slow, and I ended up eating my breakfast and lunch in the con suite, where the bagels were tasty. On Sunday morning, I know I was not the only one to discover that my shower lacked hot water.

Next year's convention will be held at the same location, March 16-18, 2012. Guests will include writer John Ringo, artist Howard Tayler, and YA writer Tamora Pierce.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Never Let Me Go won't let you go


NEVER LET ME GO
Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro
Screenplay by Alex Garland
Directed by Mark Romanek
Starring Keira Knightly, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield
Photo by Alex Bailey

Review by Emily Bettencourt

I originally read the novel Never Let Me Go, by British-Japanese author Kazuo Ishiguro, as a senior in high school, working on our world lit unit, and I loved it. When I saw that there would be a movie adaptation, I was both excited and filled with trepidation---after all, nobody likes to see one of their favorite novels butchered on the silver screen.

Mark Romanek didn't let me down. The film adaptation, starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightly, and Andrew Garfield, was just as delicate and thoughtful as the novel had been. In an alternate-reality version of the year 1952, a medical breakthrough has allowed the average lifespan of a human to extend well beyond 100 years. However, this new longevity comes with a price: The harvesting and transplant of vital organs from artificially-replicated human beings raised for the sole purpose of organ donation. The film follows the life of a girl named Kathy H (Mulligan), one of these donors, as she grows up and becomes more aware of her world and the role she has to play in it.

The leads in this film, Carey Mulligan (probably best known for her role as Kitty Bennett in Pride and Prejudice), Keira Knightly (Pirates of the Caribbean), and Andrew Garfield (Red Riding and The Social Network), are incredible actors on their own, but they come together to deliver a powerful performance as students who were all raised at the same grammar school in the English countryside. They each have a certain subtlety to their performance that allows them to collectively convey the more delicate aspects of life---things like being hurt by something too beautiful, the ache of loving someone you can never have, and the knowledge that one day, you will die, perhaps without ever discovering what your life was really about.

Beyond actor performances, I don't think that I can emphasize enough how stunning the cinematography was in this film. Each shot seemed to be rendered for maximum impact, and cast in a palette of muted browns, greys, blues and greens that reflected both the typical weather of England (where the film is set) and the drab loneliness of existence as someone whose entire purpose in life is to die. The play of light and shadow, too, contributed to the tone of the film, and the soundtrack---done by Rachel Portman, known for her work on films like Chocolat and Mona Lisa Smile---was subtle but eloquent, contributing to each scene rather than distracting.

Overall, Never Let Me Go was a stunning film adaptation. Though the movie is undeniably sad (and will probably cause at least one minor existential crisis), I think it's definitely worth seeing at least once.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Friday miscellany

A great big congrats to Ellen Datlow for earning the Horror Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award! Comics editor/artist/writer Al Feldstein also won the award. Dubravka Ugresic’s Baba Yaga Laid an Egg scored the 2010 James Tiptree, Jr. Award. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor made the honor list.

I just got my World Fantasy Convention ballot for nominations. Must do that soon. So many good books to choose from! I'll have to block out half a day just make my nominations.

I interviewed Robert Sawyer (again) this morning. You'll see that, along with a review of WWW:Wonder the beginning of April when it hits the shelves. I have at least three more interviews in the works.

I haven't done any lazy linking for a while.

I09 provides "10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Doctor Who"

This one's been done before, but rarely with such graphic style. Technological Prophecies: "Predictions [by sci-fi authors] Ahead of Their Time".

"The 80 Greatest Science Fiction Books for Kids"

My buddy, Sue Bolich shares: "4 Steps to Advancing Your Writing Career"

Obviously comic book heros on the big screen is still a thing. I'm glad.







Here's a contest you might find worthwhile from My Daily Clip:

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Oi! The Minister of Chance - more please!


The Minister of Chance
Radiophonic Serial
Writer, Producer, Director: Dan Freeman
Starring: Julian Wadham, Jenny Agutter, Lauren Crace (as Kitty), Paul Darrow, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann.

Radio shows rock! You don't think so? You haven't heard The Minister of Chance. It's not just visual sound effects that have come a long way. I got totally lost in the story like I was there. The Minister of Chance is a new British science fiction audio series which is sort of like Nazi Germany taking over a backward planet instead of France. But these invaders will politely send you to the dungeon or to the labor camp and wonder why you're not honored to do it. The invaders believe in magic, not science. Their leader is the Witch Prime and their standard salutation is "Happy Spells".



While smuggling food to a scientist who is part of the resistance, Kitty encounters the Minister of Chance. The atmosphere and humor will whisk you away to a world you've never imagined. You'll laugh at Kitty's protestations as she follows the Minister of Chance through a door that wasn't there a second ago and across the frost bridge into another realm. A far cry from slinging ales at the pub where she worked. The Cockney does get a bit thick at times for those unaccustomed to it, but it's so worth it for the flavor that it adds.

The witty, sarcastic dialog and the acting are flawless. I should know. I've listened four times. :) It's space opera at its best. Right up there with Dr. Who. Jonathon Barnes recently interviewed Julian Wadham, who plays The Minister of Chance, over at his Pantisocracy blog.

You can download an MP3 of the first episode, "The Broken World", for £1.49 via credit card or paypal. And please tell your friends. This is a production of Radio Static and depends on your patronage, rather than, as their press release states, "the BBC, the Government, or any other criminal organization." Episode Two: "The Forest Shakes" will be released on April 14th. Can't wait!

Friday, March 18, 2011

After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar -- Who can resist a drink poured by Gilgamesh?


After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar
Edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray
DAW 2011

Reviewed by Clare Deming

In After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar, editors Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray have taken the clich├ęd tavern meetup of fantasy stories and role playing games and turned it on its head in an entertaining anthology that revolves around a time-traveling bar. Benjamin Tate establishes the origins of this Ur-Bar in the first story of the collection, "An Alewife In Kish". In ancient Sumeria, perhaps in the city of Ur, Kubaba has been cursed to live an immortal life spent tending her drinking establishment. While the origins of her curse and the nature of the magic are never really elaborated, that is not the point. When her bar is visited by Gilgamesh, she strikes a deal that allows them both to achieve their ultimate desires.

With Gilgamesh, known as Gil to many of his patrons, at its head, the Ur-Bar evolves a second meaning as the earliest or original Bar. Popping into different time periods, the bar brings Gil in contact with many people and cultures in its travels. There are a few common elements to each story - mainly that Gil runs the bar and makes at least a peripheral appearance in every tale. I found that he was a remarkably consistent character for being written by such a diversity of authors. Other recurring elements include a stone tablet that contains the gods' original beer recipe. Gil himself has a mystical quality, which comes into play in some of the stories. Whether he can mix that most exemplary (and maybe magical) drink, or if it's just to talk, Gil helps his guests with their problems.

The stories follow "An Alewife In Kish" in chronological order, from the Vikings to ancient Rome, on to Europe and America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and even into one possible future. The tales are set in a bar, but are only peripherally about the drinks - rather they are about the relationships that evolve as a result of entering the Ur-Bar and interacting with its other patrons and inhabitants. At the end of the volume, there are biographies for all the authors. I have highlighted some of my favorite stories below:

Maria V. Snyder pours us some "Sake and Other Spirits" in ancient Japan. Azami has fled from life as a samurai's wife and works in the Ur-Bar, but a water vampire is killing travelers and complicates her escape after her identity is discovered.

An orphan boy peddles junk and causes strife between rival bars in "The Tavern Fire" by D.B. Jackson. Set in Boston in the 1700's, this story ties a true historical event into the narrative.

Seanan McGuire highlights some lesser-known properties of mixed drinks in "Alchemy of Alcohol", complete with drink recipes at the end. The Summer King hopes that Gil's alchemist can help him revive the Winter Queen, but family disagreements lead to broken bottles amid a magical battle.

While Prohibition may have impeded Gil from operating his bar in America for a short time, Paris during the '24 Olympics makes an exciting setting in "Paris 24" by Laura Anne Gilman. An epee fencer from the U.S. team seeks a little excitement, but instead has to think about what he wants out of life when a world war hovers in the near future.

"Steady Hands and a Heart of Oak" are needed by British sappers, but a stiff drink from Gil can also help. Ian Tregillis shows several futures and a man's struggle to decide upon the best one amid war-torn London.

I found Jackie Kessler's tale – "Where We Are Is Hell" - to be the most unique story. A ghost trapped between heaven and hell finds her way into the Ur-Bar, where speaking to Gil helps her remember what was important in her life.

What does the future bring for the Ur-Bar? Zombies, apparently. In "Izdu-Bar" by Anton Stout, we see a glimpse of the world after the zombie apocalypse. The bar is on lockdown and no one is to be admitted after dark. However, when the bouncer's greed overcomes his common sense, will a drink be able to save him?

This was a light-hearted collection of stories which I think would be easy for most readers to relate to, as the majority of them have a historical setting that is readily identified. As with all anthologies, the theme is present throughout, but I felt that there was enough variety to keep me entertained without causing me to feel like I was reading the same story repeatedly.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I Saw the Devil - a bit of a stretch


I SAW THE DEVIL
Written and Directed by Kim Jee-woon

Premiered March 4, 2011

Reviewed by Emily Bettencourt

The sinking feeling started when I sat down to watch I Saw the Devil and realized that the running time of the film was 144 minutes — nearly two and a half hours. From what I'd read and heard, I Saw the Devil didn't seem like the type of film that would have enough content to warrant that runtime. Still, I'd had good experiences with Korean horror/thriller films (the Vengeance trilogy and dramas such as IRIS and Time Between Dog and Wolf), so I tried not to dwell on that.

Unfortunately, I found myself more than a little nonplussed.

I Saw the Devil is a film about a detective named Soohyun (Lee Byunghun) who becomes obsessed with vengeance after his fiance, Jooyun (Oh San-ha), is tortured and murdered by a serial killer named Jang Gyeong-chul (Choi Min-sik). The film was directed by Kim Jee-woon, who is known in South Korea and globally for being a director capable of tackling a wide variety of genres. I was hoping that I Saw the Devil would be handled with the same grace as the two films of his that I'd seen previously, especially considering that one (A Tale of Two Sisters) is of a similar genre. Unfortunately, the film failed to impress---despite being compared to other such iconic cult films as Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, it lacked both the attention to aesthetics and the stomach-clenching tension that I've come to expect from South Korean horror.

The film is supposed to center around Soohyun's slow transformation into a monster as he pursues his quest for vengance, calling into question the legitimacy of the "an eye for an eye" approach to life, but really it just felt tedious. Soohyun's wife dies within the first five minutes of the film---the entire remaining two hours and twenty minutes is dedicated to Soohyun's pursuit of the killer, and his game of catch-and-release. The idea in itself is good, and could be executed well, but by the end of the film I was basically thinking, "Okay, I get it, you're angry. Can this movie be over yet?" The depiction of a quest for vengeance isn't a new idea, especially in the South Korean cinematic realm, but the idea of a catch-and-release game is---however, I think Kim Jee-woon was a little overambitious in terms of time, turning what could have been a deeply psychological and tense film into a seemingly endless cycle of monotony.

In terms of performance, Lee Byunghun and Choi Min-sik are both extremely capable actors; they've both handled a wide variety of roles and done so with skill, but Kim Jee-woon didn't give many chances for expression. Given more expansion, I think Lee's character could have been extremely sympathetic; however, with the exception of a few brief, terse conversations, usually by phone, Lee Byunghun doesn't do much talking. His character is very stagnant. As a viewer, I didn't get the impression that he was changing as a person---it just seemed like he got really angry after his fiance died and stayed angry throughout the course of the film. That said, Choi Min-sik delivered a brilliantly creepy and skin-crawly performance (as he's done before in the role of serial killers, Mr. Baek in Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance being the ones that come to mind), seamlessly filling the role of an unhinged sociopath.

Overall, I think that I Saw the Devil is worth seeing, but probably not worth buying a ticket to see. And if you're expecting something like the Vengeance trilogy, don't get your hopes up.

Friday, March 11, 2011

2010 faves, new publisher and publishing forum

The results from the SF Crowsnest's readers poll are in. Check out the Hyper Hundred Best sci-fi novels of 2010.

Thery're top ten includes:
Some of the books in the top ten include:
Coraline by Neil Gaiman.
Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie.
The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi.
Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds.
Kraken by China Mieville.
Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.
How many have you read?

Better late than never are my top ten faves from last year with links to my reviews:
The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
www:WATCH by Robert J. Sawyer
Mad Skills by Walter Greatshell
Soulless by Gail Carringer
Mozaart's Blood by Louise Marley
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith
Are You There? And Other Stories by by Jack Skillingstead

There's a new e-publishing company that looks like they know what they're doing. Auriga Press handles novels of 100K words or more, mostly as digital releases. Explore their cool new website to learn more.

The Gatekeepers Post, a "Social Media Book Publishing Community," launched on Feb 1st. Frankly, it frightens me. Where do you begin. It seems to be a very busy place, but I've been too busy to really search through its many nooks and crannies to see if it only looks busy. The press release claims it is "A cross between Huffington Post and Publishers Weekly, the outlet features some of the most important and respected voices in book publishing."

And here's the name-dropping portion:
"The support from the industry has been overwhelming," says Rivera, "I'm proud of the high caliber of Gatekeepers and guest bloggers who'll be joining us." Veteran agents, major editors, librarians, publishers, publicists and authors such as New York Times bestseller Alisa Valdes Rodriguez will be lending their voice to the community as well. Book publishing heavy weights such as Andrea Barzvi of ICM, Keith Ogorek of Author Solutions, Harvey Klinger of the Harvey Klinger Agency, Bill Gladstone of Waterside Productions, Glenn Yeffeth of BenBella Books, Steve Wilson CEO of Fast Pencil and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein of Gotham Group have also joined.

And the promise:
A steady stream of book-centric reviews, headlining news, articles, and op-ed pieces, will be incorporated within the outlet along with forthcoming special events such as virtual panel discussions and online conferences.

Why not head on over and check it out? You might want to give me a heads up before you go in and let me know when you come out, so I know if I need to send a rescue party.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pang: The Wandering Shaolin Monk makes comic history


Pang: The Wandering Shaolin Monk
Volume 1: “The Refuge of the Heart”
Ben Costa
Iron Crotch University Press (July 2010)

Review by Lyda Morehouse

If you’ve ever applauded your way through one of Jackie Chan’s “Drunken Master” films, but secretly wished that along with the subtitles there were pop-up bubbles with information about Chinese customs, history and/or language, Pang is a graphic novel for you.

This volume collects 188 pages of the on-going web comic Shi Long Pang, which you can find at shilongpang.com. The story takes place in 17th century China and follows the title character, Pang. Pang himself is drawn in a simple style, which reflects his “uncarved block” personality (with apologies for making a Taoist reference for a Shaolin monk). In this way, Pang stands out in a visual simplicity among the vividly colored, complex and sometimes cluttered panels. However, I think that contrast is not only perfect for this sort of character and story, but also highlights the intensity of the times in which Pang lives.

Costa tells a serious, epic story about the Three Feudatories War, while simultaneously following the personal and sometimes gently humorous tale of Pang – a rotund, sheltered monk, who finds himself thrust into the center of the conflict. Pang is very likable from the moment he enters the picture. Like a bumbling hero in a Golden Harvest film, he’s the moral center of any argument and (as a bonus!) surprisingly cool/capable in a fight.

Pang is one part sweet, one part serious, and a whole bundle of awesome. A great read. I devoured the whole thing the moment I sat down with it. In fact, now I plan to take the time to hunt through the archives at the web comic, so I can start to follow along in real-time with the continuing adventures.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Black Death review - beauty from ashes?

Ring around the rosie
Pocket full of posies
Ashes, Ashes
We all fall down


There is serious debate about whether this rhyme really originated in 14th century, plague-ridden England. Snopes says no. But I couldn't resist including it here. Especially since it's Ash Wednesday. Black Death debuts on Friday, March 11th in Los Angeles. Below is Emily's movie review debut for Science Fiction and Other ODDysseys.



Black Death
Writer: Dario Poloni
Producers: Phil Robertson, Jens Meurer, Robert Bernstein, Douglas Rae
Director: Christopher Smith
Starring: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, David Warner, Carice Van Houten

Reviewed by Emily Bettencourt


In this age of movies with confusing and unnecessarily pretentious titles, Black Death is refreshing in that you know exactly what you're getting. Still, I wasn't really sure what to expect when it came to a horror film about the bubonic plague. From the press info I'd received, I knew that it starred Sean Bean (always a plus), was intended to contain notes of religious conflict (also a bonus if done well), and that it was shot entirely on-location in Germany. The latter was a major selling point for a viewer who remains somewhat skeptical of the use of 3D graphics in film.

The atmospheric and dark, orchestral opening leant an ideal backdrop for Sean Bean's ruggedly handsome appearance as battle-worn Ulric, an envoy to the bishop, who has been tasked with discovering the truth behind reports of necromancy in a remote village in the marsh.



The movie had its ups and downs. I was impressed by Eddie Redmayne's performance as Osmund, the young and conflicted monk who accompanies Ulric on his journey. He was just jaded enough to make his internal conflict real, but just boyish enough to endear him to the audience. Sean Bean also delivered a gritty and intense performance, though that was to be expected (I'm a Sean Bean fan, can you tell?).

Director Christopher Smith noted in an interview that he tried to stay true to the real atmosphere of life in 1300s plague-ridden England, and he did so without being overly grotesque. There were bodies on the streets and an ever-present haze of smoke, but he avoided unnecessary depictions of gore throughout the film.

A director who has perfected the art of classy violence is a rare breed in a cinematic era populated by movies like the Saw series, Hostel and Final Destination. There's something to be said for the pure shock value and visceral reaction that blatant displays of violence elicit in an audience, but I personally prefer films like those of Alfred Hitchcock, which rely more on atmospherics and psychology to make the movie thrilling. Christopher Smith gets major props from me for his balance of violence and interpretation in Black Death.

Sean Bean portrays gritty, conflicted characters well, but the role of Ulric seemed to be almost (dare I say it?) Boromir 2.0. This is of course no fault of his own, being victim of unfortunate typecasting after his Lord of the Rings success, but it was difficult at first to see Ulric and not immediately think "Boromir." Especially when the two characters have so many similarities.

The film promised to be an exploration of the conflict that arises when the Church loses its ability to truly protect those who believe in it, but it wasn't nearly as eloquently delivered as I'd hoped it would be. Instead of being about inner struggle and the destruction of faith, the portrayals of the extremes of the conflict (Ulric and the witch woman Langiva, played by Carice van Houten) were so heavy-handed as to nearly be caricatures. Almost no mention is made of people, events and environments that shaped their personalities. It's hinted at that Ulric had lost family to the plague and Langiva had lost family to the Church, but the storylines don't develop beyond that, making the supposed religious conflict fall somewhat flat.

Black Death is a film worth watching. The atmospherics, the stunning performances by Bean, Remayne and van Houten, the captivating and well-orchestrated soundtrack, and the excellent balance of gore and interpretation more than make up for the film's few shortcomings. Christopher Smith did an excellent job with the film, and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Firefly, Wonder Woman and live sci-fi


The Star Trek franchise aside, Firefly is THE best ever science fiction series. Argue with me if you want, but not before you've seen it. You have another chance to do just that without the help of your local video store (Do you still have one?) or Netflix. Firefly is returning to the TV on the Science Channel beginning this Sunday, March 6th, at 8PM ET. The show will air on Sundays at 10PM ET thereafter and will follow an encore from the week before. And because it’s the Science Channel, renowned astrophysicist and co-founder of string field theory Dr. Michio Kaku will scrutinize the science of each episode.

In Firefly, Earth has colonized planets outside its solar system. The Alliance had asserted too much authority over the central worlds and rebels (or Browncoats) like Malcolm Reynolds fought back. They didn't win, but the outer worlds are still relatively safe, if rustic. The new frontier.

The crew of the Serenity roam the galaxy looking for any work they can find, staying out of the way of the alliance. The adventures and banter remind me of the Wild Wild West only these guys don't work as government intelligence agents. Mostly, they're smugglers. Mal's Serenity crew includes Wash, a talented pilot and his wife, Zoe (who fought with Mal in the war), innocent Kaylee, their engineer who can fix an engine with bubble gum and toothpicks and Jayne, an opportunistic, uneducated criminal, who doesn't mind risking his life so long as there's something in it for him.

The script is outstanding and the quazi-Southern, military, frontier dialect is infectious.

Here's some examples from Firefly WIki. (And you Browncoats best get over there and add some more!)

"Wash, we got some local color happening. A grand entrance would not go amiss."
"Shouldn't you be off bringing religiousity to the fuzzy wuzzies or some such?"
"Still a little whimsical in the brain pan." [to Shepherd Book about River]

Most women will fall for Nathan Fillian in his role as Malcolm Reynolds the same way they do for Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. Confident, strong, fallible and slightly oblivious. And those crooked smiles that say "oops, my bad".

The ship's complement also includes a preacher who mysteriously knows a lot about alliance tactics and how to fight, a doctor and his crazy, vulnerable (but sometimes deadly - as in a weapon) genius sister River (Summer Glau) and Inara (Morena Baccarin), the government-sanctioned and licensed "companion" who rents one of the ship's two shuttles.

Firefly is space opera at its best in the all new "out west". ;)

If I haven't convinced you to check it out yet, maybe something from the Science Channel press release below will. No, I'm not getting paid for this. ;) But I AM a Browncoat.


The Wait Is Over!
“FIREFLY” Premieres Sunday, March 6 with Two Episodes Beginning @ 8pm ET

New episodes air every Sunday @ 10pm ET only on Science Channel

Renowned Astrophysicist Dr. Michio Kaku also reveals the “Science behind Firefly”


From the creator of the hit TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” sci-fi savant Joss Whedon delves into the final frontier with “Firefly,” which lands exclusively on the Science Channel on Sunday, March 6 @8pm ET with the airing of the original 2-hour pilot. Immediately following, episode one of the 15-part series will air at 10pm ET.

“Firefly” will dominate the airwaves every Sunday with an encore episode of the previous week airing 9pm ET to be followed by the network premiere of the next episode in the series airing at 10pm ET.

As a special treat for “Firefly” fans, star of Science Channel’s “Sci-Fi Science,” and the co-founder of string field theory, Dr. Michio Kaku, will be commentating on the science behind “Firefly” for each episode. From terraforming, to anti-matter, Kaku will be explaining why the science fiction featured in the show really isn't that far from science fact.

When “Firefly” first aired in 2002, Whedon’s sci-fi western quickly became a cult favorite. Set 500 years in the future, in the aftermath of a universal civil war, the story centers on the renegade crew of a small transport spaceship led by “Castle’s” Nathan Fillion, who directs the ragtag team through adventures into unknown parts of the galaxy, as they try to evade warring factions as well as authority agents out to get them.
Pilot- "Serenity" Premieres Sunday, March 6 @ 8pm ET
Set 500 years in the future, we are introduced to the of the spaceship Serenity led by the former soldier Sergeant Mal Reynolds. Part transport ship, part scavenger vessel, the second-in-command is the loyal Zoe who served beside Mal in the war and owes him her life; Wash the ship's easygoing pilot and Zoe's husband; and Kaylee the ship's young and effervescent engineer.

The crew picks up some precious cargo from the hull on an abandoned spaceship. Soon, they realize they are being pursued by the Alliance, the totalitarian army which was formed to hunt down outlaws against the unification of the planets. In order to avoid detection, the Serenity takes on a group of ‘tourists’ to appear to be a passenger transport ship. The passengers include: Inara, a prostitute; Book, a shepherd; Simon, a doctor who has with him a mysterious dark blue box

The story continues as the Serenity tries to outrun double-dealers and savages, ditch the precious cargo all the while trying to hide their newest passenger, River, who’s power the group has yet to realize.


Episode 1- "The Train Job" Premieres Sunday, March 6 @ 10pm ET
Mal and his crew are hired to pull off a train heist…but the cargo turns out to be badly needed medication intended for sufferers of a deadly disease. Meanwhile men are on the hunt for River and won’t stop till they find her.

*****
If comic book characters are your thing, there's a new Wonder Woman TV series in the works. The series is still filling in the cast. Meanwhile, Geekscape lassos in a review of the new Wonder Woman pilot by avid fan, Eric Diaz.

******
How about live science fiction? If you live in the North Bay (that's the San Francisco Bay), you're in luck. The Imaginists are performing plays based on the short stories of sci-fi author Eliot Fintushel.

March 10*, 11, 12 | 17*, 18, 19 | 24*, 25, 26
All Shows at 8 p.m.

*Pay-What-You-Wish Nights: March 10, 17 & 24
Tickets for these shows will only be available at the door.

(Poster art by comic book artist Brent Anderson.)

The Imaginists Theatre Collective
461 Sebastopol Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA. 95401
(707) 528-7554

Talk back with the actors and writer, Eliot Fintushel: Saturday, March 12, 19, 26 immediately following the performance.


Below are Eliot Fintushel's production notes.

WE FROM AFAR: PRODUCTION NOTES
(from, such as he is, the author)

Science Fiction is all about extrapolation. and, oh, honey, are we gonna extrapolate tonight. To the shivering penumbral dimensions I limned in these stories, Brent Lindsay, the god of the theatre of now, of passion, pulse, and power, has added infinitely more. Not to mention my fellow Imaginists, actors, techies--groupies all--who have set sail for these unimagined lands, and are gonna drag you along in steerage, whether you like it or not.

Here at the Imaginists Theatre Collective, everything proceeds by opposites. If Lindsay cocks his head and squints and says, "That's REALLY awful," we know that he means it's a keeper. That's how we keep things hopping, and how we keep our audiences from yawning, clearing their throats, and riffling their damn programs.

Inspirations: "Kukla Boogie" was the result of (1) my learning of actual plans by a major soft drink company to use laser technology to advertise on the lunar surface, and (2) my disgust with anti-Darwinism and other sectarian mishugoss. "Afar" came, of course, out of the years of despair accompanying and following my divorce. (Thanks--I'm better now.) "Santacide" was a response to the annual flood of packaged religiosity--I used to use this story, in 6-point typeface on a folded half-sheet of 20# pink paper, as my Christmas card. "No, Really" is an actual standup routine from the future; I was actually there, via a top-secret time machine that I found during a fly-over of the Bermuda Triangle, and I recorded it word for word, before a squad of Butlers burst in and hosed us.

I was very nearly extrapolated myself.

*****

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Adversary - epic multiverse saga begins


The Adversary
by James R. Bowman
Melrose Books (2009)


Reviewed by Lyda Morehouse


In Bowman’s multiverse, Lucifer’s right-hand man, AKA the Adversary, is tired of playing second fiddle. Heck, he’s done with the whole status quo thing and decides the time has come just to wipe out all the remaining mortal heroes and destroy life as we know it. In other words: apocalypse time.

Tomas Walker, ex-British government assassin, is one of the last of these heroes, known as “guardians.” His life takes a strange turn when the Adversary’s minions show up to try to kill him. He’s on the run and is drawn back to the mysterious Glastonbury Hill, where he encounters none other than the Archangel Michael. Michael tells him it's time for him to accept his true destiny and save the multiverse from the evil fate the Adversary has planned.

Meanwhile, another guardian awakes in Santa Fe, New Mexico -- Tomas’ sister Gwen, a Goddess-worshipping New Age shop owner. She has her own quest: to find the tree of life (not Etz Chaim, as you might expect given all the other Judeo-Christian references so far, but Yggdrasill, of Norse myth.) Turns out, her BFFs are actually a group of exiled Valkyrie and they set her on her path after a giant Kachina (Hopi spirit doll) goes Godzilla on the town.

Oh yeah, and the powers that be are actually the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death, and Michael and the Valkyries answer to them as the “Absolutes.”

Confused yet? The Adversary is a very long, dense, and intense novel. Unfortunately, it also bears the subtitle: “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Saga, Book One” and when the stalwart reader reaches the end of 1,028 pages, the story simply stops, with nothing resolved. Likewise, Melrose Press’s website does not yet have a listing or any information about a second book in the series, even though the official publication date of this book says 2009. That makes me worried that a reader may have to wait several years for a conclusion.

This book was short-listed for the Brit Writer’s Published Writer of the Year Award (2010), but for my money its complicated and rather epic plot isn’t helped by the constantly shifting point of view. Early sections of the narrative seem to glorify gore, like an amateur horror story or one of those “Saw” movies, but I’m personally very fond of religious mash-ups and was willing wade through that to get to the archangels and adversaries. If you’re similarly interested in eschatological fiction and okay with leaving the story hanging until the next installment appears, you may wish to seek this novel out. There’s certainly a lot to chew on in this massive book.