I've been giving some more thought to the sanity (or lack thereof) of the Guardians Of The Universe. I've looked over my previous entries on the subject, and I think it all boils down to three little things:
1. The Guardians' prime motivation is guilt.
They see themselves as being responsible for the cosmic catastrophe that Krona unleashed billions of years ago, and everything they have done since then has been in one way or another an effort to atone for Krona's actions.
2. The Guardians are control freaks.
I mentioned this in my last entry. They assert a firm control over the Green portion of the Emotional Spectrum. (I suspect that the Guardians would more than likely do whatever they felt necessary to prevent anyone else from tapping into the energy of Will as a power source.) Even though they disdain the other colors of the Emotional Spectrum, they also don't want anyone else utilizing them, either. They see the various other-colored Lantern Corps as nuisances at best, and enemies to be obliterated at worst. And they are intent on imposing order on the rest of the universe -- or at least order as they see it.
3. The Guardians are perfectionists.
They don't like being reminded of their mistakes. Of course, this is something of a paradox, as the very existence of the Green Lantern Corps (and before them, the Manhunters) is a constant reminder of what they would have to consider their greatest mistake. Which means that they have been constantly reminded of their greatest mistake for billions of years. (Or as the late Carl Sagan would say, "BILL-yuns and BILL-yuns of years.")
I think all three of this factors are going to play into an upcoming storyline in the various Green Lantern titles. A storyline which will deal with their attempting to create what they have so far cryptically referred to as "The Third Army."
Their First Army, of course, was the Manhunters. An army of androids which served the Guardians well for millions of years, until a glitch in their programming caused things (to borrow a tagline from the movie Westworld), to go worng . . .
The Second Army is the Green Lantern Corps. An army of living beings recruited from every corner of the universe. But the Guardians now seem to be thinking that this group of agents has too much independent thought. Members of the Green Lantern Corps are carrying out their duties, but the Guardians appear to be easily annoyed if the Green Lanterns are not carrying those duties out the way that they feel those duties should be carried out.
My feeling is that the Guardians want an army that they can control to their liking. But if artificial lifeforms are subject to breakdowns in programming, living beings are too prone to doing things in a way that annoy the Guardians, and the Guardians themselves have neither the numbers to carry out this task themselves nor the inclination to increase those numbers, what option or options remain to them? And while we're at it, how do they deal with (to them) the pesky little problem of all those other multi-colored Lantern Corps zipping around the universe?
My theory is that the Guardians are going to deal with all of these problems in creating their Third Army -- or so they think. First, I think the Guardians are going to decide that the only proper way for them to deal with the other six Corps is to take control of the entire Emotional Spectrum. And to some extent, they are already doing this.
The first storyline of "The New 52" Green Lantern had Thaal Sinestro (former renegade GL, now returned to the fold) shutting down the Yellow-based corps he created, and bringing its Central Power Battery to Oa (where the Guardians are no doubt keeping a watchful eye on it). My guess is that this is just the first step, and that the Guardians are going to bring the other five Central Power Batteries to Oa, by whatever means possible. (One could almost imagine the late Patrick McGoohan defiantly telling the Guardians, "You won't get them!" To which one of the Guardians would reply, "By hook or by crook, we will.")
And the Orange battery of Avarice will be the key to their Third Army. You see, the Orange energy of Avarice is a bit different from the other colors of the Emotional Spectrum. There is no "Orange Lantern Corps" per se; only a single wielder of the energy -- an individual named Larfleeze. And the nature of the Orange energy he wields means that Larfleeze, for lack of a better term, doesn't play well with others. He doesn't want anyone else using his power. Millions of years ago, Larfleeze and the Guardians came to an uneasy arrangement -- Larfleeze would have free reign over a small area of space, and that area would be off-limits to the Green Lantern Corps. The breach of that arrangement was one of the precursors to the Blackest Night storyline.
While there are no Orange Lanterns, Larfleeze does have an army of sorts at his command. Whenever Larfleeze kills someone using the Orange energy of Avarice, the power scans the fallen adversary, and creates a duplicate of him (or her, or it). Think of it as the ultimate form of identity theft. Larfleeze can bring up these orange avatars at will, he has complete control over them, and there doesn't seem to be any limit on how many he can create.
So here in a nutshell is my theory on the Third Army. The Guardians are going to acquire the remaining five Central Power Batteries (Red, Orange, Blue, Indigo, and Violet). Using the Orange Battery's "identity theft" ability, they are going to create an army of energy avatars which will take the place of the current Green Lantern Corps. My guess is that the Guardians will need the power of all seven Batteries to properly create and maintain the Third Army. (I am also assuming that the identity theft ability is something that is unavailable to the Green energy of Will.)
And when I say that the Third Army will take the place of the Green Lantern Corps, I mean that quite literally. My guess is that the Guardians will use the Green Lanterns as the templates for the initial members of the Third Army.
Yes, I am suggesting that the Guardians Of The Universe are contemplating the murder of some 7200 sentient beings -- all of whom have served them quite valiantly. But the more I see the Third Army mentioned, the more I get the feeling that the Guardians are looking at their Third Army as an omelet.
And I don't think I have to remind you of that old saying about making an omelet.
I've been giving my last entry some additional thought since I posted it. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that there were at least a couple of points that I missed when I asserted that the Guardians Of The Universe are more insane than The Joker.
These points all focus on the Emotional Spectrum, the ultimate power source behind first the Manhunter androids, and later the Green Lantern Corps. It has been mentioned at least in passing that the Guardians chose the green energy of Will as their power source because, being in the center of the spectrum, it was the easiest to control and wield. The further you go from the center, the more likely it is that the power will control the individual wielding it as it the other way around. Indeed, the Red Lanterns are usually portrayed as being all but consumed by the Rage that fuels their power rings.
The first question I have is this: How did the Guardians know that the green energy of Will was the most stable of the Emotional Spectrum? How did they know that the other colors were less desirable for their purposes?
Here's a hint -- this wasn't a random lucky guess. Not by a long shot.
Before they got into the business of running an interstellar police force, the Guardians were known as scientists. A long time ago (and we're talking several billion years here), at least one of the Guardians discovered the Emotional Spectrum. (This part probably did happen by accident, like that probably apocryphal story about Sir Isaac Newton and the apple tree.) Once the Guardians realized what they had discovered, they decided that it might be suitable for their purposes, and they began investigating the phenomenon further.
I would have to guess that the Guardians were very thorough in their investigations, and that they took their time. And when I say "taking their time," I'm talking centuries or even millennia. After all, what is 10,000 years when you're immortal?
I would have to further guess that the Guardians learned that the green energy of Will best suited their needs the hard way -- through much trial and error. Emphasis on the error, more than likely. They would have thoroughly investigated each and every color of the Emotional Spectrum, evaluating the pros and cons of each one, before they finally concluded that the power of Will would be the power source that their agents would tap. If nothing else, the Guardians have usually been portrayed as being just a little on the OCD side. Maybe even more than "just a little." You might even go so far as call them control freaks. (More on that in a moment.)
If asked about it, though, the Guardians would be less than forthcoming about their knowledge of the other colors, or at least less than forthcoming about the extent of their knowledge. They would probably have you believe that the green energy of Will was the first part of the Emotional Spectrum that they discovered, and that it was the only power source they had ever considered for their agents. This explanation fits much better with the image of themselves that they like to present to the universe at large; that they are these incredibly wise, benevolent, and amazingly powerful beings.
If pressed, though, the Guardians would probably admit that they are aware of the other colors in the Emotional Spectrum, and have you believe that they know little more than that. Even though the Star Sapphires, the wielders of the violet energy of Love, were created by the Zamarons, a splinter group of the Guardians that left Oa millions of years ago as a result of some dispute with the main group of Guardians. And even though the Blue Lanterns, who wield the blue energy of Hope, were created by Ganthet and Sayd, two Guardians who were expelled from Oa because they would not conform to the "we think as one, we act as one" mentality that the Guardians seem to favor.
And especially even though Ganthet revealed during Blackest Night that the power rings of the other six corps were all based on the designs that the Guardians used for the Green Lantern Corps. The Guardians definitely have more than a passing familiarity with all of the colors of the Emotional Spectrum, and based on the abilities of Ganthet, Sayd, and the Zamarons to manipulate other colors, it is safe to assume that all of the other Guardians can also do so, but that they choose not to. But while the Guardians only want to utilize the green portion of the Emotional Spectrum, they don't want anyone else utilizing those other colors, either. (I did mention that I thought they were control freaks, didn't I?)
As I have mentioned, green is the color of Will. And in this instance, Will (or Willpower, as it is also called) is portrayed as control; being able to overcome the influence of other emotions. Indeed, when a green power ring selects a candidate to become a Green Lantern, it tells that candidate, "You have the ability to overcome great fear." And therein may lie another clue. The Guardians have stated that green was the easiest color to control and/or manipulate. But what if the opposite is also true? What if the green energy of Will has exerted just as much control over the Guardians? After all, they have been doing this for millions of centuries.
Whenever the history of the Guardians has been mentioned in various stories, they have been depicted as looking distinctly and uniquely different from one another originally. But in various flashbacks, they have been depicted as gradually changing -- some stories even describe it as a form of evolution -- until they all began to resemble one another. In fact, there was one story that played up on this peculiarity. The Guardians described themselves as resembling each other so closely that they had to call upon the assistance of Batman to ferret out a disguised Sinestro, who had disguised himself as one of the Guardians and infiltrated them. [SIDEBAR: Incidentally, the original model for the appearance of the Guardians was Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.] It would seem that the Guardians' predilection for thinking and acting as one developed alongside this physical transformation.
Whether this transformation was a form of evolution or not, something had to have caused this change. Doesn't it seem likely that constant exposure to the energies of the Emotional Spectrum in general, and the green energy of Will specifically, was the agent that caused the slow, subtle, gradual transformation? And I am referring to both the physiological as well as the psychological changes in the Guardians.
Whatever the variation of the Guardians' origin has been, their backstory has portrayed them as wanting to impose their own vision of order on the rest of the universe. But has the source of their power, the tool that has enabled them to attempt this possibly quixotic quest, also been the source for their (for lack of a better term) evolution? And is that evolution still taking place?
In other words, are the Guardians Of The Universe really the ones in control here?
More than likely, you've heard the following statement: Insanity is repeating the same action over and over, and expecting different results.
Personally, I have a little bit of a problem with that, because it's also a fair description of the scientific process. For instance, say that during the course of an experiment, a scientist observes for the first time that Action A yields Reaction B. What is the scientist going to do? Well, more than likely, he (or she) is going to repeat the experiment, just to see if Action A yields Reaction B again. Probably many, many times. And then, our intrepid scientist is going to try to discover precisely why Reaction B is the result of Action A.
Eventually, the scientist will publish his findings, and then other scientists will conduct their own investigations, to satisfy for themselves that Action A produces Reaction B.
I suppose that sooner or later, it will be firmly established that Action A yields Reaction B. At that point, someone doing Action A and expecting Reaction LMNO will be looked upon as having a somewhat tenuous grip on reality. But I'm getting sidetracked here.
Assuming for the moment that the above description of insanity is at least somewhat accurate, who do you think gets the award for Most Insane in the DC Universe? If you’re thinking that it's a certain grinning, green-haired psychopath, you would be sadly mistaken. Think shorter. Think bluer. Think older -- much, much older. And think far, far less in the humor department.
The Most Insane Individuals In The DC Universe are The Guardians Of The Universe, the founders of the Green Lantern Corps. The Joker pales in comparison -- and not just because of his chalky-white skin. I might even go so far as to say that their insanity is on a cosmic scale.
Now, I don't know if any of these could be considered either a cause or a symptom of their insanity, but there are a few things that have remained constant in the portrayal of the Guardians over the years. First, their role as "Guardians Of The Universe" is a self-appointed one. Second, they don't appear to have anything resembling a sense of humor. Third, they have always used other agents to carry out this role. Fourth, they are control freaks.
Let's start with the first point. The origin of the Guardians has been modified, retconned, tweaked, and otherwise altered over the years, more often than not to fit the story requirements of whoever was writing the various Green Lantern titles. But one thing remains constant. The race that would become the Guardians (originally from the planet Maltus) was among the first intelligent life forms in the DC Universe.
Billions of years ago, a Maltusian scientist named Krona, in an attempt to discover That Which Man Was Not Meant To Know, was responsible for unleashing a universe-spanning catastrophe. (This is the part where the specifics have been altered the most in various retellings of the Guardians' origin.) Feeling in some way responsible for the disaster that had been unleashed, a group of Maltusians took it upon themselves to correct the damage that Krona had caused, eventually becoming known as The Guardians Of The Universe.
Here is where you have to start wondering about the Guardians' choices. I mean, you have an entire race (or a substantial number thereof) taking on responsibility for protecting the entire universe just because one of their members of did something monumentally foolish? Granted, this was a mistake of cosmic proportions (the earliest version had Krona unleashing evil on the entire universe as a result of his bungling), but come on, let's have a little sense of proportion here!
And this kind of leads into my second point. And I am willing to cut them a little slack on the whole lack of a sense of humor. After all, the Guardians are all billions of years old. In that span of time, they must have heard every possible joke in the universe thousands upon thousands of times over. I suspect that even the late Johnny Carson would have had a hard time being funny after that long. By this point, even that moment with Ed Ames and the tomahawk might fail to elicit even the smallest trace of a smile.
All of which, I suppose, is my way of saying that the Guardians take themselves much too seriously. The little blue guys are wound way too tight.
Now we come to the third and possibly most important point. While the Guardians have taken upon themselves the responsibility of protecting the universe, they have never done so directly. Now, each Guardian has been described as possessing the power of the Central Power Battery of the Green Lantern Corps -- far more power than any single Green Lantern could ever control. If they had expanded their numbers to match the responsibilities they had taken upon themselves, they could easily carry out those duties. But instead of using that power directly, they have instead chosen to have others act as their agents.
[SIDEBAR: Instead of expanding their numbers as I suggested in the previous paragraph, the Guardians have taken the opposite route. They have cut themselves off from every emotion, more thoroughly than the Vulcans could ever hope to do. I suspect this might be at least part of the reason they are wound so tight.]
Their first choice of agents were androids they created, which they called the Manhunters, and which were deployed as an interstellar police force. But there turned out to be a fault in the Manhunters' programming, and they became more focused on hunting criminals (or even "criminals") than in administering justice. And in the most recent retcon of the Guardians' (and Krona's) origin, it was Krona who deliberately introduced the programming glitch into the Manhunters, which led to all sentient life in an entire sector of space being wiped out. (This particular sector, by the way, was designated Sector 666.)
When the Manhunters revolted against the Guardians, the Guardians responded by destroying most of the Manhunters. (But not all of them. A vast number still remain, and they have developed a grudge against both the Guardians and the Green Lantern Corps.) In the aftermath, the Guardians decided they had made a mistake in choosing artificial intelligences -- even the advanced ones they created for the Manhunters -- as their agents. They concluded that what they needed was living agents to act as their police force, and created what would become the Green Lantern Corps.
As has been recently revealed, the energies that the Guardians (and the Green Lanterns) wield is just part of a spectrum. Each color is tied to a different emotion. The Guardians chose the green energy because it is at the center of the spectrum, and is the easiest to control. But while the Guardians do not choose to use the other colors of the emotional spectrum, neither do they want any other entities wielding those forces. They are overtly hostile to the wielders of the other colors of the emotional spectrum, considering them aberrations which need to be wiped out. Even when it was learned that the Green Lanterns alone would not be able to stop the Blackest Night, and that those other wielders of the emotional spectrum would be needed to combat the power of Nekron and the Black Lanterns.
Most recently, it has been shown that the Guardians have become disenchanted (for lack of a better term) with the Green Lantern Corps. This comes following the "War Of The Green Lanterns" storyline, and the reboot of the entire DC line following Flashpoint. In various issues of the Green Lantern titles, the Guardians have mentioned that they feel that it is time to create what they call "The Third Army" -- the successors to the Green Lantern Corps.
During one discussion, the Guardians mention two Green Lanterns in particular as a source of their disenchantment, or perhaps disappointment. Hal Jordan is described as being "all drive and no forethought," while Thaal Sinestro is described as being "all drive and no altruism." They could also be describing Epimetheus and Prometheus, but they seem to be irked (if the Guardians can indeed be irked) that none of the Green Lanterns are perfectly round pegs that will fit nicely into round holes.
I think part of the Guardians' disenchantment may stem from the fact that there are some in the Green Lantern Corps -- possibly even an increasing number -- who are beginning to question the recent actions of the Guardians. Most of these actions were taken apparently without any regard they might have on the morale of the Corps.
The first action was their decision to welcome one-time renegade Sinestro back into the GLC after a green power ring chose him once again at the end of "War Of The Green Lanterns." Their decision may partially stem from a desire to follow the old adage, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." But I think it may stem more from the fact that at the moment, neither they, nor Sinestro, nor apparently anyone else can remove the ring short of killing him.
The second action was expelling Jordan from the GLC at the end of "War Of The Green Lanterns." Jordan brought the war to an end by stopping Krona once and for all -- by killing him. Killing a Guardian -- even one who had been expelled from their ranks, as Krona had been -- should have been something that no Green Lantern should have been able to accomplish, due to failsafes the Guardians had placed in the power rings. (I strongly suspect that for the first time in perhaps millions of years, the Guardians may be remembering what fear feels like.) The power ring has been described as the most powerful weapon in the DC universe, and it would appear that for the first time, the creators of that weapon are faced with a user who could possibly turn it against them, despite all precautions they may have taken.
The third action may not be widely known to most of the GLC just yet. The Guardians decided that Ganthet -- the one Guardian who has been portrayed as having a distinct personality, and who had been expelled from the Guardians for being too independent of thought -- needed to return to the fold. Bring him back to their way of thinking; assimilating him. Or as Kyle Rayner said, lobotomizing him. And from every indication, it is this lobotomized version of Ganthet that is the greatest proponent of creating this Third Army.
The Guardians decided that the Manhunters were less than what they wanted, and so the Manhunters were discarded without a second thought.
The Guardians seem to have decided that the Green Lantern Corps are less than what they want, and it appears that they are getting ready to discard them without a second thought.
Instead of taking a long hard look at their actions, and thinking that the problem might not be in their agents, but in themselves, the Guardians Of The Universe are about to make the same mistakes all over again.
Oh, yeah. The Guardians are insane.
The Joker would be the first to agree with that assessment. Come to think of it, The Joker would probably say something like, "And I know insane."
I think there's only one way to describe this recipe's origin, and that's "Okay, how about this?"
It started while I was reading The Homesick Texan Cookbook, by Lisa Fain. First of all, I want to recommend this book. I'll be writing a review of it, but that will be another entry. As I was looking through the book, one recipe that caught my eye was a recipe for scones, which really doesn't come to mind when you think of Texas cuisine. Ms. Fain explains the recipe this way:
"When I was young, my mom went through an Anglophile phase, and one of the results was her replacing our usual biscuits with the English scone. People say that a scone is simply a biscuit with an egg added to the dough, though I find that scones do lend themselves more to embellishment."
Ms. Fain also has a recipe for biscuits in her book (you were thinking otherwise?), so I decided to compare the two. The scone recipe did indeed have quite a bit in the way of the aforementioned embellishments, but when you compare the basic, unembellished recipe to her biscuit recipe, the two are quite similar. Except, of course, that the scone recipe calls for an egg.
Once I saw that, one very simple question zipped through my mind at warp speed: Would this hold true for any biscuit recipe? Could it be that easy for me to turn a biscuit recipe into a scone recipe?
As it happens, I had at hand a very simple recipe for biscuits, which, believe it or not, I acquired at a World Science Fiction Convention. To be specific, it was Chicon 2000, the 2000 Worldcon. The Guest Of Honor book for Chicon 2000 was The Chicon Sampler, a two-sided book reminiscent of the old Ace Doubles. One side was featured sketches from Artist Guest Of Honor Bob Eggleton (and I'm surprised that there was only one Godzilla sketch in the batch). On the other side were contributions from all of the other GOHs -- an ad for Baen Books for Jim Baen (the Editor Guest Of Honor), short stories from Ben Bova (the Guest Of Honor) and Harry Turtledove (the Toastmaster), and a collection of recipes from Bob and Anne Passovoy, the Fan Guests Of Honor.
According to The Chicon Sampler, these recipes were excerpts from "Bob And Anne's Fannish All-Star Cookbook." If there is a full version of this cookbook, I would love to get my hands on a copy, because the recipes that appeared in The Chicon Sampler all looked great. But I digress . . .
The recipe that is of particular interest here is one called "Sweet Cream Biscuits." I've made them several times, and it is a very simple biscuit recipe. If I'm remembering correctly (I don't have the recipe with me at the moment), the recipe was described as being foolproof.
As I looked over both the scone and biscuit recipes, I decided that I wanted to see what the results would be if I Frankensteined the recipe for Sweet Cream Biscuits into one for Sweet Cream Scones. And after a trip to Kroger (I don't normally have cream in my refrigerator), I entered my laboratory.
SWEET CREAM SCONES
2 cups Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Sugar
1 T. Baking Powder
3/4 cup Heavy Cream (or Whipping Cream)
1. Preheat oven to 451 degrees Fahrenheit (or 233 degrees Celsius).
2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder.
3. In a small bowl, beat the egg, then add the cream.*
4. Add the egg/cream mixture to the dry ingredients, mix well. If dough is too dry, add up to 1/4 cup additional cream.
5. With floured hands, pull off golf ball-size balls of dough. Flatten balls into rounds, and place on ungreased baking sheet.
6. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with butter (or whatever else you like).
YIELD: 12 scones
The scones had a fairly dense texture. I probably could have eaten the whole batch in one sitting, but I managed to exercise a modicum of self-control.
I'm guessing that these scones would lend themselves as well to embellishment as those in Ms. Fain's recipe. That, however, will be the subject for another venture into my laboratory.
After reading the first two issues of Green Lantern: New Guardians, it left me with one very important question that has had me speculating. And writing the last entry more or less crystallized that question into a coherent thought:
Why did those other six power rings seek out Kyle Rayner?
Make no mistake, this was no random act of coincidence. Most of the other rings were shown abandoning their former wearers -- and in a couple of instances, with fatal consequences. And usually, a ring-bearer of one color is unsuitable for any of the other colors. There was a reason these rings suddenly arrived on Earth, all saying, "Kyle Rayner of Earth, you have been chosen." There was a conscious reason behind this action. But who is responsible, and why?
Obviously, I have my theory as to the reason(s). And I shall do my best to present that theory here.
What needs to be kept in mind above all else is that Kyle Rayner is unique among the Green Lantern Corps. All of the other 7199 members were chosen by their rings -- usually after the death of the previous wearer. Kyle, on the other hand, was chosen by Ganthet, one of the Guardians Of The Universe. After Hal Jordan (possessed by the Fear entity Parallax) laid waste to the Green Lantern Corps (and much of Oa as well), Ganthet was the sole remaining Guardian, and he created one last green power ring, which he chose to give to Kyle.
Depending on who was writing the story, Kyle's selection as a Green Lantern has been explained in one of two ways. Either he was in the right place at the right time, or Ganthet chose him for a reason that has never been fully revealed. Whatever the reason, it was Ganthet who did the choosing, not the ring.
Which brings me to my next point -- Ganthet. Ganthet has always had a personality markedly different from the other Guardians. Actually, Ganthet has always been shown to have a personality; unlike the other Guardians, who have adhered thinking and acting as a single unit -- even to the point of eschewing names -- and generally displaying nothing resembling a personality whatsoever.
But in the early issues of the "New 52" Green Lantern titles, the other Guardians have decided that after having expelled Ganthet some time earlier, they want him to return to the fold -- whether he wants to return or not. And when Kyle travels to Oa in Green Lantern: New Guardians #2 to get answers from Ganthet, he finds that he is now acting like the other Guardians. They have done something to Ganthet -- something that Kyle condemns as the equivalent of a lobotomy. (This was just before the other rings forced themselves upon him.)
And now, the final piece of the puzzle -- the power rings. In Blackest Night #6, Ganthet revealed that the power rings of the other corps used the same basic technology as the Green Lantern rings. (As the Green Lantern Corps has been around for some three billion years, we may presume that the patents on this technology have expired long ago.) He mentioned this prior to demonstrating one factor of this common technology; the ability to create temporary duplicates of a power ring (something that Hal Jordan had done on occasion in some of his earlier stories).
So, what do all these disparate bits of information mean? Yes, they are pieces of a puzzle, but what does it mean when you put the pieces together?
My theory is that Ganthet is the person responsible for Kyle's being chosen by these other six rings.
After the events of Blackest Night, the other Guardians wanted Ganthet to return to being a Guardian. He declined, preferring to act as a Green Lantern. But even then, I suspect that he felt that the other Guardians would eventually not take no for an answer, and forcibly return him to being just like the rest of them.
This was Ganthet's failsafe plan; something that would be put into effect should the other Guardians ever impose their will upon him. He is familiar enough with the workings of the power rings of all colors that he commanded one ring of each color to seek out Kyle Rayner. And it would appear that each of the other rings were chosen entirely at random; perhaps the only random element of this plan.
As for why Kyle instead of any other Green Lantern, It was because of the circumstances surrounding his becoming a Green Lantern. It has been mentioned that his ring is different from other green power rings. One thing that has been mentioned specifically is that it is keyed to his DNA. Only Kyle, or someone sharing his DNA (such as a distant descendant, as was shown in one story) can use this ring. Ganthet simply gave the command to the other rings to home in on this particular ring.
As for Ganthet's plan itself, I suspect that the primary part of it is to undo whatever the Guardians did to him. Knocking some sense into them, or at least forcing them to develop personalities of their own, would definitely be a good secondary part of the plan -- although I am unsure of what could knock some sense into the Guardians.
Of course, I could just as easily be completely wrong with my theory. I'm guessing that I'll find out in the next two or three issues of Green Lantern: New Guardians.
I hadn't really planned on dressing up for Halloween. For a little while, though, I did have something that could be classified as a sort-of costume.
My inspiration came from Green Lantern: New Guardians #2, which came out last week. In the first two issues of this series, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner suddenly found himself surrounded by power rings from the other six colors of the emotional spectrum, all telling him "You Have Been Chosen." Kyle quickly found himself in conflict with members of the corps wielding the red, yellow, indigo, and violet rings, who immediately suspected him of stealing the rings.
Matters did not improve when Kyle went to Oa, hoping to get help from the Guardians Of The Universe, and Ganthet in particular. The Guardians did not give Kyle a chance to tell what had happened, at which point the other rings -- which had been patiently hovering around him -- suddenly flew onto his fingers, turning him into, for lack of a better term, a Rainbow Lantern. (I suppose it may be a bit of irony that the uniform created by these additional rings is black and white.)
For a little while today, I decided that I would be a Rainbow Lantern. I had the rings with me, and I wore them the way it showed Kyle wearing them at the end of Green Lantern: New Guardians #2:
Index Finger -- Yellow
Middle Finger -- Green
Ring Finger -- Blue
Pinky Finger -- Orange
Index Finger -- Violet
Middle Finger -- Indigo
Ring Finger -- Red
As I said, it was a sort-of costume. I can always claim that this was just before the rings created the uniform.
As I mentioned a few times when writing about the various promotional rings that DC Comics produced in conjunction with Blackest Night and Brightest Day, I have been a little surprised that DC had not produced a promo ring for The Legion Of Super-Heroes. After all, the LSH has probably been one of DC's biggest favorites with the fans over the years. You would think that a replica of the Legion flight ring would be a no-brainer.
But for some reason, DC had not released a flight ring replica. At the time, maybe they were focusing their attention on the Blackest Night and Brightest Day rings. But last week, Comic Shop News ran an article on Legion: Secret Origin. According to the article, this particular series would fill in some of the details behind the Legion's formation. And the last paragraph or two mentioned that DC would be offering a promo -- a replica of the LSH flight ring.
My first thought -- Finally!, accompanied by the appropriate amount of fannish squee. My second thought -- Reserve a copy, which I did the very next day. I'm sure The Great Escape ordered plenty of copies, but I decided I wasn't going to take any chances.
Finally, Wednesday rolls around again. New comics day at The Great Escape, and just about any other comic store you can name. Among the new arrivals today was Legion: Secret Origin #1, and of course, I went there to pick up my copy. On the rack where the copies were placed, there was a note that reminded customers that buying Legion: Secret Origin #1 also got them a LSH flight ring. And right after that was another note that said that no, this ring would not enable the wearer to fly.
Oh, come on. Did you really have a customer think that any of the previous promotional rings were functional?
I picked up my copy of Legion: Secret Origin #1, and of course, the ring. It's primarily gold colored. The top of the ring has a circular face. The face is black, with the Legion's emblem -- an L and a comet/starburst -- in gold.
Of course, this ring now provides me with a slight dilemma. Since I only have 10 fingers, I can't wear all 11 rings at once. Which one do I leave off?
I love using my kitchen as a mad scientist's laboratory. I enjoy getting the idea of a recipe, then seeing if I can bring that idea to life. Fortunately for me, those ideas have favorable results most of the time.
I think this recipe is one of my better creations. It has its origins in a taco dip recipe that someone gave my parents many years ago. It was a layered dip that was served spread out on a large platter, and I was wanting something that didn't take up as much space in the refrigerator. I started deconstructing the recipe in my head, and after much experimentation, the results are to follow.
I think I have at least one fan of the dip. If you want to scroll down a few entries, you will see the review I wrote of Jennifer Estep's first novel, Karma Girl. After visiting her website, I signed up for her monthly email newsletter.
Now, one thing that Estep includes in each newsletter is a recipe of some kind. This is not too surprising, considering that the heroine of her "Elemental Assassin" series, Gin Blanco, runs a barbecue joint when she isn't carrying out her current hit. (And Gin is more or less retired by the end of the first book.) I thought that Estep might enjoy getting a recipe in return, so I emailed her the recipe.
Much to my surprise, when I found the March newsletter in my inbox, I also found myself staring at my recipe (and receiving credit for it). I think she likes it.
When I sent her the recipe, I called it "Spicy Cheese/Bean Dip." It wasn't until after I saw the newsletter that I decided on the current name. So without further ado, I present:
SPICY QUESOFRIJOLE DIP
2 packages (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
1 package Taco Seasoning Mix
1 can (16 oz.) Refried Beans
Optional: Sour Cream, additional spices (see below)
1. Place the cream cheese in a microwave-safe bowl. If it isn't already softened, zap it in the microwave for 20 to 30 second intervals, beating until smooth. If desired, add a few tablespoons of sour cream to bring the cheese to the right consistency.
2. Add the taco seasoning mix, and stir until blended. At this point, the cheese should be a light orange color, with no streaks of white remaining.
3. Add the refried beans, and stir until thoroughly blended. (Putting the bowl in the microwave for another 20 to 30 seconds may make it a little easier to blend everything.)
4. At this point, taste. If you feel that it isn't spicy enough for your taste, add whatever additional spices you like to suit your taste. (I usually add some chili powder, garlic powder, and maybe just a dash or two of Tabasco sauce.)
5. Once the dip is to your taste, refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes to let the flavors blend together.
Serve with crackers or chips.
YIELD: About 1 quart
Now, I call this a dip, but it's actually somewhere between a dip and a spread. Besides using it as a dip, I also spread it on crackers, and use it in sandwiches. Refrigerate any leftovers.
I usually store this in a 1-quart plastic container after making it, and it fills the container.
The nomination period for this year's Hugo Awards ended last Saturday, and has been my habit the past few years, I submitted my nomination ballot just hours ahead of the deadline. Under seven hours, as a matter of fact.
Now the nominating deadline has passed, there is a good chance that the Hugo Recommendation community here on LiveJournal (hugo_recommend) is going to lapse into dormancy again. Which is a shame. The intent of the community is to make recommendations throughout the year -- not just that three- or four-month period from just after Thanksgiving through whenever the current Worldcon committee decides will be the deadline for nominations (usually sometime in March).
I will freely admit that I am guilty of overlooking hugo_recommend just as much as anyone else. It is far, far too easy to start thinking about nominations only after receiving the Progress Report with the nomination ballot. And it is usually a day or two after the deadline passes that I start remembering something that I read or watched during the previous year that I forgot to include in my nominations.
I suppose it was something along this line of thinking that led bovil, the owner and maintainer of hugo_recommend, to create this little (or perhaps not so little) button as a reminder:
Given how long items will stay on the front page of my LJ, this should serve as a reminder for me for at least a little while. And if anyone reading this is interested in science fiction and/or fantasy, you might find the community of interest to you.
I like The Big Bang Theory, even if I don't watch it all that often. At times, it's like watching four different iterations of myself on the screen. (Of course, when I mentioned to my friend Angel that I could see bits and pieces of me in each of the show's four male leads, she said, "That's just disturbing.")
So, when billroper posted a link to what he described as "a hand-drawn version of the intro," I was curious enough to click on the link. I watched it -- multiple times -- and then decided that I needed to do a little more searching on YouTube.
First, I've discovered from a couple of different places that the correct title for the song is "The History Of Everything." The video that was in the link in billroper's entry was a promotional video that CBS did for The Big Bang Theory, although I am not certain whether this was broadcast or Internet only. It's the full-length version of the song, not just the truncated 30-second version you see at the beginning of each episode. It shows a hand illustrating (at a somewhat rapid speed) the various things mentioned in the song.
I was amused that when it came to the line, "Math, science, history," the creators of this video illustrated math with the equation 6 x 7 = 42. I have to think that they chose something with 42 as a reference to The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, but I wish they had used 6 x 9 = 42, with an indicator that the equation was in base-13, of course. You only see each element for just a second or two, but it would have been something that would have kept people viewing the video backtracking and pausing the video just to verify what they were seeing.
There are a number of amusing moments. One of the last lines is "Music and mythology, Einstein and astrology," and the artist chooses to draw a representation of that photo of Einstein sticking out his tongue.
While I was on YouTube, I saw several fan-made interpretations of the song. Most of them also posted the lyrics, but I wish they would get the lyrics right. One line is "Religion or astronomy, Decartes or Deuteronomy," and the CBS video clearly depicts a drawing of Rene Decartes with a thought balloon that says, "I am." But on most of the fan-made videos, the line is invariably given as "Religion or astronomy, Encarta, Deuteronomy," with illustrations appropriate to their misinterpretation.
You know, at this point, I should probably just give you the link to the video, and let you watch it for yourself. Here it is, and enjoy:
Please note that you will have to sit through a 30-second shampoo commercial (or at least a commercial of some kind) before you get to the actual video. This is something beyond my control.
One of the comments in billroper's entry mentioned that The Barenaked Ladies (the group that performs the song) made a surprise appearance at last year's San Diego Comic-Con, at a panel on (naturally) The Big Bang Theory, during which they performed "The History Of Everything." Here's the performance:
As I said, their performance was a surprise at the beginning of the panel. Wil Wheaton was the moderator of the panel, and he introduced The Barenaked Ladies by first telling the audience that he thought it would be fun if they all started the panel by singing the theme song (lyric sheets had already been distributed). Wheaton then said that it would be even cooler if The Barenaked Ladies were to lead the sing-along; at which point, the group walked on the stage. Here's the longer version of the performance, with Wheaton's introduction, and the cast of The Big Bang Theory taking the stage at the end:
Hmmm . . . with two of the Borders stores in Louisville closing, maybe I should see if one of them still has any seasons of The Big Bang Theory.
The fashion beat is tough. Just ask Lacey Smithsonian.
I recently discovered Ellen Byerrum's (ellenbyerrum) "Crimes Of Fashion" mysteries at my local library, and I'm enjoying looking through them. (I haven't started reading them all the way through yet, for reasons that will be made known in just a few paragraphs.) Quick overview: The main character of this mystery series is the aforementioned Lacey Smithsonian, a fashion reporter for The Eye Street Observer, a Washington, DC newspaper. Despite the fact that Lacey covers the fashion beat, she finds herself continually dragged into various and sundry murders. Somehow, she manages to discover the culprits, all the while looking fabulous. (More often than not, wearing something vintage.)
As I've been looking through the books, something unusual came to mind. I began realizing that the "Crimes Of Fashion" books have a lot of similarities with an old TV series. And it's probably not any series that would immediately come to mind when the word "mystery" is mentioned.
The series is Green Acres.
Okay, I know what you're probably thinking -- the helmet on my Ranger costume has apparently cut off my oxygen supply, right? Just read on, dear reader, and you will discover my line of reasoning.
For those of you who remember Green Acres with varying degrees of fondness, consider this: Oliver Wendell Douglas was the only normal person on the series. Everyone else, to some degree, was a first-class freaking looney toon. (Everyone else in the regular cast; guest stars more often than not were rather sensible sorts.) Are you with me so far?
By the same token, in the "Crimes Of Fashion" books, Lacey Smithsonian (no relation to the museum) is quite often the only voice of reason to be found. There are a couple of notable exceptions to be found: Vic Donovan, Lacey's love interest, who can usually be counted on at least once each book to ask Lacey to please stay out of trouble; and and fellow reporter Tony Trujillo, who seems to be in a state of either perpetual amusement or perpetual bemusement over the chaos that Lacey has a knack for attracting. Other than that, anyone else intersecting Lacey's vector seems to have a skewed view of reality. Like Brooke Barton, Lacey's conspiracy-theory addicted lawyer and friend. Or Stella Lake, Lacey's hairstylist, friend, and number one cheerleader.
Or especially Damon Newhouse, the conspiracy theorist and wannabe investigative journalist who runs a website called Conspiracy Clearinghouse. A website that is described as taking its cues from Matt Drudge, The Smoking Gun, and Art Bell. A website that Lacey dreads visiting, because she knows that she will usually find Damon's latest attempt to make her look like some kind of superhero. (Although Lacey does find herself wishing that she had Wonder Woman's wardrobe; particularly her bracelets, tiara, and lasso.)
[SIDENOTE: I don't know about the bracelets -- at least not bracelets that can deflect bullets -- but I know that Lacey could get at least part of Wonder Woman's costume online. A couple of years ago, I remember stumbling across a site that was selling go-go boots in just about every color of the rainbow, and among the offerings were Wonder Woman's boots -- red boots with a white stripe down the front. After seeing the second or third reference to Wonder Woman in the series, I tried to remember where that website was. To save what loosely passes for my sanity, I turned to Google for help. I typed "wonder woman boots" in the Search box, and discovered that there are more than a few websites that have these boots for sale -- including (I swear I'm not making this up) Amazon.com.]
Much to Lacey's dismay, everyone seems to think that she is some sort of Sherlock Holmes for the fashion world. She keeps telling everyone that all she does is ask people questions, and then she writes her column based on what answers she gets. Sooner or later, people will eventually believe her. She hopes.
I'll probably get around to reviewing the "Crimes Of Fashion" books. As I said at the top, I haven't started reading any of the books cover to cover yet. For some reason, my library has only five of the six (so far) books in the series. The one they don't have is the first book, Killer Hair.
Looks like I will have have to pick up a copy at my local Borders or Books A Million. Oh, who am I kidding? I was going to do that anyway.
Did I say the fashion beat was tough? It's worse than that -- it's murder.
If you read the last entry, you'll know that I was somewhat dissatisfied with the plethora of fan made (as in not real) trailers for next summer's Green Lantern movie that had been posted to YouTube. As I said then, the fan videos were all right, but I wanted to see the real trailer; not something one of my fellow fans thought should be in the trailer.
Well, my wait was finally over today. Last night, Entertainment Tonight aired a feature on the movie, including, as I understand it, either part or all of the trailer. (I didn't see it, because at the moment, I'm having TV problems.) And today, I discovered that the trailer is now on YouTube (not to mention a few other places).
Let's see . . . what is the best way I can describe my reaction? Oh, yes:
I'm trying to think what is the best part of the trailer. I can think of several great moments. The Warner and DC logos in glowing bright green against a black background. The moment when Abin Sur passes his power ring to Hal Jordan. Hal creating a giant fist with his power ring to deck the three rednecks who had just beaten him up. (And that moment seems reminiscent of a similar scene in 1984's Supergirl, when the title character dispatches a pair of rednecks who accost her.) Brief glimpses of Sinestro, Tomar-Re, and Kilowog (and in that scene, Hal apparently thinks that Kilowog needs to chew on a couple of Altoids -- or perhaps an entire tin of them). Hector Hammond. The moment when Carol Ferris tells Hal, "You have the ability to overcome fear." The scene where Hal summons his Green Lantern uniform.
Okay, let's just say that I really love the entire trailer, and leave it at that. Would that be easier?
There were a couple of disappointments. I wish they had used the entire oath, instead of only using the first line. For that matter, I wish they had shown a scene where Hal is recharging his ring, but I suppose that it's not considered an exciting enough moment. Trust me, if a second trailer shows that scene, I guarantee that everyone in the theater will be reciting the oath. And it will happen when the full movie is shown, too.
I have heard/read a few negative comments about the trailer. Most of those seem to be variations of, "The CGI effects suck!" On the other hand, I have heard/read responses to those comments that usually say, "Hey, the movie is still in post production! Just wait for the movie!" I can wait.
I also noticed that there is a change in the website for the movie. When you first go to the site, it starts the same, with the glowing green globe and the counter telling you how much of the page has loaded. Now, when the counter reached 100%, there is a flash of green light, followed by a a really neat piece of artwork, featuring Hal and a scene from Oa.
The movie is set to open June 17, 2011. I don't go to the movies all that often, but I will be going to this one. I'll probably be wearing my Green Lantern ring, and I'm guessing that I won't be the only one.
(Hmmm . . . the ring in the movie looks quite different from the promotional rings that DC produced for Blackest Night. I'm hoping that DC does a promo version of the movie ring.)
If you've read my entries on the Blackest Night and Brightest Day promotional rings*, it will probably come as no surprise to you that I am a Green Lantern fan. It will probably be even less of a surprise that I am eagerly anticipating 2011's Green Lantern movie.
There was a Green Lantern panel at this year's Comic-Con, and videos of that panel were posted to YouTube. I think the best clip that I've seen was when Ryan Reynolds (who plays Hal Jordan in the film) recites the Green Lantern oath for a young fan. If the applause that followed that wasn't the biggest round of the panel, the biggest round hasn't been posted to YouTube. (And British magazine SciFiNow thought it might have been the best part of the panel.)
Over the past few days, I've been looking over YouTube. I had been hoping that by now, a trailer for the movie would have been posted there. Well, a lot of purported trailers have been posted. Actually, there have been several versions of the same "trailer" posted. And it looks really, really good. There's just one little problem.
It isn't real.
It has been put together with clips from a number of sources.
It looks good. At first, I thought it really was the movie trailer. But I started noticing a few things (admittedly, reading some of the comments probably helped).
Things like realizing that Nathan Fillion was Hal Jordan, not Ryan Reynolds. And that the Guardian Of The Universe looked suspiciously like Jeffrey Combs as his Star Trek: Enterprise character of Shran (with the antennae digitally removed, no doubt).
My mood quickly turned from enthusiastic to disappointed. I was ready to post an entry that said something like, "If the trailer is this good, I can't wait for the movie!" Looks like I am going to have wait a little longer before I can do that.
Undaunted, I found the official website for the movie, and I went there, hoping that it might have something. Well, it does, but not much. When you first go to the site, it's almost totally black, except for "2011" at the very bottom of the page. Then, a glowing green sphere appears as numbers show a percentage of how much of the page has loaded. When it reaches 100%, there is a flash of green, and the Green Lantern insignia replaces the sphere. But not much beyond that at the moment.
Has a trailer for the movie even been released in theaters yet? Or will the trailer for Green Lantern be one of the trailers shown with Warner's big movie for this season, Part 1 of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows? (That seems the most likely movie where a Green Lantern trailer would first appear.)
Seeing the various fake trailers has only made me want to see a real trailer for Green Lantern all that much more.
*And if you haven't read those entries, why haven't you? Scroll down!
Issue #12 of How It Works arrived at my local Borders yesterday, and I quickly picked up a copy. Other a quick glance at the cover, I didn't look at it right way. When I did finally get a chance to look through it, I was somewhat surprised.
When I reviewed How It Works a few months ago, I mentioned that the cover of each issue states how many facts and answers are given inside each issue. I also mentioned that at that time, no issue had cracked the 1000-answer barrier, and suspected that Imagine Publishing was saving that for the first anniversary issue. Well, I was almost right. The first anniversary issue by my way of reckoning is issue #13 (which just went on sale in the UK), but they broke 1000 with issue #12 -- 1006 facts and answers to be precise, thank you very much. (I checked the website, and issue #13 has only 982 facts and answers.)
As I looked through the new issue, I found myself staring at my own words for the second issue in a row. On the contents page, How It Works has a box where they run quotes from what people are saying about the magazine. In issue #11, they ran an excerpt from my review. I was both surprised and pleased to see it, although I would have been more pleased if they had spelled my name correctly.
After I posted my review, I sent How It Works an email, letting them know about the review. In the new issue, I discovered that they ran my email in the letter column. (And this time, they got my name right.)
"Oh, wow" just doesn't begin to cover it.
ZOMBIES VS. UNICORNS
Edited by Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier
(Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010)
Pirates versus Ninjas? That argument over which is cooler is so last year. The argument now is, "Which is cooler -- unicorns or zombies?"
Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier have been arguing this question in various formats since February 2007. And now, they have dragged a dozen of their friends into the argument with the anthology Zombies Vs. Unicorns. (Sounds like a case to be argued before the Supreme Court, doesn't it?)
In one corner, you have Team Zombie, edited by Larbalestier: Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Maureen Johnson, Carrie Ryan, and Scott Westerfeld. In the other corner, you have Team Unicorn, edited by Black: Meg Cabot, Kathleen Duey, Margo Lanagan, Garth Nix, Naomi Novik, and Diana Peterfreund. And just so the unsuspecting reader won't stumble upon a story featuring a creature that fills them with revulsion, each story is marked accordingly with a zombie or unicorn icon. Or as the Introduction states, "No unwary zombie fan will accidentally start reading a unicorn story or vice versa."
For the record, let me state that I am unabashedly a supporter of Team Unicorn. I was already a fan of both Cabot and Peterfreund, so that was an easy choice. Besides, I have very fond memories of reading Roger Zelazny's "Unicorn Variation" and James Thurber's "The Unicorn In The Garden" oh so many years ago. I don't have any fond memories of reading any zombie stories.
The stories in Zombies Vs. Unicorns alternate -- Unicorn, Zombie, Unicorn, Zombie. I have no idea how Black and Larbalestier decided upon which one would start the book (a Unicorn story, for the record), but I'm guessing that it wasn't some sort of battle to the death.
Peterfreund's story, "The Care And Feeding Of Your Baby Killer Unicorn," is set in the same fictional universe as her novels Rampant and Ascendant. And while Wen (the narrator of the story) does indeed fit Peterfreund's qualifications for being a unicorn hunter (a female virgin descendant of Alexander The Great), she does not appear in Rampant. (I'm not certain about Ascendant; I haven't read enough to determine that yet.) She has known about that little fact for about a year, since two of her cousins were killed by a unicorn. (Did I mention that Peterfreund's unicorns are vicious, venomous, ill-tempered killers? Well, they are.) Through a series of events that might be partially explained by Murphy's Law, Wen finds herself taking care of a baby unicorn. (I think this one is a zhi -- there are five different species of unicorns in Peterfreund's stories.)
In current pop culture, unicorns come in pastel colors, and are usually surrounded by rainbows, sparkles, and stars. Cabot's story "Princess Prettypants" gives us a unicorn with all of this and more. It has a flowing white mane and tail, soft blue muzzle, silvery hooves, and purple fetlocks. It has a sparkling lavender horn (three feet long). Its breath smells like honeysuckle, and it farts rainbows. And it, well she, is the birthday present of a 17-year-old girl. A very horrified 17-year-old girl, who has concluded that the aunt who found Princess Prettypants (yes, that's the unicorn's name) at an SCA event clearly doesn't realize that she is no longer 10 years old. But she also discovers that having a unicorn can change her from being the uncoolest girl in school to possibly one of the coolest. And somewhere along the line, she sends a message to a couple of total jerks, including the ex-boyfriend who had dumped her.
Naomi Novik's "Purity Test" takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the association with unicorns and virgins. A young runaway is sleeping on a bench in Central Park, hung over, and if things weren't bad enough, a unicorn wants her to assist him in rescuing five baby unicorns from an evil wizard. Even though she keeps trying to tell him that she's not . . . well, you know. Novik even manages to throw in a quick Harry Potter reference along the way.
Hmmm . . . I suppose at this point, I probably should give at least some mention to the Team Zombie stories. I am sure that there will be someone getting upset if I don't.
Strangely enough, most of the zombie stories seem to be love stories of one form or another. I mean, we're talking serious necrophilia here. (Not to mention a case or two of humorous necrophilia.)
Alaya Dawn Johnson's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" features what could be considered a half-zombie. The infection that causes zombification was partially brought under control. Oh, the guy still eats zombies, but he occasionally feels bad about doing it.
Libba Bray's "Prom Night" takes place in a small town somewhere in the west, where there are no adults. They went away when the zombie infection hit the town, because it almost always struck adults first. But the prom is still going on.
The zombies in Cassandra Clare's "Cold Hands" are more traditional zombies; their origins owe more to voodoo than any infection. The introduction describes them as "emo zombies who will love you forever." And you could probably describe the story as "Young Zombies In Love."
I am more than certain that Zombies Vs. Unicorns will not settle Black and Larbalestier's argument over which is cooler. If anything, the arguments they conducted in the introductions to the book and each story seem to only intensify their . . . disagreements. Maybe even enough to inspire a second anthology.
Of course, as I have already said, I already know which is cooler.
Unicorns are cooler.
And if there is a second anthology, the title needs to be Unicorns Vs. Zombies. Let's get the title right this time.
As I mentioned in the last entry, my friend David Herrington agreed to pick up some issues of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine while he was in Australia attending Aussiecon 4. Well, I finally have them in my possession.
I actually got them in two batches. I'm on an email list for ASIM, and when Dave mentioned that he would be attending Aussiecon, I posted a question to the mailing list, asking if they were going to have a table in the dealers room, because if they were, I was going to ask Dave to get a subscription for me. I received a reply in the affirmative, and I asked Dave if he could get the subscription for me. He said no problem. We also discussed his picking up back issues for me as well.
Not long after that initial discussion, Edwina Harvey, one of the editors, announced a special deal -- 20 back issues for A$60. Unfortunately, it was also limited to Australian readers, because of the cost of postage.
I joked with Edwina over email, saying something along the lines of, "You really know how to hurt a guy" over the Australia-only part of the deal. She then mentioned that since I did have a friend coming to Aussiecon, they would put a package together, and he could pick it up at the convention.
I already had the first 10 issues, so I made a request for anything from issue #11 up. After that, it was a matter of waiting.
At the August meeting of the local SF club (local for Louisville, that is), I gave Dave the money for my subscription, and the back issue bundle. I also gave him my mailing address to give to the nice people at ASIM, so they would know where to send my subscription issues. And then, it was a matter of more waiting.
Waiting until September 2, the first day of Aussiecon 4. Dave sent me an email telling me that he had picked up the bundle, and signed me up for a subscription. He told much money remained from what I gave him (I had given him more than enough, thank Ghu), and asked for further instructions.
The people at the ASIM table had suggested to Dave that he mail the back issue bundle to me, which made sense. It would be easier than carrying them with him for the rest of his trip, so I agreed with that assessment, and asked him that if there was anything remaining after mailing the package, to pick up as many additional back issues as possible.
And after that, there was more waiting. (Do you sense a theme here?)
The wait started to end on September 10. When I got home that day, I checked my mailbox, and I found a card from the post office. Dave had sent the package to my home address, instead of my post office box. Normally, the carrier just leaves the package at the door of my condo. This time, however, the carrier left a note telling me where I could pick up the package, beginning the following day.
The pick-up location was an annex a few blocks away from Louisville's main post office. It's within what I would call biking distance from my condo, but just barely. The main sticking point here was that the following day was Saturday, and at least here in Louisville, all of the post offices close at 1:00 PM.
Sometime around mid-morning on that Saturday, I set out on my bike with an empty backpack for the aforementioned annex. I knew where it was, so getting there wasn't the problem. Unfamiliarity with the terrain was more of a problem. Just a little hillier than I thought.
I coasted up to the annex with more than enough time before closing. I handed the card to the clerk, and after a moment or two, he located my package. (Actually, I spotted it before he did, and directed him to it.) He had me sign the card, and after putting the package in my backpack, I was on my way home.
(I still don't know why the carrier just didn't leave the package at my door. Maybe it was because the package was coming from overseas.)
I managed enough patience to wait until I got home before opening the package. And I stayed relatively calm while opening the package. Once I had the package open, though, I was positively giddy as I took note of the bundle of back issues.
I had already learned that ASIM had already sold out of issues #11, #12, and #20. The bundle included issues #13 through 19, and #21 through #33. (And Dave mentioned that I had acquired their final copy of #16.)
I only gave the magazines the briefest inspection, because I had to go back out and take care of some other tasks. Letting Dave know that I received the package was at the top of that list. Settling down with the magazines had to wait until later that evening.
And it was Wednesday when Dave called to let me know he was back from Australia. He was coming down to Louisville on Friday (he lives in the Indianapolis area), and wanted to discuss handing over the rest of the issues he had acquired. We played phone and email tag Thursday and yesterday before he finally arrived at my condo.
When Dave signed me up for a subscription, he picked up the current issue, #47, as my first subscription issue. After mailing the package, he picked up issues #34 through #39. More ecstasy, although once again it had to wait. Dave came down for the weekly Friday night FOSFA dining out. I usually don't take part (primarily because of scheduling conflicts), but for once I did, and had a pleasant evening with friends.
I still want to get the remaining issues that I don't have. Getting issues #40 through #46 shouldn't be much of a problem, although I'm thinking that doing it one or two issues at a time might be less expensive in terms of postage. The real trick is going to be finding copies of #11, #12, and #20.
Yesterday was the start of this year's Worldcon, Aussiecon 4. Unfortunately, I am not in Melbourne; I'm here in Louisville, and I'm learning about what's happening through the Aussiecon website. And through reading the LJs of people who are in attendance.
I'm also getting the occasional email from my friend David Herrrington, who is among those lucky enough to afford a trip to the Land Down Under. I had asked him to get me a subscription to the Australian magazine Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and he reported that he did. (And before you ask, yes, I gave him the money for it before he left.) I've also asked him to pick up various freebies, like the at-con newsletter, Voice Of The Echidna.
But while I'm waiting to hear all about his trip once he returns (assuming that I'm not going to have to wait for the next issue of Alexiad for that), I've been taking a little trip into the past. Back to September 1960, to be precise. A few years ago, I purchased a copy of the September 1960 issue of If (also known as Worlds Of If) on Ebay. As I looked through the magazine, there was a notice about that year's Worldcon, Pittcon. I thought it might be interesting to present that notice as a retrospective look.
The notice was on page 78 of the issue, and was in a box, probably to call attention to itself. Now, I don't know how to create a box here on LJ, so you'll just have to settle for italics:
You are most cordially invited to the 18th World Science Fiction Convention, to be held at the Penn-Sheraton Hotel, Pittsburgh, Pa., Labor Day weekend, September 3, 4, and 5, 1960.
Guest of honor will be James Blish, winner of the 1959 Hugo Award for his novel A Case Of Conscience.
Isaac Asimov, Philip Jose Farmer, Hal Clement, and many other science fiction luminaries will illuminate the occasion.
Among the stellar events will be a masquerade, a banquet where the 1960s Hugo Awards will be presented, and an auction of books, artwork, and manuscripts.
Registration fee is $2.00 ($1.00 for overseas).
Mail your registration fee and requests for further information to: PITTCON, c/o Mrs. Dirce S. Archer, 1453 Barnsdale Street, Pittsburgh 17, Pa. Make yourchecks or money orders payable to P. Schuyler Miller, Treasurer, or to 18th World Science Fiction Covention Committee.
I think the readers of that issue would be surprised to see the membership rates for Aussiecon 4. The at-door rate for the full convention is A$375 (not sure what that translates to in US$, but it's considerably more than $2.00.
[EDIT: After I posted this, I asked Edwina Harvey, one of the editors of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, if she had any idea of what the conversion rate was at the time of the convention. She wasn't completely certain, but her best estimate was that A$375 was about US$335 at the time of Aussiecon 4. If anyone has more accurate knowledge, please let me know.]
HOW IT WORKS
When I reviewed Science Illustrated a little over two years ago, I described it as quite possibly embodying the same kind of sense of wonder that I once found in the pages of the much-missed Omni. And while Science Illustrated has indeed lived up to my hopes (and continues to do so every other month), I found another magazine a few months ago that has managed to engage my sense of wonder in much the same way.
This time, the magazine is a British publication called How It Works. The line across the top of each issue's cover proclaims it to be "The Magazine That Feeds Minds," and in the inaugural issue, editor-in-chief Dave Harfield describes it as "the magazine that explains everything you never knew you wanted to know about the world we live in." In short, How It Works tells you about . . . well, how things work.
Each issue of How It Works is divided into six general sections. As the quick guide on page 3 of every issue describes them, those sections are:
Environment -- The natural world explained.
Science -- Explaining the applications of science in the contemporary world.
Transport -- Be it road, rail, air, or sea, you'll find out about it here.
History -- Questions answered about how things worked in the past.
Technology -- The wonders of modern gadgetry and engineering explained.
Space -- From exploration to the solar system to deep space.
Within each section, each issue runs several articles of varying lengths. Some may run only a few paragraphs, while others cover several pages. Just to give you an idea of the variety of subjects covered in How It Works, here is a sampling from just the first issue:
Environment -- The anatomy of a volcano, How bees make honey, the formation of diamonds, and great white sharks.
Science -- How the eye works, how fireworks burst into action, why we get drunk, how the human heart works, and a look inside the Large Hadron Collider.
Transport -- Looks inside the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Bugatti Veryon, and HMS Astute, how cat's eye reflectors and ejection seats work, and a quick explanation of the sound barrier (and what it means when said barrier is broken).
Space -- A look at the sun, an explanation of gravity, and how tides and spacesuits work.
Technology -- how bionic eye implants work, how radar finds objects, keyless car ignitions, Geiger counters, digital SLR cameras, and 3D movies.
History -- A look at medieval castles, how the guillotine works, a quick introductory description of heraldry, and how the flintlock pistol worked.
And please, keep in mind that this is only a partial listing of the first issue's contents. The cover stated that there were "831 facts and answers inside." The number of facts and answers varies from issue to issue, of course, but of the seven issues that have appeared in the US so far, each issue has had at least 800. They haven't reached 1000 yet, but I'm guessing that the magazine is saving that for a special issue. (The first anniversary issue, perhaps?)
There are also three departments that run in each issue of How It Works. "Global Eye" is the news section, similar to Omni's "Continuum" section. One feature of this section is "This Day In History;" a timeline of historical events that happened on that issue's on-sale date in the UK. For instance, the first issue hit British newsstands on October 29, 2009. That was also the date that Cassius Clay won his first professional boxing match (in 1960), and the date that John Glenn returned to space on the space shuttle Discovery (in 1988).
"Brain Dump" is similar to Science Illustrated's "World Of Science" department. Curators and staff from the National Science Museum answer questions submitted by readers. And "The Knowledge" is the review department, reviewing both books and gadgets.
How It Works is written in a concise, straightforward style. I could give an issue to my 11-year-old nephew, and I feel quite certain that he would have no difficulty reading it. I suspect that my almost-8-year-old niece (birthday in a little over a month as I write this) might have just a little difficulty with some of the text, but I am also certain that if she ran into any difficulty, she would avail herself of the assistance of either parent (or a Certain Uncle) for any necessary clarifications.
Like Science Illustrated, How It Works is lavishly illustrated, both with photos and diagrams. The magazine regularly acknowledges the assistance of book publisher DK, and that assistance can easily be seen in illustrations such as the castle diagram that accompanied the article on castles in issue #1. (Other acknowledgments have included NASA, Reuters, and the National Science Museum.)
The one little drawback to How It Works is that it is a little pricier than Science Illustrated. Each issue that has appeared in the US so far costs $9.50. But this is not an American edition. It is the same edition that appears in the UK, and it is printed there, so I'm guessing that at least part of the cost has to do with shipping the magazine from the UK to the US. It also appears in the US a month after it does in the UK. (The most recent issue to make an appearance at my local Borders is #7, while #8 is on sale in the UK as I write this.)
How It Works has a website, which can be found at http://www.howitworksdaily.com. As you might suspect, it has a link for purchasing subscriptions online. But the website contains much more than its counterpart for Science Illustrated does. The How It Works website contains online versions of the magazine's articles, video clips, and links to websites of other magazines published by Imagine Publishing. (And of course, a link to Imagine's main website.)
I really like How It Works. I'm still looking for a science magazine that will run the occasional SF story, though.
This week (today, as a matter of fact) saw the release of the first issue of Brightest Day, the follow up to DC's series Blackest Night. And DC Comics was bringing out one more promotional ring in conjunction with Brightest Day #1 -- the White Lantern power ring.
Now, based on a few comments that I have read on DC's official blog, the promotional rings have been very popular with the fans. No, make that very popular. As I mentioned once before, I suspect that DC didn't realize just how popular they would be until after Blackest Night #1 hit the stands. I really think that if DC had known how popular the rings would be, they would have released a different ring with each of the eight issues of Blackest Night, instead of the month-long event in November.
And based on some of those same comments, there have been a few detractors of the rings. Apparently, some of the people at Marvel Comics have derided the rings as being mere "Cracker Jack prizes." I think that has to be sour grapes on Marvel's part. They don't have anything similar, no character that uses rings for his/her superpowers. Wait, I take that back. There is one character that obtains various superpowers through the use of rings -- of 10 different rings, as a matter of fact. Unfortunately for Marvel, the Mandarin is a supervillain, and I don't know if they would be able to generate as much interest in a set of Mandarin's rings, even if they tried to do them as a tie-in with an Iron Man movie.
I'm kind of getting away from the original point of this entry, aren't I?
Anyway . . . as I mentioned, Brightest Day #1 was one of this week's new releases, and a stop by The Great Escape was on the agenda for today. (Since it's also my day off, I didn't have to worry about that always annoying matter about coordinating things so I could get to work on time.) From what I can tell, The Great Escape had ordered plenty of copies, so that wasn't a worry. I made my selections, and I received the ring at the register when I paid for them.
I think the white ring may be the best one yet. It gleams with a mother of pearl-like shimmer. Simply put, they picked the right color of plastic for the ring. And like I did with all of the rings since I discovered the yellow ring with the Blue Lantern symbol, I took a close look at the symbol on the face of the ring. It has the right symbol.
I even put on all of the rings so I could admire them for a few minutes. It might make for a good photo, but I really can't do anything while wearing all 10 of them, because they are just a little bit bulky. As I discovered back in November, it's difficult to type while wearing more than one on each hand. Here's how I was wearing them:
Black -- Left pinky
Red -- Left ring
Orange -- Left middle
Yellow -- Left index
Flash -- Left thumb
Green -- Right thumb
Blue -- Right index
Indigo -- Right middle
Violet -- Right ring
White -- Right pinky
I mentioned that it might be really cool if DC released a replica of the Legion flight ring for the new Legion Of Super-Heroes series that will be starting in a couple of weeks. There is just one little problem, though.
If DC does release a promotional LSH ring, where am I going to wear it? I've run out of fingers!
As I mentioned last week, DC is releasing more promotional rings in conjunction with Brightest Day. Last week, it was The Flash's costume ring. This week, it was Green Lantern's power ring.
Wait a minute. Didn't they already do that one for Blackest Night back in November?
Yes, they did. And when I heard that they would be doing Green Lantern again, my initial thought was, "Okay, maybe they are going to do something slightly different for the Brightest Day ring. Something that sets it apart from the one that they did for Blackest Night."
This past Wednesday, I went to The Great Escape, and picked up Green Lantern #53 -- the first post-Blackest Night issue, and the issue with which the promotional ring was offered. I made my selections, went to the register to pay for my purchases, and it was there where I received the ring. As the clerk handed me the ring, I took a good look at it . . .
. . . And it was the same ring that DC offered during Blackest Night.
Maybe I shouldn't have been too surprised. It was obviously easier for DC to just order another production of the Green Lantern rings that they had made for the Blackest Night promotion. But it was a little disappointing that they didn't try anything different.
This wasn't the first time that a promotional item from DC turned out to be not quite what I thought it would be. Back in 1992, for the first issue of Green Lantern: Mosaic, DC offered another Green Lantern ring. In a couple of ads for the comic, DC mentioned the promotional ring, and said that it would glow in the dark. I thought the entire ring would glow in the dark, but discovered that only part of the ring did. It was still a pretty cool ring, and I still have it.
Hmmm . . . a Green Lantern ring that glows in the dark. That definitely would have been a great promotional item.
I can't be too disappointed, because there is still one more ring that DC will be releasing. And that may be the best one yet.
Of course, DC is also about to start a new run of Legion Of Super-Heroes. Maybe I should say "yet again," because I have lost track of how many different times the Legion has had a new start for their title. DC hasn't said any thing, but a promotional version of the Legion flight ring would be a definite attention grabber.
If you scroll down a little, you'll notice the entries I posted on the promotional rings DC Comics released last year in conjunction with Blackest Night. Well, Blackest Night ended a couple of weeks ago, and DC is getting ready for the follow-up -- Brightest Day.
One title that was released just ahead of Brightest Day is yet another restart for The Flash. The first issue came out this week, and DC released another promotional ring -- this time, a replica of The Flash's costume ring.
Once Upon A Time, many, many years ago, it was The Flash that got me hooked on comics. And probably the one thing that caught my attention more than anything else was his ring. Now, if you aren't that familiar with the character, the Flash (and for the record, I'm talking Barry Allen here) stored his costume in a special ring when he wasn't wearing it. At least one panel in every story showed Barry triggering the switch that released the costume from the ring. I don't know why, but I thought that was just the coolest way to keep your superhero costume nearby -- much cooler than Clark Kent's simply wearing his Superman costume under his suit. (The writers never did really explain how Barry got the costume back in the ring once he was off the superhero clock, but at the time, I don't think it really mattered to me.)
The Flash ring is a little smaller than the various Lantern rings that DC recently released. It's a gold color, and the face is silver with The Flash's lightning bolt insignia in gold. (Although I would think that anyone getting a good look at this ring on Barry Allen's hand would have to start wondering why a criminalist would be wearing a ring bearing The Flash's chest emblem.) And on one side is a slight raised area -- obviously the switch that would release the costume if this was the real thing.
I was pleased when I read The Flash #1. They did include a panel showing Barry ejecting the costume from his ring. I didn't really notice it until my second reading, though. It needed to be a little more obvious, in my opinion.
I know that DC is planning another couple of promotional rings for Brightest Day. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on them as well.
Recently, I have been doing some ruminating, speculating, cogitating, meditating, and all sorts of other random thinking, and it is time I shared these thoughts with you. The subject of all this deep thinking is Astatine.
I suspect the first thought to go through your mind is, "What?"
Astatine is an element. Atomic number 85, chemical symbol At. It is a halogen, it is radioactive -- and it is the rarest occurring natural element. It is estimated that at any given moment, there are only about 30 grams of astatine present in the entirety of Earth's crust. That's right -- 30 grams. For those of you less than fluent in the metric system, that is less than one teaspoon.
Now you're probably thinking, "Why are you giving so much thought to something so rare?" I suppose my first response would be, "Hey, why not?" But if I stopped there, what would be the point of this entry?
I think what first started me thinking about astatine was when I was looking through a book on the elements that was published last year. As I was leafing through the book, I looked at the entry on astatine, and the mention of its scarcity caught my attention. It also engaged my curiosity enough that I did some additional reading both at the library and on Wikipedia (and a few other websites, come to think of it).
If I'm understanding correctly, the primary reason for astatine's scarcity is the relatively short half-life of its various isotopes. The most stable isotope, At-210, has a half-life of just a little over eight hours. The shortest-lived isotope, At-213, has a half-life of only 125 nanoseconds. You don't even have a chance to blink before it's gone.
Because of its rarity and instability (the word "astatine" is derived from the Greek astatos, which means "unstable"), there really aren't that many applications for the element or its compounds. (Some of the isotopes with longer half-lives do have some medical applications, in radiation therapy.) And that is where I began my speculations.
It started with that standard writer's question, "What if . . . ?"
What if there were a more stable isotope of astatine?
What if this isotope had a half-life of days, or weeks, or even longer?
What would the atomic weight of this isotope be? What about this isotope would make it more stable than the isotopes that are currently known? For that matter, what is it about astatine that makes it so much more unstable than, for instance, polonium or radon (elements 84 and 86, respectively).
What applications could it possibly have? Other than the limited medical uses I have already mentioned, astatine is mostly a scientific curiosity, because of its rapid rate of decay. Would there be a wider variety of medical uses? Are there any other possible uses?
What compounds would this stable astatine isotope form? Astatine is in the halogens group (Group 17 on the periodic table), and theoretically, it should react much the same way as the other elements in the group -- fluorine, chlorine, bromine, and iodine. With what elements would it most be likely to react?
The next part of the question is twofold: What sort of hazards would a stable astatine isotope pose? In their elemental state, the other halogens are poisonous. Presumably, astatine in its elemental form could prove to be just as much of a hazard to humans. And astatine is radioactive, but how much of a radiation hazard would it pose? After all, the element following astatine on the periodic table, radon, is considered a health hazard to humans. Would a stable astatine isotope be more or less of a health hazard?
The main reason I decided write down these musings is that I know that there are a few scientific and engineering types who have me on their LJ flist. That includes one who works at Fermilab. I'm kind of hoping that they will get a kick out of this entry, and maybe start doing a little pondering of their own.
Today was the release of the final promotional rings tied into Blackest Night. And I suspect that DC saved the most popular for last -- red and green. Well, the green ring, anyway. I'm guessing it was paired with the red ring because let's face it, Christmas is just a month away.
Unlike last week, I have the day off today, so I didn't have the logistical challenge of working my trip to The Great Escape in the middle of getting to work. And after three weeks of this, knowing the right time to arrive is becoming second nature to me.
As always, the first thing to do was to check the rack for the new arrivals. And the first titles I picked up were the ones that were the tie-in books -- Blackest Night #5 and Green Lantern #48. I made a couple of other selections, then went to the register to pay for my purchases.
At the register, the cashier handed me the rings. Once again, I took a good look to be certain that neither was a mismold. I then said to the cashier, "You may be hearing this a lot today." I then slipped the green ring on my finger, and began to recite an oft-reprinted verse:
In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power -- GREEN LANTERN'S LIGHT!
I like to think that I have a certain flair for reciting the oath. I usually say the first two lines in my normal tone of voice. For the last two lines, I drop my voice an octave or so lower to make things more dramatic.
(Now, this is the point in my narrative where I would love to tell you that the ring suddenly began to glow. That I was briefly engulfed in a ball of green light, and when it faded, I was wearing the jade and jet uniform of the Green Lantern Corps. Sadly, none of these happened.)
The cashier said that I had been the first person to recite the Green Lantern oath. Of course, at that point the store had been open just a little over an hour, so there couldn't have been that many customers yet. I would hate to think that I was the only one who thought of doing a total geek-out like that. It would be just a little disappointing to learn that no one else would be imaginative enough to do it.
Well, now the set is complete. At the moment, I have the eight rings arrayed in a rough semicircle in front of my mouse. I would be wearing them, but I have discovered that they are bulky enough that it makes typing a little difficult when I'm wearing all eight. And the black and violet rings -- worn on my left and right pinky fingers -- are just loose enough that they are in danger of sliding off those fingers.
The rings make a nice little display. And one little thought keeps coming up in the back of my mind. Is DC planning to do anything as a promotion for the final issue of Blackest Night? And if they are, what will that be?
Unlike the previous two weeks, this past Wednesday was not a day off for me. Fortunately, the time my manager scheduled me to come in gave me just enough time to make it to The Great Escape for the third release of Blackest Night promotional rings.
After the first two weeks, I had my timing down to a science. I had already juggled the various factors, such as when I had to be at work, transit time, and how long it took The Great Escape's staff to put the new arrivals on the shelf. And I would have to say that I nailed my optimal arrival time.
This week, the tie-in books were Adventure Comics #4 and The Outsiders #24. The rings were the blue and violet rings. And I was handed the blue ring, I took a very close look at it. This time, the right color ring had the right symbol on its face. Or to borrow a line from Bullwinkle J. Moose, "This time for sure . . . Presto!"
I had a few minutes, so I asked the manager if he had encountered any other anomalous rings. Apparently, the only ones that had been misprinted (or mismolded, I suppose) had been yellow. Or if there have been any other rings that were mismolds, they didn't show up here in Louisville.
This coming Wednesday will see the final release of the promotional rings. As far as I know, that is. I suspect that DC may be cooking up something for the Blackest Night finale.
At least I'm going to be off this Wednesday. That's something to be thankful for.
As I mentioned a couple of entries back, during November, DC Comics is releasing a series of promtional rings tied into their Blackest Night series. Yesterday was new comics day, and of course, the second ring release.
Like last week, I happened to have the day off yesterday, so I made my way to The Great Escape within an hour of their opening. I had not put in a hold request for this week's tie-in books -- Booster Gold #26 and R.E.B.E.L.S. #10. Last week, I managed to get to the store before they had even finished putting out all of the new arrivals. I figured that if I could get there that early, I would have no problem picking up either this week's tie-in books, or the rings.
As it turned out, I was right. I did manage to arrive a little later than I had last week. Good decision. Last week, the staff was still in the process of putting out the new arrivals. This week, everything was out by the time I arrived. I made my selections, then went to the cash register to pay for them -- and to pick up my rings, which were kept behind the counter.
The manager was at the register when I approached, and requested this week's rings -- the orange and indigo rings. When he handed me the rings, I made a close inspection. No anomalous rings, like I encountered last week. Each ring had the correct symbol.
I held up the orange ring, and I said to the manager, "You know what you're supposed to say when you wear this one, don't you?"
He did. He was chuckling as he said, "MINE!" I think I was just a half-second slow as I joined in.
I then asked if had heard about the anomalous ring I discovered last week. As it turns out, not only had he known about it, mine wasn't the only one. The Great Escape had received two bags of the promotional rings last week, and he told me that they had found three anomalous rings (including mine, I think). I'm not certain how many rings were in each bag, but from what I saw, I'm guessing that there were 100 rings to a bag.
He didn't mention finding any anomalies this week, so I'm guessing that they hadn't encountered any. Well, it was still early in the day. Something tells me that the number of anomalies they had last week was probably the right amount to be a statistically normal amount of errors, and that the same should hold true for all of the other colors.
Or maybe I'm overanalyzing this way too much.
Two more weeks to go. I can't wait to have the complete set -- and that isn't the orange ring talking.
[DISCLAIMER: These characters are owned by other people; I'm just having a little fun with them.
This is a followup to "Woolloomooloo Revisited."]
"You wanted to see me, Colonel?"
Colonel Mason Truman nodded. "I did, Dr. K. Please, sit down." As the young woman settled into a chair, he continued, "Scott tells me that you're developing a new Ranger Operator suit."
Dr. K nodded. "Yes, I am. After Ranger Green pointed out that I had skipped the number six designation when I designed the other Ranger Operator suits, I thought it might be a good idea to rectify that situation."
Truman chuckled. "Yes, Scott told me about that as well."
From the way he was smiling, it was clear to Dr. K that whatever the Rangers had found amusing about Ranger Green's question (and especially, her response), Truman found it equally amusing. Since she also suspected that no explanation for the amusement would be forthcoming any time soon, she simply asked, "Is there a reason for your inquiry, Colonel?"
"As a matter of fact, there is. I know you aren't ready to select an operator just yet, but when you are, I have a candidate that I would like to consider."
"Who is this candidate, Colonel?"
"He's a former British intelligence operative. He was our liaison with M9 when the Venjix crisis began, and was unable to return home. He has been working with Corinth's defense forces, but quite frankly, his talents are being wasted with us."
Dr. K asked, "And you think they would be better used with the Rangers?"
Truman nodded. "Here's our file on him. You'll note that he is extremely reluctant when it comes to the use of excessive force. I thought he might be able to help restrain Gem and Gemma's . . . "
" . . . Inordinate preference for blowing up everything in sight first, asking questions later, if at all?"
"Something like that."
Dr. K said, "It will be a couple of weeks before I'm ready to begin preliminary tests on the new suit. I will also want to talk to your candidate first, but I promise you that I will give Mr. . . . " She opened the file, then continued, " . . . Mr. John Drake all due consideration."
Back in July, when Blackest Night #1 was released, DC Comics also released a promotional tie-in: Those buying a copy of that issue also got a replica of the Black Lantern power ring. It was non-functional, of course. I suppose it's just as well; if mine had been functional, it more than likely would have flown off my finger to look for some dead person to reanimate.
Apparently, the people at DC were a little slow in realizing that replicas of the other power rings appearing in Blackest Night would also be great promotional items. (I think it would have been a great idea to have a different ring given with each of the other seven issues of the series.) Even though it took DC at least a month to realize it, they did announce a month ago that they would be releasing promotional rings in the other seven colors -- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet -- and that they would be paired with various Blackest Night-related books that would go on sale during November.
The first ring to be released was the yellow ring, in conjunction with Doom Patrol #4. I had the day off today, so I was able to go to The Great Escape early to pick up a copy. (I had put in a hold request, so I could have gone in at any time, and it would have been waiting for me. But why wait?) I picked up Doom Patrol #4 (and the ring) along with a couple of other new arrivals, then went on to the next stop on my list for the day.
As I was waiting for the bus, I took a good look at my new acquisition, and my jaw dropped just like Wile E. Coyote's. The symbol on the ring was not that of the Sinestro Corps.
It was a yellow ring, but it had the symbol of the Blue Lantern Corps.
Now, this is not the first time I have seen this mistake made. In May, when DC released Blackest Night #0 for Free Comic Book Day, that issue contained profile pages on all of the factions that would be combatants in Blackest Night. For some reason, the symbol of the Blue Lanterns was placed on the label for the Sinestro Corps page -- in spite of the fact that Sinestro himself (and the other members of his corps) were clearly wearing a different emblem.
My first thought was, They've really screwed this one up.
My second thought was to go back to The Great Escape and let everyone know about the (quite possibly) colossal screwup.
When I showed the staff my ring, they were as surprised as I was. They started looking through their supply of rings, but all of them had the right symbol. Apparently, my ring was not indicative of a massive screwup; rather, it was an anomaly, a random miscasting that somehow escaped notice.
The staff offered to exchange the anomalous ring for a correct one, and I accepted their offer. And it was too long before I realized that I had made something of a mistake. I should have kept the ring, and simply bought another copy of Doom Patrol #4, and more than likely, the ring I got with the second copy would have been a correct one. That anomalous ring would probably be worth quite a bit to the right collector.
Oh, well, you know what they say about hindsight.
If you're reading Blackest Night, and you're picking up Doom Patrol #4, take a very good look at the ring you get. I'm betting that there are more yellow rings with the Blue Lantern symbol out there, and you might find yourself with a real collectible on your hands. Or on your finger.
I know it's not likely to happen to me again, but I'm going to pay close attention to the rings I acquire during the next three weeks. If I get another anomalous ring, I'm going to have enough sense to hang on to it -- even if I have to buy another copy of a particular issue to get the right one.
[DISCLAIMER: Power Rangers RPM is owned by BVS Entertainment and Jetix. I'm just having some fun with the characters.]
"Yes, Ranger Operator Series Green?"
Ziggy Grover sighed. Even with Gem and Gemma's attempts to get Dr. K to unbend, it appeared that the most informal she would ever be with him would be "Ranger Green." "I have just one little question about our Ranger suits."
"And what would that be, Ranger Green?"
Ziggy said, "It's about the emblems on the chest." Pointing to each of the suits in turn, he continued, "Scott is Ranger #1, Flynn is Ranger is Rangers #2, Summer is Ranger #3, I'm Ranger #4, and Dillon is Ranger #5. But when we get to Gem and Gemma, they are Rangers #7 and #8."
Dr. K asked, "And your point is . . . ?"
"Where is Ranger #6?"
Dr. K said, "Ranger #6? There is no Ranger #6."
After watching all of the Rangers convulsing with laughter for three minutes, Dr. K began to sincerely hope that Venjix would not launch an attack on Corinth at this moment. She didn't think the Rangers would be capable of mounting an effective defense anytime soon. And what had she said that was that funny, anyway?
Two or three weeks ago, Diana Peterfreund (dpeterfreund) announced on her blog that she would be attending this year's DragonCon. She will be on at least one panel (on writing for the YA market), and will be sharing a booth with a number of other writers, where she will be signing copies of her latest novel, Rampant.
I gave her some advice in a couple of comments at the time. Since then, a few other things occurred to me, especially since this will be her first SF/fantasy convention of any kind. Rrather than go back and comment on that earlier entry of hers, though, I decided to present my advice here:
Advice To A Con Virgin
Diana: Your first convention experience is going to be a bit different than mine. If for no other reason, I attended my first convention as a fan, while you will be attending your first as a Filthy Pro. (Don't worry, that is a term of affection.) But I think there are a few things that will apply to anyone attending their first SF convention.
The first thing to keep in mind is that you will not be able to see or do everything that you would like to see or do. This is especially true for a convention the size of DragonCon. Inevitably, you will find two panels that you want to see that are scheduled opposite each other, or you will be on a panel at the same time as another panel you wanted to see. (In 1995, my friend Tim Lane was was scheduled for two different panels at the same time. He picked the panel that interested him more. I'm hoping that the scheduling people at DragonCon have become a little better since then.)
I know that I've already mentioned this, but it bears repeating: DragonCon is big -- really, really BIG. You're probably going to be doing a lot of walking, so be sure to bring some comfortable shoes.
Another thing I know I've already told you is to keep in mind the 5-2-1 Rule. Every day of the convention, you need at the very least the following:
5 hours of sleep -- DragonCon will run nonstop from the time Registration opens on Friday until the dead dog party sometime Monday. Remember Amy's inability to pull all-nighters, and consider what she would do if she was attending. (And by any chance did this particular attribute come from personal experience?)
2 meals of real food -- The munchies in the consuite do not qualify as adequate meals, only as snacks. The concom will likely be putting out a guide to restaurants in the area around the convention. Study it carefully. In an effort to have more money for the dealers room or art show, some fans will have the bright idea of not budgeting for meals, relying on the consuite or whatever is being served at the various room parties for sustenence. This is rarely a good idea.
And finally, the most important part of the 5-2-1 Rule,
1 shower -- For reasons known only to Ghu and Roscoe (or to Persephone, if you prefer), there are some fen who will consider it a point of honor not to shower during the entirety of a convention. You will be aware of their presence soon enough. It will be memorable, but not in the good way.
From what you've said, you'll be behind the table during most of the day. Be sure to take at least some time to go through both the dealers room and the art show. But it might be a good idea to set yourself a limit on how much you're going to spend, and stick to it.
Introduce yourself to the other writers attending. Yeah, I think you already know about the whole networking thing. But Rampant's publication makes you eligible for SFWA membership, and you should be able to find out from at least one of the writers in attendance what you need to do to join. I would definitely recommend introducing yourself to Lois McMaster Bujold and Mike Resnick. I know both of them fairly well, and they're both nice people.
This is something else that I that I may have mentioned, but since you will be behind the table most of the day, business casual is probably the best. If you're bringing a costume, save it for the evening. A possible exception to this suggestion would be if you're planning to dress up as Astrid.
As for costumes, keep in mind that no matter how fabulous a costume you might have, someone is quite likely to have a more fabulous costume. And some people will do their best to push the envelope with how . . . out of the ordinary their costumes are, This is known as "freaking the mundanes," and is celebrated in this filk:
You will be seeing plenty of guys in kilts. And if you're in the Marriott lobby at midnight, you will see a young woman wielding a leafblower. This will be Jennie Breeden of the webcomic The Devil's Panties. She does this every year. I think she has even produced a couple of calendars with the photos taken during these sessions.
Be careful at any of the evening room parties. Some of the people like getting creative with the drinks they serve. Some of these drinks can be the equivalent of having an anvil dropped on your head. If you're unsure, ask first.
Pomegranate juice stains. Oh, wait. That's something that I learned from you.
Bring plenty of business cards to hand out, and something to hold the cards that you might collect.
Be sure to check the freebie table.
I guess what I'm saying can be boiled down to this: Use a little common sense. Pace yourself. And don't forget to take a shower.
In my last entry, I talked about a few items that I hope I will be seeing when I see the first issue of the revived WOOF. This time, I want to look ahead, to 2010 and beyond.
Let us assume for the moment that this year's WOOF is a success. Where do we go from here? I have a few thoughts on the matter, and I want to present them for your probable amusement and possible enjoyment.
I'm probably stating the obvious, but I think the first thing that needs to be done is to keep WOOF from going on another hiatus. If I remember the sequence of events correctly, WOOF went on hiatus after LACon 4 because Victoria Smith (then the OE) didn't attend Nippon 2007, and no one stepped in to fill the void. And as John Hertz mentioned in his postcard, Lloyd Penney is stepping in as OE pro tempore because of his role in running the Fanzine Lounge this year.
I have one possible solution. I am guessing that a permanent OE will be anointed, elected, or otherwise shanghaied at Anticipation. I would suggest that whoever is in charge of the Fanzine Lounge at each year's Worldcon serve as a co-OE, on the off chance that the OE is unable to attend in any particular year.
Second, don't forget those who have been mainstays of WOOF in years past. If they were unable to get something to Montreal for this year (whatever the reason might be), let them know that their contributions would be welcome in Australia.
Third, WOOF needs to attract new contributors, both the regular and the occasional. One possibility would be to contact the nominees in all three of the fan Hugo categories and simply say, "Hey, we would like to have you contribute something to this year's WOOF. Can you have something ready?" Make the cover a jam session between two (or more) of the Fan Artist nominees. If you really want to reach for the stars, see if one of the Professional Artist nominees might be interested in contributing something. (The worst they could do is say no, right?)
Have various fans write about areas where they are knowledgeable, particularly when it comes to WSFS and the Worldcon. For instance, Chris Barkley has covered the WSFS Business Meeting for the convention newsletter for a number of Worldcons; perhaps he could be prevailed upon to contribute a brief summary of what happened at the BM. Kevin Standlee is an expert on parliamentary procedure and the running of the BM; talk to him about writing on how the Business Meeting works (and this is an item that could be kept on file and reused, editing from time to time as necessary). Talk to the Chairman and the various Guests Of Honor, and ask them to write a brief something just for WOOF. Do the same for the TAFF and DUFF delegates. Have people from the various Worldcon bids write about their bid.
Make sure that the drop-off box for contributions has a conspicuous location in the Fanzine Lounge. That might be more important than anything else. And if possible, have an item about where the collection point is in the first issue of the convention's newsletter. If not the first issue, have something placed in the newsletter as early as possible, including the deadline and time and place of the collation.
Provide the opportunity for on the spot contributions. If I remember what Joe and Lisa Major told me correctly, their Alexiad started because the Fanzine Lounge at The Millennium Philcon had a computer and printer on hand for do it yourself fanzines. Lisa put together a single-page something, and it wasn't until she and Joe returned from Philadelphia that they decided to turn that into an ongoing project.
Have past issues of WOOF on display in the Fanzine Lounge. If anyone is curious enough, ask them if they would like to create something. Schedule a panel on putting together a fanzine, and as part of that panel, put together something using contributions from the attendees, and include that as part of WOOF.
Look to the blogosphere. Instead of pubbing their ish, these days fans are putting their writing out on Xanga, LiveJournal, Blogger, Wordpress, or some similar site. If there are any blogs that you regularly read, pay attention. If you see an entry that you find particularly interesting, contact the writer, and ask if the entry can be reprinted.
Ask John Scalzi if WOOF could run his infamous "Baconcat" photo. Especially if the faux Successories poster he created with the photo could be used.
Pay attention to the flyers and other freebies at the convention. At ConJose, someone printed an "Official Do It Yourself SMOF Uniform Kit." This was a cutout propeller beanie and bowtie printed on cover stock, with instructions on how to put it together. If something similar is floating around Anticipation, include it in WOOF.
If you know of someone who might not be attending Worldcon, but would be interested in contributing, make arrangements for their contributions to be sent. Talk to those who are regular contributors to other APAs, and invite them to contribute something to WOOF if they have not done so previously.
In short, think beyond what has been done in the past. Taco Bell's slogan is, "Think outside the bun." What we need to do is not only think outside the bun, but also think outside the taco shell.
I might also suggest that since there will be both a Worldcon and a NASFIC in 2010, putting together WOOF at both conventions might be a possibility.
As I have already mentioned, I won't be attending Anticipation. I probably won't be attending Aussiecon Four, either, but I hope to have something for next year. And I am definitely making plans for Reno. Until then, Clear Ether!
The news of WOOF's revival at Anticipation started me thinking. What would I hope to see in the first compilation of the new WOOF?
More contributors would be nice. Since this does seem to be something of a last-minute decision, I'm not certain how likely that will be, though.
I've been looking through a few WOOFs from previous years, and I noted a couple of items that were almost always included -- and which I hope will be included in this year's compilation.
Convention Newsletter -- There are a couple of issues that were almost always included in the compilation. First, the Hugo Results issue. Second, the issue that announces the results of the site selection vote. I'm reasonably certain that these issues will be included, but I would like to point out a couple of details.
Anticipation will also be presenting the Auroras. My guess is that the results will be published in an issue of the convention's newsletter, so it would be nice to include that issue in WOOF as well. Since I suspect that the site selection results for both the 2011 Worldcon and the 2010 NASFIC will be published in the same issue of the newsletter, I probably don't have to mention that both sets of results should be included.
Progress Report Zero -- Again, it has been traditional that PR0 for the site selection winner is included in WOOF. And as I have noted above, since we will be choosing both a Worldcon and a NASFIC this year, the PR0 for both should be included.
This should at least give this year's WOOF something of a good start.
At the beginning of the week, I got a phone message from Joe Major. He said that Lloyd Penney would be reviving WOOF, the Worldcon Order Of Fanwriters. (Fanzines? Faneditors? I've heard all three used at one time or another; which one is the correct one? Or or all three correct?) A few days later, I received a postcard from John Hertz, which said much the same thing. The postcard did add a few details. It mentioned that Penney is in charge of the Fanzine Lounge at Anticipation, and would be the OE pro tempore, with Hertz assisting him.
As a past contributor to WOOF, I'm glad to hear that someone is at least attempting to revive the annual one-shot. I always find it interesting to see what mix will make it into each year's collation.
A couple of things have occurred to me over the past couple of days. I know that at least some of the people on my "Friend Of" list will be attending Anticipation, and I hope that they will at least pass the following suggestion on to the people who could implement them.
First, I'm guessing that a permanent OE will be elected, annointed, shanghaied, or otherwise chosen at Anticipation. Whoever that might be, I might suggest that whoever is in charge of the Fanzine Lounge at each year's Worldcon be made a co-OE. This could be a failsafe for those times when the OE finds himself/herself unable to attend a particular Worldcon.
The second is more of a challenge to whoever might be reading this. As I said earlier, I know that some of you will be attending Anticipation. If you are, think of something to contribute to the 2009 WOOF. Or to borrow a line from Bonnie Raitt, let's give them something to WOOF about. Take a look back through some of your recent (or even not so recent) entries. There ought to be something worth sharing again.
And if you won't be attending Anticipation, but know someone who will be, make arrangements to have your contributions delivered. I won't be attending, but I will be certain to have something in WOOF. What that might be is yet to be determined.
Now if you will excuse me, I have to get started on my contribution . . .
I have never been one that has been bothered by spoilers. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I knew about "Luke, I am your father" at least 24 hours before The Empire Strikes Back opened. It was a review that aired on NPR's All Things Considered. I remember hearing the following day that there was much wailing, gnashing of teeth, and calls of complaint to NPR over this little revelation. So much, in fact, that the review was quickly edited before the west coast feed was sent.
I'm also remembering an old Peanuts strip where Linus was watching Citizen Kane on TV. Lucy walks by and blurts out that "Rosebud" was the sled, leaving Linus screaming in frustration in the final panel.
In both instances, I could never understand why people would get so worked up over something like the revelation of a plot point, whether major or minor. In the case of The Empire Strikes Back, knowing that Darth Vader would acknowledge his paternity to Luke before the movie started did not lessen my enjoyment of the movie in the slightest. (What it did was make me just a little curious as to when said acknowledgment would transpire.)
Things have been a little interesting since I received the ARC of Tap & Gown that I won. I haven't read the book cover-to-cover, but I have skimmed enough of it where I know all of the major and most of the minor plot points. Enough where I could hold a decent discussion of the book with any interested parties.
There is just one problem. While there may be plenty of interested parties, Tap & Gown won't be available to them for another couple of weeks. At the moment, I think the only person with whom I could discuss this would be Diana Peterfreund (aka dpeterfreund) herself. And I think she is more interested in whetting the appetites of her other readers.
Normally, I probably would have blurted out something by this point. But with secrecy being part and parcel of the Rose & Grave novels, there is something fun about being the position to say something like, "I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you." Which means I'm reduced to the level of an eight-year-old teasing people with, "I've got a secret! I know something you don't!"
I have slipped a few times. There was one discussion on the peterfreundfans LJ community that I settled, with the caveat "I can't tell you how I know this, but I know." I suppose most of the people who read that comment knew whence my knowledge came, and didn't press me for details.
On the one hand, I could get away with dropping this line from Tap & Gown:
"The Knight Poe was mollified. Hale? Not so much."
Trust me, it's from a very funny section of the book, and when you read it, you will be chuckling. I can probably also get away with this quote:
"A: Your mom called. I told her you were off being naughty. -- L"
And probably even this one:
"Also, I was getting cat hair on my skirt."
On the other hand, I don't think I could get away with mentioning plot twists like [REDACTED], or [REDACTED], and especially not [REDACTED]. I think too many people would be upset with me, not the least of which would be Diana herself.
Yesterday, I found myself making a comment on Diana's blog that would have given away just a little too much too soon. Rather than delete the comment, though, I did a little bit of judicious editing to eliminate anything that hadn't been revealed in the first three books.
I may have to resort to that tactic until the release date for Tap & Gown. It might actually be fun, but I will be glad once the veil of secrecy has been lifted.
It started a little over three weeks ago on Diana Peterfreund's (dpeterfreund) blog (March 15, if you want the precise date). She asked her readers a simple question: Who would like an ARC of the fourth and final (or should that be "fourth & final"?) book in her Rose & Grave tetralogy, Tap & Gown? (Obviously, anyone reading the entry was thinking, "Me! Me!")
It wasn't going to be that easy, though. Diana had just returned from a trip to Ireland, and was calling to mind a visit to one pub where the barman made her and her friends sing before they would be served. In a similar fashion, she was going to make her readers work for that ARC. What we had to do was write a limerick that had something to do with the Rose & Grave novels, and post it as a comment. The best limerick would win the ARC.
As I started thinking, the first two lines came rather quickly. As a matter of fact, they came from a teaser for Tap & Gown that appeared in the third book, Rites Of Spring (Break). In one part of the teaser, the narrator, Amy "Bugaboo" Haskel, is talking to her new boyfriend, Jamie "Poe" Orcutt, and she makes the observation that all of their friends are going to find it oh-so-cute that their real names rhyme. The first line came to mind immediately; the second within a minute:
There once was a Digger named Amy,
Who fell for the patriarch Jamie . . .
Okay, two down, three to go.
The idea of them becoming a couple triggered a few long-forgotten memories, although I didn't fully realize it until sometime later. It triggered memories of a story I read a long time ago in Asimov's. In fact, it was so long ago that it was when the magazine was Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. I still can't recall the story's title, or who wrote it, but I'm fairly certain that it appeared during George Scithers's tenure as editor.
In the story, Earth had been at war with an alien race for who knows how long. In fact, at the end, we learn that the narrator is an AI controlling various defenses, and that the human race has been long dead. The same is true of the alien race, and the narrator destroys his counterpart from the alien race.
The two AIs taunt each other during the initial confrontation, and the Earth AI zings the alien AI with a rather insulting limerick -- a fart joke, as a matter of fact. When the alien AI replies that this was physiologically impossible for his race, the Earth AI says something along the lines of, "Cut me some slack; it's hard enough to get the meter right."
The Earth AI then begins to give his alien counterpart a brief lecture on the intricacies and nuances of the limerick, ending with a challenge. He will give the alien the first four lines of a limerick. If the alien can come up with a final line, he will surrender. Those first four lines went like this:
"An Earthman was seeking to couple
With a maiden so soft, sweet, and supple.
But he found in her pants
With his hands, just by chance . . . "
(This may be a slightly inaccurate quote, but it's as close as I can get without re-reading the story. And at the moment, I don't feel like going through 30+ years of Asimov's to find that one story. Incidentally, if anyone does know the story of which I speak, please leave a comment as to the title and author.)
Getting back to my own narrative, my (mostly subconscious) memories of that story, and especially that partial limerick, gave me lines three and four:
. . . On becoming a couple,
With their bodies so supple . . .
All I needed was that fifth and final line. This time, my muse thought it would be funny to bring Joss Whedon into play, as I recalled one of the memorable lines from Buffy The Vampire Slayer: "Love makes you do the wacky." A rhyme for "Amy" and "Jamie" came to mind, and I suddenly had that fifth line:
. . They did the wacky without shamie.
Keep in mind that all of these random bits of thinking took place within the span of about 10 to 15 minutes, and most of that was happening in my subconscious mind. Once I had the final line, I posted the finished limerick as a comment:
There once was a Digger named Amy,
Who fell for the patriarch Jamie,
On becoming a couple,
With their bodies so supple,
They did the wacky without shamie.
(When I posted the comment, I also mentioned that I thought it was pretty bad, but I couldn't think of anything better at just that moment.)
The week went by, and during that time, Diana occasionally mentioned the limerick contest in her blog entries. I couldn't think of anything better, so I didn't attempt another limerick.
The following Monday, as I checked Diana's blog, I saw that she had chosen the winners. And much to my surprise, I found myself reading my own limerick, followed by these comments by Diana:
"Purple Ranger's innovative coinage of 'shamie' (move over, Edgar Allan and Shakespeare!) as well as interesting (if not necessarily accurate) predictions for the future took an early lead with the panel. Jamie and Amy have *not* done the wacky, guys. Just some good, old-fashioned snogging. Says one judge: 'I just giggle every time I read "shamie."'"
Oh, wow. I was just a little surprised. I wasn't the only winner, though. There were a couple of others, including an honorable mention to one person who had submitted something like 29 different limericks.
Now that I think about it, though, I realize that the last line doesn't fit the meter as well as it should. I discovered that it scans better with just the slightest transposition of words:
There once was a Digger named Amy,
Who fell for the patriarch Jamie,
On becoming a couple,
With their bodies so supple,
The wacky they did without shamie.
Much better, don't you think?
And yesterday, I received my prize in the mail. Diana had autographed it, with the inscription, "To PurpleRanger, who already has a code name . . . " I hereby confess: That made my day.
So far, I've only skimmed the book, but I will say that it is a satisfying conclusion to the series. For more than that, you'll have to wait until Tap & Gown hits the bookstores in May.
BOYS OF THE STEEL: THE CREATORS OF SUPERMAN
by Marc Tyler Nobleman
Illustrated by Ross MacDonald
(Alfred A. Knopf, 2008)
Everyone knows Superman's origin story.
It has been told and retold many times in the 70 years since Action Comics #1 first hit the newsstands. Writers have added things to the story, and other writers have taken out things, but the story has remained essentially the same: As the planet Krypton is being destroyed in a planetary cataclysm, a scientist sends his infant son to Earth in a rocketship, where he develops amazing powers in Earth's environment; powers that he uses for the good of his adopted planet as Superman, the Man Of Steel.
As I said, most of you, if not all of you, know that story. But how many of you know Superman's other origin story? The story of how two kids from Cleveland created what they described would be "the greatest superhero of all time." (And as it turns out, they were right.)
Marc Tyler Nobleman tells that story in Boys Of Steel. He is writing it for a young audience (probably first grade level), so he is telling the story of Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and their creation in a very simple manner. But he is telling it in a way that should also hold the interest of parents (or other adults) who might be reading it to kids who are still learning to read.
Ross MacDonald's illustrations are an homage to Shuster. They capture the style of the art of Superman's early years perfectly, almost as if MacDonald had Shuster's spirit guiding his hand as he was drawing them. (I think my favorite illustration in the book is one of the last ones, where the cover of Action Comics #1 was lovingly recreated.)
The main story takes Siegel and Shuster from high school to their first success with Superman. A text-only afterword tells of what happened to them later, from the shameful treatment they received at the hands of DC Comics to how DC eventually provided them with pensions.
I know that various parts of the story have been told in other places, and it's quite likely that the entire story has been told more completely in one place. But Boys Of Steel tells it in a way that might capture the attention of my six-year-old niece, or even my nine-year-old nephew -- and just maybe give them a little more insight into how the man in the big red S made it to the page.
I always try to keep up with what happens at each year's WSFS Business Meeting, even if I am unable to attend that year's Worldcon. This year was no different, and thanks to the Internet, I could learn what happened just a few hours after each day's session concluded.
I suppose the big thing that happened this year was the initial passage of a Best Graphic Story category for the Hugo Awards. I suspected that sooner or later, someone was going to propose such a category. After Nolacon 2 came up with the rather creative "Best Other Forms" category in 1988 just to give the graphic novel Watchmen a Hugo, I suspect that it was inevitable.
Since Anticipation has elected to use its "Additional Category" prerogative to conduct a trial run of the proposed category next year, there is just one little thing that probably needs to be cleared up before the nominating ballots are sent out. If a storyline from an ongoing title is deemed worthy of being nominated for this new category, I assume that it will be treated the same way that a serialized work of fiction will be; that is, it will be eligible the year the final installment is published. But there is one other thing that the Hugo administrators for Anticipation need to consider, since this will probably set a precedent for future administrators should the category receive its second passage at the Anticipation Business Meeting.
In recent years, it has become common practice for a comic publisher to collect a storyline that was published over several issues into a single volume a few months after the concluding installment has been published. How will eligibility for the story be determined -- by the publication of the serialized version, or by the publication of the collected volume?
For example, let's take the case of DC Comics's Final Crisis, which is still being published. At the moment, I think the final issue will hit the comic stores, newsstands, et cetera, sometime in December. (This, of course, is subject to change, but for the sake of this argument, let's assume that the final issue will appear in 2008.) The collected volume of Final Crisis (and trust me, there will be one) will probably be published some time in the first part of 2009. When will it be eligible for Hugo consideration? For calendar year 2008, or for calendar year 2009?
Also, if a collected volume contains extras that weren't part of the serialized form, is that enough of a difference to consider it a separate work? As I said, I think the Hugo administrators should be thinking about this now, to reduce any possible confusion later.
I've been looking through Harlan Ellison's illustrated screenplay for I, Robot. Now, this is not the screenplay for the movie that came out a couple of years ago. You know, the one that claimed to be based on Isaac Asimov's collection of stories, but in reality, the only similarity was the title and the fact that they used Asimov's Laws Of Robotics?
No, this screenplay was actually based on Asimov's stories. Ellison took the stories in that collection, and wove them together into a breathtaking and imaginative tapestry of storytelling -- and while there may have been changes made in the translation from prose to script, the screenplay stayed true to the spirit of Asimov's stories. Unfortunately, this screenplay was never brought to life on the big screen. (At least not yet. We can always hope.)
The text on the back cover of the book proclaims that this screenplay is "the greatest science fiction movie never made." While I will concede that there might be just the slightest bit of hyperbole in that statement, if there is an unfilmed screenplay for an even greater SF movie, it has not been brought to my attention.
This isn't the first time that I've read Ellison's screenplay for I, Robot. I first read it many years ago, when Asimov's serialized it in 1987. I was probably mesmerized when I read it then, and just leafing through the book now, I think I still might be. Harlan Ellison is more than a good writer; he's a damn good writer -- although most of you reading this already know that.
In his introduction to the book, Ellison talks about what could be his only regret involving this screenplay; that will never be able to sit in a theatre with his good friend Isaac Asimov and watch the movie made from this screenplay. And he's right -- there are times when I really wish I could read a new story by Isaac Asimov, or open up a new issue of Asimov's and find one of his editorials in front. But however much I might wish that Dr. Asimov were still with us, reading this screenplay has made me realize something, and I suspect that Mr. Ellison might find himself in agreement with me on this point.
I'm glad Dr. Asimov wasn't alive to see the Will Smith version of I, Robot.
Jennifer Estep is running a contest on her website in connection with the release of her third Bigtime novel, Jinx. The narrator of the book has luck as a superpower, and the contest is related to Bella's sometimes capricious power. Estep asked her readers to tell her about their luckiest or unluckiest experience.
I don't know if this would be my luckiest experience ever. It is related to Jinx, though, so it's certainly appropriate to mention it.
One thing you should keep in mind before you go any further is that the official release date for Jinx was just two days ago, September 2.
Last Friday, I was in one of the local Borders stores. One of the first things you see as you enter this particular store is part of the bargain section. And as I entered the store, I noticed one book in particular in the bargain section. It was the hardcover edition of The Darwin Awards 4. For some reason, I had missed getting that book when it was originally published, and I was a little irked that the only edition I could find was the trade paperback. I had the first three books in the series in hardcover, and I wanted the fourth the same way.
Needless to say, I quickly grabbed a copy, and I looked through the rest of the store. Just before I went to the check-out counter, I decided to make a brief stop by the romance section. Much to my surprise and delight, I saw Jinx on the shelves, several days ahead of schedule. (This wasn't the first time I got this lucky. When Estep's second Bigtime book, Hot Mama, was reissued in mass market paperback last month, I found it on the shelves several days ahead of the release date, too.)
As I told Estep in an email a day or so later, I think some of Bella's luck was rubbing off on me.
[NOTE: This is being crossposted to worldcons, so there is a slim chance that some of you may be reading this in stereo.]
If I were to hazard a guess, I would suspect that this has been rolling around in my subconscious for some time now. I'm guessing that it was the recent Progress Reports from both Denvention and Anticipation that finally dragged it forth from the subconscious to the conscious.
It all has to do with WSFS's marks, and that obligatory notice that appears in all Worldcon publications, as mandated by Section 2.2 of the WSFS Constitution:
Marks. Every Worldcon and NASFIC committee shall include the following notice in each of its publications: "World Science Fiction Society," "WSFS," "World Science Fiction Convention," "Worldcon," "NASFIC," and "Hugo Award" are service marks of the World Science Fiction Society, an unincorporated literary society.
I realized something, and I'm a little surprised that it hasn't occurred to anyone else before this. Or at the very least, if it has occurred to someone before now, I'm surprised that no one has apparently mentioned it until now.
There should be one more mark on the list.
Section 1.2 refers to NASFIC as "the occasional North American Science Fiction Convention," and that is the only place the phrase is mentioned in the Constitution. My point is this: "World Science Fiction Convention" and "Worldcon" both refer to the same annual event. The former term is the formal name, while the latter is the commonly-used (and equally acceptable) short form. By the same token, shouldn't WSFS hold both "North American Science Fiction Convention" and "NASFIC" as service marks?
Yes, I know that there are some SMOFs who are violently opposed to the very existence of the concept of the NASFIC. At the moment, though, it is a valid service mark of WSFS. Still, until and unless WSFS decides to either abandon the mark altogether, or relinquish the mark to another organization, would it not be in the Society's best interests to add "North American Science Fiction Convention" to its list of service marks?
I'm posting this in this manner because I know that it will appear on the radar of at least one member of the Mark Protection Committee (Hi, Kevin!), and I figure that it is the quickest way to bring this to the attention of the entire MPC. And, I suppose, to ask if this is indeed something that should be added as an item to the agenda of Denvention's business meeting.
I guess it was about two or three years ago that I lamented the fact that there hasn't been a good general interest science magazine on the stands since Omni folded many years ago. Before you say anything, yes, I am well aware of Discover. I see it quite regularly, and I even look through the occasional issue at the library if something on the cover catches my eye. But for some reason, Discover never really grabbed me, never really caught my attention the way that Omni did. It just doesn't have the right spark. For lack of a better term, it doesn't have that sense of wonder.
I expressed my lament while reviewing a short-lived magazine called Phenomena. While Phenomena did grab my attention, it unfortunately covered the sorts of flaky, fuzzy-minded New Age thinking that Omni usually reserved for its "Antimatter" column. (It also lasted only four issues.) But recently, I spotted a new magazine on the stands that might actually embody the same sense of wonder that I once found in the pages of Omni.
That magazine is Science Illustrated. According to the editorial in the premiere issue, this is the US edition of a Danish magazine which is largest-circulation magazine in Scandinavia. (I would like to see data to back up that claim, but I'm willing to accept it for now.)
In that debut editorial, Editor-In-Chief Mark Jannot describes Science Illustrated as "a visually spectacular gateway to the world of science and discovery" and "a feast of information for anyone with a passion for understanding the world and for understanding that understanding with others." I love enthusiasm like that. It's infectious. If the man at the top has this enthusiastic sense of wonder, I feel confident that it will trickle down to the rest of the magazine's staff as well (assuming that it isn't already there).
Three departments appear at the front of Science Illustrated in rapid succession. "Bull's-Eye" is a gallery of two-page spreads, each spread showcasing a different aspect of science, be it technology, medicine, nature, or culture. "Science Update" reminds me of Omni's "Continuum" department more than anything else. It's a collection of ultra-short articles that really don't require longer, separate pieces. The difference here is that "Science Update" is much more lavishly illustrated than "Continuum" ever was. And I think "Ask Us" should be self-explanatory. It's Mr. Wizard and Bill Nye The Science Guy in print form.
Three other departments appear at the back of Science Illustrated. I think I could maybe best describe "World Of Science" as the answers to all of those puzzling little questions that my nephew (who's just about to turn 9) and niece (age 5) would pose just out of curiosity. Included in this section are factoids on the different chemical elements. (They aren't going in order, and I was a little disappointed that the first issue covered oxygen, and not antimony.) And "Trivia Countdown" and "Brain Trainers" bring back fond memories of Omni's "Games" column.
The main articles are sandwiched between these sets of bookending departments. Simply, these articles every branch of science -- or they will, assuming that Science Illustrated stays on the stands long enough. Topics covered in the first two issue's articles include snake venom, penguins, building a bionic eye, the possibility of limb regeneration in humans, and tracking icebergs.
As I mentioned earlier, Science Illustrated is illustrated lavishly, befitting the magazine's title. That's the main difference between it and Omni. If you were a reader, you will remember that Omni was text-heavy. I'm not saying that one is better than the other; I'm just pointing out the differences.
(Yes, I realize that I'm making more than a few comparisons between Science Illustrated and Omni. That's the best standard for comparison I have at present. A decade from now, I could easily be comparing another new science magazine to both.)
Science Illustrated is published bi-monthly. Individual issues cost $4.95 on the newsstand, while a one-year subscription costs $24.
There is a website for the magazine, which can be found at http://www.scienceillustrated.com.
Now, if they could just consider the possibility of running a science fiction short story in each issue . . .
I first encountered reprints of Dial "H" For Hero . . . well, let's just say that it was many, many years ago, and leave it at that. I think I fell in love with the series concept at first glance. If you loved to play superheroes when you were growing up, Robby Reed had to be the embodiment of your ultimate fantasy. Instead of being just one superhero, Robby could become any superhero. Of course, there was that one little hitch in that he never knew what hero he might become every time he dialed the letters "H-E-R-O" on his H-Dial.
So as you can imagine, I let out just the tiniest bit of a fanboy squeal a few weeks ago, when I saw the latest issue of The Brave And The Bold (#9, to be precise). That issue featured a team-up between Dial "H" For Hero and the Metal Men.
It wasn't perfect. The story was only seven pages long (it was one of three in that issue). Barely an appetizer, when I was hoping for a full-course meal. (But better than nothing, I guess.) And the focus of the story was more on the Metal Man Tin, who had used the H-Dial after Robby had become injured after dialing "O-R-E-H" and returning to normal. But there were a few good moments. Like on the last page, when an intrigued Dr. Will Magnus credits the H-Dial as the sole source of the multitude of superheroes appearing in Robby's locale -- neglecting to take into account the person using the dial. (Okay, I can see why Magnus went into robotics. His people skills are even worse than mine.)
But there is one teensy tiny little thing about the story that struck a wrong chord with me. When did Robby's hometown of Littleville get located in Colorado?
I have all of the original run of Dial "H" For Hero from House Of Mystery. Littleville was clearly a coastal city. One story mentioned that the town had docks, and the second story had Robby foiling an attack on a nearby city called Whale Harbor (as an energy being called Super-Charge).
To me, the name "Whale Harbor" suggested that it was somewhere in New England. This suggestion was probably reinforced by the 1980s version of Dial "H" For Hero, which was definitely set in "the New England town of Fairfax." (The state was never explicitly mentioned, but a background clue in DC Comics Presents #44 suggests that Fairfax was in Rhode Island.)
Somewhere along the line, though, someone got the bright idea that Littleville was in Colorado. I think the first reference I saw of this was in the Dial "H" For Hero special from 2000's Silver Age crossover event. That story had Robby foiling an attack at a missile base (I think there was at least one reference to it being a NORAD base in the various comics from the crossover).
Placing Littleville in Colorado may have been more a story requirement for "The One-Man Justice League" than anything else, but it still struck a slightly wrong note with me. You would think that DC's writers and editors would have taken enough time to do a little bit of research in their archives.
I suppose that the powers that be at DC Comics could always explain the change in location as an aftereffect of something like Crisis On Infinite Earths, or as being caused by one of the occasional ripples in Hypertime. I just wish they would give us an explanation. Any explanation will do. Even an "Oops, we goofed."
[WARNING: This essay contains potential spoilers for Jennifer Estep's novels Karma Girl and Hot Mama. If you have not read either of these books, if you think you might be reading them, or if you are simply the whiny little girly-man type that goes into a frothing rabid frenzy at the thought of encountering anything that even vaguely resembles a spoiler, scroll down to the next entry NOW. This will constitute your only warning!]
In Karma Girl, Carmen Cole is a reporter who quite by accident finds herself specializing in reporting on superheroes and ubervillains. Or more precisely, the public unmasking of same.
She proves to be quite good at what she does, too. Before she finally moves to Bigtime, New York (and the heart of the story), Carmen mentions that she has exposed the identities of 13 heroes and villains.
And she adds to her total during the course of Karma Girl. Carmen learns the identities of Bigtime's most prominent band of heroes, The Fearless Five. She also learns the identity of Malefica, leader of The Terrible Triad, the most infamous group of villains based in Bigtime.
One question seems to have been left unanswered, though. What happens to the a hero or villain after they have been unmasked?
For the six whose identities Carmen learned during the course of Karma Girl, we do know what happens. (That is a large part of the book's plot, after all.) The only identity Carmen publicly revealed during the book was that of Tornado, one of the Fearless Five. Soon after uncovering his identity is published, he commits suicide -- or, that is what we are led to believe for most of the book. Just before dropping Carmen into a vat of radioactive goo near the end of the book, Malefica states that she killed Tornado, and made his death look like a suicide.
While Carmen does learn Malefica's identity, she doesn't publicly reveal the secret. Not directly, anyway. For one thing, The Terrible Triad had captured first Striker, and then the remaining members of The Fearless Five. Carmen had been working with The Fearless Five after Malefica originally gave her the one-month deadline to learn the rest of their identities, and she is a little distracted by trying to think of some way to rescue her rescuers.
For another, Carmen learned that Malefica was really Morgana Madison, the publisher of The Expose -- her employer. Carmen learned that Morgana/Malefica had hired her to unmask The Fearless Five so that all of them could be eliminated the same way that Tornado had been. In other words, Carmen discovered that Malefica had been playing her for a fool the same way that she had been by her ex-fiance, The Machinator. That was something that Carmen swore would never happen to her again, and she is more than a little pissed.
But in an attempt to neutralize any potential threat from Carmen, Malefica has (as Morgana Madison) also tried to publicly discredit Carmen, so directly revealing her double identity is not a viable option for Carmen. A more indirect approach is needed this time, so just before making what would appear to be a kamikaze attempt to rescue the rest of the Fearless Five, Carmen gives all the information she uncovered on Malefica's identity to her friend Lulu Lo, and tells her hacker friend to wait one hour before releasing the information to Bigtime's news outlets. Carmen specifically suggests that Lulu first release the information to SNN -- the Superhero News Network -- and The Chronicle, Bigtime's other major newspaper. (The latter, incidentally, is one of the many companies owned by Sam Sloane, the alter-ego of Striker.)
As Carmen is giving Lulu the information and instructions on releasing it, she doesn't expect to survive her assault on The Terrible Triad's lair. The best she is hoping for is that she will release at least one member of The Fearless Five before she is killed, and that whoever she frees will be able to free the others.
Well, things turn out quite differently from the way Carmen thought they would. Not only does she survive the encounter, it is The Terrible Triad who are presumed dead when the dust settles. (And when you consider the beating that Malefica receives at Carmen's hands, if she did survive, she will probably be either in need of extensive plastic surgery or recovering from it should she ever make a return appearance.) The multiple dips in Frost's frigid radioactive goo that Carmen is forced to endure leave their own mark, giving her superpowers and the edge she needs both to defeat the Triad and rescue The Fearless Five, and later to join the team as Tornado's replacement as Karma Girl.
(One minor nitpick here. Why do the heroes continue to call themselves "The Fearless Five" after Tornado's death? Were they planning to hold auditions for a replacement? Or was there already another group somewhere calling themselves "The Fearless Four" that precluded them using that name? I'm having mental pictures of Striker and Fiera conducting tryouts in much the same way as the Legion Of Super-Heroes regularly held tryouts in some of their 1960s stories.)
As for the remaining members of The Fearless Five, Carmen learns their identities during the one month that Malefica gives her, but when the deadline comes, Carmen flatly tells Malefica that she has no intention of turning over that information. After The Fearless Five rescue her on the first of several occasions (before she returns the favor), she becomes their ally. Slowly at first (and more than a little begrudgingly in the case of Fiera), Carmen finds herself becoming more and more a part of The Fearless Five. She initially finds herself in what is essentially the superhero version of witness protection, but finds herself taking on the role of superhero sidekick before she develops her own powers and becoming a full-fledged superhero. It would probably take an ubervillain with powers similar to Mr. Sage's telepathic abilities to force Carmen to reveal her allies' secrets.
But what of the heroes and villains that Carmen unmasked before arriving in Bigtime? We don't even learn all of their costumed identities; just four or five names that Carmen mentions in passing. What happened to them after their private lives became not so private?
I got the impression that things did not go so well for The Machinator, the first superhero Carmen unmasked (not to mention her ex-fiance). After Carmen discovered him in bed -- literally -- with his archenemy Crusher (who also turned out to be her now-former best friend), it was implied that he had something of a fall from grace. Not only did he and Crusher continue their romp between the sheets like a pair of nuclear-powered Energizer bunnies, they brought down the house -- or at least the hotel where Carmen and Mark's wedding was supposed to have taken place. According to Carmen, the hotel suffered considerable structural damage. (And I thought Klingons had some violent sexual practices!)
In the case of the ubervillains, we can assume that Carmen's unmasking was at least beneficial to the local authorities. I am assuming that the information that Carmen revealed in her exposes helped various law enforcement agencies to apprehend the villains. At the very least, I assume that the police would be able to make things more difficult for the villains to continue their normal operations. (Of course, in the comics, how many times have we seen superpowered criminals captured, only to see them escape once the writers came up with a new story using that villain? While Ms. Estep doesn't mention it, I suspect that the prisons in the Bigtime universe may have as much of a revolving door when it comes to ubervillains as the prisons in the DC and Marvel universes have when it comes to their supervillains.)
But the $256,000 question here is this: What has happened to the superheroes that Carmen has unmasked before she came to Bigtime? How did her unmasking affect them?
Carmen is again quiet on the subject, because she was more concerned with unmasking the heroes rather than what consequences might occur. At the time, she really didn't care; it took Tornado's death to change her feelings in that regard. So, we are left with suppositions and hypotheses. My own best guess is that, for the most part, the unmasking had to have had an adverse affect on the heroes. Carmen did mention that the authorities in some of the cities where she worked during her crusade wanted to send heroes and villains alike a bill for the damages they caused during their battles. It sounds as though it would be a distinct possibility that some heroes might find themselves tied up in litigation after Carmen publicly revealed who they really were.
Another possibility is that might find themselves at greater risk for attack from ubervillains, and not just the ones who had been unmasked by Carmen. After all, how long did Superman tell Lois Lane that they could never get married because he felt that she would be in constant danger from his enemies? (Never mind that Lois was finding herself in constant danger from his enemies even though they were only friends.) It might be something of a minor miracle that Tornado's death was the only one that came as a result of Carmen’s exposes.
It's implied more than anything else, but it seems that the primary consequence of a superhero being unmasked by Carmen is that the hero is no longer able to effectively function as a superhero. The Bigtime universe does not seem to have the equivalent of Ralph Dibny -- a hero who is so comfortable with the spotlight that he or she has publicly revealed his or her dual identity. Or if there is one, that hero hasn't been mentioned, and it's entirely likely that Carmen would be uninterested. After all, what is the point of unmasking someone who has already unmasked themselves?
But if it turns out that an unmasked hero somehow loses the ability to operate effectively as a superhero, what does he or she do then? Do they go into hiding, and then at some later point reappear under a new identity? And if they do, doesn’t it seem likely that the public would start thinking that new hero Major Magnet's powers seem awfully similar to the unmasked Magnetron's powers? Of course, this might hold true only if Magnetron had operated in a major city like Chicago or Los Angeles. If Magnetron had been a regional hero, living in Bozeman, Montana before relocating to Louisville and debuting as Major Magnet, it might escape all but the most diehard superhero watchers.
And now, in what truly has to be one of life's great ironies, Carmen finds herself on the other side of the mask, as a superhero. (Carmen, of course, thinks that it is just karma.) If she hasn't already, she will eventually realize that like Woodward and Bernstein before her, she has inspired some other young journalist, who will want to follow in Carmen's footsteps. Maybe even by uncovering the identity of the newest member of The Fearless Five.
Before she finally decides to become a superhero, Carmen has an encounter with Swifte, Bigtime's answer to The Flash. She tries to downplay her recently-acquired powers as martial arts skills, and Swifte plays along. But during their brief conversation, Swifte lets Carmen know that The Fearless Five have let the rest of Bigtime's superhero community know who really was responsible for Tornado's death. They were also told how Carmen had rescued The Fearless Five from The Terrible Triad. When Karma Girl made her first appearance as a member of the Fearless Five, it would seem almost certain that Swifte would know who she really was. But who else in Bigtime's superhero community knows?
And there is one other thing that none of The Fearless Five seems to have realized. When Carmen decided on a costume design, she settled for a silver costume -- the same color as Tornado's costume. Did she choose the color, even unconsciously, as a form of penance? It's particularly interesting to note that Fiera, who not only designed the costume, but was also engaged to Tornado, has not made the connection.
Of course, this may just be a case of karma working in strange ways . . .
SECRET SOCIETY GIRL by Diana Peterfreund
(Random House, 2007)
I hereby confess: This review is going to go off on a number of tangents.
Sorry, but it can't be helped. As I was trying to organize my thoughts to write this review, my brain kept shooting off in a number of wildly different tangents -- and the occasional cosine as well. I realized that the easiest way to write this review was to incorporate them into the review. I'm hoping that it will make some sense out of the review.
The first tangents came as I was reading the text on the cover summarizing the book. Both of those came from TV. First came the announcement that was delivered in a stentorian voice at the beginning of Dragnet (slightly altered here to match the medium):
"DUM-DA-DUM-DUM! DUM-DA-DUM-DUM-DUMMMMM! The story you are about to read is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent."
The other came from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and was an exchange between Dr. Bashir and his friend Garak. (The following lines may not be precise quotes, but they are close enough.):
"How much of what you told me was the truth?"
"My dear Doctor, it was all the truth."
"Even the lies?"
"Oh, especially the lies!"
That is my overall impression of Secret Society Girl. Diana Peterfreund takes truths, partial truths, and outright lies, and weaves them together in a way that equals the guile of the "plain, simple" Cardassian tailor. (Though I suspect that she does it without having to spend hours in the makeup chair that Andrew Robinson did to bring Garak to life.)
Peterfreund's playfulness with the truth begins with the setting of the novel. Her bio at the back of the book states that she is an alumna of Yale University, graduating with degrees in geology and literature. (Definitely an . . . interesting combination. Of course, I don't know how much room I have to talk, seeing as how I had a double major in journalism and theatre arts, and a minor in radio-TV.) So when she has the novel set at "Eli University," it doesn't take too much of a stretch of the imagination to conclude that Peterfreund is staying pretty close to home.
Amy Haskel is a junior at the aforementioned Eli University. As the editor-in-chief of the university's literary magazine, she expected to be selected for Quill & Ink, Eli's literary senior society. (The phrase "secret society" might also apply, but to hear Amy talk, Quill & Ink isn't that particularly secretive.) Amy's predecessor as editor of the lit magazine is in Quill & Ink, and had told Amy that her own selection was a fait accompli.
Amy would probably find great wisdom and understanding in the words of Gerald R. Ford. In his first address to the US Senate, Vice-President Ford began by saying, "A funny thing happened to me on the way to becoming Speaker Of The House."
Yes, Amy did get interviewed by one of Eli's secret societies. But instead of Quill & Ink, she soon discovered that she had been tapped by Rose & Grave, the oldest and most secretive of the secret societies. This was a source of puzzlement to Amy. She doesn't come from a rich family, she doesn't have any political connections, and . . . well, she doesn't have a Y chromosome. It was Amy's understanding that Rose & Grave was all male.
But Amy soon learns that she is one of the first women ever to be tapped for Rose & Grave. She is swept up in an initiation that the book's cover text describes as "a blend of Harry Potter and Alfred Hitchcock," and given the society name Bugaboo. (Were he still alive, I think Sir Alfred would probably find the juxtaposition more than a little amusing. Come to think of it, I think J.K. Rowling would more than likely get a chuckle or two out of the phrase as well.)
But Amy and the other new members of Rose & Grave also soon learn that they are at the nexus of a giant hornet's nest within the society; a hornet's nest that has been whacked with one equally giant Louisville Slugger. There are a group of alumni (or patriarchs, to use their jargon) who are less than thrilled at the induction of Amy and the other female members. These patriarchs (who include the Chief Of Staff to the President) want to keep the "NO GURLS ALLOWED" sign on the Rose & Grave tomb firmly in place. And they have no compunction about using whatever means necessary to punish both the new inductees, and the seniors who selected them.
At first, Amy wonders if this is all more trouble than it's worth, and is on the verge of quitting. But then, she and the other juniors get mad; mad enough to confront the patriarchs in their lair (well, the alumni club in Manhattan).
There are a lot more twists, turns, and convolutions to Secret Society Girl than the primary plotline I just gave. But trying to go through even a handful of those twists would more than likely result in a review that approached book-length itself. (Okay, maybe novelette-length. Still much longer than necessary.) And if I did that, what purpose would you have in reading the novel for yourself?
There is one minor tweak in the plot that I found particularly . . . interesting. At the beginning of the confrontation, the patriarchs tried to make the new members return their Rose & Grave pins. Amy and the others dug in their heels, and flatly refused to do so. Later, when talking about it in a ladies' room discussion, Amy comments that all of them probably would have either swallowed the pins or pinned them into their flesh before giving them back. And when one of the other "Diggirls" (as they dub themselves) says that it's too bad they aren't permanent, all of the girls immediately decide to get tattoos of the Rose & Grave seal (a rose within an elongated hexagon). As tattoos on fictional characters go, it's pretty cool (and for a trypanophobe like me, that's saying something), but I still think the coolest fictional tattoos belong to Jim Brass, Angelus, and Chakotay.
I also identify with Amy in at least one respect. During the course of the book, several people comment that Amy tends to overanalyze everything. Amy herself admits to this. And she also has the habit of making lists on any and every topic. Oh, yeah, I know those characteristics quite well. I possess those qualities myself to some degree.
Some people may have trouble keeping track of some of the characters, as Amy will refer to them both by their real name and by their society name, often on the same page. For me, it wasn't that much of a problem. For me, it was the same as when I was reading Karma Girl. There is no difference when Carmen Cole refers to Sam Sloane and Striker, or when Amy Haskel refers to Clarissa Cuthbert and Angel. In each case, you know both names refer to the same person, or at least you do after the first two or three times. (I suppose it helps if you've been a lifelong fan of superheroes.)
Secret Society Girl is Diana Peterfreund's first novel, but there are more to come. Amy Haskel's adventures are far from over.
I hereby confess: I enjoyed this book.
I hereby confess: I'm looking forward to the second book.
My recent musings about Mindprobe triggered another memory or two about the game. In this case, the memories are of a musical nature. And yes, they do relate to the game.
The first one occurred after one game. Yes, it was a game that I won. As the post-game chat continued, I could almost hear the plaintive tone in one of the other player's voice as he -- or maybe she; userids don't always give clues to gender -- asked, "Purple, is there anything that you don't know?"
I don't know why I typed the answer I did. Part of it, I suppose, is that I cannot resist being given an opening. In any event, I answered, "Don't know much about history . . . " Another player caught the spirit of the moment, and added, "Don't know much biology . . . " Several of us ended up "singing" the song together, and having something of a laugh over it in the process.
The second one happened over the course of a number of games -- again, games that I won. After the games, I was trying to be cute, and I typed in the chat area, "Oops, I did it again." As you might suspect, this was around the time that the song of the same name first hit the airwaves, so the other players were adding "Britney" to the repertoire of names they had for me. (I will say, though, that I have never been photographed leaving a car and showing that I wasn't wearing any underwear.)
After about the third or fourth time I typed "Oops, I did it again," the seeds of a filk were planted in my imagination. I shared it with my fellow Mindprobe players, and as I recall, they were rather amused by my efforts. I feel the urge to share it with the rest of the world, and this seems as good a place as any to do it. I hope this brings a chuckle or two to your lips.
Oops, I Probed It Again
(sung to the tune of "Oops, I Did It Again")
I think I did it again,
I made the high score,
And got the Green Screen.(1)
You grumble as you leave,(2)
But I wish you'd believe,
I’m not being mean.
Because to ace all the questions,
That's just so typically me,
Oh, Baby, Baby,
Oops! I did it again,
I won the Mindprobe,
Got caught up in the game,
Oh, Baby, Baby,
Oops! You all swear it's so,
That I'm sent from below,(3)
But I'm not that big a brain.
You see, the problem is this,
The questions appear,
Challenging me to always raise my score.
I'll try to throw a game,(4)
But even with my best shot
The results are the same.(5)
Because to win all the T-shirts(6)
That's just so typically me.
Oops! I did it again,
I Probed all your minds,(7)
And then won the game.
Oh, Baby, Baby,
Oops! You all swear it's so,
That I'm sent from below,
But I'm not that big a brain.
Oops! I did it again,
Probed your minds and then won the game, oh Baby,
Oops! You swear that I'm sent from below,
But I'm not that big a brain.
Oops! I did it again,
I won the Mindprobe,
Got caught up in the game,
Oh, Baby, Baby,
Oops! You all swear it's so,
That I'm sent from below,
But I'm not that big a brain.
Oops! I did it again,
I Probed all your minds,
And then won the game.
Oh, Baby, Baby,
Oops! You all swear it's so,
That I'm sent from below,
But I'm not . . . that . . . big a brain.
And now a few explanatory footnotes. When I originally typed this entry, I had all these really nice-looking superscripts. For some reason, though, they didn't work when I uploaded the entry to LiveJournal:
1. The Green Screen popped up for the winner(s) at the end of the game. It was a congratulatory message, and if it was one of the themed games, asked for the player's name and address so they would know where to send the T-shirt and other prizes.
2. When I had one of my occasional hot streaks, the others were not shy about voicing their displeasure. I never said anything when I went several days without winning, though. I never took the game as seriously as everyone else thinks I did.
3. More than once, it was suggested that I came straight from the Hellmouth.
4. Yes, there were a few times when I deliberately threw a game -- usually when the prize was a book or movie that I already owned.
5. Most of the time, I had no problem throwing the game. There was one time, though, when I couldn't lose no matter how hard I tried. And another time, someone else was trying to lose just as hard as I was. I tried harder that time, though. No one was going to beat me at throwing the game.
6. As I mentioned before, part of the prize included a Mindprobe T-shirt. I probably have the largest collection of them.
7. Yes, I was accused of getting the answers by probing the other players' minds -- among other things.
It's times like this that I find myself missing Mindprobe.
Mindprobe was an online SF trivia contest that The Sci-Fi Channel held on their website several years ago. The mechanics of the game were simple. You were given a trivia question having to do with science fiction or fantasy, five possible answers, and 20 seconds in which to decide on the correct answer. There were 35 questions in each game, and the person who had the most correct answers at the end of the game was the winner.
One other feature of the game was the chat. Players that were logged on could chat with each other before, during, and after the game. Yes, I used the opportunity to showboat just a little. My username for Mindprobe was the same one I use here -- well, actually, the correct spelling was "PurpleRanger." And the other players felt free to taunt me as much as I taunted them. And they did. My username was usually shortened to Purple, Purp, or PR. That was if they were in a good mood. If they were really wanting to needle me, the names were other things that were purple. Grape Ape. Tinky Winky. And of course, the source of all evil in the universe -- Barney. That was one of their favorites.
Mindprobe made its debut in 1997 during SCIFI.CON 2.0, the second online convention held by SCIFI.COM (or as it was known in those days, The Dominion). They held games on two of the days, and I won once each day. My prize was a SCIFI.CON 2.0 T-shirt.
A few months later, The Dominion began hosting regular weekly games. Originally, this was going to be tied in with a game show that would be broadcast on SFC. The online games were to be the qualification rounds for the TV show. Unfortunately, that part of the show never materialized. It's a pity, because I think it would have been fun. What's worse, SFC planned (and abandoned) the idea for a game show just before game shows began a renaissance with Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? And yes, I was the first winner of that first qualification game.
I became a regular Mindprobe player. I suppose it would be more correct to say that I was a regular Mindprobe winner. I'm good with trivia. My family doesn't like watching Jeopardy! with me, because I'm one of those people who has the question before Alex Trebek can finish reading the answer. I'm not completely certain, but I think I was at least one of the reasons The Dominion instituted the one-win-per-month rule. You might win more than one game during the month (and there were times when I did just that), but you could only win one prize.
At first, the prizes were simply a Mindprobe T-shirt. At the time, the games were general SF trivia. They were held on Wednesday nights beginning at 9:00 PM EST, and there were two games each week. The T-shirts had the Mindprobe logo on the front -- an alien smiley face resembling a TV screen -- and The Sci-Fi Channel's original logo on the back.
Eventually, the games shifted to themed games. One week might be about books and authors, while the next week might have a Star Trek theme. And in addition to the T-shirt, there would be a prize related to that week's theme, usually books or videos. I think that was another reason they instituted the one-win-per-month rule. They announced the themed games several weeks in advance, so I got in the habit of taking a good look at the games (and their prizes), and deciding in advance which games I really wanted to win.
If I wasn't interested in the prize, I would let someone else win those games. I wasn't so competitive that I had to try to win every single game, and I was generous enough to let someone else win a prize that I didn't want -- or on a few occasions, when the prize was something that I already had. This didn't always work as well as it sounds. There were a few times when I won for the second time in a month. I usually told the game moderator (whom the players dubbed "Yellow Voice" or simply "Yellow" because his comments always appeared in bright yellow on the chat screen) if they could give the prize to the second place finisher. And they usually did. There were one or two times when I found myself winning in spite of my best efforts to let someone else win, and there was one time when I deliberately threw the game because I really wanted to win the prize in the following week’s game. (It didn't help that the person who did win that game was trying to do the same thing I was doing.)
There were times, of course, when I didn't do so well. My worst night came when Mindprobe held a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 theme night. For one thing, I have only seen a few episodes of MST3K, and I my combined score for the night was in the single figures. Yes, that’s less than 10 out of 70. For another thing, Mindprobe was invaded that one night by a horde of rabid MST3K fans who were acting like a bunch of hyperactive seven-year-olds who had been given way too much sugar. I would have had less of a headache if the chat had been disabled for that night. I think most of the regulars felt the same way, and when things returned to normal the following week, we all breathed a sigh of relief.
My best night, on the other hand, came when the theme was Buffy The Vampire Slayer. My combined score for the two games that night was 67 out of 70 -- a 34 in one game, and a 33 in the other. That 34 was also my highest score ever. No, I never got the golden 35 out of 35. Very few people did. But I suppose I made up for it by getting the green screen (the congratulatory screen that popped up at the end of the game for the winners) more often than anyone else.
I think my biggest Mindprobe victory, though, came in 1998, during SCIFI.COM 3.0, The Dominion's third and final online convention. One of the events announced for the convention was a three-day Mindprobe tournament. Two games each night, all with different themes. I don't remember all of them, but I do remember that at least one game had a Star Trek theme. In addition to the prizes given for the individual games, the person with the highest cumulative score at the end of the tournament would receive $200 in merchandise of their choice from The Sci-Fi Channel's online store (something else that, sadly, they no longer have).
I won two of the six games outright, tied a third, and came in second place in a fourth game. Because of connection problems, I didn't do as well in the other two games. (Finished in the middle of the pack, as I recall.) My cumulative score was 180 out of 210. Yes, I won the tournament, and I acquired quite a few books for my library as a result.
The themed games were popular, but some of the players wanted the general trivia games as well, and they eventually game back, in a slightly different format. The themed games remained on Wednesday nights, but a daily Mindprobe was added, Mondays through Fridays at 7:00 PM. The game was played the same way, but it was only one game a night. The prize structure was also a little different. Prizes were given for the highest cumulative scores for each month, and the winners could choose from about a dozen or so different prize packages. Only four of the those held any real interest for me, so once I won those, I was more laid back when it came to playing daily Mindprobe. Oh, I usually won several games a month, but I was playing much more for the fun of it, and for the chance to chat with the other players.
Eventually, I became known as Mindprobe's Grand Master. I will admit that this was a title I created myself. But it had its origin in the section of the Mindprobe site that held the stats. Among them were highest individual game-winning scores, scores from the previous few weeks, and the top 10 cumulative scores of the year. Toward the end of the year, this would become known as the 1000-Point Club board, because all of the highest cumulative scorers would have scored at least 1000 points cumulative for the year. And after the 11th person broke 1000 points, I suggested to Yellow that the board be changed to show all of the 1000-Point Club members -- a suggestion that I am happy to say was adopted.
I am not one for false modesty in this case -- I was almost always at the top of the cumulative high score board. And when someone became a member of the 1000-Point Club, I would announce it with great fanfare in the chat area, welcome them to the club, and dub them a Mindprobe Master. After I did this a few times, I began calling myself the "Grand Master Of Mindprobe," and the name stuck.
But as they say, all good things must come to an end, and eventually, so did Mindprobe. I think it was a case of the Sci-Fi Channel deciding to move the resources devoted to Mindprobe into other areas. As I recall, the themed games went away at the end of 2000, and the daily games disappeared during the summer of 2001. During that time, I got a job that had me working during the games, so of course, I wasn't playing. I tried to play during The Millennium Philcon, but I can't remember if the game actually took place. And when I switched to a daytime shift during September 2001, I was able to play again, but the game was gone.
I suppose why I'm remembering all of this now is that The Dominion held SCIFI.CON during the weekend closest to Halloween. At the moment, it's bringing memories of my greatest Mindprobe triumph. And I'm remembering a lot of good times in the process.
KARMA GIRL by Jennifer Estep
(Berkeley Books, $14.00)
I have loved the superhero genre since . . . well, probably since I have been able to read. Maybe even before that. I appreciate a well-written superhero story, and Jennifer Estep has written such a story with Karma Girl.
For Carmen Cole, it all started with a very bad day. It was her wedding day, and the best thing that happened to her was that 30 minutes before the ceremony, she caught her best friend -- her maid of honor -- and her fiancé in bed together.
As someone asks Carmen later in the book, "There's something worse than catching your fiancé and your best friend together on your wedding day?" In this case the answer to that was a resounding "Hell, YES!" Matt and Karen had been concealing far more than their affair from Carmen. Matt had not yet told Carmen that he was also The Machinator, the resident superhero of Beginnings, Tennessee. And as it turns out, Karen was also Crusher, the local ubervillain -- and The Machinator's arch-nemesis. "Strange bedfellows" doesn't begin to describe this sitruation.
And that old line about a woman scorned doesn't begin to describe Carmen's outrage at this betrayal. And as a reporter, she has the means to vent that wrath. She grabs a disposable camera that was meant for the wedding reception that would not be happening now (because the wedding preceeding it wouldn't be taking place, either), and she takes photos of the two. You see, Matt and Karen were still partially dressed, both in their attire for the wedding and in their costumes (worn underneath the wedding attire, of course). Carmen then goes to her newspaper, still in her wedding gown, tells her editors what she has, and sits down to write the story.
That story was just the beginning. Carmen decided right then that she was on a mission; to expose everyone in a costume and mask, hero and villain alike. She was determined that no one would be played for a fool the way she had been ever again. And over the next three years, she does just that, moving from newspaper to newspaper, each time to a larger city. In that time, she unmasks 13 different superheroes and ubervillains. Although, according to a comment or two that Carmen makes in her narration, "expose" definitely fits what she does to The Kilted Scotsman. I suspect that Jennie Breeden of the webcomic The Devil's Panties would definitely approve (and Jennie would probably wish that she had been there to help with her trusty leafblower).
Finally, Carmen makes it to Bigtime, New York, where the editors of The Expose hire her for what would be her biggest coup: Uncovering the identities of Bigtime's best-known heroes, The Fearless Five, and their most frequent adversaries, The Terrible Triad.
At first, things go the way they had since Carmen began her quest. After a lot of research, and trusting in the same gut feeling that helped her unmask all those other heroes and villains, Carmen exposes Tornado, the first member of The Fearless Five. But things turn sour when, during a celebration at The Expose to mark Carmen’s success, she gets the news that Travis Teague, Tornado's alter-ego, had committed suicide.
Suddenly, the golden girl reporter isn't so golden. Or as Carmen put it, "My star hadn't just fallen, it had been snuffed out like a candle." She starts receiving death threats, not only from superheroes, but also from the general public. (Tornado was a fairly popular hero, after all.) And worst of all, she is reassigned to the society desk at The Expose.
And just when Carmen thinks it can't get any worse -- you guessed it, it does. She is kidnapped by The Terrible Triad. They were . . . disappointed that Tornado's death had caused Carmen to abandon her quest to unmask as many superheroes and ubervillains as possible, and Malefica, the Triad's leader, makes Carmen an offer that she can't refuse. She has one month to unmask the rest of The Fearless Five, and hand that information over to Malefica. If she fails, Frost, another member of the Triad, gets to use Carmen as the first human test subject for some of the experiments he has been conducting (which would involve, among other things, submerging Carmen in radioactive goo).
And that's when things really start to get interesting . . .
Karma Girl is one of those books that has something of a split personality. My local Borders, for instance, shelves it in their romance section. On the other hand, the Louisville Free Public Library decided to put it in their science fiction section. And it fits quite well in both sections.
In the early 1960s, when Stan Lee was just beginning the Marvel Age Of Comics, he was quite fond of giving his characters alliterative names: Peter Parker, Steven Strange, Reed Richards, Matt Murdock, Susan Storm, and J. Jonah Jameson, just to name a few. Jennifer Estep evokes memories of that era in Karma Girl. The vast majority of the characters in the book bear similar names, beginning with Carmen Cole herself. In fact, when you do run across the rare character whose name isn't alliterative, it almost strikes you as just a little strange. (And this is all of the characters, not just the heroes or the villains.)
One thing that I particularly like about Karma Girl is that Estep writes superhero stories that are fun to read. Maybe there is a place for the dark and gritty superhero writing possibly best personified by the writing of Frank Miller, but you know what? They're really not that fun to read. The version of Batman that really got me hooked on superheroes was Adam West's version, not Frank Miller's.
I think Estep said it best on her website: "Where's the joy? Where's the fun? What good are having superpowers if you don't really like using them?" And I like it that one of her favorite superhero characters is Hiro from the TV series Heroes. As she puts it, "[Hiro] thinks it's the coolest thing in the world." That feeling of fun -- of the pure joy of having superpowers -- is what she wants to get across in Karma Girl.
And Estep manages to infuse that sense of fun in all of her superheroes, not just those in The Fearless Five. One notable example of how she accomplishes this with her minor characters is Granny Cane. Carmen is at the police station when the 70-something superhero brings in yet another purse snatcher. Carmen finds it hard to believe that anyone would still be trying to rob a little old lady who was wearing a purple mask. Apparently, the petty crooks in Bigtime still haven't learned, because two or three times a week, Granny Cane drags in one more would-be purse snatcher . . . after she has pummeled him silly (or should that be sillier?) with her cane.
Karma Girl is Jennifer Estep's first novel, but it definitely won't be her last. She has at least two more Bigtime novels in the works, and I am guessing that she has plans to make this more than just a trilogy. I'll be looking forward to her next tales from Bigtime.
THE BOYS NEXT DOOR by Jennifer Echols
I picked up Jennifer Echols's first book, Major Crush, because the cover art of two drum majors doing the tango caught my eye. I picked up The Boys Next Door, her second book, because I wanted to see if she would be as entertaining the second time around. Long story short, she is.
Oh. You're wanting more details than that. I suppose it would be a rather short review if I left it at that, so read on . . .
Major Crush followed a familiar plotline used quite often in the romance genre: Two people, who don't particularly like each other, are forced together by various circumstances. As time goes on, though, the couple gradually realizes that they don't dislike each other as much as they thought they did. The Boys Next Door goes down a quite different path. If it were a movie, it would be called a "screwball comedy." Think What's Up, Doc?, or some of the more farcical moments of The Secret Of My Success. Maybe even Three's Company.
Lori McGillicuddy has long had a crush on Sean Vader, the middle brother of the boys mentioned in the book's title. She has decided that this summer, she is going to do something to attract Sean's attention, to get him to realize that she is a girl. And she knows just how she is going to grab his attention -- cleavage-enhancing tank tops (now that she has some cleavage to be enhanced), bikinis, et cetera, et cetera.
All of Lori's careful planning goes out the window, though, when at the first Friday night party of the summer, she stumbles upon Sean playing tonsil hockey with Rachel, his younger brother Adam's girlfriend. And she tells Adam, who had been wondering where Rachel was.
Adam . . . is just a little upset. Understandably, he wants Rachel back, and he has an idea on how to achieve that goal. The next morning, he suggests to Lori that they pretend to be a couple as a way to put a halt to Sean and Rachel's romance before it can get started. Adam can get Rachel back, and Sean will once again be available for Lori to pursue.
Lori agrees, and as the saying goes, wackiness ensues.
Adam and Lori's plan follows some . . . interesting convolutions. For instance, on their first "date," he takes her mud riding -- riding in his family's old pickup truck at a local mud pit. It is a place to be seen, but Adam doesn't tell Lori beforehand, and she is wearing these very delicate high heels. And of course, the inevitable happens, and the truck gets stuck in the mud. Lori is better prepared for their next mud riding date; she wears rubber flip-flops that, as she put it, could be hosed off. (Personally, I think wellies would have been a better choice. There would have been less chance of Lori losing one [or both] if she did have to schlep through the mud, and she would have to hose off only the boots, as opposed to having to hose off the flip-flops and her feet and legs.)
There is a strong thread of sibling rivalry running throughout The Boys Next Door. Besides the girlfriend stealing, there is the sudden realization early in the book that Adam is now just the slightest bit taller and heavier than Sean. And when Adam makes his displeasure known over Sean's choice of a makeout partner, it is the first time that he has ever had the upper hand in a fight.
There is also a strong thread of cluelessness running through the book as well. Sean seems completely unaware that Lori has always had a major crush on him. And while Lori has been making goopy eyes at Sean for years, she is equally unaware that Adam has wanted to be more than just a buddy with her. As I said, wackiness ensues.
There are a couple of things I like about Lori. For one thing, she is a reader. At one point, she mentions curling up with I, Robot, and she is talking about Asimov's short story collection, not the abomination of a movie that was allegedly based on said collection. And Lori also mentions Arthur C. Clarke during the book -- although I don't know how Sir Arthur would react to a teenage girl commenting on his kissing abilities. (She does think he writes a great space story, though.)
On the other hand, there is one error (albeit a minor one) that set my teeth on edge. Lori is also a fan of the James Bond movies, but when she mentions Halle Berry's walking out of the ocean in Die Another Day, she doesn't seem to realize that it is a tribute to Ursula Andress from the very first 007 movie, Doctor No. And at one point in her narration, Lori says, "She looked exactly like a James Bond girl from the pre-Halle Berry era, one of those ditzes who stood safely in the corner and never had a dagger when she needed one, like Honey Ryder, or Plenty O'Toole." Again, Lori seems to forget that when we first saw Honey Ryder, she had a diving knife strapped to her hip. She is also discounting a number of Bond girls before Jinx who were more than able to take care of themselves, like Barbara Bach's Agent XXX, or Honor Blackman's Pussy Galore. And I'm trying to decide whether this mistake was supposed to be something on Lori's part, or if this was something that Echols made, and her editor didn’t catch.
As I did when I was reading Major Crush, I began thinking about who I might cast in a movie version of The Boys Next Door. Of course, I have an advantage over real producers and casting agents. I don't have to limit myself to contemporary actors at their current ages. I can hop into my London police box (circa 1963) and grab the actor I think is best from the age that fits the character.
For Sean and Adam, I think a couple of real-life brothers would work best -- Luke and Owen Wilson. At the moment, I don't recall if they have appeared on screen together, but from what I have seen of them in interviews, they share an easygoing goofiness that would seem to be right for playing Sean and Adam. (And as I also recall, there is a third Wilson brother, who would be a good choice to play the oldest Vader boy, Cameron.)
For Lori, I would go with Michelle Trachtenberg. There is something about Lori that reminds me of Trachtenberg as Dawn Summers; particularly during the first season that Dawn appeared on Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
As I said, I picked up The Boys Next Door because I wanted to see if Jennifer Echols would be as good to read a second time around. Let me put it this way -- I will be seeking out her third book without any hesitation.
And guess what? I made it through the entire review without wondering if Sean and Adam had a cousin named Darth.
From the Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society, Article 3 -- Hugo Awards:
"Section 3.3.14: Additional Category. Not more than one special category may be created by the current Worldcon committee with nomination and voting to be the same as for the permanent categories. The Worldcon Committee is not required to create any such category; such action by a Worldcon Committee should be under exceptional circumstances only; and the special category created by one Worldcon Committee shall not be binding on following Committees. Awards created under this paragraph shall be considered to be Hugo Awards."
Tricon, the 1966 Worldcon, used that section to create a one-time Hugo category -- "Best All-Time Series." The nominees for that award were:
The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
The "Barsoom" series by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The "Future History" series by Robert A. Heinlein
The Lensman series by Edward E. Smith, Ph.D.
The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
The winner was The Foundation Trilogy.
Now, I will readily agree that these five series should be ranked among the best that the genre has produced. But are they really THE best SF/Fantasy series of all time?
I have heard it suggested that the modern science fiction era began in 1926, with the publication of the first issue of Amazing Stories, the first magazine devoted exclusively to science fiction (or "scientifiction," to use the term Hugo Gernsback coined for the genre). Yes, I know that there is probably someone out there who would try to engage me in a Long And Pointless Argument on the matter, but I will choose to ignore that person. For one thing, while I can engage in Long And Pointless Arguments just as well as the next fan, I'm not interested in doing so on this subject. For another, choosing 1926 as The Beginning Of Science Fiction As We Know It, and the reasoning behind that choice, seems plausible enough and sensible enough to me.
In any case, my point -- and as Ellen DeGeneres once said, I do have one -- is this: There were 40 years between the beginning of modern SF and the selection of The Foundation Trilogy as the Best All-Time Series. Well, make that 39 years, because the 1966 Hugos were presented for works first published the previous year (something that still holds true today), so the Hugo voters of 1966 would have considered series published through the end of 1965. It has now been 41 years since Tricon was held. More time has elapsed between Tricon and the present than between the beginning of modern SF and Tricon.
Can we honestly say that there have been no series published in the intervening 41 years that are at the very least equal to those five series? Were the people involved in running Tricon being just a little presumptuous in thinking that these five series were superior to any other SF or Fantasy series that would ever be published? Haven't there been series published since 1966 that should be at the very least considered the equal of these five series?
In case you haven't figured it out by now, my answer to that question is this: Yes, there have been a number of series published in the past 41 years that are probably just as good as the five nominated back in 1967. Maybe even better. (Yes, I know that some members of SF fandom are right now accusing me of having committed blasphemy. Deal with it.) But if next year's Worldcon, Denvention 3, announced that they would be administering their own Hugo for Best All-Time Series, I would be willing to bet on at least two things happening. First, there would be some members of fandom who would be outraged, utterly outraged, and be demanding to know (in the loudest and most strident voices possible) how Denvention would dare commit such an act of sacrilege. (And it would be likely that just as many fen, if not more, would be wondering what the big deal is, and why these people would be causing such a fuss.) Second, you would not see the same five nominees on the ballot in 2008 that you did in 1966.
I suspect that The Foundation Trilogy (which Asimov expanded upon in later years) and The Lord Of The Rings might stand a good chance of making this hypothetical ballot. But what other series would make the cut? At the moment, I can think of several that might be considered.
Important Disclaimer here: Please keep in mind that some of these series I have read, others I have not. I mention some series because I know they have strong followings in fandom, and I know that some of their fans would support their nomination most enthusiastically. Other series I mention because I like them, and they are among the ones I would nominate if this hypothetical situation became real. In no particular order, they are:
The Dune series by Frank Herbert -- I read the original Dune once, a long time ago. To be honest, I found the book drier than Arrakis itself, and I was never tempted to pick up any of the sequels. But there must have been a lot of readers who liked it; it was the first novel to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best novel. (As a matter of fact, the original Dune won the Best Novel Hugo at Tricon.)
The Chronicles Of Narnia by C.S. Lewis -- I strongly suspect that this series just missed the ballot back in 1966. I don't know if the Hugo administrators of that era were required to publish a list of nominees that just failed to make the ballot, as they are today. If they were, I would be interested in learning what series just missed being in the top five.
The Time Quintet by Madeleine L'Engle -- A Wrinkle In Time was the first SF novel I can remember reading, and based on some of the things I read after her recent death, she was the introduction to SF for a lot of other people as well. L'Engle may have been thought of as a "children's writer," but she never wrote down to them. I reread Wrinkle both when I was in high school and as an adult, and I found the book just as enthralling as I did when I first read it in fifth grade.
The Dragonriders Of Pern by Anne McCaffrey -- Two of the books in this series received Best Novel nominations, and I was rather disappointed when both of them lost. While I haven't read some of the more recent books, I have thoroughly enjoyed the Pern books that I have read. I should also mention that McCaffrey has written a number of other series, and one them could conceivably appear on this hypothetical ballot instead of the Pern books: The Crystal Singer series, The Rowan and its sequels, and the Acorna series (which McCaffrey co-wrote with Margaret Ball).
The Amber series by Roger Zelazny -- I have read only a couple of Amber short stories. I remember those stories because Realms Of Fantasy published them in 1995, just before Zelazny's untimely death. The stories I did read made me want to read more, but as of yet, I haven't done so. (You know the old saying -- so many books, so little time? Applies here.)
The "Ender" series by Orson Scott Card -- Card was the first person to win back-to-back Best Novel Hugos, and both of those winners were in this series. Personally, I have never read any of the "Ender" books (let's face it, it is impossible to read everything in SF now), but I'm willing to bet that any series that has won two Best Novel Hugos is going to be given some serious consideration by the people who nominate and vote on the Hugos.
The "Miles Vorkosigan" series by Lois McMaster Bujold -- Bujold is the only other writer to win back-to-back Best Novel Hugos. In fact, Bujold has won four Best Novel Hugos (which puts her in a tie with Robert Heinlein for the most Best Novel Hugos), and three of them were Vorkosigan novels. I've read parts of the series, and what I like most about it is the humor. It isn't the absurd, over-the-top humor that you find in the "Hitchhiker's Guide" books; it's a more subtle humor that has you chuckling before you even realize that you are reading something funny.
The "Darkover" series by Marion Zimmer Bradley -- again, I have not read any of these books (so many books, so little time), but I do know that this series has been more than a little popular. As a matter of fact, about all I know of the series is its name and that Bradley wrote it. That, and I know that the series has some very enthusiastic fans.
The "Honor Harrington" series by David Weber -- This is probably my personal favorite of the series I have listed. E.E. "Doc" Smith may have been the one to create the subgenre we call "space opera" (he even invented the term, as I recall, or at the very least used it in one of his Lensman books), but Weber has taken the concept and refined it with not only the Honor Harrington books, but also with other books such as March Upcountry and its sequels (co-written with Eric Flint). I remember a blurb in one of the Honor Harrington books (taken from a Starlog review from the 1990s) suggested that Weber would enter the new century as the new master of military SF.
The "Tek" series by William Shatner -- Okay, not really. I just threw this one in to see if you were really paying attention. Of course, I wouldn't put it past some people to nominate this series simply as a means of discrediting any hypothetical additional category along these lines.
The "Hitchhiker's Guide" series by Douglas Adams -- Or as the series is now usually described, the five-book "Hitchhiker's Trilogy." Douglas Adams created a thing of exquisite beauty -- a science fiction series that is rip-roaringly hilarious. And he did it in at least a half-dozen different media; all telling the same basic story, but each version having slightly different details. (And each one is unfailingly funny.) Some comedian once said that dying was easy; it was comedy that was hard. Adams has proven that, because I cannot think of another SF writer who has even come close to writing anything as funny as Arthur Dent's (mis)adventures.
The "Skolian Empire" series by Catherine Asaro -- I like Catherine Asaro. First of all, I have had the chance to meet her at a few conventions, and she is a very nice person. Second, she is a damn good editor, which is how I originally became aware of her. And third, she is an amazing writer. She writes novels that garner rave reviews from not only the nuts-and-bolts hard SF lovers, but also from romance readers. And she has won awards in both genres. That is probably much harder to do than it looks, and Dr. Asaro makes it all look so very easy. Oh, and she is also an honest-to-Goddard rocket scientist. (Did I mention that I think she is a really cool person?)
I am sure that you have noticed that I have listed considerably more than five series here. There is a reason or two for this. For one thing, I mentioned the series that most quickly came to mind when I started writing this entry. I realize that for every series I mentioned, there are an equal number of series that I haven't mentioned. For another, I didn't want to list only five series and then say that they would be the ones to make the final ballot if there were another Best All-Time Series Hugo, because quite frankly, my track record when it comes to predicting Hugo nominees and winners is woefully abyssmal.
Besides, we all know that Shatner's "Tek" series would be the clear winner, don't we?
THE MAN FROM KRYPTON
Edited by Glenn Yeffeth
(Benbella Books, 2005, $17.95)
Do you want just one reason to get this collection of essays? Okay, how about this? Larry Niven's essay "Man Of Steel, Woman Of Kleenex" is reprinted here.
If I'm not mistaken, All The Myriad Ways has been out of print for at least a few years. And while Niven's somewhat irreverent look at Superman's sex life can be found on the Internet, there is just something about reading it in book form that makes it a little more . . . satisfying, I guess.
Okay, I did say that "Man Of Steel, Woman Of Kleenex" was a good enough reason to pick up this collection of essays (subtitled "A Closer Look At Superman") if you needed just one reason. If, on the other hand, you want more than just that one essay, there are 19 others for your edification as well. Some of the essays, like Niven's, take a look at the lighter side of the Man Of Steel. Others take a more serious, almost scholarly approach to the subject.
Lawrence Watt-Evans starts the collection with "Previous Issues." I am going to have a hard time looking at Superman's costume with a straight face for a while after reading this essay. There's a good chance that you will, too.
Adam Roberts asks the question "Is Superman A Superman?" In other words, is Kal-El a superman in the way that Friedrich Nietzsche meant when he coined the word Übermensch? As Roberts gives a cursory explanation of Nietzsche's term, he goes on to state, "But since the 1950s (roughly speaking), English-language scholars have stopped translating Übermensch as 'Superman,' generally preferring the translation 'Overman.'" Roberts seems to be more than a little amused by some of the explanations generally given for the preference, when he (and anyone with more than three functioning brain cells) knows that English-language philosophers couldn't stand the thought of having their wonderful philosphical concept compared to a mere comic book character like the Man Of Steel.
In "You Will Believe A Man Can Walk," Sarah Zettel writes about actor Christopher Reeve, both in the roles he had other than Superman, and about his life following the 1995 accident that left him paralyzed. She opens her essay by mentioning a certain scene in the movie Deathtrap (yes, that scene), and her reaction when she initially saw the movie was quite close to what mine was when I saw the movie.
Keith R.A. DeCandido takes a look not only at Christopher Reeve, but at all of the actors to portray the Man Of steel in "Actor And Superactor." At the time The Man From Krypton was published, Superman Returns was still in production, so this was taking a look at the very big red boots that Brandon Routh was going to have to fill. I agree with DeCandido on a few things. I get the impression that, like me, his first exposure to Superman outside of the comics was Bud Collyer's voice. There is something about the way that Collyer dropped his voice an octave as he said, "This is a job . . . for Superman!" that makes it quintessential. On the other hand, I like Dean Cain's portrayal of the part much better than Reeve's, and I suspect that we could get into an argument on that subject.
And speaking of the star of Superman Returns, Lou Anders has "A Word Of Warning For Brandon Routh." Anders takes a look at the so-called "Superman curse" that has befallen a number of actors to play the part. His thread of logic gets stretched very thin, especially when he draws parallels to the US Presidents who have died in office. Very thin indeed.
In "The Mirror Of Gilgamesh," John G. Hemry writes about the one person that Superman fears the most, and the one person without whom he would fall victim to that greatest fear. And yes, in the process, Hemry does make some comparisons to the ancient myth of Gilgamesh.
Chris Roberson's "Jewel Mountains And Fire Falls" takes a look at Krypton itself. The backstory of Superman's birthworld has changed as much as he has over the years, as different writers and editors have added information on the now-lost planet, edited it, and in a couple of cases completely revamped what we knew.
And as I mentioned at the beginning, "Man Of Steel, Woman Of Kleenex" is reprinted here. I was a little disappointed at its positioning in the book. It should have either been the first essay, or at the very end (saving the best for last). Instead, Yeffeth chose to put it somewhere in the middle.
This is but a sampling of the essays in The Man From Krypton. Other essays take a look at Lex Luthor, at the TV series Smallville, at the idea of Superman as modern mythology, and at the parallels between Superman and Batman, among other topics. But I won't give a rundown of every single essay, because what would be the point of your picking up the book and reading it for yourself?
The Man From Krypton presents a vast array of viewpoints -- or at least as vast as you can get in 20 essays. Even if you find the thesis of one essay to be absurd, boring, or just merely annoying, turning a few pages will bring another essay with something that is perhaps more palatable to your tastes.
There is one more piece that I wish Yeffeth had included in The Man from Krypton. That would be the lyrics to Tom Smith's filk "Superman's Sex Life Boogie." Yes, it was inspired by Niven's essay. (As I understand it, Niven was delighted when he first heard the song, and even joined Smith in singing it at a convention where the two were guests.) Perhaps if BenBella publishes another collection of Superman essays, it will be included.
And I think there is potential for another collection of closer looks at Superman. The Man Of Tomorrow has been around for almost 70 years (next year marks the 70th anniversary of Action Comics #1), and the character has become thoroughly ingrained in our culture in those seven decades. There are a lot more viewpoints out there. Finding and collecting them -- well, that might be a job . . . for BenBella Books!
THE GREAT SNAPE DEBATE
by Amy Berner, Orson Scott Card, Joyce Millman
In the months leading up to the release of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, there were easily a dozen books published on the singular subject of what would happen in the final book in J.K. Rowling's series about the boy wiazrd. This book (which was developed by BenBella Books exclusively for the Borders chain of bookstores) focuses on just one question among many left by the ending of the sixth book, Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince. That question: To whose side does Hogwarts potions master, and head of Slytherin House Severus Snape's allegiance belong? Is he an agent of Lord Voldemort, or has he been an agent of Albus Dumbledore all along?
The Great Snape Debate is a flip book, fashioned after the style of the old Ace Doubles. One side puts forth "The Case For Snape's Innocence." Flip it over, and the other side presents "The Case For Snape's Guilt."
In presenting each side of the argument, Berner, Card, and Millman bring supporting evidence from the first six books in the series, along with extensive quotes. There is the initial argument for each side of the question, sections on Snape as hero or villain, a look at Snape's life (is he just misunderstood, or rotten to the core?), and a look at Slytherin House (not always evil, or home of the ethically challenged?). There is even a look at the career of Alan Rickman, the actor who portrays Snape in the Harry Potter movies, at both what could be called his heroic and less than heroic roles. There are even two Top 10 lists -- the top 10 reasons why we love Snape, and the top 10 reasons why we love to hate Snape.
One interesting insight that I picked up from The Great Snape Debate was the comparison drawn between Snape and Dr. Gregory House from the TV series House MD. It surprised me at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the two are indeed quite similar. If the two were ever introduced, they would probably get along very well -- much to the dismay of everyone around them. (And now that I think about it a little more, Hugh Laurie, the actor who plays House, would have been as interesting a choice to play Snape as Rickman has been.)
A speculation that brought an even bigger chuckle was what Snape's secret vice might be. As he is presented in the books, Snape is someone who doesn't drink that much, and really doesn't socialize, and since he both dresses and acts like a Puritan minister, he probably isn't the type to do drugs. Muggle pasttimes such as video games and the Internet would probably hold little interest for him, but the authors suggest that there is one form of Muggle entertainment that is more than likely to be Snape's guilty pleasure. And if the speculation is true, Carrie Ann Inaba and Tom Bergeron (among others) would be surprised to learn that Severus Snape was one of their most ardent viewers.
In presenting both sides of the Snape question, the authors prove one thing over anything else. J.K. Rowling created an intriguingly complex character when she added Severus Snape to the Harry Potter stories. The authors do not reach any definitive answer to the question. Instead, they preferred to leave the readers guessing, and discover the answer in the pages of Deathly Hallows.