Category Archives: sci fi

Via IO9: Vice Magazine Just Started Publishing Science Fiction Online

One of my daily visits online for SF, comic and general geek-pop news is IO9.com from Gawker media. (Yes, I know. Gawker’s not all evil. I think.) Amidst the usual news on movies, TV shows, comics and the danger of cats getting telekinetic powers, today I spotted an intriguing article about the online site VICE publishing SF stories online in a new magazine called Terraform. I won’t reiterate the whole article here, but I want to point out the unusual way VICE is going about it. They are purposely publishing stories that they hope will sort of go viral and get shares along in the various social media feeds we all have. They’ll try to do this by, well, being topical to whatever the big topics are of the day. As the IO9 article says:

“How are they going to do this? By “seiz[ing] upon and play[ing] off the zeitgeist” — so if everybody is already freaking out about drones, they’ll publish a story that has to do with drones, and become part of the conversation. This is a tremendously ambitious idea, one which would presumably require having a lot of stories in inventory waiting for the right news cycle — but if it works, it could make science fiction part of our discussion of technology and science in a new way.”

It’s an interesting idea that I hope catches on. I love seeing new venues for authors to get their work read that don’t rely on “old media.” Let’s see how this little experiment goes.
The firs issue includes stories by Cory Doctorow, Bruce Sterling, and Claire L. Evans. They plan to publish a new story a week and are seeking submissions. They want 2,000 words or less and pay $0.20 per word. And, stories can be in many types of style, but they prefer stories topical to issues today. In other words, more “believable” sci-fi than epic space opera. Try Terraform here and maybe whip up some stories to submit. I know I’m thinking of some…

Dad, hubby, geek, nerd, gimp, cynic and optimist.

Geek Genre Actors Doing Good AS Their Characters

As fans, we sometimes have trouble separating actors from the characters they play. We can be a little disappointed, or downright devastated, to learn that they’re just actors playing a role and making a living. Further, some actors often try to distance themselves from their characters for various reasons, usually as a result of feeling typecasted and limited in their acting opportunities. For example, Leonard Nimoy raised an uproar in the 1970s with his book “I Am Not Spock” which offended Trekkies worldwide. Classic movie actor Basil Rathbone felt he was constrained by successfully playing Sherlock Holmes and came to hate the character. Actors, even when made famous by a beloved and iconic role are still just actors pretending to be someone else temporarily.

There are times, though, when an actor will portray a character on their own time just to do some good, cheer up a sick child, or pay back a kindness. I spotted a story on IO9.com about Peter Capaldi, the current (Twelfth) Doctor Who, making a short video as The Doctor to cheer up a 9 year old boy with autism whose nanny he loved had just passed away. The video is short but it is sweet that Mr. Capaldi took the time out to make it and send it to a boy he did not know. I started thinking about other recent instances of celebrity actors reprising their roles, sometimes in full costume and makeup, just do bring a little cheer into some fans’ lives.

Johnny Depp Visits Kids As Captain Jack Sparrow

Apparently never aging heart throb Johnny Depp totally gets how fortunate he is and likes to give back to kids. According to an article on Koopstarz, Mr. Depp travels with one of his Captain Jack Sparrow costumes, wig, makeup, etc. and is known to visit children’s hospitals and schools in character. In one instance, he also made a surprise visit to a school near where On Stranger Tides was filming. A female student had written him a letter asking him to visit and he showed up with the letter in hand and gave the little girl a hug in front of her classmates. See, bloody pirates ain’t so bad.

Johnny Depp visits school as Captain Jack via the Daily Mail

Johnny Depp visits school as Captain Jack via the Daily Mail

Robert Downey Jr. Spreads the Stark/Iron Man Charm

There’s no denying the Robert Downey Jr. and the character Iron Man have made each other more famous worldwide than they ever were before the two hooked up. Downey’s performances in three Iron Man movies and the Avengers have been a huge part of those movies earning billions of dollars for Marvel. RJD has had his ups and downs in his personal life and career and, it is rumored, he can be a bit of a prima donna. But, there is no denying that he is willing to give back, especially to kids. Some examples:

Jaime Alexander Visits Sick Kids As Lady Sif

Marvel posted an article about and photos from a November, 2013 visit by Thor movies actress Jamie Alexander to the Childrens Hospital off L.A.

Jamie Alexander visits the Childrens Hospital of L.A. as Lady Sif (via Marvel)

Jamie Alexander visits the Childrens Hospital of L.A. as Lady Sif (via Marvel)

She did not just visit the sick and hand out posters and DVDs. She did it in full Lady Sif of Asgard costume complete with shield and sword.

Chris Pratt Visits Childrens’ Hospital As Starlord

Apparently, the Childrens Hospital of L.A. is the one to get treatment from, if you want to also meet Marvel superheroes. In August, Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt attended a special screening of the movie at the Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles in his costume as Starlord. According to an August 22, 2014 article on Blastr, Pratt had stated previously that he had literally stolen some of his costume pieces after the movie wrapped so he could do this sort of thing in the event that the movie became a blockbuster. Sure enough, it became the biggest movie of 2014, almost everyone knows who the Guardians are, and Pratt kept his word. He delighted the kids at the screening and even visited some kids separately who were too ill to go to the group screening. One of those kids happens to be a huge Lego fan. It just so happens, of course, that Pratt ALSO starred in The Lego Movie so he spent some time with this fan, too, doing his character, Emmett, from the movie! He gets double credit for doing not one, but two characters in the same day to cheer up some sick kids!

Chris Pratt visits chidlrens hospital as StarLord

Chris Pratt visits chidlrens hospital as StarLord

These are just a few examples of actors using their fame to give back. Know any others? Post them in the comments below.

Dad, hubby, geek, nerd, gimp, cynic and optimist.

via the Atlantic: How Agents of SHIELD Got Good By Forgetting About Superheroes

The Atlantic, always a good site to find thought-provoking stories and news, has an op-ed that should make fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) happy. Joe Reid writes in How Agents of SHIELD Got Good By Forgetting About Superheroes that, while the first season of AoS was a bit slow and the characters were flat, that the collapse of SHIELD portrayed in Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier and the effects from that on AoS gave the show the kick in the Agents it needed.

The core Agents of SHIELD cast at series premiere via comicvine.com

The core Agents of SHIELD cast at series premiere via comicvine.com

I won’t reiterate his entire reasoning here, but I mostly agree. My wife, Geekling and I have watched AoS from the beginning and liked it. I admit to a bit of “fanboyism” in overlooking some of the flatness of the characters in my joy at seeing the return of Agent Coulson. (I, like many, was never happy that he got “Whedonned” in Avengers.) And, I was excited to see the tie-ins to the MCU’s movies of which there were some in the first half of the season. But, I do admit I wondered if it was just going to be a bunch of good guys chasing bad guys, grabbing artifacts, stopping super villains and what not. In other words, it felt a bit like a souped up cop show. (Almost Human, anyone?) There was an early plot line, “Centipede,” which also linked to the plot of Ironman 3, and that gave AoS a sort of “plot thread” running through the show. But, while it was full of action, effects, and Coulson’s deadpan humor, I agree the show hadn’t found its legs. I worried ABC would give up on it as weak ratings were reported.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

Then, The Winter Soldier hit theaters. We sat in the theater and watched Hydra finally come into the light and SHIELD get kneecapped. And, I thought, “What the hell does this mean for AoS?” By all accounts, the actors on the show were just as shocked at a super secret screening of Cap 2. In the short video below, Clark Gregg talks about how they were all shocked. The next day they were  handed new secret scripts revealing the big turn the show was taking and Agent Ward’s betrayal:

Suddenly, AoS had new juice and it began to find its legs. The guest actors portraying both villains and allies add wonderful spice to the show. Bill Paxton was so good as a treacherous Hydra sleeper agent, the “Clairvoyant,” that I could not wait for him to get whacked. (His demise was hilarious.) And Patton Oswalt as, apparently at least three, Agents Koenig is great.

So, yes, I agree that AoS has finally found its spark, its mojo. New characters like Mack, Hunter and Bobbi Morse (“Mockingbird”) as well as villainous guest characters like Skye’s father, played creepily, and also dorkily, by Kyle MacLachlan, have added new energy to the show. Although, I fear to get too attached to some of the characters. The ABC/Disney/Marvel PR people pumped Lucy Lawless (Xena, Spartacus) up as a new addition playing another SHIELD agent… and killed her off in her first episode. This is a Joss Whedon show so we should know not get attached to everyone. (I’m still pissed about Wash in the movie, Serenity.) The changes in the original cast members and reveals of some of their pasts make the characters less flat. The actors have something to chew on now. The stories are better and so is the dialog.

I do have worries, though, moving forward:

  • With so many actors, can the writers feed them all and make sure they have meaningful roles in the show’s stories?
  • How do you redeem Ward? He killed dozens of SHIELD agents!
  • Will middle of the road ratings do for a costly show? Those effects and the large cast cannot be cheap.

But, I am optimistic. AoS is on an upward trajectory. And, I almost anticipate the show’s winter hiatus this season because then we get the beginnings of SHIELD in Agent Carter!

Dad, hubby, geek, nerd, gimp, cynic and optimist.

SyFy Gets Back To Sci Fi, But Can My Geekling Watch Too?

Entertainment Weekly has a nice article on how the SyFy Channel is planning to get back into the actual science fiction business. This news isn’t quite as shocking as, say, MTV going back to showing actual music videos, but it is welcome news nonetheless. Ever since shows like SyFy’s rebooted Battlestar Galactica ended, SyFy got away from big, and expensive, space epics. They’ve done “reality” shows like Ghost Hunters and lighter, and less expensive, scripted shows like Warehouse 13 and Eureka. They’ve had some success with those shows but conceded the territory of epic sci fi and edgy fantasy to other networks such as AMC with The Walking Dead. As the EW article states, this year they brought in new programming chief Bill McGoldrick who comes from networks like USA. SyFy will be adding 5 new shows this season including space epics Ascension and Expanse. Click over to the EW article for a complete rundown on SyFy’s new shows and a Q&A with McGoldrick on the changes coming.

I am glad to see SyFy getting back to actual sci fi, but I’m still concerned. I’m concerned because I wonder if I’ll be able to watch these new epics with my 10 year old geekling. It seems from where I sit that for a dramas to be successful on TV anymore they not only have to be “edgy” but also very violent. The rebooted BSG was not a kid friendly show and I sure as heck would not let my geekling watch Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, or True Blood. You see, I actually liked now cancelled SyFy shows like Eureka because they were, sort of, sci fi and didn’t have a whole lot going on that you had to tell your kid to close his eyes during. Dr. Who may be the only in production sci fi show I can watch with him and even it likes to veer into almost horror once in a while. (The episodes this season haven’t seemed as good this season anyway, although I do like Peter Capaldi as The Doctor.) Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is the only other must see show we watch that is sort of sci fi and it had a pretty high body count at times.

I know I’m “of a certain age.” I cut my TV sci fi teeth on reruns of Space:1999 and Star Trek in the latter half of the 1970s. And, like everyone else, I was blown away by Star Wars when it hit theaters during my sixth grade year. About the same time I discovered The Six Million Dollar Man and, after TV execs saw the dollar signs of Star Wars, ABC gave me the original BSG. Going into the 1980s, for better or worse, we got Buck Rogers, which was fun but set back drama by about 20 years. Finally, in 1987, thanks to the success of Star Trek theatrical movies, Star Trek: the Next Generation premiered in 1987 giving us good space epic sci fi, even if it took a couple of seasons, and better costumes, to find the show’s groove. The shows I grew up on were a mixed bag, mostly good to great, a few not so much (sorry, Captain Rogers and Colonel Deering).

They all had one thing in common, though: you could watch them as a kid, even if you didn’t get all the “subtext.” There was violence, sure. But, the violence wasn’t gratuitous nor was it gory. And, yes, there was some sexual innuendo. (You know he had a good time when Captain Kirk is sitting on his bed putting his boots on.) And, frankly, I believe we should be more worried about violence in our entertainment than naked boobies anyway. My point is, my parents did not have to worry about any bad influences on me from watching my sci fi shows, except for possibly my lack of outside playing while I watched them. The good ones were good adventures that fired my imagination and, occasionally, got me thinking about social issues of importance. Both aforementioned Star Trek franchises, especially the Original Series, would slip in stories addressing racism, war, and human rights. The shows of my youth and early adulthood were fun, mind opening, and, for the most, safe for kids 10 and up. By contrast, the rebooted BSG started with a 2 hour TV movie that opened with a sex scene between Baltar and the Cylon and within 20 minutes had the same Cylon murdering a baby out of curiosity at its fragility. I never watched another episode. Give me Boxie and his robot daggit, Muffin any day.

Times change, I know. The shows of the 1950s were certainly hokey and outdated to the audiences of the 1970s and 1980s. The same is true of many of the sci fi shows I watched growing up when watched by modern audiences. Tastes change. But, I have to think it is possible to write good sci fi TV with great stories, occasional socially relevant themes, dazzling effects, humor, and action without buckets of blood and acres of corpses littered everywhere.

Welcome back to sci fi, SyFy. I’ll give your new shows a try for sure. But, I’ll screen them without my Geekling first to make sure he can watch them too. And, if I decide they’re not appropriate for him, I probably won’t watch them either. I don’t want to shoo him away when I watch TV. I’ll just keep showing him classic sci fi streamed online or from my video library. We’ve got a lot of TNG to get through yet.

Dad, hubby, geek, nerd, gimp, cynic and optimist.