Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thank ***** No One Censors My ***** Posts

This is the fabled censorship post that I've said I'm going to be writing for ages and ages now. This is it. Honest.

In the news media, a very big deal is made out of the fact that video games are given ratings, are full of content which subliminally makes kids shoot up their schools, is horrible and evil, etc. Video games are the worst things ever to come along, they are the most dangerous thing to ever touch a child which is not a mountain lion, they are destroying civilization as we know it.

The bit about all that which is bullocks, of course, is that they said almost verbatim the exact same thing about that horrid rock 'n' roll stuff, or that Elvis Presley boy, or even the Beatles. These things are Destroying The World As We Know It.

(An aside: Interestingly enough, when they talk about rock or video games destroying "the world as we know it," we are never concerned that the part it's going to destroy are the bits full of war, genocide, or starvation. Mostly, we're scared it'll destroy the bake sales, church meets, and Sunday drives.)

Well, if you're reading this blog, then you probably know that rock 'n' roll somehow failed to destroy the world after it appeared. And maybe it's just being slow and clever about it, but so far, video games have failed to destroy the world, anymore than the day-at-a-time destruction that it's always going through.

Nevertheless, the news media goes after 'em, because that's the popular thing to do. My pregnant wife and I are playing Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, which is full of super-heroes hitting bad guys. So I suppose my son is going to grow up wearing stretchy pants, carrying a Captain America shield, and fighting bad guys.

I can live with that.

What I have more trouble living with is the big, ugly, stinking world of censorship that you really never hear about in the news, that you have to go to the very back of your newspaper to read about, that you have to dig around on the internet to discover.

Books. And Comic books.

Many people innately assume that books, and comic books, are dead and dying. This is simply because in our glass teat-centric world, if the television or the internet doesn't yap about it at some point, it must not exist, it must be dying. But to paraphrase the Bard, "there are more things in heaven and earth than the internet knows."

Books and comics are still censored something fierce. Not only is the war against censorship tougher and more bloody there, but it gets both less attention and support than it would if someone on CNN wasted thirty minutes droning about it. The fight is more dangerous, more unreasonable, more insane.

And in case you think I'm just trying to educate you...well...I am. But I'm also pointing you toward the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. And there are other important sites, like the First Amendment Group, or the Open Rights group, but I want to talk about CBLDF first and foremost here. It's most active on my mind.

Let's talk about Gordon Lee, as an example.

To take bits and pieces from Tom Spurgeon's wonderful site, where he discussed the matter (link withheld...for a moment...), here's what happened with Gordon Lee.

"Lee, of the comic shop Legends in Rome, Georgia, was charged with two crimes stemming from a downtown community event on Halloween night, 2004. A copy of Alternative Comics #2 was given to a nine-year-old. Alternative Comics #2 was the 2004 Free Comic Book Day from Jeff Mason's boutique comics company of the same name. It contained selections from various Alternative projects, including eight pages from cartoonist Nick Bertozzi's forthcoming work "The Salon." Three of those pages contained pictures of a naked Pablo Picasso acting in a non-sexual manner.

Lee was charged approximately one week after providing the child with the comic in question. The charges were "distributing material depicting nudity" and "distributing obscene material to a minor."

When people question the value of supporting Lee, the focus of their complaints seems to be on Lee's actions: that the retailer screwed up, he should have known better, he should have made certain this didn't happen, and his mistake makes it that much harder for everyone who does not make such mistakes to run their businesses"

Now this is the gist of it. Gordon Lee didn't know the exact content of a comic book he sold to someone.

I read a pretty fair amount of comic books every year. I usually read the Free Comic Book Day offerings (a sampler, of sorts, and certainly unrated, because it's a sampler). But if you asked me the content of Issue 4 of Civil War: Front Lines, I would probably fail to recall it properly. I bet, through the little used bookstore I work at, I've sold a romance novel to someone under 18.

Now, it's worth remembering (and Tom also points this out) that the danger isn't that as a retailer, he sold a comic with mature images in it to a kid (whom I doubt read the comic and didn't know what it was). No, the kicker is Gordon Lee is being charged criminally.

Criminal Charges. If he'd been giving kids Playboy issues in the park, maybe. But he wasn't.

(Another aside: Where the hell were the 9-year-old's parents? Seriously. Pay attention to your kid, chucklehead, watch how this problem doesn't happen).

Gordon's charges were eventually dealt out. Here's what he lives with:

1) His home is subject to random searches at any time, at any point, on any given day.

2) He is forbidden by the courts of law in this country to make art. Meaning if he draws, if he sketches, if he doodles on his telephone pad, he is breaking the terms of his release and can go to jail.

3) He is not allowed near children.

Fun, huh? You'd think he'd been tapping little Timmy in the back of a van. He wasn't. He was selling comic books.

The case of Gordon Lee v. the State of Georgia is still going on. And now, I'll give you the link to Tom talking about the case.

Here it is, from February, 2005

February. 2005. That's over two years ago. That's when the CBLDF picked it up and started making noise about it. All of this business actually happened in 2004.

Amazing how CNN has failed to accidentally mention it in all that time.

But the CBLDF noticed, and they're fighting.


So this is the bit where I plead.

The CBLDF is hardly making a tidy profit by sticking up for these people. Legal cases cost money, lots and lots and lots of money. And they need you to actually bring that money in.

So please, please, please go to CBLDF's Commercial Site

It's not like you're getting nothing for your donations (unless you just straight-up donate, of course). You can get a cool Frank Miller T-shirt. You can get a bucket of Will Eisner stuff, how much better can you get? Well, Jeff Smith stuff. Neil Gaiman perfume, and other stuff. Or you can just donate a lump change of money.

The CBLDF is doing something vitally important, because if they weren't, there wouldn't be anybody doing it. I take comfort in knowing that if I need them, they're there for me. Right now, I don't need them. But they need me.

And you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Fejogep Artist Chris McFann - He's Probably Irish, But We Don't Hold That Against Him by Lucien Spelman

Lucien: What is Fejogep?

Chris McFann: It is the single greatest story ever put to paper.

L: What made you want to take it on as a Graphic Novel?

CM: The fact that i have been drawing capes and spandex for so long that anything
without initials in the belt buckle is a big plus to me.

L: Tell us a little about your background.

CM: I have been doing odds and ends here and there for the past ten years or so.
Only recently has it gotten to the point that it has become more of a full time
thing for me.

L: Who are your influences as an artist?

CM: Mostly my friends... John Barnes, Sean Gengler and Clayton Crain.

L: How is it working with that Lucien Spelman? He's one of my favorite writers,
and I've heard really great things about him, are they true, or is he an asshole?

CM: Both are true.... he is a great asshole.

L: Whats the market for a one-shot like this, and how does marketing a single issue
graphic novel differ from traditional marketing?

CM: Its like having an only child, it's cheaper but you cant afford to screw this
one up cause it will be the one to take care of you when your old.

L: Do you see potential for a series if the issue does well?

CM: Hopefuly there isnt a series... we hope hollywood just plunks down a big ol' pot
of gold for the movie rights. Then we will just retire and work as consultants with
hot secretaries and go to fancy parties. It that doesn't pan out then a monthly gig
would work too.

L: What's in your pockets right now?

CM: Nothing... I'm in my underware laying in bed having Dragonspeak type this while
I watch really bad movies and try to finish this page before Lucien sends his goons
to work me over.

L: Does this Graphic Novel have anything to do with Kathy Sierra, Twitter, MySpace,
YouTube, Web 2.0, American Idol, Or Sanjaya?

CM: No, but at least you can use those in the tags now!

by Lucien Spelman & Chris McFann
Coming Spring 2007

Thursday, March 22, 2007

My Troubles with Beer by Earl B Morris

I am blogging this week, not about science or fiction or any of the derivative subjects those who attend comic book conventions and watch "The Twilight Zones" seem to be so fascinated by, but rather about the rather alarming lack of respect shown to myself and my great aunt by a national brewing company recently.

I have included the letters I wrote, and the responses written by a woman calling herself "Mary," in the body of this blog, by "cutting and pasting," a technique which necessitates the mashing of up to two "mouse" buttons at various times, and which is far too complicated for the average computer neophyte to understand. My letters are in a "normal" font, while the responses are in an "italian" font, thus they may be told apart from one another. I don't want to bore the reader with the details of how this is accomplished, but if someone has an interest they may send me an "electronic" mail, making sure to put "italian font" in the subject space.

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to voice my complaints about your new anti-Semite advertising campaign.
I only recently started drinking "real" beer (last summer in fact, at a folk dancing workshop) and over time have learned to enjoy the musky smell and rather giddy feelings that accompany a fine glass. Recently, I purchased a pack of six bottles of your "Boston Ale" to bring home to share with my dog Lily while we watched "Dancing with the Stars" together. We were halfway through a glass, when I glanced at the bottle and noticed the label proudly proclaimed itself part of the "Jewmaster's Collection!"
I was flabbergasted! To insinuate that after thousands of years of punishment and persecution the Jews needed a "Master" and that master would be the clearly Irish Catholic "Samuel Adams" is outrageous, and frankly very offensive! I am 1/8 Hebrew, and feel quite certain that my forefathers are rolling in their graves to think that their progeny would be helping to further the blatantly hateful campaign of a beer company.
This is one Jew who does NOT need a "Master" and will NOT be purchasing any further six-bottle packs of your product.

Earl B Morris

P.S. I have purposefully not included my home address or phone number in this email, for fear of a hateful reprise on the part of your company!

Dear Earl,

Thank you for writing to us at Samuel Adams and for allowing us to respond. I think there has been a misunderstanding. We have a collection of beer styles that are call the BREWmasters Collection, a brewmaster being a certified brewer. They are an assortment of beers that fall into this collection for their distinguished taste and style.

We apologize for any misunderstanding, and are unsure if your label was a typo or if perhaps you just read it wrong. Please let us know if there is anything else.


The Boston Beer Company
75 ********** St.
Boston, MA 02116


Rest assured I am no fool. I speak two languages including English, and attended the School of Design in Yuma, Arizona for over seven years. While I was touched by your letter, I feel certain that you would not impugn my dignity by assuming I would "read it wrong!"
However, let’s move past the obvious, your anti-Semite slogans, and into the more sublime;
My research into the life of Samuel Adams, through most of the evening yesterday, revealed that he has little or no Jewish blood in his lineage. Perhaps it was simply an error on your part to name a collection of beer for him, thus totally ignoring an element of society that has been crucial to both the entertainment field, and the world of finance. Perhaps you can attempt to rectify this oversight.
A few suggestions:

1: Change the name of your product to "Samuel Adamstein", this way he would still be recognizable as our beloved historical figure, but also would be a nod to a large segment of the drinking population!

2: Change his first name to "Chaim". "Chaim Adams Beer" has a nice ring to it, and the ladies would LOVE IT!

C: Omit "Samuel Adams" Completely and name the beer for other more loved Jewish historical figures. Perhaps a well known sports figure?

Either of these three idea’s would be enough for my great-aunt and I to start drinking your beer again, and probably many other men and their great-aunts as well.
I look forward to hearing from you, and discussing possible rights to these ideas.

Earl B Morris

P.S. how does one obtain a "Brewmasters" Certificate? It sounds as though it would be an interesting job. Do you offer the program there? If you do please send details.

Please feel free to mail me the label that says Jewmasters. I would definitely be interested in seeing it as it is obviously a printing error on our part.

Cheers, Mary

Dear Sir,

I no longer have the bottles. I was so enraged I threw them into the neighbors bin. I can however attempt to sketch a reproduction. I am a fairly artistic person to put it mildly!
I will need charcoal pens and a rubber eraser and at least three 8x11 sheets of quality paper. Will you be supplying these or do you simply reimburse me?

Looking forward to speaking further on this matter,

Earl Morris

* There has been no further correspondence.

- Earl B Morris

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


So, the other day, I realized that it had been far too long since I'd read any science fiction, and I thought this was extremely strange. I'm a tried and true science fiction fan. I grew up on the stuff, I cut my teeth writing the stuff (which is why you should write with your fingers, and not your teeth) and I deeply enjoy it.

Yet, I looked over my bookshelves, my TV shows, my movies, and I realized that Sci-Fi just wasn't on the list. Unless you count things like old Star Trek re-runs, Babylon 5 reruns, and maybe if you count Heroes. That's about it.

Very strange. I got to wondering why.

So I went back further, digging into the sci-fi books that I'd last bought, and trying to figure out why I'd drifted off-course, as it were. I realized that about around the time I discovered Neil Gaiman, I trifted into that type of fantasy and away from sci-fi.

I did figure out why, eventually, and this is why:

Science Fiction, to me, became like high fantasy (a la' Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, et al) which I also completely fail to get. That is to say, somewhere along the road, it became so complicated and so in-depth that I felt like I'd lost the plot and I, without meaning to, wandered off.

(This is probably just me, mind you; if you agree, good, otherwise just assume I'm blithering and move thee on.)

The science fiction books of Greg Bear and Kim Robinson, or the books of M. John Harrison for example completely fail to interest me. They're detailed and heavy and strongly science based. They are deep and involved and increasingly scientific. At least by me, it began to feel like I needed to do extra reading in order to follow the books, or needed to have had some really serious college education toward quantum physics before I could really enjoy the book.

Why is this? Truthfully, I'm not sure. I will still happily read Isaac Asimov, even though he spent a great deal of time talking about all manner of scientific detail. That said, as I think back on all the Asimov I've read in my life, I can recall Hari Seldon, the Mayors of the Foundation, Elijah Bailey, R. Daneel Olivaw, Gladys, and so on. All sorts of characters. I can vaugely recall the science of Hari Seldon and yet, as I tried to finish this sentence, I just realized I don't remember what it's called.

I guess the reason I drifted away from a lot of science fiction is that I'm very much in favor of people stories. All stories are people stories, but sometimes there are swaths of information piled on top, layering what can otherwise be a simple story into a thick and complicated tale. (Which is not necessarily a bad thing. I don't want simple stories, mind you.)

So, of late, I've started writing some science fiction stories, and they have very little actual hard science in them, because I guess that's just me. I've started reading some sci-fi again, and it also doesn't have a lot of hard science. When it comes to books, I think I prefer space opera to hard science.

Realizing that, I realized that when I went to Barnes & Noble and specifically looked for sci-fi there was A) Less sci-fi than fantasy and B) Less people story-science fiction than hard science. More William Gibson than Robert A. Heinlein, to make a comparison.

I'm not saying the system's broken. They sell. People buy 'em, and read 'em. I think it's probably just me having one of those figuring-out-the-world moments.

So, er, to bring this around to a point...those of you out in the world who are writing urban fantasy novels? C'mon. Go write me some space opera. Put some people on some space ships and throw them out at weird angles in the universe, and see what happens.

And then tell me about it. Because I like me some people stories.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Real Aliens will not be Under Budgetary Constraints

I'm an avid reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I also enjoy the occasional scientific text for those of us who aren't physicists or biologists. I'm also (to the surprise of many) not a big Star Trek fan.

And I have a bone to pick with certain SciFi television shows and movies and what they've done to the collective unconscious as far as alien life is concerned.

It seems that these various institutions consider aliens to be . . . pretty much just like you and I. The average badly imaged SciFi alien is just some guy with a thin coat of blue paint on and a few candy corns stuck in various places. They're typically motivated by extremely un-alien emotions, like jealousy, rage, greed or love.

I mean, these are aliens we're talking about, right? Isn't one of the very definitions of 'alien' to be unlike a human in just about every way? so why is it that aliens are constantly portrayed like futuristic Blue Meanies? One argument I get a lot is it's a problem with the budget.

Sure not everyone has a couple of million bucks to blow on spectacular CG effects. But when it comes right down to it, I think that's a pretty lame excuse.

Take an extremely alien, cold, almost unthinking killing machine that will stop at nothing to bring down the protagonists – not because it's evil, not because it's motivated by revenge, but because it's hungry. Doesn't that sound just a little alien to you? Now think about what this thing would look like. It can move fast, exists in an element that's toxic to humans yet that we insist on invading, and it's big. Four, five times the size of you or me easily. It's been spending millions of years evolving into a super predator. Think that would be a tough creature to make? A hard one to portray? Well Steven Spielberg did it with a few hundred pounds of leaky rubber in a little movie called Jaws.

Bruce (the shark in Jaws) has more alien qualities than most on-screen aliens I've ever met. And Spielberg did a well thought out, tense, well paced and suspenseful movie while barely showing Bruce to us at all! I think that does pretty well for the budget argument for lame aliens.

Perhaps another reason aliens are portrayed as so human is that it's really, really hard to think like something other than a human. Really. Give it a try. Think about what you're life would be as a giant, ambulatory hot dog. Or a scattering of energy across a million miles of void. That's not easy. It's doable with some heavy creative energy and a lot of work, but easy it's not.

Even scientists fall prey to this. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I'm watching some show on the Science channel and a scientist type comes on ans says “no life could possibly exist on a planet like this.”

When they say that no life could possibly exist on this planet, what they really mean is no Earth like life could exist there. They say nothing of a silicon based entity name Vrokkkth who subsists on radiation and completes a single thought in the span of a year.

What about sentient robots that have self evolved. I mean come on, I'm just one guy with a passion for neat things and no one is giving me a budget to produce massive SciFi films. Can't someone else think like this?

Or maybe they don't want to. The kinds of aliens that I'm talking about (both the human/alien and the alien/alien) abound in modern Science Fiction, so why not on the movie screen? Perhaps it's because the people in charge of making movies – by this I mean those who hold the purse strings, think that we the movie going public are just too dumb to want that.

If you're wondering why I don't put my money where my ingestation organ for mincing selbrium crystal is, well here goes.

Plot synopsis: Contact is made with an obviously alien object rapidly approaching stellar space. From what little communication is established we can see that the alien(s) is able to roughly communicate in Chinese. It's made known, not by any government but by ham radio enthusiasts that this messenger from the stars will land in the exact mid point of the Atlantic Ocean and will grant access to itself to anyone who can make it out there.

It stresses that any hostile action against it or anyone attempting to make it to the rendezvous site will result in strong repercussions.

The focus of the whole movie is how several different groups of people (A poor fisherman and his family from Cuba, several government agencies, the military from a major player like China, a telcom tycoon from Europe and Steve Ballmer, a group of missionaries) all work in their own ways to make sure they'll be at the spot the alien intelligence is going to land at.

The majority of the movie focuses on how society will have to deal, and deal rapidly with the changed knowledge that we are not alone in the Universe. What strife will there be? How will these vastly different groups from strong cultures cope with each other?

The alien(s)? The don't show up until the end of the movie, spending the most of the film as a slowly growing bright point of light in the Northern Hemisphere sky.

What is it? An ancient group of symbiotic intelligences that consist of a dead, vacuum worthy outer husk inside which is a super huge (several hundred miles across sphere) intelligent structure which keeps an ecosystem of non-intelligent and lesser intelligent creatures alive inside it for the purpose of keeping them all alive. Included among these beings are intelligent beings one order of magnitude more capable than humans who have been evolved to care for and keep alive the superstructure. These are also tasked with interfacing with any outside intelligences that the entire system may come across, under the direction of the more intelligent superstructure.

See? That wasn't so hard. You studio execs out there take note. I can have a script treatment ready any time and I'm willing to contract out as an advisor.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Shame of Star Wars

Anyone old enough to remember the original release of Star Wars knows what I am talking about. Back then, in Fandom’s infancy, Star Wars –nominated for Best Picture- was a genuine cultural phenomenon, so huge, so awesome (this word meant more back in 1977), that there was no shame in loving this film.

This was a huge break from the standard. Star Trek geeks had struggled for years in hopes of legitimizing their love for their series, but the public had already sentenced Trek in a way that would have been recognized on any of the Greek or Roman worlds the Enterprise might have visited – they gave thumbs down. After Trek’s third season cancellation, everything that followed -- the animated series, the movies, the comics and novels -- were all futile volleys in a war that was already lost. Society’s rejection of Trek was a shame that could never be undone, and the die-hard fans were condemned to the fringes of society. Perhaps it was at that moment the modern nerd was born.

But Star Wars broke the trend. For a while—a long while—Star Wars had it all. The message of Star Wars’ success was that sci-fi and action weren’t only for nerds and geeks and children - anyone could be seen waiting in line to see Empire.

The first twinge of the disaster that was to come was of course the holiday special, but Lucas wisely stamped that out. Lucas was so successful at quelling the special I actually went many years thinking I had dreamed it. But his instincts failed him in the third movie. The ewoks, it is pretty much agreed, were the first loose thread that when pulled, would mean the unraveling of the whole deal.

It’s been steadily down hill from there. Star Wars went bad at its core—with Lucas himself—and it can’t be fixed as long as the man who created it wants a stake in it.

The irony is that I love the Star Wars universe. Millions of others do as well, and many of these fans are in a position to round that universe out, through comic books, novels, video games and books such as ‘Complete Locations.’ They have taken all that was good in Lucas’s creation—the Jedi, the Force, the Empire, the Rebellion, Wookies, Hyperspace, Lightsabers, smugglers, princesses, desert planets, ice planets, swamp planets, Hutts, Boba Fett, Vader, landspeeders, speederbikes, and made it all better.

Lucas should love these guys, he should treasure them, because not only do all the licensed products keep Star Wars alive, the folks who write these products bring their oversized nerdy brains to bear in explaining Lucas’ half-assed, half baked innovations.

Yet with their ever effort, their every gesture, Lucas betrays them. He has Greedo shoot first, he mires the second trilogy in well intentioned but poorly rendered political intrigue, he kills Boba Fett after about 3 seconds of action, he makes all the Stormtroopers and Boba Fett himself clones, ruining a long-running and well-realized fanonical backstory that actual had Fett as a fully realized character. Ever since anyone other than Lucas wrote about the Wookies, they lived an arboreal existence on a planet where the trees were so tall the surface of the world was mostly unexplored. Lucas includes Kashyyk in a film and the battles happen not in the trees but on a beach.

Another example can be found in Episode 1: The Phantom Menace – Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are hard-pressed to even hold their own against Darth Maul, who is wonderfully badass. I greatly enjoy this battle- it’s exciting and well made. That double saber is very cool and Maul knows how to use it—he makes it count.

But then, the combatants are separated by a series of laser doors. I don’t really have a problem with how this is handled by the characters- I quite like Maul’s tiger-like pacing and Jinn’s quick meditation. They are Jedi Knights, after all, and they haven’t lost their cool even through such intense combat. But why are there six lightsaber doors here? The answer is so that Obi Wan can watch Qui-Gon die at close range. There is no other answer. The novelization didn’t explain why the doors existed, and Complete Locations claims ‘The laser doors lock into position in response to potentially lethal power outputs…’ and goes on to explain that there are six of them ‘as a deliberate reference to a Naboo legend, in which chaos is held back by six impenetrable gates.’
That’s spin. That’s someone way down the totem pole workking extra hard to patch holes in Lucas’ lazy writing.

And it is lazy. Some of Lucas’ other material is top-notch. Did you realize in Episode 2 when the Republic takes possession of the Clone army that even if they knew, right then, what Darth Sidious had planned for them, they still couldn’t refuse? Yoda and the rest were so completely outmaneuvered that they had no choice but to take the clone army or face defeat by the separatist driod army. Later, in Episode 3, Palpatine gets Obi Wan and Yoda off of Coruscant so when he reveals his identity to Anikin, who does the confused young Jedi have to discuss this with? Only Mace Windu, who eagerly plays his anticipated role in the Emperor’s plans.
That’s good stuff, and Lucas wrote it. But it gets buried in so much bad acting, bad directing, and equally bad examples of plain lazy writing as I demonstrated above, very little genuine excellence emerges from these films.

Then, the finishing blow: The Lord of the Rings eats Star Wars up. I thought it was bad when the first Matrix film was so much more enjoyable than Phantom Menace, but I hadn’t seen anything yet. Randall Graves’ wonderful arguing 2 of Jedi vs. King in Clerks aside, we all know who won that battle, and we all know why. Lucas could have hired anyone to direst the new films—even Jackson himself, when you think of it—but he chose to do so himself, against the evidence that maintains Empire as the leanest, most exciting of the original three. Story by Lucas, directing by someone better than Lucas.

Now, 30 years later, the once proud Star Wars fandom is, for the most part, abandoned to nerds and uber-nerds. Even Battlestar Galactica is cooler than Star Wars. Where anyone can praise The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and should Jackson make the Hobbit, anyone could wait in line for tickets (for a few hours, and not in costume- days in line dressed as a Nazgul is still strictly nerd territory), saying you are a Star Wars fan today is no better than claiming to be a Trek fan in 1977.

But a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, when no one knew what an Ewok was and Starbuck was Dirk Benedict, it was very different.

More of Gregory Adam's nonfiction writing can be read at The Deconstructionist.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

What Some Nerd Thinks About Star Trek

I don’t know much about Star Trek, which is to say, I know plenty compared to some, and too much compared to many, but I’m posting on a site that has freakin’ pictures of Baltar laughing at Kevin Smith, so it’s not too much to assume that I may be out of my depth here, when writing about Star Trek.

But that’s okay, because I haven’t come here to tell you about Star Trek—I would never presume such a thing. I have come here to ask about Star Trek, and perhaps, in that, to be enlightened.

To begin, my last post was about the future, and how frustrated I was by the idea that I still have to work for a living. I mean, by this date in our popular speculative fiction, I should at most have to fly my suitcase car across town to oversee a single button for a few hours a day while the Jane XJ9 cleans the house.

In Star Trek, no one outside of Starfleet has to do even that much. There is no money, we are told, aside from pressed latinum, which I think we can all agree was introduced to give the Ferengi something to go all Dr. Smith over. Also to allow humans to look down on the Ferengi, as we’ve risen above such petty greed, thank you very much.

But seriously, what do non-Starfleet persons do in the Star Trek future? And not ONE WORD about how Picard’s brother runs a winery- I know he runs a winery, and that’s what one stuffy guy does with his free time, and doesn’t answer my question. After all, any nerd worth the dreaded Rear Admirals he suffered on the playground knows that the Judge Dredd comics predicted that 90% unemployment would mean incalculable crime rates. And no room for a winery, I’m sorry—it’s Mega-City 1, 2, Texas, the Sov Block or Cursed Earth, and that’s it. The worst part about this is there’s no answer to the question, canonical, fanonical, or otherwise. It’s as if everyone on Earth is enlisted in Starfleet, and well, while that’s one possible future, it’s a bit grimmer than Star Trek is usually taken to be.

I’m tempted to say that the ‘no one has anything to do but everyone gets along’ ideal is the biggest conceit of Star Trek—I mean, even Futurama didn’t go so far as to have ‘optional employment,’ and they had robots who run on booze and are far more fun to be around than any of you (except for that one who stabs people) – but I think the biggest problem with Star Trek is The Next Generation in toto. Because not only does the series fail to examine the lives of those not in Starfleet, it glosses over the lives anyone not serving aboard the Enterprise, and those guys are probably having way more exciting adventures than the Enterprise is. Allow me to explain:

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Enterprise is the best ship in the fleet, with the most powerful shipboard computer. Captain Picard, who is so renowned that he has a combat maneuver named after him, leads it. His first in command, Commander Riker, has been offered his own command many times so he’s at least as good as most of the other Starfleet captains. The Enterprise also has the only android in Starfleet, who is incredibly smart, strong, durable and loyal. The have the only Klingon in Starfleet- an officer who can defeat the dreaded Borg with a knife. They have a (hot) betazoid who can read minds. They have Geordie LeForge, whose visor makes him one of the most effective and efficient engineers in Starfleet. And before he turns into a space whale, they have Wesley Crusher, a boy genius so genius he saves the ship about 90 times when even these overachievers can’t manage it. Then he turns into a space whale. But I digress.

My point is, the crew of the Enterprise are so kick ass that they actually make trouble for themselves, as omnipotent space assholes such as Q pick on them almost exclusively. But Q aside, the entire series is based upon the notion that this ship—the best ship, the ship with the best captain and the most exceptional crew—can’t do a damn thing without encountering near-insurmountable obstacles, many of which would, if not overcome, have far-reaching effects and may even threaten the fabric of space and time itself. Yet episode after episode the Enterprise only just manages to squeak by. Seriously, the crew of the Enterprise only just saves all of humanity almost as often as Gilligan and the other castaways only just fail to get off the island.

So think about it—all the other ships in Starfleet are inferior to the Enterprise in every way, so they must have an even worse time of it. Those ships must be forever limping back into spaceport, hulls damaged from numerous collisions with other Starfleet vessels manned by crews as incompetent as themselves, having started a dozen wars with two dozen alien species, leaving countless sectors of space empty of life as they failed to stop a star from going nova, or from turning the borg back, and coming home only to find earth has been overrun by reptile-men because these inept crews couldn't figure out how to travel back in time and stop Harlan Ellison’s Star Trek the Motion Picture script from being made.

I think much of my bitterness about Star Trek comes from my frustration at my script for ‘Star Trek: The Previous Generation’ being overlooked in favor of ‘Enterprise.’ MY look at pre-Kirk Trek was awesome and would have easily run long enough to make it to syndication.

It’s a simple formula- take everything in the original Trek and back it off one generation. So: The tricorder becomes the dicorder. It weighs 40 pounds and runs of 80 D batteries. Women in Starfleet dress like the Solid Gold dancers. Phasers are pump-shotguns; stun setting is rocksalt rounds. The captain would be just like Kirk only worse- his mission is actually to find strange new women and nail them. The prime directive would be just the same as it has been in naval forces for hundred of years: ‘Wear a rubber.’

I tell you, it would have been awesome.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bellydancer, Gaius Baltar, Number 6, and Ellie.

Here's a few more delightful photos and such from the NY Comiccon:

Who Wants To Be A Superhero hopeful, Courtney Powell (Bellydancer), being interviewed by season two host Major Victory.

Bellydancer using her beguiling powers on the editor, who shortly after this photograph walked into a wall, an accident requiring over five Guinness.

Lucien: What's your name?

Who Wants To Be A Superhero hopeful: My name is, uh, my real name is Courtney Powell.

Lucien: And what's your hero name?

Who Wants To Be A Superhero hopeful: (Shakes hips, jingling bells.) Bellydancer.

Lucien: Why don't you tell people why you're here...

Who Wants To Be A Superhero hopeful: Well I'm here to be on Who Wants To Be A Superhero, I'm auditioning, and I'm playing the superhero Bellydancer.... I called in sick for work - Shhhh - and I just came over here.

Lucien: What's your power?

Who Wants To Be A Superhero hopeful: My Power? Well it's, ah, all in the shimmy. (Shakes hips again, with musical results.)

Lucien: Oh... Ah, uh-oh.

Who Wants To Be A Superhero hopeful: So when I do my vibration shimmy, which is like this: (Shaking whole body - jingle jangle.) It makes an earthquake and they fall to the ground, and when I do my hip shimmy (another shake) it creates a wave, and when I shake my hip this way: (jingle!) the guy flies to the right, and then this way, the guy flies to the left (Jangle!).

Lucien: I love those powers!

Who Wants To Be A Superhero hopeful: Yeah!

Lucien: It's working.

Who Wants To Be A Superhero hopeful: Yeah! It clouds their mind so they can't think straight.

Lucien: I can barely think straight myself right now.

Who Wants To Be A Superhero hopeful: Exactly, right?

James Callis (Gaius Baltar) & Tricia Helfer (Number 6) from Battlestar Galactica, laughing at Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith: So Trisha, You're from Alberta, and James, you're from Not Here, either.

Trish: That's right.

James: Yes.

Kevin Smith: Alberta, Canada. When I was a kid, I was a member of the Star Wars Fanclub, and got "Bantha Tracks," and all that shit where you could organize penpals. There was a dude who I was a penpal with named Darryl Morton. Do you know that guy?


Lucien: What's your name?

NY Comiccon girl: My Name is Ellie.

Lucien: How long ya been workin' this thing, Ellie?

NY Comiccon girl: For, um, two days.

Lucien: What's your position here?

NY Comiccon girl: I'm just a volunteer.

Lucien: Big comic fan? Are you a fangirl?

NY Comiccon girl: Yes and no. My littles brother's a really big fan, so the minute he found out about this he was like, 'oh my god, ya gotta go!'

Lucien: So you're just here for the perks for your little brother?

NY Comiccon girl: And for myself a little bit.

Lucien: What's the thing you're most looking forward to seeing?

NY Comiccon girl: The anime. I like anime

Lucien: What do you think is the strangest thing you've seen here?

NY Comiccon girl: A lot of people in cosplay. A lot of people in costumes. I haven't seen that before.

Lucien: Any intention of being a cosplayer? Perhaps next year you'll show up in costume?

NY Comiccon girl: No. Uh-uh. Nope.

Lucien: If I were a cosplayer, who should I be? Who do I look like?

NY Comiccon girl: Star Wars. Star Wars character.

Lucien: Oooh. Star Wars. like Luke or Darth Vader?

NY Comiccon girl: Anything that covers your face.

Ouch. Gotta love NYC!


Sunday, March 04, 2007

An open letter to the rich and beautiful computer illiterati

A couple of days ago on my other site, I posted a personal plea to Kiefer Sutherland regarding his computer illiteracy.

No one, not even famous people should have to go through life computer illiterate – especially Jack Bauer's alter ego.

I now wish to use this platform to extend my services to any of the worlds wealthy, powerful and/or well know yet computer illiterate folks.

Let me help you.

For a small fee or a pile of signed merchandise I can sell on eBay, I will personally raise your computer literacy level to at least functional. And I'm the right guy for the job too. My credentials:

  • I'm discreet.
  • I'm no threat to your acting career or your fame.
  • I guarantee that you are physically more appealing than I am if you are a movie star, or richer than I am if your wealthy or powerful.
  • I'm willing to teach your family, posse or entourage along with you.
  • I know computers, with over 10 years experience in the field, publishing my own website about geeks and spending way to much time typing stuff like this.
  • I have a loving personality and I get along with kids, animals and agents.
  • I don't have a criminal record.
  • I like long walks on the beach under the moon with a laptop and a cellular modem.
  • I'm not a stalker, serial killer, kleptomaniac, financial advisor or movie reviewer.
  • I'm licensed in some countries to perform marriages and practice medicine.

If you don't know the difference between DSL, Cable, FIOS, PPP, I can help you. I'll teach you the following skills and concepts:

  • How to blog like a lonely teenager.
  • WoW for beginners.
  • Linux – it's not a kind of antelope.
  • No you really shouldn't open that attachment and here's why.
  • YouTube has nothing to do with toothpaste.
  • Home networking, OS Installs, software and hardware troubleshooting, shell scripting.
  • Macs – yeah, there really is only one mouse button.

Remember my jingle inspired motto – If you're famous, I want to teach YOU!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Report From NY Comiccon, and More - So Much More by Lucien Spelman

The great J. Michael Straczynski, award winning creator of Babylon 5, and current Marvel Comics writer for Amazing Spider-Man, with a message for one of our editors...

Kennedy Smith and I recently returned from the NY Comiccon, which is really more a Geek con, and had a truly wonderful time. This is only the second run of this annual event, and from our POV, it's likely to give the San Diego Con, and DragonCon a run for the money. They managed to pull in some real heavy-weights from a variety of industries such as Stephen King, Wes Craven, John Landis, Stephen Colbert, Hayden Panettiere (from Heroes), James Callis (Gaius Baltar from Battlestar Galactica), Tricia Helfer (Number 6, from Battlestar Galactica - yeouch), Kevin Smith, and just about every comic industry bigwig you can name including the iconic Stan Lee - 'Nuff Said!

We came bearing press passes, and were lucky enough to have a sit-down with the director John Landis, director of such films as, The Blues Brothers, American Werewolf in London, and Animal House. We were also fortunate enough to be able to have long chats with some of our favorite authors such as George R R Martin (author of Song of Ice & Fire, truly one of the greatest series to come down the pike in a long while) & F. Paul Wilson (author of the Repairman Jack series, possibly some of the most fun you can have between the covers - book covers, that is) both of whom were generous with their time as well. all of these interviews will appear in future issues, as well as coverage on the blog of such events as the Stan Lee panel, and Kevin Smith's interview with The Battlestar cast.
All of this should fit in nicely with our Joe Hill (author of Heart Shaped Box, a book I have sitting across my leg right now, because I have simply been unable to put it down for any length of time) interview.
Keep on eye on us for here at BBT Magazine, and we'll keep trying to give you the best content available including great Sci-Fi, Fantasy, & Horror with a satirical twist, and Geek Culture at it's finest.

Here's some photos and a little commentary from the con:

Lucien & Kennedy posing with an exceedingly Germanic Wonder Woman. Lucien is the good-looking one on the left. No... your left.

Kevin Smith at the Battlestar panel being guarded by a member of the Rebel Alliance who appears to be from the distant planet of Queens. I didn't have the heart to tell him his phaser didn't actually work. I'm sure Kevin felt safe however, and that's whats important.

George R R Martin signing our copy of Ice Dragon, after the interview. He and Parris had been sick the previous few days with a stomach virus and he upchucked a small amount next to the table. I have had it encased in polyurethane resin, and it now serves as a paperweight.

BBT Magazine has proven a big hit with Bananas, and although in test runs, tiny versions of The Mighty Thor have been a bit confused by the content, we are offering a "dumbed-down" Norse version of the magazine in the near future.

One of the highlights of our trip was being able to get this little fellow backstage to meet his idol Stan Lee backstage after the show. Here he poses with a timeline he painstakingly compiled to show Stan.

Here his mother explains to Stan the impact he's had on the young man's life, and how, if it weren't for Stan, he might be out on the street dealing uppers to his classmates or perhaps an armed mercenary.

I know this little guy will remember this moment for the rest of his life. I know I will.
The fellow behind Stan, btw, is Joe Quesada, current Editor-In-Chief at Marvel Comics. Please send your complaints about Civil War to him, not to us.

I was sad to see this happen to Skeletor, but there was really nowhere for him to go but down.

I watched this for over 20 minutes, and I must confess I haven't the foggiest notion what the hell it was. It appears to be cheerleaders of some kind having a swordfight with middle-aged men set to music.