Firefly Friday: Leaves on the Wind Comic

Friday, November 21st, 2014 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Serenity_Leaves_on_the_Wind_HC_coverThe film Serenity brought a fair amount of closure to fans of Firefly, but as with any great story it didn’t end there. Each character goes through events in the film that transforms them in some way, and the story is never over. The classic hero’s journey ends not with the climactic battle, but with the return. The hero comes back to where he (or she) began and, through the events, has been transformed. Indeed, often their home itself has been transformed in some way, even if only in the way they view it.

The 6-issue limited comic book limited series, now collected together in Serenity: Leaves on the Wind (Amazon) completes the “Return” aspect of the hero’s journey for our crew … and since it’s a story in its own right, it also contains a full journey within it, with a new call to action, a new conflict, a new shift under the feet of the heroes. New allies and enemies are introduced, and the crew continues to change.

The series begins in the aftermath of Serenity, where the revelations about the origins of the Reavers spark heated debate across the ‘Verse. While pundits debate the veracity of the allegations, both the Alliance and a growing New Resistance movement are looking for the man who started it all: Malcolm Reynolds.

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What Old Futures Can Teach Us About What SF and SciFi is Really For

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 | Posted by M Harold Page

In EC Tubb's imagined future... Security means men with guns. And I don't care!

In EC Tubb’s imagined future… Security means men with guns. And I don’t care!

So, last week I talked about how old Science Fiction and most media SciFi fails to portray realistic futures. They often do well at predicting specific technical advances, for example speech recognition, but underestimate the way humans will exploit any technology to its limits and use it in conjunction with other technologies.

What’s interesting is that (almost) nobody cares.

For example, I’m reading EC Tubb’s Dumarest books. The technology is wildly inconsistent. Conspirators have devices to block eavesdropping, electronic and human, but use landlines without worrying about phone taps.

Did I mention people use landlines?

In EC Tubb’s imagined future, it’s possible to steal a flyer without somebody tracing it through an ID chip, and without it being spotted on radar or by satellite as you cross the sea. Security means men with guns.

And I don’t care!

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Culture, Corporate and Otherwise

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!It’s been a while since I posted anything here at Black Gate. There’s no one reason; a number of things have kept me busy or occupied, most recently a persistent head cold and ear infection. I mention this because being under the weather has indirectly to do with the following post. Firstly, being sick led me to watch some TV shows which I now want to write a bit about. Secondly, my mental state shaped the way I thought about what I experienced; I can only hope now to capture the sense of coherence I had then. This essay will be more shapeless than usual, I’m afraid, an attempt to explain the connections that drifted through my mind between Alan Moore, Doc Savage, and Scooby Doo, among others.

When you’re feeling sick — or at least when I’m feeling sick — it’s sometimes restful to read or watch something familiar. As it was coming up to Halloween when I caught a bad cold, I decided to watch something spooky but unchallenging. And it turned out that Canadian Netflix had both the very first Scooby-Doo TV series, 1969’s Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears), and the most recent, 2010’s Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated (created and produced by Spike Brandt, Tony Cervone, and Mitch Watson).

I’d read some very good things about the latter show, some here on this blog from Nick Ozment, so I decided I’d rewatch the series I knew from my youth and then see the modern reboot. Because curiosity takes many odd forms, I also ended up drifting around Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database, reading up on the creation of both shows. Which touched off a few reflections on the shape of stories, generational differences, and popular culture.

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Firefly Friday: Better and Not-So-Better Days in Serenity Comics

Friday, November 14th, 2014 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

SerenityBetterDaysNext week will mark the release of the hardcover collection of the Serenity: Leaves on the Wind (Amazon) limited series, which marks the first official story set in the post-film Serenity ‘Verse.

However, this is actually the fourth collection of Serenity comics. I previously reviewed the Serenity: Those Left Behind comic story, which was published before the release of the film Serenity. Two additional stories have been released as comics to tell further adventures of the Serenity crew since the film came out, but these were telling stories that took place before the film.

Serenity: Better Days (Amazon)

The second limited series to get collected together, Better Days tells the story of a mission that goes surprisingly right for the Serenity crew. It sets them on a path where they all might be able to live their wildest dreams. More importantly, though, the series is set before the events of Serenity – so the series includes characters who don’t make it out of the film alive. We get yet another glimpse of some of our favorite characters all together.

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2014 World Fantasy Convention: Saturday Wrap-Up

Sunday, November 9th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

This will be our final post about the World Fantasy Convention in 2014. Tomorrow, we will be leaving early to drive back to Indianapolis.

Today, I slept in a bit more and didn’t join the convention activities until 11. I attended readings by Joe Haldeman, Kelly Link, Mary Robinette Kowal (my close friend), and Lee Martindale.

Joe Haldeman

Joe Haldeman

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Firefly Friday: Going Behind the Scenes

Friday, November 7th, 2014 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Firefly the Official Companion-smallThe cornerstone of the fans’ love affair with Firefly is the 13 television episodes, culminating in the film Serenity. But if you’re a fan of the show, you’ve probably watched all of the episodes numerous times – maybe even with the audio commentary from Whedon, the stars, and other show creators. For real fans, though, this may not be quite enough. Is there any way to dive into the individual episodes more deeply?

Titan Books helped out the fans by publishing a series of stunning, glossy fan-gasmic volumes that include not only images of the props and various production stills, but also full scripts of the episodes of the series. Across these three books – ultimately collected into a single volume – there’s a glimpse into nearly every aspect of the production process on the series, why it was ultimately cancelled, what the various actors felt about their characters, and even some new stories.

And so very many shiny, shiny pictures.

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Vintage Treasures: Weird Tales #1, edited by Lin Carter

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Weird Tales 1 paperback-smallIf you’ve hung around Black Gate for any length of time, you’ve heard us talk about Weird Tales, the greatest and most influential pulp fantasy magazine every published.

Weird Tales has died many times, and crawled out of the grave and shambled back to life just as often (if you’re a Weird Tales fan, you’ve heard countless zombie metaphors about your favorite magazine). When the pulp version of the magazine died in September 1954 after 279 issues, many believed it was for the final time. But it returned to life in the early 1970s, edited by Sam Moskowitz and published by Leo Margulies, and then perished again after four issues.

Bob Weinberg and Victor Dricks purchased the rights to the name from Margulies some time after that, and in December 1980 a brand new version appeared: Weird Tales #1, an original paperback anthology of horror and weird fantasy edited by none other than Lin Carter. On the inside front cover (under the heading The Eyrie, the name of the old editorial column in the pulp magazine) Carter introduced his anthology to a new generation of fantasy readers:

WEIRD TALES was the first and most famous of all the fantasy-fiction pulp magazines. It featured tales of the strange, the marvelous, and the supernatural by the finest authors of the macabre and the fantastic, old and new, from its first issue in 1923 until its 279th and last consecutive issue in 1954.

Now it is back, with all new stories — and even such an exciting find as “Scarlet Tears,” a recently discovered and never before published novelette by Robert E. Howard.

Over the years many great writers were published in the pages of WEIRD TALES, and now a great tradition is being continued into its second half-century.

“Scarlet Tears,” a Robert E. Howard story featuring his private detective Brent Kirby, never sold in his lifetime, and it’s not hard to see why (Kirby, a brawler who leads with his fists, doesn’t actually do much “detecting.”) Nonetheless, this kind of star billing for a Robert E. Howard trunk story gives you some indication just how much his reputation had grown since his death 44 years earlier.

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Amazing Stories, July 1962: A Retro-Review

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 | Posted by Rich Horton

Amazing Stories July 1962-smallBack to Cele Goldsmith’s tenure at Amazing/Fantastic. This is a pretty strong issue, with, notably and perhaps surprisingly, a strong “Classic Reprint” novelet, and a strong serial opener. (The shorter fiction is less impressive.)

The cover is by Lloyd Birmingham, a semi-regular at Amazing/Fantastic throughout the ’60s, who also had one cover for Analog, one for an Ace Double, and a couple more. But he was never well-known in the field. It illustrates the serial in this issue, part one of Keith Laumer’s A Trace of Memory, competently but not particularly specially. Interiors are by Birmingham again, Leo Summers, Virgil Finlay, Dan Adkins, and Austin Briggs.

Norman Lobsenz’s editorial discusses some evidence that may or may not support the Big Bang theory. (This was a couple of years before the discovery of the 3 degree background radiation of the universe.) The lettercol, “ … or So you Say”, features a long letter by Julian Reid complaining about two recent Mark Clifton stories (“Hang Head, Vandal!” and the serial Pawn of the Black Feet), following a very long defense of his work by Clifton himself.

This response may be the last thing Clifton ever published. (He died in 1963, and I am sure he published no more stories after “Hang Head, Vandal!”) I think Clifton gets the better of the argument, pointing out for one thing that Pawn of the Black Fleet (aka When They Come From Space) is a spoof, which Reid took altogether too seriously.

S. E. Cotts’s book review column, “The Spectroscope,” covers Damon Knight anthology A Century of Science Fiction, with very high praise for the stories, but some quibbling about Knight’s categorization of different aspects of the field; and J. F. Bone’s The Lani People, which Cotts considers not very original, but quite fun. There is a very brief “Benedict Breadfruit” squib by “Grandall Barretton” (Randall Garrett) … these are decidedly sub-Feghootian to begin with and this one is worse than usual. Ben Bova (or “Ben Ben Bova” as the TOC has it) contributes an article on “The Three Requirements of Life in the Solar System,” second in a four-article series on the possibilities of alien life, this one covering possibilities for life on other planets in our system.

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Firefly Friday: Serenity: Those Left Behind

Friday, October 31st, 2014 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

SerenityLeftBehindFan passion for more Firefly stories led to the rare (unprecedented?) move of turning a failed television series into a feature length film, in the form of 2005 film Serenity (Amazon). As an attempt to bridge the narrative gap between the end of the series and the start of the film, Joss Whedon collaborated with Dark Horse comics to produce the three-issue comic limited series Serenity: Those Left Behind (Amazon). This review is based on the original hardcover collection of the series, published in 2007. (They’ve since published a 2nd edition.)

Here are the major jumps between the end of Firefly and the beginning of Serenity, which the comic series seeks to explain:

  • Inara is no longer on the Serenity
  • Shepherd Book is no longer on the Serenity
  • Instead of the mysterious blue-handed agents in the series, the film introduces the operative as the key person hunting down River Tam

Serenity: Those Left Behind covers all three of these elements, and also brings back a villain from the television series who would have been recurring had it continued. I won’t ruin it by saying which one. As a hint, though, it’s someone who feels that they were wronged in their last interaction with Malcolm Reynolds, so that should narrow it down. This individual joins forces with the blue-handed operatives to move against the folks on Serenity. In addition to the mysterious recurring villain, there’s also a nice cameo by Mal’s contact Badger, who assigns them a job that doesn’t go exactly as intended. (Or at least not as intended by Mal and the crew.)

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The List of 7 by Mark Frost

Monday, October 27th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

List_fullcoverMark Frost made the news not too long ago with the announcement that he and David Lynch will be making a new Twin Peaks series for Showtime. Yay! Twin Peaks came to an abrupt end in 1991: just after its second season. Frost apparently wasn’t one to let grass grow under his feet, as only two years later, The List of 7 hit bookshelves.

John O’Neill wrote about (mostly the cover…) this book last year.

Frost is absolutely a fan of Sherlock Holmes. Not only is the novel’s protagonist none other than Arthur Conan Doyle and bits of his life are scattered throughout, but there are Holmes-isms aplenty. Thus, this book is a type of pastiche, though darker than any straight Holmes tale I’ve read.

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