Memories of Mosul before ISIS

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

The author in front of the mosque of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul. ISIS militants blew it up in July 2014. Revered by Muslims as the burial place of Jonah, it was destroyed because ISIS believes shrines to be un-Islamic.

The author in front of the mosque of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul. ISIS militants blew it up in July 2014. Revered by Muslims and Christians alike as the burial place of Jonah, it was destroyed because ISIS believes shrines to be un-Islamic. The explosion was so powerful it also damaged several nearby homes.

Nobody smiled in Mosul.

What struck me the most when I visited Iraq as a journalist in 2012 was how many people smiled at me. On the street, in mosques, in museums, people came up to welcome me to their country. There was a lull in the fighting and the Iraqis were beginning to allow themselves hope. Nothing brought that home to me like the first time I heard gunshots in Baghdad. Early in the trip I was in my hotel room when that distinctive popping noise came from outside. Peeking from my window, I saw a wedding in progress in front of the hotel. Some of the men were firing into the air to celebrate, oblivious to the sensitivities of hotel guests or the consequences of gravity.

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Leonard Nimoy, March 26, 1931 — February 27, 2015

Friday, February 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Leonard Nimoy Dead-smallLeonard Nimoy, the gifted actor who breathed life into the emotionless Vulcan Spock — and in the process created one of the most famous and enduring TV characters of all time — died today in Bel Air, California.

Nimoy was born in Boston in 1931. His first major role was at the age of 21, when he was cast in the title role of the film Kid Monk Baroni (1952), followed by more than 50 small parts in TV shows and B movies, including an Army sergeant in Them! (1954) and a professor in The Brain Eaters (1958). He was a familiar face in westerns throughout the early sixties, appearing in Bonanza (1960), The Rebel (1960), Two Faces West (1961), Rawhide (1961), Gunsmoke (1962), and on NBC’s Wagon Train four times. He starred alongside DeForest Kelley (the future Dr. McKoy) in The Virginian (1963), and with William Shatner in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E (1964).

Nimoy was the only actor to appear in every episode of the original Star Trek series, which ran from 1966-69. He received three Emmy Award nominations for playing Spock, and TV Guide named him one of the 50 greatest TV characters in 2009. The role both haunted him and enriched for the rest of his life — which he famously addressed in two autobiographies, I Am Not Spock (1975) and I Am Spock (1995). After Star Trek ended Nimoy found regular work on the small screen in Mission: Impossible for two seasons, the TV documentary In Search of… , and more recently in Fringe. He also appeared in eight feature-length Star Trek films, including the recent reboots directed by J.J. Abrams. He directed two, Star Trek III: Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Star Trek was one of the first science fiction shows to be taken seriously as adult entertainment, and Leonard Nimoy was a huge part of that success. In his near-perfect portrayal of a hero in flawless control of his emotions, Nimoy connected with his audience — and an entire generation of young SF fans — in a way that very few actors, living or dead, have succeeded in doing. Leonard Nimoy died today of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, at the age of 83.


Goth Chick News: Gather Around, It’s Time for the Annual Stoker Awards

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

A Stoker – the coolest literary trophy ever

A Stoker – the coolest literary trophy ever

Just when you thought you were going to go all Freddy Kruger due to cabin fever, we’ve got a real reason for you to hunker down and stay inside for a while.

The Horror Writers Association just announced the 2014 nominees for the iconic Bram Stoker Award.

Hurrah!

Named in honor of Dracula’s beloved Pappa, the Stokers are presented annually by the HWA for superior writing in eleven categories including traditional fiction of various lengths, poetry, screenplays and non-fiction.

The HWA also presents a Lifetime Achievement Award to living individuals who have made a substantial and enduring contribution to the genre. This year’s Lifetime Achievement recipients are Jack Ketchum (The Box and Closing Time) and Tanith Lee (Cruel Pink and Space is Just a Starry Night).

Presentation of the Stoker will occur during the World Horror Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, Saturday, May 9, 2015.

So get ready to make a list – remember, the groundhog saw his shadow, so you have ample time to get through a few of these.

Here’s the complete list of nominees.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: New Holmes Story Found! Well….

Monday, February 23rd, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Found_scheduleLast week, the Sherlockian world was abuzz with news that a new Holmes story had been discovered: One that was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself back in 1903.

A few basics: On March 5, 1927, “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place” appeared in Liberty Magazine. There would be no more Holmes tales from Doyle’s pen. Thus, the official Sherlockian Canon came to a close at 60: 56 short stories and 4 novels (novellas, really).

Doyle had previously written two short shorts featuring his erstwhile detective. 1896’ “The Field Bazaar” was written to raise funds for Edinburgh University. While in 1924, Doyle wrote and donated “How Watson Learned the Trick” to the Queen’s Dollhouse project.

Hesketh Pearson, when going through Doyle’s papers for a biography, found the outline of a Holmes tale that may or may not have been written by Sir Arthur. Involving a man on stilts, pastiche authors have written the story to less than stellar results.

Of course, being a devout reader of The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes, you already know about the “lost” found Doyle story that was actually written by Arthur Whitaker.

Add in a couple of plays Doyle wrote and you’ve got the official writings by the original author. Though Walter Elliot claims there’s one more.

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Will Steven Spielberg Cast Chris Pratt in the Indiana Jones Reboot?

Saturday, February 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Chris Pratt-smallThe internet is abuzz with rumors that director Steven Spielberg is considering Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt as his next Indiana Jones.

Deadline broke the news last month that Spielberg was interested in Pratt for the Indiana Jones reboot currently in development at Disney; yesterday Deadline expanded on the story, and it was quickly picked up by Forbes, People, io9, and other media sites.

Officially, there is no comment from the famed director, other than to confirm that there is still no script and the project is still in a very early stage. Based on Pratt’s recent popularity — and that fact that he was reportedly Spielberg’s first choice for the hunter role in Jurassic World, the newest installment in the Jurassic Park franchise from Universal coming in June — he seems a logical enough choice, however.

In addition to Jurassic World, Pratt is also scheduled to appear in the upcoming Image comic adaption Cowboy, Ninja, Viking from Universal. He’s also reportedly in talks to join Denzel Washington in a remake of The Magnificent Seven from MGM.

I wasn’t even aware there was a planned reboot of Indiana Jones (or a The Magnificent Seven remake, while we’re on the topic.) After having seen what Pratt accomplished in The Lego Movie and Guardians though, I’m on board. I think he’d make an excellent choice — particularly if Spielberg directs.


SFWA Announces the 2014 Nebula Award Nominations

Friday, February 20th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Goblin Emperor-smallWow, it’s almost the end of February. And that means that the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) finally put an end to all that suspense, and announced the nominees for the 2014 Nebula Awards, one of the most prestigious awards our industry has to offer.

Last year there were no less than eight nominees for best novel; this year that number has dropped back to six. Does this mean there will be less infighting and disagreement over who should win?

You’re kidding, right? (In truth, the debate is half the fun — and it generates a lot of interest in a lot of deserving books.)

This year’s nominees are:

Novel

The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
Trial by Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit)
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor)
Coming Home, Jack McDevitt (Ace)
Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals)

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Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar in Development as a TV series

Friday, February 20th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Dreadstar 3-smallJim Starlin, who has seen several of his most famous comic creations transition to the big screen, has reportedly signed a deal to bring his long-running space opera Dreadstar to television.

Jim Starlin is famous in comic circles as the creator of Thanos, the villain of the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War films, as well as Drax the Destroyer and Gamora, two members of the Guardians of the Galaxy. His run on Captain Marvel, which introduced Thanos and his quest to end all life to prove his love for Death, was a high-water mark for superhero comics of the 1970s, and elements from his Infinity Gauntlet storyline have become the unifying storyline for Phase II of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In 1980 Stalin introduced a new character, Vanth Dreadstar, in Epic Illustrated #3. Dreadstar’s early adventures were eventually collected in Metamorphosis Odyssey, a grim far future tale of a desperate battle against the Zygoteans, who conquer and enslave virtually all life in the Milky Way. Metamorphosis Odyssey ended with Dreadstar and his companions destroying the entire galaxy, rather than have it fall into the hands of the Zygoteans (I told you it was grim).

No one really dies in comics though, and Dreadstar eventually returned in Dreadstar #1, one of the flagship titles of Marvel’s new Epic comic line, in 1982. Epic published 26 issues before Dreadstar switched publishers to First Comics. Starlin wrote and drew all the issues until he left with issue 41 (March 1989), and Peter David took over writing chores. Dreadstar lasted a total of 64 issues.

Dreadstar had a very different feel to Metamorphosis Odyssey. Whereas the latter is considered an allegory, Dreadstar is straight-up space opera. Set a million years after the destruction of the Milky Way, and halfway across the universe, it follows the adventures of Vanth Dreadstar and his crew of gifted oddballs, including the powerful sorcerer Syzygy Darklock and the wise-cracking Skeevo, as they get caught up in a galaxy-spanning conflict between the Monarchy and the tyrannical Church of the Instrumentality. Dreadstar was closer in spirit to Star Wars than anything else, with desperate battles, betrayals, robots, and ancient and mystical powers influencing events at critical moments.

Variety reports that Universal Cable Productions and Benderspink will develop the series, with Starlin serving as executive producer and writer. No word on a release date yet. See the complete article here.


Bumper Year for Buried Treasure in Britain

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

A pile of 697 of the Lenborough hoard coins after cleaning. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

A pile of 697 of the Lenborough hoard coins after cleaning. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

The British have been pretty lucky these past few years. According to the British Museum, numerous treasures have been uncovered by metal detectorists and accidentally by workmen.

One of the most impressive is the Anglo-Saxon coin hoard from Lenborough, Buckinghamshire, found in December of last year, and which the British Museum has just announced it has acquired. Around 5,200 Anglo-Saxon silver pennies, and two cut half pennies, of kings Æthelred II (r.978-1016) and Cnut (r.1016-35), were found wrapped within a lead sheet. The hoard was discovered on a metal-detecting rally, and recovered under the guidance of the local Finds Liaison Officer. The hoard contains coins from more than forty different mints around England, and provides a rare source of information on the circulation of coinage at the time the hoard was buried.

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Marvel Team Up: Spider-Man to Appear in Captain America: Civil War?

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Marvel Civil War-smallWhen unidentified hackers released a host of embarrassing Sony Pictures internal e-mails last year, one of the things they revealed was that Sony, who owns the film rights to Spider-Man, had unsuccessfully negotiated with Marvel Studios, producers of Iron Man, Captain America, and The Avengers, on a possible Spider-Man/Avengers crossover. Just the possibility was tantalizing to Marvel fans, even if it looked like it hadn’t amounted to anything.

Now Marvel and Sony have announced that the crossover will occur after all. Both studios have confirmed that Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film, followed by a Spider-Man film to be released on July 28, 2017. While exact details have not been released, speculation is rampant that the likeliest candidate for the first project is the third Captain America film, Captain America: Civil War, based on the best-selling storyline that prominently featured Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Cap in its comic book incarnation back in 2006.

The announcement is bad news for fans of the Mark Webb-Andrew Garfield incarnation of Spider-Man, however, as BuzzFeed has confirmed that Garfield will not be reprising the role of Spider-Man. That’s unfortunate, as I thought he did a fine job.

The announcement clearly took some major behind-the-scenes effort, as it has shuffled the release dates for Marvel Studios major projects, pushing back almost all of their upcoming films to make room for Sony Pictures’ third Spider-Man picture. The release date for Thor: Ragnarok has been moved from July 28, 2017, to Nov. 3, 2017; Black Panther has been re-scheduled for July 6, 2018, Captain Marvel to Nov. 2, 2018, and Inhumans to July 12, 2019. The three announced Avengers films, Avengers Age of Ulton and Infinity War Part 1 and Part 2, are still scheduled to open on May 1, 2015, May 4, 2018, and May 3, 2019, respectively. Sony Pictures is also moving forward with their previous plans for Spider-Man spin-off films featuring the Sinister Six and Venom, although those release dates will likely be impacted as well.

Read the complete details at Marvel’s website.


Monolith’s Conan Board Game Raises Over $2 Million on Kickstarter

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Conan Monolith-small

Earlier today the Kickstarter campaign for a new Conan miniatures game from start-up Monolith Board Games surpassed $2 million — more than 25 times the $80,000 goal. Monolith has no track record, but they’ve done a fine job generating excitement. Game components  – including double-sided boards and over 70 plastic miniatures — look excellent, and the art, chiefly by Adrian Smith, is terrific. Here’s the description of the core game:

Conan is a miniature-based board game that pits one player, the overlord, who controls hordes of savage tribesmen, no-good lowlifes and undead minions against 1 to 4 players who incarnate the legendary Conan and his fellow adventurers. The gameplay is asymetric, as the overlord possesses a large selection of models and objectives which are his own, whereas the brave heroes are played from a first person perspective, much like in a role playing game. An adventure can be played out in 1 hour on one of the beautiful game boards as you pit your wits, daring and tactical acumen against your opponent.

Who the heck is Monolith, and why should you be giving them your hard earned money?

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