The Poison Apple: Mr. Sci-Fi: An Interview with Marc Zicree and the Future with Space Command

Monday, February 18th, 2019 | Posted by Elizabeth Crowens

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Crowens: I wanted to interview someone whose focus was not only the entertainment industry but also science fiction. Previously, almost everyone I’ve interviewed has been involved in fantasy or horror. After following you on Facebook I really wanted to interview you. Right away, I’ve been able to pick up on your “contagious enthusiasm” and high energy.

Zicree: Glad I could do it.

What was your very first job in the entertainment industry, and how did you get your foot in the door?

I grew up reading in the genre watching the original versions of Star Trek, The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, and I started going to science fiction conventions when I was a teenager growing up here in LA. My heroes were the writers. There was a lot of crossover from the stories I read and the writers from those three shows: Richard Mathieson, Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, Harlan Ellison… they were all doing books and TV shows. When I was ten, I heard Ray Bradbury speak at a local library — a huge influence, and I became a big fan. When I was around fifteen or sixteen-years-old I started going to conventions and meeting them, and from there they became mentors.

There was also a radio show on KPFK in Los Angeles called Hour 25, and they interviewed all the great science fiction writers. Around 1973 when I was eighteen, I wrote a half hour radio play that was a satire of science fiction conventions, TV shows and movies called Lobotomy. So, I wrote, directed and acted in it with three of my friends and it aired on KPFK. On that same show, I heard Harlan Ellison talking about the Clarion Writer’s Workshop. When I was nineteen and an art student at UCLA, I attended Clarion that summer. It was at Michigan State University. The students included people like Kim Stanley Robinson and Robert Crais, who became well-known science fiction and mystery novelists, respectively. Our teachers were Gene Wolfe, Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delaney, Kate Wilhelm, Damon Knight and Joe Haldeman – all very famous and accomplished science fiction writers. It was a great lineup.

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Book of Space Adventures

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

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British kids thrilled to real-world rockets and space travel as did American kids. Sputnik conquered space in 1957. By 1963 both the Russians and the U.S. boasted about astronauts circling the Earth. Canada launched the Alouette 1, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to enter space, signals had been bounced off communications satellites, probes flew by the Moon and Venus. The Dyna-Soar project promised a reusable space craft that looked like the coolest rocket plane ever.

Publishers around the world jumped on the trend. A UK firm called Atlas Publishing & Distributing Ltd. wanted a piece. It released Book of Space Adventures, called on the inside the “Boys’ Book of Space : With factual features on the World’s space programme AND fictional adventures of SPACE ACE – intrepid Commander of the Galactic patrol”.

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Hither Came Conan: Ruminations on “The Phoenix on the Sword”

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Hither_PhoenixDHSwordBobby Derie wrote a great essay on the first Conan story, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” for this Hither Came Conan series. Certainly, better than anything I could ever come up with. But I still wanted to do a post on this tale. Because:

A –I wanted to contribute more than just what is likely going to be a bottom-rung essay on my assignment (fans of “Rogues in the House” – sorry, you drew the short straw); and

B – I’m pretty sure “Phoenix” was the first Conan story I read. Now, it might have been “The Thing in the Crypt,” in the first Lancer/Ace collection, which I had bought and then stuck on a shelf for at least a decade or two. But I didn’t remember that story when I started going through the Ace books, AFTER exploring Conan via the Del Rey trilogy. So, I think it was “Phoenix.”

So, because I’m a wordy typer, what started out as just one-third of a post on the first three essays in our series, grew into a solo show.

The Phoenix on the Sword

It is well known that “The Phoenix on the Sword,” the first story of Conan the Cimmerian, was a rewrite of a previously unsold tale of an earlier Howard character, Kull, an exile from Atlantis.

Howard sold three Kull stories to Weird Tales, appearing in the August and September issues of 1929, and finally, in November of 1930. Howard also wrote nine more tales about the character, which were not published until after his death. So, only 25% of his Kull stories sold. Not exactly a money-maker.

However, “By This Axe I Rule!”, which had failed to sell to Argosy and Adventure, was dusted off to feature a less philosophical barbarian.

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Mage: The Hero Denied 14

Friday, January 18th, 2019 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Mage 14So we’re down to the penultimate issue of the entire Mage trilogy. Obviously, I’m not expecting any big reveals until the very last issue, so this one is just going to let things simmer just a little bit further until the boil.

We begin with the reveal that Magda and Hugo did NOT kill a Gracklethorn last issue, instead just knocking her out. When two of her sisters find her, they set her free, then start squabbling about what to do about their prisoners escaping. Their argument is interrupted when Karol walks in holding the Fisher King.

The scene shifts to Hugo and Magda walking through a cavern. Magda mentions that the doorway they entered through disappeared, so they can’t go back the way they came. She then reasons that “it had an entrance, which means that it has to have an exit as well.” And while that’s not technically true, she’s likely just saying that to calm her son. Up next, Hugo sees a troll with his magic glasses and knocks it off a cliff with a magic light bulb before it can sneak up on his mother. Before they can go any further, Magda’s wedding ring lights up, which apparently signifies that it’s detected Kevin nearby.

We cut to a scene of Kevin holding Excalibur, which suggests that the Magda’s ring didn’t detect him so much as detect the ignition of his magic. After killing what looks like the entire Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, Kevin is asked by Mirth if he’s all right. It’s at this point that Kevin mentions (for I believe the first time in this series) that his hands sometimes hurt after he uses his power. Mirth explains that, while Kevin’s power continues to grow, it will become more than he can handle. As Kevin, Mirth, and Miranda continue through the caves, we see the little imp hiding behind a rock, observing them.

Cut back to the Fisher King, who explains that he’s finally come out of hiding so that he can bear witness to the “moment of confluence.” He does a whole nine-panel spread of shape-shifting to show that he can assume a variety of forms and a variety of names and that none of them really matter. Olga is about to kill him, when Karol reminds her that the Umbra Sprite needs him alive for the ritual. This is the ritual that the Umbra Sprite has been planning since the very beginning of Hero Discovered. Of course, at this point, the Gracklethorns have no idea where their mother is or how to reach her.

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A Smattering of Sexbots

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

sexbot vibrate pulse Liberty Antonia Sadler for Metro.co.uk

Sexbots are as ubiquitous today as Starbucks. My Google news feed overruns with stories on sexbot brothels. No modern genre, especially animated ones, can feel properly inclusive without a sexbot gumming up the moral works, which in some cases might not be a euphemism.

‘Twasn’t always so. Sexbots go back a surprisingly long way in the arts but were seldom allowed to explicitly ply their trade after a spectacular introduction. They appear for the first time, as far as I can discover, exactly where stereotypes suggest: in the France where ladies don’t wear pants, the underground world of Parisian pornography.

You’ve never heard of Alphonse Momas, and not merely because he wrote under a zillion pseudonyms, but during his free hours from his job at the Seine prefecture, he was the leading purveyor of pornography to fin de siècle France. Millenials didn’t invent sex and neither did the baby boomers. Momas’ titles are like a catalog from the modern explicit upwelling of anything goes 1970s porn: Mistress of His Son, The Notebooks of Miss Callypia, The Woman with Dogs, Bloody Buttock, Fetish Lovers, The Eater of Men, The Virgin Fall.

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Mage: The Hero Denied #13

Friday, November 30th, 2018 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Mage The Hero Defined 13-small“Remember, Kevin, in the world of magic … things aren’t always as they seem!”

That’s a line from Mirth in this latest issue. This time, I’ll talk about what we see in this issue (spoilers), as well as what I think is really going on (double spoilers).

So, it opens with Mirth appearing before Kevin and Miranda, telling them that his power has been greatly reduced as Kevin’s power has grown. All he can do at this point is guide them to the Umbra Sprite’s lair and advise them along the way.

Meanwhile, Magda and Hugo are still wandering through the Umbra Sprite’s lair when they are approached by one of the Gracklethorns. This one is taken out rather easily with a can of magic hairspray. And by “taken out,” I mean killed, because Magda tells her son that they have to hide the body before they move on. They choose to hide in a closet and re-think their strategy, but the closet door that Magda opens leads into a vast cavern complex.

Back to Kevin and Mirth, with two pages of dialogue that I think gives away the game. Kevin mentions that Mirth’s hair has gone from white to black again, assuming that he has finally recovered from being trapped in a bank teller machine way back in the first series. Mirth mentions that the bandages that cover his legs (or specifically the spaces where his legs once were) are now also covering his arms, as he’s acquired new scars. He then ridicules Kevin for thinking that his one bat-strike against the Umbra Sprite in the second volume could have done anything more than annoy it.

Eventually, Mirth is able to dispel the illusion that hides the Umbra Sprite’s tower. Kevin manages to defeat a two-headed acid-spewing dragon and then Kevin, Mirth, and Miranda make their way into the cavern at the base of the tower. Of course, the caverns that they enter at the bottom of the tower look similar to the caverns that Magda and Hugo enter near the top of the tower, implying that they’ll meet each other somewhere in these caverns, probably next issue. It’s also significant that we see the imp hiding behind a rock, observing Kevin, Mirth, and Miranda.

The issue ends with Karol Gracklethorn, working in a rescue mission in her human guise, being approached by a one-legged hippie who announces that he is the Fisher King and that he knows she’s been looking for him. And that’s the issue.

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Stan Lee, the World’s Greatest Comic Book Writer: 1922-2018

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018 | Posted by Thomas Parker

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I never really thought Stan Lee would die. I’ve been saying for years that as long as there was a single nickel to be squeezed, Stan the Man would be making his cameo and taking his executive producer credit and raking in the long green.

I guess we now live in a nickleless universe, and there will be a blank spot somewhere around the margins of the next Marvel cinematic blockbuster. Stan Lee took a last intrepid leap into the Negative Zone on Monday, November 12. He was 95.

As W.S. Gilbert wrote long ago, “I often think it’s comical/How nature always does contrive/That every boy and every gal/That’s born into the world alive/Is either a little Liberal/Or else a little Conservative!” Gilbert and Sullivan never wrote a comic opera about superheroes (oh that they had!), but the observation applies as much to comic books as it does to politics. It’s certainly possible to appreciate both, but at the end of the day you’re either Marvel or you’re DC.

When I was a kid in the 60’s and 70’s, in the prime of my comic book buying and reading years, I was DC all the way. I had hundreds of comics, but very few were Marvels. There was something about them that I just didn’t trust. The combination of self-mockery and over-the-top rhetoric put me off. The goofy syntax and leather-lunged self-promotion that screamed from a thousand Gil Kane-drawn covers proclaimed that unlike the solid, stolid DC products, these weren’t serious comic books. (You know what I mean — titles like “Whence Comes the Werebeast!!” and banners proclaiming that the story is “Another Mighty Masterpiece in the Munificent Marvel Manner!!” and stuff like that.)

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The Beauty in Life and Death: An Interview with Sebastian Jones

Sunday, October 21st, 2018 | Posted by SELindberg

Erathune-small Niobe She is Death-small Essessa-small

Niobe returns to reclaim her throne in 3 tales. Get the Erathune hardcover, She is Death #1 & #2, and the vampire epic, Essessa #1!

It is not intuitive to seek beauty in art deemed grotesque/weird, but most authors who produce horror/fantasy actually are usually (a) serious about their craft, and (b) driven my strange muses. This interview series engages contemporary authors & artists on the theme of “Art & Beauty in Weird/Fantasy Fiction.” Previously we cornered weird fantasy authors like John Fultz, Janeen Webb, Aliya Whiteley, and Richard Lee Byers. Recently we heard from the legendary author and editor of weird fiction, Darrell Schweitzer!

This round we corner Sebastian A. Jones: Author, actor, and teacher, Sebastian A. Jones grew up in England and moved to America at the age of eighteen where he founded MVP Records, releasing albums that included James Brown, John Coltrane, and Billie Holiday. In 2008 he founded Stranger Comics and Stranger Kids. Sebastian has written children’s books including Pinata and co-created the I Am book series with Garcelle Beauvais, including titles I Am Mixed and I Am Living in 2 Homes. Under Stranger’s dark fantasy line Asunda, he has received critical praise for his written work on The Untamed: A Sinner’s PrayerDusu: Path of the Ancient, and Niobe: She is Life, co-authored by Amandla Stenberg.

Note that the Asunda, the world of Niobe, is being realized with Pathfinder for RPG lovers. Check out the recent Paizo interview for more, and the ongoing Kickstarter which brings an omnibus versions of Niobe to life.

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Sorcerous Worlds at Valiant Comics

Saturday, October 13th, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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I attended New York ComicCon last weekend and am still processing a lot of it. The definition of drinking through a fire hose is certainly apt. By Friday afternoon and all of Saturday, walking through the exhibit hall or artist alley was an exercise is fluid dynamics, but I was there for panels, especially the publisher panels where they talked about their editorial vision and about their new titles.

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New Treasures: The Fantastic Four: Behold… Galactus! by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, John Byrne and John Buscema

Friday, October 5th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Fantastic Four Behold Galactus 2

Just how big is the monster-sized Fantastic Four: Behold… Galactus! from Marvel Comics?

HUGE. Several comparison shots have popped up (including Charles R Rutledge’s side-by-side with a Robert Parker hardcover), but my favorite is the one above, borrowed from Bobby Nash’s Patreon page, which shows the book alongside a regulation-size graphic novel. Behold… Galactus! is an impressive 13.5 x 21.2 inches; big enough to double as a kitchen table.

Any way you slice it, this book is a beast. Its massive 312 pages contain virtually all of the early tales of Galactus from Fantastic Four, including Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s beloved 60s classic “The Coming of Galactus” (from Fantastic Four #48-50) and its sequel “When Calls Galactus” (FF #74-77), plus the Lee-Buscema tale “Galactus Unleashed” (FF #120-123), and John Byrne’s 80s take on the Big G, from FF #242-244 (which includes the famous free-for-all “Everyone Versus Galactus,” from FF 243.)

Monster format aside, these classic stories still make terrific reading, especially the Lee-Kirby tales. The Fantastic Four remains my favorite Marvel Comic, and this book will help you understand why. It was published by Marvel on September 11, 2018. It is 312 pages, priced at $50 in hardcover and $24.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Alex Ross. See all our recent Comics coverage here.


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