One Impossible Thing at a Time: Star Trek: Picard

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

Picard 1

It’s not the way I would have done it.

But it is pretty close!

Star Trek: Picard (ST:P), now available for free at CBS All Access, is the antidote to Star Trek: Discovery. As opposed to the heedless headlong rush of Discovery, Picard takes its time, building a story slowly and meticulously.

Others have said it before and likely better, but I’m going to say it myself — ST:P is made to appeal to people of, well, a certain age. Maybe age is not the right word, maybe it is made to appeal to people of a certain mileage. A mileage that includes some success, some failure, some pain, some loss, and some punishment for good deeds. ST:P has, as some of the best Star Trek has, a kind of multi-level relevance that is hard to beat.

Speaking of which, some people object to the overt political message of this series. I am not one of those people. If you are one of those people, hey guess what, we’re not gonna agree.

And, of course, it has Patrick Stewart, an iconic actor, reprising his iconic role as Jean Luc Picard.

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Rogue Blades Presents: Who Was Your First Hero?

Friday, May 29th, 2020 | Posted by Ty Johnston

Kirk-Spock-McCoyDo you remember your first hero? Any kind of hero. It could have been a hero from a movie or a book or a television show, even a hero from real life.

As a child of the 1970s, one might think Luke Skywalker was my first hero, but I would turn eight years old a month after the original Star Wars was released in theaters, and by then I already had plenty of heroes.

Re-runs of the original Star Trek TV show from the 1960s were still airing, and I watched every one of them. Of the crew of the Enterprise, Captain James T. Kirk seemed the most heroic of the figures presented to us viewers, or at least he stood in the most traditional of the heroic modes.

Then there was the Six Million Dollar Man, starring actor Lee Majors from 1973 to 1978 on television. For those not familiar with the series, Majors played U.S. astronaut Steve Austin who was seriously injured in an accident. Not only did Steve survive his accident, but the government decided, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology.” And they did. Steve got some bionic legs and an arm and an eye. He fought crime. And Bigfoot. It was awesome.

Some might not consider Godzilla a hero, but by the time of my childhood in the ’70s, Godzilla was mainly a good guy, so he was a hero of sorts to many of us. For better or worse, my first Godzilla movie was Godzilla vs. Megalon, a film sometimes not remembered fondly by Godzilla fans. Either way, I was maybe five years old when my dad drug me into an old downtown theater to witness the spectacle of this movie, and again, I have to say it was awesome.

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Star Trek: Discovery: A Quick Dive Into the New Face of the Franchise

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

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Review’s Log, Stardate 2020.3.18

It’s not how I would have done it.

Honestly, any review/criticism of a beloved franchise that doesn’t begin with those eight words is committing a significant lie of omission. Indeed, I feel that all future reviews should be required to begin with those words, or the INHIWHDI acronym. Consider it a new Prime Directive for our wounded age.

Reviewer’s Log, Supplemental

Timing is everything, and Star Trek: Discovery (ST:D) really drew the short end of the stick on this one. When I got CBS All Access I didn’t know it was all access. As in the entire CBS backlog. Original Series Trek, Next Generation Trek, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and the Animated Series from ’74.

It is not ST:D’s fault that I dove right into the Animated Series (ST:TAS) as soon as I realized I had it. And ST:TAS was just as weird/cool/funky as you would think it was. It was also delightfully subversive and progressive. Uhuru commands the Enterprise twice. Is there even a live-action Trek that has a black woman in the big chair? Chapel solves The Problem once and solves The Other Problem once. Also, Kzinti.

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IMHO: Giving Voices to Your Characters

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

JamesDoohan_scotty

James Doohan (as Scotty): “I’m giving her all she’s got, Capt’n!”

I owe a great debt of gratitude to my two good friends, who were of immense help to me in the creation and shaping of my two (so far) volumes of Mad Shadows. Neither are strangers to Black Gate, for I interviewed both of them for this e-zine: Ted Rypel (author of the Saga of Gonji Sabatake: The Deathwind Trilogy, Fortress of Lost Worlds, A Hungering of Wolves, and Dark Ventures); and David C. Smith (author of the Oron series, The Fall of the First World Trilogy, the original Red Sonja novels (with Richard L. Tierney), Dark Muse, the recently-released Bright Star; Robert E. Howard: A Literary Biography, for which he won the 2018 Atlantean Award from the Robert E. Howard Foundation, and many other novels, including Waters of Darkness, on which we collaborated.) Both gentlemen write wonderful dialogue, and taught me how to make my characters “talk like real folks.”

Now, I don’t claim to be a great writer nor do I think I’m a “know-it-all” when it comes to plotting, creating characters, telling a story and writing crisp, entertaining and enlightening dialogue. I am far from being a literary genius. I’m not a college professor or a grammar Nazi. I’m not here to tell you what to do and how to do it. We each have our own styles and methods. I’m here to just pass on my own way of doing things, hoping what I have to say will help a writer or two. As far as creating compelling dialogue is concerned — and we’ve all heard this one — my personal rule is:

Give Each of Your Characters Their Own Unique Voice.

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Vintage Treasures: The Space Anthologies, edited by David Drake with Charles G. Waugh and Martin Harry Greenberg

Thursday, December 26th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Space Gladiators-small Space Infantry-small Space Dreadnoughts-medium

Covers by Walter Velez

Almost exactly a month ago I wrote about a trio of military/adventure science fiction anthologies edited by Joe Haldeman, Charles G. Waugh, and Martin Harry Greenberg, and published by Ace Books between 1986-88: Body Armor: 2000, Supertanks, and Space Fighters. Today they’re called the Tomorrow’s Warfare trilogy, and they’re a fun and collectible set of vintage paperbacks well worth tracking down, especially if you enjoy 80s-vintage military/adventure fantasy or are even remotely curious about 80s science fiction in general. Check out all the details here.

Haldeman did no further books with Waugh and Greenberg. But I suspect the three he did were fairly successful, as scarcely a year later David Drake picked up the reins and produced three books with them in the exact same vein:

Space Gladiators (1989)
Space Infantry (1989)
Space Dreadnoughts (1990)

These are loosely referred to as the Space anthologies (by me, anyway), and they followed the same formula as the previous titles, with stories from the most popular writers of the day including a Retief novella by Keith Laumer, a Dorsai tale by Gordon R. Dickson, a Magnus Ridolph novelette by Jack Vance, a Falkenberg’s Legion story by Jerry Pournelle, a Hammer’s Slammers novelette by David Drake, a Thousand Worlds tale by George R. R. Martin, plus the Hugo-award winning “Allamagoosa” by Eric Frank Russell, the classic “Arena” by Fredric Brown (inspiration for the famed Star Trek episode of the same name), and fiction by Isaac Asimov, Brian W. Aldiss, Arthur C. Clarke, Fritz Leiber, Joe Haldeman, Poul Anderson, Algis Budrys, Jack Williamson, Michael Shaara, Mack Reynolds, C. M. Kornbluth, and many others.

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Quatro-Decadal Review, November 1979: A Brief Look Back

Sunday, October 7th, 2018 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

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When you’re seven years old, you do not see what’s coming next between these two

I’m about to get into the November 1979 science fiction magazines. Dive Deep. But, there is a fundamental difference between November 1969, and November 1979 — I was born in 1969, but by 1979 I was 10 years old. I remember 1979. Or pieces of it anyway.

Before I got into the magazines I thought I’d see what I could recall from my younger years. In short — Star Wars is what I remember.

It loomed large over almost everything in my life at the time. I think I went to see it like… 7 times? And back then, back in 1977, that took work, dude.

I remember disco, I remember “Disco Duck.” I had, by 1979, watched the entire run of Star Trek (and I have to say, when you are 8-10 years old, each Star Trek episode was almost as good as Star Wars).

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Modular: Take Command of Star Trek Adventures

Monday, March 12th, 2018 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Star-Trek-The-Command-Division-Cover-No-LogosFans love Star Trek for different reasons, and when a fan moves into gaming within the Star Trek universe, those reasons usually inform the type of character they want to emphasize in their games. Do they want to be, like Spock or Data, the science officer who can coolly reason through any problem that comes up? Do they want to be the medical officer who saves lives while chaos erupts around them? The security officer who goes hand-to-hand with a Klingon warrior? The engineer who can make any technological miracle into reality? The hotshot pilot who can maneuver through any cluster of asteroids? Or the Captain of a starship, in charge of herding together all of these elements as they explore the distant unknown regions of space?

A handful of games have been versatile enough to cater to all of these types of fans. The video game Star Trek Online just celebrated its 8th anniversary, and it has a diverse style that allows easily for group or solo play, where players can create characters and take missions that interest them. There are missions that are mostly story-driven diplomatic missions, and some that are primarily about shooting the bad guys, either on ground away missions or in starship combat.

Last August, at GenCon, Modiphius Entertainment released the public version of their tabletop roleplaying game Star Trek Adventures. I’ve been running a group through since December 2016, when the game came out in a public playtest, and have been really pleased with it through all of the transformations into the official release. The system does a great job of allowing for diverse characters and capturing the feel of an episode of whichever Star Trek series is your cup of tea. (Earl Grey, hot, of course.)

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Tell Me A Story: Levar Burton Reads

Monday, February 12th, 2018 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

Reading Rainbow

Admit it. You are singing this song in your head right now. And possibly craving fruit loops.

I’m a child of the 80s. And 90s. I’m technically a member of a little sliver generation in between Gen X and the Millennials, and even that depends on who wrote the chart you’re looking at. But the point is, Levar Burton was a pivotal figure in my childhood. First through “Reading Rainbow”, the long running and highly acclaimed literacy program for children on PBS, and then via “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. I still remember the first season of Reading Rainbow: it premiered in 1983, and I was an avid watcher. When “The Next Generation” premiered four years later, I was just at an age to appreciate it. So when I heard that Burton was launching a new podcast series for adults via Stitcher, I was quick to subscribe.

It has been an outstanding addition to my podcast feed.

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Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Desperate Hours – A One-Two Combo

Saturday, September 30th, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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This week saw the first new Star Trek TV show debut in a long time. If you missed it, or because subscribing to CBS All-Access for a single show irks you, it was more than pretty good. In fact, I downright enjoyed myself in a way I haven’t since the Star Trek: Enterprise debuted in 2001. And it was my 12-year old son’s first real experience of Star Trek.

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GenCon 2017, Pt. 2: Science Fiction Edition

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

starfinderScience fiction themes were front and center at GenCon this year, in a way that surpasses what I have seen in previous years. Usually the science fiction games are almost entirely tied into existing property lines, like the various Star Wars miniature battle lines produced by Fantasy Flight Games. These were certainly present, but they were matched by new science fiction games that had an appeal independent of being tied to well-established and beloved properties.

I’ll dig into several of these games more deeply in future full reviews, but for now here are some high-level looks at some of the new science fiction-themed games and expansions from GenCon.

Starfinder

The release of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game was one of the central events of the convention, the science fiction/space fantasy game set in the distant future of Paizo’s Pathfinder universe. We’ve spoken about Starfinder previously (see here, here, and here). I’ve been enthusiastic about the prospect of this game since the day it was announced, so it’s a pleasure to see that its release was an astounding success. As Erik Mona of Paizo explained to me, the company had looked at their past records and brought more copies of the Starfinder Core Rulebook than the number of any previous book they’ve ever released at GenCon … and it sold out in less than 7 hours. (The PDF, however, is available through Paizo.com for only $9.99!)

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