January 2012

Fringe May Be No More

Fringe has become a cult hit with tons of fan fiction and supporters rallying behind it through the years. It's a high production value show and with mediocre rating, and Fox may be tempted to cut the purse strings and make this its final season.

Fringe has struggled for years and has been under the threat of cancellation before only to be saved from the fire at the last minute. The network has openly admitted that it's losing money on the show, but in the past the DVR and Hulu percentages have been high enough to keep giving it a chance. Those days may be over.

While nothing has been made official, even the cast have hinted that they think the show may not make it past this season. I think everyone is trying to stay positive, but unless people start tuning in on Fridays, it's not going to be on for much longer. The sad thing is that it may take a while for the network to make the final decision and writers will be force to either scramble to put together some type of series finale or simply leave it as a cliffhanger and keep fans of the show wondering what ever happened to Peter, Walter and Olivia.

World War Z

Max Brooks' masterpiece of the Zombie Apocalypse
I seem to be working my way backwards through the canon of zombie literature. I started with Zone One: A Novel, which I loved beyond reason. A friend, hearing how much I loved Zone One, loaned me his copy of World War Z a few weeks ago. I have been picking it up and nibbling on it ever since; it is a book which lends itself well to being read in bite-sized pieces. (Heh.)
 
If you crave a longer, meatier narrative, then World War Z is not the book for you. Its story is told in fractured pieces, a pastiche which creates, layer upon layer, the story of the global zombie apocalypse. As each puzzle piece is added, you begin to make connections between the bits, which forms a truly massive meta-narrative of the spread of "African rabies" (as the plague was briefly code named). 

The Appeal of Tongue-in-Cheek

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

Grave Peril was January's selection for the sci-fi/fantasy book club I belong to.  This is the third book in Jim Butcher's Dresden series -- we read the first two books last summer.

After months of more serious stuff -- some high fantasy, a little steampunk -- it was refreshing to read another Dresden novel.  One of the things I like best about these books is how tongue-in-cheek they are.  They read like Butcher spends most of the time just having fun with his characters and his stories, and I think that's pretty refreshing, especially in urban fantasy.  Although a lot of the books in the genre include some comic relief, they usually don't spend the entire book poking fun at themselves.

The Return of Dr. Who...To The Big Screen

British television series Dr. Who is no stranger to the movie or book treatment. Through the years, there have been many television movies detailing the exploits of the Time Lord, but usually in context to the series.

A new film is in development that will feature the good Doctor, but have nothing to do with the television series. I equate it to the Beverly Hillbillies Movie. It's about the characters, but didn't follow any real plot with the series.

This could be a good or bad thing for fans who hoped to see Matt Smith or David Tennent reprise their roles on the big screen. Odds are the Doctor will be someone completely new, possibly a Hollywood name. The story itself is still under development, but rumor has it that its going to be stripped down to its basic elements.

The goal isn't to attract Dr. Who fans to the movie theater, but to make a movie that will make non-Dr. Who fans want to watch it. That means throwing out what you know and creating something new. The basic story will be there, but since its probably going to be a studio film, that means that it will be glitzed and glamored up into something hardly recognizable.

The Handmaid's Tale

It doesn't quite stand up to its literary counterpart.

I watched the 1990 movie The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time last night. Like most people, I’m a fan of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian, epistolary novel about a young handmaid in a world where women are used for their reproductive capacities, rather than their minds.

The Definition of Science Fiction

Taylor Five by Ann Halam

I seem to remember being taught in school that science fiction is essentially a fictional world or story based on currently known scientific fact.  For instance, if you read A Princess of Mars, you can see that the author's representation of Martian terrain and creatures are based in part on what was known of the planet at the time.  It may be known that those things aren't correct now, but it's still science fiction because it was based on what scientists knew about Mars back then.

But I'm getting away from my point, which is that science fiction isn't always about space, despite what people tend to picture when they think of the genre: Star Trek, Star Wars, The HItchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, etc.  Some of the best science fiction is actually much more subtle than that.

Post-Apocalyptic Fiction And Our Animal Brains

Post-apocalyptic fiction has been around for a while, but it's mainstream now and for good reason.

In 2006 Cormac McCarthy wrote a brilliant, desolate little novel called The Road (which spawned a middling film starring Viggo Mortenson), and officially gave the post-apocalyptic genre chops in the literary world. There's always been a strange pull to envisioning the end of the world, or more appropriately, after the end of the world. Almost always a barren and dangerous place populated by what's left of humanity at it's worst, there's nonetheless an allure about it. In the last decade or so there has been a popular resurgence in the genre. A sleugh of blockbuster movies imagining every possible way in which our little blue planet may suffer a mass extinction event have now made the idea a kind of silly joke, while more intensive literary explorations on the subject have spawned their own cinematic and television events. The Walking Dead, an expertly crafted graphic novel on the now-popularized zombie apocalypse has spun off into a successful two-season television series, as have the Zombie Survival novels. What is this relatively recent interest in the end of the world, and humanity's ability to survive it?

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

When I first heard about the trials and tribulations of Arthur Dent, I was in high school and a friend said “You have got to read this, it's hilarious.” Never one to turn down a good book, I eagerly read Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and...well...wasn't impressed.

At the time, my humor was more attuned to the slapstick type than the more dry British humor. I couldn't quite see the point of a depressed robot or figure out why someone would elect that person as president. As a member of the planet Earth at the time, and still, I didn't like the idea of being blown up to make room for a space highway.

I returned the book and had no interest of reading the follow-ups. Fast forward many years later, and my humor had advanced to the point where fart jokes weren't the honly things that brought tears to my eyes. I watched the movie and found it funny, so decided I would give the book another try. The second time around, I found the book much funnier and laughed out loud a few times.

The Star Wars Universe

While I am diehard Star Trek fan, I also love the Star Wars universe and all that it encompasses. The plight of the Jedis against the forces of the darkside went from a popular trifecta of movies to an empire that spans movies, television, books, games, graphic novels and an incalculable number of product tie-ins.

The core of the story has always revolved around the Skywalker family, and its rise to power and fall from grace. Anakin began as a bright young boy with a bright future and became cocky and rebellious teen and finally a jealous hate filled man that is turned into Darth Vader by the emperor.

Anakin's own son ends up defeating him and that's where the movies end, but not the story. The books and novels continue the story and Luke Skywalkers' own path to the darkside. They talk about his children and the children of Leia and Han Solo.

The return of the emperor through cloning and the never ending battle of good versus evil. That at its heart is what Star Wars is all about. Battling not only the evil in the world, but the evil that resides in ourselves. We see how hatred, envy and jealousy can transform even the most righteous person into a shadow of their former self.