The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.

Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Shadows Of The Fall - A Look at Una McCormack's Star Trek: The Fall: The Crimson Shadow

Star Trek: The Fall: The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack - 2013

Ask any Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fan who their favorite character was on the television show and see what answer you get.  Some will say Worf, others might say Quark or Odo, and still others might say O’Brien.  But those that I know almost overwhelmingly say Elim Garak.  And that, at least for me, was the major appeal of The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack.

So who is Garak?  Well, he is the son of the former head of the Obsidian Order (a sort of Cardassian gestapo) and a former operative of that same organization.  Following the occupation of Bajor, he was sent into exile and forced to reside aboard the Federation controlled DS-9 space station in the Bajoran system.  While there, Garak was couched in mystery and intrigue while acting as a “simple tailor” supplying the people of DS-9 with services including uniform alterations, as well as some services more suited to his role as a member of the Order.  But, when the Dominion decided to adopt a scorched earth policy at the end of the Dominion War, Garak repatriated himself and took over the defense of Cardassia following the death of Damar rallying the cardassian people with his battle cry “For Cardassia!”  While Cardassia may have turned her back on Garak, he never turned his back on Cardassia.

The events of The Crimson Shadow take place concurrently with the events of the first book of The Fall series (five books in all), Revelation and Dust.  In that first installment, during a dedication ceremony of the newly Federation built Deep Space Nine, Federation president Nan Bacco is assassinated in front of the station’s personnel and visiting dignitaries from many worlds.  Initially, it is thought that a Bajoran is responsible, but it is soon learned that this is not the case.

It is time for a contingent of Starfleet personnel to be evacuated after helping the Cardassians begin to rebuild their world.  The USS Enterprise is ferrying Ambassador Garak back to Cardassia to attend the ceremonies for that event.   Plans are derailed when a Bajoran Starfleet officer turns up murdered.  An investigation ensues.  Is this murder racially or politically motivated?  Who is responsible?  How does this tie in with the assassination of the Federation president?  Many on Cardassia aren’t happy with the amenable relationship between with the Federation and would be more than happy to see that come to an end so that Cardassia can be, once again, raised to its former level of glory, but others realize that the alpha quadrant of the galaxy is becoming a much smaller place and good relations with the Federation is not only desireable, but quite necessary considering the aftermath of the Dominion War.

If you are looking for a lot of action, The Crimson Shadow is not the place to find it.  No big battles and no explosions.  What you will find is a stupendous story that goes deep into the political workings and maneuverings of the Cardassian government as they try to recover from a war that almost wiped out their entire civilization.  Garak is the main focus of this novel and McCormack did an outstanding job of capturing everything that we have come to expect from that mysterious character; his love for his homeland, his ruthless pursuit of his agenda, his ability to get things done, and his incredible cutting wit.

It is interesting how this story is written.  It never slows down, but at the same time it plods along through the story, and before the reader realizes it, the story is over leaving one wanting more, in a good way.  McCormack's treatment is outstanding.

I highly recommend that fans of Deep Space Nine read The Crimson Shadow, but first you should read the first installment of the series, Revelation and Dust by David R. George III.  Unfortunately, the reviews for Revelation and Dust are mixed with leanings toward the negative; but I thought it was quite good myself and urge readers to give it a chance and decide for yourself.  My review for Revelation and Dust can be found HERE.

Well, there it is…


Friday, October 25, 2013

Michael Jan Friedman's I Am The Salamander - A Kickstarter Project - Be A Superhero

I Am The Salamander - A Kickstarter Project by Michael Jan Friedman

Fans of Star Trek novels are all familiar with the work of author Mike Friedman.  We have come to appreciate his work as fine quality reading in that universe.  Now Mike is going indie and working on publishing a new novel aimed at young adults, creating a new universe with a superhero at the center.  And this new superhero is…

A salamander?

As a youngster growing up on the west coast, I used to play with salamanders and never really thought of them as very menacing.  I asked Mike about this and he responded:

“Salamanders are certainly NOT menacing, I agree. That was part of the challenge for me. I wanted to take something that was yucky like a bat or a spider (because if you're going to imitate, why not imitate the best?) but also quirky, with "powers" very different from the kind you see in most superheroes (super strength, speed, flying ability, etc.). I was pleased to find out that salamanders DO suggest an interesting array of powers even if they're not super strong or super-fast. One power I've mentioned elsewhere is the ability to see into the ultraviolet end of the spectrum. But there are others, which you'll find out when you read the book.”

All kidding aside though, this is a serious project that Mike has been thinking about for a long time.  You see, his hero, Tim Cruz, is a juvenile cancer survivor.  Don’t misunderstand though; this new book isn’t about cancer as much as it is intended to be an inspiration for kids that are suffering from debilitating illnesses.  The author has chosen to tell this story in the superhero format because he, as many of us were, inspired by comic book superheroes ourselves.

So why is Mike trying to fund this through Kickstarter rather than publishing through his normal channels?  Well, it is because he wants this to be something that can be available for a long time.  The shelf life of novels in stores when published through the major publishing houses is limited.  I also asked Mike about this…

“Regarding shelf life: Obviously it depends on the book and how well it's selling. However, it's not unusual for even a relatively successful sci-fi novel to remain on the shelves for just a few months. Book store shelf life has devolved into the magazine range. Part of the reason is the need to make room for new books, which are showing up at an increased rate because publishers aren't making as much on the sales volume of a given title; the only way to meet gross profit goals is to put out MORE titles.”

So, in order to assure that this book is available far into the future, he is asking that we invest $5000 to defray the costs of paper, printing, and cover art.  He can tell you far better than I can, so here is the video that appears on the I Am The Salamander Kicstarter page…

I am more than happy to assist Mike in raising the funding for this project because my own life has been touched by juvenile cancer in ways that I am not at liberty to discuss on this forum.  But also, suffice it to say that as a professional educator, I will welcome anything that will give hope and inspiration to kids, especially those who have little hope and know too much discouragement in their lives.  And we all know that this will be quality work considering it is from the mind of a fine author.

Here are the links to follow:

Check out the Kickstarter page to see how the project is going and see what perks you will receive once the project is funded.

Well, there it is…


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Star Trek Continues Is Looking For Help To Continue - The "Kirkstarter" Campaign

Star Trek Continues Kickstarter Campaign

Last May, I wrote a review of an episode of a continuation of original series Star Trek entitled Star Trek Continues: Pilgrim of Eternity.  To be brief, I was completely sold that this was “not like Star Trek, it IS Star Trek” (quote from another fan of the episode).  Following the release of Pilgrim, many others were so impressed that they began flooding the website, Facebook, and Twitter with requests to be allowed to help produce further episodes with donations of money.
Well, those who want to help have gotten their wish through the Star Trek Continues Kickstarter campaign.

The man who plays Captain Kirk on STC funded the first episode himself as part of a life-long dream to have a significant role in a Trek show.  Now Vic Mignogna is looking for the fans help to continue producing more episodes, about three a year, to complete the “five year mission” as it was intended to be back in the 1960’s.

This is a project that is being produced out of a love for original series Trek and is not just like the original, it is precisely accurate right down to the story content, uniforms, and sets.  I would urge any Trek Fan to give the first episode a look.

If you would like to know more about why Vic and the rest of the cast and crew are doing this series, I would recommend that, along with the STC Kickstarter page, you give a listen to a recent episode of the Scifi Diner Podcast that features an interview with Vic.

That’s enough from me; here is the video that is posted on the Kickstarter site:

So here are some other links mentioned above:

Please watch the episode and consider helping with the production of future episodes.  As you can see, STC episodes are huge undertakings to assure quality and authenticity.  There are numerous rewards offered at many different levels of support.  As of the time of my writing of this, there are 19 days left and the project is only about 1/3 funded, leaving a long way to go.

And yes, in case you were wondering, I did make a pledge of support myself.

Well, there it is…


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Dune Saga Podcast Is Now Live

Dune Saga Podcast

I swore I would never do it.  I promised myself that I would never do a podcast.  I just didn’t have the time to learn how, or the equipment.   Oh I had no problem recording and sending in comments to the Scifi Diner Podcast and to a few others when, and if I thought I had something intelligent to contribute.  As time went on, I was invited to be a guest commentator on the Diner’s Rewind show where we talked about films.  It was great fun.  But still I kept telling myself that I would not do, or be on as a host of a podcast.

Never say never.

Never ended about a month ago when I was contacted by fellow sci-fi fan and poscaster David Moulton with an idea that really got me thinking.  Then Scott Hertzog of the Scifi Diner was also included in on David’s project and it was the birth of the Dune Saga Podcast.  So now I am a regular on a podcast.  What do I think about that?  Well I am excited and honored that anyone would consider me worthy to be included in this project.

Basically, on the Dune Saga Podcast, David, Scott, and I will be commenting on the books of the Dune series in chronological order, as opposed to in the order that they were released.   The first book we will be talking about is Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson’s Butlerian Jihad.  We will be recording monthly so that listeners to the Dune Saga Podcast can have time to read and comment.

You can find a complete list of the books we will be looking at on our website.  You can also find us on Facebook as well as Twitter (@dunesagapodcast).  To learn more about your hosts see this page on our website.

Our first episode is available to listen to embedded on our website, or wherever podcasts are available.  It is an introductory episode in which we introduce ourselves and explain in depth what we wish to accomplish.

Well, there it is…


Or, if you prefer…

May Shai-Hulud clear the path before you.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My Report On Europa Report - Pretty Good, But Not Great.

Europa Report – 2013

I first heard about Europa report on the internet.  I was very disappointed to learn that it was only going to be available in larger markets on limited release and on the internet for purchase as a digital download, but was encouraged when I found that I was able to pre-order it on Amazon, which I did.

It is an interesting film that I am not sure what to think about just yet, but as I mentioned on Facebook, I think I like it.  I’m going to have to watch it again though to get the full impact of everything that happens in the film.

The “found footage” format of film is not really my favorite.  This is a found footage film that is presented in the form of a documentary presented what went wrong on the first mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

After sending unmanned probes to Europa, it is determined that the make-up of the large moon is a world covered with water incased in a layer of ice that has varying depths across the surface.  The Europa One spacecraft is dispatched with an international crew of six.  The mission is privately funded.  The story is told from the point of view of Dr. Unger, the head of the project.  She appears as part of a narrative and in scenes that are from a press conference that she and her team participates in.

Everything goes off without a hitch until a solar event knocks out communications between Europa One and mission control.  During an attempt to repair the communications, one of the astronauts has his suit contaminated with hydrazine, a highly toxic propellant that would contaminate the entire ship.  The astronaut decides to save his partner, the chief engineer, but sacrifices himself.  Without communications, it is up to the crew to decide whether to abort the mission or to carry on.  After some discussion, the decision is made to continue with the mission.

Upon arrival at Europa, the crew makes a successful landing on the moon, but it is a little short from the designated target area thanks to a thermal vent that threw the ship off course.  The crew sends a drill probe through the ice to reach the liquid subsurface of the planet.  After a short time, a bright light is seen on the monitor, the probe indicates heavy radiation and the probe stops sending information.

Being not far off, one member of the crew goes EVA to reach the original landing zone to discover when appears to be lights moving around underneath the ice.  The astronaut gathers what she can in the way of ice samples, but again that source of radiation arrives on the scene and the astronaut is lost as she plunges through the ice.  The rest of the crew decide that they should take what they have learned and get back to earth, but while lifting off, the engines have trouble and the ship begins to plummet back to the surface.  The ship’s commander gets out of his seat to jettison the water shielding that protects the crew from radiation in order to lessen the impact of the ship.  His strategy works keeping the ship from being destroyed, but he is killed in the process.

One of the three remaining astronauts are lost when they attempt to make repairs on the propulsion systems.  The mission’s chief engineer manages to complete repairs on the communications systems before he himself is killed, and the last remaining member of the crew records a situation report, sends it with other video and data that has been gathered before she is finally lost.

Nothing about the story in this film is really new or extraordinary.  An unknown creature in an unfamiliar location preys on a number of people and is kind of revealed at the end of the movie.  Are you thinking Alien, or perhaps Apollo 18.  That’s what came to mind as I watched this.  However, that isn’t the whole thing.

This film has some amazing visual effects, taking it’s visuals from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; one has to think it very accurate in that respect.  A lot of time and money went into this film to make it visually accurate, and it pays off in spades.  It is really too bad that this film was released on a limited basis, it would been a good one to see on the big screen.

The other thing that really makes this worthwhile to see is the film score.  Brilliantly composed and directed by Bear McCreary is brilliant and adds a great deal to the film.

One problem that, in my opinion, this type of film presents for me is that there is minimal or no character development; there are no characters that I found appealing to me and I didn’t really care that they were being taken away one by one because I didn’t really have an investment in them.  In the case of this particular film, the story is very disjointed for the first half of the movie, jumping back and forth between scenes, many of which really didn’t have a great deal of context in the movie.

My recommendation?  As I reflect on this film, I find that I appreciate what the film makers were trying to do, but I cannot say that it was a great film.  It has some great elements, but the acting and the story aren’t among those elements.  I find myself kind of saying that Sci-Fi Fans might enjoy it, but don’t expect something spectacular.  It is pretty much as I said an ordinary film with some extraordinary elements.

I am wondering if that isn’t perhaps why the film makers decided not to have it distributed by a major studio and kept it to a limited release.

Well, there it is…