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.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Star Trek: Klingon Empire: A Burning House By Keith R.A. DeCandido - Insights into Klingon Society

Star Trek: Klingon Empire: A Burning House by Keith R. A. DeCandido (2008)

Of all of the factions that have been created over the years for the Star Trek universe, my favorites are the Klingons. I enjoy their spirit and their sense of honor. One thing that has been missing for me is knowing what goes on beyond what is presented in the television series and films. I have always wondered about what goes on in the lives of the common Klingon everyday lives as they interact with one another. After all, a planet where everyone is more concerned with being a warrior than with producing goods and services to support the masses wouldn’t stand very long. Thanks to the imagination and masterful storytelling of Keith DeCandido, at least some of my wondering has been addressed in A Burning House.

There are several story threads in this story that stretch from the highest levels of Klingon government to the most common and downtrodden people on the Klingon Homeworld, Quo’nos.

The I.K.S. Gorkon returns from battle with a degree of battle damage that requires it to put in for repairs at Praxis Station on orbit of Quo’nos. With the amount of time it will take for the repairs, much of the crew are afforded shore leave to take care of personal and professional business and to visit family. Captain Klag, commander of the Gorkon reports to his headquarters to present an account of his ship’s actions along with several other ship commanders, one being his brother who has been previously discommondated from the House of M’Raq. It is determined that Gorrik, Klag’s brother, has behaved in a dishonorable manner and his ship is to be taken from him. This action begins a complicated series of events in an effort to exact revenge by Gorrik against his brother whom he believes is the root of his dishonor.

The Gorkon’s medical officer, B’Oraq attends a Klingon medical conference which, to her, is nothing more than a farce and she is shunned when she tries to bring what she has learned from attending Federation medical training to the Empire in an effort to improve practices within the Klingon medical community.

Other officers and crew head for home to renew familial ties or to look back at their roots, and one finds that the adage, “you can’t go home again” is very true.

Further, if all of the above isn’t enough, Keith details the exploits of Gorrik in his quest for revenge against Klag. There are plenty of plot twists and turns that not only involve new characters, but also reintroduce characters that we are familiar with through the television series.

All in all, it is just a good read all the way around.

Among the many things I enjoyed about this book was how the author masterfully develops characters. Even the minor characters come alive as they interact with the main characters and by making them come alive, the story comes alive and thus making the story completely believable and compelling. This story is one that a reader can become immersed in and not be surprised when being drawn back to it making it a read page-turner.

If there is a problem, it is in that I have not read the stories that come prior to A Burning House, those being the three novels in the I.K.S. Gorkon series; an oversight I plan on correcting in the near future.

Well, there it is…


Friday, June 24, 2016

CBS/Paramount Lowers The Boom On Fan Films - They Didn't Slam The Door Though.

CBS/Paramount Lowers The Boom On Fan Films

If you are going to play in someone else’s sandbox, then you are going to have to follow their rules.

So what does one do when your favorite television show goes off the air? What does one do when their favorite movie franchise drys up and the studio is no longer making films? Well many of those who love what has been here and now is gone start making fan films. At least those that have the means and know-how. The fans, are after all, what keeps things like Star Trek going, and have for the past fifty years. There have been many iterations of Star Trek available thanks to I he advent of the Internet. When I Google-searched “Star Trek Fan FIlms” recently, I was overwhelmed by the amount of material out there beyond what I know about. Just to mention a few, there is Star Trek Continues, Star Trek Renegades, and Starship Farragut. All of those were and are projects made by and for fans. While none were authorized or sanctioned in any way by the owners of the Star Trek franchise, namely CBS and Paramount, there were at least tolerated under one simple commandment; “Thou shalt not profit from our property.” Having dealt with film companies during my tenure as a theater owner, CBS/Paramount were being way, way beyond reasonable in allowing this. Kudos to them!

Then came another fan film group that proposed to make a new addition called Axanar. In the beginning, it sounded like it was going to be another interesting and possibly fun project that featured the exploits of Garth of Izar, a character from Original Series Trek, “Whom Gods Destroy” (season 3, episode 16). I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to it thinking that I would see it when it was released.

Now, fan films that have any kind of quality at all, are an expensive venture. Sets have to be built, costumes and props made, and then there are the visual effects that can make or break an entire project depending on the quality. Thanks to modern technology, many of those aspects can be done, but even with volunteers doing the work, there are expenses, and not small ones. For the vast majority of us, it would be impossible to bankroll making a film that looks and feels authentic, so many of those projects turned to “crowdfunding” to make their dreams come true. I have even contributed to some of these ventures and am proud to have done so. Axanar also went the route of crowdfunding , originally asking for a sum of money and raising far more than they were asking for. With each dollar that came in, they began promising that it would be bigger and better than they had originally planned.

Before I continue, I should say that I have been tacitly and casually following the developments and most of what I know I have heard from secondhand sources.

The money continued to roll in and the folks at Axanar became overly ambitious, almost to the point of blatant hubris by stating that they would not only exceed their own expectations, but they would also exceed the efforts of the franchise owners, as well as beginning to offer premiums with the franchise name plastered everywhere. I have even read that one of the executives of Axanar to pay himself a salary. These actions apparently caught the attention of CBS/Paramount and things escalated from there. The companies told Axanar that they had exceeded the bounds and that she should shut down. Axanar retorted that they were doing nothing wrong and they refused, so the battle lines were drawn.

Yesterday, while scrolling through my Facebook timeline, I noticed that a friend posted a link to some new guidelines that CBS/Paramount have initiated governing the making of future films in the Star Trek franchise. I read the guidelines and my knee-jerk reaction was anger. Anger at Axanar as well as anger with the franchise owners for the curtailment of fan film activity. I then spent a good deal of time thinking about the issue while performing my mundane tasks.

Here are my thoughts on the issue: CBS/Paramount own everything that is Star Trek. They bought it and paid for it and it is theirs to do with what they wish. The companies have been extremely tolerant over the past several years allowing anyone who wants to produce material using the Star Trek name as long as no one is profiting from it. They may not have necessarily liked it, and certainly never endorsed it, but we're very generous in its allowances. Now, thanks to those that would abuse what was granted, CBS/Paramount has seen fit to put a set of guidelines in place. They are not wrong in doing this, and I am surprised that it didn’t happen much sooner than it did as access to the technology allowing amateur filmmakers to make more and more professional looking product. Let’s face it, it would have been just as easy for them to simply slam the door shut by halting all use of anything Star Trek, but they left the door open, not wide open, but open enough that those that want to participate can continue to do so within certain limits.

Is this a bad thing? It is neither good nor bad, it is simply a company protecting their property as is their right under the law.

My only question is, what are the future implications for fandom? While CBS/Paramount have come out with, depending on your point of view, reasonable guidelines, there are many more franchises out there that have fan films owned by other companies. Along with that, not to mention the growing cosplay industry. There are thousands of people out there that enjoy dressing up as their favorite characters that are owned by corporate entities; will royalties be a thing of the future for that large guy in the Slave Princess Leia outfit?  What about the actors and people involved in selling their autographs? I have an autographed photo of Walter Koenig on the wall in my man cave, I paid $40 for it. Will future items such as my photo cost even more because he is in a Star Trek uniform? It will be interesting to see how fandom is affected by the seeds planted by one entity that reached too far beyond the boundaries.

Well, there it is…


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hello Again By Stan Schatt - Text Messages From The Dead Make A Man's Life Miserable, Deadly Too!

Hello Again by Stan Schatt

Not long ago, Stan Schatt contacted me via e-mail to let me know that he had released a new book. In his description of what it was about, he mentioned that it was a psychological thriller that delved into the paranormal that also included elements of technology. I will have to admit that I don’t normally stray too far from my normal reading fare of science fiction, but I have read Stan’s work in the past and have enjoyed it, and since he also took the time to inform me personally, I thought I would give it a look. I will say here that I was not disappointed; it’s good.

The story centers on Bill Eisner, a former lawyer turned coffee shop owner when he became disenchanted with the practice of law. Bill’s coffee shop is a unique place with a relaxed atmosphere and friendly employees. Bill also has it set up as a kind of community service, especially serving the downtrodden of the area. Beyond his business, Bill is a sports fan and a Trekkie, and with the help of his best friend Roger, he realizes that he is also needing some female companionship. Roger invites Bill to accompany him to a speed dating event, and more out of curiosity than anything, Bill decides to attend. He meets several women at the event, but none of them seemed interested in him until Amber sits at his table. Amber is a knockout, and she likes an answer to a question she poses to him and they exchange information.

What follows is a roller coaster ride that includes murder, attempted murder, text messages that apparently are coming from a dead person, technological and surveillance techniques both for and against our protagonist, police investigations, and a psychic that seems more credible that one might expect.

Hello Again grabbed my attention from the first page describing Bill’s apartment when the author mentions that he has a poster in his bedroom of Captain Kirk. From there it was an easy read. The exposition of the story seemed quite long to me as I was reading (nearly 40% into the book according to my Kindle), but then, BOOM! It was simply a delay to when the real action begins and is non-stop to the end. The exposition chronicled Bill’s developing relationship with Amber, which served to make me care about what happened to both of them. At the point when the “boom” happened, Bill’s otherwise mostly mundane and seemingly”normal” life(and I qualify that by including that there were a few strange happenings during the first part of the story) would change in ways that were fantastically bizarre, but at the same time, credible when one considers the technology that exists today.

One aspect, among many, that I enjoyed about this book was how the characters came alive to me. Right down to the most minor character in the story, they were all real people that I could relate to emotionally in various ways. Bill, the main character in the story, went through the full spectrum of emotional involvement from being mostly content with his life to being extremely frustrated, and finally resolving to come face-to-face with the source of his problems.

If there is a weakness in this story, I would have to say that as a “whodunnit,” I personally found it a bit predictable in figuring out who the antagonist would be. That being said, I also have to say that the predictability aspect, whether intentional or not, in no way detracted from my enjoyment of Hello Again. It was well worth the time.

If you are a fan of Sci-Fi and are looking for a diversion from your normal reading fare, I would recommend this to you as a fun, interesting, thoughtful, and well written look into something different or new.

Well, there it is…


Thursday, June 9, 2016

ST: TOS: Elusive Salvation By Dayton Ward - The Follow On To From History's Shadow Proves That Lightning Does Strike Twice! - Great Book

Star Trek: The Original Series: Elusive Salvation by Dayton Ward

A while back, I read and reviewed Dayton Ward’s From History’s Shadow, an original series novel in that covered and expanded on threads found in original series Star Trek (TOS: Season 2, Episode 26 “Assignment Earth”), Deep Space Nine (DS9 Season 4, Episode 8 “Little Green Men), as well as Enterprise (ENT: Season 2, Episode 2 “Carbon Creek). That one was a unique view not only bringing together three of my favorite episodes of Trek, but adding a lot more, including real-world history that resulted in a stand alone, fun, and entertaining bit of writing. It was sincerely my hope that the author would see fit to write a sequel.

Well, I am happy to say that Dayton did follow up with a new story entitled Elusive Salvation.

While History’s Shadow was set about a week after the events of Assignment Earth, Elusive Salvation takes place about two years before the events of Wrath of Kahn, but also spans three different time periods.

In 1945, around the around the time the UFO phenomenon was just in its infancy, an alien ship crash lands in the Arctic with members of a race of beings that are fleeing from oppression.  The aliens are able to survive thanks to their wits and their technology while waiting for rescue from their own people. In 2283, Admiral James T. Kirk is assigned to Starfleet Command performing some rather mundane duties including lecturing Starfleet Academy cadets as they prepare for their own careers. On board the Enterprise, Captain Spock takes trainees on cruises and Dr. McCoy conducts research on Jupiter Station. All is well until an unidentified ship enters the solar system and takes up orbit near Neptune, Kirk is reassigned to Enterprise and he and Spock go to investigate the new arrival. In 1970, Gary Seven’s now trained and very competent assistant Roberta Lincoln minds the office while Seven is away on assignment. She is surprised to receive a communication from the future asking for her aid in a situation involving the aliens that crash-land in 1945 as well as the new arrivals at Neptune.

Everything comes together as Kirk, Spock, and Roberta try to resolve a sticky situation all the while trying to avoid polluting the timeline and being pursued by U.S. Government authorities who are charged with investigating UFO phenomena.

As I mentioned earlier, I was hoping for another story in this vein and was not in the least disappointed in what Dayton has given us. As usual, in Dayton’s stories, there is plenty of Trek action and the exchanges between the characters are well within what I have come to know and feel comfortable with. As usual, Spock is the brains while Kirk is the brawn and McCoy contributes by finding out the answers to the big question of a medical issue placed upon one alien race by another. The story is very fast paced and easy to read and follow, especially during the switches in time lines, which were seamless.

For me, the star of the show in this story was Roberta Lincoln. She has grown up a lot from the young, idealistic woman in the TOS episode that introduced her. At that time, she was a little scramble-brained, but had a good command of her convictions as well as a great sense of humor. The only thing that has changed about her is that she does not appear a naive as she was in the episode Assignment Earth, but has become very intelligent and is able to handle difficult situations while her mentor serves on assignment elsewhere and out of touch.

While the entire story was entertaining and fun, I found the last two chapters of the book the most intriguing. The first of the two Dayton calls “One Last Thing,” in which Roberta witnesses an event that starts another whale of a tale from Trek lore that we who are Trekkies will understand immediately. The last chapter entitled “One More Thing After That” points to an the origins of a very notorious organization that will impact stories and lives in the Trek universe for decades, to come. It is my hope that perhaps the author might consider continuing with the seeds he planted in these final two chapters.

I recommend Elusive Salvation as a great follow-on to From History’s Shadow, but keep in mind that both of the books in this “series” are stand-alone tales that need not be read in order.

Well, there it is…