Tag Archives: Star Wars

May 4th is for all of us

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Well, another Star Wars Day is upon us. I’ve already done my celebrating in traditional fashion, by buying a discount Star Wars comic volume (this year to get the Infinities stories which include the comic adaptation of the original screenplay).

But I thought that since most other great Sci-Fi franchises don’t have a day, that Star Wars might be willing to share. Below is a list in no particular order of shows and comic books you should check out instead of re-watching Empire Strikes Back for the 20th time (or maybe afterwards at least).

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Babylon 5 – A show that delivers on its concept of a five season novel arc. There are imperfections: Boxleitner’s acting is overdone, the CGI has NOT aged well, and of course, Byron. But if you can look past these you’ve got a great show that was equal parts epic, funny and moving. Also, at least 3-4 strong female leads (passes the Bechdel test all over the place) Ivanova is my personal favorite. Season 4 is the high point, but I think you need to at least watch Season 3 prior to get the full effect. And if you like the epic space-battles of Star Wars, wait till you meet the Shadows, the Vorlons and the White Star.

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Red Dwarf – A man stranded millions of light years from earth, all of humanity long dead, with his only companions a holographic recreation of his snotty roommate and a creature evolved from his cat. The show is a little long in the tooth now, but the first 5-6 series are great. My favorites are the early episodes when it is much more isolated, just a couple of people playing off each other to great comedic effect. We could lose the cat from the show, and Kryton doesn’t always grab me, but Rimmer and Lister are worth the price of admission. Also bonus, really early Craig Ferguson in the first series.

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The Fuse – Comic book previously reviewed on the blog. Procedural murder in space with six issue arcs for each case. Set in a large power generation station in space with a community of drifters, technicians and society elites. Has some of the same beats as Babylon 5, but better explores the homeless situation with the “cablers.” Three volumes currently available with more coming soon. The dynamic between the two lead detectives is great and not always what you’d expect. And again features a grumpy older female lead.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – If you’re like me, you grew up thinking The Next Generation was the best Star Trek. But you need to give DS9 a look (as I’ve argued earlier). Characters grow and change from season to season. I’m doing a rewatch of early seasons and can’t believe they never shoved Bashir out an airlock. At least (to coin an old Simpsons joke), his name comes with instructions (“bash-here”). DS9 has all the things NextGen doesn’t, continuing story lines, epic battles, and a mix of comedic and dramatic plots. The Bajorans are a weak point, but there’s so much this show has to offer it’s worth another look.

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Saga – Not for the faint of heart. Just completed 36 issues of its planned 60 issue run. Bold, imaginative, epic, and deliberately unfilmable. NSFW in so many ways. My favorite post and rundown of the first 12 issues gives you an idea of what’s coming. But for all that shock value, it delivers on the space opera epic story centered around family. What more could a Star Wars fan want?

This is just a ridiculously small sampling of what’s good out there. So enjoy your Star Wars viewing if you must, but you can also feel free to swim out into the deep end. The water’s fine.

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Star Wars 7 – Semi-Spoilery Review

Image Source: Bloom County 2015

Image Source: Bloom County 2015

I don’t intend to reveal any big plot details here, but there are some of you who seem to think that any minor detail is a spoiler. If this is you, maybe wait till after you’ve seen the movie, though I suspect if you haven’t seen it by now, you’re in the same camp I am.

I saw The Force Awakens Christmas day at the Gateway Film Center. The experience was very pleasant. I arrived 45 minutes early with my wife, and we had our pick of seats. The theater at time of showing maybe had 40-50 people. I wore my “Yoda Man” shirt, the extent to which I dress up for movies. For the record, the only movie I have ever gone “in costume” to was Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I brought a towel, and it rained, making the towel a useful accessory.

My wife and I discussed the movie a bit after seeing it, so what you’re getting here is a rough consensus of the two of us.

  • Far better than the prequels. On par with the original trilogy, though maybe not better.
  • If A New Hope was made in 2015, it would be this movie.
  • At times, it was more buddy action comedy than space opera. A lot of 2015 vernacular “Did you see that?”, “We can do this!”. Not necessarily a bad thing.
  • It felt very “J. J. Abrahms” movie-ish. Again not a bad thing. The man can’t resist the number 47.
  • BB8 was not as stupid as he looked in the trailers. Maybe not R2D2, but still a good droid.
  • Harrison Ford had on his A-game like we haven’t seen from him in years.
  • Carrie Fisher did a lot better than I personally was expecting.
  • The main villain was … a bit emo. Think young Severus Snape in appearance and Tobey Maguire in Spiderman 3 for affect. But there’s some interesting possibilities for development. Maybe keep your helmet on.
  • The reveal of the main villain’s identity was a bit early.
  • We liked all the new people. I wanted more Oscar Isaac, and Daisey Ridley of course kicked butt.
  • Star Wars aliens have little point other than to look cool. Aside from the Wookies we don’t know much about their civilizations. Do you know what race Yoda is, or what happened to it as evidently he seems to be the only one left? That said, the level of CG indulgence was taken down many levels from the prequels and the few CG characters were actually pretty good. I even liked the one “hippo-ish” thing at the watering hole. You’ll know it when you see it.
  • This movie got back to first principles of what Star Wars is. For good or for ill. I have heard people talk some about moral ambiguities, but frankly I think this movie was more centered on clear good and clear evil than ever before.
  • Lightsaber battles in snowy woods are cool.
  • We laughed, we enjoyed the movie, and left talking about it which I haven’t been able to say for the last couple of films I’ve seen and crazily anticipated. (I’m looking at you X-Men: Days of Future Past).
  • We’re still Trekkies. Sorry.

What were your thoughts?

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Being Happy Something Exists (Even If You Don’t Like It)

This probably started as a rant about the new Star Trek trailer, which I believe many of us are a little dubious about. But it has been pointed out to me by unnamed sources (i.e. a certain Little Red Haired Girl) that the trailer is 90 seconds, I’m reading a lot into it, and either way we’re going to see it and enjoy the movie on some level.

I feel the same way about the new Peanuts movie, which I have not seen, but the trailer really worried me. I’ve heard it’s good, and I’ve heard it’s not, and if/when it comes to the dollar theater or Netflix I will watch it.

Here’s what I am happy about.

The fact that these movies exist means merchandising (where the real money from the movie is made) and licensed projects.

IDW picked up the license for Star Trek comics a few years before the new movie series and has been going strong for nearly 10 years. The ongoing series that weaves in and out of the movie timeline passed issue 50 a few months ago. I have 100’s of comics and stories that wouldn’t have existed were it not for the new movies and their popularity.

This is my wallpaper at work. Don’t you love the artist’s reproduction of lens flares?

From Star Trek Ongoing Issue #50

From Star Trek (2011) #50

The release of the Peanuts movie also triggered DVD releases of more of the old specials that have never made it to DVD, and the two feature length movies Bon Voyage Charlie Brown and Race For Your Life Charlie Brown. I may have some quibbles about the fact that they were fullscreen movies cut down to fit widescreen, but considering they were only previously available on VHS, I’ll take it. Even if the new movie is lousy, these two movies are great and are now out there for everyone to enjoy.

Jurassic World was kind of a meh, but Lego Jurassic World with all four movies is a lot of fun (though sanitizing it so the dinos don’t actually eat anybody is weird).

The Star Wars movie sounds like it will actually be pretty good, but even if it isn’t we have new comics from Marvel, releases of classic series, and really expensive Lego sets that I can covet from afar.

There’s also a lot of crap that gets produced (I think my breaking point was the Star Wars Cover Girl ads). And honestly I don’t think the new Star Trek movies are suddenly going to get someone to go back and watch the show from the 60’s. But at least it’s an excuse to give the fans more to enjoy, and maybe even love.

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Time has not been kind to Han and Leia

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Had a lot of fun this weekend at a costume party at Casa de Buckley as “geriatric” or “geezer” Han and Leia. We won a beautiful trophy and Lego set as “best costume of the night”, though I think the guy dressed as Zapp Brannigan deserved at least one vote. Couple of fun facts:

  • For my costume the only thing we had to buy was the walker and the gray spray. Those glasses are mine, an old pair from elementary school. Picture them with a bowl cut and you’ve got a general idea on how most of my early childhood went.
  • The walker I found for $5 at the Delaware Goodwill. The black vest is cut from a magician’s cloak I got from a work birthday party.
  • We went to multiple costume shops and could not find a Leia wig, though inexplicably they did have the “braids from Avatar”. My wife did an excellent job crafting the side buns from a witches hair wig that normally would go down to about her knees.
  • The mason jar contains ashes from our Chimnea and the following images on the top and side (Sorry Chewie!):
  • Chewbacca tear
  • Chewbacca (2) Edited
  • Though you can’t see it very well, my wife is wearing a shirt from my grandparent’s retirement home, Park Vista, something else I used to wear in middle school (as a night shirt I swear).

Hope you all had a fun and safe Halloween, and may the force be with you.

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May the fourth be with you, and also with you

Happy Star Wars day everyone!

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Image Source: Total Hangout

Now I am decidedly a Trekkie in the whole Trek versus Wars debate (and yes I meant to say Trekkie not Trekker which is a whole other debate). Actually I’m more of a B5’er or whatever you call people who love J. Michael Strazcinski’s 5 year epic that should have been subtitled “The Rise and Fall of Londo Molari”. But I think all of us nerds can agree we really love both. Wars and Trek appeal to different parts of our brain, and even though there have been times I’ve complained of Trek heading in more of a Wars direction (particularly with the last couple of Abrahms movies), I’m still going to watch, game and read many of the things these two properties have to offer.

Though not either properties’ animated series.

Here’s the thing though. In a way this debate feels archaic, or at least should feel archaic. I’ve heard an update of this might be Babylon 5 vs. Battlestar Galactica, but even those series have been off the air for a while (I personally found Galactica depressing and grinding after a while). I’m a brown-shirt too, but let’s face it, 14 episodes, a movie, and a few comic books are really all we’re gonna get out of that.

It’s like people who still cite the ABC’s of Science Fiction (Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke). These are all great writers (or great thinkers anyway). I wish I had the talent for imagery and crafting short stories of Bradbury, and I find myself striving for some of the same things as Asimov without trying to be too much like Clarke (the ending of my first ever completed novel was a lot like the ending of 2001 which is to say, incomprehensible and bad).

To me both Wars, Trek and the ABC’s are a solid grounding in the classics. But have we reached a point in science fiction where it might be time to start defining the genre by more than just these two titles? The Trek versus Wars thing feels more like an external classification than an internal one, and it seems maybe even a little dated despite the lasting legacy of both these series.

Now I say this as a guy who is on a bit of a mission to convince people that Deep Space Nine is better than The Next Generation, and as someone who still buys Star Trek comic books, and was thrilled for his 30th birthday to receive a Starship Enterprise sushi set. This is a nudge more than a shove.

I wish I was a little better versed in some of the great work of modern authors (besides Doctorow and Scalzi), and I’m making an effort every day to find the people who are writing this generation’s Trek or Wars. So far the place I’ve found it is in comic books, with titles like Letter 44, The Fuse, Saga, Copperhead, Roche Limit and Black Science (most of which I’ve reviewed on the blog). I guess lately I’ve been finding the idiosyncratic and personal work of comic book writers to be more appealing than larger more mass marketed properties. That said, a lot of individual authors still do great work on these series (and we haven’t even gotten to the behemoth that is Doctor Who which is again a 50+ year property).

Again, I love these old shows, movies, etc. I want my kids and my grandkids to enjoy them. I just want to make sure that when we (or the people outside) talk about science fiction, it seems like there is more to talk about. There’s something out there in science fiction for everyone to love, not just us nerds.

And maybe today of all days is a good time to have that discussion. If someone talks to you about Star Wars today, have fun with that, and maybe throw in something else you’ve read lately that really grabbed you, and that they might enjoy.

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Star Wars Games Giveaway (FINISHED)

UPDATE 2/8: Thanks to everyone for their interest. I gave away keys to Penelope and Punci. Thanks for writing in! I may do another of these in a couple of weeks so watch this space.

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Good afternoon everyone, hope you are having a pleasant day of unusual warmth. I’m sitting by a window in my local Panera, sipping on hazelnut coffee and working on Chapter 3 of The Sky Below, and hoping to be able to bang out 1250 more words in the next two hours.

In the meantime I’ve got something of a random treat for you guys. As you might have guessed, I’m a bit of a gamer, and with all these Humble Bundles, Steam Sales, GOG sales, and dollar acquisitions at Half Price Books, sometimes I get duplicates.

Rather than let these languish unused in my Humble Bundle account, I thought it’d be nice to give some of them away to someone who might actually play them. So from time to time I might do a special bonus post with a couple of keys for a game you all might like.

So here’s the deal. I’ve got one Steam key for Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic and one for  it’s sequel. If you want one or both of these keys send me an e-mail to bentrubewriter@gmail.com (you can use the contact form on this blog). I’ll give these out on a first come, first served basis. I’m using Humble Bundle’s gifting process so I know which keys I’ve given away, so you may need to create a Humble Bundle account (and if you haven’t you really should since that’s where I’ve been getting all these cool games, books, comic books and the like).

May the force be with you all.

PS. I’ll update this post when I’ve given away any keys.

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The Star Wars – The First New Hope

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Image Source: USA Today

Some of you in the Star Wars or wider sci-fi community may have heard about Dark Horse’s eight issue limited series The Star Wars, a comic book adaption of the original rough draft for Star Wars.

Please note: I am not a fanboy of the extended universe, care little for the Clone Wars continuity, and barely tolerate the prequel trilogy when compared to the perfection that is the original trilogy.

That being said…

These books are kind of awesome.

So far there’ve only been two issues, and I plowed through them both in half an hour or so. Suffice it to say this is NOTHING like the movie you know and love. Here are just a few examples:

  • “May the force be with you” is “May the force of others be with you all”
  • Luke Skywalker is this old dude

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Image Source: Wired

  • R2D2 can talk (he kind of winges on actually)!
  • And he and C3Po start on the Death Star
  • Alderann is not Princess Leia’s home, but the center of the galactic empire
  • Jedi are Jedi-Bendu
  • Annikan is not Darth Vader
  • The Death Star (which has yet to actually be called that), is pointier and more susceptible to X-Wing fire. Actual hull breaches with storm troopers being sucked into space.
  • And apparently Han Solo is a green alien but we haven’t seen him yet.

The point is very different story. I think this is interesting for a couple of reasons:

1) As a writer, it’s interesting to see Lucas’ starting point, knowing where he would end the story. It’s surprising the level of character and location changes, but it just shows that good writers are willing to make those kinds of changes if it makes the story better. I’m working on a significant location change with Surreality, but nothing on the level of this story.

2) I like different takes on the same universe, and the same story. It’s why I can love Wrath of Khan and Into Darkness for different reasons (yes he did just talk about Star Trek and Star Wars in the same post, get over it!). I’m also a big fan of manga and anime, and especially love if a series I like drastically diverges from the manga. That way I get two complete stories, instead of one story told two different ways. And this doesn’t feel like an “episode” in the Star Wars universe, which I’m not really looking for, but an actual complete reinterpretation. Maybe this a bit biased, but I expect more epic arc from Star Wars than I do from Star Trek, and so I’m disappointed by media that is essentially Luke, Han and Chewie go on an adventure. There’s a reason this is a saga.

3) And it should be noted the artwork is fantastic. Comic art can wildly vary, even in the same series, but Dark Horse really brought their game on this one:

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Image Source: Following The Nerd

Incidentally, that’s Leia in the top right. The character’s especially are very detailed. And the comic is printed on great paper, thick glossy stock.

So even if you’re not a comics nerd, this one might be worth the read. So stop by your local comic’s shop (mine’s The Laughing Ogre), and pick up these issues while you can. If you’re not the month to month type, these probably will be collected in a trade sometime next year, but I don’t feel like waiting on this one.

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