the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for November 2014

2014-11-22 15.24.41-2

My first Comic Con!

 

Tickets were quite affordable, Nichelle Nichols was a special guest, the drive was only 45 minutes, and a few of my friends were already planning on going.  Heading up to Grand Rapids Michigan on Nov 22nd for the Grand Rapids ComicCon was a no brainer.  I’d never been to an actual ComicCon before, so I had no idea what to expect.  According to their website, the media guests (including Nichelle Nichols, Alaina Huffman, Justin Kohn, Chad Rood, Peter Shinkoda and Maile Flanagan) would be doing presentations on the main stage, and would have autograph areas. There would be a costume contest, a gaming room, a violin concert, there would be food stands everywhere, there would be a huge dealer room, there would be a car show, the famous Star Wars 501st group, a few Tardis models, a huge Lego display, and of course tons of comics and superhero artwork.  Designed to be a very family friendly event, strollers were welcome, and there was a family quiet room for a quiet space for nursing mothers and/or overexcited kids who needed a break.

 

massive Lego Town

massive Lego Town

there was a train! two trains!

there was a train! two trains!

The Lego/Robotics area was my favorite section of the convention. Designed to be an area attractive to children and adults, much of the space was given over to a car show of famous Batmobiles. The rest of the space included a massive Lego city (complete with trains!), a robotics area that had a singing tesla coil, a TARDIS, the actual shield Captain America used in the movie, an animatronic dinosaur, a guy in a massive transformer suit, a beautiful art gallery, representatives of the 501st, and a few local fandom and science clubs.  This was where all the fun was!  I was all about the Legos and the Transformer guy.  I got to watch him climb into the suit, and once he got the helmet on you couldn’t tell if there was a person in there or if it was remote control. He scared the poop out of a lady who didn’t realize there was a guy in there!

 

This is a terrible photo, but this is a "singing" tesla coil.  I heard it do "Here Comes Halloween" and the Imperial March from Star Wars

This is a terrible photo, but this is the “singing” tesla coil. I heard it do “Here Comes Halloween” and the Imperial March from Star Wars

 

There's a guy in there!

There’s a guy in there!

Most of the media guests were TV stars, and since I don’t watch much network TV, I wasn’t familiar with most of them. But everyone knows who Nichelle Nichols is!  On Saturday afternoon she took to the main stage along with a local media celebrity who guided the conversation and took questions from the audience. I always knew Nichelle Nichols was incredible, I just didn’t realize how incredible. She talked of her childhood, of growing up in a community outside Chicago that was founded by her grandfather for the purpose of being welcoming to mixed-race families, she talked about her early love for singing andperforming on stage, and she proved that she’s still got an amazing vocal range She told a beautiful and touching story about being star struck meeting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  and learning he was a fan of her work on Star Trek.   When asked about that famous kiss between her and William Shatner, she said a kiss between a black person and a white person wasn’t anything usual to her, as she’d seen her grandparents kiss each other all the time.  When asked if there were any unexpected consequences of the famous midriff baring “Mirror Mirror” costume, she said they got so much fanmail about it that her costume was changed to show off her belly button.  When asked what the defining moment of her career was, she said it was when she got involved with NASA to help recruit women and minorities for the space shuttle program.  She recruited Sally Ride. During the Q&A time she was incredibly gracious with fans who were invited to line up at the microphone and ask questions until we ran out of time.

 

Nichelle Nichols is 100% pure amazing.

Nichelle Nichols is 100% pure amazing.

My day at ComicCon was not without its frustrations, but they were all worth it to be in the same room with Nichelle Nichols.

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Bicentennial_man_film_poster

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Bicentennial Man is a 1999 film directed by Chris Columbus, and stars Robin Williams, Embeth Davitz, Sam Neill, Oliver Platt and Hallie Kate Eisenberg. It’s based on the 1993 novel The Positronic Man by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, which was an extension of Asimov’s 1976 Hugo and Nebula award winning novelette The Bicentennial Man.  I’ve read a lot of Asimov (and a middling amount of Silverberg), but I haven’t read either the award winning novelette or the later written novel. So this review will be just of the movie, I can’t even speculate what scenes from the books the screenwriters skipped or expanded upon.

 

200px-The_bicentennial_manThe story opens with an android being delivered to the Martin residence. Through the young daughter’s mispronunciation of the word android, the robot gains the name Andrew.  Only Mr. Martin is excited by their new “gizmo”, and after the daughters both try to damage Andrew, the new family rule is that Andrew must be treated with the same respect due any member of the family. Soon the girls start treating him like a visiting cousin: someone who can help them with their homework, but someone they shouldn’t bother unnecessarily. After all, he is a “household robot”, he was purchased to help with housework, clean, garden, and fix things around the house. as the years pass, the youngest daughter, whom Andrew refers to as Little Miss, forms a special bond with him. (And yes, Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics are very quickly presented, but never dwelled on).

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Asimov’s guesses about the future were entertaining and fascinating for me. The opening scenes take place in 2014, and commercial androids are commonplace and becoming popular for wealthy families to have at home.  But there are no cell phones, no digital cameras, no facebook, no big screen tv’s, no home computers, very little digital technology. Even later in the movie, as the decades pass, flying cars and holograms make an appearance, but no mention of suborbital anything, or smart phones, or genetic modifications, or social media. And as the decades go by, even robots go out of fashion.

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species imperative big

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Thanks to Julie Czerneda’s publishers, I’ve got a copy of the Species Imperative Omnibus to give away to one lucky reader!  Scroll to the bottom of this post for more information on the give away.

RegenerationRegeneration (Species Imperative #3) by Julie Czerneda

published in 2006

where I got it: purchased used

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It’s hard to get into the plot of Regeneration without spoiling things that happened in the previous books, so I’m going to try to keep  the plot-talk very light. The super quick oversimplified plot introduction is that in the not too distant future we have become part of the Interspecies Union, which is exactly what it sounds like. Thanks to no-space transit technology provided by the multi-dimensional Ro, and the Sinzi who administrate it, hundreds of galactic species can travel all over the place.    Brymn, a Dhryn researcher, seeks out the Earthbound salmon researcher Dr. Mackenzie Connor (Mac to her friends), for help with how to save his species.

 

In Regeneration, the final book of the Species Imperative trilogy, while most governments are trying to figure out a weapon of mass destruction (or extinction) that can be used against the Dhryn, Mac and her team are asking questions that are more along the lines of *why*?  Why do the Dhryn have this biological urge? What is their biology anyways? Have they always been like this? How and where did they evolve? Can we trust our sources of information? I wish all scifi books had this much science in their fiction.  Give this series to a high school kid, and watch them fall in love with biology.

 

Underneath the superb characters and the smart dialog, and the hella fun aliens (whose biology makes sense!), and the political intrigue and the race against time are some heavy questions:

 

How do we handle an invasive species, especially if that species is intelligent and space-faring?

 

How do you study a species that most people (human and alien) have been taught to shoot on sight?

 

How do you get a panicked population to calm down? How do you get someone to work against their biological urges (or what they’ve been lead to believe are their biological urges?)

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I’ve been looking for a new job lately.  no worries, it’s cool.  I’ve had some really good interviews, gone to some great networking events, and read about a bazillion websites on how to make your resume fricken’ awesome.  After looking through a bunch of sample resumes of different styles, I starting wondering what fictional characters’ resumes might look like. What would they highlight as their accomplishments? How would they make their mundane jobs look awesome? How would they “brand” themselves? What kind of e-mail address would they have? How much information about themselves would they put on their resumes?  Might I be competing against some of these people at my next interview?

generic image stolen from the interwebs

generic image stolen from the interwebs

 

I ended up making resumes for Paul Atreides, Miriam Black, and Locke Lamora.  Much fun and silliness was had. Observe!

 

Paul Atreides
The Keep
Arrakeen
Arrakis (Dune)
email: kwisatzhaderach@arakkis.com

Experience

 

Emperor
Proven track record of excellent leadership abilities by  completing complex projects by bringing multiple parties and departments together. Fostered team atmosphere that promoted diversity and respected environmental concerns.
– Relocated Imperial Capitol to Arrakis
– Exposed  inefficiencies in outgoing leadership.
– Organized the tribes towards a uniting goal
– Developed and implemented new system of power and currency

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Duke’s Son (heir)
This position included extensive training in Mentat capabilities, weaponry, music, and diplomacy.
– Completed challenging training modules
– Promoted a self starting and enthusiastic attitude with associates
– Conscientiously observed Duke Leto to best understand the Landsraad

 

Education
Homeschooled, privately educated.

Additional Skills
Licensed on Ornithopters and Carryalls of most makes and models (VFR and IFR)
Highly proficient with crysknife and lasgun
Prescient

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Tags:

datlow-yarbro

 

The World Fantasy Convention was held earlier this month, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.  Her name will be familiar to fans of historical fiction, as she’s the author behind the famous Saint-Germain Cycle. The first novel in the Cycle, Hotel Transylvania, was published in 1978, and there are now over 25 volumes.   She’s written over 80 books, and over 70 works of short fiction. No stranger to awards either, she’s received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, the Grand Master award from the World Horror Association, and she was the first woman to be enrolled as a Living Legend of the International Horror Guild.

Quinn3J

 

Chelsea was kind enough to take a few minutes out of her busy day to answer a few of my questions on her famous series, music, and the occult.  Wanna learn more about this amazing author? I do! let’s go!

LRR: Your bio briefly mentions you are also a musical composer. Could you tell us a little more about this? Personally, I believe there are a lot of connections between music and other means of communication. Have you found any similarities between writing music and writing fiction?

CQY: There are many things that cannot be said with words, and it seems to me that’s where music comes in. When I get worded – out, I do music to deal with all the things that words cannot express. Words and music are powerful communicators, but they communicate different kinds of things. So while composition and writing are at the opposite end of the communication scale, they serve the same basic purpose. At least that’s my opinion.

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I’m over at SFSignal today, reviewing Steven Brust’s newest Vlad Taltos novel, Hawk.   This is the 14th book in the series, but a surprisingly good spot for new fans to jump right in.  Still on the fence? Click here for a review I wrote a while back for The Book of Jhereg, which is comprised of the first 3 short novels of the series.

hawk

 

Even though Vlad spends most of the book saying “hello” to people, the entire novel has an undeniable underlying fatalism, an inescapable feeling that he’s really returned to Adrilankha to say “goodbye”. Vlad isn’t stupid. He knows there’s a chance he’s not going to make it to the end of the book. A really good chance.

Fatalism aside, Hawk allows me to say something I haven’t been able to say about this series in ages: For readers brand new to the Vlad Taltos series, this is an excellent place to jump right in and get a feel for Brust’s wry writing style, the way he does world building and characterization, and everyone’s favorite sarcastic semi-retired assassin, Vlad Taltos.

 

Read the rest of the review HERE.

2014-11-15 09.03.57Inside Outer Space:  Science Fiction Professionals Look at Their Craft, edited by Sharon Jarvis

published in 1985

where i got it: friend gave it to me

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My friends know I’m drawn towards the obscure, and they also know I really like the “behind the scenes” of everything. A friend found the perfect gift for me: an obscure book of essays by spec fic professionals, published in 1985. What value is there in a book of essays from 30 years ago? More than you’d think.  Editor Sharon Jarvis curated a short list that included her friends and a few authors she’d been referred to.  She assigned people to write on a topic such as humor, or war, or fandom, or small presses, told them approximately how many pages she wanted, and left them to it.  The resulting essays from luminaries like C.J. Cherryh, Marion Zimmer Bradley, George Alec Effinger, Parke Godwin, Ron Goulart and others are more like having a casual conversation with someone, or listening in on an unscripted panel discussion, rather than reading a manicured essay. They are completely casual, with the authors being completely comfortable calling out people they disagree with (most notably, Harlan Ellison, who everyone wants to pick on).

 

I picked this book up completely on a lark, I needed something read while waiting for something else to happen. Something I could put down at any moment, something with short little bursts of information seemed perfect. Well, the first essay was addictive and hilarious, so I kept reading, long after the stuff that I was waiting for had happened.   So why was a book of essays from 1985 so intriguing? Because it felt like a time capsule.  And of course I was intrigued to see what had changed in 30 years, and what really hadn’t. Some conversations we are still having, and some we *should* still be having.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.