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'The Amber Chronicles' by Roger Zelazny, a classic fantasy series

I've re-read Roger Zelazny's 'The Amber Chronicles' series more times than I can recall. I've worn out two copies of this complete collection, and lost countless individual copies of the component books. This fantasy series begins with Nine Princes in Amber, and is one of my favorite fantasy series.

When the story opens neither we nor our hero, Corwin, know what's going on. He is lost in a coma and awakens with amnesia, which we are led to understand is the result of a recent car accident that should have left him dead. Corwin goes on to discover who he is by threatening pretty much everyone he meets. It works.

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Battle of the Planets, classic campy sci-fi anime film

Five incredible young people with super powers!

Battle of the Planets is a late 70s/early 80s reworking of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, and was one of my earliest introductions to anime and sci-fi cartoons. With classic in its camp, we join the adventures of Mark, Jason, Princess, Key-op, Tiny and the incredible 7-Zark-7 as they defend space from things beyond space.

It's one of the first US adaptations of a Japanese anime series that I am aware of (Robotech is my favorite in this genre). Sandy Frank Productions draws on all the popular sci-fi memes of the day and brutally rips off R2-D2 to create a fast, fun and confusing series. Five young and highly-trained agents who dress like birds and fly like gravity doesn't exist gather to defend the Earth from Zoltar, the Luminious One, and planet Spectra.

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman has been recut several times over the years, not just into BotP but G-Force and the Eagle Riders as well. 7-Zark-7 and 1-Rover-1 make Battle of the Planets my favorite.

Battle of the Planets, a Sandy Frank Production

Video Link

Treat Triad dog puzzle


Pretzel going bonkers for the Treat Triad dog puzzle on a rainy, indoors day.

These past few rainy days, I've been trying to entertain my dogs with puzzles. The Treat Triad is a clear winner.

Both a Great Pyrenees and a Cavalier King Charles, dogs large and small, love smacking the spinner around and then figuring out how to open the treat bay doors. It is light, simple and hasn't broken apart after hours of battering.

Treat puzzles are no way to get the dog to let you sleep, but they certainly keep them busy when its too nasty to go out!

The Treat Triad

"Yeti, Turn Out the Light!": a fantastic children's book

NewImage

For more than a decade, our friends at GAMAGO have created some of the most delightful, inspired, and fresh characters around for t-shirts, toys, and other bric-à-brac. Along with everyone else who has known the wonder of the GAMAGO Yeti, I have wished for this mythical (?) beastie to come to life in narrative form. The wait is over! GAMAGO and Chronicle Books have just published "Yeti, Turn Out the Light!," a marvelous children's book that truly embodies the creativity and craft of GAMAGO proprietors Greg Long and Chris Edmundson.

As you'd expect, the full-color illustrations by Wednesday Kirwan are absolutely fantastic. The story is a delightful bedtime tale of shadows, monsters, and magic sure to please all children, and the adults that cuddle them.

The hardcover edition of "Yeti, Turn Out the Light!" is just $11 from Amazon. Below are two spreads from the book. Congratulations, Greg, Chris, and Wednesday!

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Scuba gear review: Whites Fusion drysuit

Perhaps it is just local pride, but nowhere I've been diving, nowhere in the world, compares with California. The abundance and variety of sea life you can encounter underwater from Carmel to Catalina is without compare. The cold water, however, takes some getting used to.

My solution for the last five years or so: the Whites Fusion Drysuit.

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Battle Beyond the Stars

One of the first--and most fun!--science fiction movies I've ever seen is Roger Corman's Battle Beyond the Stars.

Shad (Richard Thomas) sets out to save his tiny home world of Akira from John Saxon's aptly named Sador! Shad steals a slightly clingy spaceship and gathers a ragtag band of fighters to help. I was thrilled with George Peppard's space cowboy. Robert Vaughn's mercenary is an amazing reprisal of his Magnificent Seven role.

Fantastic space battles, cute humor, and wonderful performances by a really fun cast.

"Live fast, die well and have a beautiful ending!" -- Saint Exmin, the Space Valkryie

Roger Corman's Battle Beyond the Stars

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

I'll admit it, as a kid Killer Klowns from Outer Space scared the heck out of me.

Long before ICP comes to earth, this bunch of goofy clowns, with a really great toy-based arsenal, land their space-going big top and get to making mayhem! A really useless cop, his love interest and the heroic Terrenzi brothers are all that stand between us, these man-eating clowns and their terrifying pop-corn. There really isn't much more to this classic terrible scifi horror, there doesn't need to be.

If you missed it when it was released you may have been among the fortunate!

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Proficient Motorcycling

Recently recommended to me by a good friend, I'd never heard of David L. Hough's well-regarded guide to safer riding, Proficient Motorcycling. A very fun read for a foggy Saturday afternoon.

Full of wonderful commonsense advice and examples, Hough never loses track of the one thing that always keeps my attention when riding: it is the things you can not see in time that kill you. I've learned some new things, like approaching a curb or curb-sized bump at a 45deg angle or greater provides for much greater stability. His descriptions of how a motorcycle balances, traction works and all the general physics are the clearest and simplest I've found.

It isn't a skills refresher course, but I'm glad to have read it.

David L. Hough's Proficient Motocycling (Second Edition)

Krull

I remember the first time I saw Krull.

I found this movie amazing. Terrible effect piled on top of terrible effect, crazy invented accents, but a story that still captures my attention 30 years later.

Times are tough over on planet Krull, and about to get a whole lot tougher. A young prince is to wed a young princess and bring peace to their two kingdoms when the Beast magically shows up in his space going Mountain, Slayers in tow, and screws it all up. The Beast kidnaps the princess while the prince has but one hope left. He strikes out to find THE GLAVE! Will the prince and his awesome gang of bandits, wizards and magical creatures be enough to save the girl and the planet? Duh.

I need a glave of my own.

Krull on Amazon Instant

Previously on Boing Boing...

Krull: the movie... and the wedding

The Trouble with Tribbles

David Gerrold carefully documented the story, from first draft through airing, of his fan-favorite Star Trek episode The Trouble with Tribbles. I've carefully guarded my copy of this paperback since my teens.

Gerrold's memories of working on the set are fantastic:

One day, I showed up at the set and William Shatner said, "Hi, kid. What're you writing now?"

Kid--? (All right, so I still looked like an eighteen-year-old; did he have to rub it in?).

I said, "I'm doing a story where you lose your voice in the teaser and don't get it back till the tag."

His reply wasn't unprintable-- just deadly. I won't repeat it here.

Suffice it to say, plowboys should never pull on number-one guns.

The book also includes gems about other episodes Gerrold worked on, including the oft discussed by Pesco and I City on the Edge of Forever.

If you love Star Trek, check out this book!

David Gerrold's The Trouble with Tribbles

Beast Academy: grade three math textbooks in monster comics form


Beast Academy is a set of grade three math textbooks and practice books structured as comic books about monsters. The books are "aligned to the common core state standards for grade three," if that matters to you. What's more significant is that they're actually really good math textbooks that introduce their subjects in a clear and easy-to-follow fashion, carefully linking each concept to the last; and the exercises are lively, fun, and built around stories that dovetail smoothly into puzzles, games, and other ways of putting the knowledge into practice. The monsters are great, too -- wonderful illustrations from Erich Owen, whose work you may recognize from the graphic novel adaptation of my story I, Robot.

Beast Academy 8-book set

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The Case of Charles Dexter Ward: HP Lovecraft, much improved in graphic form.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a recent graphic novel adaptation of the classic 1928 HP Lovecraft story of the same name, masterfully executed by INJ Culbard.

The dirty secret of the Cthulhu mythos is that their originator, HP Lovecraft, wasn't a very good writer. In addition to his unfortunate tendency to embrace his era's backwards ideas about race and gender, Lovecraft was also fond of elaborate, tedious description that obscured the action and dialog. Which is a pity, because Lovecraft did have one of the great dark imaginations of literature, a positive gift for conjuring up the most unspeakable, unnameable (and often unpronounceable) horrors of the genre, so much so that they persist to this day.

Enter INJ Culbard, whose work adapting various Sherlock Holmes stories into graphic novels for Self-Made Hero press I've reviewed here in the past. Culbard is a fine storyteller and artist, and makes truly excellent use of the medium to deliver a streamlined Lovecraft, one where the protracted, over-elaborated descriptions are converted to dark, angular drawings that manage to capture all the spookiness, without the dreariness.

This is really the best way to enjoy Lovecraft.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

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Scowler: nightmare-fuel horror novel about a monstrous father


Daniel Kraus's previous book, Rotters, was an outstandingly gross and delightful young adult novel about a kid who discovers that his dad is a grave-robber, and part of an ancient, mystic fraternity of corpse-stealers. It was full of squishy, spectacularly described scenes of decomposition and decay, taut suspense, and perfect gross-out moments. When I picked up his new book Scowler, I expected the same.

Very quickly, though, I realized that I was reading a book squarely aimed at adults, a book that did all the stuff that Rotters had done, but turned the dial up to 11. Where the horror in Rotters was the delicious, peek-between-your-fingers variety, Scowler is built around scenes of such terrifying grisliness and cruelty that it'll keep you up at night for weeks afterwards -- the kind of nightmare fuel you get in novels like The Wasp Factory, say. But this isn't gross-out horror: the terror comes as much from piano-wire taut tension and spectacular characters as from viscera.

Indeed, it's the two characters at the center of Scowler that give it its punch. The first is Ry, a gangly, awkward farm-boy who lives with his mother and little sister on a dying farm that is on the brink of bankruptcy. The second is Ry's father, Marvin, who has been in prison ever since he nearly murdered Ry, eight years before, when the boy was only 11, in a horrific encounter that has left Ry emotionally and physically scarred. The novel opens with many ticking bombs: an impending meteor shower, the imminent abandonment of the farm, the stretched-to-breaking relationship between Ry and his mother.

Quickly, the novel goes into overdrive. As we learn more about Ry's past, we discover the sort of monster his father was, and before long, there's the threat that the monster might return -- or that Ry might become the monster. Marvin is one of the great monsters of literature, a figure of immense, credible terror and savagery. Ry's own fear that he might become his father is just as credible, and Kraus's masterful raising-of-stakes makes this into the sort of diaster you can't possibly look away from.

Scowler


Update: Random House Audio has produced an audiobook version read by Kirby Heyborne (who also reads the audio edition of Little Brother), and they sell it as a DRM-free CDs direct from their site (a welcome alternative to Audible/iTunes, which requires DRM for audiobooks even when the publisher and writer object).


Warren Ellis reviews Bruce Sterling's "Love is Strange," a paranormal romance

Last month, I blogged the new Bruce Sterling book, Love is Strange, an ebook-only paranormal romance. I haven't had a chance to read it yet (it's in my queue), but Warren Ellis has, and he's written up a review that makes me want to read it RIGHT NOW:

Bruce likes breaking things in his fiction. I often see things his characters love getting ruined somehow. It’s hard to think of anyone else who enjoys the casual harrowing of his characters so much.

It is a romance. Bruce does in fact have fun playing with old romance-fiction tropes. There are points where you can almost hear him cackling as he rattles around a LOVE BOAT port of call and scatters poison romances across the sun-kissed trattorias and streets. There is the paranormal: or, at least, people who think they’re paranormal, and people who call each other paranormal. It’s also, to some extent, about the delusions around these things. The female romantic lead is a loon, the male romantic lead is a Silicon Canal alpha-drone, the supporting cast are grotesques and I’ll be surprised if Mr Sterling is ever again invited to a European futurism conference.

booklist 2013: LOVE IS STRANGE, Bruce Sterling [Warren Ellis]

Love is Strange [Kindle edition]

Law of Superheroes: law-school seen through comic-book heroes' lens


In the The Law of Superheroes two lawyers called James Daily and Ryan Davidson do a magnificent job overview of the US legal system that manages to be extremely informative and incredibly entertaining, because, as the title implies, they tour the legal system as it would apply to comic-book superheroes.

This is much better than most of those "Physics of Science Fiction"-type books, since the legal hypotheticals that superheroes give rise to, while speculative, are actually just extreme macrocosms for the normal business of the real-world legal system. What better way to illustrate the rules of evidence than to explore whether (and why) things that Professor Xavier read in your mind would be admissible in court and whether Spider Man could testify in his mask? What better way to explore the "functional/informative" split in trademark law than to ask whether Captain America's round shield might be the subject of a trademark, or just the design on its face? What better way to explore corporate law than to explore the sort of legal entity the Fantastic Four and the Justice League of America should look to form in order to minimize liability and streamline their decision-making process?

I've read lots of popular law books, and spent a lot of time hanging around lawyers, and these kinds of hypotheticals are the best way I know of to turn a dry, detail-oriented subject into something fun and engrossing. It helps that the authors are very imaginative and have a seemingly encylopedic knowledge of comics, which leads ask whether Superman's torture at Lex Luthor's hands are assault or cruelty to animals, to investigate the tax implications of immortality, and to find a loophole by which Batman can operate Wayne Enterprise's vehicles in public without compromising his company's ability to file for patents on them (spoiler: he needs to sell them to the military).

This book covers an astonishing amount of ground, but given how long superhero comics have been around, and how many different plotlines they've explored, it's only fitting. From state's rights to torts, from contracts (deals with the devil, anyone?) to what the FAA would have to say about Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet, the authors show real aptitude for legal education and first-rate comics nerdery. It's a delicious combination!

The Law of Superheroes began with the brilliant Law and the Multiverse blog, which I wrote about back in 2010. If you're a fan of the blog, you'll love the book -- and if you love the book, you should really read the blog!

The Law of Superheroes