"To Boldly Go With The Force", Mindy Clegg's essay on the politics of popular sci-fi

Mindy Clegg has posted a wonderful essay covering the "social and political conflicts over fandom", and how even though such discussions are appearing in the modern communities surrounding recent films such as Captain Marvel and The Joker (previously), the reality is that such political and social issues have surrounded both the discussion of, and indeed the very core beliefs of some of our most well-known Sci-Fi franchises for decades:

Roddenberry consciously created a multiracial crew on the Starship Enterprise. The show sought to promote the concept of racial tolerance among its viewers by showing a peaceful and egalitarian multiracial crew of humans. Many saw it as doing just that. Actor Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed Lt. Nyota Uhuru, the accomplished and talented communications officer, was told by Dr. Martin Luther King at an NAACP meeting that her depiction of Uhuru was making a difference in the lives of young black women. This was a time when black women rarely had prominent roles on TV, much less in such powerful positions. When she told him that she was planning on leaving the show due to ingrained racism and sexism on the set, he told her that she couldn’t do that, given the positive role model she was for young black women. She even inspired the first black woman to go into space, Mae Jemison. Jemison would later go full circle, and appeared on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. George Takai, who portrayed Lt. Hikaru Sulu, eventually also parlayed his acting work into activism.
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Sci-Fi Sundays: Analog, December 1962

2019 started off with a rather interesting tweet from Elon Musk. He was showing off the "Starship test flight rocket" from SpaceX. This thing evokes a strong bit of imagery that has been so deeply integrated into our culture through science fiction for so many years that it just feels... right. Read the rest

Behind the scenes with Hollywood's creature making wizards

Immortal Masks make a lot of masks, prosthetics and horrific creatures we see in films that later end up haunting our dreams. This video shows exactly how they do it. Read the rest

The HAL 9000 Christmas ornament

Hallmark's got a 50th Anniversary HAL 9000 Christmas ornament... with light and sound!

The latest result in machine intelligence, the HAL 9000—thought to be the most reliable computer ever made and incapable of error—served as the brain and central nervous system for the Discovery One ship's ill-fated mission to Jupiter. Fans of "2001: A Space Odyssey" will want to bring home this special Christmas ornament that celebrates 50 years of the science-fiction masterpiece. Press the button to see the ornament light up as HAL says several memorable phrases.

Side note: reviewers can't decide if it's actually Douglas Rain voicing HAL or not (you can listen to a sample of HAL's ornament voice via the video on the product's page.):

Elizabeth: "I do believe these quotes on this ornament are the original Hal ... I played it against my lap top computer from the movie clips to compare. The difference is the speaker on the ornament is not great quality so it makes the sound of his voice a little off but the quotes are said the same way... I wish they would have added a few more fun quotes from the movie I like mine and glad bought it."

Matt: Matt: "I just received this ornament today in the mail. The voice being used is not Douglas Rain's (Hal from the movies). This is not a minor issue for a product sold as "HAL 9000 50th Anniversary Ornament With Light and Sound." The use of another voice actor should have been disclosed as part of the product's description on this page.

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Bone & Sickle, a new macabre podcast by Al Ridenour

Krampus LA co-founder (and occasional BB guest blogger) Al Ridenour is taking a stab at podcasting with Bone & Sickle, a show that "celebrates the intertwining of horror and folklore."

He writes:

Like my Krampus book, the show explores elements of horror within folklore, or folklore within horror. It’s not an interview show, but more of a manic lecture spun into an overwrought background of original music, drones, effects, snippets of found audio, etc. All within a fictional, manor house framework. Featuring Rick Galiher as my much abused valet, Wilkinson.

In honor of the German holiday of Walpurgisnacht on April 30, Al has "binge released" three 30-minute episodes at once. He suggests starting with the third episode.

Here's a taste of what to expect:

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New trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story.... I have a bad feeling about this.

I grew up watching Star Wars. I was bought Star Wars toys for Christmas. I had Star Wars sheets on my bed. At some point, those sheets were made into a quilt that I proudly took along with me to university. Despite having science fiction bed clothes, I still managed to have a respectable amount of sex during my four-year degree program.  I love Star Wars!

But I'm kinda worried about what Solo: A Star Wars Story is gonna be like.

What I've seen of the movie, so far, has me less than excited for the film. I say this, having loved The Force Awakens and Rogue One. I enjoyed The Last Jedi as well. They felt like a part of the same universe that I've been immersed in my entire life. But the way this trailer for Solo is cut along with the other trailer for the film, has me worried. Watch this thing and tell me that you couldn't remove Han, Lando and Chewie out of the story and still have the same damn movie. It looks and feels like every heist movie and every sci-fi film I've seen over the past few decades.

Don't get me wrong: I'll still go and see it. Alden Ehrenreich's turn in Hail Caesar is one of the funniest things that I've ever seen:

Will he be believable as Han Solo? I don't know. But I feel like I want to give him the chance to fill Harrison Ford's massive boots. Donald Glover? Read the rest

Babylon 5 now available to stream for free in the US

Babylon 5, even during its original run, was never particularly easy to watch when it first aired. The changing TV landscape of the time, as well as the failure of B5's original network PTEN and subsequent re-emergence on the TNT network, meant that timeslots and airdates shifted several times during the show's original five-year run.

Show creator Joe Michael Sraczynski's "B5 books" site is reporting that Go90.com now has the entire show available to stream for free for the first time, along with several other recent series.

I've always believed that B5 represented one of the better Sci-Fi "space opera" TV shows in history, and one that many people were never able to watch during its run on television. The story and effects hold up extremely well for a show that recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Now's your chance to see it in its entirety, for free, on your own terms.

Unfortunately, the site is US-only. Read the rest

Sci-Fi Sundays: Analog, March 1969

As usual, Analog always shines when it comes to cover art. They've got the fantastic Kelly Freas who supplied rich and colorful depictions for many years. On top of that, the actual printing itself is of decent quality. If you compare this to the issue from the last article, you'll see that having your print lined up perfectly wasn't always the case for magazines like this.

I noticed that the pants on the illustration are tailored with a bit of detail around the tail. There's a snap and a zipper. I can't help but wonder if this was outlined explicitly in the story or if Freas, while illustrating, stopped to ponder how a pair of pants for a creature with a tail would work.

For the issues from my collection that happen to fall in the 60's through mid 70's, I really enjoy seeing what was actually going in the space program during the same period. For example, this issue was published in March of 1969. Readers would be enjoying this issue while also hearing about the Apolo 9 mission on the radio and TV. This was a period of firsts. Many of the flights were presenting large tasks, being done for the first time in space. Apallo 9 was the first space docking, which included transferring people between the modules. That's pretty wild. I can only imagine the wonder and excitement in the minds of the Sci-Fi community during this time.

Publication: Analog, Science Fiction Science Fact

Issue: March 1969, volume: LXXXII No. Read the rest

Sci-Fi Sundays: Galaxy, February 1965

Looking at the cover above, you might be tempted to assume that my scanning skills are waning. While it is true that sometimes an edge lifts, or the warped pages produce a muddy scan (especially when I'm worried about completely destroying the spine), this is not one of those cases. The little halos that you can see particularly well around the tiny astronauts, are actually there in the print. This is fairly common for this era of magazine, and a good reminder that these weren't very costly, or at least the printer didn't spend for high quality printing.

I really like the design of the ship on this cover, it is a bit different that what we usually see in this time period. The alluring poses of the obviously feminine tentacle creatures seems like a fairly clever way of using sex to sell the issue while skirting the stigma of having naked women on the cover.

Publication:Galaxy

Issue: February 1965, volume: 23 No. 3

Cover art:Wright from Planet of Forgetting

The inside cover advertisement. Interesting to me that even in 1965 cheap cameras were not as valued as the film itself.

Finlay for On The Storm Planet

Finlay for On The Storm Planet

This is probably my favorite from this issue. The submarine, on treads, but also having oars, is an odd vehicle, but I'd drive it.

Finlay for On The Storm Planet

Finlay for On The Storm Planet

This art work is a somewhat generic collage of "science" items. Read the rest

The science of ever-larger Godzillas

TIL: A 55,000-ton, city-destroying lizard beast could pee 151,436,928 gallons per day. They never show you all the people who died, drowned in Godzilla's urine. Read the rest

Check out this sweet flying saucer

Ooooh. Wired Danger Room has some neat, recently declassified schematics of a "flying saucer" that the Air Force wanted to build (but didn't) in the 1960s. Also included: Video showing why the proposal probably never made it to reality (Warning: Video contains a bad techno soundtrack!). Read the rest

#OccupyWallSt: Luke Skywalker is the 99%

Photoshopper unknown. Via Brandon Neely. Read the rest

Spock is Not Impressed

A Tumblog of Greatness: Spock is Not Impressed

(thanks, Sean Bonner) Read the rest