Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Buffy Rewatch: Two Slayers, No Waiting

We meet Kendra in the two-parter "What's My Line", and John Ritter dates Buffy's mom in "Ted".

"You talk about slaying like it's a job. It's not. It's who you are."

Here's an unexpected realization of rewatching BUFFY in 2014: the series, at it existed in the late-90s, would NEVER be made today.

Sunnydale High, throughout Buffy's first three seasons, was the setting for a wide variety of supernatural attacks, violence and death. When you sit on top of a Hellmouth, and the Slayer is a student on your campus, you're going to attract more than your share of supernatural beasties.

In "What's My Line, Part 2", a police officer opens fire in a high school.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Buffy Rewatch: The Man With a Past

Two episodes this week: "Lie To Me" and "The Dark Age".

"I never wanted you to see that side of me."

This seems as good a time as any to discuss a topic I keep thinking about as I rewatch this great, great series: cable vs. broadcast seasons.

The standard model for a network show has long been to air a season of 22 (-ish) episodes starting in September and ending in May, perhaps scattering reruns throughout. Then cable channels (HBO is, of course, the most important example) began producing original dramas, creating shorter seasons (12-13 episodes, usually) and airing them uninterrupted.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Hugo and Nebula Novel Project: 1953

Hugo Winner: The Demolished Man

Nebula Winner: None Awarded

Welcome to the inaugural entry to the Hugo and Nebula Novel Project, where I’ll be reading every novel that has won the Best Novel award.  I thought it would be more interesting to do both awards and compare and contrast (though there are of course a few years where the same novel won both) than just don one or the other.  In the early going there will be only Hugo winners as the Nebulas came a bit later.

First, a bit of background on the awards.  The Hugo Award for Best Novel, awarded since 1953, is voted on by attendees of the annual World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) and is the fan award; attendees vote before the convention and the awards are then presented at Worldcon. Throughout this project I’ll also be talking about the other nominees, but in the early years those were not recorded so we can leave that aside.  The Nebula Award for Best Novel, awarded since 1966, is voted on by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and so is more of a trade award.  (Interestingly, the nomination process for both awards doesn’t provide guidance as to what they consider science fiction so you get a nice range of types over the years).

Our novel for this entry is Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man (1953), which was originally anthologized in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1952 before being published as a stand-alone novel.  Bester was primarily a short story and comics writer, publishing only three science fiction novels (He also published a non-genre novel titled Who He? in 1953).  Interestingly, after Stars his science fiction work mostly dropped off until the mid-70s as he focused on magazine work, writing interviews and travel stories.

The Demolished Man takes place in 2301, where Ben Reich, industry magnate, has his back to the wall as he is being pressed by rival magnate Craye D'Courtney.  Reich has been having nightly nightmares of a Man With No Face and to both save his own sanity and to win this industry war determines that he must murder D’Courtney and remove his rival permanently.  This would be a simple thing for a man of his talents except that this world of 2301 has a guild of telepaths knowns as Espers (or “peepers”) who can anticipate murderous intent and intercept such intentions before the murder occurs (similar to the psychics in the excellent 2002 movie Minority Report), to the extent that there hasn’t been a murder on Earth in 70 years.

Reich’s main rival in trying to get away with the murder is an Esper and police detective named Lincoln Powell; full of himself, arrogant to a point and convinced he’s the nicest person on Earth.  Yeah, not my favorite lead character in a novel ever, Powell basically pulls the Bond route of pretending he knows what he’s doing as he stumbles from lead to lead, almost always two steps behind Reich.  Toss in a completely random character habit of lying when he doesn’t need to, leading to the nickname of Dishonest Abe, and we’re set for a lead composed of character traits and not a character.

Then, about three quarters of the way through the book, things get purely weird.  So far, we’ve had a straightforward mystery novel in a futuristic setting but then we get into my least favorite part of 1950’s-era science fiction: insane amounts of psychological mumbo jumbo, usually applied to some completely different field.  In this case, it’s split personalities, trying to deconstruct the killer inside his own mind to find out what happens plot-moving mumbo jumbo so we feel like we’ve reached a plot resolution when it’s really just an excuse to sneer at 20th Century incarceration.  Toss in some random 50’s sci-fi female characters that exist only in relation to the male characters and then that D’Courtney’s daughter Barbara spends most of the novel regressed to a childhood state due to shock (and yes, that plot reads as unintentionally pervy as you think) and this novel suffers more than a bit for being dated.

Would I recommend it?  Overall, probabaly; it’s still fairly well written despite the dated aspects and parts of it are fun.  I just wouldn’t run for the bookstore to pick up a copy.

Random Technobabble:  Tuesday afternoon, Reich left Monarch Tower early and dropped in at the Century Audio-bookstore on Sheridan Place.  It specialized mostly in piezo-electric crystal recordings...tiny jewels mounted in elegant settings.  The latest vogue was brooch-operas for M’lady. (“She Shall Have Music Wherever She Goes.”) Century also had shelves of obsolete printed books.

What Should Have Won in 1953:  No idea.  At this point the Hugo voting didn’t reveal the runner-ups.

My Hugo Novel Rankings So Far:

#1: The Demolished Man

Next Time: The 1955 winner, Mark Clifton and Frank Riley’s They'd Rather Be Right.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Episode 13 - Tennessee

 This week, our theme is Tennessee. We talk the Elia Kazan movie A Face In The Crowd (1957) and Cormac McCathy's 1965 debut novel, The Orchard Keeper (1965). Southern accents abound and we debate how to pronounce names.

Next week, we do time pieces!  We're watching Timer (which is streaming on USA Netflix) and reading Agatha Christie's The Clocks.

iTunes link

Podomatic Link

Joseph, Amy and Randy on Twitter

Edited to add from Amy:

The Orchard Keeper was set very near where I grew up and I recognized a lot of terms and place names and such.

  • "corner of Market and Gay" - Gay Street is the big, main street through downtown Knoxville. Banks, the movie palace, restaurants, the music hall, etc. Market is one of the cross streets and gives its name to a public space called Market Square. It, as the name implies, used to be a place for trade, originally livestock, produce, other goods, then department stores. It's now come full circle in a way because it's where a terrific and thriving farmer's market is held most every Saturday.
  • Brushy Mountain - A prison in Tennessee that was much used by parents as a scare tactic. "If you don't stop kicking your brother, I'll have you locked up in Brushy Mountain."
  • Melungeon - A term for a small group of people who have origins in a very small part of northeast Tennessee/Virginia. Thought to be a mix of Native American, African, and Northern European. There's an active movement to establish and maintain their identity, at sites like The Melungeon Heritage Association and of course, they're of interest to those doing genealogy research. (Fun Fact: Our Canadian Correspondent Randy Perry has what some consider to be one of the Melungeon surnames.)
  • Bluetick hound - Officially the "Bluetick Coonhond." The official mascot of my alma mater the University of Tennessee, both actual and human-played, is a bluetick hound named Smokey. (I love the snarky caption on the bottom photo.)
  • Walker dog - Probably referring to the "Treeing Walker Coonhound."
Also, I mentioned my granddad the bootlegger and his "fruit stand." Here's the picture.

Friday, February 14, 2014

F This Movie Fest 3

Hello all!  We're not tooting our own horn this time around but promoting the third annual Twitter-based movie festival from the folks over at F This Movie.  It starts on Saturday the 15th at noon CST and we'll be watching five movie from 1985:

Dir. Tim Burton/90 minutes
2 p.m.
Dir. Mark L. Lester/90 minutes
4 p.m.
Dir. Joe Dante/106 minutes
6:15 p.m.
Dir. Richard Donner/114 minutes
8:30 p.m.
Dir. Robert Zemeckis/116 minutes
I've been part of the two previous years of this fest and it's a lot of fun, so stop on by on Twitter, using the hashtag #fthismoviefest (also follow them on Twitter at @fthismovie).  We'll have some laughs, crack some jokes and reminisce about how Goonies is not actually a good movie.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Buffy Rewatch: Consider Giles

Season 2 continues with "Inca Mummy Girl", "Reptile Boy", and "Halloween".

"I know who you are, Rupert, and what you're capable of."

One of the benefits of discussing multiple episodes of BUFFY each week in the Rewatch is that I can focus more on individual episodes that have more to say. This week, I don't think there's much to discuss in either "Inca Mummy Girl" or "Reptile Boy"; fortunately, this week also gives us "Halloween."

"Inca Mummy Girl" isn't bad. Like "Some Assembly Required", it features a villain who is somewhat symapthetic: what happened to Ampata is not her fault, but that clearly doesn't justify her killing people to get her life back. And she's like a mirror image of Buffy in some ways: "You are the chosen one. You must die. You have no choice." In hindisght, "Inca Mummy Girl" is most notable for introducing both Seth Green as Oz and Danny Strong as Jonathan.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Buffy Rewatch: The British Invasion

This week, we start season 2 with "When She Was Bad", "Some Assembly Required", and "School Hard".

"Do you know what I find works real good with Slayers? Killing them."

Season 2 starts with a couple of good episodes, but then kicks into high gear with its brilliant third episode. The season probably had to start off a bit slowly, since it had to deal with fallout from the events at the end of season 1.

"When She Was Bad" picks things up a few months after "Prophecy Girl". It's a strong episode emotionally, even though we might question the logic of the plot. (Giles lets Buffy have the summer off, without training? Willow and Xander wander around a town known to be atop a Hellmouth after dark? I know things have been quiet since The Master's death, but still.) But "When She Was Bad" really excels in dealing with Buffy's emotional state. It's one of the first signs of how dark that Whedon and the writers (and Gellar, of course) will let the character be over the seven seasons, and it's good.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Episode 12 - Comedy Tonight!

Join us we talk comedy. We discuss Jerome K. Jerome's novel 3 Men In A Boat and the 2001 movie Super Troopers. Listen up and see which of us might be a grump! Also, we talk about what we've been watching on TV lately, Randy updates us on the Buffy Rewatch and Joseph announces a new project.

iTunes link

Podomatic Link

Joseph, Amy and Randy on Twitter