Star Trek gets spoofed in John Scalzi's Redshirts

07-Jul-12 6:03 PM by
Filed under Humor, Star Trek; Comments Off on Star Trek gets spoofed in John Scalzi's Redshirts

RedshirtsGalaxyQuest was a funny movie for a general audience and hilarious for lovers of Star Trek. Conversely, I can't imagine anyone but Trekkies who will appreciate John Scalzi's latest book, Redshirts — but boy, will they love it!

Set on a fictional starship, the book parrots almost every element of the Star Trek universe — or, more precisely, the television show. When lowly ensigns start to realize that they're always the ones to die on away missions, and "main characters" never do, they start to look into exactly why. What they discover is as surprising as it is riveting.

I've read a few of Scalzi's other books (Old Man's War, Fuzzy Nation) and knew him to have a sense of humor, but it's never been as obvious as it is here. When an opening chapter can have the following happen to our then-protagonist: "But then he tripped and fell and a worm ate his face and he died anyway" — you know you're in for a good time. (You can read the first five chapters online.)

Yet after the story is done, three codas told from three different perspectives, making for a total of 70+ pages of "bonus" material, do more than pad out an otherwise relatively short tale. These chapters adopt a completely different tone, hitting a variety of emotional cues and balancing the story out.

Redshirts is a quick and fun read that you'll be sorry to see end — heck, it's even good enough to have its own theme song by Jonathan Coulton. I highly recommend it to all geeks.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my book reviews on Goodreads

The Showbits Family

15-Dec-09 1:52 PM by
Filed under Showbits; Comments Off on The Showbits Family

Three years ago today, Showbits had its soft launch. It was my first time using a content management system (CMS), which opened by eyes to the possibilities — and fun! — of online publishing. Infected with enthusiasm, I've now grown my portfolio to fifteen different installations of the WordPress CMS, having converted all my sites (and even some other folks') to the software and using it to create several other sites, some of which I've not yet launched.

On December 1, 2007, one such conversion occurred on Gamebits, my first Web site from nearly a decade ago, dedicated to discussion of the electronic entertainment industry. Though I've not maintained that blog as well as Showbits (it takes longer to finish an RPG than it does to watch a movie), it's definitely seen more regular activity under WordPress than it did as hand-coded HTML.

Today I'd like to add another member to the blog family: Wordbits. Just as the Showbits blog was designed to replace a defunct message board, Wordbits was conceived as a successor to the literature review and composition forum known as Prolific Quill. Of late, it's taken a slightly different approach, as my interests have been caught by the accelerating field of electronic publishing. Whereas movies and video games are remain relatively consistent experiences regardless of improvements in technology, the publishing field stands to be completely revolutionized — or dismantled — based on the success or failure of both traditional and emerging print models. It's a fascinating time to be a consumer or producer of written media.

Each of these three *bits sites has in its navbar links to its siblings. I hope you'll navigate among them and enjoy each blog for its various perspectives on digital media. Please use their RSS feeds or email subscription options to keep abreast of new discussions as they emerge!

What If God Was One of Us?

21-Mar-07 4:37 PM by
Filed under Reviews; 2 comments.

I recently re-watched Stranger Than Fiction, starring Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson. While I'm a fan of Will Ferrell's comedies (I love Elf: Smiling's my favorite; and Old School: Frank the Tank, anyone?), I found Stranger Than Fiction to be my favorite of Ferrell's films. Not only because Ferrell broke out of the physical comedy realm, but for the questions that I found myself asking as I watched the movie.

Ferrell plays Harold Crick, an IRS agent who finds himself the lead character in Karen Eiffel's book Death by Taxes. Throughout the movie, Crick hears his life and movements narrated in the author's voice. Early on, Crick finds out that his imminent death looms. Frightened that he may die sooner rather than later, Crick determinedly seeks to either stop the author from writing. Crick enlists literature professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) to help him discern what sort of story he's in.

Through a series of adventures, encounters, and a leave of absence from work, Crick learns to embrace life, play the guitar, and fall in love. Stiff-necked Crick relaxes, finding that life is more than the series of carefully planned events he'd tried to make it. He breaks his routine and finds life outside the routine.

(more…)

Can't Be Worse Than "Darth Tater"

28-Jan-07 11:20 PM by
Filed under Star Wars; 2 comments.

The current brouhaha in a galaxy far far away is the Darth Who naming contest. Seems that Han Solo and Leia Skywalker's brat is following in his grandfather's footsteps, and readers get to decide what his street name will be.

To understand why he's doing this, I looked up little Jacen Solo's Wookiepedia entry. Link upon link later, I was again reminded of how voluminous the Star Wars expanded universe — or "EU", as Warsies call it, and not to be confused with a bunch of Anglo-Saxons uniting around a depreciated currency — is. My direct experience with this medium is neither vast nor recent, as not counting four film novelizations, I've read only two Star Wars books: R. A. Salvatore's Vector Prime and its immediate successor. I didn't have much difficulty picking up on where these characters were decades after the Battle of Yavin… but I felt no motivation to see where they were going, either.

Star Wars is an epic setting, yet its cinematic tales began and ended in a mere six films. By contrast, their literary extensions take dozens of books to tell a single saga (such as New Jedi Order or Legacy of the Force). It's far less episodic than, say, Star Trek novels, which can be picked up and read in any order, based on the appeal of individual plots and characters. Already the NJO books I read seven years ago are set 20 years in the past of the EU's current events. I can't keep up!

Star Wars is to novels as superheroes are to comic books as soap operas are to television: hundreds of characters that live, die, and live again, with intricate plot threads that only the most fanatical loyalist can weave an understanding and appreciation out of. I can't even commit an hour a week to a TV series; how am I supposed to keep up with a Star Wars book a month? I think it's great that some of my favorite films ever have left an epic impact that resonates throughout today's bookshelves; but does it have to be so darn daunting?

Just an old country doctor…

20-Jan-07 11:58 AM by
Filed under Celebrities, Star Trek; 1 comment.

This week, I finally tackled Crucible: Provenance of Shadows, the first in a trilogy of books that independently examines each of the three main characters of Star Trek: The Original Series. At three times the length of most Trek novels, Crucible initially intimidated me — but with the Spock's book now out, and Kirk's due next month, it felt time to get cracking on McCoy's installment.

I'm enjoying the book thoroughly, and I'll go into more detail why once I've finished it. But I thought it worth writing today in memory of the actor who brought Bones to life, as today would've been his 87th birthday. It was a sad day eight years ago when DeForest Kelley was the first of the Enterprise's crew to pass beyond the galactic barrier, where he's since been joined by James Doohan. But as I read Crucible, it brings Mr. Kelley's performance back to life in a very real way. It's probably expected of today's Trek actors, but I doubt forty-one years ago, the crew of the Enterprise's maiden voyage realized they would be immortalized, with countless untold stories yet to be discovered and explored, in novels, comics, films, and fiction for decades to come. I can't imagine how different a scape our imaginations would be, had any other actor come to personify Leonard McCoy. I hope novels such as Crucible continue to do his legacy proud.

I regret that I'm not a bigger fan of westerns, as it seems that genre is where Mr. Kelley can most be seen outside the realm of Star Trek. Can anyone recommend some of his films?

Fortunately, he was more than an actor, as today I was delighted to discover a trilogy of Star Trek poems written by the late doctor. "The Big Bird's Dream" presents a rhyming narrative of Gene Roddenberry (whose nickname was "The Great Bird of the Galaxy") and his efforts to realize his screenplay dream. Be sure to follow the links to the two sequel poems as well.

This Will Be A Novel Long Remembered

29-Dec-06 11:28 AM by
Filed under Star Wars; 6 comments.

I recently watched all three original Star Wars films for the first time since seeing them in theaters in 1997 (I bought the DVD set in the fall of 2004). But before watching episodes IV and V, I read the novelizations, as I also did immediately after episode VI. In any such converstion of media, the source material is almost always superior, and this was no exception: the books were vastly dependent on the on-screen action to detail what was happening. The most enjoyable novelization of the three was Return of the Jedi, which offered some useful insight into the characters' thoughts: Han Solo's evolution toward selflessness; Luke's struggle with the Dark Side; Vader's machinations against both his son and emperor. I had hoped for a bit more detail into Vader's final redemptive act, but none was forthcoming.

The only other movie novelization I've ever read was Attack of the Clones, which had numerous exclusive scenes (both deleted from the movie and created by the book's author). I guess I was hoping for a similar treatment from the original trilogy.

In related news, IGN.com recently posted its "Top 25 Movie Franchises of All Time". George Lucas had the winning entry, of course.

Hufflepuff, The Missing Pokémon

14-Dec-06 10:23 AM by
Filed under Films; 1 comment.

Previously available only in theaters and on YouTube, the trailer for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is now on Apple's trailers Web site.

I've commented to several people, "I hope the film is better than the book." Knowing Potheads to be almost as fanatical as Trekkers, I half-expected this sincere comment to be met with outrage. Yet, without fail, their response has been, "How could it not be?" I'm surprised that other people have found this fifth book in the entry to be a slow and tedious, if somewhat necessary, bridge between the outstanding fourth and sixth books in the series. It's nice to know that not everyone is blinded by what is considered to be the genius of J.K. Rowling.

Of course, she's no Gene Roddenberry.