Monday, March 18, 2019

Sci-Fi Tees Strike Again!

Since I don't have anything more exciting to share this wonderful day-after-St.-Patty's-Day Monday morning, I'll treat (?) you to another installment of my Sci-Fi T-Shirt Collection. These are all newbies that I've picked up since December.

Actually...I was attempting to do my first video blog today with my t-shirts as the subject, but our horrendously slow-to-the-point-of-being-ridiculous (I'm looking at you CenturyLink) internet speed would not allow me to email or download said videos, so we'll have to save my video blog debut for another time.

::: avoids urge to go on rant about horribly substandard internet service :::

Suffice it to say we're working on a solution that hopefully will let me begin video blogging in the near future, like just about every other author I know who doesn't have the distinct misfortune of living with CenturyLink DSL in the hinterlands.

[Do you get the impression I'm fed up? Why, yes. Yes I am.]

Okay, I snuck a l'il rant in there anyway, didn't I?

Enough grousing.

On to the T-Shirt Show and Tell.

Let's start at the beginning. Literally. heh

This new find may be one of my fave shirts of my entire Star Wars tee collection.

I've been looking for it forever--knew it had to be out there somewhere--and finally found it!

Sadly, my photo doesn't do it any justice, because it actually has bright blue letters that stand out boldly on that flat, black background and spell out the famous words...

A long time ago 
in a galaxy far, 
far away....

That needs no introduction.

In the sci-fi universe, it's a trademark in and of itself. And it doesn't even need the Star Wars logo in brilliant yellow or blazing red to form a frame of reference. You can hear the theme song fire up in your head as soon as you read those words, can't you?

Seriously, is there anyone on the planet who doesn't know what that vague scene-setter preamble is announcing?

*cue orchestra with iconic theme music*



Next up...

Quick change of universe and franchise.

Ooooooh.

Aaaaaaah

This one also lacks any sort of logo labeling, but it's pretty obvious at first glance what famous sci-fi ship is pictured in all it's ET-esque glory in front of that big, full moon.

Of course it's the Firefly-class starship Serenity. 

She's probably one of the more maintenance-challenged ships in the sci-fi universe, in spite of the best efforts of her uber talented ship's mechanic, but we love her anyway.

Or maybe, we love her more because of her quirks and failings.

In case you've never made her acquaintance--or even if you have but just want to be back on her shuddering decks one more time--here's a quick trip on the good ship Serenity.



Next I have a special find. Because in space, no one can hear you scream...for coffee! And if your ship happens to get hurled thousands of light years from home and coffee is a rare-but-very-necessary commodity for a certain commanding member of your crew, you can certainly appreciate the sentiments.

THERE'S
COFFEE
IN THAT
NEBULA
    --CAPTAIN JANEWAY

Well, I appreciate those sentiments anyway. I couldn't function without my coffee either, Federation directive notwithstanding!

I even have coffee mugs that match this t-shirt.

Do you sense a theme here? I love my coffee. It's something Captain Janeway and I have in common.

Another is I like it prepared the same way.

"Coffee. Black."

But here you go. Experience this little moment of sci-fi fandom history as it unfolded on the Federation ship Voyager, Captain Janeway commanding.

[You may need to turn your sound up for this one.]



I also have coffee mugs that match the t-shirt.

And finally, I have another t-shirt from the Star Wars realm that is quite a memento.

It features scenes from the entire spread of the franchise's three (okay, make that two-and-three-quarters) trilogies along with the signatures of many of the stars who played the iconic roles.

Harrison Ford.

Mark Hamill.

Carrie Fisher.

They're all there.

Who needs to chase down autographs? 
: grin :

I have four more t-shirts to reveal, but I'll save those for another blog--or even a future video blog if our venture pans out.

If you just happen to be tuning in and missed my Sci-Fi T-Shirt Collection trilogy of blogs in 2018, here are the links so you can do a quick review.

The Tees Have It: Wearable Statements of Sci-Fi Fandom

The Tees Have It: Take Two (Including Star Trek)

The Tees Have It: Final Edition

Let me know your fave to date. :D

Have a great week!



Friday, March 15, 2019

CAPTAIN MARVEL SURPRISES IN ALL THE RIGHT WAYS


My favorite superhero movies are origin stories, those tales of how our comic book saviors gained their powers (in the case of Marvel characters) or first came to Earth/began their lives of fighting crime (in the case of DC characters). What makes a hero (or heroine) is always the most interesting part of the story, and Marvel’s CAPTAIN MARVEL, in theaters now, has two such fascinating origin tales.

The first and most important, of course, is the overarching portrait of Carol Danvers, aka Vers, aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson, ROOM, TRAINWRECK), who, like most Marvel characters acquires her superpowers in an accident. How this happens is not revealed until almost the end of the film, however. And from this point on, it’s going to be very difficult to explain just how good CAPTAIN MARVEL is without getting a little spoiler-y.

At first, we’re led to believe the young woman called Vers by her handsome commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) is just another soldier facing her first test in battle against an alien foe. She has problems controlling her emotions, which lead to difficulties controlling her powers (a sort of undefined killer blast from her hands). Even the Supreme Intelligence, the AI that rules their planet who looks surprisingly like Annette Bening in a flight suit of some kind, warns Vers that she must put a leash on these pesky emotions, or she will be of no use to anyone.

Comes the big battle and Vers is captured by the alien Skrulls and “brainscanned” for information. The process triggers memories that the “soldier” can’t account for—a childhood and early adulthood on a planet different from the one she defends. When she escapes from the Skrulls, her pod crash-lands on that very planet—Earth—where with the help of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) she begins to piece together the story of her earlier life.

I won’t reveal all the twists and turns of Carol/Vers/Captain Marvel’s story, because it is truly a wild one. Let me just say that the good guys and the bad guys are not who they first seem in this film. Even a purring kitty hides a secret identity, though both eventually fight for the “right” side. CAPTAIN MARVEL was a surprise from beginning to end.

As it happens, the filmmakers (writer/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck) chose several times to take the path less traveled with CAPTAIN MARVEL. Historically, the comic book character has been written as either male or female, depending on the year. So, to make this Captain a female fighter pilot was a plus from the start. Her best friend in the USAF is also a female, and African-American, too. The female perspective is not just window-dressing, either. A montage of “fall-down-get-up-fight” moments from Carol’s younger days would never have come from anything but a woman writer. [SPOILER ALERT] Then, too, the good guys in this film turn out to be the ugly green lizard-y aliens; the bad guys the good-looking human-y ones. And it might be good to remember a cat is not just a sweet piece of fluff.

I said at the beginning of the piece that this film featured two origin stories. The second is S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury’s tale. Vers crash-lands on Earth in the 1990s, when Fury is just an agent in the nascent organization, not its head. At the beginning, he reminds us, though his full name is Nicholas Joseph Fury, no one, not even his mother, calls him anything but Fury. And that eye-patch he sports in all the Avengers movies? We learn how he gets that here.

This was among the better of Marvel’s efforts, and I say that as a true-blue DC fan. Definitely a GO!

Cheers, Donna


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Space stations - fact and fiction


My Morgan's Misfits series is often set in one of two space stations; Crossmar and Shar Burk. That's not special in science fiction, and I don't expect my space stations are anything special, either. I'm expecting that in the future habitable planets will have at least one space station to facilitate movement from the planet's gravity to the edge of space. Our very own rather rudimentary ISS is kind of a cubby house in comparison to the vast structures we see in science fiction movies.


The ISS above Earth
When it coms to fictional space stations I don't think you can do much better than the one in Stanley Kubrick's classic movie 2001: A Space OdysseyThe movie came out in 1968, the same year I started university. 2001 was such a long way away back then. Humans hadn't walked on the moon yet, but it was imminent. Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote the novella which provided the basic premise of the movie (The Sentinel, written in 1948, published in 1951), surely expected much greater things from NASA than have actually been achieved. The (unfinished) space station in the movie was the jumping off point to the moon base, and ultimately to the deep space explorer sent off to Jupiter.

Geez. Twelve men have walked on the moon. The last one headed back to Earth in 1972. We've got a loooong way to go to even match the space station. This was one of the magic moments in the movie.


There's so much to admire about this clip. The science is the best on offer. The wheel structure provides gravity through centrifugal force. The (Pan Am) shuttle aims at the station's center, rotating to match the station's movement. The shuttle pilots use computer screens which wouldn't exist for decades and in the station itself you can see people working in control rooms. Back in 1968 the film was a tour de force, with breath-takingly realistic special effects. And a wonderful classical music score.

Although some authors still use centrifugal force to provide space station gravity, many (including me) simply propose that we have developed a means of creating artificial gravity. Humanity won't be doing much interstellar travel without some form of AG. Our bones would atrophy and eventually break down without it. Even a few months in the ISS leads to serious degradation in bone density. 

Without the need to provide mechanical gravity, what a space station would look like is up for grabs. To quote from Elizabeth Moon's novel, Hunting Party.
"Most major space stations followed one of three basic, utilitarian designs: the wheel, the cylinder, and the zeez-angle for situations requiring specific rotational effect. When Heris called up the specs for Sirialis, which all her passengers called 'Bunny's Planet', she felt she'd taken another giant step into irrationality. A blunt-ended castle tumbling slowly in zero gravity?"

Another of my favorite fictional space stations is Linnea Sinclair's Dock Five which features in her (um) Dock Five series. This extract is from Gabriel's Ghost. "Dock Five was an ugly structure, long, somewhat cylindrical. Six levels at its narrowest, ten at its widest, each level crisscrossed with corridors. Gravity only worked at its core. In the outlying areas, beyond the core, it was all free-float, zero-g boots required."

I like the gritty, industrial realism of this slum in space, the proverbial den of inquity, frequented by the shadier side of the species as well as the military.

I tended to use the basic cylinder shape in my books – a cylinder with spokes extended from the central hub to accommodate visiting space ships, rather like a marina here on Earth. You could say Crossmar is a little like the Singapore of the Morgan Selwood Universe, but how it was in maybe the mid-1960's. Shar Burk could be compared to Hong Kong around 1850, a haven for pirates and privateers, run by the rich and corrupt. Like the cities on Old Earth, the space stations are important trading hubs where people from all over the Union go to trade, refuel, and pick up gossip. I'm sure that's how things will work when we're all living in a greater universe than one small blue planet.

Maybe if Laurie's vison of a space station in Venu's orbit comes to pass we might get to see a space station like this one. Wouldn't that be nice?





Monday, March 11, 2019

Discovering The Broken Earth

Just a quick blog today, since I’m in the midst of preparing that dreaded five-letter word: taxes! Ugh! So this is going to be a head-to-page, quick and dirty (no, not that kind of dirty) mostly unedited spiel about my first impressions of an award-winning SF novel.

After hearing all the buzz about N. K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth Series, I finally picked up a print copy of her novel The Fifth Season—which, like every novel in her series so far, has won a Hugo Award, this first-in-the-series won in 2016.

In truth, after listening to her particularly spectacular acceptance speech after winning the Hugo for Stone Sky in August 2018 (and if you've never seen her speech, please give it a look below—she said many things that really needed to be said in this industry, IMHO, and she stated them with an eloquence that will make you want to cheer out loud), I couldn’t not read one of her books. Truth. Double negative notwithstanding.

Here it is. (Give her a minute, she was a bit overwhelmed at the start, but if you watch it all the way to the close, her powerful words just might bring tears to your eyes and a hellyes! fist-pump or two.)




Her dedication in The Fifth Season echoes some of the same sentiments she expressed in her speech:

For all those who have to fight for the respect that everyone else is given without question.

Hey, I’m an independent female science fiction romance author. That hit home.

The Fifth Season surprised me right from the onset. Granted, I hadn’t read any of the reviews or accolades about the book, because as I mentioned, that’s not why I bought it. I intentionally went into it blind because I wanted to form my own opinions about the story, so I really had no idea what to expect and that can sometimes lead to an experience that’s a bit unsettling. I like being unsettled by a book. I like being surprised in a good but uncomfortable way. I like being set a bit off-kilter by an opening. And I like being thrown head first into a strange and puzzling and wondrous fictional place with no preparation whatsoever.

First surprise…

N. K. Jemisin wrote the body of the novel (not the prologue--I’ll go there in a minute) in second person. What? That’s just not done. (Though I expect it will start or is starting to be done a lot more often now.) Now, before you run to Google that, let me just explain the mechanics. The main character (a female) doesn’t speak in the “I” frame as in first person and she isn’t described in a “she” format as in third person. Instead, the narrator tells you what YOU are doing and feeling and thinking, as the character.

Here’s an example in a very short snippet of the opening excerpt of the first chapter:
______________________________________

 1 
you, at the end 

You are she. She is you. You are Essun. Remember? The woman whose son is dead.

You’re an orogene who’s been living in the little nothing town of Tirimo for ten years. Only three people here know what you are, and two of them you gave birth to.

Well. One left who knows, now.
______________________________________

So much is said in that brief story opening that introduces Essun in such an unusual narrative. You are she. She is you.

But first there's the Prologue – subtitled “you are here”

It starts in third person. Without preamble. In sort of a “Here’s the current situation reader. You’re intelligent. You figure things out.” Excerpt:
______________________________________

Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.

First, a personal ending. There is a thing she will think over and over in the days to come, as she imagines how her son died and tries to make sense of something so innately senseless. She will cover Uche’s broken little body with a blanket…
______________________________________

The author does what I like to see in a story and jumps right into the world with no extensive prose about the history and the culture and the customs and what’s strange and what’s not, and just why things are the way they are. It’s often how I start writing a story as a writer and, as a reader, I enjoy reading these in-the-moment beginnings.

Don’t give me every minute detail. Don’t tell me what has happened and what’s about to happen. Let me just take it all in. Let me feel and breath and sense it through my pores. Let me get to know the characters as if we were just meeting for the first time, and I can form my own first impressions--erred or otherwise.

And the third surprising thing is that the story isn’t chronological. It jumps around from character-to character, and time-to-time, though the emphasis is on female characters. I have my suspicions they may all turn out to be the same person—or being—at different points in their existence. But that’s just a guess. And I may be proven totally wrong on that theory as I progress with this tale.

So now that I’ve told you a little about the book, let me tell you a little about the author.

She’s from Brooklyn. This isn’t her first novel. It’s not even her first series. She has won other awards—including The Locus and the New York Times Notable Book of 2015—and her short fiction has been nominated for Hugo, World Fantasy and Nebula Awards. Her work has shortlisted for the Crawford and James Tiptree Jr. awards. She's the first author in history to win a Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in a row. And she is a Science Fiction and Fantasy reviewer for the New York Times. (Yes. A reviewer.)

She may not have everyone's respect (yet), but she certainly has mine.

I’ll write a full summary of my thoughts at some point after I’ve completed the entire novel and had time to digest all this wonderful uniqueness in how it’s told. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for something new to read, you might want to check out The Fifth Season yourself.

If you'd like to know a little more, here's an intro by the author herself, in her own words, talking about the series and about how she was told she'd never succeed as an author. This, too, hit home.



Have a great week.



About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.