Monday, September 28, 2009

The Topping Problem

No, this does not refer to my somewhat guarded attitude to 'The Devil Goblins From Neptune'. (Yes, I have things up on the Internet other places than here. Don't worry. What you and I have is special.) No, this is more about a problem that happens in comics, something related to my issues with metastory (which I have ranted about in the past.) Specifically, it's the tendency of comics writers...and probably editors want to write the "ultimate" story.

Actually, the Ultimate universe is a good place to start. "Ultimatum" is, by all accounts, an over-the-top, Grand Guignol, Ragnarok-style finale to the Ultimate universe. (I have no direct, first-hand observations of this, because I no longer buy comics that I think I'll really, really hate.) It features dozens of deaths of major characters, a bloody finale to the rivalries between Professor X and Magneto and Doctor Doom and the FF, tidal waves crushing New York, and generally is a sort of be-all-and-end all super-hero epic.

Except that a few months later, they're publishing "Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man" and "Ultimate Comics: Avengers". You see the problem. In an industry that relies upon the income generated from long-term fan loyalty, and specifically on long-running series that have stable, devoted fanbases, you can't do a "be-all-and-end-all" story because you have to follow it up next month.

This problem started all the way back with the original "event", 'Crisis on Infinite Earths'. At the time, Marv Wolfman and the DC editorial team didn't think of this as an "event" comic (although they were pretty quick to capitalize on the sales excitement it generated.) They thought of it as a painful, necessary one-time adjustment to the fifty-year-old DC universe that would set it up for fifty years of new stories. But once fans got to see a thousand universes perishing, a battle between every super-hero and every super-villain ranging over five Earths at once, and a titanic struggle at the dawn of time for the fate of the multiverse, it was hard not to want something more...and more crucially, once writers read 'Crisis', they had a natural instinct to try to top it.

But the nasty part about trying to go out and top the last "event" story every time is twofold. First, it means that you're constantly having to top the last event story. The amount of shocking, not-to-be-missed, amazing once-in-a-lifetime developments you need for each story keeps going up and up and up, and it's easy to lose the thread of an actual story in the need to outdo the last one. (It's like the Spinal Tap joke. "Our crossover goes to eleven.")

And then the next crossover will have to outdo yours. When you title a story, "Final Crisis", you're creating the expectation among the fans that this is the ultimate, the untoppable, the literally final crisis that ever there is. When the actual story turns out to just be, "Darkseid takes over the world, Superman stops him and fixes everything, be sure to pick up next month's comic for more exciting adventures!" ...well, it's anti-climactic. That's the issue in a nutshell with "ultimate" stories. Everything after that is anti-climactic.

In the end, and I do keep hammering on about this but I think it's the core truth of everything that's gone wrong with the comic book industry, the emphasis has to be not on "important" but on "good". At every level, fans, writers, artists, editors, and all the way up to editors-in-chief, there needs to be less of an emphasis on, "You must not miss this shocking change to the status quo!" and more of an emphasis on, "You'll really get your money's worth in terms of enjoyment if you buy this comic!" Because there is a law of diminishing returns to shock and awe, and for many people, comics hit that point over a decade ago. And with every passing year, more and more fans become too jaded to care about the big events. But nobody ever becomes too jaded to care about good stories told well.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fun Fact!

"You know, in certain older civilized cultures, when men failed as entirely as you have, they would throw themselves on their swords," from the movie 'Serenity', is a great thing to say to someone right after they tell a joke that bombs.

"You are a sad, strange little man and you have my pity," from 'Toy Story', also works, but is gender-specific.

Insane Comics Moments, Part Six

So I'm now reading "Showcase Presents Supergirl, Volume Two", and if there's anything that a vast collection of black-and-white reprints of Silver Age comics has taught me, it's that the Superman titles are second only to the Wonder Woman titles in terms of sheer, wall-to-wall insanity. Case in point: The first meeting between Lex Luthor and Supergirl.

Luthor finds out about Supergirl's existence the same way everyone else does; Superman breaks into every TV show in the world for a special broadcast saying, "Hey, everyone! I've got a cousin!" (If I had a machine that let me interrupt every single TV signal in the world, I'd probably use it all the time to talk about my personal life, too. I'd be all, like, "Hey, world. Kinda had a sucky day at work. Could use some hugs." It'd be awesome.) On hearing about this, Luthor immediately suspects that this is a trick of some sort on Superman's part. He breaks out of prison (fun science fact! Combining mouthwash, aspirin, orange juice, and some old radio parts will make a fool-proof invisibility formula that works whenever a siren goes off!) and goes to defeat what he assumes is a robot Supergirl.

Of course, she's not a robot (not that this would be out of the question in a Superman title; she actually has robot impersonators of her own) and Luthor realizes that she is, in fact, a woman with all of Superman's powers. He remains confident, though; Luthor says, "I'll use her feminine nature against her!" He pulls a bank robbery, using a shrinking beam to steal the entire bank (hey, Silver Age Luthor might have been crazy, but he had style!) and sets up a trap for when Supergirl shows that will use her "feminine nature" against her.

Specifically, he has an accomplice waiting with a baby carriage, and when Supergirl shows up, they shove it down a hill and tell Supergirl that she's got enough time to save the baby or stop Luthor, but not both. As it turns out, the baby carriage actually has a midget with Kryptonite in it, but that's not the point. (As difficult as it is to avoid puzzling over, it's really not.) The point is, Luthor apparently believes that the big difference between a man with Superman's powers and a woman with Supergirl's powers, the "feminine nature" he's using against her, is that Supergirl will let Luthor escape to focus on rescuing the baby.

The clear implication is that Superman wouldn't. "Screw the helpless infant, Luthor! You've got a date with the judge!" That's right, Luthor clearly knew that only female super-heroes care about children's lives! Or just that Superman is a dick.

Anyhow, Supergirl escapes from the midget and actually saves Luthor's life in the process of capturing him (mainly, according to her, because Luthor's got a life sentence in prison to serve, and she's not going to let him get out of it by dying young. Which is actually a pretty impressively badass thing to do. It sort of feels like what Judge Dredd might do to a perp who's doing life.) Afterwards, Luthor resents her bitterly for saving him, thus cementing her position in the Superman family. And cementing this story's position in the canon of crazy Silver Age stories.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Heist, Part Fifteen

This is the penultimate section, so for those of you who are looking forward to the end (for one reason or another) there's only one chapter to go!

On Tinaria, relationships among the gang get strained quickly as they hide out, evade the law, and prepare for the theft. Although Amanda prefers to work alone, she finds herself quickly befriending Eileen and Ace (even though none of them trust Corvus, and wonder why the Doctor involved him)—Vorimar, though, remains utterly terrified of all of them and hates being forced into what he sees as a criminal enterprise. He has no choice, however; the Doctor revealed his old identity, and the only way to avoid recapture and a life in prison is to go through with the theft, after which Corvus will set him up with a new life at the Doctor’s behest. He wants no part of the money that the theft will bring, and will consider being left alive to be a reward. Corvus, in turn, has problems re-establishing his criminal contacts. Everyone believes him to be a turncoat, since his capture was so well-known among the criminal community, and he quickly comes to blame the Doctor for his fall from grace. Joachim, meanwhile, deals with his nervousness through drugs and alcohol. And the Doctor? He’s busy running errands, making preparations, and constructing a duplicate Key that can pass close inspection—the plan is to substitute the fake Key for the real one to avoid alerting the authorities as to its true value. (It’ll also keep the Baroness from trying to snatch the Key away from them, since she won’t know it’s been stolen until they have the Fleet itself.) The duplicate Key is just as beautiful as the real one…a twelve-sided crystal roughly the size of a golf-ball, shimmering through all the colors of the rainbow as it waits to be inserted into the control deck of the Doomforge flagship.

The heist itself is brilliantly planned. First, Vorimar uses his unique powers to create a precisely localized electromagnetic pulse. The pulse crashes the museum’s electronic systems, while leaving the gang’s perfectly intact. Then, using equipment procured by Corvus, Joachim hacks into the remaining shielded systems of the museum and brings down the rest of the security…leaving the Doctor and Amanda to enter the museum and make the switch, while Eileen waits in the getaway hovercar.

Everything goes as planned at first, but then disaster strikes. Over-medicated and a little bit too drunk, Joachim makes a crucial error in judgement while navigating the network. He attempts to use the emergency cut-out the Doctor had Corvus obtain for him in order to escape the network, but it fails and security programs fry out his brain from the inside, killing him. The museum’s core security systems re-activate, bringing some of the detectors online…a fact not noticed until Amanda picks up the Key, triggering alarms everywhere. Panicked, they are forced to depart before the Doctor can plant the duplicate Key, which means that Winter will know they have it. Fortunately, the Doctor says as they reach Eileen and outrace the police to safety, Winter doesn’t know where they are.

After the theft, the Doctor mourns the death of Joachim. He examines the emergency cut-out, and discovers it was sabotaged; someone set Joachim up to die if he made a mistake. Amanda has an immediate suspect in Corvus, who helped the Doctor procure and set up the equipment, but can prove nothing—and the Doctor appears unwilling to accuse the blackmailer. Instead, he continues with the original plan, and apologetically releases Vorimar. He explains that Corvus has used his contacts to set up a new identity for the Dyna, and thanks him for his help. Vorimar scorns the Doctor’s thanks, but goes to his new home hoping to put this whole incident behind him. He finds three people there waiting for him, though. The first, a blonde woman with icy blue eyes, is Baroness Winter herself. The second is her personal bodyguard, a massive, heavily armed man. The third, of course, is Corvus. They’re there to tie up a few loose ends…

After a night of cautious celebration, the Doctor prepares his (now five-member) crew to go and claim their prize. They fly out to the sector of space where the Doomforge Fleet awaits, but as they approach the Doomforge Fleet, Baroness Winter uses her own ship’s transmats to beam the four of them to her and her retinue of jackbooted thugs. The Baroness hasn’t reached the perimeter of the Fleet’s territory yet, but unfortunately for Miss O’Donnell, their ship has. It’s unfortunate because the pilot’s compartment is scan-shielded, meaning she couldn’t come along, and without the Key on board, the Fleet has just released drone ships to kill her, just to clarify. Winter brought them all along because she doesn’t know who has the Key, and didn’t want to take chances. Fortunately, after a quick search (with the Doctor having his usual assortment of useless junk), she finds it on Amanda’s person, and the group docks with the Doomforge ship without incident.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The "Vote With Your Wallet" Fallacy

So I was thinking about writing about DragonCon (which I attended, as I plan to do next year) and the way that certain people feel like their passion for a particular actor, the distance they traveled to attend the con, or the money they paid to get in somehow gives them special rights over other attendees...but then I thought about it, and realized that trying to correct the behavior of the entire science-fiction fan community felt a bit like tilting at windmills. So instead, I'm going to rant about comics. This is also tilting at windmills, but is less likely to lead to me flailing about with blunt instruments next time I attend a convention.

Specifically, I'm going to rant about an oft-heard phrase that rears its ugly head every time a lazy, slapdash, poorly paced crossover filled with random deaths and random resurrections all to try to generate some sort of "shock" in the jaded comics readership. (*cough* 'Blackest Night' *cough*) (Although really, the biggest problem with 'Blackest Night' is that even by comics standards, it's hard to believe this crop of gruesome deaths will be permanent. This is Geoff Johns we're talking about, a man who has spent his entire career trying to bring back every single Silver Age character and a good 47% of the Golden Age heroes. He is not going to kill off Hawkman, not after he lobbied for the better part of a decade to bring him back. No, 'Blackest Night' is going to end with loads and loads and loads of miraculous resurrections, which makes it pretty hard to care about the endless gore-porn sequences that have substituted for plot so far.)

But what do people always say after a rant like that? (A rant which is, of course, purely for demonstration purposes.) "Vote with your wallet! If you stop buying that stuff, they'll stop publishing it!"

The problem is, people have been voting with their wallets since the mid-1990s. The end result of over a decade of voting with their wallets? 'Blackest Night'.

The logic is simple and inexorable. Comics are, with a few extremely rare exceptions, only sold in comics stores. This means that comics only sell to active, engaged enthusiasts of the medium. If you're not a comics fan, the chances that you will wind up buying a comic as an impulse purchase is as next to nil as makes no nevermind.

So if you vote with your wallet--if you decide not to buy comics anymore because you think they've become grotesque exercises in padding, short-term shock value, dreary and unpleasant characters doing ugly and unlikeable things, and destroying everything that was once fun about the superhero genre in order to show the guys who used to make fun of the writer in high school that comics are too for grown-ups! (...again, for example...) then you're no longer going to the comics stores. You are no longer engaged with the comics community. You are, to all intents and purposes, invisible to comics.

And vice versa. Let's say, for example, that Marvel says, "Gee! We've gotten a lot of letters from readers saying that they're giving up on our comics because they're nothing but Norman Osborn being evil and the Hood beating up women! Let's try to publish some fun, positive, engaging comics for those readers, filled with all the things they missed about comics over the years!" Those readers will never see them. Because they have walked away from the industry. They're not going to wander into a comic store every week for ten years, hoping each time that this will be the week that someone finally publishes something decent again. They're going to move on with their lives. (A few will, of course, discover some of the good indie comics out there and stay active within the hobby enough to know about Marvel's new series, and maybe some of those few will go back and pick it up. But "a few" is not a readership base.)

So Marvel now publishes its new, fun comic...and it doesn't sell. It sells even worse than the crappy misogynist dialogue-fest that their hot writer of the week is working on, where nothing can't be solved by long sequences of characters sitting around the table and having halting, paused-filled conversations and actual fight scenes happen about once every three years. (Again, hypothetically.) What does Marvel do then? They shrug, they look at their remaining fanbase, and they say, "Hey, this is what the audience wants right now. They're voting with their wallets. So let's give it to them...only, since there are so few of them, let's raise the prices to the maximum they're willing to pay without screaming, and have every comic cross over into every other comic so they have to buy them all."

It's a vicious circle. The comics audience has become self-selecting, with any potential new fans totally locked off from getting into the hobby, and the remaining fans utterly contemptuous of anything that smacks of "kiddified" stories. The only solution is to aggressively market new and different books to new and different audiences...but that requires capital that nobody's willing to expend on publishing comics, not without some tangible evidence that it'll produce returns. (Which they won't get, because every time someone looks up the sales records on fun, upbeat books like 'Blue Beetle', they get "canceled after thirty issues." That kind of thing isn't an inducement to executives to go and spend more money.)

And of course, the worst part is that DC and Marvel are the bread and butter of the modern comics store. For all that people encourage buying indie comics as a way to vote with their wallets, if DC and Marvel (possibly even just Marvel) got out of the publishing business and decided to focus on their movies and videogames, it would be an utter apocalypse for the comics industry. All the other companies combined do not sell enough copies to keep a comics store in business. And without comics stores, indie publishers have very few places to sell their stuff. So voting with your wallets...might actually mean buying DC and Marvel books you hate just to keep the store you like in business.

The business model of the comics industry would drive Warren Buffett mad.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Heist, Part Fourteen

Amanda knows exactly what the Doomforge Fleet is, and her reflections inform the reader. The Doomforge Fleet was assembled ten thousand years ago by a race of powerful, brilliant aliens that constructed ships for the highest bidder using technologies now lost. Each ship in the Doomforge Fleet is capable of devastating an entire solar system, and the Fleet contains seven hundred ships. Anyone possessing it could easily set themselves up as ruler of the galaxy—they wouldn’t even need crews, in fact, since the ships are intelligent and can be commanded from the central flagship.

That’s where the whole story started. The designer of the ships, though too proud of his creations to consider destroying them, also couldn’t bring himself to give control of the ships to anyone. He ordered the ships to standby status, and then removed the flagship’s control core. Without that core, the Key to the Fleet, the ships would remain on standby forever. They would destroy anyone without the Key who attempted to violate their area of space, but would otherwise be dormant. Nobody knows what happened to the designer or the Key.

The Doctor, though, says differently. He claims that the Key lies in the Museum of Antiquities on the planet Tinaria, in the heart of the empire. The Tinarians don’t know what they have, but the Doctor does…and so does a wealthy and ambitious woman, Baroness Alexandra Winter. Winter would pay vast sums for even one of the Doomforge ships, let alone the Key. The six of them, working together, could steal the Key and become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.

Corvus sarcastically points out that none of them can do anything, because the Doctor’s gotten them all consigned to Nirvana. The Doctor smiles in response, and explains that they’re not on Nirvana yet. They’re still in a transport ship, which can take them to Tinaria just as easily is it can take them to Nirvana…and that his accomplice, Ace, is currently in the midst of hijacking it. Once she gets control of the pilot compartment, she can use the pacification systems to take out the guards and unlock their cells remotely. “Don’t worry,” he says. “I’ve thought of everything.”

Just then, three guards enter, holding a wildly struggling teenage girl. She stops struggling as she sees the Doctor, and gives him an apologetic grin. “Sorry, Professor,” she says. The Doctor’s face falls. “Oh, dear.”

Three hours later, the seven criminals are firmly ensconced in the inescapable prison of Nirvana. The prison has a perfect record—in 250 years, nobody has ever escaped from Nirvana. It’s not that it has brilliant computer systems, since there are dozens of hackers who can crack those. It’s not that it has unpickable locks—Delacourt knows herself that no lock is unpickable. It’s not that the guards are incorruptible…Peter Corvus could find out the guilty secrets of any of them within days. No, Nirvana is inescapable because psionic boosters continually broadcast a telepathic field that renders the prisoners apathetic and disinterested. As long as the boosters function, the guards can leave the doors open and the starships unlocked, and the prisoners won’t bother trying to escape. They don’t, of course. They have some mundane security measures, but for the most part, they rely upon the psionic fields. Even the Doctor isn’t immune to the telepathic invasion—although he tries to fight it, soon enough he doesn’t care about the universe outside any more than any other prisoner. Only the guards, who are authorized to leave and hence don’t want to “escape”, can leave the prison.

Fortunately, the prison was designed to hold the Doctor, Delacourt, even Vorimar…but Ace’s 20th-century human brain proves to be incompatible with the psionic boosters. After a few days of learning the routine of the prison and pretending to be suitably lackadaisical, she gets the gang to wait near the prison transport, which has returned with a fresh load of criminals. Then she goes to the booster room, and switches off the psionic dampeners (easy enough to do, but utterly impossible for any of the prisoners under its influence.) With the dampeners off, the Doctor recovers his sense of purpose and helps the rest of the group escape the prison and hijack the spaceship while the guards react to the first prison riots in the history of Nirvana. Despite a bitter, angry argument between the Doctor and Corvus about whether to wait for Ace or blast off before the rest of the prisoners try to hijack the ship from them, seven criminals head out to Tinaria to steal the Key.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Seuss That Keeps On Giving, Marvel Vs. DC Edition

(or "Zzzax in Sacks")

When Mogo battles Ego, it's a Mogo-Ego battle.

And when Chemo fights Chemistro and they fight it out on Mogo, who is battling with Ego, it's a Chemo-Chemistro-Mogo-Ego battle.

And when Bibbo helps out Chemo and gets conked by Brother Voodoo while Chemistro's helping Ego who is getting beat by's a Bibbo-Voodoo-Mogo-'Mistro-Chemo-Ego battle.

And when Fin Fang Foom and Xemnu join the side of Brother Voodoo, but they're now opposed by Lobo, who in turn helps out Eclipso, 'cause he's been punched by Bizarro (who's mistaken him for Frodo) as they duke it out on Ego, who's in orbit around's a Xemnu-Voodoo-Lobo-Ego-Frodo-'Zarro-Chemo-Bibbo-'Mistro-Mogo-'Clipso-battle with Fin Fang Foom, too.

Now I say the battle's done sir, thank you for a lot of fun, sir.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Heist, Part Thirteen

And here, we begin the home stretch--the synopsis, which explains the bits of the plot that I never got the chance to write in prose form.

A Past Doctor Novel
This novel features the Seventh Doctor and Ace, and is set between the televised episodes “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy” and “Battlefield”.

On the far distant planet Claris, in a sector of the galaxy ruled by the Tinarian Empire, legendary cat burglar Amanda Delacourt prepares for another theft. She already possesses more than enough wealth to live her extravagant lifestyle, and she plans to give the profits from this heist to charity just like the last three. For her, the thrill keeps her in the business, and tonight, as she plans to steal a priceless medallion from a wealthy dowager’s estate, is just another night on the town.

This time, though, things go differently. The police are waiting for her; the medallion was a trap, the entire job a set-up. Someone wanted Amanda Delacourt captured…and despite a valiant attempt at escape, they got their wish. She’s tried, convicted, and sentenced to the prison asteroid Nirvana. Nobody ever escapes from Nirvana.

Even more startling, she finds out that she wasn’t the only person to be set up that night. The prison transport taking her to Nirvana holds five other criminals—legends in the shadowy world that Amanda traverses nightly. The capture and arrest of even one of them would be a shock…to discover that all six of them have been caught shocks Amanda to her very core.

She sees in front of her the infamous computer hacker Joachim Velasquez, capable of breaking into any system and stealing its precious data. Next to him, smuggler and crack pilot Eileen O’Donnell fumes at her predicament—her own mechanic sabotaged her warp drive, forcing her into realspace in the midst of a police blockade. Beyond that, she recognizes the infamous fence, blackmailer, and “procurer” known as Peter Corvus. The person beyond him isn’t known to her personally, but she recognizes the species—and that’s enough. For a Dyna, existence itself is a crime punishable by a life sentence on Nirvana. The Tinarians fear their abilities to manipulate electromagnetic energy, and refuse to take the chance that the pacifistic Dynae might rebel against them.

The sixth prisoner, though, is the most shocking of all. He’s an infamous terrorist, an immortal shapeshifter who’s possessed at least three different faces in his criminal exploits. On seven different occasions over the past three centuries, this evil genius has thwarted the expansionist aims of the Tinarians, always eluding their pursuits and defeating their goals. It was for this man that the Nirvana facility was constructed, and Amanda Delacourt isn’t surprised that the transport’s maximum security cell was reserved for him. After all, the Tinarians have always wanted to get their hands on the criminal mastermind known only as the Doctor.

With little else to do on their journey to Nirvana, the criminals begin speculating on who it might have been that got them all caught. Corvus wants revenge, while Amanda is merely curious as to who might have the capability to ensnare them all. Vorimar, the Dyna prisoner, is confused and terrified at being trapped with all these criminals—he’d thought he’d concealed himself well enough to escape suspicion. Eileen states her determination to escape, despite its impossibility (which draws fatalistic scorn from Corvus, a military officer in the Tinarian Corps himself who knows exactly how escape-proof Nirvana is.) Joachim, unused to any sort of physical threat or punishment for his virtual crimes, laments his fate, and swears that if he ever does get out of Nirvana, he’ll never hack again.

“I hope not,” says the Doctor. “I went to a lot of trouble to get you all here, and I’d hate to see it all go to waste because you got cold feet.”

Needless to say, that bombshell sets the rest of the prisoners against the Doctor, but he manages to calm them with his explanation of exactly why he threw them all together on the prison transport. He needs them, he says, because he’s recently discovered the whereabouts of the Key to the legendary Doomforge Fleet, and in order to recover it, he needs the services of all six. He knew that they wouldn’t agree to a meeting—Corvus is too suspicious, Joachim prefers to meet using computers as a buffer, Amanda works alone, and Vorimar wouldn’t go along with a criminal enterprise. Hence, he explains, this necessary bit of manipulation—but he’s sure they understand that the Key to the Doomforge Fleet is worth it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

With Apologies to Cinematic Titanic

(So yeah, "Tuesday" didn't happen for posting, but Wednesday is a nice day of the week too, right? Oh, and it turned out that the "Star Trek" post was actually my 400th post on this blog. Feel free to say nice things about my stick-to-it-iveness. Yay!)

Now, gentlemen, allow me to welcome you to Fisticuffs Society. The first rule of Fisticuffs Society is: It is impolite to discuss Fisticuffs Society.

The second rule of Fisticuffs Society is: It is EXCEEDINGLY impolite to discuss Fisticuffs Society.

Third rule of Fisticuffs Society: Should a gentleman request disengagement from fisticuffs, whether verbally or through some form of hand signal...or in the event of incapacity...the other gentleman must desist immediately from battle.

Fourth rule: It would be inconsiderate for more than two gentleman to engage in a single bout.

Fifth rule: It would also be inconsiderate to engage in a bout of fisticuffs while other gentlemen are doing so.

Sixth rule: A gentleman disdains the wearing of anything other than proper attire while engaging in bare-knuckle fisticuffs--this implies full dinner dress, gentlemen. Anything else would be quite uncivilized. And I should not even need to mention that the use of weaponry is quite, quite unsporting.

Seventh rule: Naturally, no member of Fisticuffs Society should even dream of interrupting Fisticuffs Society due to other obligations; please clear your calendar for the evening in order to ensure that bouts can continue as long as they are obliged to continue.

And the eighth and final rule: If this is your first time at Fisticuffs Society, etiquette requires that you engage in a bout of fisticuffs yourself.

Monday, September 07, 2009


Just got back from DragonCon 2009; I didn't mention I was leaving, because I really did think there might be a chance I would blog from the con, but that was a wildly optimistic thought that was immediately swallowed in the infinite chaos that is always DragonCon. So no blog entry Thursday; I might, however, try to post something tomorrow (once I've recovered--the last day of the con is always exhausting) to make up for the lack of substance in today's post.

I will mention that the Shatner/Nimoy panel was hilarious. They bicker like an old married couple.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Some Thoughts On Star Trek

For a long time, I forgot that I was ever a Star Trek fan.

If I thought of Star Trek--and I didn't, much; I wasn't a Trek hater, just not a fan--it was with a sort of vague, indifferent contempt. The show would be on, sometimes 'Next Generation', sometimes 'Voyager' or 'Enterprise' (I never seemed to catch episodes of 'Deep Space Nine') and it would always have a sort of dull sameness about it. A bunch of people in uniforms would speechify about some contrived moral dilemma...or worse, about some technobabbly crisis that was threatening to destroy the ship...and then at the end, it would all get resolved either when Picard/Janeway/Sam Beckett made a particularly speechified speech, or when Geordi/Seven of Nine/the Vulcan in the skintight outfit came up with a particularly long and incomprehensible string of technobabble. (I found out somewhere along the line that Trek writers would actually just write "[TECH]" into their scripts, and let someone else fill it in later. This came as absolutely no surprise to me.) None of it ever seemed to even stick in the memory. I'd watch an episode, and five minutes later I couldn't tell you what I'd seen. (With a couple of obvious exceptions. "The Inner Light" is just damn fine TV and I would never say otherwise.) I not only wasn't a fan of Star Trek, I couldn't even imagine being one.

A couple of things changed that this year. First, I watched the excellent J.J. Abrams movie. Actually, it was more than just excellent. It felt felt like when I sat down, my ten-year-old self sat down next to me and said, "Here. All those times you used to watch Star Trek as a kid...this is what you were seeing, in your head. Bigger-than-life heroes, exciting battles, great one-liners, fun fight scenes, and characters that just seemed to be so much fun to watch. Oh, and your imagination filled in good special effects for all the bad ones, too." I remembered how much fun I used to have, watching Kirk and Spock and McCoy banter. I literally didn't even remember that I ever enjoyed the original series until I saw this movie; it had been covered with the dust of dozens of gray, lifeless episodes. This movie blew that dust away.

Second, I read Wil Wheaton's book "Just A Geek", about what it was like to work on 'Next Generation'. Oddly enough, I found more emotion in his passion for making the series than I ever did in watching it. I remembered how much I liked all those actors, Frakes and Burton and brilliant Brent Spiner (was he ever not funny in his guest shots on 'Night Court'?) and especially Patrick Stewart, in everything else they ever did. And it reminded me that even on a series I never managed to like, I liked the chemistry that the cast had.

And thirdly, someone directed me to Wil Wheaton's blogs about the first season of 'Next Generation'. Going back and reading his thoughts, simultaneously from the perspective of an intimate insider and someone who hadn't seen the show in so long that it was basically new to brought me back to that time in a way that only good writers can. It reminded me of the excitement I felt when they announced a new Star Trek series! (Hell, it reminded me that I actually felt excitement at one point for a new Star Trek series.) And as I read his disillusionment with the scripts, his discussions of the rough going behind the scenes, his critiques of a series he deeply wanted to love and do well on, it reminded was hard to love Star Trek for a long time. It was hard to sit through "The Naked Now" and "Code of Honor" and "Lonely Among Us" and still find enthusiasm for Trek. And then they went and did seven years of 'Voyager' on top of that.

It was so hard for so long that I stopped caring, that I forgot I ever did care. But I'm glad I remembered.

Those are some of my thoughts on Star Trek.