Friday, July 29, 2011

The Replacement JLA: Session One

We had our first session of the DC Adventures Super hero game and it went pretty well. Jen was working late at an event, so I picked up Lily and she helped me shop for snacks. She was very careful to buckle in Baby Bear before we started driving.

We bought some munchies and did some last minute preparing while we waited for the guys to show up. I turned on some Avengers cartoons to set the mood.

We each had a super person we were playing:

I was Dawnfire, a 17-year-old girl with a degenerative nerve disease, who was an invalid raised in a clean room until an experimental therapy gave her super powers. She looks like Ellen Page. Here's a picture of Ellen Page dressed up like a superhero.

Dave was a guy modeled on the Greatest American Hero, a more or less regular guy with a supersuit that gives him powers. He didn't come up with a description or background for the guy as of game time, so we all decided that he looked like William Katt.

Believe it or not...

Casey ran Blink, our teleporter. During the game, he remarked that the guy played a lot like a speedster and I agreed. No picture for him; he moves too fast to make that possible.

Frederick had Rächen Bloodson, the half-human son of Etrigan the Demon and Morgan Le Fey. I enjoy the exercise of designing the characters, so I built most of the guys we used, and I think his guy came out especially well. I didn't think I'd be able to make him in the system, but it's really versatile and it doesn't penalize you for playing a concept character.

Lastly, we had a guest star. Frederick's son came along and he ran Plastic Man.

While we were waiting for the last guy to show up, Lily was off to the side, playing with her little toys, apparently completely engrossed in what she was doing.  She took Belle from Beauty and the Beast and put her on top of Brainiac 5, with Belle's pleated dress completely covering Brainy's head.

Lily: Belle's peeing on Brainy. Pee, pee, pee...
Me: Uhh....
Lily: ...pee. pee. pee...
Me: *Sigh* The sad part is, there's probably a picture of Belle peeing on Brainiac 5 somewhere on the internet.
Lily: (stops playing) REALLY?!
Josh's friends: *laughter*
Me: Sigh. How do I know this is getting back to Jen?

If there wasn't a picture of it before, there is now!

The session was pretty short. The gist of it was that the Justice League was MIA and supercrime is on the rise as the badguys realize there's no one to stop them. We opened on the scene of a museum robbery, with us watching from the skylight as a guy in power armor directed his minions to loot the place.

(Lily wanted to play as Wonder Woman, so every so often, I would have her roll a die and tell her that's how many badguys she lassoed.)

It was your run of the mill superpowered fight. We jumped down through the skylight and started punching or zapping people. Because we misunderstood the Area Attack rules, Blink was absurdly effective against the minions (he's got an area attack of quickly popping in and and out and punching all the targets in a 120 foot radius) and effectively dropped all of them before anyone else could make a move. Bloodson and the GAH zapped power armor guy with their hellfire and heat vision respectively, and as I had no ranged attacks, I closed to melee and kept punching him. Plastic Man kept transforming into Foghorn Leghorn and a putty colored Superman.

So we went back and forth and even though the guy in the power armor (Bob was his name, as it turned out) had a couple levels on us, we made short work of him. We were pounding him pretty steadily and he decided to just surrender rather than be battered unconscious, which is probably what I'd do if I had a bunch of superpeople beating on me.

After his surrender, we had this exchange:

Eric the GM: How old is your character?
Me: She's 17.
Eric as Bob the supervillain: (an aside to the Greatest American Hero) That girl over she legal?
Me as Dawnfire: No, but I have super hearing!
The Greatest American Hero socks Bob in the jaw and he goes down.

Those heroes still on the roof noticed that Batman was perched there observing us. Plastic Man, the only one who knew Batman, realized that this guy was a substitute. He recruited us to his substitute Justice League, and that's where the session ended.

Overall, a very decent session. We're still learning the finer points of the system and this was essentially a prelude where we were setting up the premise for the campaign. I think I would have preferred a little more role-playing, but I think that will come in time as we all get a firmer grasp on our character's personalities. I'm looking forward to the next session in two weeks.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Roger Zelazny Book Review: The Great Slow Kings

This is one of those fun short stories. It tells the story of the Great Slow Kings, two reptilian monarchs named Drax and Dran, their intellects vast and ponderous.

Drax and Dran sat in the great Throne Hall of Glan, discussing life. Monarchs by virtue of superior intellect and physique--and the fact that they were the last two survivors of the race of Glan - theirs was a divided rule over the planet and their one subject, Zindrome, the palace robot.

It's a one note story, with the gimmick being that Drax and Dran act so slowly that vast spans of time pass between every line of their conversations. It's a silly story, inspired, no doubt by similar ones Zelazny had written as a kid with lifelong friend friend Carl Yoke about their namesake monsters Yok and Zlaz.

"Dran, I've been thinking. There may be life on other planets in the galaxy."

Dran considered his response to this, as the world wheeled several times about its sun.

"True," he finally agreed, "there may."

After several months Drax shot back, "If there is, we ought to find out."

"Why?"  asked Dran with equal promptness, which caused the other to suspect that he, too, had been thinking along these lines.

And it's all pretty much like that. The humor is in the juxtaposition of things like "several months" and "equal promptness".

"Masters,"  suggested Zindrome, "the half-life of radioactive materials being as ephemeral as it is, I regret to report that only one spaceship is now in operational condition."

They send their robot out and he returns with two humanoids. They tell him to go back and get more.

In the midst of their discussion Zindrome returned and stood waiting to be recognized.

"What is it, Zindrome? Did you forget something?"

"No,  great Lords. When I returned to the world from which I obtained the samples I discovered that the race had progressed to the point where it developed fission  processes, engaged in an  atomic war and annihilated itself."

"That was extremely inconsiderate--typical, however, I should  say, of warm-blooded instability."

Also, the two humanoids Zindrone left behind had reproduced and overrun the planet. The pair are irate and dictate to their robot a very sternly worded proclomation, but by the time it is completed, the humanoids on this planet have also developed nuclear technology and used it to wipe themselves out too.

Drax and Dran instruct their robot to archive their proclamation (which by now is already moldering) and then spend some time discussing what has happened.

"At any rate, I should have to ponder your suggestion carefully."

"And I yours."

"It's been a busy day," nodded Dran. "Let's sleep on it."

 "A good idea."

Sounds of saurian snoring emerged from the great Throne Hall of Glan.

I doubt it tops anybody's list of best Zelazny stories, but I think it's very good humor story because of its length. Zelazny provides enough variations on the concept of very slow, obtuse monarchs, and then quits while it's still funny.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Geek Speak

If, for some reason,  you're not getting enough Jugular Joshness here at the blog, I have a few pieces up in this month's Geek Speak.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Thousand Names of Baby Bear

So a while back we lost Lily's stuffed animal, Baby Bear. We had lost her at a local mall previously, but quickly recovered, but this time it was more permanent. We were never sure if she fell off the roof of the car in the parking garage or if we actually made it all the way to the highway before she made her tumble. So we rushed an order on eBay for a replacement Baby Bear and Lily was none the wiser.

She was temporarily lost again at Great Nanny's house, and we ordered another replacement, but in a scene familiar to sci-fi fans, the original was unearthed when the clone was still running around. So we had two Baby Bears, and since Lily takes her everywhere, she occasionally gets left behind at school or at a sleepover, whereupon we break out the Baby Bear we keep in my dresser drawer.

Well, we had a moment where she saw both of them. The one was in a duffel bag from a sleepover and the other was out in the open. Lily poked in the duffel and saw the replacement. She looked at Jen and then asked in a hushed whisper, "Did you know that there were two Baby Bears?!"

So now she's making distinctions between the pair. She announced that one is Baby Bear and the other is Bear Baby ("Her nickname is Cubby, because a cub is a baby bear!") Sometimes when she's laying down to sleep, we'll hold hands and think of "silly stuff", though that's usually more a thing that Jen does with her. I was doing it the other night and I suggested that Baby Bear's mom was really Triplicate Girl, and there was a third Baby Bear out there. She sat up and her lip quivered and she said, "I bet she's all alone and really scared," and I had to reassure her that the third Baby Bear was the white one we gave away to another little kid for a birthday, and that she was happy and well loved.

We were in the cemetery a couple days after that, and we saw a cloud that looked like the number three. I asked Lily who would write in clouds like that and she answered, "Mother Earth?" and later on she said, "You have to listen to Mother Earth!" in that absolutely sincere way little kids have.

She's asking a lot more esoteric questions, like "Does space go on forever?" and "Does the earth ever get any bigger?", the last because she knows there are more people being born and she's worried we'll run out of space. I asked her what we would have to do if we did run out of space, and she said everyone would have to share a house with an old person, and got upset when I thought that was funny.

This Friday, Jen's car broke down on the way home from work. She's terrible about charging her cell phone, so we couldn't reach each other on that. So, I went to the garage where she was going to be towed, waited for 45 minutes, and then got a phone call from Jen on a borrowed phone that she was still waiting for the truck, so I went to pick her up. I got there just as the truck was leaving with her car. Convenient, right? Or it would be, if my car didn't choose that moment to break down as we were driving away. So we pushed it to a local restaurant and called for a second tow. I'm pretty sure it was overheating, (the temperature topped out at 103 degrees that day) because it started up a couple hours later.

Saturday was okay. We went to Jen's sister's baby shower, at a church where Jen had had her own when she was pregnant with Lily. Lily was pretty bored, so I mostly just watched her in the cemetery and the playground.

(I'm very disappointed with this cemetery. The nicest feature is a gazebo near the entrance. It has more garbage cans than I've ever seen in a cemetery too. Two stars. I would not recommend it to my friends.)

Lily decided to start pretending to be Wonder Woman near the end of our time on the playground. She tied up the Joker ("tie-tie") and said "That was easy!" It is easy, Batman! It's not that hard to arrest an anorexic clown! Maybe it's time to face up to the fact that maybe you're not the A-1 sauce of crime-fighting! And after that, she said, "Now I'm going to drink some chocolate milk and go down this sliding board." Wonder Woman even knows how to celebrate in style!

Lily woke up in a good mood on Sunday, and as we were going downstairs, she said, "Let's think about what things we have in common and what things are different," so we decided that we both have brown eyes and we're both nice and funny and smart, and we both like the Legion of Superheroes. When we got downstairs, we talked about what she has in common with mommy. Lily said, "We're both girls and we both wear dresses and we both love you," which I thought was very sweet.

Later in the morning, I was trying to finish up a piece on Veronica Mars when Lily came upstairs and looked at the screen and asked me what I was doing. I told her that I was writing a story about a girl who solves mysteries. She said that she didn't want to be in my story, and pointed to a segment where I wrote about Veronica's best friend Lilly Echols. She's getting very good at spelling. Take a look at the bracelet she put together for me on Sunday morning:

Our mechanic works on weekends, so we got Jen's car back, and then went to the mall where we kind of had an ugly incident. I told Lily I would buy her something in the dollar store. She picked up a little thing that looked like a whistle, but I told her not to blow into it and I took it away because it looked like she was going to do it anyway. As soon as I turned my back, she grabbed another one and blew into it, and I told her that's what we would have to buy. She started bawling. She was really very upset, and it's really hard being a parent at times like this. But we paid for it, and met up with Jen, who asked how we were, and Lily was all "Don't tell mommy what happened!"

The troublesome toy
She calmed down somewhat and went into the computer store to buy a car charger for Jen's phone. While she was paying, Lily and I asked her what her favorite candy was. Then we didn't go over to Gertrude Hawk and we didn't buy Jen a birthday present and Lily didn't say "Mommy is going to be DELIGHTED with her present!" when we were done.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Roger Zelazny Book Review: Lord of the Fantastic, Part Four

Okay, time to wrap up this review. Even though "Call Me Titan" was my favorite story of the collection, this is my favorite segment, because it has so many of the almost-best stories, so densely packed together.

Fairly solid, and a story I otherwise would have liked a lot, partly because the opening sentence includes "verdigrised", which happens to be one of my favorite words. There's nothing wrong with it per se; its main failing is that it's not "Movers and Shakers" or "Only the End of the World Again" or "Asgard Unlimited".

I actually skimmed this one my first time through in anticipation of Neil Gaiman's story and I shouldn't have. I always thought that A Night in the Lonesome October was the best setup for more stories by other authors. It's practically mandated by the concept! This is a bit of a riff on the concept. The Universal monsters (Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein's monster, you know the lot) stand in for the Openers and Sherlock Holmes, Zorro, and Tarzan are represent humanity.

Though the collection came out a year before Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it has a somewhat similar feel. Cementing this is the fact that each story features "Griffin", who was H.G. Wells' Invisible Man. I liked this one a lot, more than I expected to. It was a bit of a departure from the themes laid out in October, but I like it more with each reading.

This is the story of a young woman undergoing Rehab from an immersive VR game. Laws have changed to the extent that companies are permitted to go after their most lucrative clients. To this end, certain people at "Apes & Angels", kidnaps her and subjects her therapist to an addicting VR immersion of his own. They reverse roles over the course of the story, with her coming to learn that she likes helping people. In the epilogue, we learn that she became a medical doctor and a lawyer so she could fight Apes and Angels. Yeah, that might be a little sentimental or mawkish, but this is a collection for that kind of thing. The bad guys get enough victories in real life, and this collection is a celebration of the works of one author and the power of myth. It's nice to believe the little guy wins one once in a while.

Neil Gaiman is the person who comes up all the time when people mention a modern day Roger Zelazny. Incredible stories like this are the reason why. It's another take on the Great Game from October, and it's just crazy good. Larry Talbot, somewhat reluctant werewolf is working as an adjuster in the small town of Innsmouth.  I like that he vomits fingers from a child and later in the story gets a call from a frantic mom about her missing daughter. It manages to be really unnerving. It's a great story, loyal to both its Zelaznian and Lovecraftian roots.

It's a solid story with a lovely title, but has the same problem as Mad Jack above. It's a good story surrounded by great ones. I did particularly like the word from the author where he speaks of Zelazny's  "liquid grace", which I thought was a wonderful turn of phrase.

I've become something of a fan of Michael Stackpole while writing these commentaries. I loved his contribution for Forever After, and I also liked his superhero story in the anthology where I first read the Hugh Glass.

It opens with the line "Aside from the raven-shit on his shoulders, Odin looked pretty good in the Armani suit." which is brilliant, though I'm not sure that "raven-shit" needs to be hyphenated. Loki is selling the rest of the pantheon about life in modern times.

I find that I have the least to say about the stories I like the most in this collection, and I suppose that's because I don't want to spoil it for a perspective reader. This is right up there with Silverberg's and Gaiman's stories for best capturing the tone of a Zelazny story, and I don't have anything to say other than it's GREAT! and you should READ IT!

As with Saberhagen in the beginning, I was disappointed that this was remembrance without a story to accompany it, but when it comes down to it, both the stories and the reminisces are the same thing, a way of honoring an admired and respected friend.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Roger Zelazny Book Review: Lord of the Fantastic, Part Three

This is the third part of my review of the the Roger Zelazny tribute, Lord of the Fantastic. Part One is here and Part Two is here.

"The Flying Dutchman" by John Varley

The Flying Dutchman
is the tale of Peter Meers, an air traveler having trouble getting back home. It's an unnerving creeper of a story that made me think of Clive Barker. I liked it, but I have to wonder what it's doing in this collection. It's well-crafted, (For instance, I liked lines like "The 727 hit the tarmac like a fat lady on skates")  but it doesn't have anything to do with Roger Zelazny. Yes, Zelazny once wrote a take on the Flying Dutchman in And Only I Escaped to Tell Thee, but it's not like it's any kind of signature story for him.

 Also there was no author afterward, which was a bit disappointing.

"Ninekiller and the Neterw" by William Sanders

Neterw? It looks like those word scrambles on the menu the local deli faxes to our office every morning.

Rent We
Tern We
Newt Re
Went Re

It's pretty well put together.  It opens with some cliches, magical Indian who hears his grandfather's voice warning him of danger. The author's afterword was great, and very intriguing.

"Call Me Titan" by Robert Silverberg

I loved this one!  This is another one that features Roger Zelazny as a character. A Titan assumes his form and has sex with Aphrodite. When I go, I want my friends to eulogize me in such a fashion.

"How did you get loose?" the woman who was Aphrodite asked me.

"It happened. Here I am."

"Yes," she said, "You of all of them. In this lovely place. She waved at the shining, sun-bright sea, the glittering white stripe of the beach, the whitewashed houses, the bare brown hills. A lovely place, yes, this Isle of Mykones, "And what are you going to do now?"

"What I was created to do," I told her, "You know."

She considered that. We were drinking ouzo on the rocks, on the hotel patios, beneath a hanging array of fisherman's nets. After a moment, she laughed, that irresistible tinkling laugh of hers, and clinked her glass against mine.

"Lots of luck," she said.

It's really great. This could easily have been a story Zelazny himself wrote. Silverberg does a great job of emulating Zelazny's voice, and the concept of modern myths is a quintessentially Zelazny theme. I think this one is my favorite of the lot, and in a collection with stories by Michael Stackpole and Neil Gaiman, that's no mean feet.

"The Outling" by Andre Norton

I usually like Andre Norton, but this story didn't work for me. I think the fantastic elements were at odds with the rest of the stories in the collection.

"Arroyo de Oro" by Pati Nagle

Well, I haven't made an arroyo joke for a while. I really enjoyed this one. A rookie FBI agent investigates a murder on an Indian reservation in the near future. It's a pretty straightforward murder mystery, but the narrator is engaging and the story moves at a brisk pace.

"Back in 'the Real World'" by Bradley H. Sinor

Hey, kids! Another magical Indian story!

Legion of Super Heroes: Chained Lightning

This is probably my favorite of the second season episodes. My daughter loves this one. The first time I showed it to her, we went on to watch it four times. The most recent viewing was with my wife, and she liked it too, though Superman-X was hard to explain. (And, for the record, if he's there to replace Mon-El, I don't think "Krytonite-infused Superman clone from a thousand years in future" is any less confusing than Mon-El's backstory.)

We open with Lightning Lad dreaming of the encounter with the Lightning Beasts that gave him his powers. I forget who made the joke that every time we see his origin story, it takes place with more family members present. This time it's Garth, Mekt and their sister Ayla. Mekt is a couple years older than the pair, and he's dodging, trying to get the beasts to refuel the batteries on the ship. Ayla starts panicking, and Garth leads her in a nursery rhyme, "The monkey rode on the rocket ship, the rocket ship, the rocket ship, the monkey rode on the rocket ship and bumped his head on the moon.

Kari Wahlgren voices Ayla, and she has a lovely singing voice.

Garth and Mekt get their superpowers from the beasts, but their sister is apparently disintegrated. That's where the dream ends, and we transition to the briefing room. Brainiac 5 is bitching about Shrinking Violet in a rather hilarious exchange.

Brainiac 5: Okay, we're just waiting  for Shrinking Violet now. She'll be filling in for Superman, who's saving the universe on the other side of the galaxy.  Let's see, replace the powers of the greatest hero ever with the ability to, um, become smaller. Sounds like a fair trade to me!

Shrinking Violet: Um, I'm right here, and for the record, I can do more than shrink.

Brainiac 5: Sure you can.

He's kind of got a point. When it comes to powers, Shrinking Violet makes makes Triplicate Girl look like the Martian Manhunter. Looking now, I see that Kari Wahlgren also did her voice, and I wouldn't have guessed that because she really does sound very different from Ayla (and Saturn Girl for that matter.) I also like that she snorts when she laughs.

We have another flashback, but this time it's Mekt dreaming about Ayla. She tells him that she needs him, and then her face turns into a skull as he wakes up. He enters the bridge of Imperiex's ship humming the monkey rode on the rocket ship song, which I thought was a nice callback.

Later on there's a space battle where the Legionnaires are trying to stop Imperiex and his "destructobots" (*Sigh*) from using this energy cloud to power his Tachyon Cannon. There's a lot to like in this particular scene. Brainy gets in another jab at Vi's expense.

Brainiac 5: (Pinned Down by robots) A little help here?
Vi: Someone ask for a little help?
Brainiac 5: Oh, she gets small and makes puns.

Thanks for the assist, Shrinking Violet. A noble spirit embiggins the smallest Legionnaire.

Mekt and Garth have a great exchange during an outstanding fight scene. When Lightning Lad confronts his older brother, he asks how Mekt can serve Imperiex. Mekt replies, "Easy. Because he's going to win," and then offers Lightning Lad the chance to join up with them, saying, "You know I'd look out for you."

Garth: You'd look out for me, Mekt? Would this be the same way you looked out for Ayla?
Mekt: She was my sister, too, Garth!

They fight, and Lightning Lad is outmatched. An image of Ayla appears in the lightning as they battle, but before they can figure out what this means, Imperiex steps up and blasts off Lightning Lad's arm.

He gets a mechanical replacement, to which he adjusts rather quickly, I felt. A little bit later, and they detect an unusual signal coming from the cloud. Violet screens out the interference and we hear Ayla singing the monkey rode on the rocket ship song. They figure out that she is the cloud and they can extract her, but only with the help of Mekt. So the Legion launches an attack on the cannon to draw Mekt out and he turns on Imperiex's forces when Lightning Lad tells him the score. He says that he messed up pretty big all those years ago, and he's been messing up ever since. Together, they combine their powers and bring her back. She's exactly as she was the day she was transformed, just a little kid. The three siblings embrace. Mekt asks if Garth is going to arrest him, but Garth declines, saying that they had a deal all those years ago, that if Mekt got the pair home safely, they wouldn't get him in trouble. Despite this, Mekt decides to face up to his responsibilities.

We cut to the Ranzz family home with Ayla and Garth entering. There's a present from Mekt on the table, a picture of the three of them as kids. The episode ends with Mekt in a cell on Takron-Galtos, looking at his own copy of the picture, seemingly at peace.

I'm always a sucker for a tale of redemption, and I've been pretty happy with the portrayal of Mekt in the series. He's never exactly a villain, but rather someone always looking for the easy path. He gets in over his head, and his efforts to extricate himself just lead to him getting in deeper. But he loves his sister and when the time comes, he makes the right choice to save her.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Legion of Super Heroes: Champions

This is another solid episode of the Legion TV series. It's one of my daughter's favorites too. Lightning Lad is competing in the dodecathlon and assassins are trying to kill Phantom Girl's mom, the President of the United Planets. Complicating things are the presence of his older brother, Mekt, with whom he has a certain amount of sibling rivalry.

The episode had a lot of details I liked, from the Crustacean ambassador,

"Hey, crab legs!"  "Hey, monkey face!"

to Phantom Girl making fun of Superman's awkwardness around the President.

"Aww, shucks, ma'am, I ain't never met nobody! Uh-huh! Uh-huh!"

Superman and Phantom Girl provide security while Lightning Lad competes in the dodecathalon. The Fatal Five are in various ingenious disguises. Tharok disguises himself as a vendor, Validus as an adorable little kid (seriously!),

Emerald Empress as a judge, Mano as a painter, (in a scene that I like, because Superman figures out who he by reasoning that you're not going to have a painter working on a blimp on opening day of a big ceremony.)

The Persuader disguises himself as one of the President's guards, but gets schooled by Phantom Girl. Again.

"D'oh! This always happens!"

Phantom Girl is downright adorable in this episode. There's one scene where she goes to a booth and tries on a Zzok hat, designed to look like the burrowing alien competing in the games.

Hey, PG. If you and Ultra Boy don't work out, I'm right here in the 20th century!

I also like that even though she bickers with and is embarrassed by her mom, she is also fiercely protective of her.

It's not clear from where the animated Phantom Girl gets her powers. In the comics, she was one of the Legionnaires who come from one of those planets (Bgztl) where everybody has the same power and if that's the case here, presumably, her mom should be be able to phase too. (Actually, now that I think of it, in one of the more recent Legion continuities, Phantom Girl was the only one who could switch between phased in and phased out. The other Bgztllians are out of phase with the rest of the universe all the time.)

Mekt takes the gold medal because Lightning Lad stopped to help some of the contestants endangered by the cheating. I kind of like this message for a show that Lily watches. If you do the right thing, you may not win, but some things are more important than winning. Lightning Lad takes silver though, and they are both present at the awards ceremony. It looks like they're in the clear, because the dome above is impenetrable from the outside. However, Mekt triggers a device that destroys the dome in order to pay back a favor, and the Fatal Five strike a pose


and then attack.

This episode had two iconic Legionnaires, Ultra Boy and Matter Eater Lad as contestants in the games and not Legion members and they team up with the rest of the heroes to stop the bad guys at the end.  (The weird dude with the tentacles is Zzok of Sephia. He was the model for the hat that Phantom Girl was wearing in the earlier picture.) They strike their own pose


and fight back with their own powers.

Another fun episode. Humor on kid's shows is often, by definition, juvenile, but I thought the announcers giving a play-by-play during the fight with the Fatal Five were actually pretty entertaining.

"And Lightning Lad's down! That's another notch on the Persuader's axe. Waiting for Lightning Lad to get up, our coverage of this attack is brought to you by Little Deepzorg Snack Cakes. Little Deepzorg, the snack that made Deepzorg famous."

Also, I like Mekt. He's a great foil for Lightning Lad. Mekt gets a pretty decent arc over the series, even though he only shows up in a handful of episodes. In this one, he's just a bit of a jerk, who is cheating in order to win. He knows that what he's done is wrong, and even though he regrets the consequences, he's too small a man to step up and fix things.

Lily was saying "I think he's evil," and I was saying, "I don't know if he's a bad guy or just a cheater. We'll have to watch to find out."  (He was just a cheater and at the end Lily very graciously said, "Oh, I guess you were right.")

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Roger Zelazny Book Review: The post-Merlin short stories

Back, after a short hiatus, another Roger Zelazny book review:

I've been sitting on this post for a little while and I thought I'd finally publish it now since I'm having a hard time finishing up my review of Lord of the Fantastic.

I may have let it slip from time to time that I didn't really feel that the Merlin books were of the same caliber of the Corwin books. I did however, enjoy the short stories that followed the series, for a couple of reasons.

The first is how I read them. I had a subscription to Amberzine in the 90s (a subscription which extended into the next decade, because the publication schedule was a tad irregular) and I was too young to read fantasy magazines in their heyday, but reading Amber stories like this was like a throwback to that era, and it was great.

I do try not to speculate about why an author made a certain decision, but Zelazny was open about writing the Merlin books because he was offered a large advance from the publisher, and I really feel that the books would have benefited from a little more polish. Perhaps I'm projecting too much of my own personal reactions to the series, but it seemed like at the end that he was burned out on Merlin and just wanted things to be over with.  However, with these short stories, he seems excited to explore the concepts and do some real world-building.

To digress, I think readers sometimes romanticize the artistic process. A friend of mine once observed

 People look at great works of art -- be they books, paintings, movies, whatever -- and they say "Oh what talent you have" and talk about how this piece of art is an "expression of the artist's inner heart and soul" and rail against those who have "sold out" by creating works of art for money instead of because it's their "true calling". This is all bullshit.

There's little meaningful difference between writing a good story and building a wall. Each works best when you follow certain rules and certain structures.

Roger Zelazny, was, among a great many other things, a very talented craftsman with a stunning breadth of knowledge. He was perfectly capable of writing a readable story to spec. I feel that there may have been an element of this in the Merlin chronicles. There was a demand for a second series and he fulfilled it and everyone was happy. But it seems that somewhere along the line, concepts in the Merlin books took on a life of their own, and Zelazny wrote several stories to explore them. I'm reminded of his words in the introduction to the first Last Defender of Camelot collection, where he says, " is a fact of writing life that, word for word, novels work harder for their creators when it comes to providing for the necessities and joys of existence. Which would sound cold and cynical, except that I enjoy writing novels, too." The fact that he returned to short stories to tell these tales suggests that he was more interested in telling a story that needed to be told instead of writing just fill pages, which is how the Merlin books sometimes struck me. To put it another way, the stories that followed the Merlin books felt like they had a passion that their immediate predecessors lacked.

Anyway, this is just uninformed speculation on my part. The short stories seem more focused than the Merlin books. It strikes me that they're building to something specific.
Enough ramblings. Here's my commentary.

Prologue to the Trumps of Doom:

This is a really short story and there's not much too it.  Merlin negotiates the Logrus and it's the same sentence fragments and poetic imagery you get in the Pattern walks.

The Salesman's Tale

Here's where we really get underway. Luke is our narrator for the story and it's nice to have a voice other than Merlin's or Corwin's telling the tale. I like the beginning.

Glad I'd planned on leaving Merlin in the Crystal Cave for a long while. Glad he didn't stay the entire time. As I interrupted our trumped conversation by kicking over my glass of iced tea and shouting "Shit! I spilled it--" I turned over the Trump of Doom in my good hand.

Junkyard Forest. Nice sketch, that. Though it didn't matter what it depicted, which is why I'd had Merlin fan the cards face down and had drawn one at random. That was for show, to confuse the Pattern. All of them led to places within spitting distance of the Crystal Cave--which had been the real reason for their existence in the first place. Their only purpose had been to draw Merlin into the Cave's orbit, at which point a blue crystal warning system was to have alerted me. The plan was for me to get there in a hurry and find a way to make him a prisoner.

Unfortunately, I hadn't gotten the message when he'd drawn the Sphinx to escape from mom. Her neurotoxins had canceled a necessary trigger signal from his nervous system--just one of the many ways she's messed up my plans without half-trying. Didn't matter, though, in the long run. I got Merlin there, anyway. Only... everything changed after that.

The first part of the story is Luke musing on the events that led up to this point while recovering in the Crystal Cave. He summons Werewindle, then contacts Vialle via Trump and relates to her the current goings on of the Pattern and the Logrus.  She assembles some of her sculptures and queries them and receives cryptic answers from about the significance of these events. It implies pretty heavily that Greyswandir and Werewindle were spikards before they were swords, something confirmed in a later story. I was really enjoying the teasers that Zelazny was rationing out to attentive readers, like this bit from Prince of Chaos:

"Good copy,"  he  said,  "but not even the Pattern can duplicate Grayswandir."

"I thought a section of the Pattern was reproduced on the blade."

"Maybe it's the other way around," he said.

In the hands of a lesser author, this could have come across as heavy-handed and a bit weak. Portentous, ambiguous warnings from a supernatural source? That's straight out the introduction to The Lazy Author's guide to Fantasy Clichés. Zelazny pulls it off though, injecting the scene with just the right balance of foreshadowing and foreboding. It also establishes Vialle as somebody more than some blind girl Random was forced to marry once upon a time, and I would have been interested in learning more about her.

Blue Horse, Dancing Mountains

The story opens with Corwin being his usual badass self:

 I  took a right at the Burning Wells and fled smokeghosts across the Uplands of Artine.  I slew the leader of the Kerts of Shern as her flock harried  me from hightowered perches among  the canyons of that place. The others abandoned the sport, and we were through, beneath a green rain out of a slate-colored sky. Onward and down then, to where the plains  swirled dust devils that sang of sad eternities in rock that once they were.

He's riding a shapeshifting horse named Shask from Chaos to Amber, to deliver some news to which the statues had alluded in the earlier chapter. He has some adventures, he encounters representations of Dworkin and and Suhuy playing chess with figures like Mandor as chess pieces.

I like this bit of cryptic ambiguity quite a bit less than the last story. 1.) We just saw it done better in the last story 2.) The chessmaster analogy is beyond stale at this point.

The Shroudling and the Guisel

Ugh. It's Merlin.

    I  awoke  in a dark room, making love to a lady I did not recall having gone to bed with. Life can be strange.

Yeah, isn't life like that?

The lady is Rhanda, Merlin's childhood friend. Though she has the fangs, she's not a vampire, but rather a member of an almost extinct race, the shroudlings. They live on the other side of mirrors.

It's not a bad story, but it just exemplifies everything I hate about Merlin. It introduces yet another patron utterly captivated by him. She's been spying on his behalf and they exchange exposition. Rhanda tells him that Julia was just faking their reconcliation to put him off guard, and he tells her that he's not the king of Chaos, since a number of claimants have come out of the woodwork since the end of the final book. This is irrelevant, unless they can defeat the Guisel, a terrifying monster out of legend named after one of the von Trapp children.

Merlin's boosters are falling over each other to come to his aid.  Why does he engender this kind of loyalty again? Kergma, the mathematical abstraction with the cool way of speaking, tells Merlin what he has to do, and he uses the godlike power of the spikard that somebody else had given him to do it.

He carves up the Guisel and clones it, sending the replacement back at the sorcerer who summoned it. This leads directly into...

Coming to a Cord

Frakir was tied where Merlin left her, in Brand's bedroom, her heightened intelligence slowly returning to her. She encounters Flora, the sorcerer against whom Merlin sent the second Guisel, the Guisel, and Luke, in that order. We get explicit confirmation that Werewindle was previously a spikard. Luke uses it to destroy the Guisel, and he does it without endangering innocent people or nailing any of his aunts, which puts him two up on his cousin.

The sorcerer here seems a lot more sympathetic than Rhanda described him and I wonder if she was manipulating Merlin into get rid of an enemy.

This is a pretty decent story. Luke is a lot more appealing than Merlin as a protagonist, plus it fits in very nicely with all the other stories in advancing the overall narrative.

Hall of Mirrors

We open with Corwin again. He's being ambushed by a bunch of bandits and finds himself suddenly insubstantial. He returns to Amber and encounters Luke, and the pair soon find themselves in the Hall of Mirrors. Once there, Oberon orders Corwin to stab Luke. Corwin refuses, but Oberon clarifies, explaining he wanted to demonstrate something. We get some more spikard lore with the following exchange:

"They're brother and sister weapons, you know, with a certain magic in common. In fact, they've a powerful secret in common," Oberon said. "Tell him, Corwin."

"It's a dangerous secret, sir."

"The time has come for it to be known. You may tell him,"

"All right," I said. "Back in the early days of creation, the gods had a series of rings their champions used in the stabilization of Shadow."

"I know of them," Luke said. "Merlin wears a spikard."

"Really," I said. "They each have the power to draw on many sources in many shadows. They're all different."

"So Merlin said."

"Ours were turned into swords, and so they remain."

I'm not sure if I buy this, as much as I dig it. Corwin in the first chronicles was pretty stunningly ignorant of the cosmology of the universe, his knowledge of the Courts limited to a single visit there as a child. It doesn't jibe that he knows so much about the fundamentals of underlying reality. It's possible that this would have been addressed in later works, but this was Zelazny's final Amber story,

We continue through the hall, meeting Dara and Eric through the mirrors. I think I've been pretty clear in disliking the leitmotif of the Hall of Mirrors, but this is its best presentation. The pair are led to the killing ground, (Alice, my love) and compelled to duel. Luke speculates "Could it be that for the first time Amber is starting to reflect Shadow, rather than the other way around?"

The two observers are revealed to be Mandor and Fiona. Corwin and Luke pass out, but not before Fiona tells him that she and Mandor are not as culpable as he might thing.

They awaken in the dispensary, with Flora attending to them. The story, and the saga of Amber, ends with these lines:

"Corwin," Luke said, "Did the Hall of Mirrors show up a lot when you were a kid?"

"No," I said.

"Hardly ever, when I was growing up either," Flora said. "It's only in recent years that it's become this active. Almost as if the place were waking up."

"The place?" Luke said.

"Almost as if there's another player in the game," she responded.

"Who?" I demanded, causing a pain in my gut.

"Why, the castle itself, of course," she said.

The stories were all pretty good. I generally favor Zelazny's short works over his long ones. In fact, he's been so influential on taste that I owe to him my belief that the novella is the perfect length for a work of genre fiction. The stories are all solid, and I would have liked to see more of them, perhaps leading into another full length series. But that's not what we got. I can even see an appeal of Corwin and Luke in the infirmary, preserved, as if in amber,  just as their creator left them.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Another post about my weekend

I had an extremely nice weekend with Lily. Jen was off helping her mom with a yard sale, so Lily and I had some daddy-daughter time. We started the day with a little Scooby Doo and some Legion of Super Heroes. The second season is pretty weak, so I wasn't sure if she would enjoy it or not, but she dug the Karate Kid episode and loved the "Chained Lighting" episode. We watched it three times in a row, but I didn't mind, because it was pretty great. Lily is sometimes amazingly astute. She picked up on a flashback right away, and that's something even adults don't always notice.

After that, we took in a quick viewing of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. I didn't think that she was enjoying it, but when it was over she announced "I really liked that!" She had some funny comments. I was explaining Owlman to her. (He's the evil Batman from the parallel universe) I told her that and she said, "Oh, I get it, they both dress up like flying animals." Pause. "Why does he have an "O" on his shirt? Batman doesn't have a B." I was cheering for Owlman when they had their fight, but Lily got upset, so I started cheering for Batman instead. (This doesn't make me a Batman fan, though. He poops.)

Then we got in the car and headed up to Ye Olde Comic Book store. My old boss runs the place and I buy most of my stuff there still. Lily was a little shy around his girlfriend at first, but she's a really nice person and really great with kids. I looked away for a second and the next thing I know, Lily is saying to her, "Baby Bear wants to give you a kiss."

Most of the comics I bought were for Lily, some Scooby Doos, Tiny Titans and some of the Legion books we didn't have. We went home and Lily fell asleep in the car, but woke up when I was getting her out.

Eric invited us to hang out at his place, and Lily had a blast playing with his son and swimming in the pool.

On Sunday, Jen and Lily went to church while I played video games, then we went to Easton's Heritage Day festival. (The town celebrates Independence Day a week late, because the Declaration of Independence was read in the town square on July 8th, 1776)  We had a pretty decent time. Lily enjoyed the little moon bounce thing they had set up.

We went home, killed a little time, then dropped Lily off with Oma. Jen and I returned home and decided to watch The American President on Netflix. (We had run into some people from the ACLU at Heritage Day, and I always associate the organization with this movie.) It's pretty decent, but it's hard to enjoy it because Arron Sorkin stripmined everything from actors to dialogue for his later work on the West Wing.

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Could Matter Eater Lad eat Triplicate Girl?"

Some of the wit and wisdom of my beautiful daughter.

Our hamster Rosie died in January of 2010. Yesterday, I was checking my voice mail in front of Jen and Lily and when I was done, I asked Jen to guess who the message was from. Lily spoke up and said, "Is it Rosie? Is she ready to come back from heaven yet?"

And that was awkward.

She's becoming quite the superhero fan. Here's an actual exchange from an evening walk:

Jen: Look, there's a robin!
Lily: What?! I didn't even see his cape!
Me: Ah, I was going to make that joke!
(I'm not sure if this means Lily has a sophisticated sense of humor for her age or if I have the sense of humor of a four-year-old.)
Me: There's Robin! He's next to Batman!
Lily: Where's Batman?
Me: Next to the giant penny!
Lily: Where's the giant penny?
Me: In the Batcave!
Lily: Where's the Batcave?
Me: Beneath stately Wayne Manor!
Lily: Where's Wayne Manor?
Me: In Gotham City!
Lily: Where's Gotham City?
Me: Somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard!
Lily: Where's the Eastern Seaboard?
Jen: You two are ridiculous.

I was reading her a comic book that had an ad for the Wonder Woman series in it. She looked at the ad and asked, "Is that Wonder Woman's new costume?" I mentioned it to her once almost a year ago. While I'm impressed with her memory, I am appalled that my daughter will never know a world without a pants-wearing Wonder Woman.

Against all odds, she's really fallen in love with certain issues of the Legion of Superheroes comic book. Specifically, she likes the one where Superman goes to Mars, and encounters a group of Martian Separatists. It's actually a pretty decent issue. Still, it's funny hearing her quote their lines, "Mars for Martians!" "Long Live J'onn J'onzz!"

We were looking at the lineup in another issue of the same comic and she asked the question in the title, "Could Matter Eater Lad eat Triplicate Girl?" and I was like, "I suppose," but Jesus, she sure says some weird things.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tweaks to the Site

I've been in the mood to fiddle with the layout lately. The links to various pages are now at the top of the page. They're also included in this post for your convenience.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Roger Zelazny Book Review: Lord of the Fantastic, Part Two

Welcome back! I'm continuing my review of Lord of the Fantastic. The first part can be found here.

"If I Take the Wings of Morning" by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

I disliked this one fairly strongly, but I so admired the intent of the collection that I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about why I didn't like it. It's the story of an archaeologist and her uncle on a dig in the near future.

"Ki'rin and the Blue and White Tiger" by Jane Lindskold

I mention in a couple places that while I admire Jane Lindskold the person, I tend not to enjoy her writing. She's writing for an audience other than me. And that's fine. There are millions of stories out there, and most of them aren't written for me. That said, I think I enjoyed this story more than anything else I've ever read by her, and her commentary is very nice as well.

"The Eryx" by Robert Sheckley

I liked this one  quite a bit, though it doesn't seem quite at home with the rest of the pieces, which tended to be outright tributes to Roger Zelazny, paying tribute to the man by honoring his style or featuring him as a character in the story itself.

It's about the Eryx, an alien artifact brought back to Earth by the narrator. In the beginning of the story, the narrator is locked down in a house. We flash back to see how he got there.

"Southern Discomfort" by Jack C. Haldeman II

I loved this story. It's the tale of Ethel, an exiled fairy running a bar and bait shop in the deep south. Ethel "had a mean streak about six lanes wide that ran through the interstate highway of her soul, and she loved every bit of potholed pavement." She's exiled to the Earth Realm until she performed "an unselfish and totally altrusitic act of kindness to relieve someone's suffering."

She speculates that it was her name that led her to trouble.

Ethel! What the hell kind of name was that for a fairy? Fairies were supposed to have cute, perky names like Trixie or Trina. Either that or something classical like Titania or Hypoteneuse. Ethel! It sounded like a petroleum byproduct.

The name is the only thing I don't love about the story. It's spelled inconsistently, sometimes Ethel, sometimes Ethyl. I'm inclined to think that Ethyl is the proper spelling, if only for that line above. It's an extremely minor complaint, though, and I do love this story.

She retains some of her fairy powers, including the ones we all associate with fairies, like rigging games of chance or causing automotive failures. She's a curmudgeion of the highest order and merrily uses her powers to cause mischief among her patrons. I think my favorite bit is when she gives someone a ticket that's one digit off on all six winning numbers.

No, I lied. My favorite bit is when she gives a winning ticket to man whose wife needs surgery they can't afford and gets sucked back to the fairylands because of it.

"Suicide Kings" by John J. Miller

Suicide Kings is quite the emotional story. Karin, a young, lonely woman, can't bear it when her beloved cat dies, and she commits suicide. She winds up in a hospital, where a handsome young doctor dotes on her. She is kidnapped by a young man named Billy, and rescued by the doctor, who by now seems more sinister.

Karin was astonished at the doctor's strength and the awesome effort he expended in her cause.

She's valuable to him, because he feeds on life potential, and as a suicide in the prime of life, she has much more energy than most of the people in this purgatory. She lends some of this power to a little girl who is attacking the doctor and they overcome him.

"Did it work?" she asked, "Did I save someone?"

Billy nodded. "A man in New Mexico. A fine man, dying too soon of cancer. He was a writer, much admired. Now he'll have another twenty-five, maybe thirty years.He'll write a lot of fine books, help a lot of others along the way. He'll live to see his grandchildren born and grow and the Earth will be a better place for his continued presence."

That reminded me of a very similar exchange in Godson, and I don't think that's an accident. Something like this could come across as corny or treacly, but it never does.

Oh, man. This story is just heartbreaking. It pushes all of my buttons, from the death of a pet, to the premature loss of a friend, be it from suicide or disease. I thought it was an incredibly touching tribute.

"Changing of the Guard" by Robert Wayne McCoy and Thomas F. Monteleone

This is an excellent story too. I'm not sure I would have placed it after the last one, just because that's a tough act to follow, and it's a rough transition going from humor to heartbreak. It had me from the opening line, which I thought evoked Zelazny perfectly:

If I started off by telling you that my real name was Thor and I'd spent the previous evening in a wrestling match with Jesus, you probably wouldn't believe me.

Engaging Writing? Check!
First person narrative? Check!
Mythological themes? Check!

And that line pretty much sums up what happens in the story too. Thor's time has passed, but a zen-like Jesus generously offers Thor a chance to be a part of the new order.

I love the conclusion too.

Down in the basement, under my workbench, lay dad's old grease and paint-spattered tool box. I thought it might be a good idea if I could take out the old carpenter's hammer Dad said I should keep even after he was gone.

I'm going to hold it in my hand and speak its name.

After that, we'll just have to wait and see.

The afterword to the story is really touching too.

I'm enjoying the process of writing this review. Even if I don't like an individual story all that much, the author's notes are always worthwhile.

Site Update: Legion Reviews

Okay, I see that there is actually some small amount of interest in the Legion blogging, so I gave it its own index page at this link.

Legion of Super Heroes: Phantoms

I love this episode.

But first I will relate some Legion of Super Heroes stories about my daughter, which will no doubt be of interest to the handful of people who actually read these posts.

We were playing on the playground and she scurried up the metal ladder. I feigned surprise and asked her how she got up there so quickly. She answered, "I used my flight ring!"

I'm going to pretend people actually read that instead of skimming ahead to the actual review. Here it is.

While moping around in the Superman museum, Clark discovers a Phantom Zone projector, and accidentally releases a prisoner from within. (Even though the episode is called Phantoms, nobody actually calls it the Phantom Zone. Likewise, when Brainy breaks out some kryptonite later in the episode, it's not referred to by name either.)

Everybody's got a theory about who this guy is. I don't think he maps exactly to anyone in any version of continuity, but he's probably closest to Mon-El. I mean, Superman analogue, immune to Kryptonite, trapped in the Phantom Zone? Sounds good to me. The big problem is that presumably the little sphere where Brainy keeps the Kryptonite is made out of lead, to which Damaxites are vulnerable, and Drax doesn't react to it.

Maybe he's some kind of clone of Superman! Yeah, from the 41st Century! And his creators integrated Kryptonite into his DNA, and that's why he's immune to it!

Naw, that's just silly.

God, I hated the second season.

Moving on...

Not-Mon-El and his two dog-monster things begin a rampage across New Metropolis. He slugs it out with Superman, the Legion and the Science Police for quite a while. Sometimes the non-Superman Legionnaires harry him, and other times they deal with his pets. And again, I'm impressed with how the series deals with the wildly different power levels of Superman and the rest of the team without having Superman overshadow them completely. Either a team of Legionnaires together can make a respectable showing against a Superman level threat (and really, at its core, I think that's what the Legion is about, working together to make a contribution that would be impossible individually) or dealing with several smaller issues, like damage control or fighting the hounds on their own.

Phantom Girl protects Saturn Girl from a thrown truck
Timber Wolf takes the hell hounds for a ride
Top Dog

Drax hears voices in his head that cause him pain and which tell him he's evil, always has been, and always will be. Later on, when asked why he's doing these things, he gives that response almost verbatim ("Because I'm evil. Always have been, always will be."), leading me to conclude that he'd been brainwashed by the villains in the Phantom Zone .

Drax gets away, and the Legion sans Brainy goes out to catch his pets when they resurface. After a little bit of this, Superman gets a hunch that Brainy might be in trouble, so he returns to Legion headquarters. We have a cute bit with Phantom Girl and Timber Wolf in the sewers, which I already covered in the Child's Play review and then we cut to Brainiac 5 and what follows is probably my favorite Brainy sequence in the series.

Drax is manhandling Brainy and threatens to take him apart piece by piece unless Brainy gives him the Phantom Zone projector. Knowing that it's hopeless, Brainiac puts his palm on the scanner to open the safe and retrieves, not the projector, but a chunk of Kryptonite.

Drax is puzzled for a moment, before he laughs and says that he's not vulnerable to those "little green rocks." I love the expression on Brainy's face as he protectively pulls the Krytonite away.

Before you can say, "Hey, thanks for that Kryptonite," Drax superspeeds around his back and plucks it from his hand. Then he picks up Brainy in a Byrne hold and wonders what other secrets he's keeping.

In answer, Brainiac 5 transforms into his Coluan war form and punches Drax through a wall.

But he merely got in a lucky punch, and he's outclassed. Drax avoids the next blow and then catches Brainy's fist when he tries it again.

Drax is about to crush him when Superman intervenes and resumes their city-spanning brawl. He gets a hold of the projector and tries to send Drax back to the Phantom Zone, but Drax lunges at him and causes him to zap the other Legionnaires instead. They tear up the town some more and the fight continues into the Legion HQ.

Superman is blasted into a dark room, but he orders the Legion's caretaker computer to turn on the lights, "Computo, lights! Also, kill Triplicate Girl." (Okay, maybe that last part is wishful thinking on my part. Stupid Triplicate Girl.)

He continues the fight with Drax, while Brainy tries to engineer an escape from the Phantom Zone. It's a neat scene, because we get a lot of villains who look very familiar. He reverses the polarity of the neutron flow and they open a portal to the Legion HQ, where Superman boots Drax back to the Phantom Zone, along with the Kryptonite.

The thing I like most is that Brainy is relieved by the loss of the Kryptonite. It's an eminently sensible precaution to take if you're fishing Superman out of the past, but he really wants to be Superman's friend and he really wants Superman to like him, so removing that option from the table is a relief to him.

I would have really liked seeing Mon-El in the Legion, and I like to think that's what they were doing here when they introduced Drax. I forget where I read it now, but I recall that the showrunners wanted to use Mon-El, but the network thought he would be too confusing, and well, there's more than a little truth to that suggestion. It's not like Legion continuity makes a lot of sense to the uninitiated anyway, and Mon-El in particular is second only to the Time Trapper when in comes to being tied in Gordian knots. See this excellent post at the Legion Abstract for a good analysis about the problems with Mon-El.

I don't think that's an insurmountable obstacle, though. Just have a simplified version of his history (and I see you nodding and saying, "Yes, Josh, because what the world needs is another version of Mon-El's history"), but saying he was poisoned by lead and left in the Phantom Zone until a cure could be devised, and leave out all the rest of the stuff until it comes up in the course of the narrative.

It's hard to say if I enjoyed this more than The Substitutes or not. Both episodes are so different that it's hard to compare them. I don't think it's the best episode of the series (that'd be the two-parter with Ferro Lad), but it is tremendously entertaining.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Where you were? Why you not come when monster made bad-bad?!"

This was another full weekend. On Saturday, we kicked around for a little while and watched a new episode of Scooby Doo. It was about an explorer named Rick Spartan and his sidekick, the Oxford educated Charles, whom he calls Cachinga, and speaks to in a pidgin dialect. (Hey, I see Charles was voiced by Greg Ellis, who did the voice for Drax in the Legion of Super Heroes!) Lily was tickled when the Charles enters after just missing the monster attack on Dr. Spartan, and Spartan berates him for his absence, "Where you were? Why you not come when monster made bad-bad?!" She was quoting that all weekend. Heh heh.

After that, I took off for Frederick's house. He, Ancker, Eric and I all have such disparate schedules that we have to set things up well in advance. We did manage to carve out a couple hours for some time and we're trying to put together a superhero RPG Campaign, so we did a test run of the system. Even though we were playing DC Adventures, we decided to go the Marvel route and stress test the system by having our heroes slug it out. I happen to like the system a lot and I think we understand it a bit better after our exercise.

Frederick grilled up some yummy burgers and we had a yummy little feast. Then we watched all three of the Family Guy Star Wars movies. I'm only an irregular viewer of the show, so I didn't get all of the in-jokes, but it was funny as a straight-up Star Wars parody too.We discussed our philosophy of zombies (fast zombies don't necessarily ruin a zombie movie, but they're often a crutch) and had a goof time hanging out.

I also caught a little Fullmetal Alchemist. I knew of the property, but had never caught an episode, and it occurred to me that this is how anime is described by people who hate anime. It was nothing but 22 minutes of incoherent brawling between a bunch of superpowered weirdos. And I don't know how representative of the series as a whole that one episode is, and as Frederick pointed out, of course it's going to seem incoherent if I jump into the middle of a season as I did. It was interesting. I'm not sure if I like it or not, based on that one viewing.

I slept over and we hit a Friendly's for breakfast. We played a little of the new Mortal Kombat game on our return (it looks beautiful) and then I headed home because I was really running out of steam at that point.

Sunday was pretty quiet. We picked up a kiddie pool and did some grilling (I probably made the best burgers of my life on Sunday) and caught some fireflies in the evening.

Monday, we headed to a cemetery to walk around. Lily really liked it and I got some nice pictures, except they were all taken at a kind of skewed angle,

because I wound up holding her snacks (a snack-pack of hard little breadsticks one dips into soft cheese. Lily coined the portmanteau of Steese (STicks of chEESE) to describe them.)

What child doesn't remember her halcyon days frolicking in the cemetery?
And up top for references

We got a last minute invite to Jen's family for a cookout, so we did that for the afternoon. We had asked Lily why we celebrated July 4th. She thought a minute and said "Mmm...because it's God's birthday?" and we replied that it was closer to the country's birthday. I suppose Constitution Day actually corresponds more closely to America's birthday, but it's barely a holiday. I took a cute video of her singing "Happy Birthday, dear America!"

Friday, July 1, 2011

Site Update: Update to the Review Page

I reworked the review page because it was getting a little unwieldy as it approached one hundred entries. I grouped the entries it into five broad sections: novels, collaborations, shorter works, non-Zelazny works inspired by Zelazny and a small section as well as news of interest such as the Locus award nomination for the Collected Stories. When I get a little more time, I'll see about putting them in a sortable table.

Because the new format might not make it clear what the newest review is, I added a link to the most recent one at the top of the page.