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Showing posts by: Jason Henninger click to see Jason Henninger's profile
Mon
Feb 21 2011 3:44pm

Happily Deranged: Revisiting The Adventures of Pete & Pete

Older Pete from Pete & PeteI admit that in some of my posts I can gush a bit. There’s no harm in that, but it can make objectivity a tad tricky to establish. This leads me to The Adventures of Pete & Pete, the focus of this post. Can I talk about one of my most favoritest shows in the history of infinity, without gushing? Nope. Screw objectivity. I’m a squishy fannish velvet-lined gushbag when it comes to this show.

[You got a license for that tattoo, son?]

Tue
Feb 8 2011 5:25pm

Like, an RPG and stuff

2011. It sounds like the future. So far, most of it still is. But I’m not pondering of the future right now. I’ve been taking trips into the past.

A couple months ago I heard Ray Lynch’s Deep Breakfast for the first time in many years. I’m not usually the “new age” music type, but I have fond memories of listening to my mom’s tape of Deep Breakfast on long road trips when I was a teenager. The music is full of plinky plinks and broad WaaAAaaaAAAaa sounds and the occasional soft neerrroowm. It was great daydreaming music, well suited to the Piers Anthony, David Eddings and Alan Dean Foster novels I devoured at the time. To my surprise, it’s still great daydreaming music. It made me want to ride a luck dragon. This got me thinking.

A few weeks ago I was watching Breakin’ (insomnia + Netflix Instant = strange viewing choices). I realized that the pop-lock-break dance battles in the film were structured soemthing like wizard duels: lots of strange outfits and complex movements resulting in targeted energy that seemed to damage the loser. The dancing could be considered a sort of performance magic. This, too, got me thinking.

What if parts of 1980s pop culture were made into a role-playing game? To clarify, I know full well that some very serious, quality scifi, fantasy and adventure films came from the 80s. But I’m thinking more of the quirky and possibly cheesy stuff, because it was, in its way, pretty bitchin’. The game would embrace clichés.

[Something like a phenomenon]

Thu
Jan 6 2011 1:00pm

The Twelfth Doctors

This is a post in the Tor.com Twelve Doctors of Christmas series. Click the link to peruse the entire series.

The Twelfth DoctorsSince there hasn’t been a twelfth incarnation of the famous Time Lord as of yet—though many more than twelve actors have played him—I’m going to look at a couple of unofficial Doctors, and then open it up for discussion about what the next Doctor might be like.

I’ve heard it said that the first Doctor you watch sort of imprints himself upon you, becoming your Doctor. If this is true, Peter Cushing should be my Doctor, as I saw Dr. Who and the Daleks as a kid, long before I ever got into the show. I don’t remember that viewing well; I just remember being confused. My fondness for things Whovian didn’t develop until a few years ago when I saw the Tenth Doctor in “Blink.”

[All the Whos down in Whoville, the tall and the small]

Wed
Nov 24 2010 3:03pm

Science Fiction Cuisine: The Leftovers

Science fiction cuisineWay back when I started Science Fiction Cuisine, I intended it to be a weekly event. Though I loved being a one-man geek test kitchen, it became clear to me very early on that there simply wasn’t enough time or source material to keep it going at a weekly rate.

It turned out to be a lot tougher than I’d anticipated finding a constant supply of things to create. Food in science fiction and fantasy isn’t always very important. On the flip side, some recipes were natural choices but had been done a million times elsewhere.

I set myself up with ground rules right away.

  1. It’s got to taste really good.
  2. No absurdly expensive or rare ingredients.
  3. No technique unfamiliar to a regular home cook.
  4. The recipes must be easily doubled, for larger dinner parties.

[Better than vomiting slugs]

Tue
Nov 23 2010 2:28pm

Learn the true meaning of Science Fiction Cuisine

Science fiction cuisineA season of feasting is again upon us, and Tor.com has decided to, in the interest of promoting geeky frivolity and whatnot, collect my Science Fiction Cuisine posts. Not only will I revisit the glory of homemade Popplers and Spoo, I’ll also include, at the end, a few “leftovers,” miscellany of the edible variety.

Before we get into all that, I wanted to give a few general pointers for making food more science fictional, at least in a cosmetic sense. While my posts deal with the trills and tribble-ations of re-creating food from SF sources, I want to share what I’ve learned about how to make any dish a little weirder. With a little extra effort, you can make well-known dishes into visually arresting, delicious oddities fit for a Klingon.

[Orn desh, dee born desh, de umn bork! bork! bork!]

Fri
Nov 19 2010 11:46am

Zombies, death, funerals and YOU

About a week ago I had the pleasure of meeting with the lovely Tor.com staff. At lunch, we fell to talking about The Walking Dead, in particular the difficulty one character had ventilating the skull of his undead wife. This prompted several of us to agree that, if there were a nerd pre-nuptial agreement, it should specify what to do in case of zombification.

So, all this has me thinking, not so much of nerd pre-nups, but of zombies and nerds and death and funerals.

I have made sure that all those close to me know I do not wish to be resuscitated in case of brain-death. (I’m a Buddhist. Just press reset!) My state ID shows that I volunteer to be an organ donor when I die (presumably of non-zombie causes). When it comes to zombies, let me be equally unambiguous. At the first symptoms of my falling to a zombie plague, I’d draw a big red target on my forehead and a dotted line around my neck. You can shoot my dome so full of holes I’d whistle like an ocarina in the wind.

[Death, death,death, death, death, lunch, death, death, afternoon tea]

Fri
Nov 5 2010 2:04pm

Your own personal holodeck

My six-year-old daughter recently became a Star Trek fan (The Next Generation, to be specific). These things must be genetic. It took her all of twenty seconds to tell me she loved it.

A lot of it went over her head, but we’d pause it and discuss what was going on. She was particularly intrigued by the holodeck. And who can blame her? Does any Star Trek fan not want a holodeck? Who wouldn’t love to have a full-sensory world of your own creation in which to play?

[Read more]

Mon
Nov 1 2010 12:08pm

Jasper Kent’s Twelve

Twelve by Jasper KentJasper Kent’s Twelve is an engaging, philosophical and exciting book. Before I get more into what I liked about it, I need to talk about the one thing I didn’t like—something, I should add, that isn’t Kent’s fault at all.

On his website, Jasper Kent describes his book as follows: “Twelve is the story of Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov, a captain in the army of Tsar Alexander I, sworn to defend Russia against the onslaught of Napoleon’s Grande Armée in the autumn of 1812. He joins forces with a band of twelve Wallachian mercenaries, whose zeal and success in slaughtering the French invaders seem too good to be true.

“Soon, Aleksei unearths the gruesome secret behind the Wallachians’ abilities, and discovers that they make little distinction between Frenchman or Russian. His fight becomes not simply one against Napoleon, but against a far more dangerous enemy.”

I am quoting the author, here, not out of laziness but to make a point. Or to begin a point, which I’ll make in a moment.

[Read more]

Fri
Oct 15 2010 11:42am

Intergalactic Autodidactic

In science fiction and fantasy, some really great authors have been autodidacts. Terry Pratchett chose not to go to a university. Same for Alan Moore. Philip K. Dick’s college days were short lived, as were Andre Norton’s, though for very different reasons. Dick refused to comply with the university’s mandatory ROTC training; Norton could not afford to continue. Money troubles also cut short the schooling of Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl. Pohl’s fellow Futurian H. Beam Piper was also self-educated (and possibly Damon Knight as well, though the bios I’ve read aren’t clear on this).

Let me define my terms. Anyone can be an autodidact, whether they have three doctorates or never passed third grade. For the purpose of this post, I’m focusing on those who have some formal education, usually up to high school, maybe a quick taste of college, and then chose to self-educate thereafter.

[Golden age or dying breed?]

Thu
Sep 30 2010 1:56pm

Bad good guys, good bad guys, bad bad guys, no good good guys

“We were king’s men, knights, and heroes…but some knights are dark and full of terror, my lady. War makes monsters of us all.”

“Are you saying you are monsters?”

“I am saying we are human.”

A Feast for Crows

I’ve been re-reading George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” (please be forewarned that this post contains spoilers for the whole series). The first time I read it, I found John Snow and Arya Stark the most interesting characters. They are still great, but this time around, my attention is drawn most of all to Tyrion Lannister.

These books don’t exactly overflow with heroes. There are plenty of brave and capable characters, but very few morally upstanding, honorable and chivalrous types. The characters are not polar in terms of good and evil. Even the most reprehensible characters do virtuous or merciful things some times, and some of the most sympathetic characters can be vicious.

Whenever I read a fantasy like “A Song of Ice and Fire,” or Joe Abercrombie’s books, or other stories full of less-than-lovely people, I can’t help but think about how the author creates and maintains sympathy for morally messed up characters. 

[Starvation for Doves]

Fri
Sep 24 2010 11:36am

The Gestalt Possibility of Joseph Gordon-Levitt

After I celebrated Jorge Luis Borges (indulging in well-intentioned egotism through interviewing myself) a friend sent me the link to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s short films, Morgan M. Morgansen’s Date with Destiny and Morgan M. Morgansen’s Eleventeenth Date: The Zeppelin Zoo. My friend said that when he first saw the shorts, he thought I had made them. I absolutely loved both films, and I agreed with my friend. In fact, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had made them, perhaps while in a trance.

Genre fiction tells me this is possible. People are always turning out to be other people, ya know? Split personalities, post-hypnotic suggestion, parasitic twins, fun stuff like that!

[Continuing with the fun stuff like that]

Thu
Sep 23 2010 10:01am

James Burke: An Appreciation

When I wrote my recent post about tattoos, I was reminded of just how much I admire James Burke. Were I to compile a list of my top ten favorite geeks of all time, not only would Burke make the list, he’d also know how he’s connected to the other nine.

Television host, author and historian, Burke developed a wonderful and highly entertaining way of seeing the world as a connected whole, rather than the sum of random events. In his shows Connections, Connections2, and The Day the Universe Changed, he illustrated vast webs of related events, showing that history is not fully understood in a purely linear fashion, and that over-focusing on particular aspects of history or science blurs the big picture. As he writes, “People tend to become experts in highly specialized fields, learning more and more about less and less. Unfortunately, so much specialization falsely creates the illusion that knowledge and discovery exist in a vacuum, in context only with their own disciplines, when in reality they are born from interdisciplinary connections. Without an ability to see these connections, history and science won’t be learnable in a truly meaningful way and innovation will be stifled.”

[Read more]

Mon
Sep 20 2010 4:04pm

The Illustrated Fan

I love tattoos. I love the process of marking my skin with permanent symbols. I love the rip-burn-buzz of the needle, the smell of the ink. Just walking past a tattoo shop and hearing the needle makes my heart race.

I don’t have many tattoos, though. I have three and one more coming soon. I’ve never been one to simply walk into a shop and choose a design off the wall (though if that works for you, more power to ya). The images percolate in my mind for years before they get to my skin. I’ve had the design for my next tattoo—my daughter’s name in Arabic calligraphy—for five years. I may be on the extreme end of caution, in terms of design, but I’m fine with that. No need to rush something so important.

[Hatred or Hat, Red?]

Wed
Aug 25 2010 11:14am

“I do not know which of us has written this interview”

August 25 marks the eleventy-first birthday of Argentine literary giant Jorge Luis Borges. Borges died in 1986. Unable to interview Borges, Jason opted instead to interview Henninger. 

Jason: Do you think of Borges as a magic realist or a philosopher?

Henninger: Both. I consider Borges not merely the best of the magical realists but one of the best writers of any genre, and I love his fiction and nonfiction equally. He was a philosopher who drew from literature and philosophical works with equal respect for each.

Jason: I agree, of course. But even as you call him a philosopher, I’m challenged to say what exactly he believed.

[Reality is not always probably, or likely]

Wed
Aug 4 2010 6:09pm

Kiss the fleeting stead of death

Mediocrity has nothing to recommend it, and it makes up 84 percent of human existence. Of the remaining bits, 12 percent goes to the outright unredeemable tragic things. Two percent makes up the truly excellent stuff. The Grand Canyon, the Nicholas Brothers, puppy breath, Chopin’s Nocturne in C Sharp Minor, making out with someone you really, really want to make out with, the Sedlec Ossuary, and splendid root beer floats.

We wade through the daily mediocrity, the traffic lights and disappointing carrot cake, sustained by the hope of catching the fragrance of jasmine on a moonlight stroll as we recall Tang Dynasty poetry, or Drunken Master 2, knowing full well much of every day is nothing but dumpster chutney.

[Mrifk!]

Mon
Aug 2 2010 4:59pm

Review: Masked

Masked is a new superhero short story anthology edited by Lou Anders for Gallery Books. It’s been getting a lot of favorable press, and I have now joined the choir singing its praises (and I’m not just being nice out of favoritism to fellow bald tor.com contributors). Some of the stories are creepy, some fun, a few are heartbreaking and all are compelling. But rather than talk about specific stories, I want to tell you why I enjoyed the anthology as a whole and avoid all spoilers.

I have a love/hate relationship with comic books. I love superheroes and hate that I can’t spend all day reading about them! Pesky real life, getting in the way. As I wrote a while back, comic books helped me overcome my difficulties with reading when I was a teenager, and as a result I have an undying affection for the medium.

[The golden age]

Mon
Jul 12 2010 3:34pm

Prince versus the internet

By now you’ve probably heard about the artist currently known as Prince declaring that “the internet’s completely over.” You probably read about it on the internet.

[U R 2 silly 4 words]

Fri
Jul 2 2010 2:07pm

Spin-offs I’d like to see

Some shows have an overabundance of good characters and you can’t help but feel there’s never enough time for your favorite. This is where spin-off shows come in. They range in quality from successes such as Angel or Frasier on down to, say, Joanie Loves Chachi. That’s a pretty wide spread. I’m going to propose a few spin-off shows I think would have been good fun. Feel free to add your own or tell me I’m crazy, or both. (Special thanks to Aimee Stewart for her photoshoppery!*)

[Geriatrics, greed, guitarists and goofiness]

Thu
Jul 1 2010 12:41pm

Childhood Dreams and Science Ninjas

A few weeks ago, I dreamed that I’d written an incredible post for tor.com about how the BP oil spill had been fixed by Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. It was a fierce scene I dream-wrote about, with lots of anime-bird-science-ninja fighting and explosions and heroic trumpet fanfares and swooping sounds. And if you clicked on a special button, Joel from Mystery Science Theater 3000 narrated my post, making it a gazillion times cooler.

And then I woke up. No Joel. No science ninjas. Still a lot of oil in the gulf. I sighed the sad sigh of sadness. Still, awesome dream, ne?

[Read more...]

Wed
Jun 30 2010 12:57pm

Hugo Review: Catherynne M. Valente’s Palimpsest

The first time I heard about Catherynne M. Valente’s Hugo-nominated novel Palimpsest, all I knew was it was about “a sexually transmitted city.” I thought, “Holy crap, what a cool idea!” I’ve now read it twice and that’s still pretty much how I feel. (Note: Palimpsest the novel grew out of a short story by the same name, which is not to be confused with Charles Stross’ short story, also called Palimpsest, and also nominated for a Hugo.)

I’m finding it very challenging to review. A lot happens in the story, in a swirly dreamy way, but that isn’t really the cause of my problem (and I tend to avoid big recaps of plots anyhow). The problem is that I am so in awe of it that my review attempts turn into a gushing love-fest and fail to encapsulate what about it impresses me so much. I’m going to give it another try, though. (For a less gushing review, look here. Also check out what Brit Mandelo had to say about it recently, in her post on the Lambda Awards.)

[And to think that I saw it on Peregrine Street!]