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Theodore Krulik

Getting the Most Out of Life: Revisiting Television’s Forever

Join us for a series of essays about science fiction TV series that, while popular with viewers, were cancelled early on by the networks. Some of the programs to be covered include Threshold (2005), Moonlight (2007-8), and the U.S. version of Life on Mars (2008-9).

Dr. Henry Morgan tells the television viewer, “Just imagine all the things you could do with eternity. See the world. Speak countless languages. In fact, there’s almost nothing in this life I haven’t done… except leave it. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for those around me. Try watching as the people you love most in the world go off to another. Only then would you know what I do. That eternity is not really a blessing… but a curse.” In those few words, actor Ioan Gruffudd as Henry Morgan presents the premise of the ABC television series Forever. With his soothing, British-accented voice, the actor portrays the immortal Henry with great optimism about having to live through an abnormally great multitude of human experiences. And, in almost the same breath, the actor expresses Henry’s despair in having seen a long, unending life where he feels the loss of those who have inevitably passed on. Gruffudd embodies those things extremely well.

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Seeking What is Human in Us: Television’s Almost Human

Join us for a series of essays about science fiction TV series that, while popular with viewers, were cancelled early on by the networks. Some of the programs to be covered include Threshold (2005), Moonlight (2007-8), and the U.S. version of Life on Mars (2008-9).

“Let me explain something to you,” police detective John Kennex says to his commanding officer and another detective in the episode “You Are Here” (written by J. H. Wyman and Naren Shankar; directed by Sam Hill). “I’m a police officer. You’re a police officer. And, as much as it pains me to say it, Richard is a police officer. Now, you can dress these machines to look like cops; you can program them to drive a car and shoot a gun like a cop, but they’re not cops. They’re bullet catchers. And if you force me to work with a faulty machine, then I will dispose of it with the same degree of compassion that I would a toaster that burns my toast.”

In the Fox Network television series Almost Human, Detective Kennex’s rant about robot cops is not the norm. In fact, Kennex (played by Karl Urban) resists the technology that is an integral part of his world in the year 2048. In that world, every human police officer is paired with a combat-ready android known by the designation MX43. That is the norm that everyone else accepts. Kennex is forced to abide by that rule—but he doesn’t play well with the standard MX. Not at all.

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Television’s Moonlight: Casting a Reflection on 21st-Century Vampire Culture

Join us for a series of essays about science fiction TV series that, while popular with viewers, were cancelled early on by the networks. Some of the programs to be covered include Threshold (2005), Almost Human (2013-4), and the U.S. version of Life on Mars (2008-9).

I didn’t know there were so many vampires committing capital crimes in Los Angeles in this century. Ordinary criminals can’t even get air time on a webcast there. It seems that most L.A. killings have a connection to a vampire somewhere: undead plastic surgeons taking off a little blood along with the cellulite, blood-sucking hit-and-run automobile victims, even immortal morgue attendants who siphon blood from corpses. They’re there all right, as depicted on the CBS television series Moonlight starring Alex O’Loughlin as “vamp” private eye Mick St. John.

[Another SFF series cancelled before its time…]

For Mary Shelley, Creating a Monster was Only the Beginning

Please enjoy this encore post on the career of Mary Shelley, originally published on Friday, Oct 14, 2016.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley will always be linked to the novel Frankenstein and those who know her name might think of her as having had her life defined by that single iconic work. But when the book was first published in 1818, Mary was a girl of twenty-one. Many other endeavors became important to her as she grew in maturity.

Frankenstein was merely the first major accomplishment. In her lifetime, she wrote six more novels, numerous short stories, two dramas, travelogues, biographies, and she compiled collections of poems by her late husband Percy Bysshe Shelley that brought him international attention.

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Crossing Television’s Threshold To Find Aliens Among Us

Introducing a new series of essays about science fiction TV series that, while popular with viewers, were cancelled early on by the networks. Some of the programs to be covered include Moonlight (2007-8), Almost Human (2013-4), and the U.S. version of Life on Mars (2008-9).

The 2005 science fiction TV series Threshold gives an inventive twist to the extraterrestrial invasion theme. The aliens try to take over the world all right, but they do it by proxy: they transform humans on a molecular level to become them. Along with that intriguing premise, the series attracted fans with its special effects and the gripping suspense of the first episode’s opening scenes, as well as the cadre of actors brought in as series regulars.

But as an astute fan of Threshold commented: “Threshold was part of the rarest of all phenomenon: three new Sci-fi shows debuting at the same time on all three major networks. CBS had Threshold, ABC had Invasion, and NBC had Surface. Of the three, Threshold had the best pilot episode and the best cast in my opinion, but unfortunately it wasn’t able to build upon the creepiness of the pilot and subsequently was the first of the three to be canceled.”

[So what went wrong?]

Between Two Worlds: NBC’s Awake Was Cancelled Before Its Time

Introducing a new series of essays about science fiction TV series that, while popular with viewers, were cancelled early on by the networks. Some of the programs to be covered include Moonlight (2007-8), Almost Human (2013-4), and the U.S. version of Life on Mars (2008-9). First up, Awake (2012), starring Jason Isaacs.

The 2012 NBC television series Awake had a unique concept that appealed to fans of science fiction, but despite the enthusiasm of its viewers, the series was cancelled after one season, reportedly due to low ratings. Awake posed the question, “Can a person trust his perception of reality after a traumatic experience that bereft him of a loved one?” That question is at the core of Awake. The program was layered with complexity that may need some clarification for those who missed the 2012 run. Let’s take a look at the basic premise…

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Mary W. Shelley: Life After the Monster

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley will always be linked to the novel Frankenstein and those who know her name might think of her as having had her life defined by that single iconic work. But when the book was first published in 1818, Mary was a girl of twenty-one. Many other endeavors became important to her as she grew in maturity.

Frankenstein was merely the first major accomplishment. In her lifetime, she wrote six more novels, numerous short stories, two dramas, travelogues, biographies, and she compiled collections of poems by her late husband Percy Bysshe Shelley that brought him international attention.

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A Few Words from Roger Zelazny, Part Eight: A Personal Tour of Amber

Roger Zelazny’s biographer and friend, Ted Krulik, is sharing insights and anecdotes from the author.

In the first chapter of The Courts of Chaos (the last novel in the original Chronicles of Amber), we learn that Corwin has a grown son, Merlin, with whom he had nearly battled in the previous novel without realizing who Merlin was. At the end of The Courts of Chaos, Corwin reunites with his son and recounts the story that comprises the first five novels. Merlin returns the favor in the five novels that form the Merlin Cycle after Merlin rescues his father from imprisonment in the Courts. Full circle. For me, this is a satisfying culmination of the two ends of each Cycle: their reunion, an accounting of what happened, and then, of necessity, the departure of father and son toward separate destinies. For me, The Corwin Cycle and the Merlin Cycle combine to make a fulfilling, well-traveled personal tour of the World of Amber.

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A Few Words from Roger Zelazny, Part Seven: Roger’s Vision of Amber

Roger Zelazny’s biographer and friend, Ted Krulik, is sharing insights and anecdotes from the author.

In The Hand of Oberon, the fourth book of The Chronicles of Amber, Prince Corwin climbs down the palace staircase in Amber to the royal dungeon. There, he meets one of the guards, who greets him in this way:

“Good evening, Lord Corwin,” said the lean cadaverous figure who rested against a storage rack, smoking his pipe, grinning around it.

“Good evening, Roger. How are things in the nether world?”

“A rat, a bat, a spider. Nothing much else astir. Peaceful.”

“You enjoy this duty?”

He nodded.

“I am writing a philosophical romance shot through with elements of horror and morbidity. I work on those parts down here.”

When I asked Roger Zelazny about this scene in our 1985 interview, he said, “I liked being a character in the book myself. I don’t know that I’ll enter again at any point. It was just a fun thing to do.” It was also a delightful turn for all of us who are his fans; the author stepping into the pages of his novel to meet his protagonist! Wonderful!

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A Few Words from Roger Zelazny, Part Six: Personal Interests and Writerly Concerns

Roger Zelazny’s biographer and friend, Ted Krulik, is sharing insights and anecdotes from the author.

In my 1982 interview with Roger, I pointed out that there were continuous threads in his later works that he had used in earlier stories. One such thread is the often combative pairing of a protagonist with an older man who acts, to some extent, as his mentor. We see examples of this thread in relationships between Gallinger and Emory in “A Rose for Ecclesiastes,” between Corwin and Bill Roth in The Chronicles of Amber, and between William Blackhorse Singer and Edwin Tedders in Eye of Cat.

It occurred to me that perhaps Roger was trying to express certain concerns he had in real life by reworking them in his writing. His response was that all the things he knew, all of his associations, flowed into his writing without his having to call them up consciously. “It’s the nature of the unconscious-type plotting approach I use,” Roger told me. “I let a story take form, quite often, below decks. I begin writing when I feel the story is in existence. It’s just a matter of my evoking it. Afterwards I can look back at it and can see those earlier elements also.”

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A Few Words from Roger Zelazny, Part Five: Space Travel, Cybernetics, and the SF Mystery

Roger Zelazny’s biographer and friend, Ted Krulik, is sharing insights and anecdotes from the author.

In his introduction to Roger Zelazny’s story collection Four for Tomorrow, Theodore Sturgeon called Roger a “prose-poet” whose stories created “memorable characters, living ones who change, as all living things change, not only during the reading but in the memory as the reader himself lives and changes and becomes capable of bringing more of himself to that which the writer has brought him.” (“Introduction,” Four for Tomorrow, New York: Ace Books, p. 7, 1967).

Sturgeon’s assertion can be exampled by two protagonists from stories in Four for Tomorrow: Gallinger in “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” and Carlton Davits in “The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth.” Roger meant for these stories to memorialize the space adventures of the pulps, but these tales were also Roger’s training ground for developing his unique signature style. Typically, a Zelazny protagonist is extremely talented but is also personally flawed in his relationships. How this character experiences things can be just as important as the science fiction milieu of the story.

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Another Few Words from Roger Zelazny: Influences and Inspirations

Roger Zelazny’s biographer and friend, Ted Krulik, is sharing insights and anecdotes from the author.

Roger was open to ANYTHING. Those friends who saw him in role-playing games could tell you that he was a master at improvising fresh characters out of the air. If someone he trusted made a suggestion that appealed to him, Roger would run with it.

When I hosted a one-on-one interview with Roger in front of a packed room at Lunacon in 1989, I made my introduction in this way: “We’re here to speak to a person who purports to be a late twentieth-century American science fiction writer on the shadow Earth. Who are you really?”

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A Few Words From Roger Zelazny: Travels and Close Calls

Roger Zelazny’s biographer and friend, Ted Krulik, is sharing insights and anecdotes from the author. In our first installment, Zelazny spoke about his own writing style; and in the second, Krulik curates some of Zelazny’s thoughts on his fellow science fiction authors

My wife and I were awakened at one in the morning by the loud shrieking of an alarm in our hotel room. Moments later, loud knocking came repeatedly at the door. I rushed to the door and opened it. A hotel employee stood there and cried out, “Fire alarm. Go to the hotel lobby. Hurry!”

We dressed quickly, left our room, and raced toward the lobby. A familiar figure headed toward us, speeding back to the rooms. It was Roger.

“You’re going the wrong way,” I said. “We have to evacuate.”

Roger stopped and gave us a wry grin. “I have to get something in my room.” Talking rapidly, Roger explained, “I was sitting in the bar with Kirby [Roger’s literary agent] talking about my new book when the fire alarm sounded. Kirby asked me where the manuscript was and I told him it was in my room. He asked if I had other copies and I told him, ‘No, it’s my only copy.’ So he had me go back to get it.” With that, Roger ran off in the wrong direction.

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A Few More Words from Roger Zelazny: On Ellison, Delany, and Brust

Roger Zelazny’s biographer and friend, Ted Krulik, is sharing insights and anecdotes from the author. Previously, Zelazny spoke about his own writing style; today Krulik curates some of Zelazny’s thoughts on his fellow authors…

I was a program participant at Lunacon in Tarrytown, New York in March of 1989. It was a memorable convention and one well-attended. One of its major events took place in the grand ballroom of the hotel at 7PM on Saturday night. Prime time. Over two hundred people filled the hall. It was a one-on-one interview with Writer Guest-of-Honor Roger Zelazny, and I was the interviewer.

Roger came down the aisle to rousing applause. I was already seated but I stood to greet him and we shook hands. When the two of us settled in at a cloth-covered table on the stage, I addressed the large audience. “We are here to have a small, intimate conversation with Roger Zelazny,” I said. “And you are all eavesdroppers.”

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A Few Words from Roger Zelazny

On a crisp November morning in 1982, I stood on a mountain beside a modest two-story home outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. I heard a car coming up the winding dirt drive from below. Gravel and dust kicked up as the car climbed up and pulled in alongside mine.

Tall and slender, the driver ambled over to me, a smile on his face. “Ted Krulik?” he asked, holding out his hand.

“Yes,” I answered. “Mr. Zelazny? It’s good to meet you.”

“Glad to meet you. Call me Roger.”

[That was the beginning of my friendship with Nebula and Hugo-award winning author Roger Zelazny.]