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Showing posts by: jason heller click to see jason heller's profile
Tue
Jan 17 2012 4:00pm
Excerpt

Taft 2012 (Excerpt)

Jason Heller

We’re sure you’re going to love this excerpt from Taft 2012 by Jason Heller, out today from Quirk Books. (And here’s a great book trailer for it!):

He is the perfect presidential candidate. Conservatives love his hard-hitting Republican résumé. Liberals love his passion for peaceful diplomacy. The media can’t get enough of his larger-than-life personality. Regular folks can identify with his larger-than-life physique. And all the American people love that he’s an honest, hard-working man who tells it like it is. There’s just one problem: He is William Howard Taft . . . and he was already U.S. president a hundred years ago. So what on earth is he doing alive and well and considering a running mate in 2012?

Jason Heller’s extraordinary debut novel presents the Vonnegut-esque satire of a presidential Rip Van Winkle amid 21st-century media madness. It’s the ultimate what-if scenario for the 2012 election season!

[Read more]

Thu
Dec 30 2010 4:08pm

Frequency Rotation: Orbital with Matt Smith, "Doctor Who”

Orbital with Matt Smith

Each week, Frequency Rotation spotlights a song with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

It’s no secret that the Doctor Who theme song has had a massive influence on electronic music over the past five decades. Not only has Ron Grainer’s and Delia Derbyshire’s original 1963 version been reinterpreted numerous times for the show itself, various electronic acts have have sampled, remixed, or otherwise paid homage to one of the most epic and recognizable pieces of science-fiction-related music of all time.

This summer, Doctor Who paid it back. Matt Smith, the Eleventh and current Doctor, appeared onstage with legendary electronica duo Orbital at England’s Glastonbury Festival in June to perform a triumphant version of “Doctor Who” (first covered on their 2001 album, The Altogether). Orbital’s Phil and Paul Hartnoll are no strangers to SF; everything from Star Trek: The Next Generation to Beneath the Planet of the Apes to Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds has popped up in their work, and they provided the soundtrack to the film Event Horizon. (Even more interesting: Orbital’s 2004 song “You Lot” samples Christopher Eccleston’s dialogue from Russell T. Davies’ The Second Coming, before Eccleston and Davies worked together on the 2005 Doctor Who revival.) Regardless of how you feel about electronic music—or Matt Smith—it’s hard not to feel pumped watching a few thousand festivalgoers lose their collective shit over Doctor Who.


Jason Heller writes for The A.V. Club, plays in some bands, and wants “Doctorin’ the TARDIS” played at his funeral.

Fri
Dec 3 2010 3:01pm

Frequency Rotation: Spizzenergi, “Where’s Captain Kirk?”

Spizzenergi album Where’s Captain Kirk

Each week, Frequency Rotation spotlights a different song with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

I’m speaking from personal experience here, so trust me: Most punks are geeks. Granted, punk rock—in all its manifestations over the past four decades—is best known for being crude and stupid. Certainly no one would accuse the punk band Spizzenergi of being otherwise. And yet, the quirky English outfit made its admittedly subatomic mark on music history in 1979 with “Where’s Captain Kirk?”—a song that, while cruder and stupider than most, wasn’t shy about flaunting its obsession with one of the icons of high geekitude.

[To boldly go...]

Thu
Nov 25 2010 2:56pm

Frequency Rotation: David Bowie, “The Laughing Gnome”

The Laughing Gnome by David Bowie

Each week, Frequency Rotation spotlights a different song with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

Fairies, elves, dwarves, halflings, hobbits, goblins, gargoyles, ogres, orcs, hell, even trolls: All seem to have a better public image than the lowly gnome. For every noble portrayal of the mythic race in fantasy literature (e.g. Tolkien), there are negative or ambivalent ones (e.g. Rowling). Not to sound racist or anything, but gnomes just ain’t sexy.

So why did one of the sexiest rock stars of all time—David Bowie—write a trippy, goofy, far from flattering novelty song called “The Laughing Gnome”? Explanation #1: He was 19 years old at the time, not yet famous, and desperate to do anything that might grab some attention. Explanation #2: It was the ’60s.

[Read more]

Thu
Nov 18 2010 3:59pm

Frequency Rotation: Helium, “Aging Astronauts”

Helium Mary Timony

Each week, Frequency Rotation spotlights a different song with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

Heard any good Buzz Aldrin jokes lately? No? Okay, maybe there aren’t any. Maybe there shouldn’t be. Aldrin’s media blitz over the past couple years has left an aftertaste of indignity in the mouths of some (i.e. anyone who thinks Apollo astronauts shouldn’t be reduced to hawking their autobiographies and acting like clowns on TV). Seriously, how does a man who WALKED ON THE FRIGGIN’ MOON get reduced to mugging it up on The Price is Right, Dancing with the Stars, and 30 Rock? (We’ll mercifully restrain ourselves from mentioning his 2009 rap song, “The Rocket Experience.” Oops.). Chalk it up to a lousy agent, if you must. Or the fact that Aldrin may simply be turning into a wacky grandpa. Hey, even astronauts get old. Not that it should come as a surprise. Way back in 1997, Mary Timony and her indie-rock band Helium had pondered the issue in their gorgeous, haunting song, “Aging Astronauts.”

[Read more]

Fri
Nov 5 2010 1:11pm

Frequency Rotation: Cannibal Ox, “Battle for Asgard”

Each week, Frequency Rotation spotlights a different song with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

Hip hop and science fiction have always had a flirtatious relationship. Way back in 1984, Afrikaa Bambaataa’s Time Zone—with a little help from the Sex Pistols/Public Image Ltd. frontman John Lydon—harrowingly outlined the apocalypse in the seminal single, “World Destruction.” Since then, everyone from Dr. Octagon to Deltron 3030 to current nerdcore rappers like MC Chris and MC Lars have slipped slivers of science fiction into their rhymes. But few hip hop artists have saturated their sound with SF, fantasy, comic books, and even mythology as lavishly as New York’s Cannibal Ox.

[Read more]

Thu
Oct 28 2010 3:55pm

Frequency Rotation: The Misfits, “Halloween”

Frequency Rotation: The Misfits

Each week, Frequency Rotation spotlights a different song with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

My ghoul-friend Jesse Bullington and I briefly dug up The Misfits for our undead playlist, “I Rocked with a Zombie.” But the infamous horror-punk group always pops back into my festering brain just as soon as the leaves turn brown, the wind blows cold, and Halloween comes howling at the door. Why? Well, besides the fact that The Misfits loved dressing up in terrifying costumes as much as their predecessors, Kiss, and their offspring, Gwar, the band wrote one of the most haunting (and succinctly titled) Halloween anthems of all time: “Halloween.”

[Read more]

Fri
Oct 22 2010 12:35pm

Frequency Rotation: Lionel Jeffries and friends, “The Roses of Success”

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Each week, Frequency Rotation digs up a different song with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

In honor of Steampunk Fortnight, I figured I’d pick a steampunk-themed song for this week’s installment of Frequency Rotation. Easy, right? After all, there are dozens of bands out there today hoisting the steampunk banner. But rather than pick a new song by a new artist, I wanted to go back a little further. How much further? 1968: the year of the great, often overlooked steampunk milestone, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

[Read more]

Fri
Oct 15 2010 5:39pm

Frequency Rotation: Gary Numan/Tubeway Army, “Down in the Park”

Gary Numan

Each week, Frequency Rotation probes a different song with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

This Sunday, synthesizer icon Gary Numan will kick off a North American tour in support of the 30th-anniversary reissue of The Pleasure Principle, the innovative album that contains his lone U.S. hit, the new-wave classic “Cars.” It’s hard to believe—especially for those of us who grew up in the 1980s—that Numan is still active and popular in the far-flung future he once so icily, nasally warned us about. Yet here he is; and strangely enough, his music sounds as futuristic and frigidly hypnotic as ever.

[Read more]

Thu
Oct 7 2010 11:27am

Frequency Rotation: Franz Nicolay, “The Ballad of Hollis Wadsworth Mason, Jr.”

Franz Nicolay

Each week, Frequency Rotation probes a different song with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

Say you want to write a song about Watchmen, Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ landmark graphic novel. Which of the book’s many superheroes would you sing about? The detached, godlike Dr. Manhattan? The morally complex (or is that totally amoral) Comedian? The grim, Nietzschean Rorscach? All of the above?

If you’re Franz Nicolay, solo artist and former keyboardist of The Hold Steady, you skip all of those obvious choices and head straight for one of Watchmen’s true underdogs: Hollis Mason, retired auto mechanic and the erstwhile masked adventurer once known as Nite Owl.

[Read more]

Thu
Sep 30 2010 3:24pm

Frequency Rotation: Kate Bush, “Deeper Understanding”

Each week, Frequency Rotation probes a different song with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

The fact that Kate Bush is a kind of a geek—albeit an impossibly cool and sexy geek—is common knowledge. Her music, after all, is suffused with the fantastic, and she’s contributed to the soundtracks to everything from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil to the big-screen adaptation of The Golden Compass. But when it comes to Bush’s science fiction side, it mostly boils down to one song: the frigid, depressing, microchip-obsessed “Deeper Understanding.”

[Read more]

Fri
Sep 24 2010 5:04pm

Frequency Rotation: The Downliners Sect, “Lord of the Rings”

Each week, Frequency Rotation probes a different song with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

Untold dozens of rock ’n’ roll bands have written songs about The Lord of the Rings. Led Zeppelin’s 1969 classic “Ramble On” is among the best known. But that same year, one of Zeppelin’s far, far, far, far, far less famous contemporaries—the Downliners Sect—took their own shot at immortalizing Tolkien in rock. Did they succeed? Is all that glitters gold?

[So you have chosen… rock]

Fri
Sep 17 2010 12:04pm

Frequency Rotation: Jeffrey Lewis, “If You Shoot the Head You Kill the Ghoul”

Each week, Frequency Rotation probes a different song with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

How do you kill something that’s already dead? One singer-songwriter is doing his best to remind us.

[Read more]

Tue
Sep 14 2010 12:37pm

I Rocked with a Zombie: An Undead Playlist

You’re working at the lab, late one night, when you realize you were supposed to make a mixtape for that cute ghoul who’s taking you on a date when you get off in an hour. Uh oh.

[Time to assemble a zombie playlist]

Fri
Sep 10 2010 11:33am

Frequency Rotation: Fleetwood Mac, “Rhiannon”

Each week, Frequency Rotation probes a different song with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

When I was 6, I didn’t know who Stevie Nicks was. I didn’t even know the name of the song “Rhiannon,” one of the singer’s many hits with Fleetwood Mac. I also had no idea that her lyrics for “Rhiannon” were based on a Welsh myth handed down throughout the centuries in a collection of stories known as the Mabinogion—or that my own family, living in the sweaty armpit of Florida in the mid-’70s when “Rhiannon” came out, was of Welsh descent.

All I knew was this: My mom turned up the radio every time that song came on. And every time I heard it, it was magic.

[Read more]

Thu
Sep 2 2010 3:02pm

Frequency Rotation: Billy Lee Riley and His Little Green Men, “Flyin’ Saucers Rock ’n’ Roll”

Each week, Frequency Rotation probes a different song with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

Earlier this year I wrote a feature for Clarkesworld called “Moonage Daydream: The Rock Album as Science Fiction.” In it, I point out that rock ’n’ roll’s love affair with science fiction began when rock ’n’ roll as a mass movement did, in the early ’50s. Back then, of course, space travel fell strictly within the realm of science fiction. But in January of 1957—and with Moscow’s sudden, unexpected launch of Sputnik still nine months away—a gaggle of hillbillies assembled in Memphis to record a song that gleefully anticipated the coming Space Age. (Or at the very least, it gleefully anticipated that weekend’s trip to see a science-fiction double-bill down at the local drive-in.)

That two-minute blast of hootin’, hollerin’, hillbilly racket was titled, bluntly enough, “Flyin’ Saucers Rock ’n’ Roll.” The band was Billy Lee Riley and His Little Green Men. And among those Little Green Men was a young, maniacal, hotheaded piano player, a freckle-faced kid who was mere months away from being launched into an orbit of his own: Jerry Lee Lewis.

[Read more]

Fri
Aug 27 2010 11:24am

Frequency Rotation: The Locust, “Flash’s Theme”

Each week, Frequency Rotation probes a different song with a speculative-fiction theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

To a certain generation of science-fiction fans (myself quite zealously included), the 1980s big-screen version of Flash Gordon is a sacrosanct piece of pure, campy pulp. Much of that has to do with Queen’s soundtrack for the film—and in particular, its soaring, glorious lead track, “Flash’s Theme” (titled simply “Flash” when it was released that year as a single). So why celebrate a mutated, mutilated version of said song? Because it’s done by San Deigo noisecore legend The Locust. And if there’s one thing The Locust loves, it’s science fiction.

[Read more]

Thu
Aug 12 2010 3:05pm

Frequency Rotation: Sigue Sigue Sputnik, “21st Century Boy”

Each week, Frequency Rotation probes a different song with a speculative-fiction theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

Some science-fiction-themed songs take a few paragraphs of background info and analysis to be truly appreciated and enjoyed. Others mostly speak for themselves. Loudly.

[Read more]

Thu
Aug 5 2010 2:37pm

Frequency Rotation: Isis, “Hall of the Dead”

Coheed and Cambria, one of the biggest neo-progressive-rock bands around, gets a lot of credit for linking its entire oeuvre (five albums and counting) into one, long, science-fiction narrative—one that’s spilled over into a novel and even a series of comic books. But in a sense, the recently defunct and far less marketable post-metal band Isis did a similar thing. Only without the spaceships, energy beams, pop hooks, and big hair.

[Read more]

Thu
Jul 22 2010 1:44pm

Frequency Rotation: Sarah Brightman & Hot Gossip, “I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper”

Each week, Frequency Rotation probes a different song with a speculative-fiction theme. Genre, musical quality, and overall seriousness may vary.

Ask any actor: Getting typecast sucks. But even the bitterest Star Trek cast member has to admit, albeit grudgingly, that being typecast as a science-fiction actor has at least a few perks. After all, a steady paycheck is a steady paycheck, even if it does entail taking more roles within the confines of SF—a genre many actors get stuck in by accident rather than out of any preexisting love for lasers and aliens. But actors aren’t the only ones who get typecast; it’s far less common, but singers can also slide down the slippery slope of SF, especially if they happen to be practicing thespians as well as chart-topping musicians. Case in point: the operatic, starship-loving superstar of stage, screen, and song, Sarah Brightman.

[Read more]