WandaVision Plays With Reality and Sitcom History in Its Two-Part Premiere

@30 I like those ideas. Common wisdom is that we are looking in Wanda's mind, but common wisdom is not always wise!

WandaVision Plays With Reality and Sitcom History in Its Two-Part Premiere

In the comics, minions of the evil organization A.I.M. often wear yellow suits with bucket hats that look like beekeeper hats. While the MCU version of A.I.M. has so far been portrayed without the colorful suits, I wonder if the appearance of a beekeeper (which scared Wanda enough that she rewound and edited it out of her story) might be a clue.

WandaVision Plays With Reality and Sitcom History in Its Two-Part Premiere

This is an odd little show; I'm pretty sure Marvel didn't intend it to be their first foray into streaming. But it was pretty entertaining, especially since I grew up with the sitcoms they were referencing.

I suspect that Wanda has become disassociated with reality after Vision died, and has created a fantasy world where they can live in happiness. At some point, I suspect she will rejoin reality, where many of the people in the sitcom world will turn out to be folks in the real world who have been trying to treat or help her (kind of twist like the end of The Wizard of Oz). The big question is, given her reality warping powers, if maybe the reality she returns to will be different than the one she left, including the resurrection of Vision, and even her having actual children (which happened in the comics). In addition to watching these clever little satires of famous sitcoms, it will be interesting to see more and more cracks appearing in the fantasy world. Everyone has mentioned the SWORD connections, which imply Nick Fury might be pulling some strings, as he was apparently running SWORD from the shadows in the post-credit scenes of Captain Marvel. 

Chris Evans May Bring America’s Ass Back to the MCU

I can see him appearing in flashbacks, but agree with people who want the dead to stay dead.

Five Books Featuring Space Travel Powered by Atomic Bombs

Pournelle also had an Orion Drive in his story that was to appear in the Last Dangerous Visions anthology, and only recently was published in the retrospective Best of Jerry Pournelle retrospective, edited by John Carr. Like the Footfall ship, it was launched from the Earth's surface. He apparently enjoyed writing stories where people trashed the environment.

7 SFF Stories That Grew Beyond Their Original Worldbuilding

I loved the Escapist. It got very meta, reading the comic series after reading the book. And that book deserved every accolade it got.

Loki Writer Will Pen Kevin Feige’s Star Wars Film

This sounds good to me, as Kevin Feige has done good things for the MCU. There are rumors that Grand Admiral Thrawn could show up not only on Disney+, but also in a feature film.

And I have always longed for a Rogue Squadron movie, and Patty Jenkins is a great director.


Alien Abduction Meets Military History and Adventure: Janissaries by Jerry Pournelle

All, Normally, when I review a book that has problematic racial or gender attitudes, or has disturbing content such as rape, I will put in a disclaimer that warns the reader. I regret not doing so this time, as there are aspects of this book that are without a doubt problematic. 

@17 Haldeman's Forever War appeared in 1975, and for a long time its portrayal of women in combat roles was an anomaly in military science fiction. I stand by my statement that in 1979, when Janissaries appeared, it was indeed typical of the military SF of its time. The first book where David Drake portrayed female soldiers fighting alongside male soldiers was Forlorn Hope, which appeared in 1984, and I have heard him recount how much flak he drew from fellow writers and fans for suggesting that women could ever serve in combat. I read a lot of military SF in that day, and would say that Drake's book was a real turning point, since at the time he was one of the leading writers in the sub-genre and very influential. Within a few years after that, the status quo was reversed, and it was those who portrayed all-male military organizations who were the outliers. It was amazing to see how quickly attitudes changed; it was truly what social scientists call a paradigm shift. I say that not to defend Pournelle, or his attitudes, but merely to put the history in context.

Alien Abduction Meets Military History and Adventure: Janissaries by Jerry Pournelle

@1 I agree with you regarding Lucifer's Hammer, a book that had some great scientific extrapolation, and some well-crafted action scenes, but that whole plotline of inner city hordes attacking the country people was just reprehensible.

@8 Pournelle's work was typical of the military fiction during the time, with few female characters, appearing primarily as romantic interests or victims to be rescued. This changed during susequent decades as women began serving in combat roles, and undermining old prejudices about gender.

SF Books That Did Not Belong in the Childrens’ Section of the Library

@31 I encountered that Tomorrow's Children anthology at too young an age and many of those stories scared the crap out of me!

Five SFF Characters You Want to Trust, but Probably Shouldn’t

Grandma Wannattel, from James H. Schmitz's classic story "Second Night of Summer," is an unusual trickster. Very few tricksters are hidden agents of interstellar empires. The thought of a massive government working through such a quirky local representative always tickled my fancy. (There is a link to the story in the Wikipedia entry on Schmitz, and it is well worth a read.)

SF Books That Did Not Belong in the Childrens’ Section of the Library

Our local library considered the entire genre of SF as child friendly, and who was I to gainsay them!

The teacher who oversaw our High School library was pretty militant against restrictions, so we were free to read what we wanted.

My biggest reading surprise as a youth was reading Sherlock Holmes, and finding one story opening with him mainlining cocaine because he was bored.

Five SFF Characters You Want to Trust, but Probably Shouldn’t

One thing I have noticed is that while in real life, I dislike tricksters, I love reading about them.

Canadians in SF as Written by Non-Canadians

@27 I thought of Heiro also.

Spider Robinson is US born, and has written lots of Canadian characters and settings. Of course, he has long been a Canadian citizen, so perhaps he doesn't fit the bill.

Doctor Who Brings John Bishop On Board

Could Bishop be joining the cast as the new Doctor? I know they are saying new companion, but perhaps they are trying to hide the new Doctor in plain sight.

Should We Bring a Cat to Space?

If my puppy is any guide, dogs should never be allowed into space. Every exposed electrical cord in the house is encased in flexible conduit, and we are constantly finding something new turned into a chew toy. She is also on her fourth Lambchop doll.

The Mandalorian Says Farewell in Chapter Sixteen, “The Rescue”

When Din flushed the Dark Troopers out of the ship, I said, "How convenient that they were stored in an airlock." And then I said, "They don't have to breathe and they have rockets in their feet. They'll be back." 

When Luke showed up, at first I said, "Oh, cool, it's Luke Skywalker." Then I said, "He's about to start a Jedi school where one of his students goes on a rampage and kills the other kids. Stay with Din, Grogu."

After the post-credit scene, at first I said, "There's going to be two shows with bucket-head guys as leads coming out next December." Then I said, "Oh, crap, there will probably only be one bucket-head show, and it won't have Din and Grogu in it."

Adventure Rooted in Reality: Mars by Ben Bova

@5 Thanks for the personal insights. I suspected that there was some research and travel involved in writing about Jamie's heritage; the descriptions were too accurate and evocative not to have been based on personal experience.

Why Is the Star Wars Universe Full of Megafauna?

Humans and other sapient beings are not the apex predators of the Star Wars universe, and are constantly fighting each other and blowing things up. The galaxy is full of ruins and barely inhabited worlds. Plenty of room for wildlife in this universe. 

Adventure Rooted in Reality: Mars by Ben Bova

@1 Was that Jerry Nelson, the astronomer from California?

Why I Love “Uncool” Characters Like The Jungle Book’s Bagheera

My mom's nickname for me when I was a child was "worry-wart." Small, serious, bookish and bespectacled.  This essay hit me right where I live.

The Mandalorian Dons a Different Set of Armor in Chapter Fifteen, “The Believer”

@39 Lately, the only thing fandom seems to agree on is that anything and everything is flawed, unless it fits their preconceived notions to the n-th degree. We're living in a golden age of science fiction, and everyone is whining about nits and details.  :-(

The Blessed Meaninglessness of The Nightmare Before Christmas

Jack feels that who he is isn't special enough, so he tries to force being something else. But he isn't being true to himself, and ends up learning to be happy with himself as he is. A good lesson for us all.

The Mandalorian Dons a Different Set of Armor in Chapter Fifteen, “The Believer”

Great episode. I loved the clever ties to continuity. Guilt over participation in Operation Cinder is central to the Alphabet Squadron books. And thanks for mentioning where that sonic explosive came from. I knew I recognized it from somewhere. I liked the redemption arc; the guy was a scumbag, but it wouldn't be redemption if he was a nice guy. The face scan was dumb, but I loved the fact that Mando's bond with Grogu is so strong that he was willing to turn away from lifelong beliefs to find him.

Lightyear Will Buzz Into Theaters in 2022

This twist sounds odd at first blush, but opens the door to do something different, instead of just cranking out yet another installment of the same old thing. Chris Evans is very choosy picking roles, and must see some value in the project.

Five Novels About the World After the End of the World

I am a fan of the Yngling stories by John Dalmas, and Heiro's Journey by Stirling Lanier. Nothing like an apocalypse to trigger psi powers in mighty warriors so they can wander the world to do great deeds.

Legendary Taps Brian K. Vaughan to Write Buck Rogers Reboot

@5 Thanks for the info. I had the mistaken impression that only the AI had done the speaking. I do remember that my son adored him, and a Twiki was the first action figure he ever owned.

The Rodriguez Siblings Will Bring Us the Gift of a New Zorro

I have loved Zorro, ever since I first saw the Disney version back in the '50s. This sounds fun.

Legendary Taps Brian K. Vaughan to Write Buck Rogers Reboot

This sounds promising. Great writer, going back to the original source material, is a good way to approach it. They just need to lose the racism that tainted Buck's magazine and comic strip incarnations. The only thing I would bring back from the TV show is Twiki, the perfect unintelligible robot sidekick. And for God's sake, lets hope they lose the spandex and metallic fabrics from those TV costumes.

Science Fiction’s Four Basic Types of Lost Worlds

Lots of good stories have Earth as the lost world, or colonists who wished earth would stay lost.

Then there are abandoned colonies, where for whatever reason, the other worlds left them to their own devices. Pournelle's War World fits this description.

Dr. Octopus Claws His Way Into Tom Holland’s Spider-Man 3

Molina was a spectacular Doc Ock, one of Spider-Man's greatest opponents. This is great news!

The Mandalorian Makes a Terrible Error in Chapter Fourteen, “The Tragedy”

What an episode! Fight scenes, action, tragic losses, backstory, fan service; you barely have time to notice the thinness of the plot. For the first time since the battle with Obi Wan on the cloning planet, a Fett gets to be badass. And Fennic Shand was not a great actress wasted on a brief cameo. I was horrified at the destruction of the Razor Crest, just before thousands get the Lego version for Christmas. Hopefully, the ship can be replaced by a duplicate as easily as the Defiant on Deepspace Nine.

Pirates in Space: Henry Martyn by L. Neil Smith

@2 Thanks for bringing that song to my attention. It was obviously one of the inspirations for the story.

DuckTales 2017 May Not Return for a Fourth Season

Too bad. It has been an enjoyable show, even more fun than the last iteration. 

Five Hippie-ish SF Novels Inspired by Sixties Counterculture

@9 I was going to mention Spider Robinson also, but give the Callahan stories as an example. Pretty much everything Spider wrote was infused with his hippie-ish personal philosophy.

Legendary Science Fiction Author Ben Bova Has Passed at the Age of 88

He was a giant in the field, and a nice guy as well. I was always in awe at how many things he was good at. Another of his discoveries was Spider Robinson.

The Doctor Who Holiday Special Will Arrive on New Year’s Day — Watch the Trailer!

Looks good to me. Noth did a great job as an ethically-challenged tycoon, and every time Captain Jack appears he steals the stage (in a good way).

The Mandalorian Gets an Unexpected Bounty in Chapter Thirteen, “The Jedi”

What a great episode. I have been looking forward to it ever since I heard Ahsoka would be appearing in the series, and it did not disappoint. The 'ghost in the forest' scene was spectacular, with the lightsabers appearing and disappearing. I liked the way Ahsoka interacted with Baby Yoda, and would have loved to see her jump on the Razor Crest and join the team, but knew that wasn't possible. The fight scenes were all great, including the two showdowns. And the Admiral Thrawn moment was a great one--I'd love to see him appear in live action at some point. As has been the case ever since this series began, I can't wait for next week!

Living the Arizona Dream in Andre Norton’s Ten Mile Treasure

I read a ton of book similar to this in grade school, but had grown up and moved on by the time this one was written. Sounds like this was a good one.

Combatting Book Shame and Reading Outside Your Comfort Zone

I had a wonderful role model in my father, who never cared what people saw him reading. I did, however, put paper bag bookcovers on some books when I read them at school, to prevent teachers from questioning my choices.

Twelve Animated Series Worth Marathoning

Count me as a HUGE Gravity Falls fan. I joined a couple of episodes into the show, but now I have gone back and seen the entire series, and seen most of the episodes 2 or 3 times. With all the little Easter Eggs and hints, this is definitely a show that rewards rewatching, I was disappointed when it ended, but in the long run, it is always better when an artist knows how to quit while the audience still wants more.

Another great Disney cartoon was Phineas and Ferb. The same plot every week, but oh, the wonderful variations they spun on that framework. 

And, like @3, I am a big My Little Pony fan. It was a wonderful show with a lot of heart. I started watching it with my granddaughter when she would visit, and even after she got teenaged, and stopped visiting as much, have kept watching episodes on my own.

The Mandalorian Reunites With a Few Familiar Faces in Chapter 12, “The Siege”

I don't see any issues with the New Republic being inept after defeating the Empire. Look at US history, ang how clumsy our fledgling government was for decades after throwing off the British yoke. There were lots of complaints that our new government was doing a worse job of things.

The Mandalorian Reunites With a Few Familiar Faces in Chapter 12, “The Siege”

Good episode. Great chase scene, great Baby Yoda antics, a story complete in itself, and lots of moving the overall arc forward.

Note to self: Never send Baby Yoda to defuse a bomb...

Adventure Tales From a Master: The Best of Leigh Brackett, Edited by Edmond Hamilton

@1 For all his technical skills, I often felt covers by Boris Vallejo ended up being fairly generic.

Naked in the Dark: A Definitive List of the Lord of the Rings Characters That F*ck

This is a question I had never pondered before, and, now that it has been pondered, will lock it away forever.

Never Say You Can’t Survive: Write The Book That Only You Could Have Written

Thanks for these wonderful essays. I didn't get a chance to read all of them, but will be doing so in the coming days.

It took a lot of courage to set aside a finished product like you did. That's a big investment...

The Mandalorian Learns a New Way in Chapter 11, “The Heiress”

@13 The art is concept art, which Lucasfilms has always used in planning their features. It often varies somewhat from what appears on screen. And the always release an "Art of..." coffee table book for each feature. I already have the "Art of the Mandolorian" book on my Amazon wish list for Christmas.

This episode was a lot more fun than the last. There was forward movement of the plot, lots of tie ins to Clone Wars and Rebels, and seeing the Mandolorians in action was wicked cool!

Who Gets in the Lifeboat? Five Classic SF Survival Stories

Lucifer's Hammer by Niven and Pournelle was a best selling book about a comet striking the Earth, although the racial issues it portrayed were problematic. A lot of people outside the SF community read that one, as it was billed as a disaster story more than an SF story.

One "who lives and who dies" story I remember from back in the day was Thunderstrike by the underappreciated Michael McCollum. I remember a scene where people were fighting to get into a pod on a linear accelerator that was especially chilling.

Warfare, Wooing, and Whimsy: The Helmsman by Bill Baldwin

@8 I had never thought of it before, but now that you mention it, the image is stuck in my head.  :-)

The Mandalorian Goes for Full Horror in Chapter 10, “The Passenger”

I found the episode to be entertaining and engaging, but when it ended, my wife asked, "That's it?" And I realized it was more a collection of events than a complete and coherent story, like the last one was. The 'humor' of the egg eating was a little much for me, I was glad those eggs weren't fertilized.

The Mandalorian Has to Slay a Dragon in Chapter 9, “The Marshal”

@36 Just saw a trailer for the holiday special. I think it will be better than the first one!  ;-)

Warfare, Wooing, and Whimsy: The Helmsman by Bill Baldwin

@3 I had no idea about Jo Walton's re-read, that note was added by the Tor staff. Now that I know,  I have some reading to catch up on!

@4 That original timeline would have made Baldwin a remarkably fast writer! Sorry about that...

Understanding and Writing Horses: A Horse Is Freedom

Good essay. There is a feeling of strength and freedom that comes when riding.

The Mandalorian Has to Slay a Dragon in Chapter 9, “The Marshal”

@24 The composer often works alone, and uses multitracking. The sparse score fit the sparse landscape of Tatooine.

If you haven't already, the "making of" series includes an episode on the composer and music for the series. It was fascinating.

All the Stuff That Brought Us Nerdy Joy in 2020

Christmas 2020 will be the first time we will have all the Baby Yoda merchandise that everyone wants available for purchase...   ;-)

Grand Admiral Thrawn Turns 30, Which Means 2021 Should be Called Thrawnty-Thrawnty-One

@4 I have enjoyed the new Alphabet Squadron books by Alexander Freed, and his Twilight Company book. I read a lot of the Star Wars novels, and enjoy them all, but those stand out. And the new Thrawn books show that Zahn hasn't lost his touch.

The Mandalorian Has to Slay a Dragon in Chapter 9, “The Marshal”

There weren't just spoilers ahead, they were right in the title. Dragons, indeed. (Harumph)

Great episode, so good to see a new show instead of rewatches and reruns. Loved Baby Yoda's survival instincts, first, closing has armored pram in the fight club, and especially in the spitoon. And that child does love speeder bike rides!

Love the marshal, and sand people, and the dragon battling. And all the ties to old canon. With maybe Boba showing up in the end, we are far from done with Tatooine. Looking forward to Fridays again!

Grand Admiral Thrawn Turns 30, Which Means 2021 Should be Called Thrawnty-Thrawnty-One

These books are like popcorn to me, I gobble them up! Zahn brings out the best in Star Wars, and Star Wars brings out the best in him.

Not-So-Splendid Isolation: Five SF Works About Being Alone

Ora:cle is not one of my favorite Kevin O'Donnell books, but he was a wonderful author, whose name has many happy associations in my mind. It inspires me to mount an expedition into the depths of my basement to see what I can find.

Not-So-Splendid Isolation: Five SF Works About Being Alone

Emergence by David Palmer started out with a lone protagonist. And many Andre Norton books would have long stretches where the protagonist was alone.

Five SF Tales About Dead or Dying Worlds

Pretty much every planetary romance book set on Mars fits this bill. Is this a sign that SF writers move in herds?

A Little Something Extra: Masters of the Vortex by E. E. “Doc” Smith

@3 On the Starship Modeler site, the group is holding an event called #octoB5er, where everyone is showing their models and miniatures related to the Babylon 5 show, and that had me thinking about the show and its plotlines. When I first watched B5, I had not read the Lensman series. But now that I have, I see what you said above. There are are a lot of commonalities between the Vorlon/Shadow and Eddorian/Arisian conflicts.

@4 In one of the books, they captured a young woman from a Boskonian planet, who turned out to be a nice person, and one of the Galactic Patrolmen even proposed to her. She showed that the worlds of the Boskonians were not totally evil, that they were full of ordinary people just trying to live their lives. So think of her when you think about a world destroyed to get at an enemy base located there. When planning military operations, and looking at collateral damage, it is best to put faces on the people affected.

A Little Something Extra: Masters of the Vortex by E. E. “Doc” Smith

@1. Having started his career in manufacturing during the WWI era, I suspect Smith saw a lot of women doing work that had previously been done by men. It's interesting to note that the longer the series went on, the more capable the female characters became.

Five SFF Books Driven by Terrible Choices and Appalling Judgment

I would nominate The Stars My Destination. Gully Foyle was about the most vile and erratic protagonist I ever met in fiction.

Animaniacs Would Never Mansplain to You

I will never forget the day my son greeted me when I got home from work with, "Dad, you have to see this." He put a tape onto the VHS, and I saw the Animaniacs for the first time. I hope there is a new Mindy and Buttons cartoon...

Downstream From History: What Makes a History ‘Alternate’?

The most powerful alternate hisory I ever read was A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, because it was unlike anything I had ever heard,  and all true.

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