see me in Ticonderoga this weekend for Star Trek Author’s Day

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On Saturday the 23rd of June — this Saturday — it will be “Author’s Day” at the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour in Ticonderoga, New York. This tour is a painstaking, and amazing, re-creation of the studio set from the original Star Trek in the 1960s. In addition to the tour, on Saturday you can also meet a bunch of nifty Trek authors. We’ll not only be signing and selling books, but we’ll each be giving a talk:

  • 11am: Dave Galanter (Crisis of Consciousness, Troublesome Minds) and Scott Pearson (The More Things Change, Honor in the Night)
  • 12pm: Keith R.A. DeCandido (Articles of the Federation, Q & A)
  • 2pm: Peter David (New Frontier, Imzadi)
  • 3pm: Robert Greenberger (A Time to Love, A Time to Hate)

So come up and see us!

 

Othello in Central Park

OTHELLO Written by William Shakespeare Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson Featuring Kevin Rico Angulo, Christopher Cassarino, Peter Jay Fernandez, Motell Foster, Andrew Hovelson, Chukwudi Iwuji, David Kenner, Heather Lind, Tim Nicolai, Flor De Liz Perez,

Yesterday was a lot of fun. Wrenn and I had lunch with friends then hung out on the standby line in Central Park for Othello, which starred Chukwudi Iwuji in the title role (he was in John Wick 2 and also the impossible astronaut two-parter on Doctor Who), Corey Stoll as Iago (he was Yellowjacket in Ant-Man), Heather Lind as Desdemona (she was one of the stars of Turn: Washington’s Spies), and Alison Wright as Emilia (a regular on The Americans). All four were superb, and the production was very well directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson (whom folks probably know best as an actor playing Captain Montgomery on Castle; as a playwright as the author of Lackawanna Blues; and as a theatre director for his recent revival of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson).

This is the second time I’ve seen Othello as part of Shakespeare in the Park, the ongoing free productions of Shakespeare in Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre that have been going on since the 1950s, and which I’ve been attending for as long as I’ve been alive. (In fact, some of my earliest memories of childhood are sitting on the Great Lawn waiting for tickets while some dude wandered around peddling sangria.) The last production of Othello I saw was in 1991, and starred Raul Julia as a big bombastic Othello and Christopher Walken as, basically, Iago from Brooklyn. It was glorious.

What I particularly liked about this version of Othello is that among most of the characters there is genuine affection. Far too often, whoever is playing Othello is so focused on the obsessive flame of jealousy that Iago stokes that his love for Desdemona never comes through. It’s a tough role to play because Iago plays him like a two-dollar banjo, and it’s very easy for Othello to come across as an idiot.

Iwuji threads that needle nicely: his Othello is a man of passion, but never does he lose sight of the fact that he loves Desdemona, even in the final scene where he strangles her in their bed (always a brutal scene to watch, and this one was particularly nasty, as Lind is flailing as she tries and fails to keep breathing).

But the standout here is Stoll. If you’d told me that the guy who was so incredibly uninteresting as Yellowjacket (just one of a multitude of things wrong with Ant-Man) would make a great Iago, I’d have laughed in your face, but Stoll is simply brilliant here. He modulates so cunningly into the different modes he needs to be in: solicitous friend to Desdemona, loyal friend to Othello who is reluctant to give him ill news, devil in the ear of Roderigo, faithful comrade to Cassio, disdainful husband to Emilia, and then in his many asides, his true face of loathing toward the Moor. Stoll keeps the character’s racism subtle, which in 2018 may not have been the best approach (subtlety is for when racists aren’t feeling emboldened), but it’s still an incredibly effective performance.

Stoll is also the only one who has no love in his heart. Every other actor in this film shows love for their fellow, whether it’s Desdemona’s father for her (though, like Othello’s, his is twisted, in this case by his racism), Emilia’s for Iago (which the man himself drains out of her) and Desdemona, Othello’s for Iago, Cassio’s for pretty much everyone. That love, that passion, informs all the characters’ actions (or, in Iago’s case, the passionate hatred), and it makes everyone’s performance better, particularly those of Lind and Wright. Lind really sells Desdemona’s utter confusion; Wright does likewise for Emilia’s conflict between marital duty and moral outrage.

Unusually for the Public Theatre, whose bread and butter is doing variations (whether it was last year’s Julius Caesar, where Caesar was played as a thinly disguised Trump or 1990’s The Taming of the Shrew, which was re-set as a Western), this version of Othello was completely straight, with the costumes and settings exactly right for the 14th-century Italy setting of the play.

Just an excellent production that sadly is only running for a couple more days, so if you want to go see it, gotta do it today, tomorrow, or over the weekend. Information on how to get tickets here.

Cloak & Dagger‘s changes from the source material

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On Tor.com, I take a look at the changes that FreeForm made to Cloak & Dagger from the comic book version.

An excerpt:

In the comics, Tyrone and Tandy were among the many runaways who were swooped down and preyed upon by minions of drug kingpins who needed human test subjects. They were trying to design a drug themselves in order to control the flow of it, and avoid exorbitant import costs. The experiment failed, and all of the subjects died, except for Tyrone and Tandy. (At one point, they were thought to be mutants, and the experiments unleashed their latent powers, but that was retconned later.) In their very first appearance, they were seen to be taking revenge against the drug lords who accidentally created them.

About the only aspect of their origin that the show keeps is the presence of water. In the comics, the experiments were being held on Ellis Island (which, when the comic was written in 1983, was closed to the public), and they escaped by swimming in the Hudson River. On the show, they get their powers much younger, as little kids. Tyrone dives into the Gulf of Mexico after Billy is shot and falls in, and Nathan Bowen is driving his daughter home when his car crashes into the river. An accident on a Roxxon oil rig (still unexplained as of episode three) seems to be the catalyst for Tandy and Tyrone’s link and their light-and-dark powers. But those powers don’t manifest until years later.

new on Patreon: Doctor Who, “Chaos Theory,” vignettes, cat pics, and more!

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Here’s what’s gone up this month on Patreon:

 

4-Color to 35-Millimeter: Fantastic Four (2005)

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The second attempt to do Marvel’s first family on film is more successful than the first — in fact, it’s actually good enough to release to theatres! But ultimately, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis are the only saving graces of what is otherwise a total misfire. The great superhero movie rewatch examines the 2005 Fantastic Four.

An excerpt:

This movie and its sequel have come under tremendous amount of fire, and while some of it is deserved, the movie has two very big things going for it: their names are Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis.

Honestly, I remember my first thought after seeing this movie thirteen years ago was that I wanted the next movie to be called Strange Tales (a title that featured the Human Torch and the Thing at various points in the 1960s and 1970s) and only feature Chiklis and Evans, with Reed and Sue off on their honeymoon.

Chiklis apparently lobbied to play Ben Grimm, and he’s letter perfect in the role, from his easy friendship with Ioan Gruffudd’s Reed to his equally easy friendship with Jessica Alba’s Sue to his war of words and deeds with Evans’s Johnny to his frustration with being the Thing. The moment when he can’t pick Debbie’s discarded engagement ring up off the pavement because his fingers are too big is just heartbreaking, and Chiklis does an amazing job of selling Ben’s anguish through the metric shit-ton of latex he’s covered in.

Anybody who’s followed the Marvel Cinematic Universe knows the greatness of Evans. If Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is the heart of the MCU, Evans’s Captain America is the soul. So it’s even more impressive to see him in this role that’s 180 degrees from Cap, an adrenaline junkie who jumps into being a superhero and a celebrity with both feet. Evans is a pure delight, and he and Chiklis make a superlative combination.

It’s really too bad they’re stuck in this movie.

They Keep Killing Glenn is now on sale!

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Now on sale from the fine folks at Crazy 8 Press is the anthology nobody was demanding — unless, of course, they’ve actually met Glenn Hauman — They Keep Killing Glenn.

It started as a joke at the C8 panel at Shore Leave last year, and co-editors Peter David and Kathleen David decided to go ahead and actually do an anthology, where everyone gets to kill Glenn — who is the production guru and web-master for C8, and also the one responsible for their 2016 anthology Altered States of the Union, as well as the guy who keeps ComicMix going.

My own story is called “House Hunting,” and it was inspired both by Glenn and Brandy’s original search for their house 25 years ago, and also by my own six-month tenure as their tenant in one of the apartments in that house in 2000 and 2001.

The full list of contributors, listed alphabetically:

    • Lorraine J. Anderson
    • S. Brady Calhoun
    • Russ Colchamiro
    • Joe Corallo
    • Kathleen O’Shea David
    • Peter David
    • Keith R.A. DeCandido
    • Mary Fan
    • Michael Jan Friedman
    • David Gerrold
    • Robert Greenberger
    • Brett Hudgins
    • Paul Kupperberg
    • Blair Learn
    • Amy Lewanski
    • David Mack
    • Aaron Rosenberg
    • Jenifer Purcell Rosenberg
    • Dean Scott
    • Hildy Silverman
    • Setsu Uzumé

Currently the book is on sale in trade paperback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The eBook versions, as well as print and eBook versions from other online dealers, are forthcoming. Plus we’ll be formally launching the book at Shore Leave 40 next month, at which Anderson, Colchamiro, both Davids, Fan, Friedman, Greenberger, Learn, Mack, and both Rosenbergs, as well as the subject himself, will all be in attendance.

 

 

my review of Black Panther

I reviewed Black Panther when it came out on Patreon. I present it here now that the movie has come out on home video. If you want to read monthly movie reviews like this, it only costs you a buck a month. For $2/month you get regular cat pictures; $5/month gets you weekly TV reviews, inlcuding one Doctor Who review per month; $7/month gets you weekly excerpts from my works in progress; $10/month gets you monthly vignettes starring my original characters; $20/month gets you first looks at my completed works in progress; and $25/month allows you to be my convention buddy. Check it out! 

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One of the fascinating aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been the way the filmmakers have cherry-picked elements of characters with five decades (or more in the case of Captain America) of history. As an example, the three Iron Man films used storylines from the 1960s (his origin), the 1970s (Justin Hammer and Whiplash), the 1980s (Obadiah Stane), the 1990s (War Machine), and the 2000s (Extremis), as well as elements that have been present all along (the Mandarin, Stark’s involvement with S.H.I.E.L.D.). Yet all of it coheres nicely, as those three movies have a single, coherent story arc, and they combine with the two Avengers movies, Captain America: Civil War, and Spider-Man: Homecoming to form an impressive narrative of Stark’s life to date.

Black Panther does something very similar, made more impressive that it’s all in one movie. The film makes use of elements that have been there since the 1960s—the general setup, the heart-shaped flower that provides Panther with his strength and agility—with others that were added over time, particularly the expansion of his role as a world leader during Christopher Priest’s run (which also gave us Everett Ross and the Dora Milaje). Plus, the three people whom one would say have been Panther’s primary antagonists over the decades are all here: Klaw (reimagined as Ulysses Klaue), Killmonger, and Man-Ape (de-yuckified and is simply M’Baku, and thank goodness for that).

With all that, Ryan Coogler still has something new and important to say, as he addresses full on the major issue with a “hidden nation” of technological marvels, particularly in Africa, and particularly one that’s supposed to be run by a heroic character. Wakanda stood by and stayed hidden with their hoard of vibranium while all around them other Africans were exploited, the continent itself mined for resources both monetary and human for centuries.

Killmonger’s goal is to make Wakanda into what he felt it should have been all along: the vanguard of Africa controlling the western world the way Europe and North America did for so long, much of it on the back of exploited Africans.

It’s interesting, a lot of what’s been written and discussed about Black Panther has been about how Killmonger is the first really complex villain in the MCU, or possibly the second if they credit Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes in Homecoming. This assertion rather bizarrely ignores Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, which is especially absurd given that Killmonger and Loki are basically the same character.

That’s not a dis on Killmonger, either. Loki is still the breakout character of the MCU, and it’s because he’s allowed to be understandable and sympathetic up to a point. Both are legitimate heirs to a throne, both are children of two separate worlds, both use the techniques of one world to put themselves in a position of power in the other, and actually do get what they want, at least temporarily. Having said that, neither the Thor movies, nor Avengers, nor Black Panther lose sight of the fact that we’re talking a villain here. This has not stopped people from talking about both characters in terms of how you almost want to root for them, the actors’ respective charisma (which is considerable in both cases) masking the horrible things their characters do. Killmonger, in case folks might have forgotten, shot his girlfriend in the head without a moment’s thought or hesitation because she was standing between him and Klaue. Not to mention his role in killing the museum employees who were just working stiffs doing their job. Plus the whole starting-a-civil-war thing…

That’s not the only element Black Panther shares with the Thor films, but again, not a bad thing. Both deal with issues of monarchy, with our heroes discovering that their beloved fathers were not the noble figures they had made them out to be. More to the point, they couldn’t be, because being a ruler means making awful, horrible decisions that don’t always turn out right. Odin set one potential heir against another, was capricious, hot-tempered, and vicious. T’Chaka abandoned his nephew, refusing him his heritage and birthright. Worse, from the way the 1992 scenes were shot, T’Chaka had no intention of bringing young Eric along back to Wakanda. The airship was above the building with nobody on the ground watching Eric. It looked like T’Chaka’s only plan was to bring his brother N’Jobu along and leave the kid behind.

Panther’s examination of these issues is a bit more immediate because it’s more grounded in the real world than Asgard is. It’s not a coincidence that Coogler picked 1992 (the year of the Rodney King riots) Oakland (the birthplace of the Black Panther party) as the time and place of the movie’s inciting incident. Plus, Wakanda is truly a part of Africa, and the movie itself embraces the entire continent, from the various regions represented by Wakanda’s five nations to the Boko Haram slavers that Nakia is going after at the top of the film to Klaue and his thick Afrikaans accent.

The movie is as beautiful and stunning and magnificently acted as everyone has been saying. Another Thor connection: just as I wish Jack Kirby had lived to see the 2011 film that gave us Asgard in all its Kirbyesque glory, so too do I deeply regret that the King didn’t get to see how stupendously Black Panther put his Wakanda up on the big screen. Chadwick Boseman teased us with a phenomenal T’Challa in Civil War, and he’s even better here. Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Letitia Wright as Shur, and especially Danai Gurira as Okoye are stellar as T’Challa’s support network. I especially like the fact that all three of them are women is never once mentioned in the film (though it has rightly been celebrated in the discussion of it).

Having said that, a big issue I have with the movie is the treatment of women. Yes, Nakia, who puts helping people above even her country and her love for T’Challa; Okoye, who is so devoted to Wakanda that she unhesitatingly swears allegiance to Killmonger for as long as he appears to be legitimately King (she only rebels when T’Challa turns up alive, at which point the challenge has not ended, and the kingship is in doubt); and Shuri, the face of STEM in the MCU (can’t wait until she meets Stark, assuming T’Challa lets him anywhere near his sister, which he probably shouldn’t), are all fantastic. But when T’Chaka died, why is it that T’Challa takes over running the kingdom? There’s a queen right there, yet Ramonda is never mentioned as a possible person to rule Wakanda. Since she appears to be younger than T’Chaka, it can’t be her age. So why isn’t she allowed to be queen in this theoretically progressive Wakanda?

More fundamentally, where is Killmonger’s mother? Where’s the consideration for Killmonger’s mother? It’s bad enough that T’Chaka killed N’Jobu, but he intended to bring him home without his wife (who never even gets the dignity of a name) and kid behind. Just another single black woman stuck raising a kid after the father dies or disappears. But what role does she play in his life? (To jump once again back to Loki, one of the trickster’s redeeming qualities was his love for Frigga.)

These are, ultimately, minor problems, overall, however. The film is beautiful, the film is powerful, and the film is important. On top of that, it beautifully embodies every era of its title character, from his earliest days in Fantastic Four and elsewhere by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby in the 1960s, to the seminal work done with the character by Don McGregor and Kirby in the 1970s, Christopher Priest in the 1990s, and Ta-Nehisi Coates in the 2000s. Bravo!

Monday music: “St. James Infirmary” by Sasha Masakowski & the Sidewalk Strutters

Bonnaroo 365 has a feature called “Jam in the Van,” where they put a band in their van and they play a song live. In this particular instant, it’s another version of “St. James Infirmary,” this time by a band that, like the song, is from New Orleans: Sasha Masakowski & the Sidewalk Strutters. This version mixes a bit of “Minnie the Moocher” in there for good measure. (They’re not the first to do so — at the very least, Trombone Shorty has done the same with this song.)

guide to 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

I’ve rewatched every single live-action movie based on a superhero comic book over at Tor.com. The feature was weekly from August 2017 – January 2020, at which point I’d caught up to real time, as it were, and the feature will now be revived periodically to look back at new releases (and occasionally older movies I might’ve missed earlier).

Here’s an alphabetical list of all the movies I’ve covered, as well as the ones I intend to cover in the near-ish future.

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