Happy 30th Anniversary, Alien Nation the TV series!

That was the scene in California’s Mojave Desert five years ago: our historic first view of the Newcomers’ ship. Theirs was a slave ship, carrying a quarter million beings bred to adapt and labor in any environment. But they’ve washed ashore on Earth, with no way to get back to where they came from, and in the last five years the Newcomers have become the latest addition to the population of Los Angeles.”

Cue funky opening music and credits.

AlienNation-01

Los Angeles, 1995: Aliens are everywhere.

After their very massive starship crashes on Earth, 250,000 genetically engineered aliens who call themselves “Tenctonese” find themselves forced to assimilate into a world very different from the one to which they’d been heading. The people already living here also find themselves dealing with the very harsh reality that not only is there life “out there,” but there’s actually quite a lot of it. If one ship full of alien slaves can find their way to Earth, what about the people who enslaved them? What about any other enemies they might have? What would such people think of humans, and what if they decide we’re a threat?

Meanwhile, the Tenctonese just want to live, pay their bills, watch crappy TV, and basically take advantage of the unexpected gift of freedom they’ve received, but are they truly free? While many humans have welcomed these “Newcomers,” there are many others who’d be happy to see them climb back into their ship and fly away. Since that’s not really an option, such people are okay with taking more extreme steps to keep “Earth for earthlings.”

Then there’s Matt Sikes, cynical and halfway burnout police detective, who’s kinda sorta okay with the Newcomers, even though his last name when translated into Tenctonese is two words that mean “excrement” and “cranium” or “shit head.”

Then they make a Newcomer his partner. Whoops.

Continue reading “Happy 30th Anniversary, Alien Nation the TV series!”

Happy 45th anniversary to Planet of the Apes…the TV series!

Yeah, I can see some of you younger folks out there, giving me that Kevin Hart blinking side-eye GIF. You’ll just have to bear with me as we dive headlong into a nice inviting pool of nostalgia.

I know. Again.

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The success of 1968’s Planet of the Apes film spawned four (Count ’em! Four!) sequels over the ensuing five years. However, as budgets dwindled with each successive installment and returns on investment following suit, the fifth film, 1973’s Battle for the Planet of the Apes, was viewed by many as the franchise finally running out of steam. That said, each of the five films made money, so the idea continuing to do something with the property was still very much a real thing.

Continue reading “Happy 45th anniversary to Planet of the Apes…the TV series!”

Happy Birthday, Star Trek!

“Space…the final frontier….”

These are the voyages where the legend began, 53 years ago tonight!

I’ve mentioned this before (about a zillion times), but my earliest memories include Star Trek to some degree. I wasn’t old enough to watch the show during its original broadcast run, but I watched the reruns every day after school. Beyond that, I had the Mego figures and that crazy bridge set. I built the AMT models, and I read the occasional Gold Key comic book or poster book or collection of James Blish episode adaptations.

All of that was just filler of course. Anchoring all of that were the reruns. Always, the reruns.

Back then, before VCRs, DVD, iTunes or NetFlix, you had to wait for your favorite episodes to cycle back around in the rotation. I watched the series on a little black and white television and its crappy little antenna as the show was broadcast on a low-power local UHF station in Tampa. Depending on the time of day and prevailing weather conditions, I might not always get a decent picture. If I was out in the boonies somewhere–like my aunt’s house–I might have to fiddle with the antenna throughout the episode, and as often as not I might be forced to choose between having a picture or having sound.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that today also marks the 46th anniversary of the animated Star Trek series, which premiered on NBC on this date in 1973. I did catch (most of) those episodes during their initial run, and the show helped to spark a lot of the Trek-related toys and other merchandise which came out in the mid 1970s, like those aforementioned Mego action figures.

Today, of course, I have Star Trek literally at my fingertips: Blu-rays on the shelf or episodes streaming over the internet, and I even have my favorite episodes stored on my phone. Then there are the books (Fun fact: I’ve written a few of those, in case you were wondering), comics, role-playing games, computer games, toys, models, websites, and pretty much anything you’d care to name. Star Trek is everywhere. Hold up a picture of the original Enterprise or Kirk and Spock, and most people will know what you’re talking about.

Star Trek looks pretty dapper for 53. Enjoy your cake.

Happy Judgment Day!

Roses are Red
Violets Are Blue
Humanity’s toast
Suck on my big fat CPU.

Love, Skynet.                                             

Celebrating the 22nd anniversary of the fall of humanity and the rise of the machines.

terminator-101Judgment Day: August 29th, 1997. Sunblock optional.

Here’s hoping you can get out, enjoy it, and maybe take advantage of all the sales!

Tied Up With Tie-Ins: V!

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. I know I said it would be an irregularly recurring series of self-indulgent babbling, but it’s been a little more irregular than I originally planned or would’ve preferred. So, let me try to get back on the horse here and see what happens.

V-SeriesLogoA short while back on Facebook, I made a post mentioning the 1983 miniseries V. This four-hour “limited” or “event series” (as it’d likely be called today) depicted the arrival of aliens on Earth with seemingly benign motives. They show up in massive, saucer-like spaceships that hover over every major city around the world and proceed to make all sorts of awesome, too-good-to-be-true promises while asking for a comparatively minor favor in return: help with engineering a special compound for use fighting environmental contamination on their home planet.

Continue reading “Tied Up With Tie-Ins: V!”

Boosting the Signal: Save Novel Books!

Eight years ago, Patrick Darby opened Novel Books, a small independent book shop located in Clarksburg, Maryland. Every summer during these past eight years, Patrick along with his family and staff have brought their small-town bookseller charm an hour east to the Shore Leave convention, which convenes every July in Hunt Valley.

As part of their preparation, Patrick and his team see to it that each of the convention’s author guests is represented by stock from their respective backlists, which he makes available for sale to con attendees looking to get a book signed. This is especially helpful on Friday night when the annual “Meet the Pros” mass autograph signing takes place with all of the author guests. Most years, Patrick and company are able to “debut” at least one new title at the convention, including releases which aren’t due in bookstores for a week or more. I’ve benefited from this little bit of publicity myself, with both my Vulcan and Klingon travel guides along with Summon the Thunder, the Star Trek Vanguard novel I wrote with Kevin, premiering at the con. The Novel Books gang is just as much a part of Shore Leave as any long-time attendee. For them not to be there would be disappointing, to say the least.

But, that’s exactly what’s in danger of happening, and that’s just a small part of a much larger concern.

Most people know running an indie book shop in this day and age is a hard road to travel. The hours are long, the profit margins are slim, and the behemoth that shall not be named here looms over your shoulder every minute of every day. It doesn’t take much to send things off track, and in the case of Novel Books several things happened which now threaten to take the train right off the tracks. They’re in something of a financial bind and could use some help. From the GoFundMe page they’ve established:


Novel Books opened 8 years ago in Clarksburg, MD. The store was growing each year, until last year, when very large, unexpected costs put the business in jeopardy. The losses are hard to recover, and the store is on the verge of closing.

Patrick, the owner, is a dedicated bookseller, who wants to provide a space, and selection, for the families of the Clarksburg area to enjoy books, events, and classes. Novel Books currently offers Story Time for toddlers, space for local books clubs, and gaming tables for chess clubs and Magic: the Gathering card tournaments. New programs include multi-week courses on music for toddlers and using Legos to teach science and engineering.  A goal is to bring authors to the store for signings and new release events.

Patrick has been a successful advocate for infrastructure in the historic district. He hosted a nine-month-long candidate forum for the recent midterm elections. Novel Books has been a champion for small businesses in the shop local movement.

Patrick uses an RV for multi-day off-site events. The vehicle left him stranded in Tennessee last year for over a month, with a major engine overhaul. It is also intended to be used for pop up sales at local events, and communities. 

The other, more personal, problem from last year is medical expenses for an undiagnosed problem with Patrick’s right arm.  It’s progressively harder for him to use his hand to carry things, and do daily activities. He has no insurance.

The requested funds would go to catching up with debt for rent, and vendors. It would be applied to medical expenses and further tests. And finally, to make additional repairs to the RV. If the goal is exceeded, Patrick would like to hire someone to help plan more events and programs at the store, especially if his condition worsens.

Novel Books can grow again, just like the book industry has been doing over the last five years, but is asking for your help to be strong again.

Thank you for your support. 

NovelBooks-Shop

 


It’s an uphill climb, to say the least, but the farther their signal can be boosted, maybe the more help they’ll receive. So, I’m hoping my fellow Shore Leave peeps of every stripe will help attract attention to the cause so Patrick and the Novel Books family can get the help they need, and the store can stay open and continue to play a valuable role in its community…and return to the con each year. So, if you’re a lover of indie booksellers, authors, and conventions like Shore Leave where such folks tend to gather, please check out the Novel Books GoFundMe page, consider supporting their effort, and sharing their info:

Save Novel Books
https://www.gofundme.com/f/do-you-want-your-community-bookstore-to-fail

Thanks for reading!

2019 Edition! Marvel Movie Tip: Stay for the credits, yo.

It seems like just a few short months ago that we were all running to the movie theater to see Avengers: Endgame, and now here we are with this week’s release of Spider-Man: Far From Home. We’ve been doing this in fits and starts since 2008 with Iron Man, the first movie in what was to become “the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

After all these years, you’d think some of the basic protocols would be all but ingrained into our collective consciousness, but we all know someone who’s going to drop the ball on this. Because of this, it’s a warning we need to repeat often:

“Stay through the credits.”

It’s been a while since we last visited this topic…all the way back to 2016 and Captain America: Civil War, so we’re definitely due for a look at the updated picture. Since 2008, we’ve been treated to:

Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
Thor
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Avengers
Iron Man 3
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ant-Man
Deadpool
(yes, not an official MCU film but still here because fucking Deadpool, people)
Captain America: Civil War
Doctor Strange
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Spider-Man: Homecoming

Thor: Ragnarok
Black Panther
Avengers: Infinity War
Deadpool 2
(Again…fucking Deadpool)
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Captain Marvel
Avengers: Endgame*
Spider-Man: Far From Home

What’s the one rule that applies for each of these movies? Say it with me:

“Stay for the credits.”

(* = Endgame didn’t have such scenes until…you know, it suddenly did.)

And yet, there I was today with Clan Ward, watching people leaving the theater just as the credits began to roll at the conclusion of Spider-Man: Far From Home, even though there’s not one but two–count ’em…two–extra scenes: One during the credits, and one just after.

OH, THE HUMANITY!

Forgive them, Stan Lee, for they know not what they do.

marvel_truefan

Now, it’s arguable that several of these little add-ons aren’t essential to enjoying either their respective movie or the larger story arcs laid down over the course of these films, but some of them are. Besides, dang it! They’re part of the run, amirite?

You stay for the credits, people.

Always.

Friends don’t let friends leave a Marvel movie early.

If you’re catching these flicks for the first time at home with disc or digital download, then you fast forward if you have to, but the rule is the same: “Stay for the credits.”

With that in mind, I’ve instituted a checklist of tips to help Marvel moviegoers avoid missing out on the important stuff lurking in and around a given film’s end credits. Consider this a public service, movie nerds:

1. You stay for the credits.

2. You stay after the credits.

3. You stay until the lights come up.

4. You stay until they start the slide show between screenings, and you make sure you sit through the entire slide reel at least once.

5. And look on the back of your ticket and the underside of your popcorn. Just in case. (via Bernie Kopsho on Facebook)

6. Then run across the hall and sit through the credits of the non-Marvel movie. LEAVE NOTHING TO CHANCE.

7. Then run outside and look for skywriting, because who knows? (via Bernie)

IT’S THE ONLY WAY TO BE SURE.

In summation: “Stay for the credits.”

Goose-Tesseract

Okay, now we’re done. You can go home.

Happy 120th Birthday, Indiana Jones!

Today marks the birth date of Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Jr., famed archaeologist and obtainer of rare antiquities, renowned professor, traveled adventurer, and all around nice guy.

If ever you need an historical artifact or object of the occult located and liberated from uptight French rivals, scheming Nazis or commie graverobbers, he’s your man.

If you’re starving in some backwater village and worried about some ancient voodoo rocks rather than finding a decent sandwich shop, this is the dude you call.

If you’ve got alien bodies that need studying before they’re whisked away to secret military warehouses, he’s good at that, too.

If you want someone to show you the folly of bringing a sword to a gunfight, he’s got it covered.

Indiana Jones: July 1, 1899 – ???

Smart, tough, resourceful, and ruggedly handsome. There are so few of us.

Were he still alive today, he’d be 120 years old.

On the other hand, he did drink from the Holy Grail, so maybe he is still alive? Hmmmmmmm?

IndianaJones-1992(Indiana Jones, circa 1992)

You just never know about these things.

So, just in case…Happy 120th Birthday, Dr. Jones!

My Shore Leave 41 schedule!

shore-leave-logoOh, we’re getting close. I can feel that familiar itch.

No, not that itch. I told you, my doctor gave me a shot. Geez.

I’m talkin’ about us being less than three weeks away from the annual Shore Leave convention, which is all set to take place July 12th-14th at the Delta Hotels Baltimore Hunt Valley Inn! With only a couple of exceptions, I’ve been attending this con for more than fifteen years. Along with our annual jaunts to Denver for StarFest, this is my favorite con to attend. In addition to being a fan-driven show run by a dedicated group of volunteers rather than some corporate entity, I’m fairly certain it’s also the largest gathering of Star Trek writers of every sort. More importantly, it’s one of the few times I get to see many of my friend and colleagues who call the East Coast (mostly New York and points nearby) home.

As is usually the case, the convention is boasting a pretty solid roster of media guests, including Anson Mount and Ethan Peck, aka “Captain Christopher Pike” and “Mr. Spock” from Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery. Also on the list are Michael Shanks (Stargate, Smallville), Lexa Doig (Stargate, Andromeda, Smallville), John Glover (Smallville, Shazam!), Erica Durance (Smallville, Saving Hope), Aaron Ashmore (Killjoys, Smallville, Warehouse 13), Laura Vandervoort (Supergirl, Smallville, Bitten), and Alex Mallari (Dark Matter, Indigo, True Justice). Topping it all off is the original Lieutenant Uhura herself, Nichelle Nichols, who is in the midst of a “farewell tour” as she prepares to retire from the con circuit.

There are also more author and science guests than can comfortably fit into one of the Titanic‘s lifeboats. Check out the con’s Guests Page for all the juicy deetz!

As one of those author guests looking for a good seat in said lifeboat, the con’s official schedule places me at these locations at these times. Plan your stalking accordingly:

Friday, July 12th

What’s New in Star Trek Fiction – 6pm-7pm – Hunt/Valley Ballroom
What are the latest plans for Star Trek publications? Moderated by John Jackson Miller and with fellow panelist David Mack.

Meet the Pros – 10pm-Midnight – Hunt/Valley Foyer
The con’s annual mass author autographing event! Bring your books and whatever else you might want signed by any of the convention’s author guests. You should be able to track down a particular author throughout the weekend, but this is the main event. If all goes to plan, local bookseller Novel Books will have vendor space throughout the weekend with plenty of new release and backlist titles from all the attending authors.

Saturday, July 13th

Own Worst Critic or Biggest Fan? – 11am-12pm – Chase Room
Some authors are extremely tough on themselves. Others love everything they do. Which is better, what are the pros and cons, and where do you fall on this spectrum? Moderated by Aaron Rosenberg, with fellow panelists Dave Galanter and Laura Ware.

Star Trek: Discovery: Season 2 – 12pm-1pm – Salon A
A recap of Season 2’s highs and lows, wishes for Season 3, and how the novels are addressing such tightly serialized storytelling. Moderated by Rigel Ailur, with fellow panelists Amy Imhoff, Dave Galanter, John Jackson Miller, Howard Weinstein, and Keith R.A. DeCandido.

It’s Not Linear – 1pm-2pm – Derby Room
Why do time-travel and Star Trek work so well together? Panelists will discuss Star Trek episodes, films, and novels that utilize time travel. Moderated by Derek Attico, with fellow panelists Amy Imhoff, Kelli Fitzpatrick, and Lorraine Anderson.

Meeting eSpec Books – 6pm-7pm – Derby Room
The publishers, editors, and authors of eSpec Books discuss their new and upcoming releases, including novels by Keith R.A. DeCandido, Christopher Bennett, and Bud Sparhawk and new volumes in their ever-popular Defending the Future and Beyond the Cradle anthology series. Moderated by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, with fellow panelists Mike McPhail, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Christopher L. Bennett, and Robert Greenberger.

Sunday, July 14th

Coming Out of the Desert – 12pm-1pm – Chase Room
Being creative can be difficult when the stresses of life get in the way. How to cope when your muse goes missing and there are still deadlines to be met. Moderated by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, with fellow panelists Richard White, Lorraine Anderson, and Michael Jan Friedman.

In and around all of the scheduled activities going on all weekend, I’ll be checking in on other panels, checking out the vendors room, and hopefully spending some time chatting with people I don’t get to see nearly often enough. And after each day’s obligations are met? Be sure to find most if not all of us in the hotel bar. It’s not just tradition; it’s a moral imperative.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

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Writing about William Shatner at the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour!

My job is pretty cool, sometimes.

So, here’s what happened: My wife, bless her, schemed a family vacation trip for my birthday weekend. Where were we going? An epic train adventure from Kansas City all the way to picturesque Ticonderoga, New York, and the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour!

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Now, those of you who read this blog with any regularity may recall I’d already visited the Tour once before, along with a slew of fellow Star Trek scribes back in 2017. This was by no means any sort of “been there, done that,” though, because not only had Tour creator and owner James Cawley made a bunch of updates since then, there was also this little business about them hosting none other than OG Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner!

It was the second of his special “Captain’s Inspection Tour” weekends, whereby Shatner conducted tours of the recreated Enterprise interiors while reminiscing about his time filming the original Star Trek series. He posed for autographs on the bridge, signed autographs, hosted a beer and pizza party (you read that right), and held a discussion at nearby Ticonderoga High School, interviewing the principal and couple of teachers and discussing the state and challenges of education.

DG-SetTour-001(Photo Credit: Dave Galanter)

Also on hand and conducting their own tours were Star Trek gurus Doug Drexler, Michael and Denise Okuda, and Daren R. Dochterman. Their knowledge of various “behind the scenes” aspects of the show’s production came to the fore here as they discussed how and why set designer Matt Jefferies made the choices he did, both for budget and storytelling reasons, and how the sets are both a product of the era in which they were created but also have an undeniable timeless quality we hardcore fans can’t get enough of.

Making the weekend even more fun for me and Michi was the fact our friends, fellow Trek novelist Dave Galanter and his lovely wife, Simantha, were also there, so we got to hang out a bit.

StarTrekSetTour-VIPbadgeAnyway, the good folks at StarTrek.com found out I was making my way to the Tour and reached out to me – while I was on the train, even – about possibly taking some photos and writing up a piece about the event for the website. I naturally obliged, and by the time I got there, the Tour staff was ready for me and made sure I had everything I needed to run around acting all important and whatnot while scoring some photos and jotting notes for my article. Talk about being allowed to run around without a leash or an adult to supervise. It was all I could do not to hide in the Jefferies tube and wait until everyone left for the day so I could just move in.

While most of the pictures I took sucked, Dave along with James Cawley and Michael Rizzo bailed me out. Their efforts yielded some fantastic candid shots that really showcased how much fun people – including Shatner himself – were having throughout the weekend.

The results of my efforts are now available for your reading pleasure, and you can check out just by clicking on the linky-type thing I’ve included right here:

StarTrek.com: William Shatner Returns to the Star Trek Set Tour

JC-SetTour-004(Photo Credit: Michael Rizzo)

Many, many thanks to James Cawley, Marybeth Ritkouski, and the entire Star Trek Original Series Set Tour staff for being such fabulous hosts. The weekend was too much fun, and I can’t wait to get back up to see you all.

StarTrekTour-ParkingSign