Hymn for a Sunday Evening – Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Watch Something Other than The Walking Dead

I wasn’t going to watch it. Ever since the (pathetically weak) Season Six finale of The Walking Dead last Spring, it’s been clear that the show was determined to re-enact the storyline that made me stop reading the comic book. I therefore vowed that I would skip the Season Seven premiere, read about what happened on Facebook, and then decide if I wanted to watch.

But my wife Renee and my son Christian wanted to watch, so I grabbed a beer and a stack of comic books, and said, “Okay, I’ll be in the room with you.” Before the show started, we had our weekly Facetime session with my son, Ethan, who now lives in South Carolina. He wasn’t sure if he was going to watch, but, since we were, he fired up his AMC app and got ready to join the fun. Understand that the four of us have been Walking Dead fans since the series first aired. In Ethan’s case, he’d read the comics for a couple of years before that.

We signed off with Ethan and turned on the show.

My promise to be in the room lasted 21 minutes, including commercials. When Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character chose his victim and lashed out with the first strike of his stupid, “named” murder weapon, and then began to recite his character’s sickening words from The Walking Dead comic book, issue #100, I left the room.

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SNUFF PORN! Getcher SNUFF PORN! ICE COLD! (My review of Walking Dead 100, revisited for the Season 7 Premiere)

I haven’t moved my entire library of old blogs from LiveJournal to StevenHWilson.com, but here’s one from back in 2012 that’s relevant tonight. The Season Premiere of The Walking Dead was a shot-by-shot adaptation of issue 100 of the comic series. It seems fandom is split on whether this was a good or bad show. I made my decision four years ago, and I stick by it. The words I wrote then, when I stopped reading the comic, apply tonight, as I stop watching the show. And here they are

I try to avoid negative reviews of works. This time, though, I think there’s a lot of intellectual meat in a discussion of a work I had a very bad reaction to, and why that same work has been overwhelmingly popular. Here we go. Below are vague spoilers. No names mentioned, but some events described.

I’ve been behind on the graphic novel series The Walking Dead. Way behind. Volume 17 is due out next month, and, as of last week, I had read through Volume 8. Ordinarily, I’m not normally one of those comic readers who waits for the graphic novel to come out. There was no such thing as a “graphic novel” when I was growing up. Comic books came out monthly or bi-monthly, and you read each issue as soon as you had it in your hands. There was no waiting for the trade paperback edition to come out a week after the last part of the story was published, and stories were not designed to flow better as 144-page novels than they did as 24-page chapters. Now the creators are so conscious of the release of six or twelve issues at a time that reading a single issue seems almost pointless, like reading a page of a novel once a month. Nothing happens, and you lose the thread of the story.

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Review – The Gospel of Loki

Cover of The Gospel of LokiI’m a huge fan of mythology, and have myself written some humorous, modern spins on classical myths. As far as stories go, I’ve always preferred the focused narrative of the Prose Edda, the source for what we know of Norse mythology, to the more dense accounts of Homer, or the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles, which recount the Greek myths. The Prose Edda is a story you can sit down and read. The Greek sources… well, not so much. I’ve watched Greek drama because my English teacher forced me to, or as a favor to a dear friend who still owes me big time. A ripping evening of entertainment these things are not, but I’ve never found a boring retelling of the Norse myths.

And, of course, the Marvel movies’ portrayal of Loki by the talented Tom Hiddleston has made the trickster god something more of a celebrity these last few years. A young, sympathetic Loki has even starred in several of his own Marvel comic book adventures, ably scripted by Keiron Gillen and Al Ewing. I really enjoyed those.

So when I found The Gospel of Loki on the shelf and read the first few pages, I was hooked. What could be more refreshing than to hear the tales of Odin and Thor from the perspective of Loki, the villain of so many of the myths? I remember thinking, “If she (Joanne Harris) can keep up this tone for the whole book, she’s got a winner.”

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Exactly How Does Deadpool Change the Game?

This movie was billed as “a game-changer” by its star, Ryan Reynolds. The game is changing, he advances, because the recent spate of super-hero movies have been “serious and… gritty and dark,” and Deadpool is not.

deadpool_ver8Ummmm…

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Alan Dean Foster’s The Force Awakens – Part Two – The REAL Review this time

The Force Awakens Novelization CoverI explained last week why I’m so excited that Alan Dean Foster is back to novelize a new Star Wars film. The Force Awakens comes at a time when film novelizations aren’t as much of a thing as they used to be. In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, we weren’t a culture that went to see a movie multiple times, and there was no such thing as Blu-Ray, or its older brethren DVD, VHS or Beta. From the time a film went out of the theater, until it was bought for lots of money (and shown heavily edited) by a TV network, there was no way to enjoy the story and characters from your favorite film, other than by buying the novelization. Back in the day, even comedy films got novelizations. Now, it’s pretty much confined to SF films, and that’s pretty much because fans of those films tend to be both collectors and readers.

I still like novelizations because, if I really get into a film’s story, it’s a way to go back and enjoy that story in detail and at a slower pace. And a really good author can enrich a film as he adapts the screenplay. (Or she adapts it–Vonda N. McIntyre, D.C. Fontana and Joan D. Vinge have all written enjoyable film adaptations.)

Foster steps into the world of Star Wars as if it hadn’t been almost 40 years since his first novel in this universe was published. He fleshes out the new characters and makes them feel completely real. Under his hand, these are not merely retreads of Luke, Leia and Han; but meeting Rey, Fin and Poe does rekindle the feelings I had the first time I met Luke Skywalker in the pages of The Washington Star. (See last week’s entry for an explanation of that.)

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Review – Alan Dean Foster’s Star Wars – The Force Awakens – Part One – Why this book matters to me

Force Awakens novelization coverSo, before talking about The Force Awakens, let me tell you a little bit about my introduction to Star Wars. A lot of fans my age will tell you they saw it on opening day, or at the advance world premiere. They camped out in line, or they stood that morning for hours, or they snuck in the side door with their friend, who was the adopted child of a great, forgotten film director, because they couldn’t pay, because they were orphans who lived in train stations…

Wait, that’s another movie, isn’t it?

Anyway, I didn’t see the film under any of those circumstances. I saw it, oh, sometime after it premiered in regular release. It might have been the first Saturday. But my first exposure to Star Wars was not the film.

You see, in 1977, none of us knew the word “spoiler” other than as it referred to something that went on the front end of a car. Studios were not paranoid about plot leaks, and no special measures were being taken to keep audiences from finding out in advance what happened in a film. That’s because, until 1977, there had never been a film like Star Wars. Indeed, except for the James Bond series, and things like Tarzan, Bulldog Drummond or the Thin Man, there hadn’t really been–well, damn. There really had been a lot of movie series, hadn’t there? I just named a bunch. But those series were all pretty episodic. No film really left you hanging on the edge of your seat, waiting to find out if Tarzan would find a son, or if Drummond would get married, or if Asta would chew off William Powell’s mustache.

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Even at His Worst He’s Still the Best – Robert A. Heinlein’s I Will Fear No Evil

Robert A. Heinlein's I WILL FEAR NO EVIL late 1970s Paperback CoverI Will Fear No Evil was Robert A. Heinlein ‘s 26th novel, published in 1970. At this point, the Grandmaster was 62 years old that year, and had four Hugo Awards for best novel to his credit. IWFNE is widely regarded by science fiction fans (and there are no higher authorities on everything) as the worst thing he ever published.

I love this book. I’ve read it a half dozen times since high school (as I’ve read all of RAH’s later novels repeatedly) and will probably read it a half dozen more if I live long enough.

But, before I tell you why I love it, let me heap a little more evidence on the other side of the scales, because I love a challenge. Heinlein was a pantser, not a plotter. That is to say, he wrote by the seat of his pants, without an outline. He also did not like to rewrite–although he did substantial re-writing on his most problematic and best-known work, Stranger in a Strange Land. He preferred to write and write and write, and then cut out the chaff.

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What Drives Kylo Ren? The Psychology of a Poor Little Fascist Boy

“You,” she heard herself saying clearly, “you’re afraid. That you’ll never be as strong as–Darth Vader!” –from Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster

Spoilers. See the movie first. Blah, blah, blah.

Think about it—a kid raised to privilege. He’s the son of a princess who’s also a senator and a general. She may be on the run from enemies sometimes, but this is a lady who has access to entire planets to spread out and live on, and who commands a large, imposing fleet of space fighters. He’s also the heir to two generations of Jedi Knights, elite warrior monks who have control over the Force which binds the universe together.

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Ultraman Manga Action Figure – Guest Review on The Figure in Question

Ultraman Manga Action Figure of SH Figuarts

Photo by The Figure in Question – thefigureinquestion.wordpress.com

So I was happy to get an Ultraman Manga figure for Christmas. As a companion piece to my review of the trade, I wrote a guest-review of the figure on my son’s action figure blog, The Figure in Question.

Review – Ultraman (the Manga)

9781421581828_p0_v2_s192x300I don’t read a lot of Manga. I’ve read a half-dozen of them in my life. I have nothing against the genre, it just doesn’t often grab me. Even when a sort of hybrid Manga is produced, which stars characters I know from other media, the product usually doesn’t reach out and grab me.

According to Wikipedia, by the way, “Manga” simply refers to comics created in Japan; so the word “Manga” then wouldn’t necessarily refer to a body of work whose members all share the same characteristics, any more than American comic books all share the same characteristics. It would seem a bit silly to say that Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and My Little Pony are the same genre. But the Wikipedia article does specify that Manga works do conform to a particular style developed in late 19-th Century Japan, so I guess I’m not insane for thinking of them as a distinct genre.

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