Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Grey That Hid in Plain Sight, or: My Alien Doll

Long story short: About a million years ago, I had a doll that looked like an Alien Grey (see pic above)—but was it really just a doll? Or something else, something more nefarious?

Knowing not to mess with a demonic (or at least potentially demonic) doll is just something all humans know a priori via our collective unconsciousness—that is, you don’t necessarily need to have experienced the trouble a demonic (or demon-possessed) doll can throw into your life—you are not just sussing it out, you are not just sensing it. You KNOW it. That spooky doll is staring at you, plunging you into the uncanny valley, and you KNOW it is bad news….

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Comedy, As Black & Cold As Space (a look back at the novelization of “Dark Star” (1974))


Dark Star by Alan Dean Foster, adapted from a script by Dan O’Bannon & John Carpenter

First printing/Ballantine Books: October 1974 ($1.25)
Third printing/Del Rey-Ballantine: October 1978 ($1.75)

The intelligentsia have always sneered at mass-market paperback novelizations of popular Hollywood movies (and even more when those read-‘n’-toss books routinely ended up on the NY Times bestseller lists), and perhaps understandably so.

But the novelizations (or box-office tie-in/reprints)—

Star Wars, Logan’s Run, Alien, First Blood, The Black Hole, I Am Legend (The Omega Man), 2001: A Space Odyssey, Make Room! Make Room! (Soylent Green), Jaws (and its sequels), The Island, not to mention Planet of the Apes, the 1970s Battlestar: Galactica, or Star Trek tie-ins—

These (along with comic books) were what really got me interested in reading when I was a kid, so I don’t look down my nose at them. What? You think I found out about Heart of Darkness through one of my teachers? Ha! Apocalypse Now pointed me in the direction of Joseph Conrad (and back in the day, the book fair paperback Heart of Darkness had a sticker affixed to it proclaiming paternity of the film).

These movie/TV tie-ins helped me, and I recognize that—and I am absolutely certain, this sort of media cross-pollination can assist students—I have seen it happen in my own classrooms!

And, So…
(about five or six years before I ever got around to seeing the film itself—
and then it was a 16mm projection in a side-room at a Star Trek convention) probably the first movie novelization I read was Alan Dean Foster’s adaptation of Carpenter & O’Bannon’s cult classic, the black comedy Dark Star.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Earth With A Capital “E”—Be Proud of Your Planet!

Gripin’ ’Bout Grammar—#1 in a Never-ending Series

Today, we are looking at how the English language abuses our planet.

Lt. Col. Ed White, US astronaut. in orbit
above the Earth. When I was a kid,
this poster hung on my wall.
English is the youngest language on Earth (and that’s with a capital “E”—more on this in a second), and with the exception of made-up languages like Esperanto or Ubi-Dubbi, is perhaps the craziest, most confounding and contradictory language on Earth, as well.

Sure, Mandarin Chinese or Arabic or Basque (which is the closet language on Earth to Martian--being of Basque heritage, I can make that joke) are very difficult to learn, with eccentricities regarding pronunciation and so on, but nearly all non-English-as-a-first-language speakers that I have taught have confirmed that it’s English’s multitude of homophones and its non-standardization (its vs. it’s—but “apostrophe-s” is usually possessive, right? This is one native speakers of English still have trouble with) that really drive English language learners nuts.

Because it’s the youngest language on Earth, the English language is still figuring things out.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Uncle Stalin’s a Satanic Sorcerer! (Or: Tyler Stalin’s Projekt нанесение увечья!)

To choose one’s victims, to prepare one’s plan minutely, to slake an implacable vengeance, and then to go to bed… There is nothing sweeter in the world.

Oh, Uncle Joe… (swoon!)

A recommendation! The Autobiography of Joseph Stalin by Richard Lourie (1999) I’ve ranted about it to friends, colleagues, and relatives—now it’s YOUR turn!
Here’s my “rave” copy-blurb for the back of the mass-market paperback edition (that will never be printed):

—A nihilistic former seminary student rebelling against EVERYTHING becomes a bank robber—and later uses his gangster skills to get to the very top of the blood-drenched New Revolutionary Russia!

Colin Wilson + James Ellroy + Chuck Palahniuk ÷ Early-Twentieth Century History = THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JOSEPH STALIN!

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Tsundoku No More (or: “Reading Is Fun For Mentals!”)

This is all about having too many books in your collection….
In high school, Mr. Hayden, our intense, fascinating, essentially humorless, mean, and sometimes vindictive English teacher (and D-Day veteran), was really into drilling us with what he called “Spot Quotes.”
Mr. Hayden teaching us about
the Great Old Ones
It was a rote memorization technique (probably frowned on now by progressive pedagogical types—I’ll save my gripes about the modern education system for some other time…), but the famous and essential quotes from English-language literature were hammered into our heads. Yeah, yeah, yeah, lots of dead white guys, but it was the early-1980s. I think Mr. Hayden was right: You want to sound smart? Drop a famous (or infamous) quote from classic literature—

“…full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing….”
“I am his Highness’s dog at Kew/Pray tell me, Sir, whose dog are you?”
“To a green thought in a green shade….”
“Tyger, Tyger, burning bright…”
“Look upon my works ye mighty, and despair!”
“I’ll burn my books!”

Wait—huh? What was that last one? “I’ll burn my books!”? How can that be a famous quote? Is it from a revised Fahrenheit 451, where Montag recants, and rejoins the Fire Department? And what does it have to do with me owning too many books?

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Weird Science (Fiction on My Shelves)—More Summer Reading Recommendations!

Okay, so the Steve Ditko-illustration of happy guy in the easy chair meeting an alien? I’m featuring that illo because he’s reading!
he book in the man’s lap may not be a mass-market paperback,
but you could interpret the space creature as a symbolic representation
of the Spirit of Science Fiction Itself, coming to “take the Earthman away….”

Oh, happy day!

MORE Summer Reading Recommendations! With the PERSONAL seal of approval! Yep, I vouch for these books!
Summer’s Here!
Some summertime SF reading recommendations—
Five Five-Star Should-Be-If-They’re-Not-Already CLASSICS. (And that should be pronounced “KEY-Lass-IX!”)

In Order of Recommendation:
The Book of Skulls (1972) by Robert Silverberg
Farewell, Horizontal (1989) by K.W. Jeter
The Goblin Reservation (1968) by Clifford D. Simak
Jack of Shadows (1971) by Roger Zelazny
Lord Tyger (1970) by Philip Jose Farmer