Titans, Time Travel, Tractors and More! (#SFWApro)

TEEN TITANS: The Culling and TEEN TITANS: The Trial of Kid Flash show author Scott Lobdell (with various artists) at his best and work on this strip (don’t get your hopes up, even his best isn’t that good). The former reminded me of all the reasons I stopped reading X-Men during the 1990s — bombastic villains, sadistic villains, umpty-zillion dark secrets. As I said of X-Men: The Shattering, it’s a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. Although I will give the editors points — there’s a crossover issue that isn’t included here, and they actually provide a synopsis, rather than leaving me going “Huh?”

The second TPB was Lobdell’s last with the team and he does a fair job wrapping things up on a mostly happy note; on the other hand, the political plotline (Kid Flash’s secret life as a future terrorist) gets very muddled.

SUPERMAN: War of the Supermen by James Robinson, Sterling Gates and various artists was the climax to a story arc involving the long-lost survivors of Krypton settling into the solar system under the leadership of General Zod and Superman having to figure out whether his loyalties lie with New Krypton or Earth. I found this story arc interminable and dull, but I must admit this final segment is pretty entertaining as it’s all action — Krypton invades, Earth retaliates, Superman battles Zod, etc. However Zod’s still a dull villain — as I’ve said before, nobody can think of anything to do with him other than vicious Kryptonian supremacist (but Superman II has embedded him too deeply in the mythos not to recycle endlessly, I guess).

I thought Eric Shanower had long ago given up on his Age of Bronze series adapting the Trojan War myths but BETRAYAL Part II turned up at the local library. This focuses primarily on the doomed love of Troilus and Cressida, which works well; however I don’t find Shanower’s normally excellent art works with the battle scenes, and there’s a lot of those. So a curate’s egg (partly good, partly not).

THE HISTORY OF LUCY’S LOVE LIFE IN TEN AND A HALF CHAPTERS by Deborah Wright is a paranormal chick-lit tale in which a woman getting cold feet with her boyfriend uses a time machine to try out the Great Lovers of History. Even if I hadn’t spent two years watching time-travel films, nothing in this is terribly new as Lucy keeps discovering life in the past isn’t as easy or smooth as she imagined. In fairness, I don’t read much chick-lit, but I’ve read some and liked it better.

1918FORDSON, FARMALL AND POPPIN’ JOHNNY: A History of the Farm Tractor and its Impact on America by Robert C. Williams (all rights to image of Fordson Tractor with current holder; source here) chronicles how tractors, like so much later tech, went from a high-priced tool few could afford to an indispensable part of farm life. Henry Ford’s Fordson tractor was a major player in the transition, thanks to assembly-line manufacturing cutting costs and prices. However the Fordson was still too big to work with row crops like cotton or corn, so it wasn’t until the smaller, more maneuverable Farmall that farmers could completely replace horses with machines. Whether that was ultimately good or bad, Williams finds hard to say, savings in labor and time being counterbalanced by farmers shifting from self-sufficiency to debt in order to afford the machinery (“Being a farmer is now as much about managing finance as managing crops.”). Specialized, obviously, but good if the topic interests you

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Movies and TV: Librarians to Come (#SFWApro)

thingstocome1024x768-220x162THINGS TO COME (1936) is a classic adaptation of H.G. Wells, opening in 1940 with Raymond Massey as a visionary horrified that Europe is rushing toward war (like a number of pre-WW II movies I’ve seen, it views the coming of another Great War as hell on Earth). When it comes, it’s bad, sending England (and presumably the rest of the world) back to the dark ages, but scientists and aviators unite in a brotherhood to put an end to the dark times. Decades later, Raymond Massey is getting ready to launch the world’s first moonshot, but even in the 21st century, some people are determined to stop progress. A really great-looking film with good effects, and if some details don’t age well (buildings don’t have windows because who needs inefficient glass in the walls with good indoor light?), the movie’s vision still works for me. With Cedric Hardwicke as a local warlord. “Our revolution didn’t eliminate death and danger, it just made death and danger worthwhile.”

The second season of THE LIBRARIANS was almost as much fun as the first, as the agents of the magical library battle the usual array of magical foes and the season’s big bad, a mysteriously brought-to-life Prospero (and his sidekick Moriarty).  Most of the run was just as good as S1, particularly a Northern Exposure parody, but I thought the ending was weak, making me wonder why they even used Moriarty. And I wish they’d given more of the final episode of the season to the junior librarians rather than nominal star Noah Wylie — they’re actually more fun. “Special Agent Ezekiel Jones is a rule-breaking maverick, but he gets results!”

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I rode myself hard and hung myself up—wait, does that sound right? (#SFWApro)

It was a week that did not go as I planned.

I submitted my first Screen Rant article, and then my second, but they both took way longer than wanted. And that required really pushing myself, hence the title. I need to trim the time down, and I need to relax and have more fun with the writing too. I love comics, which makes it easy; I’m working under a tight deadline and specific format requirements which makes me veer serious. I did better with the second one though (I’ll post a link when it’s up), so hopefully next week will be better yet.

I have my History article on tractors 80 percent done, and I should be able to get it out next week. So yay!

And I started indexing Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast for a Createspace edition. If I’m going to go hard-copy, it should have an index. Annoyingly, I found one minor error in the intro, so I have to correct the ebook too. I’ll wait to see if I find any more — indexing is good for that.

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But I got almost no fiction written, which is not yay. That’s happened before and not that long ago — back last year when I was wrapping up Now and Then We Time Travel, for instance. However, I don’t want to be doing that now, if I can help it. I enjoy nonfiction (obviously. I’ve written enough of it), but fiction is the reason I write. And I do want to get two more drafts of Southern Discomfort in this year. So like I said, I’d better get more efficient.

I am pleased that despite the rush to finish up Screen Rant #2, I made time for essential stuff like exercise, and making sourdough bread while the dogs were in doggy day-care on Thursday. It’s important not to let even demanding deadlines roll over normal life, if I can possibly help this (and if I want to do Screen Rant regularly, I have to help it). I was sufficiently rushed I forgot adding the salt to the dough (sourdough buckwheat bread) but that’s easy to fix with a little salt sprinkled on each slice. It’s an easy mistake — I’ve done it before when I was rushed.

I’ll close with a shot of some dead leaves I took this week. It symbolizes … well, whatever you want. Free symbol! Please credit me if you want to use it.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Now and Then We Time Travel, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

Book cover art for Friday morning (#SFWApro)

leodianedillonThis weird-looking one is by Leo and Diane Dilon.

dailyb-1Great Michael Whelan cover (aren’t they all) for a clunky Lovecraftian novel.

frazettaFrazetta draws Bradbury.

bob-brownAnd because I love impossible-doorway images, here’s a comics cover by Bob Brown.

All rights to each image reside with current holder

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Bizarro: Superman’s powers, none of his brains (#SFWApro)

Which is the topic of my first article on Screen Rant — 17 things you didn’t know about Bizarro. It was quite a challenge adapting to their style and process (not a criticism—it always is with a project like this) and I didn’t get it quite right; i.e., they had to do more editing than they should have. But I’ll use what I learned and do better on #2 (due in today).

Below, Curt Swan does a Bizarro cover. All rights reserved to current holder.

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Fandom, sexism and other writing-related links (#SFWApro)

Foz Meadows looks at the assumption talking about race and representation in YA is, itself, racist. After all, you’re talking about how many black or women or gay characters are in fiction, so obviously you’re not seeing them as people, just diversity hires (so to speak), right? No, as detailed at the link.

•No, comics are not innately a man’s world. Women were involved in comic strips and comic books even before second-wave feminism started.

•SF and comics are not the only creative field with a history of sexism.

•Atomic Junk Shop looks at the roots of sexism in comics fandom (I’ve linked to this before, I know, but it seemed to fit in two different posts).

•Freelancer Renae deLiz had a big hit with Legend of Wonder Woman but her relationship with DC has been less than amicable. Heidi McDonald looks at the history (which includes some crowdfunded projects that did not deliver as planned) and the tricky questions of freelancer vs. corporation.

•Need images? The Metropolitan Museum of Art has them online for free.

•Fake news as a tool for promoting a movie?

•Duke’s Center for the Public Domain puts out a comic-book explaining fair use.

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Filed under Writing, Politics, Undead sexist cliches, copyright

Sherlock Holmes Again: The Sign of Four (#SFWApro)

the-sign-of-fourI know perfectly well Sherlock Holmes is a drug user. Nevertheless it’s still a shock to begin THE SIGN OF FOUR and see Holmes shooting up with cocaine. (cover is a photo of Basil Rathbone, once the Definitive Movie Holmes; all rights to image remain with current holder)

It was perfectly  legal back when the book came out, but Watson clearly sees this as a bad thing, warning Holmes that drug use could easily overload and unbalance that powerful mind of his. Holmes acknowledges the point, but tells Watson he needs the coke fix. He has no case to tackle, nothing to stimulate his mind and his mind must be stimulated! For this reason I think Watson’s snarking slightly when he asks Holmes if the syringe is morphine or cocaine: I can’t imagine Holmes using a drug that makes him relax (and there’s no other reference to him using morphine in the canon).

Fortunately it doesn’t take long for something to turn up, or rather someone. Mary Morstan, a young woman with little money and no family, shows up and tells Holmes and Watson how for the past six years, someone has sent her a valuable pearl in the mail. Now the same unknown person has asked to meet with her. Understandably, she’d like some backup. It reminds me of novelist Kit Whitfield’s description of Holmes as a big-brother-for-hire — in an age when a woman’s father or brother would be expected to handle matters like this, Holmes provided the same protection as a professional service. With Holmes and Watson at her side, Mary heads off to meet her mysterious benefactor. Ahead lies murder, a fabulous treasure, a bumbling Scotland Yard detective (of course), a pygmy armed with poison darts and a cryptic reference to “the sign of four.”

It’s a much stronger story than A Study in Scarlet and Doyle is definitely improving as a writer. There are a few striking moments, such as when Watson applies his eye to a keyhole and sees Bartholomew Sholto dead in his chair, illuminated only by a shaft of moonlight. Doyle also does a great job with Mary: Holmes compliments her intelligence in handling the evidence, and she’s brave and composed even in the face of death, mystery and danger. Small wonder Watson falls in love with her and at the end, pops the question. Of course from that point on, she has no presence in the series, other than obligingly telling Watson that of course he can go off on another adventure with his friend.

Holmes remains as memorable as ever, and Watson, in his quiet way makes a good foil. Early on Holmes grumbles that Watson’s A Study in Scarlet — in the Holmesverse, all the stories are written by Watson — got it completely wrong. His account of the Enoch Drebber case focuses on the drama when it should have focused on how Holmes’ analytical brain applied deduction to crack the case. Watson wisely suspects Holmes is really saying is “You didn’t write enough about meeeeee!” Holmes would continue to complain about Watson being a sensationalist writer, but he never stopped recommending this or that case as worthy of a story. He was probably more flattered by Watson’s work than he admitted.

Of course the story also shows Doyle’s amazing sloppiness with details. In Study, Watson gives a detailed account of the leg injury that got him discharged from the army; in Sign, he refers to it as a shoulder wound. Holmesians have devoted a lot of space to figuring this, and the many other inconsistencies out, but I don’t have the space to detail that here.

From Doyle’s perspective, both novels had been modestly successful. Fame and fortune wouldn’t come until he wrote the dozen stories that would later be collected as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Which I’ll get to next.

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