Finally, A New STAR WARS Movie!

Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of Star Wars and I jumped on the Jawa Sandcrawler from day one when I was six years old. As such, I’ve been waiting for a new Star Wars film since 1983’s Return of the Jedi and Rogue One certainly did not disappoint.

I know you want to remind me that there were three prequels between 1999 and 2005, and that last year, The Force Awakens began the much anticipated final trilogy in George Lucas’s ambitious space opera (now owned and operated by Disney).

In my humble opinion, the prequels held none of the charm and magic possessed by Episodes IV through VI. This I blame on the writing and overload of unnecessary special effects and not on the fine cast.

While The Force Awakens graced us with the return of our favorite classic heroes Han Solo, Leia Organa, and (briefly) Luke Skywalker, the film was, for me, utterly forgettable. Although, it was a better J.J. Abrams vehicle than his paltry efforts on the first two films in the Star Trek reboot, which isn’t saying much.

For me, Rogue One simply felt like Star Wars. It resurrected the spirit of the original films, something for which I’d lost all hope while slogging through the prequels. While Rogue One certainly held its own with a solid story and exciting plot—detailing the events leading right up to the Death Star plans falling into the hands of Princess Leia—its consistency with, and nods to, Episodes IV through VI were delightful. No spoilers here, just effusive praise and a hearty congrats to director Gareth Edwards and an excellent cast that includes Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Ben Mendelsohn, Genevieve O’Reilly, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, James Earl Jones, and more.

Rogue One Poster

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso

Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso

AT-AT

Stormtrooper Doll

Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera

Genevieve O'Reilly as Mon Mothma

 

 

Book Review: Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Revisited

In this anthology of nine tales that extend the eerie and wondrous universe known as the Twilight Zone, it was challenging for me to choose a favorite. I enjoyed every one of these adaptations by the legendary writer of The Shadow novels, Walter B. Gibson. In addition to his extensive writing credits, Gibson was also a magician who published two books on the secrets of Houdini’s escapes and tricks from the master’s original notes and with the permission of Houdini’s widow, Bess.Twilight Zone Revisited

Of the nine tales in this Twilight Zone collection, seven were ghost stories, one a time travel tale called “Beyond the Rim,” that was produced for the TV series as “100 Yards Beyond the Rim”, and another about a genie in a bottle (called, appropriately, “Man in a Bottle). The latter was also an episode of the show, but one that leaned close enough toward cliché as to be predictable.  “The Purple Testament” and “The Mirror Image” were also memorable episodes of the series. The best of the stories from the book are summarized below.

In “Two Live Ghosts”, Jeff Tupper and Hank Merchand are a pair of adventurous prospectors mining the Black Mountains after the Civil War. They soon find themselves caught up in a battle between the U.S. Calvary and the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes, but not before witnessing a bizarre and mystical ritual of a medicine man who beckons the spirits of ancient warriors…

“Silent” John Moreland is one of the best riverboat pilots on the Mississippi. He seems to have an uncanny ability to sense what’s happening miles ahead on the great river. One thing Silent John doesn’t tolerate on board the Dixie Belle is gambling. Shortly after ordering a renowned card sharp off of the boat, the Dixie Belle collides with another vessel and Moreland is found dead in the pilothouse. At the same time, Moreland’s brother and sister each have a vision of their late brother in which “The Ghost of the Dixie Belle” tries to convey a message…

In “The Purple Testament, Lieutenant Hugh Fitzgerald is among US forces fighting the Japanese on the Philippine Islands. During one particularly grueling battle, Fitzgerald manifests the ability to predict which of the men will die next…

Traveling to upstate New York during a fierce snowstorm, sports reporter Peter Dunning and photographer Bert Carey encounter an obsolete steam locomotive, painted white, and a strange young woman who pleads for help in getting home to her sick father, only to disappear into the storm after Pete drops her off. Determined to capture evidence, Pete sets off alone with a camera during the next snowstorm to find the truth about “The Ghost Train“…

In the autumn of 1847, pioneer Christopher Horn leads several families, including his own, across the country to California only to run out of water in the New Mexico desert. Worse, Horn’s son is ill with fever. Many in his caravan are growing restive and threaten to turn back until Horn decides to travel alone to the rim of the desert in search of water. What Horn finds “Beyond the Rim is more than he can handle…

During WWII, U.N. forces occupy Fort Defiance in Cape Regal overlooking Hangman’s Bay, once governed by reformed pirate Roger Crisp in the 1600s. A ruthless executioner of pirates, Crisp had come to be known as Jolly Roger for his gaunt appearance and demonic grin. Now, U.N. soldiers report unusual experiences and apparitions in the Fort leading to speculation as to the existence of “The Ghost of Jolly Roger“.

It’s late night in a city bus terminal when Millicent Barnes, while waiting for the last bus to Cortland, begins experiencing episodes of confusion and possible hallucinations. Her luggage seems to move about on its own and she sees a doppelganger behind her in reflective surfaces. Is it possible that Millicent is being taunted by “The Mirror Image?

In the old Abington Arms apartment complex, Wilfred Laraby is everyone’s friend, always willing to lend whatever help is needed, financial or otherwise. He enjoys randomly visiting his neighbors living on the floors below his penthouse suite—to the chagrin of stamp collector and master counterfeiter Milton Casper who tries to elude Wilfred only to find himself in an awkward confrontation with “The Man Who Dropped By.

Book Review: Beyond This Horizon by Robert Heinlein

Three centuries into the future, the human race has become a product of artificial selection through genetic engineering. The world has conquered poverty, crime, and most diseases and while there are still natural-born humans, they are generally considered inferior.

Despite this alleged Utopia, wealthy game designer Hamilton Felix questions whether mankind should even continue as a race. Felix is from a “star line”, the product of 300 years of tightly controlled genetics. Yet, when the District Moderator for Genetics, Mordan Claude, calls Felix to the Central Clinic to suggest that he take a wife and produce offspring, Felix balks.

Refusing to be easily dissuaded, Claude steers the attractive and willful Longcourt Phyllis in Felix’s direction, but while Felix slowly warms up to her, he comes into contact with a dangerous revolutionary known as McFee Norbert who is gathering forces to overthrow the government and institute their own version of a perfect world.

Despite Claude’s objections, Felix infiltrates the group, but can he and Claude stop the revolution when the rebels send forces to invade the Central Clinic?

A master storyteller, Heinlein does a deft job of revealing this new world as the plot develops, although the Beyond This Horizonstory is occasionally stifled by several pages—and an entire third chapter—of purely scientific (or pseudo-scientific) discourse in the form of dense info-dumping. This is something that would never make it past a contemporary editor, of course, but as an avid reader of golden age SF novels, I’m accustomed to it. At that time, it was fairly common in the genre. Modern readers might also stumble over Heinlein’s occasional use of what would now be considered archaic grammar, but, in such cases, meaning can easily be derived from context.

Published in 1948, Beyond this Horizon is one of Heinlein’s earliest novels and offers a glimpse into the imaginative and prescient mind of one SF’s legendary visionaries.

Star Trek’s Cosmic Anniversaries

One of my earliest memories of any television show was watching an episode of the original Star Trek called, “Balance of Terror” co-starring Mark Lenard as the Romulan adversary to Captain Kirk. Of course, Lenard later went on to play Spock’s father, Sarek, as well as the Klingon Commander in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

For Star Trek fans such as myself, 2016 marks not one, not two, but three milestone anniversaries for the franchise.

On September 8, 1966, Star Trek took to the airwaves for three seasons.

Star Trek: The Original Series
Star Trek: The Original Series

On November 19, 1986, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was released to box office success.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

On December 6, 1991, the final film starring the entire cast was released, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

I owe a lot to Star Trek, and many other SF and space opera films and shows. They inspired me to become a writer, beginning in fan fiction before exploring the strange new worlds and characters of my own creation. My love for, and wonder of, SF brought me to the convention scene over 30 years ago, where I’ve forged lifelong friendships with so many wonderful and talented people.

Now, as I attend the cons—sometimes as a writer guest, sometimes just going because I love the con scene—I’m excited to see Star Trek continuing to live long and prosper through new generations of fans.

James Doohan
James Doohan
George Takei
George Takei
Walter Koenig
Walter Koenig
Nichelle Nichols
Nichelle Nichols
Leonard Nimoy
Leonard Nimoy