New Podcast Discovery: Science Fiction Shorts

I’m not going to lie, the inspiration for the name of this blog was pulled directly from a podcast I enjoyed from years back that no longer publishes: No Format Podcast. (Also not a lie, I sometimes think about re-branding this blog and calling it something else.)

The podcast was hosted by Josh Wetencamp and his friend Jason (can’t remember the last name, and Apple won’t give me more info right now!), and they covered a number of different topics – as the name suggests, they didn’t have a set topic, or a specific show clock that they followed. They were fun to listen to, and definitely one of the first podcasts of its kind; nowadays you’ll probably find several shows that follow the same premise (“It’s a show…about nothing!”).

But I’m getting away from my main point. Josh has a new podcast available on Apple Podcasts (also via RSS feed)! The main premise is basically Josh reads a story to you, and talks about it a bit. The first episode (and first four episodes I guess) cover a story from the late 1800’s called The Brick Moon. It’s an interesting thought-experiment story and I enjoyed Josh’s thoughts and some of the ramblings that related to the story.

When I was brainstorming what I wanted to do with a new podcast, I thought about doing something similar to Science Fiction Shorts. What I’m trying to accomplish now with The Slow Reader is basically what Josh has done with one episode (albeit I don’t ever plan on narrating the books in full). So this was a lot of fun to dive into and I got a lot out of it, personally.

If you want to listen to sci-fi short fiction, then this is a good place. I think he’s going to be reading public domain stuff for the most part; The Brick Moon comes from Project Gutenberg specifically. If that is up your alley then subscribe!

Brief Thoughts on Star Trek: The Motion Picture

I shared this on Reddit last week to (some) acclaim last week; I recently watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979, IMDB) and really enjoyed it. So I shared my thoughts on /r/StarTrek:

Interesting Podcasts

I can’t remember the last time I did one of these, so that must mean it’s time to write one!  

Originally I was going to dedicate an entire post to Make Dad Read Comics; I would still like to do that, but I’m still feeling a little conflicted because I don’t want to draw too much attention to the fact that the titular Dad (Patrick Sr.) passed away in July.  I cannot share this podcast enough, and while it is sad that it won’t be continuing, the massive backlog of shows is well worth listening to for two reasons:

  1. The conversations Patrick and his Dad had are often hilarious and heartwarming.  It’s also great to hear the progression Dad makes from the beginning of the show to the end.  His understanding of comics was on display and it’s a real treat to listen to the shows where he really likes a book they read.
  2. You can learn about some new comics / books to read that may not have been on your radar.  I’m currently reading Black Monday Murders, which was the second to last episode they did together.  It’s fantastic.  Previous to that I read I Kill Giants.  Both of these books were highly rated by Patrick & Dad.  I just saw today that I also have Persepolis waiting for me at the library.

Twenty Thousand Hertz – I’ve talked about this podcast in the past, so I thought I would highlight a particular episode that I really enjoyed:  Episode 46 | Slot Machines.  The sound design in this episode was amazing.  The producers did a great job of replicating the casino sounds (there was even a moment where they layered in the various sounds of the casino one at a time, and ended up with what it actually sounds like at a casino).  It was fun to learn about some of the techniques they employ as well, and the history of slot machine music.  Very fun, I highly recommend it.  And it won’t leave you jaded about the slot machine industry.

The Big Story – this one is produced by Rogers Media (I work there, I have to mention that), and is a Mon-Fri (except holidays) daily show that covers the “big topics” (hence…the Big Story) of the day.  The episodes are about 20 minutes in length, and up until this week I’ve been listening to all of them.  They’ve been pretty interesting so far, but some topics I decided I can skip – I don’t need to be a completest here.

Based On A True Story – I haven’t listened to any of the most recent episodes, but checked out A League Of Their Own and The Social Network.  The gist of this one is the host watches movies that are, well, based on a true story, and researches the true story behind them.  I’ve picked out a few movies I’ve seen and want to hear his take behind, and as I go through the list I realize that there are more I missed the first time and need to add.  The episodes are short and easily digestible (usually around the 30 minute mark) so they make for a fun break between my usual episode list.

What else have you got that I haven’t listed here?  Maybe I can check it out in 2-3 months when I’ve caught up on my 90+ shows 🙂 

Is It Star Trek? Fandom and Gatekeeping

But, Is It Star Trek?

Is discounting a piece of the Trek franchise for not following in the direct footsteps of TOS tantamount to gatekeeping?

That’s a question that immediately popped into my head when I saw a podcast title from Mission Log, “But, Is It Star Trek?”.  I find Mission Log (and similar podcasts) extremely entertaining to listen to, but sometimes I wonder about their mission.  On the surface, it’s a good one: 

Mission Log is a Roddenberry Entertainment podcast with the sole purpose of exploring the Star Trek universe one episode at a time. That’s right, this podcast will cover six different series and 30 seasons of television by journeying into every one of the 726 episodes with a single mission: to explore, debate and discuss one of the largest science fiction phenomena of all time, Star Trek.

http://www.missionlogpodcast.com/

For the most part I’m totally on board with them.  They are able to look at even some of the most terrible Star Trek episodes (Code of Honor, Move Along Home) and take something away from the episode.  But often, ever since they moved on from TOS, they ask the question: “But, is it Star Trek?”

What they mean with this question is to discover whether the story being told has a deeper meaning or message behind it other than just a fun SciFi story.  Can a story set in the Star Trek universe be considered Star Trek if it doesn’t address a social issue of some sort?  That is essentially what they’re asking.  

This is a big problem for Star Trek in relation to the new series, Discovery.  It’s to a point where some fans consider Orville to be “more Star Trek” than Discovery.

I think that if it says Star Trek and it’s an officially licensed property, then yes, it’s Star Trek.  Because if you’re arguing otherwise, you start getting into gatekeeping.  This is a big problem for Star Trek (and to a greater extent, Star Wars) in relation to the new series, Discovery.  It’s to a point where some fans consider Orville to be “more Star Trek” than Discovery.  

I think it’s fine to dislike a show.  Where it becomes a problem is if you try to prevent new people from discovering it.  That’s how it becomes gatekeeping.  It’s not up to the fans to determine what is or isn’t part of the franchise; while it is entertainment directed at a certain group of people, we have to accept that the fans aren’t in charge.  If they were, there would be a lot more problems with the story telling in general.  Let’s face it – fans are not the best group of people to write stories.  That’s why we have fan fiction.  

I will admit to not having listened to that particular podcast from Mission Log (“But, Is It Star Trek?”).  I have some faith that their conclusion is going to be in line with mine.  I just hope that people realize that there is an inherent danger in even asking the question, “Is It Star Trek?”  

2018 Reading Update

About a month ago I presented my reading list for 2018.  I figure since the first two months of 2018 have come and gone, it’s time I provide an update of where I am.

Well…I’m not doing so well.  I’m 67% of the way through “From A Certain Point of View” (short story collection based on Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope).  I’ve been putting most of my time into listening to podcasts and catching up on movies (re-watching in some cases…thank you Star Wars BluRay set!) and TV shows.

I’ve got a big move coming up, so will likely be packing away many of the books on my 2018 list.  So my new, updated goal right now is to finish “From A Certain Point of View” and get started on “A History of the World in 12 Maps”.  I likely won’t get much further than that until the Summer.

I would like to have finished at least 4 books on my list by July.  We’ll see how it goes!  In the meantime – what are you reading that I can add to my never-ending list?

Comic Book Review Series

Comic books, man.

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is create an online comic, or write a comic book.  The only problem is that I can’t draw worth a hill of beans.  And I’m not a super avid reader of comics, but there are a select few that I’ve found that I enjoy.

These aren't the comic books I'm talking about, but they look cool!
These aren’t the comic books I’m talking about, but they look cool!

So I thought I would spend the month of August reading and reviewing comic books – both physical and online.  I have a bit of a backlog building on my shelf that I want to power through.  Posts are going to come out at least weekly, but I will likely have some bonus posts to throw up because I think I have more comics to talk about than there are weeks in the month.

This one is also pretty cool.  Now I wish I could add it to my list.
This one is also pretty cool. Now I wish I could add it to my list.

Here’s a preview of some of the comics I’m going to review, in no particular order:
– Atomic Robo Volume 1
– Universe Vol 01 (from http://panelsyndicate.com/)
– The Private Eye Vol 01 (from http://panelsyndicate.com/)
– Barrier (from http://panelsyndicate.com/)
– Batman “A Word to the Wise” (Strange Zellers tie-in from 1992)
– Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn
– Poe Dameron: Black Squadron (Vol 1, issues 1-6)
– Suicide Squad “Blood & Snow” Part Two (near as I can tell, issue 12 from April 1988)

That list in itself grew as I was typing up this entry as I find more things to read.  This is not ideal but also great at the same time.  Anyway, I have a lot of reading to do (and this is on top of trying to finish a bunch of novels) so I’d better get cracking!

The Connectome

I was listening to the official Star Trek podcast (as you do) the other day, and there was an episode that featured Morgan Gendel, the writer of The Next Generation classic episode The Inner Light, to discuss the episode and various topics.  The whole episode was interesting, but he was particularly focused on what’s known as the Connectome.

Here’s a description of the Connectome, from Wikipedia:

A connectome is a comprehensive map of neural connections in the brain, and may be thought of as its “wiring diagram”. More broadly, a connectome would include the mapping of all neural connections within an organism’s nervous system.

The study of the connectome was described in the podcast as akin to mapping the human genome.  Basically, understanding this aspect of the human brain would be HUGE in terms of understanding how we work, and also in adapting technology to fit our needs.  I won’t go into all of the specifics and ruin it for you, but some of the ideas broached in the episode with Gendel and Hoffman talk about some really cool, and also slightly terrifying, things that could theoretically be done with an understanding of the connectome.

If you’re not into Star Trek, just ignore some of the trappings of the episode and focus on the interview.  It’s really good, and is a good way to kill an hour while you’re at work or commuting.

Vader Omnibus – Volume 1 Review

I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Vader comic book series, and it was recently recommended to me by Patrick of Make Dad Read Comics to read it – I had a $50 gift card burning a hole in my pocket so I finally picked up the first 12 issues, collected in Vader Omnibus – Volume 1.

If you haven’t come across this comic book before, the general idea behind it is that it follows Vader’s antics immediately after the destruction of the first Death Star.  It joins the long standing tradition of comics and novels filling in the space in between films, which I can always get behind.

I finally finished the book over the weekend, and I can say that I really enjoyed it.  One of the interesting things that it does is knock Vader down several notches.  He’s somewhere in between his status in A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back; he’s still taking orders from other Imperial officers (Tagge, this time), but isn’t quite as fearsome as he appears in ESB.

What’s interesting is that the Emperor is really displeased with Vader in this comic series.  The destruction of the Death Star at the end of A New Hope is a big failure for the Empire, and for Vader in particular.  At this stage in the comics, Vader must really prove himself to the Emperor again, while being placed under the supervision of an Imperial officer.  What results is Vader taking it upon himself to gather his own covert forces to track down Luke Skywalker.

There are several cool flashback moments in the comic that re-contextualize Vader a little bit.  It made me realize that he was probably thinking of his past at a few different points in the movies, even though the prequel trilogy came much later.   But the real highlight of these first 12 books are Captain Aphra and her droid factory (I’m hit or miss on Triple-0 and BT but more on the hit side than miss).  I just found out today that she’s going to have her own comic book series – and I think I want to check it out.

I would gush more, but I need to give this another read through.  Especially since I also just learned that the second volume is coming out Feb 28th, so I have another book to pick up soon.  Suffice it to say that the Vader series is well-written, well-drawn, and is fun to read through.  I definitely recommend it!

I really want to meet Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips

This is going to be largely another podcast recommendation, but if I’m ever asked what celebrity I’d most like to meet, it’d be Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips, together in the same room.  Those two are downright funny, and also (mostly) down to earth.

Apparently they know each other quite well since starring together on Star Trek: Voyager, and have crossed paths several times.  I learned today that both Picardo and Phillips were cast in Cowen Brothers movies – and I specifically want to seek out Inside LLewyn Davis now.

I would definitely want to meet both of them, but if I had to choose, probably Robert Picardo.  Anyway, if you want to hear some proof of their genius together (and apart), have a listen to some episodes from Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast.  I’ve listed them in order of newest to oldest.  Don’t worry, inside jokes are kept to a minimum.

Hunter – by Wil Wheaton

Alright, so I re-read Wil Wheaton’s short story Hunter tonight; I’m posting this from mobile, so you’ll have to find the link when I wrote about it in my last post.

Anyway…It’s not as good as I apparently made it out to be in that post. If I were to grade it now, I’d give it a 3. The world building is done well, but the characterization is only okay. I can see my own writing reflected here. 

Also, the twist at the end? Not really that big of a twist ending. 

I still recommend it if you have some money to blow – it’s pretty cheap after all. And it’s a short read. Took me maybe ten to fifteen minutes.