ROGUES GALLERY #53: Barry is Still Dumb, Supergirl Needs Focus

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This week: it seems that Barry Allen is still not through making dumb decisions. And even though we now know the identity of Savitar, there really doesn’t seem to be any kind of a plan from the writers room. And Supergirl has yet to get out of being about all the lovebird characters and get back to being about … well… Supergirl.

Arrow continues to slide into irrelevancy. Powerless is cancelled, but we have Black Lightning waiting in the wings.

Plus: we’ve decided to weaponize Mr. Townley’s recaps and unleash him on Gotham

Watch a special LIVE edition of episode 53 here on SciFi4Me TV

The panel: Ann Laabs, Jennifer Wise, Jeff Hackworth, Will Tramp, Jason Hunt

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Review – SID THE SASQUATCH by Wendy Elliott

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Sid the Sasquatch - cover
Sid the Sasquatch | Copyright Wendy Elliott, 2016

Sid the Sasquatch
Written by Wendy Elliott
Illustrated by Joseph Cowman
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing (July 2016)
36 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1507826126

A few weeks back, during our live coverage of Planet Comicon in Kansas City on SciFi4Me, I snuck down to the convention floor to chase down a few leads on a story I want to look into. While I was out there, a kids-looking Sasquatch book caught my eye. Unfortunately, my wallet was back at the livestream stage and most vendors don’t take business cards for payment.

Fortunately, my colleague Maia was interviewing author Wendy Elliott about her new children’s book, which – just my luck! – was that same book. The convention gods had smiled upon me! Before I knew it, I was ready to sit down with my daughter and a brand new book to share.

Make no mistake, Sid the Sasquatch is a great book to share.  The story, which follows a curious and playful Sasquatch child named Sid, is written in a rhyme.  This creates both predictable pacing and a chance to let my daughter guess what happens next in the story. We see Sid’s family and world from his point of view, with its similarities and differences in clear and amusing illustrations by Joseph Cowman. Quite apart from the way I’ve always thought of a sasquatch, Sid and his family enjoy a downright cozy existence, always careful to remain out of view of the dangerous humans. But, just like my favorite mermaid Ariel, Sid’s curiosity about the world of humans constantly gets the best of him.

Sid the Sasquatch high in a tree
In a world of supernatural wonder, humans still capture Sid’s fancy | Copyright Wendy Elliott, 2016

Having watched about ten thousand hours of Disney movies, I was immediately sure I knew exactly where this was going. Sid watches the humans from afar but internalizes the warnings from his parents that humans are dangerous. When faced with a human quite by surprise in the forest, though, he is pleasantly surprised by the boy Ollie’s kindness. As a parent, I was even more pleasantly surprised at Elliott’s nod to the subtle surveillance that all parents do when their children are playing: Sid looks back to his mother, who had been quietly trailing him, for assurance that this situation was safe.

From there, the book shows an immediate and apparently steadfast bond between Sid and Ollie. Each boy has something to teach the other, while the children reading along are able to see cooperation and friendship between two who were taught to fear the other. As an adult, this seems a little heavy-handed at times, but it’s a message that is clearly understood by my 5 year old.

After the initial read – difficult, at times, by some awkward stretches in the rhyme scheme – I put down the book and asked my daughter what she thought this book was supposed to teach us. (This is a familiar tactic that children of educators are subjected to, so she put on her characteristic thinking face). “Well,” she said slowly, “I think…it’s definitely about being good to people.” I nodded encouragingly. “And about how even when you think somebody is going to be scary or mean, maybe they’re not and you should try to be friends.” Then she smiled, and added, “If I take off Ollie’s skin and Sid’s skin, they have the same skeleton!”

This is an important, if macabre, message to take away. Under our very different looking skins, we’re basically the same. Sid the Sasquatch takes a new angle to that same old lesson, and in a way that speaks to children without exasperating adults. Between the melodic writing and the beautifully illustrated pages, I can see this joining the regular rotation of reading at our house.

I’m a friend of Sid. How about you?

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Sony picks up WHEEL OF TIME rights

The Karaethon Cycle had it wrong, after all. Sony Pictures has thrown in its hat along with Red Eagle Entertainment and Radar Pictures on a television adaptation of Robert Jordan’s prolific fantasy Wheel of Time series.

The series nominally follows Rand al’Thor, a humble farm boy from the distant edge of Andor who is unwittingly thrust towards his destiny. As the Dragon Reborn, a reviled and widely feared savior who would battle the Dark One Shai’tan for the fate of the world, thus ushering in a new age. Also of great importance are his friends Matrim Cauthon, Perrin Aybara, Egwene al’Vere, and Nynaeve al’Meara, all young people from the same village who find their own place of importance in the swifly shifting world.

This move by Sony marks the first update since legal issues were resolved in April of 2016, and details surrounding the project will probably be some time in coming. Fans of the book series – 15 books in total, 3 of which were completed by Brandon Sanderson with Jordan’s notes after the author’s 2007 death – eagerly await any hints ahead of production.

The Wheel of Time has been enticingly teased in both television and film formats since 2000, when NBC first gave us hope of a miniseries of the series. In 2008, interest flared up again as Universal acquired film rights a short time after Robert Jordan’s death. While neither of these projects came to fruition, each whisper of possibility renews hope.

The Karaethon Cycle, the Prophecies of the Dragon, claimed he would be reborn on the slopes of the Dragonmount. I suppose, in an Age that once was – an Age that is yet to be – that must’ve been what the people called Sony.




SciFi4Chicks: Disney’s Live Action Plan – Should They Adapt Every Animated Story?

[Featured image courtesy Disney]

The Walt Disney Company is known for their ground-breaking classic animated films: Snow WhiteCinderellaSleeping Beauty, plus more recent classics like The Lion KingThe Little MermaidMulan, and Beauty and the Beast. In recent years, though, they’ve been dipping back into that same well to take those classic animated stories and rework them into live-action pieces such as Maleficent, 101 Dalmatians, and Cinderella. The latest release, Beauty and the Beast, gives us a chance to compare and contrast this version and the classic animated feature.

Along the way, we discuss the other projects in the pipeline: Mulan, a sequel to The Jungle BookDumbo, The Lion King, and more. Should Disney be re-making all of these classic films? Or should they work to deliver new classics?

The panel: Mindy Inlow, Jennifer Wise, Teresa Wickersham, Sonya Rodriguez, Ann Laabs, Lauren Garrison




8Bits: Talking About Micro-Transactions

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This month, we’re talking about micro-transactions.

Are they good for the industry? Are they bad for the industry? Did they start off with the best of intentions and then slowly drift off to the Dark Side? Our crew discusses the impact micro-transactions have on game play, extensions, DLCs, collections, upgrades, and what it all means for the wallet. Is it better to play through achievements to get the new weapon or skill? Or do you bypass that effort (and fun) and just buy that war hammer for $6?

Games we’re playing:

  • Master of Orion 2: Battle of Antares
  • Star Trek Online
  • LEGO Star Wars, X-Wing, Star Wars: The Old Republic
  • Mass Effect
  • Battlefield
  • ReCore
  • Assassin’s Creed
  • Destiny
  • Grand Theft Auto

The panel: Jennifer Wise, Lauren Garrison, Jared Hawkins, Thomas Townley, Chris Jensen

 




SciFi4Chicks – What’s Your Favorite: Fantasy? Sci-Fi? Horror?

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Fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. Which of these three has more appeal for you? How are these different from each other and why do we like them (or not like them)?

Even though you may have a preference, our discussion finds that the crossover elements can enhance the experience with favorite pieces of work. However, why do people tend to steer away from one particular category? Is it too broad or too technical and realistic? Listen and find out if you agree!

The panel: Jen Wise, Mindy Inlow, Ann Laabs, and Kayce Taylor




SciFi4Chicks On Loss: Firing Wonder Woman and the Death of Carrie Fisher

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This month, the ladies of SciFi4Chicks discuss the recent fates of two iconic women: Wonder Woman and Carrie Fisher.

Nearly two months after being “hired” by the United Nations to help raise awareness of Goal 5, which seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, she is fired for “objectifying women” in her scantily clothing, basically being a pin-up girl. But let’s ignore why she is a good role model for women.

And speaking of role models for women, as the world mourns the loss of Carrie Fisher, what is the fate of the Star Wars films? Lucasfilms has made an official statement on the use of CGI, so how will they handle her death? We have theories and of course, many opinions.

The panel: Jen Wise, Mindy Inlow, Sonya Rodriguez, Ann Laabs

 

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ECHO CHAMBER: A ROGUE ONE Discussion

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Three weeks after its debut in theaters, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is still going strong at the box office. Quickly surpassing Captain America: Civil War, it gained the number two spot for 2016. Critical acclaim, positive word-of-mouth, and even a controversy or two concerning the resurrection of certain characters — all worked to make Rogue One a hot property.

The gang gathers around the table to talk about favorite moments, some quibbles, and speculations about what happens next, especially in the wake of Carrie Fisher’s untimely death.

 

The panel: Mackenna Riley, Mindy Inlow, Jennifer Wise, Thomas Townley, Jay McDowell, Jeff Hackworth, Sam Sentman, Dan Handley

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The Essentials: Ray Bradbury – Sage of 20th Century Science Fiction Unreality

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“I don’t write science fiction. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. It couldn’t happen, you see?”

Ray Bradbury did not write science fiction. Science fiction takes the possibilities of the real and imagines how it could be — a depiction of the real, in the man’s own words. Thing that well may be and some that, historically, have come to be. But Ray Bradbury did not write science fiction. Okay, you’re thinking, so what did Ray Bradbury write?

Let’s call it ‘unreality’.

Bradbury remains one of the most prolific writers of unrealistic stories in the twentieth century. His flavor of dystopia has become education curriculum; his short stories have inspired not only the writers in his wake, but popular culture as a whole; he is the second most borrowed fiction author in the library of the high school in which I work. It’s a stunning legacy for a boy from Lake County, Illinois. (Read our obituary of him here, and our article remembering him here.)

Susan Gerbic shows Ray Bradbury her ball and vase trick at his home August 2010
Susan Gerbic shows Ray Bradbury her ball and vase trick at his home August 2010. Photo by Sgerbic, and in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Bradbury’s choice of writing focus aligns well with his early fascination with Jules Verne (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), Frank Baum (The Wizard of Oz), and Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan of the Apes). By contrast, though, Bradbury’s work had a tendency to be more dark, appealing to the deep fascination readers tend to have with the twists and turns of misfortune.

Bradbury was a prolific writer, known for the dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, the collection of stories known as The Martian Chronicles, and the nightmare fodder of robotic grandmothers (that may have made me afraid of sleepovers as a child) I Sing the Body Electric. Bradbury is also known for penning more than 600 short stories in addition to his 27 novels, but whether readers prefer short stories or full novels, Bradbury always leaves an impression.

“It’s his writing style, it just captures you,” offers Deb Cash, an avid reader of science fiction and astronomy teacher. “The short stories climax too soon, but I could get lost in the novels all night.”

For others, the short stories are more their style. Katie LeSando, a field biologist and fellow science teacher prefers the short stories. “If you haven’t read Mars is Heaven! then I feel like you need to get on that. Like, now,” she gushed to me.

Ray Bradbury vector graphic
Vector graphic courtesy Pixabay

Whatever your preference, Bradbury has had a creation or an influence. From direct movie adaptations of his work to subtler inspiration, as the recent adaptation of Zero Hour into the single-season show The Whispers on ABC, Bradbury has tickled the brains of serious fans and those green to the genre, and will be held in high regard for decades to come.

For more information about him, visit the official Ray Bradbury website.

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Recap: On THE MAGICIANS Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

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THE MAGICIANS -- Pictured: "The Magicians" logo -- (Photo by: NBCUniversal)
Episode 106, “Impractical Applications”

Every life lesson seems to show that what can be done alone, can be improved with teamwork. Why should magic be any different? As our magicians grows in power, it becomes harder and harder to accept not only that there are definite consequences of their actions, and interactions, but also that they are not — and perhaps, no matter how much power they gain, will never be — infallible and independent.

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Despite the act of ultimate wish fulfillment of my 12-year-old dreams, it seems Penny (Arjun Gupta) just can’t accept the notion that he’s traveled into a fictional book, and while there witnessed terrible things — or the fact that Quention (Jason Ralph) is excited by that same notion. In fact, Quentin is beside himself with this revelation; but for Alice’s (Olivia Taylor Dudley) insistence, Penny would have left it at that. However, curiosity of the fly-faced Beast prompts him to give Quentin one small chance to help. Unfortunately, the Beast’s not in the books — though that lovely woman who hides clocks in trees sounds much kinder — and Penny and Kady (Jade Tailor) head out. While later tattooing an anchor on Penny’s arm, Kady finally opens up a bit more about herself to Penny, detailing how her mother died young, how her father was a hippie, and how her cool tattoo gives her 20/20 vision in the dark.

Quentin, lost in a book, continues to be my favorite victims of circumstance, as he is melodramatically “kidnapped” by masked, robed figures. Margo (Summer Bishil) and Eliot (Hale Appleman), in concert with the rest of the upperclassmen, have gathered the first-years to administer “the trials”, which is an also melodramatically named, do-or-die-okay-not-really test to see the first-years’ ability to behave like magicians — and though failure doesn’t end quite so direly as the fire and mask work would suggest, it does result in flunking out.

THE MAGICIANS - "Impractical Applications" Episode 106 - Pictured: Hale Appleman as Eliot Waugh - (Photo by Syfy)
THE MAGICIANS – “Impractical Applications” Episode 106 – Pictured: Hale Appleman as Eliot Waugh – (Photo by Syfy)

Exposition Margo tells Alice that the Dean created the trials, then elegantly hands Alice a card designating her to ‘Team Fishpunchers!’ (Which I desperately hope makes for grindylows, in my heart of hearts).

On team ‘Horny Chupacabras’ — if you’re as lost as Quentin is, his teammate sassily tells him that a chupacabra is a spine-covered goat-sucking primate indigenous to Mexico — Quentin and Penny learn that an old secret society called The Brethren encrypted a set of spells in order to hide them from the Church. The basis of the trials is for each team to decode their spell and have it cast by 9 A.M., a test which Eliot describes as “pretty much impossible”. No pressure, freshmen.

THE MAGICIANS - "Impractical Applications" Episode 106 - Pictured: (l-r) Jade Tailor, Jason Ralph, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Arjun Gupta - (Photo by Syfy)
THE MAGICIANS – “Impractical Applications” Episode 106 – Pictured: (l-r) Jade Tailor, Jason Ralph, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Arjun Gupta – (Photo by Syfy)

As dawn hits the first-years, Quentin is realizing that the teams have been Kobayashi Maru’d, set up for an unwinnable challenge. In the truest spirit of the Kobayashi Maru, a seemingly impossible situation that is designed to elicit a strong, ethically based decision, Penny and Quentin decide to cheat. Their mysterious teammate, who knows a lot about chupacabra but not much about Star Trek, handily refuses. Fortunately for Quentin, while Penny can’t read the mind of Alice, the brains of their group, he can astral project to copy over her shoulder, which makes me wish I’d had all these abilities in high school for about the ninetieth time.

The spell goes off without a hitch, and Quentin and Penny pass on to the second trial (without Highly Moral Teammate, who is deemed a failure), while also learning that Eliot was on to them pretty much the entire time.

“There they are, all those little fishies. They’re just like us…eating, sh—ing, breeding. I require one.”

Each of the four remaining (protagonist) first-years has a ridiculous request made of them by Eliot or Margo, sending them spinning and reeling about the forest with desperation: catch a pheasant with a net; catch a horse with a hatchet; bring down a tree with a rope; shoot a fish with a bow and arrow. The importance, however, was not to struggle through their difficulties, but to work together to acknowledge their individual strengths, and the right tools for the right job. After all, as we have seen from the Eliot and Margo, as well as from Hannah (Amy Pietz) and Julia (Stella Maeve), magic takes teamwork.

The final trial is one not most difficult only because of the openness required in the presence of another, but also the honesty required within oneself: the first-years are to be naked, painted, and bound to one another, and must openly acknowledge a deep, dark secret for the bonds to break. With a looming midnight deadline and many failures behind them, we learn that Alice has been holding back dramatically in her abilities, more concerned about trying to fit in. This brings Quentin to his own revelation: that he’s constantly running away from something, usually himself. Kady and Penny’s truths are less therapeutic: while Penny admits he is falling in love with Kady, she hurls back at him that she has been lying and using him from the start.

THE MAGICIANS - "Impractical Applications" Episode 106 - Pictured: (l-r) Amy Pietz as Hannah, Stella Maeve as Julia - (Photo by Syfy)
THE MAGICIANS – “Impractical Applications” Episode 106 – Pictured: (l-r) Amy Pietz as Hannah, Stella Maeve as Julia – (Photo by Syfy)

Julia, meanwhile, has had a heart-to-heart with Hannah, a hedge witch from the bar who followed Julia to the safe house, displaying star tattoos on her arm to prevent being maced. Hannah desperately implores Julia to try some spells, so Julia follows her to the most trustworthy of places, a somewhat shadowy garage. The ladies appear to run out of spells fairly quickly, but rather than follow up on Hannah’s offer to “hit the road”, Julia lights on a new idea – Marina (Kacey Rohl), who has her memories back…and a ton of spells.

In a bid to get a magical jones on, Julia and Hannah meet up with Hannah’s daughter, Kady – and almost immediately it’s completely clear why Kady prefers to act as if she has no mother. Kady’s lack of faith in her mother’s plans, and the protection spell Julia shows her, seems to put her strongly on Marina’s side as Julia and Hannah plan to start their own safe house, and Kady angrily explains to Julia that Hannah wasn’t simply kicked out of Marina’s safe house – she botched a job under pressure and cost two people their lives. Kady angstily storms out, taking the protection spell with her.

THE MAGICIANS - "Impractical Applications" Episode 106 - Pictured: (l-r) Amy Pietz as Hannah, Jade Tailor as Kady Orloff-Diaz - (Photo by Syfy)
THE MAGICIANS – “Impractical Applications” Episode 106 – Pictured: (l-r) Amy Pietz as Hannah, Jade Tailor as Kady Orloff-Diaz – (Photo by Syfy)

Without Kady’s help, Julia determines to steal Marina’s file cabinets full of spells, first alone, but ultimately with Hannah’s help. Rather than being the stealthy, extra-dimensional in-and-out that Julia envisioned, general magical mayhem erupts in Marina’s safe house. Ultimately, Marina gets the last laugh, entirely at Hannah’s expense: the pages within the cabinets are blank, and the futility of the effort just has time to set in as Hannah begins to hemorrhage blood from every conceivable orifice, trembling and shaking, until her grisly death at the base of the all-important file cabinets.

THE MAGICIANS - "Impractical Applications" Episode 106 - Pictured: Amy Pietz as Hannah - (Photo by Syfy)
THE MAGICIANS – “Impractical Applications” Episode 106 – Pictured: Amy Pietz as Hannah – (Photo by Syfy)

If the dangers of magic use and abuse weren’t apparent before, they certainly have come crashing home now.

 

The Magicians airs Mondays at 9/8c on Syfy.

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THE MAGICIANS Gets Booked for Season Two

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The Magicians has cast its spell on Syfy viewers, landing renewal for season 2, according to today’s announcement by the network.

“Thanks to an extraordinarily gifted creative team of executive producers and our partners at Universal Cable Productions, ‘The Magicians’ has become a buzzed-about hit, enchanting fans of the novels as well as attracting new and younger audiences to Syfy,” said network president Dave Howe.

The network original drama is just a few episodes into its first season run, with episode 4 premiering tonight at 9/8c on Syfy (and you can read recaps here), but had a strong following from the start. The show is based on Lev Grossman’s widely popular novels, and reaction from the start has been incredibly positive. The contemporary fantasy has elements to captivate viewers from nearly every demographic, but more important than the numbers, the writing and acting stands to beguile even those unfamiliar to the fantasy genre.

The Magicians joins Syfy’s space drama The Expanse in its recent renewal, signaling another potential powerhouse year for the genre network.

 

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In my UTOPIA…

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A show for every disgruntled adult who’s ever had to grind their teeth and tell themselves that the world would be so much better if they were only in charge, Utopia plays into every piece of the psyche that keeps a viewer watching. We have sex appeal, stereotypes, told-you-so moments; a polarized population that ensures conflict, but at every turn offers the promise that maybe such opposites can work through their strife, real or imagined. Oh, let’s not forget the requisite nudity.

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As a concept, Utopia is looking to be part Big Brother, part Paradise Island, and part of every nightmare I’ve ever had since that time I almost tried out for American Idol. The participants have to live together and work together and sleep in probably strange proximity for some peoples’ comfort zones, and, if the first episode is any indication, have to see a whole lot of dancer Dedecker’s unclothed chest (please put your shirt back on, Dedecker).

Utopia has, among the 14 “pioneers”, potentially deep clefts between political, social, and even religions leanings. There are people from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, professional standings, and even the situations behind their love lives are widely varied. Where you have Hex, a six-foot tall bow hunter who is one side-braid away from some snarky The Hunger Games quips in my break room, tempered with Mike, who….Mike was a lawyer. I remember that about Mike. The cast of pioneers is a grab bag, and if there isn’t at least somebody that you can like on this show, then perhaps reality television isn’t your cup of tea.

Our 14 pioneers (soon to be 15) are going to be living in a complex for one full year, though once a month, they have the option to send someone away, a privilege that they almost acted upon the second day in the complex; after quite a celebration of the loss of plumbing, burly dude Josh got multiple kinds of touchy with multiple kinds of his Utopian family.

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Cooler heads prevailed…kinda. The next day, a dead chicken caused another uproar, then an incident that I couldn’t quite grasp the finer details on, but has become endearingly known in my household as ‘The Hippy, The Hillbilly, and The Hose’.

By the end of Sunday night, I felt like everybody must be barking mad to have put themselves into this situation (lookin’ at you, Jonathan). Undeniably though, I also felt that if I can’t be home to get to know better these pioneers, these marvelous creatures of whom the producers managed to pack at least 5 story arcs into the Sunday premier, I’m going to go barkinger-madder.

And if chicken tractors are a real thing, then we can make that phrase work, too. In my Utopia, you don’t question off-the-cuff superlatives.

Utopia airs twice a week on Fox – Tuesdays at 8 pm EST, and Fridays at 9 pm EST. If you’re not on your couch to catch it, you can sure come join me on mine.

[Show web site]

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