The 1980s orgasmic merger of Rock and Film

The1980s was a decade awash in stylistic mergers and acquisitions of venom and spirit. Specifcally, I wish you to understand the bombastic synchronicity between rock music and film. First we have 80s rockers Huey Lewis & The News who showed up in time travel favorite, “Back to the Future.” Then icon of R&B and 80s rock diva, Tina Turner, made the apocalypse fabulous in a chainmail outfit Red Sonja would have died for in the third Mad Max flick, 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome. Turner also cranked out the main tune, “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” I wish she had done more because she dominated the screen. Sidenote: the beloved blue healer Zhaan from Farscape has a small role as Warrior Woman in the second outing of the Mad Max franchise.

Director John Carpenter had his own band, and contributed signature riffs to his movies, especially 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China. The end title jam from 1984’s Buckaroo Banzai was by electronica pro and Grammy winner, Michael L. Boddicker. Danny Elfman of 80s synth-pop band, Oingo Boingo, became better known as a movie maestro for Batman, Weird Science, and most of Tim Burton’s films. Guitar god and front man of Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler, penned the entire soundtrack of 1987 classic, The Princess Bride. Nobody knows what a Vangelis is, but it made an electronic soundtrack for refuses-to-be-dated scifi flick, Blade Runner, that still resonates.

The 1984 fantasy mainstay, The Never Ending Story, sported the only real hit of Limahl, lead singer of 80s Brit-Pop group Kajagoogoo. Although my teen self pined for Jennifer Connelly in 1986’s Labyrinth, David Bowie’s rock god turn as Goblin King Jareth owned that movie. German electronic setup, Tangerine Dream, did the dirty for stunning 1985 fantasy epic, Legend, as well as occult-WW2-thriller, 1983’s The Keep, & western-vampire cult feature, 1987’s Near Dark. Sting may have spun a villainous role in 1984’s Dune, but it was classic rockers Toto that managed the tunes for that flick.

But all of this pales in comparison to what comes next; the majesty of Queen. They rocked the 70s and 80s with stadium rattling anthems and quirky earworm ballads. Even in death frontman Freddie Mercury has become a meme that denotes pure awesomeness. Queen rocked not one but two essential scifi soundtracks: 1986’s Highlander & 1980’s Flash Gordon. Both movie and songs are eminently quotable and singable, and would propel any roadtrip from arduous to astounding. Sidenote: the Prince of Ardentia in Flash Gordon who falls on his sword also shows up as Katanga in Indiana Jones 1 and Kingsley Shacklebolt in Harry Potter.

If you want to experience just how kinky-nasty rock-cinema orgasmic synergy can be, search YouTube for “Martini Ranch/Reach” directed by James Cameron. Yes, that one. It features many faces of 80s scifi and requires 30 minutes on IMDB to properly appreciate.

 

BAMF thinks another is BAMF

There can be only Scotland!

Clancy Brown describes himself as a blue-collar character actor, but then goes on to say that all actors are character actors. This from his interview with Adam Pockross at Yahoo Movies on 3-14-14. Clancy is famous for bringing his imposing form, gravelly voice, and intense menace (or rare charm) to such awesome genre fare as Buckaroo Banzai, Carnivale, and Earth2, but we speak here of Highlander.

Pockross asks, “What do you remember about killing James Bond in Highlander?

“That was great fun. If I was ever nervous with a movie star, it was with Sean, because he is every inch Sean Connery, man. He’s a big gorgeous dude. I don’t know how old he was, almost 60, and he was still the most macho thing on the set. We were up on
the top of the staircase that looked pretty precarious and we were not rigged very
well. He was on his knees, and I was standing over him and I remember leaning over and asking him, I said, “Sean, how much do you weigh, man?” And he said, “Oh, 14 stones” or I don’t remember, but some stone, and I was like, “that tells me absolutely nothing. I’m 200 pounds and if you’re over 200 pounds, that means we’ve got like 400 pounds on this slapped together thing. You nervous?” And he says, “No, I’m never nervous.”

So the Kurgan just said a man playing a Spaniard who used to be an Egyptian and speaks with a Scottish accent is the ultimate BAMF. So noted.

Pop up Fact #112: Marc Alaimo – Super Evil Scifi Glue

Marc Alaimo, an actor born in 1942, is arguably the secret glue that holds the scifi skein together. I don’t mean to get all weepy, but this guy might just be keeping us from that black hole Hadron Collider event. There’s just no way to know.

Most fans will know him as Gul Dukat in ST:DS9, but he has played villains and thugs as far back as the 1970s. Marc plagued the Bionic Man and the Bionic Woman, and he stole milk money from the Incredible Hulk. He betrayed the Archer: Fugitive from the Empire (1981), and he tangled with the Greatest American Hero. He foiled the Knight Rider himself, the Hoff and Kitt both. He bedeviled the Master by trapping Demi Moore in the Tardis. He tricked the Last Starfighter, and more recently he resisted Arnie and Michael Ironside in Total Recall.

His credits on Star Trek are too numerous to list, but he’s definitely top ten for different aliens inhabited and shows played. And his prominent neck inspired the ST make-up artists to give the Cardassians their familiar neck ridges.

Why is he so good at playing evil? My guess is that last name. How many times does a kid get called “A Lame-o” before he snaps. Lucky for us he just tortures our cinematic heroes.

Sure, his glue seethes with evil. But he’s the Elmer’s we need, not the Elmer’s we singed up for. Or something.

 

How To Educate Your Ewok – The Ur-List

Numerous authors and fans have published their Top 10 Fantasy Novel list. I’d like to go meta for a moment and talk about the ur-list that underlies all lists of this nature. Comments are invited. On a personal level, I have a hungry Ewok in my care, and how best to nurture her budding genre sensibilities is important to me. Before you even get to The Hobbit, there are stepping stones of genre literature in regards to educatin’ your chillun’. For now, this rant sticks to books, so the Totoro-minded will have to wait.

So, here be stepping stones:

Stone #1: Dinosaurs. It all begins here. That wonder about the Other Time and the Other Place filled with Other Things. Every kid loves dinosaurs, but there are pernicious side effects. That first fannish flame is one of the reasons, IMHO, that Creationism has struggled v Evolution even in the face of general American apathy and ignorance regarding science. The Bible does not mention le thunder lizards and kids love them, so WWJD? Jesus, in the form of parents who over-value religion, hedge their faith around the T-Rex. That scaly mofo allows the science spark to smolder, and it may rekindle within even the most squashed mind. I don’t mean to be down on JC and the gang, just his most zealous supporters. There’s lots of value in JC’s teachings, and as Darth Vader teaches us, there need be no conflict. So, start with the dinos.

Picture Books are stone 1A for charging the pistons in the headbone of your young’un, specifically the classic toddler trivium of Where the Wild Things Are, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and all things Seuss. The Very Hungry Caterpillar can eat my shorts.

Stone #2: Now we get into your Basic Cultural Mythology. Any region will do: Greco-Roman, Chinese, Norse, Mayan, JesusLand, etc. Other Place and Time again, but now it’s with humans. You can visit Rome and Cairo. You can dress like a Viking, or a Ninja, or a Pirate, or as Noah. This is definitely time for Faerie Tales. Before your kid is ten, she should be able to choose between Pirates and Ninjas. This is the time for all the great psyche scarring. Monsters live in the closet. Really bad ones live under the bed. Bad dreams wake them up. They’re afraid of the dark. Eat your broccoli Timmy or the Vege-stalker under the floorboards will tear the soles off you feet. Nooo, Daddy!!!! I try to have my ewok imagine a big, faithful dog that can attack spiders and zombies for her. Apparently, her fears are zombies, vampires, and red spiders. Since she has never seen the first two outside of Scooby Doo, I’m not sure where she gets that other than DNA. We live in Florida, so I know where the last one comes from. I’m still not sure how her mind works.

Stone #3. Now we’re back to familiar Middle Grade / Young Adult books: Maddy L’engle, Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, Oz, etc. Basically anything that ends with Potter, Narnia, the Hobbit, and all things by Roald Dahl. If your precious tot starts talking about Twilight, then you’ll have to intervene. Hermione is heroic. Bella is a passive cardboard cutout that feeds the worst fantasies that girls and women can have about their interaction with the male species. Nip that shit early. The Princess Industrial Complex in all its forms must be thwarted. Old School Disney can suck it. There are dozens of books for the warrior-princess, and that’s what we fathers aim to mold. The GeekDad & GeekMom websites are chock full of must-read lists for tweens and teens.

Now that the foundation is set, their taste should be consulted. But know this: if she is to hold her own when addressing the Tribe, she needs some of the 8 essential vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin A: World Fantasy. The land itself is a bona fide character, in much the same way New York is for so many films. This is Narnia & Middle Earth territory. I suggest the stand alone book Tigana, and the following series: the Wheel of Time, Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever (great story and setting, horrible protagonist), the Riftwar saga, the Sword of Truth, the Belgariad, and the first set of the Shannara series, and anything by Zelazny. This may lead to serious addictions to Role-Playing games, video games, cosplay, etc. Some of the series run up to 13 books. I started the Wheel of Time in college and I’m still not done reading. Most of these are adult books, so they should be fodder for the end run of genre taste management.

Vitamin B1: Historical Cycle. For Americans this means the Arthurian cycle of tales, but we have seen stories spun on these themes ad infinitum. Arthur the King has returned, again and again, and frankly needs to rest. If the library has been unholy ground for you, then the internet has arrived to widen your horizons. Let your teen read about the adventures of Gilgamesh, of Krishna, of the 47 Ronin, of the Maccabees, and of the erstwhile ass-kickers of the Scandinavian Eddas and Georgian sagas. So much win, so little time.

Vitamin B2: Character Fantasy. These are the books, that while they may have cool and well-developed realms, the characters carry the legend. I do not mean to imply that Gandalf or Rand al’Thor don’t shine as characters, but I can drop Conan anywhere and he will remain the BAMF barbarian. So too for Elric and his black sword, and Fafhrd & the Mouser.

Niacin: Humor: If you’ve read enough to know your fantasy tropes, then belly laughs are yours for the reading. Find them in Xanth, Discworld, Sweet Silver Blues (and many more) by Glen Cook, the Myth Inc series. These are awesome for teens.

Thiamine: You got your mint chocolate chip. Now you need your Brussel sprouts. Hook your fangs into something non-fiction, an academic treatise or two on the quest of the hero, historical accuracy, or the seriously ancient and naughty Decameron. Try the 13th c. Canterbury Tales on for size. Books by authors about their own writing also work. “Hero with a 1000 Faces” fits here nicely although you will become a pompous ass for a while. Good for teens with an academic bent.

Vitamin C: Grim & Gritty. Tired of princes and damsels? Do elvish angst and easy fixes with high magic leave you slack-jawed? Need to feel some mud between your toes, and some gristle in your shank? You can’t go wrong with the shared realm of Thieves World, or the Black Company by Glen Cook, Game of Thrones by GRRMartin, the Malazan books by Steven Erikson, and the pitiless mercs of Joe Abercrombie. This is my current favorite sub-genre, but see NSFW stickers on all of these, especially Thrones.

Vitamin: D: Urban Fantasy. Yes, bring the phookas and grues into the city. Mix in the tech and the mech and the dirty, dirty sex. Call it Dark Fantasy, Gaslight Romances or Steampunk. This category really steps on everybody’s toes and we love it so. Anything by Neil Gaiman is good. The classic examples of the modern fey arrive from Charles DeLint. Read “Court of the Air” and sequels for steamy-alien-magical immersion. Steven King’s the Dark Tower fits here too. The fare runs from perfect-for-teens to harsh-for-adults. My second favorite sub-genre.

Vitamin B6: Weird. And finally a palette cleanser. Some ginger and wasabi to freshen your tired synapses. For something short go to Harlan Ellison or Catherynne Valente. Long form, go to China Mieville. Not for teens unless they’re really precocious.

So, go now. Fortify thy spawn, and let the world tremble.

Happy Anniversary Poem

November makes it a year of slapping my moniker on the ScriberSpace. Mostly, I toil to keep the spambots busy. And they return the love. In fact, in honor of the occasion, I have reformatted the best spam comments into a poem. It is, IMHO, hidden encouragement from the universe’s purest fountain. I call it…

365 Days of Hyperactive Attention Disorder

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And that’s it. Please don’t stop, you fearless spambots and foreign monkey-trolls smashing your cold fingers into antiquated keyboards. The Scribble Ninja needs your tireless efforts to stay strong.

 

DragonCon 2012 !

Caught the little bum trying to steal my badge.

As August tripped into September, the citizens of Atlanta could not help but be flummoxed and fandangoed by the wandering horde of scifi geeks last week. You didn’t hear? DragonCon, my friends, in all its glory and pageantry, sundered the peace of downtown ATL in five—five!—hotels for four days. I was happy to be there amongst the aliens, Master Chiefs, lego Han Solos, and Black Widows. I left tired and inspired, and I’m here to bring back truth from the mountaintop.

If you go next year, don’t miss the Saturday morning parade. Almost entirely filled by guests just like you, the costumes dazzled with their inventiveness and attention to detail. I pity the uber-nerd in the Chewbacca get-up since it was still Hot-lanta, but the tribe persevered. You can see some of the best outfits (dancing no less) in multiple videos at YouTube under “DragonCon 2012”. Here’s one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7n4bWaV3bg

You can spend the entire con gaming, or going to writing panels as I did, or waiting in line to catch a glimpse of the hot new star on the hot new show, but leave time to absorb the ambient awesomeness. Find the fully functioning R2D2s. Frolic amongst the pokemon and the undead. Take pictures of the witty old, and the busty young, the steampunk families and the industrious loners, and all the men and women dressed as Loki.

While weapons rules and nudity laws remain in effect, the nasty-kinky undergarments get flung about after dark. Burlesques, dances, masquerades and the many bands feed the need to get funky. And it was quite possible to wander into a lightsaber duel.

One huge room was packed with celebs from today’s shows and the hits of yesteryear. Normally, I resist autographs but when Buck Rogers and Wilma Deering are in the same room … I shelled out the bucks. Erin Gray also taught a tai chi class. I’m here to report that it is working. Gil Gerard should have taken the class. I saw an old, pudgy guy from behind and asked him if “Buck” was coming back. Of course, the man was Buck himself. Flustered, I handed him Wilma’s picture. “That uniform never fit me,” he said, eyes twinkling. I had not expected to be there and was $3 short. I promised to come back. It took me all the next day to make it back. He smiled easily. “Thanks. It makes an impression.” The ScribbleNinja holds up the geek honor. For the most part, the actors we see on the screen are waaaay smaller in real life. With the exception of Lou Ferrigno, everyone looked all too human. With the exception of Burt Ward (1960’s campy Robin), everyone was gracious. Burt refused to sign as I’d asked and overcharged me. Ah, well. Maybe I funded his Medicare. He took quite a few Pows to the chin back in the day.

Do budget for the wondrous swag, but go hit the many vendors when something popular is also going on, or it will be like spawning time in the salmon creek except all the fish are bug-eyed monsters. Funny t-shirts, wings, horns, steampunk goggles, lightsabers, figurines, dice, jewelry, costumes, and fabulous artwork.

I’ll do a separate post for just the writing lessons I gathered from known scifi
luminaries to newcomers on the scene.

To conclude, it’s crowded. It’s hot. Some lines are long. Be gracious. Represent your tribe. Thank some of the relentlessly cheerful staff. They welcomed us from the airport banner to the constant requests for direction (the skybridges were confusing as hell). Appreciate the diversity in race, age, gender, disability and vampire affiliation. You CAN be a Browncoat and a Jedi, dammit! I went home floating on phlogiston, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that I could order Dragonfire Salmon in the airport. The scifi gods were happy, and I was too.