Quark

Back at the end of November, I talked about watching the original Battlestar Galactica back in 1978. It turns out that 45 years ago, there was another science fiction show on television that excited me as much or more than Glen A. Larson’s science fiction epic even though it was arguably a much humbler offering. Back before Galaxy Quest, Red Dwarf, or Space Balls was one of the first science fiction spoofs I’d ever encountered. This was Quark starring Richard Benjamin and created by Buck Henry, who co-created Get Smart with Mel Brooks. I should note that Quark is not the oldest science fiction spoof I know. Dark Star, directed by John Carpenter with a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon, predates it and is one of my all-time favorite movies. That said, I’m pretty sure I encountered Quark before Dark Star.

The title refers to Captain Adam Quark, commander of a United Galaxy Sanitation Patrol cruiser. Played by Richard Benjamin, Quark’s job was to pick up the galaxy’s trash. His chief engineer was Gene/Jean, a so-called transmute who exhibited both male and female personality traits. Piloting the ship were a woman and her clone named Betty played by Cyb and Patricia Barnstable. The only problem is that each one remembers she’s the original and the other is the clone. The science officer was a sentient, anthropomorphic plant named Ficus Pandorata. Assisting them was a neurotic robot named Andy. The cruiser worked out of a space station called Perma One under the administration of Otto Palindrome, played by Conrad Janis, who would go on to play Mindy’s father in Mork and Mindy.

The show’s overall structure was a send-up of Star Trek. Adam Quark was clearly a Captain Kirk wannabe and Ficus was coldly logical and alien much like Mister Spock. The ship was sent on missions that put them up against the villainous Gorgons, who threatened the peace of the galaxy much like the Klingons. Within this structure, the show spoofed Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Flash Gordon along with at least three specific Star Trek episodes. The show only lasted eight episodes, which makes it all the more remarkable that I remember it so well. Thanks to online streaming, though, I’ve recently been able to watch the series again. Some of the show hasn’t aged very well. The gender tropes are so mid-70s they’re almost painful. Many of the jokes, especially in early episodes, fall flat. The effects, sets, and costumes are super cheap and cheesy, though it could be argued at least some of that was deliberate.

The fact that the series only lasted for eight episodes doesn’t help. It took about three or four episodes for Quark’s actors to really find their footing and get comfortable with the series and its premise, which is effectively half the series in this case, but in terms of absolute number, it isn’t all that bad for a mid-70s sitcom. My favorite episode is the two-part Flash Gordon send-up “All the Emperor’s Quasi-Norms” in which the Wild Wild West’s Ross Martin plays a Ming the Merciless-styled villain. Another great episode is “Goodbye, Polumbus” which parodies the Star Trek episodes “Shore Leave” and “This Side of Paradise.”

Given Quark’s short run, it’s unfulfilled potential, and the fact that modern computer artists could design some fun effects, this feels like a series ripe for a reboot. Ron Moore’s reboot of Battlestar Galactica was cool because it gave us a middle and an end to a 70s series that started well, then was pulled off the air. I’m not sure if Quark has a middle or an end, but it would be fun to see the crew of the United Galaxy Sanitation Patrol back in action for at least a few more episodes. If you want to check out the series, a Google search will take you to services who stream it for free with commercials.

The Last Adventure

Jodie Whittaker’s final Doctor Who adventure debuted at the end of October 2022. Throughout the series, the episode where a Doctor regenerates is often of the most powerful of that actor’s tenure. “The Power of the Doctor” was a great case in point, giving the Doctor an opportunity to confront her past and bringing back several companions Doctor Who’s classic era. Unfortunately, in Doctor Who history, there was one actor who was never given a proper final episode and that was the sixth Doctor, played by Colin Baker.

Colin Baker’s era on Doctor Who was plagued by several related problems. The top people at the BBC had lost interest in Doctor Who. Because of that, the show runner, John Nathan-Turner, was spending more time fighting to keep the show on the air than actually running the show. When I go back and watch Colin Baker’s episodes, I get the sense that the writers had a lot of talent but were writers who really needed strong editorial guidance. Unfortunately, because of the issues with the BBC, that guidance really wasn’t there and Doctor Who is a show that needs top notch writing and a good editorial vision to work. In the end, the BBC dictated changes in the show, which included a change of lead actor. Colin Baker basically decided he wouldn’t come back for a few minutes of screen time before his regeneration began. So, after Colin Baker’s last season, we start the next season with the Doctor in mid-regeneration and suddenly the Sylvester McCoy era began.

Colin Baker’s Doctor could be irascible, prickly and childish. The only problem is that the TV writers of his era tended to overplay those tendencies making him a challenging Doctor to like. Fortunately, Big Finish productions came along and gave us more adventures for the sixth Doctor. Stronger writers showed “Old Sixie” could also be heroic, fiercely loyal, and determined. In many ways, because of the episodes produced by Big Finish, the sixth Doctor’s era has become one of my favorites. In 2015, Big Finish decided to tackle one of the biggest challenges and write a fitting finale for the sixth Doctor. The result was “The Last Adventure.”

Title notwithstanding, “The Last Adventure” is actually four stories set at different times in the sixth Doctor’s tenure. Each adventure features a different companion. In “The End of the Line” the Doctor and Constance Clark find a train lost in the fog. When they attempt to find help, they find the same train at a different point in time. They soon find someone is breaking down the barriers between parallel universes. In “The Red House,” the Doctor and Charley Pollard end up on a world populated by werewolves. Except they really aren’t werewolves. These creatures are normally wolves who take on human aspects at certain times. In “Stage Fright,” the Doctor and Flip Jackson arrive in Victorian London only to find that a director is putting on plays about the Doctor’s regenerations. Finally, “The Brink of Death” brings us to the Doctor’s final days as he teams up with Melanie Bush only to find himself trapped in the Time Lord Matrix. The common denominator in all of these stories is that the Valeyard is involved.

We met the Valeyard in the sixth Doctor’s final TV season and we learn that he’s the amalgamation of all the Doctor’s darker tendencies all merged into one being sometime between his penultimate and final incarnation. The idea is that the Valeyard is playing a long game and in each story, the Doctor gets another piece of the puzzle until their final confrontation in “The Brink of Death.” I remember at the time “Trial of a Time Lord” was on TV, there were many fan discussions of how the Valeyard came to be. This story gives us an answer and without spoiling it, I thought it was a lovely bit of minimalist writing in that it gives us an answer in one sentence. It’s a great example of how something can be explained without pages of exposition.

I’m a big fan of the Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy. While there were some rough moments in his first season, I generally loved his tenure from the moment he’s captured by the Rani until he walks off in the sunset with Ace, and then has his amazing regeneration into Paul McGann in the TV movie. Still, I choked up a bit as it came time for “Old Sixie” to go. He met his end showing his best qualities. If you want to know the end of Colin Baker’s story, or even if you just want to sample him in stories from different eras of the Big Finish run, “The Last Adventure” is a great place to go. You can find it at: https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/doctor-who-the-last-adventure-1212

Don’t Stop at Book One

On Saturday, I offered the first book from three different series for free. The second book in each of those series is available for 75% through January 1 off as part of the Smashwords End of Year sale. The coupon codes for these discounts are automatically applied at checkout. One of the things I love about Smashwords is that they provide ebooks in all popular formats and they’re DRM free, so you can download them to your favorite device or gift them to friends without worrying about what e-reader they prefer. If you are shopping for a friend, just click “Give as a Gift” when you visit the Smashwords links!


The Pirates of Sufiro

The second book of my Space Pirates’ Legacy series is The Pirates of Sufiro.

The Pirates of Sufiro is the story of a planet and its people—of Ellison Firebrandt the pirate captain living in exile; of Espedie Raton, a man from the streets of Earth looking to make a fresh start for himself and his wife on a new world; of Peter Stone, the geologist who discovers a fortune and will do anything to keep it; and of the lawman, Edmund Ray Swan who travels to Sufiro seeking the quiet life but finds a dark secret. It is the story of privateers, farmers, miners, entrepreneurs, and soldiers—all caught up in dramatic events and violent conflicts that will shape the destiny of our galaxy.

Jane Lindskold, author of the Firekeeper Saga says, “When I first ‘met’ Ellison Firebrandt in Firebrandt’s Legacy, the last thing I even imagined was a future where our hero and his devoted crew did not immerse themselves in swashbuckling space battles with clever intrigues played out against challenging opponents within the dark reaches of outer space. Firebrandt’s creator, author David Lee Summers, was far more ambitious in the future he envisioned for his hero.

“In The Pirates of Sufiro Firebrandt faces challenges that press even his courageous heart and clever mind to the limit, as well as testing the loyalty of those he loves and trusts most deeply. This dynamic generational saga provides enough twists and turns to satisfy the most devoted space opera fan.”

The book is available for 99 cents at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1031018. The coupon code SEY75 should be applied automatically at checkout.


Vampires of the Scarlet Order

Vampires of the Scarlet Order is the second novel in my Scarlet Order vampires series. As I mentioned last time, book three will be out in 2023. If you haven’t read this series, this is a great opportunity to catch up before the new book comes out.

A new generation of vampires embarks on a quest to save humanity.

Opening a forgotten crypt during a military exercise, Dr. Jane Heckman is made a vampire and begins a journey to unlock the secret origins of her new kindred.

Elsewhere, solitary vampire Marcella DuBois emerges from the shadows and uncovers a government plot to create vampire-like super soldiers.

Daniel McKee, a vampire working as an astronomer, moves to a new town where he’s adopted by a family, only to have government agents strip those he loves away from him.

All three vampires discover the government is dabbling in technologies so advanced they’ll tap into realms and dimensions they don’t understand. To save humans and vampires alike, Jane, Marcella, and Daniel must seek out the legendary master vampire Desmond, Lord Draco and encourage him to resurrect his band of mercenaries, the Scarlet Order.

Buy Vampires of the Scarlet Order for just 99 cents until January 1 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1038560. The discount code SEY75 should be applied automatically at checkout.


Lightning Wolves

Lightning Wolves is the second novel in the Clockwork Legion series.

It’s 1877. Russians have invaded the Pacific Northwest and are advancing into California. New weapons have proven ineffective or dangerously unstable and the one man who can help has disappeared into Apache Country, hunting ghosts. A healer and a former sheriff lead a band into the heart of the invasion to determine what makes the Russian forces so unstoppable while a young inventor attempts to unleash the power of the lightning wolves.

Deby Fredericks, author of the Minstrels of Skaythe series says: “The Old West as we wish it had been. Full of adventure and crazy inventions but with some honesty about the prejudices and mores of the day. This is as much alternate history as adventure tale, with an ethnically diverse cast fighting battles that never were. Appearances by a few historical figures, like Geromino, add spice. There’s a poignant undercurrent on how inventions meant to lift humanity up can draw us into the same old quagmire of ambition and greed, plus an intriguing alien race trying to find its way through First Contact with humans. Nicely done.”

Get Lightning Wolves for 99 cents until January 1 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1119716. Coupon code SEY75 should be applied automatically at checkout.

A Visit from Santa

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas if you celebrate! If you celebrate another winter holiday, I hope it’s wonderful. At the very least, I hope you’re having a pleasant Saturday! As I’ve mentioned in recent posts, I have discounted many of the books Hadrosaur Productions has listed with Smashwords for their annual end-of-year sale. To really show my appreciation to my readers, I’m offering the first books of three of my series absolutely free for the duration of the sale. If you’re already a fan, this is a great opportunity to try out a new series. If you’ve already read these books and love them, why not give one to a friend? Read on to find the books I’m offering for free through January 1, 2023.


Firebrandt’s Legacy

Firebrandt’s Legacy is the first book of my Space Pirates’ Legacy series.

In the novel, Ellison Firebrandt fights the good fight for Earth. Under a letter of marque, he raids the ships of Earth’s opponents, slowing down their progress and ability to compete with the home system. On the planet Epsilon Indi 2, he rescues a woman named Suki Mori from a drug lord, only to find she isn’t so happy about living a pirate’s life. However, when the captain finds a new engine that will make him the most successful pirate of all, Suki is the only one who can make it work. Now Firebrandt must find a way to keep his crew fed and his ship supplied while relying on a woman who barely trusts him and while every government in the galaxy hunts him to get the engine back!

Midwest Book Review says, “A grand space opera filled with high adventure from cover to cover, Firebrandt’s Legacy is highly recommended.”

Get the book for free at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/916916. The coupon SW100 should be applied automatically at checkout.


Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires

Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires is the first book of my Scarlet Order Vampires series. What’s more, it’s the series I’m currently working on. I’m approaching the half-way point on my novel Ordeal of the Scarlet Order and hope to release it in 2023.

Three vampires. Three lives. Three stories intertwined.

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books after becoming a vampire, the Dragon, Lord Desmond searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.

Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampire sets her free, and then, she must pay the highest price of all … her human soul.

An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.

Three vampires, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, and rogue vampires as the world descends into the chaos of the Dark Ages.

Marita Wowod Crandle, author of New Orleans Vampires—History and Legend calls the novel, “A journey into the time of lords, battles, sailing the seas, and vampires. A wonderful escape into historical adventure.”

Get Dragon’s Fall for free until January 1 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1025606. Coupon code SW100 should be applied automatically at checkout.


Owl Dance

Owl Dance is the first book in my Clockwork Legion Steampunk series.

The year is 1876 and Sheriff Ramon Morales of Socorro, New Mexico meets a beguiling woman named Fatemeh Karimi of Persia, escaping oppression in her homeland. When an ancient lifeform called Legion comes to Earth, they are pulled into a series of events that will change the history of the world as we know it. In their journeys, Ramon and Fatemeh encounter mad inventors, dangerous outlaws and pirates. Their resources are Ramon’s fast draw and Fatemeh’s uncanny ability to communicate with owls. The question is, will that be enough to save them when a fleet of dirigibles from Czarist Russia invades the United States?

Richard Harland, author of Wordshaker and Liberator says, “Owl Dance has everything. Airships, owl-ornithopters, a clockwork wolf, a multiple alien entity, a fast-shooting sheriff, a Russian plot to conquer America, and a very sexy, eco-aware, Bahá’í Persian healer-woman – I mean everything! Heaps of fun!”

Get Owl Dance free until January 1 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1116949. Discount code SW100 should be applied automatically at checkout.

Discover Hadrosaur Productions

The annual Smashwords End of Year Sale is underway. Many of Hadrosaur’s titles are on sale and I’ll be highlighting them over the course of the next two weeks here at the Web Journal. The coupon codes for these discounts are automatically applied at checkout. One of the things I love about Smashwords is that they provide ebooks in all popular formats and they’re DRM free, so you can download them to your favorite device or gift them to friends without worrying about what e-reader they prefer. If you are shopping for a friend, just click “Give as a Gift” when you visit the Smashwords links!

My company, Hadrosaur Productions, has long sought to introduce readers to great writers, but we understand choices about where to start when trying a new writer can be difficult. Today, I’m featuring some great books by our authors which serve as an introduction to their worlds. All of these books are 75% off the cover price.


Hybrid

Hybrid tells the story of Erik Knight, a small time private investigator, who always knew he was different from everybody else. Keener senses, heightened awareness and an enhanced physical strength that could be called upon by his sheer will. Erik becomes involved with a team of high profile investigators and local police trying to locate a girl who was kidnapped in the middle of a playground amongst dozens of adults and children. None of the adults saw anything and what the children claim to have seen is too farfetched to be believed. The search evolves into a full-scale manhunt into the dark and desolate woodlands of the Hopedale Mountain. After a lethal encounter and a fatality, Erik, the investigators and police realize that what they’re dealing with isn’t a man and possibly isn’t of this world. What they’re dealing with is a sentient evil that has an appetite for young children.

Hybrid is available at Smashwords all this month for 75% off the cover price at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1086387. Coupon code SEY75 should be applied automatically on checkout.


Upstart Mystique

On its way to a distant colony world, the space vessel Marco P loses all power and an unknown force convinces the navigator that a distant, dead world is the vessel’s true destination. Commander Malcolm Carpenter orders the crew to abandon ship to protect them and to learn how to defeat whatever force has intercepted his ship. The crew discovers a small group of inhabitants, the only people on the planet who were not uploaded into a vast computer network—a computer network captivated by upstart humans and their imaginations. To free his crew and his navigator from the planetary network’s grip, Commander Carpenter must face a moral dilemma. Can he save his crew without condemning a planet’s inhabitants and their digital ancestors to death?

Get Upstart Mystique for 75% off the cover price at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1010602. Coupon code SEY75 should be applied automatically on checkout.


The Way-Out Wild West

Lyn McConchie’s The Way-Out Wild West is a short story collection set in Bodie, Arizona along with a handful of other western locales.

Bodie, Arizona can be a difficult place to locate on a map. Some say it’s because Bodie has been home to inventors who meddled in things humans weren’t meant to know. Others say it’s the visitors from the stars who seem to frequent Bodie. It’s just possible Bodie has become unstuck in time, making it a difficult place to pinpoint. Being unstuck in time, Bodie may have drifted close to the boundaries between life and afterlife. Whatever the case, Bodie is a wild place. In this collection, Lyn McConchie chronicles the adventures of Bodie’s denizens and those of nearby towns, counties and states from the nineteenth century to the present. Saddle up for this collection of twenty-two tales where you will glimpse the way-out, wild west.

The Way-Out Wild West is available for 75% off the cover price at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1125221. Coupon code SEY75 should be applied automatically on checkout.

Lavender Castle

I enjoy listening to the Gerry Anderson podcast hosted by Gerry’s son, Jamie Anderson, along with Richard James and Chris Dale. the podcast discusses the television shows Gerry Anderson produced over a nearly 50-year career in television and includes such well known shows as Thunderbirds and Space: 1999. Chris Dale’s segment on the show is called “The Randomiser” and in it, he watches a random episode from a random Gerry Anderson show. In an episode a few weeks ago, he discussed a show called Lavender Castle, which I’d not heard of before.

Now, when I first heard the title, I pictured something very different from Gerry Anderson’s usual oeuvre of action shows, often with a science fictional element. To me, the title brought to mind princesses, ponies, and an idyllic fantasy land possibly under threat from a comical villain. While listing to the Randomiser, it became clear this was something different. I finally decided I needed to learn more about this show.

Lavender Castle tells the story of the crew of a space vessel called the Paradox, commanded by Captain Thrice, an elf-like grandfatherly being with an eye on his nose in addition to the two on either side. He’s accompanied by a sentient walking stick and a Scottish-accented engineer named Isembard. The Paradox is built like an English cottage with a thatch roof. In the first episode, they land aboard a pirate ship called the Cutting Snark, which floats in a magical glowing river between planets. There they rescue several would-be slaves and recruit them for their crew. The other crew members are a dog-like hero named Roger, a medical student named Lyca, who has butterfly wings, a robot called Sir Squeakalot, and Sproggle, a lovable, lizard-like goofball.

The mission of the Paradox is to prevent a villain named Dr. Agon and his minions from destroying the titular Lavender Castle, which is the source of light and goodness in the universe. Dr. Agon flies through the universe in a monstrous ship called the Dark Station and has an elephant-like landing craft called the Mammoth. Agon’s primary minion is a pterodactyl-like creature called Trump, and I’m especially amused that they all consider the name a horrible insult. Occasionally teaming up with Dr. Agon is the pirate Short Fred Ledd.

The character designs and premise are the brainchild of British illustrator Rodney Matthews, who I wasn’t familiar with. While his style is very much its own, it reminded me of Brian Froud’s illustration work, which inspired movies like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. The series ran for 26 10-minute episodes in 1999. Many of the episodes were scripted by Gerry Anderson himself. The show features a mix of stop motion and computer animation.

Given that the entire series has a run time of about four and a half hours, it’s an easy show to binge watch. I love stop motion animation and this was nicely done, especially for something that was produced on a television budget in the 1990s. They pack a lot of story into each 10-minute episode and I didn’t feel like I ran into too much repetitive material. Because the episodes are so short, we never get much back story for the characters.

I’ve always hated reviews that say something to the effect, “this show will bore adults, but it’s great for children.” Although children are very much the target audience, I found myself thoroughly enchanted by the show. My only complaints, particularly since this is a children’s show, are that almost all the characters are male and the characters can merrily breathe in space. Admittedly that latter point is something of a nitpick since these are clearly fantasy creatures existing in more of a magical realm than a scientific one, but I think a nod could have been given to the real world without slowing things down too much or sounding like a science lesson.

Several episodes are really top-notch. Favorites include: “Dueling Banjos” in which Captain Thrice must have a banjo duel with a crawfish-like swamp creature to get fuel for the Paradox; “Galactic Park” where the crew is lured to a theme park, but it proves to be an elaborate trap by Dr. Agon; and “Interface” where the Paradox responds to a distress call, only to be knocked out by sleeping gas and attacked by a giant mechanical spider. In that episode, Sir Squeakalot must find a way to save the crew by himself.

The entire series can currently be found on YouTube, but less because it’s legal to be there and more because no one is really enforcing the rights. The show was financed by Carrington Productions Incorporated, which was ultimately absorbed by Entertainment Rights Incorporated. Entertainment Rights was eventually purchased by Dreamworks Classics. I gather Anderson Entertainment is currently working on the rights issues with hopes of eventually producing a home video release and perhaps even some tie-in media. I hope they’re successful because this would be an amazing series to watch remastered on Blu-ray. While it may be little more than wishful thinking at this stage, I enjoyed this show so much, I would love to pitch a story for tie-in media if the opportunity ever arose.

While we’re waiting for a home video release of Lavender Castle, you can check out some of my whimsical and sometimes scary retrofuturistic fiction by visiting http://www.davidleesummers.com

Battlestar Galactica

In the summer of 1978, I went with my parents to Ports O’ Call Village in San Pedro California. This was a shopping mall with curio shops and restaurants done up in the style of a New England fishing village. Eleven-year-old me was mostly bored by these excursions, but I perked up when we went into a hobby shop with some models that reminded me of Star Wars, which was still a relatively new thing. It turned out these were models for a new show called Battlestar Galactica, scheduled to debut that fall on television. They depicted a Colonial Viper and a Cylon Raider. My parents wouldn’t let me buy the models, but I did watch for the show and was captivated by its 24 episodes featuring Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch, and Dirk Benedict.

As it turns out, Battlestar Galactica would only bear some superficial resemblance to Star Wars through the space dogfights and robots that somewhat resembled chromium-plated Darth Vaders. Still, in those days before on-demand video, it was the closest thing I could get to reliving George Lucas’s 1977 film. As I’m sure most people reading this blog know, Battlestar Galactica tells the story of a group of robots called cylons who destroyed twelve worlds occupied by humans. The last living humans then went in search of a mysterious thirteenth colony called Earth, while pursued by the cylons. I did like the idea of a group of humans searching for the lost colony of Earth and I liked many of the characters. I also liked the almost mystical elements the show had, with angelic and demonic beings cropping up from time to time. That said, even eleven-year-old me had a hard time believing that noisy cylons with all their whirring sounds could sneak up on anyone and I wondered how the viper pilots were supposed to see with those lights around their helmets. Wouldn’t those reflect off the glass of their canopies and keep you from seeing the enemies?

In 2004, Ron Moore, known for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation, would bring Battlestar Galactica back. This time, Edward James Olmos would play Commander Adama of the Galactica, most of the cylons we saw on screen looked human, and people wore contemporary neckties and spoke into analog phones. I liked this gritty new look. Unfortunately, the show came out at a time soon after I’d eschewed cable, so I only saw episodes here and there. Still, I liked the way this new show explored contemporary issues through a science fictional lens, gone were the helmet lights I didn’t like, and the human-like cylons seemed a bit scarier than the robots, precisely because you were never quite sure who exactly was and wasn’t a cylon.

Sitting at home during the 2020 pandemic, I finally had an excuse to start watching the 2004 Battlestar Galactica from beginning to end. I finally made it to the end a little over a week ago. Overall, I liked this new take. I liked the fact that it told a complete story and I like the nuts-and-bolts reality of it. I hesitate to say too much about the ending for anyone like me who has waited a while to watch the entire show. Still, most of it worked for me. Elements of it had a deus ex machina feel, but as I noted earlier, angelic and demonic forces have been part of the show since the original incarnation. I did feel those elements were there throughout the new version, though they could have been just a little stronger to better support the ending.

To me, both shows felt like they wanted to tell a story like a novel, but both were confined to the realities of episodic television. What’s more, from the special features on the 2004 Battlestar Galactica Blu-rays, it was clear they weren’t writing from an over-arcing outline. At best, they seemed to plot out a general direction from half-season to half-season. It mostly worked, but at times, it felt like the writers came up with more good ideas than they could satisfactorily resolve.

The original series always felt like it made a promise it never kept. It promised the Battlestar Galactica would find Earth. It kind of did in the Galactica 1980 series, but that 10-episode series never really lived up to the original. This time, I feel like the humans finally did find their way to Earth, and while I had some quibbles with some plot elements that could have been better resolved, I still thought it was a ride worth taking.

Revisiting Dune

Back in October, at MileHiCon, I picked up a copy of the Dune graphic novel scripted by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel. As I prepared to revisit the world of the first novel, I realized it had been some thirty-eight years since I’d read the novel. The first time I read the novel was during the summer of 1984 around the same time as David Lynch’s movie adaptation came out. Since adapting a chapter of my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires into comic book format, I’ve been interested in seeing how other novel adaptations are handled. So, I decided to reread Dune and then read the graphic novel. Because Dune has recently been adapted to the big screen again, I also decided to see how the new movie compared to the book.

The novel Dune is divided into three parts titled “Dune,” “Muad’Dib,” and “The Prophet.” The graphic novel is a faithful adaptation of part 1, which takes us roughly through a third of the novel. The character and machine designs were developed by the artists Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín. They used their own interpretation and didn’t base the art on designs used for either of the movies or the SyFy Channel’s miniseries. I found most of the characters – including our young protagonist Paul Atreides, along with his parents Duke Leto and the Lady Jessica, and Baron Harkonnen – were a good match for the way I pictured those characters when I read. Overall, I liked the way they visualized machines such as the spice harvesters on the planet Arrakis. They imagined quite bird-like ornithopters in their novel, which seemed almost closer to how I picture my steampunk ornithopters in the Clockwork Legion series than how I pictured the more high tech versions of Dune. Still, it proved a valid interpretation. I was impressed by how closely the graphic novel stuck to the novel’s plot. I didn’t notice any cut scenes. Of course, description was pared down and the art was allowed to show the settings and action while the characters spoke their dialog. I haven’t checked to see if the dialogue was word-for-word, but certainly the most memorable lines were repeated in the graphic novel. I likely will add volume 2, “Muad’Dib” to my collection as well.

Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 movie adaptation of Dune is also “part 1.” In this case, the movie includes all of “Dune” and most of “Muad’Dib.” By my reckoning the movie covers a little over sixty percent of the novel, ending around the close of Chapter 33. The movie adds some scenes not in the novel, such as the scene where a contingent arrives from the emperor to notify Duke Leto that he’s been granted stewardship of the planet Arrakis. The scene cleverly shows us many important story elements without them needing to be explained, such as the importance of the Duke’s signet ring and the political power wielded by the Bene Gesserit sisterhood. The movie also does a nice job casting characters who, for the most part, resemble characters as I imagine them. In particular, I really liked Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck and Dave Bautista as Glossu Rabban. I especially liked Stephen McKinley Henderson as the Mentat Thufir Hawat, because he reminded me of my uncle. Like Hawat, my uncle had a distinguished military career and while he was very loving to me, I always detected that there was a fierce commander underneath. As for the tech, I really liked the movie’s depiction of the ornithopters. These machines captured almost exactly what I pictured when I read the book. Given that the movie didn’t try to cover the entire novel and that the graphic novel did a very good job of including scenes of political intrigue, I was a little disappointed that many scenes from the novel were cut from the movie. Overall, the movie did a good job of telling the novel’s story, but it felt like it favored action over the complex machinations of many parties shown in the novel.

Overall, I enjoyed both the graphic novel adaptation and the movie, but I’m especially glad the two gave me an excuse to reread Frank Herbert’s classic novel. If you want to read my comic adaptation of a chapter from Dragon’s Fall, visit http://davidleesummers.com/Tales-of-the-Scarlet-Order.html to learn how to get a copy for yourself. If you want to see a scene from my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt adapted for the screen for free, visit http://davidleesummers.com/Astronomers-Crypt.html

Vesper

A little over a week ago, I won two tickets to a movie at the Fountain Theatre in Mesilla, New Mexico. This felt like something of a big deal, since neither my wife nor I had been to a movie theater since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fountain Theatre is a small venue run by the Mesilla Valley Film Society and is known for showing foreign and indie releases. It’s called the Fountain Theatre because the building was purchased by Albert Fountain Jr. in 1905. Back in those days, the theater put on plays, light opera, and vaudeville performances. The Fountain family sold the building to Vincent Guerra in 1929 and that’s when they began to show movies. Guerra had to relinquish the building back to the Fountain family in 1938. The Mesilla Valley Film Society began renting the building in 1989 as a venue to show foreign, alternative, and indie films.

The film my wife and I won tickets for was Vesper. Directed by Kristina Buožytė and Bruno Samper, it’s a French-Lithuanian-Belgian film set in a post-apocalyptic world where people had attempted to avert disaster by growing genetically modified crops. Things went horribly wrong and most animal life died and the planet is dominated by dangerous plants. Society’s elite live in citadels and trade viable food seeds with the stragglers in the wider world for items they need. The film’s title character, played by Rafiella Chapman, lives in an old house with her father who had been injured in battle. He can see and hear through a floating drone that accompanies Vesper out into the world. On one of Vesper’s trips, she finds Carmellia, played by Rosy McEwen, who survived an aircraft crash. Vesper brings her back to the house and nurses her back to health. Carmellia heals surprisingly quickly.

Vesper’s uncle Jonas, played by Eddie Marsan, lives on a nearby homestead with a number of children. He harvests blood to trade with the citadels in exchange for seeds. We soon learn that Jonas is not an uncle to be relied on. He’s mercenary and has less-than-platonic interest in his niece. When he finds Carmellia’s wrecked aircraft, he quickly kills Carmellia’s father and scavenges the craft instead of calling the citadels for help. It’s a dark world and there’s no obvious path to making it better. Aspects of the story reminded me of a more rural take on Yukito Kishiro’s Battle Angel Alita. Of course, our title character is Vesper, and like a twilight prayer, she might hold hope for a better future. Overall, this was a great film to lure me back out to the theater. You can learn more about the movie and find places to stream it at: https://www.vespermovie.com/

In general, I’m delighted to see that the Mesilla Valley Film Society is still operating and showing great films. If the theater’s 1905 owner, Albert Fountain Jr. sounds familiar to my readers, he should. His father, Albert Jennings Fountain appears as a character in my novel The Brazen Shark, where he serves as defense attorney to Billy McCarty and Luther Duncan. Also, Albert Fountain and his son Henry are the title characters in my story “Fountains of Blood” which appears in the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone. As always, you can learn more about my writing by visiting http://www.davidleesummers.com

TusCon 49

This coming weekend, from November 11-13, I’ll be at TusCon in Tucson, Arizona. It’ll be held at the Tucson Sheraton Hotel and Suites. The author guest of honor is Mary Fan. She’s the author of several science fiction and fantasy novels and stories, including Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon, Starswept, and Artificial Absolutes. She is also the co-editor of the Brave New Girls anthology series. The artist guest of honor is Alan M. Clark, who has illustrated the writing of such authors as Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Joe R. Lansdale, Stephen King, George Orwell, Manly Wade Wellman, and Greg Bear. His awards include the World Fantasy Award, four Chesley Awards, the Deathrealm Award, and the International Horror Guild Critic’s Award for Best Artist. Weston Ochse returns as TusCon’s toastmaster. The American Library Association calls him “one of the major horror authors of the 21st Century.” His work has won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won four New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. You can get all the details at: https://www.tusconscificon.com

I’ll be on the following panels at TusCon 49:

Saturday, November 12

10am – Panel Room 1 – Should Art be Triggering. You can’t change the world without disturbing people. But some kinds of disturbing people is just being mean. Where is the line between making art and being a jerk? On the panel with me are Chaz Kemp, Earl H Billick, Mona Ventress, T.M. Williams, Patrick Hare, and Tamsin L. Silver

2pm – Autograph Area – Autographing. I’ll be in the autograph area from 2pm to 3pm in case you’ve had a busy convention and haven’t been able to make it into the dealer’s room.

Sunday, November 13

2pm – Ballroom – Using the Past to Inform the Future: Writing Fresh Fiction from Existing Source Material. Art is innately additive, especially in our “property” oriented world. How do you reinvent rather than recycle. On the panel with me are Weston Ochse, Patrick Hare, John Hornor Jacobs, and Tamsin L Silver


Of course when I’m not on a panel, you can find me in the dealer’s room at the Hadrosaur Productions table. Also in the dealer’s room will be such vendors as author Adam Gaffen along with Chaz Kemp and Tamsin L. Silver, who share panels with me. So make sure to make time to come into the dealer’s room to find some great books, toys, art, and more!