Category Archives: Science Fiction

Will “Johnny B. Goode” Save Planet Earth?

As we mourn Chuck Berry’s passing, it’s important to remember that without him, what we now know as rock n’ roll would have died in its infancy. Without him, the Beatles wouldn’t have become inspired, the Rolling Stones never would have met, and the Beach Boys would be minus a complete template into which they plugged “Surfin’ USA.” He’s the thread that connects them all. They (and probably a hundred other bands we never heard of) played his songs, learned his style, borrowed (stole) his licks, then passed those guitar riffs down to punk. There’s as much Chuck Berry in a Ramones song as there was in the British Invasion. His work courses through space, beyond our own solar system, aboard the Voyager space probe. If we’re lucky, as SNL suggested years ago, we may one day be viewed more kindly by some alien race for they having stumbled upon that now-archaic golden LP and its copy of “Johnny B. Goode.”

Based on the current state of the world – and particularly the United States – that single song might be all that saves us.

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Power Pop Wednesday: A Machine Just Released a Manufactured ‘Beatles’ Song

Like most Beatles fans, there was a time when we hoped the band would somehow reunite for just one last show. That hope took a nosedive first with the shooting death of John Lennon, then George Harrison’s death from cancer.

Along the way, we got a few tidbits, including a new song by the surviving members (Harrison, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney) remixed with archival recordings of John Lennon for a best-of collection back in the 1990s. Honestly, that was just a little creepy – basically the three survivors discovering ghost tracks on an old reel, writing a little music around it and deciding to send it out into the world anyway.

Granted, Paul in concert does a pretty good job of echoing the Beatles experience (at least the parts of it on which he sang lead), and he’s even teamed up with Ringo for TV performances here and there. Still, the experience of having the lads back together is one we’ll now have to just imagine. Continue reading

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Returning from That Summer Place

It’s almost back to school time here in southeastern Pennsylvania, which means the kids will be terminating their summer brain dumps, rushing to catch up on assigned reading and trying to remember how to convert improper fractions to mixed numbers. That usually means time for the grownups to start getting their acts together, too.

I admit that I’ve slacked off this summer in a few areas – writing every day being one of the biggest. But where spring has always been the traditional time of renewal for nature, back to school time is, for kids and adults, typically the start of something fresh. It’s an opportunity to establish new routines and actually stick to them because so many other scheduled events depend on things running smoothly.

Yeah, this summer my word count for Novel #2 has fallen off, but I’ve also gotten the chance to do some things that will help make that book better even though I’ve spent a few weeks not actively banging away at it. One of those weeks was spent at our family’s own summer place, this one deviating from past years by switching the Outer Banks of North Carolina for Folly Beach, S.C.

New places equal new inspiration, so in lots of respects it was a worthwhile trip. I’m hoping it ends up as a salable travel story for the freelance writing side of my work, and there are always little details I can pick up from somewhere new to add into a story. Plus, as someone who sets his books in South Carolina but is based full time in Pennsylvania, it’s good to get back once in a while and get in touch with the people you’re writing about.

It’s also been good to go down some roads in my own reading that I don’t often travel. I tilted more toward the fantasy side of things with Fran Wilde’s Updraft and delved into the world of the Mafia – particularly as it relates to Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del. – in Charles Brandt’s I Heard You Paint Houses (look for an upcoming story on Charles and the forthcoming film version of his book in September’s Out & About magazine).

Novel #2 includes more of a criminal enterprise subplot, so it was great to read Brandt’s book and get a window into mob life beyond that provided in the Mafia film pantheon of The Godfather, Goodfellas, etc. And it’s always interesting to see what styles other writers adapt. Wilde’s is lean and tight, which keeps her sprawling, world-building tale to a reasonable and accessible length. While I’m not creating new universes out of whole cloth this time around, I’m trying to keep things leaner myself, so reading other writers who can do so is a bit like taking a master class in how it’s done.

So, here’s to parlaying my non-writing experiences and unassigned summer reading into some good, solid work on Novel #2 once everyone in the house gets back to their school year schedules. It might not be lounging on the beach or by the pool, but there will be plenty of that again next year.

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David Bowie: A Cosmic Inspiration

Bowie

So we learned today that David Bowie left us for some transcendental plane. Whether you believe in heaven or not, it’s comforting for me to think that the creative consciousness of this remarkable spirit has burst out into the cosmos and is somehow lingering among us.

Along with all the other fine tributes from folks far more talented than I – Neil Gaiman and Peter Gabriel among them – I have to step in to offer my own small account of how this artist affected me. Continue reading

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Here’s to a Surreal Start to Your Week

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Time and space are funny things. I know this sounds like a Dr. Who quote, but stay with me.

For example, It never seems to take as long returning from a distant destination than it does getting there in the first place. Get head down in work you love and it almost seems you can accomplish superhuman feats of productivity with baffling speed. Then again, pause to check Facebook for 10 minutes and you might find you’ve frittered away an hour without realizing it. Colors and perspective inside buildings can make rooms seem far larger or smaller than they actually are. Continue reading

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My Rhode Island Geek Brothers and Sisters, You Have Failed PR 101

First off, I’d like to go on record as saying that I was a big ol’ geek long before I was a journalist, and I have the well-worn science fiction paperbacks, 1980s vintage D&D dice and former subscription to Starlog magazine to prove it.

But I sit here, at 46, as both (geek by birth, professional journalist since the age of 21), and from that somewhat odd point of view, I have to shake my head at the folks from Rhode Island Comic Con organization. Not only have you failed to understand what media coverage is all about, but you’ve also come off as little more that what those who mock you would cast you as: big crybabies.

Why the hubbub? It seems the people in charge of setting RICC’s press coverage policy forgot a couple of things. For instance, that we live in the United States of America, where a free and open exchange of ideas is held sacred, and a relatively unregulated press is part of that. They decided that as part of their press credential application, media organizations would have to promise to avoid “insulting or disrespectful comments and giving a bad image of the show.” As a result, the Rhode Island Press Association (indicated by the tweet above) has chosen not to cover the event rather than sign such an agreement. Continue reading

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Funky Friday: Finding the Funk in Surprising Places

Anyone who’s spent more than 10 minutes reading past posts from this blog know that I’m a fan of fusion – both literary and musical. Some of the best examples of both come when someone known for one genre or style tries something new, or just decides to incorporate elements of the “other” into their own work.

Musically, Prince is one of my favorite examples, since his funk credentials are extensive, but the Little Purple One also has an incredible talent for penning an infectious pop song when he feels the urge. Continue reading

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Because It’s Monday, Classic ‘Star Trek’ Characters Rendered in Pixar Style

It’s hard to recall that there was ever anything wrong with Pixar, but anyone who watched the short subject Tin Toy, which preceded the release of Toy Story by seven years, knows that the studio’s animators had a LONG way to go with figuring out how to render the faces of anything other than children’s playthings. Honestly, the hyper-realistic baby from that brief bit of animation way back in 1988 still kinda creeps me out, and if I had viewed this first at a much younger age I’m sure the negative effects would still be rattling around in my subconscious. Continue reading

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