The Cultural Gutter

taking trash seriously

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

Rambles

In which I take a rambling walk through some recent semi-connected pop culture items, starting with a videogame reboot that’s actually worth playing, moving on to nostalgia for a nostalgia-based movie, and ending with a look at child actors, in reality and in novel form.

Vampires, War, and Some Good Old 24-Style Torturing

Napoleon’s invasion of Russia was a gruesome historical tragedy; or, a colossal act of hubris that cost the lives of 400 000 soldiers. Sounds like the perfect milieu for a vampire feeding frenzy! Jasper Kent’s Twelve is an odd mix of historical novel, horror, and, of all things, a somewhat too close examination of torture.

Blindly Jumping In

I’ve been a bit out of steam on pop culture lately. On a whim, and maybe as a way to recapture how I used to discover books when I was a kid, I grabbed two books off the shelf at my local library, and jumped into them blind.

Working in the Groove

Among Others by Jo Walton just won the Nebula Award for best novel, and Seanan McGuire (in combination with her pseudonym Mira Grant) was just nominated for four Hugo awards in one year, a new record. I figured I should take a look at Walton’s book, along with something by Grant (I ended up reading […]

Opening the Lines of Communication

It’s a classic set-up: humans are exploring space and receive a mysterious signal. Time for first contact! A.C. Crispin takes this familiar idea and runs with it in StarBridge, a smart and fast-paced novel from a few years ago, now released as an ebook for the first time.

Author’s Cut, Courtesy of the Ebook Revolution

Recent fantasy novels seem to spend a lot of time describing their magic systems – who can use magic? how does it work? and at what cost to the magic user? C.J. Cherryh’s Rusalka is, in most senses, no exception to this, since these questions are answered quite clearly. That said, Cherryh’s answers have some […]

Revealed by the Twentieth Repetition

Or the thirtieth or the fortieth! What happens to your experience of a genre work, ordinarily somewhat disposable, when you read or watch or listen to it multiple times? Most of the time, your brain turns to mush, or you tune out altogether, or every little thing about it becomes an irritant. But what if […]

Watership Vortex

Some books just grab a hold of you and never let go. The subject matter could be almost anything, from a big fat fantasy to, say, building a cathedral. Or rabbits! On the short list of absolute classics, Watership Down by Richard Adams, a story of rabbit life in pastoral England, takes pride of place […]

Infectious Enthusiasm

Sci-fi author Rudy Rucker has been busy, with four books that have come out in the last year or so. I’ve just finished reading his autobiography, Nested Scrolls, and it’s hilarious, insightful, and just about as science-fictional as his novels. You really can’t go wrong with Rucker’s books.

Same Tools, Different Project

With killer robots, underground societies, international con artists (one a man, one a genetically engineered dog), and a very dangerous far future Moscow, what could possibly go wrong?

The Hyper-Advanced Weapon-like Entity on the Mantle

Foreshadowing is tough: too subtle and the author’s effort is wasted, too obvious and the readers will figure out the setup way too early. Patrick Lee’s The Breach is a master-class in taking the obvious setup and blasting your face off with the thing you thought you were expecting.

A Glorious Mess

I like a clean, focused narrative as much as the next person, but there’s an undeniable entertainment value in the messy and sprawling kind too. Science fiction has a long history of welcoming the second kind of book, and David’s Brin’s Earth, an ecology epic from 1990, is a fun example of this type.

Murder in the (Fantastical) Big City

Let’s smash some genres together! Today it’s urban fantasy meets the murder mystery, and, at first glance, it’s a meeting of true minds.

Worthwhile Canadian Trilogy

Two great scifi writers, Robert J. Sawyer and Robert Charles Wilson, just published concluding volumes in their respective trilogies. Other similarities: both are Canadian, both have won Hugos, and their latest books are quite intriguing.

Unsatisfactory

Call me an online oddity: I ran out of steam, years ago, on doing the whole harsh-criticism thing in my review work. For a couple of reasons, summarized as “enthused librarian who points elsewhere for sad talk.”

Future Self, Meet Past Self… Now Fight!

I just finished re-reading A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin’s first volume in his (currently very hot) fantasy series, and I quite enjoyed it. Looking back on my notes from my first read-through ten years ago, I was startled to discover that I found it ho-hum and/or offensive! What gives?

Ruled by the Subconscious

A confession: I’m having trouble making my way through Stephen King’s Under the Dome. I must also confess I’m a bit puzzled by this. I’m definitely a fan of King’s work. And from what I’ve read so far, this book sticks pretty closely to high points of his career. What gives?

See You Later (Scifi) Suckers!

Lately I’ve noticed a few examples of a trend: authors who got their start writing science fiction have switched to writing fantasy. Why might this be? Probably because it’s become a bigger market!  

Conquer the Galaxy and/or the Mysterious Mind

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An iconic character in the earliest pulp novels and the latest multiplex blockbusters: the heroic space explorer, striding manfully forward, saving the natives, grabbing the treasure and the babes, and so on. What’s going on inside his head?

The Hierarchy of Contempt, Reality TV Edition

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Since April is our wacky month, I decided to venture far afield, basically into the scariest minefield of cultural contempt that I can think of: reality TV.

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    The Internet Archive has archived Starlog, Heavy Metal and they have a collection of Warren Publishing magazines like Blazing Combat, Vampirella, Eerie and Teenage Love Stories.

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    The 1980 BBC Radio dramatization of “Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula; or, The Adventure of the Sanguinary Count” is now available on YouTube, which is nice since it is no longer available on the Internet Archive.

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    The “Stuff You Missed In History Class” podcast discusses the life of Bela Lugosi in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2.

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    Dangerous Minds has a gallery of  papier-mâché masks made by Krista Argale and a gallery of “demonic and dramatic” horned masks made by Aisha Voya. (Thanks, Kate!)

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    Stunt performer and coordinator Gary McLarty has died. McLarty performed stunts in many, many movies and tv shows including: Gone In Sixty Seconds (2000), Wyatt Earp (1994), Jurassic Park (1993), Last Action Hero (1993), Days of Thunder (1990), Lethal Weapon 2 (1989), Rambo III (1988), Maximum Overdrive (1986), Big Trouble in Little China (1986), To Live And Die In L.A. (1985),  The Terminator (1984), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1982), Blade Runner (1982), Blues Brothers (1980), Convoy (1978), Hooper (1978),  Smokey & The Bandit (1977), Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974), Beneath The Planet Of The Apes (1970), Hell’s Angels ’69 (1969) and The Wild Bunch (1969). Deadline has a report on McLarty’s death  and the death of his friend and fellow stuntman Bob Orrison. Hollywood Stuntman has a profile of McLarty. Here’s a clip of McLarty talking a bit about his work.

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    Stunt performer and coordinator Bob Orrison has died. Orrison performed stunts in many, many movies and tv shows including: Speed (1994), Universal Soldier (1992), Die Hard 2 (1990), Hooper (1978), The A-Team, The Dukes of Hazzard, Blues Brothers (1980), Smokey & The Bandit (1977), Three The Hard Way (1974), Star Trek and The Wild Bunch (1969). Deadline has a report on Bob Orrison’s death  and the death of his friend and fellow stuntman Gary McLarty.

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