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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Are the Events That Inspired ‘Stranger Things’ Copyrighted?

An alien stands inside a bio tank of fluid.

I saw Ready Player One last Sunday and it was a real trip! I know, I said I would have a review of it for you this week, but I decided to postpone it because I felt that something else was more important. It’s concerning the infringement lawsuit filed against the Duffer brothers, creators of the Netflix series Stranger Things.

Filmmaker Charlie Kessler filed a lawsuit against the Duffer brothers claiming that they stole his idea for his short film, “The Montauk Project”, to make Stranger Things. But the Duffers’ lawyer said the brothers never saw Kessler’s film or talked about any projects with him. There are some similarities between it and Stranger Things. Stranger Things is centered around a teenage boy who goes missing in connection with a military laboratory, the top secret experiments performed there and strange phenomenal activity. In “The Montauk Project”, according to the Los Angeles Times, a boy also goes missing after he approaches a closed-down military base that a mysterious force leads him to.

However, neither Kessler’s movie or the Duffers’ series initiated the idea for their stories. Variety reports that the events in both projects come from real-life claims of mysterious activity involving a government facility in Montauk, New York. So is Kessler trying to claim ownership on other people’s claims and alleged experiences? Unless the specific events in both stories are depicted similarly using similar characters, there isn’t much of a case.

I’ll review Ready Player One in the next post. In the mean time, do you think Kessler will have enough evidence to sue the Duffer Brothers?

Until next time . . .

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Book-To-Movie: “The House With a Clock In Its Walls”

An open book, a skull, clock and beaker of foggy liquid.

In this age of Harry Potter, when the YA novel rules, especially in the fantasy and sci fi genres, and when Hollywood exploits the opportunity to adapt it, it should be no surprise that another movie based on a young readers’ book will be coming to theatres soon. This one is called The House With a Clock In Its Walls. The book, by John Bellairs, was published in 1973. However, not until now has a full-length feature film been in the works. The thing that came closest to a movie version of this, unfortunately, little-known novel was a short film which was actually a segment of a late ‘70s made-for-TV Halloween special, Once Upon a Midnight Scary, hosted by Vincent Price. But the book has too much in it to tell the full story in only a less-than-half-hour segment of a one-hour TV special. So it will be very interesting to see how this movie plays out the whole story. Also, there will be plenty of room for more magic and monsters than the TV special could have possibly shown.

The story to House With a Clock: 10-year old Lewis goes to live with his wizard uncle, Johnathon, whose next-door neighbor and lady friend, Ms. Zimmerman, is a witch. Lewis soon discovers that his uncle’s house has a continuously ticking clock hidden in one of the walls. But the loud ticking is the least of the problems with this clock—the clock has been set by an evil force to bring a deadly fate.

I can hardly wait for this movie to release but actually prefer to since, as with the book, there’s a Halloween theme to it. The movie is due for release on September 21st, according to the Internet MovieDatabase (IMDB), just before the season begins and so is near-perfect timing. I just hope it does as well as the trailer makes it look so it can stay in theatres through October.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls Trailer

The House With a Clock In Its Walls is directed by Eli Roth, screen-written by Eric Kripke and stars Jack Black as Uncle Johnathan, Cate Blanchett as Mrs. Zimmerman and Owen Vaccaro as Lewis.

I’m planning to see Ready Player One tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll have a review for you here next week!

Until then . . .

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Alien Easter Eggs, New Life and New Stories

Three aliens standing on a beach and two flying saucers and an egg shaped planet in the background.

One of the funniest Easter moments was when I was six and painted an egg to look like the title character of the movie, Phantom of the Paradise (the ‘70s rock version of Phantom of the Opera). When my family had the Easter egg hunt for us, a cousin of mine, who seemed to always find the most eggs out of all us kids, found the egg I painted. I got mad at her because I wanted to find it first, so I yanked at her basket and shouted, “Give me that! That’s mine! That’s my ‘Phantom’ egg!” My parents stopped me from snagging it, though, thank God! That egg must’ve been my first geeky Easter egg before I even new what a nerd or geek. Unfortunately, no one took a picture of it so I can’t show it to you. But one of the sci fi “Easter Egg” articles in the list I’ve provided below has a photo gallery of some very groovy and geeky eggs!

The egg in both Christian and Pagan cultures has traditionally represented new life. But, in a way, it’s beginning to represent new movies, at least in the term “Easter egg”. The two newest sci fi flicks, Pacific Rim: Uprising and Ready Player One, contain plenty of hidden references and cameos, both known as “Easter eggs”, which are the subjects of the other two articles listed.

A cartoon of a one-eyed, egg-shaped alien head with the narrow end on top.

A List of Geekster Egg Articles

Ready PlayerOne: The Complete Easter Egg Guide” by Andrew Dyce, I haven’t seen the movie yet nor read the book by Earnest Cline. I’ll be sure to see the former, but I’m not sure about reading the latter since it’s over 500 pages and I normally don’t have the attention span for a novel that runs that many pages or more. But if the movie really impresses me (which, based on the trailers I’ve seen and what I’ve read about it, it’s already doing that) I may just tough out the long read. The fascinating thing about this movie is not just the other-worldliness of the VR world called the Oasis, but the big number of Easter eggs it contains. According to this article at Screen Rant, that number is more than 100! Screen Rant even mentions the possibility that the number “could rise into the thousands” since they admit they may not have counted all the eggs. With a possible 100+ number, it makes a person think this movie is perhaps the first blockbuster mashup. So this guide was a clever idea.

9 Easter EggsIn Pacific Rim Uprising” by Blair Marnell, When I started writing this post earlier this afternoon, I didn’t dare read this article because it’s full of spoilers and I hadn’t seen the movie yet. Now that I just got back from seeing the movie I was able to read the article without a problem. And the flick was a way better than most critics have been saying it is. But I have to admit that I didn’t find any Easter eggs in it but that was probably due to me and not the Nerdist’s article. First of all, it’s been several years since I’ve seen the first movie. Second of all, I’m not as robotics nerdy as I thought I was, as much as I love robots. If you haven’t seen the sequel yet, then you may want to wait and then compare what you’ve seen to what the article lists, and not just to make the egg hunt more fun.

12 Sets ofSci-Fi-Themed Eggs That’ll Make Your Easter A Geeky One” by Carol Penchefsky, The above two articles talk about figurative Easter eggs in movies. This article talks about literal Easter eggs that depict characters from movies! And from TV shows and comic books! This is the article that features a photo gallery of these eggs. Many of these are so beautifully painted and creative that you wouldn’t want to eat them, especially the Alien egg (which you probably wouldn’t want to eat to begin with if you’ve seen any of the movies).

New Life, New Story

If Easter eggs represent new life and even new movies in certain cases, maybe they can represent new fiction? I’ve been working on a new short story this past week that I’ve been struggling to find an ending to. And so my goal is to find that ending tonight which I think I already have, I just have to write it out. I won’t go into the details of the story yet but I’ll tell you this much: It’s a retelling of an Edgar Allen Poe story.

So, what’s the strangest or nerdiest Easter egg, literal or reference in a movie, you’ve seen?

Happy Geekster and until next time . . . !

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Do Authors Read Their Own Published Work?

Of course authors have to read their own work in order to revise it. But do they read their own work after it’s been published? To put it another way, do they become one of their readers? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. However, I’m one that doesn’t. I may have only read one of my published stories once and that was probably the first fiction work I published. It’s entitled “Strange Phenomena” which now appears in my short fiction collection, The Fool’s Illusion. Before that, I published it in an anthology of myth themed stories and poems, called Leafkin, Volume 2, which is unfortunately out of print. If I read it in that anthology, if I’m remembering correctly, that’s because I wanted to see how it read in its published format. Since then, I haven’t had time to read my own work post-publication.

In my experience, by the time your story gets published you know it too well to where you don’t want to read it anymore. After the numerous revisions you’ve gone through on a single story, you want to just move on to writing the next one. You nearly know the characters by heart; you are tired of reading their verbal and gestural responses to each other and to situations to the point where they sound phony after you’ve done so much just to make it sound the opposite. Not to mention, you notice all the story’s shortcomings (the few that may had been left behind in the revision process). While this may be a good thing so you can avoid those mistakes when writing your next story, noting them is what book critics, both pro and consumer (such as Amazon customer reviewers) are for.

I was reading a New York Times article the other day that interviewed Steven Spielberg, director of the upcoming film, Ready Player One. He says in the article that he never watches his films after they’ve been made, regardless of their level of success. He says he’s too busy to “look back a lot” and so simply moves on to making the next movie. It’s very true that we should learn from our mistakes and let our successes encourage us to not only move on to attempting more successes but to even better ones. So an author should remember the mistakes of past stories to avoid them in future ones but not put him or herself down over them. When they do that they only set themselves up for failure the next time around and so discouragement from writing more stories.

I’ve had a lot of stories fail and so were never published. When I look back, I think to myself that if I were an editor I probably would toss them in the garbage by the third sentence of each. There have been times when I’ve resented them so much that I wanted to burn them. But my poorest, most rotten of writing is what got me to better writing today. In a certain sense, an author has to fail to succeed. So if one story or book you wrote does bad as reflected in critics’ comments, or low sales, whatever, you simply learn what you did wrong and then go on to the next story or book and make it better.

It may help some authors to read their work after it’s been published so they can do better in their next writing project. But, whatever an author does, the most important thing is to write the next story. It’s the only way you will get better at writing stories, by continuing to write them.

Fellow authors, do you read your stories after they’ve been published? Readers, do you know whether any of your favourite authors do this? If so, which ones?

Until next time . . .

A four-eyed alien humanoid grins while a man walks from a landed rocket.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, March 17, 2018

What Can Writers Do When Science Fact Catches Up With Science Fiction?

A bust of the robot, Maria, from the film "Metropolis".
The robot, Maria, from the 1927 silent film "Metropolis".

I apologise for missing a month’s worth of posts. Some unexpected events occurred within the last several weeks. One of these was a cold that put me out for a week. All of this put a hiatus on my writing projects and even on my creative energy. With the exception of journal writing and typing up some manuscripts, I wasn’t writing a lot and just didn’t feel up to it. In fact, there were a couple points where I thought, what use is it? But writing, especially science fiction and horror, is basically an inborn inclination for me and so sooner or later it sparks up again.

One of the other things, however, that has made me question my writing is the outdating of science fiction. I’m not just talking about the outdatedness of sci fi from 30 to 70 years ago; I’m not simply talking about stories from the 1930s through ‘50s of tin can robots or rockets traveling to nearby planets. I’m talking about science fiction that has been written less than 20 years ago and is already, seemingly at least, outdated. 

The outdating of sci fi is happening with cyberpunk that became popular in the ‘90s through early 2001s. Even though cyberpunk started with mostly William Gibson’s stories in the ‘80s which was more than 20 years ago, much of the sci fi literature would be directly influenced by his work for the next couple decades. In less than two weeks (March 29th), a cyberpunk movie about virtual reality (VR) will be releasing in theatres, Ready Player One, based on Earnest Cline’s ‘80s novel of the same name, at the same time VR continues to go mainstream! So what was unimaginable in our reality several years ago no longer is. As a relatively new cliché goes, the future is now, and, as I interpret it, the “future” is no longer that—the future. Interestingly, even dystopian science fiction has become outdated. We’re already in a Big Brother world at a level of technology that goes beyond Orwell’s 1984, even though it’s not absolutely fascist quite yet (God, forbid it ever be!).

Science fiction and science fact are running neck and neck in the race for science itself. Lately, writers have been struggling with this. They’re asking each other how they can continue writing in the genre when science fiction is becoming reality especially when it comes to dystopian society. I mean, the rise of the internet and the smart device has threatened us with the disappearance of privacy and the twisting of perceived reality. Photoshop is allowing for this twisting of facts and the creation of “evidence” to support fake news. Our nation’s president is denying scientific facts! These are elements of a dystopian society. The future is no longer the future, it’s the present.

So what do we do to continue creating sci fi in a world that’s more than ever rapidly advancing in science and technology? We keep writing stories. That’s what several speculative fiction authors at a writers conference sea cruise earlier in the year basically conveyed, according to an article at entitled “’The World’s On Fire’ . . .”  Although the author’s article doesn’t quite specify what “on fire is”, overall she talks about how she and other sci fi authors deal with staying creative and continuing to write in a world that has already gone dystopic. One good thing about arriving at dystopia, is, as an author that the article refers to says, it forces optimism in science fiction writing. Optimism is something we can definitely use in today’s screwed up world.

Also, when you think about it, we’ll never really run out of ideas for stories. The universe is much more infinite than a lot of people think and there will always be new scientific phenomena to discover and new speculations of our universe and ever advancing technology. There’s always room for advancement, and advancement in science and technology is often speculated before it occurs. Even when it does occur, it takes a while before the world sees its impact on society and that gives us plenty to speculate on. For example, about a week ago I was watching an episode of the Netflix anthology series, Black Mirror. It was about an online service that reconstructs dead people’s personas to make it seem like they’re communicating with their survived loved ones over the internet. The service does this by assembling online conversations of the deceased person from when they were living. With people now able to have conversations with AI online (as rusty and limited as the AI’s responses may be), we are really not that far from that sort of thing. It can probably already be done even if it hasn’t been yet. 

Still, what was so speculative about that episode wasn’t so much the technology itself as people’s reactions to the technology. So even if the technology or science has been discovered, the question still waits to be answered, that question being, how will society react to the science or technology once it is put to use and goes mainstream? Therefore part of the science fiction is not just the physical scientific or technological aspect but also the social scientific one.

As long as there’s creativity and science, there will always be science fiction. In order to continue making stories in the genre, we authors must continue to write and read as well. We must read not just other speculative fiction authors’ work but information about the latest scientific advances in the world. We can always take the advancement one step further, if not in actuality then at least in words. In fact, as writers, our job is words and not so much the things they represent, isn’t it?

Until next time. . .

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Science Fiction and Afrofuturism

A group of pyramids on a sandy landscape and a star-filled sky.

This weekend saw the release of the Black Panther movie which I plan to see Monday (since that’s a holiday). That is, if I can find a copy of the 1970 issue, number 74, of Avengers that co-stars the African super hero and read it by tomorrow. I just finished reading the previous issue that I purchased a couple of weeks ago not knowing it was going to be a two-parter. I don’t like to simultaneously watch a movie and read a book (including comic book) involving the same character since doing so causes me to confuse the storylines. But the movie, Black Panther, is perfect timing—February is Black History Month. It’s great to see more science fiction stories featuring black characters, since the genre has traditionally been very white.

There are a lot of great African-American sci fi and fantasy writers and not just in recent times. There are ones going as far back as, believe it or not, the beginning of the 20th century with W.E.B. DuBois. Yes, he wrote some science fiction! The movement known as Afrofuturism is bringing to light these writers as well as new ones. If this term, “Afrofuturism”, is new to you, here’s how I define it in this excerpt from a 2014 post:

Afrofuturism: I found out about this African science fiction movement when I was looking at the website for a British convention called Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder . . . . The con is featuring an event there called “Inside Afrofuturism” which is a conference of African science fiction writers, directors and other artists. Afrofuturism is a movement by black people exploring and expressing their race and heritage through science fiction and fantasy in all mediums. Even though this term is unheard of by most people, the movement has really been going on since the 1960s with Samuel Delany’s work and Jazz/funk musician Sun Ra’s who actually did a movie in the early ‘70s that I saw a clip of and seems really neat; it’s called Space is the Place. What I feel is so great about finding out about this literary and art movement is that it shows that science fiction and fantasy is not really the all-white genre that it’s been made to seem. . . .

Here are some more links that discuss Afrofuturism:

“What Is Afrofuturism?” (From 

This is another earlier post here at the Fantastic Site where I compare Martin Luther King’s vision of a nation of equality to the visions of science fiction writers, particularly the optimistic visions meant to benefit all people. But at the end of the post is another list of links to articles about Afrofuturism that you will find very informing and interesting. This list even includes an article about the Black Panther’s utopic, high-tech home country of Wakanda.

Even though the term “Afrofuturism” is not used in this article, I believe the topic discussed is a very big part of the movement since much cosplay involves science fiction and fantasy characters and character creation. The writer, Talynn Kel, gives a really good discussion about how some African-American science fiction/fantasy fans identify with their love of the genre through costume design. It’s a very lengthy article (which I haven’t even finished reading yet) but perhaps rightfully so since it gives in-depth information into how black cosplayers identify with speculative fiction characters and depict them according to their own culture through costuming.

Next time, I plan to have for you a mini film review of It, which I just saw on DVD a couple nights ago and thought was supernaturally super! If I see the Black Panther movie before then, maybe I’ll give a mini review of that as well.

Until then . . .

Saturday, February 10, 2018

8 Sci fi and Fantasy Chillers for Winter Reading

A giant ogre with an axe, a giant serpent and an alien in an arctic landscape.

We finally have the winter weather back, since for the last week here in Sacramento we’ve been getting a pre-mature spring. Extreme sunlight in the winter always seems to throw me off balance. I almost thought I was going to have to start sleeping days for a while there! While most people seem to hate the winter because of the gray skies and the cold weather, I love it. Anything other than those here in Nor Cal is a damned sign of global warming which always scares me. But now that we have the clouds and blustering wind back, I’m in the mood for the Winter Games which I started watching last night. And I’m also in the mood for some Nuclear Winter Names of stories that are set in winter or arctic settings! These settings add to the chills of the plots. So I came up with a list of eight of, what I think are, the best horror and sci fi stories set in those environments. And in no way is it an exhausted list; these are just ones that I’ve read and liked so far.

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley: This novel, that’s 200th birthday was last month, takes place in the Arctic both at the beginning and end of the novel and throughout in between. It adds to the isolated creepiness of both the monster and his maker.

Who Goes There?, John Campbell: This is the novella that inspired The Thing movies in which both book and movies are set in the North Pole. The novella beats both film adaptations together, though I love the first one (as much as the monster almost resembles nothing of the one in Campbell’s story).

MS. Found In a Bottle”, Edgar Allen Poe: The protagonist gets stuck on a ship heading for the Pole and the story involves a terrifying maelstrom.

A Descent Into the Maelstrom”, Edgar Allen Poe: The protagonist in this story ends up in an arctic whirlpool and sees strange occurrences.

At the Mountains of Madness, H. P. Lovecraft: An expedition discovers a frozen, ancient alien city in the Arctic and a terrifying (or are they?) race of creatures.

The Shining, Stephen King: One of King’s greatest novels that was adapted into Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film and then later a mini-series on the SyFy Channel. The second adaptation didn’t do justice to the first (far from it) nor to the book. But all three (book, movie and mini series) are set in in a haunted hotel in the snow-stormed Colorado Rockies. The protagonist is the resort’s newly hired caretaker in which to his surprise (in the movie at least) is not open for the skiing season. The management says it’s due to budget problems. However, we learn that the problems are no where near as mundane as that.

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”, Harlan Ellison: This short story is about the last five survivors on Earth during a, post-apocalyptic winter. They must put up with the dangerous, god-like computer that killed the rest of world’s people.

The Left Handof Darkness, Ursula Le Guin: The late Le Guin deals with transgendre aliens (aliens to the Earth descended protagonist that is, who’s probably just as alien to them), who live on an arctic planet. Sounds a little like Hoth in the Empire Strikes Back, doesn’t it? But this book was way before that movie.

As I said, in no way is the above list exhausted. So, help yours truly make it bigger by letting me know in the box below what your favourite winter or arctic sci fi or horror story is. And so, let the Nuclear Winter Names continue!

Until next time . . .