Friday, June 22, 2007

Collagen Lips, Man Into Space, SF Conventions, and Two Universes

Rise of the Silver Surfer, No Galactus, and Very Big Lips

Privyet Kosmonati,

Captain Kosmos enjoyed a great Father's Day celebration with his 23-year-old daughter, Holly and 5-year-old son, Ronnie. We headed to the local cineplex to see The Fantastic Four – Rise of the Silver Surfer. Yes, the film is an improvement over the first one, and the computer-generated special effects are above-average for this type of movie. The scene of confrontation between Victor Von Doom and the Silver Surfer is particularly impressive.

During the scene where Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) is speaking with Ben Grimm's blind girlfriend, Alicia (Kerry Washington), the two gals' collagen-pumped lips were, well, quite obvious, causing one wag in the audience to yell out "CATFISH!" Why such beautiful girls pay Hollywood plastic surgeons to inject their lips to the point of deformation, I don't understand. Do they really think that 3-centimeter-thick upper lips are attractive? I can only guess it's somewhat like the Michael Jackson syndrome.

As a kid I had read the original Silver Surfer introduction in Fantastic Four comics, issues 48 through 50, the "Galactus Trilogy," drawn by Jack Kirby, perhaps the greatest comic book artist of all time. Maybe it's because of my familiarity with the original story that I was so disappointed by the film's finale. The Silver Surfer's cosmic boss and one of Marvel's most charismatic bad guys, Galactus, is never shown! Instead we see a maelstrom of space rocks, dust, and a bit of flame that looks like a lousy outtake from Twister! Ben Grimm, The Thing character, gets short shrift in the story, too. I was hoping he'd at least get to land a punch or two on the Surfer, but it didn't happen. They say Hollywood never gets it right when they adapt classic comic characters to the silver screen, and, unfortunately, Rise of the Silver Surfer is no exception. It gets a Bad Borscht Award from Captain Kosmos for its let-down ending.

Disney's Man Into Space

Another treasured comic book that helped to steer Captain Kosmos to the stars was Dell's Man Into Space, adapted from the 1957 Walt Disney's Disneyland TV shows. Though I was too young to have seen the original programs, the comic book was one of my favorites, particularly the flight-around-the-moon segment featuring the RM-1 Lunar Recon Vehicle. Disney released a limited-edition of the Man Into Space programs in its Walt Disney Treasures - Tomorrowland: Disney in Space and Beyond DVD set. Watch it will you can, here is a embed of my second-favorite part of the series, Mars and Beyond. Alas, this was the future that I was hoping for!

SF Conventions:
ConGlomeration 2007 and Context 20

Captain Kosmos had a great time at the DucKon SF convention. Getting to meet great writers like Alan Dean Foster and Roland Green is a rare and memorable treat. I'll be guiding my Soyuz-TMA spacecraft to the upcoming ConGlomeration 2007 (August 10-12, Louisville, Kentucky) and Context 20 (September 28-30, Columbus, Ohio) conventions. ConGlomeration's Author Guest of Honors will be Ben Bova and Allen Steele; the Artist Guest of Honor will be Daniel Dos Santos. VIPs attending Context 20 will be authors Tim Powers, Mike Resnick, special guest Juanita Coulson and more. Though my first volume of Kosmosflot fiction probably won't be available by those dates, I may get to distribute some (free!) Kosmosflot-related materials at the cons. If you've never experienced a SF convention, they can be fun, informative, tiring, and even sometimes shocking, depending on where you wander. I used to be a regular at the Indianapolis InConjunction con some years ago, but stopped going because of the lewd, not-appropriate-for-families-with-kids behavior of some of the participants. I'm very pleased that the organizers of DucKon, ConGlomeration, and Context recognize the importance of making these events family friendly. After all, children are the future readers and fans of SF books and films. There should be a place for them at the conventions, too.

Writing and the Kosmosflot Universe

I have submitted two new Kosmosflot flash fictions to, and am halfway through a short story draft, entitled Caterwaul. The tale takes place on the homeworld of the Tsoor, one of my favorite jellyfish-like alien races who play some major roles in the Kosmosflot universe. What's a Tsoor to do when a small, uninvited visitor from Earth manages to scamper out of a starship's luggage compartment and into their planet's major aerospace port? Can a Tsoor even pronounce the name "Fluffy"? We shall see …

Alan Dean Foster's Founding of the Commonwealth Trilogy

Even though I should be dedicating all my spare time to writing, it is, after all, summertime, and even a cosmonaut like Captain Kosmos is allowed some R&R summer books to read. After being inspired by Alan Dean Foster at the DucKon SF convention, I obtained copies of his Founding of the Commonwealth trilogy, and am greatly enjoying them. Foster is a master writer, and I've become hooked on his Humanx Universe. Here's my summer reading list, in order:

Phylogenesis (1999), ISBN 0-345-41862-X
In the years after first contact, humans and the intelligent insect like Thranx agree to a tentative sharing of ideas and cultures despite the ingrained repulsion they have yet to overcome. Thus, a slow, lengthy process of limited contact begins. Yet they never plan for a chance meeting between a misfit artist and a petty thief. Desvendapur is a talented Thranx poet who is bored with his life and needs new inspiration for his work. Venturing beyond the familiar, Desvendapur runs into Cheelo Montoya, a small–time criminal with big dreams of making a fast buck. Together they will embark upon a journey that will forever change their beliefs, their futures, and their worlds …

Dirge (2000), ISBN 0-345-41864-6
In the second half of the twenty–fourth century, diplomatic relations proceed cautiously between thranx and humans. But the insectlike beings are nearly forgotten with the sudden discovery of an ideal planet to colonize—Argus V—and the startling appearance of a new race of space–faring aliens. People are dazzled by the beautiful, glamorous Pitar. Then tragedy strikes. The entire human population on Argus V is brutally slaughtered. Not a single clue remains to identify the unseen executioners. But from a tiny inner moon of Argus V comes a faint signal. On that insignificant chunk of rubble lies the key to the crime—setting in motion a cataclysmic chain of events with deadly consequences for thranx, pitar, and human alike. For their worlds will be changed forever by a colossal battle that is their future and their destiny …

Diuturnity's Dawn (2002), ISBN 0-345-41865-4
From the beginning, while sharing the Orion Arm of the galaxy, contact between humankind and the thranx has been tenuous at best. Yet nearly a century after first contact, the likelihood of closer human/thranx relations is as far away as ever. Humans still find these insectlike beings physically repulsive, a distaste the thranx return in kind. At times the cordial veneer barely conceals the suspicion and distrust boiling just below the surface. Yet idealists on both sides refuse to surrender their dreams of achieving a thranx/human alliance. Among the most dedicated are a minor diplomat named Fanielle Anjou and her thranx counterpart. Others intend to make sure such a liaison never comes to pass... by any means necessary.

For these xenophobes, the upcoming Humanx Inter-Cultural Fair, the first wholly cross-species event, is a hideous confirmation of their worst fears. Zealots on both sides vow it will be the last of its kind, no matter how many must die. In the coming conflagration Fanielle holds the key to triumph but only if she can outwit those desperate to silence her forever. Meanwhile, on a faraway planet, the duplicitous AAnn watch intently as archaeologists labor to discover what happened to an advanced human race that perished thousands of years ago. For the answers contain grave consequences for human, thranx, and AAnn alike...

Until next time, D’os Vadanya.


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