Author Archive

Remembering Moonbase Alpha, Fifteen Years Later

On September 13, 1999, our dear Moon experienced a catastrophic nuclear explosion which hurled it out of orbit into deep space. It took with it the brave men and women of Moonbase Alpha. In the years that followed the Alphans encountered Joan Collins, Christoper Lee, Brian Blessed, and whip-wielding women in red catsuits.

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As epic terrors imperil the cosmos, Fred Kiesche, Jeff Patterson, and the newly cyberneticized John E. O. Stevens blaze across the heavens wielding wit, fortitude, and implausibly potent weapons of dubious origin to discuss the Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Hoarsemen share their opinions on the movie (SPOILER ALERT), then turn their attentions to the comics which spawned it. Fred wrestles with the convoluted continuity of Marvel’s cosmic playground, while life-long readers John and Jeff endure the dual threats of retcon and reboot. Why was the first iteration of Jason Quill such a jackass? Will we ever see Mantis on the big screen? And can anyone defeat Taserface!

As usual, the chaotic cosmic conversation concludes with the customary captivating chronicles of Culture Consumed. (Long-time Marvel fans, see what I did there?)

The celestial vastness awaits! Quickly! Before the spacetime continuum is torn asunder!

Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes.

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As John E. O. Stevens endures the recovery phase of his surgery, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson leave the comfort of their domains to traverse wild and unknown lands for the first meeting of the Three Hoarsemen in meatspace! The heavens tremble as they sit in the lobby of the rehabilitation facility to update listeners on culture consumed and plans for the future.

This update also acts a thinly veiled excuse to decant their new THEME SONG, provided by the esteemed John Anealio, clearly the more talented half of The Functional Nerds.
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As the blazing eye of summer fixates on the Northern Hemisphere, John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson call upon a special guest FROM THE FUTURE! From the wintry land of Australia, Locus Award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan rides over from Coode Street to discuss SFF anthology creation, “peak short story,” and the publishing environment for short fiction past, present, and future!

Also: Can you really can claim to have “nothing to read” given the several dozen sources of periodical fiction (and hundreds of anthologies) that we have access to these days? Unlike the Dawn of Time when the Hoarsemen were young and had to walk twelve miles, uphill, both ways, in the snow, to buy magazine fiction…

Finally, we once again attempt to separate money from your wallet with all of the titles that we’ve read since the last show. Comics! Books! Roleplaying games! Heavens, we’re even spreading it out to our families.

Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes

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Shaking their sullen heads at the fact that June marks the first anniversary of the Three Hoarsemen Podcast, John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson LAUGH at the cruel passage of time and ride out for another adventure. This time around they ask the intrepid Kate Sherrod to take a break from enduring the floods in Wyoming and saddle up with them for a discussion on the works of Octavia Butler.

After that, they give their thoughts on Andy Weir’s The Martian, and scrutinize the truly staggering number of books and comics that have passed their eyes since last they met.

Also, because it’s a cruel summer, the Hoarsemen remember Jay Lake, and discuss Sarah Chorn’s stunning (and heartbreaking) column about what is important when faced with cancer.

1 hr 24 Min. In STEREO!

Listen below…

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Venturing out of the soaking rain and bitter cold of March in which they spent more time hibernating than podcasting, John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson add a fourth saddle to their April episode. Paul Weimer, who has commented at every genre blog possible and who has appeared in more podcasts than you can listen to comfortably in one sitting, joins the Three Hoarsemen for this episode.

While hibernating, we spent much time reading, and now gather around the communal fire pit to discuss the works of the late Charles Sheffield, their reactions to Ann Leckie’s Nebula-nominated novel Ancillary Justice, as well as the bits and pieces of the genre that we consumed since last time.

Approx. 1 Hour 25 Minutes

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Kara Vallow has been a producer on Seth MacFarlane’s slate of animated shows such as Family Guy and American Dad, as well as Dilbert, Johnny Bravo, and Drawn Together. So when MacFarlane invited her to take charge of the animated segments for Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, she was uncertain if she could do justice to the material. The result was stunning narratives about historical figures such as Giordano Bruno, William Herschel, and Isaac Newton.

In this interview we discuss how her animation team developed the unique style for the segments, the lasting impact of Carl Sagan, working with Ann Druyan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, bringing the Flammarion woodcut to life, Isaac Asimov’s The Last Question, and the Family Guy Star Wars specials.

Running time: 41 minutes

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As Winter once again brings snowy doom of the East Coast, John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson huddle within a makeshift shelter made of long boxes to discuss the Science Fiction works of comic book writer Warren Ellis.

Since the 90s Ellis has been producing singularly recognizable work, including superhero titles for DC, Marvel, and Image. He has dabbled in horror, crime fiction, and dark comedy. But he has also written many standalone Science Fiction tales encompassing pulp, cyberpunk, space opera, and alternate history. Some are speculative ruminations on the future or technology, some are absurdist eye-candy, others are adventurous romps. His significant body of SF work delivers modern genre sensibilities to the sometimes myopic landscape of comics.

The Hoarsemen also discuss reading comics digitally, their opinions on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as what they have read recently. Be warned: This episode runs over 90 minutes!

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Rising from their nightmare-ridden winter slumber, John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson convene around the fire to discuss the works of Catherine Lucille Moore.

Moore penned the Northwest of Earth and Jirel of Joiry series, as well as many collaborations with husband Henry Kuttner, who first wrote her a fan letter thinking that “C.L. Moore” was a man. She propelled the still-fledgling genre of “sword and sorcery” into strange new territories full of horrors and wonders, building on the foundations laid by Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, and lighting the way for Vance, Brackett, Bradbury and Zelazny.

The Hoarsemen also discuss the fiction, non-fiction, dreary Russian movies (and their remakes), and comics they have consumed since the start of the year. Hold on to your wallets.

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The Three Hoarsemen: Holiday Gift Guide!

The dreaded Holiday season, with its attendant joys and anxieties, seems to fall upon us earlier with each advancing year. Once again we hear the fretful murmurs that Science Fiction and Fantasy fans are notoriously difficult to buy presents for.
Fear not, for the venerable John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson have compiled hefty lists of fiction, non-fiction, art, and other sundry morsels suitable as gifts (or wish list items). Behold treasures, from the sublime to obscure, fit to sate the desires of nerds, fans, and aficionados of the fantastic, as well as the more adventurous mundanes.
Also: a remembrance of Doris Lessing, Fred gives his report from HonorCon, and the gentlemen chime in on the culture they have been consuming. As an extra holiday treat, not all the culture consumed is genre related!

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The Three Hoarsemen Discuss NOVA by Samuel R. Delany

It is an allegorical tale of interstellar adventure, a quest that is part Moby Dick and part revolutionary act. It is about confluence, archetypes, obsession, seeking the future, and the creative process itself. It is the story that marked the transition from Delany’s more straightforward genre explorations to the maturation of his career when he returned to the field with Dhalgren. It is the book that critic Algis Budrys said “…right now, as of this book…not as of some future book or some accumulated body of work, [Delany] is the best science-fiction writer in the world, at a time when competition for that status is intense.”
In this installment of The Three Hoarsemen John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson discuss Nova by Samuel R. Delany, including their first encounter with the book, how subsequent readings have altered their views, and the continuing strength of the story after four and a half decades.

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As Summer is relegated to the vaults of imperfect memory, the occasionally venerable John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson pull their cloaks tight against the mounting Autumn chill. Listen as they gather around the flame, pass the jug and Ibuprofen, and speak of a road trip through the American South, LoneStarCon, revisiting reviews of old, reading with one’s daughter, the books that sustain them, and other mortal matters.

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The Three Hoarsemen Ride!

And so, having proven their mettle in the harsh environs of podcastery, John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson were cast out from the shelter of the venerable SF Signal Podcast, armed only with wit, canes, and beta blockers, to forge their own path. Here they discussed the utility and relevance of awards, the return of the dreaded online SF books list, how no reading plan survives contact with the enemy, and the culture they have recently consumed.

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And so it was that, during the brutal heatwave of July 2013, Fred Kiesche, John Stevens, and Jeff Patterson did re-convene to swelter and bemoan the state of things. Thrill as they endure cicadas and noisy fans! Listen to them discuss Readercon, the irrelevance of poorly-researched reviews, comic books, noir, specious definitions of the “canon,” and other sundry subjects. It’s like visiting three cranky uncles in a run down retirement home…

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In the long and storied history of the SF Signal Podcast, never had the powers-that-be deigned it safe to allow John H. Stevens, Fred Kiesche, and Jeff Patterson to appear on the same panel discussion. “It would be like crossing the streams,” they said. “Violent weather would sweep the land, and cicadas emerge from the depths!”

Ah, well…

In this inaugural episode of The Three Hoarsemen we discuss Iain M. Banks, how our book format preferences dictate our reading (and buying) habits, and recommend some books and stories we’ve recently enjoyed.
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Marvel has historically been the more grounded of the Big Two comic book companies. Its world (commonly called Earth 616) was, by original editorial fiat, our world. There were few fictional settings, with most of the action taking place in an NYC identical to ours save the Baxter Building and Avengers Mansion.

The extra abstraction layer in the Marvel world (as well as DC and other comic book universes) is that SF and fantasy tropes exist in almost equal measure, and in vast numbers. Aside from comic books, such a robust slathering of concepts from both SF and fantasy (not to mention a dollop of horror) is exceedingly rare. The mystic and the mechanical seldom intermingle on such a grand scale successfully. This is especially true in fictional universes that have well-established sandboxes. Miles Vorkosigan will never discover he’s destined to become the next High Mage. Westeros will never encounter a rogue berserker probe.
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COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Star Wars #1 by Brian Wood and Carlos D’Anda

REVIEW SUMMARY: The first issue of Dark Horse Comics latest Star Wars offering, returning to the characters from the original film.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Shortly after the battle at Yavin IV, both the rebellion and the empire struggle to recover from their losses and make headway in their campaigns. A rebel scouting party is ambushed, leading to the conclusion that something threatens the rebellion from within.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: An interesting glimpse at our heroes, and some great scenes communicating just what a galactic rebellion entails.
CONS: Uneven pacing, with a lot of soul-searching and catch-up information interrupting the narrative and sapping the story of momentum. By issue’s end the story has barely started. It fails to feel like a continuation of the movie.
BOTTOM LINE: An imperfect first issue showing hints of promise, but its too early to judge. Not quite up to the standards Dark Horse has maintained with the property.

Warning: spoilers ahead.
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In a recent Twitter exchange the subject of Banacek came up.

For those too young to remember, Banacek was an NBC series starring George Peppard as a suave Polish investigator assigned to uncover the mystery of objects and people that went missing under seemingly impossible circumstances. It struck me that you could not pitch a character like Banacek today; He was a womanizer (the first episode features the ever-yummy Anitra Ford serving him champagne while he watches TV), smoked cigars, and his job was to help insurance companies avoid paying claims. You might pitch it as a period piece, a la Mad Men, as a window to a less-enlightened time, but never as a modern show, at least not without significant modifications. It got me thinking about what SF/F TV characters would fail as new creations today.

To be clear, I do not mean reboots or reimaginings. I mean characters existing as they did when they were originally portrayed on TV, with their personality traits and behaviors intact, and pitching them in today’s social and political climate. We’ve come quite a distance from couples sleeping in separate beds, but there are things considered taboo today that were rampant on TV past.

Here are few that came to mind…
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Alas, Poor Yorick…

Last week brought us Christian Cardona’s excellent fan film based on the opening chapter of the comic book Y: The Last Man.

Y: The Last Man was a 60 issue comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra beginning in 2002. It starts with every male mammal on Earth dying horribly, all at once, and without explanation. All except two.

Yorick Brown is an aspiring escape artist with a Capuchin monkey named Ampersand. He’s in the middle of proposing to his girlfriend Beth over the phone (she’s in Australia) when the event happens. Yorick’s mother is a congresswoman, who now has an even more urgent interest in the well-being of her son. So under the protection of the lethal Agent 355, Yorick sets out to find cloning expert Dr. Alison Mann, who may be the world’s only hope. But all Yorick wants to do is get back together with Beth.

The series had a rather wide scope as it explored the misadventures of Yorick and his impact on the world at large. Some social-political realities of a unisex world were explored, such as the fact that majority of the surviving US lawmakers are Democrats, or that the only country with a functioning military is Israel. There are also a ninja, Cosmonauts stranded in orbit, religious fanatics and (in one memorable storyline) a dominatrix. Conspiracies and hidden agendas abound. Every character has a back-story rife with secrets. There were plotlines about what happens to male-dominated religions when the females remain true to their faith, how the transgendered adapt to cope with the new world, and what art might look like in a female-only society. It was a truly compelling series, with a unique set of characters and a staggering spectrum of motivations. Not exactly post-apocalyptic, and not exactly dystopian (depending on your definition of both), it was in turns heartbreaking, hilarious, thought-provoking, and terrifying.

And, I say again, it has a monkey.
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We’re a quarter of the way through 2012 and the Science Fiction/Fantasy comic book landscape has certainly changed since last year. While long-form mainstays like Fables, Elephantmen, Hellboy/BPRD, and Conan continue in peak form, there are a number of quality genre books out that do not require knowledge of baggage-laden continuities. There are also genuine SF titles coming into their own, and some well-handled licensed properties currently gracing the comics racks.

Last year saw the incredibly talented Nate Simpson release Nonplayer #1, a beautifully drawn book about augmented reality and MMORPGs. It made such an impact that the film rights were optioned almost immediately. Unfortunately we have yet to see a second issue, but in recent weeks a couple books have make a similar splash…
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