MIND MELD: The Best & Worst Genre Movie Adaptations

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Sure the books are almost always better than the movie, but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from adapting genre fiction. So with that in mind, we asked our esteemed panel…

Q: What is the best movie adapted from SF/F/H fiction? The worst? Why did they succeed or fail?

This is what they said…

Lisa Morton
Lisa Morton is an award-winning screenwriter, novelist, and Halloween expert whose most recent books are the novels Malediction and Netherworld: Book One of the Chronicles of Diana Furnaval; forthcoming is a tie-in novel to the Stephen Jones-edited anthology series Zombie Apocalypse: Washington Deceased, and a non-fiction history of ghosts. Lisa lives in North Hollywood, California, and online at www.lisamorton.com.

The best for me is The Exorcist. Because the screenplay adaptation is by the original novelist, it hews closely to the book and it never gives into either backing down from the book’s most controversial scenes nor inflating them. I’d also suggest that director William Friedkin chose the perfect style to compliment William Peter Blatty’s story — he eschewed the Gothic trappings that had been common in horror films up to that point, and instead took a documentary approach to the material, treating it in a dramatic and very realistic fashion.

For my worst, I’m going to choose the film version of Alan Moore’s brilliant Watchmen, because I’ve never seen another adaptation that so completely inverted the intent of its source material. Moore’s original graphic novel is a deconstruction of superheroes, but the film is a ludicrous celebration. My favorite example is a scene in which the very disturbed character of Rorschach crashes through an upper-floor window and falls into a ring of police. In the graphic novel, it takes three small panels to show Rorschach crashing through the window and landing, where he’s stunned and easily beaten down; in the movie, he falls forever in slow-motion and then fights off the cops successfully for some time before being overwhelmed. The entire movie mythologizes these characters where Moore’s intention was to show them as psychologically damaged. I was so furious after seeing that movie that I wanted to punch the projectionist.

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MIND MELD: Recent SF/F That Deserves More Attention

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It’s almost impossible to keep up with all the new SF/F that’s produced each year. To help broaden everyone’s horizons, we asked our panelists this question:

Q: What SF/F that you have read/seen/heard/played in 2013 do you think is deserving of more attention?

Here’s what they said…

Jessica Strider
Jessica Strider has worked at a major chain bookstore in Toronto for 10 years. Her in store SF/F newsletter, the Sci-Fi Fan Letter, eventually evolved into a blog where most Tuesdays she posts book reviews and on Fridays she alternates between author interviews, themed reading lists, New Author Spotlights and more. Other days she posts interesting SFF related stuff.

I’ve decided to keep my answers to only things that came out this year, which makes for a fairly small list as all of the movies I’ve seen and a few of the books (notably Will McIntosh’s Love Minus Eighty and Ofir Touche Gafla’s The World of the End) have received a decent amount of attention. So here’s the stuff from 2013 that I’ve read/seen so far that I think could use more recognition.
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MIND MELD: The Successors of Orwell’s 1984

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This week, we decided to transcend Orwell by asking panelists to go beyond 1984.

Q: Recent events have caused the resurgence of George Orwell’s classic 1984. Ever since its original publication, however, genre has tackled and wrestled with the themes of dictatorship, totalitarianism, total war, and more. What works of genre since are worthy of exploring these themes?

Here’s what they said.

Nick Namatas
Nick Mamatas is an American horror, science fiction and fantasy author and editor for the Haikasoru line of translated Japanese science fiction novels for Viz Media.

Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s recent surge of popularity — Bookscan tells me that sales of the mass market paperback edition increased by 35 percent during the week ending June 9th, and a further 60 percent the week after, and other editions saw spikes as well — is a great sign. Both tyranny and collapse are as likely to sneak up on a populace as anything else, so I am pleased to see that people are wary of these horrific intrusions into their privacy by the state. The vision of waking up one morning to swastikas flying from every flagpole is a fanciful one. First we’ll be told, “Now now, Nazism is just a political view some intelligent, college-educated people have…”
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MIND MELD: Current SF/F TV Shows We Are Watching

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This week we asked our panelists the following questions:

Q: What SF/F shows are you currently watching? Is there a show, or shows, that you think more people should watch and why?

Several people bowed out citing the fact they don’t watch TV, or even have a TV (which is laudable yet amazing). I think that’s an indictment on the current state of SF/F on TV…

Here is what they said:

Terry Weyna
Terry Weyna blogs for Fantasy Literature, and is particularly engaged with her Magazine Monday column there, in which she reviews short fiction.

I’m enjoying Once Upon a Time. I do wish ABC weren’t using so much of the Disneyfied characters, though; when Mulan showed up recently, I groaned. I’ve also been known to watch Grimm, though I still have a bunch of episodes from last season on my DVR, waiting for me to get to them. I’m tempted to give 666 Park Avenue a try as well.
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This week’s short and sweet question:

Q: What book(s) in your ‘to read’ pile are you most interested in reading? Why?

Here’s what our panelists said…

Patrick Hester
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and Hugo-nominated Podcast producer/host who lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast is nominated for a 2012 Hugo Award. He writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal, KirkusReviews and Functional Nerds.


This one is easy. Doctor Who: Shada: The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams (novelized by Gareth Roberts). There is an old saying; you never forget your first Doctor. For me, that Doctor was Tom Baker, good ol’ Number Four. Once described by Number Two (or Three, I forget) as ‘curly hair and teeth’, the Fourth Doctor was the first for me. I watched episodes of Doctor Who on the local PBS station. Despite bad special effects that turned most of my friends off immediately, I quickly became hooked on this TimeLord from the planet Galifrey who traveled in a blue box with a robot dog who called him ‘Master’ and sported a multi-colored collar matching the Doctor’s own ridiculously long scarf. (I still want one of those scarves…)

It wasn’t until I moved deeper into fandom, attending conventions where people were selling Japanese Anime (I’d never seen the likes of before!), VHS copies of shows from over seas (like Doctor Who, UFO, The Avengers), and bootleg copies of STUFF (I SWEAR I DIDN’T INHALE!), that I became aware of certain things regarding the good Doctor. (this was before the Interwebz.) Things like: many episodes were lost to time when the BBC ‘cleaned house’ destroying video tapes and film libraries. And, there was a ‘lost episode’ from the Tom Baker years. Written by Douglas The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Adams himself, no less.

The story went that they began filming Shada, meant to be the final serial of the 1979-80 season, when a strike hit the BBC. That strike killed production and they never finished filming. There was an attempt to revisit the script and complete the filming, but it never came to fruition. Why? No idea. The producer, John Nathan-Turner, did manage to release a version of it on VHS a decade later, but never as part of the televised series.

Side Note: for the anniversary special The Five Doctors, Tom Baker declined to participate, so footage of the Fourth Doctor and Romana II from the Shada episode, were used (you might remember the Doctor and Romana boarding a gondola and becoming ‘stuck’ out of time).

Side Note 2: In the Key to Time DVD’s (I think), there’s a bonus feature – an episode of Blue Peter (BBC children’s show) shot on the sets of Doctor Who. They were forced to shoot the show there due to yet another strike affecting the BBC. Given the set they were using, they had a very Doctor Who-centric episode.

A few years back, another version of the story was done, this time an animated Flash serial with Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor in the lead (yes, the guy from the Fox version/movie). I watched the 1st episode. Meh.

But now, Ace has released a novelization putting Shada squarely back into the Fourth’s Doctor’s Continuity. 400 pages of Classic Who goodness…
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MIND MELD: A Look at Genre Reviews

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Book reviews have been as contentious since the days of mimeographed fanzines. In the age of the Internet and an explosion of blogs, Amazon, and more, reviews are more important than ever. But what makes reading and trusting a review worth it?

So we asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What does a good review of a piece of genre work do well? Where do reviewers fall down on the job? How can reviewers improve their craft for the benefit of readers, writers and fans?

Here’s what they said…

Rachel Caine
Rachel Caine is the author of more than twenty novels, including the Weather Warden series. She was born at White Sands Missile Range, which people who know her say explains a lot. She has been an accountant, a professional musician, and an insurance investigator, and still carries on a secret identity in the corporate world. She and her husband, fantasy artist R. Cat Conrad, live in Texas with their iguanas, Popeye and Darwin; a mali uromastyx named (appropriately) O’Malley; and a leopard tortoise named Shelley (for the poet, of course).

Most often where reviewers go astray for me is when they forget their core mission. I’ve read a lot of reviews that were more about the reviewer’s wickedly sharp language skills than about what they were critiquing … it becomes form over substance, and while it may be entertaining, it isn’t informative, and it doesn’t help the reader decide whether or not the book (or film, or music) would be right for their needs.

Every book (or film, or concert, or album) is a personal experience, so it’s fine to talk about how the work moved you, and why. But please, reviewers, if you consistently have a burning, fiery hatred for what you’re seeing in the genre (or medium) you’re reviewing, maybe you’re just burned out, or the style has moved past you …(it does this for writers, too, you’re hardly alone). Rather than just become the surly curmudgeon, find another thing to be passionate about — in another genre maybe. You’ll feel better, and so will your readers.

And on the flip side, if you love everything you read/see/hear, maybe you’re not quite critical *enough.* Being a critic isn’t about making friends, it’s about telling the truth even when it’s a harsh truth. Don’t be faint-hearted. You won’t last long if you are.

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Due to a brain freeze on my part technical issues, I managed to leave a few respondents off of this week’s Mind Meld. As a refresher, here is this week’s question:

What are your favorite SF/F books/movies/TV shows/comics/etc. that you consumed in 2011?
Paul Weimer
Paul Weimer has been reading SF and Fantasy for over 30 years and exploring the world of roleplaying games for over 25 years. Almost as long as he has been reading and watching movies, he has enjoyed telling people what he has thought of

them. In addition to his reading and gaming interests, he can be found at his own blog, Blog Jvstin Style, the Functional Nerds, Twitter, Livejournal and many other places on the Internet. And one day he will write his own “trunk novel”.

Although I don’t seem to have consumed any more than usual, I consumed more first-run genre goodness year this time around than in many years past.

In terms of movies, this was of course the movie year of superheroes, and a lot of other genre movies in general. I watched many of them, found many wanting, but also found some movies I would add to my movie collection. I particularly liked Duncan Jones’ Source Code in the spring, and in the superhero category, it’s a close run race between X-Men: First Class and Captain America. Thor wasn’t bad, either. And I shouldn’t forget to mention Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which was far better than it had any right to be.

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There’s an overwhelming selection of appealing titles to choose from when it comes to reading science fiction, fantasy and horror books. Yet some titles float to the top of the pile, making them more immediate candidates for the next books you’ll read.

Q: What sf/f/h books are on the top of your “To-Be-Read” Pile?

Read on to see the tasty selections of this week’s panelists…

Lucius Shepard
Lucius Shepard is a writer who lives in Vancouver. In 2008, Subterranean Press published The Best of Lucius Shepard, a career retrospective. Shepard’s latest novels include Vacancy & Ariel, Viator Plus, and The Taborin Scale.

Art the top of my stack is Islington Crocodiles, the highly praised short fiction collection by the UK’s Paul Meloy. Intro by is by Graham Joyce. Really looking forward to that.

Next up: Strange Forces – The Stories of Leopoldo Lugones, a collection of fantastical stories from an Argentine writer released in 1906. Lugones is very well known in Latin America, almost unheard of here. He’s supposed to have been an eccentric a la Lovecraft and killed himself over a woman 30 years his junior by drinking a mixture of whiskey and cyanide.

Horacio Quiroga is a classic Latin American writer of extremely dark stories, some of which are included in The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories. A disciple of Poe, he lived a tormented life that included the suicide of one wife and desertion by his wife and child while enduring his final illness. Many of his stories are set in the jungle where much of his life was spent. Sounds like my kind of guy.

Lucy Snyder’s Spellbent — I’m not sure what this one is, a YA I guess, but it sounds like a blast. About hell coming to Ohio. Having played in a lot of Ohio’s armpit bars, I can relate.

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