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Friday, June 24, 2016

Comic Cuts - 24 June 2016

We've had something of a chaotic week, although that just seems to have made the day's fly past even faster than usual.

With the house to myself for part of the weekend (due to Mel having a family birthday to attend) I managed to finish watching Mr Robot which was OK despite the heavy debt it owed to Fight Club—ranging from the unreliable narrator with a guide who is promising to show him the real world who turns out to be imaginary to the basic premise of the plot's McGuffin: to destroy the records of a huge banking corporation to set debt levels back to zero. And the one potentially original character turned out not to be so original but a rip-off from American Psycho.

Replacing it was 11.22.63, based on the Stephen King novel about a time-traveller trying to stop the Kennedy assassination. Not the first novel about time-travel and the Kennedy assassination of course, as David Bishop's Doctor Who novel Who Killed Kennedy appeared twenty years earlier. I've read quite a few books on the subject from all sides, those who believe Oswald was part of a conspiracy to kill the president, others who believe he acted alone and yet others who think he was just a fall guy, carefully manipulated and positioned so that he could be walked out of a cinema into the waiting flashlights of journalists' cameras.

I have no idea which is true. I must admit I'd love to know. I was only eighteen months old, so the results of those gunshots have affected my whole life. We might have had a world with less war and more space exploration for all I know.

Anyway, my idealism aside, the King-based TV show has got off to a good start. The format is excellent with episodes varying in length as Hulu isn't the traditional TV channel which requires shows of precisely 43 minute episodes. An unfortunate side-effect of the many ad breaks in American shows is that all often lack time to develop characters, side-stories and back-stories. Sometimes a show will recognise this and just race from action scene to action scene (24 was maybe the ultimate example); but the advent of HBO's original programming and other form of pay-per-view (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu) mean that shows don't have to be a specific length to accommodate adverts and a season can be short enough to tell a storyline without huge amounts of padding. (I'm suffering from padding overdose as I'm watching Arrow season three, which has been bulked out like a bodybuilder, with plots so stretched they look unnatural and grotesque.)

We've also just watched the first episode of Powers from something called the PlayStation Channel. I loved the comic and the TV show started well, with the caveat of a bit of wooden acting from some of the players and the somewhat cheap look to the show. I'm sure it cost a fortune to shoot, but we've been spoiled for too many years by American shows that cost the same per episode what a British TV show would spend on a whole series.

I love the format of these eight / ten / thirteen episode shows because they can do justice to a novel. One of the best shows from last year was The Man In The High Castle and I can imagine a lot of classic SF novels could make superb series. They're already doing a modern space opera in The Expanse, but I'd love to see something older... I know Gateway is being filmed, for instance and Dan Simmons' Hyperion and Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars are in development. And another spin on the Nazi's winning WW2 is also filming in the shape of Len Deighton's SS-GB. But I'd love to see Ringworld done as a mini-series—it was on the cards a couple of years ago and may still be in development.

I'd better finish up now. I'm writing this early evening on Thursday, it's pissing down with rain and we still have to go out and vote. Then it's Referendum Fish & Chips—which is the only thing we've been looking forward to during the whole ghastly back-stabbing debacle that has taken over from reasoned debate these past few months. Racism and xenophobia  is being normalised again: that's the country I grew up in during the 1960s and 1970s and it's something I'd hoped we'd left behind as we grew into a more multicultural society. People have such short memories.

Random scans this week.... I picked up a book by John Burke last weekend, which prompted me to dig out some old scans of his very early science fiction novels, published as by Jonathan Burke by Hamilton & Co. / Panther Books in the early 1950s. I don't have them all, so a couple of the scans below are not up to my usual scratch, but they make an interesting and diverse little gallery. You'll find them if you scroll down.

The bulk of the covers are by John Richards, who has been mentioned here on Bear Alley more than once. You can find our more about him here.

Posts might be a little more patchy over the next few weeks as I'm going to be back on the Hotel Business treadmill, but I have a few odds and ends lined up that I'll post as and when I get a chance to finish them.

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