unshaved mouse

Book Launch (Last one, I promise)

On 27 July 5 PM (Irish Time), Trilby Black, Daniel Bensen and I will be celebrating the birth of our book triplets! Join us for chat, readings and raffles! Entry is a mere $5 which will go towards your next purchase from Magers and Quinn! Link HERE.

About Interchange: A year ago, Anne Houlihan uncovered a wormhole to Junction, a patchwork planet of competing alien biomes. Now, she and Daisuke are going back to investigate “The Howling Mountain,” the possible location of a wormhole into space. Her mission headed by an eccentric millionaire, Anne believes she will have a chance to learn more about the origin of Junction and its varied ecosystems. The mission has purposes beyond what she knows, however, and so does the planet. As the expedition tears its way across the alien landscape, Anne must fight to protect its lifeforms, herself, and the Earth.

Daniel M. Bensen writes science fiction, alternate history, and fantasy. He is the author of Junction, its sequel Interchange, the comic book First Knife, and the Sidewise award-winning short story “Treasure Fleet.” He resides in Sofia, Bulgaria with his daughters, wife, and in-laws in the Balkan Tower of Matriarchy.

About Finnegan’s Awake: Since birth, Rain Wooten has been trained by her secret-agent parents to hate and destroy the enemies of America. But when a pizza delivery turns into an armed kidnapping gone wrong, she is thrust into the world of normal people, where right and wrong are no longer so clear, and reality is even harder to determine.

Trilby Black is an academic science editor who previously worked in astronautics, blue-sky research, and academia, with stints between running a wooden passenger ferry, teaching math in the local youth prison, and raising two children. She has lived in Colorado, France, Texas, and the UK. Currently, she works and lives with her family in Suffolk, England. Finnegan’s Awake is her first novel.

About When the Sparrow Falls:

“JESUS CHRIST WE KNOW!”

Hercules and Xena: The Animated Movie-The Battle for Mount Olympus (1998)

Firstly, I have to thank regular commenter Lupin the 8th for sending me the media file that allowed me to finally (finally) cross this review off the old list.

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys starring Kevin Sorbo was a TV series that ran from 1995 to 1999 that dared to ask the question: what if Greek mythology was Baywatch?

It was an occasionally entertaining, perenially stupid mid-nineties hunk of cheese now best remembered it’s much more influential spin-off show. Lucy Lawless appeared as a villain in Hercules before audiences said “More hot lady in the leather who kicks ass please” and Xena the Warrior Princess was born. Basically think “Distaff Hercules with more nineties ‘tude and the blatant homoeroticism delivered with a saucy wink instead of a slack-jawed stare”.

It was, simultaneously, a hugely important and influential chapter in the history of women in television and a queer cultural touchstone and dumb as all hell. This was the show that depicted Abraham and Julius Caesar as contemporaries despite the fact that Abraham was more ancient to Julius Caesar than Julius Caesar is to us.

Together, these two shows formed a kind of mini-television universe…

“Three shows.”
“Whazzat?”
“There was also a prequel series called Young Hercules.”
“What?”
“What?!”
“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaa…”
“Uh, Mouse, the review?”
“What? I’m just supposed to CARRY ON?!”

Okay, focus. Focus.

The final, second-least weird part of this mini multimedia franchise is today’s movie is the animated feature Hercules and Xena: The Animated Movie-The Battle for Mount Olympus or HXTAMTBMO for short. This movie came out in 1998, which I find significant because the previous year saw the release of a certain other, beloved, animated depiction of Hercules. Oh yeah, you know the one I’m talking about.

Oh Golden Entertainment, you utter whores.

Seriously though, while you might be tempted to view HXTAMTBMO as a cheap cash in on Disney’s Hercules there was actually some talent behind this one. It was directed by Lynne Naylor who was one of the co-founders of Spümcø animation (the Ren and Stimpy lads) and who worked on Batman: The Animated Series. It was produced by Sam Raimi, had the main cast of the show on hand to voice their roles and scripting duties were handled by John Loy who wrote for Pinky and the Brain. Okay! Not a bad bench of talent. This could be good? Right? Right?

Sigh.

Guys, let me level with you. I’ve spent four years trying to track this movie down. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about animated movies it’s this; cartoons are like a politician’s tax returns. If someone’s trying to hide them, it’s not because they’re just so damned good.

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Upcoming events!

Hey did you know I have a book coming out at the end of the month? (I know, I know, I need to be less shy and retiring about these things). Anyway, I have some really exciting virtual events lined up to launch this sucker.

29th June

Oh yes, THAT John Scalzi. We’ll be in discussion in an event hosted by Fountain Bookstore in Virginia. I wanted to call it “Gettin’ Palsy with Scalzi” but they said no and that’s fine.

Join us at 6pm Eastern Time, Thursday June 29th. Admission is free and you can book your tickets HERE.

10th July

Oh yes, THAT Cory Doctorow. Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego will be hosting this one at 2pm Pacific Time, Saturday 10th of July and you can reserve a place HERE.

27th July

And lastly but by no means leastly, my friends Trilby Black, Daniel M. Bensen and I all have books coming out at the same time so we’re having a joint launch hosted by Magers and Quinn bookstore in Minneapolis on Tuesday, Jul 27th at 5:00 PM IST and you can book tickets HERE. Tickets for this event will be $5 and attendees will receive virtual event access and a $5 off code for use at magersandquinn.com. Attendees also have a chance to win prizes during the event! Follow @magersandquinn or the authors on social media and share our posts about the event, and you’ll be entered to win fabulous prizes!

Tor Article, Nerd Daily Review and Read the Room

Quick reminder:

I’ll be taking part in a virtual panel for Tom Doherty Associates at 6pm TONIGHT

Moderated by Ada Palmer (Perhaps the Stars), Django Wexler (Hard Reboot), Bethany C. Morrow (A Chorus Rises) Aggie Blum Thompson (I Don’t Forgive You) and myself will be discussing Surfing’ the Web: Techno-Summer Reads.

It should be a fun time and you can join in HERE.

I also wrote an article about detectives in science fiction/fantasy for Tor.com and you can read that HERE.

And lastly, here’s a beautiful review from The Nerd Daily (hell, I learned stuff about the book I WROTE IT).

I’m real tired, guys.

UPDATE: Book launch, audiobook news and more (now with 100% more John Scalzi)

Hey all, here’s a quick rundown of When the Sparrow Falls news and events for the rest of the month (honestly, this is as much a reminder for me as it is for you):

New Review

Dan Smith over at FanFIaddict gave Sparrow a very kind 10/10 review and you can read it HERE.

Audiobook News!

If, like me, you do most of your reading with your ears while doing the dishes that never stop coming no matter how many you wash, When the Sparrow Falls will be getting an audiobook read by Jake Fairbrother and produced by Penguin Audio.

23rd June: Read the Room

I’ll be taking part in a virtual panel for Tom Doherty Associates at 6pm ET on Wednesday, June 23rd.

Moderated by Ada Palmer (Perhaps the Stars), Django Wexler (Hard Reboot), Bethany C. Morrow (A Chorus Rises) Aggie Blum Thompson (I Don’t Forgive You) and myself will be discussing Surfing’ the Web: Techno-Summer Reads.

It should be a fun time and you can join in HERE.

27th June: Wrath of the Iotians Podcast Interview

I had a great chat with Ron and Jake over at the Wrath of the Iotians sci-fi podcast and that will be going up 27th June. In the meantime, you can check out the rest of their stuff HERE.

29th June: BOOK LAUNCH!

Fountain Bookstore in Virginia have very graciously agreed to host the online virtual launch of When the Sparrow Falls! Join me at 6pm Eastern Time as my 300 page baby finally takes its first steps into the real world. Admission is free and you can book your tickets HERE.

UPDATE: It has now been confirmed that the host of this event will be JOHN FRICKIN’ SCALZI. Y’know? Redshirts? Hugo Award Winner? Former President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America?

What even is life? This is crazy.

The End of Evangelion (1997)

Okay, so back when…

No wait, y’know what, we need to go back in time if I’m going to tell this story right.

Victorian era - Wikipedia

Further than that.

Packing Food for the Hereafter in Ancient Egypt

Further…

Climate Change Killed The Dinosaurs. 'Drastic Global Winter' After Asteroid Strike, Say Scientists

Little more…

Hadean - Wikipedia

Perfect. Okay so.

It’s my third year in college and I’ve started going out with this dynamite gal who will, unbeknownst to her, one day be known as “Spouse of Mouse” to a bunch of randos on the internet. Now we’re at that awkward early stage of the relationship where we’re starting to realise that we can’t just keep kissing constantly and we should probably figure out if we have any actual…y’know…common interests.

So I pull my calloused lips off her and says to her, I says “what are you into?”

And she says “Oh…y’know. Comics. Movies. Animé. That kinda stuff.”

Now, believe it or not, but at this early point in the Earth’s history where the molten surface was still hardening, I had not yet seen that much animé. I mean, Pokémon and Speed Racer, sure, but none of the really big name shows or movies. So I go into a video rental shop, avoiding debris from the recently formed Moon that rained down on the hellish surface of the Earth like so much fiery marble, and I go into the animé section and I see a DVD for a movie called Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth. I had heard the name before, but I knew nothing about it and figured “hey, if it’s so famous that even a total noob like me has heard of it, it must be a great entry point to this exciting world of animé! This will be a great way to bond with my new girlfriend who I hope to one day marry and make a supporting character in a weirdly detailed animation review blog/ongoing comedy series!”

So we sit down to watch this movie together, and around ten minutes in she turns around, takes my arm in a vicelike grip and stares straight into my eyes with a gimlet gaze.

“I’m sorry” she said. “I don’t like animé. I just wanted you to think I was cool. Can we please watch something else?!

And we turned off the movie and watched Family Guy instead. Because, Christ help us, we were young and in love and knew no better.

So that was my first introduction to Evangelion and honestly, I could scarcely have picked a worse one. I know now that Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth is one half clip show with the first 26 episodes of the TV series edited into a single 70 minute cut almost perfect in its incomprehensibility for a newcomer, and the other half the first twenty minutes of what would become The End of Evangelion that was due to be released several months later.

And they did this because…because…

Honestly, maybe spite? Like, just another thing to fuck with people trying to make sense of what often seems like a deliberately opaque franchise? Pity anybody trying to make sense of Evangelion, and that’s before they even have to tackle the plot.

There’s the original 26 episode animé series which ended with a finalé so despised that Gainax received death threats.

There’s Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth which is basically the world’s most inscrutable “previously on Buffy” and which also has two alternate versions: Evangelion: Death(True) and Evangelion: Death(True)2 (and Tigger too!)

And then you have The End of Evangelion, which I will be tackling in this very post, which aims to be the true ending of the TV series.

Then there’s the Rebuild series, an entirely new ongoing four movie cycle re-telling the events of the original show and The End of Evangelion which aims to give ANOTHER ending to this rigmarole (sure, why not?).

Oh and there’s the manga (different continuity), the ANIMA light novel series (ditto) the PS2 game, the parody series, the audio dramas, the commemorative plates and on and on it goes. This thing is a beast.

But okay, here goes, I will now attempt to describe what the hell Neon Genesis Evangelion actually is.

Despair GIF - Find on GIFER

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“Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof.”

Alan Moore. I honestly doubt whether there is a single writer for whom the gap is wider between the strength of their work and the quality of the adaptations based on that work. If I read you off Moore’s bibliography it forms a perfectly acceptable list of greatest comics of all time:

Watchmen, From Hell, The Killing Joke, League of Extraordinary Gentleman.

I read you the list of the corresponding adaptations (for movies at least):

Watchmen, From Hell, The Killing Joke, LXG

and you start looking for the fire extinguisher to put out this garbage fire. There is a reason why Alan Moore refuses to even be credited on works based on his comics and it’s not because he is now just a beard suspended in mid-air by a floating energy field of old man cussedness. He has been done dirty by Hollywood like few writers before him. But, amid all the terrible adaptations there is of course one exception. Or is there?

Uncovering V, The Revolutionary Leader in V for Vendetta

“Verily”.

Or maybe not. Sorry, I’m vascillating. Here’s what I find fascinating about V for Vendetta. It is, was, and probably will remain an incredibly divisive film and that is so much rarer than it used to be. In the pre-internet days, film criticism was the domain of a relative handful of newspaper and TV film critics. The masses would vote with their wallets, but their actual opinion on any given movie was largely silent. No one was taking big polls of thousands or millions of ordinary movie-goers to gauge their opinions on a given film. That was left to the critics who would often disagree wildly with each other on the merits of any one work.

Nowadays, of course, everyone is a film critic. Everyone writes about film, whether it’s on Twitter or Rotten Tomatoes or Facebook or or any of the million and one new social media platforms that are just sprouting up everywhere like little markers on my path to the grave.

Analysis: Why TikTok is open for business

“Hi there.”

“Fuck off.”

You would think that this would mean an even greater diversity of opinions on every single film but on the contrary, the opposite tends to happen. Consensus usually builds around a film very rapidly. Either it’s universally acclaimed, universally pilloried or (if it’s anything remotely political) it gets stripped for parts in the never-ending culture war with two camps forming who will defend it to the death regardless of its merits or flaws as long as it triggers the libs/smashes the whitecispatriarchy.

This, you will probably not be surprised to learn, is not a conducive enviroment for insightful, nuanced film critique. So what I really appreciate about V for Vendetta is that it’s a rare film in that it does actually provoke a very diverse range of responses from people. Opinions on it run the full gamut from Travesty to “Capital G” Great Film.

I’m pretty sure most people would agree that it is the best Alan Moore cinematic adaptation, but after that consensus ends. I’m going to keep my opinion on the film to myself until the end (largely because at the time of writing I’m still trying to figure out that very thing). But regardless of its quality it is an absolutely fascinating film to discuss and I’m looking forward to it tremendously.

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“You’ll see Peter. People need to believe. And nowadays, they’ll believe anything.”

Christmas is almost upon us and so, in the spirit of the season, I will challenge the existing status quo and speak truth to power.

Mysterio sucks. Always has. Always will.

And I think I’m somewhat in the minority on this, since fans have been clamouring to see him in a Spider-Man movie since pretty early on in the Raimi films. Some people even seem to genuinely believe that Mysterio is a good villain, which in my opinion is akin to Climate Change denial or saying “Kingdom Hearts has a good story”. Not simply incorrect, but morally reprehensible. Hell, IGN even named him the 85th Greatest Comic Book Villain of all time, proof if proof were needed that the once noble art of ranking things on the internet has become a sorry, corrupt burlesque.

And, yes, he is a creation of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and therefore is deserving of respect if you believe that pampered scions of privilege deserve a free ride just because of who their daddies are.

Fine, the visual design is so ridiculous that it shoots the moon and becomes kind of magnificent.

True, the cape. Is. FABULOUS.

But the whole concept of Mysterio is just a one-way train ticket to disappointment. His schtick is that he’s a special effects wizard who uses tricks and illusions to seem like he’s an actual wizard. In other words, he’s a villain who’s no real threat and uses smoke and mirrors to make you think he actually is a threat. But he’s not. He’s not a threat at all. Hit him with a crowbar, you’ll probably kill him. Doesn’t know karate or anything. Completely normal dude.  His first appearence in the Amazing Spider-Man #15 was one long game of “Got Yer Nose” and once Spider-Man realised that he did not, in truth, have his nose, I don’t really think we needed to see the character again. Once Spidey has seen through his bullshit, the only way you can bring him back is to have him secretly messing with Spider-Man from the shadows. And, once Spider-Man has figured out who’s really behind these shenanigans, it will always be anticlimactic:

  1. Oh no! The Daily Bugle is being menaced by a gigantic red snake!
  2. Huh?! The snake was just a red sock on a stick and the use of forced perspective.
  3. Oh, Mysterio was behind it all. Everyone relax, he can’t actually do anything, his powers are just lies and bullshit.

And that’s Mysterio. Disappointment in a cape and a fishbowl.

All that said, he’s not the worst choice as a villain for Far From Home. After the sturm and drang of Avengers Endgame this movie was intended to close out Phase 4 with a light little comedic palette cleanser and Mysterio is probably a better fit for that than…say, Carnage. Which, I suppose, is as good a point as any to bring up the fact that we have for the moment reached the end of our journey. This is, at the time of writing, the last released MCU film what with Black Widow‘s release having been pushed back and Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings being delayed due to the world going viral in the bad way. This also means that I have to make some tricky decisions. Like; do I actually need to review Wandavision and The Falcon and Winter Soldier? I haven’t reviewed any of the TV shows thus far but all indications are that the Disney Plus shows are going to be FAR more impactful on the overall narrative than, say, Cloak and Dagger or Runaways.

Marvel's Runaways Talk Cloak & Dagger Crossover | Den of Geek

“We exist!”

 Or maybe I should just accept that the film and television production and consumption landscape is almost unrecognisable from what it was when I started reviewing these movies way back in 2015 and that by this point the MCU is just too damn large for one blogger to cover and get on with it.

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Over the Garden Wall: The Unknown

Wha’ Happen’?:

Beatrice flies through a blizzard, desperately searching for Greg. She sees him ahead, standing in a snowy clearing with the Beast. Suddenly, she is blown away by a mighty wind.

The Beast asks Greg to bring him a spool of silver thread and a golden comb. Greg brings him a cobweb and a honeycomb, demonstrating the kind of lateral thinking that’ll probably get him a job in Google down the line. For his final trial, the Beast tells him to lower the sun into a teacup. So Greg simply puts the teacup on a tree stump and waits for the sun to set so that it looks like its going into the cup from the right perspective.

The Beast is apparently satisfied by this transparent con job and tells Greg to wait in the cold until everything starts feeling real warm and comfortable.

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