We're back! Crank it up!

Mar 272015

Join us this Saturday at 9 p.m. PST as your hosts Gene Turnbow and Susan Fox are joined by award winning science fiction writer Leslie Ann Moore, author of the new novel A Tangle of Fates,  and the award-winning Griffin’s Daughter trilogy.

Think of A Tangle of Fates as the Snow White fairy tale, but instead of a passive damsel to whom everything happens, the heroine of this story, a princess of the distant world Neuteirra, takes matters into her own hands and sparks a revolution!

You can find Ms. Moore’s new book on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords,  & Kobo. Her personal web site is http://www.leslieannmoore.com.
The Event Horizon – it’s Sci-Fi for your Wifi!
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Mar 272015
Gary Graham and Eric Pierpoint resolved those issues but have some new ones.

 by Karina “Cinerina” Montgomery

James Caan and Mandy Patinkin work through some issues.

James Caan and Mandy Patinkin work through some issues.

The Hollywood Reporter has announced that a reboot of the 1988 film Alien Nation is now being written by the scriptwriters of the first Iron Man. As a fan of the movie and the short-lived 1991 TV show, I leapt in immediate excitement at the news. Witty screenwriting can go a long way to excuse retreading beloved material (I’m looking at you, Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters!). So far, we just know that the plan is to reimagine the story and explore early days (see Planet of the Apes), but I think if the movie takes the same brave steps as the show did in its day, it might be a worthy reboot.

The original premise is that an alien ship has crashed on earth. Its crew died but its cargo, a slave race called the Tenctonese, survived and they are now stranded here. Similar to District 9, which vividly illustrated the agonies of apartheid, Alien Nation dealt obliquely with race and was possibly the grittiest fish out of water tale of its day. The Tenctonese, or Newcomers, are accepted as a fait accompli, though still colliding with human privilege. The story followed unwilling partner detectives Matthew Sykes, human, and Sam Francisco, Newcomer, investigating a drug ring circulating a compound that only works on the alien physiology, as well as some possibly related murders.

Cathy and Matt in the Newcomer ward.

Cathy and Matt in the Newcomer ward.

The rich narrative potential of aliens unwillingly stranded on earth and integrating their culture into ours coupled with an odd couple cop team naturally led to a series. That series being on Fox, it was of course immediately cancelled, but not before its 22 episodes explored more deeply the seismic effect of integrating a new, truly strange minority overnight into our world, while also being a great cop show with a surprising amount of comedy.

Alien Nation on television explored the sociology and psychology of how former slaves make their way in post-Reaganomics America. It was able to handle head-on, as science fiction can so readily do, the millstone of racism as well as other culture clashes. It commented on immigration and social classes, with often humorous collisions of religion and traditions. The show even made some tentative forays into gender and sexuality, as the Tenctonese require a third gender to reproduce. They were genetically engineered to be the perfect slave species and as such are stronger than humans in many ways. They are different and so present a threat to the human populace’s vision of normal or the status quo.

The show covered much in a short time without being bogged down: Newcomer teenagers rebelling by donning a wig; cultural norms and clashes in the simplest of contexts; the advantages of having been bred to be slaves versus choosing one’s destiny; slave overseers blending in with their former charges, and the urge for vengeance; differing vulnerabilities exploited by criminals; religious ritual and family units in the context of living so long as property, but also unwilling immigrants trying to build a home and assimilate.

Fun new cosplay opportunities!  Lauren Woodland gets into makeup.

Fun new cosplay opportunities! Lauren Woodland gets into makeup.

The show ended on a cliffhanger, and fans were so fervent about resolving it, they finally produced a TV movie and 4 network sequels. Original screenwriter Rockne S. O’Bannon has been continuing to explore some of these themes that Fox abandoned on the Syfy series Defiance. Outsiders trying to make a place for themselves in an environment that’s been wound up tight like a different drum? These themes resonate with us; a reboot was probably inevitable. In the right hands, it could be a narrative touchstone for our national discourse.

With all that has happened in our country between 1991 and 2015, we are primed to tackle these issues through the more comfortable lens of science fiction. Racial tensions from 9/11 to Katrina to Ferguson, struggles for gender equity, the growing acceptance of homosexuality, advances in artificial intelligence, and the increasingly frustrating debates about whether science is real, a reboot of Alien Nation could have a lot to say. The important thing is to not turn this goldmine of analogy into a loud, obnoxious message movie/series.

I hope they cast Karl Urban as Matt Sykes and Michael Ealy as Sam Francisco for their delectable chemistry, box office mojo, and as a redress of the unfortunate cancellation of their promising comedic buddy cop show Almost Human (also cancelled after one season by Fox). That show was a modern incursion of some of the territory Alien Nation tried to explore 24 years ago, but with contemporary attention on the humanity in a machine. I’d prefer to see Alien Nation rebooted on television (preferably on a progressive network like HBO or AMC) rather than a standalone movie so it can take its time and develop. However, I will be there on opening weekend, humming “E take nas naj…nah sus gah nilpa” merrily under my breath.

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Mar 252015

an editorial by staff writer Lisa Harmon

sepkowitz-nm0421-adopting-embryo-tease“My mother was a test tube, my father was a knife.”

This is the rallying cry for Artificial People in Robert Heinlein’s novel Friday. This phrase may be used for real in future years. Researchers at Cambridge and Weizmann Institute for Science while exploring how human eggs and sperm are made have recently discovered that human stem cells will create primordial germ cells – the first stage in the progenitor cell state that results in eggs and sperm. Once mature eggs and sperm are achieved, a new method of parenthood will be possible for many who currently cannot conceive children from both parents.

The future impact is potentially a redesigned human species – to human specifications instead of evolutions.

The news services are currently focused on what this means to same-sex couples, particularly male. Today,  same-sex couples may adopt. They may use donors of egg or sperm and a surrogate mother as needed. They may have children from a former mixed-sex relationship – but same-sex couples cannot share DNA to form a child. In a few years, genetic inheritance for the children of same-sex couples with the genes coming from both parents will be a real possibility.

Male/male or female/male egg and sperm from stem cells is predicted in roughly two years. Female/female will take longer as current technique makes adding a “Y” chromosome problematic. The developing technology is not cloning since the source is from two genetically disparate sources and not recreating from a single. It has the benefit of genetic diversity, which cloning does not have.

Already the dissension has started. Paul Tully of The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children stated, “We believe the processing of humans in laboratories turns children into manufactured products and commodities. This is not the way in which we should be producing our children.”

The impact of increasing biological parenthood for all who are currently infertile couples, either by same-sex relationship or by physical or medical reasons will reach into many areas. The most obvious is ethical. On one side, creating egg and sperm, then uniting them to become a baby is the hope of many. As described, the method replicates the process found in nature. Currently, only in vitro or in vivo fertilization does this, and the genetic inheritance often comes from only one parent.

With the stem cells being stimulated to become egg and sperm, the temptation to “play god” grows. Research into cleaning out defective genes has motivation for development. The fears from human cloning will emerge – the fear of designer humans. While cleaning out defective genes, why not promote desirable gene sequences? Gene modification has great potential to produce “super humans” or even humans designed for specific tasks. The legendary character from Star Trek, Khan, could very well come to life. Since 1924, “better” humans produced by selection has been predicted.

Legal matters will also come into play. The most important will be, would such children be considered legal humans? Or will they be a manufactured commodity? The question seems ridiculous, but given the ridiculous nature of humanity it is a very real possibility. States have considered and passed legislation defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. It is not a far stretch to legally define human status as given to those of “natural conception”, of a natural egg and a natural sperm. The debate of “when does life begin?” may be finally answered, weakening abortion rights. In the speculative fiction, genetically modified and/or created humans are almost always a threat or a second class citizen or both.

Additional technological advances would be forthcoming. There is currently no workable incubator other than the human womb. Male same sex couples will still need a female surrogate. Some female same sex and mixed sex couples will also require one. The development of an artificial womb can free parents-to-be of that limitation. There would be fewer legal battles over the rights of surrogate mothers. Artificial wombs can provide an answer to abortion as the wee one can be transferred to one. An artificial womb also frees women in particular from the nine-month commitment of pregnancy. The nightmare remains genetically modified, mass-procreated people for specific tasks, like war. The Replicants of Phillip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep could be made a reality, without the expiration date artificially coded.

The future of Humanity lies with babies. The ability to participate in the future in a genetic sense lies with babies. Until now, people have had little hope of that genetic participation without mixing egg and sperm in the crucible of a living womb. In a very short time, all who desire to be biological parents will have recourse to be parents, to experience the first moment of holding a child of their own body and blood in their arms, to feel the connection to the future, alive and present. Ethics, naysayers, legalities, nightmares of “what if” when technology is misused are nothing to any baby.

“My mother is a test tube, my father a knife,” and I am “made of star stuff” of my parents. Surely such a child born from this emerging research should stand tall and proud, exclaiming to the Universe, “I am alive!”

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Mar 212015
Writers: Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz
Artists: Cory Smith and Ronda Pattison

by staff writer Michael Brown

Welcome back to another Four-Color Bullet, the only comic book review column not fighting all of Batman’s villains because the writers have no imagination.

This week, DC brought us Batgirl: Endgame #1, in which Batgirl has to keep a mob of Jokerized madmen from spreading the deadly virus into Gotham; a sneak peek at the softer side of the Man of Steel, in Superman #39; and it’s the return of Superboy, in Teen Titans #8.

From Marvel this week, Princess Leia continues her mission to round up the survivors of Alderaan, in Star Wars: Princess Leia #2; Squirrel-Girl’s last chance to stop Galactus (no, it’s not a typo. Yes I said “Galactus”) is to get to the moon, in The Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl #3; Cortex Incorporated drops its mask, revealing itself as the Cosmic Horror from Beyond, and the Mighty Avengers are Earth’s last hope, in Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #6.

Image, and writer Mark Millar of Kick-Ass fame bring us the story of two buddies, their time machine, and the first televised time-travelling adventure, in Chrononauts #1.

From IDW this week, it’s the beginning of the end of Season 10 of The X-Files as the Shadow Government that long bedeviled Mulder and Scully in their quest for the truth may not be dead after all, in issue #21. 


The final push to save Earth. The turtles’ most desperate hour. And one will not survive.

Writers: Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz Artists: Cory Smith and Ronda Pattison IDW PUBLISHING

Writers: Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz
Artists: Cory Smith and Ronda Pattison

So. let me set the story up for you. From his base on Earth, Krang has brought his Technodrome to Earth from Dimension X in order to terraform the planet and create a new Utrominon for his people. Splinter and the Turtles have set up an elaborate trap to force Krang and the Shredder to fight each other, and rid the planet of both of them, while the Turtles take on Krang’s forces to shut down Technodrome. Now, mere minutes remain before the Technodrome goes online and kills everyone on Earth. And someone will not survive.

I can’t properly explain how monumental and game-changing this issue is. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I’m underselling it.

Now, these are not the silly, cartoony 80s versions of the TMNT that we older fans know. And they’re not the Nickelodeon-series TMNT, which I also love by the way. These are the dark, gritty, in-your-face, black-and-white drawn TMNT created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird back in May of 1984. I didn’t discover the comics until I was in college in 1988, and I have been a fan ever since. IDW’s relaunch of the series some 43 issues ago was met with high praise, and I say it’s the best comic book series in current comicdom.

So much happens in this issue, which serves as the conclusion to the Attack on Technodrome storyline, that a quick, one paragraph synopsis doesn’t do it justice. Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz have made Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the epic tour-de-force it has become since 2011. This issue was packed to the staples with action, and even, sadly, concludes with the powerful death of a major character. I even had to back away from my computer and show my girlfriend, who has no interest in comics. It even made her wince.

But enough about that. Let’s talk about what else made this issue so freaking good.

This whole story arc has been full of action and triple kicks that I could never get my action figures to do. And being the conclusion doesn’t slow down the action at all. If anything, it just ramps it up. Cory Smith, who is filling in for Mateus Santoluoco, provides some amazing artwork and fight scenes.

Which I suppose brings me back to the main talking point. Tom Waltz, who does the writing … well, I’m a little miffed and,yes, shellshocked. Given a few weeks, I’ll be fine. I seriously dread picking up issue #45. But while he has damaged me emotionally, I will also give kudos to Waltz. It is a sign of a well-written series, be it on television, movie, print, or, yes, even comic books, when you are so emotionally invested in the characters,when something happens to one of them, you feel it.

And even while it’s shocking, and a serious stomach-punch, I hope IDW doesn’t treat it like a gimmick, and really has a desire to shake things up.

Okay. Time to recuperate and get ready for next month. If you have read the issue, I expect comments. I’m eager to hear from you all on this one.

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