This is Sci-Fi, Issue 15: Valerian, Ghosts, and Robots

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This is Sci-Fi, Issue 15  is a sampling of science fiction news across the mediums. From movies to books, to real life, and any bits in between that I can think of to list. This is by no means a comprehensive list of what’s happening, but it should whet your appetite!

This is Sci-Fi’s Quote of the Week:

“The ability to speak does not make you intelligent.”
― George Lucas

Science Fiction Movies

 

Science Fiction Movies Opening This Week (July 21st):

Movie cover for Valerian

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Synopsis: A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to  species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

Starring: Dane DeHaanCara DelevingneClive Owen

Watch the official trailer here.

 

 

 

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Science Fiction Movies In Theatres Now:

War for the Planet of the Apes

Spiderman: Homecoming

Wonder Woman (Review)

Transformers: The Last Night

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Science Fiction Books

3 New Releases

Book cover for What Goes Up

What Goes Up – Katie Kennedy – July 18th, 2017

Action-packed and wildly funny, this near-future sci-fi features three teens on an inter-dimensional mission to save the world.

Rosa and Eddie are among hundreds of teens applying to NASA’s mysterious Multi-World Agency. After rounds of crazy-competitive testing they are appointed to Team 3, along with an alternate, just in case Eddie screws up (as everyone expects he will). What they don’t expect is that aliens will arrive from another dimension, and look just like us. And no one could even imagine that Team 3 would be the only hope of saving our world from their Earth-destroying plans. The teens steal the spacecraft (it would be great if they knew how to fly it) and head to Earth2, where the aliens’ world and people are just like ours. With a few notable exceptions.

There, the teens will find more than their alternate selves: they’ll face existential questions and high-stakes adventure, with comedy that’s out of this world. – Goodreads

Buy Links: Amazon | B&N

Book cover for Ghosts Helldivers 2

Ghosts – Hell Divers II – Nicholas Sansbury Smith – July 18th, 2017

Ten years ago, Hell Diver Xavier “X” Rodriguez fell to Earth. Those he left behind went on without him aboard the airship he once called home.

Michael Everheart — the boy once known as Tin — has grown into a man and the commander of Hell Diver Raptor Team. While Michael dives to help keep the Hive in the air, Captain Leon Jordan rules with an iron fist at the helm of the ship. But unrest stirs under his strict leadership as a prophecy of hope sweeps the lower decks.

When a mysterious distress signal calls the Hell Divers to the surface, Michael and his loyal team begin to uncover long-buried truths and the secrets Captain Jordan will do anything to keep. They dive so humanity survives… but will they survive the ultimate betrayal?

Buy Links: Amazon | B&N

Book cover for Arabella and the Battle of Venus

Arabella and the Battle of Venus – Adventures of Arabella Ashby #2 – David Levine – July 18th, 2017

The thrilling adventures of Arabella Ashby continue in the second book in Hugo-winning author David D. Levine’s swashbuckling sci-fi, alt-history series!

The swashbuckling Arabella Ashby is back for brand new adventure in the ongoing story of her life among the stars.

Arabella’s wedding plans to marry Captain Singh of the Honorable Mars Trading Company are interrupted when her fiancé is captured by the French and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp on swampy Venus. Now, Arabella must find passage to an enemy-controlled planet in the middle of a war, bribe or fight her way past vicious guards, and rescue her Captain.

To do this she must enlist the help of the dashing privateer, Daniel Fox of the Touchstone and build her own clockwork navigational automaton in order to get to Venus before the dread French general, Joseph Fouché, the Executioner of Lyon.

Once on Venus, Arabella, Singh, and Fox soon discover that Napoleon has designed a secret weapon, one that could subjugate the entire galaxy if they can’t discover a way to stop Fouché, and the entire French army, from completing their emperor’s mandate.

Buy Links: Amazon | B&N

3 Sci-Fi Book Giveaways on Goodreads: (covers go to Goodreads pages)

Book cover for The Song of Orphans Book cover for The Han Agent Book cover for Your One and Only

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The Sci-FI Zone

Here we are at the end of the Best of Twilight Zone series. So what better way to wrap it up than with a few Twilight Zones that are not-so-good. I don’t mean extremely terrible, well a few are, but some I just find boring and/or nonsensical. They are in general order of the worst to the not-too-bad. Keep in mind, this is just my opinion so please don’t come after me with torches a pitchforks.

1. Black Leather Jackets – Season 5, Episode 18: This episode is just silly and a bit weird. A biker gang of aliens lands to invade Earth and destroy humanity. It’s kind of like Grease but without the singing and coherent plot.

2. The Mighty Casey – Season 1, Episode 35: This episode, about a baseball-playing robot struck out with me. Because I could see why the other teams were upset. It’s pretty much cheating.

3. Hocus Pocus Frisby – Season 3, Episode 30: Aliens abduct a man because they think he must be the smartest man in the world, especially with all of the tall tales he spins. Unfortunately, that’s all they are. Tales. Or, lies, as I prefer. This episode it’s just annoying and the main character looks like a fish.

4. The Dummy – Season 3, Episode 33: If there’s a ventriloquist doll in the story then it;s almost guaranteed I’m going to dislike it. Not just because they’re creepy (which they are) but also because they usually follow one or two specific formulas and it gets old. Fast.

5. Caesar and Me – Season 5, Episode 28: Another ventriloquist dummy. Go figure.

6. Uncle Simon – Season 5, Episode 8: This is such a ridiculous story that I don’t even know what to say about it. I think I’d rather be on my own, working, than put up with my psycho uncle and his freaking robot.

7. Person or Persons Unknown – Season 3, Episode 27 – An identity swapper that isn’t so much terrible as it is pretty dull.

8. Still Valley – Season 3, Episode 11 – Again, somewhat boring. I honestly can’t even give you a general idea as it lost my interest.

9. Mr. Dingle, the Strong – Season 2, Episode 19: One of the worst episodes that Burgess Meredith appear in. his performance is quite good but the plot is very weak.

10. I Shot an Arrow Into the Air – Season 1, Episode 15: i just do not like this one. They seem to be very bad at recon missions.

 

 

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Sci-Fi Poll Time!

Your Favorite Sci-Fi Robot

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Sci-Fi on the Web

In case you missed it: The BBC has announced the 13th Doctor for Doctor Who.

AlpacaReads reviews The Punch Escrow.

ScienceFiction.com offers up a Fan’s Perspective on George Romero following his death.

Here’s a write up of Void Star from The Verge

A review of ‘ancient’ science fiction – specifically, the Incubated Girl from Glitternight.

Variety reports Anne Hathaway will be starring in the science fiction thriller “O2”

Sci-Fi Addicts had an interesting article on Why the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Mediocre and We Love It Anyways

A review of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets from RollingStone

 

 

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Coolthulu Reads September:

Book: New York 2140

Author: Kim Stanley Robinson

Date: September 20th

Time: 8 PM EST

 

 

Twilight Zone Tuesday – A Nice Place to Visit

A Nice Place to Visit

Henry Francis ‘Rocky’ Valentine – Larry Blyden
Mr. Pip – Sebastian Cabot
Narrator – Serling


We’re looking at a closed business called Southside Loan Company and a flashlight is moving around inside. Methinks it’s getting robbed. Inside a man lies dead on the floor and we see a guy in thug clothes emptying a cigar box of jewelry into a paper bag. Ok, I was thinking this was a money lending service but I guess it’s more like a pawn shop. What a dick. Killing some poor old man for some (probably) crappy jewelry.

SERLING:
Portrait of a man at work. The only work he’s ever done, the only work he knows. His name is Henry Francis Valentine but he calls himself ‘Rocky’ because that’s the way his life’s been. Rocky and perilous ad out at a dead run all of the way. He’s tired now. Tired of running, or wanting, of waiting for the breaks that come to others but never to him. Never to Rocky Valentine.

Rocky hears a siren and starts grabbing up his jewelry and flashlight. Then he makes a run for the door, jumping over a counter cluttered with a bunch of stuff. Ok, so it’s definitely a pawn shop but a bit of an upper class one since some of the stuff he crashes through look antique. He runs out of the front door and, on seeing the cops, drops the bag of jewelry. Way to go dipshit.

He runs down an alley to try to escape the cops. At first he tries to hide behind a box but they park at the end of the alley and start to search so Rocky tries to climb the wooden fence to get away. The police warn him to stop or they’ll shoot but he screams “You’ll never take me alive, coppers!” or words to that effect, and fires his gun at him. They shoot back and Rocky falls off the fence, presumably dead.

SERLING:
A scared, angry little man. He thinks it’s all over now, but he’s wrong. For Rocky Valentine it’s just the beginning.

We fade back in. Rocky is still lying on the ground and a pair of mysterious white shoes approach him and call Valentine’s name a few times. Valentine opens his eyes and looks up at the man who called his name. It’s an elderly, portly, jovial looking man who introduces himself as Pip. Pip says, “Can I help you?” to Rocky and Rocky’s first inane question is how Pip knows his name. Is that really the big question here Rocky? Pip replies that it’s his job to know everything he can about Rocky. Rocky then wants to know if Pip is a cop. Pip says no, he’s Rocky’s guide. Rocky says he needs a guide like he needs a hole in the head. Well, no holes in the head but I’m sure you’ve gotten a few holes in other places. Rocky starts to get up but looks a little woozy.

Rocky wants to know what happened. Pip tells Rocky that he’s had a small ‘accident’ but he’ll be good as new in no time. He offers Rocky the chance to change out of his rumpled clothes and tries to take Rocky’s arm. Rocky pulls away though. Apparently, the only thing Rocky cares about is how Pip knows his name. Pip says he already told Rocky that it’s his business to know Rocky. That’s not good enough for Rocky. He doesn’t like playing games. Pip says that’s not exactly true. He pulls out a pad from his pocket and says that Rocky seems to like roulette, blackjack, poker and craps. Those are all games. And, despite the very real consequences to people, that’s all they are is childish games. Sorry, bit of commentary there, just ignore me. Pip also says that between the ages of 7-10 Rocky was also quite fond of ‘mumblety-peg’. I’ve seen this word before but I have no idea what they’re talking about. Anybody? Anyone at all?

Rocky snatches the book away, hands it back and then hands it back. He wants to know what Pip is after. Pip says he’s only there for Rocky’s comfort. To get him whatever he desires. Rocky, knowing that nothing is ever really free, wants to know what Pip wants in exchange. Pip says nothing at all. Rocky, being the rude jerk he is, tells Pip to “stop putting me on, Fatso”. Rocky says that everything he’s ever gotten he’s had to fight or work for (some ‘work’) so quit putting him on. Does Pip want him to pull a job or something? Pip sighs at Rocky’s thick-headedness and says rocky doesn’t understand. In response, Rocky pulls his gun on Pip and demands he hand over his wallet. Pip chuckles and says that he doesn’t carry a wallet. Rocky tells him to fork one over. Pip chuckles and says the wallet isn’t what Rocky wants, it’s money. So Pip whips out a huge wad of 100’s from his pocket and hands it to Rocky. It’s about seven hundred bucks. Pip asks if that is enough or does Rocky want more? Rocky asks if ‘Fats’ has more. Gotta say, the ‘Fats’ thing is getting annoying. Pip says he has much more, as much as Rocky wants. Then he asks if Rocky is ready to go. Rocky loads a bullet into his gun and tells Pip not to try anything.

Pip ushers Rocky into a very posh apartment. Rocky slinks into the apartment. Pip asks if Rocky likes it. Rocky says yeah, it’s some posh pad and wants to know if it belongs to some politician. Pip tells rocky that it belongs to him if he approves of it. Rocky is checking the place out. Particularly a picture of a curvy woman on the wall. rocky approves very much. Pip offers to make any changes that Rocky wishes but Rocky says it’s all good. Pip says he wasn’t too sure about a few things but Rocky interrupts him and asks if the apartment gets thrown into the deal. Pip says it’s already in the ‘deal’ as Rocky puts it. He takes Rocky outside to show him his name on a plaque outside of the apartment. Pip hands Rocky the key. Pip starts to show Rocky around the apartment. He shows Rocky the bedroom and then the bathroom. He offers Rocky the chance to freshen up and change his clothes. Rocky agrees and bounces off the bed.

As he gets up to go to the bathroom he shoves Pip around and asks what the catch is. What does he have to do for all of this. Pip says he’s told Rocky all he knows. Rocky asks Pip if he works for someone else and Pip says yes, in a way. Rocky wants to know when he gets to meet the boss. Pip says he’s not sure. Rocky plops in a chair and Pip goes to a wardrobe and asks what clothing Rocky would like. Rocky tells him to pick. Pip doesn’t want to presume but decides on a nice checkered suit. He grabs out a snazzy suit for Rocky and Rocky approves of it. Rocky goes to put his clothes on and does a little catwalk twirl for Pip.

They walk back out into the living room and now there’s a nice dinner laid out. Everything seems perfect. Rocky starts to dig into a nice steak and now I’m hungry. Thanks a lot. Rocky is still paranoid though and insists that Pip taste it first. Pip says he doesn’t eat, that he hasn’t eaten in two or three centuries. Rocky asks if there’s anything wrong with it. I’m assuming he thinks it’s poisoned. He insists that Pip try it. Pip says he really doesn’t know how, he can’t remember how to. Rocky freaks out, thinking that yes, indeed, they are trying to poison him. He pulls his gun and tries to shoot Pip. Of course, nothing happens. Rocky thinks Pip has a bullet-proof vest on so he tries to shoot Pip in the head. He shoots a lamp, just to check if is gun still works. It does and the lamp breaks.

Rocky plunks down in a chair and reaches for drinks that have suddenly appeared on a side table. This startles him and he wants to know what’s going on and where he is. Pip explains that when they met earlier Rocky, in fact, had a few holes in him from his run in with the cops. Rocky comes to the conclusion that he’s dead and Pip cheerfully agrees. Rocky starts to think about the joint, the booze and the clothes and concludes that he’s in Heaven. Rocky asks if Pip is his guardian angel or something like that. Pip agrees to “something like that”. Rocky starts getting excited at the prospect. He tells Pip that he wants a million in five C-notes, right now. And a chick that won’t quit, that’s stacked and beautiful. He closes his eyes for a second and then opens them, wondering where his stuff is. Pip tells Rocky to look in the drawer for the money. Rocky finds it and then throws it around gleefully. Then he asks for the chick. Every time he mentions the chick he does a booby gesture with his hands.

The record player starts playing a lively dance number and a spiffy blonde dances into the room. Pip asks if there will be anything else and Rocky says yeah, “stick around, Fats”. Then he starts dancing with the lady. I think it’s trying to make him look a little doofy dancing but you can tell the actor actually dances pretty good.

At a casino looking place, a croupier is asking people to place their bets. Rocky hits big and is surrounded by adoring, beautiful women.

He’s winning and just can’t stop. He invites Pip over to lay down a few bets. Wouldn’t it be a little awkward to have women all over you with Pip hovering nearby? Pip says he doesn’t have any money. I notice that Rocky doesn’t offer him any. Rocky shoves all of his chips onto one number and then squinches his eyes shut while he waits for the roulette table to stop. He looks a bit constipated.

Rocky has won forty grand in an hour or so. He tells one of his dolls to go trade it in for him. He stops her to tell her not to rip him off any. He’s bored with the roulette table so the gaggle wanders off to go see what’s shaking with the dice. And here’s something else I’ve always wondered. Why do they call it Craps? It just seems like such a gross name. He hands his cup to one of his adoring flock and orders her to go get him some more booze. After Rocky’s done winning they all pour out onto the street and Rocky orders the valet to get his car and be careful with it. As they’re standing there a patrolman walks by and Rocky gives him the evil eye.

Pip wants to know what’s wrong and Rocky says the cop thinks he’s hot stuff because he’s a little taller than him. Pip says “how thoughtless of me!” and shrinks him down a bit. Rocky’s enjoying that. He calls him over to mess with him and then shove him away. The valet pulls up with the car and Rocky actually gives him a pretty good tip. Color me shocked. The girls file in the backseat and Pip hops in the passenger seat.

They arrive back at the penthouse and they all flood in. Rocky says “It’s magic time!” and I kind of want to throw up a little. Rocky tells Pip he wants a different car and Pip wants to know what’s wrong, it certainly goes fast enough. Rocky says yeah, the ashtrays are full. Hilarious. He ushers the women into his boudoir then steps out to talk to Pip for a bit. He tells Pip that tomorrow he wants to look up some of his old (presumably dead) buddies. Pip says there might be a problem. Rocky asks if they didn’t make it or what? Pip says no, it’s not that, exactly but this place was created privately for Rocky alone. Rocky asks what about the girls, then? Are they props or something? Pip says yes, in a sense.

Rocky has a sit-down with Pip for a talk. Rocky wants to know why they let him in. He thought Heaven was only for schoolteachers and stuff. Pip chuckles and says they do have some schoolteachers there. Rocky says he must have done something good at one time. Something really good that made up for all of the rest. But he really can’t think of anything good that he’s ever done. He wants to know if he can find out. Pip says they have a Hall of Records if Rocky would like to see it.

Rocky peeks into the bedroom to tell the girls to stay put, he’ll be right back. He makes a really weird face when he does which makes me wonder if the girls are starting without him. He makes the face again as they’re heading out of the door.

They find themselves at the Hall of Records which is an overly large staircase leading up to some filing cabinets. The wall looks kind of grungy for Heaven. Pip starts digging out Rocky’s folders. In the background there are more cabinets, probably leading into infinity. His file is actually quite thin, comparatively. Rocky seems really excited to be looking through it and, to be honest, I’d be curious too.

Rocky seems a bit, um, psychotic. At the age of six he killed a small dog. Rocky claims it bit him. At seven he stole some toys from a toy store, At age eight he started a street gang named The Angels. Rocky thinks that’s a bit funny and takes a moment to remember them fondly. At nine he broke into a bike store, it doesn’t say for what. To steal a bicycle maybe? It seems his file is a bit thin for all of the rotten stuff he’s done. Not to mention killing the pawn shop owner. Rocky wants to know what the deal is and Pip says that it’s his record. Rocky wants to know if there’s been some kind of mistake or something. Pip says that’s impossible. Rocky figures that if it doesn’t bother Him then he won’t worry his moderately pretty head about it. Pip asks Rocky what he’d like to do now. Rocky looks somewhat befuddled and says he’ll go play with his ‘dolls’ and maybe shoot some more craps. Pip says that if Rocky requires assistance just dial P-I-P on the phone.

Rocky’s back in the casino playing roulette and winning forty grand. He’s looking a bit bored and just walks away, leaving his chips there. He puts some money in a slot machine and pulls the handle. a bunch of money comes pouring out and, again, he walks away, looking bored. He and his harem leave the casino and go back to Rocky’s place.

Back in the bedroom Rocky’s playing cards with his harem. he’s still winning and just can’t lose. Rocky’s whining because winning all of the time is boring. Which it would be. Although, I wouldn’t be adverse to at least one thing going my way occasionally. The brunette with the lovely eyes asks if there’s anything else she can do for him. I could be wrong but I do believe that she’s Maya from Perchance to Dream. Rocky tells them they can get the hell out because beautiful, adoring women at your beck and call can be sooo irritating.

He grabs an apple but gets annoyed at that, even. He goes to throw it back art the table. He sees that the dinner table has turned into a billiard table. He gets happy and goes over to play. He breaks the balls and all of them go into the pockets perfectly. He gets annoyed again and breaks the cue stick and throws it.

 

He dials P-I-P on the phone and Pip appears. I’ve gotta say, I do not miss rotary phones. Pip wants to know what’s wrong and Rocky says nothing, nothing at all everything’s way too perfect. Ricky says that nothing is fun if there’s no challenge. Pip says he could arrange for Rocky to lose occasionally. Rocky at first says it might help but then says he’d know so it wouldn’t be the same. Pip asks if Rocky would like him to arrange a robbery for him for fun. They start working out the details. Rocky asks if there’s a chance that he might get caught. Pip says of course! He’ll make a note of it. Rocky is unhappy with that and says it’s hard to explain. The long and short of it is that he’s bored with perfection.

Rocky starts going on about how he doesn’t belong in Heaven. He wants to go to Hell. Pip stops him short and says, “Heaven? What made you think you’re in Heaven? This is the other place!” Rocky tries to get out of the door but it won’t open. Pip stands there and laughs at the idiot.


I love this episode. It has some great acting and a great twist at the end. If you think you recognize Rocky’s voice he plays the Wandering Minstrel Rooster in Disney’s ‘Robin Hood’.


Join us again for next week’s episode: Nightmare as a Child which is one of the best episodes, I love it.

Twilight Zone Tuesday – The Big Tall Wish

The Big Tall Wish


The Big Tall Wish

Bolie Jackson – Ivan Dixon
Henry Temple – Steven Perry
Frances Temple – Kim Hamilton
Joe Mizell – Walter Burke
Thomas – Henry Scott
Joey Consiglio – Charles Horvath


We open on a flyer for a boxing match at the St. Nicholas Arena between Bolie Jackson and Consiglio. Main Event! And there’s a dude leaning on some apartment stairs with a newspaper over his face. The boxer named Bolie Jackson is making a comeback that night. A boxer, whom I can only assume is Bolie Jackson, is practicing in front of a mirror.

Rod Serling:
In this corner of the universe, a prize-fighter named Bolie Jackson. 183 pounds and an hour and a half away from a comeback at St. Nick’s arena. Mr. Bolie jackson who, by the standards of his profession, is an aging, over the hill relic of what was. And who now sees the reflection of a man who’s left too many pieces of his youth in too many stadiums for too many years, before too many screaming people. Mr. Bolie Jackson, who might do well to look for some gentle magic in the hard-surfaced glass that stares back at him.

Bolie Jackson is looking a little the worse for wear. A little boy sits behind him on the bed, watching Bolie. They start goofing around, pretending to spar. It’s actually really cute. The kid gives Bolie a nice pep talk. Bolie asks if he’s going to be watching and the kid says that Bolie will be able to hear him cheering all the way to St. Nick’s. Bolie tells Henry that a fighter doesn’t need a scrapbook. His whole history is written on his face. What he’s done and where he’s fought. Then he starts listing all of his scars and when and where he got them and who gave them to him.

Bolie seems to be enjoying his trip down memory lane but Henry doesn’t seem to be enjoying it that much. Bolie calls himself a tired old man and says his bus left years ago. He says he’s short of breath with one eye almost gone. heavy arms and legs like rubber but still trying to catch the bust to glory and fame. Doesn’t really seem worth it to me. I’ve never been a huge fan of boxing so pardon me if there’s any boxing fans out there. I might get snippy about it from time to time. Anyways, when Bolie finishes up Henry hops down and snaps his fingers. Then he tells Bolie that he’s going to catch that tiger tonight. Henry’s going to make a wish. A big, tall wish. Bolie’s his good and close friend and Henry’s going to make a wish so that Bolie will win and not get hurt at all.

Bolie gives Henry a hug and goes downstairs. At the bottom of the stairs a lady, Frances, is watching him. Bolie tells Frances that she’s got quite a boy in Henry. Bolie tells her that Henry talks like a little, old man and that Henry got really intense when he said that Bolie was his “good, close friend”. Frances tells Bolie that he’s very good to Henry. Bolie takes Henry to ball games and a lot of other things. He sounds like a good guy. Frances doesn’t want Bolie to get hurt and to take care of himself. Bolie says he’ll try. It’s a little hard to promise something like that in a sport where the main even is watching two men trying to beat the crap out of each other. Henry comes down and gets all intense again and repeats that he’s going to make a wish.

 

Frances tells Bolie that Henry worships him. Bolie says he’s “nothing but a scared old man who doesn’t know anything except how to bleed.” But he’s very obliged to Henry for his wish. Frances says that Henry spends all of his time wishing. she starts to tell Bolie something but trails off. Bolie wants to know what she was going to say. Frances says that she needed fifteen dollars for the rent. Henry said he was going to make his “big tall wish”  (the biggest wish of all, he doesn’t waste it on just anything) and then a woman she had worked for sent her a check she was owed for some work done. A check for fifteen dollars exactly.

Bolie looks very sad and talks to the mailboxes about little boys with heads full of dreams. But what happens when they find out that there’s no magic. “When does someone shove their face into the sidewalk and say, ‘Hey little boy, it’s concrete.’ ?” Damn. That got dark. Bolie’s in his own little depressed world for a moment. Frances tells Bolie good luck and Bolie says sure and that he’ll see Henry later. Leaving the apartment building he passes the guy with the newspaper on his face. Maybe he’s just reeeaally near-sighted. As Bolie passes him he pops up and tells bolie good luck, too. Everyone in the neighborhood wishes him luck as he walks down the street and says they’ll be watching. Henry watches from an upstairs window ledge and waves to Bolie.

Bolie’s getting taped up for his big fight. Bolie’s manager lurks in the corner, smoking a cigar. After the trainer tapes Bolie up the manager walks over and blows a big puff of cigar smoke right in Bolie’s face. That’s just rude. Bolie tells him to put it out. The Smoking Man tells Bolie that since Bolie hired him for the night it’s a package deal. His cigar goes where he does so get used to it. Talk about your phallic symbols. Bolie says he doesn’t care and tells the Smoking Douche to put it out. He finally does and the Smoking Man calls Bolie a yapping old man. That the older they get, the louder they talk. And the more they want, the less chance of getting it. Why does everyone keep calling Bolie old? He doesn’t look that old to me. Maybe they mean in boxing years. Bolie asks himself how he ended up with this ass for the night. The jerk says that he’s a bargain because he’s an expert on has-beens. Bolie says he’s seen this dude’s boys. Basically punching bags who can stay in the ring to get knocked around long enough to earn their pay and then patched up for the next round. The Leech agrees and says that since Bolie has about had it then maybe he’ll sign him up in a month or two. He tries to sell Bolie on this being a good idea. That he should get in the stable why he has a chance. Why are they called stables? It seems very…demeaning. Bolie says he thought the smell of B.S. came with the cigar. Then to make it clear he tells The Leech (whose name is Thomas but I prefer Leech) that he stinks. There’s a knock on the door, letting Bolie know he’s got ten minutes. The Leech says Bolie will be ready and wanders off, probably to play with his cigar.

 

Bolie wants to know what to watch out for with his opponent. Bolie’s only seen the guy fight once and that was a few years ago. The Leech tells Bolie that he’s never seen Consiglio fight at all. Bolie calls b.s. on this, saying that The Leech has seen Consiglio fight at least six or seven times this year. Bolie figures out what’s going on. He grabs The Leech by his lapels and accuses him of betting on Consiglio. Wow. I’m thinking The Leech is too good of a name for him. I’ve decided to change his name to Double D. You can use your imagination on what the second ‘D’ stands for. I don’t know exactly what a boxing manager does but I would think checking out the competition would be at least one thing that they do. So there’s some shady stuff going on here.

 

Bolie threatens to lay D.D. out right then and there and D.D. says he’ll have Bolie up on charges for assault. The trainer is trying to break it up but not before Bolie lands a punch on the cement wall. Way to go. Somehow I don’t think that a broken hand will help you in your match much. While some sad harmonica plays the trainer chews Bolie out saying how’s he going in the ring with four busted knuckles. And, wouldn’t you know, a guy pops his head in right then and tells Bolie it’s time to get in the ring and tosses him his gloves. The trainer asks Bolie what he’s going to do. Bolie says there’s nothing to do except go on. Bolie thinks about Henry and that he’s given him two strikes on his magic. I get the second one, the broken knuckles, but what was the first? Bolie being ‘too old’ or the sleazy twenty buck manager? The trainer says, “Booze?” and I’m not sure if he’s asking Bolie if he wants booze or if he’s already had booze. I dunno. Of course Bolie says that there’s no such thing as magic. Great. You just killed a fairy. Happy now, Bolie? They put his robe on him and they head out.

There’s a shot of the eager crowd. People are cheering, landing punches on their hands. A lady is compulsively clutching the arm of her companion, rubbing their hands together in anticipation and shoveling popcorn in their faces. A woman also bizarrely has her hands up in front of her face like she’s blocking her face from…I have no idea. If she’s so freaked out by being there, why is she there? Another woman is hiding her face (again, why?) and a man is wringing the hell out of a newspaper. I’m going to take a wild guess and say he’s got a bit of money on the fight.

 

Bolie seems to be getting pummeled in the ring by Consiglio. For the fifties it’s quite brutal looking. Of course, that could just be me. In my opinion it is a brutal sport. No offense to any boxing fans out there. Bolie Jackson goes down and the scene suddenly flips from Bolie looking up at the ref to Henry at home. Henry is repeating Bolie’s name over and over.

As the ref is counting Bolie out it flips again to Henry muttering to himself with his eyes closed. Everything freezes for a minute while Bolie is still down and being counted out. The only movement is Henry. Doing his big tall wish.  Suddenly things start moving again but it’s not Bolie on the mat being counted out but Consiglio! Henry’s big tall wish must have worked. Bolie looks confused for a second but then they’re holding his arm up, declaring him the victor. Bolie grins happily and leaves the ring through the ropes.

Back in the dressing room Bolie is fully dressed and looking very confused again. The trainer comes in and Bolie says that they must have been wrong about his knuckles being broken. The trainer doesn’t seem to know what Bolie’s talking about. Bolie says that it sure felt broken but they tell him he beat Consiglio with it so it must not have been broken after all. Bolie says when Consiglio knocked him down but, again, Joe doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Bolie says he doesn’t even remember getting back up. Joe says they must have been watching two completely different fights because as far as he knows Bolie never went down. Bolie’s very confused and asks again if Joe’s sure he didn’t go down. Joe tells him to read about it in the papers and that he’s proud of Bolie. Then he says good night and leaves.

Bolie still looks bewildered after Joe leaves. On his way back home everyone is congratulating him and telling him he was great. Bolie’s very happy. Once inside the apartment building he goes up to the roof where Henry is feeding some bunnies. Bolie asks Henry if he looked ok and Henry says that Bolie looked like a champ, like a real tiger. Henry says that old boy must have hit him so hard it knocked all of the hurt right out of him because he feels great. But he thinks he must have been punchy because he didn’t remember some of it. Bolie tells Henry that he remembers laying there looking up at the ref and the lights but then says it must have been a dream or something. Henry walks sadly over to his bunnies and Bolie wants to know what’s wrong. Bolie insists that he never was off his feet and never went down. Henry just stands there looking sad and shaking his head a little. Bolie grabs Henry and asks if he was on his back and on his way out?

Henry nods his head, still looking sad. Bolie says nobody remembers it but nobody else does. Well, Henry does. Bolie says (again) that he was on his back and being counted out. Henry says that he made his big wish then. That he wished that Bolie had never been knocked out. He closed his eyes and wished real hard for it. A big tall wish. Henry tells Bolie that it was magic and that Bolie needed it then. While Henry is talking about the magic, Bolie calls him a crazy kid and that there’s no such thing as magic. He tells Henry that he’s too old to believe in ‘nutsy’ ideas like magic and fairy tales. Because eight yeas old is way too old to have an imagination, I guess. Henry tells Bolie that if he wishes hard enough and believes hard enough that it will happen. Bolie believes that someone has to knock those ideas out and it’s time for Henry to hit the sidewalk of life. Metaphorically, fortunately.

Bolie tells Henry that he’s been wishing all of his life and he doesn’t have anything to show for it but a face full of scars and a head that aches from all of the hurt and the memories that go with it. Bolie asks Henry if he’s trying to tell him that Henry ‘magicked’ him out of a knockout and back on his feet. When Henry nods yes, Bolie calls him a ‘little kook’ and how did he get mixed up with a crazy little boy that still believes in magic. Dude! He’s a little boy! I’d say maybe eight or so, ten at the very most but I think that’s stretching it. Why don’t you kick a puppy, too, while you’re at it, Bolie?

Henry pretty much just keeps telling Bolie that if Bolie doesn’t believe then the magic won’t work. Bolie says that it was all him and that he had that fight in is pocket from the start. Yeaah, when was that, exactly? When you stupidly broke your hand on a wall? When the other boxer was pulverizing your face? Bolie says that it was all him. Slugging and punching and winning. Winning!

I kind of get why he’d want to believe it was all him but, speaking for myself, I’d take magic anywhere I could find it and tell the little boy thank you. Bolie tells Henry again that there isn’t any magic but god he wishes there was. Well, if you wish it that badly you can’t believe the kid for two seconds instead of crushing him?

They go back and forth with “You’ve gotta believe”, “I can’t believe” for a while. Dude, just take your win and be happy. Damn. The light from the streetlamp fades into the light from the arena. Consiglio is still on the mat and everything is still frozen. After a quick shot of the popcorn eater everything goes back to normal time and now it’s Bolie on the mat. Guess you should have believed Henry, Bolie.

His team helps him up and out of the ring. As he’s walking back home from the match the whole neighborhood is looking at him like he just killed all of their puppies. The guy who was formerly wearing the newspaper tells Bolie that he should have “stood in bed” and asks why he didn’t use his right hand. If you’re such an expert why don’t you do it Newspaper Man? I also have to ask. Was “stood in bed” a perfectly acceptable way of saying “stayed in bed” at one time or is that a Serling-only phrase? Because it sounds weird and he uses it a couple of other times.

Anyways, Bolie goes into the building and knocks on Frances’ door. Frances looks kind of sad when she sees how beat up Bolie looks. Have I mentioned how pretty this woman is? Because if you didn’t notice from the pictures above, she is. Very.

Frances tells Bolie that Henry is in bed but Bolie asks to see him anyways. She tells him that Henry’s probably waiting for him. On his way to Henry’s room Frances tells Bolie she’s sorry he lost.

Bolie tells Henry that he threw a punch before he should have and hit a wall. He went into the ring with half of his artillery gone. Henry tells Bolie that he still looked like a tiger and that he’s still really proud of him. Bolie gives Henry a kiss on the head and goes to leave but Henry says his name. Bolie tells him that he’ll take Henry to a hockey game or something tomorrow. Henry says ok but calls Bolie back again.

Henry says he’s not going to make any more wishes. he’s too old for magic, right? Bolie says that’s right. Way to go Bolie. But he does say that maybe there are wishes and magic but that maybe not enough people believe in them. Then he says goodnight and leaves the room.

SERLING:
Mr. Bolie Jackson, 183 pounds. Who left a second chance lying in a heap on a rosin-spattered canvas at St. Nick’s Arena. Mr. Bolie Jackson, who shares the most common ailment of all men the strange and perverse disinclination to believe in a miracle. The kind of miracle to come from the mind of a little boy. Perhaps only to be found in the Twilight Zone.


This is the first of a few boxing episodes on the Twilight Zone. Perhaps he drew on his own knowledge of how the sport worked and the people were. To me it’s a bit schmaltzy but not too bad.


Join us again next week for a great episode: A Nice Place to Visit

Twilight Zone Tuesday – Execution

Execution

 

Professor Manion – Russell Johnson
Joe Caswell – Albert Salmi
Paul Johnson – Than Wyenn
Old Man – George Mitchell
Minister – Jon Lormer
Faye Roop – Judge
Bartender – Richard Carlan

 

Trigger Warning (highlight to see) : A cowboy lynching and a strangling

We pan down to see some manly cowboy men riding down to a tree. They have a guy on a horse and he has a rope around his neck. I’m guessing things aren’t going too well for him. I guess it’s true that bad guys wear black because he is dressed all in black from head to toe. As Serling is talking Mr. Joe Caswell looks a bit amused at the proceedings.

SERLING:
Commonplace if somewhat grim, unsocial event known as a necktie party. The guest of dishonour – a cowboy named Joe Caswell. Just a moment away from a rope, a short dance several feet off the ground and then the dark eternity of all evil men. Mr. Joe Caswell who, when the good lord passed out a conscience, a heart of feeling for fellow men, must have been out for a beer and missed out. Mr. Joe Caswell in the last quiet moment of a violent life.

The minister comes down to read Mr. Caswell his last rites but Joe says to forget it. He’s not interested in his mortal soul at that moment but his mortal neck. Joe yells to a man still seated on his horse that it will be his pleasure to see it stretched a bit. Joe wants to get it over with quickly. The Judge offers to let him say his last words as is his right. His last words are pretty much “The kid I put a hole in had more mouth than brains and he’d call him out again.”

The older gentleman interjects that Caswell shot his son in the back, not exactly fair play. He also mentions that he’d like Joe’s execution to take a while. He wants to see him kick and suffer. Joe promises not to let him down and then asks again if they can get it over with already.The judge calls Caswell an evil man and a disease and it will be a public service to hang him. Then tells the other two helpers (deputies perhaps?) to get on with it.

They give the horse a smack on the butt and the deed is done. However, as Joe is hanging his shadow slowly disappears from the ground and when it shows the noose again, it’s empty. The witnesses are stunned.

Caswell slowly awakens to find that he’s been teleported to Gilligan’s Island! Well, not really, but it is The Professor from Gilligan’s Island and since he seems to be some sort of scientist here I’m just going to keep calling him The Professor.

The Professor tells Caswell not to be afraid, he’ll explain what has happened in a moment. Caswell, very hoarsely (which is a nice touch), asks where he is. The Professor tells him he’s a long way from home. The Professor tells Caswell that he’s in New York City, at least eighty years from when Caswell originally was. Caswell, naturally, wants to know how he got there so The Professor shows him his Time Travel Machine. Which looks something like this:

The Professor reassures Joe that he wouldn’t understand the principles behind how it works. The Professor tells Joe that he doesn’t really care who he was but he has a most distinguished future ahead of him. I’m guessing The Professor plans on exhibiting his real, live cowboy along with his Time Travel Machine. Maybe I’m being a little cynical (blame YouTube and Photoshop) but unless The Professor could actually produce more then I would think that he built a shiny, diamond-shaped box and hired a guy who acts like a cowboy.

Anyways, carrying on, The Professor tells Joe that he’s the first person in the history of the world and The Professor will teach him all about the future (well, present, I guess) and wants Carswell to tell him all about his world of the past. Joe kind of passes out again  and rubs his neck. The Professor takes this opportunity to check Joe’s neck (all the while Joe making owie faces) and sees the rope burn.From what I can tell the rope burn is up too high to give an instant neck snap that would give an instantaneous death. It looks placed just high enough to give Joe the kind of death the murdered boy’s father wanted. It’s actually a good make-up job and shows an attention to detail. In most movies, tv, etc. they put the rope burn straight across which I don’t think would happen if that person were hanging. I may be wrong but in my opinion it’s at least trying to be authentic.

Professor Manion’s Recording:
At 8:15 the subject appeared desperately tired so I put him to bed. After two hours I’ve discovered the following. His name is Joseph Caswell. He tells me he was a trail boss on a cattle ranch in the territory of Montana. His last moment of recollection was November 14, 1880. He says he was riding herd when he suddenly blacked out. He awoke to find himself on the cot of my laboratory. He felt no sensations and only in the last few moments did he seem to have any grasp of what has occurred.

The Professor turns off his recorder and sits brooding to himself for a bit. He looks a bit perturbed so he lights a smoke and goes back to recording.

Professor Manion’s Recording:
There’s one disturbing point. There are the marks of a rop etched deeply into his neck. He has no explanation for this. I have one other observation, hardly scientific, but I don’t like his looks. I don’t like the eyes, the face or the expression. I get a feeling of disquiet. I…I get the feeling that I’ve taken a 19th century primitive and placed him in a 20th century jungle. And heaven help whoever gets in his way.

The recording ends as The Professor hears the door open and Joe enters the room. Caswell wanders through the lab, checking things out as he goes. Finally he makes his way to The Professor. He stares at The Professor’s cigarette until The Professor offers him one. The Professor lights it with a lighter which startles Joe for a minute then says this, “Fire right out of the air”. Ok, I think that’s taking it a tad too far. It might be an unusual device for Joe to see but they did have matches. I kind of doubt he’d go all caveman on seeing a Zippo.

Joe’s already tired of hanging out at the lab and wants to see the new world he’s landed in. He wants to see the buildings and carriages without horses. The Professor opens the curtains, the dangerous kind with the dangly ropes, and Joe sees the present for the first time. Joe gets a little freaked out by all the cars and neon and noise. You should see it now buddy. Although it kind of makes me chuckle that The Professor’s laboratory is on what looks like the 6th floor. Usually they’re in basements or castes and whatnot.

The Professor says that some things don’t change, however, like the concept of right and wrong. Joe says he knows about right and wrong. A Sheriff in Dodge City tried to beat it into him with a wet rope. Ouch. Although I notice he says he knows about them but doesn’t say he knows the difference. Nitpicky or do you think it’s a purposeful writing decision?

While Caswell is still holding his neck The Professor wants to know if Joe knows about justice. Joe asks why should he? The Professor says that justice came at the end of a rope for Caswell, didn’t it? The Professor asks Caswell if he got to him just in time, before his neck snapped. Probably 6 or 8 feet above the ground. Caswell rightly points out that “when you’re dangling at the end of a rope it doesn’t really matter whether it’s 8 feet or a hundred”. Same drop, same ending. The Professor wants to know if Caswell killed someone. Caswell says, yeah, a whole bunch. He stopped counting after twenty.

After this confession he lets Caswell walk right up to him and then tells Caswell that he’ll have to send him back. I see The Professor living a long and healthy life. Not. Caswell wants to know what he means by back. The Professor answers back to where Caswell came from, to that exact moment if he can. Caswell says he already died and went to hell and now he’s back. The Professor wants to know what about the twenty men he killed? They died with no discomfort at all? Caswell just shrugs him off. Something tells me that philosophical argument is not Joe’s strong suit.

He says that The Professor can talk comfortably about justice when he’s in a nice warm room with a full belly and just a few yards from a soft bed. Caswell says they don’t mean much when another man’s bread or jacket is what keeps you alive. As much as I hate to admit it, he does have a slight point. However, did he try asking them to share? Or try working for a bit of money? His clothes don’t look too rough and the fact that he back shot someone doesn’t speak too strongly for his character. Any kind of back attack is a bit cowardly unless it’s an absolute necessity. Again, though, he makes another slightly good point when he suggests The Professor hop in his time machine and go back to where he came from. He might see things a bit differently.

Caswell freaks out and starts tussling with The Professor, knocking him over the desk. The Professor tries to get to something in his drawer but Caswell beans him in the head with a lamp. Then he takes the gun out of the drawer that The Professor was trying to reach for. The recorder starts playing, repeating the last part of what The Professor had recorded and it freaks Caswell out.

Caswell runs out onto the streey and somehow stumbles into the exact same neon jungle from ‘The Four of Us Are Dying’ (first picture). As Caswell pushes his way through the crowd I even see the same club advertising a ‘water show’. And I still want to know what it means. Wet t-shirt contest?

He looks a bit discombobulated and runs out into the street (don’t they all?) He runs into a telephone booth. Weirdly, the telephone is ringing. Looks like the lady who just left stiffed them for a quarter for the call. He fumbles it off the hook and drops it, freaking out at the voice coming out of the phone. The doors have shut, though, and he crashes through the glass trying to get out.

He then pulls out a kerchief to wipe at a scratch from the glass. He crashes into a bar from the street, bumping into a couple of city slickers. The jukebox scares him so he attacks it. The bartender just watches while Caswell goes a few rounds with the jukebox. He even stands there watching when Caswell takes a chair to it. Then he just makes a “Why I oughta!” face. Caswell stumbles to the bar, holding his ears and complaining about all the noise. The bartender tells Caswell that if he doesn’t pay for it then he’ll have to himself. Well, I’m sure the perfectly nice man who just smashed your jukebox will be happy to pay for it.

The bartender tells Caswell that he doesn’t want any trouble so if Caswell has any he’d better take it outside. In response, Caswell takes out his trouble and plops it on the counter. A gun, you guys, get it out of the gutter will ya! Caswell says he wants “one of those” and nods to the whiskey bottles. Even though the gun is on the counter and Caswell isn’t holding it, the bartender obliges him and pours him the bottle instead of calling the police. Caswell wants to  know why the thing won’t shut up and wants to know where the music comes from. The bartender tells him it’s just a jukebox and asks where Caswell has been, a star? Caswell says he just needs some sleep. The horseless carriages are also making him a bit disoriented. The bartender suggests to Caswell that he go home and have a sleep. He even gives him a couple of bottles of whiskey to leave with. Very obliging of the bartender. Caswell doesn’t look, though, he’s staring at a box on the wall. A TV. Caswell thinks it’s a window and the bartender chuckles and offers to giver him a demonstration. The bartender turns it on to show him.

And there just happens to be a cowboy show on! What are the odds? The cowboy on the screen is also walking straight at the camera on the screen and talking to the camera which is weird because that’s a big no-no in television and movies unless they’re intentionally breaking the fourth wall. Caswell thinks the tiny little tv man is talking to him, challenging him to a showdown. Caswell accepts and shoots the tiny tv man. The bartender makes another “Why I oughta!” face and tells him, “You’ll have to pay for that!” I’m sure it will work just as well this time as it did with the jukebox. Caswell looks befuddled (again) and runs out when the bartender starts yelling for the police. So the bartender has a tv in the bar but no phone? By all rights Mr. Joe Caswell shouldn’t even know what the police are. He runs back out into the urban jungle, dodging cars.

Finally he takes a shot at a cab. I honestly can’t tell if he’s hit the driver or if the driver just ducked. As a general clamor arises, he takes a tumble into some dirt. By now he’s looking sweaty and very, very tired. He eventually makes his way back to The Professor’s laboratory. He begs The Professor for help. I guess he doesn’t grasp the idea that he killed the dude so it may not be the best time to ask for help. As he’s begging for help a light is suddenly switched on. In the doorway stands a man with a gun. Caswell puts his hands up (what happened to his gun?) and the intruder says he thought the place was empty. He tells the “cowboy” to take it easy. Really, though, he doesn’t look like a cowboy exactly. His clothes aren’t that peculiar, really. Caswell asks what the intruder wants. The intruder says he wants whatever’s around for the taking.

Mr. Intruder sees the body of The Professor and thinks that Caswell got there before him and saved him the trouble of killing The Professor. He talks to himself a bit, rummaging through the desk. He asks Caswelll if he’s looked for a safe and Caswell just stares at him. Mr. Intruder leans a bit closer to ask again and Caswell tries to grab the gun. They fight a bit and at first Caswell is holding his own but then Mr. Intruder gets the upper hand even though Caswell is supposed to be a roughand-tumble cowboy who’s a bit bigger than Mr. Intruder. Of course, it didn’t sound as though he fought fair so maybe he is at a disadvantage. Mr. Intruder pushes him toward a window and almost knocks Caswell through. Mr. intruder grabs the dangerously dangling blind cords and strangles Caswell to death, delivering the justice that was delayed a bit but couldn’t escape. Mr. Intruder starts ransacking the office, looking for money or…something. What exactly does he expect to find of value in a Professor’s laboratory? Test tubes? He sees the big flashing lights on the wall and, just like most people, can’t resist fiddling with a few of them. The wall thing lights up and he stops fiddling. The large machine catches his eye and he steps inside.

As it starts to glow he bangs on the walls, wanting out.

Back In The Old West:
The shadow of the rope is still in silhouette on the ground but now it’s filled in with the shadow of a man. The men of the necktie party rush over to cut him down but they soon realize  that the man on the end of the end of the rope is not Joe Caswell. They don’t know who the man is and are baffled by his clothing. The deputies take off and the other three are wondering if they hung an innocent man. They hope not.

SERLING:
This is November, 1880. The aftermath of a necktie party. The victim’s name, Paul Johnson. A minor league criminal and the taker of another human life. No comment on his death, save this: Justice can span years Retribution is not subject to a calendar. Tonight’s case in point in the Twilight Zone.


Karma’s a bitch and the story drips with irony. Not really one of the best since most of the people don’t act like normal people would in those situations. If you were The Professor would you tell a murderer to his face that you’re sending him back to be hung? Or would you trry to trick him into the box? Also, wouldn’t the bartender call the police (on the telephone, not just yelling for them) instead of bribing the crazy man with more alcohol to get him to leave?


Join us again next week for another Twilight Zone Tuesday episode: The Big Tall Wish (prepare yourself, the snark is coming).

The 2017 Science Fiction Reading Challenge Halfway Point Check In!

If you’re just joining us, here’s a link to the original post that explains all about the challenges. (Sign-ups are open until Aug 1!)

We’ve hit the 6 month point for 2017, and I still feel like I blink and another month goes by. It’s a bit insane! There’s been lots of good books read for both challenges (though I admit I’m a bit behind in my science fiction challenge!)

If the linky acts up on you, feel free to leave your entries in a comment.

2017 Science Fiction Reading Challenge

Rocketship Badge for Decades of Sci-Fi

 

For the Decades of Sci-Fi Challenge: At this point you should have read 6 books. Which ones have you read? If you weren’t able to catch the posts when they were open in previous months, now’s your chance to play catchup and list all that you’ve read for this challenge! (If you’re on track, you can just list June’s if you want.)

The Decades of Sci-Fi Book List

  1. In the Days of the Comet by H.G. Wells
  2. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  3. The Clockwork Man by E.V. Odle
  4. Pirates of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
  5. What Mad Universe by Fredric Brown
  6. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  7. Ubik by Philip K. Dick
  8. Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven
  9. Neuromancer by William Gibson
  10. Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson
  11. Ready Player One by Earnest Cline
  12. Blindsight by Peter Watts

For the Wired Into Sci-Fi Challenge: Which ones have you read? If you weren’t able to catch the posts when they were open in previous months, now’s your chance to play catchup and list all that you’ve read for this challenge! (If you’re on track, you can just list June’s if you want.)

Tier One – Dabbler – You should have read 5 books by now.

Tier Two – Dreamer – You should have read 10 books by now.

Tier Three – Connoisseur – You should have read at least 14 books by now

The Wired Into Sci-Fi Book List

  1. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  2. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
  3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #1 by Douglas Adams
  4. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  5. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  6. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  7. Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
  8. Ringworld by Larry Niven
  9. Tau Zero by Poul Anderson
  10. 1984 by George Orwell
  11. Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
  12. Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement
  13. Ring Around the Sun by Cliffard D. Simak
  14. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
  15. The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett
  16. When Worlds Collide by Philip Wylie
  17. The Death of Grass by John Christopher
  18. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
  19. Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
  20. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
  21. The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
  22. Make Room! Make Room! by Henry Harrison
  23. Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan
  24. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  25. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
  26. The Female Man by Joanna Russ
  27. Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
  28. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
  29. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  30. Life by Gwyneth Jones

HERE’S THE LINKY:


Twilight Zone Tuesday – People Are Alike All Over

People Are Alike All Over

Sam Conrad – Roddy McDowall
Marcusson – Paul Comi
Teenya – Susan Oliver
Martian #1 – Byron Morrow
Martian #2 – Vic Perrin
Martian #3 – Vernon Gray

Continue reading “Twilight Zone Tuesday – People Are Alike All Over”

Female Sci-Fi Authors Part 1: Canada and Australia

When I was working up my post for Juneteenth (African American Science Fiction and Horror Writers), I was pleasantly surprised by how many on the list were female. I honestly wasn’t expecting it to work out that way. So, it’s obvious there are some notable females writing in science fiction and horror. But one list just isn’t enough. So today we’re revisiting a segment of this, with a slight modification.

Every female in this list is from (or has chosen as her permanent residence) a country that isn’t the USA or Britain. There are lots of fantastic authors from both the US and Britain, but, let’s face it, they get 99 percent of the attention. Time to shake that up a bit.

This is the first in a planned series where I take some time to highlight notable female science fiction authors from around the world. It’s just too bulky of a piece to post all at once.

To be clear: This is an introduction to these authors, nothing more. While I have referenced some book lists and whatnot, I’m not qualified to do a full write-up on these talented women. I’ve given you the information, and at the bottom I’ve linked you to a database where you can visit their websites when available (wikipedia when not). I hope you take the time to investigate some of the names and hopefully find some new authors to check out!

Canadian Science Fiction Authors

Canada has given us some fantastic female science fiction authors, and some stories to really sink our teeth into. You may recognize one of Canada’s leading ladies of SF right away. Her name is Margaret Atwood, and she’s best known at the moment for her book The Handmaid’s Tale.

Book cover for The Handmaid's Tale

But she’s definitely not the only Canadian writer of note. They also have Candas Jane Dorsey, Esther Rochon, Joan D. Vinge, Tanya Huff and Madeline Ashby. Candas Jane Dorsey is the founder of SF Canada. Esther Rochon won the Quebec Science Fiction Fantasy Grand Prix four times. Joan D. Vinge’s novel, The Snow Queen, won the Hugo Award for best novel in 1981.

Book cover for The Snow QueenThey had Nalo Hopkinson until 2011. Then we lured her to the dark side. But considering she lived there from the time she was sixteen until fairly recently, I’m counting her as Canadian. Nalo Hopkinson won a Locus Award for Best First Novel for Brown Girl in the Ring.

And not forgetting the ladies who have passed on, but made their mark: Phyllis Gotlieb, Monica Hughes, Edna Mayne Hull (published under E. Mayne Hull).

Looking for specific book suggestions? You can start here.

Canadian Science Fiction Awards: The Aurora Awards, The Constellation Awards (Film and Televison), The Sunburst Award (Spec. fic)

Australian Science Fiction Authors

Australia is another country with a solid double handful of talented female science fiction writers. What young adult science fiction fan doesn’t know the name Amie Kaufman? Kaufman partnered with Jay Kristoff to produce the Illuminae series, which has received recognition not only for its unique formatting but for the stories the series tells. Though maybe not quite as familiar as Amie Kaufman, Kim Westood is also rather notable. She’s a name those with a penchant for darker works should pay attention to, and has won awards for both her science fiction and horror work. I’m sure readers are probably familiar with Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks as well. Lotus Blue is hardly Spark’s first work, though it is her firstBook cover for Illuminae novel. She has been nominated multiple times for awards for her short fiction (and won more than a few.) She also co-owns Agog! Press.

Marianne de Pierres has won 2 Aurealis awards for Best Science Fiction Novel, as well as Ditmar for Best Novel. (The Ditmar’s like the Hugo, but for Australia only.) Rosaleen Love has been nominated for the Ditmar award 6 times and won the Chandler Award in 2009 for her work.  If you like Dr. Who, you might be familiar with the name Kate Orman, who is well-known for her Dr. Who related novels.

Book cover for Dark Space

Majorie Barnard and Flora Eldershaw formed the team called M. Bernard Eldershaw, and produced one of the earliest recognized works of Australian Science Fiction.  Flora Eldershaw became the first woman president of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Alison Goodman’s debut novel won an Aurealis for Best Young Adult Novel. She won a second Aurealis for a fantasy novel, and has also received the James Tiptree, Jr. award. Norma K. Hemming is considered to be Australia’s first significant female science fiction writer.  There is now an award given out by the Australian Science Fiction Foundation under her name. It is “given to mark excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability in a speculative fiction work (e.g. science fiction, fantasy, horror) by an individual author, produced either in Australia or by Australian citizens” (from ASFF.org.au)

And I have to give a nod to author D.L. Richardson who does sci-fi, fantasy, and horror and is just a lovely person.

Australian Science Fiction Awards: Aurealis Awards, Ditmar Awards, and the Chandler Award

These two countries have, by far, the most female science fiction writers of any of the posts that I will do. I almost feel like I’m cheating because a lot of these names are well-known. I assure that will change as we work our way further down the list! Also, I know that I didn’t include every single female science fiction writer. That’s just not plausible. This would be nothing more than a list of names. (Though, if you want that, click here for my little database of female science fiction writers)

Sources not mentioned in links in text: 

 

Fathers in Horror

I think it’s interesting (and typical) that while Mother’s Day originally started as a day for church-goers to visit their “Mother Church”, Father’s Day has apparently been an honouring your father thing from the beginning. It originated in the Middle Ages, and is traditionally celebrated on March 19th. Of course, the US has to do things different.

I digress. Anyways, for our Top Ten Tuesday list this week, we did a Father’s Day special. The topic we did was Our Favorite Dads in Sci-Fi & Horror. And it was ridiculously difficult to come up with ten! We ended up having to go with just five. And that’s kind of mind-boggling to think about. Why is it so hard to find evidence of good dads in sci-fi and horror? Both of them would be strengthened by having a few more father figures that readers could look up to in the book. Doesn’t every bookworm have at least one book role-model that they look up to? In my case (Lilyn), it was finding good father figures in books and movies that convinced me that not all dads were horrible human beings. Yes, I knew they were just figments of someone’s imagination, but those people had to have had at least some good experiences with fathers, right?

For this post, we’ll be briefly addressing fathers in horror.

(Note: Most of the following post comes from GracieKat, folks. I’ve made no secret of the fact that Miss L is not a healthy child, and yesterday was a bad day for us. I didn’t have the time or energy to properly contribute to this. I’ve added a bit here and there, but that’s it.)

Fathers in Horror

There always seems to be a distinct lack of fathers in horror. In scary stories for kids, parents missing seems to be for plot purposes. After all, how can they get in their adventures with constant parental supervision? If they are present it’s usually a single parent that has to work often enough so the kids are left to their own devices. Sometimes the horror is the parents. And that tends to be the best case scenario. Once you get into adult horror fiction, it’s not exactly sunshine and roses.

Dads in particular in horror are quite often portrayed as, at the worst, abusive. At the least, neglectful, unobservant or skeptical of what their children are telling them. Taking a look at our Top Ten Tuesday list for our fathers you’ll probably notice that quite a few of them are a father figure, rather than the biological father. It’s good to show this because just biology doesn’t determine whether the person is actually a “father” or not. But it kind of makes me wonder why a child/teen character can have a father figure but not an actual father to help them. Parents are generally held to a higher standard of caring for their children. whether or not that’s always the case.  Father figures fill that role nicely. They’re able to be there when needed but also can be a friend when that’s needed as well.

Book cover for Bobby Singer's Guide to Hunting for Fathers in Horror post

Two of the best that I can think of are Bobby from Supernatural and Harry from the Silent Hill game.

What’s interesting about Bobby is that he’s not just a father to the boys after their father’s death but even before. So, to me, it’s interesting to me as to why exactly they need a father figure to help them with their daily problems and not just being there for the really big stuff. Heck, Dean was laying in bed dying and they couldn’t get their dad on the phone. Bobby is always there for Sam and Dean. Whether it be bullying his way through a phone call pretending to be someone from the FBI to get them out of trouble, or simply showing up to help them hunt when they’re over their heads. He loves those boys.  And in return, the boys are there for him as much as possible.

Harry is also in the father figure category but I find his dynamic a bit more interesting because most father figures fill a very specific role. Harry’s is a bit more complicated in the game. Short form that’s mostly spoiler free (see longer form behind the spoilers thing if curious): Neither of the parents were biologically related to the baby they raised. They found her abandoned on the road. But he loves the kid, and when she requests to return to Silent Hill, he takes her. Revelations come one after another, and it turns out Cheryl was literally the missing piece to someone else. Bad things happen, and Harry ends up raising another baby that he’s given in the town. And that doesn’t end up going too well for him either.

Silent Hill Game Plot Summary/Spoilers!

In the movies he is still a generally good father but as he’s searching Silent Hill he seems to mainly be looking for his wife, rather than their daughter. They also, which was even more disturbing to me, is that they take the character of Dahlia and completely change her for the movie. In the game she’s a manipulative cult member who is also dealing drugs. She also manipulates her daughter to kill people with her powers in exchange for Dahlia’s love and attention. She also keeps Alessa in excruciating physical pain for seven years (through magic spells) to lure back the other half, Cheryl. There is also no father of record for Alessa. Movie Dahlia is made into a sympathetic character who herself was manipulated and regrets it. Harry’s actual character from the game is also changed into a woman. The director does comment on this by saying he wanted to show the mother/daughter relationship and that Harry showed more feminine aspects. My question to this is why not show a very close father/daughter relationship? And why take a horrible mother and lighten her to a tragic character who screwed up a bit by trusting the wrong person?

Here’s where it ties together (I knew I’d get there someday). I wanted to highlight what could have been with Alessa/Heather. Alessa in particular. Perhaps if she’d had a father to look out for her maybe the whole burning thing would not have happened. Or perhaps it wouldn’t. The only other father shown in connection with the cult is an abusive twat nozzle. It could also be why she gets so attached to Harry as each of the girls. Cheryl seems to love him, Heather loves him, enough to want to get revenge for his death. Alessa, even though she’s trying to slow him down from finding her she’s not hitting him hard, just throwing a few monsters in his way. And keep in mind that this is a girl who can kill with just a thought.

Game cover for Silent Hill for Fathers in Horror Post It’s also interesting to note that in the re-imagining that the game changes Harry’s involvement with Cheryl based on the decisions that the user makes in the psych profile. So how you answer directly affects the game and the actions of Harry. At the end it’s revealed that you are actually Cheryl answering the questions. So it makes a difference in Cheryl’s past because of the decisions you make for the character. And they are quite…personal questions from real psychological tests. So it creates a different dynamic to it.

Rupert Giles is one of the only other good fathers in horror that pop to mind. Well, father-figure, really. Though Buffy the Vampire Slayer couldn’t exactly be called horror as much as ‘supernatural’ most of the time. One of the nice things about the show was watching Giles grow into the father-figure role. At first he was the stuffy Watcher. By the end of it, Watcher be damned, he was the Scooby Gang’s dad. You could always count on Giles (even if it was just to tell you that you were being a dunderhead whilst cleaning his glasses.)

There is no doubt that fathers or father figures can have a big impact on a person’s life. A person can get by without them and grow up to be perfectly fine. However, a good ‘dad’ can provide some extra grounding. If you don’t think a father is that important to a person’s development, just look at the sheer amount of times in stories (even fiction outside of horror) where a character is traumatized by his/her father. How many authors write sexual abuse from the father as part of the plot, for instance? We need more good dads and moms in fiction. 

 

Fathers in Horror Questions:

  1. We would love to see a horror book where the main character actually had a dependable father and mother that she or he could rely on. Have you ever read such a book? If it it exists, please let us know!
  2.  Why do you think good parents are mostly absent in science fiction and horror? How many times do you think having a parent involved would have changed the outcome at least a little bit?
  3. Do you have any fathers in horror that we missed on our TTT or in this post? Talk to us. 

Twilight Zone Tuesday – A World of Difference

A World of Difference

Arthur Curtis/Gerry Reagan – Howard Duff
Nora Reagan – Ellen Ryan
Mr. Brinkley – David White


We open on a comfy looking office. Complete with pen stand, a picture of the wife and little girl, and an empty ashtray. The desk is completely clean. There’s also a lamp, another table and a statue of a horse? Odd office decoration.

SERLING:
You’re looking at a tableau of reality. Things of substance, a physical material. A desk, a window, a light. These things exist and have dimension. Now this is Arthur Curtis, age 36, who also is real. He has flesh and blood, muscle and mind. But in just a moment we will see how thin a line separates that which we assume to be real with that manufactured inside of a mind.

As Serling narrates we see Arthur strolling about his office and whistling. A very attractive secretary enters. Arthur and she chat a bit about Arthur’s wife and their daughter, Tina. Tina’s having a birthday party on Saturday and they haven’t gotten a thing for it yet. Well, shame on you, Arthur and Mrs. Arthur! They chat about business and contracts for a bit. Blah, blah, blah. He asks her to change some plane reservations to Saturday night. Sounds like he’s going out to bid on something or other and he and the wife are making a vacation out of it. He whistles around the office a bit more and tries to make a call. Excited yet? The phone doesn’t work though. Apparently telephone service is really bad in the Twilight Zone. He gets up all huffy and goes to see what’s up with the phones.

As Arthur walks toward the door we hear a man call, “Cut!” Arthur turns to see where it came from and when he turns there’s now a camera crew behind him. Arthur stares at them and they stare back at him for a while. Arthur looks confused as he takes it all in. A guy in a wool suit jacket and checked shirt (yikes) calls him Gerry. He wants to know what’s so hard about making a pretend phone call.

Arthur still looks super confused and the checked shirt guy (who also has one side of his head bleached and the other dark) still can’t understand why Arthur/Gerry is just staring at them. He says his name is Marty, the friendly movie director. Dun, dunn!

Arthur/Gerry runs to the secretary’s office. She’s got her feet kicked up, smoking and reading the paper. She calls him Mr. Reagan, too, though. A man comes up to Arthur/Gerry and tells him that Marty won’t take it anymore and to behave himself. Marty comes over to them and the agent tells Marty that it’s no big deal, just a gag. Marty asks if Arthur/Gerry wants to try the scene again and then reminds Arthur/Gerry what the scene is. Arthur/Gerry freaks out and wants to know what the hell is going on and that he doesn’t know any of them.

Arthur/Gerry runs for the phone and tries to dial out again. Marty tells a stage hand to call an ambulance but don’t tell Arthur/Gerry because there’s no telling what he’ll do. Marty tries to get Arthur/Gerry to go take it easy in his dressing room. Arthur/Gerry yells that his name is Arthur Curtis and tromps off. The director calls lunch and Arthur zooms off through the set and backstage.

Arthur/Gerry tries to make a call from the set but can’t seem to remember what his home number is so he calls information, asking for the number of Arthur Curtis. He gives Information his name and address but Information tells Arthur/Gerry that there is no phone there. Oh goody, it’s going to be one of these. Some dude trying to convince other people he exists/is who he says he is. Anywho, he tells them it’s his home and there is a phone there. From his end of the conversation it sounds like Information is asking what his number is. If he knew that he wouldn’t be calling you now, would he? Information isn’t being very Informative. To be fair to Arthur/Gerry it took me forever to remember what my home phone was. He gets angry at the hapless Operator and he asks to talk to their supervisor.

Marty wants to talk to Arthur/Gerry because he doesn’t think Arthur/Gerry is well. Arthur/Gerry says he’s getting the hell out of there and going home. This oughta be good. He takes off out of the door with Marty close behind. As Arthur/Gerry runs out of the door he’s almost run over by what looks like a Chevrolet convertible. Pretty sure it’s a Chevy, this is the closest logo I could find to match:

The Beautiful Blonde behind the wheel jumps out and asks if he’s crazy. Fair enough question at this point. She apparently knows Arthur/Gerry because she grabs him and threatens him with an, “If you’re drunk again so…” She doesn’t get to finish her sentence but I’ll bet it ended something like this “so help me I’ll -” fill in the blank.He tells her to get his hands off of him. She goes volcanic, telling him that she doesn’t care if he gets fired and never works again but he will pay her the money the judge said he should or she’ll throw his butt in jail. I’m sure the rest of his body will be attached. Hm. I don’t see a kid. Can guys go to jail for missing alimony payments?

Marty calls her Mrs. Reagan and she’s very specific that she’s the EX Nora Reagan. Marty says he needs to talk to her but she says forget it. Arthur/Gerry is coming with her but she’ll have him back after lunch. Marty says that’s not what he means. He tells Nora that he’s called an ambulance, he’s worried Arthur/Gerry is having a breakdown. Arthur/Gerry decides this is a good time to get a little Grand theft auto in his resume and hops in the driver’s seat. Ms. Nora laughs at the thought of an ambulance. Marty insists he’s serious but she hops in the passenger side with nary a peep about Arthur/Gerry stealing the wheel. Ok, I’m a bit of a control freak so if I’m in my own car you can bet your booty I’M the one driving. Not to mention, if I recall rightly, she just accused him of being drunk So, as far as she knows he might be drunk and having a nervous breakdown. But she feels hunky-dory about letting him drive? Uh-uh. Not me. Especially as he burns rubber leaving the lot.

After speedy racing through back lot alleys Nora does something then grabs the key, saying he;s going to end up killing them both. Now she decides she’s going to tell him no, rather than, oh say when they were parked. I will say he’s got some big brass ones because he tells her he doesn’t know who she is but he’s going to drive himself home and then she can have her car back. How generous of him.She thinks he’s angling out of paying her by acting crazy. He runs through his stats again: Name, wife, daughter and address. Then they take off again.

Back at the studio a guy (maybe the agent?) is talking to some Head Honcho named Mr. Brinkley on the phone. the Agent is reassuring (sort of) Mr. Brinkley that Arthur/Gerry isn’t drunk, he just might be going crazy. No biggie. He thinks that Gerry Reagan thinks he’s actually the character from the movie – Arthur Curtis.

Arthur/Gerry and the ex-Missus are cruising around a nice suburb. He doesn’t understand. He knows the address but nothing looks familiar. Nora snarkily asks if he wants an award or something for the act. He starts to say his name is Arthur but she tells him to cut it out, she’s not interested. She tells him to go ahead and play it out, she could care less. As he’s walking up to a house to ask where Ventner Road is he spies a little girl and calls her Tina. Uh-oh. This isn’t going to end well for Arthur/Gerry. He runs over to her and grabs her by the shoulders, calling her Tina. The little girl screams and runs away from the creepy guy.

Nora pulls up in the car and yells at Arthur/Gerry to get in. Probably before the people call the cops on the creepy guy. As they drive by the kid is pointing out the scary man.

They take off and pull into a driveway. Brinkley must be there because Nora wonders what he wants. Arthur/Gerry says (again) that he wants to go home. She tells him that is home so quit whining. I may have added the quit whining. Mr Brinkley is in the house ready and waiting for Arthur/Gerry Isn’t that breaking and entering? Mr. Brinkley is also Mr. Drysdale from The Beverly Hillbilles. Nora starts to drag Arthur/Gerry off, presumably to get his checkbook and/or cash. She wants her money before Arthur/Gerry spends it on a binge Arthur tries to explain, yet again, that he’s not who they think he is. Nora wants to know where he keeps his checkbook and threatens to tear the house apart looking for it. Brinkley says they can’t cover for him anymore and that if he loses this job, he’s done. Arthur/Gerry tries to interrupt. Mr. Brinkley tells Arthur/Gerry to take it easy today, he’ll tell them Arthur/Gerry is sick.

Nora grabs him to sign a check and helpfully spells out his name for him. Rinse and repeat on the whole “I’m not Gerry” thing. In fact, so far that’s almost the only thing he’s said so far. He tries to call his workplace only for the operator to tell him the place does not exist.  He starts freaking out. Nora and Mr. Brinkley are looking at him like he’s a very sad little man. Arthur/Gerry puts his head down.

Mr. Brinkley is perched on the arm of a chair, watching Arthur/Gerry thoughtfully. He looks uncomfortable as hell. Just sit in the damn chair, dude.  Arthur/Gerry asks Mr. Brinkley if he believes him. Brinkley dances around the question by saying he thinks Arthur/Gerry is overworked and needs help. He picks up a shooting script and shows Arthur/Gerry the cast of characters listing an Arthur Curtis, aged 36 as one of the characters. Mr. Brinkley thinks that Gerry is crazy, basically. That he wanted to slip out of the life of the drunken, unhappily married Gerry and into the perfect life of Arthur Curtis. Arthur starts to say that Mr Brinkley thinks that all this is a delusion, that he’s really Gerald Reagan, a drunken, – but Mr. Brinkley cuts him off by saying a sweet, unhappy man, saddled with the vulture downstairs.

Um, if Gerry married her willingly then how did he become ‘burdened’ with her? Unless she was nice before they got married. But if he really is Gerry Reagan and drinks a lot then maybe there’s a reason she’s so bitchy to him.

Mr. Brinkley tells him to forget the movie, they’ve cancelled production on it. Because the main star flipped out? That’s a little weird. It seems like it would be cheaper to replace him than scrap the picture altogether. Mr. Brinkley says that Arthur Curtis is dead and drops the script in the trash. Arthur/Gerry isn’t listening and just says that he’s got to get back to his office. Mr. Brinkley says they’re probably tearing down the set right now.

Arthur freaks out and takes off in Mr. Brinkley’s car. Get your own damn car Gerry! A high speed drive ensues as Arthur tries to get back before it’s gone. He makes it back and sits in his office chair and quietly sobs, asking not to be left there. The lights come back up and he’s in his Arthur world with his wife, Marion. She wants to know where he’s been. He just wants to gtfo of the office before he’s sucked back to the other world. sally gives him the plane tickets they talked about earlier. Very faintly Arthur can hear the crew talking about tearing down the set. He rushes his wife out of there.  He doesn’t want to wait for their vacation and wants to leave right now for it. Are you forgetting your daughter’s birthday? Either they did or the scriptwriters did.

The camera gets a bit fuzzy and fades through the office door. On the other side are the film crew, busily tearing down the set. Mr. Brinkley shows up, looking for Gerry. The crew guy says he saw Gerry but didn’t see him leave. In fact, nobody saw him leave. They check the dressing room but he’s not there. Mr. Brinkley wonders where Gerry is. The camera pans back to show us the movie title: The Private World of Arthur Curtis.

SERLING:
The modus operandi for the departure from life is usually a pine box of such and such dimensions. And this is the ultimate reality. But there are other ways for a man to exit from life. Take the case of Arthur Curtis, age 36. His departure was along a highway, with an exit sign that reads “This way to escape”. Arthur Curtis, en route to the Twilight Zone.


There’s really not much to say about this one. Escaping from a busy, harsh or unpleasant life into an alternate world or the past is a common theme in the Twilight Zone. And, frankly, they are some of the more boring episodes. Except for “Of Late I think of Cliffordville” but that’s mostly because Julie Newmar plays an awesome (and  extremely sexy) Devil.


Join me again next Tuesday for: Long Live Walter Jameson (which is a really good episode).

Twilight Zone Tuesday – The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

I know this is generally a highly rated episode and usually makes a lot of ‘Top Ten Twilight Zone Episodes’ lists. Truthfully though? While I can’t say it’s one of the worst, it’s definitely not one of my favorites.

Possible Trigger Warnings: Prejudice, mob mentality, an innocent bystander getting shot


WARNING: Heavy snark incoming!


Steve Brand – Claude Akins
Les Goodman – Barry Atwater
Charlie Farnsworth – Jack Weston
Don Martin – Burt Metcalf
Pete Van Horn – Ben Erway
Tommy – Jan Handzlik


Serling:
Maple Street, U.S.A. Late summer. A tree-lined little world of front porch gliders, barbecues, the laughter of children, and the bell of an ice cream vendor. At the sound of a roar and the flash of a light it will be precisely 6::43 P.M. on Maple Street.

The camera pans down to a lovely summer’s day on, you guessed it, Maple Street. There’s an ice cream man, dads washing their cars, kids with balls and bats, real television fifties Americana. As Mr. Serling narrates we do indeed see the flash of light and whirring noise that he’s speaking of. They think it might be a meteor but aren’t sure because they didn’t hear a crash. A nicely dressed housewife comes out to ask Steve (her husband, I presume) what it was. Steve tells her it was a meteor and she thinks it came much too close for her liking. Well, I guess the next meteor will just have to ask her permission before it comes through her neighborhood. Steve goes back to washing his car and his friend goes back to playing with his hose.

Serling:
This is Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon. Maple Street, in the last calm and reflective moment before the monsters came.

We get a fade out and then an action packed scene of a guy changing his light bulb. He changes it and pulls the string but it still doesn’t work (why you’d need the light on in the daylight is anybody’s guess). Inside a woman is trying to use the phone but the phone appears to be out as well. We also see a guy fiddlling with an electric tool that doesn’t seem to be working.

Steve’s wife comes out to tell him that the power’s off and the stove isn’t working. The neighbors say their phone is out and another woman says their radio isn’t working. The man fiddling with his tool says he’s going to cut across to see if the power is on over on Floral Street. We also get an extreme close-up of his hammer. Steve says it doesn’t make sense for the power and phones to be out all at once. I swear, these people are acting like they’ve never experienced a power outage before.

One of the stander arounders suggests an electrical storm but a guy in a really ugly shirt shoots that down, pointing out that the sky is blue and clear. Ugly Shirt suggests going down to the police station but then says that they’d probably think he was crazy. As normal people would if you reported a power outage to the police instead of, I dunno, the power company?

Steve points out that it’s not just a power failure because if it was then the portable radio would still work. I know a landline phone will still work if the power is out. I’m not sure about back then. Steve says that he’ll run downtown and check things out. But oh no! His car won’t start. Something sinister is going on here. Steve said it was working fine and it’s filled up with gas. Ugly Shirt (Charlie) suggests going downtown and Steve says they’ll go together. Tall Skinny Guy looks after them suspiciously. A random kid calls out to Mr. Brand (Steve) that he’d better not go. “They” don’t want him to. Steve asks who and the kid points skyward and says “Them”. Who? God? And thus he spake and said “Thou Shalt not walk downtown”.

Steve wants to know who the kid means by “them”. The kid says whatever was in the flashy lighty thingy. I may be paraphrasing a bit. The kid says “They” don’t want them to leave the street. That’s why they turned everything off. Because a non-working stove will prevent them from leaving the area? And unless there’s a force-field they can just walk right out of there, you know, like they were about to before Buzz-Cut spoke up. Steve tells Sally to take Buzz-Cut home, he’s been reading too many comic books. Sally tells Tommy to come along. Steve tells him to go ahead and when they get back from town Tommy will see that everything’s ok. Steve says it was a meteor or something, not a space ship.

Steve also says that meteors cause sunspots that can wreak havoc with radio reception and all sorts of stuff. Tall Skinny guy agrees and tells Steve and Charlie to go ahead into town. Tommy begs them not to go because in his story no one could leave…except for the aliens sent ahead to mingle amongst us. Way to go kid. Tommy’s Mommy tells him not to talk like that. An elderly gentleman behind Tommy says what the heck are they standing here listening to? A kid hat read a story. I’m with you, dude. They are taking this kid way too seriously. But no, Steve wants to be sensible and listen to what the kid has to say about the aliens. The kid says that’s how they prepare things (the aliens). They will send down a mother, a father and two kids who all look like humans but they were really aliens. Everyone in the crowd is taking this way more seriously than normal people would. Even the older man. I’m very disappointed in him. Steve jokingly says that now all they need to do is do a neighborhood check and see who’s human and who’s not. Charlie says they need to do something other than stand around making lame jokes. Les is trying to start his car but it just keeps cranking. One of the women in crowd brilliantly asks if his car starts. Does it look like it started? Les gets out of the car and starts to walk back towards the crowd. Just to keep us all up to speed he says he doesn’t know what’s wrong, the cars won’t start and nothing is working. As he’s walking back the car starts on it’s own. Everyone is losing their mind over the car starting by itself, without him being near it. A remote car starter would blow their minds. Tall Skinny Guy says that Les never did come out to look at the nifty flashing lights. Um, maybe because he was inside and didn’t hear or see it? Just a thought. Charlie (he of the ugly shirt) says that Les and his whole family were always oddballs. Tall Skinny Guy wants to know why Les didn’t come out to look. Charlie proposes they go ask him.

By them I guess he means literally everybody because they all go. Steve says, “Hey! Let’s not be a mob!” Real subtle. We also get a close-up of a bunch of feet and shoes. Because a mob only means business when you can see it’s shoes. Or a gang…because when you’re a Jet you’re a Jet all the way…uh, sorry, got off track there for a minute. Anyways, back at Les, he’s still puzzling over the car issue. As they’re watching, the car sputters out by itself. Les is still saying he doesn’t understand what’s going on. They repeat (again) the list of stuff that’s not working and ask Les to tell them about it. Why would his car start and not theirs? They all start crowding him and asking what gives. He gets nervous and tells them to get back a bit. He agrees the car starting on it’s own is weird but it doesn’t make him a criminal (or an alien).

Steve steps forward and Les asks him what’s going on. Steve replies that they’re on a monster kick. That a family amongst them might not be who they think they are. May I step in and remind you that the ADULTS are thinking this because of a few weird lights and a 12 year old kid who thinks it might be invaders from space? Ok, just so we all know.

Steve says maybe they’re monsters from space, you know different from US. You know, the fifth column that’s from the vast beyond. I have no freaking clue what that even means. a little Binging brought me to a Wikipedia article about the Fifth Column and it seems to fit:

“A fifth column is any group of people who undermine a larger group from within, usually in favor of an enemy group or nation. The activities of a fifth column can be overt or clandestine. Forces gathered in secret can mobilize openly to assist an external attack. This term is also extended to organized actions by military personnel. Clandestine fifth column activities can involve acts of sabotage, disinformation, or espionage executed within defense lines by secret sympathizers with an external force.” – Wikipedia

Steve asks Les if he knows anybody that fits that description here on Maple Street. I get the feeling that Steve isn’t totally taking it seriously but if so then why is he even asking Les about it? Les wants to know if this is a practical joke or something. On cue, the car starts up again. Seems like something is screwing with Les big time. They all look at him suspiciously again and he gets annoyed (and a little nervous looking) and says they’ve lived right here for five years. “We aren’t any different from you! Any different at all!” Again, subtle. He says the whole thing is just weird. A little woman with brown hair wants to know why, if he’s so normal, does he – Steve tries to cut her off, to keep things from going any further but Charlie wants to hear what she has to say. Miss Brown Hair says that she stays up late and sometimes when she comes out on the porch late at night she sees Les on his own porch, staring at the sky “like he’s waiting for something”. Ok, first of all, Les is suspicious because he’s outside staring up at the night sky very late at night. She herself just said that she’s up very late and also goes out onto her porch at night. To me a guy doing a little stargazing on his own porch is far less creepy than the woman who is also out late staring at HIM.

Les retorts that he’s guilty of insomnia, nothing more. He starts to walk toward them and they all back away like he’s got three arms. They continue to back away and he calls them frightened little rabbits and says they’re sick. I agree. I’ve got your back Les. He also tells them that they’re starting something that’s even more frightening (which, I will concede is a great and accurate line). The director must know it’s a great line because we fade out after that.

When we come back a lady is lighting a candle. Guess the power’s still out. It appears to be Les’ wife. She takes her husband a nice, cold glass of milk. Wait. The power’s out so it’s probably warm milk. In the summer. Ick. Everyone is still outside, stalking the Les and his family. Next door, Charlie is perched on a step-ladder, the better to watch Les with. Charlie’s wife brings her husband a sweater. It must get a little chilly, Les-watching. Charlie has a beer. MUCH less suspicious than a glass of milk. His wife said it doesn’t feel right, watching them like that. She tells her husband that they’ve been friends ever since the Goodmans moved in. Very good friends. Charlie scoffs at that. Any guy who watches the night sky at night is MUCH weirder than the guy perching on a step-ladder staring at his neighbor. Charlie says a little weirdness (like stargazing) is fine under normal circumstances but when the entire street is down to using candles, why! It’s like being back in the dark ages! Methinks Charlie is a bit of a drama queen.

Steve starts to walk toward Les’ house and Les says they don’t want trouble but if anyone steps foot on his porch that’s what they’ll get. Les says (again) that he has insomnia so he goes for walk, looks at the stars. His wife chimes in and says that’s exactly what he does. she says what’s going on is some kind of madness. Steve agrees that it is some kind of madness. Charlie yells out that Steve better “watch who he sings with” until it’s all sorted out as he’s not above suspicion himself. Steve comes back with that none of them are above suspicion it seems, from the ages 8 and up.

Miss Brown Hair (the one who is also up at night, watching Les) says what are they supposed to do? Stand outside all night? You can do whatever the hell you want lady. Free will is a great thing. Charlie replies that that’s exactly what they’re going to do until the ‘guilty party’ tips their hand. Personally, I’d tell Charlie he can sit on his little spy perch all night for all I care because I’m going to bed. Maybe I’m just not good mob material. Steve’s pretty much with me. He tells Charlie he can go inside and shut up instead of self-appointing himself the hanging judge. One thing strikes me as weird. There seems to be twenty houses on the street and about ten to fifteen people total.

Charlie says that Steve would love that, wouldn’t he? Maybe they’d better keep an eye on Steve, too. The rest of the sheeple start to look at Steve suspiciously now. Tall Skinny Guy (who, we just now find out, is named Don) tells Steve that Steve’s wife has been telling some of the strange things he does. She looks shocked and a bit hurt. Of course, Charlie the Perfect wants to know what. Steve says go ahead. Let’s pick out every weird thing everyone does and set up a kangaroo court. Maybe Charlie would like to also set up a firing squad, too, eh? Steve asks Don how about it? Don is a little taken aback.Don says there’s no reason to get upset. Oh, no. I never get upset when people accuse me of being a space creature. Sorry, the sarcasm is starting to overload.

Anyways, Don tells Steve that Myra has talked about how Steve spends quite a few hours in the basement working on a…gasp! Radio!And since none of them have ever seen the radio then it must be suspicious! Maybe Steve just doesn’t invite any of you nosy asses into his basement. Charlie pushes his way through and wants to know what kind of radio it is that Steve has. I have to point out that Charlie looks like a complete asshat. The kind of guy who starts crap but never will finish it and then passes it off on others. Charlie wants to know who Steve talks to on his radio. Steve says he’s surprised that Charlie hasn’t figured it out, he talks to monsters, duh.

Myra breaks in and tells Steve to stop. She tells them it’s just a ham radio set and that a lot of people have them. She even offers to show it to them. Steve says no, they’re not showing anyone anything. Let ’em get a search warrant. Charlie starts to say Stule eve can’t afford to – but Steve cuts him off saying “don’t tell me what I can and can’t afford.’ And to stop telling him who and who’s not dangerous. Steve turns on the rest of the crowd and says they’re all in it, too. That they’re so eager to point a finger at someone, anyone else. But if they keep acting like that then they’ll end up eating each other alive.

Everyone looks slightly ashamed of themselves. Then they hear footsteps approaching. Even though there were only about ten people on the street before, now there’s about twenty. They all watch the figure approach. Then someone screams, “It’s the monster!” I’m guessing it’s the guy who left earlier. Don comes running up with a gun. Steve grabs it from him and asks what the hell he’s doing. Charlie grabs it from Steve telling him that Steve will get them all killed waiting for whatever is in the dark to get close. Way to go, dumbass. The first rule of owning a gun is to NEVER assume a gun is unloaded. The second rule is ALWAYS know what you’re shooting at.

We get a close up of the “creature’s” jeans, a hammer is hanging from a loop. So it is the guy from earlier. Since Charlie looks like a wuss and Steve is twice his size and muscle mass it does make me wonder why Steve doesn’t grab it back. And he should have. Because Charlie completes his jackassery and shoots the poor old man. They all run over to see that it’s Pete. The Brown Haired lady says “You killed him, Charlie.” Charlie says he didn’t know who it was. Exactly! You don’t shoot unless you damn well know what and who you are shooting at. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t know. You are now a murderer. Charlie’s big excuse is that Pete came out of the darkness so how was he supposed to know it was Pete? So, a non-threatening figure walking up a dark street is just cause to shoot him? You could have called to ask, or, hey, how about this? Wait until he gets closer! He pleads with Steve, saying, “Steve? You know why I shot him, right? I thought he was a monster or something.” Steve backs away from him. Since Steve was the one telling them not to be idiots and shoot I don’t think he’s going to help you, Charlie. He says he was just trying to protect his home. From what? The guy strolling through his own neighborhood?

Immediately after this the lights go on in Charlie’s house. Despite their idiocy having just taken a life Don and Brown Haired Mouse Woman want to know why? Now they’re saying that maybe Charlie killed poor Pete because Pete knew who the real monster was. Oh, sweet Cthulhu. Really?! Les even joins in (I’m very disappointed in you Les). Charlie says he doesn’t know why his lights came on, that maybe somebody’s pulling a gag. Steve shakes him a bit and says that the “gag” just left someone lying dead in the street.

Charlie shakes loose and they all chase him, grabbing a few rocks as they go. I guess torches and pitchforks are hard to find in the suburbs. One of the rocks hits Charlie’s porch light and cuts poor Charlie’s head (boo freaking hoo). Charlie starts screaming that he’s not the monster but he knows who it is. The two main sheeple, Miss Brown Mouse and Don (who looks way too creepily excited) want to know who. Charlie points out the kid, Tommy. Tommy’s Mommy grabs him and says it’s not true. The kid looks terrified and Mrs. Brown Mouse starts screaming “Grab your torches and pitchforks! It’s the kid! He knew what was going to happen!” And, of course, how could he know unless he was the “monster”? I guess the body in the street, which, I might add is still there, didn’t slow down their feeding frenzy any. Steve yells at them to stop it (because that’s worked so well so far) and of course they don’t listen and start chasing the kid down the street like they’re going to tear him apart with their bare hands. Lights are coming on in all of the houses now and instead of being normal, rational people (although I think we passed rational about fifteen minutes ago) and thinking “Hey, maybe it’s just that the power was off and no one’s a space monster!” they all start accusing each other. People start yelling and shouting and grabbing weapons. Guns, rocks and even the hammer from poor Pete’s pants. It shows shots but it’s all a jumble so I’m not sure if anyone else got shot or what. People are basically running in circles on the road, instead of, oh, I dunno, their houses?

The camera starts to pull back for a wider shot of the street, then the town. A man’s voice asks someone else if they understand the procedure now. Just turn off their lights, phones and lawnmowers and then sit back and watch the ‘pattern’ of chaos. The second person watching asks if the pattern is always the same. The first man replies that it always is. They pick out whom they find most dangerous and go after that person, not realizing it is they themselves that are the true enemy. Then just sit back and watch.

It finally shows the two men talking. They look human but I’m guessing they’re spacemen and we’re their ant-farm. the Mustached Man asks if Maple Street is unique. The other man says certainly not. They’ll go from one to another, letting them destroy each other one at a time. They pop back into their ship to take off, presumably to another ‘Maple Street’.

Serling:
The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes and prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all it’s own. For the children and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.


This has been a long one so thank you for bearing with me. Now, from my snark you might be under the impression that I disagree with the underlying moral of the story. i don’t. I think Rod Serling’s summation at the end is perfectly said and drives home the point with deadly sharpness. It also hits two of Serling’s pressure points: Mob Mentality and Prejudice. The execution, however, is what I find a bit lacking. I do get partly why he chose the script he did. Things like that can start over the most petty of incidents and then before you know it, it’s grown into a monster that cannot be controlled nor stopped. An overwhelming tide of prejudice and hatred that can overwhelm empathy, rationality and reason. I think, though, he did a good enough job within the episode itself that the end bit with the ‘aliens’ (or whatever they are) is a bit too much. It edges it into the territory of ridiculous and it walks a very fine line as it is.Personally I think a line from Black Sabbath says it perfectly:

“If you listen to fools – the mob rules”
– Black Sabbath “The Mob Rules”


Thank you for bearing with this week’s rather long episode (and the somewhat excessive snark) and please join me again next week for the next episode of the Twilight Zone – A World of Difference.