Travis Langley, Superhero Psychologist

By Carl Slaughter: Pop psychologist Travis Langley puts your favorite superheroes, Jedi, starship captains, monster slayers, time travelers, throne seekers, and post apocalyptic survivors on the couch.

Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight

Batman is one of the most compelling and enduring characters to come from the Golden Age of Comics, and interest in his story has only increased through countless incarnations since his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. Why does this superhero without superpowers fascinate us? What does that fascination say about us? Batman and Psychology explores these and other intriguing questions about the masked vigilante, including: Does Batman have PTSD? Why does he fight crime? Why as a vigilante? Why the mask, the bat, and the underage partner? Why are his most intimate relationships with “bad girls” he ought to lock up? And why won’t he kill that homicidal, green-haired clown? Gives you fresh insights into the complex inner world of Batman and Bruce Wayne and the life and characters of Gotham City. Explains psychological theory and concepts through the lens of one of the world’s most popular comic book characters. Written by a psychology professor and “Superherologist” (scholar of superheroes).

Wonder Woman Psychology: Lassoing the Truth

A fascinating analysis of the psychology behind Wonder Woman. For 75 years, Wonder Woman has served as an inspiration to people everywhere. Wonder Woman Psychology: Lassoing the Truth examines this powerful superhero–who was created by famous psychologist William Moulton Marston–through 20 chapters, including some very special interviews and the previously unpublished memoir of Elizabeth Holloway Marston. This collection analyzes: Marston’s important role in the history of forensic psychology. How Diana’s relationship with her mother and Amazonian sisters shapes her to become a leader and the heroine called Wonder Woman. The ways differences in culture and gender can contribute to alienation but also to personal empowerment.

What roles emotion, strengths, virtues, and culture shock play in heroic behavior. And what it truly means to be a wonder.

Star Trek Psychology: The Mental Frontier

The next entry in Sterling’s Popular Culture Psychology series features 20 chapters and exclusive interviews with cast members and Rod Roddenberry. In a fun and accessible way, Star Trek Psychology delves deep into the psyches of the show’s well-known and beloved characters. The trailblazing franchise spans five TV series, 13 films, and countless novelizations. It celebrated, as no other form of entertainment had before, a world filled with space-traveling dreams and human diversity. In the process, it became one of the oldest and most popular sci-fi franchises of all time. Star Trek Psychology uses academic and scientific theories to analyze and answer such questions as Why do Trek’s aliens look so human, and how can the starship’s holodeck be used for therapy? This compilation examines alien neurobiology, discusses identity formation for shapeshifters, explores the importance of emotion for artificial intelligence, and much more.

Star Wars Psychology: The Dark Side of the Mind

From its very first frame, the Star Wars series created a compelling universe with complex characters and engaging storytelling. This collection offers a fascinating psychological analysis of every aspect of George Lucas’s richly rendered galaxy with all its characters and stories. Expert contributors led by Travis Langley ( Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight; The Walking Dead Psychology: Psych of the Living Dead) examine such topics as family ties, gender, prejudice, values, villainy, and heroism itself, including a look at how psychoanalysis and archetypes directly shaped the original trilogy. They shine a light into the hidden part of the psyche and reveal the ultimate lesson of Star Wars.

Game of Thrones Psychology: The Mind Is Dark and Full of Terrors

This thought-provoking anthology offers a close examination of the psychology behind the intricate narrative and compelling characters in author George R.R. Martin’s bestselling work, A Song of Ice and Fire, and the the popular HBO TV series based upon his books, Game of Thrones.

In Martin’s richly detailed world, deceit, manipulation, and greed rule the day, and almost everyone fights for power over the realm or simply over their own lives. How do love and hate, good evil, need and greed, altruism and narcissism drive the very best and very worst human behaviors? With no moral boundaries honored, the psychological games played by the series’ conniving protagonists are seemingly limitless. Game of Thrones Psychology: The Mind is Dark and Full of Terrors explores motivations, relations, personality disorders, psychopathy, trauma, and much more. What kind of person can survive the game of thrones, much less hope to win?

Captain America vs. Iron Man: Freedom, Security, Psychology

Freedom vs. security, the basic human dilemma. Can heroes really protect both? Two iconic figures, two living symbols whose choices make them superheroes and leaders, come to completely opposite conclusions.

This provocative collection, edited by acclaimed media psychology writer Travis Langley and with a foreword by the legendary Stan Lee (!), examines the complex psychological and political choices made by Captain America and Iron Man throughout their careers, culminating in Marvel’s superhero civil war which spreads far beyond the Avengers themselves. Why do Steve Rogers and Tony Stark see things so differently? What are their motivations? Is either one truly in the right? Captain America vs. Iron Man: Freedom, Security, Psychology, our latest entry in this popular psychology series. analyzes the polar sides of this debate–individual freedom vs. national security. How does trauma shape these heroic characters? What does it take to become a hero? What roles do empathy, gender, genius, morality, leadership, and teamwork play in starting conflicts and in resolving them? Fans will find thought-provoking psychological material to contemplate for hours. Do we really have to take sides?

Doctor Who Psychology: A Madman with a Box

How does an immortal deal with death? What kind of person makes the best Companion? Why does the Doctor say he and Freud “got on very well”? How do the Daleks and Cybermen reflect concerns about losing our humanity? And what can looking at an ancient Time Lord teach us about real human nature? Doctor Who Psychology: A Madman with a Box explores these questions and many more. Chapters include: “Getting to the Hearts of Time Lord Personality Change” “Who’s Who: Interview with Four Doctors and a River on the Core of Personality” “Post-Time War Stress Disorder” “From Human to Machine: At What Point Do You Lose Your Soul?” Doctor Who Psychology explores the alien in us all. This fascinating in-depth collection, edited by Travis Langley, contains 19 chapters and other special features delving into the psychology behind the time-traveling Doctor in his many iterations, as well as his companions and his foes. With a foreword by Third Doctor Companion Katy Manning and interviews with actors who played Doctors new and old, Doctor Who Psychology travels through the how and why of Who. It’s all timey-wimey.

The Walking Dead Psychology: Psych of the Living Dead

Aim for the brain! The characters of The Walking Dead live in a desolate post-apocalyptic world, filled with relentless violence and death. In reality, how would such never-ending stress and trauma affect the psyche? By understanding the psychological forces that drive the series’ action, fans can better grasp Robert Kirkman’s compelling fictional universe. Which characters suffer PTSD, which show the most hope for recovery, and which instead show posttraumatic growth? Has Rick Grimes lost his mind? What’s it like for kid like Carl growing up during the zombie apocalypse? Is the Governor a psychopath, a sociopath, or something even worse? What does that make Negan? What is the emotional cost of killing a walker or even another living person? What does Terror Management Theory tell us about what it means to fight constantly or survival? What is groupthink and how does it affect the decisions made by the people of Woodbury, Terminus, Alexandria, and Rick’s “family”? How do they find hope? In 19 chapters from a range of esteemed contributors, plus “Case Files” sidebars by renowned editor Travis Langley with a foreword by George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead co-creator John Russo, The Walking Dead Psychology: Psych of the Living Dead answers these and many other questions in a way sure to fascinate the millions of passionate graphic novel readers and TV viewers. What does it take to stay human when humanity has lost the world?

Supernatural Psychology: Roads Less Traveled

A fascinating analysis of the psychology behind the popular TV series Supernatural. From Travis Langley (Batman and Psychology; The Walking Dead Psychology; Star Trek Psychology) and Lynn S. Zubernis (Family Don’t End with Blood; Fan Phenomena: Supernatural). Following the adventures of two brothers who investigate deeply strange and paranormal mysteries in their never-ending road trip, the TV show Supernatural has many fans eager to better understand the psychology behind the series’ themes and characters. Featuring cast & crew interviews, this collection examines issues at the heart and soul of Supernatural’s heroes and foes (fans, too): The role grief and trauma play in the protagonists’ lives. The importance of music to the narrative. What motivates someone to hunt monsters and why we want to believe in magic. How angels relate to humanity and what that has to do with real intergroup conflict. How people can cope with tragedy, loss, addiction, and fear to become heroes who do the right thing. The dynamics of fandom: how fans relate to the narrative, characters, and actors, and continue to engage with series through fanfic, social media, and other practices.

AUTHOR BIO

Travis Langley, Ph.D., authored the acclaimed book BATMAN AND PSYCHOLOGY: A DARK AND STORMY KNIGHT (Wiley; Turner Publishing). He is the editor and lead writer for Sterling Publishing’s Popular Culture Psychology series, including THE WALKING DEAD PSYCHOLOGY: PSYCH OF THE LIVING, WONDER WOMAN PSYCHOLOGY: LASSOING THE TRUTH, and CAPTAIN AMERICA VS. IRON MAN: FREEDOM, SECURITY, PSYCHOLOGY (with foreword by Stan Lee) along with looks at Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, Supernatural, and Doctor Who. A psychology professor who teaches on the psychology of crime, mental illness, social behavior, and media at Henderson State University, he received his degrees from Hendrix College and Tulane University. Travis has also been a child abuse investigator, courtroom expert, and undefeated champion on the “Wheel of Fortune” game show. He appears as an expert interviewee in documentaries such as “Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics,” “Superheroes Decoded,” and “Batman and Bill.” “Legends of the Knight” features a segment on how he uses fictional characters to teach real psychology. The New York Times (front page), CNN, MTV, and many other news outlets have covered his work. Over 100,000 follow him on Twitter, where he ranks among the ten most popular psychologists as @Superherologist.

Earthling Cinema 101

By Carl Slaughter: It’s an old and well used but effective comedy trope:  An alien visits Earth and tries to understand our species through interactions with us or through archeology and anthropology.  Wisecrack’s Mark Schroeder, as alien museum guide Garyx Wormuloid educating his fellow species, satirically offers pun-filled, deliberately misrepresented takes on Earth’s most popular movies, with DVDs on display as human relics.  Think Spock with a wicked sense of humor.  For some reason, his pokes at animated movies are much better than at live action ones.  Here are links to Earthling Cinema’s best videos.

Shrek

Zootopia

Finding Dory

WALL-E

Incredibles

Aladdin

Lego Movie

Toy Story 3

Beauty and the Beast

How to Train Your Dragon

Lion King

Wonder Woman Roundup

By Carl Slaughter: (1) “Wonder Woman Movie’s Most Important Scene”.

(2) “Why Wonder Woman Has the Most Powerful Opening Scene In Comic Movie History” in Esquire.

(3) “Wonder Woman: 15 Movie Moments That CRUSH Sexism” at ScreenRant.

(4) “Fox News Mulls Over Whether Wonder Woman Is ‘American’ Enough”

(5) A few male reviewers bash Wonder Woman. “‘Wonder Woman’ Is Historic, But Some Male Critics Couldn’t Help Being Condescending”

(6) During a brief and disastrous period, DC ruined Wonder Woman by trying to Marvel-ize her with a mod makeover. They took away her kingdom, her membership in the Justice League, her superpowers, her feminist and humanist values, her costume and weapons, even her masthead. They even took Steve Trevor from her. They turned her into a fashionista, gave her a crime fighting partner, and put her through kung fu training. They gave half a dozen Steve Trevor replacements.

(7) 17 versions of Wonder Woman. “Weird, WTF Alternate Versions of Wonder Woman” at ScreenRant.

See Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars on 8/21

Sony Pictures Entertainment’s animated Starship Troopers Traitor of Mars will be in theaters for one night only on August 21.

Would you like to know more?

C’mon You Apes, You Wanna Live Forever?! I have only one rule. Everybody fights, no one quits. The bugs have breached Mars and the Federation’s Fleet is too far to help. It’s up to us to save the planet. On the bounce, Troopers! The only Good Bug is a Dead Bug! Oorah!

Casper Van Dien and Dina Meyer return as the voices of Johnny Rico and Dizzy Flores alongside Comedian & Starship Troopers Super Fan DeRay Davis in an all-new military adventure from the writer of Starship Troopers and Robocop, Ed Neumeier.

Tickets go on sale from Fathom Events on June 19.

Imagine intentionally remembering to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the live-action Starship Troopers movie? Now that’s science fiction!

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter for the story.]

Vixy and Tony Talk About their Band with Carl Slaughter

By Carl Slaughter: The first time I interviewed Vixy and Tony, we talked about the nature of filk music. Since then, they have released another album and added 2 band members. This interview is focused on the band itself.

Carl Slaughter: What albums and songs have you come out with lately? What were the inspirations and what are the themes?

Vixy & Tony: Our most recent album, We Are Who We Are, is our second full album, and we’re very proud of it. Since Betsy and Sunnie (or cellist and fiddler) have been in our band for a while now, we’re happy to finally have a full-length studio recording that features them. The inspirations and themes are different for each song, but each song tells at least some kind of a story of its own. Of course, being filkers, all the songs are related to SF/Fantasy/Mythology, SF fandom, or geekdom in some way, though some are more directly relevant than others. It’s got a space ghost pirate ship story (our cover of the filk classic “Dawson’s Christian”), a song about an astronaut (“Anna”), and a love song for a cosplayer (“We Can Be Anything”). Some of the tracks are a bit more personal, like “Burn it Down”, which is about overcoming your fears, or “The River”, a song geeking out about songwriting. The title track, “We Are Who We Are”, is our geek anthem and social justice anthem. If I had to pick a single thematic thread for the album, it would probably be something like “fight the good fight” or “keep at it”.

CS: What exactly is an Outdoor Trek. What do the fans do there? What does the band do there?

V&T: Oh, we love Outdoor Trek very much! There are a few groups throughout the country who are turning old Star Trek TOS episodes into stage plays and performing them outdoors, Shakespeare-in-the-Park style. Portland had “Trek In The Park” for a while, and in Seattle we’ve got Outdoor Trek, and it’s wonderful. For a few weekend afternoons each summer, you can go to a local park in Seattle and watch a wonderful gender-bent version of a TOS episode performed. The cast is wonderful and funny, and they play up the inherent humor and silliness of the whole thing, but they clearly do it with a love and deep respect for the source material. These are true Trek fans who love the original series, but at the same time, aren’t afraid to laugh about it. Their low-tech prop gags are the best: phasers which are clearly just garden sprayers, and transporters which are just hula hoops with gold ribbons tied on. Their Horta from “Devil in the Dark” was epic.

They usually have an actual “house band” doing the theme music and incidental music, live, along with the play. We’re not the house band, though some of our friends have been in the house band from time to time. Our part of it is simply to be an opening act once in a while. We don’t get to do every one because our schedules are pretty busy during the summer, but we try to open for Outdoor Trek on one or two afternoons each year when we can.

Details about Outdoor Trek can be found here.

Vixy and Tony. Photo by Angela Sather Hodgetts.

CS: What exactly is a fen? What happens at a FenCon and what does the band do there?

V&T: “Fen” is simply the plural of “Fan”, intended as a bit of a pun (Man->Men, Fan->Fen). It specifically refers to people in SF/Fantasy fandom as opposed to, say, fans of a sports team or a band.

FenCon is a Dallas regional SF convention, usually held around September each year. This year we’ll be the Music Guests of Honor there, and we’re very honored that they’re having us. We’ll play a concert, participate in filk circles, and if we’re lucky, possibly appear in other musical performances with some of our friends who are slated to be playing there as well this year. For me and Vixy and Sunnie, it’ll be our first time at FenCon, but Betsy has been there before (as the cellist for Tricky Pixie) and she said it was great, so we’re really looking forward to it.

CS: You just got back from Norwescon. What happened there?

V&T: Norwescon is our Seattle regional SF con, held every spring on Easter weekend, and it was really fun this year. We got to play a really fun concert in one of the big ballrooms. Apparently we outgrew the “two adjoined smaller rooms” that we usually play in each year, so they moved us up to the “big hall”, as it were. I think we played a great set, and we also got to see our Portland friends The PDX Broadsides play a great set, too. They just finished up their Kickstarter for their new album which is going to have some great songs on it.

Of course the rest of Norwescon was fun as well, they have a great programming track every year, full of super interesting stuff. A lot of our friends do panels there every year. The con tends to overflow the hotel every year, so there are many, many geeky people there all weekend. The costuming is top-notch too.

CS: Same questions for Conflikt, and is there any actual conflict?

V&T: There is indeed conflict at Conflikt, there’s one particular conflict that the name refers to. That’s our Pacific Northwest regional filk convention, and Vixy and I were there on the day it was initially conceived. We were at a housefilk in Victoria BC several years ago, when some of the folks there got the bright idea to start our own PNW filk con. Beth Runnerwolf was there with us, and she had been doing a great job running the filk track at Norwescon at the time, and we figured she’d be a great programming chair. The only problem was that when we started looking for a good weekend on the calendar to hold the convention, we couldn’t find a weekend that wasn’t already adjacent to some other nearby fannish event. Every weekend we could think of conflicted with something else, so that’s the name that stuck. And then we made a joke in the title/logo that only proofreaders and copyeditors will get.

Eventually they settled on the weekend immediately prior to the annual the UK filk convention, thinking that the attendees for a con in WA and a con in the UK would, by their very nature, be from different geographical groups and thus those two cons wouldn’t conflict very much. Of course it never works out that way. The third year, Vixy & Tony ended up being GOHs at the UK filk con, so we played at both Conflikt and at the UK filk con on back-to-back weekends. It seems like every year there’s at least a few people who are attending both cons back-to-back. Crazy, but great. This year we were the “toastband” at Conflikt, which is the same thing as being the “toastmaster” except there’s four of us to do the job instead. We had a great time, as we do every year we attend.

CS: What happened at Music Under the Trees? BTW, why trees and which trees?

V&T: Music Under the Trees is an annual house concert put on by our cellist, Betsy Tinney. Betsy is quite popular because she’s a wonderful cellist and complete sweetheart of a person, and as a result, she plays in a lot of different bands. Most summers, schedules permitting, a lot of her connected bands get together to play for an entire afternoon and into the night. It’s sort of a mini music festival where Betsy gets to play her cello in every act. It’s held in her backyard, which has an amazing little amphitheater tucked into the woods behind her house, hence the name. Though she’s not doing it this year, due to other things in her family’s schedule this summer. Hopefully it’ll be back in 2018.

CS: What’s the connections between your music and Firefly?

V&T: We love Joss Whedon’s work, and Firefly is our favorite. It’s a richly detailed universe that’s full of interesting characters and stories and possibilities which never got fully explored due to the series’ tragically short run. We’ve written a couple of Firefly songs, and we’ve got friends who have also written some Firefly songs which we like to do covers of. Vixy’s most popular song, “Mal’s Song”, on our first album, came about because she loved the Firefly theme song, but felt like it was too short. It seemed like the chorus of a song without any verses, so, she wrote some verses to go with it. “Missing Part”, on our latest album, is about Kaylee, and it’s written by our good friend Seanan McGuire (who just won a Nebula award, by the way). It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album. I learned how to play slide guitar just for that song.

CS: You’re involved in various production projects with various other bands. Tell us about some of those.

V&T: We’ve got a lot of filk and geek music friends, and we really enjoy mixing it up with them. Vixy seems to always be singing harmony vocals on someone’s album, and I’ve been known to produce the occasional song or two or three or album for someone we love. Most recently, we’ve been the backing band for Molly Lewis, including her hilarious musical Thanksgiving Vs Christmas, I co-produced “Mischief” with SJTucker, and Vixy is on some wonderful recent releases by Jeff and Maya Bonhoff and Mary Crowell. Listing all of Betsy and Sunnie’s other projects would take forever, but check them out at http://betsytinney.com/recordings/ and http://sunnie.org/.

CS: Do you do workshops and panels and such? Do you branch out into traditional folk festivals and such or do you stick with the speculative crowd?

V&T: When we play at a convention, we do indeed do workshops and panels. We like to do home recording workshops and performance workshops when we can. Being part of the fandom community and trying to share knowledge and experiences is a big deal to us.

We haven’t tried playing traditional folk festivals, we tend to prefer SF/filk cons and smaller venues where our particular audience can find us. For example, I’ve been to the Bumbershoot festival here in Seattle, it’s huge and it’s wonderful, but it’s just insane, I couldn’t imagine trying to be one of the acts there. We’d get completely lost there. It’s much more rewarding to play our geeky songs to a much smaller group of geeky fans.

CS: What exactly is Rock Band, approximately how many hours a week do you spend playing it, and are there any conventions/contests?

V&T: Heh, that reference on our web page was a little joke about the video game, the one where you use toy guitar controllers to poke colored buttons in time with the music. It’s basically Dance Dance Revolution but without the dancing. It was a huge novelty when it came out, and we had a lot of fun with it for a quite a while. Seanan stuck in a reference to it when she wrote the Bio page for our website. We actually haven’t played it in some time, though the guitar controllers are still hanging next to the TV.

There was a point in time when they were letting people put up their own indie music on Rock Band and making it available for download. I was about to put “Six String Love” up there, but then I discovered just how amazingly tedious and time-consuming it is to author the song files for it. I got halfway through the process and ran out of steam. I seem to recall reading that they’d stopped the indie music submissions for it a while back, so I don’t even think that’s an option for us anymore.

CS: One of your award songs is “The Girl That’s Never Been.” Didn’t quite understand it, but it seems to have a strong speculative element. Something to do with Alice of Wonderland fame. Give us the inside story on the lyrics.

V&T: “The Girl That’s Never Been” is essentially a direct musical interpretation of an existing short story called “The Cheshire” by Bill Kte’pi , which is itself a sort of an alternate interpretation of Alice’s story. It follows a common theme: Imagining what it might be like for someone who’s gone through an amazing, mind-bending, life-altering experience, but then has to return to a “normal” existence. In a situation like that, no one believes you and you can’t possibly explain it to anyone in a way that they can understand, and now the “real” world seems less important than the other world. At the start of the story, Alice is older, and she’s been seeing shrinks and been having drug and alcohol abuse issues as she tries to deal with the cognitive dissonance. I can’t really say more without spoilering the ending.

CS: Your band size has doubled. Who are the new additions and how do they fit in? Do they always accompany you on tours? Why additions? Weren’t you getting booked and winning awards as a duo?

V&T: We really don’t know how we ever survived without Betsy and Sunnie. They elevate our music to a new level, and we don’t ever want to play without them again. We have so much fun together, and we love how we fit together as a band.

We started playing with them only occasionally, adding a bit of cello here and a bit of fiddle there, at times when our bands were playing back-to-back sets at the same venue. Soon we started cross-pollinating each other’s bands regularly, and before we knew it, we realized that we really couldn’t live without them.

Playing as a duo is a different kind of a show than playing as a four piece, and the four piece is so much more amazing and full and energetic. When you play with other good musicians, it makes the music more interesting and intense, even when you’re talking about simple arrangements to the same songs. The core of the songs hasn’t really changed, but the songs are fundamentally different now. The way we perform them and the way you experience them is forever altered by our new lineup. It’s like the old saying “a rising tide lifts all boats”, where everyone in the band plays better and becomes better musicians through the blending of everyone’s uniqueness.

We are trying not to play any more shows as just a duo. It’s certainly more logistically complicated for us to play as a four piece, but it’s really worth it. Maybe we play fewer shows because of it, but the shows that we do play are always memorable and joyful experiences.

CS: What exactly is a Pegasus award, how many wins/nominations do you have, for which songs, and against which competition?

V&T: The Pegasus award is the annual filk community award to recognize excellence in songwriting and performing by filkers, voted on and presented at the Ohio Valley filk Festival each year. It’s nominated and voted on by members of the filk community, so it’s a peer award. I don’t really see it as a competition; I think of competitions as something where you deliberately set out to win, and I don’t think anyone in filk does that. I think filkers write filk songs because we like to have fun, and then it’s wonderful when other people like the songs too. The Pegasus is less of a competition and more of a way for the filk community to get together and say to someone, “we all think that was a really neat song this year”. We’ve been nominated a handful of years since around 2005, and won a few, but we haven’t really tried to keep count. The Pegausus site has all the historical records of Vixy’s noms and wins here, which includes works by herself as well as works with Vixy & Tony: http://www.ovff.org/pegasus/people/michelle-dockrey.html

CS: You’ve been together for over 10 years and have been singing filk for over 15 years. What’s the explanation for your endurance and that of your music.

V&T: Music in general, and filk in particular, is something we do for fun, and we do our best to keep it that way all the time. We try not to turn it into “work”. We have day jobs, so we’re lucky that we don’t need to depend upon writing and performing constantly. If we did, we’d probably burn out pretty quickly. We’ve got friends who are professional musicians, so we can see what that life is like, and we know it’s not for us. Betsy is probably the band member whose life is most strongly aligned to being a career professional musician, but even she does her best to keep everything fun and interesting all the time. As long as we all keep it fun, only writing what we want to write, and only playing where we want to play, it will always be something that enriches us and keeps going. Hopefully some of that shines through in our performances and recordings, helping to make them fun for everyone.

CS: Who writes the songs and what’s the songwriting process?

V&T: For the older songs, before we teamed up, Vixy wrote everything: Music, lyrics, arrangement, all of it. But that was very hard for her, doing it all by herself, so after we teamed up, now we have a pretty good collaboration system: Vixy writes the lyrics, and then we collaborate on the music. Usually we start with a first draft of the lyrics, sometimes just a verse and a chorus, then decide upon an overall style for the song. Then I start coming up with chord progressions on the guitar, based on the desired style. She gives me feedback on the way the chords fit the lyrics, and we make changes to the chords to fit the lyrics or vice versa. She will either come up with a melody based on the chord progression, or, sometimes she will already have parts of a melody in her head, and I will write chords which fit that melody, and fill in the gaps. Sometimes I will make a suggestion to change the melody to fit the chord progression I wrote. Occasionally I€™ll write sections of words or melodies myself, or provide suggestions for the lyrics in spots. Frequently we will collaborate on the verses and choruses but she will leave the bridge up to me (she calls me her Civil Engineer because I make her bridges for her).

Then we bring the song to the rest of the band, and the real magic happens, where we sculpt the song from a raw framework into something full of interesting details. Betsy and Sunnie add their parts, and then we play off of those until things start to cement in place. There are parts of the songs which were created by Betsy and Sunnie which are now inseparable from the songs, such as Sunnie’s wonderful violin intro to “We Can Be Anything”.

CS: How has your music evolved?

V&T: I like to think we’ve become better songwriters and performers over time. Adding Betsy and Sunnie to the band has given us a richer sound and a more detailed presentation of the songs. We’re tending to write songs with the whole band in mind, since now we can do things like play extended instrumental sections that we couldn’t have done before. And on the occasions when we want to do cover tunes, we can do more interesting variations on them.

CS: What’s on the Horizon for Vixy & Tony?

V&T: Aside from small Seattle local gigs, the aforementioned GOH slot at FenCon in Dallas is coming up in September. Sunnie is planning on making a solo album that we’re going to help out with, we’re hopefully starting work on it this summer. We’ve got at least one song that’s not recorded yet which needs a nice studio treatment, and I’m looking forward to learning a new piece of audio production software in the process (I’m switching over to Logic Audio on the Mac this summer). One idea I’m toying with is that We Are Who We Are might be our last full-length Vixy & Tony album, and that from now on we might just do single-song releases on Bandcamp and other online services. Though I have a deep fondness for the “album” as a specific art form, I find the process of recording and producing one to be very tiring and time-consuming, and I think we might have more fun if we do things a song at a time. We’ll see if that ends up happening or not. 🙂

NYRSF Readings Series Closes 26th Season with Miller and Donnelly

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, June 6, 2017, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series featured readings by Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly, two Clarion “broodmates” from the graduating class of 2012 and collaborators on an epistolary novelette (about which more later), at its regular venue, the Brooklyn Commons Cafe on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

The night got under way with Jim Freund, Producer and Executive Curator of the Series, and host of the long-running live radio program Hour of the Wolf broadcast on WBAI-FM, calling the audience to attention with a duck call. (Apparently, it’s not only the 26th Season, but Duck Season.) While it was “in theory” the end of the Season, he revealed that he planned some special events, a Summer Season, in July and August, notably an evening of music dedicated to Ama Patterson. The 27th Season will “officially” start in September. Of special note: slated as readers on Tuesday, October 3 are Michael Swanwick and Gardner Dozois, and December will feature a musical event. He reminded the gathering of the importance of their donations (the suggested donation is $7, but no one is turned away) as there are costs involved, such as renting the space. Concluding, he introduced the first reader (“two ‘n’s, two ‘l’s”).

Lara Elena Donnelly

Lara Elena Donnelly is the author of glam spy thriller Amberlough (which has been described as “1984 meets Cabaret“ and “James Bond by way of Oscar Wilde”), and her short fiction and poetry have appeared in Strange Horizons, Escape Pod, Nightmare, and Mythic Delirium. She read from her sequel to Amberlough (due out in May 2018). In an alternate 1920s (Amerberlough is a city in Gedda) where fascism is rising (“so it’s relevant!”), celebrity and spy (there spooks are called “foxes”) Lillian dePaul is sent by her station chief to a film premiere in Porachis where Aristide Makricosta, the world’s most notorious refugee, puts in an appearance. She supplied accents for several characters. Afterward, Donnelly gave out Amberlough buttons.

During the intermission, there was a raffle drawing for donors for “cool items,” a Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year anthology that’s not in stores yet, and that includes a story by Miller, and a copy of Amberlough “profusely illustrated” by Donnelly. Freund then introduced the second reader of the evening.

Sam J. Miller

Sam J. Miller’s short stories have appeared in multiple “year’s best” anthologies (“but who’s counting?”) and been finalists for multiple Nebula Awards as well as for World Fantasy and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards. His short story “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides” (from which he read at the Fantastic Fiction Reading Series last year) won the 2013 Shirley Jackson Award. His debut novel The Art of Starving, which will be out in July, was called “Funny, haunting, beautiful, relentless and powerful… a classic in the making” by Book Riot. His second novel, Blackfish City, will be published in 2018.

Miller read from near the end of The Art of Starving, a section from which he had not read at the KGB three weeks earlier, though perhaps that audience overlap is why he did not provide sufficient background for the story. The protagonist, a gay teen, has come into supernatural powers through “the Art of Starving,” and, at an otherwise “perfectly banal” party at the home of a slaughterhouse owner, confronts a bully.

Lara Elena Donnelly, Jim Freund, and Sam J. Miller.

Freund then conducted a Q&A session with the authors who had, we learned, met online just before Clarion. The focus immediately shifted to their intriguing jointly-written gay epistolary time travel novelette (11,000 words), ”Making Us Monsters,” set in and after World War I, about gay English soldier-poets (or poet-soldiers) Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Owen died on the battlefield just a week before the Armistice, yet Sassoon is continuing to receive letters from him years after. “It took forever to sell the thing,” said Donnelly, despite it being the centennial of the First World War. (It will run in Uncanny in November, 99 years after the end of the War.) She wrote the Sassoon letters (“Lara writes gay men extremely well,” said Miller) and he Owen’s.

The two poets met in psychiatric treatment in 1917. (Owen was suffering from trauma, what we call PTSD and they “shell shock,” and Sassoon for opposition to the War.) During World War I, they explained, pacifists were considered traitors and given a choice between court-martial and psychiatric treatment; homosexuality was certainly viewed as a psychiatric condition.

What drew them to the period and to these two poets?, asked an audience member. Donnelly was interested in the ‘20s (she was a swing dancer, and has danced with fire) and had read D.J. Taylor’s Bright Young People, and socialite Stephen Tennant had had an affair with Sassoon. Miller had always liked Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est,” and hadn’t known that he was gay. (“The old lie: Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori.” Sassoon’s poetry likewise savagely un-glorifies the War’s horrors.) He is also interested in the history of psychiatric care — its evolution from a way to punish to a method of treatment — and in what constitutes mental illness.

As traditional at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books, while the Cafe saw to “wining [beer and coffee as well], dining and other worldly needs [three rest rooms].”

The crowd of about 40-50 included Melissa C. Beckman, Richard Bowes, Seth Dickinson, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff (House manager and Ticket-taker), Diana Pho (Donnelly’s editor), Susan Bratisher and James Ryan, and Terence Taylor (Tech Director). Afterward, many stuck around to schmooze, and/or adjourn to the Cafe.

For those who missed attending, the event was Livestreamed (the audience is always cautioned that they’re “on the Internet visually”); visit Livestream.com and search for NYRSF.

Obi On The Lookout

Steve Sansweet shows a Day of the Dead knockoff of Han and Leia to a visiting school group. Photo by Victoria Webb.

Steve Sansweet has publicized a major theft from his action figure collection, housed at Rancho Obi-Wan in Petaluma, CA.

The author of 16 Star Wars books, Sansweet created Rancho Obi-Wan, a California nonprofit corporation, in 2011 to manage his vast collection of Star Wars memorabilia and artifacts. It also functions as a museum, and during the school year classes of students are given tours.

In February we at Rancho Obi-Wan found out that we had been the victim of a major theft that surreptitiously took place over many months in late 2015 through 2016.

There were more than 100 valuable items stolen, the majority of them vintage U.S. and foreign carded action figures, many of them rare and important pieces. Most have either been resold or professionally appraised for a total of more than $200,000.

The theft came to light after Philip Wise, a good friend, major collector and owner of several Star Wars websites, posted news of the theft of his rare prototype rocket-firing Boba Fett action figure from his Texas warehouse. Zach Tann, a respected toy dealer and collector in Southern California, immediately notified Philip that he had purchased that figure from Carl Edward Cunningham, 45, a well-known Star Wars collector and R2-D2 builder from Marietta, Georgia.

Tann further told Philip that he previously had bought many other rare Star Wars collectibles from Carl and sent a detailed list. Philip said that he quickly concluded by the quantity and quality of items that they had likely been stolen from my collection here in Petaluma, California.

…Carl surrendered on an arrest warrant from the Sonoma County, California Sheriff’s Department at the end of March and was charged with felony grand theft. He is currently free on bail with additional hearings in the case scheduled.

I have known Carl for many years, considered him a good and trusted friend, and played host to him at my home numerous times. I, and the staff at Rancho Obi-Wan, are devastated that he is the alleged perpetrator of the thefts. Not only have important items been stolen from the collection, but also our time, energy and ability to trust unconditionally have taken a blow.

If you have any information about Carl Cunningham’s activities or items that he has sold please write to tips@ranchoobiwan.org. If you think you may have purchased a stolen item, please be patient while we work through this process

National Animals Provide Theme For Patten Anthology

Symbol of a Nation, edited by Fred Patten, is launching at Anthrocon 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania over the June 29-July 3 five-day weekend.

Symbol of a Nation is an all-original anthology of 11 short stories and novelettes featuring the anthropomorphized official animal (or bird) symbols of nations. This is designed to appeal to sff fans, and fans of political science.

  • Belgium — lion
  • Chile — Andean condor
  • Denmark — mute swan
  • Italy — wolf
  • Malaysia — tiger
  • Mauritius — dodo (extinct)
  • Namibia — oryx
  • Romania – lynx
  • Singapore — lion
  • Spain — bull
  • U.S.A. — bald eagle
  • Vietnam — water buffalo

From a famous extinct animal bioengineered to new life, to animal/bird astronauts, to animals adapted to their nation’s environments, to a 19th-century heraldic animal struggling to remain relevant in today’s world, these are stories that will make you think about the national animal symbols that we and some of our neighbors have adopted.

Contents

  • Didus ineptus Linnaeus, by Roz Gibson
  • A Poor Uncle’s Apprentice, by BanWynn Oakshadow
  • Remembering the Forgotten, by H. J. Pang
  • The Moon Like an Unhatched Egg, by Mary E. Lowd
  • Crossroads the Namib, by Jako Malan
  • Sdani White Wings, by Jennifer Sowle
  • The Scent of Lantana, by Frances Pauli
  • Huitaca, by Televassi
  • To the Kingdom They Come, by H. J. Pang
  • Bread and Butter, by Allison Thai
  • The Lion of the Low Countries, by Alice “Huskyteer” Dryden

The book can be pre-ordered now from Goal Publications. It will be for sale at the Goal booth at Anthrocon, and on the Goal online catalogue after the convention. Price: $17.50. vii + 241 pages. Print ISBN 978-0-99791-253-1, Digital ISBN 978-0-99791-254-8. Wraparound cover by Jenn ‘Pac’ Rodriguez.

The digital copy will be available sometime after the convention.

Robert Scott-Norton’s Justice-Seeking Telepaths

By Carl Slaughter: Tombs Legacy series author Robert Scott-Norton released his entire Tombs Rising series in April 2017.

THE REMNANT KEEPER

When the dead can testify, their killers resort to desperate measures.

The Remnant Keepers are a loathed group of telepaths, paid to read the last memories of the recently murdered. Jack Winston is one of the best and hates it. Under the scrutiny of the world’s most powerful corporation, Jack is as much a prisoner as those he helps send behind bars.

But when his latest case arrives, Jack’s world shatters as his wife is brutally murdered. Fuelled by vengeance, Jack vows to catch the murderer, but as the bodies pile up, Jack realises he’s made a terrible mistake; he was never the hunter, only the hunted.

THE REMNANT VAULT

Beneath the ground, the dead voices sing.

Jack uses his telepathy to read the memories of the recently murdered. After losing his wife because of his ‘gift’ he’s prepared to throw it all away.

But, the agency refuse to let him go. There’s been a murder; a man forced to rip his own eyes from his head.

This case is going to test Jack’s abilities to the limit, but if he can work with the police, solve the murder, and evade the clutches of the local crime boss, he might just secure his reward and the freedom he seeks.

THE INFINITY MAINFRAME

It called to him from the darkness. He shouldn’t have listened.

The Department is watching, ensuring telepaths play by the rules, but a murder in their ranks drives Ruby to hunt her friend’s killer.

But as she goes undercover, Ruby gets tangled in the secretive world of telepaths, desperate to prevent a conflict the world isn’t ready for –and can’t survive.

Robert Scott-Norton