Elizabeth Moon: Kylara Vatta’s War and Peace

By Carl Slaughter: After a hiatus of several years, Elizabeth Moon is back with Vatta’s Peace, a new subseries of Vatta’s War.  The first Vatta’s Peace novel, Cold Welcome, came out in April from Del Rey. Check out the new cover art for Elizabeth Moon’s Cold Welcome.  Comes with the paperback edition.  Much more striking.

The sequel, Into the Fire, is set for early 2018.  Moon has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Clarke, Heinlein, and Crook awards.

TRADING IN DANGER

Kylara Vatta is the only daughter in a family full of sons, and her father’s only child to buck tradition by choosing a military career instead of joining the family business. For Ky, it’s no contest: Even running the prestigious Vatta Transport Ltd. shipping concern can’t hold a candle to shipping out as an officer aboard an interstellar cruiser. It’s adventure, not commerce, that stirs her soul. And despite her family’s misgivings, there can be no doubt that a Vatta in the service will prove a valuable asset. But with a single error in judgment, it all comes crumbling down.

Expelled from the Academy in disgrace–and returning home to her humiliated family, a storm of high-profile media coverage, and the gaping void of her own future–Ky is ready to face the inevitable onslaught of anger, disappointment, even pity. But soon after opportunity’s door slams shut, Ky finds herself with a ticket to ride– and a shot at redemption–as captain of a Vatta Transport ship.

It’s a simple assignment: escorting one of the Vatta fleet’s oldest ships on its final voyage . . . to the scrapyard. But keeping it simple has never been Ky’s style. And even though her father has provided a crew of seasoned veterans to baby-sit the fledgling captain on her maiden milk run, they can’t stop Ky from turning the routine mission into a risky venture–in the name of turning a profit for Vatta Transport, of course.

By snapping up a lucrative delivery contract defaulted on by a rival company, and using part of the proceeds to upgrade her condemned vehicle, Ky aims to prove she’s got more going for her than just her family’s famous name. But business will soon have to take a backseat to bravery, when Ky’s change of plans sails her and the crew straight into the middle of a colonial war. For all her commercial savvy, it’s her military training and born-soldier’s instincts that Ky will need to call on in the face of deadly combat, dangerous mercenaries, and violent mutiny. . .

MARQUE AND REPRISAL

The exciting military career she hoped for never got off the ground–but Ky Vatta ended up seeing plenty of combat when she took the helm of one of the commercial transport vessels in her family’s fleet . . . and steered it into a full-blown war. Now the lessons she learned in that trial by fire are about to pay off: because this time, the war has come to her. To be exact, someone unknown has launched a full-throttle offensive against Vatta Transport Ltd., Ky’s father’s interstellar shipping empire. In short order, most of Ky’s family is killed, and subsequent attacks sever vital lines of communication, leaving Ky fighting, in every sense, to survive.

Determined to identify the ruthless mystery enemy and avenge her family’s name, Ky needs not only firepower but information. And she gets both in spades–from the band of stranded mercenaries she hooks up with, from her black-sheep cousin, Stella, who’s been leading a secret life, and from Stella’s roguish ex-lover, Rafe. Together they struggle to penetrate the tangled web of political intrigue that’s wreaking havoc within InterStellar Communications, whose effective operation their own livelihoods–and perhaps lives–depend on.

But the infighting proves to be infectious, and it isn’t long before Ky’s hired military muscle are turning their suspicions on the enigmatic Rafe, whose wealth of knowledge about ISC’s clashing factions and startling new technologies has begun to make him smell like a rat . . . or a mole. With swift, violent destruction a very real possibility, the last thing Ky needs is a crew divided against itself–and she’s prepared to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that Vatta stays in business, as well as in one piece.

What she’s not prepared for is the shocking truth behind the terror– and a confrontation with murderous treachery from a source as unexpected as it is unrelenting.

ENGAGING THE ENEMY

The brilliantly unorthodox Kylara Vatta, black-sheep scion of Vatta Transport Ltd., one of the galaxy’s wealthiest merchant houses, is a heroine like no other, blessed with a killer instinct for business and for battle. Now, in the aftermath of cold-blooded assassinations that have left her parents dead and the Vatta shipping empire shattered, Kylara faces her greatest challenge yet.

There is a time for grief and a time for revenge. This is decidedly the latter. Placing her cousin Stella in command of the trading vessel Gary Tobai, Ky embarks aboard the captured pirate ship Fair Kaleen on a twofold mission: to salvage the family business and to punish those responsible for the killings . . . before they strike again.

Since the network providing instantaneous communication between star systems has been sabotaged, news is hard to come by and available information impossible to trust. But as she travels from system to system, with Stella a step behind, Ky pieces together the clues and discovers a conspiracy of terrifying scope, breathtaking audacity, and utter ruthlessness.

The only hope the independent systems and merchants have against this powerful enemy is to band together. Unfortunately, because she commands a ship known to belong to a notorious pirate–her own relative Osman Vatta, whom she killed for his part in her parents’ deaths–Ky is met with suspicion, if not outright hostility. Rumors swirl about her intent, her very identity. Soon even Stella begins to question her cousin’s decisions and her authority to make them.

Meanwhile, the conspiracy Ky hunts is hunting her in turn, with agents insinuated into every space station, every planetary government, every arm of the military, and every merchant house–including her own. Before she can take the fight to the enemy, Kylara must survive a deadly minefield of deception and betrayal.

COMMAND DECISION

With the Vatta’s War series, award-winning author Elizabeth Moon has claimed a place alongside such preeminent writers of military science fiction as David Weber and Lois McMaster Bujold. Now Moon is back–and so is her butt-kicking, take-no-prisoners heroine, Kylara Vatta. Once the black-sheep scion of a prosperous merchant family, Kylara now leads a motley space force dedicated to the defeat of a rapacious pirate empire led by the mysterious Gammis Turek.

After orchestrating a galaxy-wide failure of the communications network owned and maintained by the powerful ISC corporation, Turek and his marauders strike swiftly and without mercy. First they shatter Vatta Transport. Then they overrun entire star systems, growing stronger and bolder. No one is safe from the pirate fleet. But while they continue to move forward with their diabolical plan, they have made two critical mistakes.

Their first mistake was killing Kylara Vatta’s family.

Their second mistake was leaving her alive.

Now Kylara is going to make them pay.

But with a “fleet” consisting of only three ships–including her flagship, the Vanguard, a souped-up merchant cruiser–Kylara needs allies, and fast. Because even though she possesses the same coveted communication technology as the enemy, she has nowhere near their numbers or firepower.

Meanwhile, as Kylara’s cousin Stella tries to bring together the shattered pieces of the family trading empire, new treachery is unfolding at ISC headquarters, where undercover agent Rafael Dunbarger, estranged son of the corporation’s CEO, is trying to learn why the damaged network is not being repaired. What he discovers will send shock waves across the galaxy and crashing into Kylara’s newly christened Space Defense Force at the worst possible moment.

VICTORY CONDITIONS

For Ky, it’s not just about liberating the star systems subjugated by Turek and defending the rest of the galaxy’s freedom. There’s also a score to be settled and payback to be meted out for the obliteration of the Vatta Transport dynasty . . . and the slaughter of Ky’s family. But the enemy have their own escalation efforts under way–including the placement of covert agents among the allies with whom Ky and the surviving Vattas are collaborating in the war effort. And when a spy ring linked to a wealthy businessman is exposed, a cracked pirate code reveals a galaxywide conspiracy fueling the proliferation of Turek’s warship fleet.

Matching the invaders’ swelling firepower will mean marshaling an armada of battle-ready ships for Ky to lead into combat. But a violent skirmish leaves Ky reeling–and presumed dead by her enemies. Now, as Turek readies an all-out attack on the Nexus system–a key conquest that could seal the rest of the galaxy’s doom–Ky must rally to the challenge, draw upon every last reserve of her strategic skills, and reach deep if she is to tear from the ashes of tragedy her most decisive victory.

COLD WELCOME

Summoned to the home planet of her family’s business empire, space-fleet commander Kylara Vatta is told to expect a hero’s welcome. But instead she is thrown into danger unlike any other she has faced and finds herself isolated, unable to communicate with the outside world, commanding a motley group of unfamiliar troops, and struggling day by day to survive in a deadly environment with sabotaged gear. Only her undeniable talent for command can give her ragtag band a fighting chance.

Yet even as Ky leads her team from one crisis to another, her family and friends refuse to give up hope, endeavoring to mount a rescue from halfway around the planet—a task that is complicated as Ky and her supporters find secrets others will kill to protect: a conspiracy infecting both government and military that threatens not only her own group’s survival but her entire home planet.

INTO THE FIRE

As Admiral Kylara Vatta learned after she and a shipfull of strangers were marooned on an inhospitable arctic island, the secrets she and her makeshift crew uncovered were ones someone was ready to kill to keep hidden. Now, the existence of the mysterious arctic base has been uncovered, but much of the organization behind it still lurks in the shadows. And it is up to the intrepid Ky to force the perpetrators into the light, and finally uncover decades worth of secrets–some of which lie at the very heart of her biggest family tragedy.

Condensed Cream of Sci-Fi Videos

By Carl Slaughter: (1) Talkin’ about my generation. Star Wars and Star Trek inspired a generation that valued scientific progress and fictional storytelling.  By contrast, Marvel Cinematic Universe takes a shared universe/established characters approach to its movies.  “If the Star Wars [and Star Trek] generation was scientists and inventors [and storytellers], the MCU generation is business executives and marketing agents.”  –  The Unintentional Fallacy

(2) Verne’s conqueror. Although Jules Verne’s story 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a more popular novel, Robur the Conqueror has a similar but more complex character.  Nemo is on a mission to explore the sea.  Robur is on a mission to end war.  The title of the 1961 screen adaptation comes from the sequel, Master of the World, but the plot comes from the original novel.  Vincent Price and Charles Bronson play the leads.  Which is the protagonist and which is the antagonist is up to the viewer to decide.  Suffice it to say, Bronson’s character describes Robur as “a man who is willing to destroy the world in order to save it.”

(3) Mostly Wonder. Houston of Houston Productions likes the first and second act of the Wonder Woman movie.  He wants to put the third act out of its misery.

(4) And these are the good guys. Grunge points out disturbing aspects in the Star Wars universe, including among the good guys.  Example:  The Jedi are the most noble and civilized species in the galaxy.  Yet Obi-Wan cut off Anakin’s legs and left him to burn in lava. — The Dark Truth Behind The Star Wars Saga.

(5) Raining on his parade. Grunge also says, “Don’t be Batman.”  \

(6) Hideouts and hangouts. Editorial note: See the attachment for the perfect comic book screen shot illustrating the theme of this superhero video.

(7) The Captain. Kate Mulgrew / Kathryn Janeway time capsule.

(8) Reunion 2015. During their 20th anniversary reunion, the cast of “Voyager” take turns telling embarrassing set stories about each other.

(9) Relief pitcher. Next Generation, Comic Con, April 2017, 30th anniversary reunion panel, minus Patrick Stewart, including William Shatner

(10) Game show. Star Trek cast members play Weakest Link for their favorite charity.

(11) Looking for work. Doctor Strange applies to become an Avenger.  He is interviewed by Vision.  The interview does not go well.

(12) The horror. Horror remakes in the works

(13) Try to remember. Forgotten superhero movies

(14) Fans at work. Awesome fan made superhero films  –  better than the big budget blockbuster.

(15) Batfans. Best fan made Batman films

Pop Super-Character Quiz

By Carl Slaughter: Identify the superhero, supervillain, superrelative, superalterego, or superbuddy who uttered these famous catch phrases or one liners.  Easy ones first.

  1. “I’m Batman.”
  2. “I am Iron Man.”
  3. “This is a job for Superman.”
  4. “I’m your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.”
  5. “Hulk smash!”
  6. “I am Groot.”
  7. “Shazam!”
  8. “In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight.  Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power, Green Lantern’s light.”
  9. “Kneel before Zod.”
  10. “Hail Hydra.”
  11. “Back in a flash.”
  12.  “Flame on!”
  13. “My Spidey sense is tingling.”
  14. “Assemble!”
  15. “Kowabunga!”
  16. “Spoon!”
  17. “Bub.”
  18. “Why so serious?”
  19. “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.”
  20. “I could do this all day.”
  21.  “It’s clobbering time!”
  22. “It’s morphing time!”
  23. “The power of the Sun in the palm of my hand.”
  24. “I am vengeance.  I am the night.”
  25.  “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do, that defines me.”
  26. “With great power comes great responsibility.”
  27. “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
  28. “Don’t make me angry.  You won’t like me when I’m angry.”
  29. “I feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul who comes to that school looking for trouble.”
  30. “I’m not locked in here with you, you’re locked in here with me.”
  31. “Men get arrested.  Dogs get put down.”
  32. “This city’s afraid of me.  I’ve seen it’s true face.”
  33. “You’ve got me?  Who’s got you?”
  34. “Is she with you?”  “I thought she was with you.”
  35. “It is our sacred duty to defend the world.  And it is what I am going to do.”

Answer key:

  1. “I’m Batman.”
  2. “I am Iron Man.”
  3. “This is a job for Superman.”
  4. “I’m your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.”
  5. “Hulk smash!”
  6. “I am Groot.”
  7. “Shazam!” AKA Captain Marvel
  8. “In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight.  Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power, Green Lantern’s light.”
  9. “Kneel before Zod.”
  10. “Hail Hydra.”
  11. “Back in a flash.”  — The Flash
  12.  “Flame on!”  — The Human Torch
  13. “My Spidey sense is tingling.”  Spider-Man
  14. “Assemble!”  — Avengers
  15. “Kowabunga!” – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  16. “Spoon!”  The Tick
  17. “Bub.”  — Wolverine
  18. “Why so serious?”  — The Joker
  19. “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.”  — Tony Stark
  20. “I could do this all day.”  — Steve Rogers
  21.  “It’s clobbering time!”  — The Thing
  22. “It’s morphing time!”  — Power Rangers
  23.  “The power of the Sun in the palm of my hand.”  — Doctor Octopus
  24. “I am vengeance.  I am the night.” — Batman
  25.  “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do, that defines me.” — Batman
  26. “With great power comes great responsibility.” — Peter Parker’s uncle, Ben
  27. “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” — Harvey Dent
  28. “Don’t make me angry.  You won’t like me when I’m angry.” — Bruce Banner
  29. “I feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul who comes to that school looking for trouble.” — Professor Xavier
  30. “I’m not locked in here with you, you’re locked in here with me.” — Rorschach
  31. “Men get arrested.  Dogs get put down.” — Rorschach
  32. “This city’s afraid of me.  I’ve seen its true face.” — Rorschach
  33. “You’ve got me?  Who’s got you?” — Lois Lane
  34. “Is she with you?”  “I thought she was with you.” — Superman, Batman
  35. “It is our sacred duty to defend the world.  And it is what I am going to do.” — Wonder Woman

Gerhard Gehrke, First and Last Contact

Gerhard Gehrke

By Carl Slaughter: Self-published author Gerhard Gehrke debuted with the first-contact comedy romp Beginner’s Guide to Invading Earth.  In February 2017, he came out with the sequel, House of the Galactic Elevator.  In May 2017, he launched the Nineveh’s Child futuristic survival series.

A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO INVADING EARTH

The invitation to bring humanity into the galactic community of intelligent species was going horribly. A trail of dead aliens seem to follow Jeff Abel’s every step, each envoy and ambassador meeting an untimely end.

Is Jeff the hapless victim of some sinister plan, or is he the galaxy’s scourge that needs to be stopped? Is humanity’s invitation about to be canceled?

A science fiction adventure novel, A Beginner’s Guide to Invading Earth tells the story of a reclusive ex-computer programmer turned pot-washer who is the unwitting central figure of a plot to keep humanity from ever spreading beyond Earth.

With multiple aliens out to get him, Jeff Abel’s only hope is an misfit mechanic from another world and a woman who might do anything to get off planet, including selling out her own kind.

PRAISE FOR A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO INVADING EARTH

“In ‘A Beginners Guide to Invading Earth,’ You won’t find a Phillip K. Dick-style plausibly scary dystopia, you won’t find a Heinlein-esque flensing examination of the human condition, but you will find a fun ride and a snappy narrative. With hints of Adams’ ‘Hitchhikers Guide’ and Scalzi’s ‘Agent to the Stars,’ ‘A Beginners Guide’ spins a tale of a contemporary what-if first contact with advanced alien intelligence. The author uses clever wordplay and dry wit to poke gentle fun at some of our own tendencies and prejudices, but never gets heavy-handed.”  –  Happy Mac, Amazon

HOUSE OF THE GALACTIC ELEVATOR

Now everyone’s stuck…

In the aftermath of a foiled invasion, the troubled hub of a thousand worlds has become isolated. Someone broke the interplanetary elevator, and no one knows how to fix it, not even Jeff Abel, the Galactic Commons newest citizen.

But mankind’s first ambassador to another world has other problems. Two thousand extraterrestrials are stranded back on Earth. Jordan, the only other human in the alien city, isn’t returning his calls. And Irving the Grey, the mastermind behind the city’s woes, has escaped.

It has begun to dawn on Jeff that getting a job with Galactic Commons security wasn’t his brightest idea.

NINEVEH’S CHILD

They told me the world above was dead. They lied. It was their world that was dying. I escaped. Outside, I found a family, and I was loved. My new home had its struggles but it was very much alive.

Six years later, Nineveh came for me. And nothing would stop them from trying to take me back.

My brother told me about the post-apocalyptic wastes outside of Nineveh, a land teeming with genetically-engineered monsters and radioactive fallout. He was my only friend besides a cantankerous cat that haunted my room.

But my brother spun tales to pass the time, and none of my teachers or doctors would tell me the truth about the world that was or the purpose of our life in Nineveh.

My brother got sick. Other children did, too.

The last thing my brother did was make sure I got out. Most of what he told me about the surface I found untrue. The real monsters were the ones who came for me and destroyed the life I had.

But my old world hadn’t forgotten about me, and it wanted me back, even if this meant destroying everything in its path to find me.

So I would return to Nineveh, learn its secrets, and save my brother. But could I face Nineveh’s greatest secret without losing my soul?

Videos That Explain It All To You

By Carl Slaughter: (1) Transformers. You don’t have to spend a weekend binge watching previous Transformers movies to get caught up for Last Knight. Screen Junkies offers a thorough but concise and rapid-fire recap.

(2) Proof of death. Looper explains why the latest mummy movie is DOA.

Despite lofty expectations and the attachment of a huge star in Cruise, The Mummy wasn’t able to scare up many viewers in its opening weekend, debuting to an underwhelming $31.5 million domestic gross. The disappointing start for the thriller likely won’t completely unravel Universal’s so-called “Dark Universe,” but it definitely spells trouble. Here’s why The Mummy was dead on arrival.

(3) Darth. Wisecrack traces Darth Vader’s decent into the Dark Side to his fear of death. Not his own death, but those close to him. The Jedi Council chime in to support this theory, as does real world child psychology.  y contrast, Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Luke avoid turning by being willing to die. Then Vader makes a deathbed conversion by accepting his impending death. Wisecrack has found a distinct pattern. Could it be George Lucas has been building this theme all along? How will it play out in the final trilogy.

(4) Whedon’s peeves. 6 Things Joss Whedon hated about The Avengers.

(6) Critique. Themes in Netflix’s Daredevil:

  • determinism versus accountability
  • due process versus vigilantism
  • retribution versus rehabilitation
  • faith versus agnosticism
  • orchestrating sweeping change in a large area versus fighting one evil opponent at a time in your backyard

(7) Casting decisions. Jack Black as Green Lantern? The Wachowskis scripting a Plastic Man movie?  Green Arrow teaming with supervillains to break out of Super Max prison? Tim Burton directing Nicholas Cage as Superman and Chris Rock as Jimmy Olsen? A Justice League movie cancelled weeks before filming because of the writers strike and a lost tax break? Warner Brothers executives passing on a Green Arrow movie because, “We just want to make movies about Batman and Superman. We don’t want to make movies about any other superheroes.”? Life is stranger than fiction. Check out Jon Schnepp’s 2015 “The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What happened?”

(8) Marching to the sound of a different bat. Everyone agrees Dark Knight is the best Batman movie. Everyone except Patrick Willems, who makes a strong case for Mask of the Phantasm. Willems’ premise is that in the other Batman movies, the villains overshadow Batman and Bruce Wayne.

Everyone agrees that the best portrayal of the Joker is Heath Ledger.  Again, Willems dissents, claiming that with only 12 minutes of screen time, the Mask of the Phantasm Joker bests everyone from Jack Nicholson to Jared Leto.

(9) Logan taxonomy. Wisecrack makes a compelling and insightful case with abundant evidence that Logan is essentially a western in the tradition of the classic western movies.

(10) Philosophical conflict. Old Star Trek philosophy versus new Star Trek philosophy

(11) Solving X. The screen version of Professor X is a benevolent father figure who mentors his students. The comic book version is a much less noble character.

(12) Thrones theory. Film Theorists has a well supported theory that Jon Snow is THE KEY to Game of Thrones.

(13) Draw to this pair. Batfleck versus Baleman

(14) Geography lesson. Black Panther’s Wakanda explained.

(15) Who guards the Guardians? Wisecrack’s hilarious send up of Marvel’s hilarious Guardians, plus some literary insight.

(16) Rankings. Top 10 superhero intro scenes.

(17) Those were the days. 8 good cyberpunk movies.

(18) Costuming. DC’s fashion sense

(19) You’re the top. Top 10 animated superhero movies.

(20) Cartoon power. Top 10 animated superhero TV shows

(21) Flow chart. Marvel movie and TV chronology up to the Defenders TV show

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.

Sci-Fi Pop Quiz 2

By Carl Slaughter: Here is a list of titles you are to use in answering the questions that follow.

  • The Mysterious Island
  • The Island of Doctor Moreau
  • From the Earth to the Moon
  • The First Men on the Moon
  • The Time Machine
  • The Invisible Man
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  • The Adventures of Captain Nemo
  • The Adventures of the Nautilus
  • The Land That Time Forgot
  • The People That Time Forgot
  • The Lost Continent
  • The Lost World
  • Journey to Venus
  • Lost on Venus
  • Escape on Venus
  • Journey to Mars
  • Return to Mars
  • Marooned on Mars
  • Robinson Crusoe on Mars

(1) Which of these stories did Jules Verne write?

(2) Which of these stories did H.G. Wells write?

(3) Which of these stories did Edgar Rice Burroughs write?

(4) Which of these titles are fake?

(5) Which title is incomplete?

(6) Which title is slightly misspelled?

(7) Which stories have a crossover character?

(8) Which story originated as a movie?

(9) Which story originated as a comic book?

(10) Which two stories were written by famous authors writing out of their usual genre?

The answer key follows the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 6/15/17 Go Ahead, Make My Pixel

(1) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. “This was amazing,” says James Bacon about a special feature of Lazlar Lyricon 3, a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy convention held last weekend. “I was on the committee and it was an incredible endeavour.”

It’s all about Chris Tregenza and Jess Bennett and “The Secret of Box 42”.

Idea, Idea, A Kingdom for an Idea

Even with our self-imposed restrictions we struggled to think of anything at first. Every idea was discarded as being too profligate, too big, too small or simply impractical.

Then, bouncing around ideas with the aid of a bottle of wine (or two), our conversation drifted onto computer games and how in games like Skyrim there are treasure chests scattered around from which the player can take loot. In any particular game, all the treasure chests have an identical appearance and the player quickly associates that graphic with a reward even though sometimes the chests are empty. This led the conversation into Pavlovian conditioning and Skinner’s pigeon experiments and then bang! We asked ourselves a question.

What happens if we applied the same psychology in the real world by scattering boxes containing treasure around a convention? ….

What’s In The Box

Our first step was to brainstorm lots of ideas for box contents which we then loosely organised into different types. After some refinement we ended up with five classes of boxes inspired by the five levels of Maslow’s hierarchy: rewards, treasures, activities, quests and meta. Each of the types had a different purpose and place in the overall game.

Reward boxes were primarily a simple psychological conditioner. Inside these boxes were sweets or other gifts along with instructions to €˜help yourself’. These boxes were designed to build a positive association with opening boxes. Treasures were like rewards except they only contained a single valuable item which anyone could take if they chose. This introduced rarity and encouraged people to look in the boxes quickly before someone else took the item. Activity boxes instructed the opener to do something such as play a game or challenge someone to a duel. In these boxes were appropriate things (like a deck of cards or toy guns) but unlike the reward boxes, the instructions only suggested the box opener used them, not keep them. Meta-boxes contained nothing except a quote from the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. The chosen quotes were amusing in their own right but also all related to the theme of hunting for the meaning of life.

(2) DITCHING THE RECEIVED WISDOM. Jason Sanford breaks the rules! gisp “Oh writing advice which I loathe, let me count the ways I’ve ignored you”. Sanford confesses eight violations.

Thinking about all the writing advice I don’t follow. This should mean I’m a literary failure. Instead, my stories are published around the world.

So what writing advice have I failed to follow? Let’s count down the greatest hits of advice I’ve ignored.

  1. “Write what you know.” Didn’t do that. I write science fiction and fantasy set in imaginary worlds I’ve never known. I create what I know!

(3) SOLAR TREK. From Space.com, Intergalactic Travel Agents rate the “Solar System’s Best and Worst Vacation Destinations (Video)”.

Part of the purpose of this interview is to promote Olivia Koski’s and Jana Grcevich’s book, Vacation Guide to the Solar System, which plans vacations using current astronomical knowledge.

(4) WHAT MUSIC THEY MAKE. Seanan McGuire recently had a special encounter with some children in an airport. The Twitter stream here is well worth a gander.

(5) KICKSTARTER REACHES GOAL. The 2017 Fantastic Fiction at KGB Kickstarter is a huge success, reports co-host Matthew Kressel, providing enough funds to keep the series running for at least six more years. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series Kickstarter ran from May 17 through June 14 and raised $9,771 (before Kickstarter and credit card processing fees)€¦. Dozens of rewards were chosen by 196 different backers.

Why We Needed Financial Support Each month we give the authors a small stipend, we tip the bartenders (who always give the authors free drinks), and we take the authors and their partners/spouses out for dinner after the reading. Since it typically costs us around $120 per month, we need $1500 per year to maintain the series. We were looking to raise $4500, which would allow us to keep the series running for another three years. Each additional $1500 let us run for an additional year. Fantastic Fiction has been a bright light in the speculative fiction community for nearly two decades, and because of your help we will continue for many more years to come. Thank you!

(6) DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING. Today Mary Robinette Kowal give her platform to Jon Del Arroz: “My Favorite Bit: Jon Del Arroz talks about FOR STEAM AND COUNTRY” .

(7) OH BOTHER. Goodbye Christopher Robin is the “based on a true story” movie about A.A. Milne, his son, and the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

(8) HARRYHAUSEN ART. Tate Britain will host an exhibition of The Art of Ray Harryhausen from June 26 through November 19.

Explore drawings and models by Ray Harryhausen with some of the art that inspired him

The American-born Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013) is one of the most influential figures in cinema history. In a succession of innovative, effects-laden movies, from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms 1952 to Clash of the Titans 1981, Harryhausen created fantastic worlds and creatures that have inspired generations. He is acknowledged as the master of stop-motion animation techniques, involving models being moved and filmed one frame at a time to create the illusion of movement.

Harryhausen attended art classes as a young man, and readily acknowledged his debt to earlier painters and illustrators. The epic scenery and towering architecture of 19th century artists Gustave Dore, and John Martin were especially important to him, and he collected prints and paintings by both artists.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 15, 1973 The Battle for the Planet of the Apes premiered

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 15, 1941 — Graphic artist Neal Adams.

Adams has worked hard in the comics industry bringing to life such fascinating characters as Superman, The Flash, Green Lantern, The Spectre, Thor, The X-Men, and countless others. For those wanting to know about the man and his career, you can check out his website right here. Adams was born on this day in 1941.

(11) THIS JUST IN. AND OUT. The New York Post reports “Sex in space is a ‘real concern’ that science needs to figure out”.

Romping in space is a “real concern” for astronauts, a top university professor has warned.

It’s something we know little about — but it’s crucial if we ever want to colonize other planets like Mars.

During a recent Atlantic Live panel, Kris Lehnhardt, an assistant professor at George Washington University, said the topic needs to be addressed immediately.

He said: “It’s a real concern — something we really don’t know about is human reproduction in space.”

“If we actually want to go places and stay there, there’s a key component and that’s having babies,” he added.

(12) MIGRATION. Richard Curtis, President of Richard Curtis Associates, Inc. broadcast this information:

Our curtisagency.com server crashed, and as it’s been happening a little too often lately I’m going to switch to gmail. So please use rcurtisagency@gmail.com going forward.

(13) PARSEC DEADLINE. Podcasters who have been nominated for a Parsec Award must submit their judging sample by July 16.

Podcast material released between May 1, 2016 and April 30, 2017 is eligible for the 2017 awards.

Material released needs to be free for download and released via a mechanism that allows for subscriptions (RSS Feed, iTunes, YouTube…). More rules and guidelines are posted at our website.

(14) EXTRA CREDITS. Top 10 Marvel post-credit scenes. Carl Slaughter says, “Notice this is an Avengers heavy list. Also, there is a conspicuous X-Men and Guardians absence.”

[Thanks to James Bacon, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Rose Embolism, Jon Del Arroz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darrah Chavey.]

Pixel Scroll 6/14/17 Will the Pixel Be Unbroken

As I was about to say yesterday, before I was interrupted…

(1) THE SOUND OF MONEY. Kristine Kathryn Rusch pointed her readers to bestselling writer Michael J. Sullivan’s a post on Reddit titled “Why Del Rey and I Will Be Parting Ways” and gave a complimentary analysis on the way Sullivan handled his audiobook rights.

Here, I want to applaud Michael and his wife Robin for their negotiating skills and for their attitude.

To summarize the highlights of the blog about Del Rey, for those of you who haven’t jumped over to read it, Michael and Robin learned from their first major contract with a traditional publisher to retain audio rights. Michael and Robin didn’t do so on that first big contract, and then the audio rights sold for $400,000, of which Michael and Robin saw only $200,000 (subsidiary rights in a standard publishing contract are split 50/50 with a publisher).

So — and here’s a nice bit of brilliance — Michael and Robin didn’t want to lose audio rights again. When the time to negotiate a new Del Rey contract came around, Michael and Robin had already sold audio rights to those books, taking those rights off the table entirely.

They thought through what they wanted, and rather than argue over the rights, or get the print publisher to bump an advance, or go through all of the little tricks that people on the other side of the table do when negotiating, Michael and Robin were proactive. They made sure they got what they wanted with audio first.

And there’s a lot more good information in Rusch’s post.

(2) THE FLUID PAST. Guy Gavriel Kay tweeted a link to this article, one in which he is cited and discussed. “‘Facts are not truth’: Hilary Mantel goes on the record about historical fiction”.

In Mantel’s view, the past is not something we passively consume, either, but that which we actively “create” in each act of remembrance. That’s not to say, of course, that Mantel is arguing that there are no historical “facts” or that the past didn’t happen. Rather, she reminds us that the evidence we use to give narrative shape to the past is “always partial” , and often “incomplete” . “Facts are not truth” , Mantel argues, but “the record of what’s left on the record.” It is up to the living to interpret, or, indeed, misinterpret, those accounts.

In this respect the writer of historical fiction is not working in direct opposition to the professional historian: both must think creatively about what remains, deploying — especially when faced with gaps and silences in the archive — “selection, elision, artful arrangement” , literary manoeuvres more closely associated with novelist Philippa Gregory than with [John] Guy the historian. However, exceptional examples from both fields should, claims Mantel, be “self-questioning” and always willing to undermine their own claims to authenticity.

(3) WEBCOMICS AT LOC. The Library of Congress now has a webcomics archive, collecting 39 strips including the multi-Hugo winning Girl Genius.

This collection focuses on comics created specifically for the web and supplements the Library of Congress’ extensive holdings in both comic books, graphic novels, and original comic art. Webcomics are an increasingly popular format utilized by contemporary creators in the field and often includes material by artists not available elsewhere. Webcomics selected for this collection include award-winning comics (Eisner Awards, Harvey Awards, Eagle Awards, and Shuster Awards) as well as webcomics that have significance in the field due to longevity, reputation, and subject matter. This collection includes work by artists and subjects not traditionally represented in mainstream comics, including women artists and characters, artists and characters of color, LGBTQ+ artists and characters, as well as subjects such as politics, health and human sexuality, and autobiography. The content of these websites is captured as it was originally produced and may include content that is not suitable for all ages.

(4) EARLY DAYS. Kalimac reminisces about “ Dark Carnival” bookstore.

But I remember Dark Carnival from its earliest days. It was the first sf specialty store in the Bay Area, long before Borderlands or Future Fantasy and even a bit before The Other Change of Hobbit or Fantasy Etc. (Of these, only Borderlands is still with us, and it had a scare not long ago.) I found it down on the south stretch of Telegraph, the first of its three locations, when I returned to UC in the fall of 1976. It was very small then, mostly a large semicircle of paperbacks, but there wasn’t a lot to stock in those days. Jack Rems, owner ever since, was usually there, as was his first clerk, a young woman named Lisa Goldstein, who’d occasionally mention she was working on a novel. It was published several years later and led her on the path to becoming the renowned fantasy author she is today, but then she was a bookstore clerk. D. and I would hang out down there and indulge in a lot of chatter with Jack and Lisa, but we’d also buy books.

(5) LA’S SHINING WEST TRIBUTE. NOTE: WE MISSED THIS ONE. On Thursday Los Angeles city officials will turn on the Bat-SIgnal.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will light the Bat-Signal over Los Angeles in a special ceremony honoring the late Adam West, who starred in the 60s Batman TV series as the Caped Crusader himself.

The ceremony will be conducted on Thursday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m. PST at Los Angeles City Hall. Garcetti will be joined by unnamed special guests for the tribute, along with Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck.

Once lit, the Bat-Signal will be projected on Los Angeles City Hall for an undisclosed period of time.

(6) TRACING BATMAN’S BAT BUCKS. In “How Does Batman make All His Money?” on looper.com, Chris Sims looks at the roots of the Wayne fortune, including how Bruce Wayne’s wealth began with Revolutionary War hero “Mad Anthony” Wayne and how Thomas Wayne’s marriage to Martha Kane united a financial empire with one based on chemicals.

All of this still leaves the question of where Batman gets his fortune in the world of Gotham City, but if you’ve read enough comics, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bruce Wayne’s infinite pile of money has an origin story just like everything else. The short version? The Waynes have always been rich.

As it turns out, they’re about as old as Old Money gets in America, with a merchant fortune that came over from Europe in colonial times, growing as Gotham City expanded to form the cornerstone of an industrial empire. In 2011’s Batman: Gates of Gotham, Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins, and Trevor McCarthy put the spotlight on Alan Wayne, a turn-of-the-century ancestor for Batman who helped to shape the city itself by funding the design and construction of bridges, tunnels, and key buildings — including Wayne Tower.

(7) ALT REVIEWING. Jon Mollison reviewed Sarah A. Hoyt’s story “Freeman’s Stand” in Rocket’s Red Glare for the Castalia House blog. He has a particular view of immigrants, as reflected in this excerpt —

I didn’t recognize the tonally inconsistent version of America presented. Perhaps the good old USA had fallen so long ago that the Sons of Liberty had cobbled together an approximation through scraps of history and lost lore. If so, this was never presented, and so instead of enjoying the action, I found myself wondering where this weird America came from.

Normally, I’d be loathe to resort to the petty tactic of mentioning the “About The Author” section of a collection, but in this case it provides an important clue towards understanding why Freeman’s Stand feels like such an alien version of America. The very first thing mentioned in Hoyt’s bio is that she was born and raised in Portugal. That’s the lead-off. It’s important that you know Hoyt is Portuguese before all else. And it’s only now, after the story is concluded, that the pieces fall into place. This is a story of “Nation of Immigrants” America written by an author with a very different perspective of America than one held by a reader born and bred within her borders. That is the source of the disconnect, and I found myself wishing that I’d known from the outset that Molly’s story was that an American outsider fighting for an outsider’s vision of America. It would have resolved a number of discordant passages within the tale.

This prompted Greg Hullender to observe, “Although Sarah Hoyt imagines herself to be a fellow-traveler, given her involvement with the Sad Puppies, it’s pretty clear from this post on the Castalia House Blog that, as an immigrant from Portugal, she can never be a “real American.” Not in any sense the alt-right recognizes, anyway.”

(8) WALKING DEAD. Carl Slaughter would like to tell you about it:

The Walking Dead is a tale of sheriff Rick Grimes and his small band of survivors as they’re transformed from coddled complainers into battle tested, zombie murdering badasses. The zombie subgenre has a rich history of social commentary. Whether they be the slow walking, brain craving type or of the fast running, shrieking persuasion, the figure of the zombie has been a metaphor for all sorts of things that keep us up at night. Zombies have represented everything from mindless consumers under Capitalism in Dawn of the Dead, to fears about public health crisis in 28 Days Later, immigration in World War Z, or mega corporations in Resident Evil. And then there’s the fact that zombies originated in Haiti, where many argue it was a metaphor for slavery. Zombies are projections of our own societal fears. The Walking Dead isn’t quite any of these. Instead, The Walking Dead explores a multitude of issues, like politics, psychology, and our relationship to death. Also, the joys of cosplay. The Walking Dead is, above all else, a show about philosophical bounderies. And three in particular: (1) What constitutes life (2) What constitutes living (3) What constitutes being human.

For homework, Carl recommends The Philosophy of The Walking Dead — Wisecrack Edition.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Stephen Burridge, Tom Galloway, John King Tarpinian, Gregory N. Hullender, and Dann for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]