Firefly: A ten year retrospective

serenity, firefly, fox, tv shows, mal reynoldsI popped in the first disc of my Firefly DVD set, purchased happily the day it arrived in stores. I heard the Ballad of Serenity for the first time in about ten years — the last time I could bring myself to join Captain Mal Reynolds and the crew on their adventures through the Verse.

I didn’t wait so long because I didn’t like Firefly; it’s actually the opposite. No television show has ever broken my heart the way Firefly did.

I wondered as the DVD menu popped up, would it be as good as I remembered? Was my nostalgia coloring my memories of a show I held so beloved that I couldn’t bare to watch it because I knew it would end too soon?

Firefly certainly never had a chance. I remember the commercials that ran for Firefly – of course its sci-fi setting intrigued me but the commercials were so corny. I remember commenting with my roommate at the time, “that looks so stupid.”

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Geeking and dying at Evercon

12510508_454040031452267_1250414714425196931_nI dropped by Evercon this weekend, a gaming and other geek-related convention this weekend, which happens to be held at my old junior high.

Tim Seeley, comic writer/artist of Hack/Slash and Revival fame, once graced those same D.C. Everest Junior High hallways on a daily basis. We both endured the hell that was junior high and the added hell of being a geek in junior high at the same place.

One of the topics that came up in our brief but enjoyable conversation is one I’ve discussed with many geeks my age: The difference between today’s fans and us. When we walked the halls of D.C. Everest, loving comics, Star Trek, Magic: The Gathering, maybe even anime (the later mainly an underground phenomena before the days of Adult Swim) was something to hide. Letting your geek flag fly was the equivalent of wearing a kick my ass sign. Seeley related that he once wore a Spiderman shirt and was asked by an older classmate if he was still into “baby stuff.”

This is, of course, before a truly decent superhero movie had been made that wasn’t Batman or Superman. Now how many incarnations of Spiderman are we on now? Tell kids today that you once got your ass kicked for wearing a Star Trek insignia and they look at you as if you’d just told them you went to school in a cart and buggy. It seems impossibly anachronistic to them.

While I think that’s great — it should be an anachronism — I think there’s a bond between older geeks who endured the abuse. When we hid the latest X-Men comic between our textbooks, or banded in a group geeks for protection, or traded a VHS tape of the lastest Star Trek episode to a friend who’d missed it. The trepidation with which we’d share our love of geekdom to a new friend, and the delight when we discovered they were into those things too. We were earning our Red Badge of Courage.

But that being said, I’m glad newer generations don’t have to. I’m not even entirely sure the word geek even applies; The days of the Breakfast Club are gone. Today you can be a jock who plays Pokemon. Or the prom queen who stands in line for the latest Hunger Games movie. After all, isn’t that what we always hoped for?

John Hughes and the genius of character

The Breakfast Club, john hughes, 80s cultureMy 80s kick is in full swing, as many of you loyal blog readers know, and I’ve been rewatching some of the films I saw as a kid and checking out some I’d never seen.

John Hughes has thoroughly captured my imagination. I’ve recently watched the so-called “brat pack” trilogy and I’ve found them mesmerizing for both good and bad reasons.

But the thing that really sticks out to me is this: John Hughes is a character genius. It’s been said of Hughes that he his finger on the pulse teenage life and psyche, their fears and tribulations. I agree. That’s probably illustrated no better anywhere than the film The Breakfast Club. We have a group of five teens serving Saturday detention, and they represent the categories that I think anyone growing up in the eighties/early nineties will recognize: The jock, the nerd, the prom queen, the goth/alternative artsy girl and the dirt (referred to as the criminal). I knew each of these arch-types in high school; and I also had my “Breakfast Club moment.” I think many teens had that moment when they for some reason interacted with a member of another clique and realized we had more in common than we thought.

When I was a junior, I remember walking to school on a cold and snowy Wisconsin winter day. I guess I always had an independent streak, and liked getting home on my own power rather than relying on the bus. But today was a particularly cold one, and I was freezing.

A car pulled up beside me and, being a high school student in the early 90s, I geared up to defend. Someone stopping by to make fun of me for walking? Start a fight? (Thankfully, I don’t think that ever happened to me, but it wasn’t unheard of.)

I remember her window rolling down, and the Molly Ringwald prom queen type leaning over in her seat. “Do you want a ride? It’s freezing out.”

I remember pausing. Nothing like this had happened. It wasn’t one of my friends. I’d never talked to this girl in my life. Not that I would have minded it. She was beautiful. I hadn’t yet reached an age where I regularly caught the attention of beautiful women, so this was a shock.

My instinct (which is almost always wrong when it comes to women, BTW) was to decline and keep walking. I kind of prided myself on braving the elements. I was cold but school wasn’t that far away.

Wisely, I accepted. I wish I could remember what we talked about; all I remember was how easy conversation came. Me, this goofy alternative rock/sci-fi geek kid (yeah, the grunge era was a thing) and this prom queen type, good grades, beautiful, probably invited to a lot of parties. Who knew?

We talked all the way to our first classes. And while I don’t think I ever talked to her again, other than a few quick hellos, it turned out to be my Breakfast Club moment. I never looked at other kids and instantly categorized them, walling them into acceptable and not acceptable. I realized that people from all these different cliques also could have a lot in common. My senior year I became the kid that transcended cliques — I got along with just about everybody.

I think that was why The Breakfast Club hit a particular chord with me. And I wonder if it strikes the same chord with today’s teens. I’ve been told a lot of what I experienced back then, the idea of cliques, are something of an anachronism. Today the prom queen can also like Star Wars, or stand in line for Harry Potter. She wouldn’t have been caught dead doing so in my time. Jocks can also consume anime. Back then, they would have slammed anime geeks into lockers.

So maybe it’s a good thing that a movie like the Breakfast Club isn’t needed today. If those statements about the disappearance of cliques are true (and my experience with younger people seems to largely confirm this), then they’re likely suffering a lot less than we did. If people are free to like what they like, then more power to them.

For those of us who still remember that reality, The Breakfast Club added depth to those characters and reminded us of how tenuous those division were. They demonstrate the genius of John Hughes to not only create those stereotypes, but then to shatter them.

Agree? Disagree? What’s your favorite John Hughes movie? Let’s start the conversation below!

Robot Awareness: Part III is here!

Robot Awareness part iii, b.c. kowalski, isellia, joey sci-fi, writingIt’s out! As of early evening on Christmas, Robot Awareness: Part III is available on Amazon!

That leaves one more part to be released to complete the first arc. Then the crew heads to the Inner Circle for the final four parts of the Robot Awareness series!

Check out Robot Awareness Part III here, and as always, for a free review copy, email me at dr.applezoid[@] The only thing I ask in return is that you leave me an honest review! Reviews really help authors get noticed on Amazon, so bring on those four and five star reviews! Again, I will exchange any copy of the Robot Awareness series for an honest review. (I would prefer you not leave a review if it’s a 2 or 1 star, but I’m pretty you’ll like it enough for at least a 3. I’ve only gotten one 3-star review so far and nothing below that so far!)

Hope everyone had a great holiday! I’ve been on an 80s film kick, as you might have noticed, and have plenty more cultural topics to blog about soon! Also, I’ve been on a writing kick, with more ideas than I have time for, but expect some new types of work soon!

Robot Awareness Part III coming in time for Christmas!

Robot Awareness part iii, b.c. kowalski, isellia, joey sci-fi, writingWell, I’m finally ready to wrap up Part III of Robot Awareness. I plan to publish it before Christmas, so you all will have a little Yuletide reading!

With that, I’m really looking forward to writing some NEW material. I wrote new material for so long, that when I finally started publishing, I had a lot of material to edit. That tends to suck up one’s time, so I’m spending it editing instead of writing new stuff.

Following Hugh Howey’s advice, I’ve been mostly building a body of work, so that when I spend the time to promote, I have a body of work TO promote. So I’ve not promoted myself to the fullest, but instead have worked on building a presence.

But once all four parts of Robot Awareness is out, and a print book becomes available, I plan to start the promotion circuit, and that means I’ll be even more busy. So time for writing new material?

I’ll find it. Sometimes you have to prioritize, and I think the writing of new work should have precedent over promotion and editing. Those things need to get done, but when new work presents itself, I need to get on it. And I’ve got a new idea for a series of short stories percolating (and a new Sand Runner I think too!) so there will be plenty to do.

Here’s to writing!


In the meantime, check out my current works on Amazon!


How my memory Short Circuit-ed: Forgetting the Short Circuit films

short circuit, eighties, movies, film, criticism, michael McKeanI always had fond memories of the Short Circuit films. It turns out those memories were almost entirely false.

That’s not a statement about the quality of the films — I will get into that later. It’s that nearly everything I remember about the two films is false.

I was old enough to have watched the films when they came out on video after their theatrical releases (on good old fashioned VHS!) and after watching them I did my darnedest to try and construct my own Johnny Five out of spare junk in my parents’ junk drawer. (Remarkable, I never did assemble anything remotely resembling a robot, despite hours of trying.)

I recently popped on the movie and was immediately lost. My memory of the movie was so faded that watching Short Circuit was like watching an almost entirely different film. A couple of days later, convinced that the film I associated with short circuit was actually Short Circuit 2, I was equally flumoxed to discover that that also was completely new to me.

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Trope Schmope: A defense of science fiction

imagesTwo posts today gave me some food for thought, but since one touched a nerve, one that I’ve been nursing for some time, I’m going to write about that one.

In The Guardian, Jennifer Weiner writes that critics rarely write about the books that people are actually reading. I’m not sure that’s 100 percent true — I’ve seen many different kinds of books reviewed that are also popular — it’s probably more true that they rarely recommend them.

But that being said, I took greater offense to a rebuttal in the Huffington Post (I know, HuffPo, but stick with me). Claire Fallon, in her post, “Critics Don’t Exist to Flatter Your Taste” she rebuts the claims that critics purposefully distance themselves from anything popular, even backtracking from works they once approved because they’ve since become popular.

I’m not spending a lot of time on that because I generally don’t care about critics. What does need some picking apart is the following: “Critics focus on what we deem literary fiction — for the purposes of this piece, fiction that doesn’t conform to the tropes or formulas of specific genres, and that generally aims to be artful or experimental in its prose and structure. On the other side, traditionally, are genres: romance, sci-fi, fantasy, crime, mystery.”

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