Mythgard Movie Club: Blade Runner 2049

Tonight, I’ll be joining the Mythgard Movie Club podcast to talk about Blade Runner 2049, one of my new favorite movies. Back in January, we had a roundtable discussion about Blade Runner (you can find it here), and even though I’ve read books about the original Blade Runner and listen to the Shoulder of Orion Blade Runner podcast, I still gained new insights and appreciation for that film. Looking forward to our discussion tonight. You can watch it live (here) or download the podcast episode here later this month.

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“Star Wars: Outlander” (Dark Horse)

swr12coverStar Wars: Outlander is a fascinating entry in the Expanded Universe. It was one of the earliest comics in Dark Horse’s Republic series, which started before The Phantom Menace and continued into the Dark Times. Republic would later be acclaimed for its Clone Wars arc, featuring Quinlan Vos, everybody’s favorite gloomy Jedi. However, the early Republic comics seemed set to feature Ki-Adi Mundi, a very different type of Jedi (he’s the cone-head alien on the Jedi Council).

Outlander came out in 1999, a time when The Phantom Menace opened up a whole new corner of the Star Wars for storytellers, but without all of the constraints imposed by later stories. The Galaxy felt fresh and full of possibilities. Outlander is also a sign of what was to come with the Expanded Universe. The story is fairly straightforward – Ki goes to Tatooine to investigate reports that a rogue Jedi called Sharad Hett has joined Tusken raiders – but it reverberates throughout much of Dark Horse’s run of Star Wars comics. Even as the Republic series moved away from Ki and focused on other Jedi characters, characters from Outlander play an important role in later events.

I enjoyed the story. It has elements of a classic revenge story, with some unexpected twists. I appreciate that Sharad Hett never becomes a caricature of a Dark Jedi. It’s not even clear that he’s fallen to the Dark Side. The subplot with bounty hunter Aurra Sing probably could have been excised (I suspect Lucasfilm wanted Dark Horse to include her because they were trying to make her the “next” Boba Fett). The text bubbles conveying her internal thoughts really didn’t add much to the story. While the art can’t quote compare to the heights of Jan Duursema’s later Republic comics, I found Outlander‘s artwork had its moments of beauty, particularly the scenes set during dusk and dawn.

Star Wars: Outlander is the type of Expanded Universe story I find myself missing since Disney rebooted the Star Wars canon. It’s not a perfect story, but it really committed to telling the story of characters who barely appeared in the films. It’s not hard to imagine hundreds of other Jedi having hundreds of other small-scale adventures just like this one before the fall of the Republic.

“Infomocracy” by Malka Older

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For a while, I’ve felt that, when it comes to politics, science world-building has been stuck in the past, fixated on stories about galactic empires or rebellions against totalitarian regimes. Governments in science fiction almost never resembles the messy democracies of our world. By contrast, in Malka Older’s Infomocracy, the protagonists are political operatives and central threat is a conspiracy to manipulate an election. This is perhaps the first science fiction story I’ve read that takes electoral institutions seriously and makes them central to the story (not surprisingly, Older is a political scientist). Continue reading ““Infomocracy” by Malka Older”

“Star Wars: Darth Maul” (Marvel)

darth_maul_tpb_solitationWhen the license for Star Wars comics reverted from Dark Horse Comics to Marvel in 2015, it seemed that Marvel’s first instinct was to release a 4-5 issue miniseries for each popular character in the saga. Darth Maul is easily the most popular character to come out of the Prequel Trilogy. Star Wars: Darth Maul tells a short story set before The Phantom Menace and helps explain the source of Maul’s anger and hatred towards the Jedi. Continue reading ““Star Wars: Darth Maul” (Marvel)”

“Star Wars: Darth Vader” (Marvel)

Darth-VaderWhen Marvel regained the Star Wars license a few years ago, one of the first things it did was issue a line of comics focused on Darth Vader. This first series, Star Wars: Darth Vader (2015-16), only for 25 issues and takes place in between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a decently fun tale. Yet, looking back, it’s probably less memorable for what it tells us about Vader, and more about those who are brave enough to work with Vader.

Spoilers ahead… Continue reading ““Star Wars: Darth Vader” (Marvel)”

“The Star Wars” by J.W. Rinzler

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The Star Wars is not the Star Wars we’ve all grown to know and love. Instead, this comic is an adaptation of George Lucas’s first draft for the film that eventually became Star Wars. This is an alternative take on the story, a great “what if?” Some of the characters and places have names similar to those in the final films, but in a completely different context. Luke Skywalker isn’t an optimistic young kid, but rather a grizzled old Jedi general. Continue reading ““The Star Wars” by J.W. Rinzler”

“The Fall of Hyperion” by Dan Simmons

Fall of Hyperion Front Book CoverIn theory, The Fall of Hyperion is the sequel to Dan Simmons’ Hyperion (reviewed here). However, it feels like it comes from a different franchise. Fans of Hyperion expecting to learn more about the six pilgrims will find themselves disappointed. If anything, Fall of Hyperion draws more from the frame narrative of Hyperion than the short stories.

Fall of Hyperion focuses less on character and more on plot. We spend relatively little time with the pilgrims and more time with Hegemony CEO Meina Gladstone and her war council. As hinted in the end of Hyperion, war has broken out between the Hegemony and Ousters, and as well as an Artificial Intelligence construct. Continue reading ““The Fall of Hyperion” by Dan Simmons”

“Hyperion” by Dan Simmons

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Hyperion by Dan Simmons is an example of a book I don’t enjoy but that I respect immensely. Hyperion is a work of art. It is regularly ranked amongst the top 10 science fiction books of all time. Simmons employs an innovative narrative structure that serves to create a sense of dread. Despite Simmons’ skills as a storyteller, I found Hyperion a difficult story to read.

The book starts off 700 years in the future. Seven pilgrims – a captain, a priest, a soldier, a poet, a scholar, a detective, and a diplomat – travel to the planet Hyperion to visit the Shrike, a mysterious, murderous, quasi-religious figure. While en route, they agree to tell each other their backstories and their reasons for wanting to visit the Shrike (à la Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales). The book then proceeds like a collection of short stories, one for each pilgrim.

Continue reading ““Hyperion” by Dan Simmons”

“Contact” by Carl Sagan

Contact_SaganFor me, the film version Contact is still the gold standard for intelligent science fiction in cinema. After having read Carl Sagan’s Contact, I realize that the movie benefitted from exceptionally strong source material. Sagan manages to explore Big Ideas™, but also develops compelling characters. In addition to being a talented scientist, Sagan could write better than most professional science fiction authors.

Continue reading ““Contact” by Carl Sagan”