Thursday, August 17, 2017

Invaders From Planet 3 - Ep 15 - David Nickle

Author and editor David Nickle joins us for this episode. He tells us about works of speculative fiction that influenced him early on, including the TV series Lost in Space (and what it has in common with Larry Niven's Ringworld), Lester del Rey's novel The Runaway Robot, and the stories of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Shirley Jackson, Harlan Ellison, and Stephen King. On the subject of enjoying King, David talks about how he and his wife, author and editor Madeline Ashby, read a chapter of Salem's Lot out loud every night before bed. But also in our discussion of the giants of the genre, he also explains why Robert A. Heinlein isn't among his favourites.

On the subject of being an author, David recounts the tale of his first stab at writing: dictating Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons fanfic to his mother for transcription when he was four. He talks about how being a journalist has helped his writing. And David shares his thoughts on whether national identity plays a role in writing Canadian sf these days. He also discusses the challenges he and Ashby faced as co-editors wrangling the legal ins-and-outs of the anthology License Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond, which was released only in Canada due to copyright laws.

And David tells us about his new book, VOLK: A Novel of Radiant Abomination.

Our interview took place in December 2016 via a Skype connection between David's home in Toronto and my studio in the Lair of bloginhood, located in a bunker beneath a picnic table at Long Beach near Tofino.

Find out more about David Nickle on his website: (a.k.a The Devil's Exercise Yard)

Visit iTunes to subscribe to Invaders From Planet 3 and download episodes, and be sure to rate the show while you're there!

Let the invasion begin!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Winners of the Dark Tower Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the Dark Tower Giveaway, Geordie Howe and Carol Williams!

Carol and Geordie have each won a copy of Stephen King's The Gunslinger (the first book in his The Dark Tower series), courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Dark Tower Giveaway

The Dark Tower, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, is set to hit the silver screen in just a few days.

Stephen King fans will no doubt be paying close attention to how well the movie honours the series of books that inspired it.

To celebrate the film's upcoming release, Simon & Schuster Canada is giving away two copies of the first novel in the series, The Gunslinger!

The best part is you don't have to be a gunslinger or set out on a perilous quest to get one — just email me at:

Include "Dark Tower giveaway" in the subject line, and your mailing address in the body of the text.

On Tuesday, August 8, I'll pick two winners from among everyone who's emailed in, and make the announcement here on

Friday, July 14, 2017

Ep 14 - Silvia Moreno-Garcia

In this episode, we're joined by author and editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia. She tells us how HP Lovecraft and Peter S Beagle were among the English language authors who made an early impression on her. Silvia then goes on to discuss what it was like coming back to Lovecraft while doing thesis work, analyzing the attitudes towards race and sex in his stories, and how some of her own works have responded to him. She also shares the importance of Silvina Ocampo, one of the few female authors writing magic realism in Spanish during the 1950s.

We also talk about Silvia's experience with overlapping cultures — growing up in Mexico while also being exposed to American culture, then moving to Canada — and how this has influenced her writing, as demonstrated in her luchador superhero short story "Iron Justice versus the Fiends of Evil" (from the Masked Mosaic anthology). This leads us into a discussion about the phenomenon of Latin American speculative fiction authors getting recognition in their home countries only after moving overseas and writing in English. And she tells us what needs to happen for Latin American countries and Spain need to build their own strong, local speculative fiction communities.

Silvia also teases her upcoming novel, The Beautiful Ones (set for release in October, 2017).

Our interview took place in October 2016 at VCon 41 in Surrey, BC.

Find out more about Silvia Moreno-Garcia on her website:

Visit iTunes to subscribe to Invaders From Planet 3 and download episodes, and be sure to rate the show while you're there!

Let the invasion begin!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Stephen Furst Passes Beyond the Rim

Some sad news out of Hollywood this weekend: actor Stephen Furst has died at age 63.

My first memory of him onscreen was when I was a kid watching rented movies on VHS that I was probably too young to be watching, and Furst, playing Kent "Flounder" Dorfman, came rolling happily down the sidewalk at Faber College in Animal House, looking for a fraternity where he'd be accepted.

When you think of Animal House, mostly it's the larger-than-life characters like Bluto or Boon or Otter who push their way to forefront of your memory, but without Flounder and his buddy, Pinto, the movie doesn't happen. They're our window into the staggeringly drunken world of Delta house, and our avatars within it. And Furst gave a wonderful performance as Flounder. His reaction to the horse's heart attack is priceless. His deliciously innocent "Hello!" when the dean rattles-off his name in preparation for his dressing-down is perhaps the best moment of the scene where the boys are expelled. And while it's not the flashiest character wrap during the riot at the end of the movie (it would be hard to top Bluto's lecherous pirate diving from the rooftops to make off with the sorority girl, or DDay's war cry of "Ramming speed!" as the Deathmobile charges towards the grandstands), his ecstatic, cathartic jump for joy when Niedermeyer is bulldozed off by a runaway float is certainly the most satisfying moment of Animal House, and never fails to bring a smile to my face when I rewatch it.

Around the same time, I also enjoyed him on St Elsewhere, though my memories of the series are pretty fuzzy at this point.

But Stephen Furst's best role — by far — was as diplomatic assistant (later consul, still later conspirator and assassin, even still later ambassador, and much later emperor) Vir Cotto on the television masterpiece Babylon 5.

Amidst all the legendary captains, the ambassadors navigating conspiracies, the tough cops, dedicated doctors, armies of light and soldiers of darkness, Vir was just a normal guy. He was a quiet, likeable, straightforward, intelligent, moral, chubby little guy working hard at an unappreciated (and often undignified) job; a minor member of a minor house on Centauri Prime who just wanted a stable career and (somewhat unusually for his people) a wife who he could love and who might hopefully love him back. While all of the larger characters in the series were well-rounded and believable, it was Vir's ordinariness that made him most identifiable for the audience (at least, as identifiable as an alien character with some truly funky hair can really be).

And Furst played him perfectly. Absolutely, credit is due to Straczynski and the other writers who created him, and to the series directors (and Furst was one of them, from time to time), but Furst was the one who brought Vir to life and made him believable. In so doing, he made Vir stand out as vitally important to the show's overall story.

There are so many Vir moments that are memorable, but in my opinion, these five are the most significant:

"In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum" season 2, episode 16: Naturally we have to mention Vir's famous response to Mr Morden's question "What do you want?" Sure, Sheridan may have blown Morden up (mostly), and Londo had him tortured and beheaded, but Vir — the little guy with no real power — stood his moral ground when confronted with a clearly powerful and dangerous opponent, and with his "... some favours come with too high a price..." response told the Shadow agent that he saw right through his game, he wanted his head on a pike, and showed him exactly how he'd wave at that head when the time came. There are so many ways that scene could have been played wrong, but Furst danced through it perfectly.

"The Long Night" season 4, episode 5: Vir may be remembered in this episode for killing the mad emperor, Cartagia, but Furst's performance really stands out later when the attache/conspirator/assassin, drunk on liquor but in truth hammered by guilt, pours out his emotional agony over the murder to Londo. Sure, Cartagia deserved to die, and it was necessary to save the Centauri people, but it was a killing none-the-less — moreover, Vir's first killing —and Vir would have to live with it. In a series where killing, whether in battle or by murder, is almost a daily occurrence, Furst's believable portrayal of Vir's struggle shows us the truth that there's usually a high emotional price for taking a life.

"Sleeping in Light" season 5, episode 22: In a smaller, quieter moment in this quiet goodnight to the series, Vir tells the story of how he and Londo once heard the Pak'Mara singing. Furst delivers it with just the right amount of wonder and wistfulness that in many ways captures the heart of Babylon 5.

"Comes the Inquisitor" season 2, episode 21: One of the most powerful moments of the entire series: Vir, riding alone in an elevator with G'Kar, attempts to apologize for the wholesale slaughter of Narns during the Centauri bombing of Narn. G'Kar rounds on Vir, slashes his own hand with a knife, and for every drop of blood pronounces "Dead.", then asks the Centauri attache how he can apologize to the dead Narns. When Vir says he can't, G'Kar flatly decrees that he can then never forgive. The blood dripping litany of death stretches uncomfortably long, and part of what makes it uncomfortable is Furst's masterful look of pure shock, horror, and defeat.

"Sic Transit Vir" season 3, episode 12: For all of these moments of drama, we can't forget that Vir was frequently a character of comic relief in the series. And so, because Stephen Furst's family has indicated in their announcement of his passing that the actor would want to be remembered for making people laugh, it's most appropriate to end on a funny note. In this episode, Vir, having just discovered he's engaged to be married, and having no idea what to do with his all-too-eager fiance who's just arrived on the station, goes to Ivanova for advice on how to please a woman in bed. It's the single funniest moment in the entirety of Babylon 5 and its sequels, and one of the funniest moments of any science fiction TV series. I give you "we have six":

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Invaders From Planet 3 - Ep 13 - Matt Ruff

Author Matt Ruff joins us in this episode, where he talks about how books like Bertrand R. Brinley's The Mad Scientists' Club made him fall in love with scientific thinking and science fictional ideas. He also tells us how being given a box of Robert A. Heinlein's adult books at the age of 9 got him thinking critically about stories, and how they could be written better. And he discusses other influences over the years, such as Stephen King, John Crowley's Little, Big, Neal Stephenson, and William Gibson.

Matt shares his thoughts on writing, including how to know when something is written well, crafting stories that are in conversation with the works of other authors, and why he doesn't like to go back over the same ground. We also talk about a trope he frequently explores in his stories: the challenges of dealing with power — getting on in a world where power imbalances exist.

This leads us into a discussion about Matt's latest work: his mosaic novel Lovecraft Country, about an African-American family in the 1950s dealing with the supernatural machinations of a Lovecraftian cult, as well as the day-to-day horrors of racism in the U.S. Matt talks about confronting the racism and sexism in Lovecraft's work. He also shares this thoughts about the importance of doing a good job on the writing, and of finding common ground, as a white author writing about African-Americans. And we talk about last week's announcement that Jordan Peele, Misha Green, and J.J. Abrams will be producing a Lovecraft Country series for HBO, and how he's okay with adaptations and letting TV writers play with his ideas.

Our interview took place in May 2017 at Matt's home in Seattle.

Find out more about Matt Ruff on his website:

Visit iTunes to subscribe to Invaders From Planet 3 and download episodes, and be sure to rate the show while you're there!

Let the invasion begin!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Invaders From Planet 3 - Ep 12 - Robert Charles Wilson

In this episode, we're joined by author Robert Charles Wilson, who tells us about how he fell in love with speculative fiction — including stories such as Louis Slobodkin's The Space Ship Under the Apple Tree, the Mushroom Planet books by Eleanor Cameron, and Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time —  as soon as he learned to read. We'll learn how sf's juxtaposition of the ordinary with the extraordinary fascinated him, and how exploring the genre and its ideas was a reaction to growing up in an incurious family.

Bob also talks about how he became a writer, and overcoming his anxiety about his work — an anxiety that gave him nightmares. We'll discuss some of the tropes frequently addressed in his stories, including unfathomable cosmic forces and how humanity deals with them, and how he'll sometimes examine them from different perspectives across several unrelated novels. We'll also talk about the presence of characters in his books who are on the autism spectrum.

And we'll hear about some of the stories he's developing (including his novel Last Year, which was released in December 2016, a couple of months after our interview).

Our interview took place in September 2016 near Bob's home in the Greater Toronto Area.

Find out more about Robert Charles Wilson and his books on his website:

Visit iTunes to subscribe to Invaders From Planet 3 and download episodes, and be sure to rate the show while you're there!

Let the invasion begin!