Monday, September 04, 2017

Invaders From Planet 3 - Ep 16 - Kelly Robson

In this episode, we're joined by author Kelly Robson. We talk about her first love in the genre, Star Wars — how it was big, exciting and sexy, but also an escape from family drama at home; and what it's like to look back on the movie now as an adult and a professional speculative fiction writer. We talk about other early sf pleasures, like the original Battlestar Galactica; books by Piers Anthony, Anne McCaffrey, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, and others; and the genre magazines of the 70s and 80s. Along the way, we also discuss the early superhero Zorro (and specifically the George Hamilton movie Zorro — The Gay Blade), and why you may have to read Heinlein before a certain age in order to enjoy his stories.

Turning to her own career, Kelly tells us how the Connie Willis story "Blued Moon" reprogrammed her brain and made her want to become a writer. She talks about the positive aspects of starting her career in middle age, and how, despite writing being a selfish line of work, she's still able to be happy as an author married to another author. We also talk about how growing up on a farm in a small town in rural Alberta has influenced her work.

As well, we discuss Kelly's unique suggestion to resolve the Sad/Rabid Puppies controversy that wracked the Hugo Awards in 2015 and 2016.

And Kelly tells us about some of her recent stories, including "A Human Stain" on, and her contribution to the Kickstarter project NASTY — Fetish Erotica for a Good Cause.

Our interview took place in December 2016 via a Skype connection between Kelly's home in Toronto, and my studio in the Lair of bloginhood, located in the rafters of an abandoned whisky distillery in the Highlands of Scotland.

Find out more about Kelly Robson 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!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Farewell to Brian Aldiss

It's a strange feeling being a middle-aged fan these days. When I first started reading adult-level science fiction and fantasy back in the 80s, the giants of the Golden Age and New Wave still walked the Earth, and more importantly, were still publishing. One by one, over the years, the stories stopped, and their lives came to a close. A week ago, Time claimed another: Brian Aldiss.

My first encounter with Aldiss' work was as a teenager in 1989, when I read "Let's be Frank" in the anthology Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories: 19 (1957), edited by Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg. The short story chronicles the life/lives of Frank, a minor noble born at the time of King Henry VIII, who passes a genetic mutation down to some of his descendants, causing them to become new vessels of his consciousness. They are not clones/separate versions of Frank; rather, a single mind existing simultaneously throughout every member of the family who shares this gene (like a fully biological version of The Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation). This allows Frank to live forever, gain wealth and power, and eventually spread his mind across the world until, through his many descendants, he constitutes about half to two-thirds of the Earth's population. It was a clever little story, and a bit funny, but there was something sad (though this isn't reflected in the story's tone — it's just my impression) and disturbing about it too, with all those new humans being born, but more and more of them just being more and more of the same old Frank, rather than unique individuals.

Over the years, I read other Aldiss short stories and novels from time to time. Some, like Super-State, were okay reads, but didn't leave much of an impression, while others, like Frankenstein Unbound, were absorbing, unsettling and left a permanent mark (the protagonist desperately treading existential water as realities shift around him with increasing frequency; the mating dance of the monsters). On the shelf right now, Harm and the Helliconia trilogy are still waiting for me to crack them open. There were also movies based on his work: Roger Corman's version of Frankenstein Unbound wasn't very good, but Spielberg and Kubrick's A.I. — Artificial Intelligence (based on "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long") was deeply affecting in places (Teddy settling resignedly back as David leans forward against the windscreen of the submerged copter, desperately praying to the Blue Fairy statue in the murky distance for ages until their power cells run out gets me every time).

One afternoon at Worldcon 2014 in London, I was trying to choose between a number of program options. One of them was a session with Brian Aldiss. While the other panels, presentations, etc looked interesting, I thought there aren't many chances to sit and listen to one of the giants of the field reminisce, and (yeah, I know, this was a bit morbid) Aldiss wasn't getting any younger, so there might not be many more to come. I met up with my buddy Geordie (who has some nice stories about meeting Aldiss at conventions throughout the years) outside, and, along with way too many other fans, we jammed ourselves into a room that was much too small and listened to Brian talk about his life and his work. Sure it was uncomfortable seating, and yeah, the AC just couldn't keep up with the heat generated by all those bodies, but it was worth every minute. Brian was funny, charming, and interesting. At the end, the con organizers wrapped up the session by leading us all in a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday". I'm glad I had the chance to be part of it.

Brian Aldiss died on August 19, 2017 at the age of 92.

What are your memories of Brian Aldiss and his work? Share them in the Comments section below.

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":