VIEWS & REVIEWS: TV, BOOK and MOVIE (wish I had some news too!)

Figure 1 – El Presidente

Since the subject of our first review is a book about “the first 100 days post-election,” I thought it would be a good thing to have a photo of The Tweetster to show what a fine, Presidential figure he cuts. Yeah. I don’t want to get overly political here; that’s not what this column is for.
But on the subject of policy, I think it’s a very good thing that when you serve, as I did, in the U.S. Armed Forces, you take an oath of allegiance (here’s the Navy version I spoke): “I… do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.” (If you affirm, you can omit the “So help me God” that I left off here.)

Nowhere in that does it say you must bear allegiance to the President, just that you must obey his orders. Someone should point that out to him, I think. And by the way, there’s no expiration date on that oath, so I might still be subject to it.

Figure 2 – Alternative Truths cover

The book I’m going to review is shown in Figure 2. “It’s an anthology celebrating or mocking (take your pick) the first 100 days of the Trump presidency.”—Gregg Chamberlain.

Gregg goes on to say, “A full share of the royalties goes to the American Civil Liberties Union for the first three years of the book’s publication, after which all the royalties (by mutual agreement of editors and authors) goes to the ACLU. The book is available in both hardcopy and e-book formats (kindle, epub and mobi) through Amazon and also CreateSpace, I believe.”

Well, after reading it, I’m not sure there’s a lot of “celebration” going on here, but there are some excellent stories—or pieces—in the anthology. Gregg Chamberlain is one of the twenty-four writers featured in this anthology produced by B-Cubed Press, in Benton City, Washington, and edited by Phyllis Irene Radford and Bob Brown. Gregg’s story is called “Alt Right for the President’s End,” and is a cute little wish-fulfillment story about the end of the Trump presidency.

Which could end, according to this story, and to paraphrase T.S. Eliot, both with a bang and a whimper. We can only hope. (Figure 3 shows Gregg with a football trophy that’s probably recognizable only to Canadians: the Grey Cup.)

Figure 3 – Gregg Chamberlain and Grey Cup

Let me mention first that I appreciate that this anthology is dedicated to a friend of mine who died recently: Vicki Mitchell of Moscow, Idaho. She was the widow of my friend Jon Gustafson, and a fine writer in her own right.
Anyway, as you might expect, there’s a mixed bag here, but most of these stories tend to be a bit—to be kind—disapproving (or at the very least dissmissive) of the President.

I think a good proportion of SF/F writers do fall to the left of centre, at least a bit—if they are not full-fledged “liberals”—aagh! (Some people like to use that word as an insult. I’m not sure I completely understand its meaning, but I think I might be on the liberal “spectrum.”) Some stories are straight-up horror stories about what might happen—not only to the old, sick and weak, but to females, people of colour and people of other religions or cultures—under Trump’s administration.

Some are humourous (but nonetheless horror) stories about the same thing. Some are wish-fulfillment: “I hope that blankety-blank orange so-and-so dies a horrible death!” Some are just cautionary. A few are lame, in my opinion and those, as is usual, include one or two just bad stories. There are too many to critique them all individually, but let me just point out a few of my favourites. Here’s the full list:

Q & A by Adam Troy-Castro
The Trumperor and the Nightingale by Diana Hauer
President Trump, Gettysburg, November 19, 1863 by Jim Wright
Relics: a fable by Louise Marley
As Prophesied of Old by Susan Murrie Macdonald
Good Citizen by Paula Hammond
The Frame by Bobby Lee Featherston
Altered to Truth by Irene Radford
about_the_change.wav by Joel Ewy
Alt Right for the President’s End by Gregg Chamberlain
Melanoma Americana by Sara Codair
Patti 209 by K.G. Anderson
It’s All Your Fault by Daniel M. Kimmel
Letters from the Heartland by Janka Hobbs
Rage Against The Donald by Bruno Lombardi
Pinwheel Party by Victor D. Phillips
Monkey Cage Rules by Larry Hodges
The Last Ranger (ANPS-1, CE 2053) by Blaze Ward
Raid at 817 Maple Street by Ken Staley
Frozen by Liam Hogan
Duck, Donald: A Trump Exorcism by Marleen S. Barr
Walks Home Alone at Night by Wondra Vanian
The History Book by Voss Foster
We’re Still Here by Rebecca McFarland Kyle

For my money, the funniest piece is Jim Wright’s President Trump, Gettysburg, November 19, 1863; it’s basically the Gettysburg Address (I’ll bet I can still recite the original!) as if Trump had spoken it. Perfect!

Adam Troy-Castro’s piece, a Presidential press conference (and even Adam couldn’t have foreseen that Trump would ban recording press conferences!), is a short but funny bit. I am glad that humour, rather than rancour, is sometimes the public reaction to Trump.

Diana Hauer’s The Trumperor and the Nightingale is a long fable based somewhat on what memory tells me is a Hans Christian Anderson story, but it diverges first into what could well be reality, then back into wish-fulfillment fantasy. I appreciate the fable, but doubt the ending very much.

Relics: A Fable, by Louise Marley, is quite possibly the future of the American South under Trump. Sad but possible… but with a nice ending.

Joel Ewy’s _about_the_change.wav explores the idea that reality is actually shaped by us. It’s not a happy idea. The story has its clunky moments, but is pretty well written anyway.

Sara Codair’s Melanoma Americana is, simply put, chilling and all too possible. ‘Nuff said, as Stan the Man has often said.

It’s All Your Fault by Daniel M. Kimmel is a wry comment on media like Facebook. If you Facebook, you’ve seen this happen. Often. (Except for that little bit—you know the part—in the middle. That’s not real. Maybe.)

Letters from the Heartland by Janka Hobbs is written with a straight face, I’m sure. See if you can keep one while reading it.

Bruno Lombardi, in Rage Against The Donald, has given us a time-travel story of the wish-fulfillment type… but who knows? It could happen. Unlikely, but….

I’d swear I’ve read The Last Ranger by Blaze Ward before. Let’s hope that this scenario is not ever going to happen in the United States.

Ken Staley’s Raid at 817 Maple Street (is that a nod to the old Twilight Zone episode, The Monsters are Due on Maple Street?) isn’t even science fiction, let alone “alt-truth.” It’s an all-too-likely present-day situation. It may have already even happened, but we’ll never really know, will we?

We’re Still Here by Rebecca McFarland Kyle explores the real consequences of “alt-truth,” and you’re not gonna like them. All in all, I’d rate this anthology a solid 3¤s (¤¤¤) out of 5¤s, or maybe a 3+, but well worth the small amount they’re charging.

 

Figure 4 – Midnight, Texas poster

TV REVIEW: We watched the premier episode of a new TV series from NBC the other night, called Midnight, Texas. Now, I spend a lot of time in front of the boob tube, most of it watching movies. I’m an absolute sucker for movies, and have seen roughly a quarter zillion of ‘em. Old, new, b/w, colour, colourized, 3-D, you name it.
(No, I’m not upgrading to 4K unless and until they get 4K3-D! Starz HD [we get it through our co-op’s satellite system] played the best version of Pitch Black in terms of quality we’ve ever seen last night, for example.) TV, for the most part, still is what Newton Minnow (look him up) called a “vast wasteland” back in 1961. There always has been a lot of crud on TV; its main purpose is still to “sell soap.”

I have not watched, and will never watch shows like Big Brother, Survivor and a few other “reality” shows; first off, because they’re cra… uh, crud. Secondly, because all those “reality” shows (yes, even the few I watch like Pawn Stars and Storage Wars) are scripted. So where’s the reality? (I watch the aforementioned two because I like to see what items are shown.)

I watch primarily—you guessed it!—SF/F shows, and not every one of those that are aired. I check out the new shows in case (faint hope!) they’re quality TV, like Stranger Things. (Too often, they’re unbelievable cra… uh, crud like The Mist.) So when a new one called Midnight, Texas, about a small town in Texas that’s full of, according to the description, “vampires, witches, werewolves, biker gangs and cops” comes up, I simply have to watch it.

It stars Francois Arnaud as Manfred Bernardo, real psychic who usually plays a fake one for money; Dylan Bruce as Bobo Winthrop, pawn-shop owner; Parisa Fitz-Henley as Fiji Cavanaugh, Wiccan/really real witch; Peter Mensah as Lemuel Bridger, Yul Vázquez as Rev. Emilio Sheehan, possibly a preacher/werewolf; Arielle Kebbel as Olivia Charity, blonde tough-woman; and Sarah Ramos as Creek Lovell, normal person?

Who knows at this point? The story starts when Manfred the psychic, who’s on the run, temporarily moves (in a classic RV) to Texas to avoid the people who are hunting him. Once there he meets a strange assortment of people and is immediately involved in a murder investigation—the murder was discovered on his first day in town, but he’s still a suspect by the local cops. My interest was immediately piqued by Peter Mensah’s vampire—a striking-looking guy who really puts out a “don’t mess with me” vibe. I eagerly await episode two, and hope they can continue in this (ahem!) vein.

Figure 5 – Mel and the Minions from Despicable Me 3

SHORT TAKES: We really liked Despicable Me and Minions, although Despicable Me 2 fell a bit short of expectations. In spite of that we’ve been looking forward to Despicable Me 3. I have to tell you I feel very let down.

Steve Carell is doing some fabulous voice work as Gru, one-time villain; this movie is no exception. Kristen Wiig is … okay… as Lucy, his new wife; the three little “gorls” are as cute as ever. Doctor Nefario is missing (it’s an in-joke; I won’t spoil it for you), and some of the Minions are as funny and engaging as ever.

It’s just that the whole thing is kind of an unfocused, jumbled mess. Mel and the bulk of the Minions stage a walkout on Gru and are missing for a good portion of the movie. The animation continues to be stellar, but ultimately, the whole thing just doesn’t gel. I give it a 2+¤ (¤¤).

DON’T FORGET, Canadians, it’s Aurora voting time until September 2. Go to www.prixaurorawards.ca and sign up if you haven’t—vote if you’ve downloaded and read all the works. Vote for me or vote for someone else, but please vote!

I’d appreciate a comment on this column, if you liked—or even disliked—what I’ve said. You can comment here, or you can comment on my Facebook page, or in the several Facebook groups where I put a link to this column. Don’t feel you have to agree with me to post a comment, either. My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owners, editors, publishers or other columnists. See you next week!

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2 thoughts on "VIEWS & REVIEWS: TV, BOOK and MOVIE (wish I had some news too!)"

  1. stevefah says:

    I’m still not sure what SJW means (yeah, I know it’s “Social Justice Warrior,” but what does that *mean*?), but I’ll accept all your other epithets if they mean I’m anti-Trump and against what the current Republican Party wants to do to the American public to feather their own nests.
    I thought of you, actually, in Californa when I read one line in one of the stories, something like “Is it true Californians actually gave the vote to trees?” I knew you’d get a kick out of that one.
    When are you gonna wend your way upstream and visit Vancouver, Steve?

  2. Hey you SJW Treehugger libtard,

    I liked the column and want to buy the book. But I’m a lifelong liberal and my opinion thus fairly predictable. Very sorry to hear about Vicki, my friend as well. I also gotta check out Midnight, Texas, even though I watch too much TV as it is. Damn you and your tantalizing reviews!

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