Ace Doubles: John Brunner & Gardner F. Fox and Dean Cain & Milo Yiannopoulos

There was no 120' long giant cobra in Brunner's book, but there was a colossal doom monolith on a dead world orbiting a red giant in Fox's.

There was no 120′ long giant cobra in Brunner’s book, but there was a colossal doom monolith on a dead world orbiting a red giant in Fox’s.

John Brunner’s Endless Shadow is something of a modernist clusterfuck (the excerpted quote from Joyce should be a heads-up) and rather hard to get into, but damn if it wasn’t a fascinating slice of galactic soap opera. The concept is that humans had colonized dozens of worlds, were separated through a dark age, and have since been re-unified through a dimensional bridge system. While various human worlds contribute their culture to the mass of humanity’s empire, Earth’s main responsibility is maintaining the bridge.

The shift in focus from one group of characters to another (three groups) made it somewhat challenging to sort out who was who, especially considering that it’s not even 100 pages. It read like a pilot episode for something like a much more bizarre Deep Space 9 or Babylon 5. Despite being disjointed, a lot of interesting individuals either did interesting things or had interesting things happen to them.  If this were a weekly 90s space soap, I would’ve watched it.

My biggest issue with Endless Shadow was not the lack of a protagonist, disjointed storytelling, or strange philosophical puzzles, but the heaps of praise, almost to the point of deification, for programmers. In Endless Shadow, computer programmers are viewed as superhuman, beautiful women want to throw themselves at them, but alas, the program is more important, and they flawlessly write millions words of code! Really? I work in software, and you’re lucky if programmers can be arsed to do their own unit testing half the time, much less write a million words (not lines, mind you!) of code without a single mistake. But if Brunner wants programmers to be newtype supermen, so be it; he makes up for them with snake-handlers and pain cultists.

Now, I’m a huge Ursula K. LeGuin fan; she was one of my first fantasy loves and I really liked her sci-fi when I finally went back and read it. But the more of her contemporaries I read, the more I find myself thinking that her Hainish stories pale in comparison to the other anthropological sci-fi (anthro-punk?) I’ve been reading.

Gardner F. Fox’s The Arsenal of Miracles was much more of a straight-forward space opera. Where it was an interplanetary space adventure, Arsenal was awesome; a former Earth Empire Admiral wanders the galaxy, known as “the Lucky”, though he makes his own luck, is reunited with the beautiful alien queen whose people he threw his career away trying to find a new homeworld: together, they search the ruined worlds of a lost alien master race to recover the technology that will help her people earn their place in the Empire while on the run from a rogue admiral and treacherous prince. Where it delved into actual science of Radiation, it got pretty silly… But it’s so easy to forgive silly bad science when you have a space-man fighting a giant space panther armed with nothing but a table leg followed by a sword-fight as the alien queen’s champion against her evil brother.

If Leigh Brackett had written Arsenal, Bran the Lucky would’ve smoked cigarettes and called the alien queen Baby, but I can’t really think of any other ways to improve on this one. Fox has been added to my watch list.

Lastly: hey, it’s Dean Cain and Milo!

I’d been meaning to write something about Lois & Clark for some time, since I recently rewatched it, but it basically boiled down to three points:
1. Lois & Clark is best Superman.
2. Special effects aside, Lois & Clark aged really well.
3. Out of half a dozen Superman movies, why were none as good as the pilot of Lois & Clark?

Update: While the Superman of my childhood has spoken up on behalf of gamers and ethics in journalism, Superman in the comics is apparently busy punching cops.

“New 52 am best Superman!”

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4 responses to “Ace Doubles: John Brunner & Gardner F. Fox and Dean Cain & Milo Yiannopoulos

  1. You’re maybe one of a half-dozen people I’ve ever known to have so much as SEEN Lois & Clark, and four of those people include myself and my immediate family. So when I say, “what do you mean ‘the best’ Superman?” understand that it means, “I have literally never heard anyone talk about this show.”

    Lois & Clark informed a lot of how I thought and felt about Superman as a character and franchise (and I read a lot of Gold/Silver Age stuff, plus a bunch of 90s stuff, plus a bunch of random trades), and might actually be why I prefer Superman over basically every other superhero out there.

    –Dither

    • I was a kid when it was on network first run and loved every minute of it. It wasn’t until I recently rewatched it though that I could say “Best Superman”.

      Keep in mind, I haven’t really read a lot of the comics, but my main exposure as a youth after this was the Animated Series, which was kind of bad: the decision to make Superman weak and a poor fighter to make super fights more interesting was a bad one, and except for when Jack Kirby stuff started spilling into the show, it was never particularly interesting. The first Superman reboot which put him in the role of super-powered dead-beat dad just struck me as gross, the classic Mario Puzo superman flicks felt dull and pompous, and Man of Steel felt even moreso. The fun slice of life romantic dramedy that Debbie LeVine put together was pure magic. It didn’t matter if the effects were cheesy and bad, the characters and the chemistry were all perfect, whether it was Jimmy trying to make the chief respect him or the chief telling another Elvis story. Magic!

      The Lois & Clark superman does what no other incarnations I’ve seen have effectively done: Capture the ‘gee-shucks’ Clark Kent who loves his parents and wants to make them proud, who is actually IN LOVE with Lois Lane and has a Lois Lane that’s worth falling in love with. Dean Cain is likable in a way that I’ve never seen any other incarnations of superman. He’s never too big for his britches, he’s not cocky or smug, he’s just a really great guy who would do anything for his friends and family and happens to have superpowers.

      The whole spiel at the end of Kill Bill about Clark Kent having to disguise himself in the weakness of humanity may have sounded like some cool end of the movie stuff, but that’s the sort of fundamental misunderstanding of what’s appealing about superman that has led to stuff like, well, superman punching that cop there.

      (That’s pretty much what my blog post about it would’ve been if I’d actually written it)

  2. Pingback: Blog Watch: Tolkien’s Bully, Cryptic Alliances, Colonial Oppression, and Silly Ducks | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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