Illustrated Stark Merch Available Now!

Illustrated Stark begins coming out on 4/30–that’s tomorrow!

So, to celebrate, we’ve added some cool Stark stuff to the Merch Store:

Stark Merch

Tomorrow:

Leigh Brackett’s Illustrated Stark Deluxe Hardcover Edition

Leigh Brackett’s Queen of the Martian Catacombs

5/31/2019

Leigh Brackett’s The Enchantress of Venus

6/28/2019

Leigh Brackett’s Black Amazon of Mars

7/31/2019

Leigh Brackett’s The Complete Illustrated Stark softcover collection.

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Sometimes You Just Need an Excuse to Get to Your Implausible Action

I’m reading The Swordsman of Mars, my 5th planetary romance by Otis Adelbert Kline, and the 4th in his Dr. Morgan series. As with all of the Doc Morgan stories, we are briefly introduced to the concept of telepathic exchange of minds across space and time–a process which he discovered with the help of Lal Vak, a Martian scientist living a million years in Earth’s past, which allows for individuals with similar enough physiques and thought patterns are able to transfer personalities with the help of their devices.

Dr. Morgan finds bored or down on their luck highly capable individuals and sends them off to implausible adventures on alien worlds, with the promise of thrills and romance and assurances that they’ll probably do just fine once they get there and learn the language.

It’s a silly concept, one which Kline even lampshades in the author’s foreword of the second Dr. Morgan book, The Prince of Peril:

Dr. Morgan had worked on telepathy for many years in his spare time, when he was in practice; but on his retirement, he tried a different track. “I had to amend the theory,” he explained. “I decided that it would be necessary to build a device which would pick up and amplify thought waves. And even this would have failed had my machine not caught the waves projected by another machine, which another man had built to amplify and project them.”

Now I had been a devotee of imaginative fiction for many years, and had often thought of turning my hand to writing it. I prided myself on having a better than usual imagination; yet, I did not think of the implications of the theory of telepathy when Dr. Morgan told me that the man who built the thought-projector was on Mars. While I deferred to no one in my fondness for Edgar Rice Burroughs’s stories of John Carter and others on Barsoom, I was well aware of the fact that what we knew of the planet Mars made his wonderful civilization on that planet quite impossible. I said as much, going into facts and figures.

“Of course, we won’t really know for sure about the exact conditions there unless we land on Mars. But still we know enough to make Burroughs’s Mars probability zero,” I concluded.

Dr. Morgan nodded. “Entirely correct,” he said. “There is no such civilization on Mars.”

He then explained his own incredulity when his machine picked up the thoughts of a man who identified himself as a human being— one Lal Vak, a Martian scientist and psychologist. But Lal Vak was no less incredulous when Dr. Morgan identified himself as a human being and scientist of Earth. For Lal Vak was certain that there could be no human civilization on Earth, and cited facts and figures to prove it.

Interestingly enough, with the exception of the third Venus book, the Dr. Morgan books have all been prequels to the first one–the second Venus book recounts the adventures of a character who hooked up with Grandon for the climactic battle at the end of Planet of Peril (a “you wouldn’t believe what it took for me to get here in time, remind me to tell you someday!”), and this first Mars book I’m reading is actually the account of Harry Thorne, the guy Dr. Morgan tells Grandon about at the start of Planet as his first successful experiment with Lal Vak.

And it is the task of this first successful experiment to stop the first failed experiment. The first guy Doc Morgan sent to Mars, Frank Boyd, turned out to be an asshole and set himself up as a strongman to take over the world.

In barely more time than it took to you to read this post, Thorne gets sent to Mars, where he is attacked by a stirge-like insect, which he quickly dispatches… however his loss of blood has made him weak, so when Lal Vak brings him back into town and he’s bumped into by an arrogant oaf who demands satisfaction–he falls faint before the first sword-blow! The engineer of his disgrace? None other than Frank Boyd, the man Thorne was sent to stop! And because he de facto lost the duel, he may not honorably challenge him again and is bound to accept any and all humiliations that Boyd may subject him to!

That’s as far as I’ve got, but if it’s like any of Kline’s other stories, it’ll be cram-packed with sword-fight, wild monsters, and hot action dames.

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I think that thing is supposed to be his pet flying duck-bat mount. DIFFERENT FROM WOOLA, I PROMISE!

Jupiter Ascending: MORE LIKE THIS PLZ!

Jupiter Ascending is wow.  I’d heard nothing good about this movie but was prepared to be pleasantly surprised when I watched it over the weekend.

Despite its flaws (namely Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis’ lack of chemistry or apparent acting ability), this was one of the most amazing and ambitious SF films I’ve seen.  Even more impressive is that the Wachowski Whatevers were willing to throw nearly $200 million at a Planetary Romance, one of the rarest sorts of sci-fi to ever make to the big screen.

Stunning scenic vistas and vile decadent villains in their gorgeous palaces where they essentially bathe in human blood for immortality, all surrounded by weird gene-spliced humans that look like stuff right out of the pages of pulp and the covers of mid-century paperbacks…  Where do you ever see this sort of thing?!  Certainly not in big budget Hollywood movies that aren’t part of an already established multi-billion dollar media franchise, that’s for sure!

For all of its flaws, I want more of this!  I hate that it is both critically panned and a commercial flop, because it means even fewer directors or studios would be willing to take the sort of risk to give us truly amazing and unique sci-fi visions like this.  It’s hard to think of a movie that tried to do what Jupiter Ascending tries and was successful.  Though it was another branch of pulp sci-fi (the blue-collar guy stumbled onto a crazy galactic space adventure vein), the only one that springs to mind is the 5th Element, and that was ages ago.  Gary Oldman wasn’t an oldman!

Please, please try again!  Sure this would’ve been better with different actors, and sure there were scenes that should’ve been left on the cutting room floor (ironically, many of the lengthy action scenes), but this really IS the sort of movie I want to see more of!

If my Worldcon PIN ever shows up, I’ll be nominating Jupiter Ascending for Longform Dramatic presentation.  I know it will probably lose to Star Wars even if it gets the nom, but really, we need less franchise blockbusters and more genuinely visionary weird sci-fi epics.

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Jupiter Ascending was the closest we’ve had to a movie trying to give us this in years!