Thursday, December 29, 2011
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
A look back
Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, edited by Ann and Jeff Vendermeer
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
Horns by Joe Hill
Steampunk’d, edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson
The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan Forward
The Mental Floss History of the United States: The (Almost) Complete and (Entirely) Entertaining Story of America by Erik Sass with Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur
The Steampunk Bible by Jeff Vandermeer with S.J. Chambers
Zanesville by Kris Saknussemm
Clementine: A Novel of the Clockwork Century by Cherie Priest
The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
The Rivers of London/Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
Thunderstruck by Eric Larson
Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch
Heartless (Parasol Protectorate Book IV) by Gail Carriger
Sherlock Holmes: The Giant Rat of Sumatra by Richard L. Boyer
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
Sherlock Holmes: The Peerless Peer by Philip Jose Farmer
The City & The City by China Mieville
Great Tales from English History, Vol. 3 by Robert Lacey
The Oriental Casebook of Sherlock Holmes: Nine Adventures from the Lost Years by Ted Riccardi
Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan Forward
The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
The Fall: The Strain Trilogy, Vol. 2 by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Hot & Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance, edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense, edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers
By my count, that’s 32 books, which is the best I've done since I started keeping track. Eight of them are undeniably steampunk related. Eight or nine are nonfiction (one is nonfiction about steampunk), of which three are by Sarah Vowell. All the fiction contains either a mystery and/or an element of the fantastic, of which three are Sherlock Holmes pastiches. A few of them I have reviewed on this blog.
I only consider three or four of them to have been a complete waste of time. Hot & Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance, turned out to be more for the romance novel fan than the science fiction fan even though it was compiled by the same editors and written by some of the same writers as Steampunk’d, which I throughly enjoyed. Clementine was a sequel of sorts to a steampunk novel I didn't like, but the book was available at the library so I thought I'd give the author another chance. I won't bother trying again. I've already reviewed Sherlock Holmes: The Giant Rat of Sumatra and listed its shortcomings. I might add The Oriental Casebook of Sherlock Holmes to that worthless list because, although I admired the concept of the book ~ following Holmes' adventures after the world believed him dead at Moriarty's hands ~ they weren't in keeping with his character and behavior in Doyle's stories and they weren't sufficiently interesting on their own.
My favorite titles are harder to decide. Maybe I'll save them for another post.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Variations on 'A Christmas Carol'
First is a British program of which my wife and I seem to be the only local fans. In fact, she says I’m the only person she ever met who even knew of its existence: “Blackadder’s Christmas Carol” (1988). It was a special show featuring the cast and characters of several related British historical comedies involving a despicable man named Edmund Blackadder. The series starred Rowan Atkinson (best known on this side of the Atlantic for his “Mr. Bean” character and as the novice vicar who mangles the second wedding ceremony in “Four Weddings and a Funeral”) in different historical periods, including a nobleman in the court of Queen Elizabeth I and the man servant of Prince Regent George IV. In these series he is conniving, duplicitous and only out for himself.
In “Christmas Carol” he plays Ebenezer Blackadder, the kindest man in all of Queen Victoria’s England, who is taken advantage of by everyone he knows or meets. On Christmas Eve, he is visited by a ghost (Robbie Coltrane, aka Hagrid from the “Harry Potter” films) who thanks him for being the only decent Blackadder ever to have lived, and then makes the mistake of showing him visions of his ancestors at Christmas. Ebenezer Blackadder is surprised to discover that being evil can pay off. He further discovers, due to another unfortunate vision from the ghost, that if he were to become evil, his distant descendant would end up ruling the universe. The next morning, Blackadder has become as wicked as his ancestors, although the conversion proves to be ill-timed. (Look for the episode for more details; it’s included on the “Blackadder III” DVD.)
“A Very Sunny Christmas” (2009), a special episode of the FX series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” also borrows some of the “Christmas Carol” format. Dennis and Deandra Reynolds try to finally get some Christmas presents from their father, Frank (he’s always bought himself presents at Christmas and flaunted them in front of his children) by enlisting Frank’s old business partner (who Frank cheated out of his half of the business) to pose as a sort of ghost of Marley. Then Frank tries to shoot him, and the partner says he holds no grudge against Frank. The plan eventually seems to work, but complications ensue. (In a parallel plot, the series’ other two regulars, Mac and Charlie, compare their families’ Christmas traditions, and realize that things were not really as they remembered.) It’s available on DVD or Blu-ray.
Then there was an obscure anthology show called “George Burns Comedy Week” which included “Christmas Carol II: The Sequel,” a followup to Dickens’ story one year later. Scrooge (who I thought was played by James Whitmore but who isn’t listed in the IMDB credits) is now being taken advantage of by everyone, including Bob Cratchet. The ghosts visit him again to tell him there is a middle ground between being a miser and being foolishly generous. To my knowledge, this is not currently available anywhere. Maybe it will pop up on one those extra digital channels you only get with the Digital-to-Analog TV Converter Box; they seem to show a lot of otherwise unavailable old TV programming.
While it’s not "Christmas Carol"-derived, I have to mention “Saturday Night Live - The Best of Saturday TV Funhouse” (2008), which includes a bunch of Robert Smigel Christmas parodies, including variations on “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and Rankin/Bass (“The Narrator That Ruined Christmas,” “Santa and the States” and Darlene Love singing “Christmastime for the Jews”), as well as Christmas-themed episodes of “The Ambiguously Gay Duo” and the “Harlem Globetrotters” cartoon.
Finally, “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Essentials” includes Joel and the ’bots commenting on the classic bad film “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (Pia Zadora’s first film!), plus the inspiring “Road House”-inspired song “A Patrick Swayze Christmas.”
Do you have any nontraditional Christmas favorites? Let me know.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011