My Favorite Critter

Most people love dogs, cats, horses, etc. And they’re okay I suppose.

But my favorite non-human creature that roams this ball of rock and water we all call home is the polar bear.

The running joke in the family is that I am partial to the polar bear for a few very obvious reasons. Big. White. Lumbering. Ill-tempered when approached uninvited.

Okay, so I plead guilty as charged or at least no contest.

Whenever I am near a zoo – or a Sea World – that has a polar bear exhibit I make sure to go check it out.

Sea World San Diego’s exhibit is kind of cool. But the only way you can see the bears – at least that I found – was through a large glass viewing area and most of the view was underwater. If the bears aren’t swimming, you don’t see much.

The Albuquerque Zoo has – or had when I last visited in 1993 – a great area for the bears to swim and play. And you have good views of them above and below the water.

I spent a good 30 minutes of our visit just watching one bear swim backwards, back and forth. It was incredibly relaxing.

Unfortunately, the San Francisco Zoo’s enclosure was borderline criminal. Despite there being an area for water to be poured in for the bears to enjoy, it was bone dry. I can imagine the bears’ frustration being less than a mile from the ocean (the Zoo is just off Ocean Beach). Close enough to smell it but not a drop to swim in. Whoever runs the place had better have a plan to change this, or send the bears to a zoo that knows what they’re doing.

My new hometown of Omaha has what looks like a great zoo, which we plan on checking out soon. They are planning a polar bear enclosure that might rival Albuquerque’s. For me, it will be nice to be able to see another live polar bear again.

A lot of folks think we shouldn’t have zoos.  That it is cruel to the animals. But if the animal was born in captivity, it knows no other way of life. Releasing it into the wild is a death sentence – as has been proven numerous times when it has been done.

And not everyone can go into the natural habitats to see these creatures. A zoo allows for people to see them and gain a better understanding of them. Perhaps if our schools spent more time sending the kids to zoos, museums and other places where they could interact and better learn – and less time on things schools shouldn’t be teaching our kids (putting condoms on zucchinis, how to protest Donald Trump as a first grader concerned with the global geopolitical ramifications of a Democrat not being in the White House after eight years) – our school systems might produce better people after 12 years.

So, instead of buying little Johnny the latest must-have video game, or little Suzie a copy of Rules For Radicals, take ’em to the zoo.

And if your zoo has a polar bear, stop by and say hello. We’re not as grouchy as our reputations make us out to be.

By the way, if you have about $4 left over after the Zoo and you want a little downtime, try out my new book, When The Gods Fell. It’s just $3.99 on Kindle and free on Kindle Unlimited.

You’ll learn why a woman has waited all alone on Mars for 65 million years to tell the first human from Earth the story of the last days of Olympus.

 

Dune v. Dune: Who Did It Best?

I’ve been following the news of a purported reboot of Frank Herbert’s Dune on the big screen. The movie has a director – Denis Villeneuve –  and is slated for a December 2019 release. As a big fan of the original six books written by Frank Herbert as well as the many books his son, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson have produced over the years.

I enjoyed both the 1985 movie – which has its flaws – and the 2000 mini-series by SYFY – which had its flaws but was more true to the original material. So yes, I am super-geeked to know we get a third crack at doing Dune right. That both Brian Herbert and Anderson are deeply involved with the script is a promising sign.

Which leads to the question: Of the two entrants so far, who did Dune better? I have to lean to the 2000 mini-series only because they seemed to more closely follow Herbert’s storyline. Of course, it helped they had more than one “movie” to tell the story, but still they did it a little better.

But when you break down the actors and actresses who played in the adaptations, its a much different story.

PAUL ATREDIES – I have to go with Kyle MacLachlan over Alec Newman. Kyle seemed to have Paul dialed in while Alec played a spoiled brat having a tantrum they had to move. I also bought Kyle more as a leader of men.

DUKE LETO ATREDIES – Jurgen Prochnow over William Hurt and it isn’t even close. I’m not sure why Hurt decided to play Leto as a wimp, but he did. Jurgen came off a what you would expect from a leader of an entire planet and a juggernaut in interstellar politics.

LADY JESSICA – This was another knockout before the fight even started. Francesca Annis is in another galaxy than Saskia Reeves. Francesca was believable as not only a great lady, but as a Bene Gesserit. Saskia never got there.

PADISHAH EMPEROR SHADDAM IV – This one was close because both Jose Ferrer and Giancarlo Giannini were superb in the role. But the nod goes to Jose who had the air of a badass, scheming Galactic Emperor about him.

GURNEY HALLECK – Patrick Stewart over P.H. Moriarty and it isn’t even close.

REVEREND MOTHER GAIUS HELEN MOHIAM – Sian Phillips easily wins this. She played her role exactly the way you imagine a Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit would be. I keep wondering if Zuzana Geislerova ever bothered reading even one of the books?

DR. PARDOT KYNES – As I sit here, I can’t even picture what Karel Dobry looked like in the mini-series. Max Von Sydow mopped up the floor here. He has a presence on screen, no matter what role he is playing that is impossible to deny.

Max is the only reason why I even bother watching the Flash Gordon movie with Sam Jones in it. That is how you play Ming the Merciless (just in case there is a Flash Gordon reboot in the works).

THUFIR HAWAT – Freddie Jones in a landslide over Jan Vlasak. Like Dobry above, I have a hard time recalling Vlasak when I think of Dune 2000.

DUNCAN IDAHO – Richard Jordan just looked like the Duncan that Herbert wrote. James Watson? Not so much. Jordan is also the better actor.

PRINCESS IRULAN – Virginia Madsen came up short in 1985. But to be fair, she really wasn’t given a lot to do in the 1985 film. Julie Cox’s Irulan was a player in 2000 and she carried it off well. Cox gets the win here, snapping 1985’s stranglehold.

STILGAR – Dead Heat. Everett McGill is who I picture whenever I read the early Dune books. He had the look of a man who leads others and forced his will upon an environment dead set on killing him every second of the day. But Uwe Ochsenknecht had the gravitas of a leader with a cool head and his own iron will. They both played the role well.

CHANI – Let me admit one thing – I dislike Sean Young as an actress. Seriously dislike. In Blade Runner I kept hoping Deckard would retire her. Barbora Kodetova wasn’t much better. But she wasn’t Sean Young and she gets the win here.

BARON HARKONNEN – Despite the very British way he pronounced the last name, we’ll give Ian McNeice’s performance in 2000 the nod here. Mainly because Kenneth McMillian’s portrayal was way too over the top crazy. In the books, the Baron is cunning, cruel and sadistic. But he wasn’t a lunatic.

PITER DE VRIES – Brad Dourif but only because Jan Unger’s effort in 2000 was a meh.

FEYD RAUTHA – Sting was much better in the role than I expected when I heard he’d been cast in 1985. He did quite well. But Matt Keeslar played the Feyd that Frank Herbert wrote and that gives his effort the nod over Sting.

DR. YUEH – Dean Stockwell played the traitorous doctor as Herbert wrote him. Robert Russell, like Unger above, was a meh.

ALIA – This is a tie because Alicia Witt played Alia as a very young girl in 1985 and Laura Burton played an older Alia. That being said, they both played their roles well.

SHADDOUT MAPES – Linda Hunt. No more needs be said. Sorry, Jaroslava Siktancova.

THE BEAST RABBAN – Laszlo I. Kish actually did okay in 2000. But Paul L. Smith was the Beast Rabban in every aspect in 1985 and he gets the nod.

So here’s the breakdown: Names in bold are who played it better. Names in italics mean it was a tie.

CHARACTER PORTRAYED DUNE 1985 DUNE 2000
Paul Atreides Kyle MacLachlan Alec Newman
Duke Leto Atreides Jürgen Prochnow William Hurt
Lady Jessica Francesca Annis Saskia Reeves
Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV José Ferrer Giancarlo Giannini
Gurney Halleck Patrick Stewart P.H. Moriarty
Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam Siân Phillips Zuzana Geislerova
Doctor Kynes Max von Sydow Karel Dobry
Thufir Hawat Freddie Jones Jan Vlasak
Duncan Idaho Richard Jordan James Watson
Princess Irulan Virginia Madsen Julie Cox
Chani Sean Young Barbora Kodetova
Stilgar Everett McGill Uwe Ochsenknecht
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen Kenneth McMillan Ian McNeice
Piter De Vries Brad Dourif Jan Unger
Feyd Rautha Sting Matt Keeslar
Doctor Wellington Yueh Dean Stockwell Robert Russell
Alia Alicia Witt Laura Burton
Shadout Mapes Linda Hunt Jaroslava Siktancova
The Beast Rabban Paul L. Smith Laszlo I. Kish

I have no idea who the people in charge of casting the reboot have in mind for these roles. But I do have three suggestions I humbly offer.

Kyle MacLachlan as Duke Leto Atredies

Jurgen Prochnow as the Padishah Emperor Shaddamn IV

Francesca Annis as Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam

All three actors are still active and it would be a great bridge between the 1985 original and the 2019 reboot. Plus, all three are really good and familiar with the material. Just a thought.

So, what do you think? Who did it better? Who should be cast in the 2019 reboot? Let me know in the comments.

As if you’d like to read my own “Dune”, check out When The Gods Fell. You can pre-order on Kindle today for its September 4, 2018 release. It will also be out in paperback and audiobook on Sept. 4th as well. It is Game of Thrones on ancient Mars. Like I said: Dune. Without the sandworms.

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O Comic Con: AAR

This weekend in the Omaha area was fun for sci-fi/fantasy fans. The fourth annual O Comic Con was held at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. If you’re wondering why Omaha’s comic convention was held in another state, only the Missouri River (and the Nebraska-Iowa state line) separate the two cities.

Mid-America Center is an impressive venue, seats about 7,000 in the main arena and has a nice convention center attached to it. Saturday was my first visit to both the arena and the Con. It won’t be my last.

There was a lot offered by this con. Plenty of vendors, interesting guests (the Cowboy from the Villiage People, a couple of actresses and several artists), a large game room, several rooms set up for a variety of panels and some very well done costumes by cosplayers.

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The Elite Gang, Tom Floyd and yours truly at O Comic Con on Saturday.

I was only there for three hours, having been invited to join a panel. But it was long enough to reunite with an old friend, Tom Floyd. Tom was one of the creators of the comic book, Seadragon (Elite Comics, 1986), that I served as lead writer for on its first two issues. We talked about the last days of Elite, it didn’t end well, and caught up on what some of the other Elite alumni are up to.

But more importantly, we greenlighted two projects that any Seadragon/Epsilon Wave fans out there will be excited about. I’m writing a novelization of Seadragon, which will include two characters from the Epsilon Wave – Nightmare and Twilight. FBI Agent Brad Jefferies will be a major player and finally gets a backstory (he didn’t have one back in 1986 and it was on my to-do list back then).

seadragon1It is Jefferies’ backstory that helps Tom resolve an issue he’s been having. He has a project he’s developing that is set in the 1930s and would like to have Jefferies be a part of it. But how to have a man pop up 50 years in the past is the question. What I have planned for Jefferies in the Seadragon novel should solve Tom’s problem too.

So, in 2019 expect some amazing things to come out of Nebraska on the Seadragon front.

But I was there having been invited to join a panel: Criticism, Culture and the Future of Entertainment. Dawn Witzke moderated and it was supposed to be a four-person panel. Unfortunately, we had two that could not make it so Dawn and I soldiered on.

We started with an audience of 12, picked up maybe six-to-eight more after we started, lost a few throughout as the panel went on.

But it was a great panel, in my humble opinion. We had some great questions from the audience, some good points made by both audience and panelists and when the hour was up, I think we pulled off a solid panel.

A disclaimer, this was the first time I’ve done a panel at a con so I don’t have much of a sample to judge by. But I’m looking into doing a panel or two in September when I’m at DragonCon and I can only hope they go as well as this one did.

So a big thank you to Dawn Witzke for inviting me. I hope I was more of a help than a hindrance. Thank you to all of those that attended and participated from the audience. I hope we answered your questions and gave you some good information.

EDIT: Dawn has her own report on the panel: Check it out right here.

And thank you O Comic Con committee members for putting on a great con. I’ll see you next year.