The new Netflix series Masters of the Universe: Revelation, written by Kevin Smith, is the latest offering from Powerhouse Animation, which also produced the Netflix shows Blood of Zeus and Castlevania. Science fiction author Zach Chapman believes it’s superior to its predecessors.
“I think the animation actually surpasses Blood of Zeus—for sure in the designs, and redesigns, of a lot of the characters,” Chapman says in Episode 478 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And then just in the quality of the animation itself. The battle scenes are, on average, better and more interesting than Castelvania.”
Masters of the Universe: Revelation picks up the story of He-Man as he appeared in the 1983 children’s cartoon He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley enjoyed the show, but was surprised that it strayed so far from the classic He-Man formula. “I was disappointed that the show seemed to be sidelining the characters that I actually remembered,” he says. “My initial reaction was that I wanted to see more of the He-Man that I remember, where he’s switching back and forth between Adam and He-Man.”
TV writer Andrea Kail also had issues with the characterization of Teela, who emerges as the focal point of the series. “They frequently do this with women characters, where their lives are fine: She just got promoted, she’s got a great relationship with her dad—she was just hugging him—and then she finds out that somebody lied to her, and it’s like, ‘That’s it. I’m throwing down my sword and walking out, and I’m never talking to you again for years and years,’” Kail says. “It perpetuates the stereotype of the hysterical, overemotional woman who holds a grudge. So I really wish they hadn’t done that.”
But fantasy author Christopher M. Cevasco found Masters of the Universe: Revelation to be a near-perfect mix of classic characters and new ideas. “It ticked all the boxes that I was hoping it would, as someone who loved the show in the ’80s,” he says. “And I loved the new directions that they took it in from that starting point. So to me I just think it was the best of both worlds, and I look forward to seeing what happens next.”
Listen to the complete interview with Zach Chapman, Andrea Kail, and Christopher M. Cevasco in Episode 478 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
David Barr Kirtley on Skeletor:
“The guy who invented Skeletor, when he was a kid he went to some amusement park, and was in the haunted house, and this corpse on a noose dropped down in front of him and scared the crap out of him. And he’s like, ‘That’s a real dead body! I know that’s a real dead body.’ And it turned out it was a real dead body. There was this outlaw who died in a shootout with police, and no one came to collect the body, so the guy at the funeral home decided to embalm him and charge admission to see him. And then a conman came and cheated him out of it, and sold it to a carnival or something. It changed hands a bunch of times, and eventually people didn’t realize it was a real dead body, and it finally ended up in this amusement park. … So that’s what inspired Skeletor.”
Christopher M. Cevasco on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe:
“I actually used to record the episodes on VHS, and would watch them back and take careful notes for a planned project&mdsah;which of course never came to fruition—where I wanted to make a big compendium of the entire world, with details about the history and geography, and biographies of the various characters. … I loved the fact that it wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill cartoon where everything is on the surface. With various episodes throughout the run, you find out layers and layers of history behind characters, and they bring certain elements back, and the relationships that develop and the mythology behind the world get more and more developed as it goes along.”
Zach Chapman on Beast Man:
“I thought that Beast Man should have been against Triclops for reasons other than, ‘Hey, don’t hurt Evil-Lyn.’ Why is his alliance with her? His alliance should be with the beasts that he controls. [The Triclops cult] takes these nano-machines, and they drink them, and they become part machine. So Beast Man, being a beast, being of the natural world, should be opposed to this mixing of technology with flesh and polluting the natural world. I thought it would have been way cooler if they had gone that way. Immediately, I was like, ‘You’re making this guy just a bodyguard, when he could be way more interesting.’”
Andrea Kail on women writers:
“As I was watching [Masters of the Universe: Revelation], I watched the credits right at the beginning, and it stood out to me that there’s only one woman writer, and the main character—for all intents and purposes—is a woman. I just don’t understand why you can’t get more women writers in there. And no women directors either—it was just two guys. Watching the [Power of Grayskull] documentary this morning, they had more women working on the original show in the ’80s than they do on this. … There’s a call now for more strong women characters, and that’s great, but we need more women behind the scenes. We need more women writing women’s stories.”
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William Gibson published his classic novel Neuromancer almost 40 years ago, but it still feels fresh today. Science fiction author Matthew Kressel has been a fan of the book ever since reading it back in 1987.
“When I first read Neuromancer, everything I had read before that was golden and silver age [sci-fi]—Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven, Asimov, all that stuff,” Kressel says in Episode 477 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “So when I encountered Neuromancer, I was like, ‘What is this? This is completely different.’”
Science fiction of the ’40s and ’50s tended to evoke a consensus future of jetpacks, flying cars, and domestic robots. Neuromancer helped crystallize an alternative view of the future, one dominated by hackers, drugs, and mega-corporations. This darker view, which came to be called cyberpunk, proved far more prophetic. “More than any other science fiction book that I can think of, Neuromancer conveys what the future is going to feel like,” says Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley.
Science fiction author Sam J. Miller constantly finds himself discarding story ideas because he realizes that Neuromancer beat him to the punch. “The ideas are so dense and exciting,” he says. “If you were to rip off half the things in this book and use them in a book now, it would be amazing. It wouldn’t feel dated.”
In the ’90s Gibson largely abandoned the cyberpunk genre, focusing instead on novels set in the present and near future. Horror author Theresa De Lucci has remained a devoted Gibson fan through each phase of his career.
“He was sort of the gold standard for the [cyberpunk] movement at the time,” she says. “But time goes on. His novels have drastically changed in focus and scope, so he’s still doing his thing, and just being authentic to his voice and his interests.”
Listen to the complete interview with Matthew Kressel, Sam J. Miller, and Theresa De Lucci in Episode 477 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Matthew Kressel on description:
“Someone can’t walk into a room without [Gibson] describing the make of their shoes and what kind of tie they’re wearing, and where they got their jacket. In Spook Country there was this hitman, this killer, and he checks into a hotel room, and then he’s remarking on the type of metal that they used on the faucets in the bathroom. And I was like, ‘Well … maybe? He’s a sensitive killer. That’s cool.’ … I wonder if [Gibson] is just trying to draw our attention to how materialistic the society has become—everybody’s just so brainwashed by capitalism that the first thing they see is the material that someone is wearing, not the person.”
Sam J. Miller on representation:
“One of the things that I love about William Gibson is how interconnected his world feels. There’s the realpolitik of Russia, and Japan, and China, and Germany, and the United States, and wealth, and poverty. That’s throughout his books—they’re always really diverse, there are always lots of people from lots of different backgrounds. … But the one thing that’s missing is queerness. There might be a little bit of it here and there—I think it’s in Pattern Recognition where she thinks that this one guy is gay through the whole book, and they’re best friends, and then in the end she finds out he’s not and they hook up. There’s queerness in very small, very spare brush strokes. That’s the only part of his worlds that I wish were different.”
David Barr Kirtley on technology:
“I feel like one thing that this book gets ‘wrong,’ that pretty much all science fiction gets wrong, is not being able to see just how ubiquitous and commonplace technological advances are going to be. This book still presents the internet as something that only super-special, super-cool people will be able to access, and doesn’t take it that step farther to say, ‘Oh wait, no, even just the most average person will be on this.’ I think that’s a really hard leap of speculation to make—to imagine something that seems so amazing to us, and realize, ‘No wait, everyone’s going to have this.’”
Theresa De Lucci on cyberpunk:
“Coming up in the ’90s, in the goth industrial scene, we did play with a lot of the imagery of cyberpunk. I mean, there were cyberpunks, but then there were cybergoths—the pictures I have of that era are very embarrassing, with lots of neon hair, and plastic, and goggles. It was like The Matrix before The Matrix came out—and then once The Matrix came out, then it got even more popular and more outré. So William Gibson definitely had a big cult of personality there, which I think he would really laugh at, because you’re never going to find William Gibson in a goth club. Even when he was at his youngest, it’s doubtful he would be at a place like that.”
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Melinda Snodgrass got the idea for her science fiction novel The High Ground when she started thinking about how awful human beings can be.
“I had a sudden vision of this nine-foot-tall alien ant-like creature with mandibles and claws—just a hideous, horrifying creature,” Snodgrass says in Episode 370 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And it was cowering in absolute terror from a small human holding a machine gun. And I got to thinking about humanity and our tendency to be really mean, mean monsters.”
The novel takes place in a universe in which a human empire called the Solar League has subjugated five alien species, who now live as servants and second-class citizens. Snodgrass thinks this is a pretty plausible first contact scenario.
“If we do invent a faster-than-light drive, and go out into the universe, and meet other aliens, I am convinced that the first thing we will do is kick the holy crap out of them,” she says. “So instead of us always fighting off the invading aliens, we are the invading aliens.”
She also believes that any moral progress humans have made is much more tenuous than people realize, and that women’s rights could quickly vanish if childbearing became a priority, as is the case in the Solar League. “When you’re going out into space and colonizing planets, if you happen to end up on a planet that isn’t a goldilocks planet—a very Earth-like world—where there’s a harsh environment, the thing that becomes a precious commodity is your ability to sustain the population,” she says. “So over the ensuing years, women fall back into a much more traditional role.”
All of that creates a lot of conflict for her character Mercedes de Arango, one of the first women to attend the Solar League’s elite military academy. It’s a predicament Snodgrass can relate to, having once been the only female lawyer at her law firm.
“I literally had a bunch of male lawyers from this big office building run downstairs, and I heard them calling, ‘We hear Charlie’s hired himself a girl. Where’s the girl?’” Snodgrass says. “And they all came and looked at me in my office like I was a creature in a zoo. It was very bizarre.”
Listen to the complete interview with Melinda Snodgrass in Episode 370 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Melinda Snodgrass on her father:
“My dad was just fantastic, he was the center of my life. I loved him so much, and he gave me every opportunity—to study opera in Europe, to ride horses, when I was 16 he sat me down and said, ‘We’re opening a checking account and you have to manage it,’ and on and on. At the time of his death he was managing a small natural gas and oil company, and now I actually manage the company. I took it over in 2002, and I’ve been running it ever since. So I have this sense of history with being the heir apparent—or the heiress apparent—to a business. … It is weird though, because at times my dad would slip. I had a half-brother, who was a great deal older than I was, and dad would sometimes say, ‘My other son, John.’ And then people like Senator Montoya, who was having lunch with us that day, was laughing and saying, ‘Wait a minute, what’s she?’”
Melinda Snodgrass on Roger Zelazny:
“Roger and I became very close in the final two years of his life. He joined our gaming group, he would come and have dinner at our house many, many evenings. He was just the most charming, kind person I’ve ever known. … When I had just started writing, this literary agent that I had—who was also Victor Milan‘s and Bob Vardeman‘s agent—we were all at this dinner, at the local science fiction convention, and she said, ‘You have to change your name.’ And Roger immediately said, ‘No. No she doesn’t.’ He said, ‘Look at my name. Even though I’m on the bottom shelf in every bookstore, nobody forgets my name.’ And he turned to me and he said, ‘Don’t you change your name, because nobody will ever forget that name.’ And I kept it.”
Melinda Snodgrass on the Jean Cocteau Cinema:
“[George R.R. Martin] has turned it into probably the best science fiction independent bookstore in the Southwest. Because in addition to the little movie theater, there’s a bar—they have a liquor license—and then there’s concessions, and he has artists come in and hang their art for a few weeks, so you get to see various Santa Fe artists, and he has all of our books. And when they’re not doing movies, he’ll have events. Connie Willis will come down, and I’ll interview her, and then she’ll do a signing afterward. … So you can go in and buy some books, and have a White Walker Cocktail while you’re there, watch an independent movie, and when George is in town you’ll often find him there, ensconced in his armchair by the fireplace, in the evenings, to visit with people.”
Melinda Snodgrass on Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back:
“I was in this law office, and I hated it. I would get into work in the morning, close my door, cry for about 15 minutes, and then get control of myself and get on with work. … [Victor Milan and I] went to see The Empire Strikes Back, and we got to the scene with Yoda and Luke, and Luke says, ‘I’ll try,’ and Yoda says, ‘Do or do not. There is no try.’ And for some reason it was like a thunderbolt for me, and I was like, ‘I can spend the rest of my life in this law firm, and in a few years maybe I’ll have the big office and I’ll be terrorizing some young associate the way I’m being terrorized, or I can try to chart my own life. ‘Do or do not, there is no try.’ So I walked into the office the next morning, I typed off a letter of resignation, I packed up my plants and my diplomas, I laid it on my boss’s desk, and I walked out.”
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Fantasy author Django Wexler is a lifelong Star Wars fan and has always wanted to write a story set in that universe. He got his wish last year when his short story “Amara Kel’s Rules for TIE Fighter Pilot Survival (Probably)” appeared in the anthology The Empire Strikes Back: From a Certain Point of View.
“The idea is to show the points of view of characters in these movies who are not the main characters,” Wexler says in Episode 474 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I was really glad to be a part of it. It was a really fun challenge.”
Wexler’s story focuses on the lives of TIE fighter pilots, who are generally treated as faceless cannon fodder in the Star Wars films. “I had gotten really into the X-Wing Miniatures Game—which is just an X-wings vs. TIE fighters game you play on a tabletop—and that had expanded on the lore a little bit, so I wanted to dive into that in a short story,” Wexler says. “So when they told me to do one from Empire Strikes Back, this is what I came up with as a TIE fighter pilot story.”
The films depict TIE fighters as incredibly reckless, frequently diving into narrow spaces and colliding with asteroids, cruisers, and each other, which makes Wexler think that TIE fighter pilots must be subject to intense propaganda. “I really wanted to do the perspective of someone who had kind of seen through that and was done with this bullshit,” he says. “And so her rules are all very much about, ‘Let the other guys be the ones who fly into the asteroids, if you want to live through a tour of duty.’”
Wexler hopes his story makes viewers think about the fact that most TIE fighter pilots are probably unfortunate conscripts with families who love them. “Nobody really wants to be reminded that all the guys who get shot or punched or thrown off a bridge during these action movies are people,” he says. “That’s the reason that when the rebels are attacking the Death Star, we can see all the rebels’ faces, and the TIE fighter guys are all wearing masks. It’s so that we can have this fantasy of consequence-free violence.”
Listen to the complete interview with Django Wexler in Episode 474 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Django Wexler on novellas:
“Tor.com has done amazing work in the novella space, and it’s really been one of my ambitions to write a novella for them someday, because there have just been so many—Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries and Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series; there’s a great one called Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday, which I love—and just on and on. There are all these great novellas that they’ve done. … It’s ebooks, basically. The problem is that you can’t price a real book at $2.99 and have bookstores stock it—it’s just not worth their time. And conversely you can’t price a novella at $12 and expect to sell all that many copies. And so the availability of ebooks has just sort of changed the basic economics of it to make this possible.”
Django Wexler on magic:
“A lot of the magic systems in the harder fantasy stuff—and most of what I write is a ‘hard’ magic system type of thing—does have a kind of computer-y bent, sometimes more explicitly than others. … In my first fantasy series, The Shadow Campaigns, one of the things that it explores is that there’s the underlying truth of the magic system, which I worked out in a kind of vague way, but then all the different cultures who are exposed to it, and learn to manipulate it, do so with different ideas about what it actually is and how it works. And for whatever reason, that feels like a very computer-y concept to me, that you have this underlying reality, but reality is also defined by how people use it.”
Django Wexler on Asimov’s magazine:
“The first story I ever wrote—which I wrote when I was 15—I wrote it and I showed it to my dad, and he thought it was really good. What he said to me was, ‘You know how when you do something, we often tell you that it’s good because we love you and we want to support you?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I understand that.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, this isn’t that. I think this is really good.’ Anyway, we sent it to Asimov’s but they didn’t take it, which in retrospect is probably for the best. But it cemented Asimov’s as the market for science fiction for me—no slight to the other magazines, but that was the one I read. So finally getting to sell something to them was definitely an achievement.”
Django Wexler on his short story “REAL”:
“That one began life as Sailor Moon fan fiction. It was a story that I wrote back in my fan fiction days, and I should say none of the actual words in the fan fiction turned into this story, because I just sat down and wrote it again. … It was about a person in the real world who sees what he thinks is a game/TV show bleeding into the real world. But the basic concept and the ending stinger is all from that old story. I kind of genericized it a little bit, so it’s not actually based on any particular work of fiction anymore. So that was a good example of repurposing an old story, and not even copying any of the words from one document to another but just taking another crack at a concept and doing it better, I hope.”
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