Sunday, February 17, 2019

Universal Plans for Movie Remakes Based on Horror and Sci fi Novels

Boris Karloff as the Monster in Universal's Frankenstein.
Credit: Universal Studios/

What got me reading classic horror and sci fi novels such as Frankenstein and Dracula was their Universal movie adaptations. I grew up watching these films on television when I was a kid and because of that became interested in reading the books. That’s why I’m excited to hear that Universal is planning to produce several remakes of its classic horror films one of which has already been given a director.

Universal Monster Movie Remakes

According to Variety, Leigh Whannell has been hired to direct and write the script to the remake of Universal’s The Invisible Man. The movie, based on H.G. Wells’s novel of the same name, is part of a plan to remake several of Universal’s classic monster films, a plan that has moved away from a previous one that was to interconnect Universal monster characters under one story arc called the “Dark Universe”. Even though it has not been said which movies beyond The Invisible Man will be remade, they will probably include Frankenstein and Dracula since these two have become iconic of Universal horror and sci fi films of the 1930s through ‘50s and remain part of today’s pop culture at least on the level of humour and camp.

A promotion poster for Universal's 1933 film, The Invisible Man.
Credit: Universal Studios/Wikimedia Commons

Variety says that Universal is trying to come up with ways to remake the monster characters so they will be relevant to a modern audience. The studio wants to keep the characters open to filmmakers so they can create their own stories around them. The potential problem I see in this is that if filmmakers are given too much room to recreate the characters and their stories it may cause the remakes to drift even further from the novels that some of those movies are based on such as Invisible Man, Frankenstein and Dracula. The original Universal films had already done this quite a bit. Hopefully many of these filmmakers will be such dedicated fans of the original movies that they won’t redo the storylines and characters too much. However, going back too close to the original novels for those movies based on them could take away too much of Universal’s interpretation of the characters. And as with any movie, whether remake or original, the monster films should relate to today’s issues to some extent since all art is a reflection of the time period it’s made in.

Universal Monsters Board Game

Although it hasn’t been said if it’s inspired by the Dark Universe story arc originally proposed by Universal, io9 says that Ravensburger, maker of games and puzzles, will release a board game called Horrified: Universal Monsters. io9 explains that this strategy game will allow players to make their “own shared universe” of classic movie monsters. The game is for two to five players who work together to defeat seven of Universal’s most famous monsters that come as miniature figures, including Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Invisible Man. However, it seems that the game’s creators would have given players the option to take up the roles of the monsters. Many horror and sci fi nerds who grew up being bullied by kids for being different identify with some of these characters, such as Frankenstein’s Monster, that are hunted down in the movies for similar reasons. Horrified will be available in stores the August 1st for $34.99, io9 says.

Dune Release Date

The Dune remake, which is being directed by Denis Villeneuve, has been given a release date of November 20th, 2020, according to io9. The original movie, directed by David Lynch, released in 1984. The movies are adapted from Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel of the same name. Villeneuve’s Dune will be in both IMAX and 3D formats and will star Timothee Chalamet as lead character Paul Atreides.

Do you think Universal should stick closer to the original novels when it remakes the monster films that are adapted from them, films such as Frankenstein, Dracula and The Invisible Man? Do you think the Dune remake will stay more true to the original novel than the original 1984 film did?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sci fi and Fantasy Have a New Hope—Hopepunk

A cartoon Chinese Dragon floating upright.

We’re already a little more than a month into the new year. Even though a new year is supposed to be a time of hope and improvement in our lives and society, many people would say the near future does not look as such especially during this time of increasing climate change, racial injustice, a ruler in our nation who can hardly be called a president in the true sense, and reoccurring massive violence. I mean, since Sandy Hook, if not before, there’s been a mass shooting almost as frequently as movies are changed in theatres! And it’s no joke. This year sadly began with a sniper randomly shooting in public in Davis CA, not much more than ten miles from where I live. Still, it doesn’t matter. Since in order to solve these problems we need to hope for the future, both near and distant, even in the face of despair. In fact, it’s because of those causes of a dark future is why we have to look toward hope. So if there’s anytime we should promote hope for a better society it’s now while the year has barely begun which Chinese New Year, which occurred a few days ago, should be a reminder of that for us here in the West.

The pessimism of our culture today includes much of the fiction and entertainment we engage in and that, unfortunately, includes sci fi and fantasy. Examples of this are the many post apocalyptic stories that we read and watch, such as The Walking Dead, and even space opera like The Expanse (although this one has been debatable as an example). But it’s not all bleak futures for or in fantasy and science fiction. There is hope for speculative storytelling, and that hope is hopepunk.

Yes, this is another punk of sci fi and fantasy. However it may be better to call hopepunk a movement than a subgenre in fiction since it doesn’t necessarily refer to entire stories but can also refer to an individual character of optimistic attitude within a story that may not be one of optimistic values. So what exactly is hopepunk? To put it in a nutshell, it’s a form of storytelling in sci fi and fantasy that deliberately chooses to send a positive message to audiences, a message that defies the atmosphere of despair caused by the injustices of our times and found in the speculative fiction that reflects them. That fiction is namely, what has been termed as, “grimdark”. Hopepunk, a movement of optimism likened to that of the hippie movement of the 1960s and early ‘70s, was sparked by fantasy author Alexandra Rowland’s post on Tumbler a couple of years ago and is said to have gone mainstream. However, I would have to say that, realistically, it’s gone only relatively mainstream. If it was completely mainstream we’d already be living it’s message as a society and it would no longer really be a movement. But it is safe to say that hopepunk has gone relatively mainstream. To see in what way it has done this, all you have to do is google the term and you’ll get a full page of results on the topic.

For a more in-depth explanation of this new subgenre of sci fiction and fantasy, I strongly suggest you read the Vox article, “Hopepunk, the latest storytelling trend, is all about weaponized optimism”. I know, the title sounds contradicting but if you read the article you’ll know why it’s written in that way. I have to admit, however, the article tends to be a bit biased for the fantasy side of the subgenre. It uses examples of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, but says little about science fiction TV shows and movies. Even though Star Trek is mentioned in the list of hopepunk TV shows and movies at the end of the article, Star Wars is not mentioned at all. The Star Wars films have largely conveyed a sense of hope in their storytelling. In fact, the subtitle to the first movie contains the word “hope”.

So if hopepunk permeates the fiction markets like the predominantly darker steampunk has, 2019 may prove to be a year of “a new hope”: hopepunk! After you read the above article, would you think hopepunk is an unrealistic manner of storytelling or is it conveying an achievable reality?

Until next time . . .

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Horror Novelist Graham Masterton to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award

An old dark house with lightning flashing in the night-time sky.

I’ll admit that I have not read a lot of Graham Masterton’s horror fiction as great as a writer he is. One of the few works I’ve read by him was his novel The Manitou. I read it a few years back and would be willing to read it again. It’s a really neat and well-written book that utilizes Native American myth, particularly that of the book’s title. A manitou is a medicine man spirit in which the one in this book is not near as much a healer as he is a destroyer. The novel was made into a movie in 1979 which, although not as good as the book, was really good with plenty of terrifying scenes. I’ll have to do a Book-To-Movie review of it here someday.

Anyway, one of the best modern horror authors, Masterton has been chosen by the Horror Writers Association as a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. This award is presented annually to writers and other artists whose work has significantly influenced the horror genre. The award will be presented to Masterton at StokerCon 2019, which will be held in May in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Even though Masterton is mostly known for his horror fiction, he has written a lot in other fiction genres including thriller, disaster and historical. He’s recently been writing crime fiction but has a new horror novel in the works.

When an author in the horror genre like Masterton gets an award as big as the Lifetime Achievement, it makes me compelled to read more of his work in which I plan on doing in the new year. Have you read any of Graham Masterton’s horror fiction? If so, which ones? Feel free to leave your answers in the box below.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Do the Punks of Science Fiction Limit Author’s Originality?

A steampunk woman sits in a 19th century style chair.

I was reading a good article the other day at about the punk subgenres of science fiction. Much of what the article said about these subgenres was not good. But I still found it very informing and if you’re new to punk sci fi such as steampunk, diesel punk or atompunk, I suggest you take a look at it because it’s a good introduction to this category of science fiction subgenres. I did agree in part with what the article’s writer, Lee Konstantinou, was saying and so that the punk subgenres have been misused. He basically says that these subgenres work off of the template, or formula, that comes from cyberpunk, the first punk category in sci fi that started in the 1980s. The formula consists of the protagonist rebelling against the ruling system of power and its influence on society. Konstantinou says that such a formula constrains original storytelling. However, like the science fiction genre it branches from, a punk subgenre doesn’t necessarily constrain a writer’s storytelling but simply reflects their literary interest.

Doesn’t the genre that a subgenre comes from have its own formula of a sort, a collection of conventions (not the live events with panels and cosplay!)? I mean, romance has to have certain conventions that distinguish it as its own genre, the main one being passionate love between two people. Mystery has its conventions of solving crime, and fantasy has its own which consists of events centred around magic and the supernatural. Science fiction in general, and so the genre as a whole as opposed to the subgenres within it, has its conventions that mostly pose a “what if” situation in science, for example what if aliens came to Earth or what if computers gained consciousness.

The conventions that make up a genre and the subgenres within it often form from authors sharing a certain interest in fiction. Then book retailers will use these categories of fiction to make it easier for readers to find the books they’re interested in. Authors will write regularly in a certain genre such as science fiction or horror because that’s what they inclined toward in their reading while growing up. Yet if they read a variety of genres then they will probably bring their own unique stories to the genre they specialise in. 

Now let’s see how these conventions work in the punk subgenres such as cyberbpunk, steampunk, atompunk, diesel punk, solar punk, clockpunk, punkpunk. By the way, all of these are real subgenres except that last one, which if it ever does get coined in science fiction it will probably have brought the whole idea of punk literature full circle back to where it started: the rock counterculture scene that spoke out against mainstream rock and the music industry that favoured it in the 1970s because of the profit it brought in. But back to what I was saying, each of these punk subgenres have their own conventions that are unique to it. For example, cyberpunk is often set in in a bleak, dystopian future when mega-corporations control every aspect of life through computer technology and the protagonist hacks into that technology in retaliation. Steampunk often uses an alternative Victorian period or retro future setting where steam technology is used and is far more advanced than it was in real life. For example, trains that can fly.

In stories from these science fiction subgenres the protagonist often rebels against the corruption of a ruler who controls the technology and the protagonist uses similar technology to retaliate. The use of this kind of convention in punk sci fi is often a comment on modern day society. Yet, as Konstantinou indicates, each of these punk subgenres have their own political ideas that drive their rebellious themes

Like cyberpunk, these new sci-fi punk movements combine genre conventions and political attitudes. If you’re a hopepunk, for example, you’re the sort of person who commits to remaining optimistic in the face of a bleak or dystopian world, unlike your “grimdark” opponents. Solarpunks, meanwhile, proclaim their commitment to “ingenuity, generativity, independence, and community” and oppose the nihilistic tendencies of cyberpunk and the reactionary tendencies of steampunk.

If this is the case, then how can they be using the same formula as cyberpunk has? Also, if the author brings his/her own story based on personal experiences to the punk subgenre that they’re writing within, the conventions will hardly if at all limit their creativity. In fact, the story may be so unique that it might trigger other punk subgenres which is how many of these punk styles of science fiction started, at least in part. 

Even though subgenres such as the punks of sci fi have been misused or overly depended on, they are a reflection of author and reader interests and do not have to determine narrow, formulaic writing. Therefore they do not have to limit the author’s creativity provided that the author writes according to her own vision on life. The real problem arises when publishers exploit these science fiction subgenres putting profit before good storytelling. Doing that can suppress the great work of authors that may be unclassifiable within science fiction and, for all the publishers know, may end up being best-sellers. So it would rob the author from having his unique work published, the reader who may like it and even the narrow-minded publisher who might make far more profit from it than from books of the current trends.

Do you believe the punk subgenres of science fiction are limiting new ideas in the genre?

Until next time . . .

Sunday, January 20, 2019

2019 May Be the Year of the VR Game—a New Art and a New ‘Drug’

A young man wearing a VR headset works a game controller.

Ever since Ready Player One released in theatres last year, the film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s novel of the same name, there’s no doubt that virtual reality (VR) has become hotter than ever. This is especially so with VR games. And who wouldn’t want to own their own VR system where they can go on fantastic simulated adventures of their choosing, adventures such as battling dragons and hordes of demon warriors, battling an alien squadron in space or fighting off zombies in a graveyard? I know I would like the thrill of those. I would like the thrill of those to the point of never wanting to take off the VR headset. Mobile device addiction in our society has been bad enough. Two-dimensional video game addiction has been bad enough. I know I’ve been addicted to it. And I’ve been addicted to VR experiences using the Google Cardboard which is the cheapest and so lowest form of a VR headset on the market! There’s nothing wrong with VR experiences. VR is a new pop art, a new form of entertainment. 2019 is likely to be the year of the VR game revolution. But if we’re not careful it will also be the new “drug” that we can too easily get addicted to, a drug that won’t only cost us big bucks for the latest headset or system but also cost us literacy, creativity and even life.

Mobile Phone Addiction

It seems like whenever you walk out into public, every other person you come across is looking at their mobile phone. And that might not be an exaggeration. Alice Bonasio, in her article at The Next Web says, “Think about the last time you looked around and noticed . . . all the people around you checking their phones? The ones that weren’t were probably just done checking or just about to. We have become thoroughly dependent upon the stream of digital information that plugs into our daily lives through those mobile devices.” When you think about it, more time is spent in the digital world than in the real one and so more time is spent looking at a video or computer screen than looking at the real world around you. It’s similar to what TV had already become back in the 1950s when it became popular on the market. There was a concern that kids and, in some cases, even adults wanted to do nothing but watch it when they weren’t in school or at work. But mobile device addiction is even a worse case because the average hand-held device is a smart phone which is basically a television, besides a computer and phone, that you can take anywhere and therefore watch anywhere. Society has become zombified, or entranced, with this gadget. And so the mobile phone is the new drug addiction.

VR: The Next “Drug” Addiction

If television and mobile devices have been addictions, don’t be surprised that VR will be the next “drug” addiction. Think about it—VR is full immersion into a digital environment. Or at least it’s as fully immersive as you can get but will probably become truly fully immersive soon enough. It’s a simulated environment that can make a person feel like they are really and so physically in it. So like hallucinogenic drugs, it is, in a sense, mind altering: it makes you think you are in another place and situation other than your everyday life. This is an addiction that, like what television and hand-held devices have already done, cuts a user off from real life. This means if a person is so into the VR world that they connect with it everywhere he/she goes, it makes them miss out on what is going on around them in the real world. This kind of addiction will probably make people more illiterate than television already has. This would especially be the case with teens and children. Why would they want to read anything and imagine being in the world of a book when they can be in an imaginary world in a computer program, especially one as realistic and interactive as a VR game? At, technology backer Marc Andreesen says that to most people VR is going to be far more interesting than AR (augmented reality), a form of digital media that already imposes over the more thought-provoking experience of reading and working with real-life objects.

The Next Form of Escapism

2019 may be the year that VR begins to trigger these problems as much as it will bring a lot of good to users. After all, the last three years have been ones of turmoil for society especially here in the U.S. with a, basically, corrupt president who many (myself included) think should not have received the majority vote and with a plague of racially targeted shootings as well as random shooting sprees. Well, it’s extremely threatening situations like these that would make anybody want to escape the real world’s problems. People often escape them by turning to art and entertainment. I know I do, that’s why I write science fiction and horror. (But then guess what real horror is? Didn’t I just mention three examples of it four sentences back?) Bonasio says that “. . . In times of crisis there’s always a surge in demand for novels, blockbuster movies, video games, and anything else that offers a way out from a reality that’s become too painful to face on a regular basis.” She says that VR will be the next form of such escapism that will be in that demand. Even though she doesn’t believe it will happen within this year, 2019 has already definitely seen its share of crisis. Only a little over a week ago a sniper fired his gun at random near U.C. Davis and the government shut-down continued into the new year. So VR as the new trend in escapism could easily occur this year. It may not be at the same total immersive level as that in Ready Player One but more people will turn to it which will eventually bring more of a demand for that total immersive level.

What VR Is Useful For and What It’s Not

VR, like the many other electronic mediums that have come before it, has its use both in education and entertainment. It enhances what we learn in books and the classroom. It enhances our participation in gameplay and creates a more realistic and convincing experience like all art should do, including pop art. It’s one more innovation in technology and art which both of these should always aim for innovation.

What VR isn’t useful for is dependency. To depend on it would mean to replace all other experiences with it, to ignore the real world’s problems and even its benefits and therefore to live in a fool’s illusion. In doing so we would think we are living life but we would really be living in our heads and not contributing to progress in the real world. We would not only so easily be ignoring our family and friends as they really are rather than as digital masks of avatars, but we would also be neglecting our own talents, creativity and critical thinking skills in order to escape into an illusion. It could even get to the point that hallucinogenic drugs have gotten to. That point is not just addiction itself but the blurring of the line between reality and fantasy—a type of hallucination that has driven people to do some very dangerous things to either themselves or others.

Can We Enjoy VR Without Sacrificing Ourselves and Real Life?

So can we enjoy VR without having to sacrifice our own thinking, creativity and lives in the real world? Of course we can. To do that we look to history, particularly the history of other electronic media such as television and two dimensional video games. We look at how the addiction problems to that earlier media have been dealt with. They’ve been dealt with mainly by having limited our engagement with those types of media to a certain time of day or to so many hours a week. We can do the same with VR entertainment. We need to also remember the value in other types of activity and see how we can both benefit from them as well as benefit others with them. And as writers and artists, we have to remember that inspiration for myth and storytelling started at one time in the natural, and so real, world. And if we trace it’s history back far enough, the same goes for VR storytelling.

Do you think we’ll see a rise in VR games in this year of 2019? Are you ready to play these games with limitation so you can easily step back out into the real world when you have to?

Until next time . . .

Saturday, January 12, 2019

2019 TV / Movie Adaptations of Sci fi and Fantasy Books

The number 2019 against a starry or outer space background.

Happy New Year, everybody! Sorry for missing last week but I was burning out from both writing and my day job so much that I needed that break. But here I am again. In the last post I said that I will have more Book-To-Movie reviews and previews in 2019. Well, 2019 offers some interesting, if not all particularly good, TV series and movies based on sci fi and fantasy books. So I made a couple of lists: one for TV adaptations and the other for movie adaptations.

2019 TV Series Adapted from Books

I have not read any of the books that the TV series listed below are based on. With the exception of one of these, I don’t plan on reading any soon in time to watch the TV series mainly because many of them are in the horror genre and I’m not a big fan of horror TV series. I’ve noticed that many horror TV series--unlike most movies in the genre--that are based on novels, especially gothic horror, tend to go too much the way of the soap opera almost losing their horror element. However, because TV shows based on novels are the big trend in sci fi and fantasy now and because there are probably many of you out there that like watching them, I’m listing the ones due for release this year. In each item on the list, I’ve included the author of the book that the series is based on, the premiere date and the channel or streaming service (in that order). I haven’t included synopses since most of these books I’m not familiar with. To find out the plot to these, visit Amazon or The latter is especially a great source to look at when you want to find out the plot to a movie or TV show.

A Discovery of Witches: novel by Deborah Harkness, premieres (U.S.) 17 January on Sundance Now and Shudder: This is the exception that I mentioned above. It’s one of the biggest best-selling books of the speculative genre out there so I’ve been meaning to read it for a while. However, I know I’m not going to read it in time for the series premiere. Which is okay because I don’t get Sundance Now or Shudder anyway! So that gives me plenty of time to read this dark fantasy/horror novel before the series makes it to DVD doesn’t it?

The Passage: novel by Justin Cronin, premieres 21 January, Fox

The Rook: by Daniel O’Malley, premieres in spring (date unknown), Starz

NOS4A2: by Joe Hill, premieres 30 April, AMC: I haven’t read any of the novels by Hill, son of Stephen King, but I’ve read his book of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts, in which he has a lot of really good ones in there. NOS4A2 the novel is holiday horror, in which I mostly don’t read this subgenre unless it’s Charles Dickens or the holiday theme is slight. But if you’re a big fan of Joe Hill’s work you may like this series.

2019 Movies Adapted from Books

Too tell the truth, I haven’t read any of the books that these upcoming films are based on either. Maybe I should add these to my reading list for 2019? But even if I don’t get around to reading them, there will still be plenty of Book-To-Movies coming for films from other years.

The Visible Filth: novel by Nathan Ballingrud, directed by Babak Anvari, premieres 26 January

Chaos Walking (book’s title: The Knife of Never letting Go): by Patrick Ness, directed by Doug Liman, premieres 1 March

Pet Semetary: by Stephen King, directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, premieres 5 April

Artemis Fowl: by Eoin Colfer, directed by Kenneth Branagh, premieres 9 August

It: Chapter Two: by Stephen King (original novel first movie is based on), directed by Muschietti, premieres 6 September

Maybe I’ll have a list of what I plan to read and watch in 2019 in next week’s post. So are you planning on watching any of the above movies or TV series when they release? Have you read or do you plan on reading the books they are based on? Are you making a reading or viewing list for 2019?

Until next time . . .

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Greatest Moments In Sci fi and Fantasy of 2018

Two steampunkers and a miniature dragon sit among a stack of books with a clock looming in the background.

Well, we’re coming to the end of 2018. As with any year, we get both the good moments and not-so-good moments. Still, the not-so-good moments often have a valuable impact on our lives. So I decided to list the greatest moments of this year. “Greatest” is defined here not so much as good or joyful as it is significantly impacting. Sometimes the events we don’t wish to see help us see the good ones better. We love it when we make accomplishments, publish a story we wrote, read a story we really enjoyed, or see a movie that we really liked. We don’t love it so much when we lose something or someone important to us. Sadly, 2018 saw the passing away of my maternal grandfather, God rest his soul. But that sad moment also made me and my family remember some of the best times we had with him.

In the community of science fiction and fantasy, 2018 saw the passing away of some of the best creators in the genre. Even though those are moments we don’t like to think about before they occur, they do eventually occur. We don’t like those moments to come because we know how great these creators were in their work which we got some kind of joy out of looking at. So, I actually made two lists for this last post of the year. One is a list of the best moments of 2018, moments we actually enjoy and will invite almost anytime. The other is a list of three of the best sci fi and fantasy authors we lost during the year. This last list is dedicated to those authors to show my appreciation of their work and vision and the joy and comfort it brought me, a joy and comfort that helped me to come to terms with all the problems and challenges I’ve faced in my own personal life which great storytelling helps us do.

The Best Moments of the Year In Sci fi and Fantasy

Frankenstein’s 200th Anniversary: Mary Shelley’s greatest work turned 200 years old back at the beginning of the year. That was 200 years of influence on science and popular culture, for better or for worse.

The Black Panther movie: February saw the release of the film adaptation of the Black Panther comic book series. The movie became the highest grossing one directed by an African-American and that starred a Black super hero. It also helped bring African culture further into the mainstream of science fiction and fantasy. (Please Note: If you go to the link above and read the post that talks about the movie, there is an error. The post says that the movie released in March. It actually released in February. I don’t know what the hell was going through my head when I wrote that post. My apologies.)

“Book-To-Movie” premieres at A Far Out Fantastic Site: 2018 also saw the premiere of my series of previews and reviews of movies adapted from books. In many of these, I review a movie based on a book and compare the two. Expect to see many more Book-To-Movie posts in 2019!

The blogger watches The Exorcist for the first time: Why did a horror author like myself wait so long to see, what has been known to be, the scariest movie of all time? Go to the above link to find out.

“The Boo Brothers” book releases: This was my third book that got published. Expect many more to come.

Sci fi and Fantasy Authors We Lost In 2018

Stan Lee--Writer, Founder and Editor of Marvel Comics

Next time I’m going to try to talk about a new year’s resolution that can be useful to all of us. So, what were your best or most important moments of 2018?

See you next year! (Which is next week, of course!)