From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 11

Here’s the latest issue of the quarterly ‘Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter’ for your (hopeful) enjoyment and entertainment. (For the first 10 installments, follow the ‘Mr. Zeus Posts’ link at the top of the page.)

“Close Call!”

I have mentioned in the past that I work out in my basement, both for exercise and as a stress-reliever. I have also mentioned that I sometimes will change things up by flying — very fast — to the middle of nowhere and letting loose — punching, pounding, digging, stomping on very large rocks, the ground, etc. I’ve even been known to carve large objects into a hillside or rock quarry. On one occasion, though, I got sidetracked and never made it out to the “badlands” for my “work out”. And I’m very glad I didn’t, ‘cuz I met my “neighbor” (though he lives a couple hundred miles away) for the first time, and he has been a good friend ever since.

I’ll call him “Joe” in order to maintain his privacy. Joe is a rancher with many acres of property out in Texas. (Montana, too, but he rents that out.) On the evening we met, he and his ranch hands were rounding up some cattle, and I hovered above (and out of sight) to watch. A thunderstorm was rolling in, and they were trying to get the animals — at least 1000 of them — back to the barns before it hit. I kept an eye on the stormclouds and realized that they were moving pretty fast. I also noticed that the cattle were being led across an old, dry creek bed at the foot of some hills with some leftover snow at their tops. I’m no outdoorsman, but something I’d read or seen made me think that the cattle were in danger of being caught in a flashflood, if they didn’t get well away from that creek bed.

I landed around the bend so as not to spook the animals or the men, then I walked up to the nearest hand and asked him who was in charge. Joe rode over and I quickly explained who I was and what I saw. I suggested that I probably had enough time to fly all the cattle — two at a time — at superspeed back to the barns. But, after two trips, I could see that the poor critters were really freaked out, and Joe agreed that we shouldn’t traumatize them if we could help it. The storm was thundering and almost on us, and I suddenly got an idea… Long story short, I managed to dig a big trench half-way around the two nearest hills, buying Joe and his men enough time to get the rest of the herd across the creek bed and around to the other side of another (large) hill before my makeshift moat overflowed and the water rushed down the creek bed. It was raining pretty hard by then, but the barns were only a half mile away, and the lightning & thunder gave everyone — including the cattle — extra incentive to move faster.

Afterward, Joe invited me inside to dry off by his fireplace. We shared a couple of beers and really hit it off. In fact, I drop by his place whenever I can, now. Weather permitting, we typically sit on his porch and admire the view, while talking about whatever’s on our minds. Sometimes it’s business (his or mine), sometimes it’s personal. We talk about sports, politics, religion & philosophy, law enforcement, current events,… whatever. Joe is about 20 years older, so he treats me sort of like a son, which is fine by me. (His son died of cancer as a child, but he has a daughter in grad school.) I love listening to his stories about ranching and serving in the Army and just life in general. He’s a common-sense kind of guy, and very sharp — streetwise, which is an odd term to apply to him, since he doesn’t care for the city. I’ve spent many evenings with Joe, just “jawin'” and listening to his wise words. (Btw, his wife Judy is an awesome cook and a smart, terrific lady, too.) When Joe’s 80-year-old father, Big Jim, joins us, that’s the best! Jim is a real trip, very funny, and also one of the wisest men I know.

“A Man of Many Words”

Someone asked me the other day about my reading tastes and habits. A bit of an odd question for someone like me, since most people assume I don’t have much brains — or intellectual curiosity — to go with the brawn. I’m no genius, but as most of my fans know, I do read on various topics. It’s a practice I started as a kid, slacked off on for a few years, then resumed when I became a superhero. In the past, I have recommended that superheroes get a foundation in various subjects to help with solving crimes, perfecting one’s abilities, dealing with tech, etc., and that involves reading.

I still do some reading along those lines, though I’m not at the moment. I’m pretty busy (see below), but I always try to set aside time to read during lunch (assuming I’m not eating with someone else) and for an hour or so before bed. I also long ago developed the habit of keeping a book with me — either hard copy or audiobook — when running errands or going to an appointment of some sort, when I might have a few minutes of waiting around. Why waste time twiddling my thumbs or flipping through magazines when I could be reading a good book, maybe even learning something? In addition, I usually listen to an audiobook or an educational lecture/podcast while working out in my gym.

What do I read? Well, on the non-fiction front I typically have at least a couple books in progress, sometimes three or four. Topics include American and world history (including biographies), politics & culture, theology, philosophy, popular science, and recently some on writing fiction. Right now, I’m reading a biography titled Churchill: A Study in Greatness by Geoffrey Best. It’s a tad dry in places, but any history buff will enjoy it. Churchill was a fascinating guy! I’m about half-way through a collection of essays by renowned economist Thomas Sowell, too. (Can’t remember the title at the moment.) It’s not as boring as it sounds. Sowell was a columnist for decades, and he wrote about all sorts of political and cultural issues. Very smart man! (His books on economics are actually pretty good, too, and geared more for the average reader.) I’m also just starting a book by Christian speaker/apologist Greg Koukl called The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between. Rather bold and intriguing title, eh? Koukl has a very engaging style and conversational tone, as he explains the basics of the Christian worldview as a picture of reality. So far, I’m impressed.

As for fiction, I read a mix of crime, spy thriller, mystery, action/adventure, sci-fi and fantasy. Over the past couple years, I’ve been re-reading some classics from Isaac Asimov, Philip Jose Farmer, Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke, and other science fiction legends, as well as getting into some newer stuff — at least, new to me. So, for example, I recently read Asimov’s The Naked Sun (second time) and Haldeman’s The Forever War (first time), and I started series by David Weber, Robert Sawyer, and Kevin J. Anderson. I am now reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the first time. (Yes, I occasionally read young-adult fiction.) I’m a bit late to the party with the whole Harry Potter craze, since I’m finally finishing the series 10 years after the last book came out. Gotta say, though, I find them highly entertaining! Meantime, I am listening to an audiobook edition of Rules of Vengeance by Christopher Reich. It’s my second book by Reich, and he’s a nice addition to my “collection” of favorite authors. However, my other new discovery, which I enjoy even more, is Gregg Hurwitz. The first book of his I read — well, listened to — was Orphan X, which was excellent. It spurred me on to try one of his older works: The Crime Writer. Very different plot and protagonist, but also very good. If you like the above genres, then you’ll probably like Hurwitz’s stuff, too.

“Q & A”

You might remember an earlier issue of the newsletter where I answered a few questions that people at cons and book signings had been asking me. Of course, people (like, you guys) ask me questions by mail, too. So, I figured I’d round out this issue by responding briefly to a few of those here for everyone’s benefit….

Q: What do you do in your “down time” to relax? (Peter S. from Chattanooga, TN)

A: To be honest, I don’t have much down time, lately. I’ve told you about some of the activities I’m involved with (e.g., part-time crimefighting, working on ILEAD’s Hero Training Program, writing, public appearances, etc.), and they keep me pretty darn busy. But, as I explained above, I do quite a bit of reading — both fiction and non-fiction. My gym workouts are “down time”, I suppose, but hardly relaxing. Occasionally, I find time to chill out with a movie or TV series. (Confession: I own every single Star Trek series and movie on DVD. Also, Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica.) In fact, I have been known to host movie parties with friends at my place.

Q: Do you do any work for the environment? (Warren Z. from Portland, OR):

A: I assume you are talking about ecological stuff, protecting wildlife and things like that? Well, I have been involved in a number of clean-up operations following natural disasters — from hurricanes to oil spills. I am concerned about some ecological/environmental issues, but I’m not an activist, by any means. Also, my position is more conservationist than environmentalist. (See this brief explanation of the difference.)

Q: What injuries have you sustained while “adventuring”? (Kelly P. from Fort Hood, TX):

A: Several, but most mend within seconds, minutes, or hours (depending on severity), thanks to my enhanced healing ability. Also, my near-indestructibility makes is pretty darn difficult to damage me. So, for example, high-caliber bullets or explosives at close range might slightly bruise or scorch my skin, but not enough to slow me down, and that stuff heals really quickly. The more serious injuries were a few broken bones (e.g., 3 toes, left ulna, both femurs, 3 fingers, right thumb, 4 ribs) and some internal bleeding/damage from doing battle with the strongest and most powerful foes (e.g., CrimSun, Visigoth, Summerset, the Gargantosaur).

Stay strong!

Another issue hot off the presses!

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

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Throwback Wednesday: B5, Star Trek, & Star Wars

Given that I ran out of time to write a “normal” post this week, I got the idea for this one from the “Throwback Thursday (TBT)” posts you sometimes see people do on Facebook. But, I’m gonna give you 3-in-1. (I actually do a “Top 10” every December on my other blog, but I’ll keep this one more manageable.)

You may have noticed that I have grouped certain kinds of posts onto dedicated pages (with links), which I have linked to below the main blog image above. But, there are many that don’t fit any of those categories. So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to highlight three of my personal favorites, with excerpts of text from each post. You may notice something they have in common: each one presents several ideas for rebooting or continuing a major sci-fi franchise. If you missed them the first time around, or just don’t remember reading them, I hope you enjoy these posts (again?).

“On Reviving Babylon 5”

Babylon 5 station + logo“The “Babylon 5” series (1994-1998) is generally acknowledged as one of the best science fiction shows in TV history, and it’s certainly one of my all-time favorites…. Recently, I discovered that JMS is considering a reboot of “Babylon 5”. A reboot?! Don’t do it, Joe! … I’m a little leery about returning to the B5 universe, even by its creator, given the lackluster attempts made shortly after the original series went off the air…. But, given the right concept and talent involved, it could be another hit. With this in mind….”

“Multiphasic Trek Update, part 2: TV Trekkin’ for a New Generation”

star_trek_logo_20090511_750w“Ever since “Enterprise” (and maybe before), Star Trek fans have been hoping, wishing, and praying for a new Star Trek series to be produced by a major network…. Now, in case you somehow haven’t heard, a new show has finally been approved by the powers-that-be and scheduled to debut in January 2017…. Unfortunately, we have practically no details, even on what direction they may go with it, so there is plenty of speculation and wishing…. I have come up with a few ideas of my own for the upcoming series (though others may have had them, too, I suppose), spanning different eras….”

“Ideas for Star Wars Anthology Series Films”

star-wars-logo-art“Since we all — well, not ALL, but a LOT of us — are psyched for the upcoming Star Wars movies and speculating about what they might be about, I figured I’d throw out a few (not entirely original) ideas for the “Anthology Series” films. There is definitely a lot of material to mine for these spin-offs and opportunities for expansion on what fans are already familiar with, since they are “standalone” films that are not directly connected to the new trilogy (i.e., episodes, VII-IX)…. The third film in the Anthology Series has long been rumored to be a Boba Fett origin story…. But, this movie hasn’t been confirmed, as yet. So, here are a few other people/things that could be explored, assuming Disney/Lucasfilm decide to stick to prequels….”

Hope you got a kick out of ’em, and maybe they sparked a few ideas of your own! (Feel free to share below.) ‘Til next week…

On Reviving Babylon 5

“And so it begins….”  — Ambassador Kosh

Babylon 5 station + logoThe “Babylon 5” series (1994-1998) is generally acknowledged as one of the best science fiction shows in TV history, and it’s certainly one of my all-time favorites. It might have been a little slow getting out of the gate, and there were a few episodes that weren’t quite up to snuff. (Also, I thought season 5 felt somewhat anti-climactic following the big war in season 4.) But, that is to be expected with any series, especially over a period of several years. Overall, the writing by creator/producer J. Michael “Joe” Straczynski (JMS) and a handful of guest-writers (e.g., sci-fi great Harlan Ellison) was terrific. Both the larger, preconceived 5-year arc and the development of individual characters was creative, dramatic, and a lot of fun. As with Star Trek, a significant part of the series’ appeal was that it tackled big issues, big questions about religion, philosophy, morality, war, power, survival, trust, loyalty, hope, destiny, revenge, etc. Of course, the cool alien races and their equally cool starships were visually appealing, too!

Recently, I discovered that JMS is considering a reboot of “Babylon 5”. A reboot?! Don’t do it, Joe! Leave our… er, I mean… your baby alone! Assuming “reboot” means retelling the 5-year story arc from the beginning, I don’t see how this is a good idea, especially after the relatively recent success of the original. (Very different situation than, say, “Battlestar Galactica”.) I have a hard time believing JMS would go this route, but… who knows? Maybe he has something clever in mind that wouldn’t quite be a retelling of the original. Also, I understand that he is beginning with a TV movie (as he did the first time), which will serve to test the waters rather than jumping right into a new series.

I’m a little leery about returning to the B5 universe, even by its creator, given the lackluster attempts made shortly after the original series went off the air. (“Crusade” was enjoyable during its short run, but The Legend of the Rangers TV movie was rather disappointing, and I’m glad it wasn’t picked up for a series.) But, given the right concept and talent involved, it could be another hit. With this in mind, Jules-Pierre Malartre over at Den of Geek! recently presented 14 alternatives to doing a “straight reboot”. Here are my brief reactions/comments on each:

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

1) Babylon 5: The New Crew:  This would essentially continue with life on the station after Sheridan & Delenn left and would include Captain Lochley and a mix of new and familiar faces. This might’ve worked if it was only, say, 1999 or 2000. But, it’s 2015. Jeff Conaway (i.e., Security Chief Zack Allan) passed away in 2011 and everyone else is several years older. The familiar characters would all have to be re-cast. Also, it could not be set 15 years after Sheridan left, because we already know that B5 is decommissioned only 10 years later — with Zack there ’til the end.

2) What’s up with Lennier?:  At the end of “Babylon 5”, loyal Lennier loses it, betrays Sheridan, and flies off for parts unknown. A spin-off that follows his adventures and quest for redemption sounds interesting, and while Bill Mumy probably still looks relatively youthful, it could pick up with Lennier several years post-B5. This might work, assuming Mumy is game.

3) The Life & Times of Sheridan and Delenn’s Son:  There were references to Sheridan and Delenn’s son in a couple episodes, including one set in the future that references an infamous “incident”. In the other, the Drakh-influenced Emperor Mollari clearly has plans to control the boy. So, either or both of these could be addressed in a story — either movie or series — about the child. Regardless, we have very few details about that future (other than Delenn living a long time), so there would be plenty of room to explore this new character and the post-B5 universe.

4) Whatever happened to Citizen G’Kar?:  G’Kar and Lyta left the station at the end of the series (2258). Then, our favorite Narn popped up in The Legend of the Rangers (set in 2265), and we know the character lived another 12 years after that. Plenty of years of adventuring(?) to explore,… except that Andreas Katsulas died in 2006, and no one wants to re-cast G’Kar.

5) Legends Of The Rangers:  Sure, they could give this idea another try, hopefully with better acting and a better story. But, without the original series fresh in our minds to set the stage, as it were, I’m not sure it would get much of a following.

6) Crusade: Take 2!:  As I said earlier, I liked this show. The storyline was pretty decent, and I enjoyed the characters/actors. Given the time-sensitive mission, continuing the show 15 years later makes no sense. Also, would the original actors even want to return? (I doubt Daniel Dae Kim would leave “Hawaii Five-O”.) On the other hand, it could be rebooted with a new cast, but I don’t like that idea much, either. If they do a new “Crusade”, it should involve a new mission.

Babylon 5 cast

Babylon 5 cast

7) The first Shadow War:  In season 3, Sinclair/Valen time-traveled with the abandoned Babylon 4 to roughly 1000 years in the past, offering the station to the Minbari as a staging point for their imminent war with the Shadows. Assuming that Michael O’Hare (i.e., Cmdr. Jeffrey Sinclair / Valen) was up for it, this could have been, as Malartre put it, “an awesome military sci-fi series of epic proportions”. Unfortunately, O’Hare passed away in 2012. But, I suppose re-casting the role is a possibility, hopefully with someone who looks & sounds at least somewhat like O’Hare.

8) The Dilgar War:  Approximately 30 years before the events of the series, the Earth Alliance joined the League of Non-Aligned Worlds in a war against the xenophobic Dilgar. This might make for another cool, military-oriented prequel series, bringing back many of the familiar alien races from the original series.

9) Tales of Earth’s future:  The season 4 finale provided information (however limited) about a few events/periods in Earth’s far future, which could provide avenues to explore. Personally, I don’t think they should jump too far forward, because that increases the risk of losing the connection with the original series. On the other hand, it worked for “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, which took place roughly 75 years after the last movie (at the time) based on the original “Star Trek” series.

10) Tales of the Psi Corps:  The Corps was rather fascist, so it would be hard to make them “good guys”. Even if JMS came up with a workable concept (e.g., focusing on rebels within the Corps), it wouldn’t be the same without Bester. Still, I suppose Walter Koenig (who is going on 80 years old) might still be up for a few appearances.

11) The Interstellar Alliance:  This would probably take place during Sheridan’s 10 years as President of the ISA. Plus, as Malartre points out, “Bruce Boxleitner is old enough now to portray Sheridan in that time period without artificial aging.”

12) More Garibaldi, please:  Yes. Please! The end of the series saw the much-beloved, pain-in-the-butt, wise-cracking Michael Garibaldi — former B5 security chief — as CEO of one of the largest corporations of the Earth Alliance. Can you imagine what sort of trouble he could get into, trying to navigate the corporate world, while probably leaving the office more than he should and getting himself in the usual sticky “situations”. I’ll bet Jerry Doyle and JMS could have a lot of fun with it, especially if Londo showed up!

13) Ivanova:  I was really disappointed when Claudia Christian left the show after the 4th season. As for Susan Ivanova, we know she was given command of a ship, and she appeared “10 years later” in the series finale. I had forgotten this, but at Delenn’s request, Ivanova took over as Ranger One, leader of the Rangers. That would be a perfect place from which to pick up the story. Plus, as with Boxleitner, she’s the right age. The more I think about it, the more I like this idea.

14) Book & Comic adaptations:  Not being familiar with these, I can’t comment on any of them. I do know that some were quite well-received by fans and many are considered official canon. There may indeed be good material that could be adapted either as individual movies, mini-series, or a regular series.

If JMS (and whomever he gets to back him) makes a series and/or movies centered on (mostly) new characters, suggestions number 3 and 8 appeal and make the most sense to me. On the other hand, if it was to focus on more familiar characters from the original series, either number 2, 11, 12, or 13 would be great. Well-crafted guest appearances by other, previous castmembers would be terrific, too! In fact, a series set 10-15 years post-B5 which incorporates some combination of Lennier, Sheridan, Delenn, Garibaldi, Ivanova, maybe Vir and/or Londo, would be awesome!

If you are a fan of “Babylon 5”, I would love to know what your thoughts are on this. Do you like any of the above? Do you have a different idea? What do you think JMS will do?