On My Shelves: To The Stars!

I previously discussed Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series, and I may later talk about his Deathworld trilogy. Here I'd like to discuss one of his less well-known series, which in some ways I found a more interesting work than either of the others: To The Stars.   To The Stars is a trilogy, composed of Homeworld, Wheelworld, and Starworld; despite its title, it isn't concerned with getting people to the stars per se – that is, it isn't one of the many works in which the protagonists are part of the first journey(s) of mankind [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Avengers

Marvel's recent push into the systematic production of high-quality superhero movies – Captain America, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor – was clearly moving towards one of the most ambitious movies ever made: The Avengers. Anyone who was a comic fan could see that this was a likely goal… and anyone who had watched the history of comic-book movies could see how that could be an incredible train-wreck.   On the positive side, Marvel had taken the time to do one of the most important things first: establish the key characters of the [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Harry Potter

  Looking back over my prior posts, I find myself startled to discover that I have not yet discussed the single most successful and perhaps influential fantasy series written since I was born: Harry Potter, by J. K. Rowling.   The vast majority, if not all, of the people reading my columns will know the story of Harry, but just in case: the basic concept of the series is that Harry Potter was left as an orphan with his only relatives, the Dursleys, and raised (poorly) by them for eleven years; at that point he discovers [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: Usenet

  I have previously discussed, in more broad terms, my entry into and participation in the world of online communication, starting when I was only 14, discovering the existence of email and bulletin boards through the local high-school computer network. There were, and are, many different ways of participating in social interaction online – email in its many guises, bulletin boards, IRC, LiveJournal, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook – but the one that has been the longest-enduring for me, and certainly the most influential on me over the [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: A Bard Day’s Knight

    A Bard Day's Knight is the third anthology of stories in Michael Ventrella's world of Fortannis, a fantasy world that is both clearly part of the high fantasy tradition in its general makeup, but incorporates Ventrella's own touch to make it a much more living world, with its own traditions, a broad assortment of inhabitants ranging from furry, catlike gorbe to the more familiar humans, elves, and dwarves – though even the most familiar will have their own unique twists to offer.   Though the title is humorous, [ Continue reading... ]

INTERVIEW: Michael Ventrella

Michael Ventrella is the author of several books set in his fantasy world of Fortannis, and is now releasing his third anthology in that world, A Bard Day's Knight. I had the good fortune to be able to interview him, and the result is below!   1. Tell me a little about yourself – who you are, what you do both as an author and in your "day job".   Hello everybody! I’m Michael A. Ventrella. Like 99% of all authors, I have a day job because the writing stuff doesn’t pay the rent. In real life, I am a defense attorney, so you [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

  I was reluctant to see the second entry in the quick reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, despite the fact that I really, REALLY liked the first entry. My reluctance stemmed from two things. First, there were three villains advertised, and multi-villain films have a history of having… issues. (see Spider-Man 3, Batman 2, etc.) Second, the combination of Gwen Stacy and Green Goblin pretty much added up to Biggest Tragedy of Spidey's Life, which I saw as meaning a pretty damn downer of a film.   I was entirely [ Continue reading... ]

On My (Virtual) Shelves: Homestuck

  "A young man stands in his bedroom. It just so happens that today, the 13th of April, 2009, is this young man's birthday. Though it was thirteen years ago he was given life, it is only today he will be given a name!"   So begins Homestuck. Homestuck is a phenomenon. It's not precisely a webcomic, although it started as one. It's not a video game, although there are games embedded in it and it starts with the obvious conceit that you are playing a videogame called "Homestuck"; the opening quote is the text of the first page [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Magic Kingdom of Landover

Terry Brooks is best known – by far – for his Shannara series, which I have written about previously. However, he has written other books in other settings, and the ones I have enjoyed most have been the Landover novels.   There were three volumes in the original Landover series; these are the ones I have read, although I intend to purchase the remaining ones after the seventh and final is completed. Thus this review covers the first three novels: Magic Kingdom for Sale – SOLD!, The Black Unicorn, and Wizard At Large.   In [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: SunDog: Frozen Legacy

Many years ago, I was one of the relatively few whose personal computer was not an IBM-clone or an Apple, nor even an Amiga, but an Atari ST; a lot of people don't even realize that Atari did indeed build full-fledged computers in those days, and quite good ones. Of course, being a splinter market, they did not always get all the software one might want. But they did have, for a short time, the company called FTL Games, and that meant two milestone games: Dungeon Master, one of the first 3-D dungeon-crawl games (and precursor of other [ Continue reading... ]