Category: Con Culture


Underexposed cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Stanley Kubrick’s The Lord of the Rings starring The Beatles.  Peter Jackson’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.  George Miller’s Justice League.  Robert Rodriguez’s Barbarella.  Shane Black’s The Monster Squad.  Two John Carpenter movies you’ve never seen.  If you’re wondering what the best movie was in any given year, you have plenty of options.  You can look for the movie that had the biggest take at the box office.  You can look to critic reviews.  You can scroll through the Internet Movie Database.  You can review awards lists or Alternate Oscars.  Or you can just watch the movies and choose for yourself.  Underexposed! The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made, a new book arriving this month from Abrams, could have been called False Starts–it’s a book about movies that almost made it to the big screen.

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Peppered with movie poster mock-ups from art group PosterSpy, filmmaker and film enthusiast Joshua Hull tracked down interesting histories of some of the best and most quirky movies that almost got made, but were either abandoned, had legal rights issues, lack of funding, lack of interest, or simply were not made to save audiences from a bad idea.  They aren’t from obscure creators, either.  The list includes projects from Alfred Hitchcock to Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg–and some are ideas that sound like they could have been pretty great.  What were they thinking?  Find out in this book.  

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Not-for-profit industry group The Toy Association, which was founded in 1916, announced the “Spring & Summer 2021 Influencer Choice List” this week, which highlights 30 of their predicted “hottest” toys and games.  The list features a broad array of subjects, targeted to kids of a variety of ages and interests, as well as price points.  Dolls, stuffed animals, familiar franchise characters, educational and even health tie-ins, craft toys, indoor and outdoor toys, exercise toys and quiet toys, and just plain good fun.  There’s even some new takes on classic toys, from toy trucks to an ICEE machine.

We’ve highlighted a few we’d like to try out–see the photos.  Take a look through the complete list and see what you think will be the most fun.  

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Jupiters-Legacy-Ben-Daniels-Netflix

Review by C.J. Bunce

Jupiter’s Legacy leads comic book creator Mark Millar’s “Millarworld” projects for Netflix.  The eight-episode first season of the series introduces TV audiences to the latest new superhero world that–unfortunately–primarily serves to remind us why the DC and Marvel characters stand out as timeless after 80 years–and how those kinds of beloved characters don’t come by easily.  The first season of Jupiter’s Legacy is streaming now on Netflix.  Among other things, the series pushes aside the supervillain (who we only get to see a copy of) to focus on what’s right and what’s wrong among the superior ability set, and the result is that it’s spectacular only in its ability to lack action and intrigue.

Let’s talk about what’s good first.

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MAND labs b

Review by C.J. Bunce

RadioShack was founded 100 years ago, and for most of those decades it has been the go-to supplier for anyone interested in electronics.  Not just for professionals, but it’s where students went to make things if they had even a remote interest in electronics.  The new incarnation of RadioShack is little different, less storefronts but an endless online supply of materials and ideas that what was once the exclusive purview of kids in the A/V Club.  It is now something any young person can–and should–become proficient in.  I knew as soon as I saw the Mand Labs kits on the new RadioShack website that this kind of product can and should be part of the future of STEM learning–whether at home or in schools.  So I reviewed the Mand Labs STEM Electronics Kit (KIT-1) to see if it’s as good as it looks. 

It is. 

Not only does the kit have everything you need–all the technological components to create more than 60 educational and fun projects–the even bigger value is the set of two textbook/workbooks, which provide all the theory, math, history, and core science so students understand the how and why.  With the books, digital videos, and online resources that come with the kit, even a young grade schooler can learn the fundamentals of electricity, physics, computer science, robotics, and electrical engineering.  And for adults, say you’re a cosplayer and you want to wire a helmet or chest box with lights and sound, or maybe you want to understand better why you can’t get your electronic fan or doorbell to work, or always wondered how the electric systems of your automobiles work, this kit will help you get started.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Wizards of the Coast and G4 are partnering for D&D Live 2021, a special two-day streaming event on July 16-17 and continuing with four all-new limited-run campaign series to premiere on G4 this Fall.  The two-day event will feature four games with star-studded casts playing with expert DMs, as well as hosted content featuring games, interviews, special product announcements, a Dungeon Master roundtable, and exclusive giveaways.  Watch the Wizards of the Coast website for more details.

A new sourcebook is heading your way next week:  The new Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition campaign sourcebook Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft may just be the D&D your mother warned you about.  Okay, not really, but it is the darkest exploration yet of horror in the world’s most popular roleplaying game.  But it’s not for younger kids, going beyond R.L. Stine horrors and skipping ahead from the dark corners of Stephen King to the gorier realms of Clive Barker… slasher realms and beyond… but only if your gaming group so chooses.  It’s all part of the mysteries of Ravenloft, mist-shrouded lands where infamous Darklords lurk among ageless vampires, zombie hordes, cosmic terrors, and bloodier things.  Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is still a place for heroes to succeed, but not without mucking their way through terrors on their journey.   It all arrives next week.  You can pre-order the standard library cover here from Wizards of the Coast at Amazon now, or order the alternate shimmering, soft-touch edition from your local game shop.

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Boucher Myrtle

Do not adjust your screen–this is not a repeat post.  Regular borg readers know about novelist Elizabeth C. Bunce′s reviews, and this year she has had had great success with her mystery series, beginning with Premeditated Myrtle, which won this year’s Edgar Award (honoring mystery writing pioneer Edgar Allan Poe).  We previously announced that she is nominated for the Agatha Award (honoring Agatha Christie) to be named this summer, and we’re happy to report she has just been nominated for this year’s Anthony Award!  Her book becomes one of only seven middle grade novels to have been nominated in the history of the award.

The Anthony Award is an annual recognition for mystery authors, named to honor mystery writer and Mystery Writers of America co-founder Anthony Boucher (shown above, with cat friend).  Boucher was also known for his science fiction and critical works.  Past novelists recognized by the Anthony Awards include J.K. Rowling, Daphne Du Maurier, Agatha Christie, Stephen King, Rhys Bowen, Robert B. Parker, Max Allan Collins, Jill Thompson, Louise Penny, Lawrence Block, Sue Grafton, Jonathan Kellerman, Tony Hillerman, Charlaine Harris, Thomas Harris, Patricia Cornwell, Ann Rule, Alan Bradley, Sharyn McCrumb, Donald E. Westlake, Rick Riordan, and Lee Child.  This year the award will be announced at the annual World Mystery Convention (also called Bouchercon) in late summer, to be held virtually or in person from New Orleans.  It is the convention’s 52nd year.

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Find out more about Elizabeth and her novel Premeditated Myrtle here.  Check out Elizabeth’s reviews of books, TV, and movies at borg here.

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May4

Just in time for today’s annual celebration of Star Wars, May the Fourth, Star Wars Day 2021, Disney+ is streaming the new animated series, Star Wars: The Bad Batch, beginning with a 72-minute premiere, starting today.  Viewers will only need to wait until Friday for episode 2, with new episodes airing weekly.  You met the clone troopers who star in the series last year in the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  The new series features 16 episodes, taking off after The Clone Wars and featuring appearances by Fennic Shand, voiced by Ming-Na Wen, with the return of Grand Moff Tarkin, voiced by Stephen Stanton, along with Saw Gerrera, voiced by Andrew Kishino.  While you’re at it, Lucasfilm has created a downloadable Bingo game for the show.

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Just a quick follow-up to news of the nominations 90 days ago–The Mystery Writers of America held its annual awards ceremony this afternoon for the Edgar Allan Poe or “Edgar” Awards, recognizing the mystery, crime, suspense, and intrigue genres in 12 categories.  The annual list memorializes the anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, and this year’s nominees for the 2021 Edgar Allan Poe Awards honor the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, and television published or produced in 2020.  Past winners include Raymond Chandler, John le Carré, Donald E. Westlake, Michael Crichton, Phyllis A. Whitney, Joan Lowery Nixon, Tony Hillerman, Ken Follett, Willo Davis Roberts, Gore Vidal, Nancy Springer, Gregory Mcdonald, Lawrence Block, James Patterson, Donald P. Bellisario, Glen A. Larson, Matt Nix, Rick Riordan, Reginald Rose, Quentin Tarantino, Elmore Leonard, Stuart Woods, and Stephen King.  It is the 75th Annual Edgar Awards and our own borg contributor Elizabeth C. Bunce won for her 2020 novel Premeditated Myrtle

Boo appearance Steph acceptance speech Congratulations, Elizabeth!
  Find out more about the Edgar Awards and Elizabeth here. Find the slate of 2021 Edgar Award recipients here. Congratulations to all the nominees and 2021 honorees! C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg

Beast of the Stapletons

Review by C.J. Bunce

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1902 story The Hound of the Baskervilles finds a sequel 120 years later in the latest Sherlock Holmes spin-off novel from writer James Lovegrove.  Readers will find further adventures of not only that novella, but more connections to past works in Sherlock Holmes and The Beast of the Stapletons, a novel in the same series as the author’s Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon, previously reviewed here at borg.   The question for readers of Lovegrove’s other works, including his Cthulhu Casebook novels and other stories from Titan Books, is: Will he or won’t he? That is, will the beast of the title be something out of the real world (as in Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon) or, as in his Cthulhu tie-ins, something from the world of fantasy?  The best part of this story is the absence for the bulk of the tale of Sherlock’s right arm, Dr. John Watson, who tends toward the whiny and needy in past recent retellings.  A new, interesting foil steps in for this mystery, taking Holmes more in the direction of another famous British franchise.

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With the exception of the vast expanded universe of Star Wars and Star Trek, no other sci-fi property has branched out in the past ten years in as many exciting ways as the Alien universe.  Every new tie-in novel consistently has been packed with suspense and innovative takes on Weyland-Yutani and its influence years before, during, and after the events of Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie.  Each year fans of Alien celebrate April 26 as Alien Day, reflecting not a specific day inside the Alien universe, but the designation of the moon in the film Aliens: LV426.  Back in 2019 we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the release of the original Ridley Scott film, and the tie-ins keep coming now that the Fox movies fall under the Disney umbrella.  Here’s a list of what you should check out if you’re an Alien fan.  First up, the new novel, Aliens: Infiltrator.

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