Tag Archive: Elizabeth C. Bunce


tobins-red

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

When the ghoulish green trade paperback bearing the familiar title Tobin’s Spirit Guide arrived in this month’s Nerd Block, I immediately turned into Gollum:  “I loves it.”  I half-crooned, half-hissed, clutching it to my chest and waving away efforts by our intrepid editor to even catch a glimpse of it.  I then slinked away for a cover-to-cover read of this beautiful new edition of the Ghostbusters classic guide to the other side.

An in-universe tie-in by IDW Publishing Ghostbusters comic book writer Erik Burnham and “co-authors” Dr. Ray Stanz and Dr. Egon Spengler, illustrated by Kyle Holz, Tobin’s Spirit Guide: Official Ghostbusters Edition gives fans of the classic movies, the new film, and general ghost afficionados a rare look at the franchise’s specters.  According to a foreword by Dr. Stanz, this is an abridged edition of the multi-volume reference relied upon by our haunt-hunting heroes, “boiled down to the essence” into a handy field guide for the layperson.  From Slimer to the angry librarian, the undead taxi driver to Prince Vigo, the book covers some four dozen entities, with special focus on the key players from the original 1984 film, Gozer, Zuul, and everyone’s favorite: The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

The book’s focus is firmly within the Ghostbusters universe, and most of the entries reflect that, offering firsthand insights by the team of its encounters with the various creatures.  But also included are familiar figures from folklore, mythology, and classic fiction, such as the Bogeyman, Babylonian goddess Tiamat, and Lovecraftian monster Cthulhu.  The overall design of the book, including black-and-white illustrations throughout by Kyle Holtz, is decidedly retro, calling to mind classic ghost story collections from the 1960s–the ones you might recall pulling off the shelf at your own local haunted public library.  (I know that wasn’t just me.)

tobins-spirit-guide

Here are some preview pages:

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Meeting Lee Majors

Hey, looks like we made it!

Five years ago today, Elizabeth C. Bunce, Art Schmidt, Jason McClain, and I had already spent a few months talking through the technical details for the launch of borg.com.  What should it look like?  What should we write about?  How do we get to there from here?  Then it all came together on June 10, 2011, and I sat down and just started writing.  Should this be a weekly thing?  Once I started I just couldn’t stop and we cemented borg.com as a daily webzine.  And readers started showing up every day.  Soon we had hundreds of followers, and hundreds of thousands of visits per year.

The best part?  Working with friends and meeting new ones each year.

We’ve had plenty of high points.  Cosplay took off in a big way in the past five years.   Elizabeth and I hit the ground running at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2011 with our Alien Nation/Chuck mash-up and you can find us all over the Web in photos taken by others at the show.  Our years were dotted with the random brush with coolness.  A retweet by actress Alana de la Garza, coverage of Joss Whedon visiting the Hall H line at 3 a.m. outside SDCC in 2012, Zachary Levi calling out Elizabeth for her cosplay at Nerd HQ, interviewing the stars of History Channel’s Vikings series, our praise for the Miss Fury series appearing on the back of every Dynamite Comics issue one month, tweets from Hollywood make-up artist family the Westmores commenting on our discussion of Syfy’s Face Off series, our Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (negative!) review featured on the movie’s website, that crazy promotion for the Coma remake mini-series, planning the first Planet Comicon at Bartle Hall and the Star Trek cast reunion, attending the first Kansas City Comic Con and the first Wizard World Des Moines Con, hanging with comic book legend Howard Chaykin, Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels, cast members from Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Star Trek, bionic duo Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner.  And borg.com gained some well-known followers (you know who you are) along the way.

sdcc-whedon-c shot

We’re grateful for some great Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and other feedback over the years from Felipe Melo, Mickey Lam, Michael Prestage, The Mithril Guardian, Francesco Francavilla, Adam Hughes, Judy Bunce, Mike Norton, Jack Herbert, Mike Mayhew, Rain Beredo, David Petersen, Rob Williams, and Matt Miner, and for creators we interviewed including Mikel Janin, Penny Juday, Tim Lebbon, Kim Newman, James P. Blaylock, Freddie Williams II, Jai Nitz, and Sharon Shinn.

Bunce Alien Nation cosplay x

What did readers like the most?

We amassed an extensive archive of hundreds of book reviews, movie reviews, reviews of TV shows, and convention coverage, thanks in part to the good folks at Titan Books, Abrams Books, Lucasfilm Press, Weta New Zealand, Entertainment Earth, Dynamite Comics, IDW Publishing, Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, BOOM! Studios, and several TV and movie studios and distributors.

McClain and EC Bunce

My own favorites?  Sitting down to come up with my own five all-time favorite characters with the borg.com writing staff.

Schmidt and Bunce at PC 2015

Thanks to my family, my friends, especially my partner in crime Elizabeth C. Bunce, Art Schmidt and Jason McClain, my support team, and William Binderup and the Elite Flight Crew.

Onward and upward!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

First Impressions episode 1

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

We recently previewed USA’s First Impressions, starring Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Dana Carvey.  The show premiered this week, and it looks like a winner.  The series pits aspiring comics in an “impression off” to wow an audience of judges and a celebrity guest for a prize of $10,000.  It’s not a competition show, like Last Comic Standing; it’s a game show with new contestants every week.  In fact, it feels a bit like a mashup of Lip Sync Battle and Whose Line is it, Anyway?, with a bit of Hollywood Game Night thrown in.

Three contestants offer up their best celebrity impressions in a variety of bits and sketches, while Carvey and a visiting comedian (Steve Carell in the pilot) cheer them on, offer commentary, and occasionally join in the fun.  Prinze keeps the fun moving as host and emcee.

dana-carvey-steve-carell-first-impressions

We’ve been a bit weary of the competition show format, so it’s always nice to see a fresh, upbeat take, without all the season-long drama, eliminations, and infighting.  First Impressions moves swiftly, giving each contestant plenty of time to showcase their talents.  Contestants on the pilot spoofed both perennial favorites like Al Pacino and Christopher Walken, as well as surprising choices like the hilarious Jennifer Coolidge (Legally Blonde, A Mighty Wind) and Drew Barrymore.  Everyone loves standup comedy, and the impersonators were fun to watch.  But the real draw for the show is Carvey and friends.  Carvey’s energy and enthusiasm are infectious, and the overall tone of the show is welcoming and collaborative, not combative.  At one point, when two contestants had each done impressions of Sharon Osborne, Carvey leaped from his chair and said, “I want to see the Sharons together,” initiating a joint bit where the comics played off each other.  It was a great moment that took this show to another level–not just game show, but comedy workshop.

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Breslin Haunter

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of ghost stories, and I’ve lamented before how hard they are to find among all the slasher horror gore fest flicks that pass for scary fare these days.  So I’m always excited to stumble across a new one on film.  One such recent discovery is Vincenzo Natali’s quiet Canadian production Haunter, starring Abigail Breslin (Maggie, Ender’s Game, Signs), Peter Outerbridge (Orphan Black, Nikita), Michelle Nolden (RED, Lost Girl, Everwood, Nero Wolfe), and veteran TV fixture Stephen McHattie (Adam-12, Kojak, The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, Quantum Leap, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, Haven, Watchmen, 300, A History of Violence).

It’s 1984, and Lisa Johnson (Breslin) feels stuck in a rut:  Every day is just like the next.  Just like the next, and she’s the only one in her family of four who’s noticed.  The same Walkie-Talkie wakeup call from little brother Robbie (Peter DaCunha), the same pancake breakfast, the same friendly quarrel with Mom (Nolden) over the same load of laundry.  (“I did the laundry yesterday.  You just don’t remember that I did.”)  Wearily she trudges though clarinet practice, Dad fixing the car in the garage, a conversation about a birthday celebration that never comes, and the same episode of Murder She Wrote.  Until one morning, she’s startled Awake by a creepy noise in the laundry room, and discovers that her house, and her family, are at the heart of a long history of dark secrets.  And another girl—another family—needs Lisa’s help, if she’s ever to escape the time loop.

Haunter-Abigail-Breslin

Many parts of Haunter will feel familiar, maybe even derivative—but that’s OK.  In some parts it feels like a remake of The Others, and there are echoes of The Ring and every knockoff of Groundhog Day you’ve ever seen.  (See one of our early takes on time loops at borg.com here).  But it works, and it works well.  Lisa’s world is tightly focused and claustrophobic, and her navigation of several parallel timestreams is seamless and gripping.  Director Natali, known for his work on projects including Orphan Black, The Returned, Hannibal, and The Strain, has richly layered the film with finely wrought symbolism, from the leitmotifs of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” playing throughout, to Lisa’s Souxie and the Banshees concert T, to the dark fairytale iconography Lisa must wade through to learn the truth.

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prideprejudiceszombies

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a classic story in possession of fans must be in want of retelling.  Likewise, that if that story is a novel, it should also thence be made into a film.  And if you can find a way to put zombies in, wins all around.

Thus, writer/director Burr Steers’ new Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, based on the eponymous 2005 novel “co-written” by Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter) and Jane Austen.  Cleverly packaged to release in time for Valentine’s Day, the film is a sure winner for date night: costumes; romance; actors in various states of fetching undress; violence; girls with swords; shambling, oozing undead in fetching period costumes; and powerful women with estates and eyepatches.  And Matt Smith.  Need I say more, really?

As a version of Pride and Prejudice, PPZ is probably below average, and relies on the viewer’s familiarity with the story, since much of the film’s 108-minute runtime must be given over to worldbuilding and action sequences (although fans of the 1995 A&E adaptation will be rewarded with plenty of homages, especially with respect to Mr. Darcy).  Prideful Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James, Cinderella) and disdainful Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) have even less onscreen chemistry than Austen’s off-again, off-again lovers normally display–but they more than make up for it with their zombie-fighting prowess.  Lizzie’s intolerable-yet-lovable family is neither interesting enough nor loathsome enough to inspire much response from the viewer; thank goodness for the zombies to give us something to care about.

PPZ zombie

As a zombie film, it’s probably also less than what the average zombie flick fan is looking for.  There are the requisite scenes of shambling hordes, rotting flesh, and brain-eating, but it’s somewhat tame thanks to the PG-13 rating, and in comparison to so many other recent zombie properties.  In fact, it’s actually a credit to the filmmakers that they didn’t try to outdo the competition with their zombie horde, and instead showed a certain 19th century refinement and restraint in the presentation.

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Jeweled Fire Shinn

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

As one of our annual New Year’s traditions, last week CJ and I had Chinese food for dinner.  It’s mostly an excuse to take a break from holiday cooking, but it’s also fun to see what our meal predicts for the coming year (about six pounds it will take until March to work off…).  Pictured below are the fates bestowed upon us for 2016.  You’re probably gearing up for the new year, too, maybe hoping a little clarity, prosperity, or luck will come your way (or omnipotent determination?).  For everyone who enjoys the touch of good fortune from a random blessing, we have the books for you.

FORTUNE COOKIES

Last month Sharon Shinn released a third volume in her Elemental Blessings series. Jeweled Fire joins 2011’s Troubled Waters and 2013’s Royal Airs about the nation of Welce, where every citizen feels a kinship to one of the five elements, thanks in part to random blessings drawn by strangers at their birth.  The sweela are drawn to the element of fire, and Jeweled Fire follows the (mostly mis)adventures of wayward Welchin princess Corene, who has run off to foreign parts in search of… well, she’s not sure what, exactly, except that it has to be better than life at home, where she’s surrounded by scheming nobles and political machinations and constant power play.

…And finds herself in another royal court, full of scheming nobles, political machinations, and constant power play.  And, in fine Shinn tradition, a little romance.

Shinn writes the kinds of series I like best.  From her acclaimed Samaria novels (Archangel, etc.), to her Twelve Houses high fantasies (Mystic and Rider, etc.), to the recent urban fantasy Shifting Circle novels (The Turning Season, etc.), Shinn’s series consist of separate standalone stories linked by characters and worldbuilding—not one-long-novel-in-five-parts, although there may be an overarching series plot, as well.  But it’s her worldbuilding that makes Shinn such a standout fantasy series writer.  The worlds are rich, deep, unique, and immediately accessible.  Shinn has said that Elemental Blessings was originally planned as a single book, but it was so obviously destined from its conception to be a classic Shinn five-volume series (we hope and assume!).  Like many of Shinn’s worlds, Welce has a special sort of magic tied to the land within its borders.  Not only do Welchins identify with the elements (the elay relate to air; the coru to water; the hunti to wood; and the torz to earth), but some possess an even stronger connection, sensing and even manipulating the elements around (and sometimes even within) them.

ELEMENTAL BLESSINGS

Corene, endowed with the blessings of courage, intelligence, and imagination, identifies with sweela, or fire—she’s passionate and impulsive, but also compassionate and clever, a combustible combination that frequently lands her in trouble, sometimes just to be noticed.  But when she hops a ship carrying the newly-discovered prince of Malinqua back to his native land (and you’ll have to read Royal Airs to learn how that happened) she’ll need all her blessings and more to navigate the ever more dangerous political waters.  Empress Filomara has not yet named an heir to Malinqua’s throne, and the scrabble for favor is worse than anything Corene knew back in Welce (and that’s saying something!).  Filomara has collected a number of foreign princesses as potential brides for her nephews and grandsons, but she may have ulterior motives here, as well.  And someone is systematically—and violently—eliminating all his or her fellow rivals for the throne.  There are too many suspects, and too many potential victims.  It will take all Corene’s resources to sort out the truth in time to save herself and her new friends.

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A Curse Dark as Gold cover Elizabeth C Bunce

October is winding down after another hot summer.  The trees are turning red and orange and it couldn’t be setting up for a more perfect autumn, and Halloween is almost here.  If you’re looking for a ghost story to get you into the mood of the season, check out borg.com writer Elizabeth C. Bunce’s novel A Curse Dark as Gold, available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and E-book editions from Amazon.com and other booksellers, first reviewed here back in 2011.

A Curse Dark as Gold takes place in the Gold Valley in that far away land where all fairy tales reside.  Charlotte Miller is a girl in her late teens whose father dies and leaves her the town of Shearings’s woolen mill, which serves as workplace for most of her community, along with the care of Charlotte’s younger sister Rosie.  Unwanted responsibilities are quickly thrust upon this young woman from page one.  From a framework standpoint A Curse Dark as Gold is a spin on Rumpelstiltskin-type helper tales of the past, but this story takes on its own life.  Shearing is at once lovely and pastoral, yet dark and creepy doings begin to pierce through the landscape.  A mysterious uncle appears and begins to interject himself into the girls’ lives.  As if sick from a good friend’s death, the mill itself begins to respond to the death of Charlotte’s father, with boards crashing down on an employee, things not working quite like they should, and everything seeming to fall apart at once.

A Curse Dark as Gold audio Elizabeth C Bunce told by Charlotte Parry

The story is set at the dawn of the industrial revolution.  Water wheels are becoming replaced with steam power and the big industrial cities that come along with that new technology.  Charlotte quickly finds she has inherited her father’s acumen as a smart businessperson, yet real life pressures including competition from big city wool firms, and unfair attempts to squeeze Shearing’s mill out of the marketplace, cause the mill to lose workers.  The real-life economic issues are only the beginning of Charlotte’s problems.  A strange neighbor lady is a follower of old world ways, superstitions and magic, and Rosie attempts to fix things by dabbling into this world.  Charlotte, a non-believer, weighs her options and soon a helper appears with an impractical solution to her problems.  Charlotte makes a bargain with this man and Shearing is safe for a time, but as more problems hit the town and the stakes are raised, Charlotte is left to make further bargains, including a deal she’s not even aware she made that results in the man walking away with someone dear to her. Charlotte is steadfast and stubborn, relying only upon her own intuition she turns away from everyone near her, including sister Rosie and her new husband.

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crimson peak tom hiddleston

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Think you know what to expect from veteran horror and genre director Guillermo del Toro?  Gangly, pallid, slimy creatures such as we saw in Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, right?  Cryptic underworlds, bewildering dreamscapes, and collossal, ocean-stomping robot avatars?!

Think again!  In his latest effort to scare and transport his audiences, Crimson Peak, del Toro has conjured up a true Gothic world of Victorian elegance, tender romance, and Sherlockian sleuthing…  With some slimy creatures.  Which are also, strange as it may sound, beautifully executed.

No doubt about it, del Toro is a visionary.  Despite some clear aesthetic leanings, his film repertoire is surprisingly diverse, from 1997’s Mimic to 2013’s Pacific Rim.  His films are always rich in detail and visually stunning.  And this time he just happened to hit all the right notes for this particular viewer.

Allerdale Hall

Crimson Peak is the tale of young American heiress and authoress Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska, Alice in Wonderland), deeply skeptical of the British aristocracy… until she’s won over by the ambitious, earnest baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston, Thor, Avengers, The Hollow Crown), who is trying to secure financing for a risky mining venture to extract red clay from beneath his crumbling family mansion.  Though Edith’s father nurses doubts about the man and his motives, his own untimely death frees up both the young woman—and her fortune.  Swept off her feet, she is whisked off to Cumberland, England and the less-than-enchanting family home, the gorgeously decrepit Allerdale Hall.

She must share her new life with her sister-in-law Lucille (Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty), in the archetypal role of unwelcoming Gothic housekeeper.  She knows all the family secrets, and keeps them from her young, impressionable sister-in-law.  It’s a powerhouse performance, captivating and creepy, and Chastain inhabits the role perfectly. Continue reading

Jo Kamm 3D figures

It almost looks like a hall full of cosplayers at a comic book convention, doesn’t it?

Once these figures get painted that’s exactly what it will look like.  As we mentioned four weeks ago in our coverage of Kansas City Comic Con, the latest, greatest, newest addition to the Comic Con front is 3D photography turned into 3D printed figures.  Specifically, it’s artist Jo Kamm’s new concept called The 3D Photobooth.  The end result is an approximately 8-inch figure, the next thing every cosplayer will be clamoring for.  (Note: the sheen is in the photo, not the figure, which follows the 3D photography quite well.  Once painted, these will look like the real thing).

3D Radagast and Gimli

It starts with a turntable and the cosplayer being still for up to two minutes while the camera records every detail:

3D Photobooth Gimli Jo Kamm KCCC 2015 Kansas City Comic Con

Then the software records the images, later to be cleaned up back in the office:

3D Photobooth rendering Gimli KCCC 2015

The result is a near perfect image that can be rotated 360 degrees and viewed from any angle.

3D rendered Radagast CJ Bunce

Jo uploads his images to Sketchfab.  You can see the best gallery of cosplay anywhere here.  Make sure you click “more” to bring up hundreds of his 3D images.

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LOTR Astin 1

So what is the point of cosplay anyway?  For some it’s costume contests, for others it’s the challenge of creating the closest look possible to the real thing, for others it’s making a new mash-up or creation no one has thought of.  For others, it’s getting garb together to meet up with the actors or creators that made the character famous in the first place.  Whatever your motivation, you know you put it all together just right when the result is all-out fun for you and everyone you encounter, whether you’re attending a local or large convention or visiting your local Renaissance Faire or other gathering.

This year at the Kansas City Comic Con, with the announcement of The Lord of the Rings’ own Samwise, actor Sean Astin as guest, it meant it was time to bring Middle-earth to Kansas City.  It’s a surprising rarity at pop culture and comic book conventions–fantasy characters.  Sure, you see plenty of superheroes, sci-fi movie and animated characters, but fantasy, via films, TV, or books, seems to just be gaining steam.

LOTR Astin 5

Your fearless editor brought out the Radagast and Gimli fatigues (see here and here for some photos) and joined up with Mimosa Bunce aka Rosie aka borg.com writer and author Elizabeth C. Bunce and her newly minted Hobbit feet and garb, and we met up with the Springfield Fellowship of The Lord of the Rings for some fun.  Astin called the Middle-earth contingent together at day’s end and Elizabeth broke away from Artists Alley to join the Fellowship for a fun photo shoot thanks to Froggy’s Photos.

Want to know what in-depth preparation, research, knowledge and sewing skills go into the creation of garb for cosplay?

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