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Tag Archive: Firefly


Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s a fantasy novella that reads like a classic Louis L’Amour Western, full of legend and lore, a book for readers that enjoy every word by an author who really knows how to pen sweeping, artful prose.  And don’t let the fact that it comes at the end of a series stop you from giving it a try.  It’s Peter V. Brett’s Barren, part of his Demon Cycle series, just released by Harper Voyager.  It’s a rather epic story of the past catching up to the present for Selia, a woman warrior in her late sixties.  She’s the leader of a community with its own religion and a dialect that could double for the speech of colonists from the Firefly ‘verse.  It’s also a community that has a variety of demon attacks it must fend off each nightfall.  And while this warrior wrestles with managing the village problems and her own personal relationships, the attacks are only getting worse.

Brett, known for writing his first fantasy novel on his telephone during commutes on the subway, writes his world of the village of Tibbet’s Brook quite eloquently.  Unlike most fiction these days, every sentence is not simply about rushing the reader to the gotcha at story’s end.  Brett fully immerses the reader in this unfamiliar place, with struggles that parallel those of our own world in any decade.  At times Barren feels as classic and on-point as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, with a bit of the unexpected a la Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.  The fear in the story isn’t some uncertain future or neighboring army, but both themes are part of the story–the fear comes from the trust and prejudices of those that surround Selia.  The Western feel comes from the relationships of Brett’s characters with an interconnected past, a close-knit group of recently united but competitive chieftains akin to the culture in the World of Warcraft realm.  In this regard you could drop the fantastical elements and swap spears for rifles and these characters, and this story would hold up as a L’Amour novel (Selia is a grown-up Echo Sackett from Ride the River).

Told from two stages of Selia’s life, we meet the young woman learning from her mother and father, the tribal leader, and then as the older woman who has taken on her father’s role.   She gains and loses her most significant personal relationships along the way with only the support of those who are closest to her.  She’s an inspiring, strong heroine lead, respected by many in Tibbet’s Brook, the kind of leader who is first into the battle–she gets some nicely choregraphed action scenes to prove her physical prowess.  For the short page count there are a surprising number of good supporting characters.  If Brett’s other stories include such fascinating female leads, then this would be a series for fans of the fantasy genre to reach out for.

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First announced earlier this year, the Firefly universe is going to expand beyond the television series, the film, and the comics, with a new series of novels expanding the story of the Serenity crew, headed up by creator Joss Whedon.  Three novels are on their way:  Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove and Nancy Holder, Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove, and Firefly: Generations by Tim Lebbon.  Titan Books has released the first two cover images.  Shiny.  Man walks down the street carrying a book like that, people know he’s not afraid of anything.

The first two original novels of the ‘Verse tying into the critically acclaimed and much-missed Firefly series are now available for pre-order at Amazon.  You can pre-order Big Damn Hero here and Magnificent Nine here, with Amazon’s Pre-Order Price Guarantee.  Firefly: Generations has not yet been listed for ordering just yet.

In Big Damn Hero we’ll see an early Mal and Zoe story: The Battle of Serenity Valley was the turning point that led the Independents to their defeat at the hands of the Alliance.  Yet the Browncoats had held the valley for weeks against all odds, before being ordered to lay down their arms.  Command stated they refused to send in airpower because the ground war was “too hot.”  But the soldiers who were there insist that was not true… While picking up a new cargo on Persephone, Captain Malcolm Reynolds is kidnapped by a bunch of embittered veteran Browncoats who suspect him of sabotaging the Independents during the war.  As the rest of the crew struggle to locate him, Mal is placed on trial for his life, fighting compelling evidence that someone did indeed betray them to the Alliance all those years ago.  As old comrades and old rivals crawl out of the woodwork, Mal must prove his innocence, but his captors are desperate and destitute, and will settle for nothing less than the culprit’s blood.

The second novel, Magnificent Nine, hones in on Jayne Cobb: An old flame of Jayne’s, Temperance McCloud, sends a message to Serenity, begging him for help.  She lives on the arid, far-flung world of Tethys, and bandits are trying to overrun her town to gain control of their water supply: the only thing standing between its people and dustbowl ruin.  Jayne tries to persuade the Serenity crew to join the fight, but it is only when he offers Vera, his favorite gun, as collateral that Mal realizes he’s serious.  When the Serenity crew land at a hardscrabble desert outpost, they discover two things: an outlaw gang with an almost fanatical devotion to their leader who will stop at nothing to get what they want, and that Temperance is singlehandedly raising a teenage daughter, born less than a year after Temperance and Jayne broke up.  A daughter by the name of Jane McCloud…

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Celebrating the 15th year of the end of the Firefly series, later this month Insight Editions will release the next travel guide in its Hidden Universe series.  This time writer Marc Sumerak and artist Livio Ramondelli are taking on the whole ‘Verse itself in Firefly: A Traveler’s Companion to the ‘Verse Who knew the backstory of the 14-episode television series was filled with more than 70 worlds and nearly 150 moons?  Yet all of that worldbuilding became the realism that made so many fans wish they could ride high in their own Firefly-class ship in a future beyond Earth, and it provides plenty of material to add another dimension to the Firefly experience for Browncoats everywhere.

Traveling from Hancock to Paradiso?  Whether you’re paying your respects in the Serenity Valley or Du-Khang, dropping some cargo on Whitefall, attending a shindig on Persephone, rescuing friends on Jiangyin, finding any excuse not to visit Canton, breaking into a hospital on Ariel, or getting Companion training on Sihnon, the Traveler’s Companion to the ‘Verse should be your starting point.  As with past volumes in the series, this guide is set up in sections by destination location, and includes the same kinds of breakdowns you’d find in any Earthbound guidebook: a little history and culture, sights and activities, etiquette, getting around, shopping and entertainment, dining and nightlife, lodging, and what to wear (Wash’s Hawaiian shirt is always an option, too).

The best sections feature “Tips for a Fun Trip,” including dos and don’ts and inside advice specific to each location.  Another bonus introduced in this volume is the addition of “handwritten” commentary by Mal Reynolds and the rest of the crew of Serenity.  As we previewed in our borg.com review of the new The Serenity Handbook here last month, the Traveler’s Companion to the ‘Verse is full of attitude from the crew, written in the familiar dialogue of Mal, Zoe, Wash, Inara, Kaylee, Jayne, Simon, River, and Book, and tucked into each section of the guide.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Despite its single season, despite the series going off the air 15 years ago this month, Firefly fans eagerly await the latest access to Malcolm Reynolds and his crew, and know that something new is always around the corner.  That’s because Joss Whedon and the licensees of Firefly continue to oblige, producing some of the best offerings of any fandom.  Whether it’s the Loot Crate Cargo Crate, or Firefly games, or the incredible variety of in-universe and making-of books available, Firefly is at the top of its game for providing new ways to keep the fans excited for their show.  That quality content continues this month with the release of The Serenity Handbook: The Official Crew Member’s Guide to the Firefly-Class Series 3 Ship, by Marc Sumerak.  A bit like The Book of Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual and the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Tech Manual in its hardcover presentation, design, and style, The Serenity Handbook is a new close-up look at the inner workings of Serenity for your favorite Browncoat.  It’s also the first in-universe book for Firefly and Serenity (keep reading borg.com later this month for a first look at the next in-universe book for the series and film).

This is an in-universe guide to the famous Firefly class ship, complete with graphics, schematics, and ship features, with margin notes from the Serenity crew, pointing to the ship’s quirks and best features, and contrasting the ship with other vessels.  Its best feature?  The volume of photographs, which seem like production continuity photographs of the set and props from the series re-purposed to become part of the reality of the show’s story thanks to inclusion in this Handbook.  So readers will find views they haven’t seen before of the ship’s bridge section, control panels and switches, the armory, the cargo hold, the galley and common areas, the infirmary and crew quarters, plus views of those vents, pipes, tubing, and display screens that make the ship feel so real.  The photographs look very much like the Polaroids that crew members of any production take on-set, as opposed to the usual screenshot you might find in a book like this (a feature I also loved in Princess Bride: A Celebration).  Set decorators use these images behind the scenes to ensure everything stays in the same place from take to take.  Since they were practical shots, they weren’t intended to be reproduced or seen by anyone else, so they are perfect for a book like this.

Sumerak’s writing in The Serenity Handbook takes this all a step further, creating a conversation between each crew member and the reader, much like a tour, as when Shepherd Book was first brought onto the ship.  All the commentary is true to the personalities on the ship, especially for ship mechanic Kaylee, who you would expect to have a key role in this book.  Many new or reproduced in-universe elements are peppered throughout, like brochures advertising the Series 3 class ships, a ship bill of sale for Serenity, maps, and a mock-up of Wash’s pilot’s license and flight school scorecard.  The ship diagrams provide the sort of detail that Star Trek fans have enjoyed over the years from concept artist Rick Sternbach–each similarly poster worthy.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Maybe you don’t need the Old West to have a great Western after all.  Bringing back the feel of the first third of the original Star Wars: A New Hope with a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid level of fun and humor, Solo: A Star Wars Story is finally in theaters with something for every Star Wars fan.  The saloons may be different and so are the sidearms, but this is the story of a young gunfighter, complete with the related outlaws and mercenaries, partners and betrayals, card playing, and gunfights.  With the sweeping adventure of The Empire Strikes Back, the perfectly rebuilt and repackaged nostalgia of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and a jumping off point for a galaxy of possibilities for beloved characters we only thought we knew, director Ron Howard delivers.  Not weighted down by the gloom and doom of the Dark Side in Rogue One or the rest of the Star Wars films, this Star Wars story creates new and original locations and situations for a few familiar characters plus many new ones and still ties into the overall episodic stories, taking place after Revenge of the Sith, but before Star Wars Rebels and Rogue One.  Yet we meet many new characters and questions are raised in the film that beg for one or more sequels to this branch off the main Star Wars saga–we can now have many new tie-in novels, comics, TV series, and maybe even movies to keep it all going.  If you didn’t think The Last Jedi captured the nostalgia or fun of earlier Star Wars films, then Solo is for you–not since The Empire Strikes Back has an entry in the saga been such a rollercoaster ride.

Surprises?  In a film that could have just filled in the blanks, the surprises were dished out from beginning to end, including some big ones we won’t mention here.  The overall tone is something out of Amazing High Adventure, and it makes perfect sense: It’s Silverado in space.  Screenplay writer Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote the screenplay with son Jonathan Kasdan), known for writing Westerns Silverado and Wyatt Earp, prior Star Wars entries The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, and that greatest of adventure movies Raiders of the Lost Ark, was the perfect match to veteran director and movie icon Ron Howard.  The Western inspiration is supported visually in the Frederic Remington-inspired colors and landscapes.  You can spot the World War II movie references along the way, too, that Kasdan and Howard no doubt enjoyed as moviegoers over the years, like Von Ryan’s Express.  The relationships between characters evoke gangster movies and even pirate tales like Treasure Island.  Science fiction fans will see parallels to Han’s band of mercenaries in both the crew of the Ghost in Star Wars Rebels and Joss Whedon’s Serenity crew in the Firefly television series.

The Kasdans smartly injected those scenes every fan has thought about, pulled from passing references throughout the original trilogy to become fully realized plot threads, and then they folded in so much more.  Without the religion and mysticism of the Force, Solo: A Star Wars Story breaks the precedents of the saga as space fantasy to become arguably the first end-to-end science fiction movie of the franchise.  And it’s not just a fun movie.  Viewers will get plenty to think about.  Characters here are sometimes swapped into positions taken by other characters (and beasts) in prior movies in a way that will make moviegoers want to take another look at the prior films again.

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Never been to a comic book or pop culture convention?  Always wanted to go to San Diego Comic-Con but you don’t have the vacation time available or the funds?  Planet Comicon is next weekend in Kansas City and it’s the sixth year of the show at downtown Kansas City’s giant convention center at Bartle Hall.  Planet Comicon is a great way to get a complete three-day convention experience centrally located in the Midwest, ideal for a last-minute road trip for the family or a car full of friends.  Kansas City is less than 8 hours by car from Dallas, less than 7 hours from Minneapolis, a little more than 7 hours from Indianapolis, and a little more than 8 hours from Denver.  And you don’t need to buy advance tickets–you can purchase them at the door.

So why make the trip?  How about meeting Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Firefly star Alan Tudyk?   Also from Firefly, as well as Doctor Who, Supernatural, Chuck, Leverage, Star Trek Voyager (and one of borg.com‘s actors we can’t get enough of), Mark Sheppard?  Want to get a photo with Michael Rooker (“I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” Yondu) and Pom Klementieff (Mantis), stars of last year’s biggest superhero hit Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2?  Are modern classics your thing?  How about seeing the star of fan-favorite movies like Say Anything, High Fidelity, and Eight Men Out?  Yep, John Cusack is returning to the Midwest for this year’s show (you can even bring your prized Rooker and Cusack Eight Men Out baseball cards for autographs).

Do you want to compare notes on The Walking Dead with stars Khary Payton, Rooker, and  Sonequa Martin-Green (also star of Star Trek Discovery)?  Maybe you’re a Game of Thrones fan.  You can meet both Jerome Flynn and Jason Momoa (also Aquaman in the DC Universe movies).  And speaking of fantasy, Planet Comicon is featuring a rare appearance by Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis, who played the beloved hero Neville Longbottom.  Want to meet the actor who has played the toughest badass characters you’ve ever seen?  Sling TV barista and Machete himself, Danny Trejo will be in the house.

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Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy Summers is an ageless heroine.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one series you can revisit, find something new, and marvel at the dialogue of Joss Whedon’s greatest character, greatest writing, and greatest production, over and over.  And yet somehow Buffy, the series, turned 20 this year.  Twentieth Century Fox is rewarding fans of the series by releasing a new boxed set of all seven seasons of the series next month.  The 39-disc DVD set contains all 144 episodes of one of the smartest, funniest, and action-filled series, featuring arguably the greatest heroine of all.  Unfortunately, no Blu-ray release appears to be in the works yet.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Series 20th Anniversary Edition DVD Boxed Set will include some extra features, which might entice fans who have purchased previous editions of the series.  It includes a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book from Dark Horse Comics featuring an exclusive variant cover and “coloring sheet.”  Seasons 1-7 also include special features material from prior releases.

But Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not the only series from Joss Whedon celebrating an anniversary this year and getting a new boxed set.  Firefly turned 15 this year, and Twentieth Century Fox is issuing a Blu-ray anniversary edition for Browncoats everywhere.  This boxed set will also be released next month and it features some new inserts, including a Firefly poster and collectible character cards.

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Joey Spiotto is an artist whose works are immediately recognizable.  He has his own whimsical take on characters fans know and love–unique, but much like comic book cover artist Skottie Young he makes popular characters his own.  Spiotto is well known for his parody covers for Little Golden Books–his Storytime series takes sci-fi, fantasy, and other pop culture favorites and uses a Muppet Babies-type change-up to show us characters as wee ones on the cover of their own little kids’ book.  He’s taken on every franchise from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Terminator 2, Robocop, and Lost, to the Hamilton musical, from Mad Max: Fury Road, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, They Live, and Tron, to Donnie Darko.  How often do you see one series of anything include homages to both Mr. Rogers and Donnie Darko?  Individual prints of his Storytime series can be bought here and many have been compiled in his book available here at the artist’s Etsy store.

Now in stores is Spiotto’s latest book, Firefly–Back From the Black, a look at the characters of the fan favorite sci-fi series in the artist’s style and brand of humor.  A latecomer to the Firefly series, Spiotto counts himself a fan, and he shows it through his many obscure references in page after page of single panel drawings.  This is one where those who aren’t Firefly fans probably won’t understand what’s going on, but for those who are fans all the key characters are covered–spoofed, parodied, and maybe poked fun at more than a little bit.  You’ll find plenty of images of Jayne sporting his cunning hat, including one of his Mom sewing his hat for him–an off-screen scene every Firefly fan has imagined.  Fans of Spiotto’s first movie tie-in, 2015’s lovable look at Ridley Scott’s Aliens, Alien Next Door, will also like what the artist does here with the Firefly crew.  The kind of book you’d see getting as a Christmas stocking stuffer for those dreaming of a return of Firefly, or a nice add-in to a future Firefly Cargo Crate, Firefly–Back From the Black is now available here from Amazon.

   

Spiotto fans also have just under a day left to take advantage of the artist’s Kickstarter campaign to launch a compilation book of his High Fidelity series of prints–it’s fully funded, but some great deals and incentives are still available.  In this series he takes a similar twist on popular films and series as with his Storytime prints, but with High Fidelity the format is vintage 33 1/3 vinyl LP record album covers, and the characters become bands.

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Visitors to San Diego Comic-Con this weekend have a chance to view screen-used costumes from three popular sci-fi franchises.  Disney, CBS, and the Prop Store have each created displays to showcase movie costumes for fans.  Three Star Wars characters from Star Wars: The Last Jedi are represented in the Star Wars pavilion at booth #2913 inside the convention hall.  The Prop Store is featuring one Serenity costume set to sell at auction at a later date, on display at booth #3845.  And CBS gives those not attending SDCC 2017 an opportunity to check out a dozen new Star Trek: Discovery costumes at the Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts Gallery in San Diego.

Inside the convention center, the Star Wars display features Resistance pilot uniforms for Poe Dameron, Nien Nunb, and Dameron’s wingman, Abednedo alien C’ai Threnalli, as well as one of the film’s BB-8 droids.  At the Prop Store display, several costumes from various movies and TV series are on display, including one of the Malcolm Reynolds costumes used in the Firefly TV series sequel Serenity, worn by Nathan Fillion.

 

At the Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts Gallery, Star Trek fans can see a display of new Starfleet, Klingon, and Vulcan costumes and props from Star Trek: Discovery, and get a photo sitting in one of three originals of the captain’s chair used in the new series.  Costumes include a new Starfleet EVA spacesuit and one of James Frain’s costumes worn as Sarek in the series.  New Starfleet props of the tricorder, phaser, and rifle echo original series props, where Klingon bladed and disruptor props are entirely new, reflecting a more ornate design scheme than fans have seen before.  Intimidation is clearly key to the new Klingons, who still sport their cloven-toed boots and familar tradition–small etched lettering on the knife blade on one d’k tagh blade states in Klingonese, “There is honor in death.”

Binderup trek 3

Check out a few photos:

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While we’re sitting around waiting for the latest Firefly Cargo Crate, we noticed a new set of high-end but reasonably priced playing cards was sporting some of the best artwork we’ve seen on a classic card deck.  It turns out the official Firefly licensed collectible company Quantum Mechanix (QmX) has teamed up with graphic artist Ben Mund to create an exceptional new release.

Mund is known for his work on Serenity blueprints and the Serenity Atlas of the ‘Verse.  With his new deck of playing cards he has created imagery inspired from the series and film, including Jayne’s rifle Vera on the Jack of Clubs, the Serenity on the Ace of Spades, and Inara adorning the Queen of Diamonds.

Note that this isn’t the game of Tall Card, the card game with round cards played in the episode “Shindig.”  But if that’s what you’re after you can pick that up here at Amazon.  This is a traditional 54-card poker deck, good for “Earth-That-Was” card games.  These are Bicycle’s quality playing cards, the real deal from the United States Playing Card Company.  And you’ll want to keep an eye out for Easter eggs from the series throughout the deck courtesy of Ben Mund.

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