Tag Archives: science fiction

The X-Files – Issue 16

After swinging back and forth about this comic, I’ve decided it is time to let it go. I cancelled my standing order, and reading this issue affirmed that it was the right decision.

Although the writers tried to make the story relevant by adding snippets related to the tensions with North Korea, as well as issues with the current administration, the story is fragmented and fails to hold my interest. It’s somewhat sad for me, because I really love the X-Files and I have been a follower of the graphic series since its inception; but after several years, the creativity has dried up, in my opinion. And it doesn’t matter how many vague insinuations you weave into a story in an attempt to appeal to the conspiracy mentality, if there is not a cohesive story line, then it just does not work.

I honestly hope that the creative team concludes this series soon and focuses their efforts on something else.

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The X-Files – Issue 10

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I keep swinging back and forth in this arc. Sometimes I want to just stop reading it, but then it proves just interesting enough to keep me reading.

This was one of those issues. It is somewhat choppy; artwork is OK, but not great; and the storyline is fuzzy at best. But it draws on the Iran-Contra scandal, which I feel has gotten buried and lost in an age of memes, flashy click-bait, and sensationalism. And for that alone, I am glad I read this.

There is a great passage where Mulder recounts the key points of Iran-Contra, which I feel is worth sharing.

“Iran-Contra was an appalling, almost impossible to believe travesty of constitutional subversion. It had everything. Arms sold to the Iranians, our ‘80s-sized enemy, to pay ransom for American hostages being held in Lebanon. Money, in turn, funneled to arm rebellion against elected leftist governments and to fund illegal Central American wars. A direct assault on both sovereignty and democracy. We’re talking about assassinations and indiscriminate destruction of land and history. Death squads became common. Men securely positioned within the highest levels of our government were later exposed as running a for-profit shadow operation trafficking in narcotics, influence, and violence.”

It seems like ancient history, but it was really not that long ago. So even though our social and political landscape is shifting at an ever quickening rate, I think it is important that we don’t lose sight or our history.

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The X-Files: X-mas Special 2016

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Tis the season for the annual X-Files X-mas issue, and this one was mildly entertaining. It is basically an adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” where Mulder is visited by ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future. Overall, it’s pretty silly and not really worth the $7.99 I spent on it, but the smoking man as Jacob Marley (Morley – ha ha) almost made it worthwhile.

There was one quote that I found interesting:

I find encouraging one’s imagination often leads to a purer understanding of the reality that informs it.

Many people look at fantasy and imagination as an escape from reality, but I do not see it that way. Imagination allows us to perceive the fabric of the universe, which reality rests upon. There are some things that can only be glimpsed through the imagination, but that does not make them any less real than what we perceive with our ordinary senses.

Anyway, that’s all I have to share about this graphic novel. It’s pretty mediocre, but if you are a die-hard X-fan like myself, you might find it entertaining.

Cheers!

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The X-Files – Issue 6: Came Back Haunted, Part 1

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I love when graphic novels explore current and relevant themes. This issue begins with an Arabic refugee who blows himself up, not as an act of terrorism, but because of some unseen supernatural forces. Hey, this is an X-Files story. But what I found most fascinating was the exploration of what it is like to be a refugee, to pack up what little you can carry, and flee with your family into the unknown.

But I feel it is important for people to understand these are people fleeing from extremism and war. A man like Qasim packed up his family before dawn and prayed they wouldn’t be discovered by fighters on the road, or bombed from the air as they ran. He risked all he had, trading pride for survival like so many before, as he led them toward what he hoped was a better life.

Many of the people my organization helps have endured incredible hardships. Crossing the Aegean Sea to reach Greece, many refugees fleeing middle-eastern strife witness children drowning when the overburdened boats their parents traded all they had of value for passage on capsize and sink. Those who survive the passage are soon met by overwhelmed local populations, stretched economies and resources—as well as the patchwork of international-aid distribution struggling to keep up. From there, they travel thousands of kilometers across the continent—mainly on foot—where they are met by protests and abuse and all manner of terrible conditions. For those who endure this journey, only hope sustains. Only the want to provide and do better for his children moves a man to undertake such a trial.

I lived in Florida during the Haitian refugee crisis, and I still vividly recall the hostility with which they were met. I knew someone who bragged about throwing rocks at a boatload of Haitians as their boat approached the shoreline. I personally had the utmost respect for the Haitian people and went with them to demonstrate at the INS office against the forced repatriation.

Most of us have no idea what it must be like to risk everything to escape a situation that is so dire that remaining is not an option. I hope that I never have to experience this in my lifetime.

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The X-Files Origins #2

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As I read this installment in the series, I happened upon a quote in the Dana Scully storyline that caught my interest.

When I die, I hope to leave behind more than just a bloodstain. I want my life to mean something… to make the world a better place. And I hope I will have a friend who will care enough to find out what happened to me.

This is a thought that haunts me to this day. When I attended my father’s “memorial service,” the only people who were there were myself and a close friend. It was truly sad that a person could live an entire life and die alone, forgotten, erased. I think that is one of the reasons I write and that I try to do some good in the world. When my time comes and I flash back over my life in that instant you often hear about, I want nothing more than to know that my life somehow mattered, that I contributed in some small way to the betterment of society and that I made a difference in the lives of those I care about.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my thoughts, and I hope that you all find the strength and courage to do something meaningful.

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The X-Files Origins #1

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I’ve been reading the X-Files graphic series for a while now, and as much as I love the X-Files, it was starting to feel a little bland, like they had run out of ideas and were struggling just to keep things going. But when I heard about the Origins series, my interest was rekindled. I felt that the idea of a graphic series exploring the formative years of Mulder and Scully when they were kids had potential.

Anyway, I finally got around to reading the first installment and I was very happy with it. The issue is actually comprised of two stories—one about Mulder when he was a teenager dealing with the abduction of Samantha, and the other about Scully after her family moves to San Diego. The issue has two covers, which I like. You start on one side, read that storyline, then flip the comic over and start reading the other one. Structurally, that really worked for me.

Both stories captured my interest right from the start. There is a great balance of new material combined with characters and references to the original television series. The result is something that is fresh yet familiar. The artwork is good and the panels work well in helping drive the storyline.

On a personal level, I related to this tale because, like a lot of kids, when I was younger I was fascinated with mystery and detective stories, and my friends and I would go around the neighborhood in search of “cases” to solve. And that is the real strength of this graphic series—it taps in to the feeling we had growing up, learning to navigate a world full of mystery and danger. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

Cheers!

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Haunted Horror Tribute #22

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I picked this up recently, figuring it would be fun to read and get me in the Halloween mood. It looked like something that was inspired by the old horror comics I read as a kid, but I was surprised to discover that it is actually a compilation of vignettes scanned and reprinted from the classic 1950’s horror comics. So this is NOT just an attempt to recapture the essence of the genre, this contains actual reprints of the original 1950’s tales. It’s all here—the vintage artwork, the cheesy narration, everything that I remember about these publications.

The collection is a nice size, containing eight tales of terror.

  • Robot Woman: The opening tale reminded me of “The Stepford Wives.” It explores the dark side of our culture’s obsession with physical beauty, while at the same time offering a critique of the 1950’s view of what a “perfect woman” is supposed to be.
  • Chef’s Delight: This is a story that addresses domestic violence, an issue that sadly still plagues our society today. In the end, though, the wife gets her revenge on her abusive husband.
  • Shadows of the Tomb: This is a story about a man who murders his wife to claim her inheritance. But in a twist reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, the wife is not really dead and exacts her revenge.
  • Guest of the Ghouls: This tale uses ghouls as a metaphor for individuals who violate the dead, who are like vultures feeding off the losses of the deceased. There is a great quote that warrants sharing: “We unburied the dead while we were living and stole what we wanted! You have robbed the dead of their only identity after death — their tombstones!”
  • I Killed Mary: Interesting vignette about a nerdy, dorky outcast. There was a scene about what was considered to be appropriate dinner table talk which I found to be a critique of the overly structured family life of the 50’s.
  • The Haunter: A piece about a greedy man who tries to scare his uncle to death in order to get his money.
  • The Choker: Probably my favorite in the collection. This is a very creative tale about a con job where a woman marries a man to get his money, then she and her lover kill the husband and stage it as a suicide. The brilliance of this piece is that it is written from the perspective of a necklace that the husband had given to the wife.
  • Night of Terror: The final story is about a man who stages a scenario intended to scare his wife so that he can prove himself to be brave in the face of danger, but as you can imagine, things go awry.

I really enjoyed this collection, and I am seriously considering getting more issues in the future. It is more than just a nostalgia piece; it’s a preservation of an artistic and literary genre that was a reflection of the anxiety, fear, and growing social tension that would later erupt into revolution in the 1960s. Highly recommended, even if you are not a horror buff.

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The X-Files – Issue 4 (Ishmael Pt 1): People on Pedestals

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I’ve had this in my pile to read for a while, but have been busy so just got to it. It’s the first installment on a story that explores Dana Scully’s past and her relationship with her father. It’s pretty good, and the artwork is nice, and I love stories that have a connection to Melville’s great novel. But what I wanted to write about is a passage that struck a nerve for me, about putting people on pedestals.

We place people on pedestals and, sometimes, rightly so—but when they reveal themselves to be human we tend to just build a bigger pedestal… instead of allowing for everything they might be at once…

(p. 12)

Dana is expressing her feelings on what happened when she discovered a secret about her father’s past, but this taps into something more universal that I see in society today. We place people on pedestals all the time: sports stars, politicians, writers, musicians, etc. And when these people fail to live up to the expectations we set for them while on the pedestal, there is a tendency to react with anger at what is seen as a personal betrayal. Another thing I see happening is that if anyone challenges or threatens those that are placed on pedestals, people also react with anger, as if it is an attack on them.

I have learned not to place expectations on people. When I do, I am often disappointed. The important lesson here is that no one is perfect and everyone has flaws; but just because someone has flaws, that does not make that person bad or evil, it just makes them human. I think this is something that we should all keep in mind this election season, or before we react to someone’s Facebook post.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep reading and thinking.

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Memory and Consciousness in “Neuromancer” by William Gibson

Neuromancer

I had high expectations for this book because I had heard so much about it, and I suppose as is often the case when you have expectations about something, the book did not quite live up to them. Not that it was bad; on the contrary, it’s a very good book. It’s just that the cyberpunk genre has become kind of cliché at this point and even though this was the book that launched the genre, it ended up feeling old. I suspect that had I read it 30 years ago, I would have had a completely different experience.

The book is about a hacker and a samurai attempting to “jack in” to an artificial intelligence (AI) program. Much of the book takes place in cyberspace, or the matrix. Yeah, if you didn’t know already, the book influenced the films, which made it hard for me not to picture Keanu Reeves jumping around and overacting.

“The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games,” said the voice-over, “in early graphics programs and military experimentation with cranial jacks.” On the Sony, a two-dimensional space was faded behind a forest of mathematically generated ferns, demonstrating the spacial possibilities of logarithmic spirals; cold blue military footage burned through, lab animals wired into test systems, helmets feeding into fire control circuits of tanks and war planes. “Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts . . . A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding . . .”

(p. 51)

For me, the most interesting aspects of the book deal with consciousness and memory. Human memory is described using the holographic model, which is a concept that I accept. I do not think of consciousness and memory as linear, but instead as existing everywhere at all times. The challenge is access.

“I don’t have this good a memory,” Case said, looking around. He looked down at his hands, turning them over. He tried to remember what the lines on his palm were like, but couldn’t.

“Everybody does,” the Finn said, dropping his cigarette and grinding it out under his heel, “ but not many of you can access it. Artists can, mostly, if they’re any good. If you could lay this construct over the reality, the Finn’s place in lower Manhattan, you’d see a difference, but maybe not as much as you’d think. Memory’s holographic, for you.” The Finn tugged at one of his small ears. “I’m different.”

“How do you mean, holographic?” The word made him think of Riviera.

“The holographic paradigm is the closest thing you’ve worked out to a representation of human memory, is all. But you’ve never done anything about it. People, I mean.” The Finn stepped forward and canted his streamlined skull to peer up at Case. “Maybe if you had, I wouldn’t be happening.”

(p. 170)

One of the questions that challenges us in the cyber age is whether consciousness can exist in a machine, or an AI. In the book, Gibson hints that probably, true human consciousness requires flesh in order to exist, that it is somehow encoded into our cellular and genetic makeup.

It belonged, he knew—he remembered—as she pulled him down, to the meat, the flesh the cowboys mocked. It was a vast thing, beyond knowing, a sea of information coded in spiral and pheromone, infinite intricacy that only the body, in its strong blind way, could ever read.

(p. 239)

Is it possible that eventually an AI will develop consciousness? What will a conscious machine look like? How will that affect humanity? These are questions that have terrified and fascinated people for a long time. I suppose it is possible. And questions like these, which percolate to the surface as you read this book, are what make this book worth reading. If you are like me, you will have to overlook the parts that now feel cliché and hackneyed, but if you can do that, you will find some interesting and challenging concepts to explore.

Cheers, and thanks for stopping by.

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The X-Files: Annual 2016 – “Illegal Aliens”

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Once a year, IDW publishes an annual special edition X-Files graphic novel, which is a little longer, a little better quality, and double the price. This year’s is a little on the silly side, set in New Mexico and playing off the pun between undocumented immigrants and visitors from outer space. There is nothing groundbreaking in this book, and nothing deeply thought-provoking; it’s just a whimsical story, fairly well written and illustrated, that is kind of fun to read, but that’s about it.

The illegal alien pun is kind of cliché for me, so honestly, I found that the least interesting. The thing that I found the most entertaining was Mulder’s observations on pro-gun conspiracy nuts.

Mulder: I’ll make it. I was doing some research. Have you heard of the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy theories?

Scully: Half-baked government haters who thing the government wants to take their guns?

Mulder: Right, emphasis on half-baked. But there’s something about it that bothered me. When we put on a tinfoil hat because we think the government is trying to invade our brain, we’re assuming a certain level of sophistication, right? We believe we’ve progressed as a civilization to where the next great existential danger will come from threats beyond our conception.

Scully: Are you arguing on message boards again?

Mulder: Yes, but hear me out, Scully. These people, they think, they really think, the government is going to use a coordinated training exercise in the southwestern United States as cover to take away everyone’s guns. Logistical concerns aside—when did our conspiracies become so lazy? Have we fallen so far that the grand plan to enslave the human race is eliminating the threat of small-arms fire?

I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself as I read this, especially considering all the social media chatter about how “if Clinton gets elected she is going to take away all our guns.” It’s the same thing you hear about every Democratic candidate. It’s never happened, and yet the fear and myth persists.

Anyway, if you are an X-Fan, you’ll probably get a kick out of this book; if not, you will see it as nothing more than a waste of $8, which could have been better spent on a latte and a defrosted piece of coffee cake from Starbucks.

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