Battlestar Galactica… Then, Now, Forever. So Say We All…

If you know me, you know my love for Battlestar Galactica. I wrote the following piece to commemorate the show’s 35th anniversary… some 6 years ago. It’s hard to believe this show is now going on 42 years old! I don’t care if its Glen A Larson or Ron Moore, I love Galactica. I love this rag-tag fleet and the stories behind it. I love the spin-off movies and shows. And I’m looking forward to the reboots to come…

“There are those who believe… that life here began out there, far across the Universe… with tribes of humans… who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians… or the Toltecs… or the Mayans… that they may have been the architects of the Great Pyramids… or the lost civilizations of Lemuria… or Atlantis.


Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man… who even now fight to survive-somewhere beyond the heavens!”

Imagine, if you can, being an 11-year-old boy in 1978. The phenomenon known as STAR WARS had just hit the year previous. Our action figures from the movie had finally arrived, on playgrounds, we all became rugged smugglers or knights favoring the light or darkness. We were clamoring for more space opera, frothing at the bit for more science fiction adventures on the screen, be it large or small. Sure, we had STAR TREK, but that was becoming old hat and boring. Its over-syndication in that era when cable TV wasn’t as prolific as it is today was ridiculous.

The fall TV season of 1978 brought with it a new TV season, and ABC TV stepped up to the plate to deliver the goods we so wantonly desired. Television writer and producer Glen A. Larson had come up with the premise for a series he first called ADAM’S ARK. He subtly infused into it themes prevalent in his religious background as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Ancient Alien theories of Erik Von Daniken, and added a healthy dose of Cold War fear. The show eventually became the venerated BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.

This week marks the 35th Anniversary of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. The original series premiered on Sunday night, September the 17th, with the first episode, The Saga of Star World. It also had a limited theatrical run, earlier that summer in Canada, but for me, it was the United States network television premiere. I fondly recall watching the broadcast and being mad that ABC News cut into it for the historic Camp David Accords. While the three world leaders made peace in the Middle East, my buddies and I were on the phone, talking in wonder and awe at this visual feast that was before our eyes and would be on TV every week! THIS WAS AWESOME! The show eventually came back on, my parents let me stay up to watch it on a school night. My dreams that night were of flying a Viper and shooting Cylons. The next day at school every little geek boy and girl was talking about the show. I even went as far as to order the cardboard Viper cockpit from the back of a Trix cereal box. I became bitten and enamored by the adventures of Starbuck, Apollo, and Commander Adama. I eagerly awaited Sunday, then Saturday nights, nothing would come between me and that show.

The weeks went by, the stories and adventures went on as the Fleet searched for the lost planet, Earth. Episodes like The Lost Planet of The Gods in which our heroes discover an ancient Egyptian-like planet that was home to their gods. I cried at the death of Apollo’s wife, Serina (played by the forever beautiful Jane Seymour.) during the second part of the story. Or how about The Gun on Ice Station Zero, a western unlike any other. The fan-favorite though is The Living Legend in which we are introduced to Commander Cain and lost The Battlestar Pegasus.

The series shared so much of STAR WARS that it received criticism for it. John Dykstra, the special effects guru behind the then-fledgling Industrial Light & Magic jumped ship to do the effects, causing a legal battle. John Williams even did the score. Regardless, the series stands on its own in my mind.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA ran its year-long course and drifted away, it’s large budget becoming prohibitive. It eventually came back, morphed into a low budget monstrosity called GALACTICA 1980. I remember watching that with my Dad. We both looked at each other and said, “This sucks.” I think we watched one episode, maybe two.

The dark wonder that was THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK allowed me to somewhat forget the debacle of GALACTICA 1980 and sucked me back into George Lucas’s saga. Something was missing though. More years passed and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA became a fond memory of my youth, like a seldom played song on a great classic rock album. If I thought of it, the show would bring a smile to my face. Syndication was rare for Galactica, you could catch repeats here and there. Video release was also limited and expensive. It wasn’t until the show got its re-imagined push from Ron Moore in 2003 that you were able to obtain the original series affordably.

The alternative to STAR WARS or STAR TREK, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA endears after three decades for reasons that are pretty obvious. With its pseudo-polytheistic-Judeo-Christian theology tied into the show’s premise of searching for our planet, I found I could closely relate to BATTLESTAR GALACTICA than I could to STAR WARS or STAR TREK. The setting and themes made my suspension of belief easier.

The Ron Moore BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is one of the first “re-imaginings” of the modern era and is still the best, in my opinion. It extrapolated on the concepts of the original series and turned a space opera into a military science fiction machine. The show further connected with me due to its correlation to 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Certainly controversial at times, adhering to true sci-fi as a social analogy of current world events; as well as being epic in scope yet intimate in its drama, the re-imagined BATTLESTAR GALACTICA became a flagship of the Sci-Fi Channel. Yes, Ron Moore did turn some of our beloved characters on their heels, especially by turning Starbuck and Boomer into females, just for example. But in the end, his decisions have been held up by the power of the actresses that took on the rolls, especially the ever-present Katy Sackhoff. It gave birth to the spin-off series, the short-lived CAPRICA, and at least two SyFy movies, RAZOR and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: BLOOD & CHROME.

To further feed my Galactica needs, Bryan Singer announced last year he would be adapting the original series for the big screen (*2020 – FUCK BRYAN SINGER.). I’m looking forward to it coming to fruition. With JJ Abrams successfully breathing life back into the STAR TREK franchise, and the imminent heralding of Episode VII of STAR WARS, a new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA would be a welcome addition to the world of science fiction. Happy birthday, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. So Say We All.

“Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny, the last Battlestar, Galactica, leads a rag-tag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest…a shining planet known as Earth.”

Is Paranormal Investigation Science Or A Fading Fad?

I love doing hard, feature journalism. Today’s blog post a fine example of me at my best. Six years ago I took a trip to Niagara Falls and visited with notable professionals in the Paranormal Investigation community… to find out if the over-saturation of Ghost Hunting programming, so prevalent throughout the last decade on television, has harmed the fledgling science…

Reality programming is notoriously inexpensive to create and is extremely popular, the bottom line is people love to watch other people’s drama, as THE REAL WORLD informed us.  MTV’s smash hit led to the now television norm of reality programming. Over the past decade, any flip of the channels could reveal show centering on a celebrity’s home life ala THE OSBOURNES or HOGAN KNOWS BEST.  Now, until about 10 years ago, if you mentioned ghost hunting to the average Joe on the street, they would have sung a reply, asking “Who ya gonna call?” It was, however, in 2004 that SyFy premiered a stalwart program on the network, their foray into the reality TV format that was so profitable for other networks, the paranormal reality television program GHOST HUNTERS, a chronicle of the adventures of the members of TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society).  Starring Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, the show has gone on to be one of SyFy’s most successful and highest-rated programs, spawning a pair of spin-offs and a legion of clones on a multitude of cable networks.  

Networks that you would think wouldn’t have a paranormal bone in their fabric suddenly had ghost-related programming.  GHOST ADVENTURES (TRAVEL CHANNEL), THE HAUNTED (on ANIMAL PLANET because why?) and PARANORMAL STATE (A&E) are but a few of the more popular programs that accompany GHOST HUNTERS on our flat screens.  This cash crop of ratings grabbers has created a new breed of television mark that professional wrestling promoters wish they could tap into. This has opened the doors to every type of paranormal, Cryptozoic bug hunt possible, with Bigfoot hunting reality shows finding themselves as prolific as ghost hunting now.  Too many programs clearly have less than factual intentions in their presentations with some selling staged reenactments as reality. This has created a huge integrity problem, creating an oversaturation of preternatural reality TV programming that is, at the least, giving our urban legends and myths a very bad name; not to mention actually harming the fledgling sciences that are attempting to explain the phenomena under study.

The paranormal money-making machine expands far beyond television, though.  The hobby itself has been around longer than the TV shows, with many groups claiming a 20 year or longer heritage.  Autumn Pilot, a member of CNY GHOST HUNTERS, has been a member of the venerable group for only a year but has practiced her own investigations for nearly 10 years.  It’s certainly not an expensive hobby. According to Autumn, she spends “$300-$500, if that. It just depends on the type of equipment you get. I mean, you don’t need a lot of equipment like they show you. GHOST ADVENTURES and those kinds of things make it look a little extreme, you don’t need all that equipment to do this.”  She personally own a K2 Meter and EMF detector, devices that aren’t readily used today as Cell phones and other electronics can set them off (they measure magnetic fields). But the key, number one item they use is a voice recorder. And a flashlight.    It is from similar roots that TAPS and GHOST HUNTERS grew, as well as other groups, such as BEYOND GHOSTS, hosts of the Para-History Festival at Fort Niagara in Niagara Falls, NY earlier this year.  Spokesman John Crocitto told me “The reason we do these events, like with the Para-History today is there’s still a huge need to have education aspect for the public and professionals in the field probably have a better idea of how things go down and why they go down as opposed to basing their opinions on what they see on TV.  Coming in off the couches and actually doing it yourself in real life is how we do this event, so in a way, they’re almost like experiential entertainment. So you watch something on TV like the GHOST HUNTERS programming and you yourself want to try it, what BEYOND GHOSTS, my company does is actually give you a chance to experience that in real-time.”

You would then assume that education and sharing knowledge are at the center and are the central focus for most casual ghost hunting hobbyist.  This is a far cry from what is often seen on television programming, much of which is over-sensationalized and produced leading to a complete desensitizing of the product and a raised eyebrow of speculation, or, even worse, that it’s true.  Crocitto told me if this ever led to difficulties in finding guests with credibility and integrity for a convention such as the Para-History Festival: “As far as the mainstream public is concerned, I think there’s plenty of room for people who are just basically dabbling in it and trying to get their feet wet in the first place, and as far as people doing it the “right way,” there’s education and research first so we don’t seem to have a problem with credibility, as long as people are from the mindset that we this is still basically a fringe science, this is not a matter of fact anything, let alone a science, so to keep an open mind is imperative, but getting people to come in here and just do it the right way as long as they have that particular mindset never seems to be a problem because the paranormal is very popular right now.”  His last sentence leads us to the heart of the matter. With the paranormal being so popular, has it led to an over-saturation of paranormal reality TV? John seems to think it’s in the semantics of how you look at it, “As far as the entertainment aspect of it goes, when it comes to paranormal entertainment, I think there are quite a few shows and there probably are a few too many shows than there ought to be at this point.” Spoken like a true wrestling promoter.  

Low-end hunter Autumn agrees, but bluntly explains the negative, “There’s way too many shows and half the time it’s all fake and it’s just baloney.”  

But how do the pro’s think of it?  And I use that word loosely because any good investigator will tell you there are no professionals in ghost hunting.  Even the pros themselves. Kris Williams is a genealogist and historian attached to the GHOST HUNTERS franchise, a former member of GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL, Kris left the program over an incident invaliding ritual bloodletting.  It’s this very type of over-sensationalized programming that has blurred the lines between reality and production and led to the canceling of the spin-off. Her personal interests in ghost hunting come from a far more personal place.  “I got into genealogy when I was 11, so I was always more of a history person, that’s how I got pulled into the team. But, the real reason I joined was the year before I jumped onto GHOST HUNTERS, we had 5 family and friends pass away in 11 months.  I’ve always been a skeptic, but my parents and my family have always been open to the paranormal, my Mom grew up in a house that was supposedly active, I say supposedly because I’ve never had anything happen to me there myself. It was kind of a thing I was interested in but on the other hand, I look at death as the end.  I don’t remember anything before I was born, so why’s it any different? You just stop. So it took those 5 people to make realize those two beliefs completely contradicted each other and I got into it for a more personal reason. It was more or less, “OK, I’ve lost all these people, I don’t go to church and I don’t have that background like a lot of people, so where do they go and how does it work?  I find myself more skeptical now after 5 years of chasing this stuff. I still have those handful of experiences I cannot explain, and that’s what keeps me interested in it.” Kris believes, “it’s gotten to the point where there’s a lot of people getting into the paranormal thinking it would get them on TV, so they’re actually getting into the field for the wrong reasons which is hurting us in a lot of ways.”     The charming and ever arachnophobic Adam Berry came out of the GHOST HUNTERS ACADEMY to become part of the core program and can be seen on current episodes of the venerable show.  His interests in the paranormal are innocent as well. “I came in as, I would say, I believed something but I don’t know what it is. So I like starting from a place of skepticism because that way you don’t jump to conclusions, you get excited for the right reasons, so I’m still at that place of skepticism but I’m also at that place of “I really I don’t know what it is,” Is it a ghost? It could be.  We’re getting verification, it’s telling us names, it’s giving us information, but I also believe in a lot of other things; it could possibly be an angel or someone else, it could be anything.”   

He believes the contrary when comes to the over-saturation,  telling me, “I think everyone has their own techniques and as long as we’re all working together for the same goal which is to find out what really is out there and we’re all doing it for the same purpose and the same goal, so no.”  Though he warns “You have to do it for the field rather than the fame.” And that’s key, as former GHOST HUNTERS ACADEMY para-sensitive, Jane Riley also told me, “… everyone wants to jump on the train and it’s a little too much right now.  You don’t even know what to watch, it’s all become polluted in a way and you don’t know what to watch. I guess that’s just how it is with television.”Jane is a sweet, but extremely shy, young lady.  A talented musician, she is also carrying the weight of being an “empath,” a term used in the metaphysical community to refer to a person who is “in-tune” with the emotions and feelings of others, to include spirits.  They are as much a part of a ghost hunting team as the aforementioned flashlights and tape recorders. Jane told me, “If the team has been working with a medium or psychic for a long time, they know that person, they know what they have to bring to the table, they know they’re honest then they’re a component of the team and ultimately it can help solve what’s going on.  The client may not be into that approach, but either way, whether they like it or not, a true sensitive, will be able to help them.  The scrutiny, when I watch these shows, is I’m like, “Oh, my God, this person’s full of shit.”  I can tell they are lying. I consider myself sensitive, whatever that means.  I don’t label it anything.  Intuitive? Call it that? I’m more correct about my intuition and my feelings towards something than not.  So usually when I feel a certain way about someone and I can confirm it, later on, that’s empathy and that’s proven.  It’s like when you have a certain feeling about someone and you mention it. I don’t know what you would call it. I call it common sense.”  And that is the true key to much of what alleged psychics play in a ghost investigation. They often study and analyze the parties involved and are used to rule out mental illness or other natural occurrences, to include taboo topics that often can include domestic, or some other, abuse in the “haunted” household.

Regrettably, more often than not, team para-sensitives can cast a shadow of scrutiny over an investigation.  Jane approaches this in the only manner she knows how “I’m honest. I stay true to what I know and what I feel. I don’t make money off of this and I don’t advertise it.  People have questions and I’m more than happy to answer them to the best of my ability. I just approach in a sense of honesty. As I said, I don’t get paid to do this, I don’t benefit off of it in any sort of way. I write music all day.” 

Regardless of the alleged “powers” that some team members may or may not have, the essence of being a ghost hunter is in that of the skeptic and debunker.  Adam believes “we come from a place of science, I would say, we don’t jump to conclusions, and honestly, I’d love for every place that we visit to be haunted, cause that’s what I love, but it doesn’t have to be.”  Williams further supports this thought process, “I say we come more from a place of common sense, and I think it’s lacking these days because there’s such an oversaturation of shows, people believe everything and anything, and that’s unfortunate.  Because before people would question, and I liked it when they would question evidence, now it’s like I could put something completely bogus in front of somebody and they would just run with that because people don’t question anymore. It’s kind of the reason I got out.”  Science is just that, a desire, a yearning to learn the truth about a matter or subject, and ghost hunting is no different.  When asked what she saw of the future paranormal research, Williams told me, “I honestly feel it’s going the same way of spiritualism is, in a lot of ways, it’s following the same pattern.  I think it became very popular for certain reasons, it was just kind of the right time, it took off. You see this whole surge of new tools and approaches and all this stuff, but you also see a lot of people that are fame chasers coming in and they’re getting into something that it’s not and I like I said; it’s hurting us in a lot of ways, it’s bringing us backwards in a lot of ways, and I think people are losing faith in the field in general because of it. So I think there’s kind of a danger of it crashing and burning for that reason and if people don’t stay skeptical and honest with it, there’s no reason to believe it.  It’s scary.” Adam agrees, “Everything has an ebb and flow,” Adam said, “eventually it will come back around to where it started, but I don’t know how long that’s going to take.”

It all begins with the hobbyists.  As long as they can differentiate between produced fiction and actual reality, they can be at the forefront of the educational battle for mainstream acceptance of para-science.  But the process of actually doing a ghost hunt investigation is long and tedious, and one must keep in mind that what you see on TV is quite often a day or two of investigating packaged for your pleasure. “It’s all the time.” Adam told me. “Because sometime you don’t always know what’s going on, so you sit there and you talk and you try different tactics and you explore different ways to communicate and sometimes it’s like beating a dead horse, you don’t get anything from it but that’s ok, because really at the time you don’t know if you’ve gotten anything, you have to review your evidence and see and it’s not as easy as it looks, it’s not as exciting as it looks.  We have 9 hours times two days dropped into 45 minutes. You are seeing the best of the best of our investigation, when really sometimes it is painstaking. But I’m OK with that, when it’s exciting, it’s really exciting and the pay-off is amazing.” He further elaborates, especially regarding an atmosphere like Para-History that includes a massive ghost hunt. “When we investigate in these big groups, there’s people that are really going to want something to happen, and the first thing I say to them is everyone take a deep breath and don’t expect anything and that is maybe when something will happen. The moment that you force it, the moment you try harder than anyone else in that room to have something happen, you’re going to walk away empty-handed because you’re going to focused on your goal and you’re not going to be looking at what is happening in front of your face, you’re going to miss it.  You’re not going to be looking where you’re supposed to be looking; you’re not open. It’s a fun thing to do, it’s definitely a hobby for a lot of people, and I encourage it but I really want people to do their research and move past the orbs.”  Hobbyist Autumn fully understands this. “Most of the stuff that happens to us, a lot of the time we don’t even catch it on film and it pisses us off because it will happen to us personally and we’ll be like “Hey, did you see that?” And somebody else has seen it, but we didn’t catch it and it’s frustrating.”  

Kris isn’t as enthusiastic about the number of ghost hunting groups that have sprouted up as a result of the TV programming.  “The whole thing is people are believing anything now, I think that if you want to believe something enough you’re going to hear it and see it and feel it.”  She continues to say, “It’s good and bad. It’s good because it’s obviously to the point where people aren’t afraid to talk about this stuff, it’s bad because anyone can have a t-shirt printed up and call themselves a professional.  There is no professionals in this field. There’s no way of proving what we’re doing, so when people throw the word professional or expert at me I can laugh at them, I’m like, “No, we’re not.” Adam adds again to the “professional” argument, “There’s no such thing, we’re all learning, that’s why I like to do these things, there’s some reputable teams here and we learn things when they have equipment we’ve not seen and we have things they’ve not seen and they want to ask us questions and they ask us questions. That’s why I think no matter how many people are doing this, as long as everyone is doing it for the right reasons then we’re all going to succeed.”  But what’s the right reason? He says, “I think it’s for finding out really what we’re talking to and who’s out there and what it is that we’re trying to find. I don’t think it’s for having a TV show or being on TV or being famous because that’s not the purpose. My purpose is to go in here tonight and to connect with something that’s there. And if that’s not your purpose and your purpose is to impress people with your equipment and to get people to visit your website, that’s OK, but that’s not the purpose for an investigation.”

Despite all the skeptics, there are still things that can’t be explained by the ghost hunters, and it doesn’t matter if you are on TV or not.  The paradox about it all is the lack of fear the investigators have of the paranormal, something that would take an otherwise “normal” person and stick their hair on end, causing them, to tuck tail and run from the haunted premises.  Autumn has experienced things that has made her skin crawl. “There’s been a couple of occasions, at Fort Ontario, where it was a calm day and the wind wasn’t blowing at all and I kept hearing footsteps behind me and there was nobody there. I’ve been touched on many occasions and there’s nobody around me, and you can just feel it.  To me that’s believable, but there’s always explanations for something. You don’t know if it’s definitely paranormal, we don’t say, “Hey! It’s paranormal!” But you find when there is no explanation for something, that it can be paranormal, but we never come out and say it’s definitely paranormal. We try to rationalize it, but a lot of times there’s just no explanation for anything that’s happened.”

Adam approaches the unexplained moments with curiosity as well.  ” I’m not scared of ghosts, look at her shirt,” he motions to Kris, her shirt reads GHOSTS DON’T SCARE ME, PEOPLE DO, “what does it say?  “Ghosts don’t scare me, people do,” and that is the most honest statement. There have been some people who own houses that we’ve investigated that are absolutely out of their mind, there are animals that are rabid and raccoons and things like that, those things frighten us.  The other stuff might get us very excited, but really, I want that to happen, so I’m not scared of it, I’m scared of people.” When they do get a result, ” You want it to happen again, no matter how frightening it was, you’re trying to make it happen again and again, and it comes to a point where you’re like, I’m so sorry I have to keep asking you to do this, and I know you did it once and really that should be enough for us, but we sadly need verification again, so do it again, please.”

Kris told me, “I’ve seen a few, I’ve seen shadow figures walk out of one corner and into another and vanish.  There’s one case where I heard a voice just come out of nowhere and it sounded like it was right in my ear and Amy (Bruni) and I caught it on tape.”  Adam agrees, “Uh huh. That’s happened to me before.” Kris continues, “There’s been a few things. Part of me is like, I’ve had those experiences so there’s something to it, I don’t know what, but the other part of me is, as a human, we can’t handle not having answers and when we don’t we create stories around them so that we are OK with it.”

Kris smiles, “As far as investigating when something happens it’s usually not as big or in your face as some teams would like to make it seem.  It’s usually just enough to get your attention and then you’re going through all the rational possibilities, so by the time you get to the part where you realize you can’t explain it, you’re not scared, you’ve already been in the room for another 20-40 minutes, if it was going to kill you it would have done it already.”   

Who will win the preternatural reality TV war?  Will it continue to grow out of hand, misinforming its audience, or will the next generation of ghost hunters steer it on a more acceptable path and turn it from fringe to mainstream science?  I asked Adam and Kris what mystery might be explained first, would we find positive proof of spiritual activity or discover Bigfoot? Their ever-skeptical answer? 

“Aliens.”  

 

Game of Thrones And Elric: The Influence of Michael Moorcock on TV’s Most Popular Show

Why do I love George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones? From the first episode right through to the very end? From the first page of the first volume through to what Martin hasn’t completed yet? I’ll tell you why.
Part of it is why I loved how Game of Thrones closed on the screen. I understood it because I was familiar with the story beats. It’s been told before. To me, Game of Thrones, be it on the screen or the written page – will always be the story of the Young Kingdoms from their point of view.
Who the fuck are the Young Kingdoms, you ask? The young kingdoms were the kingdoms of Man, rising through the ages as our world evolved. They soon overtook the old world of magic and sorcery and elementals, making the earth their own. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? No, it’s not the back story of Game of Thrones, a Song of Ice and Fire. It’s the setting of veteran author Michael Moorcock’s fantasy novels. The similarities to Michael Moorcock’s fantasy world, best known for Elric of Melnibone and the soul-eating sword Stormbringer, and Westeros are many.
And what’s wonderful is Game of Thrones is the complete antithesis to all things Tolkein and seems to subscribe to Moorcock’s theory of #EpicPooh. It’s almost as if Martin’s been writing this as an answer to Epic Pooh theory all along. According to the theory, stories like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are flawed. They’re no more than fundamental Winnie the Pooh stories, wherein standard archetypes go on an adventure in the 100 Acre Wood with no real danger. They don’t take into account the real world ramifications of the wars being fought around their stories. There is death in the real world – and it has an effect on people. Subscribers to the theory are pretty grim in their narratives. Moorcock’s stories were nihilistic, designed as the alternative to Conan or The Hobbit. He was killing everybody long before Tarantino or Martin, for the sake of the matter.
Sounds like Game of Thrones, no?
Jon Snow is a hero not unlike Elric. His Dire Wolf, Ghost (a “White Wolf,” Elric’s moniker – he was an albino and feared in battle.). His sword, Longclaw, although not the cosmic entity that Elric’s Stormbringer was, is still a memorable weapon in canon. Jon was a reluctant prince, the last of his lineage, to a throne who fell in love with his aunt (Daenerys)… Elric was in love with his cousin, Cymorril. Most everyone who is a companion of Jon Snow’s ends up dead. It’s the same with Elric, except for the redheaded Moonglum. And Jon has Tormund, who seems to come out of things alive? Oh – and did I mention, Elric accidentally on purpose killed the cousin he was in love with? Didn’t Jon Snow kill Daeny?
There are similarities between the actual Elric character and the Night King, as well – in appearance and magical powers (Elric was a wizard who controlled the elements and demons).
The Targarians… they are not unlike the Melniboneans, insane, fair featured, inbred, magical in some aspect and oh… who can forget their dragons? And they ruled the world for eons. Yeah, they’re evil to the core and only care about power.
The Three-Eyed Raven who travels through time… and brings to mind the multiverse that is Moorcock’s playground. This makes Brandon Stark an eternal champion… and keeper of the balance.
A diligent eye can find many more similarities between the two. Yeah. Game of Thrones was/is Moorcock for the masses. And I thank George RR Martin for making it consumable for the mainstream. Call it what you want. A Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones. Or even the history of the Young Kingdoms… I love it for the same reason we love Dune… and Star Wars. Another example of how one popular franchise was inspired by a previously popular franchise, but a bit Epic Pooh, if that’s your take.

Prophecy Riddles, Survival Horror, and the Brilliance of The Battle of Winterfell

“Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born.”

“A child will be born from the Force and will bring balance to it.”

Prophecies. They’re at the heart of a plethora of classic stories. The genre makes no difference, be it science fiction,fantasy, horror or Biblical canon, a prophecy can be a great MacGuffin to propel a narrative. It’s typically focused on a “Chosen One,” a Christ figure ala Anakin Skywalker or King Arthur. But not always. Sometimes they spell doom. Take this literary prophecy, for example:

All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!

All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!

All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!”

As told to the aforementioned Scottish warlord by the Three Weird Sisters in Shakespeare’s epic tale of war, murder and betrayal. It’s these words that propel him and Lady Macbeth to make murder. It’s also not the only meeting the future King has with the Witches. That’s reserved for the fourth act’s pinnacle moment, telling all involved where the story is going. This meeting may very well be the play’s most iconic scene, after all, it’s quoted on Halloween by children and adults alike (“Double, double, toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”). But it’s the prophecy they deliver which is most important.

Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn. The power of man, for none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth.

It’s laid out on the table, the end of the play is spoiled midway through. And yet, audiences still gasp when MacDuff runs Macbeth through and chops off his head at the battle of Dunsinane. The seed was laid for this early at the first meeting. Much like the classic riddle of Sphinx in the myth of Oedipus (“Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?” MAN, of course!). The prophecy was a true riddle, designed to swerve the antagonist and the reader alike.The prophecy didn’t lie to you, not once. MacDuff was a breech birth, taken from his mother’s belly. He wasn’t born of woman. He was taken from her.

Hold on to that thought. We’ll get back to it in a minute. I need to address something else before we movie on.

The last stand is another trope used in storytelling. The underdog is a the fan favorite protagonist.

The 300 Spartans. Zulu Dawn. The Siege of Bastogne. The rounding of the wagon train or the isolated fort surrounded by the enemy. These are the stories heroes are made from. I could give you examples all day. But placing the characters in a position where they may be overwhelmed and perish at any moment creates tension. Now, if you’ve established anything can happen in your narrative, you can increase the emotional response from your reader or viewer. How do you do this?

One way is to kill a child in your opening. This means all bets are off. Another way is to wantonly kill off characters the consumer of your product has built emotional attachment with. You do this without warning. Survival horror does this with the deftness of a skilled dancer. Night of the Living Dead is perhaps the best example here. The human survivors holed up in a house, fending off the horde of zombies.

Now, when you establish a last stand trope within a survival horror setting on an epic scale, what do you get?

The Battle of Winterfell.

Game of Thrones has entered its eighth and final televised season. Episode 3 brought us THE LONG NIGHT, the much anticipated showdown with the Night King and his undead army of wights (aka zombies). In spite of the production’s dark palette (we’ll talk about this in a minute), it was brilliant. In my opinion, the best zombie war movie ever made. But it’s getting hate from the part of Middle America who doesn’t watch or read this style of fiction on a regular basis. Some armchair, Monday Morning Generals are questioning the actions of the characters, and why some died yet others didn’t. And even more are calling the episode a failure, for trivializing the big bad. All because they don’t understand it.

Yes, everything has led to this point. Many character arcs, much of the story telling. But the story isn’t over.

The whole reason Game of Thrones has been a bloodbath, mercilessly killing off fan favorite characters throughout its history, was to prepare you for this. You were conditioned to think your favorite character could die at any time, so during the Battle of Winterfell you felt but all these characters were in jeopardy. And you got swerved. Aside from a handful of redshirts kicking the zombie bucket, only one major character, Jorah Mormont, died. The main players all survived. These characters did so because they are heroes and heroes overcome the odds stacked against them.

People need to remember this is a Game of Thrones, not a Game of The Night King, and though the prophecy of Winter Coming has long been the show’s mantra, last season winter arrived. I’ve got some news for you. Winter is more than the undead horde of the now disposed Night King. He only showed up in season 5, for the love of the Old Gods.

Let’s address the color palette.

I couldn’t see anything!

It was a battle against the embodiment of death, the Night King, during a snowstorm at night.  What did you expect it to look like? Game of thrones has long established telling the story from the POV of the person, and the battle continued this tradition, telling a battle from the POV of the people in it. We only saw the whole battlefield from aerial shots with the Dragons, for example – what Jon and Daeny saw.

What does this have to do with me not being able to see anything?

It was done by design. It made you uncomfortable, intentionally. It made it difficult for you to discern what was going on. You couldn’t tell who was dead or alive. It was a perfect survival horror effect, isolating the characters in this manner, and it did as it was intended – it brought the viewer into the story. You shared the emotions with the characters.

I would have used a different strategy! Jon Snow is a horrible general!

We can sit there all day long and question the tactics of the battle. Suffice it to say, in military terms, the winner of a battle expects 60% of his shit not to work (ie: go as planned) during the battle. This was set up right away with the elimination of the Dothraki horde. The disposal of the Dothraki, even after they were magically assisted by Millisandre, exposed the true terror and size of the enemy. It added to the suspense. You couldn’t believe the Dothraki got wiped out? Neither could the defenders at Winterfell. You felt their despair.

The Night King was taken out so easily!

Ok, now is this really hurts and it’s the biggest slight to one of the show’s greatest and most developed characters. In fact, you could say much of this story is about her.

Arya Stark.

Kids, I hate to say it, but this Night King kill was foreshadowed in the first season, prophesied in the third, developed through the others until reaching its pinnacle in this episode. Everything in Arya Stark’s story has led her to this moment. Hell, Bran even gave her the weapon she would kill the Night King with! She has trained to fight and defeat death. And who is, rather was, the embodiment of death?

The Night King.

The Red Witch told her in season 3:

Brown eyes, Blue eyes & Green eyes.

These would be her victims. Brown eyes, my friends are all the normal people on her list she faced down and killed during her travels. Blue Eyes is the Night King. And who has Green eyes?

Cersei Lannister.

It’s all about the prophecies in Game of Thrones, my friends. A prophecy brought us here with Arya, and now another prophecy sends Jon Snow to the Iron Throne. It’s been a long, violent trip through Westeros, and everything that came before has implications on what is to come. My personal prediction? Bronn assassinates Tyrion or Jamie. Arya makes a mask of the deceased and uses this disguise to gain access to Cersei, thus completing her story. I’m likely wrong, but part of loving this show is speculating. When you get mad because your speculation doesn’t come to fruition, it makes you look mighty silly. enjoy it. Don’t be critical of it because you didn’t get what you wanted. I can’t wait to see how the story ends.

I found The Long Night to be fantastic. I dare say it’s the best zombie movie ever made. I am firm in belief it’s raised the bar on survival horror for decades to come.

You Know Nothing, Fan Boy: Jon Snow and the Hero’s Journey

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Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”

Last night’s GAME OF THRONES fifth season finale shocked the shit out of fans of the show in the waning moments of the broadcast. If you didn’t see it, well, Jon Snow, the last of Edd Stark’s male heirs, was given a shank blanket party by his brothers in the Night’s Watch and left to bleed out in the snow. Men with hearts of stone cried last night. Now readers of the books knew this was coming, but it still had a cathartic effect on anyone who viewed it, whether or not they were aware of the twist in the plot. Even I sat there dumbfounded, like a lost child. My wife, concerned that something serious had happened, asked me, “What’s wrong?” I sat my beer down and solemnly replied, “Jon Snow died.”

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I sat there staring at the credits as they rolled, stoic, trying not to cry. But then I realized what George RR Martin and the show runners had done, and I smiled. You see, the writers and Martin sent Jon Snow to the place he needed to go, a place that heralds the upcoming climax of the popular series. They sent Jon Snow to the Underworld. You see, Jon Snow as we knew him, had to die. The story required it. But don’t worry, folks, the same creed that dictated he must die also insures he will return. Confused? You shouldn’t be. You’ve been conditioned to this since watching your first cartoon.

Season Five of GAME OF THRONES has been ripe with mythological Greek references, and this is no different. The sacrifice of Princess Shireen, the rape of Sansa Stark, all of these plot points have their origins in Hellenic mythology. The bottom line is GAME OF THRONES is classic Hellenic story telling at its gruesome best, and Hellenic stories follow a format. Most of you are very familiar with this type of story telling. It’s the most common way to tell a story in modern literature and cinema, you’ve seen it in everything from Winnie the Pooh to Rambo (yes, I’m talking about Stallone here!) and even STAR WARS. The latter example is perhaps the easiest to show, as STAR WARS creator, George Lucas, has made it clear on many occasions that STAR WARS came from Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.

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The Hero’s Journey is the template for the classic adventure tale. It is simple. Your protagonist is young and naïve, an instance happens ripping him from the simple life he knows. He must undertake a quest to correct the wrongs, during this quest the hero will typically surround themselves with archetypical companions, which will include an elder mentor who is often doomed to be a sacrificial Red Shirt, ala Star Trek. They will often be provided special weapons from the gods to complete their quest. At one point the hero will enter the Underworld, wherein they will also die, yet unlike their mentor, they are reborn and enlightened as the hero they were meant to be.

Each character in GAME OF THRONES has their own story arcs, and Jon Snow’s has always been the Hero’s Journey. The catchphrase attached to him, “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” is an allegory to his naivety. Did the gods give him magic weapons? They certainly did, in the form of Valyrian steel and Dragon Glass. Mentor? Absolutely, in fact, Jon Snow actually has a trio of doomed mentors between his father, Jeor Mormonat and Maester Aemon. Is he surrounded by archetypical companions? Yes, Samwell and his loyal Nights Watch brethren complete that fellowship. And now, as the series nears it’s climax, it’s time for the hero to enter the Underworld and be reborn, setting up the events that will bring our story to a conclusion.

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Jon Snow is Luke Skywalker. He’s Frodo Baggins. He’s John Rambo. Luke entered the Underworld throughout THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and emerged as a Jedi Knight. The Mines of Moria, wherein Gandalf the Grey finds an untimely demise? You guessed it: the Underworld. When Rambo cuts through the cave during his escape: the Underworld. In order for Jon to complete his quest, he needed to be removed from the Night’s Watch, whose oath tied him to the Wall. The only way to facilitate that through the narrative was to kill him, as an oath is binding unto one’s death.

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Oaths take the forefront in much Greek story telling, as well, and they were a common theme this season. Arya’s oath to kill those on her Death List, Brienne’s oath to protect Stansa and Arya, Jorah’s oath to defend Daenerys to his death and so forth. Throughout the season, time and time again, principal characters were tested and motivated by their oaths. But, in the end, Martin made it easy on us for the fate of Lord Snow, with one simple line in the Night’s Watch oath: “It shall not end until my death.” And now, the presence of the Red Woman, Melisandre, at Castle Black only verifies Snow’s resurrection will occur. I’m telling you right now, without a shadow of a doubt:

JON SNOW WILL RETURN!

He has to. The format upon which GAME OF THRONES is based requires him to come back. When he does, Snow will be back, bigger and badder, as a soldier of the Lord of Light, and he’ll be on a mission to defeat the Night’s King and to become the King of the North. He has a quest to complete, and that quest is to save the world from the White Walkers and the Night’s King. The latter is his Darth Vader (remember, the Night’s King was once a Lord Commander of the Wall!), his Sauron (Sauron was once benevolent!), his Chief Teasle. Jon Snow’s metamorphosis from being the bastard son of a Lord to becoming a Lord himself won’t be complete until he kills the Night’s King, and in order to do so he had to die, to be reborn.

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Now, whether he shares his final fate happily ever-after with Luke and Frodo, or breathes his last breath with John Rambo, I can’t predict. But dry your tears, stiffen that lip and sleep easy, friends. Now you’ve been educated on why you have nothing to worry about with Jon Snow. He’ll be back for at least Season Seven, I assure you. After all, the boy must die so the man can be born.

HANNIBAL “Antipasto”

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The third season of Bryan Fuller’s HANNIBAL premiered last night on NBC. It’s been a long wait for this season. Since its inception, HANNIBAL was a late winter, early spring offering. For some reason, NBC’s scheduling moved it to the summer death slot. Was this to bury HANNIBAL or to utilize HANNIBAL to build ratings? I ask this question, because HANNIBAL seems to be the TV show everyone is afraid of. Fans are afraid of it because of the genuine scares. Middle America fears it because titular star Mads Mikkelsen isn’t Anthony Hopkins. Censors fear it as a result of its frank depictions of violence. Critics and die hard horror fans, on the other hand, have embraced the show. Since I am both of those, it’s no wonder that in my TOP 10 FANTASY AND HORROR TV SHOWS OF 2014 I proclaimed HANNIBAL the best show on television. Period. I’m happy to inform you all that the third season has not faltered from this standard of excellence. 131

There’s no Will Graham this time around. The season 2 cliffhanger left our intrepid FBI agent and company in various stages of vivisection. We’ll have to wait until next week to see who survived. Instead, ANTIPASTO is all Hannibal, who we learn has relocated to Venice. Or is it? As the story unfolds, we come to realize Hannibal is actually the window dressing for the episode. The narrative bounces between the present with Venice, recent past with the torture of Eddie Izzard’s Gideon and the secrets of Hannibal’s relationship with his former shrink, Dr. Du Maurier. And that’s the catch, right there. ANTIPASTO is on much the same level as MAD MAX FURY ROAD. You see, for as much as MAD MAX FURY ROAD was a Mad Max movie, the story was about Furiosa. In turn, for as much as ANTIPASTO is an episode of HANNIBAL, the story is about Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) and her dark spiral from being an observer into a participator.

Hannibal - Season 3 ANTIPASTO is written by Bryan Fuller & Steve Lightfoot and directed by Vincenzo Natali, the man behind some of the most disturbing genre bending movies of recent times, namely the cult hit CUBE and Frankenstein-esque SPLICE. His pacing is perfect and he brings out a side of Gillian Anderson I’ve not seen before. Yet it is Fuller and Lightfoot that sneak in many prose puns throughout, dialogue that is more typical of the Hopkins Hannibal, which is most curious. Lines such as “We’d like to have you for dinner” and so forth. Until now, Hannibal hadn’t really displayed this verbiage, the snarky sense of humor that Hopkins showed in the movies inspired by the same source material. Is this showing a new personality trait as Hannibal’s insanity runs out of control? Perhaps this little character quirk will be enough to bring the rest of the public on board with Bryan Fuller’s reimagining? Regardless, it beckoned something that is not often a signature of HANNIBAL: Out loud laughing. It’s a welcome change and evolution for the show, balancing well against the scenes of extreme horror carefully placed throughout the episode. Call it a little bit of sugar to lessen the bitter, if you will? I like it and believe it adds some much needed middle America appeal without souring the main course that die hard fans are accustomed to. june4_Hannibal

Those of us that watch HANNIBAL are almost cult-like in our adoration of the hourly drama, eating up each offering with glee. Perhaps this is a reflection of the titular antagonist, whose culinary offerings are as gourmet as the show itself. Full of visual imagery, each episode of HANNIBAL is a finely crafted piece of art bouncing beautifully though its non-linear story with the grace of upper class cuisine. Each portion of the timeline represents a different dish on your plate, as you yourself would alternate between the various sides of your meal. HANNIBAL a special, fancy horror d’oeuvre, which I’ll gladly share with that select niche of other HANNIBAL enthusiasts as we sit on our band wagon, waiting for the rest of you to join.

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SALEM Season 2, Episode 8

Proving to us that horror has no boundaries, Naseema Perveen is here to tell you about Salem Season 2, episode 8 on her blog…

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It’s not a science fair, but a witch war! The war of the witches continues on another episode, “Dead Birds” on your favorite show which consumes you throughout the hour with its excellent story line, perfect plots and the rich cast.

With more magic, tricks and the twists Salem Season 2 Episode 8 engages you throughout the hour. Did you notice when Anne was dreaming of ‘him’. At once he appears in front of her, it was then she started trembling continuously. Anne was thinking that he was in her bed room in order to release her virginity, however he was not there to lose virginity of a pale and a diffident girl however he was there to take the book of his father which her mother gave back in the past. She asks him to leave the place and tells that gentle men do not enter into women’s bedrooms this way.

Meanwhile John’s love with his mother and compassion is heart touching. The magical journey of John is getting more noticeable. He feels lonelier than before, he cannot go outside and plays like the other children. It was really heart breaking to see tears in his eyes and to see the way he hugs his mother and begs her not to let him alone.

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As Mary steps back to John’s bed, she sees the killed birds in his bed and asks him what is that all. John answers that it was because they fly into his bed, his mother is quite astonished and wraps them in the sheet and comes down stairs where she meets the lady. She tells that John must be watched all the time but Mary answers that he is fine now because he is with his mother. She tells that John is unsettled and vulnerable therefore he needs special attention. Mary on the other hand tells that if she is so much concerned about her son she should clean the shit from the bed sheet which is perhaps the most suited job for people like her.

I don’t know what Cotton was actually noticing, he was peeing through the wall, at once Anne call him, it was then he gets nervous and answers her that he had a unsettling night last night, and he does not exactly remembers what he saw. He asks if she deigns to marry her, Anne is quite dubious and interrogates him if his love for her is not the dream. The romantic moment which the duo shares for that particular instant was quite touching, he tells that his heart is forever Anne’s and he is sure of it. I love the words he uttered meanwhile:

Cotton: “In love, I now understand Faith, and with my Faith I begin to understand Love.”

Anne: “How so?”

Cotton: “The leap, in love and in faith, the evidence will only take you so far.”

Salem Season 2 Episode 8 exclusively justifies its title, as we found the dead birds in the bed room of John. It has more than a basis for proving its title, the dead birds in the wood or the birds whose heads are always ripped by Anne.

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We realize the fact that Wainwright is a firm believer of the science therefore it results to let his guard down and thus he finds himself on the witches’ sides. Mary shares secret with Wainwright in quite tricky way. It quite laughable to know that a unique action of Mary with her due innocence, and it was also interesting to see Wainwright calling the witches and Mary “Martyrs of truth.”

One of the constant miseries of the show was watching Cotton’s feeling for his father, it was really heartbreaking to see him screaming continuously until simply his dad spoofs away. The screaming of Cotton reveals that how dark the life can be at times. Although it was the result of his own doing however really panic to see this all happening around. Tituba, the other interesting character of Salem Season 2 Episode 8, tries hard to coax John Alen in order to take Puritans and witches. Although she is a good witch however she is going through a big challenge of inferiority complex. She is finally united with John and tries to seduce him.

One of the draw backs of the week’s episode is that it does not deliver too much about the Countess, given the fact that she does not really show up. Salem Season 2 Episode 8 was solid for few of the new characters who appear on the show making it terrifically beautiful show even in the absence of Lucy Lawless.

“Dead Birds” is another extra ordinary episode of your favorite show, which brings more magic, war of witches and the twists. As long as the show maintains the same level of the quality it is going to attract substantial number of viewers. How did you find Salem Season 2 Episode 8? Let us know in comments.

You can read Naseema’s blog here:

http://seasonsreviews.blogspot.com/2015/05/salem-season-2-episode-8-review-dead.html