GOODBYE TO VONDA and MY FAVOURITE TV SHOWS

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Figure 1 – Vonda at Versailles ©Sean McNamara

By now you’ve probably heard about our great loss—and by “our” I mean not only the science fiction community, but also Seattle fandom and humanity at large. Vonda N. McIntyre died on April 1, of pancreatic cancer.
Vonda Neel McIntyre was born, according to Jeanne Gomoll, in Louisville, KY, in 1948. You are probably aware of her SFnal accomplishments, which included winning the Nebula in 1973 for the novelette “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”; and also winning the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards for her 1979 novel Dreamsnake. She won the Nebula again for her 1996 novel The Moon and the Sun. Besides that, she founded Clarion West, an offshoot of the famous Clarion writing workshop that Robin Scott Wilson started in 1968 (with help from Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm). She was also noted by Star Trek fans for giving Ensign Sulu a first name, Hikaru.

What some might not know is that she was a fierce advocate for women and for writers—especially where those two overlapped. She edited one of the first feminist science fiction anthologies (Aurora: Beyond Equality, 1976). She was a participant in the Women in Science Fiction Symposium edited by Jeffrey D. Smith (Khatru #3/4, 1975 – reprinted with additional material as by Jeanne Gomoll, lulu.com, 2008) with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel R. Delany, James Tiptree Jr. and others. She edited the 2004 Nebula Awards Showcase.

Her Nebula-winning fantasy novel The Moon and the Sun has been made into an as-yet-unreleased film, The King’s Daughter, starring Pierce Brosnan. Much of the film was shot in Versailles, and McIntyre delighted in telling how kind Brosnan was to her when she visited the set. Figure 1 is excerpted from a photo in the palace at Versailles which was taken by Sean McNamara.

The above information about Vonda is by Jeanne Gomoll, who was one of the dozen people who rallied around Vonda as soon as she learned of her diagnosis with pancreatic cancer. These friends became caregivers, giving Vonda 24/7 support in her last two months on Earth, and in a way, were surrogates for those of us who couldn’t get to Seattle to thank Vonda and say goodbye. According to Jane Hawkins, the caregivers were (in no particular order: Jane Hawkins, Ellen Eades, Cathy Sullivan, Kate Schaefer, Astrid Bear, Eileen Gunn, Tamara Vining, Glenn Hackney, Amy Wolf, Janna Silverstein, Tom Whitmore, and Karen Anderson. It’s my personal opinion that we all owe these people a debt of gratitude for making Vonda’s last days comfortable, and for posting updates on her status. I wish I could say I was a good friend of Vonda’s, but we were just acquaintances; we said “hello” to each other when we met at conventions. She occupies a special place in my heart not only for her writing, but I respected her as a very strong person and a feminist. The world will not see her like again. You can check out Jeanne’s full Vonda obituary at https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/vondanmcintyre; and there is a well-written obituary in the New York Times.

Figure 2 – Melissa Benoist as Supergirl

I thought I’d change things up a bit this week (I’ve been absent with a bad cold) by talking about some of the genre or genre-related TV shows I enjoy watching, and why. Some of my reasoning might sound silly to you, but I feel I’ve earned the right to my opinion. Let’s start with Supergirl, starring Melissa Benoist. As you may know, if you’re a regular reader of my column, I’ve been a fan of Superman and his family—okay, maybe not so much Krypto the superdog, or the super-horse, or the super monkey—but certainly the big guy and his cousin, Kara Zor-El. But since I don’t get out much—don’t know if you noticed, but they don’t sell comics on a rack at the supermarket or drugstore anymore—and especially not to specialty stores, I seldom get a chance to catch up on what they’re up to. So a lot of my knowledge of comics canon was formed in the ‘60s and ‘70s. But I’ve always liked a strong heroine, and that includes Supergirl.

Melissa B is not a full-on blonde like the comic-book Supergirl, but she’s as cute as a bug’s ear (as my daddy used to say) and makes a very appealing superhero. For whatever reason, they’ve added texture to her outfit—have you noticed that most “metahumans” seem to have textured outfits these days?—and kept her hair more strawberry blonde than “California girl” blonde… but she’s cute, and she’s earnest, and delivers her lines, no matter how ridiculous, with passion.

The DC superheroes, starting with Smallville, seem to be mini soap-operas; and despite this series trying desperately to tie into the Superman universe with cameos by everyone from Dean Cain to Lynda Carter to Erica Durance to Teri Hatcher to Helen Slater (and more!), its plots are more ridiculous than ever. Lately, they’ve been doing a thinly-disguised takeoff on the present Washington regime’s treatment of immigrants, which has helped me like them a bit more. Right now my favourite characters are Supergirl and Lana Luthor (Lex’s sister), played by Katie McGrath. By the way, the whole soap-opera thing—and the wholesale discarding of “canon” are the principal reasons I quit watching other DC hero shows, like The Flash, The Arrow, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and so on. I’m kind of grumpy sometimes; your mileage probably varies.

Figure 3 – Wellington Paranormal’s Minogue and O’Leary

Figure 3 shows the earnest but dumb Wellington, NZ, police officers Kyle Minogue and O’Leary (Mike Minogue and Karen O’Leary) who are two of the central figures in Wellington Paranormal, a spinoff of the movie What We Do In The Shadows. This movie is not to be confused with the TV series of the same name which is set on Staten Island, New York. In the former, there are a number of vampires (most are old, one is fairly new) living in New Zealand; in the series there’s a number of vampires living on Staten Island. As far as I can tell so far (I have yet to see episode 3 of What We Do…) it has lost a lot of its charm by being moved to the NY area; the humour seems more forced. But I will give it a bit more of a chance before I dismiss it. Anyway, WP is about a police station that has to cope with a number of paranormal or supernatural incidents, including vampires, werewolves, zombies, and so on. Unfortunately, the personnel of the station (the aforementioned Minogue and O’Leary) are very dim. The first season aired last year; the second season is supposed to air this year.

Figure 4 – American Gods

One of my favourite newer shows is just hitting its stride on Season 2: I refer to Starz’s American Gods, based on the novel by Neil Gaiman. (Full disclosure: I never made it through the book, but I will be going back to reread it.) The series, however, is somewhat easier to follow and is—at least for me and the Beautiful and Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk—enthralling. Starring Ricky Whittle (left, Figure 4) as Shadow Moon, and Ian McShane (right, Figure 4) as “Mr. Wednesday,” it’s about a war between the old Gods and the new Gods with now as the battlefield. I’m not familiar with Ricky W outside the confines of this show, but he’s not only a very attractive man, but also a pretty good actor. McShane is an actor I’ve been following for years; I loved his show Lovejoy, based on the novels by Jonathan Gash; and I think he’s just an excellent actor. They’re aided by a terrific cast that includes Emily Browning as Shadow’s dead wife Laura Moon; Crispin Glover as “Mr. World”; Pablo Schreiber as Mad Sweeney, the world’s tallest leprechaun; Orlando Jones as “Mr. Nancy”; Gillian Anderson as Media; and a host of other great actors.

“Mr. Wednesday” is, of course the God that Wednesday is named after: Wotan, or Odin. “Mr. Nancy” is Anansi, the Spider God, and there are many others, like Baron Samedi, Mr. Ibis, Czernobog, and so on. The new Gods include Mr. World, New Media, “Technical Boy,” and more I’m sure we haven’t seen yet. Mr. Wednesday has recruited Shadow Moon as his driver, straight out of prison.

Shadow Moon was released a bit early on compassionate grounds, as his wife died in a car crash. She was engaged in some vehicular hanky-panky, which caused Moon’s best friend’s car to hit a telephone pole, killing the best friend and leaving Laura Moon dead with some compromising information found upon her person (I will spare delicate sensibilities and not divulge anything more about that.) While visiting Laura’s grave, Moon meets Mad Sweeney and gets a magical coin off him; this coin, accidentally dropped into Laura’s grave, has a resurrectional effect on her, causing her to rise from her grave and pursue Shadow. Not in a zombie sort of way, just an undead wife who wants to get back with her husband. Needless to say, Shadow’s not too keen on the idea for a couple of reasons: first, she was found dead in a very compromising position—betrayal of her wedding vows; and second, she’s dead and not getting any fresher, if you know what I mean.

Meanwhile, Mr. World, Media, Technical Boy, and a few others of the New Gods, are tired of seeing their worshippers—or those they view as theirs—being leeched away by these old Gods, and have determined to wipe out the Old Gods. There are also interesting side causes, like the Muslim, Salim, who is accompanying the Djinn—a total non-believer in Islam—on a quest to find Wednesday’s spear Gugnir; Shadow and Czernobog (Peter Stormare) have a bet on that may end with Czernobog crushing Shadow’s head with a sledge hammer, and all sorts of mayhem being caused by the New Gods. It’s fun, and interesting, and I can’t wait for each week’s new episode.

Figure 5 – Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) from Game of Thrones

It should go without saying that Game of Thrones is a favourite, despite the fact that they’ve diverged quite a ways from the George R.R. Martin original books. This season, Season 8, will be the last of the series: ten very long episodes. There are all sorts of theories about how the series will end. Those who know aren’t telling. But this is how you tell a long story on TV: as many years as it takes to tell the whole thing in some depth. I can think of several—heck, lots—of books that could use this kind of treatment. If you’re not already a fan, there are many in-depth websites to give you more information; if you are already a fan, I probably can’t add much to what you already know. This show was a game-changer for TV series.

Figure 6 – Westworld characters: Bernard, Dolores, and Maeve (and some android)

And we’re waiting with bated breath for a number of series to return this summer or fall; chief among them (for me) is Westworld. I won’t attempt to sum up this series any more than I tried to sum up GoT in a couple of paragraphs; they’re both way too complex to do them justice. You want soap opera? This series, like GoT, has it all to the max, with the additional fillip that you can’t be sure who is a real person and who’s a computer construct in an artificial body! This show has violence, sex, in-fighting, Artificial People, and so on and so forth. Figure 6 shows l-r: Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), and Maeve (Thandie Newton). And other shows I’m waiting for the return of include:

Stranger Things; this show’d better hurry while the kids are still kids! The OA; not sure whether this is going to return, but I hope so. Lucifer: Netflix has brought this crowd favourite back. It’s a silly concept: the Devil himself has forsaken Hell for Los Angeles (how does he tell the difference?). These characters: Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis); Chloe Decker, LAPD (Lauren German); Mazikeen (Lesley-Anne Brandt); Lucifer’s brother Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside); and the rest are mostly taken from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic series. It was originally cancelled by Fox, but as I said, Netflix has brought it back.

I was enjoying The Punisher and Jessica Jones, as well as Daredevil—all very popular shows—but it was announced that all of them, as well as Iron Fist and Luke Cage, have been cancelled. Jessica Jones, IMO, was the absolute best of those series. One wonders why such popular shows get the axe.

Well, this is getting very long, so I think I’ll put the rest off until a future column. Thanks for sticking with me, and don’t forget to stay demented! (Whoops! Wrong show! I must have been channeling Doctor D!)

Hey! Please comment on this column! That is, if you feel like it–you can comment here or on Facebook. It’s all good—all your comments, good or bad, positive or negative, are welcome! (Just keep it polite, okay?) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!

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