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Hasslein Blog

Thursday, May 21, 2015

An Open Letter to Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, RE: Gamergate, Death Threats, and Brianna Wu

Dear Mr. O'Brien,

You might not be aware of this, but a man living in your district is sending death threats to a woman named Brianna Wu, a software engineer and the head of development at a company called Giant Spacekat. The person who sent said threats is clearly a deranged and dangerous individual, and should be taken seriously. This is especially true in light of other cases in which women have received death threats and have eventually been injured, raped and/or killed because no one paid them any mind despite a preponderance of evidence documenting the danger they faced.

Ms. Wu has recorded the death threats on tape and is ready to see this person prosecuted, and so I call upon your office and the police in Columbus, Ohio to take her concerns seriously, track down the individual threatening to murder her, and see this lunatic put in prison. Having read Ms. Wu's recent article on the subject, I am concerned that nothing seems to have been done about what is very clearly an open-and-shut case, despite her efforts to urge you and the police to intercede on her behalf.

Please tell me (and the newspapers that received this letter via e-mail) that you are not going to ignore what is a very serious threat. Violence against women is not something to underestimate, and neither are those in the Gamergate movement who are behind the threats she has received. Such violence will not go away just because we choose to turn a blind eye to it. We have a lot of disturbed individuals in our society, and many of them (like the hate-fueled misogynist threatening Ms. Wu's life) present a danger to others. You know this well—you see it every day. So do the police. So it is rather upsetting that this dangerous individual is still out on the streets.

I am a father, a husband, a son, a brother and an uncle. There are many women in my life who are very important to me, and the idea of someone threatening to do them bodily harm would infuriate me, as I'm sure it does Ms. Wu's husband and father. If you have a wife, daughters, sisters or nieces (I know you at least have a mother), I hope the same is true of you. Please put an end to this situation so that Ms. Wu can go back to her normal life. Please help to make a strong statement so that the Gamergate crowd and others will think twice before doing the same as her harasser. In short, please do the right thing, not just for Ms. Wu but for the women in your family and in your district.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

—Rich Handley
Editor/Co-owner, Hasslein Books

 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Revisiting Red Dwarf, Part Six: Shipwrecked and Comatose (Series IX-X)

Guest blogger Joe Bongiorno wraps up his fun-fun-fun-filled look back at the first ten seasons of Red Dwarf. (View part five here.)

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By Joseph Bongiorno

Back to Earth isn't as offensive as many claim; it's just that everything feels off. The 10 year gap, in which Naylor was trying to get a movie done (and we can debate how that derailed our getting seasons 9, 10, and 11 in that time), really took a toll on the actors who are looking long in the tooth. But then there are the continuity issues, which are too wide a gap to bridge. Why is a Rimmer a hologram? Did the resurrected Rimmer die (again) and become one? This can't be Rimmer from seasons 1-7 because that guy went off and became Ace Rimmer. Why did Kochanski leave? What happened at the end of Series 8? 


It's almost like they're on another TV show.

So my biggest problem with Back to Earth is it feels like we lost valuable stories, the actors look aged, and we've been waiting this long and there's no conclusion to what came before. The Blade Runner take-off is fine, and the reveal at the end works well enough (so too the Russian hologram), and I like that in the end, Lister decides to leave the fantasy of living with Kochanski to go and find the real one…

Except that in Series 10, he's doing nothing of the kind, there are still no answers about Series 8 and the characters have all regressed to their season 1 versions.

Which sucks. Y'know, it's funny when a 20-something guy drools curry and beer all over his clothes. It's not funny a 50-year-old does that. It's funny when a 20-something guy acts like a pompous old man. It's not funny when that guy is a pompous old man.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Red Dwarf Fan Club Reviews 'Total Immersion: The Comprehensive Red Dwarf Encyclopedia'

The good folks at the The Official Red Dwarf Fan Club have included a wonderful review of Paul C. Giachetti's Total Immersion: The Comprehensive Unauthorized Red Dwarf Encyclopedia in the latest issue of Back to Reality magazine. Scans of the pages are available below (click on each image to view a larger version). We offer our heartfelt smeggin' thanks for helping us to promote this project.




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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Revisiting Red Dwarf, Part Five: Goldfish Shoals Nibbling at My Toes (Series VIII)

Guest blogger Joe Bongiorno's review of the first ten seasons of Red Dwarf continues, helping us to celebrate the recent announcement of two more upcoming seasons of the series. (View part four here.)

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By Joseph Bongiorno

Series 8: I'd seen this season back in the day, and forgotten nearly all of it, with the exception of Cassandra (by which I mean the character, not the episode).

There are lots of surprises here, not least of which is the return of Rimmer and the rest of the original Red Dwarf crew. The resurrected Rimmer is great to have back, in large part because the Lister he's dealing with is a different Lister, so the dynamic is similar but different. Putting Rimmer and Lister in jail was a way to give fans more of Seasons 1-2 type stories, but without undermining anything that came before. Lister acknowledges that he's not the same guy from years earlier; he's not the irresponsible, curry-stained slob of the first season. But hysterically, Rimmer pushes him so far to the extreme that he reverts for a moment back to that guy, which makes for a great punchline that is still grounded in character.

This is not the Red Dwarf you were expecting.

Also wonderful in this season is the fact that Naylor puts Rimmer in different situations that force him to grow and develop along a new trajectory in a way that honors Season 1's craven version of Rimmer without carbon copying him, and which brings him closer quicker to the heroic Rimmer of Season 7. Lister's maturity plays a large role in this in that he's more forgiving of Rimmer's idiosyncrasies and willing to take him on as a partner and friend, something that just wasn't possible in the early seasons.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Red Dwarf Cosplaying: Fun, Fun, Fun at the Con, Con Con

By Paul C. Giachetti

As a creative type, I’ve long been fascinated by the art of cosplaying: the merging of one’s favorite franchises with costuming. It’s mostly been a spectator sport for me; I possess no ability whatsoever to sew, staple or glue two strips of fabric together. My only attempts, a Lost Dharma employee, a Fallout 3 vault-dweller, a member of the Blue Man Group and Pee-Wee Herman, have really been more for Halloween parties than actual con-going. Still, I’ve found and befriended many cosplayers on social media throughout the years, and thoroughly enjoy watching the process of building props and creating costumes from scratch.

Cosplaying has, of course, been around for as long as sci-fi and fantasy conventions themselves, but the term “cosplay” (short for “costume play”) is generally cited as having been coined in the mid-1980s. Since then, it has evolved into its own art form and lately has erupted into the mainstream of entertainment, with many cosplayers now using their skills as a primary means of income. These days, it’s almost a fashion faux pas NOT to dress up while attending a convention.

I’ll admit, many of the characters I’ve seen at cons and online go way over my head, especially those revolving around manga or anime, so it’s especially interesting to come across familiar cosplay, more so when it involves my favorite franchises. Internally, I squee with delight at the sight of Chell from Portal, or Back to the Future’s Marty McFly, or any one of the thirteen Doctors. These characters, along with the contingent of Jedi, Klingons, Imperial stormtroopers and Federation crewmen, are all pretty standard fare nowadays at any given con, however. This is why, every few years, I look forward to Dimension Jump, the premier Red Dwarf convention in the United Kingdom, hosted by the Official Red Dwarf Fan Club.

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mothra's Day to All Mothras Out There


 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Revisiting Red Dwarf, Part Four: ...in the Sun, Sun, Sun (Series VII)

To help celebrate the recent announcement of two more upcoming seasons of Red Dwarf, guest blogger Joe Bongiorno's re-watch of the first ten seasons continues. (View part three here.) Here's his latest smeggin' review...

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By Joseph Bongiorno

Season 7 is, I think, amazing! For one thing, it shows what a great writer Naylor has turned out to be, in large part because he not only lost his writing partner, Rob Grant (for reasons no one yet understands), but also because recognized that the show needs to continue growing and trying new things, moving forward while honoring the past. He also uses the partial loss of Chris Barrie to great potential. And he introduces Kochanski, essentially a new crew-member, using his foreknowledge that fans are going to reject her by having Kryten reject her, and by keeping her relationship with Lister ambivalent. Season 7 is also to be lauded because it gives itself permission to be serious and dramatic and even emotional at times, elements that are actually foreshadowed in earlier episodes like "Me2," "Thanks for the Memory" and "Marooned."

The season also looks gorgeous; it's wonderful for them to have a budget to be able to realize their vision, and yet they don't sacrifice the story or characters for effects (we'll get to that sad reversal in my review of season 10). In fact, this is the strongest character arc yet.



Oliver Stone would have had a field day with this one.
"Tikka to Ride": Lister's insatiable lust for curry could've been a simpler Season 1 type episode, except that it takes place in the midst of resolving Season 6's cliffhanger, dealing with time paradoxes and bringing Kennedy's assassination to the fore! The latter is interesting, as well, because there's an unexpected sad note in the fact that Kennedy sacrifices himself for the greater good, which is very resonant when you understand the progressive promise he embodied in that era, and what a blow his loss was to the country. That unexpected bit of melancholy sets the stage for what's to come in the next four episodes.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Revisiting Red Dwarf, Part Three: Fun, Fun, Fun... (Series V-VI)

Guest blogger Joe Bongiorno continues his re-watch of all ten seasons of Red Dwarf. (View part two here.) Here's his smeggin' review...

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By Joseph Bongiorno

Series 5: Again, a bit of upgrade in the quality of the production, and the writing is through the roof. With one exception, these are some of my favorites episodes, and I think this whole series represents the best of what this show was striving to attain:

"You make love like a Japanese meal:
small portions, but oh, so many courses."
"Holoship": This episode is good because it's not only funny and conceptually interesting (a ship of hologram people who have different sexual mores than humans), but it continues the Rimmer arc, particularly in that it furthers the evolution of the show to the more serious character-focused episodes we're going to see in Season 7. Rimmer starts off watching Casablanca, and mocking the idea of love and romance; yet when he meets a hologrammatic woman who sacrifices her life for him, he rises to the occasion and puts her life and well-being over his own. It would have been easier for the writers to go for the joke and simply have Rimmer be the Rimmer of the first season and take advantage of her sacrifice to advance his career and standing in life; that they don't do that, and instead go for the character moment, is so much more interesting and exciting. And it's where the show needs to go. Those who only proclaim the first two seasons as worthwhile generally don't care for the depths of the writing that's there from day one and just want an endless stream of punchlines. But I don't know that I see those people as a legitimate fanbase.


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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Revisiting Red Dwarf, Part Two: There's No Kind of Atmosphere (Series II-IV)

Guest blogger Joe Bongiorno continues his re-watch of all ten seasons of Red Dwarf. (View part one here.) Here's his smeggin' review...

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By Joseph Bongiorno

Right off the bat, Season 2 looks better, and it pretty much continues where it needs to with wonderful episodes like "Better than Life," which is a kind of predecessor for what's to come in terms of Rimmer's dysfunction and neuroses. There's a book written by the Naylor and Grant that extends the events of this episode, which I haven't yet read, but am looking forward to.


The only dwarf as enjoyable as Tyrion Lannister.

"Thanks for the Memory" is also brilliant, and up there with "Polymorph" for one of the best episodes of the first three seasons. I love the whole set-up to it, including the beginning where they're all drunk on the planet and rocking out; then it turns into a mystery—and mysteries, when not done right, can be disappointing. But Naylor and Grant prove what great writers they are because the reveal at the episode's end is fantastic and doesn't let anyone down.

"Queeg" is also great, but in a different way. It's the first of several "fake-out" episodes (where what you think is happening isn't actually happening the way you think), and very well done. It's essentially a Holly episode and a great one at that. Norman, who I'll call Holly I to help distinguish from Hattie Hayridge's Holly, is at his best here, and I like the overriding lesson here about not taking the people in your life for granted.


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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Roots of a Swampy Fan

By John Boylan

"The spirit is a message of hope... that, despite incredible adversity and personal tragedy, we can triumph. It is the spirit of the lonely outsider. To be alone and watch life go on around him."

—Tim Moriarty, Famous Monsters Filmland #183



I have been a collector most of my life. I started with toys and comic books as a child, and then moved on to records as I got older. I circled back to collecting comic books when I got out of college, and eventually, I began to focus my collection on one of the great, underappreciated comic book characters: Swamp Thing.

Through research and keeping up with current events regarding Swamp Thing, I've come across numerous fan sites that share my excitement toward the character. All of the sites are fun and informative, but for a long time, I sought a definitive list of Swamp Thing appearances and collectibles that fans could use as a reference tool. I couldn't find that list, so I built one.


That list has taken the form of a website, RootsOfTheSwampThing.com, which I've been cultivating for over a year now. A large part of why I love to collect is tracking and cataloging. It's fun to learn about each piece by the details and unique information they provide. Are their variants? Production errors? Why are the serial codes different depending on production year? RootsOfTheSwampThing.com provides me a venue to explore just such questions.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Revisiting Red Dwarf, Part One: It's Cold Outside (Series I)

Guest blogger Joe Bongiorno recently re-watched the first ten seasons of Red Dwarf and offered his perspective on each season as a whole, as well as each episode in particular. His insights are fascinating, and you may be surprised by some of his observations. Take it away, smeghead...

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By Joseph Bongiorno

After getting a copy of Paul Giachetti's two phenomenal Red Dwarf Encyclopedias, published by Hasslein Books, and being blown away by the quality, writing and level of detail he incorporates into these books, I was motivated to watch a show that I'd adored, but hadn't seen in years. In fact, I was first introduced to the show by writer/publisher Rich Handley and Paul, so I was in the company of experts even back then. For this round, I would be watching it with a good friend who'd never seen the show before, and that was a bonus! I had seen Series (which in the U.S. would be called "seasons," but we'll go with the proper British designation) 1-8 and Back to Earth, but forgot most of the latter two. Series 10 would be the first time I'd be seeing it and I was looking forward to that.

I had had major issues with the first episode when I saw it the first few times. I find it overly long and a little dull, with too many punchlines that ended with references to British pop-culture that had no meaning to me—a self-professed anglophile) here in the U.S. I also found the washed out grey on grey color palette is conducive to the general feeling of boredom that the episode gives me. Now, I owned but never saw the remastered versions, and had been duly warned about them, but I wanted to see if they could improve things.

In my opinion, they did.


Unlike many fans for whom the CGI effects in the remastered versions were anathema, the replacement of bad practical effects with bad CGI didn't bother me; in fact, it barely registered at all. The effects have never interested me, and I find that part of the humor comes from how silly things sometimes look. At the same time, I understand creator Doug Naylor's frustration with the effects and his desire to make the show look a bit more believable. One of the things that's brilliant about Red Dwarf is the fact that, despite being a comedy, the writing and production were things the creators really cared about. And it shows in the development of the characters and storylines, as well as the increasing attempts to improve the look of the show. This is what made Red Dwarf so much better than other sitcoms of its time that didn't have that kind of passion and drive behind it. Red Dwarf wasn't empty or formulaic.

The biggest improvement for the first episode was the editing; getting rid of long speeches that were unfunny and went nowhere; removing some of the "British jokes for British people," and just a general tightening of the story suddenly gave it a life and vigor and urgency that it never had in its broadcast version. This was my fourth viewing of this episode, two prior times were attempts to get others to watch this show (which ended in failure due to their impression of the first episode), but the first time I actually liked it! Bravo remastered version!

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Indiana Groans and the Temple of Bigotry

Hasslein Publishing proudly sells books to anyone, whether gay, straight, bisexual or a bigot from Indiana. We don't discriminate. Whoever you choose to date, we'll sell you a book—and even a second one for your boyfriend or girlfriend. If you're a homophobe from Indiana who refuses to read books sold by companies that sell books to non-straight people... well, heck, we'll STILL sell you a book—and we'll even sell you a second one for your favorite fellow bigot, to bring to your next government meeting. So in the name of equality, open-mindedness and all-inclusive geekdom, come on down to Hasslein and order as many of our titles as you'd like. We don't care who you sleep with, who you fall in love with or who you treat unkindly because of an aspect of their personal lives that is none of your damn business—all we care about is what you read.

 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hasslein Books: Now Featured in Diamond's Previews Magazine

"Say, is that the April 2015 issue of Previews, the monthly ordering guide from Diamond, the largest comic book distributor serving North America, which transports comics and books from large and small publishers and suppliers directly to retailers? And is that ordering information for a Hasslein Books title I see, letting every single comic shop and bookstore in North America know about said book, and thus enabling them to order copies? And is that a Doctor Who-related book, prominently listed at the very top of the Doctor Who section, ahead of all other Doctor Who titles featured in this month's edition?"

"Why, yes. Yes, it is. Thanks for noticing."


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Monday, March 23, 2015

Longbox Legerdemain: Hulk vs. Spider-Man

By Matthew Sunrich

During the early 1960s, when it was a tiny, struggling publisher, Marvel took strides to distinguish itself from DC.

While DC had a "clean" (and, frankly, bland) house style, Marvel took a different approach, opting for more dynamic character designs—often at the expense of accurate anatomy—and more daring action sequences. The higher-ups at DC found Marvel's comics to be crude and amateurish, never envisioning them as threat to their #1 position in the industry.

It's certainly true that DC, unlike most other comic companies, had successfully weathered the tempestuous "interregnum" period of the 1950s and had even been responsible for the resurrection of the superhero (via Barry Allen as the new Flash in Showcase #4, 1956), but it wasn't until Marvel introduced a new generation of superheroes (The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Daredevil, et al.) that the Silver Age was shifted into high gear.

Outside of stylistic differences, Marvel's books differed from DC's in another major way: the heroes were flawed. Readers never saw Superman exercise poor judgment, and he certainly never engaged in heated disagreements with the other members of the Justice League. The "good guys" at DC never approached anything resembling moral ambiguity, never had to deal with the everyday struggles that real people faced, and the stories always resolved themselves neatly.

Not so in the pages of Marvel's comics.

From the very beginning, Marvel's characters bickered—even came to blows—with each other, tried to use their powers for their own selfish purposes, allowed their egos to get the best of them, even lamented the "gifts" they had been given. At the time, this was revolutionary. Also, some of the heroes, such as the Hulk and the Thing, were monsters. Both Bruce Banner and Ben Grimm desired to cure themselves; Banner's circumstances were worsened by the fact that his mind was lost within the id-like rage of the Hulk whenever he transformed, whereas Grimm's rocky form, while permanent, did not affect his brain.

With all of this taken into account, one of Marvel's biggest points of interest soon became superheroes in conflict with each other. The cover of Amazing Spider-Man #1 depicts Spidey battling the Fantastic Four. Daredevil fights Spidey and Captain America on the covers of #s 16 and 43, respectively, of his own comic. The Hulk battles the Thing—for the first of many times—on the cover of Fantastic Four #25. These are just a few examples; this sort of thing happened all the time, and the fans loved it.

The closest equivalent I can think of at DC was that time Superman raced the Flash.

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