Adventures in the 700 Section

From about age 12 to 15, almost all of my pop culture itches were scratched at the Torrance Public Library. Where Greg Hatcher steeped himself in genre fiction, I was all about the nonfiction; the people, the history, the methods. We were both trying to escape, but while Greg was escaping into fictional worlds, I was trying to escape into a different real world, become a different person, and I knew that the tools to do that would be found almost entirely in the 700 section.

Atomic Roundtable: Best Movie (Whatevers) From Before 1990!

A while back, author Adam-Troy Castro commented on Facebook that he keeps seeing posts on different pop culture sites with titles like “All-Time Greatest Movie [whatevers]” — best villains, sexiest stars, costumes, vehicles, etc. — and almost never do the lists include any movies made before 1980, and often not even from before 1990. It’s like a whole lot of people think nothing existed before they did. So, let’s discover some things from decades before we were born. Welcome to the latest Atomic Roundtable!

Of Breakfast Cereals and Cults

So I went down a rabbit-hole a while back and I ended up in a weird place. It started innocently enough, with a discussion of General Mills’ monster-themed breakfast cereals, Count Chocula, Franken Berry, and Boo Berry, but it somehow ended up with a weird Victorian-era metaphysical cult.

Pointless Fanboy Speculation: Howard the Duck

After he got his cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy, I thought that eventually Howard the Duck would get another shot at the movies. Hope burns eternal. Which brings us to Pointless Fanboy Speculation, in which I tell you how I would adapt this particular character to the MCU. Here’s the Elevator Pitch: Howard the Duck and Beverly take a “road trip” through weird middle America, which warps into a political satire when Howard is cajoled into running for President. It is, at heart, a Frank Capra movie.

It’s Not About What It’s About: Dissecting Some Cult Classics

Buckaroo Banzai is really more fantasy than SF. Where Star Wars is the classic Quest fantasy, Buckaroo Banzai follows a different story; there is a hidden world we don’t know about, and in that world, forces of good and evil are waging a war with our world hanging in the balance. Our hero, a surprisingly resourceful person, has the ability to enter that world and fight for us, along with a team of allies, each of whom is an expert in a different area with skills that the team needs. By recasting this trope in the form of urban legends and conspiracy theories, Buckaroo Banzai responds to anxieties about things out of our control and assures us that we have a champion in the hidden battle. It’s religion for a post-supernatural world.

What’s wrong with ‘Star Wars’ (and How to Fix It)

Once again, I found myself writing a lengthy response to a post on Facebook, and just before I hit send, I thought “gee, this would be better as a post over at the Junk Shop.” So here we are. This time it’s the Star Wars Saga. The first response posted to that thread was the suggestion that “maybe, just maybe, Star Wars was a really cool idea that got taken way too far.” My reaction to that, and the reason we’ve assembled here today, was that some parts were taken too far, while others were simultaneously not taken far enough.