Firefly: The Sting” (November 2019) is an ambitious hardcover graphic novel centered on Saffron, from writer Delilah S. Dawson and a team of artists. But it’s a step down in characterization from the double-length one-shot “Bad Company” from earlier in the year, and it arguably contradicts Saffron’s moral growth. The more generous interpretation is that “The Sting” shows her manipulative side, the one we know from “Our Mrs. Reynolds” (1.6) and “Trash” (1.11).
Aline of “Firefly” novels was advertised in the back of the “Serenity” novelization in 2005, but it wasn’t until 13 years later that we saw the first entry in the series. Written by James Lovegrove based on a story idea by “Buffy” tie-in veteran Nancy Holder, “Big Damn Hero” (November 2018) combines a couple of concepts — sometimes effectively, sometimes awkwardly. The Serenity crew (and Mal himself) must figure out who kidnapped Mal and why. Also, violent anti-Browncoat sentiment has sprung up on Persephone.
The Dark Horse Comics era of “Firefly” closes out in admirable fashion with the six-issue “Serenity: No Power in the ‘Verse” (October 2016-March 2017), which finds the Alliance and revolutionaries on the brink of a second war just as rifts among the Serenity crew crop up. Chris Roberson – who wrote the short comic story “The Warrior and the Wind” (see below) – makes his full-length “Firefly” debut. He’s not as crisp as Zack Whedon (“Leaves on the Wind”), sometimes getting heavy handed with Mal and Simon yelling at each other over political differences, but it’s only a minor step back.
Iwas gung-ho for “Virus” in 1998; I gobbled up the 1992 comic series by Chuck Pfarrer (who co-writes the screenplay), and I recall the novelization by S.D. Perry being a cracking good read. I devoured the articles and photos in Fangoria and Starlog. Then in 1999 it finally hit theaters – as one of those classic January sci-fi discards — and it made my honorable mentions even in that great year of cinema.
Solar Lottery” (written in 1954, published in 1955) isn’t too bad considering it’s Philip K. Dick’s first-published sci-fi novel, and it’s fun to see early examples of staples such as simulacra and telepaths. But while there is plenty to dig into if you want to decipher this 23rd century governmental system, I have to admit I didn’t understand all the nuances even by the end of the 200-page novel.
Although there are plenty of excellent comics set during the time of the “Firefly” TV episodes and “Serenity” movie, the post-movie story doesn’t kick into gear until the six-issue series “Serenity: Leaves on the Wind” (January-June 2014). Picking up after the revelation in “Float Oat” that Zoe is pregnant, “Leaves” finds writer Zack Whedon beautifully channeling the Serenity crew’s personalities and speaking styles as developed by his brother Joss.
The World Jones Made” (written in 1954, published in 1956) is among the least clunky of Philip K. Dick’s 1950s sci-fi novels. It blends the political rise and fall of the titular precog with single-celled alien drifters with quasi-human colonization of Venus. It’s wackiness quotient is lower than with most PKD books, and while Jones’ personal situation is fascinating, the political conflict is a little bland.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching “Ad Astra” (2019). Director James Gray’s film blends a solar system travelogue with the family drama of Brad Pitt’s Roy McBride hoping to connect with his estranged father, Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones). Clifford is on a spaceship orbiting Neptune as Roy starts off from Earth. “Ad Astra” is one big metaphor about a gulf in a relationship, but its space-porn visuals and the delicate, somber music from Max Richter made it irresistible for me. (Other viewers will find it too slow; this is a matter of taste.)
Superman II” (1981) has always been a beloved film, but when an alternate version came out in 2006, it became even more beloved. The theatrical Richard Lester Cut rates a 6.8 on IMDB and the newer Richard Donner Cut rates a 7.7. That’s not a trivial gap. But in my opinion the difference in quality between the two films is minor, and upon a close analysis, I’d argue the Lester Cut is slightly superior.
Because the five volumes of “The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick” have been reprinted many times under many different names, I’m referring to them here by their volume number, which is what they are known by in their original 1987 publication by Underwood-Miller.