A 48-year-old woman just found out she’s Oprah’s half sister. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a human with actual cartoon dollar signs in their eyes. Her mother had a baby, but didn’t tell anyone about it. That’s how you know you’re overweight, when no one can tell you’ve been pregnant. This family just loves giving things away. Now Oprah's sister has to decide on whether she wants the lump sum or the annual payments. Did you ever see the Oprah inspirational poster?
The U.S. Postal Service announced plans to close an additional 2,000 branches after losing $8.5 billion. Maybe in retrospect, making people wait in line while you slowly finish your bag of fiery hot Cheetos isn’t such a good idea. A Tucson taco shop is going to start selling tacos with lion meat. Just when you think Arizona is tapped out on crazy, they roar back with a vengeance. Maybe we should be eating the more dangerous animals. Nobody has ever had a chicken chase them down and snap their neck. A 30-second trailer for Justin Bieber’s new movie is going to air right after the Super Bowl. Incidentally, “Super Bowl” is also the name of Justin Bieber’s haircut. You know there's a Monopoly game for almost everything, and now there's a Women's Monopoly set coming out. And here on the Phile, I have the first pic on what the board looks like. So, game people, check this out. It's a Peverett Phile Exclusive.
Man, my wife is gonna kick my ass over that one. And today's guest is a lady as well. I'm in big trouble. The Oscar nominations were just announced yesterday, and I don't know too much about the Oscars as half of the movies I watch are never even thought of to be nominated. So, I decided to ask somebody who would know. So, here's a new pheature I like to call...
Jeff: Most of the Oscar picks weren't surprising. I think I was more surprised by some of the people and movies that weren't picked then those that were picked. I figured that Christopher Nolan was almost guranteed to be nominated for Best Director, but he wasn't. Over all I think that for any of the categories, it could be a toss up. I know the Golden Globes are usually a good indicator on who will win the Oscar, but something tells me this year it may be different.
Speaking of movies...
The Basics: Seth Rogen is the directionless, hard-partying doofus son of a billionaire newspaper titan. When his father dies under mysterious circumstances and a brutal druglord threatens to take over Los Angeles, the spoiled heir and his technical advisor/fighting coach/mechanic/guy-who-does-basically-everything pal Kato become a pair of masked vigilantes. They also ride around in the most gadget-filled car in the world. Think Superbad (Rogen and writing partner Evan Goldberg created both that film and this) meets superhero origin story, one where the dark knight is more Beavis/Butthead than Batman.
What's The Deal: Early in the movie Rogen tells everyone he's going to call himself "The Green Bee" before Kato invents the more menacing name. And then as you watch the story unfold and stumble and digress and stall in holding patterns of pointless goofiness and, for a minute late in the game, turn into Bjork's "Bachelorette" video, you realize that the film does, in fact, more resemble a bee flitting from flower to flower than a hornet out to make a sharp point. That's because Rogen/Goldberg and director Michel Gondry, three people with apparently no interest in making a typical superhero/action movie, have somehow been given the money to do just that. And this needs to happen more often, I think. Give me loose, idiosyncratic, comic meandering over stone-faced business-as-usual any day. It isn't the movie you're expecting, but it's got its authors' grubby handprints all over it.
Best Parts They Forgot to Tell You About In The Trailer: Nothing in the marketing of this movie suggests you're going to see any sort of cool action pile-up. But then, in the last 30 minutes, they unleash a tornado of violence, fighting, car chases, gun battles and stuff exploding. It makes you wonder if they felt embarrassed to be doing something so obvious, trying instead to sell it based on Seth Rogen making rubbery faces and rapping to vintage Coolio songs. But yeah, spoiler, all that satisfying mayhem is in here. They even use sloppy 3D to throw a bunch of car parts and fireballs at your face. And if 3D is going to look not-so-great, that's the least they can do to make it up to you.
Most Michel Gondrian Element: Unless you're a fan of Taiwanese pop music, you haven't seen Jay Chou before. He's a musician, a huge star in China, meaning that when its released over there they'll probably call it Kato Saves The Big Dumb Guy. And before acting in this movie he didn't speak a word of English. Everything you see him saying on screen was acquired specifically for the film and it gives every scene he's in an odd, clunky quality that's boosted by his strange comic timing. Some people will call that annoying; I call it daring and cool.
Entire Project Distilled Into One Scene: Everybody chasing and killing each other over a piece of fake sushi.
Will I Buy It? Yup. It gets a 10.
September 26, 1914 - January 23, 2011
He exercised every day since he was a teenager, and ate nothing but healthy food his whole life. And he died anyway.
Today's guest is the author of the 13th book to be pheatured in the Peverett Phile Book Club: "Tarnished Heroes, Charming Villains and Modern Monsters: Science Fiction in Shades of Gray on 21st Century Television". Man, that's a long title. Please welcome to the Phile... Lynnette Porter.
Me: Hello, Lynnette. Welcome to the Phile. We met a few years ago at MegaCon in Orlando. Do you remember that?
Lynnette: I wouldn’t have made that connection unless you reminded me. (Sorry about that. I’m also one of those teachers who can remember where every student sat in class or what we discussed during an office hour, but I won’t remember every student’s name.) So I’m glad you mentioned MegaCon!
Me: You have written a lot of books, haven't you? When did you start to write?
Lynnette: I’ve written eleven books so far, but I’m working on ideas for a few more right now, plus I’m writing chapters for other authors’ books. Lately I’ve had several articles published online, primarily for PopMatters, but I’ve also had a film article published in the Journal of Popular Studies and from-the-set articles about an independent film published in Movement, Moving Arts Film Journal, and SFX. I started reading when I was 3, and I remember writing short stories and poetry from the time I was about 8. I really didn’t think about writing books until I was in grad school, and my first professional publications were articles and academic books about technical communication and online education. About six years ago I returned to one of my first loves, writing about television and film, and I’ve been focused on that type of literary and cinematic criticism since then. Writing is my way of interacting with the world—so I try to write at least a few hundred words every day.
Me: How many books have you had published?
Lynnette: Ten of “my” books have been published—those are the ones I’ve written or co-authored. I’ve also had several chapters published in other people’s books and written short pieces, like the introduction to a new edition of "The Moon Pool". Some new chapters I’ve written will be published next year in books from McFarland and University Press of Kentucky, and I have one book in press with Tauris.
Me: You also have your very own blogspot. How long have you had yours? Mine is five years old, y'know. And how often do you update it? Mine is updated every week. Take that. (Just kidding)
Lynnette: Over the holidays I’ve finally taken the time for my personal writing in the blog, Books, Films, and Me. I started it last year, but I’m terrible about updating it. Now that "Lost" is over I’ve given up the weekly blog for Lost’s Buried Treasures. Most of my personal writing has been on Facebook lately—I can manage 42 characters every day or two! It seems like I only write huge volumes or lone sentences—nothing in between!
Me: You are also a teacher, right? What do you teach and where? Have you been teaching a lot of years?
Lynnette: A lot of years! LOL. Currently I’m a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department. I teach technical writing and other communication courses, but I also get to work my interests in film, television, and literature into several first-year humanities courses. I was a freelance technical writer and editor for many years, and I formerly was tenured at the University of Findlay in Ohio.
Me: Most of your books are about TV shows, right? I am a big fan of the same shows you write about, but with me, I love a show, watch it, don't think about it, and maybe buy the season on DVD or blu-ray. But you take it the next step, by writing a whole book on them. What do you write about? And are you always analysing shows?
Lynnette: I still watch some shows for entertainment only, but when I see a show that captures my interest because its characters are intriguing (especially those who are morally ambiguous or have a dark side), its situations are current and provocative, or it influences a genre or popular culture in general, then I have to watch it much more seriously. I love mythology shows, which is one reason why I loved analyzing Lost. I like a lot of science fiction, such as "Battlestar Galactica" and "Torchwood", but I primarily enjoy shows that delve into characterization or themes, whatever the genre of storytelling. When a series piques my interest, I become obsessed with it—I watch episodes several times, I take notes during episodes, and I check out the official and fan sites. With so many shows, especially British science fiction like "Doctor Who", "Torchwood", or "Being Human", novels, radio plays, audiobooks, and magazines further develop ideas or characters introduced in episodes. If I’m invested in a series, I read, watch, or listen to everything I can find about that series. Wow—sounds like I need to get a life, doesn’t it? "Sherlock" has been a recent obsession, although I’m not really a Holmes fan—I guess I’m a Moffat and Gatiss fan first. I ended up writing an essay for PopMatters about Series One of "Sherlock". I’ll probably do something similar (if PopMatters likes my pitch) for "Torchwood" when it returns in 2011.
Me: I read your books about "Lost" which are good. What was the first TV show you decided to write about?
Lynnette: Thank you! Most recently, I returned to writing about TV or film by writing a book about the Lord of the Rings films ("Unsung Heroes of The Lord of the Rings: From the Page to the Screen"), but then "Lost" came along, and I was hooked. David Lavery and I ended up writing three editions of "Lost’s Buried Treasures" and two of "Unlocking the Meaning of Lost". That’s been my most prolific and intense writing about a series. If I go back to my undergrad degree work in radio/tv/film, I think I first started writing analytical essays about "Star Trek" and "Starsky and Hutch"—now that’s a range! Back then I didn’t think that I’d write books about television.
Me: Do you have to get permission to write about the shows?
Lynnette: I’ve only written unofficial books about series, but I’ve sometimes talked to writers, directors, or actors at fan conventions or events, and that info goes into my books. My editors and publishers are very careful to ensure that the books are well within copyright restrictions, and I analyze themes, influences, and the significance of the series instead of summarizing plots, for example, which is carefully regulated. I’ve heard that some series’ creators have read an article or book I’ve written and liked it, which makes me feel great. I love their work or I wouldn’t write about it, so I’m chuffed when someone from a series likes what I’ve written.
Me: Your latest book, which is the 13th book to be pheatured in the Peverett Phile Book Club is "Tarnished Heroes, Charming Villains, and Modern Monsters". Man, couldn't you have come up with a shorter title? Judging by the book cover which is Captain Jack from "Torchwood", the book is mainly about "Torchwood." Right?
Lynnette: I like the book being the 13th you’ve covered! That’s a good omen. I know, I know—I’m the world’s worst when it comes to titles. McFarland suggested several variations on the concepts I wanted to include in the book’s title, and this is the version we agreed upon. Considering that most books are about 80,000 words, but I expanded this one to 120,000, the title had to be long! "Torchwood" is certainly featured in the book, both in a separate chapter about the series and in other chapters with analyses of those heroes, villains, and monsters in the book’s title. I also was fortunate to talk with Carole Barrowman about the “Selkie” comic, as well as the books she and her brother, John (Captain Jack), have written. Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones) talked with me a few times about his character and "Torchwood". I am incredibly grateful that Carole and Gareth were so generous with their time, and these interviews make the "Torchwood" sections that much more detailed and insightful. But "Torchwood" isn’t the only example of the trend toward darker themes in science fiction television. I also discuss some of Joss Whedon’s work, from "Buffy" to "Firefly" to "Doctor Horrible", as well as a range of TV series, including "Lost", "BSG", "Caprica", and "Doctor Who".
Me: What's the premise of the book?
Lynnette: In the past few years, television heroes have grown darker, or morally ambiguous. Science fiction has always provided a “safe space” in which to discuss controversial or provocative themes and to have characters make decisions that might not be acceptable in our own society. Good SF provides new perspectives on social problems or societal fears, and in the early 2000s, there’s a lot to discuss! The trend has been to make TV heroes fall into those shades of gray—they are neither virtuous heroes nor despicable villains. They make decisions or act in ways that, a few years ago, we never would have accepted or encouraged, but they aren’t “bad” people. Those are the gray heroes I analyze in this book. Of course, the way we define hero also influences the way we think of villains and monsters, which I also discuss. Heroes, villains, and monsters are being redefined on SF TV series, and I analyze how and why, and what that means for science fiction and storytelling. Characters like the Doctor, Captain Jack, Jack Shephard, Captain Mal Reynolds, and Starbuck/Kara Thrace intrigue me, but I also see their roles as significant in the development of trends in science fiction.
Me: Have you written a book about "Doctor Who" yet?
Lynnette: I’m writing a chapter for another author’s "Doctor Who" book, and I’m working on a prospectus for my own "Doctor Who" book. Wish me luck with it! I’ve conducted seminars about Doctor Who at academic conferences or fan conventions, but I’d like to write more about the series, especially the Ninth-Eleventh Doctors.
Me: Once again with the permission thing, you used John Barrowman on the cover. Did you have to get permission to use him?
Lynnette: I didn’t have any choice of the cover, but I’m very pleased that Captain Jack is there. McFarland chose the image, so I imagine they had to get the appropriate permission for it.
Me: Have you met Barrowman?
Lynnette: Yes, briefly, but not in connection with the book. In 2009 I attended the Torchsong convention in Chicago. That’s the convention he had to attend only virtually because he’d injured his ankle a few days before flying to the States. He did, however, talk with fans through a webcam, so I stood in a very long line to ask my question, if that counts as “meeting” him. A few months later I saw him in “La Cage” in London, and I had brief stage door conversations a few times. Someday I would like to interview him, and I also hope I get the opportunity to interview Carole again. In my ideal world, I’d have a proper conversation with them both—maybe at the same time.
Me: Is there a TV show you haven't written about, but will?
Lynnette: I certainly hope so! If I don’t write a book about a significant series, I at least want to submit journal or magazine articles, whether for an academic journal or a popular culture, film, or entertainment site. I can’t imagine not writing about television. Depending on what happens with "Doctor Who", "Torchwood", "Being Human", and "Sherlock", I likely will write more about them, but I also have written short pieces and am outlining a possible chapter about "Modern Family", because it says so much about American culture right now. I was disappointed with "FlashForward" last year—I had hopes for it after the pilot episode, but other than watching it to see more of Dominic Monaghan’s work, I really didn’t get terribly involved. I liked the religious and political conflict in "Caprica", but the series just didn’t take hold. We’ll see what comes along in the next six months—I’m sure I’ll fall in love with another series, probably something dark and dramatic.
Me: As I said, I read your books about "Lost". I have to ask, what did you think about the ending of that show? I loved it myself.
Lynnette: I was happy with it, but I understand why fans who wanted more questions answered were looking for a more definitive ending. And I want to reiterate that the castaways didn’t all die in the crash!!! I’m asked that a lot—No, they didn’t all die in the crash, but one day, when they had lived out their lives, however long they were, the castaways whose most important time alive was on the island were reunited in the afterlife. I liked the spirituality of the ending, and the sense of hope. I’m a big fan of John Terry (Christian Shephard), and I loved the final scenes between Jack and his dad. I cried, and I’m not one who normally cries over television. During the last episodes, I learned more about the island’s history and the mythology underpinning the entire story. I enjoyed last scenes with my favorite characters, Hurley, Charlie, and Desmond. I loved seeing the redemption of characters I wasn’t sure would ever be redeemed. So yes, I was satisfied. I didn’t waste six years of my life watching and analyzing that show.
Me: Lynnette, where do you live? Florida somewhere, right? Do you get out and do a lot of conventions and appearances?
Lynnette: I’ve lived in Florida for several years now, and I’m based in Daytona Beach, but I often drive to Orlando or Tampa for fan conventions. I’m pleased to have met so many "Doctor Who" fans in Central Florida, so I go to as many local events as possible. Of course, with events like MegaCon so close by, I’ve been to more conventions since I moved to Florida than I ever was able to attend when I lived in the Midwest. I’ve been an invited speaker at DragonCon, the Cornerstone Festival, and, for the first time this year, Chicago TARDIS. During the LotR years I was a speaker at Creation Entertainment conventions like ORC and ELF. Chicago TARDIS was especially exciting for me. Not only did I get a session and a signing, but I moderated a session between Gareth David-Lloyd and Gabriel Strange, who talked to us from Cardiff via Skype. Gareth is the star and executive producer of independent film Casimir Effect, and Gabriel is the director. I’ve written some articles about the film, so I was thrilled as both a writer/interviewer and a fangirl to be on that stage. Throughout the year I also speak at academic conventions. In 2010 I talked about television and film in sessions of the Hawaii International Conference on the Arts and Humanities and Popular Culture Association in the South. I’m going to be talking about Torchwood at a Popular Culture Association conference in San Antonio in April, and I hope to attend or participate in more fan conventions, too.
Me: Have you received feedback from anybody that's involved with the shows you watch?
Lynnette: I’ve had “friend-of-a-friend-who-knows-so-and-so said” comments, but nothing directly from those involved with the shows. I’ve heard that Damon Lindelof knows of our "Lost" books, and someone saw Glen Larson at a fan convention with a copy of the "BSG" book—and said he liked it! But I haven’t been told anything directly. Gareth David-Lloyd knew what I included in the "Tarnished Heroes" book and has a copy, as does Carole Barrowman. They’ve both commented about articles I’ve written but not specifically about this book. I hope that the creators, actors, writers, and directors whose work I discuss know that I do so with respect and affection. After all, I choose to write the books, and I only write about those subjects that are significant to popular culture.
Me: I sent an interview request with Carlton Cuse but have not heard anything yet.
Lynnette: So have I! I know he’s a very busy man, but someday I hope to meet him. I’ve written about two of his series, "Lost" and "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr." If you get to chat with him and can say hello for me, please do. I’m very fond of his work, and he seems like he’d be a fun interview.
Me: Did I read this correctly, you are a doctor? What kinda doctor are you? I have to admit, you are the first doctor to ever be a guest on the Phile.
Lynnette: I am—a Ph.D. My doctorate is in English with specializations in rhetoric, composition, and technical communication. At Chicago TARDIS I was one of two guests who are also professors. I was both honored and amused to be introduced as one of the two Doctors at the convention.
Me: I have to ask you about the Tolkien Society... not to be confused with the Token Society. What are Middle Earth is that? Get it? Middle Earth.
Lynnette: Got it.
Me: What do you think of the Narnia movies, or Harry Potter? Here's a topic you can write for your next book: Asland is Jesus.
Lynnette: I’m a Harry Potter fan; I’ve read the books and seen all but the most recent movie (which I hope to do now that finals are over and all the reports graded). I haven’t seen the latest Narnia movie, but I’ve seen the previous two. Sorry, though, I’m more of a Tolkien than Lewis fan, although I’ve been on academic panels to discuss Narnia. Probably I’ll stick with Tolkien lit for my analyses of fantasy.
Me: Lynnette, what is the next book you are gonna write? Do you have one planned yet?
Lynnette: I have several planned, but we’ll see which one gets signed first! Right now I’m writing a book about the making of the independent film, Casimir Effect, which will be available online through the film’s website sometime in the early part of 2011. I’m working on two book prospectae—one about the Whoniverse and one about trends in theatre and film (and that one likely will have a chapter about John Barrowman’s popularity in the U.K. and his theatrical roles). Until I get a contract, I don’t want to say more about those, but I plan to have at least another book project or two started next year. I’ll also be writing some features for PopMatters, including one about "Doctor Who" and one about Nathan Fillion. I always have ideas for new projects, but some are better received than others. I tend to announce my “happy news” about publications and signings on Facebook, though, so it’s easy to keep up with my latest projects.
Me: Anyway, I wish you lots of luck, and will look out for you at MegaCon. Go ahead and plug your blogspot, and everything and tell the readers of the Phile where they can order or buy copies of your books.
Lynnette: Thanks! My books are available online through Amazon (.com, .ca, .co.uk), as well as websites for Barnes and Noble, Borders, Chapters, Waterstones, and other booksellers internationally. Here are a few of my latest publications: Books: "Tarnished Heroes, Charming Villains, and Modern Monsters", McFarland, 2010 and
Me: Take care, and come back any time.
Man, I am hyperlinked out! Thanks to Lynnette Porter for a great interview and to Jeff as well. Check out Jeff's blog at entertainmentgurunews.blogspot.com where he talks more about the Oscars this week. And of course, thanks to you, the readers. The Phile will be back next Wednesday with musician Joel Bradford. Until then, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.