Book Mini-Review: Galactic Improvisation

So Say We All: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized History of Battlestar Galactica.
Mark A. Altman & Edward Gross.
Tor Books. 718 pp., $27.99.

No, it wasn’t the record-breaking-rated, universally-loved show it is now seen as, almost ten years after it ended. No, it wasn’t unconditionally loved and cherished by its network–until the awards and critical acclaim came in, and the showrunners announced that the fourth season would be its last. From its beginnings 40 years ago as an often ill-fated attempt to bring the visual and spiritual power of Star Wars to ABC primetime screens every week, to its let’s-kill-every-rule-Star-Trek-ever-had-and-hold-up-a-mirror 21st century Sci-Fi (now SyFy) Channel revival during the post-911/War on Terror years, Battlestar Galactica was almost always an acquired taste, a pleasant, almost-mainstream discovery. But how powerful the concoction! Altman and Gross, who interview as many cast and crew members that a human mind can absorb on a given page, take us step by step through the mythology as it developed, the last three words being key; perhaps the biggest shock of the book–practically its thru line–is how much of the new version was editorially done on the fly, and how its showrunners, Ronald D. Moore and the series’ often-unsung hero, David Eick, trusted its writers to fly Galactica–a complex series about race/identity and its connection to current politics, ancient Earth history and world religion–to a powerful, albeit controversial to many, end. What a great way for Altman and Gross to end a trilogy (four books, technically) of fan-favorites–Star Trek, then Buffy/Angel, and now BSG. These kind of books, especially with its oral history formats, take the rabid deep into the rabbit(-ears) whole, allowing the reader to see into the experience, and stay there. For a BSG fan, this is essential, since the series presented much but purposely answered little.

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Asante Sana, The Village Voice

Even putting on my media historian’s hat, it is difficult for me to explain how important The Voice was to American journalism.

Once upon a time (at least from the 1970s through the 1990s), it was the place for uncompromising political and cultural journalism. It was required reading for people who wanted to absorb (as a reader) or master (as a writer) the now-dying art of longform mass-media journalism.

The Voice was important to me because I read there important Black writers such as Thulani Davis, Lisa Jones, Greg Tate, Peter Noel and Joe Wood. (I never forgot Wood’s 5,000+ profile of Albert Murray in the paper’s famous annual Arts Supplement pullout.) The Voice essay that still shakes me to this day is Joan Morgan‘s “A Blackwoman’s Guide To The [Mike] Tyson Trial,” an article that introduced me to sexual harassment, misogyny and rape culture.

It was for people who wanted hardcore journalism. It showed me you didn’t have to be at The New York Times or The New Yorker to kick journalistic ass in New York! It made me want to be a real writer who wrote longform narrative journalism in nuance and detail. After I finish the book I’m writing, I’m going to do just that.

 

Funeral Notes–Aretha and McCain: One Question, Three Comments

Yep, I watched Aretha ALL DAY Friday on the livestream. Even after-the-fact caught Meghan McCain’s tribute to her daddy yesterday.

It was a weird weekend for funeral eulogy. W’s McCain eulogy was better than Obama’s! (And, thankfully, much shorter!) I would have never have seen that coming!

Okay, I see most of the news coverage about Queen Ree-Ree is about how the bishop enjoyed himself a little too much with Ariana Grande, who, telling the truth, was wearing a little too little for church. 🙂  And no, Bill Clinton did not keep his eyes in his head, but, c’mon, everyone saw that coming. 🙂 ) But I had one question and three comments:

  1. Why didn’t Minister Louis Farrkahan speak, or get to speak, at the funeral? All the other dignities–former President Bill Clinton, Rev. Al Sharpton, Michael Eric Dyson, and Rev. Jesse Jackson–sat with him, and they all spoke. Also: I’m glad some people noticed what I did–that he was being constantly cropped out of the shots, both photo and live video. He sat up there a long time to get gipped like that in public, if that’s what indeed happened. Whether he got cut from the pulpit or not, at least it seemed that he was enjoying himself.
  2. I think I was in the kitchen when U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters gave the Wakandan salute. Just found out about that while researching this post.
  3. The MSM are focused on Dyson’s slamming of Trump. But I appreciated his shade on Obama. Without referring to him by name, Dyson said “some” (meaning you, Daddy-O) were too afraid to come and stand in front of the entire Black community –which, FOX News’ confusion be damned, includes Farrakhan! (Sharpton read a letter from 44.I’m not the biggest Dyson fan by a looong shot, but I appreciated that!
  4. As far as John McCain is concerned, well……let’s just say that if Angela Davis–an American hero!–becomes an Ancestor before me, I look forward to hearing tributes to her courage from the Right, Center and Center-Left (liberals). 🙂


218-Word Review (Admittedly Belated) of “BlacKkKlansman” and “Crazy Rich Asians”

 

Not a cold breeze in sight, and thoughtful films about American identity appear anyway. Yesterday’s cinema trip was for Spike’s latest and to finally see “Crazy Rich Asians” in an actual theater, offline. Spike, like this writer, is older, and “BlacKkKlansman” reflects not only his age, but his restraint. The former “Black nationalist with a camera,” teamed with “Get Out”‘s Jordan Peele in cooperation with white filmmakers, tells a story of late-1970s desegregation as Black-Jewish buddy-cop flick. He tries to keep his now-graying African-medallion audience by using a watered-down version of his normal racial tensions and contrasts, and finally, pun intended, has found a great use of his now-famous dolly. Tone-wise, Spike is now grown-folks-smooth-jazz; he’s learned to hold back. It’s fascinating, though, that his American desegregation triumph, billed as a based-on, isn’t accurate. So its value has to be hotly debated.

“Asians” is a novel, so it can stretch fantasy to fit its truths. Its victory is variety; finally, some context to the nerdy young male and hiphop-styled young woman (although there are questions about the latter). A story of intra-racial (at least, from Western eyes) class divisions disguised as a love story. The movie asks internally and externally: how alike, or not alike, are one group of people, or similar individuals, and what barriers are legitimate?

 

Book Mini-Review: A Sci-Fi Novelist’s Sophomore Effort Shows The Symmetry Of Imbalance

Temper.
Nicky Drayden.
Harper/Voyager.
385 pp., $19.99.

What a “Nicky Drayden sci-fi novel” is is, for now, solidified with this fine second inning. Set in a land that might be South Africa if you want it to be, this tale of twins, dark magic, African god possession and the horrors of boarding school really takes command after a too-long set-up. Secrets pile and spill, characters switch identities and loyalties and–in what is now Drayden’s style–monsters are shown, from the inside out, as all too human. What is important about Drayden as a novelist is two-fold: first, she seeks to destroy public (gender) identity’s use as a lazy marker of someone’s totality, and second, in this novel particularly, she shows that true balance is achieved by serving every side of imbalance. Definitions built, then crushed. Religion and science at odds, or working in harmony? Waaayy too simple. And Drayden delights in her humorous genre- and character-mashups.  Like her first novel, “The Prey of Gods,” this is not your father’s fantasy Africa or Africans, and nor is it meant to be; it is another fully realized narrative from an author who refuses to see and satisfy any pre-supposed expectations or limitations.

My New Book Review, About A New Collection of Elombe Brath’s Writings,……….

…….is here.