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Friday Five: 5 Noteworthy Pocket Books Star Trek Novels


There have been a lot of Star Trek novels over the years, from a number of publishers, dealing with every iteration of the franchise (yes, even the animated series) as well as many that fit no existing bracket.

Among the various pieces of thinly-disguised fanfic, the (surprisingly few) direct sequels to TV episodes, the attempts to do hard sci-fi that don’t quite work, and the inevitable attempts at inter-genre crossovers, there are some that I would call ‘noteworthy’ for one reason or another. Note that this is not always synonymous with ‘good’. Picking five from all of the possible options (even had I read them all) would probably be impossible, so I’m going to restrict myself to the Original Series novel range published by Pocket Books from 1979 to around 1990, at which point I stopped reading them as religiously as I had previously. 

Listed in no particular order:

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The Music of Nashville: TV's Only Country Fantasy Epic


It’s not secret that I love Nashville. Hell, it seems to me like the half the SF/F community does too: it’s a country epic fantasy.

What makes Nashville such a great show isn’t the fast paced storylines or the addictive, soap opera style cliffhangers, intense relationships or the glamorous cast with gorgeous clothes and fantastic hair, or even the music itself. What makes it great is that it is essentially about two complex, intriguing, ambitious women, their careers and their relationship with their art. 

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Friday Five: 5 Terrific Techy Ladies in Sci-Fi

Brave New GirlsThis week's guest is Mary Fan, co-editor of the brand new Brave New Girls. The anthology collects science fiction stories featuring "brainy young women who use their smarts to save the day". That is to say: it not only brings readers a whole pack of awesome role models, but they're also clever stories featuring brains over brawn.

All proceeds from Brave New Girls are being donated to a scholarship fund set up by the Society of Women Engineers, so buy with confidence - you're not just reading about bright futures, you're helping make them. With no further ado, we'll hand over to Mary...


It’s no secret that there aren’t a lot of women in science and tech, both in the real world and in fiction. Which is a shame, really. There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem around this issue—are techy women not depicted in sci-fi because they’re rare in real life, or are they rare in real life because girls don’t see themselves depicted in those roles and therefore don’t pursue those careers? The fact is, pop culture is a powerful influencer, especially on girls and teenagers. And the scary thing is, your career is dictated by decisions you make as an impressionable kid (think about it… the college major you pick at age 19 determines whether or not you’ll become a research scientist).

While there are plenty of ladies in sci-fi, they’re usually not put in the science and tech-based roles. The scientists, hackers, engineers, etc. are usually guys. But every so often, you’ll stumble upon a character that makes you go, “Yes! More of her, please!” Here are five brainy sci-fi ladies who use their smarts to save the day:

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Friday Five: 5 Next Generation Netflix Defenders

Today is officially Daredevil Day - yes, officially. The UN has issued a… thing ('edict'? doesn't sound very UNish, does it? And 'proclamation' sounds like something Regina would issue in Once Upon A Time). Let's start over.

So the UN has declared Friday 10th April 2015 to be Daredevil Day in honour of the launch of the first Marvel Netflix series.

And, while obviously you're all off watching all thirteen episodes back to back, when you're done, here's a subject for you to consider. After Daredevil comes Jessica Jones, then Luke Cage, then Iron Fist before they all get together to be The Defenders. But what then?

Who else should Marvel Studios bring into the Netflix fold to be part of the more street level part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Here are five (well, technically seven) suggestions...

Cloak and Dagger

CloakLet's just get the fact that the name/concept connection is outrageously forced out of the way first so we can focus on how great the pairing was from its very first appearance. Tammy and Tyrone are runaway teenagers who made it to New York only to fall victim to a mob plan to test new designer drugs on the youth that have fallen through the cracks. Most of the victims die, but Tammy and Tyrone emerge from the tests changed.

Tammy's light daggers are formidable weapons, and also the only thing able to keep the darkness that Tyrone is able to channel 'fed' - unless he lets it consume life energy. His darkness also allows him to teleport and to consign enemies to a dark dimension. Their origin is one of the grimmest in the Marvel canon, and even allows for some typical Marvel angst - Tyrone is tortured by the fact that Tammy is forced to stay with him to prevent his darkness feeding on innocents, even though she could, in theory, return to a normal life. 

Appearing initially in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Cloak and Dagger had their own limited series, a well-regarded meeting with the New Mutants, and went on to an unfortunately sporadic career in the Marvel U. An attempt to retcon their origin to make them mutants when mutants were The Big Thing is probably, hopefully gone by the wayside, and it's past time that they got the kind of attention that a TV series would give them. 

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"And then I got to the dwarf egg episode"... an interview with Kim Curran


Pornokitsch: Hi, Kim! So, you've started watching Once Upon a Time. What do you think?

Kim Curran: Hey! I had so many people rave about this series, even my mother in law of all people, that I started watching it with a lot of trepidation. Would I enjoy it? Would it live up to the hype? Would I have to admit to my MIL that I hated yet another thing she loved (we've only just recovered from the trifle drama).

Then I started watching and after the first few episodes I was so relieved. It was a fun, hugely entertaining, women-led story and I was really looking forward to binging all, how many are there now, six seasons.

And then I got to the dwarf egg episode...

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The Joy of the Soundtrack: Misfits, Nashville and American Horror Story


I’m a big fan of television show soundtracks.

Not scores - I find those fairly boring, personally - but I love a well soundtracked TV show and find that it adds an excellent layer to the narrative. There are many, many TV shows with fantastic soundtracks - here are two that stand out in my TV-watching experience over the last few years. Well, and I may mention a third - although I don’t mind admitting that it is a bit of a sneaky indulgence that probably just deserves its own post.


This British show started off with some of the best, most fun episodes I’d seen on TV in a while. The first series was just 6 episodes and that was the worst thing about it - that there just wasn’t enough of it. The show did go on for another few seasons, but let’s never, ever even mention 4 and 5, ‘kay?

So what happens when a group of delinquents in South London who are just starting community service for various crimes are hit by a freak electrical storm and gain strange powers? Do you really think they’ll become superheroes? They’re not ‘good’ people - they’re all here because they’ve done something wrong, so who is to say they’ll then use their powers for good? And, anyway, haven’t we had enough of using your powers for good? And I don’t mean in the super-villain sense, just in the "oh shit, but how can I use what I’ve got to fix my life" sense. You know, ordinary petty criminals with selfish desires - they’re just like you and me, really.

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The Scully Effect: My Life in The X-Files

The-X-FilesThe X-Files, huh? That show people watched like twenty years ago? Who cares? I do, that's who. Now sit down and shut up while I explain important things to you.

Last week the internet exploded with joy when the long-circulating rumour that The X-Files would be getting a new season 13 years after it went off the air, was confirmed. Well, much of the internet exploded with joy. Some of the internet exploded with skepticism (‘It’ll just suck!’) and bits of it exploded with confusion (‘they’re making a television show about that stupid movie from a couple of years ago?’)

Well, gather round, folks, because I'm here to tell you why you should not just care that the X-Files are back, but should get really excited. I was there when it all began, loved the show from the beginning, and have a lot of opinions so I'm  more qualified than anyone else on the entire internet to tell you this stuff. 

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Ross & Rachel & Ron & Hermione & Jessica Rabbit

Ladbrokes Bingo_Valentines Cards_Lord of the RingsAnother survey - this one on behalf of Ladbrokes Bingo - this time investigating 2,000 cinema-goers and how they feel about loooooooove. As before, they've very kindly let me poke about with the numbers and draw my own conclusions. And boy, are they fun.

Background: the 2,000, are split across all ages (18+), equally between men and women, and, generally speaking, they're pretty genre-agnostic (equal fans of romance, comedy, sf/f/superhero, action, crime, etc). So, you know, people.

The bulk of the questions, again, this being about looooooove, have to do with favourite couples and romantic moments. What I found particularly interesting is how these split by age and gender.

I suppose it shouldn't come as huge shock but my top-line conclusions are: some of these 'timeless' romances... aren't. And when it comes to 'romance', men and women seem to have slightly different ideas. Oh, and - men are creepy.

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Friday Five: 5 Cartoons That Will Improve Your Life

IronGhostJennifer Williams is a fantasy writer and Lego obsessive who spends much of her time frowning at notebooks in cafes and fiddling with maps of imaginary places. She's the author of the highly-acclaimed (and immensely enjoyable) fantasy adventure, The Copper Promise, and its brand-spankin'-new sequel, The Iron Ghost.

She's here to make our lives "dramatically better" with cartoons. A tough claim - can she back it up? Read on and find out.

When I was a kid I was only interested in watching cartoons.

Children’s programmes that were live action and involved real, living, breathing children, were switched off faster than you could say Thundercats. While my fellow kiddies were getting a grounding in TV drama with Byker Grove, Children’s Ward, and Press Gang, I was flicking through the channels looking for a rogue episode of Scooby Doo. I even had a deep wariness of things that were animated in stop-motion, because that was a little too close to real life for my liking (this is clearly a conversation I will have with a therapist in the future) so Paddington Bear, Charlie Chalk and even the beautiful Wind in the Willows would be abandoned if Defenders of the Earth was on the other side.

And if I’m honest, I still prefer cartoons to almost anything else that might appear on the telly, and these days I’m actually justified because, let me tell you, cartoons in the 21st century are amazing. Here are five that will dramatically improve your life.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

I’m just gonna put this out there: A:TLA is pretty much the greatest cartoon ever made. Probably the greatest thing to have ever been on telly. It takes place in a secondary fantasy world inspired by a mixture of Asian and Inuit culture, where some people are born with the ability to bend certain elements to their will. One being, reincarnated through the generations, is able to bend air, water, fire and earth, and is destined to do awesome things and generally kick ass. This is the Avatar, and in A:TLA the Avatar is a little kid called Aang, a child brought up with the peaceful Air Nomads. Aang accidentally takes a 100 year long time out and misses a devastating war – the TV series covers his struggle to master his bending abilities and defeat the evil Fire Lord, assisted by a gang of young people with their own abilities and problems.

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