George Takei Has Somthing To Say

If you know science fiction, you know George Takei–Sulu from Star Trek. Of course, no one is more than their job. The man has lived a fascinating life both on-screen and off, and I do consider him one of my personal heroes (fanboy much? Maybe).

Well, apparently, Mr. Takei also had an interesting and extremely difficult childhood. No, not like a lot of us who struggled with less than first-rate parents. In fact, Takei describes his parents as nothing if not loving and supportive. Sadly, it was his country that made little George’s childhood such a struggle. Born in the USA to US citizens, he was classified as an “enemy alien” just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

At five years old, along with his entire family, George was sent to live in a concentration camp right here in America.

Now, let me be clear, American concentration camps were not death camps. It was never the intention of the US government to exterminate Japanese people at home. However, when the British Army set up the world’s first concentration camps during the Boer War of 1899 to 1902, it was not their intention to exterminate the Boers either. Nevertheless, to deprive a group of people of their freedom due strictly to their ethnicity is the central idea behind any concentration camp and that definition describes the Japanese American “Internment” to a T.

Now, Mr. Tekei has just released a graphic novel about his childhood/wartime experiences titled, They Called Us Enemy. It is a gripping story and one that must be listened to. The compulsions that drove Americans to allow our own government to lock up human beings out of fear of what they may do rather than for things they had done are not unique to that period in history. Sadly, we have acted this way before and if left uneducated can and are acting this way again!

This book was written as a graphic novel to make it as accessible as possible. And I applaud Mr. Takei for that decision.  I will also say that the book is well written and well illustrated. It makes for a compelling read and does not try to sensationalize the experience of internment. Little George had good days and bad behind the barbed wire and I’m glad he told the whole story. I highly recommend you add this book to your library as an important part of any book collection whether you’re a fan of science fiction or not.

By Clayton J. Callahan

Rose City Comicon 2018

When I was a lad of say, sixteen years, science fiction conventions were these small affairs that took place in airport hotels and run down community centers. But oh my, how times have changed.

Today, I just spent the day at the Portland, Oregon Convention Center with about thirty-five to forty thousand of my fellow geeks.

No kidding, the line just to have your bag checked literally wrapped around the block–twice, and I pity anyone who didn’t pre-register. Still, I have to admit, despite the crowded hall, I had a great time.

Dressed in my very best Star Wars rebel trooper uniform, I spend a day with like-minded souls as we discussed costuming, comic books, and old science fiction TV shows. And for one who grew up in the time when geeks needed to hide their passions from an unfriendly world, a modern Comicon is truly an amazing experience.

If you’ve never been to a fan convention of any kind, I highly recommend you go. Comicons are huge affairs that are well advertised and you can easily find one in most major cities. However, for every huge event, there are dozens of smaller cons that deserve your attention too. Remember what Yoda said, “Size matters not.” Because big or small, cons are a great chance to let your hair down and be yourself among people who won’t judge you for preferring to watch Dr. Who over Monday Night Football.

By the way, dressing in costume is never a requirement at any con. If you enjoy that sort of thing (as I do), you can get as creative as you want. If, however, cosplay is not your thing, just dress in the way that makes you feel comfortable. I think you will find that your fellow conventioneers will accept you no matter your appearance, as long as you’re polite and extend that same courtesy to them.

So, to coin a spots wear slogan, just go out there and do it. Use this interweb thingy to find something in your area and simply show up. And while you’re there, attend a few panels, schmooze with fans, play a few role-playing games in the game room, or buy that specific comic book you’ve been looking for since you were twelve that some random merchant at the con just happens to have. In short, have yourself a good time.

Because let’s face it, we all need a chance to blow off steam and have some fun before we die, right?

By Clayton J. Callahan



Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, The Best Earth Bar That Never Was

So, apparently, I’m not the only guy who ever wrote a space bar book.

Okay, I’m of course kidding. I read Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon back in high school (In fact, I’m holding the high school edition). It was extremely popular back in its day and, reportedly, there were several instances of fans driving around New England looking for a bar that didn’t exist. It’s a fun read and every couple of years still I dust it off and read a story or two just for the pleasure of it.

I say “story or two” because the book is not a novel. Rather, it’s a series of science fiction short stories that all take place in a mythical bar in Suffolk County, Long Island (NOT upstate New York!!). called Callahan’s Place (No idea why Robinson chose my family name here). This is owing to the fact that Robinson at first published them one at a time in Science Fiction Analog magazine. The time of these stories is the present, which at time of publication was 1977.  Therefore, the science fiction elements have a sort of “Men In Black” flavor. Aliens live among us, as well as time travelers, vampires, recovering alcoholics, lost drug addicts, and an array of other quirky characters that populate the bar.

And characters are the important thing because this is not a book about universe changing events or galactic empires. No, Robinson instead gives us a series of intimate tales with a focus on human relations over science fiction wizardry. There’s Fast Eddy the piano player with the thick New York accent, Doctor Webster who leads all the pun contests, Ralph Von Wau Wau a mutant talking dog, and a host of others. All are very relatable people and set the sene for the events that follow.

All the stories are all told from the point of view of folk musician Jake Stonebender, who lost his wife and child in a car accident that he blames himself for. He came to Callahan”s Place to forget his troubles, but soon found something more. One of the quips of the book is “Callahan”s Law” which states that “shared pain is diminished while shared joy is increased.” And through the scientific application of this law, most of the plots are resolved.

Frankly, I always wondered why nobody made a TV show out of this book. It all takes place on one set (the bar) and would require little in the way of special effects. However, upon reflection, there is probably a limit to how much milk you can get out of this particular cow. Robinson wrote a host of other Callahan”s books, each or (in my opinion) of diminishing quality so perhaps such a show would only last a season (but what a cool season that would be!).

I must admit that Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon continues to be one of my influences and it is no coincidence that my first book, Tales of The Screaming Eagle, is a science fiction story set in a bar. Did I bring my own perspective into that work? Of course! Spider Robinson never served in the military, while I am a 20-year veteran. Therefore it is no surprise that my book concerns space veterans and their trials and triumphs. I also set my story on a distant colony world hundreds of years in the future because I really enjoy space opera and wanted to dive into that genera head first.

In the end, I departed from Robinson to tell my own story, but I still, owe a debt of inspiration to Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon and highly recommend it as a most enjoyable read.

By Clayton J. Callahan

Happy Star Wars Day, Everybody

I’ve been a fan since I first begged my dad to take me to the movie in 1977 (I was ten). It is no small claim to say that Star Wars was my gateway drug into the worlds of science fiction and  I’ve yet to kick the habit. So thank you to George Lucas and all the thousands of talented people who made Star Wars possible over the decades. And keep it going strong!

By Clayton J. Callahan

Avengers Infinity War…Meh

Image result for avengers infinity war

Just saw it and, sorry Marvel, not every little thing you do is magic.

I have been a fan of the Marvel movies for quite a while now. Most of the films have been well-written stories, elegantly executed. But here’s the thing, you have to start with good writing. The special effects, acting, production design, and music can all be top drawer–but if the writing is lacking, go home.

Now, naturally, I am a writer so perhaps I’m somewhat biased. But isn’t that where it all starts? Can you even tell a fictional story on film without a script? And there’s little excuse for Hollywood when you consider that the writer is usually the guy or gal who gets the smaller paycheck and the least amount of credit. Case in point; who wrote Captain America The Winter Soldier? I don’t know either and would have to google it.

What is specifically wrong with the writing of Avengers Infinity War? Well, I am working hard to refrain from spoilers here so I will speak generally. The story is one long downer, heroes are defeated time and again from the first scene to the last. Now, I am not opposed to tragedy as a thing, and I do understand that this movie is part one of a two-part tale wherein the second act can be the uplifting victory the audience now craves. However, even in tragedy, there MUST be levity! Why? Because the audience can easily become numb to the protagonist’s pain and emotionally check out before the movie is done.

For me, that was Avengers Infinity War. The film opens with such despair that one must steel oneself against further tragedy and by the time the movie reaches its horrific climax, I’d ceased to care. I actually regret the three hours I kept my butt in the chair as I was bored ninety minutes in. Yes, great characters that I have come to love perished. Only the sad thing was I didn’t feel anything when they did, and that is a great waste of fine acting talent if there ever was.

So, get it together Hollywood! Focus more on your story and less on your special effects. Just because you can make a big budget movies doesn’t mean you should unless you have a good tale to tell. And good storytelling always starts with the lowly writer.

By Clayton J. Callahan