Friday, January 30, 2015

Are You Watching Hindsight? You Should Be Watching Hindsight!

by Sara N.

You know those TV shows where you finish an episode and immediately feel a deep sadness because you don't have the next one to watch right now?

This, my friends, is Hindsight, VH1's new, utterly charming back-in-time show


On the eve of her second wedding to a boy-next-door type, Becca travels back to 1995, the eve of her first wedding to a long-haired, accented artist. Armed with what she now knows — her first marriage crumbles, her family implodes, her best friend stops speaking to her — she tries to make it right the second time around (once she stops freaking out about being back in 1995).


This show is right in my nostalgia sweet spot, and it's got the all the fizzy throwbacks to the '90s that you could ask for: Denim overalls. Blossom hats. Video stores arranged by genre. Sunflowers everywhere. That one lady razor I had in 1995. (No, seriously, I shrieked in delight when I saw it.) Black string chokers. Doc Martens. Oh, the Doc Martens.



And because it's VH1, you know the music is impeccable. So far, I haven't heard anything that felt out of place in 1995. (In fact, about 10 minutes into the pilot, I told my husband, "If there's no Alanis Morissette in this, I'll be sorely disappointed." I was not. Plus, the show demonstrated great restraint in not busting out "Fade Into You" until episode 4.)

But this show is so much more than the zing of recognizing clothes, toiletries and music you haven't encountered in 20 years. It has the heady freedom of getting to re-live being in your early 20s with your best friend, when your entire, uncharted life is stretched in front of you.


The show also has interesting things to say about free will, pre-destination, and not ruining the lives of everyone around you — including your own — when you've already seen the future. By knowing what's going to happen next and taking steps to stop it, don't you then stop knowing what's going to happen next? And does this foreknowledge make you too scared to make any big decisions at all?

This is the frustration of Becca's best friend, Lolly. Becca warns her away from dating Becca's brother because she know how badly it hurt him when Lolly ended things. But Lolly, who really is a trooper when it comes to believing that her best friend has traveled back in time, chafes at the warnings Becca keeps dropping. Is a heads-up enough to stave off the heartbreak this time? Or is it inevitable?

And then there are the men. Back in 1995, Becca' first fiancé is as tempting to her as ever, but her future fiancé also has a pull on her that he doesn't understand and that she tries (halfheartedly) to fight out of respect for his girlfriend in 1995. Both men are appealing polar opposites, yet it's also possible that neither is actually her soulmate. This show has amazing scenes of romantic yearning, illicit kisses, conflicted longing, and desiring gazes. Gah, if only it were bingeable on Netflix already!

1995 fiancé

2015 fiancé

One nerdy thing I love is the subtle examples of how our lives and even our language have changed in 20 years. Becca wakes and tells her brother she's going to make herself a coffee, and she asks if he wants one. Then she realizes there's no Keurig and starts to realize that she might not be in 2015 anymore. In 1995, you'd simply make coffee, not a coffee, and if her brother noticed, he'd probably wonder why she phrased it like that. Becca also fumbles a bit without a smart phone, seems like a genius to people struggling with technology, and has to think about which movies haven't come yet before making any references. Plus, she keeps accidentally spoiling things for poor Lolly. (What do you mean Chandler and Monica get together??) It's all great, great fun.



I hope you're intrigued enough to check out the marathon of the four episodes that have aired so far starting at 5 p.m. CST on Sunday, Feb. 1, on VH1. This way, you don't have to experience that agonizing feeling of "I have to wait a whole week for the next one?" that hits me every Wednesday.(Sorry, non-Midwesterners; you're on your own to figure out the timezone thing.)

Seriously, lovies, I cannot recommend this show highly enough, particularly if your own young adult glory days were lived in the 1990s.

All gifs from VH1's Hindsight Tumblr
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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Stop Your Frantic Searching. Here's This Year's Valentine's Gift.

by Sara N.

Stressed about what you're getting your sweetie for Valentine's Day this year? Don't be. Etsy seller MadAlchemistDesign has you covered. Check it out:


HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A COOLER ROMANTIC GIFT IDEA?? And even better: It's customizable with up to 15 couples of your choice. My sister shared this with me, and we spent all night messaging suggestions back and forth for couples we'd include and couples we'd omit.

First, I'd take out Jareth and Sarah. They don't work for me as a couple, unless we're talking straight-up bulge-in-pants sex. I'd also omit John and Sherlock simply because I don't want either my husband or me to be the Sherlock in any relationship. Sam and Dean are brothers, so putting them in a romantic setting is just weird (despite the fanfic you may have read to the contrary).

What pairs would you add? My shipper heart wants to put Gendry to my Arya, but I'm afraid neither of them will be alive in a year. (Plus, in the books, they're children.) There's also Sydney to my Vaughn, even if he was briefly married to an evil woman with an indeterminate accent. And I've been wracking my brain for couples from beloved books. Quentin to my Alice? Locke to my Sabetha? Denna to my Kvothe?

If you're anti-Valentine's Day, you can go with couples nobody wants: Bella to my Edward. Lori to my Rick. Jaime to my Cersei. Or you can surprise a friend for Galentine's Day with buddy pairings: Buffy to my Willow. Inara to my Kaylee. Sydney to my Francie. Crusher to my Troi.

After much debate over the coolest, geekiest couples of all time, I've come up with my final list (which I'm sure I'll revise at least three more times before ordering):

Leia to my Han
Riker to my Troi
Companion to my Doctor
Lois to my Clark
Mulder to my Scully
Betty to my Archie
Desmond to my Penny
Zoe to my Wash
Heather to my Conner
Kermit to my Piggy
Jamie to my Claire
Dixie to my Brisco
Adama to my Roslin
Westley to my Buttercup

(Serious question: Is "chainsaw hand to my Ash" too much?)

You see why I'm so excited by this, right? You can celebrate your mutual love of all things sci fi/fantasy/nerdy, and particularly the characters most meaningful to you and your mate. I checked with the seller, who says Sunday is the deadline to order for guaranteed delivery by Feb. 14.

So get to brainstorming. What couples would you include in yours?
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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Support Queers Destroy Science Fiction!

Last year, Lightspeed Magazine created an incredibly successful Kickstarter so they could release a special edition of their magazine made completely by women. Women Destroy Science Fiction was an awesome issue, full of amazing stories. Their Kickstarter was so successful that they were even able to do special issues of Nightmare Magazine and Fantasy magazine, producing Women Destroy Horror and Women Destroy Fantasy issues. They were all SO damn good.

Well, Lightspeed is at it again! Since Women Destroy Science Fiction was such a rousing success, they've gone back to the drawing board and have come up with Queers Destroy Science Fiction! Not content to rest on their laurels, they've pulled some of the best and brightest LGBT writers and brought them together to make another special issue that I bet will knock your socks off. Night Vale's Cecil Baldwin and urban fantasy author Seanan McGuire are helping to bring this special issue to life.

For the measly sum of $5, less than the price of a latte, you can support Queers Destroy Science Fiction and help inject some more diversity into science fiction. $5 gets you a digital copy of the special issue, three digital Lightspeed back issues and any stretch goals they make. Fingers crossed for Queers Destroy Horror and Queers Destroy Fantasy!

They blew through their goal in the first day and they have 18 days left. Pledge $5 and support diversity in science fiction! Lightspeed, you are AWESOME!
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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Behold: It's the Subterranean Library of Your Dreams!

by Sara N.

A terrible lie was told about me during Stellar Four's recent library week, a five-day celebration of all things biblo-fabulous. This week was so close to perfection that I hate to quibble with it, and yet there was a vicious untruth perpetrated about me by one Meghan B. that I simply must set straight:

I, Sara N. of Stellar Four, keep every book that I read. 

In Meghan's post on personal libraries, she wrote that I maintain a minimalist library. In fact, this couldn't be more incorrect; my husband and I are book hoarders. 

The sci fi/fantasy/horror section (and wet bar). That's Franklin sitting on the back table.
Like, serious hoarders.

Sci fi/fantasy plus comics and games.
As in, we might have a book-hoarding problem.

Sci fi/fantasy/horror, comics and games, plus romance, mystery and general fiction to the left

Thankfully, we built an amazing library in our basement to handle our massive and ever-growing collection. When our local Borders went out of business in 2011, we bought a sizable number of their different bookcases, along with a few of their display tables, overhead storage shelves, and even a couple of rolling ladders. Then we installed everything and finally liberated the books that, in some instances, had been stored in boxes for more than a decade.
  
Close-up of the comic section

Lemme tell you, organizing those books and putting them away was a labor of love, and those weeks were some of the most fun my husband and I have ever had, flipping through books we'd forgotten we adored, laughing over garish covers, and cataloguing how many duplicate copies of our favorites we'd acquired over the years. (No human other than my husband needs that many copies of Julian May's Golden Torc.)


Close-up of the game corner

There's still scads of work to be done. Most of the sections are organized into As, Bs, Cs, etc., but the books aren't alphabetized within each letter. I'm saving that job for a rainy — well, not day. Rainy week or three is probably more accurate.


The back of the two-sided bookshelf, featuring sketchy furniture and kids, non-fiction, plays, and miscellaneous books and games

Now, the bigger problem: What are we going to do when we inevitably run out of room to expand? And how does anyone ever get rid of their books? It's a mystery! (Speaking of mystery, those books are shelved next to romance and general fiction.)

And if only we could settle the eternal debate: Does paranormal romance belong in romance, or sci fi/fantasy? Curse you, un-categorizable Black Dagger Brotherhood books! 
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Monday, January 26, 2015

What Are You Reading When You're Not Reading Scifi & Fantasy?

by Megan S.

We spend a whole lot of time talking about science fiction and fantasy here at Stellar Four, but that's not the entirety of what the S4 ladies read and I'm betting the same is true for you. I mean, woman shall not live on Dystopian YA alone, amirite? So, I thought we could chat tonight about a few of our other favorite book genres.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Trailer Thursday

While perusing IMDB today I came across a trio of trailers that made me say "I will have to rent those or borrow them from the library when they come out." I guess there is the potential that I'll take the kids to see one of the 2 kids movies, but that's an iffy proposition these days when theater prices are high.

Home - out in theaters in March. "When Earth is taken over by the overly confident Boov, an alien race in search of a new place to call home, all humans are promptly relocated while all Boov get busy reorganizing the planet. But when one resourceful girl, Tip, manages to avoid capture, she finds herself the accidental accomplice of a banished Boov named Oh. The two fugitives realize there's a lot more at stake than intergalactic relations as they embark on the road trip of a lifetime."

It looks cute and I'm sure that the kids will have fun with it. They seemed to like the trailer.




Strange Magic - out tomorrow. "'Strange Magic,' a new animated film, is a madcap fairy tale musical inspired by "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Popular songs from the past six decades help tell the tale of a colorful cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps, and their hilarious misadventures sparked by the battle over a powerful potion."

It's a story by George Lucas, which could go either way. Of course, I also have heard nothing about this film and it opens tomorrow. Not an auspicious sign. The director says that he was inspired by Midsummer Night's Dream and Labyrinth. The girlchild will love the kick-butt fairy. It's worth at least a rental, I think.



Alien Outpost - out January 30. "A documentary crew follows an elite unit of soldiers in the wake of an alien invasion."

I will have to watch this, my inner action-junkie commands it, and with luck Netflix will have it by summer.


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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Third Annual Stella Awards!

The Stella, made by Stellar Four friend Ash!
It's award season, folks! While Hollywood lovingly fawns over films like The Imitation Game, Selma and American Sniper, they consistently overlook the finest films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. I get it, Hollywood. You're still too cool to give Chris Pratt the Oscar he so rightly deserves for his portrayal of Star Lord. Whatever.

Well, three years ago, I was sick of it. I wanted to give recognition to the films that thrilled me and my fellow geeks that the Academy Awards stubbornly refuse to nominate. An award made for sci-fi/fantasy movies chosen by sci-fi/fantasy fans! In past years, we've crowned Pacific Rim and The Avengers as the Best Picture winners. Who will take home the Stella this year?

There have been some changes to our nominees this go round. Last year we introduced the "Most Disappointing Film" category. I've decided to not bring that category back. It felt a little too mean spirited for our lovely Stella Award. In it's place are two new categories: Best Special Effects and Best Ensemble Cast.

Go below to see the nominees for the 2014 Stella Award and cast YOUR vote!
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Friday, January 16, 2015

Loving The Librarians

by Sara N.

Stellar Four's been singing the praises of libraries and librarians this week. After all, is there anything finer than buildings devoted to solely to books, staffed by people who sling books for a living? Heaven!

But today I'd like to pitch you a slightly different kind of librarian. Specifically, The Librarians. This quirky little TNT show is closing its first season on Sunday night, and if you haven't had a chance to fall under its spell, you can catch up on all the episodes starting at midnight on Sunday (give or take depending on your time zone, I imagine).

The show is a spinoff of the Noah Wyle-starring TV movie series The Librarian. (I'd never seen any of them, so rest assured that you can enjoy the show without seeing the movies first.) The library, which exists in another dimension, is a warehouse for magical artifacts, and the librarians are tasked with tracking down these artifacts and fighting opposing groups that want to release magic into the world.

So that's the premise, but the description doesn't do justice to the show's goofy charm, enjoyable villains, well-drawn characters, cheesy/fun special effects, and genuinely moving moments. It's even got enough of a season-long plot to keep you pulled along. As Megan S. said recently, it's Warehouse 13 done right.

Still not enough? OK. Here, illustrated with gifs from this nifty Tumblr, are more reasons to tune in.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fan Favorite Libraries and Librarians

We've seen some real, awesome libraries, thought about our own libraries, but what are some of our favorite genre librarians and libraries?



Rupert Giles, Buffy

Really, as if I could start any list of librarians without featuring the best librarian/mentor ever, Giles. First of all, he has a library equipped with knowledge of every supernatural baddie that Buffy and the Scoobies faced. Sure, it might take them awhile to find the right book (we all know that problem, am I right?) but they get there eventually. Equipped with a sardonic wit, paternal nature, and wisdom gained from a life of both power and regret, Giles is a big part of why Buffy was able to survive for so many seasons.

He can sing, too.


The Librarians

Sara and Megan have raved about this series, so this group has a mention on this list. I haven't started watching yet, but something tells me I'm going to like this show.


Evelyn Carnahan, The Mummy

I have to appreciate anyone who drunkenly and proudly proclaims that they are a librarian. Evy starts out with a sense of adventure and tons of book smarts. By the second movie, she kicks major ass both intellectually and physically. I think that if someone told me that I couldn't read from a book or horrible things would happen, that I too would unleash a nearly unstoppable mummy. Gotta love a girl who HAS to read new, unique books.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Your Own Personal Library

Books are a big deal to the ladies of Stellar Four. Between the four of us, we read hundreds of books a year and chat about them extensively. We ping each other on Twitter when we find an exciting new title and we're happy to make suggestions and cajole each other into reading a new series. We're book people, that's who we are.

Since this week is library week, I wanted to do a piece on our personal libraries. I was even going to straighten up my shelves for pictures. I reached out to the other girls to see if they wanted to share their own libraries and the answers I got back shocked me. Megan S, my good twin, doesn't keep her books! She reads them or borrowers them, then releases them into the wild. Sara N was the same, preferring to keep a few favorites and rotate the others out. Kathy F is my compatriot in book hoarding and has a lot of children's books as well as her own all over the place. For my part, I think I've kept every book I've ever read in my entire life. I have hundreds in multiple rooms in the house.

I can't imagine a house without books everywhere. Sure, part of me thinks they're out to get me because I trip over them all the time, but that's just life with books. They're piled high in corners, stacked on tables, shoved into shelves. My personal library spans many rooms and many surfaces. I couldn't imagine parting with them, even if they are trying to kill me (what do they want? Insurance money? Revenge?).

But, I must say, there is something alluring about the way Megan and Sara do it. They probably have houses much more organized than mine and they have space to walk around without their ankles being attacked by paperbacks. That must be nice. I bet they have all their dust under control too. They probably have chairs you can actually sit in that aren't seating books instead.

They've inspired me (and they're going to find this hilarious) to try and maybe... whittle my own personal library down a little. Do I need both the paperback and the hardcover of the same book? Can't I donate or sell some of the books I haven't read in many years? We'll see how it goes.

Personal libraries are such an interesting subject. We all can't be like Victorian lords who have vast libraries in their castles but some of us book lovers try their hardest to bring their favorite place in the world into their home. We share pictures of our book shelves (they started calling that "shelfies" but if I ever use the term, just put me out of my misery) as if displaying our personal library is somehow displaying a deeper part of our soul than a picture of our face. Sometimes there is no more beautiful a library than the one you cultivated personally.

So we want to know what YOUR personal library looks like. Do you go minimalist like Megan and Sara? Or do you hoard books like your life depends on it like I do? Or, maybe, you're like Kathy and you straddle the line between "only a few books" and "ALL OF THE BOOKS". Tell us! Show us pictures!
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