Stan Lee (1922 – 2018)

Stan Lee © Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

The unstoppable force behind Marvel, the person responsible for putting the “hero” into “superhero”, transforming the erstwhile walking cardboards with ten commandments written on them into human (or godly) beings, full of foibles, insecurities and vices, but at the same time always striving to become better and to do better.

Lee as few others understood the human need for telling stories, for heroes, and for heroic journeys. He was the \co-creator of Spider-Man, the Mighty Thor, Iron Man, the X-Men, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Black Panther, and Ant-Man – as well as many other superhero characters. He was also a tireless advocate of introducing comic superheroes to the wider public, and his efforts brought us the wonderful recent Marvel superhero movie onslaught, irrevocably changing the comics’ place and magnifying their significance in pop-culture.

Piotrek: I’ve re-watched the first Captain America today with my Dad and the usual Stan Lee cameo made me smile. How many more did they manage to prepare? Probably just Captain Marvel and the second Infinity War movie…

Ola: Apparently all 2019 Marvel movies will have Stan Lee cameo. It’s become such a feature of the Marvel movies that it’s difficult to imagine a movie without his appearance 😉 As John Romita put it in one of his interviews,

He’s a con man, but he did deliver.

He was one of the rare giants that transform their chosen field irrevocably – a facilitator, a face, an moving force behind the scenes, an impresario.  He led a full, adventurous life that brought us much joy and inspiration.

Thank you, sir, and farewell!

‘Nuff said.

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018)

LeGuin-750

Ola: One of the best fantasy and science fiction writers ever, although she didn’t like that label and preferred to be called a novelist and a poet. A daughter of the famous cultural anthropologist, Alfred Kroeber, who documented the vanishing lifestyles of West Coast Native Americans, Le Guin always put the focus of her novels on people and their varied ways of living.

As she said in an interview with John Wray in 2013 for The Paris Review,

The “hard”–science fiction writers dismiss everything except, well, physics, astronomy, and maybe chemistry. Biology, sociology, anthropology—that’s not science to them, that’s soft stuff. They’re not that interested in what human beings do, really. But I am. I draw on the social sciences a great deal. I get a lot of ideas from them, particularly from anthropology. When I create another planet, another world, with a society on it, I try to hint at the complexity of the society I’m creating, instead of just referring to an empire or something like that.

Piotrek: She was the social scientist’s fantasy writer, just as Tolkien was an heir to the rich tradition of philology and traditional study of myths. Politically not neutral, never shying away from important issues of race, feminism and other forms of inequality. Full of passion, but also smart and well-read in theory. Wise and compassionate.

In literary disputes, she was a staunch defender of what we call genre fiction. I’ve mentioned it before, but let me quote from her Guardian interview from 2016:

Realism is a genre – a very rich one, that gave us and continue to give us lots of great fiction. But by making that one genre the standard of quality, by limiting literature to it, we were leaving too much serious writing out of serious consideration

She wrote reviews for Guardian, including one of Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, and she was harsher than Ola!

Continue reading

Kazuo Ishiguro with Nobel prize in literature

This is yesterday’s news, but I just wanted to say I’m very happy about it. Japanese-born British author is not really a genre writer, but his latest novel, The Buried Giant, gave me the pretext to devote one review to him. Book Ola liked even more than I did, a rare occurrence 😉

It is a very literary fnobel-ishiguroantasy novel, and he also published dystopian kind-of s/f Never Let Me Go. In the genre world he is, nevertheless, an outsider, possibly a newcomer, albeit a very friendly one. I heartily recommend an excellent interview conducted by David Barr Kirtley on Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, after a very interesting talk Ishiguro asks Kirtley for genre recommendations. So, you know, if the Swedish Academy is too dumb to give the prize to Le Guin, Ishiguro is also a very good choice 🙂 A writer, who

in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world

Continue reading

John Hurt (1940 – 2017)

john_hurt

Ola: Sir John Hurt – who hadn’t seen him? Unforgettable Elephant Man, Ollivander from Harry Potter franchise, the dictator Adam Sutler from V for Vendetta and Winston Smith from 1984, Kane from Alien – and from Spaceballs – Trevor ‘Broom’ Bruttenholm from Hellboy, Controller from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Gilliam from Snowpiercer and, for one-hour special episode (and a little bit more, to be precise), War Doctor from Doctor Who. And many more, of course. He was the rare actor who with equal dedication and equanimity accepted roles in contemporary dramas, costume movies, horrors and science fiction flicks. And his presence was always felt.

Continue reading

Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017)

bauman

Zygmunt Bauman, Polish-born sociologist and philosopher of a globalized world, the author of renowned books on modernity and Holocaust, on liquid modernity, rootless life, immigrants and terrorists and inequities of the contemporary world, a Pole, a Jew, a whole-hearted European, a communist, a soldier, a patriot, an erudite, one of the most influential and thoughtful contemporary thinkers and (ironically, as he was never an anti-globalist himself) an anti-globalist icon, died today.

Continue reading