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Who And Me

Who And MeOrder this bookStory: Doctor Who producer Barry Letts (1923-2009) narrates the story of his own beginnings in TV and theater, from second-string actor to writer to producer of one of the BBC’s most popular series during its first seasons in color starring Jon Pertwee. This first volume, featuring Letts reading his own memoirs, covers his early career, his first Doctor Who directing gig (Enemy Of The World starring Patrick Troughton) and his eventual ascension to the chief creative mind behind the series. Jon Pertwee’s first two seasons are covered in depth, including many remembrances of Pertwee himself and his co-stars, the introduction of Roger Delgado as the Master, and more.

Review: I had Who And Me sitting on the shelf for a long time before former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts died in October 2009, but I just hadn’t listened to it; Letts has already been interviewed, and has written up anecdotes about his time working on Doctor Who, and has done enough DVD commentaries…I wasn’t sure there was anything new to tell. Who And Me proved otherwise. Continue reading

Racing The Beam: The Atari Video Computer System

Book titleOrder this bookStory: In this college-level text, the authors discuss the nuts and bolts of writing programs on the Atari Video Computer System (more commonly referred to as the 2600), including the unique challenges necessitated by trade-offs that were made for many reasons – including cost – at the hardware design stage. To examine different approaches to the inherent limitations of the VCS, the authors examine the design and programming of several of its major games in depth: Combat, Adventure, Pac-Man, Yars’ Revenge, Pitfall! and The Empire Strikes Back. Other prominent games are discussed, usually as sidebars to the in-depth dissection of the above games, along with commentary on trends in the video game industry at the time and eventual downfall of the industry which brought Atari’s dominance to a close.

Review: “Racing The Beam” is not for the faint of heart; this is no sweeping overview of video game history, but rather a collegiate media studies text with a healthy dose of computer science mixed in for good measure. I opened the book with the expectation that I’d hopefully find some new insights into some of the most iconic Atari 2600 games; I closed the book with an understanding of the machine’s hardware (and its legendary limitations) that I almost felt like I was closer to having the know-how to program for it. Continue reading

On The Outside, It Looked Like An Old-Fashioned Police Box

Story: Presenter Mark Gatiss revisits a now-bygone era of Doctor Who appreciation – in the pre-video, pre-DVD days when Target’s compact, economically-worded novelizations of past television stories were all that younger fans had to rely on for knowledge of the show’s early years, and got a great many young people hooked on reading into the deal. Interviewed guests include Terrance Dicks (writer of the majority of Target’s Doctor Who books), frequent cover artist Chris Achilleos, Philip Hinchcliffe, Russell T. Davies and Anneke Wills.

Review: An affectionate overview of the origins of the Target Books Doctor Who novelizations of the 1970s and ’80s, On The Outside, It Looked Like An Old-Fashioned Police Box is a good “introductory essay” to the phenomenon that has now sadly faded into a specific period: to the modern generation of Doctor Who fandom, Target’s novelizations, seldom exceeding (or even approaching) 200 pages, are more likely to be something younger fans have read about than read first-hand. Continue reading

Invading Spaces

Invading SpacesBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStory: Author (and theLogBook.com contributor) Rob O’Hara discusses the basics of collecting arcade games, from acquiring them to repairing them, and along the way tells many a tale of his own adventures in arcade collecting, from acquiring the very same beloved arcade machine he played in his own youth to a few eBay seller horror stories.

Review: Rob O’Hara knows a couple of things about collecting arcade machines. I knew that before reading this book – there’s something about his back yard outbuilding full of working classic machines vs. my one broken-down machine uselessly taking up a refrigerator’s worth of space in my game room that says he’s definitely got the jump on me in this hobby. “Invading Spaces” is where he shares that obvious wealth of knowledge with coin-op newbies like myself. Continue reading

I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol / 12 Days on the Road / Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs

Book titleOrder this bookStory: Three books tell the story of legendary punk band the Sex Pistols.

Review: My fascination with the Sex Pistols began with my brother giving me the documentary The Filth and the Fury for either my birthday or Christmas one year with the cryptic words “You don’t know you want this.” He followed that up with John Lydon’s autobiography, “Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs”, but I just couldn’t get into it, not getting past the first few pages before I put it down. But about a year later, I acquired a different book on the Sex Pistols by their US tour manager, Noel Monk; “12 Days on the Road”, the story of the band’s raucous career-ending tour. With its much more visceral feel and crazy stories right off the bat, it was much easier to get into. So after finishing that, I went back to “Rotten” and then bought original bass player Glen Matlock’s autobiography “I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol”. Three very different perspectives on the story of the band lead to three very different books. Ultimately, they compliment each other, helping to give a more rounded view than any one book would have done alone. Continue reading

Hitchhiker: A Biography Of Douglas Adams

Hitchhiker: A Biography Of Douglas AdamsOrder this bookStory: Author (and SFX Magazine co-founder) M.J. Simpson references a wealth of interviews with “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” author Douglas Adams – and his friends and associates – to paint a fairly complete picture of his life as a science fiction icon, creative thinker, advocate for the popularization of science and technology, and staunch avoider of deadlines.

Review: “Hitchhiker” is a book that Adams fans probably love or loathe…depending largely upon whether this is the first biography they’ve read of their hero. Years and years ago I was extolling the virtues of Neil Gaiman’s “Don’t Panic”, which, to be fair, is only partly a biography but is also a history of the Hitchhiker’s Guide franchise. However, considering that Adams was intimately involved with Hitchhiker’s Guide up to the time of his death, it seems unlikely that anyone could really tell one story without having to tell the other. Continue reading

The Definitive Biography of P. D. Q. Bach

The Definitive Biography of P. D. Q. BachOrder this bookStory: Professor Peter Schickele charts the life and career of P. D. Q. Bach, the twenty-first of famed composer Johann Sebastian Bach’s twenty children. Professor Schickele covers the three main phases of P. D. Q.’s musical output: the Initial Plunge, the Soused period and, finally, Contrition. He also delves into the legacy of P. D. Q. Bach, those he has influenced (or at least prevented from making the same mistakes) and a history of the rediscovery of the works of this justly underappreciated artist.

Review: The guys of Spinal Tap ain’t got nothin’ on Peter Schickele. In the late 1960’s, Schickele began performing the “lost” works of little-known composer P. D. Q. Bach, described by Schickele as the “oddest of Johann Sebastian Bach’s twenty-odd children.” He even adopted a fictional version of himself, Professor Peter Schickele, to differentiate when he is working in the real world from when he is working in P. D. Q.’s. In the years since, he has built up an enormous life story for P. D. Q., which was first set down as a single biography in this book. Also similar to the later Spinal Tap, Schickele portrays P. D. Q. himself, although given the character’s position in history, only through portraits. Schickele is an accomplished musician and composer, having written many award-winning pieces and even several movie scores (including genre work, such as the film Silent Running). All of this is evident in the text of “The Definitive Biography”, a book that any fan of music, classical or otherwise, should read. Continue reading

Boarding The Enterprise

Boarding The EnterpriseOrder this bookStory: A lively mixture of SF writers (many of them with connections to the original Star Trek) and other essayists look back to the dawn of Star Trek, dissecting the original show to ponder its meaning, and stepping back to analyze the meaning that the Trek phenomenon has taken on over time. Contributors include David Gerrold (who also co-edited), D.C. Fontana, Norman Spinrad, Howard Weinstein, Eric Greene, Michael Burstein, Robert Metzger, and several others.

Review: I’ve been an admirer of BenBella’s Smart Pop books for some time now, enjoying the variety of ways of looking at their subjects that the standard-issue scattershot of writers brought to the table for each book. Sure, there are the occasional bone-dry essays, and there have been a few occasions in the past where attempts at humorous essays flatlined like badly-written internet humor. Generally, though, I look forward to the more-or-less factual essays, examining their subjects from an angle that I might not have previously considered. And if there’s an occasional essay from someone who’s worked on the show, that’s icing on the cake that elevates it slightly above the other “Unauthorized! And Uncensored!” books about various pop culture phenomena that are already on the market. When you look at the short list of honest-to-God Star Trek luminaries lining this book’s table of contents and credits, it’s clear that “Boarding The Enterprise” has hit something of a home run. Continue reading

The Forgotten Network

The Forgotten NetworkOrder this bookStory: How does a television network die? These days it might just be a lack of sustainable advertising revenue, or a merger with a competitor, but then, there are so many networks on the air today on satellite and cable. But before those two means of delivering a signal were widespread, television pioneer Allan Du Mont tried to put into practice his dream of creating a new television network, and completely rewrote the rules of the nascent broadcasting networks. Within a decade, however, the DuMont Television Network was already no more – even though the other networks were now playing by DuMont’s rules. The author makes, and convincingly backs up, a case that DuMont signed off the air because the Federal Communications Commission, at the behest of its lobbyists within the “Big Three” networks, sabotaged the new network at every step.

Review: You know, there’s an epic movie somewhere just waiting to be made out of this story. It could be a dry pile of politics and technical jargon, but the author does a great job of putting the understanding of those two elements within grasp, and then spends even more time on the true soul of the story – Allan Du Mont’s almost cheerfully Ed-Woodian, “carry on regardless” spirit that infuses the story of his short-lived network from its beginning to its near-tragic end. I say tragic loosely, because it’s the death of a dream and an ideal rather than the death of a person, and yet by the end of the story my heart ached for the dream and the people who dared to dream it. Continue reading

Star Trek: Voyager – A Vision Of The Future

Star Trek: Voyager - A Vision Of The FutureOrder this bookStory: A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the first two seasons of Voyager, including the torturous pre-production process of developing the show’s premise.

Review: This book received much pre-release hype as being a product of the same author who penned the justly acclaimed 1968 behind-the-scenes story of “The Making of Star Trek”, though this time writing under his own name instead of the pseudonym of “Stephen E. Whitfield.” Since Poe’s definitive tome inspired many later works, including the excellent books by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, it stands to reason that surely he can exceed his own previous work and give us a Star Trek behind-the-scenes book like no one else can. Continue reading