eldritchhobbit: (UNCLE)
Stop it, 2016. Stop it.

The world needs Napoleon Solo in it. Desperately. Please. Or Albert Stroller, at least.

R.I.P., Robert Vaughn.

Here is David McCallum's touching statement to TVLine.

I'm holding my fandom cousins close.

eldritchhobbit: (UNCLE)
Two news items today tangentially related to That Masked Man. Cue Rossini's "William Tell Overture."

News the first: It appears the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film is going to happen helmed by Guy Ritchie, with Tom Cruise as Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer (who soon will appear as the Lone Ranger to Johnny Depp's Tonto in the new The Lone Ranger film) as Illya Kuryakin. This story was first reported by Ain't It Cool News, but I'm afraid in this case that, no, this news ain't cool.* (See corroboration here, here, and here.) (Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] st_crispins.) I should point out that this casting means - among many other and arguably more important things - that Solo is (now) 50 years old and 5'7" while Kuryakin is (now) 26 years old and 6'5", significant changes from the characters' previous near-equality on both counts.

It's not that I'm opposed to reboots - see my enthusiasm for J.J. Abrams' new take on Star Trek (which is my first and best fandom love) - but they are delicate things that must be done right. This news fails to inspire optimism.

Man from UNCLE

News the second: In far happier, more hopeful news, last Saturday the great Cherokee actor Wes Studi was inducted into the "Hall of Great Western Performers" at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Well deserved indeed. He's been one of my favorite actors ever since I was thirteen, when my parents took me to see the American Indian Theatre Company’s production of Black Elk Speaks (which also starred David Carradine and Will Sampson). I've followed his career with interest and appreciation over the years and even taught several of his films in my courses. Interestingly enough, he is only the second Native American to be inducted into the "Hall of Great Western Performers." The first was Jay Silverheels, who pioneered the role of Tonto in television opposite Clayton Moore's Lone Ranger.

Wes Studi

* Perhaps I should make some joke here about how Armie Hammer's apparently taken up the job of raping my childhood that George Lucas just vacated, but hey, it's too soon to make jokes, people.
eldritchhobbit: (Fringe/Astrid)
Hello and happy Sunday, my friends!

Good news all around...

1. Earlier I failed to post about my latest "Looking Back on Genre History" segment for StarShipSofa, which is a tribute to the great author John Christopher, who died in February 2012. You can listen or download it here. An updated list of all of my podcast appearances (with links) is available here.

2. This mashup of Sherlock and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. put a big grin on my face.

3. So many upcoming birthdays! Happy early birthday wishes to [livejournal.com profile] angelinehawkes, [livejournal.com profile] idwoman, [livejournal.com profile] pseudoanorexic, [livejournal.com profile] vyrdolak, [livejournal.com profile] lyria_theringer, and [livejournal.com profile] bistokidsfan77. May you all enjoy a wonderful day and a fantastic year to come.

4. I've accepted invitations to speak this fall at The McConnell Center at the University of Louisville and next spring at StellarCon 37. My updated speaking schedule is here.

5. Fringe has been renewed for a fifth and final season.

And there's already a trailer... Feel the chills?

Fringe is a remarkably creative series that has set the bar as one of television’s most imaginative dramas... Bringing it back for a final 13 allows us to provide the climactic conclusion that its passionate and loyal fans deserve. The amazing work the producers, writers and the incredibly talented cast and crew have delivered the last four seasons has literally been out of this world. Although the end is bittersweet, it’s going to be a very exciting final chapter.”
- Fox President Kevin Reilly
eldritchhobbit: (Medieval reader)

The students at the IHS seminar are wonderful, and I had great fun with my lecture.

Now I have a few quick links to share:

* Man from U.N.C.L.E. fans, unite! Napoleon and Illya have made it to the final round of Mister 8's spy face-off poll. No registration is needed: lend your vote to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. here!

* The May 28th episode of the Point of Inquiry podcast is devoted to an interview of H.P. Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi.

* Here's another "must read" essay on Lost: "Genre and Lost" by Michael A. Burstein.

* Geeky Clean has some new geeky products, including soaps inspired by Lost and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

And now to my question for you...

One of my colleagues recently asked me which books I would consider to be the ten most important autobiographies of all time (drawn from all ages, all cultures). He's taking a poll. A few came to mind instantly: Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery, Leonard Peltier's Prison Writings: My Life is My Sun Dance, and Augustine's Confessions, for example. But "of all time" is a daunting concept, and I know there are many important titles that I'll think of, if at all, only after I've given him my list. So, knowing that my friends are very wise, I thought I'd ask you for your picks.

[Poll #1572957]

Thanks so much for your thoughts!

"...I would permit no man, no matter what his colour might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him."
— Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery
eldritchhobbit: (UNCLE)

* Happy birthday to Bilbo and Frodo Baggins! Today is the anniversary of the Long-Expected Party celebrating Bilbo's eleventy-first birthday and Frodo's coming of age in The Lord of the Rings. My thoughts are with the Lómelindi Smial of the Tolkien Society and everyone else who will be celebrating the Baggins Birthdays. Also on this day, according to the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings, 99-year-old Samwise Gamgee rode out from Bag End for the final time. He was last seen in Middle-Earth by his daughter Elanor, to whom he presented the Red Book. According to tradition, he then went to the Grey Havens and passed over the Sea, last of the Ringbearers. Cheers for the Hobbits!

* Happy anniversary to The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which premiered 45 years ago tonight on the NBC network! If you haven't read [livejournal.com profile] st_crispin's wonderful essay "Everything I Ever Needed To Know About Life, I Learned From U.N.C.L.E.," be sure to check it out here.

* Lastly, tomorrow will mark the fifth anniversary of my keeping this blog. Many thanks to my dear friend [livejournal.com profile] thrihyrne, who inspired me to begin this LiveJournal in the first place, and to all of you, my friends new and old, for sharing these years with me.

"I suspect we are legion. We are an entire generation, the field agents of today, and we are everywhere."
- [livejournal.com profile] st_crispin, "Everything I Ever Needed To Know About Life, I Learned From U.N.C.L.E."
eldritchhobbit: (TOS/McCoy/Fascinating)
Many of my friends are celebrating birthdays today and tommorrow! Happy birthday wishes go out to [livejournal.com profile] jasonbsizemore, [livejournal.com profile] _snitchbitch, and [livejournal.com profile] dannyboy8406, and happy early birthday wishes go out to [livejournal.com profile] dracschick and [livejournal.com profile] juxiantang. May you all have fantastic days and wonderful years to come!

I have a few quick notes today:

* First of all, congratulations to my husband and his school for the exciting news they shared this weekend: "College to Change Name to Lenoir-Rhyne University."

* Second of all, I am proud to announce that the book chapter "Sexy Nerds: Illya Kuryakin, Mr. Spock, and the Image of the Cerebral Hero in Television Drama," which I had the great pleasure of co-authoring with [livejournal.com profile] st_crispins, is now available in the new book Common Sense: Intelligence as Presented on Popular Television, edited by Lisa Holderman and published by Lexington Books. It was great fun to revisit the worlds of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Star Trek, Blake's 7, The X-Files, MacGuyver, Stargate SG-1, VR.5, Buffy, Firefly/Serenity, Numb3rs, and NCIS with [livejournal.com profile] st_crispins; moreover, several fans and fan fiction authors on my friends list provided us with terrific quotes we used in the article. (You know who you are!) This piece was almost a decade in the making, so it's a thrill to see it in print at last.

* Speaking of the fabulous [livejournal.com profile] st_crispins, I recommend that you check her out (she's the blonde professor/expert with some terrific quotes) on the following clip. Backstage with Larry Nolan, Comcast's entertainment news show, did a piece on the new Man from U.N.C.L.E. DVD set, and they includeed clips from the Fandemonium extra that's among the set's bonus materials.

* And last, for your amusement: Which instruments would the denizens of the Star Wars universe play and why? Here's a guess: Guitar Wars?

"You know deep down this guy thinks he's Johnny Cash." (on Grand Moff Tarkin)
"Dude. He is so Clapton." (on Qui-Gon Jinn)
- Ale[X]-wing fighter at Guitar Wars?
eldritchhobbit: (Prisoner/Never Broken)
There are times I am especially grateful that I'm a geek, and now is one of those times.

I just had a "Eureka!" moment. In the third chapter of the authorized sequel to The Prisoner, the graphic novel Shattered Visage, there is a funeral. And among the mourners, clear as day, are...

... Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and John Steed and Emma Peel of The Avengers, all appropriately aged (as the tale takes place approximately twenty years after the events in The Prisoner). I must go through the frames carefully and see who else is there, as the novel is dense with insider references. But it's official: Prisoner/U.N.C.L.E and Prisoner/Avengers crossovers are canon!

(The Secret Agent/Prisoner crossover was already established as canon, if you consider the fact that the official contemporary spin-off novels for The Prisoner identified Number Six as John Drake.)

That is all. Be seeing you.
eldritchhobbit: (Prisoner/Defiant)
And now to another installment of my fan fiction retrospective, with special thanks to [livejournal.com profile] seemag and [livejournal.com profile] st_crispins for their encouragement.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. seems particularly well suited to crossover stories with other universes. (I've previously discussed the Man From U.N.C.L.E./Professionals crossover story "Incident in a Stairwell," you may recall.) To my delight, I have found over the years two thoughtful crossovers between The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Prisoner -- a brilliant series that, if I were forced to make a choice, I might well name as my very favorite of all time. (Incidentally, I'm very interested to hear that Powys Media is to be publishing six new novels based on The Prisoner in the near future.)

The fit is a natural one. Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are agents of the international organization known as U.N.C.L.E. (or the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement); No. 6 was once a British secret agent, though his captors imprison him in the mysterious Village after he attempts to retire. There the wardens seek to break him by any means and obtain the information he learned during the course of his former career. The implication is chilling, that public servants might become the prisoners of those they served (or, perhaps, their enemies) if they survive and of do their job a bit too well.

I don't wish to oversimplify either of these stories by suggesting they are different sides of the same coin, but their commonalities suggest that I should discuss them more or less together. Both assume that the Number Six of The Prisoner is the man who was once John Drake of Danger Man (U.K.)/ Secret Agent (U.S.) (who likewise was portrayed by Patrick McGoohan). Both tell their tales from the perspective of a female U.N.C.L.E. agent who goes into the Village with Illya Kuryakin. And both include a bit of romance and action/adventure in the telling of their psychological tales. There the likenesses end. So without further ado...

Title: The Village Affair
Author: by Eva A. Enblom
Format: novella
Warning: violence, non-explicit past het sexual situation
Availability: Online at EvA's Fanfic Page.

In this dark novella, an U.N.C.L.E. agent named Sonya partners with Ilya Kuryakin to infiltrate the Village. Their purposes are twofold: to rescue John Drake, now Number Six, with whom Sonya has worked in the past; and to discover what forces are behind the the Village itself. This story stands out for several reasons. First, Enblom offers a wrenching portrait of a Number Six who fades in and out of awareness, at times very much the prisoner we know, at other times quite fey and mad. He has not broken as much as he has crumbled, and his present state is effectively contrasted with his past self through Sonya's eyes. Second, Illya is treated to psychological torture similar to what Number Six has endured, which conjures images of his abandonment by Waverly and his murder by Napoleon. (When Illya says "They are going to take my life.... Or my sanity," the reader believes.) Third, Enblom offers terrific insights in her characterizations, managing to give a mostly-absent Napoleon moments to shine, and both the past John Drake and the present Number Six truly memorable scenes. Enblom even makes Illya's unrequited love easier to swallow than it would be in the average "Mary Sue" tale.

The most impressive part of this novella is its ambiguous, bleak ending (in the tradition of The Prisoner itself). The agents determine that although the Village has THRUSH ties, it is not solely a THRUSH production. Those responsible for the Village are, like the Village itself, shadowed in secrecy and thus difficult to fight. Moreover, the agents fail to rescue Number Six, who in the final scene apparently has fallen deep into his madness, childlike and simple. Whether this is true insanity or just a clever performance might be debated, but either way, Number Six is very much a prisoner still, and the agents' failed mission has produced more questions than answers.

Read excerpt )

Title: "The Prisoner Affair"
Author: by Lin Cochran
Format: short story
Warning: violence
Availability: In the printed zine The Kuryakin File #15, published by NorthCoast Press. Currently in print.

Lin Cochran's vision in the end is more optimistic than Eva A. Enblom's. It begins on a dark note, however, with the introduction of Grace Templar, former U.N.C.L.E. agent (and widow of another), whose personality has fractured and split thanks to U.N.C.L.E.'s rather cruel and psychologically messy "detraining" procedure -- in itself, a form of the Village. Grace Templar, though a member of the walking wounded, joins with former colleague Illya Kuryakin to find Napoleon Solo when a coup within U.N.C.L.E. unseats him from the organization's head and leaves him imprisoned in the Village. Grace encounters Number Six and, after tense distrust on both sides, joins forces with him to rescue Napoleon and escape. The three U.N.C.L.E. agents flee successfully thanks only to Number Six's last-minute choice to sacrifice his own chance at freedom and distract pursuers.

Somewhat smoother than The Village Affair, "The Prisoner Affair" pulls out a happy ending at the last. Not only do the readers get to see a liberated John Drake, but they also witness a cleaned and righted U.N.C.L.E. that, under Napoleon's leadership, does away with the "detraining" procedure just as it destroys and empties the Village. If Enblom's novella ends on a note from The Prisoner, Cochran's story leaves the reader with more of an U.N.C.L.E.-esque flavor. Highlights of this terrific story include a sarcastic, painfully bitter Number Six instantly recognizable from the series, an original female lead who steals scenes with multiple personalities as fascinating as any character in the tale, and a compelling picture of an aging Napoleon who is alternately vulnerable and steely in convincing proportions and, once returned to his position, a worthy successor to Alexander Waverly.

Read excerpt )

(For past reviews, including stories from the Enterprise, Star Trek: The Original Series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Professionals universes, see my LJ's Memories section.)
eldritchhobbit: (UNCLE)
And one more recommendation while I'm still thinking of Bodie and Doyle...

Title: "Incident in a Stairwell"
Author: Debra Hicks
Format: short story, second in a three-part series, gen &/or pre-slash
Universes: crossover between The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Professionals.
Year Published: unknown
Availability: Archived at The Circuit Archive, along with its prequel ("The Waiting Room Affair") and sequel ("People Bending Broken Rules"). The latter only is slash.

If memory serves, "Incident in a Stairwell" is the short story that first introduced me to The Professionals and inspired me to explore that universe further. (At that time I was already a fan of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) It is the second of three in a series, but it stands on its own quite well, though of course the bookending tales are quite nice in their own right. "Incident," however, stands out to me as a particularly sterling example of what crossover fan fiction can accomplish.

Set in the CI5 headquarters of The Professionals' era, the tale follows the dire events of a morning on which a prisoner has escaped and opened fire on agents and innocents alike. It just so happens that Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are there on a recruiting mission for U.N.C.L.E. that same morning. (Guess which two men they wish to recruit?) The teams are separated during the confusion. A worried Solo and Bodie, along with George Cowley, are left to apprehend the prisoner before it is too late for their wounded partners, who are at the criminal's mercy.

In a fast-paced and action-packed story, Debra Hicks does many things well. The characters' voices are spot on, and the opportunity to see each man through the others' eyes leads to satisfying moments of character exploration. The implicit comparisons between Solo and Bodie, Kuryakin and Doyle are well drawn, as is the often wry portrait of the aging U.N.C.L.E. operatives. The relationships between both sets of partners are likewise explored with effective, poignant restraint. Perhaps most importantly, each of the four characters contributes a key ingredient to the successful resolution of the affair: without any one of them, the day would not be won. It is rare to see such balance, such obvious affection and respect for all of the players in a story. Hicks has fun with her dialogue and her in-jokes, and by allowing each man to supply a critical piece of the action she gives credit to both partnerships and the universes they represent. The two cultures, the two generations, play quite nicely together, and the reader can only imagine how future collaborations between the two pairs might change their worlds, and the world at large, for the better.


Solo started stripping off his jacket. Bodie and Cowley turned toward him. He proceeded to the tie. "I'll go."

"Why you?" Bodie demanded.

"He doesn't know me. And the fact that I'm older makes me look harmless." Moving the .38 from under his arm to behind his back as he said it gave a certain ironic note to the statement.

Two older pairs of eyes meet. Whatever Cowley saw there he trusted. Nodding to the American agent he raised the R/T again. "Jax, get the aid kit down here, and a white coat from the lab. Fast."

"What do you know about gunshot wounds?" Bodie asked lowly.

Napoleon cocked an eyebrow at him. "More than I care to." He meet the blue eyes. "I'll take care of them."

"Get Doyle into a sitting position, if you can." Cowley told him. Jax emerged from the stairs, joined them, passing over the large medical kit.

Slipping the coat on Napoleon opened the kit and checked it. "What about a weapon?"

The Scot frowned. "If you think either of them can handle it, and if you can get it to them..."

"Unseen." Napoleon finished. He snapped the case closed. "Ready."

"Hoffman, he's coming up." Cowley shouted.

Bodie touched the other man's arm as he started past. "Luck, mate."

The smile that answered him was feral, for the first time showing the cold agent lurking under the smooth exterior. "Luck is my specialty."


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