Saturday, 1 January 2011

Best Stella

Curved Space:
The Adventures of Stella Star 2010.
Edited by Richard Dean.
Createspace Books. ISBN: 9781453725320

Back in 1978, there was the awesome film called, by decree of the producer, Star Crash... a bit of a B-movie epic and all-round general fun ride of a movie. This movie starred the always lovely Caroline Munro in the lead role of Stella Star and my review of this movie can be found here...

Now we have a new collection of short stories picking up where the film left off and giving us new tales of Stella and some of the other characters from the movie.

There are a few styles of different forms of science fiction writing and, when it comes down to pure science fiction without any levels of heroic fantasy or horror thrown into the mix, there seems to be three major strands of sci-fi writing, as far as I can make out. Style Number 1 would be the hard edged, high-tech sci-fi of people like Arthur C. Clarke and are mostly not my thing (although technically I guesss, Jules Verne would fit into this category and he very much is my thing, so maybe I should just modify that one right now with... I prefer the ones written prior to the 20th Century).

The second of my sci-fi story categories belongs to what I call “soft” sci-fi and this is the kind of science fiction I can read a lot... basically the kind of fiction that writers like Philip K. Dick do best where the realms being explored are the limits of the human psyche and the way we interact with our environment and drugs and love and emotion and how these humanistic categories can be pushed and developed through the introduction of science-fiction concepts to places and speculative destinations which they would be unable to reach in a conventional scenario. This is the science fiction of “ideas” and it’s easily the kind of stuff I much prefer to read over the other of my personal sub-genres of sci-fi.

And then there’s the space opera stuff. You know... the run, jump and shoot of science fiction tales where a spaceman’s gotta do what a spaceman’s gotta do, his six shooter becomes his high energy laser gun and his horse is transformed into his personal spaceship. Got nothing against these kinds of tales but I personally don’t read these kinds of things much... again though, when I do read these I prefer to read the oldies and nothing much from the last 40 or so years. Give me John Carter of Mars and others of his ilk if I’m going to read stuff like this. I much prefer to see the big budget movie equivalents of these kinds of tales, rather than read the stories themselves.

However, that being said, Star Crash is itself one of these “oaters of the stars”, so I have to say that it’s appropriate that pretty much all of these stories fall into this third section of my little genre splits. Not too big on ideas but certainly plenty in the way of alien hordes eating the dust of Stella Star’s perfect, leg hugging, thigh high boots or tasting the electric death of her improbable art-deco laser weaponry. I can’t blame the various writers here for churning out adventuresome tales among the stars rather than explore the inner recesses of the human condition. This is Stella Star we’re talking about here, after all.

As you would expect in compilations of this nature, the stories are a bit hit and miss in the way of quality and I think it would be unfair to pick apart individual stories and praise or blast them when this kind of literary entertainment can be so uneven. What I will say though is that I would have preferred a sense of continuity between the stories (there is none) or, barring this, an individual, one paragraph intro to each story or writer to ground the reader in the fact that all you’ve read in the story before is no longer relevant (since we’re pretty much dealing with the same few characters from story to story). It can get a bit disconcerting when you’ve been told that Simon and his father The Emperor (from the original movie) are dead and Stella is on a quest for revenge... only to have them turn up as the family in the next story. I wonder how many of these stories were actually commissioned for this specific project and how many were just lying around in homage for years in other media (such as the internet?).

However, the stories are entertaining enough and you really don’t have to think too much. It’s a very quick read and the large spacing on the leading on the font used also ensures that you’ll speed through this one at a rate of knots. There’s a lot of humour, though a lot of the writers seem almost obsessed to slip in exactly the same references to David Hasslehoff’s future career (he played Simon in Star Crash) in the form of KITT from Knight Rider and Pamela Anderson in a bikini running along a beach in slow motion... from Baywatch. Still, the sequence where Stella beats up the Pam-bot is quite fun and, although the writing style of a lot of the tales isn’t really my kind of thing anymore... they certainly don’t betray the tone captured in the original movie (which I’ve seen waaay too many times and still counting) and are completely appropriate to the source material.

In other words... it doesn’t let the movie down in any way.

The book includes a forward by original movie director Luigi Cozzi and a previously unpublished excerpt from an unused portion of the script by him. It also includes a forward by Stella Star herself, the first lady of fantasy, Caroline Munroe... who’s every word I’m quite happy to hang on. She actually sold me my copy of the book herself and personalised it for me... which still has me dancing on the air a bit :-)

Curved Space: The Adventures of Stella Star can be purchased from all good book retailers. The tome is illustrated with some great pictures of Stella in action and there’s an absolutely gorgeous painting of her on the cover which is worth the price of the book alone. Copyright prevents me from sharing that cover here on my blog but if you drift on over to Amazon here you can check it out for yourself!


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  2. Hi Bat Head Joe.

    Thanks for your lengthy comments. I love the novels of Philip K. Dick (although haven't really read any for some years now). Did you like the opera based on Valis?

    I'm curious... why did you delete the other comments you made previously on earlier posts?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.