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Showing posts from November, 2005

Serenity In 2000 Words or Less

TEACHER: We're the Alliance. We're good and noble and only want to help everybody, and we'll totally kick your ass if you dare say different.

YOUNG RIVER: I don't care, you're meddlesome and you poke things into people's heads.

TEACHER: No we don't. *Pokes pen into River's head*
You get the idea. Now I'm suddenly reminded of a similar condensation of Cuaron's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and I desperately want to reread it.

Spoilers, obviously (I particularly like the way the author distinguishes between the reactions of non-Firefly fans, Firefly fans who are seeing the film for the first time, and Firefly fans who are seeing the film for the nth time).

Via.

The Best of SciFiction: 2003

Amnesty by Octavia E. Butler (also see Claire Light's appreciation)
And the Dish Ran Away With the Spoon by Paul Di FilippoFairy Tale by Gardner Dozois (also see Jeffrey Ford's appreciation)
It's All True by John KesselAncestor Money by Maureen F. McHugh And, of course, 2003 is the year in which Micael Swanwick completed the Periodic Table of Science Fiction, which is one of the cleverest pieces of experimental fiction, or just plain science fiction, that I've ever read.

He's Had a Very Bad Year

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a television show with a female lead, be she ever so kickass, will invariably begin diverting an increasing amount of time and storylines to the male supporting characters. It happened to Alias and Dark Angel and even Buffy, and it's happening now to Veronica Mars.

Not, admittedly, without good reason. Show creator Rob Thomas has said that the strain of appearing in nearly every scene in the show's first season was too much for star Kristen Bell. Given that most of the supporting characters on Mars are male (a topic for another rant on another day, which I'm delaying because I so enjoyed watching Veronica interact extensively with Mac in last week's episode), storylines that don't directly involve Veronica would pretty much have to focus on male characters, which in some cases has been quite successful. It was interesting, for example, to see Wallace elevated from faithful sidekick to a complex young man with his own probl…

What The Third Policeman Can Tell Us About Lost

Among the many declarations they release into the stratosphere on a daily basis (a recent favorite: 'it boggles my mind when people ask me, "What do the numbers mean?"'--executive producer Damon Lindelof*), the Lost producers announced that Flann O'Brien's 1967 novel The Third Policeman--seen half-open on the bed of crazy-guy shut-in Desmond in the second season's third episode--would play 'a key role' in the show. Your intrepid host immediately set out to read the book, eager to better serve you, her beloved readers (and not, I hasten to point out, because she's a sheep who allows a stupid television program to dictate her choice in books. Not even a bit).

So, one fortuitous used bookstore find and 172 pages later, what can The Third Policeman tell us about Lost?

Nothing.

No, seriously. In terms of plot, The Third Policeman has about as much to do with what we're seeing on the screen as last year's similarly overexposed Watership Down--w…

The Best of SciFiction: 2002

The Names of All the Spirits by J.R. DunnWhat I Didn't See by Karen Joy Fowler (I think Gwenda Bond is wrong when she says that this story alone justifies the existence of SciFiction. I think it justifies the existence of Fowler's career)Fear of Strangers by Dave HutchinsonThe Children's Crusade by Robert ReedSwiftly by Adam RobertsThe Wages of Syntax by Ray Vukcevich (also check out this fascinating essay about the story by Jay Lake, over at the ED SF Project)

Read It And Go WHOA

A trip through LiveJournal brought me to this freaking awesome analysis of Veronica Mars, touching on Meg, Weevil, but mostly concentrating on Logan and Lamb. I want to make it clear that you should read the entire thing and then go check out this brief addendum, but here's a small taste:
Some of the ways in which Lamb mirrors Logan have to do with his attitude towards Veronica; some don't. The obvious ones include the industrial-grade snarking they do at each other, the open hostility over points on which they differ, and each party's refusal to back down in the face of the other. But aside from Veronica, Lamb and Logan share other characteristics. They're both, to be frank, assholes, and Veronica isn't the only person they treat poorly. They're both pretty heavy on the machismo, and are both arrogant as hell. Moreover -- and here's the interesting thing -- they both have this belief in and insistence on their own rightness (NOT righteousness, mind). Logan…

Gloriana by Michael Moorcock: Being A Positive Bad Review or A Negative Good Review

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I understand that at some point in the last 20 years Michael Moorcock released a new version of Gloriana, or The Unfulfill'd Queen in which the heroine doesn't achieve orgasm for the first time in her life as a result of rape. I commend him on his choice. I actually picked up Gloriana expecting to dislike it precisely because of what I'd heard about the ending (it didn't help that I didn't know which ending my 1986 edition would have, although it did lend an air of suspense to the proceedings), but I think I would have had trouble with it regardless. Gloriana is, after all, a book about an alternate Elizabeth I--Gloriana, queen of Albion, daughter of the villainous and mad King Hern--who presides over a Golden Age of justice, mercy, artistic and scientific advancements, financial prosperity, and peace, but can't achieve orgasm no matter how hard she tries (and boy, does she try. With practically every animate and inanimate object she can get her hands on). I me…

“I just work here. I write the books, and other people tell me what genre they are.”

my editor started saying things like “dark fantasy.” This turned my head completely around. Sure, I was a little surreal, funky, even, but I felt “fantasy” was taking it a bit too far. My husband very gently poured me a cup of tea, sat me down and told me that, strictly speaking, animals don’t talk, mazes are cute little things made out of cardboard they put up for Halloween carnivals, and angels are supposed to be androgynous and sexless, so they can’t really be queer. Oh, and there’s no such thing as angels, anyway.

You are not a realist, he said. Realism doesn’t have alligators preaching the gospel.

Then realism is stupid, I said, and it was a crocodile.
Link via Mumpsimus. You should read the whole article, which is not only funny but makes a very important point: the term 'fantasy', which should by all rights refer to unbridled imagination, to worlds that exist outside the recognized boundaries of reality, to anything and everything that is impossible and strange, has come …

Self-Promotion 2

My appreciation of Simon Ings' "Russian Vine" is up at the ED SF Project. Go read it, and the other fascinating pieces Dave has put up. Then go read Ings' story, which is really quite superb.

Babylon 5: Addenda

Some scattered thoughts, having finally managed to watch the end of the fourth season:

I suspect I'm alone in this, but I really do think that out of the show's three main 'battle arcs'--the original break from Earth ("Messages From Earth" through "Ceremonies of Light and Dark"), the final battle against the Shadows and the Vorlons ("The Summoning" through "Into the Fire"), and the fight to liberate Earth ("No Surrender, No Retreat" through "Endgame")--it's the last one that is the most successful and the best made. There's a darkness and a complexity to the storyline that simply wasn't there before. Sheridan is leading a partly alien fleet to attack his own home planet, in a decision that, while ultimately correct, is still questionable. The face of the enemy is not only familiar, it is our own (in sharp contrast to the Shadows and the Vorlons, who have no faces). The stakes are higher on a persona…

The Best of SciFiction: 2001

More Adventures on Other Planets by Michael CassuttNeutrino Drag by Paul di Filippo Russian Vine by Simon IngsOne Horse Town by Howard Waldrop and Leigh KennedyShooting the Moon by Geoffrey A. LandisCucumber Gravy by Susan PalwickDave Schwartz is organizing a tribute to SciFiction. He's collecting appreciations--anything from a paragraph to an essay--of each of the stories. Go here to see the stories already claimed and stake out your own.

The Best of SciFiction: 2000

Gwenda Bond inspired me to do this, although since I read so few of the stories when they were originally published, I thought I might as well make an exhaustive review. I have no idea when, or even if, I'll have time to complete this, but for 2000 these are the stories that stood out:
From the Files of the Time Rangers by Richard BowesThe Pottawatomie Giant by Andy DuncanPartial Eclipse by Graham Joyce (absolutely lovely)Wetlands Preserve by Nancy KressThe Flyers of Gy: An Interplanary Tale by Ursula K. Le GuinCastle in the Desert: Anno Dracula 1977 by Kim Newman In happier news, Ellen Datlow, commenting at Mumpsimus, says that the archives will remain available for at least a year.

Surely, by this point, no one is surprised by the news that the Sci Fi Channel doesn't give a damn about science fiction?

By now you've probably heard from about a dozen sources about the death of Ellen Datlow's SciFiction. I'm not a big fan of reading fiction on the computer, so I never became a regular visitor of the site, but the news still rankles. That said, whenever I visited SciFiction it was always with the sense that the site's days had to be numbered--a completely free resource for new and classic science fiction, offering authors four or five times the next highest rate-per-word in the genre, sponsored by the same people who pulled Farscape off the air and replaced it with cheesy monster flicks and an armada of psychic-phenomenon reality shows?

I imagine someone out there is organizing a write-in campaign and I wish them luck in their efforts (as someone who lives outside the US and couldn't subscribe to the channel if she wanted to, I can't imagine my contribution would be of any help) but right now what I'm really wondering is whether SciFiction's archives will…

Being Bertha Rochester: Three Novels

One of the many remarkable things about Jane Eyre is the way in which, even caught between those two powerhouses--steely, unbendable Jane and passionate, self-involved Rochester--the madwoman in the attic manages to hold her own. Properly speaking, Jane Eyre is a love triangle, and despite the fact that we barely even see her, Bertha Rochester, Jane's dark reflection, makes an indelible impression. Bertha is consumed by the same passions that Jane is able to master, which tracks with Charlotte Brontë's 19th century outlook (although it's important to point out that Jane is hardly prim and proper--she feels passion, but she doesn't allow it to overcome her reason and morality), but in the 150 years since Jane Eyre claimed its place in the canon, authors have gone back to the madwoman in the attic, sometimes in an attempt to tell her side of the story, and sometimes in order to give her a happier ending. The three novels I'm about to discuss each deal with Bertha in …

Alas, Babylon

At my brother's prompting, my family and I have gone back and re-watched that seminal 90s SF phenomenon, Babylon 5. Now that I'm nearly at the end of the show's four-season run* I find myself having to rethink my assessment of it. Up until now, I've always thought of B5 as a better-than-average show with a poor first season, an execrable fifth season, and three deeply flawed yet ultimately successful middle seasons. And as it turns out, I was wrong, because Babylon 5, from beginning to end, both sucks and blows.

I suspect this is something a lot of people already knew--people who watched the show when they were older than 15, the age I was when I became a fan, and people who have gone back to it in the intervening years. More than anything else, Babylon 5 is a show for teenagers. The overblown dialogue, the broad humor, the melodramatic plots, the frequent monologues and speeches, and just in general the show's palpable sense of its own profundity must have been irr…

If You're In the Neighborhood

If you've visited or are planning to visit Israel, you may already know what Israelis sometimes forget: that the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is one of the finest in the world. It has a spectacular collection, concentrating mostly but not exclusively on archeology, some lovely gallery spaces, and a diligent, clever staff. I was reminded very forcefully of this last fact when I visited the museum two weeks ago to see how the new Shrine of the Book looks (as it turns out, the renovation changed nothing about the Shrine's appearance except that the Deuteronomy scroll is no longer on display--which is a shame, because I used to get a kick out of taking visitors there and reading aloud from it) and ended up checking out some of the rotating exhibits while I was there. Utilizing mostly artifacts from the museum's own collection or from other Israeli museums, the curators have come up with a fascinating exhibit, In the Beginning, about the origins of religious practice in the Middl…

Just When I Thought It Was Safe to Get Back in the Water...

I was coming around to the notion that the Keira Knightly Pride and Prejudice might not suck as badly as I had feared, so naturally the universe hadto come up with some other way to make me lose all hope in humanity:
Anne Hathaway ("The Princess Diaries", "Brokeback Mountain") confirmed to Empire Online that she is set to play author Jane Austen in "Becoming Jane".

Austen is the author of such legendary books as "Persuasion," "Emma," "Mansfield Park," "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility".

The film is written by Kevin Hood and will take a portion of Austen's life that reflects the wild romanticism of her novel.Gah.

Television Without Pity's Got Competition...

Sure, TWoP's two Farscape recaps (of the premiere and of the second season episode "Crackers Don't Matter") were hilarious, but we all know that it's the show's fourth season that deserves a touch of snark. Enter Danny at ToughPigs, whose recaps are solely responsible for the fact that I've been getting a lot of funny looks today as I remember really funny bits and start snorting and laughing.
The theme of today's episode, really, is that Technology Of The Future Is Not Any Better Than The Technology We Have Today. After the whole hands-in-vomit thing, then Chiana and Sikozu spend minutes and minutes trying to figure out what complex sequence of buttons operates the cannon. They're smart people, and clearly very experienced shooting weapons at things, but it takes them forever to figure out how to do it. Isn't there a Big Red Button somewhere marked LASER CANNON? I mean, my laser cannon has one of those, and I got it on sale at Best Buy. You&#…

It's Almost Obligatory: Mundane SF

The following is a translated, reduced, and slightly reshaped extract from "Dogme 2005: Geoff Ryman and the Mundane SF Manifesto", an article I recently contributed to The Tenth Dimension, the Israeli SFF Society's quarterly. A large portion of the original article was concerned with introducing the reader to Ryman's new movement, which I assume online readers would already be familiar with (but if not: here is the manifesto and an Infinity Plusinterview with Ryman in which discusses Mundane SF. Hereareafewreactions to the manifesto and movement). Also removed is some discussion of the books and television series mentioned in the extract.
Ryman's stated goal--encouraging readers and writers to think of the Earth as a precious and limited resource, not to be squandered in the vain hope of an easily available replacement--is hard to object to, and yet there's something about the manifesto's wording and ideology that is troubling. What to make, for exampl…