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Showing posts from January, 2006

Thank God, Or Any Other Entity Involved (Veronica Mars Casting Spoilers)

From Lindsay: Is the Donut (Teddy Dunn) off Veronica Mars for good? Or will he be back in future episodes?
I can tell you the original plan was Vanilla Sprinkles would be off the show for good. He was released from the show as of Jan. 24. However, there are rumors Rob Thomas may be asking him back for another episode or two. I'm not sure whether that has yet been decided. But when I told you (about six months ago) a series regular was being written off the show this season, that is whom I was talking about. Teddy Dunn is no longer a series regular, and if and when he returns, my sense is that it won't be permanent.I can't tell how surprised I am at this development, and how pleased. Duncan's character has been mishandled from day one, and Teddy Dunn certainly didn't help bring an extra dimension to the character. Mars' writers, however, really did seem to be trying to sell us on Veronica and Duncan as a love story with no ending, and I was certain that they…

Thoughts on the Clarke Nominees

There isn't an official online announcement yet, but the shortlist was announced yesterday and is already floating around the net:
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Learning the World by Ken MacLeod
Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynold
Air by Geoff Ryman
Accelerando by Charles Stross
Banner of Souls by Liz WilliamsI've only read two of the nominated books (although I'm looking forward to learning more about the other four nominees when Adam Roberts writes his yearly Clarke roundup for Infinity Plus), so feel free to discount my opinion, but Air. Air all the way. Whether or not it wins, however, I think the fact that Ryman's superb novel has made it on the Clarke, BSFA, and (in all likelihood) Nebula shortlists should be an occasion for a bit of soul-searching on the part of last year's Hugo voters. It is nothing short of embarrassing that they should have ignored this remarkable work as they did.

The nomination I'm more interested in, however, is Ishiguro's. I'…

What a Tangled Web: Harry Potter and the Problem of Generational Parallels

Note: The first part of this post is a reworked and much-rewritten version of an article I wrote for the discussion group Harry Potter for Grownups in the fall of 2003, not long after the publication of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The second part is a mass of ideas that have been swimming around in my head since I read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince six months ago.

The generational parallel bomb exploded within Harry Potter fandom with the publication of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which for the first time took a closer look at, and exposed the juvenile escapades of, the parent generation--specifically James Potter and his three friends, the Marauders, and their fraught relationship with Snape. Fans expanded on the comparisons that the book draws between Harry and his father, and used them to conclude a one-to-one relationship between James' generation and Harry's. As Harry's impulsive best friend, Ron was cast in the role of Sirius, and…

Serenity, Made of LEGO

I mean, really, what else is there to say?

Recent Reading Roundup 3

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In celebration of the fact that I'm finally able to read books again (a week off seems like forever) a look at the final reads of 2005 and the first ones of 2006.
The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin - Akunin's well-received historical mystery, set in 1876 Imperial Russia and starring the young and earnest Erast Fandorin, junior bureaucrat and wannabe detective, languished at the bottom of my to-be-read stack for several months before I got around to reading it. Having finished it, I can honestly say that its treatment was well-deserved. The book's setting, as well as Akunin's arch and slightly needling narrative voice, make for an amusing read for about 50 pages, but when the novelty wears off what's left is a rather tedious spy thriller too absurd even for its semi-fantastical setting, with a protagonist so painfully dim-witted that it boggles the mind that he lives to star in several more installments in the series (three or four of the sequels have been translated i…

In Lieu of Actual Content...

My rule of thumb is that I don't let four days elapse without posting something to AtWQ (and if you want to know why four days and not three or five, I'm fairly certain that a couple of weeks into the blog's lifetime I took a look at my posting history and saw that the longest I'd gone without posting was four days, so). Unfortunately, the last week has seen some time- and attention-consuming real life developments which have left me constitutionally incapable of not only consuming art but also making cogent observations about said art. Seriously, the best I can offer right now is to say that Connor Trinneer is way, way better than Stargate: Atlantis deserves, to the point that I'm wondering whether someone should let him know that he's already paid up in the 'sole redeeming feature of otherwise sucky SF show' department.

So, as the title states, in lieu of actual content I'm going to leave you with this observation and hope that the next few days …

What Adama Should Have Said to Boomer and Other "Resurrection Ship II" Thoughts

I was spoiled for Boomer's line, "Maybe you don't deserve to survive", several days before watching the episode and, having assumed that it came as a bitter response to the attempted rape, hit the roof in fury. I wrote a long tirade that I think has been a long time coming for Boomer and the rest of the Cylon characters, which I won't post here because, having watched the episode, it's clear that Boomer's intention was neither plaintive nor personal. Her argument for the destruction of the human race is that we fight amongst ourselves, kill and rape and hurt each other. This ties in nicely to the observation that Dan Hartland made a few weeks ago in his Strange Horizonsarticle--that Cylons haven't yet grokked the concept of individuality. If we are to assume that they evolved as a hive-like species (which, for an artificial intelligence, makes a certain amount of sense) then it would folow that they have only a limited understanding of what indivi…

Veniss Underground by Jeff VanderMeer

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There are several ways in which Veniss Underground, Jeff VanderMeer's first full-length novel, fails. The first is in the attempt to convey, as VanderMeer managed to do so powerfully in his earlier and much-lauded collection, City of Saints and Madmen, a palpable sense of place. Only a few pages into the first Ambergris story, "Dradin, In Love", the reader forms a vivid impression of the city's shape and size, of its politics, government, rituals and castes. It is a tale told by a madman, who catches a glimpse of the city at its most tumultuous and irrational, and yet the Ambergris that emerges from "Dradin" has an undeniable logic to it. The city works, and it develops a palpable weight in the reader's mind, becoming its own character.

None of these things happen during the 200 pages we spend wandering around the post-apocalyptic enclave once known as Dayton Central but now, following a collapse and fragmentation of its government, called simply Veniss.…

Now That All Other Fantasy Franchises Have Been Tapped...

Via Dark Horizons:
Sam Raimi will direct "The Wee Free Men," an adaptation of Terry Pratchett's bestselling young-adult novel, as his likely first post "Spider-Man" franchise project reports Variety.

Sony Pictures Entertainment has acquired the book and set Pamela Pettler ("Corpse Bride", "Monster House") to write the script. The studio aims to develop an event-sized live-action family film, and if all goes well could adapt further novels in Pratchett's "Disc World" series.I don't know what scares me more: the thought of Tiffany Aching in your standard Hollywood 'follow your heart and protect your family' fantasy mold, or the phrase 'event-sized film' directed at Discworld.

Self Promotion 4 - Special Lost Edition

My article, Insert Your Lost Pun Here: Is ABC's Ratings Phenomenon Losing Its Way? appears in this week's Strange Horizons. If you're coming here from there or have simply not made an exhaustive review of AtWQ's archives (and, really, why wouldn't you?), here are a few more posts in which I discuss this frustrating and increasingly disappointing show:
The Television Novel: Thoughts and Musings
Dear J.J. Abrams: A Lost Wish List
In Honor of the Hiatus: Some Lost and Veronica Mars Thoughts
What The Third Policeman Can Tell Us About Lost
Down With Love Quadrangles: Why Charlie and Claire Are the Best 'Ship on Lost
Otherwise, feel free to poke around the site--the 'Posts of Note' section to the right contains some good places to start.

UPDATE: You know, I don't know if I would have bothered to write a 2,000 word article about how Lost now sucks if I'd known that its executive producer was going to come out and say the exact same thing.

Space-Whore Linkdump

Three excellent discussions of class and gender issues in Firefly, all of which end up, in one way or another, dealing with the character of Inara and her relationship with Mal.
Maia at Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty discusses Firefly's two class-crossing couples, Mal and Inara and Simon and Kaylee, and then veers into a discussion of the mechanics of the Companion guild.
The Rabbit Hole takes the discussion further and compares the Companions with both Dune's Bene Gesserit and Discworld's Seamstresses.
Sartorias discusses the ways in which Inara's character fails, particularly her failure to demonstrate self-control and, in general, to act anything like a geisha.

Well, Maybe You Can Take That Part of the Sky (Updated, Now With Quote)

One of the very first coherent thoughts I had about Joss Whedon's television series Firefly was to observe that it took place in a world in which the civil war was actually fought over the issue of states' rights. The desire for freedom, and for the ability to freely govern one's life and decisions, informed many of the show's episodes, and even its theme song yearned for the freedom of the skies after all other freedoms had been lost. Post-war hardship on the one hand, and the restrictive, domineering Alliance on the other, made Firefly's universe one in which genuine choices were becoming a rare commodity.

Serenity, Firefly's feature film continuation (and, possibly, conclusion), expanded on this theme of freedom and choice. The film pits Serenity's crew against the forces of the Alliance, who seek to regain control of River and prevent the dissemination of the truth about their actions on the planet Miranda. The Alliance, the film tells us, had sought to …

Lamest. Feminist Icon. Ever.

Over at Strange Horizons, Dan Hartland has an interesting write-up of the second half of Battlestar Galactica's summer season (am I wrong, or are most of the critical opinions about this show coming from genre insiders? Certainly it seems that mainstream venues can't stop falling over themselves to indiscriminately praise the show). Hartland makes a good argument about the importance of individuality and its acceptance within the show, and suggests that it is this ability to accept individuality--the huge range of human experience and personality--that separates good from evil on the show.
The Number Six stored in Balthar's mind exhorts us to consider the abused woman as an individual, a reality, rather than a scientific problem or icon. Balthar later observes that her catatonic state emphasizes more than anything else so far that the psychology of those Cylons who appear human is identical to that of the beings they imitate and destroy. When Cain, assuming command of the f…

The Best of SciFiction: 2005

Can't quite believe I managed to finish this little project. In a way, I'm endebted to SciFi for pulling the plug on SciFiction--given my dislike for reading fiction on the computer, I doubt I would have read through the archives if I hadn't known their time online was limited. I'm even more endebted to the existence of this blog--the knowledge of having committed myself publicly to the task spurred me on--and I hope that I've inspired some of you to take a look at these stories and maybe the entire archives. I still don't like reading on the computer (for some reason, the block doesn't extend to non-fiction and blog entries), but there's no denying that SciFiction was a remarkable accomplishment, and that its archives contain some of the finest short fiction within the genre (and, in some cases, without it). We have truly lost something special.
The Spear Carrier by A.M. Dellamonica (appreciation by Paul Abbamondi)The Canadian Who Came Almost All the Wa…

Could Someone Please Tell Me...

...who the hell the woman on the Serenity DVD box is?

Or, more accurately, could someone please tell me how, even through the magic of photoshop, one can get to that woman's face by starting with Summer Glau's?

Excepting the disturbing cover and its disturbing implications, the DVD is quite fun. I don't usually listen to commentary tracks, but Whedon's commentary on the film is quite interesting. He goes on a bit too long about lighting and lenses, but he also has some interesting insights into the characters and the way the film's plot is constructed.

The deleted scenes are nice, but the nicest thing about them is that by and large, they were deleted for a reason. There's only one scene that I genuinely regret not seeing in the film, and even in that case I can understand why Whedon chose to cut it.

The movie, of course, still rocks.

Down With Love Quadrangles: Why Charlie and Claire Are the Best 'Ship on Lost

This is something that ended up getting cut out of a longer Lost article (appearing elsewhere in the near future) rather early in the writing process. Clearly, it made no sense to disrupt a discussion of the many ways in which the show was stagnating for a thousand words about shipping, but somehow the idea has grabbed hold of me. Hope you don't mind leftovers.

To begin with, I want to be clear that when I call Charlie/Claire the best ship on Lost, I don't mean that they're the most romantic or the most sexy, that their attraction is the most believable, that the writers are treating the relationship well, or that I see a future for the two characters. No, I like Charlie and Claire because, unlike every other romantic pairing on the show, they interest me. I long ago stopped caring about the Sawyer-Kate-Jack love triangle (gosh! A pretty girl has to choose between a clean-cut good guy and a no-good rebel! How original!), and I doubt the addition of Ana-Lucia to the mix is g…

Not With a Bang But With a Thud! or, Whither Discworld

Last year, while reading Terry Pratchett's then most recent novel, Going Postal, I remarked to my mother how strange it was that when I had started reading Discworld, the books had been about magic and eldritch creatures from the beyond, whereas now they were about telecommunications cartels. And eldritch creatures from the beyond.

It is quite fascinating to chart the evolution of Pratchett's invented universe, currently spanning some thirty adult novels, three YA novels, a picture book, an illustrated novel and any number of companion volumes. The series started out as a parody of fantasy conventions, with Pratchett reaching into a giant box marked 'fantasy clichés' and digging out something new to lambast every three pages, whether it was the novels of Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, H.P. Lovecraft, or J.R.R. Tolkien, or just the hoary conventions of the genre. As the Discworld began taking shape, Pratchett shaved away a great many invented species and locations, and …