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Showing posts from July, 2008

Epic Wrongness of the Day

Now that Comic-Con is over, the folks at io9 can get back to their regularly scheduled mix of quirky science stories, film and TV news, off the wall lists (best TV robots! is actually a rather unremarkable example), and opinion pieces. I'm fond enough of io9. I wouldn't like it to be the only source for genre news and commentary around, and it's certainly not my first stop when looking for same, but I do tend to read it most days. Which is how I ended up, at an ungodly hour this morning, being confronted by a television piece by the blog's editor Annalee Newitz, in which she muses that "There are a lot of cool ways this underrated show could return to TV as something darker, less campy, and more socially relevant, just like Battlestar Galactica did."

The show in question? Farscape. Which, Newitz goes on to opine, could be made into "a potential hit" by deepening the moral abmiguity of its characters (Rygel as a former genocidal despot, Zhaan as …

The Dark Knight

When Batman Begins was released and the entire internet was falling over itself, going on about the best superhero film ever and My God, the Realism, I found myself left out of the celebrations. I liked the film well enough, but I thought it was held back from greatness, or for that matter even very goodness, by the same flaws which, earlier this year, marred my enjoyment of Iron Man. The dialogue was atrocious, the villains forgettable, and the plot trapped in the well-worn grooves of the superhero origin story, and thus completely predictable. It was only at its very end that Batman Begins--again setting an example that Iron Man would later follow--made me sit up and take notice, in a scene in which Gordon uses the Bat Signal for the first time and makes a tentative alliance with Batman. Even as he chooses to tolerate Batman's presence in the city, Gordon notes that that presence is an escalation in the terms of the battle between law and lawlessness, and that its consequenc…

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Two things you will have no doubt heard by now about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: that it is crazy good, and that it takes geek chic to the next level by not only making its title character a card-carrying, Klingon-speaking, D&D-playing, Tolkien-loving, hardcore nerd but by narrating his tale in a voice savvy to the ins and outs of geekery. These things are both true. Díaz's first novel is one of the finest I've read this year, well deserving of alltheawards and critical praise heaped upon it. An irresistible, compulsive read that goes down as smoothly as a drink of water, and almost as fast, so untenable is the notion of putting the book down. And the novel is indeed told in a voice that shifts effortlessly from Spanish-tinged patois to references to the stalwarts of geek culture--The Dark Knight Returns, The Matrix, The Stand. This is a novel in which a handsome, fair-skinned Dominican is described as 'melnibonean.' In which the terror of living un…

Wall-E

Well, it's a shame about the rampant fat-phobia, but other than that Pixar's latest offering is an utter delight, and one which reaffirms my conviction that this is a company whose name ought to be synonymous not with dazzling computer animation but with the increasingly rare art of good storytelling. Someone should send a gift package of Pixar films, and most particularly Wall-E and The Incrdibles, to Russell T. Davies, as a demonstration that it is possible to tell a planet- or galaxy-spanning SFnal action-adventure story--for kids--which is chock-full of moving and meaningful character moments and also smartly and satisfyingly plotted and paced. For that matter, the rest of Hollywood should be in on that memo as well, as I can't think of a single recent blockbuster that demonstrates even a fraction of Pixar's commitment to story. Wall-E tells a very simple story--not for Pixar the for-its-own-sake convolutedness of the later Pirates of the Caribbean films--but as…

Two Links

Further to my last: Niall Harrison reviews Night Shade Books's The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 2, and coincidentally ponders the fluid definition of fantasy as expressed by that anthology's editor, Jonathan Strahan.
Further to my comments on Iron Man being, fundamentally, just another dumb superhero film: The Kids Aren't All Right by Christine Everhart, a phony Vanity Fair profile of Tony Stark which imagines events in his life and on the global arena in the year following the end of the film.  I suspect that this story is going to be to fanfic what the Supernatural fanvid "Women's Work" was to that form last year: a work that appeals even to those not generally interested in fan art, and which mercilessly skewers the unthinking and simplistic assumptions at the heart of the original work.  If any superhero film ever came close to dissecting its character and premise as finely as this piece does, I might not dismiss them as easily as I…

Rhetorics of Best American Fantasy

Last winter I wrote about the Stephen King-edited volume of Best American Short Stories, and more generally about the discussion that that anthology, and King's introduction to it, kick-started about the future and viability of the short form, a discussion which was enhanced within genre circles by Jeff VanderMeer's thoughts on editing, with wife Ann, the first volume of a new series from Prime, Best American Fantasy (the second volume of which is forthcoming; table of contents here). After my post went up, Jeff e-mailed me and kindly offered to send me a copy of Best American Fantasy, mischievously noting that some in-genre reviewers had found it a hard slog (for a mixed but overall positive review, see Gwyneth Jones at Strange Horizons).

The first volume in a projected series of anthologies, and especially a best-of-year series, of which there is a glut, is essentially a statement of intent. The VanderMeers, and series editor Matthew Cheney, seem almost to be girding themse…

And Now For Something Completely Different

Warning: the following post contains writing of a confessional nature, of precisely the type which regular readers of this blog will have learned not to expect. If that's not of interest to you (and honestly, why would it be), move along. I should have something book-related by the end of the week. This is just something I needed to post.

When my father died, everyone said how young he'd been. At eight years old, forty-six doesn't seem very young, and so, like so many other aspects of his loss, this one crept up on me as the years and decades accumulated between us. The older I get, the more untenable it seems for a person to die with so much of their life unlived, and so much left to accomplish. In a month my family and I will mark the nineteenth anniversary of my father's death, the amount of time it takes for the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars to synchronize with one another, so that the Jewish and secular anniversaries will both fall on the same day.  Nineteen…

Second Verse, Same as the First: Doctor Who Thoughts

And thus, the Russell T. Davies era ends. Well, there are three more Davies-penned specials (the teaser for the 2008 Christmas special is already circulating) in the tube, but both the evidence of years past and the fact that in the fourth season finale Davies obviously worked hard to give Steven Moffat the closest thing possible, on a show with four decades of continuity, to a fresh start suggest that these will be largely self-contained regurgitations of past stories, and also not very good. So, really, the Davies era wraps up with Saturday's episode, "Journey's End," and like him or hate him, esteem his abilities as a writer and producer or despise them, there is no denying that this was an era, with its own tone and character, its own themes and focal points, its own recurring settings and characters, now brought to a resounding and definite close.

So really, there are three endings we could talk about: the episode, the season, and the four seasons that make up …

So Close and Yet So Far

So, you're the production team parachuted in to save the American Life on Mars, scrambling desperately to turn its laughable pilot into something watchable.  You've just landed The Sopranos's Michael Imperioli.  Who do you cast him as?  Imperioli is not really the right physical type for Gene, but with a little tweaking of the character he might work, and he could certainly pull off the combination of vulnerability, toughness and intelligence that made John Simm's Sam so winning, not to mention the character's working class background.  But no, apparently if you're producing the new Life on Mars and have been lucky enough to cast Michael Imperioli, you cast him as Ray.  I can hear the Italian stereotypes from here.
This is yet another dispiriting choice on the part of the new production team, like the one to move the show's setting from LA (admittedly an awful decision) to New York.  One of the things that made the original Life on Mars special was that it w…

Who Is the Final Cylon?

I don't care.

No, really, I just don't. Granted, my level of interest in Battlestar Galactica has plummeted over the last year and especially over its last half season (funny how that works. When the show was meeting my expectations in its first season, or falling tragically short of them in its second and third, I couldn't shut up about it, but now that I've come to expect mediocrity and gotten just that, I find myself with little reason to care), but I'd like to know how the show ends, and there are questions I'd like to see it answer and issues I'd like to see it acknowledge and resolve. It's just that the identity of the final Cylon is pretty far down that list. I'd be annoyed if it weren't revealed, because the show's writers have made promises, and piggybacked quite shamelessly on the tension created by keeping the final Cylon's identity secret, but on my rapidly dwindling list of reasons to watch Galactica, this revelation doesn…