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Showing posts from February, 2011

Recent Movie Roundup 12

My movie-watching slowed way down in the second half of 2010--the posts tagged 'film' from that period cover nearly all of the films I watched--but with winter the interchangeable action films and rage-inducing romantic comedies give way to more interesting stuff, and I've found myself at the movie theater again.
The Kids Are All Right (2010) - It's easy to imagine how this gentle, well-made but unexciting film somehow managed to make its way to such universal, but mostly overblown, acclaim.  There are the modest beginnings as an indie flick (with, admittedly, a top-drawer cast) that might incline reviewers to over-emphasize their praise.  There is the heartening subject matter, the marriage of Jules (Annette Bening) and Nic (Julianne Moore), which is rocked when their children make contact with Paul, the sperm donor who fathered them (Mark Ruffalo), and invite him into their lives.  There is the film's depiction of gay marriage and gay families as entirely normal, …

Strange Horizons Reviews, February 21-25

Before I get to the week's reviews, I'd like to mention that the Strange Horizons readers' poll, where you can vote for your favorite stories, poems, articles and reviewers, is open until March 6th.  Vote early and vote often (though only your last ballot will count).

Now the reviews: the week kicks off with Jonathan McCalmont (who has just joinedStrange Horizons's staff as junior articles editor and a contributor to the blog--welcome aboard, Jonathan!) writing about Mira Grant's Feed, which he argues is a vicious satire of the state of contemporary journalism.  William Mingin discusses Harry Connolly's Game of Cages, a dark fantasy detective story and the second in the Twenty Palaces series featuring Ray Lilly.  We end the week with some nonfiction in Raz Greenberg's review of Douglas E. Cowan's Sacred Space: The Quest for Transcendence in Science Fiction Film and Television, which Raz concludes is more about transcendence than SF film and TV.

The Passage by Justin Cronin

In my recent post about M.J. Engh's Arslan, I noted how much of its time--the mid-70s--the novel seemed, most particularly in its conviction that America, still reeling from the cultural clashes of the 60s, the Vietnam War, and Watergate, was on the verge of collapse.  A few days later, Keith Phipps, writing for the AV Club, made the same observation about Stephen King's The Stand.  Even defaced by King's ill-considered 1990 expansion of the novel, which moved its setting from 1980 to 1990, Phipps writes, The Stand is unmistakably "a product of the '70s," suffused with that decade's sense of disintegration and impending doom.
I enjoyed The Stand from start to finish, but never as much as in its first third, when the fast-acting "superflu" known as Captain Trips destroys an America that was already destroying itself. The government—the same one that recently lied to the American people about Watergate and the origins and scale of the war in V…

Strange Horizons Reviews, February 14-18

This wasn't a conscious plan on my part, but it seems rather appropriate that on Valentine's Day, Strange Horizons should have run T.S. Miller's review of Robert Silverberg's The Last Song of Orpheus, a retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.  Miller finds Silverberg's retelling oddly cold, but his review is as much a discussion of the myth itself, of earlier, including medieval, versions of it, and of other retellings of myths by genre writers.  Hannah Strom-Martin is a great deal more positive about David Moles's alternate history novella Seven Cities of Gold, whose only flaw, she concludes, is that it may be too clever, too layered, and too sophisticated for its own good.  Kelly Jennings, on the other hand, is disappointed by Lois McMaster Bujold's Cryoburn, which, she concludes, teeters on the edge of engaging with issues of economic inequality and exploitation, but veers away in order to tell a fun, consequence-free adventure story.

Women Writing SF: Further Reading

There are a few more books in my reading project that I haven't written about, but as I have less to say about them I'll probably leave them for my next recent reading roundup.  In the meantime I've gone back to my TBR stack with a slight feeling of letdown--there are a lot of books there I'd like to read, but I've enjoyed this project and the new vistas it's opened to me.  For the rest of the year, then, here are some more science fiction books by female writers that I hope to get to (besides, that is, more of the fourI'vewrittenabout).
Tricia Sullivan - If either Sullivan's Maul (which came second in Niall's best of the decade poll) or her most recent, and very well-received, Lightborn, had been available for the Kindle I would have added them to the reading project.  As it is I hope to get my hands on copies, electronic or physical, in the near future.
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes - Beukes's debut Moxyland was one of the books I read for this proj…

Strange Horizons Reviews, February 7-11

This week on Strange Horizons, Roz Kaveney discusses the suddenly very topical Deep State by Walter Jon Williams, a novel about a popular revolution in the Middle East powered by the internet.  Sara Polsky is impressed by the Kate Bernheimer-edited My Mother She Ate Me, My Father He Killed Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, in which authors from the literary and genre ends of the scale retell fairy tales.  Finally, Niall Alexander raves about Joe Abercrombie's latest The Heroes, which he calls a return to form after the disappointment of Best Served Cold, and an expression of Abercrombie's fondness for gore and unsavory characters.

Women Writing SF: Arslan by M.J. Engh

The first time I tried to read Arslan I was seventeen or eighteen.  The book came to me via Amazon's recommendation engine, which in those days, before I found an online community of readers, was my main source of new and unfamiliar titles.  I recall not knowing much about the book before buying or reading it--just that it was well-regarded, and that it told the story of the invasion and conquest of the United States by the titular general.  The book began calmly enough--narrated by Franklin L. Bond, the principal of a middle school in Kraftsville, Illinois, on the day that Arslan's forces roll into town, its opening scenes follow Bond as he steadfastly tries to calm his staff and students and to prevent any bloodshed.  Then came the chapter's climax, a celebratory dinner held by Arslan for his forces in the school gymnasium.  At the end of the dinner, Arslan brings out two students, a boy and a girl, and, before his appreciative men and the horror-struck staff--which incl…

Strange Horizons Reviews, January 31-February 4

The last Strange Horizons review of January is Edward James's take on Kate Elliott's Cold Magic, which is actually a reflection on the two fantasy sequences Elliott has already written, to which the trilogy that Cold Magic begins is a continuation.  On Wednesday, Graham Sleight reviews Susan Hill's ghost story The Small Hand, which he finds a little old-fashioned in its willingness to tie up all its loose ends, especially compared with other modern literary ghost stories like The Little Stranger.  Yesterday Nathaniel Katz made his Strange Horizons debut with a review of Haruki Murakami's After Dark, a novel which, according to Nathaniel, makes a fantasy setting out of nighttime Tokyo.

Here We Go Again

The voting form for the Locus Award is online, and for the second year running, Locus continues in its policy of giving its subscribers a full vote, while non-subscribers' votes count for half (the policy was actually introduced three years ago, but in the 2008 awards it was decided upon only after the votes were counted).  I wrote last year about why I think this is wrong, but just to recap briefly: I think that to ask people to vote in a poll where they get half a vote is an insult, and I don't think that we should take it.  If Locus wants to close its awards to its subscribers only, that's their right.  But right now it looks as if the magazine wants to enjoy the cachet of having the largest voting base in the field while treating some of those voters as second-class citizens.  I don't think they should get away with this.  If you're not a Locus subscriber, I urge you not to vote in the Locus poll.

I should note that I've been considering becoming a subscrib…

Pull the Trigger

The story thus far: On January 28th, Bitch Magazineposted a list of "100 YA Novels for the Feminist Reader."  The list is affiliated with Bitch Magazine's lending library, and was posted by Ashley McAllister, who is listed on Bitch's staff page as library coordinator.  Predictably, commenters began suggesting additions to the list and, in smaller numbers, objecting to the books on it.  On January 29th, commenter Pandora objected to the inclusion of Jackson Pearce's Sisters Red, a retelling of Red Riding Hood in which two sisters hunt werewolves, citing objections raised against the book in a post made last July on the blog The Book Smugglers.  In that post, the bloggers highlighted a scene in which one of the sisters scornfully watches dressed-up girls waiting to enter a night club and muses that they are inviting attack.  Both reviewers felt that Sisters Red didn't do enough to complicate or counteract this victim-blaming perspective.  That same day, comment…

Women Writing SF: Mary Gentle

Mary Gentle's name came up several times, in several contexts, in the discussion that sparked Niall's women in SF project--as an example of a female writer of science fiction who moved to the greener, more inviting pastures of fantasy, and as an example of a female author whose work is overshadowed by men doing similar work--I haven't read Gentle's Ash, but Adam Roberts argued that it did many of the things its fellow Clarke nominee (and later winner) Perdido Street Station did when it combined an SFnal attitude with a fantastic setting.  I have read, and loved, Gentle's historical fantasy 1610: A Sundial in a Grave, and this project seemed like the perfect opportunity to read her science fiction, specifically the Orthe duology--Golden Witchbreed (1984) and Ancient Light (1987).

Both novels are narrated by Lynne de Lisle Christie, a human sent to Orthe as an envoy.  In Golden Witchbreed she represents Earth's first contact wing, hastily erected and stretched th…