Showing posts from July, 2005


I was pointed in the direction of Andrew Rilstone's blog during a discussion about the Extended Editions of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films. If Rilstone's keen wit and crisp prose weren't enough to keep me coming back for more, there was the fact that, while his reactions to the individual films were largely the same as mine, his ultimate feelings about them were the complete opposite. I've made a rather thorough review of Andrew's blog (and his older website ) since then, and have discovered in him a rare treasure--a person with whom it a genuine joy to disagree. Although Andrew's perspective is frequently more harshly fannish than my own (how, for example, can you damn Peter Jackson's films and praise The Phantom Menace ?), he is such a perceptive and insightful writer that I always walk away from his posts with something new to think about. Andrew is also largely the reason I ended up watching the new incarnation of Doctor Who . You may h

And People Complain About Political Undertones in Tolkien and Lewis

From T.H. White's The Once and Future King : Everybody was happy. The Saxons were slaves to their Norman masters if you chose to look at it in one way--but, if you chose to look at it in another, they were the same farm labourers who get along on too few shillings a week today. Only neither the villein nor the farm labourer starved, when the master was a man like Sir Ector. It has never been an economic proposition for an owner of cattle to starve his cows, so why should an owner of slaves starve them? The truth is that even nowadays the farm labourer accepts so little money because he does not have to throw his soul in with the bargain--as he would have to do in a town--and the same freedom of spirit has obtained in the country since the earliest times. The villeins were labourers. They lived in the same one-roomed hut with their families, few chickens, litter of pigs, or with a cow possibly called Crumbocke--most dreadful and insanitary! But they liked it. They were healthy, free

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, Condensed

( Inspired by .) Book I Pullman: Religion is Evil. Readers: Why? Pullman: Because priests kill babies. Readers: No they don't. You just made that up in the book. Pullman: Shut up! Look at Iorek Byrnison! Readers: Hey, he is cool. (Iorek does cool stuff for one book and then spends the next two books being completely boring, chasing after Lyra.) Book II Pullman: God is Evil. Readers: Why? Pullman: Because priests kill babies. Readers: No they don't. Hey, how come you can't seem to separate organized religion and God? And how come the only organized religion in your books is Catholicism? Pullman: Shut up! Look at Will! Readers: Hey, he is really cool. (Will does really cool stuff for one book and then spends the next book being completely boring, chasing after Lyra.) Book III Pullman: God, religion, and any person of faith are Evil. Readers: Why? Pullman: Sheesh, are you deaf? They kill babies! Readers: Hang on, the leader of the fight against God also killed a ba

The 30-Second Bunnies Strike Again

Because Some Lines are Too Good Not to Quote

You have to have heard Carter speak to know how funny the next moment was. She had a reedy and somewhat thin British voice, toward the upper end of the scale, and she paused a lot when she spoke. There were a lot of ums and ahs. Before she replied, she cocked her head and said “um” once or twice. Then she said, “My work cuts like a steel blade at the base of a man’s penis.” (Via Tingle Alley , quoting Rick Moody)

Careful, He's Educated or, Thoughts Prompted By a Computer Game

I played a lot of computer games as a kid, but the ones that I've kept playing are the Myst games. Commonly known as a game for non-gamers, Myst is brilliantly minimallistic. No cumbersome inventory management, no labored backstory, no complicated interface. Most importantly, Myst has a good story. I adored it as a young teenager, when it occupied my mind from morning till night for more than a month. Its sequel, Riven , was the Empire Strikes Back to Myst 's Star Wars --a wider world full of tougher puzzles with a more interesting story that ended in several intriguing ways, not all of them complete losses or wins. The series has persisted to the present day, with two sequels ( Myst III: Exile and Myst IV: Revelation ) and a related game originally intended as a multi-player environment ( Uru ). A fifth and final installment is scheduled for release this fall. All Myst games revolve around Atrus, one of the few survivors of a highly advanced civilization called the D'

7 Reasons Why the Keira Knightly Pride and Prejudice is Going to Suck, Based Solely on the Trailer

Elizabeth Bennet is not a 'ahead of her time'. Her refusal to marry Mr. Collins is not modern (indeed, the notion that mercenary, loveless marriages are somehow a thing of the unenlightened past is quite naive). Elizabeth is very much a woman of her time. She doesn't want more from her life than marriage and family. She doesn't want to break out of a woman's place in society, or out of her social class. What she wants is a husband she can love and respect, and there's nothing modern about that. "From Jane Austen, the beloved author of Emma and Sense and Sensibility ". Gee, I wonder why those books? Could it possibly be because they're the ones that have gotten the Hollywood treatment most recently ? No one who really thinks P&P is a book about a woman "who discovered the one person she can't stand is the one person she may not be able to resist" has any business coming near an adaptation of it. Mr. Darcy and Elizab

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Scattered Thoughts

Assume spoilers ahead. Probably my favorite book of the series, which isn't surprising when you consider that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Se crets was my previous favorite and probably for the same reasons. Although I enjoyed the previous two volumes, Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix , they felt underedited and unfocused, and Half-Blood Prince is a welcome return to form. Writing about Alfonso Cuaron's version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, blogger Andrew Rilstone wrote that the story JK Rowling "really wants to tell is the one about the schooldays of the previous generation: Pettigrew and Riddle and Harry's parents and Voldemort's rise to power. Harry is only the lens through which we see this history take shape." I disagreed with him at the time, feeling that an important part of the coming of age story is the hero discovering and understanding his past (remember what I said before about the detective novel being an empowe

When Sherlock Met Vivian Relf or, Mundane Fantasy

In Michael Chabon's novella The Final Solution , Sherlock Holmes comes out of retirement in the 1940s to solve the case of a young Jewish refugee's missing parrot and, eventually, a murder. Although Holmes--his body weakened, his mind failing, and his thoughts constantly on his impending death--solves the murder, he fails to unravel the central mystery of the story--the significance of the strings of German numbers the parrot recites. A Rosebud-like secret that not even Holmes could ever hope to penetrate, it is revealed to the readers in the book's final pages. The detective story, in the Sherlock Holmes mode, is about the triumph of rationalism. The detective strides onto a scene in which the moral order of the world has been upset and, using his wits and powers of observation, sets the world aright. It's an empowerment fantasy, too: all that is required to repair the world's ills is sufficient intellect and determination. Holmes himself is the paragon of 19th cen

Happiness Is...

...a new international trailer for Serenity (the US trailer is still available here ). Some thoughts, after multiples viewings: Holy frikking hell, that's gonna be one beautiful movie. And funny too. "...or, we could talk more." Heh heh. "Six rebels on the run"? How do you get six? Serenity 's crew number five. Inara and Book are passengers, and neither of them are rebels. If you count Simon, you have to count River too, which brings you to seven. Speaking of Inara and Book, where are they? Inara shows up in the background of a couple of shots but has no lines. Book doesn't even get that much. Oh my God, will you look at that shot with the guy walking through River's face. Looks like there's going to be the requisite scene in which the crew threaten to walk out on their maverick captain because He's Gone Too Far. I still have no idea what this movie is about and what's going to happen in it, and I watched Firefl

People Who Generalize Suck or, Your Host Rants a Little

For the last few days, I've been engaged in an odd three-part discussion on three different weblogs. Edward Champion started it by suggesting 18 Fantasy Authors to Read Instead of J.K. Rowling and then Gwenda Bond suggested 18 others . Matt Cheney kept the whole thing going by wondering what books you'd recommend to someone who'd liked Potter and wanted more of the same. Ed and Gwenda's lists are interesting. Of the 40 authors mentioned (Ed added 4 more to his list), I've read books by 20. Two I think should be threatened with a sledgehammer to the thumbs should they ever look at a writing implement again (there's another one I might have said the same about, but she's already dead). Another three are authors of frothy but insignificant work who, while they may be, on a sentence-by-sentence level, better writers than J.K. Rowling, haven't produced anything on the caliber of the Potter books. Two others are excellent and highly talented authors whose b

Comics and Abigail Don't Always Mix

'A friend declared, "I've read comic books for years and I just decided: I don't like them."' Jessa Crispin, blogging in Bookslut For a voracious reader, I have some stunning holes in my resume. I didn't read Jane Eyre until I was 22 (in certain countries, I believe that's considered sufficient evidence of being male). My mother gave me The Lord of the Rings as a kid, but she never pointed me towards other fantasy titles, so I skipped the Terry Goodking/Terry Brooks/Robert Jordan phase of a fantasy lover's life-cycle entirely. I still haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird or Little Women . Growing up in a non-English speaking country and reading almost exclusively in English makes for some odd reading habits, especially when you're left to guide yourself. Which is one of the reasons I never read comics as a kid. Another, and probably more likely reason is that I'm a girl, and no one around me was reading them. But it's impossib

While We're on the Subject of Defining Ourselves Through Cultural Preferences...

About a year ago, a blogger called Terry Teachout published something called The Teachout Cultural Concurrence Index , which spread through blogdom like wildfire, inspiring dozens of imitations. In theory, the purpose of the TCCI was to let readers of Teachout's blog see how compatible they were with his cultural preferences. In reality, I suspect most people couldn't care less about their score and simply enjoyed the fun game. But, since a Cultural Concurrence Index is a) fun and b) a good way to introduce yourself, I thought I'd have one of my own. Some of the questions are mine, and others come from various other CCIs I found on the net. The rules are simply: for each of the following questions, select a preference, column A or column B. 1. Gaugin or Van Gogh? 2. Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny? 3. Cats or dogs? 4. The Age of Innocence or The House of Mirth ? 5. Robert A. Heinlein or Isaac Asimov? 6. The Martian Chronicles or Something Wicked This Way Comes ? 7. Cha

Non-Indigenous Wildlife on a Rooftop in Tel-Aviv

Via my friend Nurit.

We Know They're Evil Because They Watch Voyager or, Some Scary Thoughts About Being a Genre Fan

Hamza and Yehat are two over-educated, under-appreciated twentysomethings working dead-end jobs and waiting for their lives to start. When Hamza meets Sherem, who is beautiful, smart and completely interested in him, he thinks his luck has finally changed. What he doesn't know is that Sherem has an agenda, that she's been looking for him for a long time, and that before the week is out he and Yehat will hold the fate of the world in their hands. You've read this book before, right? And seen the film and watched the TV series and read the comic book? Well, so have Hamza and Yehat, which is what makes Minister Faust's (the pen name of Malcolm Azania) The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad such a hoot (apart from the fact that Faust is a good writer with an excellent ear for narrative voice and a knack for writing crackling plot). Faust faces the hoariness of his plot head-on in a neat meta-fictional trick by making Hamza and Yehat uber-fanboys, armed with st

Hello World

When I was 10, or maybe 12, my mother gave me a copy of I, Robot and made me a science fiction fan for life. Asimov is a good way of introducing children to SF. He's not a great stylist, but there's an immediacy to his prose. He doesn't use ten words where one will do and doesn't bury himself in description. His robot stories conform to a very simple formula - the three laws of robotics assure the complete safety of humanity. The system is flawless. Here's how it went wrong. Kids like formula, and Asimov knew his audience and gave them exactly what they expected, in clever and unexpected ways. These same qualities are probably what attracted him to mystery writing, in particular his Tales of the Black Widowers . The Black Widowers are a gentlemen's club who meet every month with a guest. Each time, the guest introduces some trivial but vexing puzzle (the one I remember involved a chemistry grad student whose thesis advisor was threatening to scupper his