Showing posts from September, 2005

A Special Request From Your Host...

I know you've been wondering what the best way is to show your love for me, and, considerate host that I am, I stand ready to make suggestions! Today, September 30th, is special for those of you lucky enough to live in the States because, of course, today is the day Joss Whedon's Serenity goes on wide release. Now, I've more or less come to terms with the fact that no Israeli distributor is going to touch this film with a ten-foot pole. The last Star Trek film didn't get a commercial release around here, for Pete's sake. But, suppose Serenity were to do really well on its opening weekend... Planning to go see a movie? Planning to go see Serenity but haven't decided when? For the sake of Joss Whedon's career, and any chance we might have of seeing sequels, and any chance I might have of seeing this film on a movie screen, consider going to see Serenity this weekend. Along similar lines, Matt Cheney is having in impromptu MirrorMask contest (if you&

Dear Ronald D. Moore: Scattered Thoughts at the End of Battlestar Galactica's Summer Season

I know that Battlestar Galactica 's second season hasn't officially ended but rather gone into hiatus (with one frakking hell of a cliffhanger. Could someone get the Stargate people a copy of that episode while I go depress myself by counting the days until January?), but given the recent television theme of this blog I thought it would be a good idea to talk about where the show has been and where it might be going. Plus, Galactica is a fantastically cool show and worth writing about. This is less a wish list and more a series of observations, and since it's always easier to criticize faults than to praise accomplishments I'll just get the praise part out of the way: in the first half of its second season, Galactica has maintained and occasionally surpassed the level of quality I'd come to expect from it. It's an intelligent, challenging show, full of complicated, human characters, that offers an irresistible mix of edge-of-your-seat action and byzantine p

Signs of the Coming Apocalypse, No. 496

Normally I'd use this travesty as a launching-pad for a 1,200-word diatribe about how Elizabeth Kostova shouldn't be shelved anywhere near Bram Stoker, much less be invited to write an introduction to Dracula , but Carrie A.A. Frye has already said it all better than I ever could (although I still think she's too easy on The Historian ).

Dear J.J. Abrams: A Lost Wish List

Aren't low expectations a wonderful thing? I might be developing ulcers over Veronica Mars ' second season, but when it comes to Lost , I'm completely sanguine. Perversely enough, the superior Mars is likely to disappoint me with anything short of perfection, whereas Lost will please me simply by producing an episode that doesn't appear to have been written on cocktail napkins during a particularly jubilant lunch hour. It wasn't always like this, of course. As little as a year ago, when Lost first hit the airwaves, I was deeply impressed. The show's combination of lush production values, compelling characters, and fascinating mysteries made it irresistible. Then, almost exactly at the season's midpoint, the show began a terrific decline, so that by the season's end it was practically a pale, campy shadow of its former self. I wish I could say with certainty that Lost 's writers can still turn things around, but remember who we're dealing with-

Dear Rob Thomas: A Veronica Mars Wish List

Could I be any more excited about Wednesday's premiere of Veronica Mars ' second season? Like most of this quirky, intelligent detective drama's fans, who include Buffy verse creator and future guest star Joss Whedon, probably not. And yet, could I be any more nervous about the upcoming season? I suspect that like myself, most Mars fans are biting their nails over one simple yet unavoidable question: after one of the most impressive and assured first seasons in television history, how could this show go anywhere but downhill? The problem is compounded when one takes into account Mars ' unique qualities. The show's first season was essentially a 22-hour-long detective novel. If you've read Alexander McCall Smith's The First Ladies' Detective Agency books (and if you haven't, don't bother), you'll recognize the genre, also called a 'cozy' mystery--although the detective pursues a single case above all others, they allow themselves to

Just to Be Clear...

... I have no horse in tonight's awards. Veronica Mars and Battlestar Galactica have been shut out of the nominations. Doctor Who isn't eligible. Lost doesn't deserve to win (well, maybe Terry O'Quinn does). I've never seen Desperate Housewives . Deadwood is still the best show on TV, but its second season falls so short of the brilliance of its first (which the Emmys completely ignored) that any victory tonight will seem hollow. That said, if Ian McShane gets passed over for best actor again , I would consider him well within his rights to burn down the building. UPDATE: Well, fuck . You just know Al Swearengen would know what to do about this.

Is There Someone at the End of This Rope? A Long Day's Struggle With M. John Harrison

Like many genre readers, I first heard M. John Harrison's name when his most recent novel, Light , was enthusiastically (and justifiably) lauded by SF and mainstream critics alike. An intoxicating blend of space opera and cyberpunk, Light demanded the reader's complete trust. What possible connection, after all, could there be between 21st century scientist-by-day, serial-killer-by-night, Michael Kearney, 25th century layabout and former hotshot pilot Ed Chianese, and Seria Mau Genlicher, a former human jacked in as the pilot of a renegade battleship turned privateer? Instead of answering questions, Harrison compounded them. Instead of explaining his characters' actions, he kept them opaque (not to mention thoroughly unlikable). The narrative, such as it was, twisted and turned, forming no coherent shape. And yet, when I turned Light 's final page, I was completely satisfied. The book worked, and shockingly enough, it turned out that amidst its myriad acts of casual cr

Deleted Scenes From Roberts' Confirmation Hearings

Proceedings quickly became acrimonious Tuesday morning, as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) openly challenged Robert's claim that he "had not made up his mind" on Logan v. Wayne. "With all due respect, I find it frankly unbelievable that, in 30 years of public service, you could not have formed an opinion on this matter," Kennedy said. "So I would again ask that you simply answer the question: who would win in a fight, Wolverine or Batman?" (via Bookslut )

My Very First Linkdump...

I try not to look at reviews of a book that I'm planning to write about, partly to avoid confusing my own thoughts with those of other people but mainly because whatever I have to say, odds are someone else has said it already, and said it better. Having gotten what I had to say about The Baroque Cycle out of my system, however, I was free to roam the 'net and see what others thought. Here's a bit of what I found: In The Washington Post , Gregory Feeley makes an excellent point about Stephenson's anachronistic politics: And the anachronisms go further than turns of phrase. Stephenson's characters are invariably presented as good or bad according to whether they espouse beliefs that hold up today, and 18th-century London seems to interest him only insofar as it presages the modern era. For all its fearsome book-learning, the Baroque Cycle offers only a past that reminds us of ourselves. This refusal to engage with the unique particularity of his setting is most evi

The Baroque Cycle: How I Learned to Stop Loving and Start Worrying About Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson is famously bad at endings. His books don't end so much as stop, sometimes so abruptly that one is left to imagine Stephenson's beleaguered publisher sneaking into his house in the dead of night, rifling through whatever manuscript he's currently working on until they reach a plausible stopping point and absconding with it into the night. One of these days, I suppose, when Stephenson becomes even more of a superstar than he is now, we'll start seeing the publication of massive addenda to his previous books, and find out how Randy Waterhouse or Nell made their way out of the messes Stephenson left them in, and what they did after. Looking at the sheer heft of The Baroque Cycle (2,700 pages, give or take) and taking into account Stephenson's inability to conclude a story, the obvious conclusion is that he's taken this proclivity to extremes. Granted a large enough canvas, he just kept writing and writing and writing until he wore out even the indu

All Amoral, Oversexed Villainesses are Alike...

The conventional wisdom seems to be that I should give HBO's Rome a few more episodes to get its feet under it. I probably will--there's nothing to watch anyway these days except Battlestar Galactica --but at this point it's hard to escape the conclusion that the show is nothing more than an I, Claudius knockoff, and not a very good one at that. I like the 'man on the ground' idea that the show seems to be moving towards in theory, but if the second episode is any indication the writers' implementation of this concept has a Forrest Gump-ishness to it that's turning me right off the entire show. Perversely enough, the character the writers are obviously hanging their hopes on to draw viewers in is the one who's most likely to drive me away. I imagine that somewhere in HBO's head offices, someone is chuckling over their 'innovative' and 'groundbreaking' decision to write a female villain who uses sex as a weapon and manipulates even

Matt Cheney Tells It Like It Is

The trap many aspiring literary writers fall into is in mistaking static situations for dramatic situations. Most people who are drawn to writing literary fiction have a particular love for language, metaphor, imagery, and small moments of psychological revelation. It's a rare writer who can create anything particularly satisfying from those elements alone, however. (I recently described a book I found unreadable by saying that somebody must have told the author he wrote beautiful sentences, and so he decided to run out and fill 450 pages with them.) If a writer wants a narrative to be compelling, if they want a reader to feel a certain need to continue to read it, then they should try to make change central to the story rather than try to make a story that is a portrait of a few moments, a setting and characters caught in amber, a collection of moods. What has been written could be sensitive, it could be lovely, it could even be evocative, but it's unlikely to be compelling, a

Adaptation Season

Myla Goldberg's Bee Season is one of my all-time favorite novels (her upcoming Wickett's Remedy would have been on my most-anticipated list a few weeks ago were it not scandalously forgotten). I've been nervous about the film adaptation for a while (Richard Gere as Saul? Juliette Binoche as Miriam? They're both about as Jewish as Madonna). Now that the trailer has come along, I can see that nervousness was the wrong reaction--I should have just written the whole film off as soon as I heard about it. Contrary to what you might assume from watching the trailer, Bee Season isn't a heartwarming drama about a damaged family coming together. It is a heartbreaking drama about a damaged family falling to pieces. More importantly, it's a book about the search for God in everyday life, and about the different ways in which people can approach that search--arrogance, obsession, spite, humility. The six minute featurette on the same site only serves to demonstrate

The Obligatory Buffyverse Post

A local channel has been airing Buffy the Vampire Slayer every day, from the beginning. Apart from the fact that this gave me a chance to catch up on a few episodes I had managed to miss (early seasons 1 and 4, and yes, I know that was no great loss), there's something to be said for watching the show in concentrated form. Some things became clear that I had only been vaguely aware of, such as how mind-bogglingly terrible the first season was, how quickly the second season went from merely good to freaking great, how open and cheerful Buffy was in the beginning of the second season, and how Angel losing his soul makes a gigantic dent in hers. It's easier to start seeing the show as a single story about a person who struggles against the loss of her humanity--not just because of her superhuman legacy, but because of the all-too-human impulse to protect herself from pain by cutting herself off from the world. Last week was the end of the fifth season. I must have seen "The