Monday, February 28, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
I hit this point a little after page 50 for this book. I carried it with me last night to the salon for my I've-worn-a-headband-to-keep-my-hair-from-annoying-me-too-many-days-in-a-row haircut, and I never got the urge to throw it against the wall, but I was very close to the put it down and forget to pick it back up point.
Then they broke the heroes.
They showed the characters as children. They pointed out all the things these women had to recover from to make them who they are. They gave me a reason to care.
And now I'm caught.
Now I need to go so I can read "just a few more pages."
See you next week.
I hope you have a "just a few more pages" book to keep you busy until then.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
I'm re-watching it for the umpteenth time, and I love it just as much as I did the first time. It took the Star Trek universe to new heights and let the fans walk outside of the world of the Federation. It showed fans that characters outside of the Federation rules and codes didn't have to be evil and that sometimes even the Federation had to bend those codes to get along with other races.
Sure, the show had some problems. (They had to occasionally resurrect the same old plots seen in older shows.) I still believe it's the best of the Star Trek series. One of the reasons for this is the characters. Through the show's seven seasons, we get to see all of them fleshed out and completed, alive with back stories. And most of them didn't give a crap about Federation rules. The show was also able to have recurring villains (individuals, not races) because the central setting was stationary instead of a traveling ship. Hell, even the villains felt fully fleshed out and understandable if still unlikable.
DS9 feels like an old friend to me, due in large part to how much attention is paid to the characters, both male and female and...other. If you haven't seen it because you could never get behind the original Star Trek or Star Trek: The Next Generation, don't be afraid. In many ways, it's as different as night and day. I can almost guarantee that you'll find something to like.
With all shows, however, you'll have to forgive its first season a little bit. It takes a little while to hit its stride and realize it can have story arcs instead of trying so hard to put out stand-alone episodes. Also, you'll have to keep in mind what year it was made in and realize special effects had gone only so far. But if you take my advice, you'll give it a chance. I promise it's worth it.
Monday, February 21, 2011
A joke that’s been floating around the interwubs lately:
Q: What’s the definition of a socialist?
A: A Democrat with a spine.
I meant to post a Neglected Fiction Book Review for today’s post, but I spent most of the week and weekend fuming over Governor Walker up there in Wisconsin.
One of the main pleasures, for me, in reading as well as in writing SF lies in the world-building: specifically, in the chance to dream new possibilities, new ways of constructing our social structures. Every kid knows, from the time she stands up in this world, that the way we’re doing it now is not fair. And the smarmy adage we get given as children, that life isn’t fair, so we should just suck it up -- that’s nothing I, personally, ever found any comfort at all. If it’s not fair, why aren’t we working to make it fair? What’s stopping us? Do we have something better to do?
Like watch NASCAR races?
This is why I like science fiction. Sure, some of it is just for fun -- but lots of it is deadly serious fun, looking at why things aren’t fair, looking at how to make things fair.
So. Here. Today. More lists!
First, a list of Books that recast society:
John Barnes, Orbital Resonance. This is a book that gets misread, I think, as a dystopia. I can’t think why. The society sounds like paradise, to be. Granted, the earth below is in awful shape; but the world that has been created in the asteroid -- the planned society -- that world works wonderfully. Unless you’re allergic to social engineering? (And, as I said to one of my students who was expostulating against the evils of social engineering, “You’d rather have an unengineered society? Not planning things? That’s what you think we should do, is it?” He stared at me, bemused, wondering -- obviously -- what pointed I was trying to make. Because, yes, that is, in fact, what he and his ilk think we should do. In God we trust. Amen.)
Ursula Le Guin, Always Coming Home. This one is a bit difficult to read, I admit. There is a plot, I promise. But you’ll have to work hard to find it. And it’s buried deep in anthropological data-heaps: flora and fauna of the area, mating practices of the culture, how the houses are built, music and poetry of the various tribes, foods that are eaten and when, clothing, tribal history -- if you like this sort of thing (and I do) it’s a lot of fun. Otherwise, I admit, it’s daunting.
Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia. Written in the early seventies, postulated that part of the West Coast seceded from the U.S. and formed a ecological utopia. Kind of cool to see what was seen as “radical” behavior in 1973.
Starhawk, The Fifth Sacred Thing. One of my students loaned me this book some years ago -- I get the best books that way! This one won a Lambda award. Also concerns parts of California seceding. And witchcraft! Which upsets some people on the net who happen to have read it as I found when I researched it -- Starhawk herself, apparently, being (oo, scarwy) a witch. The book has some very powerful scenes of political action.
Suzy McKee Charnas, The Holdfast Chronicles. I read the first book of the Holdfast Chronicles very young -- maybe fourteen or fifteen? -- and the rest as they came out, one at a time. A post-apocalyptic society, with patriarchy taken to the extreme; a second, all-female society has formed out in the wilds. I love these books to pieces. (Literally: I had to buy a new copy because my first copies fell apart.)
And -- finally! -- China Mieville’s Fifty Works of F/SF for Socialists to Read
Go! Read! Re-shape the world!
Because what else are we here for, after all? Getting the perfect tan?
Friday, February 18, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
What movie influenced you the most (in your writing)? For you non-writerly types, that part in parenthesis can be changed to...well, whatever you want it to be.
For me and at least two other people I've spoken to, it's Labyrinth.
The tone of the movie, the look, the villain, the heroine and unlikely hero, they've all influenced me greatly. I try to inject humor into all my plots because of this movie. I like strong-willed heroines who are still human enough to make mistakes. I write quippy villains and my heroes are seriously flawed and are usually far from physically perfect (but never as far as Hoggle). And my plots always have at least one fight scene. ^_^ Gah! It makes me happy just thinking about it.
If I could have made this movie any different, it would have been to make one of Sarah's companions female. Nothing wrong with her companions; they turn out to be a good group, but it's another story that isolates women from other women. One woman, many men is the formula for many a fantasy or action movie. I wonder if the writers consider more women to be competition for the love interest or something? But female friends support each other (at least in my experience). Wouldn't a woman want to have her BFFs along?
Sunday, February 13, 2011
So you write Science Fiction, or Fantasy, and you’re a feminist, and you’re living in the future, which means you’re all wired up.
What ought you to be reading on these Interwebs today?
Here’s a short and wholly eclectic list based (I bet you could have figured this part out) on what I happened to noticed or come across my ownself.
Some are feminist sites; some are SF/Fantasy sites; some are Feminist/SFF sites; some are just sites for writers. Some are just mad cool.
This is by no means a complete or exhaustive (though it make be exhausting) list -- please (please!) add the links I’ve overlooked in comments.
Locus Online: The professional connection for those in the field.
The Angry Black Woman: A group blog.
Polenth’s Quill -- posts on science as it relates to science fiction. Only two flaws: does not post enough; and pet cockroaches!
Science in My Fiction: Science by SF Writers Which SF Writers Can (Mostly) Understand. With cool pictures and diagrams! And occasional contests!
Feminist SF - The Blog! Yeah, you gotta read this one.
K. Tempest Bradford: Snappy, snarky, smart. I found this blog during the great blogwars of RaceFail09.
Kit Whitfield, who wrote the only werewolf book I ever liked. Post on writing, and on feminism. Bonus cat-blogging.
Duotrope Digest: If you don’t know about this site yet, you better
Feministe -- one of my top three favorite Feminist blogs
Feministing -- Another
And IBTP, who has taught me about 80% of what I know about being a feminist.
Rise Reviews -- reviews the small presses and magazines, especially SF/F magazines.
PoC/50 Book Challenge -- this started as a list of 50 SF/F books written by writers of color, but they’re way past 50 now. I go here when I need something new to read that’s not by the usual suspects à those same top ten boring white guys. Not just a book list. Also mini-reviews.
I’m Here, I’m Queer, What The Hell Do I Read? Same sort of idea, but for LGBT.
Making Light -- The Nielsen/Hayden team:
Free Speculative Fiction Online. Free access to fantasy and SF stories, like a billion of them. Skews sort of canon, but surprises me sometimes.
io9: Needs no introduction.
Crossed Genres: Come over there and read us!
WorldSF: Lavie Tidhar and his crew.
Daily SF: You know, I can’t decide if I like these people or not.
Slacktvist: I love Fred.
Update for a blog I can't believe I forgot:
Starship Reckless: Another blog by a working scientist/ feminist who writes SF/F. Athena publishes widely, from Huffington Post to Strange Horizons to Science in My Fiction (and in her field), so there's always something to see on her page.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
So, that's a no from me for romantic comedies, no matter how many times someone says I should like them. It's amazing how many people become experts on human behavior when topics like this come up. "All women like them," people say. Does this mean I have to hand in my ovaries? Does this mean that any men who like them have to apply for a uterus all their own? (This is why I think everyone should have to take an anthropology course in college, just so they realize how many different viewpoints exist in the world and will learn the difference between all, some, most and none.)
I'm told that men like action and sci fi movies. This is why, I've heard, you'll find less women in these films and those that you do find are usually dressed in very little (or very tight) clothing. Men like to see naked women, I've heard, and these films are made for men and therefore...
You get the idea. But I love action. I love sci-fi. I love to see a helicopter being blown up. I want to be a hero just like the heroes of these movies. I want to have chums who are willing to risk their lives for me like I am for them. Is it too much to ask that I also might want to wear a sweater? Or that my skintight "action suit" can match my fellows' instead of also being gathered between my breasts so that each one is outlined? (Yeah, I've seen this before. We're all thieves wearing tight black clothing, but the woman has a few extra stitches between her breasts to...distract security guards? Can she hold something with them maybe? That's some muscle tone.)
I don't like being excluded from my gender or made to feel like an oddball because of what movies I like. I've read time and again about the number of women who like sci fi, who go to see the movies, play the video games, watch the tv shows. Magazines love to do articles about these hordes of women, so why do movies still treat us like we're not there? Where are the female sci fi heroines with female friends, none of whom are dressed in skimpy skimpy clothing? Men who love sci fi and action will go to see these movies, too, trust me. They like a helicopter blowing up as much as I do. And the lack of skin won't bother them so much, I promise. You can find a lot more skin on the internet and for free. Many of the men I know adored Buffy, and though she sometimes wore revealing clothing, it never felt ridiculous, and she didn't have to wear it all the time.
Monday, February 7, 2011
My daughter, now 12, wants to write anime and cartoons and graphic novels.
Well, I should say she is writing them: since we pulled her out of the traditional school system, which frankly just wasn’t working out, and began homeschooling her, she spends perhaps thirty hours a week (it might be more) drawing and animating with her Bamboo pad. She has a couple of storylines going, and several more in her head which, she says, she’s not yet good enough to write.
When I teach World Literature, or Science Fiction for that matter, we always reach that point in the semester -- the Virginia Woolf moment, I have come to think of it, because the first time it happened was when I was teaching Woolf’s Room of One’s Own.
It’s the moment when I discuss why the anthology we’ve been using has been so white, and so male. (Norton Anthology of Rich White Europeans, my husband, who also teaches at the university, calls it.) Its also at this point that I nearly always flash back to a couple of memories.
I’m twenty-one. I’m taking biology, not because I have to -- I’m an English major, after all -- but because I want to. The professor, an earnest young woman, pulls me aside on the first day and tries to get me to drop the class. “This really isn’t for you,” she says. The lab instructor, an older man, grins at my chest and asks me to meet him at a local bar after lab lets out.
I’m twenty-six, first weeks in graduate school, drinking in the bars with the male MFA candidates, to show them I’m as tough as they are. “We-e-ll,” one of them tells me. “You just have to be aware. You just have to know. Publishing is a man’s world. Not to say women can’t get published. Just, men have a better chance. That’s just how it is.”
I’m twenty-seven. More than half the MFA program, far more than half, is female. But the male students win all the prizes, get all the fellowships, get any extra graduate sections that are around to be given. When a couple of the feminist students band together to raise this issue to our professors (all white males except for one) the (male) professors do not respond well. “I don’t know what you expect us to do with this information,” one of them snaps. As if they have nothing to do with awarding those prizes and fellowships? As if allocations of awards and resources is pure fucking chance?
I’m thirty. My favorite brother and I have a fight about feminism, and how women should be grateful, and stop complaining, and when are we going to be satisfied? “After all,” he says, “we let you have the vote.”
I’m thirty-seven, taking over a WLIT class from an older (male) professor. The text, an anthology, is actually a good one, with many selections from non-Anglophone countries. I itch to teach some of the Asian works particularly, since that’s an area I studied when I was working on my doctorate; or some of the African works. But no -- I am new here, I must teach what he has taught, follow his syllabus. Which is entirely -- yeah, you guessed it -- focused on those works in the anthology that are European, male, and previous to the 19th century. I say nothing, but my expression must give something away, because he suddenly goes into a rant, about how if any of “these other” works were “any good” obviously “someone” would have noticed a long time ago!
It’s 2007. I’ve been trying to publish science fiction for years, to little avail. This essay by Susan Linville appears on Strange Horizons, one of the few venues where, at that point, I feel women’s writing is welcome. No matter how many times I read it, the essay keeps telling me the same thing: women don’t get published because they’re quitters and crybabies. Nothing to do with social bias if stories by women are only a quarter of those published in SF magazines. We know this (says the article) because even when SF editors are women, still more men than women are published (because women unlike men are not raised in a patriarchy and so don’t have a social bias to prefer male stories. I guess.).
2009. We’re reading a graphic novel in my WLIT class -- I think it might have been The Rabbi’s Cat, though it’s hard to remember. Somehow we get onto the subject of women drawing comics, probably through my kid. I talk about the relatively few number of women who make it drawing comics. Kid in the third row puts up his hand laconically. Without waiting for me to call on him, he announces, “That’s because women just aren’t interested in doing things like that.” Right next to him, an earnest woman just my age nods emphatic agreement.
2009. RaceFail arrives, with gender-fail at its heels. Black people just aren’t interested in writing science fiction. Black people just don’t have the education, Women just aren’t interested, just don’t have the math, can’t stick it out, have too many children. Face it, we’d rather make pies anyway.
Could be worse -- could be a lot better.
Those are just the awards, mind you. Publications -- well. I keep my eye on who publishes women and who never/seldom does. I know it makes a difference when I’m deciding whether to submit to a given venue.
My point here -- and I do have one -- we write science fiction.
Shouldn’t we be living in the future yet?
Give up your time-anchors! You have nothing to lose but your chains!
Friday, February 4, 2011
Sometimes. [Head lowered to mourn the shows cancelled earlier than I'd hoped.]
We start with ABC.
Poe: Edgar Allan Poe as a detective? I can't wait. I hope it's good.
AKA Jessica Jones: A failed super-hero (in a world of super-heroes) becoming a PI!!! Sounds fascinating. And it gives me a new comic book to look up. Alias. I never watched the show of that name, but I don't think they're connected.
Inhuman: A title, nothing more. (not quite a Poe quote.) Makes me thing of Being Human. Hope not. There seems to be a habit made of copying shows. My brain goes superhero for the example: first Heroes, then No Ordinary Family, and The Cape. I'm happy to have superhero shows that aren't Superman, but they all felt too similar. The first two needed to be better (stop flopping all over to please the audience, Tv Execs, we were pleased the first season -- with Heroes, at least). The last show needed to be worse. So much of that one was Grade B. It just didn't go far enough.
Patient Zero: I'll keep this one in mind for Husband.
Grave Sight: Feeling/Seeing the final moments of the newly dead. A Charlaine Harris creation. I'm the rare person who doesn't love True Blood, but it sounds interesting.
Wild Wild West: What more is there to say? What will they do with it this time? I can't wait to find out.
The CW has seven. I don't know what to expect there. They seem to have dug into the teen melodrama market and I haven't watched them since Buffy. Husband and children loved Teen Titans though. Raven could be good. Spirits sounds a little too much like Charmed and it's hard for me to get excited about a redo -- I say right after I get excited about Wild Wild West. Husband recommended I watch the original show and I tried, but there's a lot of ...camera angles and scene framing... that... dates it. It's filmed like an old western. I'd like to have the chance at enjoying it without feeling oppressed by time period. (I watched the first Kojak the other day and was greatly amused to think that the civilian hostages were once worth more than cops. Can you imagine that today? A person killing an innocent woman getting hunted as fervently as someone who killed a cop? --It could be television warping my view here, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on that.)
Alcatraz: J.J. Abrams? Does that mean Fringe was cancelled? I need to look that up! I'm afraid to look that up. Don't tell me. Wait no -- do tell me. Is it gone? Did they get to force-finish the story arc? Like Bab5 (except without the extra season after they thought they were cancelled)? Like Dollhouse? There was a five-year story arc! [commence weeping]
Locke and Key: Another comic book series. Supernatural doorways. Reminds me of The Lost Room. I liked that one too. Or that house movie from decades ago.... House? IMDb says.... House. There's a House II, too.
Magical Law: A legal show set in a universe where magic is real. I can't wait! Please, please make it!
Smokers: Looks like cowboys and aliens. (Not the upcoming movie, but the idea you'd come up with when you think cowboys and aliens.) I'd watch.
Splitting Adams: Alternate realities, one where Adams is a prosecutor, one where she's the prosecuted. Sounds like it would do better as a movie, but could be interesting.
And I'm not done yet. One more channel. NBC. So exciting!
17th Precinct: More magic plus law. I want to watch this one, even if they did bring up Harry Potter. (Not bad-mouthing Harry Potter, but looking forward to adult television -- and not adult as in X's or R's, just not made for kids.)
Grimm: Last year it was superheroes with family issues. This year magic cops. Oh, please be good. One of you, at least. Please be good.
Wonder Woman: Please be good. That's all. Please?
Dark Tower: Stephen King. I know people who have been excited about this one for months already. The word 'epic' comes up a lot when talking about this one.
Echelon: More supernatural investigations. One more possibility to ROCK!
Emerald City: At least it's not Syfy. [shudder] It has to be better than that.
and, last, but not least...
Zombies vs Vampires: Buddy cop show. One secret vampire. Dealing with zombie outbreaks. Oh, NBC, I could love you.
And that's a lot of video. Possible video. (Please?) And this isn't even all of them. These were only the ones I found most exciting. Go review the full list, if you have time, and tell me if I missed something I should be excited about. Or gush with me about something here. So much Fantasy and Scifi coming up, my eyes are glazing over. I think I've already started to drool.
I can't wait till Fall!
Fingers crossed everyone, and keep them there. Oh, all right. You can uncross them to type. But keep them crossed inside. Where it counts. We have to get some good genre television with all these to choose from!
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
I watched it again the other night while tinkering around on my computer. And you know what, if you're not watching the dinosaurs, the movie is...dare I say, god awful! The dialog often makes no sense. The decisions people make are beyond bad and at times, too stupid for the deciders to live. Most of the bad dialogue falls out of the mouth of poor Laura Dern. "You can't think your way through this one. You have to feel it." Um...seems to me everyone needs a lot more thinking. All zoos I've ever heard of have contingency plans in case the animals get out. What the hell was the plan in Jurassic Park? Was power failure really beyond the scope on a tropical island where storms and hurricanes are a yearly problem?
I'm angrier about this than I should be. Probably because I saw it in the theater so many times, bought the VHS and then the DVD, the anniversary edition of the DVD at that. I should probably just strip out all the dinosaur scenes and watch them. That way, I wouldn't have to ponder why the people in charge of the park continued to breed a dinosaur that couldn't be shown to the public because it was too dangerous. Or why they would be reluctant to kill the dinosaurs when the dinosaurs are eating people. If a lion got out at the zoo and started eating people, would the zookeepers hesitate to shoot it? I hope not.
Are there any movies you love that you've just listened to? Does the dialog stand up without the visuals? Does the movie make sense without the glitz? How many bad movies could have been made better by a CGI dinosaur or two?