Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Alcatraz and Terra Nova get the boot. I travel back in time.

With two of my SF/F shows officially cancelled, I'm once again having to surf netflix for shows I might have missed. Firefly? Seen it. Stargate? Seen ALL of it. Ditto for Star Trek, Angel, and Buffy. I'm not desperate enough yet to try Charmed.

Some friends have recommenced Supernatural, so the husband and I are giving it a try.

*Some spoilerage may follow*

 So far, so good. Two guys in their twenties hunt ghosts, demons, and other supernatural baddies while searching for their father and the cause of their mother's demise. The main complaint I've heard (and have already kind of witnessed, though only two episodes in) is that woman are in the show only to be love interests that die in order to motivate the main characters, as women in peril that need the main characters' help, or eye-candy--albeit badass--villains. (As badass as they are, there is still that ever present sexualness that's eye-rolling sometimes.)

I shall continue to watch as the show has some good creepy scares and already seems to be pulling on the mythology of at least three cultures. Hopefully, there'll be a woman with some substance in her own right.

Does anyone else watch the show? Should I not hold my breath on that whole woman issue?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Because Making Lists is Easier Than Writing Anything At All...

Hey, y'all.

Tomorrow I start teaching Summer I.

I have spent the past week writing and writing (I am working on two short stories at once as well as the third book in my Martin series) and when I was not writing I was doing prep work for the two classes I am teaching in Summer I, American Epics and Comp I, as well as the class I have just been assigned for the fall, Diverse Cultures: LGBTQ  Literature.

So!  Not  much time to write a new post.  But!  Luckily others have been writing posts for me.

Some excellent posts you should read:

This one, on why Rape is Not A Shiny Evolutionary Advantage, by Athena Andreadis, over at Astrogator's Logs.

(My favorite line: Now, it’s one thing to like cocoa puffs. It’s another to insist they are either nutritional powerhouses or haute cuisine. )

This one, by Calvin Johnson, on the same blog, about Battlestar G.

This one by Ryan Anderson, on hominid prehistory, over on Science in my Fiction.

This one, same blog, Sarah Goslee, about horseshit and eel grass.  No, really.

And this one: robot fish! I don't know how impressed to be, frankly, but I can't help loving the coolness.

More next week.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sorry I flaked

But I shall continue to do so, unfortunately. My computer died, so I'm typing hurriedly on a friend's. See you next week when I'll have plenty of SF/F action to talk about!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Save Crossed Genres

Here on FanSci we've got a special attachment to Crossed Genres -- it's the zine where we all met.

Bart & Kay, the publishers of Cg, have been hit by the economic downturn, as have many of us.  They're holding a Kickstarter to keep Crossed Genres going.

Lots of reasons to kick in (and lots of people already are kicking in!) -- my reasons include how Crossed Genres does so well at representing the voices of women, POC, and LGBQT writers.

Plus, great fiction.

Kick in if you can, and boost the signal.

Friday, May 18, 2012

You Must Choose!

The choices are: A desperate fight to the death ...or... learning to love again.

This is not word-for-word what I've read on the back of books, but it is similar -- and not as rare as it should be. Because when I read that, I think learning to love again. That is obviously a much happier option.

The choice is not between college (4 more years of school, whooo!) and a menial labor job (immediate income, yay! Probably boredom/exhaustion for as far as the mind can see, less yay.) The choice is between student debt, very little income and an uncertain, but possibly brighter future against steady and immediate income with a set path going nowhere. (I know menial labor does have some advancement possibility into management, but there is a lot of menial labor wanting that advancement with few positions opening.)

The choice is not between winning the lottery and a complicated heart surgery. (Oooh, heart surgery! I want that one! --Knock on wood, that an online snark doesn't jinx me. :)

I've picked up several books this week where there is a choice posited on the back cover text and the choice is between a bad thing and a good thing. It makes my brain hurt. Who, in their right mind, would choose a knife fight over the love of her life? That cannot be the real choice.

I, this book's bad guy, will kill you if you do not go home with your true love and live happily ever after.

It makes no sense.

You may live happily ever after, or your loved one will die, a prolonged and painful cancer death. Now choose.

It doesn't work. You may make the choice between staying with and loving someone with cancer as long as they have left or running away so you don't have to see the pain they're going through. (What you don't see can't hurt you?)

But, please, booksellers, please stop writing back cover blurbs as if the choices are this easily made. If the choice is between love and death, skip the whole choice bit and just let us read a story about what kind of person chose the death option. Holy shit, this girl had the choice between the love of her life and bleeding out on the concrete and she chose bleeding out? WHY? I NEED TO KNOW!

I don't need to know she's going to choose love over the gut shot. That one should be obvious. Should be. I only care if it's not.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Two movies for me, too

As well as The Avengers, I also saw Dark Shadows and The Raven.

Like Marilou, I thought Dark Shadows was eh. So was The Raven. Pretty, yes. Story-heavy, not so much. They don't stand a chance against the pretty, action-filled, laugh fest that was The Avengers.

I know that's not fair. It's apples and at least other kinds of apples. They're just not the same kind of movie. But I didn't feel that either DS or TR tried hard enough. They could have been much better with more thoughtful dialogue, with a little more attention paid to plot. Instead, they were both C's or B's (if I'm kind) instead of reaching for that A. Catch both on Netflix if you want to to bother.

Now I'm waiting for Snow White and the Huntsman. I'll give you my review as soon as I catch it. I hope it's not eh.

Monday, May 14, 2012

This Is Progress?

This is the post I meant to write last week, only I hadn't quite finished reading the book -- a collection of short stories written by Heinlein (yes, I seem to be, in a very desultory way, doing a Heinlein re-read).

This is a collection called The Green Hills of Earth, which I think I must have read at least once before, because some of the titles sound vaguely familiar, but which I have no memory of reading.

It's a collection of short stories, published from between 1941 and 1949, and while they show all of the Heinlein weaknesses -- he could not plot with a gun to his head, basically, and gah the dialogue -- nevertheless what struck me as I read the stories was how progressive they were, compared to much of contemporary SF.

  • For one thing, almost all of his stories have women characters.  It's true that one story, "The Black Pits of Luna," the woman is the shrill idiot who will become so familiar in later Heinlein fiction -- but then, her husband is equally idiotic and equally demanding.  The story makes it clear that it is their wealth and their notion that that wealth entitles them to demand whatever they want, whether is is sensible or not, that is the problem, not their gender.  And in other stories, notably "Delilah and the Space Rigger" and "We Also Walk Dogs" women are presented as fully realized humans (one an engineer, one a full partner in a business, married, but having not taken her husband's name) who are capable, sane, and balanced.  In "We Also Walk Dogs," the woman is the main character in the story.
  • In more than one story, workers and the rights of workers to decide the conditions under which they work are, if not the focal point of the story, at least a focal point.  In the final story, "Logic of the Empire," a not very successful story, I have to admit, the exploitation of workers is the focal point -- two rich men accidentally end up among the contract labor workers (you can see why this one would catch my attention!) being exploited on Venus and learn valuable lessons. In "Delilah and the Space Rigger," the workers on the space station have been compelled to sign a no-strike clause, which they get around by quitting en masse when the boss acts unjustly: the story clearly approves of this action.  In "The Green Hills of Earth," the takeover of space shipping by a multinational corporation -- The Company -- is clearly meant to be seen as a bad thing, which spacers and "good" Captains resist by bending the rules as much as they can; and because they do, a ship which would have been lost is saved by Noisy Rhysling. (Yes, that Rhysling.)
  • The ideas.  Small ideas -- technology, for instance: people have cell phones, space cities are being built, the business that Grace Cormet and her two fellows run in "We Also Walk Dogs" is such a good idea I can't believe no one has ever actually done it -- but also bigger ideas, concepts, attitudes.  In "It's Great To Be Back," the couple who scored jobs building a new city on Luna decided that they hated it, and wanted to retreat to the (idealized) Earth of their childhoods.  Only when they return home, they find Earth society is petty, conservative, filthy, and awful.  They can't wait to escape back to the world of the future.  That attitude, that forward is better, that's not one we see a lot in modern SF/F.  Instead much of our fiction looks to the past.  The world of the 1950s was better.  The world of Tudor England was more interesting.  The idea that things can get better?  That's just Utopian (code for silly).  Here, in these stories, Heinlein is arguing for a better world -- even in "Logic of the Empire," which straight out claims that exploitation of the working class is necessary, Heinlein   presents a camp of rebels, runaways, revolutionaries, who reject that necessity, and makes that point that every exploited working class has produced such rebels, who have always won in the end.
In conclusion, I can't think what happened to this R.A. Heinlein -- he's certainly not the one who wrote The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, in which two characters conclude that a kid who had been sold into contract labor as a child ought to be abandoned and almost certainly condemned to an early death because he dared to argue that health care was a human right -- but I would have liked hanging around with him a lot more, I think.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Tale of Two Movies

It was the best of movies, it was the worst of movies....

Well, I suppose it wasn't either, though Avengers was very good and Dark Shadows was sadly not. It was a study of differences, however, for someone who prefers to have movies come to my house rather than me going to them. Then two Fridays in a row I was at the theater. To help this be a study of differences, Avengers is showing at the theater across town, and Dark Shadows was at the closer theater. (Both theaters are Regal, if you wondered.)

Our one similarity, we watched both at their opening day Friday afternoon showing.

Last week, Avengers week, we drive across town and avoid the long line at the front by going to their nifty indoor automatic ticket box. Put in a credit card and taadaa. The theater is full.  (We were thrilled to find out that the normal showings were sold out all day, but the 3D was only filling up after the other theater was full.) It was packed. We're forced to sit right up on the screen. Sister and I put on our sunglasses to dim the brights and keep the movement from making us seasick.

Really. It's sad.

So, the Avengers.

The movie itself was brightness and humor and the heroes winning in the end -- though we're not certain that wasn't Loki's plan all along. Even the good guys figured out that Loki purposely drew them together, then no one seemed to think his plan might have been for them to win.

Wasn't it obvious?

Those other guys with the really cool bitey ships -- Husband says bitey monsters not bitey ships, but I want bitey ship so that's what they get to be for now -- anyway, those other guys might have saved Loki from the certain death accorded him in the Thor movie, but he still didn't want to give them Earth so he pulled the heroes together to keep Earth safe.

So, the movie was lots of fun. We laughed, we cried, we hid our faces until the icky parts were gone. We wanted big bitey monster pets to bring home and snuggle and and pet and love and ride across town.

Then there was Dark Shadows.

I think there might have been ten of us in the theater. Good news, we got a great seat.

It had bits of humor, but Burton was right. It wasn't a comedy. It's very nearly slapstick drama, which is not a category I would have ever though of before. Husband, who has watched Dark Shadows (the original series), says it is very like that. Things come out of nowhere. He calls it soap opera-like. I'm not entirely sure about that, but it felt very random.

And now this.

And now this.

And now this.

Nothing felt planned so nothing felt ended or complete. The discussion with husband was that it was true to the original with me arguing that movie and television series are different enough that it should have been able to stay true while becoming a good movie. It only missed by a little. In the details.

I can happily recommend Avengers. Not so much, the other one.

MONDAY UPDATE: Since I'm currently spending the morning listening to Alice Cooper, I have to add that he was great in Dark Shadows. That may be a me thing though. Right now I can't remember whether he did anything other than sing and get picked on for having a girl's name, but I was very happy to see him there.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

No more thongs

I had to wait until today to post so I had time to see The Avengers...apparently the rest of the planet beat me to it.

It was well worth the wait. Full of action and humor, The Avengers is a nerd's wet dream. And it achieved that without putting Scarlett Johansson in pasties and a thong. I was so happy. She wore a combat uniform and boots, not a high heeled shoe in sight. True, her costume was very tight, but then they all were. No superhero wears baggy jeans.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Scar Jo said that was the reason she thought superhero movies starring women never took off. They tried too hard to be sexy, tried to hard to look like their comic book counterparts. But in a live action movie, a bikini wearing superhero just looks stupid. (Don't get me started on the comic books. I think they look stupid, too. It's just even dumber on film.)

Scar Jo's character in The Avengers, Black Widow, has no superpowers, no super strength, no lightning. She doesn't even have Tony Stark's Ironman suit to protect her. And yet she holds her own. She has her own unique skill set; like her assassin counterpart, Hawkeye, she knows her limits. They are well aware of their humanity, but they are not going to let that stop them. Black Widow knows what she's good at, and no one is good at running in 5-inch heels.

As of yet, there are no plans for a Black Widow movie. They should think about making one. Maybe if they get a female hero with no powers right, they can conceive of a movie with a superpowered female lead. Wonder Woman would be a good start, if they could find a way to make her bathing suit/high-heeled boots not look stupid. I know people will bitch about the costume change. They'll claim that Wonder Woman "owns" that look, but fans will have to see how they tone down everyone's costume in order for them to translate to film and not look silly. Ironman's suit is deep gold and red instead of bright red and yellow. Thor doesn't wear the winged helmet. Even Captain American's signature look is darker, more muted, less spandex-y. Wonder Woman might have to put on some pants. Aren't a pair of pants worth it to get her to the big screen?

Black Widow wore pants, and she looked just fine.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Not A Post - Supplemental

So for this short story I am writing and writing -- I have to know how you would make coffee in free fall.

Anyone got any ideas?

Instant coffee, I suppose.  But surely no one would put up with THAT for long.

Late Post / No Post

Since I spent all last week grading essays and exams, and working on a short story I have finally realized how to finish, I have, sadly, not finished the reading for the post I meant to write for you today.

Next week!  I swear!

Meanwhile -- don't miss today's XKCD.  It's brilliant!

And here's an even funnier version.

Friday, May 4, 2012


My husband went away to a conference this week.

I have the ability to sleep when I'm gone, but when I'm here, in our house, without him, I can't sleep. The house feels wrong. Most of my sleepytime rituals begin with him. Dogs snores don't sound the same. Anyway, after a number of these absences I've begun to notice a certain degradation in my mental processes after  a few days of no sleep. More in the afternoon than the morning.

I tend to fallback on less reading, more television watching and Firefly is on Netflix Instant. Yes, I have the dvds, have had the dvds for years, but Instant is so much easier than putting a disk in the machine. I don't even have to stand up to browse the available shows.

And I'm tired already.

So.... Firefly. Random thoughts.

It's ten years old now; I've watched it half a million times. Still, I can't seem to leave the room without pausing it.

In the beginning, I hated that theme song. Hated it. I'd try to fast-forward past it (yes, I was late to the series, watching it for the first time on dvd), but Husband wouldn't let me. He'd put on his worst Arkansas twang and sing along so I really, really hated it. (I am not one of those who find the southern accent sexy. Thankfully, he's from a military family and in Nebraska they thought that accent was a speech impediment and got rid of it.) Now the song equals Firefly and I will defend it to the death.

Do not insult the song.

Talking about Firefly songs, here's another one, in that same horrible (beloved) rhythm or something close. You can tell it was inspired by:

This she loves Firefly, but I'm sure there's one out there somewhere who doesn't. My brain hurts thinking about it, though. But then I've been sleepless for days; my brain hurts thinking.

Do you love to hate Jayne or is Wash your man. (WAAAAAAAASH!)
Is there another show you love like this one? (Modern Doctor Who comes close, I think, but the short run is a benefit here. I have 14 shows to choose from -- or watch all of -- when I want to watch it again. Doctor Who has several seasons and I spend my time anxiously awaiting the new season rather than rewatching my favorites.)

Tell me how you love Firefly.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Yeah, it's a cop out

I've got no new movies or shows to review for you, so here's a picture of my pets at the water bowl:

Everyone waits for Queen Kitty to drink. To my knowledge, she's never scratched either dog. JJ, the other cat, has scratched them before, but we all wait for her to finish. She sleeps with the dogs; I think she might consider herself a dog. JJ stays away from them, so maybe it's courtesy? Or do they fear her? We may never know.

Yeah, yeah, I know this has nothing to do with SF/F. Maybe next week. ^_^