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Archive for April, 2011

God is a slick god. Temple knows. She knows because of all the crackerjack miracles still to be seen on this ruined globe.

If Cormac McCarthy had decided to follow The Road with a foray into the zombie apocalypse, it might look something like The Reapers Are The Angels, the astonishing and beautiful PKD Award nominee by Alden Bell, aka  Joshua Gaylord.  This comparison is actually a little unfair to Reapers, because although Bell tips his hat to a variety of sources (Flannery O’Connor and George A. Romero come to mind), the book stands entirely on its own. 

A lot has been said about this book already.  All I’m going to add is that Reapers took my expectations of a subgenre that I’ve grown a bit weary of and turned them completely upside down.  “Beauty amidst the rubble” doesn’t even begin to cover it.  This is the best book I’ve read in a long time and Temple is a character I will not soon forget.

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There have been so many really bad adaptations of really good books that one’s expectations are calibrated to expect a train wreck.  This is especially true of sf/f/h; the most common mistake seems to be that projects get spun up, funded, and launched into the world without guidance from anyone who understands the conventions and tropes of the genre. Peter Jackson’s  LOTR was a really nice counterexample.  I’m happy to report that the HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s  Game of Thrones is another.

 I’m not going to spend any time talking about  the plot, the world, the characters.  I’ll just say that the series, at least the first installment, does an excellent job of capturing the feel of the world and characters Martin has created.  My only gripe, as someone very familiar with the source material,  is the feeling that for the first installment the writers felt obligated to set up as many threads as possible and there was a bit if a sense of items being crossed off a checklist:  Jaime and Cersei Lannister  transgressive sex — check;  Bran Stark pushed off Winterfell’s ramparts after observing same — check; Tyrion and Jon Snow establishing  tenuous bond as fellow outcasts — check;  Arya/Sansa conflict — check;  Daenerys  in exile gazing wistfully across the water — check.

 I expect this “by the numbers” feeling  to diminish as the story unfolds and in any case it takes little away from a very fine job by HBO and team that respects the source material, and transforms and builds upon it in the mapping to a new medium.  Score a victory for novelists and a huge win for audiences who will experience this world and even, hopefully, be inspired to dive into the books

The NY Times utterly trashed the series premiere.  The review was written by  Gina Bellafante,  who seems to have gotten herself lost on her way to a screening of Gossip Girl.  Negative reviews are one thing, but this reviewer displays her cluelessness like a badge of honor. 

Some of her implicit (and some not so implicit) assumptions:

  1. Women hate fantasy.
  2. A boy-centric swords-and-sorcery tale can be enhanced for crossover appeal to women by adding rape and incest.
  3. The setting of GoT is some sort of global warming allegory. 

Okay, this last one requires a little discussion.  One of the parlor tricks of sf/f is to use fantastic elements to frame and drive character and thematic arcs.  The long seasons in the world of GoT are a case in point (e.g., the oft repeated meme “winter is coming”).  So to write this off as some sort of ham-handed climate change cautionary tale misses the mark “the way Michael Bay missed the mark when he made Pearl  Harbor,” as South Park creators Stone and Parker said in their deeply twisted and fun Team America World Police

It’s fine for the NYT to choose a reviewer unfamiliar with genre tropes to review a genre work, especially one that has anticipated crossover appeal.  But this reviewer is aggressively clueless, so far out of her element  that I almost feel sorry for her.  Almost, but not quite.  She is as dogmatic and adamant in her remarks as a fundamentalist wackjob claiming that the fossil record is a Communist conspiracy and the Earth is five thousand years old.  io9 spun up a righteous response to Bellafante’s lame and lazy effort.

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I will be teaching SFF Writing II online at Gotham again, starting next week. 

Syllabus:

  1. Introduction and Recap
  2. Suspension of Disbelief
  3. The Story Question
  4. Conflict
  5. Narrative. Dialog, Action
  6. Exposition and Theory
  7. Story Logic
  8. Advanced Worldbuilding
  9. Details
  10. Revision

And of course, plenty of critique and discussion. There is still room in the class, so if you’re interested, check it out.  Feel free to contact me with questions.

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Let’s get the title out of the way first.  Which is probably what they said.  I have to wonder if this wasn’t a placeholder title the team deferred doing anything about until it was too late.  But … really?  Battle: Los Angeles?  Like naming The Godfather “Old Italian Guy.”

So, I wanted to see this for awhile  I knew it would suck fairly hard, but I have a charactcer flaw that compels me to see all science fiction disaster movies, or any movie in which LA gets reamed.  And it turns out there’s a pretty big Venn intersection between the two.

Typical milporn setup.  There was a fire sale down at Central Casting and this movie got the one more mission before retirement guy, the young married guy with the pregnant wife, the tough, plucky grrl soldier, and the guy who hates the sarge because his brother died on the poor bastard’s last mission.

I don’t have a problem with any of that.  Makes the movie as predictable as a Leave It To Beaver episode and oddly satisfying.  Worshipping at the church of trope.

So the aliens, for some reason, with their big spaceships and all, have to crash into the ocean and invade Earth’s major coastal cities from the water.  Okay, well, there’s some notion that they need water for fuel mumble mumble.  Fine.  It also turns out they left their IT guys back on Altair, because their big vulnerability is a centralized command-and-control infrastructure which of course our fire team has figured out how to exploit.

Having said all that, it was perfectly okay C+  fare.  Loud and dumb, and some nice LA-hellfire eye candy.  Dan Bob says check it out.

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