athelind: (Default)
I'm not in the mood to watch TV, not in the mood to mess around on the computer, and it's too danged early to go to bed.

The box of "Feed Your Head" books hold no appeal, nor do the Lankhmar books that I put in the same box. Of course, the rest of my fiction is all tucked away in [ profile] quelonzia's garage, awaiting the purchase of satisfactory bookshelves.

I finished the last of China Miéville's "Bas Lag" trilogy last week, and dropped it off at the Santa Clara library. I think I need to cruise back by there and pick up a Stack of Random, just to have something to occupy my brain in these late hours.

athelind: (Default)

Fed Official Sees High Unemployment For Years

-- Associated Press, via NPR

You know, this actually makes me feel better about the job market in the near future.

Remember the Clinton Boom? (I know it's hard, but it really wasn't that long ago!)

Most "official government reports" of that period just foresaw the good times rollin' along. The few who saw the boom as part of a boom-and-bust cycle were dismissed as Chicken Littles. Same with the housing bubble that ranged through both the Clinton and Bush years.

In the same way, the government officials who currently insist that Recovery Is Just Around The Corner sound impossibly optimistic, seeing unicorns and rainbows in every little upward jig of an isolated economic indicator. Not only don't they convince us, they don't even sound like they've convinced themselves.

Official statements like this one sound so much more plausible. They're rooted in the "common sense" observations every one of us makes every day. They're logical extrapolations of the future from current conditions.

Just like those glorious predictions of the Infinite Boom.1

Because, you see, deep down, nobody really believes in change. They don't believe that things will ever be different. They find it hard to believe, in their hearts, that things ever were different, even if they experienced it themselves.2 My parenthetical comment above, about the Clinton Boom? 'Fess up: it's getting harder and harder to remember those times as genuinely prosperous, isn't it? Instead, it's just the top of a downward slope, not so much "better" as "where 'worse' started".

Don't read too much into this post, really. It's just an early-morning knee-jerk reaction to a headline article. Semantically, it boils down to, "hey, the government says this, so it must be wrong."

I suppose that's as good as any other method of economic prediction.

1Somewhere along the line, as Boom shifted into Decline and from there to Bust, the treatment of the "Technological Singularity" in speculative fiction shifted from "The Rapture of the Nerds" to the geek equivalent of Left Behind. See Accelerando, by Charlie Stross, for a good example of the latter.

2This is, of course, the root of Global Warming Denial.

athelind: (Default)
[ profile] quelonzia arranged for a long weekend for her birthday, and so, on Friday, we went to see District 9, and today, we finally wended our way to downtown San Jose to see Moon.

We are two for two on Smart, Well-Done, Thought-Provoking SF movies this weekend. The previews indicate several more are on the way -- and a few smart, thoughtful non-genre flicks, as well.

I was tempted to do a blog entry castigating District 9 for being an uncredited remake of Alien Nation, Moon for being a rip-off of all those '70s SF movies, right down to the rip-off set designs, and The Time Traveler's Wife for being based on a novel and thus proving Hollywood has to steal all their ideas from someplace else -- but I don't think the target audience would get the sarcasm.

If Generation Rape-My-Childhood thinks that Hollywood can't do anything new or non-derivative, maybe they should expand their horizons beyond the latest formulaic blockbuster or the remakes of 30-minute toy commercials from the '80s.

Sure, movies like this are in the minority, but they always have been. Sturgeon's Revelation holds, and has always held. If it seems that there was a higher percentage of good movies in decades past, that's because people prefer to remember the stuff they liked -- and because TV stations and cable channels seldom run the real crud.

athelind: (Default)
I've spent the day being melancholy about the Apollo 11 launch, which happened when I was 5. So I come home from work, and what do I find on my Friends list, courtesy of the [ profile] retro_future community?

The cover to my very favorite book from childhood.

Please keep me away from any mention of Major Matt Mason or the Colorforms Outer Space Men for the next 72 hours or so, or I'm just gonna curl up into a Schwartzchild Radius of nostalgia and never be heard from again.

Those of you participating in [ profile] tealfox and [ profile] rikoshi's Star Wars Saga game this weekend who read the linked review will see a particular irony in this particular book impinging on my consciousness at this particular juncture.
athelind: (Default)
Almost every library I've patronized in the last four decades has used the same basic set of icons to delineate the various genre ghettos: a skull for mysteries, a stylized atom or a rocket ship surrounded by "atomic" rings for SF, and so forth. Most of them even seem to use the same company, with red ink on yellow stickers.

Why can't I find these icons on the web? I find several places selling library genre stickers, but not the classic old red-on-yellow designs.

I know they're OUT there -- I see them at my local library all the time, on brand new books.
athelind: (Default)

...Blade Runner is set a year before my Future Gotham Campaign.

athelind: (Default)
[ profile] normanrafferty huhs. "That's weird. I can receive Roadrunner mail, but not send it.
[ profile] pyat prefers Blade Runner mail!
[ profile] leonard_arlotte says, "I've read things that you wouldn't believe. Free Diplomas burning off the shoulder of Orion. Enlarged penises glittering by the Tannhäuser Gate. All this will be lost, like spam in the rain."

Please credit [ profile] leonard_arlotte for this. He deserves all the blame credit.

athelind: (Default)
Watchmen, in brief:

Both [ profile] quelonzia and I really enjoyed it, demonstrating that it worked both as a movie, for someone unfamiliar with the story, and as an adaptation, for someone who's read it a dozen times or more since it came out.

There's a lot more I can say about it, but it only seems to come out in conversation. When I sit down to try and just write, I come up blank. That's why it's taken me two weeks to present even this much.

I will say that, in my estimation, Snyder made a good stab at examining the superhero movie in his own way, just as Moore and Gibbons scrutinized the superhero comic book all those years ago.

The Battlestar Galactica finale, also in brief:


Again, Quel and I both loved it -- and yes, we both cried. Long-standing questions were answered -- and others weren't. As far as I'm concerned, though, they picked the right questions to leave unanswered.

I also suspect that this ending may be close to the one that Glen Larson really intended for the original series.

athelind: (Default)
I'm finding it hard to get excited about Joss Whedon's new show, Dollhouse.

The premise is very, very close to the recently-canceled Christian Slater vehicle, My Own Worst Enemy -- without the promise of that show's continually-evolving character dynamic, and the wonderful interaction (via cell-hone video messages) between Slater's two personas.

Yes, everyone's sure that the Dollhouse story arc will involve the system breaking down, and "Echo" slowly retaining memories between downloads. Enemy started with the breakdown, dropping you right into the middle of things as poor schlub Henry finds himself in the middle of his super-spy alter-ego's anarchic existence.

Please note that I was somewhat "meh" about Dollhouse's premise even before I'd started watching Enemy.

[ profile] quelonzia and I will give Dollhouse a try, but I may find myself in the unlikely position of wishing I was watching Christian Slater instead of Eliza Dushku.

Yes, I know, after snarking on the shows we DROPPED, I never got around to posting about the new shows we LIKED this season. And now one of them's gone.
athelind: (Default)
Posting this so I don't lose the link: d20 Modern, The Full Monte

They have a zipped, downloadable version right there on the front page.

For those baffled by this, geeky prattle follows. )
athelind: (Default)
Based on empirical evidence, it seems that 355 ml of Guinness Extra Stout is a better cough suppressant than the combination of 10 mg Dextromethophan Hydrobromide and 200 mg Benzonatate (generic for "Tessalon").

Further research is required.

On a related note, has anyone else ever noticed that many pharmaceutical names sound like characters from fantasy or science fiction? Didn't the 6th Doctor fight the "Lovaza" on the planet "Tessalon"? Wasn't "Fioranol" the cousin of Legolas?
athelind: (Default)
Today at work, I noticed a Star Wars action figure of a droid that came with a "data entry terminal" as an accessory. I don't remember which of the half-dozen movies this droid showed up in, but I do remember him clearly, standing in the background, tapping data into his terminal.

My first impression was that this was a classic example of Zeerust: why have a humanoid robot type data into a system, instead of just directly interfacing with the system?

Almost simultaneously, though, another thought struck me: Wow, that's one way to check the spread of viruses and malicious software.

Not quite so "quaint" from that perspective, is it?

A few other Perfectly Reasonably Explanations occurred to me later -- it's easier to establish some degree of uniformity in user interfaces than it is in underlying code, for instance. [ profile] quelonzia's iMac, my Ubuntu box, and that Windows PC that's over there all have mice and keyboards and monitors, but I'll be damned if we can get their supposedly-compatible file-sharing protocols to talk to each other. Spread that across a Galactic Empire dealing with the patchwork remnants of a Republic, and see if you don't wanna just put a droid at a keyboard.

athelind: (Default)
[ profile] quelonzia's favorite movie is the 1951 classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

This Saturday, we went to see the 2008 version, starring Keanu Reeves.

Here is her review -- it's sort of our review, since it summarizes our post-cinema conversation.

I may elaborate on this further, if I get motivated -- but hers is so succinct and to the point.

athelind: (Default)
You hear a lot of discussion these days about the sudden surge of fantasy and SF epics. Some people can't fathom it. Some try to explain it by socioeconomic circumstances, claiming that hard times give a boost to "escapist" media -- and ignoring fact that the steady increase in such fantastic fare was unaffected by the boom times of the '90s. Some are actively offended by it: anything with an element of the extraordinary has been thrust into a literary ghetto for the last century and a half, and, by golly, that's where it belongs.

At least one writer has looked at the clamor to adapt SF and fantasy works a half-century old or older, and used that as evidence that the Speculative Fiction genre is so tapped out that Hollywood can't find anything new to adapt.

To me, it's straightforward. Why are all these movies coming out now? Why has it taken more than half a century for some of thse works to reach the screen?

Simple. It wasn't possible before now.

The convergence of animation and special effects has finally reached a point where entirely new realities -- or surrealities -- can be portrayed convincingly on the big screen, without recourse to full cel animation. Works that were simply unfilmable before now offer new opportunities to exercise this technology, to entice an audience eager for larger-than-life spectacle.

The question isn't why Hollywood is dredging up old works to adapt. The question is, why aren't they adapting more of them, the really good stuff?

In other words... the stuff I like?

Well, Your Obedient Serpent had a list of "Books That Oughta Be Movies" simmering on the back burner for a long while, and I'm in the mood to start posting about'em.

Farmer Giles of Ham )

The Stars My Destination )

Elric of Melniboné )
Argue about my casting choices or directorial dictates in the comments.

Hey, kids! You know you have a list of your own, so why not treat it as a meme? )
athelind: (Default)
A recent thread in [ profile] chrissawyer's LiveJournal discussed the "decline" of SF Fandom. In particular, [ profile] shockwave77598 said,

"The young who would have found their way into SF and SFantasy a generation ago have instead moved into Anime and Manga. DragonCon and Project Akon are huge, even by Worldcon standards (5000 people or so). The result of this is that there's less new blood coming in and SF is growing increasingly older and smaller.

A couple of us have wondered what the cause is without pointing blame; a small answer is that SF doesn't appeal much to a generation that has never known a world without a computer on their desk or been unable to call someone with their pocket telephone. They've been handed the future on a silver platter and don't seem to care much about what's ahead for them anymore.

"SF is growing increasingly older and smaller"?

Now, wait a minute.

  • You rarely see a Top Ten Bestseller's list that doesn't include an SF or Fantasy novel anymore, even if you don't include Horror as part of the "Speculative Fiction" supergenre (and Old Time Fen like Forry Ackerman certainly would).

  • It's no longer a wait of three to five years between big-budget, A-List F/SF films -- now you get three to five of them every year. And this time, I am leaving out horror.

  • The current television line-up is crammed full of shows SF/Fantasy shows, and has been since the early '90s. Not a lot of them are Star Trek-style Space Opera, but I can think of at least two that are, even if I don't watch either of them. Almost every broadcast network has fielded an SF/Fantasy show that has done well in the ratings and enjoyed a run of several seasons.

Sure, SPACE OPERA is taking a downturn in popularity, at least on the large and small screens, but I think that has as much or more to do with the excreable quality of recent entries in the Star Trek and Star Wars mythoi. Enterprise and Episodes 1 and 2 have driven people away from Space Fantasy.

SF isn't "growing smaller". Exactly the opposite is happening: SF has grown larger. It's no longer an isolated little fandom -- it's MAINSTREAM. As [ profile] normanrafferty likes to say, "The Underground Has Become The Establishment". And that means that it no longer suits the psychological needs of the alienated and disaffected outcasts who need some sense of identity to distinguish themselves from the people who alienated them in the first place. "Fans Are Slans" holds little comfort when everyone's a Slan.

To find that same sense of Unity In Persecuted Superiority, Those Who Would Be Fen must delve more deeply into the fringes of Fandom. They hook into Anime and Manga, though even those have become increasingly mainstream. They go Goth. They become Furry.

(I'm speaking as a Fan, by the way. As a teenager, I comforted myself that I Was Fan and They Were Mundane, that I had the imagination and the creativity and the insight to look at the future and dare to imagine its shape, to ask questions and make speculations that Mundane minds wouldn't consider, and as such, I was better prepared to face the World That Was Coming. When I hear some Furries talk about how cruel and narrow-minded "humans" are compared to the animal-in-spirit, it all sounds so familiar.)

Yes, I, too, have always enjoyed tales of an optimistic future, that innocent faith that Progress Will Save Us All. Despite the current popularity of dystopian settings, I don't think that kind of optimism is gone from the genre. Most of those dystopias show people struggling to improve things, to challenge the rotten establishment, to undermine the oppressors.

We live in the future, now and today. Reality has caught up with speculation, and in some ways, sped ahead. SF has changed its focus accordingly: rather than dreaming of a wonderful tomorrow... it depicts the struggle to create the future of those dreams.

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