Civil war and other links

President Whiny continues crying that he’s being persecuted as no one ever has been. Right-wing militia are ready to fight if impeachment moves ahead. However it’s unlikely we’ll see civil war because most of those calling for it are as big a chickenhawk as Trump. John Fea points out the evangelicals enthusiastic for war are still benefitting from the aftermath of the last Civil War. And Paul Krugman calls out the “radical centrists” who insist Republicans just can’t be that much worse than Democrats.

Speaking of impeachment, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio goes with ROFL, Trump was just “needling the press” as an explanation of Trump calling for foreign governments to investigate the Bidens. At the NYT, Jamelle Boulle says this is less about fear of the base and more that Republican politicians support Trump on most issues. And both Jewish and Christian conservatives continue to argue that opposing Trump is opposing God.

Oh, and Trump mouthpiece attorney general William Barr says Trump doesn’t have to cooperate with impeachment because Watergate-related court decisions were wrong. Now, in other news:

David Brooks recently wrote a fantasy of what it’s like in the mind of an extremist. To follow that up, he has a fantasy conversation between an urban liberal and simple, plainspoken Midwesterner who has no interest in all the controversy (“There’s always some fight between Trump and the East Coast media. I guess I just try to stay focused on the big picture.”). Roy Edroso argues this kind of fantasy conversation is legitimate as a writing tool, but very badly done. LGM notes one of Brooks’ odder claims (which I’ve heard elsewhere) that liberal elites are big on marriage while telling other people to live in sin.

I’ve heard right-wingers freaking out about soy before, but now white supremacists are kicking it up a notch: veggie burgers are part of a Jewish conspiracy to destroy our standard of living. I can’t help suspecting the real issue (using the word “real” loosely) is the identification of eating meat with Real Manliness, so not eating it by definition means America is getting castrated.

An Alabama female inmate needed emergency medical treatment. The jail decided to check whether she had insurance to cover it. She died.

I doubt Trump reads comic books (they’re way beyond his comprehension) but that seems to be the source of his ideas for safeguarding the border.

A federal judge has ruled that Harvard using race as an element in weighing admissions does not discriminate against Asian-Americans.

McKrae Game spent decades running an “ex-gay” ministry. He’s now come out and admitted he never stopped being gay. At the link, Fred Clark looks at the failure of Game and similar anti-gay activists to prove gays can change their orientation.

Bill Maher thinks standing up to political correctness is the hill Democrats should die on.

Amber Guyger claimed she shot a black neighbor by accident thinking she’d walked into her apartment, not his. The court found her guilty. The most hair-raising part besides the tragic murder of her neighbor is the possibility that simply by thinking she was in her own apartment, the killing could be justified.

Fred Clark shows how the Southern strategy — shift from screaming racism to saying the out loud parts quietly — shapes conservative politics, but many believers don’t realize it. I think he has a point. When Jerry Falwell founded the religious right in the 1980s, opposing abortion made a better rallying cry than his pet issue, segregation. But certainly a lot of people now believe in forced birth as an end in itself.

Right-to-lifer James Patrick Johnston believes based on no evidence that ectopic pregnancies can be reimplanted so they shouldn’t be aborted (he also believes it’s better for the mother to die than abort any fetus). At the link, a look at how his bullshit is spreading.

Greta Thunberg is seriously triggering to right-wingers.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

Gods and demigods in comics, plus a book on religion

RAGNAROK: Last God Standing by Walt Simonson is set in the aftermath of Ragnarok, which contrary to legend destroyed the gods of Asgard and their allies but did not wipe out the forces of evil. When an elven assassin attempts to eliminate one dead god once and for all, she only wakes him up; picking up his hammer, Thor sets out to see what’s happened to Asgard and take revenge on those responsible. Not as fun as Simonson’s classic run on Marvel’s Thor, but a good, novel take on the Norse myths.

I’d heard a lot of good things about ARCHER AND ARMSTRONG (by Fred van Lente and Clayton Henry) and the first TPB, The Michelangelo Code, lives up to the press clippings. Obadiah Archer is a devoutly dedicated assassin trained by his parents’ right-wing Christian cult to serve God by destroying an ancient, immortal hero for his crimes and recovering the mysterious McGuffin he hid. Armstrong is the boozing, party animal who knows Armstrong’s parents are up to no good and that it’s better if nobody recovers the artifact. Can two unlikely good guys find common ground? Yes, that kind of straight man/wild man team up is familiar, but it’s really fun here, as are the constant jokes about Armstrong’s immortal experiences. I look forward to getting V2.

HEIRS TO FORGOTTEN KINGDOMS: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East by British diplomat Gerard Russell looks at the lifestyle, traditions and religious beliefs of Copts, Zoroastrians, Alewites, Mandaeans, Yazdis, Druze, Samaritans and other fringe faiths that after years of survival are struggling not only with Islamic extremism (a lot of the issues the minorities are dealing with reminded me of Invisible Countries’ discussion of how ethnostates are made) but the loss of countless members of the faith to immigration (writing in 2014, Russell’s tentative optimism about the progress some of them were making in the U.S. looks depressingly dated now). On top of which some of them eschew written texts or keep the Great Truth hidden from all but initiates, making it even harder to preserve the faith. The book mixes historical detail with Russell’s personal encounters with believers and doesn’t always get the balance right (at times it’s pure travelog) but overall interesting.

#SFWApro. Cover by Mico Suayan, all rights to image remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

Woman as hostage, as engineer, as office drone, as widow: movies and TV

REAL TIME: Siege at Lucas Street Market (2001) has a convenience-store robbery turn into a hostage crisis thanks to the idiocy of the two stick-up artists; can pregnant Brinke Stevens find a way to keep herself and her fellow hostages alive? Written and directed by Max Allan Collins, who says he wanted to do a found-footage crime thriller film rather than horror (we see everything unfold in real time via the security cameras) and that Stevens’s character is more-or-less his comic-book female PI Ms. Tree (he was concerned using the real Ms. Tree would undercut the cinema verité feel, and might also hurt the money he and co-creator Terry Beatty earned from studios occasionally optioning the character). A good, low-budget thriller. “I don’t have a purse — I came here to shoplift.”

I wasn’t a fan of the two recent Atlas Shrugged movies and apparently neither was anyone else: ATLAS SHRUGGED III: Who is John Galt? (2014) went straight to video, recast everyone and only ran 90 minutes, which mercifully reduces the amount of speechifying. Protagonist Dagny Taggart having reached Galt’s Gulch at the end of II, she gets to hear lots of lectures on the virtue of selfishness and fall in love with John Galt. Back in the regular world, society continues sliding into an unconvincing dystopia (it’s not much worse than the standard media view of New York in the 1970s). And the film is still clueless about how the world works, for examples portraying the trans-continental railroad as a pure capitalist project with no government support (a myth that cropped up in the earlier films). Glenn Beck plays a talking head awestruck by Galt’s visionary speech (which is way shorter than the book). “At last someone had the courage to say the truth and to say it the way it must be said!”

I will give the creators credit, the second season of AGGRETSUKO didn’t simply replay Retsuko’s struggles from S1. Here she’s dealing with her mom’s attempts to fix her up, her desire to find direction in her life, an entitled millennial underling — and if not a happy ending to the season, Retsuko does at least come to accept the good stuff in her life. I’ll be back if there’s an S3, but this works as a stopping point. “It doesn’t matter whether you believe you’re worthy of love — what matters is whether he does.”

I caught the first season of MARLEY’S GHOSTS on the Britbox streaming service and quite enjoyed it; that it was only three episodes didn’t hurt, as I don’t think the premise would work if drawn out. Sarah Alexander plays Marley, who’s stuck seeing dead people, specifically her selfish, unemployed schmuck of a husband, then her boyfriend, then the town’s clueless vicar. The shticks are familiar (like the neighbor across the street wondering why Marley’s talking to herself all the time), but the show and the cast makes them work. “Oh, wait the story’s not from the Book of Luke, it’s from that book of Joan Collins’ — that makes much more sense!”

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies, TV

A quick post of cover art

No work this week because I’ve been on vacation (details to follow in a later post). So only one post today, and it’s going to be cover art.

Now there’s a grabber of a cover!

Here’s another attention-getting thriller cover.Next, a joint image of Bob Pepper’s covers for the Gormenghast trilogy (combined image courtesy of The Literary Chick)Funny how many SF covers of the 1950s and 1960s had women in what look like chorus-girl outfits.

And of course, a Powers cover.To wrap up, here’s a Bob Brown cover from the comics. Like Mongo said, we’re just pawns in the game of life.#SFWApro. Cover art is uncredited if I didn’t give the name. All rights to images remain with current holders.

Leave a comment

Filed under cover art

Copyright vs. Hollywood, Ronan Farrow vs. National Enquirer and other writing links

Wow. Copyright law may allow the writers behind Terminator and multiple other movies to regain the rights to their work, which could have a big impact on sequels and remakes. Hollywood Reporter has a close-up on the Friday the 13th case.

Are the allegations of pedophilia against Arthur C. Clarke solid enough that the Clarke Award should change its name?

Dylan Howard, former top editor at the National Enquirer, is not only threatening to sue Ronan Farrow’s publisher over an upcoming book on the magazine, but to sue bookstores that carry it.

A George Carlin clip has him explaining that while he supports the right of comedians to say racist sexist jokes, he thinks they’re wrong.

Another article on the perennial question of how we deal with good art by bad people.

“For visual reference, he put up a giant image of a basketball stadium packed with 20,000 people. ‘Like, in what world is this not enough?’ he sputtered. ‘I don’t understand! What systems have we built where this is insufficient for a person to make a living?'” A look at Patreon and whether it really helps creators struggling to earn income in the digital world.

File 770 discusses false allegations of digital piracy.

Laurie Penny discusses the importance of fanfiction to women, nerds and minorities.

In the wake of SNL firing Shane Gillis over past racist jokes, some comedians, inevitably, complain Political Correctness is stifling comedy. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar suggests we ask three questions: how old are the incidents? Has the person changed their attitude? How sincere was their apology? He does not think Gillis’ apology (“I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries. I sometimes miss.”) hits the mark (“This statement is distilled from every reality show ever.”).

And speaking of putting things in context, blackface did not suddenly start becoming offensive in this century.

Writer Stacie Ramey discusses a lifetime of being othered for being Jewish. Including in the publishing industry (“a few of my friends attempted to join that diversity movement and were told that Jews are not marginalized because we are largely successful.”).

Some male fans have had fits about Rose Tico of the Star Wars films being a hero alongside the guys. Is it coincidence that she’s been removed from Rise of Skywalker merchandise?

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

Seize the day! Download this book!

Strange Economics, the anthology including my The Grass Is Always Greener, is temporarily free for Kindle download. I don’t know how long it’ll last, but it’s a good anthology, even aside from the awesome genius of my work (no false modesty here!). Give it a shot.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jonathan Maurin, all rights remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories, Writing

Not your typical Doc Savage: The Terrible Stork, King Joe Cay and The Wee Ones

While I’m used to Lester Dent writing Doc as an average guy in his 1940s adventures, and even making him fallible, THE TERRIBLE STORK just takes it too far.

It starts well: Doc, Monk and Ham slip into an auction room to get some relief from the heat and witness an insane bidding war over a cheap metal figure of a stork. One of the losers then resorts to gun play. Doc winds up in possession of the stork which seems to be completely ordinary, except for the legion of people trying to get hold of it. It turns out there’s a guy who’s been hiding gold and jewels belonging to members of the German government, so their wealth will be safe if Germany loses. Now the guy is dead, but the stork holds the key to the location of the goodies.

It’s a decent set-up but the good guys have been hit with the idiot stick. Doc opens a container of tear gas to confirm its contents, then suddenly realizes it might have been poison gas! Oops. Later he spots a sign someone has hidden a clue, but just ignores it. When assigns Ham to research one of the players and Ham seems to find the assignment baffling. Monk sounds like a dumb mook when he talks.

KING JOE CAY follows The Freckled Shark and The Lost Giant in having Doc undercover as a rogue and troublemaker for much of the book. Unlike them, Doc’s playing a lone hand, with his five friends all absent (a first for the series).

We open with tough guy “Clark” on a train with some crooks, trying to finagle a McGuffin from an attractive woman named Trudy. Doc succeeds in stealing her purse but can’t find the goods, so he, then strikes up a flirtation with Trudy. She, however, is not fooled (though she doesn’t know who he really is) and gets him busted by the cops when they get off in Florida. He chases her while crooks Tom Ittle and Brigham Pope chase them both. Doc at first thinks of Pope as nothing but a cheesy actor up to some dirty work, then notices how he terrifies everyone involved. He realizes it’s not that Pope’s an actor by profession, it’s that he’s acting, playing a man much less dangerous than he really is.

Doc got involved in all this at the request of Charlotte D’Alaza, a grasping millionairess he met years ago (Chronology of Bronze speculates she could have been involved with Clark Savage Sr.). However she refuses to tell him the McGuffin everyone’s after. For good reason. It turns out the secret is several documents concerning the disposal of Jewish property taken by the Nazis; Fleish, the man who took control of the assets, sold it off to Charlotte for pennies on the dollar. If her involvement in that sort of scheme is exposed, Congress will destroy her plan to build an airline monopoly.

This is another Ordinary Doc Savage story, but more entertaining, and Charlotte’s a great supporting character.d

THE WEE ONES does a good job concealing its true nature: it’s a straight mystery plot but looks like a pulp SF story. The hook is a mysterious dwarf, two feet high, running across the small town of Hammond City, terrifying the populace with savage attacks. For Doc Savage, that’s Tuesday: he’s faced similar creatures before in The Goblins and The Gold Ogre, though in this case he’s skeptical, quipping that “nothing is impossible, but many things are ridiculous.” Hammond’s residents are a lot more worried as accounts of the dwarf — identical to Lys, the missing lab assistant of John Fain, who runs an electrical company — attacking people with a knife spread through town. Men working at Fain’s company decide to stay home to protect their wives, which could interfere with the company’s war work; is this an Axis plot? Curiously the previous two books read as if the war is over (they were written at the end of 1944, but came out in the summer of 1945) but this one (from January of ’45) shows it’s ongoing.

Nope. It turns out Mrs. Fain married her hubby without divorcing her first husband (they don’t specify, but it appears to be part of a scam to get Fain’s money and assets). The truth is about to come out so they’ve been doping Fain, who already had a nervous breakdown a while back, to make him unstable. He thinks the dwarf was born from some lab experiment of his, so news that fear is shutting down the town will push him over the edge, freeing his wife to take over his affairs. To fake the dwarf attacks, they simply spread stories around town to stir things up.

If not A-list Doc Savage, it’s still a solid read. Contrary to the cover, the dog plays almost no role in the story. Trivia point: this reveals that despite his competence at everything else, Doc is a terrible cook.

#SFWApro. Covers by Modest Stein, all rights to covers remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Doc Savage

Wonder Woman lives again: the George Perez reboot

After a run of more than 20 years and 300 issues, Wonder Woman wrapped up with #329 and her marriage to Steve Trevor. Following the Legend of Wonder Woman miniseries, the Amazing Amazon started over from scratch in George Perez’s Wonder Woman #1. The first six issues were here origin arc partly written by Greg Potter, then Len Wein, but the plotting and the reboot concepts were all Perez.The first issue retells Marston’s origin of the Amazons, with some interesting additions. Rather than just magical creations of Aphrodite, they’re created to reincarnate the souls of the countless women who’ve died by the hands of men through the centuries, all preserved in Gaia’s magical womb. As in Marston, they become a force for good, get betrayed by Hercules (and fairly obviously raped), freed by the Olympian goddesses and sent to Themiscrya, where they must redeem their defeat by guarding Doom’s Doorway, a gateway into hell. It turns out that alone among the Amazons, Hippolyta originally died while in childbirth. She’s able to bring her daughter to life in a clay figure, the one and only child of the Amazons.

By the time Diana reaches adulthood, Ares is working to plunge the world into final conflict, whipping up his followers in the U.S. and USSR into a war fever. The Olympian goddesses order Hippolyta to select a champion to enter Man’s World and put a stop to this, and needless to say, it’s Diana. As she prepares to leave, Steve Trevor arrives, one of Ares’ acolytes scheming to destroy the Amazons and get rid of Trevor — an experienced combat veteran, but not a man who has any love for war — in one stroke. Thanks to Diana the plan fails; she takes Steve back to the U.S. landing in Boston (but unlike Marston, not out of love for him).

Unlike Marston’s Wonder Woman, Princess Diana is a fish out of water. She doesn’t speak English. Doesn’t understand our customs. Finds modern civilization a little intimidating. She turns for support to Julia Kapatelis, an archeologist with a specialty in ancient Greece. Together with Steve, Etta Candy and Julia, she has to stop Ares’ plans, but as he prepares to go nuclear, literally, will she be able to do it? Especially when his sons Deimos and Phobos set their creation, the monstrous Decay, loose on Boston?

I was totally blown away when I first read this (I know because I have a glowing letter in #7). Not just Perez’ art or the revision of the Amazons’ origins, but his older, more experienced Steve (“I’m not afraid of guns — I’m afraid of some of the idiots our military gives the guns to.”), his capable Etta (in the final conflict, she’s right in their fighting) and the gentle, insecure Diana. Perez doesn’t rush his story or squeeze in any excess fight scenes; it’s not until #4 that Diana goes mano-a-mano with anyone. It felt a little slower-paced on rereading, which is partly because I know what’s coming; Ares’ plans don’t provide as much suspense as first go-round.

And of course, the art is gorgeous. Ares has never looked more formidable.

Overall, though, it’s a solid launch for Diana’s rebooted series. There are two particular changes that I think worth discussing.

First, that the Amazons remain at an ancient Greek level of science and technology, in contrast to the relatively high-tech Marston Amazons. Marston’s Paradise Island had guns, medical laboratories and a plane for Wonder Woman to fly.  Perez’ Amazons have swords and spears (the gun used for Diana’s “bullets and bracelets challenge has a backstory Perez develops later) and healing poultices.

It’s not that this is bad in itself, but I do wonder about the Amazons staying on that island for more than two millennia and never evolving or changing at all. Greek culture, after all, valued science and the intellectual life (though not for women — Amazons being scholars and not just warriors is an idea I might play with some time) so why shouldn’t the Amazons have developed an advanced science of their own? Maybe a Grecian steampunk so it fits the aesthetic?

The second change is that in ruling out Steve as a lover for Diana, Perez never came up with an alternative. Wonder Woman, IIRC, didn’t get a date until the 21st century gave her a brief flirtation with the superhero Nemesis, then with Superman. Most recently she’s back with Steve (it’s also been established she had lovers on Themiscrya).

I wouldn’t want Diana defined by her love life. I’m pleased she didn’t leave Paradise Island out of love for Steve (Robert Kanigher’s Silver Age run also took Steve out of the decision). But just ignoring that side of her for years (as opposed to, say, declaring she’s asex or that her duties preclude it) feels odd in hindsight.

I’m not sure when the right pausing point is to do another Perez review. I guess you’ll find out when I do.

#SFWApro. Covers by Perez, all rights remain with current holders.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Wonder Woman

More on impeachment

David Frum looks back at Bill Clinton’s impeachment and how he kept working as president during the fight. Trump is doing the opposite.

Given Trump’s declarations of Civil War, even if he goes down, or he loses in 2020, will he leave quietly? I suspect, he might, actually: he’d have more fun playing the martyred president to his adoring fans or maybe running for 2024 than actually being president. However some far right groups are eager for a shooting war. No More Mr. Nice Blog looks at the right’s long history of accusing the left of wanting to murder them all. While cries that the left is about to get violent and “target all Christians in America” may just be a propaganda tool, I also wonder if it doesn’t reflect what the speakers would do if they had the power. So it seems natural to them that if the left had power, they’d do the same.

Right wing crackpot Lance Wallnau says impeaching Trump would defy the will of the 600 million Americans who voted for him … ignoring that most Americans voted Clinton, and there aren’t 600 million Americans in any case. Josh Bernstein says Democrats should be tortured and their party designated a terrorist group for bringing up impeachment. Similarly other right-wingers are freaking out from fear their chance to dominate America is slipping away.  It’s an interesting contrast to when Bill Clinton was impeached and the religious right shrieked that this immoral man had to be cast out.

Oh, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has decided the House actually subpoenaing State Department officials is just too intimidating so he’s refusing to let them testify. And Barr similarly seems to behave like he’s Trump’s legal mouthpiece, not someone with a duty to America.

I don’t really buy the civil war projections. We’ll certainly see more violence, random shootings and terrorism, but we’ll see them if Trump wins and the right decides the country now definitely absolutely positively belongs to them, not us. But the number of people who’d actually want to be on the front lines in any way, rather than shrieking at Fox News, is (I hope) too small for war. I half wonder if Trump wouldn’t sooner be out of office, playing the martyr to his adoring fans or talking about 2024 than stay in office.

But if civil war is a possibility, so be it Because the Shit-Gibbon needs to be removed from office (impeachment or electoral defeat, either way works) as soon as possible.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

Two tough guys and a dreamer: books

THE XYY MAN by Kenneth Royce gets its name from a now-discredited theory that having two Y chromosomes makes men more reckless, rebellious and dangerous — as is the case with Bill “Spider” Scott, a professional cat burglar newly out of prison, struggling to stay straight and finding it difficult. Salvation comes when a high placed British official hires Spider to steal a McGuffin from the Chinese embassy in London — but after completing the job, it looks like his new employer’s going to double-cross him. Spider goes on the run but the Chinese, the CIA and the KGB all want what he now has …

The XYY aspect is just a gimmick; Spider doesn’t come across any wilder or more incorrigible than most career-criminal protagonists (he could easily be Al Mundy, the thief-turned-spy from TV’s It Takes a Thief). That said, he’s a good protagonist, plausibly tough but no superhuman. The story itself was entertaining, so I may pick up more in the series eventually.

GASLIT INSURRECTION: The Clockworks of War Book I by Jason Gilbert (who’s a friend of mine, but my review is honest) has a setting I love: it’s alt.1921 in a world where the Civil War lasted twenty years (General Sherman took a bullet in the head before he could start burning the South), ending when a slave uprising destabilized the Confederacy. However the moneyed interests that had taken over the Union covertly now covertly took over the South, crushing the revolt and keeping the CSA free as a puppet state.

Protagonist Kane is a hardboiled PI/magus investigating a series of killings in which strippers are drained of blood. Worse, the “oligarchy” that runs the country doesn’t want him sticking his nose in. And their interest might threaten Tabby, the amiably crazy but attractive woman whom Kane assures everyone he has no romantic interest in …

Urban fantasy, even in an alt.history setting, isn’t my cup of tea. But with that reservation, this was fun. The language was anachronistic in spots (“relationship” isn’t a word anyone was using for love affairs back then) but not so bad I couldn’t live with it.

I have never been a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman or Gaiman’s writing in general (I find him pretentious a lot of the time) but reading SANDMAN: Preludes and Nocturnes by Gaiman and multiple illustrators reminds me just how much this series impressed me when it started. In the 1920s an occult group tries to capture Death but instead gets her brother, Dream. Years later he breaks free and begins hunting for his lost talismans of power, taking him to Hell, London and into battle with the supervillain Dr. Destiny. Overall it’s impressive work, though one issue in which Destiny hitches a ride and gets into a pseudo-deep conversation, fell flat for me (partly that’s because it’s something that’s been done to death a lot since).

SUBURBAN GLAMOUR by Jamie McKelvie fell really, really flat. The story of a teenage suburban girl discovering she’s actually an adopted faerie princess just hits too many extremely stock tropes, both for urban fantasy and for fictional teenage life; it does go in a different direction than I expected, but not enough to be worth reading.

#SFWApro. All rights to cover image remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading