Add a movie to the wonders of the world!!

So I’ve been visiting friends in Florida and wouldn’t you know, Hurricane Michael was too. We made it through fine, but it disrupted our schedules enough that I’ll wait until next week to write about it all. So until then, here’s some movie posters for today’s post.

Contrary to the top of the poster, nobody thinks Taras Bulba ranks with the Pyramids or the Colossus of Rhodes.

Pam Grief and a great black supporting cast, what’s not to love?

One I’ve posted before, just ’cause it’s cool looking.

The Trip might make LSD look kind of cool and wild, but did you see the word “death” on the poster? So it’s anti-drug, trust them!

One of the smartest SF movies ever made, but they had to make it look like Robbie the Robot’s kidnapping Anne Francis.

Trust me, this crap wasn’t comparable to any of those movies. But they obviously knew Karloff’s face would be a selling point.

 

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Lets look in that wretched hive again

A random roundup of nuttiness, vileness and bigotry.

If Trump is going senile or insane, that’s a good reason to vote Republican.

John McCain was executed by a military tribunal! Clinton and Obama are next!

Who’s scheming against Trump? An international Jewish banker! Also people actually told legislators not to support Kavanaugh!

The Trump administration is still treating migrant children like shit.

Sandy Rios thinks being gay is so much worse than anything Bret Kavanaugh did.

The NRA thinks the problem of America is that men are being turned into second-rate women.

“Russia wants to upend Western democracy, which happens to be exactly what Republicans also want.”]

“Civility is not an end on its own if the practices and beliefs it upholds are unjust.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, whose great achievement is a tax cut bill that lines his own pocket, shows the usual Republican contempt for rape victims.

Tennesseean Taylor Swift has endorsed two Democratic candidates in her state. The alt.right has a meltdown. Showing again how much projection hides in their fantasies of easily triggered liberal snowflakes.

When the Democrats considered a primary challenge to a conservative Dem senator, that was totalitarian tyranny. When Republicans do it, it’s cool.

American Nazi Chris Cantwell broke down in tears when faced with the cops, but he’s damn tough talking online about the fun of rape.

One Bible thinks Christians focusing on social justice is heresy! Unsurprisingly the minister profiled in the article, John McArthur, thinks focusing on the evil of gayness is just fine.

Right wingers have implied for years that Democrats aren’t really legitimate (“Bill Clinton was never elected by a majority of the American people!”) but Trump is saying the quiet parts out loud. David Niewert looks at the history “we need a new Civil War to kill the liberals” talk.

Okay, topic shift because this crap is depressing. First, here’s a shot of an Aussie wine celebrating the 19 crimes for which Britain transported convicts to Australia. All rights to label remain with current holder.

Next, LGM looks at douchebro culture as expressed in 1980s films. My Atomic Junkshop colleague Greg Hatcher looks at the same issue via personal experience of binge drinking (“No one ever has a good blackout. “Oh yeah, you were a wild man, volunteering at the soup kitchen, collecting for UNICEF, you were OFF THE HOOK, dude!” is not a thing anyone said ever.”) and how it justifies male jerkiness.

Anti-feminist Jordan Peterson likes to pos as a champion of unorthodox thought. Unless it’s thinking the wrong thing about Jordan Peterson. He is also clueless about white privilege.

“Resistance isn’t the same thing as winning,” but it’s still a good thing. And no, Republicans didn’t win because Mitch McConnell is a tactical genius or because ruthlessness wins, it’s because they had more votes.

A stranger stands up for two women who were hassled for speaking Spanish.

A former incel describes breaking away from his old mindset.

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Should magic have a price? Revisionary by Jim C. Hines

It’s been a while since I did an Is Our Writers Learning? post, which is partly because I think the format’s become a little stiff (check through some of my past posts for examples). So this time out, I’m going to take a question—does magic need to have a price attached?—and what I learned about it from reading Revisionary: Magic Ex Libris Book Four by Jim C. Hines.

This was the fourth and final book in the series (I’ve also read one, two and three). The premise is that Gutenberg developed printing because the psychic effect of hundreds or thousands of people reading an identical text gives it a kind of reality; libriomancers such as protagonist Isaac Vainio can reach into a book and pull out, say, Lucy’s healing elixir from Narnia, Excalibur or the love magnet from The Road to Oz (some books are locked so that nobody can access ultrapowerful items such as the One Ring or the Cosmic Cube).

Over the course of the previous three books, the existence of magic became public knowledge and the immortal Gutenberg bought the farm. In this one Isaac’s getting it from all sides: the government’s cracking down, there’s a conspiracy within the Porters (the libriomancer’s guild) to sell out, and he’s using so much magic he’s burning out.

Which brings me to the point of my post. My friend Gail Z. Martin has commented on several Illogicon panels that magic must have a price to make the story interesting. I don’t necessarily agree. Magic does need to have limits, but I don’t think it’ll suffer if the hero pays not penalty. And the price can be something as simple as “you’ll spend years of your life studying to master it” or “dealing with demons is risky.” Then again, I’m not a fan of the Charmed approach where magic is easy, basically just a super-power. Then again, I enjoyed Charmed just the same, and several other TV series/films that take the same approach.

Revisionary is an argument for Gail’s position, I think. For all that Isaac talks about the danger of what he’s doing, and the damage using so much magic does to him, he ultimately uses a shit-ton of it without a price. He’s waaaay more powerful than in the previous books. He wields magic from Jim Butcher and Alice in Wonderland, tech from Philip K. Dick and Roger Stern’s The Death and Life of Superman; he flies, ray-blasts, has force fields and telepathy. The opposition doesn’t stand a chance, although Hines does make the final battle challenging. It’s quite obvious Isaac could be even more powerful if he tried: draw out Captain America’s shield from one of the Marvel print novels or Superman’s invulnerable costume from, say, the Bronze Age novel Last Son of Krypton (the Stern novel came out when the costume wasn’t super).

Ultimately, it really is too easy for him. But it’s also entertaining, seeing Isaac become a superhero of sorts, pulling rabbits out of hat after hat, finding the perfect defense against every threat. It’s spectacle, and as a spectacle it works. I enjoyed it. It works better than the previous book in the series, which also had a high level of magic but Isaac was largely passive.

And Hines does a good job, mostly, with the politics. It comes off very bureaucratic and pragmatic — magical healing requires NHS testing for instance — rather than the mindless witch hunting cliches. That falls apart at the end (the bad guys might as well be Operation Zero Tolerance, Project Wide Awake or any other Marvel mutant-hunters). And I find it hard to believe testing is the only issue with magic healing: I’d expect the American Medical Association and Big Pharma to throw roadblocks in Isaac’s path out of self-interest.

Overall it was a fun book. And it does make me appreciate Gail’s viewpoint a little more.

#SFWApro. Cover image by Gene Mollica and Denise Leigh, all rights remain with current holder.

 

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Story Behind the Story: Instruments of Science

In hindsight, the tenth story in Atoms for Peace is an odd duck.

This is the one I wrote as the first chapter of Brain From Outer Space, so I originally conceived it as introducing readers to this world. It’s a morning Science Investigations briefing at the southwest branch of the Technology and Science Commission; Nate Strawn hands out the assignments, mostly dealing with a new panic about “ceecees” (carbon copies, AKA pod people). Sure they’ve had panics before, but learning the ETs this time were actually marrying human women? Real scary!

This serves to set up the premise, plus introduce Steve (fully recovered from Roboticus breaking his arm), Gwen, Jo and Trueblood, plus a couple of other agents to round things out (I never want to write undifferentiated crowds of supporting characters). There are also some rogue science cases to deal with: strange lights outside a desert shack, an attempted theft of Edward Teller’s notes for a super-bomb (in this timeline, knowing the horrible effects of radioactive mutation, the H-bomb never got into development), a werewolf in a girl’s dormitory, some prostitutes apparently being used as guinea pigs. And several impossible deaths at a high powered commercial laboratory in Yuma. Steve and Gwen get assigned that one.

The odd part is that this is the 10th story in the book, so nobody really needs an introduction to any of this. I rewrote the story to eliminate any info-dumping readers would already know and approached it as showing a typical day for Science Investigators. As such, I think it worked.

Dani only appears off-camera, talking to Steve on his wrist-radio. In the original chapter one we got to see her day, but that made things a little too crowded for a 5,000-word story. I cut that, and cut a scene with the Science Police setting up the main plotline. I also dropped a reference to Steve finally finding a lead on his missing brother Tommy.

All of which means I’ll need a new opening chapter for Brain if I want it to be continuous with Atoms for Peace (and I do) as I’ve pruned out all the hooks that would lead the reader onward. Still, I think Instruments of Science works as a short, perhaps better than in the book, so I can’t complain.

Big Pulp accepted last two stories, which I’ll get to over the next couple of weeks, but never posted them, so Who Watches the Watchmen and Cover Stories will give you something you can’t get on the website.

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If you’re a teenage rapist, senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr have your back

Which is to say like every other Republican senator but Murkowski they voted yes, for Brett Kavanaugh, accused rapist, to sit on the Supreme Court. I’m sure they’d default to the FBI investigation finding nothing, ignoring that the investigation was sharply restricted, because (according to one of the White House lawyers) a full investigation “would be potentially disastrous for Judge Kavanaugh’s chances of confirmation to the Supreme Court.” So several people who might have been a problem for Kavanaugh weren’t contacted. Heck, they didn’t even contact the two guys who supposedly told Senate Republicans that they might be Ford’s attacker. Why it’s almost like there’s no proof they even existed!

The truncated investigation we got is enough for the right wing to claim vindication, which is all it was meant for.

But I’m with slacktivist Fred Clark: “Kavanaugh’s denials expose the specific shape of what he’s denying like a cloth draped over a statue.”

Multiple prominent Republicans such as Franklin Graham have declared even if Kavanaugh did it, it doesn’t matter. 48 percent of evangelical voters also think it doesn’t matter. Neither does this guy. Not when they have the chance to shut down abortion, inflict pain on gays and funnel more taxpayers’ dollars to religon. If that means telling 17 year olds who rape 15 year olds “bygones! you get a mulligan!” (and we’re not even talking about the other two allegations against Kavanaugh), hey, no big! It’s worth it to get a reliable right-wing judge on the court. And I’ve seen very little blowback from other conservatives insisting that yes, it would matter (there are exceptions).

And Trump has mocked the Dems for being wimpy sissies who dumped Al Franken for a bit of groping.

I’ve had right-wing friends sharing the rape-apologist meme that Christine Ford was too ugly to be raped. They are now blocked.

A Florida Catholic, Donald Sanborn says we should believe Kavanaugh because he’s superior to Ford. Sanborn calls himself a bishop, but he is not, in fact part of the Catholic hierarchy.

Lili Loofbourow points out the absurdity of “the three women were conspiring against him” — what kind of dumb-ass conspirators would report public assaults rather than somewhere nobody else can be a witness for Kavanaugh?  She also suggests the public nature is the point — it’s how Kavanaugh and his bros bonded. Hey, for some guys drinking and brawling is what makes them awesome! For others, including President Shit-Gibbon, the cruelty of humiliating women (or blacks or gays) is just too much fun.

The network of “information terrorists” involved in Gamergate and Pizzagate were also active supporting Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh’s very sexist buddy Mark Judge sided with GamerGate.

Along with “those other two guys attacked Ford” the right-wing has also pushed “Ford was hypnotized” to lie as a defense. Or the classic, claiming other accusers were sluts.

Senator Cory Booker groped a young woman as a teenager, but there are significant differences: he went public of his own volition, acknowledged he was wrong, and says he behaved better after that. Which noted at the link doesn’t make it okay, but it’s not comparable to Kavanaugh.

Some conservatives did object to appointing Kavanaugh.

In other related thoughts:

Women talk about what they’d do at night if men were kept indoors.

Paige Patterson, a Southern Baptist leader who told abused women to stay with their husbands, is teaching a class on ethics.

The religious right talks a lot about how abortion is an American Holocaust, millions dead! But even though reliable contraception reduces abortion rates, they oppose it.

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From female mages to the Flash: books read

SISTERS OF THE RAVEN by Barbara Hambly succeeds where I thought the overrated The Power  failed: the opening sequence alone in which Rashaelda has to hide from a killer and realizes none of the men nearby bothered to intervene, is chilling. Rashaelda is one of several women who’ve acquired magical power just as the men of their desert kingdom are losing theirs. Men, even non-magical men, resent the change, and the women are struggling to prove themselves against a deadly drought and political upheaval. I’d have liked this better if it focused more on the gender dynamics, which get lost as the other plotlines amp up, but I still liked this a lot.

HOUSE OF HADES: Heroes of Olympus, Book Four by Rick Riordan is my first exposure to his wildly popular Percy Jackson mythos about Olympian demigods living among us. Riordan makes it easy to follow who’s who and what the goal is (reach Hades’ temple and shut the gateway allowing Gaia to flood the world with monsters) and he’s certainly a good writer. However this is more a series installment than a standalone novel — the battle isn’t decisive, most of the character arcs are in motion — so it didn’t convert me to a fan of the mythos.

Still, Riordan did much better handling eight books of backstory than Sherrilyn Kenyon did with DEATH DOESN’T BARGAIN: A Deadman’s Cross Novel which is only book two (that may be because, according to this review, it’s part of a much larger mythos). It starts off with an interminable discussion of who’s allied to who against what, with the speakers each having a couple of different names…it’s like a textbook example of how not to hook readers (though apparently lots of people were). After about a hundred pages, it still seemed to be characters rehashing the first book’s backstory, so I gave up.

The main plotline of FLASH: Cold Day in Hell by Joshua Williamson, Michael Moreci and multiple artists is that Flash’s Rogues, led by Captain Cold, have turned the Iron Heights prison into the basis of a crime empire; fortunately Barry’s been assigned to handle the prison’s evidence locker, so when one of the Rogues is murdered, Flash is instantly on the case. There’s also a two-parter involving an evil speedster and one with pre-New 52 Wally West trying to figure out his role in the new DC. The writing isn’t bad, it’s just not terribly interesting. Partly because this is just not my Flash: the New 52’s Negative Speed Force, Wally no longer married to Linda (I love her as a love interest, but apparently nobody since Geoff Johns’ run on Flash has any interest in her), Barry and Wally and New 52 Wally all crowding into Central City, Barry haunted by his mother’s murder (works fine on the TV show, but it’s gratuitous in the books) … it leaves me cold.

#SFWApro. Image is Hades and Persephone, fresco in the tomb called “Eurydice”, Vergina, Greece. Public domain, courtesy of wikimedia.

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Scooby Doo, thieves and Robin Hood: two movies, one play

SCOOBY DOO: Mask of the Blue Falcon (2013) takes place at San Diego Comicon parody (the in-joke costumes are a sight to see) where the big event will be an early screening of the new Blue Falcon and Dynomutt movie re-imagining the corny 1960s show as a grim Dark Knight (why yes, the Batman analogy is intentional). But now Blue Falcon’s archfoe Mr. Hyde (Shaggy: “He’s the monster that taught us to be afraid of monsters.”) seems determined to kill the project — could it be the actor from the TV show? The star of the movie who wants to get back to Serious Films? This is fun, though it makes me wonder if there’s any serious Dynomutt fanbase or if he just survives from being tied to Scooby-Doo. I also wonder if one of the voice actors deliberately made his obnoxious security head sound like Paul Lynde, a comic actor who did a lot of voices for Hanna-Barbera. “I have 22 turtlenecks, all the same color — I recognize patterns.”

RIFIFI (1955) lives up to its billing as one of the great heist films. A tough hood fresh out of prison gets an offer to participate in a smash-and-grab job on a Parisian jewelry store, but suggests that cracking the store’s safe, while completely impossible, would offer a much higher ration of risk to reward. Unfortunately there’s a crime boss who discovers what’s going down and decides to horn in … A first rate film, great looking (I think it must have been location shooting) and completely absorbing. “I liked you — I really liked you — but you know the rules.”

LeAnn bought us season tickets to the Playmakers theater as an anniversary present; while we missed the first show in August, we caught this month’s production, SHERWOOD: The Legend of Robin Hood at the end of September. This retelling of how Robin grew from a shallow child of privilege into a champion of the poor (“All of us in this country are traveling together.”) reworks the familiar adventures with a lot of fun and humor, and the staging positively flaunts that they’re doing epic adventure on a small budget. Marion gets a larger role than usual (she’s the master archer) and King John is constantly quoting Shakespeare, though nothing from Shakespeare’s Prince John. A fun start to our year of viewing. “‘Manners maketh man’ — that’s what my grandmother said right before they lopped off her head”

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I’d be finished if not for those meddling ideas!

When I started this draft of Southern Discomfort, I was working with a previous draft of 78,000 words. Too short for a lot of markets, but I figured I’d expand it.

And I did. It’s now up to 89,000 and a bit, which is more marketable, so good. But I can’t help thinking if I’d kept it the old length, or maybe expanded it to only 80,000 words, I’d be done by now! But at 84,300 I still have 5,000 words to go. And I suspect it’ll be a little longer by the time I reach The End.

Yes, I know, if the story needs to be longer it should be longer. I don’t think there’s any padding in the added wordage — it’s visual and action details that need detailing, conversations that need to be more explicit. But it’s frustrating to be so close and wrap up the week unfinished. More so, because I’m traveling to Florida next week for Dad’s 90th birthday (TYG will be at home with the puppies, but she’ll attend at least a bit of the festivities by FaceTime). So no work. And when I get back, I’ll be back doing Leaf again, which is money in my pocket (yay), but less time for fiction (boo). It’ll be a little harder to keep up my fiction productivity, but I’m ready.

As I mentioned last Friday, I’ve begun doing my 1,000 words of new stuff in the morning as my first writing project. Last week was too chaotic to succeed, but this week went great. I finished a first draft of one story about honey, and one about menstruating witch hunters (don’t ask). Neither of them anywhere near polished enough to show, but it felt very good finishing them. I also completed a second draft of Neverwas (I like my core idea, but my ending is a mess) and a third draft of Only the Lonely Can Slay. Which is very cool, though I’m always reluctant to feel pleased until something’s actually finished. I’ve had lots of experience with rewriting and redrafting and not having much finished output.

While I didn’t finish No One Can Slay Her, I think I solved the big plot problems. I figured out what the bad guy’s scheme is, and added a needed extra scene to replace one I took out. It’s still got some logic glitches but hopefully I’ll be able to iron them out now.

And I got another 4,000 words done on Undead Sexist Cliches. That was my quota for this month, which is good, as it frees up time for the Leaf articles.

So yeah, good week. To celebrate, here’s a shot of Wisp, “our” feral cat. She’s still around, we’re still feeding her and we bought a small heated shelter for her for when winter comes (will she use it? We’ll see).

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Filed under Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

A throne worthy of my awesomeness!

It took a while but late last Friday we got a big chair/small couch to go with our new loveseat. I think it’s a win.

For one thing the old armchair was very, very old. As in I could sometimes feel the springs down below the cushions, waiting to rip apart the fabric and thrust up into my buttocks. And it was normal armchair size, which meant I could fit Plushie or Trixie, but not both. Sometimes, in the evenings, when TYG had the couch (now the loveseat), they both wanted up and it wasn’t doable.

The new chair (the dark one in the photo) is big enough I can sit comfortably with both of them. They like that. I like that. We are, however, having to teach Plush Dog to use the ramp up to the chair rather than jumping, which is bad on his back. He does it with the love seat, but he’s not used to the ramp in the new position. Tempting him with Cheerios works to lead him up though, and he’ll get the hang of it eventually.

Plus #2: when a dog is in my lap, I can put the lap desk on the chair arm.

#3: As you can see, I have the coffee table between the two seats. That gives me much more space than the old sidetable to place papers, books, research books, Writers’ Market, my planner, etc. And it’s easy for me to reach over and grab them, even when I have a dog in my lap. I am having to fight the temptation to just pile up more stuff in that space, though.

That said, the seat area is probably smaller than the couch, which was where I used to sit when I worked. When both dogs are up here, they really squoosh me, and it gets awkward after the first hour. It’s harder to get traction and actually get off the couch around the dogs (I am a master dog contortionist). But despite that slight drawback, this chair is a solid win.

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Diversity and seeing yourself (or not)

One of the more surprising moments at Dragoncon was during a discussion of representation. A Filipino-American woman said the first character she’d thought of “like her” was Tura Satana, the bad-girl protagonist of Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill! They were both Eurasian (Satana’s Japanese American) and Satana played his unbelievable badass who kills for kicks and uses men for sex. Awesomeness!

Which just goes to show that it’s not always easy to predict how people will react to seeing themselves or their race or faith onscreen, or what they consider good representation. I never thought of Wonder Woman’s sister Nubia as much of a character (as executed) but she has fans who’d love to see her in the movies.

On the other hand despite all the good press I’ve seen for the film, one Singaporean writer says the Asian representation in Crazy Rich Asians left her cold (“How Chinese, how Asian we all look, making dumplings”) .

A post on Nerds of Color argues that Disney’s Mulan was an intensely Asian-American story, but Disney is writing the live-action remake focused on the Chinese market with no American input. The post makes some good points about Hollywood preferring Asians to Asian-Americans, but given that the Mulan legend is a classic Chinese tale, I would think China has just as much skin in the game.

Viola Davis talks about how much she loved the 1970s Wonder Woman TV show: “When the show came out I was twelve years old, and I’d never seen anything like it in my life. I mean as soon as the going gets tough, you saw this woman who was seemingly demure […] she could turn into a superhero and get the job done. It wasn’t about her trading in her feminity […] she wasn’t vindictive towards other women.”

A Mary Sue post argues that not casting Romani as Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (or a Romani Dick Grayson in Titans), is whitewashing. The discussion in the comments was what held me, with some Romani arguing that they look white, so it’s silly to object to white non-Romani taking the roles (not everyone agreed). In case you’re wondering, Dick was retconned as Romani about 15 years ago, then retconned out, now it’s back in the New 52, so it’s not as if it’s a fundamental part of his character. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch have been Romani from the get-go, though it’s never played a large role in their characterization.

I have no particular conclusion to draw here, I just found the discussions interesting.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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