Tag Archives: Aliens Are Here

I was slightly less than today years old when I learned the term “ethnogothic”

One of the standard complaints about using ETs (or mutants or whatever) as metaphors for immigrants or minorities (e.g., Brother From Another Planet, Alien Nation) is that it’s inherently offensive: black (or gay, or trans) Americans are not monsters or aliens and the metaphor just others them (though some POC and gays disagree).

In an text piece in the back of BITTER ROOT: Family Business by David F. Walker, Chuck Brown and Sanford Greene, the essayist (I don’t remember their name) said one way around this is the “ethnogothic” approach. Rather than using the weird as a metaphor for minorities, use magic or SF to throw a fresh perspective on bigotry and racial issues.

The book concerns the Sangerye family, mages who fight against the Jinoo. Whenever someone becomes totally consumed by racism, they transform into a Jinoo monster; the Sangerye purge the hate and the monster out of them (I’m not clear whether this kills the bigots or not). This first TPB in the series involves a survivor of the Tulsa massacre who thinks the Sangerye way is too soft — he has his own plans for dealing with racists.

Bitter Root makes racists into monsters, literally and physically, but it doesn’t excuse them: the transformation into Jinoo comes from giving into hate, it doesn’t cause it. The book, set in 1920s Harlem, has no qualms showing how utterly malevolent the treatment of black Americans was in that era. It’s also solidly entertaining.

I can think of other examples that might qualify as ethnogothic. The CW’s Black Lightning, where metahumans manifesting in a black community, as one preacher points out, just give cops one more excuse to kill them. Lovecraft Country. Ballad of Black Tom, with its bleak despair of America ever improving, and the equally bleak Sidney Poitier movie Brother John.

“Ethnogothic” fits a trend I think I’d half-registered but never thought about collectively. I imagine I’ll have more examples to review down the road.

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The Aliens Are Here: What You Can Expect

As McFarland have the cover ready for The Aliens are Here (originally titled Alien Visitors so you’ll find relevant blog posts under both tags) I’m guessing it’ll be out before the end of the year. So here’s a preview of what it’ll cover.

The introduction covers the general history of alien visitors in fiction, then film and TV. It also delves into “real” encounters with ETs because UFOlogy is deeply interwoven with fictional saucers. Movies adapt “true” stories (The UFO Incident, Fire in the Sky); UFO encounters borrow from film (sightings went up after Day the Earth Stood Still came out).

Subsequent chapters include an overview introducing the topic, then a detailed look at two or three movies:

Alien Invaders: The 1953 War of the Worlds, Spielberg’s remake and Independence Day.

Friendly Aliens: The 1951 Day the Earth Stood Still and V — because sometimes when they say they come in peace, they’re lying.Alien infiltrators: Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, both the 1956 and 1978 versions. It took some work to say something fresh and not just copy what I wrote in Screen Enemies of the American Way but I think I succeeded.Alien superheroes: Superman and Superman II.

UFO Abductions: Fire in the Sky and The Fourth Kind.

Alien Immigrants: Brother From Another Planet and Alien Nation.

Alien impregnation: Village of the Damned (both versions) and the 1964 Children of the Damned.

Ancient Astronauts: Quatermass and the Pit and Eternals.

Alien Monsters: The Thing From Another World, John Carpenter’s The Thing and The Andromeda Strain.

Alien Romance: Starman.

Aliens and Kids: E.T., The Whispers and The Faculty.

Alien Comedies: Tribulation 99, The Coneheads and Resident Alien.

Government cover-ups: The X-Files.

Genre Mashups: Predator, Predator 2 and Attack of the 50-Foot Woman.

I also include some shorter synopses of other films or TV shows in the same subgenre, and a list of added productions at the end of each chapter.

You’ll know more about its progress through editing when I do.

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Women of the suburbs, the West and the future

THE DAY THE WOMEN GOT EVEN (1980) was a TV “cozy” pilot about four suburban women (Barbara Rhoades, Georgia Engel, Jo Ann Pflug and Tina Louise) with an interest in theater who discover Julie Hagerty (soon to be much better known for airplane) is suicidal over being blackmailed by a sleazeball producer with nude shots from her “audition.” Can they take the sleazeball down with their acting skills and the help of a street-smart Latino sidekick? I’m guessing this bland film was inspired by North Avenue Irregulars, a Disney housewives vs. crooks film from the previous year, not that knowing this makes it more interesting. “Pardon me but do you have a brother in Savannah?”

CAT BALLOU (1965) is a great deal more fun, though some of the elements (a Sioux played by a guy in redface, plus scalping jokes!) haven’t aged well. And as you can see, the movie had to qualms playing up sex along with the humor (the trailer makes the most of the star’s looks). Jane Fonda plays Katherine Ballou, back in the West after a few years at finishing school. Unfortunately the town has been taken over by corrupt business interests willing to do anything to drive her father off his land, including hiring a murderous gunfighter (Lee Marvin).

As the two outlaws she’s fallen in with are hardly tough guys, Cat recruits the legendary Kid Shelleen (Marvin too) only to discover he’s a pathetic, broken-down drunk (“He did it! He missed the barn!”). The odds are against her but Cat’s very determined … A good Western parody that netted Marvin an Oscar for his double role. Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole play a banjo-strumming Greek chorus, a detail I liked but I’ve had friends who thought it was ridiculous. “There are a lot of people who are just as depraved and cowardly as they think they are.”

After watching the second season of EXTANT (S1 review here), I wish I’d finished the series before finishing The Aliens Are Here. Mollie’s (Hallee Berry) half-alien son initially appears to remake Species, propagating his kind by impregnating women who die giving birth to the aliens. By the time Molly catches up with him, the hybrids have adapted: they don’t have to kill to reproduce. But the authorities don’t see it that way and they’re about to unleash an army of Humanich soldiers to eliminate the threat. Fortunately there’s no way letting a bunch of humanoid machines off the leash could go wrong, right? The suggestion that we and the hybrids can actually share the Earth is refreshing compared to all the othering I usually witness. “A super-computer in charge of an army of killer robots — it’s a futurist’s nightmare.”

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Chocky and her offspring

Back last summer I watched the BBC’s 1984 Chocky for The Aliens Are Here. I didn’t devote much space to it, as it’s a British production, but it was worth noting as an example of an ET Pied Piper guiding a human child — in this case with good intentions.

Finally I got around to reading the source novel, John Wyndham’s Chocky. It turns out the BBC version is extremely faithful to Wyndham’s story. Mark, a middle-class father, is bemused when his twelve-year-old, Matthew, suddenly acquires an imaginary friend, Chocky. Mark and his wife are more bemused when Matthew starts asking questions — why does it take two humans to reproduce — and arguing with his new friend over whether the family car is a crude means of transportation (Matthew’s very proud of the new car). And how is it Matthew’s math scores and his performance in art are suddenly through the roof?

Much like Wyndyham’s The Midwich Cuckoos, Chocky has come for our children. In this case, though, her goal is compassionate. Alien life is rare and like the rest of her people, she (the aliens are unisex, but Matthew decided Chocky is bossy like a girl) feels a duty to help it flourish. She planned to steer Matthew towards tapping cosmic energy as a clean power source; however he’s attracted attention from powerful people who would like to exploit his knowledge, so best she backs off. There are other children and next time she’ll be a little more subtle …

In contrast to the Triffids or the Cuckoos, this book gives us a genuinely friendly alien. With no real threat, it’s very low-key — even Matthew’s kidnappers are quite civilized and considerate — but even knowing what’s coming I found it engaging.

While Wyndham only gave us the one book, the BBC followed Chocky up in 1985 with CHOCKY’S CHILDREN. Matthew meets up with Albertine, a tween math genius, and discovers they can communicate telepathically. He soon realizes Albertine must be another of Chocky’s protegés, but unfortunately the men who kidnapped him once are still watching … In having the children come together it’s reminiscent of Children of the Damned. However where Chocky was for adults, this is much more kid-centric — though even by that standard, the final episode devotes way too much time to the kids’ fathers working things out. “After what happened with Matthew, I thought it best to keep myself secret from my other children.”

Finally things wrapped up with CHOCKY’S CHALLENGE (1986), with Matthew largely absent as Albertine leads a crew of teen geniuses in developing a cosmic energy power source. Unfortunately what Chocky intends as a gift for humanity, the military sees as a way to launch rockets cheaper and more efficiently (the power creates anti-gravity for flight). As Chocky’s determined to share her knowledge with the world, clearly the government must Do Something …

This follows Wyndham’s low-key approach; one astronomer, realizing she was wrong and Albertine right, immediately drops her opposition to the kids’ research. However the military response, which involves putting one of the kids in a coma for life, seems over the top even for kids’ show villains. And ultimately this doesn’t have the spark the original novel did. Still, I’ve certainly watched worse. “There will be times that your minds will ache with pain.”

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Hating the alien: the othering of extraterrestrials

One of the things that struck me as I kept watching films for The Aliens Are Here was how much Othering some of these movies engage in.

Othering, as most of you probably know, is the process of distinguishing between Us and Them, and not in a good or harmless way (e.g., loving cricket marks off the UK and many former colonies from the US, but the difference doesn’t come with judgmental overtones). As this article explains, when a group is Othered they’re branded as less deserving of equal rights with the Us group. They can’t even be tolerated, they’re so foreign and creepy. Jews have been Othered for centuries. The Japanese were Othered as soon as they started emigrating to America. In Bogart’s Across the Pacific (1942), Victor Sen Yung plays a slang-spouting Nisei college student, apparently as all-American as they come. Underneath his American surface he’s all Japanese, a stone-cold killer in the service of his Emperor. When a people are Othered, they never truly belong.

Othering also ignores differences between individual Them. If They are the enemy, there are no dissenters, no pacifists among them; they’re all in on war. In Live and Let Die, every single African-American in Harlem and New Orleans apparently works for Kananga (Yaphet Kott0; the only good black is a CIA agent sent to back up Bond. It’s much the same way Japanese Americans were portrayed during WW II: all Japanese, zero American (Germany, by contrast, was often portrayed as a good country oppressed by an evil ideology).

Othering is a lot harder to pull off these days. A movie that, like Little Tokyo USA (1942), showed every Japanese resident of Los Angeles as an enemy and suggested shipping the Japanese to concentration camps was a necessary security measure would bring a shit-ton of flak down on people’s heads. Othering aliens isn’t going to generate angry letters from members of groups opposing ET defamation.

That makes it easy for Independence Day (1996). In a convenient telepathic flash, Whitmore learns there’s no hope in negotiating with the invaders: they’re merciless and want only to wipe us out, thens strip-mine Earth of its resources. He describes them as “locusts,” which is classic dehumanizing language, comparing the Other to animals, particularly insects. But the aliens just blew up Los Angeles and Washington DC, so who’s going to say they’re being portrayed badly?Battleship (2012) takes the same slant, and also gets exposition across by convenient telepathy. The aliens are ruthless monsters, they’re going to destroy us, there’s no point inn playing nice or showing them mercy. One character suggests even attempts to contact aliens are a catastrophe waiting to happen: if they’re advanced enough in technology to reach Earth, they’re advanced enough to annihilate us, therefore they will. The impossibility of mutual co-existence is a given.

This happens in print fiction too. In John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There? — the source of the Howard Hawks and John Carpenter Thing movies — after the scientists recover an alien body from a crashed ship, they debate whether it’s safe to revive it. Several scientists emphasize the evil expression on its face; the counter-argument is that we have no idea what that facial expression means on its world, and expecting a friendly, happy face at the moment of Oh, Shit, I’m Going To Crash! is a bit much. But of course, the rational explanations are wrong: the creature is pure evil.

It’s why I was so impressed by V. As I said Saturday, there’s no Othering in this story. Most of the Visitors are evil but some are good and not happy with the conquest of Earth; others are active resisters. This mirrors the situation among the humans, some of whom collaborate, some of whom oppose, and many just keep their heads down and hope not to get caught.

A few other movies give their alien invaders some personality beyond Evil. But they’re regrettably an exception to the rule.

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A product of its storytelling time, but in a good way: V

Dealing with Trixie’s diarrhea kept me too zonked to watch any movies last weekend. That works out well as I realized when writing up movies watched for The Aliens Are Here, I forgot the two-part TV movie V (1983), even though it’s one of the films I spotlight. Rewatching it after so many years made me appreciate what a remarkable movie it is, and how it’s very much the product of its time.

For once I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s a product of the era when complex, multi-story TV shows with big casts were in vogue. First came Hill Street Blues (1981), a serious drama about cops operating out of the Hill Street station, then St. Elsewhere and LA Law. Kenneth Johnson’s ambitious script fits the same mode: more than 50 speaking parts (he didn’t even give them names in the treatment he gave NBC, figuring The Cameraman and The Thief would be easier to follow) in multiple plotlines and individual dramas: a thief rebelling against family expectations, a doctor whose marriage collapses, a loser who sees new opportunities in a world conquered by alien fascists.

Johnson originally pitched this to NBC programming guru Brandon Tartikoff as Storm Warning, about a homegrown fascist takeover of the United States (something the 1968 movie Shadow on the Land tried unsuccessfully). Tartikoff replied that audiences would find it easier if the USSR or China conquered us but Johnson wanted to spin off a series and didn’t think that would fly. Alien fascists was the solution.

In the opening scenes we meet the massive cast, though it turns out many of them are tied together, either by family or living in the same neighborhood. Key players include medical student/biochemist Juliet Parrish (Faye Grant), reporter Donovan (Marc Singer), Holocaust survivor Abraham (Leonard Cimino), Julie’s colleague Ben Taylor (Richard Lawson) and Ben’s brother, burglar Elias (Michael Wright). The cast includes men, women, teens and seniors, black, white and Hispanic (nobody gay — that was a rare thing still in 1980s TV, and rarer to be done well).

We meet Donovan and his partner Tony (Evan Kim) reporting on a rebel camp in El Salvador. At the time the U.S. backed Salvadorian government was deploying death squads to execute “communists,” which often meant “teaching the peasants to read and count so they know if their contracts and paychecks are fair.” The movie thereby declares its politics, much like Rick in Casablanca having run guns to anti-fascists in Ethiopia and Spain.

The government forces arrive and a chopper is about to blast Donovan when it suddenly flees. Turning around, Donovan sees a giant saucer flying behind him, which turns out to be one of several appearing around the world (because of budget limitations these were done by the traveling matte process, something akin to a double exposure, rather than models). The result is 24/7 news coverage including interviews with an off-screen Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke. Eventually a shuttle craft lands and the aliens, to everyone’s relief, turn out to be human, except for their strange voices (Johnson says that was to simplify the plot choices — the Visitors can’t pass among us unnoticed). They’re here to obtain chemicals their planet needs; in return, they offer scientific breakthroughs.

Even so the reactions range from wariness to enthusiasm (Kenner puts out a full line of Visitor action figures and ships) to calculated ambition: Donovan’s mother Eleanor (Neve Patterson) quickly sucks up to them to ensure her businessman second husband gains an edge in whatever business transactions develop. Her ambition captures a running theme in the show, power: who has it? Who fights it? Who kisses it’s ass?

Unsurprisingly, things soon go pear-shaped. The Visitors discover a cabal of scientists plotting to exploit their technology (they make public confessions); outraged, they have no choice but to seize control of the world’s governments. Julie and other scientists become pariahs, the counterpart to Jews in the Visitors’ New World Order. This didn’t entirely work for me — unlike Jews, “scientist” isn’t a sharply defined group and they don’t have centuries of hate against them. Recent anti-covid reactions against doctors and health officials prove it’s not as farfetched as I thought. Julie’s stockbroker husband finds he’s losing a lot of business from being married to a scientist, which ends the marriage; surprisingly he vanishes from the story after that, including the various sequels.

As the Visitors tighten their grip, Julie and some of the other characters form a resistance cell. Julie slides into leadership without trying. When they’re not sure what to do, she suggests something; when nobody volunteers, she does. As leadership duties pile up, she comes close to cracking, but takes advice from a friend to just bluff her way through — nobody will know. Putting a woman in a leadership role was a novel idea back then, and it’s impressive still today. I’d figured Grant for a rising star but after she married Stephen Collins she wound up staying home with the kids.

Donovan, who eventually hooks up with Julie’s resistance cell, learns the truth about the Visitors. First, under their human masks they’re reptilians. The chemicals are a red herring; their goal is to drain Earth of its water and abduct most of the population. Some will be brainwashed into fighting in Visitor wars elsewhere; some will be food. The cabal of scientists doesn’t exist: their confessions were the result of Visitor scientist Diana’s (Jane Badler) brainwashing techniques.

A number of alien invasion movies such as Battleship or Independence Day thoroughly Other the aliens (I’ll be blogging about that soon). They’re monsters, fiends, merciless, and want nothing but to exterminate the human race. They won’t have any mercy so we don’t have to. V doesn’t go that way. There’s a resistance that makes common cause with the human rebels, as well as non-resistance good aliens such as Willie (Robert Englund, before he became big with Nightmare on Elm Street). Some humans are happy to go Nazi (so to speak): along with Eleanor, teenage Daniel (David Packer) is a frustrated loser whose new role in the equivalent of the Hitler Youth gives him power and influence he’s never tasted before. He doesn’t use them well. At the end of the series, all the sides — Visitors, resistance, rebels, quislings — are set up for more adventures.

V set records in the ratings and Johnson was optimistic it could go to series. NBC told him they couldn’ afford it, so he proposed a series of TV movies instead; NBC didn’t bite (later Johnson’s Alien Nation TV series on Fox did wrap up its plotlines by going this route). Johnson then wrote V: The Final Battle to wrap things up but didn’t think the budget would let him do a good job and walked away. It’s good, but not as good; the one-season series that followed isn’t good at all.

This one was a pleasure to rewatch. I highly recommend it.

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A cover reveal and thoughts on goals

Much to my surprise — they hadn’t told me — McFarland has already picked a cover for The Aliens Are Here. I’m not sure what the illustration is from, because it’s not one of the ones I submitted for the book. But that’s fine, because it looks fabulous and captures the tone better than anything I would have chosen.

This was a good week for writing. I put in a lot of work rewriting Don’t Pay the Merryman (oh, it so needs a better title) and read the first section for the writing group. They loved it; now I just have to get the rest of the story up to that level. Several people said the section would work fine as itself if I strengthen the character arcs, so I’ll think about that option.

I rewrote The Adventure of the Red Leech and finally fixed the plot. Holmes is able to crack the mystery and thwart the killer without having to conveniently have a suitable mystic talisman (the rather hand-wave finish of the original published version). Still needs work, but it’s getting there.

I’ve also considerably reworked the plot of Impossible Takes A Little Longer and I’m pleased with it. No more long stretches of talk without compensating action. I managed to restore a lot of the characters who fell out of the previous draft — Rachel Chang, Darla Jeffries — and I think some of the key turning points are better placed. I shall start the next draft this month, with 25,000 words as the minimum goal. Plus fixing the remaining plot issues later in the book.

I didn’t achieve as much on my writing goals (or others) as I wanted to. I keep setting a goal to be more aware of local politics but I just can’t seem to make time. I did, however, send off another 60 postcards encouraging people around the country to vote (while this isn’t the exact link, you can find opportunities to help out here). I didn’t finish Red Leech or get Don’t Pay the Merryman as far along as I wanted. But the goals were ambitious enough to push me: everything’s progressing, even if it’s not as fast as I’d like. There are times when no matter how much I rewrite a story, I end up not improving. That’s not the case now. So setting the goals is doing the job it’s supposed to.

Oh, and I finished the tax forms. Now it’s just a matter of signing them and mailing them out. Once again I made a mistake in the write-off for our HSA, which upped our taxable income by $5,000. I caught that today, so yay!

Overall, I did complete enough goals to reward myself by buying the second Epic Iron Man Collection, which runs from midway through his time in Tales of Suspense through the launch of his own series (Gene Colan provides the cover).

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What a difference a year makes!

My birthday 2021 was, I wrote, “meh,” starting with having had almost no sleep. I woke up this morning refreshed. Last year we didn’t do anything much because of the pandemic; this year we’re boosted, covid’s dying down (yes, I’m aware a new variant is on the horizon) and we’re going to have fun.

It’s a sign of the changes that last weekend was well, strange. No, not because of an eclipse, that photo’s from the lunar one in December. But TYG and I were actually social, in person, for the first time in ages. A friend of ours was in town so she came over to meet the dogs and then go out to dinner. Sunday I went to my friend and fellow writer Allegra Gullino‘s birthday party (TYG had to work). I ate, chatted with Allegra and a bunch of our fellow writers and had a terrific time.

It’s also been, looking back, a good year. I didn’t get much fiction done but I finished The Aliens Are Here, finished Undead Sexist Cliches (and I hand-sold one to my friend), and finished the golem article I was working on (looking back a year ago, it’s striking how much golem-fiction I was reading). Now I’m looking at a year with lots of time to write fiction.

And of course I have TYG — my personal happy ever after — and the pups, and the cats. I know none of this is forever because nothing is (and lord knows what Republicans will do to this country before I die) but life is better right now than I ever imagined it would be at 64.

Happy birthday to me.

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Two that didn’t work for me (and why)

Can we learn from failure? With the obvious caveat that one viewer’s failure is another viewer’s work of genius, yes. Caution: spoilers ahead.

UNDERMIND (1965) is a British series I started watching for The Aliens Are Here, then dropped when it didn’t appear to have an ET element (I was wrong, but I’m focused primarily on US TV so no big). Anne Herriot (Rosemary Nicols) and her brother-in-law Drew (Jeremy Wilkin) discover Drew’s brother Frank has been brainwashed into committing acts of sabotage. Frank is unusually sensitive to high frequency sound, which is the method fo control; Drew and Anne stop the sabotage plot (Frank dies) but realize there are others out there. The enemy, whoever they are, will stop at nothing to see Britian … undermined.

What follows is a variety of plotlines dealing with ripped-from-the-headlines stuff (prostitution, corrupt politicians and juvenile delinquency) mixed in with more tongue in cheek stories: using children’s books to make them accepting of human sacrifice, arranging for incompetent students to cheat on their tests so that Britain’s best will be incompetent, unimaginative failures. A plot about Irish opposition to British rule treats the Irish as comic-relief seniors when (according to this review) the “Troubles” were already ramping up. The comedy could have worked on The Avengers but we’re supposed to take Undermind more seriously.

Doctor Who writer Robert Holmes comes on for the last two episodes and does as good a job as possible wrapping things up. It turns out “Undermind” is extraterrestrial-based (they’d hedged on the possibility before) but the sonic brainwashing is wearing off; an agent in British intelligence tries to reboot their puppets but fails. In the process we learn their agenda is to build a stargate that will bring their invasion forces to Earth. Of course that raises the question of why they bother with tricks involving children’s literature or discrediting politicians; we don’t get an answer. On the whole it’s watchable, but not satisfying. And the ending for Anne — she’s dating one of the security men they met in the course of the adventure — comes as out of the blue as Leila pairing off at the end of Doctor Who: Invasion of Time. “You can’t legislate against an alien radio signal!”

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON (2019) is a lot less watchable. In 1988, several people’s heads mysteriously explode; Lockhart (Boyd Holbrook), a cop, becomes convinced there’s a serial killer behind it.When he meets her, Rya (Cleopatra Coleman) knows a lot about him and also that she’s going to die, accidentally, in a matter of minutes. She does — but several years later there’s another wave of exploding heads and Rya shows up again.

Having literally written the book on movie time travel. it wasn’t hard to guess that Rya was a time traveler, and that she was also Lockhart’s granddaughter. In a more entertaining movie that would be forgivable but this one’s too much a plodding obsessed cop vs. relentless killer yarn.

What makes it a failure, though, is the backstory. It turns out Rya isn’t killing at random: she’s changing the future to prevent a 2024 terrorist incident (implied to be 9/11 level) followed by civil war. Rya is using time-travel tech developed by Dr. Rao (Rudi Dharmalingam), who explains her mission to Lockhart midway through the film. Rather than just kill the people who led the country into Civil War, she’s out to kill the people who inspired them with their ideas. His comparison is that to stop the 1860 Civil War it wouldn’t be enough to kill Lincoln, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee — you’d have to kill the people who influenced and inspired them to see Civil War as the answer.

Dude, WTF? Are writers Gregory Weidman and Geoff Tock seriously equating Jefferson Davis, who led a secessionist nation founded on race-based slavery, with Abraham Lincoln, an opponent of slavery? And the script makes it sound as if civil war was the idea in 1860, rather than stemming from two conflicting underlying ideas, that humans can become property or that they can’t. Spoiler, these ideas are not comparable; it’s not “there’s some good and bad on both sides.” Slavery is bad. Treating human beings as property is bad.

Nor is it easy to see how this maps to a near-future civil war, but perhaps that’s the point. By implying both sides in whatever conflict lies ahead are equally objectionable the movie doesn’t have to take sides; by not saying what the conflict is about, it avoids offending anyone. But when you’re going back and killing people who, according to Rao, are not directly responsible for what happened, it requires a clear case to convince me that right is on Rya’s side (Lockhart eventually sides with her). If the movie were a lot better otherwise, that would still sink it for me. “If it begins with you warning me here on this beach then it always ends with me dying.”

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As expected, a slight drop in productivity

As I’ve mentioned frequently in this week-in-review posts, if I’m performing way above average or way below average the odds are that by random chance I’ll do less well the following week. When I’m at my very best it’s just easier to drop to a lower level than stay at the top. That’s the nature of averages.

So unsurprisingly, this wasn’t as good a week as the previous two. For one thing I gave myself Wednesday off: I had to take the car in for annual inspection and checkup and decided I’d just bring a book rather than my computer. Then I kept reading that afternoon. It felt good, so no regrets. We also had the housekeepers in Thursday. I thought we’d be dealing with the new dishwasher Tuesday but that fell through — there’s a part that was out (supply chain issues) so we’re rescheduled for a couple of weeks.

My dizziness continues but at a much reduced level so my daily exercises are apparently fixing things or buying time for them to fix themselves. I could drive safely to the car place and back so that’s good enough. I’m sticking with exercises that do not involve heavy head-jerking for now, though.

This week’s big breakthrough was figuring out the problem with the ending of Oh the Places You’ll Go! My new ending, with everyone in the future world of 2015, works much better though it does need some fixing and editing. I also figured out that the problem with Adventure of the Red Leech is the third quarter: there’s a lot of necessary exposition but no tension, nothing to up the stakes. I don’t quite know how to fix it yet, though.

Other than that, it was mostly Leafs, plus a new client asking for similar business articles. Better paying per article but not as many articles available.

And I had to resolve a problem with a couple of missing photos from the set I sent in as illustrations for The Aliens Are Here. All taken care of now.

All in all, not bad for the last week of the month. Month-in-review post will come next week.

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