Floods, books and everyday people (#SFWApro)

I’m a big fan of the late Sheri S. Tepper — though I do find her heavy Western Union a bit much at times — but I can see why so many people hate THE WATERS RISING. The first chapter with a wanderer and his talking horse is great, but bogs down soon afterwards as the villain spends several pages expositing about her evil history and evil, evil plan. And then we get more discussions of history, geography, taking up several chapters … It didn’t help that this setting, despite Tepper’s weird trappings, is stock post-apocalypse SF. Disappointing.

THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY by Genevieve Cogman (cover by Adam Auerbach, all rights remain with current holder) is the first in a series I look forward to reading more of. The protagonist, Irene, works for the title institution which sends librarians between worlds hunting for rare or unique volumes, such as a particular collection of Grimm stories available in one steampunk fantasy world. There Irene and her more-than-he-seems aide Kai meet a Sherlock Holmes type, investigate a vampire’s murder and grappling with the deadly threat of Lichtenstein, one of the world’s most powerful nations. Fun, although the implication the library is mired in internal politics and power plays I could have done without (pretty much any magical organization in a contemporary fantasy is sneaky and sinister and mired in internal politics).

THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE by Patrick Ness is a great concept — what’s life in Sunnydale (or Vampire Diaries‘ Mystic Falls) for the kids who aren’t the monster-slayer or her circle of friends. Unfortunately while the opening of each chapter is hysterical (a parody showing what Buffy and the Scooby Gang, so to speak, are up to), the rest of it turns out to be just a conventional Y/A mainstream novel. Where Kurt Busiek’s Marvels or Astro City always makes it clear the human characters live in a very strange world, this one’s just too mundane for me (even though one of the characters is one-quarter god).

Leave a comment

Filed under Reading

TV superheroes taking a break (#SFWApro)

So once again I didn’t get much movie viewing in last weekend. But as it’s the end of the TV season, let’s look at the super-shows.

SUPERGIRL had an excellent second season, starting off with Tyler Hoechlin’s appearance as Superman/Clark, very much in the mode of Chris Reeve rather than the grim-and-gritty take of Man of Steel. The season that follows include Alex’s coming out (and starting a relationship with cop Maggie Sawyer), Win getting a girl, Jimmy becoming the Guardian and Kara herself getting a romance with Mon-El. I thought the final episode would suffer from being yet another alien invasion, but they did a great job, including a Superman/Supergirl fight (and as others have noted, managing to keep Supergirl the star despite her more famous cousin). Nicely done (cover by Mahmud Asrar, all rights to current holder)

FLASH‘s third season opened with a riff on the Flashpoint event, with Barry living in a changed timeline  where his parents are alive and he’s happy with that. Unfortunately changing time has consequences, and they haunt Barry even after he puts things right: the self-proclaimed god of speed, Savitar, begins reproducing the Flashpoint metahumans in the real world, leading up to his plan to kill Iris. Which a time-traveling Barry knows will already come to pass … Lively as it usually is, though I really hate Savitar’s armor.

GREEN ARROW has Oliver struggling as mayor of Star City while expanding Team Arrow to include Mr. Terrific, Wild Dog, Ragman and Artemis. Pitted against them, Prometheus, a villain out for revenge on Ollie and always two steps ahead of him. What worked best this season is the way it forced Ollie to look back at his first season and the ruthless way he killed people (I love the episode where the new team learns how Oliver was doing all the violent things he’s now telling them not to). The flashback plotline involving Russian mobsters was uninspired and the Vigilante shows up for several episodes but his plotline never goes anywhere. Overall, though, a good season with a good final episode bringing back lots of familiar faces.

AGENTS OF SHIELD has never really clicked for me, and this was another season of not-quite-clicking. It has lots of elements such as the accursed Darkhold, the Ghost Rider, and a renegade Ai, but also a lot of tedious bureaucratic struggles over SHIELD and its direction. Then in the last third of the season we plunge into a computer generated virtual reality where everyone’s living alternative lives … and that didn’t grab me at all.

Looking forward to the summer hiatus and the chance to catch up on various other shows on Netflix and Hulu.

Leave a comment

Filed under TV

Defying gravity! Will I fall off the cliff? (#SFWApro)

This was a good writing week.

I wrote last Friday that I was nervous about Southern Discomfort because I didn’t have a clear path, plotwise, as I progressed through the book. Surprisingly, that wasn’t even slightly a problem this week. If anything, writing was easy. I finished one chapter, asked myself “Okay, what next?” and presto, I got the answer. That’s surprising — I very rarely get into that kind of flow state — but it’s really enjoyable.

However I know from experience, that’s not a guarantee I’m on the right path (though it certainly feels like I am). Hence the use of the Fool of the Tarot’s Major Arcana (Arthur Waite version). According to one interpretation of the card, it represents the quester passing through the spiritual stages of the other Arcana. Walking to the edge of the cliff, he may be the naive, beginning quester who doesn’t realize the danger he’s in. Then again, he may be the enlightened quester who knows that if he walks off the cliff, he’ll land safely.

And it’s possible I’m either one. If it keeps going this well, I’m the enlightened quester. But it’s possible that 10,000 words from now I’ll discover everything I wrote this week has steered me into a dead end. One potential problem is that several key events, while they flow much better in this draft, now take place about 15,000 words earlier. If I don’t make up the 15,000, I’d end up about 68,000 words, which is way too short.

Nevertheless, writing the book this week felt very good.

That consumed most of my writing week. I also got off one query (as And magazine stopped using my columns, I’m hitting other markets), worked some on Undead Sexist Cliches—the Book, and started a new draft of the short story Trouble in Glass. I also tackled various paperwork issues (taxes and other financial stuff) I needed to catch up on.

I’d planned to take about four hours off to use up some of the extra hours I’d built up, but I just didn’t get around to it. Still with Memorial Day coming up, if TYG takes time off, maybe I’ll use it then.


Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

It’s all happening at the zoo (#SFWApro)

Although I went to Greenville SC a month ago and took photos, I just realized I never got around to posting any of them. So without further ado, here are some from Greenville Zoo:

First, we have a chameleon, though obviously not very blended in.

Second, an orang-utan whom I’m convinced was mugging for the public, clowning around in the sheet. Though he clearly enjoyed doing it.

The parental unit was unamused.

Then there’s the anteater.

A rhea from the same enclosure.

Plus a hungry giraffe

Photos are all my work. Please credit me should you choose to use them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal

Other people’s shoes

“No arguments can force you into other people’s shoes. Either you decide that it’s right to consider the world from somewhere other than the accidental point at which you stand in it—or you don’t.” — Susan Neiman

I think one reason Republican governance is such a nightmare is that large numbers of Republicans have decided they shouldn’t look at the world from anywhere but their own privileged position. The elected official position (rich straight WASP men) and the Republican voter position (straight WASP men, not always rich). The further from that accidental point you fall — a woman, a Muslim, non-white, non-rich — the less they give a damn. As Lance Manion says, the fundamental belief is “we get to have it, you don’t.”

Trump voters grumble a lot about welfare queens and shiftless black folks, but they’re very keen to have their own social safety net increased. They need it. They’re not loafers, it’s just life gave them some hard knocks. Just like their abortion is necessary, not like the ones slutty girls get.

Of course, as Lawyers Guns and Money points out, welfare cuts and abortion restrictions don’t work like that, neither does discrimination against pre-existing conditions. Alabama Repub Mo Brooks argued that Trumpcare shouldn’t allow people who didn’t take care of themselves to get a pass on their pre-existing problems; in reality, the insurers will never distinguish between the Bad People who brought it on themselves and the Good People who take care of themselves. If either has a pre-existing condition, the reaction will be the same. Just as restrictions on abortion clinics affect everyone who wants an abortion, regardless of the reason. Ditto the attacks on Planned Parenthood as a source of affordable contraception. They won’t just affect the nymphomaniac sluts of right-wing fever dreams. But large numbers of Republicans (admittedly this is not unique to them) still refuse to see that The Other needs help as much as they do.

And at the level of the wealthy and powerful in national government, the lack of sympathy is worse. After all, they’re rich, so why should they do anything for people who need help? So we get a budget that guts services for the needy. And bullshit projections of super economic growth so revenue will look rosy even after tax cuts. Or claims that just because the Trumpcare plan cuts $880 billion from Medicaid, that doesn’t mean services will be cut.

Or student loans. The Trump administration is looking to end a student-loan forgiveness program. But I’m sure Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ latest plan — to have a single company service all loans — will work out wonderfully (sarcasm).

Or Trump’s lack of enthusiasm for even basic regulation, such as requiring investment advisers put your interests ahead of their own.

In other news:

•New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu gives a powerful speech about why it’s right to take down the monuments of Confederate officers as both traitors and white supremacists. Breitbart proclaims that criticizing the Confederacy is (surprise!) political correctness (and a Mississippi lawmaker says people taking down Confederate monuments should be lynched.). Similarly, after a Washington DC bar pulled the Pill Cosby drink from its menu oh-so-edgy libertarian Nick Gillespie declared this was PC Oppression (rather than say, the business responding to negative public feedback).

•Government is not a business and Trump is not America’s CEO.

•Slacktivist on fantasies of heroism.

•Stripping naked at the airport during a dispute with TSA staffers is not First Amendment-protected.

•Now, some good news: House Republicans rushed through the last Trumpcare vote so fast, they may have to redo it. LGM meanwhile shows how the Heritage Plan (a right-wing proposal for healthcare) falls far short of Obamacare. More on that.


Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

Elliott Rodger, mass murderer and role model?

Echidne of the Snakes posted a link this morning to her three-year-old piece on mass murderer Elliot Rodger. Yesterday anniversary of the day Rodger declared his intention to break into a sorority and gun down the filthy cows for refusing to sleep with him (he hadn’t been rejected, but he had some emotional issues and never even asked a woman out). He tried to carry out his plan, couldn’t get in the sorority, killed three girls standing outside and then went off to kill more people. Several injuries followed, plus one death, and Rodger’s own suicide.

Echidne said the date was worth remembering because the attitudes that fueled Rodger haven’t gone away. And sure enough, other “incels” (involuntary celibates) gathered online to celebrate the day Rodger lashed back at the women oppressors. He’s a hero for our times!

Rodger was, I gather, mentally ill, but that doesn’t change the way misogynist, anti-woman, anti-feminism thinking seems to have fueled him. Rodgers himself credited misogynist websites with confirming his views that women were filthy sluts who should never be allowed to choose who they sleep with because they’ll only reject perfect alpha male types like himself for some inferior specimen. As several people put it, if a guy says he hates and loathes women, plans to kill a sorority house full of them and then attempts to do so, it’s not unreasonable to credit him with the motives he claims.

Women issues seem to be a recurrent problem with shooters. They’re almost always men. In several cases they’re domestic abusers. Or men who just feel frustrated, pissed and angry because women don’t put out for them. But the conclusion far too many people draw is that therefore it’s the woman’s fault. If only women would just be nice to their husbands, hubby wouldn’t have to beat them — no, wait, it’s that if women would only put men on a pedestal, worship and admire them, men wouldn’t have to shoot them. Why did I get those two confused?

It’s why I’ve always thought it a shame that Wonder Woman’s old foe Dr. Psycho lost the misogynist mission to keep all women in chains he had in the Golden Age. He could be a perfect caricature of the nastiest men’s rights activists, theocratic woman-haters and sexist propagandists like Limbaugh or Coulter. Not to mention, of course, President Shit-Gibbon.

All rights to image remain with current holder. Art by H.G. Peters

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

Blind Spots and satisfying endings (#SFWApro)

So last week the second season of NBC’s BLIND SPOT wrapped up. I wasn’t a big fan of S1, but this season seemed a marked improvement, making the unsatisfying season finish a disappointment.

The premise of Blind Spot (all rights to image remain with current holder) is that Jane Doe (Jaime Alexander) shows up in Times Square amnesiac and covered with tattoos. All of which turn out to be complex clues to upcoming or ongoing federal crimes. So she winds up working with a special FBI task force run by Kurt Weller (the guy in back) as she’s also a deadly fighter, marksman, martial artist …  Over the course of the season we learn Jane has ties to a terrorist mastermind Shepard; her presence on the FBI is part of Shepard’s master plan; Jane herself signed off on becoming an amnesiac.

This season we learn more. Shepard is the leader of Sandstorm, a conspiracy that believes the American government has become utterly corrupt and must be destroyed. It turns out Weller is a part of Shepard’s plan, which involves something called the Truman Protocols and COGS. In the next to last S2 episode we learn (as do the cast) that COGS is the Continuity Of Government Subcommittee. Under the Truman Protocol, in the event of a major threat to the government, the COGS — deputy heads of various government agencies — are relocated to an underground bunker so that if the government takes a hit, they’re ready to rebuild. Weller realizes this is Shepard’s plan — an attack on Washington followed by this entirely new cadre of leaders (some of whom are, of course Sandstorm) taking over. Shepard has used the tattoos to manipulate the FBI and the government all along to activate the protocols.

Needless to say, in the following episode Shepard’s attack is averted, she goes down (Jane’s brother Roman escapes) and Jane and Weller finally act on their burning passion. Cut to two years later: Jane has left the FBI for undisclosed reason, but then Weller shows up to tell her that most of the team has been kidnapped — he needs her to find them. Oh, and he has a mysterious McGuffin that makes her tattoos glow … Cue S3 (which I imagine will be past/present alternating timelines a la Lost, Once Upon a Time, Arrow, Quantico).

After a solid season, I found the finish disappointing. Ratings were right on the edge for cancellation and it felt very much like they’d wrapped it up fast so that if the axe fell there would be no leftover issues. Which is good, but …

I think my biggest problem is that I simply can’t buy the entire two seasons were all part of a plan. Maybe with more explanation I could buy it, but like Silva in Skyfall, Shepard would have to be a precog or a time traveler to calculate exactly how this would all play out (I may be wrong but I’m not rewatching the show to find out).

The ending also doesn’t convince me why Shepard worked so hard to look out for Weller. S2 showed she’s been watching over him for years — that seems like an awful lot of work just to fill one slot in COGS. Though that’s easier to explain: maybe she took an interest in him independent of her agenda, and later slotted him into her big plan later. Still, its a flaw.

And last but not least, while the finish is certainly lively (can Patterson the nerd deactivate the doomsday weapon in time?) it seems that it left a lot of the emotional arcs (and there were quite a few of them) unfinished. We did get Weller/Jane but that wasn’t really an arc this season — it felt more like the simplest way to provide a convenient happy ending.

I’ll give S3 a try, but right now, I’m not enthused.

Leave a comment

Filed under TV, Writing