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[personal profile] umadoshi
[ profile] wildpear was over last night, and among other things, we started talking about how it'd been ages since we watched anything together. We keep meaning to do that regularly during our hangouts, but ultimately The X-Files wasn't working for her--it's so very much of its time, although she's glad to have much more context for it now, because of course it's also powerfully influential--and we haven't really started in on anything else, other than the time I showed her an ep. of Princess Jellyfish.

We talked a bit about things we've been watching and meaning to watch individually: me wanting to watch Black Sails, her starting in on season 2 of Switched at Birth (which meant I got to tell her that Allison Scagliotti guest-starred in a couple of episodes at some point--[ profile] wildpear, if you see this, she's in season 2!) and having watched the first few episodes of Wynonna Earp). Wynonna Earp led to talking about shows that come with the "the first chunk of episodes are weak/terrible/not representative" warning, which is so common (see also: Black Sails), and between those things Stitchers came up, and then I was saying I still haven't seen the final season of The Vampire Diaries, other than the season premiere, even though--despite having wandered off from the show in early season 5 or so--I've been meaning to watch that season because Scags is in it.

I remember showing [ profile] wildpear a random episode from...uh, I don't remember; maybe late season 2?...back when I was watching TVD, and I don't think she remembers anything about that, but she somehow wound up watching the very first episode at one point and (fairly) thought it was absolutely terrible...and her mentioning that led to me telling her that even though I abandoned the show, it was way better than that once you get through the first chunk of episodes, although I honestly can't imagine ever rewatching past the first couple of seasons (once it gets into the whole Originals thing, roughly).

Upshot: I read her the Wikipedia summaries for episodes 1x01-1x05, and showed her 1x06, in which Elena and Stefan have the whole "oh God, you're a vampire!!!" day of explanations and he tells her some things about Katherine. I don't know if we'll watch further; I'm game, so it depends on her. (From the summary I expected more Katherine backstory than we actually got in that episode, which is why we watched that one, but IIRC that's around when the show actually starts finding its feet.) But wow, so many of the core cast aren't in that episode at all! Jenna's not around (possibly for reasons explained in a skipped episode), and Caroline and Bonnie and Tyler aren't onscreen at all. (Caroline's mom is, though!)

...and okay, I kinda want [ profile] wildpear to see some of the show so she can see Candice Accola work, because a) I wholeheartedly adore Caroline even though she doesn't remotely match the character type(s) I usually fall for, and b) Accola ("King" now, I guess?) is my fancast for Kelly Connolly in Newsflesh.

(While writing this post I got sidetracked by rewatching vidder dayln03's Caroline vid for the first time in ages, and I'm full of feelings now. I can't find the vid online to link to now, though. :/ The vidder's YouTube profile is easy to find, but that vid isn't there.)

Shortly before [ profile] wildpear headed home, I wound up telling her some very random things about Game of Thrones, which she is never, ever going to watch. It came up because some of the things people were saying about the current season, at least after the season premiere and maybe second episode, have been making me vaguely want to check in with the show after bailing an episode into...season 5, I think. (Huh. Same as with TVD.) I don't miss Game of Thrones, really, but wow, some of the acting is amazing. (See: Lena Headey for Stacy Mason! I mean, speaking of Newsflesh fancasting.)

(I really ought to consolidate my "fancasting" and "dreamcast" tags here. >.<)

Pod Save America

Jul. 27th, 2017 09:21 pm
laceblade: (Pod Save America)
[personal profile] laceblade posting in [site community profile] dw_community_promo
Three former aides to President Obama — Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor — started a media empire they named "Crooked Media," a hat-tip to Donald Trump. Their flagship podcast is Pod Save America, a freewheeling conversation about politics, the press, and the challenges posed by the Trump presidency.

Hang out at [community profile] podsaveamerica to discuss this podcasts and others by Crooked Media - Pod Save the People, Pod Save the World, Lovett or Leave It, and With Friends Like These.

In this community, we'll have discussion posts about each podcast. Talk about the guests, the conversations, whatever grievances were aired during the ads (lol). We'll also have posts about targeted activism. For example, during Resistance Recesses, you can discuss in the comments if/what you did. (The podcasts themselves frequently suggest specific action items for listeners.)

Listen to all of the podcasts, or just 1 or 2. No pressure.
gingicat: the hands of Doctor Who #10, Martha Jones, and Jack Harkness clasped together with the caption "All for One" (all for one)
[personal profile] gingicat posting in [community profile] metaquotes
The characters I liked best? The bad guys. They were hard-working citizens who got screwed out of jobs that were legally contracted as theirs. So they decided to do something else, by selling alien equipment.

Context contains spoilers for a movie currently in theatres.

Reading “Winter’s King”

Jul. 27th, 2017 06:00 am
[syndicated profile] book_view_cafe_feed

Posted by Nancy Jane Moore

Hainish NovelsI ordered a copy of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish Novels & Stories from the Library of America and received my copy in a couple of days, even though the book is not yet officially in print. (You can order yours here, if you’re as eager as I was.)

I have read most of these works, but some I got from the library and others are tattered mass-market paperbacks (I’m a reader, not a collector). I knew I wanted to have all of them at hand for reference and re-reading.

Being one who likes to start from the beginning, I read Ursula’s introduction to Volume I, and immediately came to her discussion of The Left Hand of Darkness and the story, “Winter’s King,” which is set in the same world.

She writes that some feminists criticized the novel because she used male pronouns for her characters, who are, of course, not male or female. So, when she published the short story in The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, she decided to make a small change:

It occurred to me that I might make some amends for all the hes in Left Hand by using shes in a revised version of “Winter’s King.”

She goes on to observe:

Yet if anybody noticed, nothing was said. Nobody got angry and nobody sighed, “Ah, now that’s better.” The experiment seemed to have no result at all. I still find it odd.

I noticed.

My noticing didn’t make any difference in the SF lit crit world, because I read both The Left Hand of Darkness and “Winter’s King” in the late 70s and early 80s – some years after they both came out. And I wasn’t doing any critical writing about what I read at the time. I was just reading.

While I liked The Left Hand of Darkness very much, it did not affect me in a feminist way. I noted that the characters were neither (or both) male or female, which I found interesting, but I was mostly captivated by the story and the clash of cultures. It did not affect me nearly as much as The Dispossessed, which nailed my experiences in co-ops and leftist politics, and made me think hard about the way things could be.

But the combined use of male honorifics (“king” “Mr.”) and female pronouns in “Winter’s King” stunned me. It was in reading that story that I truly realized the Gethenians were not men who happened to be able to reproduce, but something very different. The default view of them could as easily be female as male, and a more sophisticated reading made it clear that neither binary was an appropriate short-cut.

That’s a lot of power from changing a few pronouns.

Ursula goes on to say:

I wish I could write a third version that truly represents the character’s lack of gender.

I’d like to see that, too, but I agree with her that the English language is still deficient in ungendered pronouns. Singular they works in some contexts, but it can cause confusion and may require info dumps in some stories. I find they works well in essays in place of the more cumbersome “he or she,” especially since it leaves open the possibility of “neither he nor she.” It’s also the pronoun of choice for some folks, and I find that effective.

But what I’d really like to see gender-neutral pronouns and honorifics that can be used for anyone, regardless of their gender, and regardless whether we’re dealing with specific people or talking generally. That way we wouldn’t need to pay attention to gender when it isn’t relevant, which is most of the time.

I have done my own experiments with such things. I wrote “Walking Contradiction,” my story about ambigender people, in first person and avoided pronouns in speaking of any ambigendered characters. The story runs some 13,000 words, and it took time and the modern advantage of search and replace to do it. (It’s in my collection of the same name.)

In The Weave, I used “it” for my aliens when I was in their point of view. I wasn’t completely happy with that choice, but it seemed like the best fit. My humans were making guesses about alien gender for a good section of the book, so I had them use “he” and “she” until they discovered they had made a bad call. Perhaps if my humans had started out with a good gender-neutral term they wouldn’t have made that mistake.

I’m still hoping we’ll eventually get good all purpose gender-neutral pronouns and honorifics. Widespread acceptance of singular they is a start, and “Mx” may work on formal letters, but we can do better.

Given my reaction to “Winter’s King,” I’m sure changing gender terms is going to change how people think and respond to each other. A good thing.


America #1 - Breaking Up

Jul. 27th, 2017 06:25 pm
informationgeek: (RainbowDash)
[personal profile] informationgeek posting in [community profile] scans_daily
If there was one Marvel book that I had to say was probably the weakest thing currently being published, it would be America. It's not because of the themes or the character, but mostly on the writing... and how the character is written. There's... problems if you haven't noticed.

As such, let's take a brief look at one of the scenes of the first issue.

Read more... )

Lingering Sea Ice on Hudson Bay

Jul. 28th, 2017 12:00 am
[syndicated profile] earthobservatory_iod_feed

Lingering Sea Ice on Hudson Bay
When the ice on Hudson Bay breaks up and melts away, polar bears head to shore for a few months. This year they stayed out a little longer.


Jul. 27th, 2017 10:11 pm
[syndicated profile] yarn_harlot_feed

Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

I might have spoken too soon when I said I was feeling better, so let’s just do Karmic Balancing gifts and try not to think about it. I’m taking today and knitting a sock, and working on catching up on paperwork, and trying to put my business to bed for the week that I’ll (hopefully) be away, and I’m trying not to whine. Thanks for the donations my petals, you guys are so amazing that I’ve now met my public goal – I’m looking now to blow it out of the water. Last year you guys took me way, way over my private and public goals, and I know that there’s no force out there like knitters. None. Every ding on my phone makes me feel a little better, and makes me more hopeful that this is going to be okay. Let’s hope that Karma works, and that trying to put something good out there does something good for how I feel. A miracle cure by tomorrow would be nice.

Anne at The Twisted Fleece has two beautiful gifts the first one is for Grace T:

Annehook 2017-07-27 Anneroving 2017-07-27

100 g of handdyed Shetland roving. Dyed by Anne, and the fleece came from her friends’ flock. Comes with a handcrafted (again, made by Anne) orifice hook, of sterling silver, embellished with a handcrafted lampwork bead.

Anne also has 3 skeins of 100% merino worsted weight yarn. Dyed using food safe dyes. 120 yards/skein, 1.75 oz, 50 grams, and she’ll be mailing those to Kay W..

Anneyarn 2017-07-27

Belinda went for a stash dive, and came up with these two beautiful skeins of Malabrigo Lace. Turns out they’re for Helen H. Enjoy!

belindamalabrigolace 2017-07-27

The Oswego NY Coffee Connection knitters would like to donate two skeins of Berroco Weekend in colors 5947 (salmon swimming upstream) and 5966 (blue sky in summer). They’ll be mailing it out to Peg L, and I hope she loves it.

berrocoweekend 2017-07-27

Helle has two beautiful skeins, going out into the world to make a little magic. Heritage Yarns 100% tencel, colour is Sunrise Serenade 8 ounces; 1680 yards for Donna G.

heritageyarnsunrise 2017-07-27

and Knitted Wit Worsted, 100% Super wash Merino, Colour: She Persisted (how appropriate) 4 ounces, 200 yards for  Lisa B.  Thank you Helle!

knittedwitworsted 2017-07-27

Our good friend Kathleen Sperling has three lovely gifts of e-book pattern collections. First, her blanket trilogy, consisting of Cervelli, Around the Block, and The Celtic Knotwork Baby Blanket. That’s for Donna B.

blankettrillogy 2017-07-27

Then an Accessories Quartet, that’s Dambrod, Balthazar’s Jumper Socks, Jianzhi cowl, and the Addis Abeba shawl. Those are going to Jessica R.

accessoryset 2017-07-27

Last, but not least, she’ll be sending her Darling Layette eBook to Maggie B.

layetteset 2017-07-27

Tim has a set of four 3 X 4 1/2″ wonder wallets, each with five pockets. They are great for extra credit cards or cash or for giving gift cards. Those are going to Pippi S.

wonderwallets 2017-07-27

Next, a copy of a great new book from Tracy Purtscher, Dimensional Tuck Knitting.

tuckknitting 2017-07-27

It’s not out until September, so there will be a tiny delay in getting it, but when Tracy H does, I hope she loves it.

We’ve got a few from an amazing person who would like to be an anonymous Balancer, one 8oz bag of Elsie’s Discount Roving & Dyes “Amethyst”, and one in purple. The secret Santa will be mailing those to Rhea K.

purple top 2017-07-27 amethysttp 2017-07-27

Our mystery person also has approximately 20 batts, each weighing about 40 grams, of a creamy white Finn-cross roving. Hand processed by Anonymous Balancer, those are for Robyn R.

batts 2017-07-27

She’s also parting with one 40 oz. bundle of Plum Crazy Ranch Fiber Art Mulberry Silk Sliver, and one 1oz bundle of blue-green, hand-dyed Firestar, and mailing it to Linda L.

silksliver 2017-07-27

Last but not least, she’s somehow parting with THREE braids of Upstream Alpaca “Hand Painted Combed Top 100% Baby Alpaca” in “Pinot Noir” – 4 oz each braid. Those will be winging their way to Kelly M.

upstreamalpaca 2017-07-27

Emily has an amazing gift. 8 balls of gorgeous blue angora, in its original box. Emily says “It is old, though I don’t know by how; I received it from a fiber artist friend who is retiring and downsizing. Her only condition of giving it to me was that I “make something awesome”, and since you are doing that with PWA and the Rally, it only seems fitting.” I hope Holly W makes something awesome!

angora 2017-07-27

Karen Fletcher’s got a good one, TEN free copies of her pattern The Texture Block Cowl.  It’s a good one, takes a single skein of worsted weight yarn, and looks like a charming defense against the elements. (And a good Christmas present, if you’re in the mood.)  She’ll be sending those along to Kathleen R, Cherilyn P, Sarah R, Barbara J, Tara W, Jaime P, Beth W, Maggie H, Alicia R, and Belinda H.

textureblockcowl 2017-07-27

Finally, a gorgeous “Rainbow is the new black” project bag from Jan Smiley. (Peek at her shop, it’s all lovely.) This bag is for Janis M, and I hope she loves it.

orangisthnewblack 2017-07-27

Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I’m going to go lie down and wait for my miracle. I’m sure it’s on its way. Cross your needles, everybody.

Dancing and shopping and waiting

Jul. 27th, 2017 10:16 pm
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
[personal profile] beccaelizabeth
The dancing today was pretty good. No crunch even when the tricky bit with jumping into gaps. Winning.

Shopping was slightly less win, though I now have leggings. I thought they would be more trousery. I'm going to wear them anyway, the pinstripes are nice. I couldn't find a stick for putting the floor wipes on, just a bazillion sorts of mop that aren't that. But I bought bread and sandwich fillings and other food, and all the things the cleaner asked for, so that part worked.

Then when we got home we had to wait half an hour for an ambulance and some people. Don't know what happened, but the ambulance went away and a car full followed it. Hope they are all okays. With the ambulance parked though there ended up being four cars that couldn't get in or out. Here is not well designed. I am unlikely to ever know what that was about though, so I'm just going to assume that the correct help arrived in good time and all shall be well. *xfingers*

I liked the earlier bits of the evening much better.

For me, pretty good day, for some neighbours, not so much.

Orbit US turns 10

Jul. 27th, 2017 03:56 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll

Over the last decade, Orbit US, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, has quickly established itself as one of the premiere publishers of science fiction and fantasy, and a reliable source for everything from innovative works of science fiction to blockbuster epic fantasies. To celebrate the milestone, a selection of landmark Orbit titles is currently available on Nook for just $2.99 each, but we wanted to do more than point you toward some great titles, so we asked Orbit’s publisher, Tim Holman, to share a bit of history. Below his comments, you’ll find a timeline of key dates in Orbit’s history.

More here
[syndicated profile] tordotcom_feed

Posted by Niall Alexander

This evening, at a special ceremony held at Foyles’ flagship bookshop on Charing Cross Road in lovely London, the winner of the 31st annual Arthur C. Clarke Award was announced. A suitably celebratory spread of genre readers, writers and industry figures were in attendance as the UK’s most prestigious prize for science fiction literature was awarded to Colson Whitehead for his “intensely moving” novel The Underground Railroad.

Andrew M. Butler, chair of a panel of judges that included representatives of the British Science Fiction Association, the Science Fiction Foundation and the SCI-FI LONDON Film Festival, expressed delight at the decision, describing Whitehead’s sixth novel—which concerns a pair of slaves fighting for their freedom along the length of a subterranean railway—as “a gripping account both of humanity’s inhumanity and the potential for resistance, underpinned by science fiction’s ability to make metaphor literal.”

Whitehead himself was unfortunately unable to attend the ceremony, but plenty of peeps from his UK publisher Fleet were on hand to read out this short but sweet speech:

“This is wonderful news! Way back when I was ten years old, it was science fiction and fantasy that made me want to be a writer. If you were a writer, you could work from home, you didn’t have to talk to anybody, and you could just make up stuff all day. Stuff about robots and maybe zombies and maybe even miraculous railway lines. Fantasy, like realism, is a tool for describing the world, and I’m grateful that a book like The Underground Railroad, which could not exist without the toolkit of fantastic literature, is being recognised with the Arthur C. Clarke Award.”

Whitehead’s triumph entitles him to the traditional trophy—a commemorative, engraved bookend—and a prize pot of £2017.

As “a tribute to Sir Arthur’s original intent that the award be as inclusive as possible in defining its genre,” Award Director Tom Hunter added, “and a book that demonstrates science fiction’s uncanny ability to be both of the moment and an enduringly powerful message for futures to come […] The Underground Railroad is a much-deserved winner.” Not least, he noted, because “2017 marks Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s centenary year.”

Given which, the aforementioned ceremony also acted as the staging ground for several exciting announcements, with Hunter revealing “commemorative plans for a new science fiction anthology featuring stories from both past winning and shortlisted authors where every story will be precisely 2001 words long.”

Add to that a mooted “music project releasing a science fiction score inspired by Sir Arthur’s famous ‘Three Laws’ quotes,” the second of which—which states that “the only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible”—feels like a fitting encapsulation of the Arthur C. Clarke Award administration’s exceedingly interesting ambitions.

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and He lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.

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Posted by Leigh Butler

Ladies and gentlemen and beings of indeterminate provenance! I present to you the MRGN post of a thousand and one follies, jollies and lick ‘em lollies: 1997’s The Fifth Element! Supergreen!

Previous entries can be found here. Please note that as with all films covered on the Nostalgia Rewatch, this post will be rife with spoilers for the film.

And now, the post!

Probably the best (and most appropriately nostalgic) way to sum up the diversity of reaction to The Fifth Element when it was originally released is what happened the first time I saw it in 1997, 20 years ago. (Jeez.) I went to see it in the theater with my friend Parag, in Austin, Texas. Both of us went in not knowing much more about it than that it was science fiction and starred Bruce Willis. Needless to say, The Fifth Element was nothing at all what either of us had expected.

I was rapt. Parag fell asleep.

One of our favorite things to argue about for the rest of college, thereafter, was why he was so wrong to say the movie was awful, and I was so wrong to say it was awesome. This argument never got anywhere, of course, but that was okay, because “getting somewhere” was never the point of any of our arguments. I miss ya, Parag.

And the thing is, we really should not rag on my friend for hating on The Fifth Element (or, well, not rag on him much) because from a certain point of view it is an awful movie. The plot, for example. To say the plot of this film is “simplistic” is probably an insult to simple things. I mean, the story can literally be summed up as “giant ball of evil comes to destroy the world; giant ball of evil is stopped by the power of love”. I’m all for not over-complicating things, but wow.

It’s also pretty easy to see how the crazed rainbow filling of that Wonderbread plot sandwich could be offputting as well, especially when it crashes into the expectations one may justifiably be harboring about “a science fiction movie starring Bruce Willis”.

Let’s just say, growing up in the 80s and 90s gives you some very definite parameters for what constitutes A Bruce Willis Movie, and other than the gun-heavy mayhem, The Fifth Element fulfills just about none of them.

KATE: The movie puts him in a backless orange ribbed tank top, for Christ’s sake.

LIZ: Didn’t make him any less sexy.

No, no it did not, mostly because there is just about nothing in existence that can lessen that man’s sexy. But the choice to dress Bruce frickin’ Willis, who is right up there with John Wayne in the Quintessential American Rugged Masculinity Sweepstakes, in an outfit that so clearly gives the middle finger to American ideals of what a Rugged Man Hero would wear, signals without doubt that this movie is not even remotely interested in catering to the expectations that the largely American-dominated action/sci-fi movie genre has ingrained in us all. Jean Paul Gaultier is a gift to humanity for this costuming decision alone, let alone all the others.

The presence of Bruce Willis (and an entire cast of largely non-French actors) does just about zilch to mitigate how intensely, screamingly French The Fifth Element is. Even Bruce Willis himself seems baffled by the sheer Frenchness he is surrounded by, and I have to confess one of my favorite things about this movie is how Willis wanders through it with a bemused WTF look on his face pretty much the entire time. It is hilarious.

Basically The Fifth Element is so French, I am surprised that you couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower from every spaceship window. And that’s something that you’re either going to find awful, or find awesome.

I thought it was one of the most wonderful things I’d ever seen. And my sisters agree.

I just don’t think a big-budget sci-fi action American film in the 1990s (hell, an American action movie now) would ever have dared to have characters so blatantly eccentric, to have costumes so boldly outré (French, y’all!), to be not just willing to subvert sexual and gender norms but to be downright gleeful about bouncing up to those norms and smacking them in the face with a feather boa. The latter being best exemplified, of course, by the incomparable Ruby Rhod.

I admit that I was… nonplussed with Chris Tucker’s character, the first time I saw this. I had never seen anything like him at the time; 1997 was a long time before queer or non-gender conforming characters became a common sight in American entertainment, and therefore I had very little context for him available to me – and most of the context I did have was unflattering, at best. Ruby made me uncomfortable, for reasons I understood, but only inarticulately. But once I did reach greater clarity on those reasons, I realized that Ruby Rhod was one of the most brilliantly subversive characters to ever appear in mainstream cinema, and I have adored him ever since.

On the surface, Ruby appears to be just outrageous (verging-on-obnoxious) comic relief, and he certainly is that, but the underlying implications of his character are much more subtle, and they get more amazing the longer you think about them. He is the essence of the term “genderqueer”, in a time when that concept barely existed in the mainstream consciousness (much less was accepted by it). Other than that he is definitely referred to with the male pronoun, Ruby rejects conformity to either male or female traditional gender markers with palpable contempt. But the most amazing thing about him is that he receives no censure for this. His demeanor and style is not only accepted without question by the other characters, he is in fact galactically famous for it, and apparently is one of the biggest celebrities of the time. Think about that for a minute.

None of the humor he is the target of is related to his queerness, either. This is harder to explain, because certainly we all laughed at his histrionics –


– (true), which could be viewed as mockery for his effeminate mannerisms, but somehow it didn’t feel like that’s why we were laughing. I dunno, maybe someone else could explain it better than me. Or maybe I’m wrong. But even if I am, Ruby’s mere existence demonstrated a far bolder willingness to imagine how the future will be truly different than the past than any amount of flying cars or spaceships ever would.

LIZ & KATE: Leeloo Dallas Multipass!

We also have to talk about Leeloo, of course. The internet tells me that Leeloo was originally supposed to have been played by Julia Roberts (and Korben was supposed to be Mel Gibson, eek), which means that Fifth Element fans dodged the world’s biggest miscasting bullet. I am not a Julia Roberts hater, particularly, but there is no way in the world that she could have made this character work the way Milla Jovovich did. Milla, for all her tiny beauty, has an undercurrent of feral wildness that has made every role I’ve ever seen her in unforgettable, and she is utterly convincing in any ass-kicking context.

Leeloo’s ass-kickingness was not quite the revelation Ruby Rhod’s character was (female action heroes may have been relatively sparse overall compared to their male counterparts, but it certainly wasn’t a new idea), and it was a little annoying that apparently even in the future unconscious gender assumptions are still the norm (evidenced by the played-for-laughs revelation of the body-rebuilding scene, where everyone is pruriently amazed that the Supreme Being is a chick), but nevertheless I enjoyed the hell out of Leeloo and her cheerfully odd mix of naiveté and wisdom.

The argument can certainly be made (and it has been) that the film both damsels and infantilizes her, but I don’t necessarily agree. The film was trying to make the point that Leeloo was both strong and fragile, and needed support as well as freedom, and that’s something I can get behind, as a rejection of the toxic masculinity trope that true heroes are entirely self-sufficient loners who can do anything and never need help. Leeloo may not take the prize for the most feminist representation of an action heroine ever, but she was a better attempt at it than many of her fictional peers.

KATE: What I don’t understand is, if the Mondashawans were planning to bring her to Earth all along, why wasn’t Leeloo educated in our language and history and stuff beforehand?

LIZ: Because she was still in the coffin thingy.

KATE: Nuh-uh, the gauntlet they rebuilt her from was holding a throttle from the ship!

We soon realized, though, after seeing a shot of the case delivered to Zorg that shows one of the handles torn off, that the gauntlet must have been holding the stones case, not operating the ship. So she’d been asleep all this time. Which makes sense as long as you don’t think about it too closely.

LIZ: More sense than why a planet-sized ball of evil would communicate with its henchmen via AT&T, anyway.

KATE: Or why that would make you leak black goo from your forehead.

LIZ: I thought that was blood.

KATE: That doesn’t make any sense either!

ME: Guys, don’t look at the plot. Turn away from the plot, please.

Fun fact: the hero and the villain of TFE (Willis and Oldman, respectively) not only never interact with each other, neither one is ever even aware of the existence of the other. I don’t know if that also counts as a plot flaw or not, but it is certainly interesting to think about re: story structure.

Also, the diva scene.

This scene is ridiculous. It was ridiculous then, and it is even more ridiculous now, with the very 90s electronica dating it. I do not care in the slightest, and it remains one of my favorite things ever. I still get chills every time I watch it. Fight me.

Another fun fact: the aria the Diva sings is generally considered to be one of the most difficult in opera, and the techno part is designed to be actually impossible to perform by a human. This has since proven, amazingly, to not be true. Wow.

Also, Luke Perry is in this movie for some reason.

LIZ: Tiny machine gun! It’s adorable! Is that a Luger?

ME: I… have no idea?

LIZ: I’m going to be so impressed if I got that right.

(She was not right, though her choice would have been a lot more historically accurate, since Lugers were actually around in 1914. Turns out Perry’s gun was a Mauser M712 Schnellfeuer, and counts as an anachronism, because it didn’t exist until the 1930s. Oh well.)

Luke Perry aside, though, the reason this movie worked is because of – well, many things, but mostly (in my opinion) that its actors had the talent and the courage to commit to its general insanity. Gary Oldman may not have understood exactly why he was wearing Tupperware on his head while being cartoonishly evil, and Chris Tucker may or may not have really believed that Ruby Rhod could be an intergalactic superstar, but they committed to those characters being those things. Everyone in the cast, even Willis, played the shit out of their characters, and that’s why everything else worked.

If you want a demonstration of how vital that commitment and talent is to making something like The Fifth Element work, look no further than Luc Besson’s failed attempt to recreate it, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – or rather, don’t bother. Emily Asher-Perrin explains why with wonderful accuracy, but for my own part I’ll just say my time and money would have been much better spent going to see Wonder Woman again. Shame.

That said, Besson’s more recent failures do not mitigate my love for his earlier successes, of which The Fifth Element is by far and away my and my sisters’ favorite of his films. No matter how many times I see it, I can always watch it again. The Fifth Element was spectacle, it was fashion, it was absurdity, it was bright colors and strange French humor and unashamed audacity. Even twenty years later, it is unique, and likely always will be.

And now, our patented MRGN Nostalgia Love to Reality Love 1-10 Scale of Awesomeness!

Nostalgia: 8.5

Reality: 9

And that’s all, folks! FOR NOW. Come back for more soon!

an experiment in RSI

Jul. 27th, 2017 12:12 pm
sistawendy: (smartass hester)
[personal profile] sistawendy
I've been wondering lately which is worse for the RSI in my wrist: vigorous, frequent jilling off, or the integrated, flat rectangular keyboards with chiclet keys that come with Macbooks? Evidently it's the latter. I have fancy new Kinesis Advantage keyboards at work and at home, but I've also been a bit... reckless otherwise. I'm feeling some ill effects, maybe - it's hard to get away from the chiclets completely - but nothing compared to months past.

This is good news, to say the least.

theme: walking around the north end

Jul. 27th, 2017 11:05 am
sistawendy: (flirty hippy)
[personal profile] sistawendy
On the way to get my hair done yesterday I ran into A, the seamstress who'll be doing part of my birthday ensemble. Fun fact: years ago, I dated A a few times. I knew A had just had a bad breakup and was looking for a place to live & sew. She still can do the commission and wants it. (Whew!) What I wasn't sure of was the identity of her erstwhile partner & apartment mate: N, who holds the distinction of being the only woman ever to grab me by the hair, get me up against a wall, and make out with me. As much as I love having several of my buttons mashed at the same time, the sensible side of me says I dodged at least one bullet.

Drinks on Phinney Ridge* with [personal profile] minim_calibre Tuesday evening. It was a bonding experience: two middle-aged queer ladies with kids and much else in common. This only happens once in a purple moon, and I wish it happened way more often. She walked me home down the ridge, and then asked which way back up to her car was least likely to trash her knees. Aw! And yikes!

Yesterday, an increasingly rare dinner at home with the Wendling followed by dragging him up the ridge to catch the sunset. Good: he whined about that less than he used to. Bad: he expressed the opinion that I'll never find Ms. Right. He makes the absolutely ironclad point that it gets harder as you get older. Thanks a lot, kiddo.

*Cocktails for me, mocktails for her, because reasons.
[syndicated profile] tordotcom_feed

Posted by Brit Mandelo

First in a duet from Leena Likitalo, The Five Daughters of the Moon is a second-world fantasy inspired by the Russian Revolution. The narrative follows the five sisters of the royal family as their empire collapses around them, driven in part by youthful idealism and in part by cruel magic and manipulation. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different sister, from the youngest Alina who sees the world of shadows to the oldest Celestia who has become involved with the scientist-sorcerer Gagargi Prataslav.

Representing the revolution from the interior of the royal family, Likitalo is able to explore a range of reactions and levels of awareness; Elise and Celestia are aware of the suffering in their empire and wish to support a revolution that will address it, while the younger three are more aware of the horrible magic and undercurrents of betrayal surrounding Prataslav, but no one will listen to their concerns. This mismatch leads to the beginning of the collapse of the empire itself.

Likitalo’s reinterpretation of the Russian revolution is contemplative and straightforward. The interior lives of the narrating characters are equally as significant as the action occurring around them; each of these girls has a specific outlook and set of blind-spots, and the novel does a solid job of representing them all concurrently. It’s also intriguing to see a full royal lineage decided by and reliant on female succession: the Empress chooses lovers to bear children from, but those fathers change from child to child and the royal family is entirely made up of daughters.

There are, in truth, only two significant male characters: Gagargi Prataslav (the Rasputin analogue) and Captain Janlav. The gagargi is the villain of the piece, whose Great Thinking Machine runs on stolen human souls, while the Captain is a young idealist whose romance with Elise is manipulated and then erased from his mind by the gagargi. I’ll be interested to see his role in the second half of the story, as Likitalo is hinting quite forcefully that his lost memories might be recoverable and significant.

The book’s focus on girls’ lives, strengths, and weaknesses makes for a fresh take on the question of violent revolution. Most of these girls are too young to participate fully but are nonetheless caught up in the struggle. Sibilia, fifteen and on the cusp of her debut, is one of the most interesting narrators as a result of this duality. She is both too young to be an adult and too old to be a child. Her chapters, also, are directly recorded as if to her notebook—she is the only one of the five to keep a written record. She observes and analyzes, and believes herself to be an accurate narrator, but when we contrast her observations with those of her older sisters we realize that she is still on the edge of childhood and misses quite a lot. It’s a clever and subtle contrast that adds depth to the otherwise-direct narrative.

The novel’s concern with interiority also has the curious and pleasing effect of rendering the reader as blind and acted-upon as the characters. There are large-scale events happening in the world around them, but the daughters are limited to their observations—first within their gilded palace and then from the blocked windows of the train carrying them to exile or worse. The shift from the narration of Merile, eleven, to Celestia and Elise, twenty-two and sixteen, is notable as well for different reasons: the older girls are aware of the real dangers of the men and the world around them.

Likitalo doesn’t shy away from the physical reality of being a young woman in the world, even in a world where women are treated more as equals. Celestia is ensnared and raped under the influence of magic by Prataslav; she trades her unwanted unborn child to a witch for the healing of her youngest sister. It is an almost-unspoken knowledge that the oldest children choose to keep from the youngest, who have not yet had to think about the real possibility of violence against their bodies. This multifaceted approach allows The Five Daughters of the Moon to explore issues associated with womanhood and femininity in a thorough and understated manner, full of women and girls as its story is. Given that this is a story inspired by the 1917 revolution—a revolution often associated primarily with men, where the women are merely victims (the girl children, the most famous of whom is Anastasia) or fall prey to bad influence (Tsarina Alexandra)—it’s especially intriguing to see it reinterpreted and approached entirely from a female perspective.

As for criticisms, I admit to a measure of confusion at the decision to split this arc into two short novels and publish them as such. While I’m comfortable with books that do not stand on their own, as well as duologies that lean heavily on each other, in this particular case the narrative feels clipped and unbalanced by it. The development in the first volume unfolds at a measured pace; the majority of the second half takes place on a train during the sisters’ captivity. The climactic scene, of Celestia’s rescue plot failing, feels like the middle scene of a book building tension for the following chapter. The slow development of the plot arc contributes to the sense of imbalance or abruptness in the close of this volume.

Of course, I’m still very interested in seeing the second half of the story—but it’s hard to think of it as a second novel. The Five Daughters of the Moon does not stand on its own, and the pacing is a bit off-putting as a result, but the narrative itself is nonetheless compelling. I strongly suspect that reading it back to back with its companion novel will erase most of this sense of mismatched pacing; unfortunately, we’ll have to wait and see for that second half to be released.

The Five Daughters of the Moon is available now from Publishing.
Book two in the Waning Moon duology, The Sisters of the Crescent Empress, publishes November 7th.

dorchadas: (Pile of Dice)
[personal profile] dorchadas
I've been tinkering with RPGs again. Some people write fanfiction, some people draw fanart, and I come up with RPG homebrew. Even though I'm in three games right now--[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's 7th Sea game, [ profile] mutantur's Call of Cthulhu game, and my own Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom game--and thus have no time for another one, I just enjoy game design. My latest burst of creativity was spurred on by finding Heretical Shadows, someone's fan supplement for using the Shadowrun system with fantasy settings. It's something I've always wanted to try, since there's already rules for fantasy races, magic, and spirits, it's skill-based instead of class-and-level based, and it uses my favorite dice mechanic (giant pools of dice). But it would be a bunch of work for a game that I'm not likely to run anytime soon, so I'm glad someone else did it.

I keep thinking about tweaking it more, but I should actually run Shadowrun for a while first to familiarize myself with the system. I did a lot of tinkering with Exalted, but I ran that game for years. And anyway, one of my players perks up every time I mention canon Shadowrun so that's probably next in the queue. And urban fantasy cyberpunk is a good departure from grim sword and sorcery.

At [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's suggestion, we sat down and watched an episode of Chef's Table about Ivan Orkin, a Jewish New Yorker who ran a ramen restaurant in Japan. So now I want to move back to Japan, and I really want a bowl of ramen. Especially his ramen, with its noodles made in-house using toasted rye flour. He's right that it's very unlikely a Japanese person would have thought to do that, especially since they usually buy their noodles.

This also reminds me of the first time I saw salarymen ordering noodle refills and decided to do it myself. I spent a few minutes psyching myself up and formulating how to ask and eventually said something like すみません、もう麺を一皿お願いします ("Excuse me, may I have another plate of noodles?"), and the ramenyasan looked at me quizzically and said かえだま (kaedama), the specific word for that very thing. Emoji Smiling sweatdrop I did get my noodles, though.

And speaking of food:

Farmer's Market dinner )

Overcooked comes out on Switch tonight and we're probably going to buy it. Usually, if a game is multiplatform I buy it on PC for future-proofing reasons--I just recently played through a game from 1994 with no problems at all--but Overcooked is specifically local co-op only, and sitting on the couch next to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd to play is more comfortable than both of us crowding around my computer. It's also about cooking, one of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's my treasured hobby. I'm looking forward to cooking together, on the back of two speeding trucks!

Iraq + 100

Jul. 27th, 2017 05:00 pm
[syndicated profile] tordotcom_feed

Posted by Hassan Blasim

Iraq + 100 poses a question to contemporary Iraqi writers: what might your home city look like in the year 2103—exactly 100 years after the disastrous American and British-led invasion of Iraq? How might that war reach across a century of repair and rebirth, and affect the state of the country—its politics, its religion, its language, its culture—and how might Iraq have finally escaped its chaos, and found its own peace, a hundred years down the line?

As well as being an exercise in escaping the politics of the present, this anthology is also an opportunity for a hotbed of contemporary Arabic writers to offer its own spin on science fiction and fantasy.

Iraq + 100 publishes September 12th with Tor Books. We’re pleased to share editor Hassan Blasim’s introduction to the anthology, translated by Jonathan Wright.



The idea of this book was born in late 2013 amid the chaos and destruction left by the US and British occupation of Iraq—chaos that would drag Iraq into further destruction through Islamic State control over many parts of the country.

No nation in modern times has suffered as much as Iraqis have suffered. Iraq has not tasted peace, freedom or stability since the first British invasion of the country in 1914. Since then, Iraqis have lived through a long saga of wars, death, destruction, population displacement, imprisonment, torture, ruin and tragedies. So, perhaps unsurprisingly, it was difficult to persuade many Iraqi writers to write stories set in the future when they were already so busy writing about the cruelty, horror and shock of the present, or trying to delve into the past to reread Iraq’s former nightmares and glories. In the process, I personally wrote to most of the writers assembled here in an attempt to encourage them to write for the project. I told them that writing about the future would give them space to breathe outside the narrow confines of today’s reality, and that writers needed more space to explore and develop certain ideas and concepts through story-telling. I said they would be writing about a life that is almost unknown, without relying directly on their own experience or their personal reading of the past or the present. Writing about the future can be wonderful and exciting—an opportunity to understand ourselves, our hopes and our fears by breaking the shackles of time. It’s as if you’re dreaming about the destiny of man!

At first, I was uneasy that we would pull it off. The idea had originally been suggested by my friend and publisher, Ra Page, along the lines of ‘imagine Iraq a hundred years after the US occupation through short fiction’. My unease arose from two sources—the first was related to Iraqi literary writing in general and the second to the literary scene and my personal relationship with it.

In an article that dealt with the beginnings of our project, the journalist Mustafa Najjar wrote, ‘The reluctance of Arab writers to address the future has long been a great mystery, at least to me. The walls of repression and censorship that confine Arab creativity so severely offer in themselves an ideal environment for writing about the future, a space that is free of the taboos that weigh on the past and the present.’ Iraqi literature suffers from a dire shortage of science fiction writing and I am close to certain that this book of short stories is the first of its kind, in theme and in form, in the corpus of modern Iraqi literature. Faced with the fact that Iraqi literature lacks science fiction writing, we have tried in this project to open more windows for Iraqi writers. We asked them to write a short story about an Iraqi city 100 years after the start of the occupation and said they were not required to write science fiction but had complete freedom to choose any genre of writing that could address the future.

We did not select specific writers to take part in the project: we opened the door to anyone who wanted to take part and to imagine an Iraqi city in a hundred years, whether academics, novelists, or writers of short stories.

There are many possible reasons for this dearth of science fiction writing in Iraqi literature, and in Arabic literature in general. Perhaps the most obvious reason is that science fiction in the West was allowed to track the development of actual science from about the middle of the 19th century onwards. The same period was hardly a time of technological growth for Iraqis, languishing under Georgian ‘Mamluk’ then returning Ottoman overlords; indeed some would say the sun set on Iraqi science centuries before—as it set on their cultural and creative impulses—in the wake of the Abbasid caliphate. What have the subsequent rulers and invaders of Iraq done since then, the cynic might ask, apart from extol the glorious past when Baghdad was the centre of light and global knowledge? Knowledge, science and philosophy have all but been extinguished in Baghdad, by the long litany of invaders that have descended on Mesopotamia and destroyed its treasures. In 1258, the Mongol warlord Hulagu set fire to the great library of Baghdad, a place known as The House of Wisdom, where al-Khwarizmi had invented algebra, Sind ibn Ali had invented the decimal point, and Ya‘qub ibn Tariq had first calculated the radius of Earth, and the other known planets. The library was burnt to the ground. Precious books on philosophy, science, society, and literature were deliberately destroyed. Those that weren’t burnt were thrown into the Tigris and the Euphrates by the invaders. The water in the Euphrates is said to have turned blue from all the ink that bled into it from the books. From the Mongol Hulagu to the American Hulagu, George W., this once great seat of learning has been destroyed and pulverised. Bush the butcher, and his partner Blair, killed hundreds of thousands in Iraq, and in the process its museums were once again ransacked. All this without mercy or even shame, and in full view of the free world. But let’s leave aside Mr Bush, Mr Blair and the other killers still on the loose, and go back to our modest project, which tries to imagine a Modern Iraq that has somehow recovered from the West’s brutal invasion, in a way that Iraq didn’t recover from the Mongol one, in the blink of an eye that is 100 years. Our project tries to imagine the future for this country where writing, law, religion, art and agriculture were born, a country that has also produced some of the greatest real-life tragedies in modern times.

It is my belief that it is not only science fiction that is missing in modern Iraqi and Arab literature. I share with colleagues the view that Arab literature in general lacks diversity when it comes to genre writing—by which I mean detective novels, fantasy, science fiction, horror and so on—just as there is little diversity or transparency in our day-to-day lives. We, by which I mean Arabs today, are subservient to form and to narrow-minded thinking because we have been dominated by religious discourse and by repressive practices over long periods, often by dictatorships that served the capitalist West well, bowing to its whims and fitting with its preconceptions. But certainly that does not mean that science fiction is entirely absent from the Arab or Iraqi literary tradition. Reference is often made to the Arab roots and origins of science fiction and fantasy in A Thousand and One Nights and in Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, the thought experiment novel written in the 12th century by Ibn Tufail. Some people trace it to the Sumerians even further back, as the Iraqi writer Adnan al-Mubarak has done on several occasions. Al-Mubarak says, ‘Modern science fiction is strongly associated with the scientific-technological revolution and usually focuses on related issues. On the other hand science fiction is a literature that is part of a very old tradition that goes back to humanity’s first ideas about the real world and about the potential for human beings to constantly explore nature and the world. As is well-known, we find the first written material about journeys, including to other planets, in Sumerian literature (The Epic of Gilgamesh, for example), and in Assyrian and Egyptian literature. In an Egyptian text written four thousand years ago, we read about imaginary journeys to other planets. It is important in this context to go back to al-Mubarak’s essay, ‘How the Sumerians invented space aeronautics’.2 In the middle of the last century Arabic writers, from several Arab countries, started to experiment with writing science fiction and fantasy, and Egyptian literature was the dominant presence. But those short stories can be criticised for their references to the supernatural, to spirits, devils and fairytales that all fall back on that all-too dependable myth-kitty, A Thousand and One Nights. Hayy ibn Yaqzan, on the other hand, met the conditions for writing science fiction in an interesting way, and I believe that modern Arab literature has not paid enough attention to that work, just as it has not shown enough respect for the treasures of Sumerian, Ancient Egyptian or Babylonian writing.

Inflexible religious discourse has stifled the Arab imagination, and pride in the Arab poetic tradition has weakened the force and freedom of narration, while invaders and occupiers have shattered the peace that provided a home for the imagination.

The picture is not wholly bleak however.

Today there is great hope in a new generation, a generation native to the internet and to globalisation. It is a generation that is open-minded, more adventurous about genres, and more impatient to exercise the freedom to express oneself and to experiment. Serious attempts to write science fiction and fantasy have started to appear, especially now that the science is so much easier to get hold of: the internet gives us access to research, to documentaries, and to other novels and books from around the world, and allows us to follow the extraordinary and rapid development of human imagination through science and other forms of knowledge.

As for my second, more personal source of unease about editing this anthology, this arose from the fact that I am a writer whose work found its place in the wider, non-Arab world while I remained on the margins of the Iraqi literary scene—a scene I have always chosen to keep my distance from. Iraqi literature is populated by ‘official’ writers who belong to the Writers’ Union and other cultural institutions. It is a literary scene that depends on personal and cliquey relationships and on the corruption in the press and in the Ministry of Culture. Literary and other cultural projects in Iraq usually come about through personal relationships that are not entirely innocent. Being out in the cold like this comes with its disadvantages, and I have often pressed my editor, Ra Page, to write to Iraqi writers directly and asked him to make some of the selection decisions: if I were the only person in the picture and the sole decision-maker in this project, it might irritate or surprise some Iraqi writers, who are more accustomed to literary projects initiated by people from within the narrow circle of ‘usual suspects’.

The stories collected here have been written by Iraqis from various generations, and display a variety of styles. The authors were born and grew up in a variety of cities; some have abandoned those cities seeking peace and freedom in exile, while others have chosen to stay on and bear witness to their cities’ plight to the end.

The cities featured here—Baghdad, Basra, Ramadi, Mosul, Suleymania, Najaf—are all wildly different places, in fiction and reality, but are united by the tragedy of modern Iraq— the tragedy of a people that is desperate for just a solitary draught of peace. As Iraqis, at home and abroad, we are desperate for this peace, and thirsty for the imagination and creativity essential to rebuild this ancient country—this land of the two rivers.

–Hassan Blasim, September 2016
Translated by Jonathan Wright.

Excerpted from Iraq + 100, copyright © 2016 by Hassan Blasim


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