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Archive for the ‘General Geekery’ Category

No, I haven’t seen it.

But I was reading a review, and it got me to thinking: the problem with all these “gritty” or “realistic” or what-have-you superhero movie adaptations is that they try to soft-shoe around the original material. “Look,” the filmmakers seem to be saying, “yeah, we know it’s based on a comic book (shudder), but it can still be A Serious Movie.” And they downplay all the elements that actually make the comic book awesome.

Take Doctor Doom.

Sideshow Collectibles' Dr Doom figure--look how cool this guy is!

Sideshow Collectibles’ Dr Doom statue–look how cool this guy is!

This guy is awesome, right? He’s a super genius ruler of his own small European country, a dictator, a scientist, he talks about himself in the third person, he does not at all care what you think for HE IS DOOM.

Awesome.

So why the heck would you downplay or straight-up remove all of that from your movie? You think maybe a European genius dictator named VICTOR VON DOOM is too goofy, audiences won’t buy it? Then why the heck are you making a movie with someone named Victor Von Doom in the first place? No, the only way to make a movie, a good movie, with a supervillain named Doctor Doom, is to thoroughly own it.

Own your premise. Don’t be ashamed. People who think comic book material is too goofy or low-brow or campy or cheesy or whatever are not going to go see Fantastic Four anyway, I promise. But you have to own it.

This is a thing in fantasy and sf publishing, too, this feeling that elves or lasers or time travel or whatever are inherently less serious than, I don’t know, whatever real life things people prefer to elves or lasers or time travel, so we have to downplay those elements, or say “but it’s really a metaphor for cancer!” or something. Why you would prefer real life to elves et al is a question I am not equipped to answer, but some people are embarrassed by fantastic (hehe) elements in their fiction.

But you can’t do that. If you’re telling a story about elves, or spaceships, or zombies, or a the ancient, bitter rivalry between the dragon kingdom and the unicorns (I would read that novel), you have got to own your premise, own it to the hilt. Don’t be embarrassed; shout it from the rooftops! Say, YES! MY MOVIE IS ABOUT GIANT ROBOTS PUNCHING MONSTERS IN THE FACE! And if you do that, with passion and verve, you may not have told a serious story (although you can sneak the serious stuff in there, I promise, Pacific Rim forever), the “realism” crowd isn’t going to love it (they weren’t going to anyway, it’s okay), but you will have made something AWESOME.

SO SAYS DOOM

SO SAYS DOOM

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I got as far as Neil Armstrong on the left, and Mr Spock versus Sir Francis Drake on the right, and then I got stuck (though I suspect if I really buckled down and made myself decide, Spock would be the ultimate victor). How about you guys?

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SPOILER WARNING!  Lots and lots of spoilers.

WARNING: Lots and lots of spoilers.

So, Age of Ultron having made approximately a squillionty dollars this weekend, it’s fair to say people want to see it.  It’s got a lot of good stuff for the Marvel fan, loads of action, artsy camera angles, and wow the first half was a whole lot darker than I had anticipated, even knowing it’s a killer-AI story.  (Fortunately they front-loaded all the really dark stuff, leaving the second half free to be mainly about punching, shooting, smashing, and lightning-ing evil robots.)  The following is not a review, just a bunch of reaction thoughts.

Clint, you and Wanda are the sexy ones; show us your backsides.

Clint, you and Wanda are the sexy ones; show us your backsides.

Yes, Tony’s prima nocte joke was gross. But was it in character? Keep in mind that Tony until very recently was a womanizing cad, and old habits die hard. Plus he strikes me as the kind of guy who willingly sacrifices good taste for the funny, and if you’ve been drinking steadily all night with your buds, your standards for funny are going to be low. (Plus–not to wax all philosophical, but are we to outlaw all crassness and all … for lack of a better word … unattractive flaws in our flawed characters? Tony’s on a dark path, and it’s interesting that some commenters are willing to forgive a little bit of creating-a-killer-AI-that-almost-wipes-out-humanity but not a tasteless quip.)

Thor had more good character moments than in the previous team outing. The first time the team assembled (see what I did there?), it seemed like Whedon sympathized more than a little with Loki’s view of his adopted brother, and Thor’s only moments of humor were inadvertent. This time the future king of Asgard has a lot of lines that showcase the sly humor we haven’t seen from him since his first solo film. (Also a little bit of Hemsworth’s no doubt contractually obligated chiseled torso.)

I deeply appreciated that the team’s efforts during the final climactic battle were evenly split between Defeat Evil Robot Menace and Get Civilians to Safety. Especially after all the discussion about Man of Steel and its flagrant disregard for collateral damage, it was cool to see the issue explicitly addressed. Also, I don’t know about you guys, but when Hawkeye went back for the little kid, I was gripping the arms of my theatre chair thinking DON’T DIE CLINT/DON’T YOU DARE WHEDON.*

Of course, Whedon dared. That man has a pathological need to kill off characters. Is that somewhere in the DSM? I had been all ready, going in to the movie, to gripe about the MCU version of Quicksilver (I enjoyed the DoFP version, but I didn’t think Singer and his crew got Pietro right)–but I kind of fell in love with him, despite the dark roots and the weird sweater. He and Wanda made a great team, and their backstory is both poignant and horrifying on its own terms, and another marker on the road to Tony Stark: Evil Dictator.

But is Pietro really dead? I’m thinking of Barry Allen, aka The Flash, who not only runs amazingly fast but heals amazingly fast. Does Whedon’s recent griping about Marvel’s Hand of God returning other dead characters to life mean good things for fans of the silver-haired speedster? Fingers crossed, true believers!

So many hearts

So many hearts

Aaaaand … hands down my favorite part of the movie, the character I was most looking forward to seeing on the big screen, Paul Bettany’s absolutely note perfect VISION. I am in danger of falling into fangirl squeeing just thinking about him. The movie condensed a whole lot of rather complicated comics history into a nice compact little story, there, and Thor’s charging in and powering him up while everyone else bickered was just so take-charge-y and perfectly Thor, and then the business with the hammer! I am swooning, and little hearts are coming out of my eyes.

Might have some more coherent review-ish thoughts once I’ve slept/seen the movie again. I know bits of it frustrated me, and in parts I was actively bored, and I also know that I’m glad this is Mr Whedon’s last Marvel movie. Whether or not Age of Ultron succeeds as a story, or an action movie, it sure was full of robot-punching action, and it provides plenty of food for thought.

Ex-shell-sior!


*I know “Joss” is already a verb, as in, “Oh man, my pet fan theory totally got jossed by the new episodes,” but can “Whedon” but the new verb for gratuitously killing off characters? “You totally whedoned my favorite character, you unprintable swear!”

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About a million years ago I was the political cartoonist for my college newspaper.  Possibly I was not the best person for the job, because I’m not terribly political, nor fond of being controversial, but it was a fun gig while it lasted.  Today I was moved to draw my first political cartoon in 15 years.sp_comic

I’ve been a silent bystander in the ongoing battle in the field of SF/F, a reader and a fan of John C Wright, Larry Correia, Sarah Hoyt, and (lately) Brad Torgersen. I’ve read the blogs regarding Sad Puppies since SP2 last year, but I did nothing, I said nothing.  No more.

People I respect, as artists in a field I love and as human beings, are being maligned, tarred and feathered, vomited-upon by liars who accuse these good folk of the very pettiness and hatred of which the accusers themselves are guilty.  I chose to stand aside until now, because I am shy, because I feared reprisal and because really I am nobody.  I am not brave.  I am not a luminary in the field of fantastic literature; I’m a sketch card artist, a mom, and an indie author with one novel and two short stories to my name.

But I am angry now.  Who are the bad guys?  The ones who speak openly about their goals, who desire change–beneficial change!–in a field calcified by its own politics, who avow those desires in public forums and answer ad hominem attacks with cool logic?  Or the ones who vomit hatred, lies, and baseless accusations against the aforementioned?

No more. I may be nobody, but I choose to remain silent no longer.

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Warning: Spoilers for Arrow seasons 1 & 2

As a lifelong geek, when I became a mother I didn’t have access to many good examples of motherhood in the stories I enjoyed. Most of the moms in stories are absent (died in childbirth is a popular one), clueless, or vaguely benevolent (and then murdered by bandits or demons or time travelling killer robots, probably). And mainstream media is probably not much better. (I say “probably” because I frankly don’t know.) You’ve got the psycho Mommy Dearest types, or the Heroically Dying of Cancer moms … what else? I’m sure I don’t know.

Sometimes the moms don't even get names!  Sleeping Beauty's mom is "the Queen"

Sometimes the moms don’t even get names! Sleeping Beauty’s mom is “the Queen”

My own mother is an amazing woman (hi, Ma!) who raised me under challenging circumstances while building a business from the ground up, and it goes without saying (but I’m gonna say it anyway) that I admire her extremely. However, she’s a milder and probably kinder person than I am, and since I was a kid when she was dealing with some of her particular challenges, it’s safe to say I wasn’t really paying attention to how she did it.

So what’s a geek mom with a yen for stories to do? Who do you model yourself after? Because one thing stories do is get into our hearts and souls and show us how to be.

(Side note: I am a Catholic, and that means I should probably be modelling myself after Mary, mother of Jesus–but I admit I find her baffling and inaccessible, because other than storing things up in her heart and having that same heart pierced by a sword also, I’m not really sure what she did or how her example is useful in the day-to-day trenches of motherhood. Further note that this is a problem with me and not at all a problem with Mary.)

Enter Arrow‘s Moira Queen.

Mom of the Year?

Mom of the Year?

When the show began, I’m afraid I didn’t pay much attention to Oliver’s (i.e. the Green Arrow’s) mother. She seemed like she was going to be Evil Mom, or maybe Ruthless Businesswoman First and Mom Second, neither of which are tropes that interest me. As the series progressed, however (and the writing improved), I began to take notice.

The first thing that attracted me to Mrs Queen was her courage. In the Season 1 episode The Odyssey, the Hood–Arrow–Vigilante guy–confronts her in her office; she pretends terror and helplessness–and then grabs a gun and shoots him. (Of course, she doesn’t know she’s shooting her own son, but hey. Nobody is perfect!) Now, we could talk about the difference between moral courage and physical courage–but the fact is, Moira has both.

That doesn’t mean she’s perfect. This is a woman with a history of making seriously bad decisions. To list a few: she had an affair with (ewwww!) Malcolm Merlyn, bore his child, and lied about said child’s parentage. She collaborated on “The Undertaking,” and was complicit in the earthquake device’s completion and implementation. She betrayed a colleague to save her own skin (and her kids’). She made shady business deals. She was way too comfortable telling lies. Some of these acts are mistakes, and some of them are deliberate decisions–and either way, her moral compass definitely does not point True North.

Don't mess with moms, that's all I'm saying.

Don’t mess with moms, that’s all I’m saying.

However, her flaws are part of what draw me to her. (I admit, I have a Thing for ruthless and amoral characters; f’rinstance, my favorite characters on Heroes were Nathan Petrelli and Adam Monroe.) After all, I am a flawed creature too–horribly imperfect. The Blessed Virgin can show us perfection within purely human parameters, but characters like Moira show us how to be great in spite of our brokenness.

Because Moira is great. When the revenge-bent, psychotic murderer Slade kidnaps the entire Queen family and demands that Oliver choose whom Slade shall kill, his mother or his sister, Oliver is horrified, but Moira steps forward with magnificent courage and volunteers, thus saving her daughter from death and her son from a cruel and impossible choice. Unhesitating, unflinching, she lays down her life for her children. Even Slade admires her. (Not that the admiration of Slade is something to be desired!)

Moira doesn’t jump off rooftops or punch bad guys in the face, but she is a hero nonetheless: an imperfect mother who is willing to sacrifice herself (and anyone else too, but like I said, she is not perfect!) for the good of her children. Although kidnapping, assassination, and bribery are probably not good things to be involved in, a geek mom like me can still be inspired by her example of selfless love.

Also, she's gorgeous.  Seriously, I hope I look half this good when my kid(s) are grown.

Also, she’s gorgeous. Seriously, I hope I look half this good when my kid(s) are grown.

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It’s Wednesday!  And I am swamped with many cool and exciting but time-consuming projects–about which more when they are not covered by NDAs– so no snippet this week.  No snippet for the forseeable, really, but I don’t want to be negative and rule out the possibility.

In lieu of content, how about some nifty stuff I found round abouts the interwebs this past week?  Some of it might even be relevant to your lives, dear readers!

  • Trying to bang out that novel, feeling overwhelmed by the task?  How about this video about using Science(!) to help you be more productive?  Tips include breaking down large tasks into small, manageable chunks, and putting an end to multi-tasking.
  • Speaking of breaking down large tasks into smaller chunks, have you ever wanted to read the Star Wars expanded universe novels, but not known where to start?  This handy-dandy list from Tor gives you some ideas.

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SPOILER WARNING: Very mild spoilers for Twelve by Jasper Kent, much more major spoilers for Out of the Dark by David Weber.

Hello, ladies...

Look out, ladies!

My dad loved Dracula.  When I was a wee tot, he read me Bram Stoker’s classic novel; I don’t remember this happening, but I’m told my mom disapproved.  (Mom and Dad didn’t see eye to eye on stuff like this; family legend has it that, for their anniversary, he took her to see Alien in the theatre.  I’m not sure that she was thrilled.)  Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula was one of his all-time favorite movies, and he enjoyed quoting some of the more over-the-top lines in a deep, appreciative rumble, like a wine aficionado savoring a favorite vintage.

It’s not a surprise that he communicated some of his enthusiasm to me.  I became an ardent Castlevania fan, enjoyed Van Helsing, geeked out when Dracula appeared in an episode of Buffy.  Of course, meeting Dracula in non-Stoker yet still vampire-related contexts is not terribly surprising.  But sometimes you run into the Count in (pardon the pun) the damnedest places.  Sometimes it makes sense, other times, not so much.

I am here to kill Frenchmen!

I am here to kill Frenchmen!

Jasper Kent’s novel Twelve centers around a group of Russian soldiers in 1812 who hire a band of mercenaries to help slow or even stave off Napoleon’s invasion.  The mercenaries turn out to be vampires, which is not terribly surprising for the genre-savvy reader; the nice surprise was their leader.  He appears only once, to drop off the twelve-vampire guerilla squadron, but the details of his appearance were perfect, from his manner to the dragon ring he wore.  The thing I appreciated most was, his presence in Imperial Russia could still fit in with Bram Stoker’s timeline for the undead nobleman.  After all, nobody said he wasn’t wandering around that area 80 years or so before he decided to move to London!

More surprising was his appearance in David Weber’s military sci-fi novel Out of the Dark.  Yes, that’s right.  Military. Science. Fiction.  With Dracula.

Of course!

I’ve never read any of Weber’s other books, so I can’t say how typical Out of the Dark is of his work.  The first two-third were fairly dull, alternating between the wolflike aliens invading Earth and the stalwart humans, mostly soldiers, operating in small bands to pick off the invaders.  Then, one of the soldiers winds up in Eastern Europe (specifically Walachia), where he encounters a local nobleman who is also battling the aliens.

The nobleman introduces himself as Mircea Basarab, a name which pinged something in my memory, but I couldn’t recall what.  Everything about his first appearance in the novel screamed “YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS GUY,” but of course he hadn’t been mentioned previously in the book, so I thought perhaps he might have been featured in another of Weber’s novels…?  Except not so much.

I am here to kill aliens.  And to look fabulous!

I am here to kill aliens.
And to look fabulous!

With Mircea’s help–his speed, his cleverness, and his amazing ability to get himself and his men into highly fortified alien installations and slaughter everyone stationed there without being caught by surveillance–the alien invaders are not only slowed, but entirely repulsed.  The book ends with “Mircea” and assorted of the main human characters (now not quite so human as they were) taking over an alien spaceship, while Mircea vows to take the fight back to the aliens’ homeworld.

Like you do.

Because when your planet is in the middle of an invasion from alien hostiles, what you need is … DRACULA!

(The little ping I got on my memory?  It’s because Mircea was the name of Vlad Tepes’s older brother.  Basarab is the name of their royal House, of which House Dracul was an offshoot.  Later in the book–you know, before he turns everyone into vampires and kills all the invaders–he apologizes for giving a false name.  He didn’t want to freak out the poor American.)

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am big huge fan of the kitchen-sink method of fiction-writing.  The more cool stuff you can pack into one book, the better!  It’s just that, “… and then DRACULA shows up!” is a bit startling in the middle of a fairly boiler-plate SF novel full of cardboard characters and lovingly detailed descriptions of guns.  I wish Weber had been able to work the Dark Prince into his book more smoothly, without that “WHAM! And now we’re going THIS way!” wrench of the steering wheel.

It does make me wonder, though.  What other novels would benefit from the inclusion of Dracula?  How about a Tom Clancy-style political thriller?  Dracula would make a heck of a spy!  Or one of those chick-lit books about shoes?  “I don’t know what to wear to Brian’s party,” Melissa sighed.  And then DRACULA showed up!

I am here to help you select appropriate shoes, Melissa!

I am here to help you select appropriate shoes, Melissa!

What do you guys think?  What other genres would be improved if Dracula showed up?

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