November 25, 2013
Another “Squee!” movie for me. I like the books a whole lot and this was a good adaptation. Just as nerve wracking as it needed to be, good off-the-rails science fiction fun. My terrible confession: I actually feel a little bit sorry for Effie Trinket. She’s trying so hard. She’s so trapped in the system. She’s got a role, and even when she suspects it’s terribly wrong she can’t at all consider stepping outside that role. I think her clothes get fluffier the more awful she’s feeling.
So, two “Squee!” movies in a row! I am spoiled! This got me thinking yet again about what I want out of my entertainment. As an entertainer myself, I’m very interested in this question, because it helps me figure out how to write my own books. What should I put in? What should I leave out? How do you craft a narrative to evoke an emotional reaction?
You know how people say, “Well, it’s a pretty good movie if you just shut your brain off?” You know how infuriated that makes me? Because it means you’re doing exactly what corporate filmmakers expect you to do: not care if a movie is dumb, as long as it has pretty CGI and explosions and crap. WE DESERVE BETTER.
What I’ve realized: I absolutely LOVE being able to shut my brain off during movies. Because when it happens for me, it means it’s a really good, fun, entertaining movie. Seriously, I want to be able to shut my brain off during movies. I want to be entertained! I write for a living, I don’t want to spend a movie — my fun time — figuring out how to fix something that’s broken!
So I love it when my writer brain (mostly) shuts off. (It rarely entirely shuts off. Thor Dark World and Catching Fire both have fairly rigid three-act structures and make use of escalation and so on. I could track it.) Bad movies are bad precisely because they will not let me shut my brain off. I can’t ignore it when bad writing throws me out, when the plot is nonexistent or becomes too forced to bear, when it becomes clear that the filmmakers think I’m an idiot and won’t notice that their movie is dumb.
So yes, those people who say I should just shut my brain off are absolutely right. Movies are better when I shut my brain off. But it’s up to the movie to earn my trust so that I’m able to turn my brain off. It’s not a gift. They have to earn it.
November 22, 2013
I have news! I have upcoming appearances to publicize! Here they are!
December 9, 7 pm, Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, NM: “Dangerous Talk About Dangerous Women.” Many authors from the Dangerous Women anthology, along with editors George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, will be here reading from and talking about their stories. The theater is also running films on the theme of “dangerous women.” Here’s the event listing, scroll down to find this one.
January 10, 7 pm: The Book Bin in Salem, Oregon. Please note, this is at their new location in East Salem.
January 16, 7:00pm: Joseph-Beth Books, Cincinnati, OH.
January 17, 7:30pm: Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.
January 18, 1 pm: Eagle Eye Bookshop, Atlanta, GA.
I’m also scheduled to be guests at two conventions next year:
April 25-27, ConStellation, Lincoln, NE. I’ll be the Author Guest of Honor.
September 26-28, FenCon XI, Dallas, TX. I’ll be the Special Guest leading the writing workshop.
March 28-30, AnomalyCon, Denver’s steampunk convention.
May 13-18, RT Booklovers Convention, New Oreleans LA. This’ll be my first time at this con.
August 14-18, Loncon, the World Science Fiction Convention in London.
I’m also planning MileHi Con, but probably not Bubonicon this year. Too much traveling already…
I’m excited, because the book tour includes several stops I’ve never been to before. For all you folks who are always asking when I’m going to get to the east coast — this is it! I’m heading east! Huzzah!
If you’re wondering why I’m going to some towns and not others, and some stores and not others, there’s a lot of reasons — timing, what works on the schedule… and what stores asked to host an event with me. If you want me to come do an event in your town, find a local independent bookstore that does a lot of events, or a local convention or book festival or such, and put in a request. Tell them you want an event with me. No guarantees that it’ll happen, but the more people make requests like this, the chances increase.
November 20, 2013
My vacation reading was Iain M. Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata, another wonderful fun read in the Culture universe, though a bit melancholy: the story revolves around an entire civilization moving on to a new plane of existence, and I kept overlaying that with knowledge of Banks passing away earlier this year, and the whole thing took on the feeling of a long farewell, which made me very sad. But still a great book.
One of the sub-themes/plots is about what happens when people back up their minds and then transmit/manifest versions of themselves in artificial bodies in order to travel more quickly to different parts of the galaxy and so on, a process that it turns out is relatively simple and common in the Culture (note: this is a vast oversimplification of the whole thing. Read the book to learn more!). Existential questions arise: is your copy still you? When your copy goes out and has a bunch of experiences, it returns and reintegrates those experiences into your original self, but then you have two sets of experiences/memories for the same period of time — is one of those more “real”? Does it matter? If we are made up of experiences, doesn’t that copy somehow become its own person after enough time and experiences have passed? Good meaty stuff here.
So, I had this thought, of how lovely it would be if I could make copies of myself so I could write all these things I want to write: the next Kitty book, the Voices of Dragons sequel, the subversive epic fantasy, the screenplay, and so on and so on. A different copy of me to write each of them! But then I realized — no, I don’t think having multiple versions of myself to write things would work at all. Because those clones would, eventually, be different than me, and the books they would write would not be the books I would write. What we write is made up of our experiences, and those experiences include everything I learn and think and gather up as I’m writing each book. The next Kitty book written by the me who has written the Golden Age books and the YA space opera and all that would be different than one written by a hypothetical me who had not written those other books. I really want all the books I write to be my books, and I want the experience of writing each thing to contribute to the writing of the next thing. I want the cumulative benefit of writing all those books! Even if it takes more time than I would like.
So, on that note, I wouldn’t mind taking part in some of the Culture’s life-extending technologies…
November 18, 2013
I think I’m just going to stop reviewing these things because we pretty much know it’s gonna be all squee. SQUEE.
I do want to talk a bit about what I’m calling the Avengers Sequence and how I continue to be impressed by the scope and genius of the thing. We’re up to eight movies (I’ve decided to include the Ed Norton Hulk movie, because it has enough tie-ins to the rest that it works) and a TV series, all set in the same world and continuity, and with mostly good stories that build a cohesive saga.
But that’s not the real genius of it all, I’ve decided. I went to see Thor: The Dark World with my mega comics geek friend, and some friends who know nothing of comics. I’m right in the middle. The first easter egg after the movie — the epilog, I suppose — was delightfully bizarre (to describe it without spoilers). An entirely new setting and aesthetic from anything we’ve seen so far, but still clearly part of the story. I know enough of the meta here to recognize this is probably something that showed up in the comics, and is probably our first lead-in to this. I asked my comics friend, and sure enough, he gave me the rundown, right down to issue numbers. But what did the non-comics friends make of the scene? Did the out-of-left-fieldness of it throw them off? No. The verdict: “There’s a new story here and I want to know more.”
Bingo. And that’s what these movies are doing right. They’re working on enough levels that they appeal to everybody. Sure, if you know the material you’re going to completely geek out and get all the easter eggs and dropped hints. But if you don’t, you’re still going to be drawn into it all because these movies have earned our trust and they’re telling freaking good stories. They’ve given us enough that a new setting intrigues rather than confuses.
I don’t know how it’s possible, but I may be even more excited about upcoming Avengers-related movies than I was a couple of years ago when the first Thor came out.