Friday roundup

November 17, 2017

At long last, my in-depth review of Blade Runner 2049 is live at Lightspeed. I could have said a lot more, there’s really a lot here to pick apart, and I wonder if it’s only worth the effort because the expectations were so very high. I wouldn’t have spent so much time thinking about this if the words “Blade Runner” weren’t attached to it. Then again, maybe I would, thinking back on how much time I spent talking about that wretched Total Recall remake.

A bit of trivia:  the title “Blade Runner” actually comes from an entirely different science fiction novel, The Bladerunner, by Alan E. Nourse, which I have actually read, and which I think would make a fantastic movie or TV series. Particularly relevant now, in how it deals with the health care system.

I’m way behind on pretty much all TV watching. My usual gang of superfriends have all been busy and traveling this fall, so we haven’t had a chance to sit down at our usual shindigs. I’m hoping to get through it soon, because ep. 4 of this season’s Flash was amazing.  Hilarious and serious and over the top and cohesive and Danny Trejo and the worst pun in TV episode title history. (“The Elongated Journey into Night.” I KNOW RIGHT?!) It’s great.

And I will go see Justice League at some point, for purely academic reasons of course. I just have to see for myself what they’ve done with it.

 

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This is a movie about William Moulton Marston, the psychologist who created Wonder Woman, and the two women he made an unconventional family with. Spoiler:  Marston, was married to Elizabeth, but later started a relationship with a student, Olive Byrne.  Eventually they all lived together and both women had children fathered by Marston. They were all raging feminists.

I have to confess, I would have liked the movie a lot more if I hadn’t already read the definitive biography of the family, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, by Jill Lepore. To be fair, the movie isn’t based on the book, which isn’t at all mentioned in the credits. So I can’t really complain. But the movie basically took these people who really did exist and really did invent Wonder Woman, and used them to tell an entirely different story, a more conventional romance narrative, that isn’t at all accurate to what really happened, based on what I read in the book. I got annoyed. But people who hadn’t read the book first liked it just fine.

In my own opinion, the book is way more interesting. Read it.

 

personable fantasy?

September 27, 2017

I’m going to be thinking out loud here for a minute.

I just basically binged all of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric & Desdemona novellas. Read the first a couple years ago, the second this year, and then just couldn’t stop. They’re nice. They have some of the compulsiveness of the Vorkosigan books. I haven’t read all of Bujold’s fantasy, but I found these to be really nice comfort reads. Warm blanket and cocoa on a rainy day reads.

And this got me thinking. I like fantasy. I like traditional second-world fantasy. I want to write more of it at some point. But I’m really, really picky, it turns out. I usually never get past the first novel in a series, not because I don’t like it, but because I’ve had enough at that point, and don’t feel compelled to continue through “x” number of volumes of 500+ page novels. Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen is the only epic fantasy series I’ve read all the way through, and even I petered out when he and Ian Esslemont started publishing endless side novels. There’s a self-importance and overwroughtness to a lot of fantasy (even urban fantasy) that turns me off. Not everything needs to be a cosmic battle between earth-shattering forces. Not every story needs to involve armies and politics and international intrigue.  A traumatic backstory is fine, but I don’t necessarily want my main character to wear that backstory like a coat of arms, all-encompassing, without room for any other identity.

So what do I like? Turns out I like personal stories. Stand-alone stories. Exquisitely written, compact, heartfelt stories. Apart from the Penric stories my favorite fantasy of the last couple years was probably Patricia McKillip’s Kingfisher.  (All of McKillip’s gorgeous stand-alone fantasies are among my favorites.)  I blurbed a book coming out next year that I really enjoyed and kind of wanted to reread as soon as I’d finished — it was an interesting story about good people with a sweet romance.

Personable fantasy.

Quite possibly the direct opposite of grimdark?

I’m not sure. But lately I’ve just been wanting really well-written fantasy stories about good people who I want to spend time with. Any suggestions?

 

I think I mentioned last month I finally got around to reading Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It, after being a fan of the movie for 20 years.

This may be one of the saddest books I have ever read.

This surprised me. The film is bittersweet, but it’s also filled with a love of the river, the land, and family. It’s warm and nostalgic. There’s a sense of helplessness about what happens to Paul. That his tragedy is inevitable, and however much Norm would like to save him, it simply isn’t possible because of who Paul is.

The book is melancholy and saturated with guilt. Here, Norm believes that he should have been able to save Paul. Moreover, if he had only known Paul better, understood him better, been able to connect with him, he could have saved him. Maclean wrote one of the best-known western memoirs as a tribute to his brother, all the while insisting that he didn’t know Paul well enough to be able to write it. And he mourns everything about Paul. The book is told in the voice of an old man, filled with self-recrimination and love.

It’s a strange and heartfelt piece of writing.

 

re-reading

July 28, 2017

I’m re-reading The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, again.  I’m well into double digits on the number of times I’ve read this. I’ve re-read many of her novels multiple times, but this is the one I always go back to when I’m feeling particularly off balance and need a warm, comforting, something.

I love this book so much, and every time I read it I try to figure out why. It’s a perfect blend of setting, character, and story. It’s both fresh and familiar. It draws on so many tropes, but spins it all into its own thing. I love spending time in this world, and with Harry. I know exactly what happens, almost to the word after spending so much time with this book. But it still seems fresh to me, somehow. It feels right.

And I’ve got three more episodes in season three of Star Wars: Rebels.  I love this show. It’s making me want to go back and finish that last fanfic that I never finished writing.  I can see the story building to something, and I’m kind of dreading exactly what grand finale it has planned. But gosh, in the meantime, it’s just great.  That perfect blend of setting, character, and story.

We may be on to something here.

 

book run!

June 16, 2017

I made a library run this week (and also picked up the latest Vanity Fair Star Wars preview!):

I’ve never read A River Runs Through It even though I adore the movie, and I decided it was finally time. And the library has this cool thing where they put a shelf full of popular books right by the entrance and I’ve heard great things about Underground Railroad and it was right there so I got it too.

Oh, and look what came in the mail:  the finished copy of Bannerless!  It’s a book!

current reading

June 9, 2017

In preparation for my trip to Iceland, I’m reading Egil’s Saga, one of the classic medieval tales about Norsemen getting into feuds and viking raids and settling Iceland. Pretty dang awesome. I read this one and Njal’s Saga in college, and I remember liking Egil’s better — more adventure and less outright murder and burning down of houses with old people inside and that kind of thing. I’m hoping to visit the homestead of Snorri Sturluson, the purported author of the saga, when I’m in Iceland.

And then there’s my fun reading:

kanan comics