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Monthly Archives: June 2008

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Anne Rice, Writer Feedback and the Problem of a new Fanbase

Lately Anne Rice’s clashes or interactions with fans on the internet have become the story rather than the postscript to the story, the latest involving a blog comment on the JK Rowling mess on Dawn Papuga’s blog, which is likely from Anne Rice. It’s not that surprising that it is her when you consider Anne Rice’s response on Amazon.com to the Blood Canticle negative feedback.

Anne Rice’s interactions with readers though have to be considered in light of the basic problem, which is that she developed a fanbase dedicated to one very specific type of genre, that now has to be carried over to a whole other genre, as Anne Rice, now religious, has focused on catholic novels and while you might argue that gothic novels are just the catholic world’s rebellious stepchild, it’s a pretty big leap in terms of carrying over a readership. Rice has to hope that some of her readers have made the same journey she has and are ready to follow along, but most won’t have, a reality that animates her somewhat frantic attempts at outreach.

For all intents and purposes her writing outlived its wider audience and purpose quite a while back, so while her die hard fans may continue waiting for another Vampire Chronicles novel, really after Blood Canticle they should be grateful that Rice won’t release another thin and watered down exercise of a novel and while Vampires and Jesus seem like a natural combination (a Vampire would still be the best explanation, think C.S. Friedman’s Crown of Shadows) they’re really not. Anne Rice is an author who heavily depended on a specific fandom that is evaporating and her new target audience is likely to have a negative impression of her, which makes her attempts at outreach both vital and inevitable.

Michael Swanwick The Dog Said Bow Wow book review

The Dog Said Bow Wow features 16 stories from Michael Swanwick, and as you might expect from a Swanwick collection, they consist of a Dog said Bow Wow Michael Swanwickdazzling array of stylistic pyrotechnics that are high on color and occasionally symbolism, and heavy on the fantasy fiction and light on the science. Only five of the stories in The Dog Said Bow Wow, Tin Marsh, The Skysailor’s Tale, Legions in Time, Triceratops Summer and Slow Life, could really be said to be actual Science Fiction and they are some of the best stories in the collection, but also the least representative of the collection in some ways.

Tin Marsh and Slow Life are classic planetary exploration stories spiced up with a lot of the stylistic energy Swanwick brings to the table. Neither of them are close to being original of course, Slow Life particularly is a story that has been done over and over again. Triceratops Summer is a charming enough story, of the sort of small town meets techno event story that Nancy Kress is better known for. The Skysailor’s Tale is a potentially dazzling story of early 19th century alternate universes that should have been a novel and instead burns as a messy and out of control unpublished novella. Legions in Time has a promising beginning that dips into the legacy of Victorian and early 20th century SciFi, but once again Swanwick loses control of his writing and stumbles into rewriting Heinlein’s All You Zombies for an anticlimatic ending.

And that is the reality of much of Swanwick’s work in The Dog Said Bow Wow, full of stories that only appear original because their style dazzles brightly enough that readers tend to overlook poorly drawn characters and that the stories rewrite older stories. There is little self-discipline to be found in the stories which is why the sort of fourth wall elements that should have been edited out, remain in, whether it is the King of the Ikiki delivering a speech of Bushisms in Urduheim or the Satyrs proclaiming themselves to be Jewish, Michael Swanwick has gone so far down the rabbit hole of style that he’s unable to rein himself in, even when the result is not only a lack of substance, but an inversion of whatever credibility the stylized fictional universe he creates has.

The 2008 Presidential Election in Battlestar Galactica terms

Gaius Baltar – Barack Obama – Handsome yet somewhat effete, despite his elitism he is equally comfortable with activism or intellectualism. He preaches a gospel of brotherhood and easy answers, yet is suspected by more conservative elements of siding with the enemy in part because of his dubious religious affiliation which includes a cult of personality. He is adept at propounding a larger Utopian vision in speeches and in book form, yet to many lacks credibility because his own loyalties appear unclear and his answers are a little too pat to believe. This candidate naturally rouses suspicion because he has become so adept at reinventing himself in different roles that no one is sure exactly who he is anymore.

Lee Adama – George W. Bush – With a background as a pilot and a career boosted by his father’s nepotism and a shadowy adviser, this candidate may not be smart but he is handsome and glib. Despite a substance abuse problem in the background and resentment toward his father, his father has groomed him as a natural leader. Yet his confident and easy manner may hide poor planning and difficulty anticipating and reacting to unpredictable events. While at first glance he may appear to be a militarist, he is actually a compromiser with natural people skills.

President Laura Roslin – Hillary Clinton – Having jumped from an incidental position on the periphery of government to holding major political power, this candidate has faced the challenge of being a woman fighting for power in wartime and may appear outwardly cold and ruthless. The longer the struggle for power goes on, the less she finds herself able to remove the mask of power she wears. The price she pays for that is that while she is able to maintain power, public dislike of her makes her vulnerable to overthrow by Gaius/Obama whose sunny optimism and seeming sincerity is far more acceptable to the public than her methodical effectiveness.

Saul Tigh – John McCain – Old and grizzled, this candidate has seen war and has come home only to find that he is now the enemy to many of his own people. Though he once saw things in black and white, he has slowly adopted a more complex worldview that may make him for negotiating the realities of a shifting battlefield where the sides may not be what they seem. However his anger management problem and his tendency to brood may make him an unpredictable leader. His greatest strength is his acute understanding of his own flaws and dogged loyalty.

Tom Zarek – Bob Barr – His ideas are politically radical and he doesn’t expect them to actually succeed, but his vision of present day society is so corrupted that he is willing to fight ruthlessly to overthrow the establishment even though he does not seriously believe he will ever win. He enjoys the fight so much that it comes as a surprise to him to realize that his very radicalism has made it impossible for him to effect the change he so badly wants.

Sure they’re just similarities but when the line between politics and entertainment is so thin already, why not make it a little thinner.

5-25-77 or 77 Moving Forward

5-25-77 has been around practically forever, sort of like Fanboys and both movies not only share a common theme, the celebration of Star Wars fandom and impact the movies have had on the lives of Star Wars fans, but they’ve also dragged on well past the point where anyone really cared anymore about them. Which is somewhat sad because not a whole lot of movies get made about fans and 5-25-77 seems like a ground level look that doesn’t traffic in the usual convention stereotypes, unlike say Fanboys, but it also seemed like a self-indulgent and self-involved project from a guy whose big dream was to make movies and who went out and did Spaced, Baby’s Day Out and When Good Ghouls Go Bad, it’s a long way from Star Wars.

More to the point though projects like 5-25-77 or Fanboys made sense back when there was a lot of anticipation over the Star Wars 25th anniversary and then the release of a new trilogy of prequels. And then Phantom Menace came out and when the disappointment set in, projects like this still made a certain amount of sense in order to recapture the nostalgia of the original movies before Lucas trashed the franchise with his Dark Side of the Acne prequels. But it’s 2008 and the prequels have come and gone and Lucas hasn’t stopped pumping Star Wars dry. A master promoter, ever since the 25th anniversary we’ve been saturated with Star Wars stuff and we’re completely oversaturated by now.

As an indie project 5-25-77 might still find an audience, unlike Fanboys which is a big budget release, but it’s still an increasingly pointless project that only gets more so as time goes on. The whole perspective on Star Wars has changed. In a few more years at this rate George Lucas will have gotten what he wanted and to a new generation Star Wars will be defined as those movies with Hayden Christensen who turns bad. It’s inevitable. And stripped of its Star Wars relevance, 5-25-77 is just another disposable indie about a kid who grew up in a small town where no one understood him who wanted to go to Hollywood and make movies.

The Women Should Accept Responsibility for being Raped Meme

Revisiting one of my old posts, I can’t help but wonder at the persistence of this particular meme, which shifts the responsibility for the rape on the woman. I’ve written about this one more than once, such as over here, Are Women to Blame for Rape, but the meme never really seems to go away.

Maybe it’s because rape is one of the unique crimes where there is a societal incentive to blame the victim, the way gay bashing way a few decades ago or racial attacks. To conservatives, the modern liberated woman is getting “what she asked for” in demanding feminism, equal rights and dressing in less than a burka. To some of the creepier feminist men, equality means equal responsibility for getting raped.

Few mugging victims are ever held to account in the way that rape victims are. Few robbery victims get put on the stand and asked what they did to encourage the robbery. The premise behind the idea that women bear responsibility for being raped though, is that a woman inherently attracts men who want to have sex with her and it’s her duty to keep herself chaste. There’s a story just now about an Iranian man who murdered his 17 year old daughter to protect her honor

My cousin at Sultan Knish likes to deny the fact that this same sort of attitude is prevalent in the West, but it is. It’s no unique Muslim idea that women carry the blame for being raped. It’s a masculine patriarchal idea and it’s hard to get rid of, no matter how seemingly progressive the culture might seem. Underneath it is the basic idea that women are property and that rape is what happens to loose women who deserve it and brought it on by being female.

Christopher Golden The Myth Hunters book review

golden the myth hunters

Ideally the contrast between two different books should not influence a review, but having read Christopher Golden’s The Myth Hunters right before Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, it remains hard not to compare the two, and that is a comparison that is decidedly not in The Myth Hunters’ favor. The Myth Hunters is not a bad book per se and like The Name of the Wind it comes bearing a hefty load of pull quotes, including two from Stephen King and Peter Straub, which is appropriate given how much The Myth Hunters owes to King and Straub’s The Talisman.

Stuck with a premise that only seems original if you haven’t done much reading, The Myth Hunters is further burdened with an incredibly annoying main character, in the form of Oliver Bascombe, a rich lawyer and mamma’s boy reluctantly marrying his fiance, when he encounters the legendary Jack Frost and winds up behind the Veil, which separates the real world from the world of myth and legend. Character is not The Myth Hunters’ strong suit and most of the novel’s mythological characters are little more than literary special effects.

Like The Talisman there’s an evil conspiracy out to seize power and there’s a lot of popping back and forth between the world of myth and the real world, where the Sandman has been loosed to wreak havoc on small children. With Jack Frost in tow, Oliver Bascombe goes on a quest to… well nothing much in particular, but he does whine a lot along the way. Meanwhile in the real world, the Sandman has kidnapped his sister and a cliched detective is on the trail. An ending that resolves very little in order to make this into a trilogy helps matters even less. Christopher Golden can do better and so can you.

End of July Box Office Roundup

Wall-E had the predicted and inevitable big debut, though maybe not as big a debut as some might have hoped, with 62 million in 1st place. After all it’s only 2 million more than Cars, which was considered a bit disappointing, but still up from Ratatouille’s 47 million debut. Still it’s not exactly the powerhouse opening Disney might have been hoping for.

Wanted kicked out the gears in 2nd place with 52 million. Good numbers considering a 75 million dollar budget and an unknown star and director. Get Smart fell to 3rd place with 20 million for a 77 million dollar total. That all but makes back the movie’s budget by the 2nd week. Not bad.

Kung Fu Panda hangs on to a tree branch at 4th with 12 million for a 180 million total. The Incredible Hulk falls to 5th with 9 million for a 115 million total, continuing the trend of disappointing Hulk movies. The Love Guru has a sharp bump to 6th with 5.4 million for a mere 25 million dollar total, making it an official bomb. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull drops to 7th but pulls in another 5 million to finally pass the big 300.

The Happening heads further into oblivion in 8th with 4 million for a 60 million total, proving once again that no one is scared of global warming. Sex and the City drags in 3.7 million at 9th with for a 140 million total. You Don’t Mess With the Zohan huddles fearfully in 10th with 3.2 for a total of 91 million, the first big Adam Sandler comedy in a while that hasn’t even been able to pass 100 million. Iron Man drops out of the top 10, ringing in at 11 with 2.2 million for 309 million. A good year for Paramount, that’s for sure.

Veoh Gets a Disney Sized Embrace

It pays to be one of the last video sharing sites left standing as Veoh has found out, now that Disney will be distributing content through it. Veoh has always been considered an also-ran in the video sharing boom sweepstakes, but with the termination of Stage6 and the colonization of YouTube, Veoh meets the big mouse as Disney will be distributing Lost, Desperate Housewives and other ABC shows through it.

Is it a serious strategy or another experiment? ABC was the first network to get really serious about online syndicated and there’s no doubt that its highly quality broadcasts and HD library of shows is a winner. By now of course NBC and CBS have jumped into the game and NBC and FOX have unveiled Hulu, which is turning into a major destination of choice. Veoh’s Chief who criticized Hulu for its closed system, instead gets ABC which has rebuffed Hulu.

So who’s smarter? NBC and FOX have created a destination site for airing their products in Hulu. ABC is opening the door to actually airing full episodes on a video sharing site, a taboo that no network has broken until now. Of course Hulu itself had syndicated its own content via online sites, and now that CBS has followed suit and is making its own content available via Veoh including CSI Miami, Veoh has suddenly become the number two to YouTube’s Ichiban.

How did Veoh do it? Survival skills probably played a part. While too many competitors dropped out or became sleazified, Veoh remained the alternative to YouTube and while Veoh is still a distant second to YouTube, its management was clearly far more willing to negotiate than YouTube’s was and had less leverage in the game. What that means for Veoh is more traffic as it becomes a Hulu alternative. That should worry YouTube which has become a sort of video oriented MySpace noted for a breezy interface but overflowing with junk. If Veoh can bring together the best of both worlds, paid and amateur content, it can provide a credible alternative to YouTube.

Mars is Crop Ready

Seemingly. Possibly. Maybe. But between the findings of ice and a decent PH balance for the Martian soil, it seems as if the route to colonizing Mars just got a lot shorter. Granted it’s still not a breathable world by any means, but considering that the great barrier to interplanetary colonization involves hauling everything from Earth, having a local water supply and soil in which some crops can be grown, means much of that problem is lifted. It means hypothetically speaking that a colony on Mars could even become self-supporting before the entire planet has been terraformed. If that’s possible, then a colony becomes a much more feasible proposition, particularly before steady routes can reliably exist. Considering that disasters like the Challenger have shown the ability to retard a space program for years, that is a key point in planting a colony. Obviously this is a risky proposition still, but there will be no shortage of volunteers for the Martian frontier.

Sony Takes 3.3 Billion Loss on PS3

It’s not exactly happy days in Sonytown. Yes Sony did finally win the big next generation DVD war, but there isn’t much to celebrate. Blu Ray players are not exactly hopping of the shelves and the public seems to care even less than they did back when the format war was going on. And the added cost of the Blu Ray drive to the PS3 pushed up the price tag and is heavily responsible for Sony losing focus, taking that 3.3 billion loss on the PS3 and losing the console game wars to Nintendo and Microsoft. These days Sony is behind in the portable game market. Behind in the portable music player market which it used to own. It’s actually hard to point to anything Sony is leading in these days. And a 4 drop for Sony shares in response to Sony’s new business strategy is hardly encouraging. Sony’s 17 billion dollar plan to take on emerging markets seems like a concession to the companies that are now dominating the first world markets Sony used to rule.

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