Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Geek Chic

Sometimes I am so slow to catch up on new trends. Apparently nerddom is the new cool. My friend Franki found this article that says the new hot thing among the dress-up-as-your-favorite-character crowd is emulating your favorite nerd-du-jour from the TV show "The Office." Wow. Weirdly, I kind of get dressing up as a Star Fleet officer, or a Klingon--though I don't get the whole Furry thing, but I digress. Yet worshiping the nerd culture seems kind of strange to me since it's an easily fulfilled dream in everyday life. But nerds are hot. Just look at some of our favorite movies. Peter Parker anyone? Spiderman is a geek under that spider suit and we love him for it. Or what about the new TV show Chuck? Instead of Best Buy's Geek Squad they have the "Nerd Herd," and Chuck, the main character, gets to use his less-than-muscular computer skills to save the day. And, not to be left out, is "Dr. Who's" David Tennant who makes "Geek Chic" look rather good. I wonder why our culture has decided to start idolizing the nerd? Not that there's anything wrong with that. We seem to be a schizophrenic culture in so many ways don't we? We say we like our women to have curves and but can't get enough of stick thin, vapid--- er, I'm digressing again. Moving on. I mentioned in my post about Power in the Modern World that despite the fact that money is probably this biggest yardstick of power in society, many of us still find physical power attractive. But there does seem to be this dichotomy developing. We like to look at men (and women) with muscular bodies, but maybe, just maybe, we respect the power of the mind a little more. I think we've certainly come to the point where we can at least acknowledge that the biggest advances in society were not accomplished by the guy with the biggest biceps. But dressing up as an office worker? Really?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I Swear!


Ah profanity. I'm having a bit of an issue with it these days. My three-year-old son has decided that the word s**t is an essential part of his vocabulary these days and I'm having a heck of a time getting him to understand that it's not exactly an appropriate word for him. We may be moving on to soap very soon.

My son's recent fascination with four letter words has had profanity on my mind recently, and then I stumbled across this most excellent post on Joe Abercrombie's blog. For those who don't know who Joe is, I have a review of Joe's book, "The Blade Itself" on my book-review blog. One thing "The Blade Itself" had kind of become known for is the prolific use of profanity in the book. Joe addresses part of the issue in this way:

There was an interesting discussion of this very issue (which again started with a reading of The Blade Itself , blast my potty-mouth again) over at SFFWorld a while back. Some of the objections raised to swearing there were: that these are 'modern' swear-words out of context in a 'ye olde' fantasy setting, that you're better off making up a culture-specific oath like 'by the holy orb of Zalxoz I will destroy thee!', that you can just make up your own non-offensive word to substitute for the evil English creations (like BSGs frel, for example). ((it was noted by readers of Joe's blog that BSG's swear word of choice is frak))

So allow me to viciously destroy this straw-man I have myself created, by repeating parts of the post I made there:

The notion that 'folks all spoke nice in them old days' is entirely a Victorian invention. The three words that I believe we are chiefly talking about here (F**K, S**T, and C**T, forgive my euphemisms) are all words with long and proud traditions in the English language, going back hundreds of years.

Of course, fantasy is not history. Fantasies can include all kinds of different elements corresponding to different time periods. Furthermore, even if we are describing a pseudo-medieval setting, no-one could pretend that we are writing for a medieval audience. As I see it, an author has to select the mode of expression which he feels best communicates his meaning, or the meaning of his characters, to a reader of modern English. It's a question of judgement, and, as with the explicitness of sex or violence in a book, every author will find his own way, and different readers will have their own unique response.

For me, as a reader, I find complicated oaths (by the holy beard of Swarfega etc.) to be unconvincing (and often truly risible) unless very well integrated into some specific element of a fantasy culture, and even then they are rarely a good substitute for a simple S**T in times of high excitement. When I stub my toe I very rarely reach for a culture-specific mouthful such as, "by the golden boots of David Beckham!" or some such.


Isn't that great? There is more to the post, just click on the link to read more of what Abercrombie has to say.

Profanity in entertainment fascinates me to some degree. I remember when I watched "Pulp Fiction" for the first time and the use of the "N-word" blew me away. That is a word that has been so taboo in our culture that I just couldn't believe it was thrown out there so casually. But then that's kind of Tarantino's thing isn't it? Shocking the audience through the use of coarse language and extreme violence? I often wonder what the movie would have been like without those elements and whether or not it would have been so good.

The debate over language [as well as violence] in entertainment isn't a new one. I don't believe in censorship for the basic reason that I wouldn't trust anyone to decide what I should see or read. But I do think that over-use of profane language can dull the impact. Abercrombie even said that perhaps he had been a bit liberal with the use of profanity in his book and I have to admit that I agree. Even the N-word in "Pulp Fiction" lost its edge before the movie was even over. At times I even find myself looking for entertainment that is a bit easier on my sensibilities, kind of like a breather, or palate cleanser for my brain.

Maybe I'm just being a bit puritanical. Though it would be nice if my son would stop swearing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Power in the Modern World

My husband made a comment the other day that kind of stuck with me. We were having a conversation about one of my husband's friends who, though a nice guy, is the type who does a lot of physical posturing. You know, always talking about how he's sore from hitting the gym and how he could kick another guy's ass. I'm sure you know the type. My husband shrugs it off most of the time but one day he got kind of annoyed and commented that in today's world it isn't the physically strongest guy who is the most powerful anymore, but the guy who makes the most money. Huh. He's right of course, but it's something I never consciously think about. We haven't lived in a hunter/gatherer society in a long time and providing for ones family hasn't involved hefting a spear in a long time. I think when women are younger we are attracted to physically powerful men, probably a subconscious desire for good breeding material-- yeah I'm sure that's it. But as we get older we do focus more on a man's ability to provide-- even though women are proving more and more capable of bringing home good money. The reason I bring this up is because in most popular entertainment we still seem to revere the physically powerful man. I can understand why, Bill Gates probably wouldn't be that exciting as a superhero, though he does more to benefit mankind in real terms than most superheroes. But if you look at our entertainment, we don't feature the heroics of the average man duking it out in the boardroom. Again, I get it, it's not as entertaining as watching Jet-Li kill someone with his little finger. But it is interesting to me that we find physical prowess to be so attractive still. It doesn't really earn that much to be musclebound anymore. Construction workers can make a decent living but we generally don't think of the guy who's fixing the road as a powerful person. When you go to the gym how often do you look at the bodybuilder admiring himself in the mirror and think, jeez, this guy couldn't possibly have a job if he spends that much time in the gym? Heck, just look at the modern farmer. Here's a guy who provides actual sustenance for the rest of us but in today's world typically leads a meager existence. Sometimes I have a hard time wrapping my brain around that. We need the farmer but he needs a government subsidy to avoid going broke. Spiderman is the only comic book hero I can think of that addresses this conundrum well. I don't even know if it's something that comes up in the comic books, but I love the fact that in the movies Peter Parker struggles with his inability to support himself financially and save the day. That's real. Batman kind of sidesteps the issue by making Bruce Wayne incredibly wealthy. By doing so he's able to indulge the boyish fantasy of being the biggest, baddest dude on the block and shower the ladies with lavish gifts. Truthfully, I think Bruce Wayne's financial clout could realistically do as much, if not more, than all of Batman's gadgets to combat evil; but the gadgets are much more fun. And have you noticed that as women gain power financially and politically we're seeing a lot of physically amped-up women in our entertainment as well? I've never seen so many women so well versed in kung-fu in my 15 years of martial arts training. Even the Bionic Woman is a bad-ass version of her old self. It's as if we need to believe that women are physically stronger now that they have proven to be a power in the financial world. I mean, look at my avatar. I picked the image because it was striking, but she is also incredibly strong-- and holding a gun no less. I have no idea what that says about me and I'm not going to think about it too much either. Movies that are futuristic in nature often seem to go back to the idea that the physically strong will be the ones who survive. So many movies are nihilistic in nature with Armageddon scenarios and the guy who wears a suit everyday ends up being superfluous. I don't know if this is because down deep we think this will be the case someday, or if we just can't get rid of the primitive instinct of physical might trumps all. I don't really have a big point to make in this post, it's more in the nature of observations that's all. Power comes in many forms. But money seems to be the biggest source of power in the modern world regardless of what our entertainment tells us. I'm sure my husband's friend could beat Bill Gates at arm wrestling. But really, why would Bill bother? He can just hire someone to do the arm wrestling for him.

Thanks!

Thanks for understanding my flightiness right now. Things are looking good. The house was inspected today and the inspectors said they rarely see a house that's so clean. The appraisal came in $90k above our purchase price and the lender said everything looks good to go. We've been very lucky. I must have some good karma stored up somewhere. I actually had a sci-fi related post to put up today but my husband (who could be described as "high maintenance") was freaking out a little bit over the whole housing purchase thing, (understandably) and commandeered the computer, leaving me very little time to put up a post. Erm. So how about "Reaper?" I love that show.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

More Personal Stuff You Don't Care About

So we got the house. I'm totally boggled. We didn't intend to buy so quick but the deal was too good to pass up. I literally spent the first day sitting in my recliner in a daze. I'm not the jump-up-and-down-get-excited type, I'm more the stare-off-into-space-in-shock type. But it's sinking in and I'm very excited. It's so bizarre though. My parents are losing their house just as I'm buying mine. Not good. Fortunately they're not trying to move in with me. I spent the first day kind of obsessively worrying about that after my dad threw out some broad hints. But I let my mom know that I had no intention of letting that happen and she agreed it would be a disaster. Thank God. So blogging. I have no idea what to post. I'm am all flustered and not at all my normal self. Ideas would be welcome at this point. And if no ideas are forthcoming patience is also good. I have a ton of books to review and I'm going to have to decide which ones I can part with to have guest reviewers. The problem is that my success rate with guest reviewers is about 50% since about half the people who have received books have not come back with a review. So I'm skeptical about continuing the practice. I don't know. I will have to think on that. I'm rambling aren't I? Seriously, I am totally discombobulated right now.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Then Again, Maybe Not

Talk about timing. I just put up the post about NaNoWriMo thinking I would have the time to put aside in November to write. Um, maybe not. In a totally non-sci-fi related topic....I don't know how many people who come here pay much attention to what's going on in California, but we've been in the middle of a massive boom/bust housing cycle. My husband and I decided to sit the thing out when it reached the manic stage around 2004-2005. Everyone was telling us "you gotta buy in or you'll be priced out forever." But we just couldn't reconcile what the market was doing with common sense. I knew people who were buying homes sight-unseen out of fear of not getting in. I knew people who were taking out loans at 8-9 times income, which just blew my mind. But my husband and I stayed firm. We were not buying in. Anyway, about two years ago the market started stalling. It took awhile before people realized it was going to come down. This boggled my mind because the Fed had been tightening rates for over a year, but some people are a little slow to see the writing on the wall. The fallout has been a lot of foreclosures. A whole lot. I won't go into details but my parents got caught up in the re-fi mania while interest rates were low and now they are losing their home. Oh how fun. The upshot is that a lot of good properties have been popping up and my husband and I decided we were going to start looking for a house. I think the market will go down for awhile longer so I haven't been in a big hurry to buy, but I want to see what's out there, right? So we contact a realtor and look at two houses. Damn if a remarkable deal didn't pop right up. I mean, a sweeeeeeeet deal. A big house that is easily priced $50k below the rest of the market and we might be able to negotiate more off. Right now the thing is priced at 2001 prices and we might be able to take it back a year or two more. It's also remarkable in that it's bank owned and in pristine condition. Spotless. So we're making an offer. If it goes through I will be packing and moving in November. Needless to say, I doubt I'm going to be writing a novel that month. In fact, I'm so boggled right now I can barely write a post. I don't know about everyone else, but to me this is kind of scary-- but cool. Of course, if our offer isn't accepted, I can still write a book.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

NaNoWriMo

Do I have that right? Is it the National Novel Writing Month? Or something like that? Anyway, I think I'm going to do it. I'm not sure if I should feel like a dork or not, but honestly, I need to kick myself in the buttocks if I am ever going to get some kind of novel length work on paper. I've had this idea kicking around in the back of my brain for literally 20 years. I've written bits of it from time to time but never made it past 60 pages. For some reason the vision in my head never transfers to the page the way I want it to and I stop writing. So I thought maybe the NaNoWriMo would be a good way to give myself permission to write crap and keep going. Has anyone else ever participated in the NaNoWriMo? Was it worthwhile? And does anyone ever publish a novel written in a mad dash over the course of a month? Hell, if half of what I end up with isn't crap it would be worth it. QUICK NOTE: Tia at Fantasy Debut had a copy of "The Book of Joby" to give away. Sign up! You won't want to miss this book.

Monday, October 15, 2007

World of Warcraft vs. I Am Legend

Asara did a very cool thing for me. She did a video comparison of World of Warcraft and the I Am Legend Survival game. Thank goodness there are other people who know how to do this stuff.
video

Friday, October 12, 2007

I Am Legend Survival


Video games and movies. They seem the perfect fit. Yet, too often as not, games based on film are little more than a bit of fluff advertising. One example? "Fantastic Four" (shudder, shudder...one shudder for the game and one for the movie).

However there have been other games such as "Chronicles of Riddick" and "King Kong" that were probably more engaging and more entertaining than the film. Fortunately, the movie-game tie-in seems to be improving. Some of these games are even released years later than the film, there the goal isn't to pump audiences to slap down money for tickets, but rather to trade in on a filmgoer's memory. Love the "Godfather"? Play the game. Bond? "From Russia With Love" was an amazing experience for gamers and it even featured voice overs from the master himself: Sean Connery.

Enter: "I Am Legend". Warner Brothers has been hyping the heck out of this project. Of course, they desperately want the film version of Richard Matheson's book to hit one out of the ballpark, so one approaches the game with suspicion, especially since it's free and basically a promo for the film.

"I Am Legend" is a flash based online game. That means all you have to do is go to this website to play: http://iamlegendsurvival.com

Of course, you first have to register and get a password. Once you do this you are part of a gaming community and can travel through some pretty impressive renditions of the city, playing versions of capture the flag and causing mayhem wherever you wander. If the name Second Life seems familiar, it's because they are the people who run a fairly successful online environment where people adapt avatars and engage each other. It's sort of like "The Sims" meets......well...people who have little better to do with their lives than experience social interaction through an avatar. Get a life people.

"I am Legend" itself seems a quick diversion, and somewhat addictive. Real gamers, and I mean people who waited with baited breath for "Halo 3" or who understand that "Unreal" and "Gears of War" and the upcoming "Resident Evil 5" are important contributions to a national gaming psyche, will probably steer clear of this. However, I suspect that people looking for a fast gaming experience that isn't totally life consuming will be able to have a good time, keeping in mind, of course, that you are playing a giant commercial.

It ain't "World of Warcraft" and hopefully you won't try marrying another person online , but I'd give it a peek...if only to prep yourself a bit for a film that promises to be worth a second glance.

And besides..the game is free.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Calling All Gamers

I need help. I don't know anything about video games. Are they even called video games anymore? Is there some new fancy name that I am unaware of? I'm bad aren't I? Here's the thing. I got an email from a company that's promoting a new video game that's tied in to the movie "I Am Legend" and they might be offering tickets to New York for a premier in December (whether it's the movie or game premier I am not clear on yet). I know nothing about games. A free trip to New York for the premier of a game would be wasted on me, but maybe not on someone who is really into gaming. Is this something that would be of interest to any of you? If so, leave a comment here so I can give some feedback to company that contacted me. Click HERE to check out the game trailer.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

As Long As There's a Free TV Involved...

Because my blog is pretty specific subject-wise, I end up getting a lot of sci-fi/fantasy related email. I get a lot of stuff from TV networks looking to promote their newest shows or online magazines that have articles they think will interest me. And for the most part, that's great. I started this blog as a hobby; something to play with and hopefully find other people who have similar tastes to my own. I really didn't know that blogging would become the new frontier for advertisers. But it seems the world's a marketplace and there is no place on earth that will be overlooked. I've dabbled a bit with tiny amounts of advertising-- to absolutely no profit to me at all. So I moved on to free books in return for reviews; which is a sweet deal as far as I'm concerned. And I keep an eye out for freebies-- as you all know. And I've tried to stay away from too much overt advertising. But one little thing caught my attention. It involves a big screen TV. I got an email advertising the release of the 20th anniversary edition DVD of The Princess Bride. I ignored it. Then I get another email saying they're having a contest and the winner gets a 42" plasma TV and home theatre system. Okay. Now I'm paying a little more attention. Unfortunately this isn't an enter your name and win contest. Nope. You gotta work a little. Frankly, I'm not the type that bothers with competitions in which I actually have to do anything. But the prizes on this one are pretty good and I thought, maybe, there might be some people who frequent this blog who might be a lot more creative than I am. So, if any of you just happen to like dabbling with your video cameras (not like that!) here's a link to the contest. Ode to The Princess Bride Contest The basic idea is that you create an "Ode to The Princess Bride" video for a chance to win a home theatre system. I think there are also autographed scripts as part of the prize package, but really, I'd just want the TV. Anyway, now I've done my bit as a shill for the advertising industry. I hope you still respect me in the morning.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Observing the Obvious

It's funny, I put the post up the other day about "War" and I'm kind of amazed that I never really thought about the topic too much before. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm afraid I have to admit to a certain amount of mindlessness when it comes to my entertainment. I've always maintained that I am not a movie/book/whatever snob. And I'm not. But at some point we have to be a little more discerning don't we? Okay, maybe not. But I find that as I get a little older I don't have as much patience for crap as I used to. I look back at some of the movies I watched as a kid and think how did I sit through this tripe? As kids we can be forgiven our lack of taste, right? But what are the rules we're supposed to follow as adults? I know, there aren't any. But when I sit and look at my movie and book collections I'm kind of amazed at how similar so much of it is. I like fantasy, but all the time? How many quest novels can one realistically read? I'll probably never know since it's likely I'll read them 'til I die. Oh wait, what was I talking about? Confused? So am I. No, what I'm trying to get at is that it's amazing how many movies and books are simply recycled ideas. I did a review on a book called "Crystal Rain" recently and the main character suffered amnesia. The book itself was pretty good, and original in most respects. But it was impossible not to notice how common the amnesia storyline was, especially since I watched "The Bourne Ultimatum" the same week I read the book. Then I look at my movies and see "50 First Dates," "Memento," all the "Bourne" movies, "The Long Kiss Goodnight," "Paycheck," "The 6th Day" "Total Recall"-- and I could go on. Man! This is a popular movie topic isn't it? Then I start thinking of all the other movie/literary tropes: the heist, the dorky-guy-gets-the-girl, romantic misunderstandings, youthful rebellion, the underdog story, car chases that don't encounter traffic, if someone shows a picture of their wife or child in a move- the die. You know what I mean. Oh lord, are there any original ideas left? Probably not. And the truth is, there probably aren't any original ideas left; somebody sure as heck thought of it before. All we really have left are original adaptations of old ideas. Take the "Batman" franchise. It was a tired old thing until "Batman Begins" came along and then, Wham! It's good again. (I just watched it again and fell in love all over again) And I find that as I get older I crave better imaginings of old ideas. "Spiderman" had a good start, though the finish wasn't quite what we'd hoped. And what the heck happened with "Fantastic Four?" Are all my hopes being pinned on "Batman" now? Oh, say it isn't so. I still feel characters like "The Punisher" have life in them, if only someone would care enough to put it back together. And please, for the love of God, no more "Ghost Rider(s)." Ever. Well, at least with Nicholas Cage. Please.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Quick Giveaway Updates

I don't have time (again) to do a full post, but I wanted to make sure you guys knew about a couple more giveaways. Aidan over at A Dribble of Ink has a great giveaway going on for signed copies of Steven Erikson's newest book, The Bonehunters. He also has an upcoming interview with Erikson so you'll want to be on the lookout for that. David Anthony Durham is also giving away an audio book of his novel Acacia. I also recommend his blog for aspiring writers. Lots of good advice and interesting posts. Oh, I almost forgot, Scifi Chick has 3 copies of "Once Bitten Twice Shy" by Jennifer Rardin up for grabs too. Don't miss this one! I will try to be more diligent this week and get some actual posts up. My son is feeling better so I expect to have more free time to spend entertaining myself on my blog.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

War

I've always loved fantasy fiction more than any other genre. I like suspense and paranormal fiction (which could qualify as fantasy if I were being picky about it) but traditional fantasy has always been my favorite. And one thing I've noticed is that fantasy fiction focuses a lot on war. War is a part of human nature, no question. There may be sayings that the only inevitable things in life are death and taxes, but you might as well throw war on the list. As long as man has been around we've been fighting each other over one thing or another. But I do wonder why fantasy as a genre in particular so often has martial themes? In fact, when I think about it, I am hard pressed to think of a fantasy novel, especially one set in medieval setting, that doesn't focus on war. I've often heard people lament that fantasy isn't original enough. That J.R.R. Tolkien so firmly set the standard with The Hobbit that most people can't conceive of fantasy without the traditional trappings of elves, sorcerers and, of course, war. J.K. Rowling did manage to do a lot toward bringing fantasy into the modern era with Harry Potter but that's really not what I'm talking about. I'm thinking more about sword and sorcery type fantasy. (Yes, Harry had Griffindor's sword, but still--different type of fantasy) Why is it so much fantasy falls back on medieval trappings? Have we come to some conclusion along the way that fantasy isn't compatible with modern technology? There are books that merge fantasy with the modern world, but have you noticed how many still seem to try to bring old fashioned weaponry back into the story? For some reason I don't see a lot of guns in fantasy fiction. But I'm digressing a bit. I've been lucky enough to get some free books lately from some publishers and it's impossible not to notice how many follow the J.R.R. Tolkien method of world building. First you have your noble classes, then you have some sort of immortal race, a sorcerer of some sort, and a war to fight-- with lots and lots of bloody battles. Now, I don't mean to be a big complainer. A lot of these books are good. Really good. I'm reading Acacia by David Anthony Durham right now and the man can write. I know he has written other war-based fiction and it's clear he has a better idea than most what war would be like. But I'm wondering why I seem to be encountering so much war-themed fiction these days. It could be that I am simply more aware of it now than I used to be. I mean, war-based movies have been around as far back as I can remember. I've sat down and watched everything from Sergent York, Apocalypse Now, Platoon and Black Hawk Down. If there's a war, we manage to make movies about it. But in a way, cinema often seems to reflect the times we live in. Movies like the current war flick, The Kingdom, are obviously based on what's going on in the world now. But fantasy fiction very often looks back to a time that I doubt was more desirable to live in than today. And the heroes always seem to be at war. There are prophesies that predict war, magicians who have been waiting for the hero to be born so they can fight the war, heirs to the throne who crave power and start wars, holy wars-- you get the idea. War war and more war. Is it just such an inevitable part of the human condition that we can't imagine a world, even a fantastical one, in which it doesn't exist? Or are we just endlessly fascinated by the subject? If I were being really optimistic I would suggest that perhaps by exploring the subject we are, in our own little way, trying to find a way to a future without war. But unfortunately, I'm not really that optimistic. I think we obsess about war in our fiction because we can write a neater ending than we ever find in real life. The good guys are easy to find and hero almost always wins. But I guess that's what fiction is for; the ever elusive happy ending.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sooo Busy

Sorry my posts have been lacking lately. My son has had a vicious ear infection and it's affected my ability to blog. You know how it is. So, lacking the ability to think right now, I'm going to just post some links to more giveaways until I have a moment of brilliance-- okay, coherence-- and come up with something better. Fantasy Book Critic has all kinds of great giveaways going on, as usual. He has a copy of Joe Hill's "20th Century Ghosts" and Clive Barker's "Mister B Gone." He also has an excellent interview of Brandon Sanderson. The Fantasy Review has an interview with Michael Moorcock and two copies of "The Metatemporal Detective" to giveaway. Pat has a copy of Patrick Rothfuss' "Name of the Wind" up for grabs. Definitely give this one a shot--highly recommended reading. He also has a copy of J.V. Jones' "A Sword From Red Ice," but you don't need to enter or anything. I'd really like this one. :) The Book Swede has SIX copies of Karen Miller's "The Awakened Mage" to giveaway. I just got this one myself and I'm looking forward to checking it out. That's all I have for now. I may have some giveaways of my own to offer soon, so I'll keep you posted.