Saturday, August 16, 2014

Thor 1

We watched Thor 1 again, after a fair long while. It's a silly movie, but I still like it. Compared to the other Marvel movies the pace seemed stately. Yes, there were fights, but not an adrenaline crazed rush of violence. I like the images: golden Asgard, dark Jotenheim and small town New Mexico. I like Hiddleston a lot. How could one not? And I like the movie's double arc: Thor rising up to become a human being, so to speak, and Loki descending into a monster.

Hemsworth is okay. He's playing a simpler character. No one ever said Thor was complex. Loki, on the other hand, is a great role. Patrick says everyone did an okay to good job. It's not easy playing gods. Imagine the casting call. We need actors who look like gods and actors who look like rural New Mexicans.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Iceland Again


Another photo of Iceland. When in doubt, look at a photo of Iceland. Better yet, go to Iceland. I need to check the rates on Icelandair...

Police


And this is a photo is from the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul. The demonstrations at the convention were mostly middle aged women peace activists, as far as I know. There were some kids (see above). But nothing to require creating a security perimeter around downtown St. Paul and filling it with cops like the ones we see here. Let's face it. The people who run America are afraid of ordinary Americans

The police in Ferguson are far better equipped and look far worse. They look like an army of occupation.

Killing Young Black Men

A Guardian essay on the troubles in Ferguson, MO.

In so far as there is anything good about the situation in Ferguson, it's that people are demonstrating, and the world is learning the story.

Seals


Another photo, which is not about me. Seals in Iceland, courtesy of the Guide to Iceland facebook page. In color, I am pretty sure, but mostly black and white and gray.

Iceland


I decided my posts are too inward, too much about me. Here is something that is not about me, courtesy of the Guide to Iceland facebook page, which is here. The page has lot of lovely photos of Iceland, always cheering, I find.

A Good Mood

More from facebook:

Another sunny day. I have exercise and an hour+ of dental work today. However, when the work is done, I will be free of dentistry for half a year, except for flossing and paying the bill. I have decided to try gratitude practice again. Three things that make me happy: 1) The weather, which is bright and not too hot. 2) Toasted muffins, marmalade and coffee. 3) Being a writer, which is not a bad thing to be. Bonus cause for happiness: The Riverdell group is discussing the Moomin books on Saturday. I am reading them for the first time. They are gentle fun.

I knew I wanted to be a writer in junior high, and I actually did it. I've never been able to make a living at writing, which has meant I've had a lot of low-prestige jobs, most of them low-paying. I liked many of them. (I stayed away from food and retail.) But I actually did manage to do the writing and get it published and get some good reviews, though wealth and have eluded me. Well, I never made a serious try at wealth and fame. Mostly I wanted to write and be published and have some people like what I wrote. I told John Douglas 30 years ago that I wanted to be respected by the people in the field I respected. He made a polite, dubious, Canadian noise. Ha, ha, John. I did it.

Boy, I wrote something that is triumphant. That makes me nervous. We don't do triumph here in Minnesota. Let me rephrase the above. "It could be worse."

This ties in with Nick Mamatas's essay on success and failure. You are more likely to succeed if you set goals you can achieve. Most of us set huge goals when we are young. I wanted to be a writer, a space cadet and someone who changed the world and helped create a better society. As I have aged, I have moved the goals in. Now, I am relatively happy to write science fiction, to critique the old society and create images of a better world. But I am in a really good mood this morning, in spite of the impending dentistry. Later this afternoon, my mouth sore and my face numb, I may have a darker vision.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Failure

This link goes to a brief essay by Nick Mamatas on success and failure for a writer.

Once again I am mining my facebook comments for the blog. Here are a couple of thing I said about Nick's essay:
I used to do a panel at Minicon titled "Psychological Survival for SF Writers," which was about ways to deal with failure. (Exercise, eat well, be moderate in your use of alcohol and drugs, drink tea, find other things to care about... The usual...) I had to give the panel up, because people left the room in tears. They did not want to think about the possibility of failure.

What Nick is talking about is not failure leading to success, but failure leading to more failure. There is a novel by Halldor Laxness about an Icelandic peasant who devotes his life to poetry, suffering poverty, misery and failure. It's titled Heimljos, which means Light of the World. The guy is a bad poet. He is never going to have success of any kind. My sister-in-law gave the book to me, because she found it unbearably depressing. I thought it sounded funny, though I haven't read it yet. Some day when I am up for a really grim joke.
I can't speak to the novel, since I haven't read it. But one of the things Laxness admires about his characters is how indomitable they are, as the same time that they are often absurd. Absurd is not the right word. They have big ideas. They see themselves in terms of the saga heroes, even though they may be peasants just barely scraping by. The hero of Heimljos makes the same sacrifices (it seems to me) as van Gogh did, but he is not a great artist.

Laxness's characters are always (or often) trying to pull themselves free from dire poverty and misery, to live great lives, though they are not -- in fact -- saga heroes or great artists. Not having read the novel, I cannot say if Laxness thinks this particular character is admirable or pathetic.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hard SF

This is a neat essay on women and science fiction by Vandana Singh. She writes in specific about women and hard SF, the manly stories about physics and engineering, which women writers tend to avoid, because they can't do the math. Singh is a physicist and can do the math, and she is concerned that women become more comfortable with hard SF.

As far as I can tell, she is absolutely right about everything she says, but I added a comment anyway. And because I like to use what I write more than once, if I can, here is what I wrote:
A couple of comments on hard science fiction. For the most part, it has been based on engineering and physics, also (I suppose) chemistry and materials science. (I am not entirely sure what materials science is, but I run across it in New Scientist, mostly in articles on research on the properties of materials.) Hard SF can include biology, though SF based on biology and evolutionary theory begins to look a bit soft. SF based on the "human sciences" -- history, anthropology, sociology, political science, psychology and maybe economics, though I'm not sure economics is any kind of science -- is completely soft and squishy. Hard SF writers mostly ignore the squishy sciences. As a result, they create far-future societies that are exactly like current American society, populated with people whose names are "Bob Smith" and "Joe Jones." They appear to have no idea that societies change and evolve, and that new technologies change societies. If you have FTL, then you have far different physics. What else is changed, besides space travel? How has the society changed?

So that is one point. I find most hard SF contains really bad soft science and that makes it unconvincing.

Second, what about paradigm shifts? One technique I use is to figure out how far into the future my society is, then look back a comparable distance into the past. If the story is set 200 years in the future, how much has science changed since 1814? How much of our current science could have been predicted in 1814? What this means is -- a current hard SF story that is set in the future is going to be using way out of date science, unless it is set in the near future or assumes a static or regressing society, that has produced no new science. The better -- the truer -- the current science is, the more out of date it will be in a story set far-out. I think there's an argument for far-distant stories using the science we have now. What else do we have, after all? And Newton still works when dealing with large bodies. But hard SF writers who get all self-righteous about how scientific their work is are silly.

None of this is a reason to give up on hard SF. We need to build a new kind of hard SF, that recognizes the soft sciences and the history of science. I think I'm saying pretty much what you have said above. So I will stop.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bad Language

This comes from a facebook discussion of whether Guardian of the Galaxy's use of the words "whore" and "bitch" made the movie misogynistic. The conversation started with an article in Dailydot. I wrote:
Well, I finally went and read the article. How do you make a movie about low lifers who behave badly and use bad language WITHOUT showing them behaving badly and using bad language? Peter grew up among criminals. In many ways he is a jerk. Rocket is a criminal. Gamorra is a trained killer. We meet Drax in prison. These are not nice people. Only the plant is nice, but the plant has gotten into bad company. The person who wrote the article appears to have missed the fact that these are not nice people and is complaining that they are not nice. This is not a good criticism.

The language did not bother me, because the characters in the movie use street language. They are thugs, after all, living in a criminal subculture. I'm not sure they are misogynistic. The culture obviously has a streak of misogyny, since the words have remained in use.
Lyda Morehouse disagreed with me, pointing out that the Marvel comics and the other Marvel movies have not used bad language, and I wrote:
I defer to your knowledge of Marvel, Lyda. But I think -- in this one movie -- the sleaziness, including the language, works. They could have pulled all the bad language, and the movie would have still worked. But it would not have been as sleazy. Peter's forgotten date and the Collector's slave girl would also have to go, if we want to get rid of sleaze. You'd end with something like the WWII war movie flavor of the first Captain America. Clean violence. Clean evil.

Thor is clean evil too. As far as we know, frost giants aren't misogynistic. In fact, they don't seem to have any women, which makes it hard to explain Loki. What could be cleaner than all that ice and snow?

I will also add that I am increasingly reluctant to use bad language in my own writing, which means it reads as if an editor came through with a bar of soap. The ultimate test is the n-word, which I never use. If a movie was about racism and racists, would it be possible to use the n-word? Yes, if the movie was Blazing Saddles, but that was made a long time ago. In science fiction, this could be handled by making up a racist word. "You vile human! You Earthie! You skwilk!"
But does it really make sense to remove bad language -- and bad behavior -- from art, because we loath it? And why is killing still acceptable? There is a lot of killing in Guardians of the Galaxy and no one is objecting to this.

P.S. I decided Lyda far knows more about the Marvel Universe than I do, and if she says the language is not appropriate, then she is right. Also, the director of the movie, who worked on the script, apparently has a rep as the misogynist. Maybe he stuck the bad words in, because it's the kind of language he uses.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Blogging

I Googled the names of a number of SF writers I like last night. I decided I wanted recent news about them, so I checked their blogs. They all had blogs, but almost none were up-to-date. All had good websites, and several mentioned that they had moved on to facebook or Twitter. So, is blogging passe? Should I stop?

I started blogging years ago -- I think in 2006 -- because I wanted to be sure people could find me on the Internet. I thought setting up a blog would be easier than setting up a new website. (A kind friend set up a website for me years ago, but I had been thinking of something newer and glitzier. Instead, I settled for this blog.)

I don't think I'm a good blogger, and I don't have much of an audience. But the blog has an email address, and a few times people have used that, which has been useful. I've made sales because of the address and gotten fan mail.

Maybe it's time to find someone to make me a glitzy website. I'm on facebook and enjoy it. I refuse to get on Twitter or Tumblr.

Black Women Science Fiction Writers

A link to a good list.


Friday, August 08, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy last night. My mood has improved.

I especially liked the large plant, though the raccoon was also good.

My friend Sandy Lindow said there were plot holes. How could there be plot holes? The entire movie was Crash! Boom! Ka-pow! Bang! Bang! Bang! Rattle! BOOM! Except for the parts that were Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrill singing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." I could have used more Motown, but the mix of songs fit the movie's weirdness better.

Good skiffy starscapes. I liked the mine inside the gigantic head of a long-dead god which is floating in space. Now, that is sense of wonder. But mostly the movie was Crash! Pow! The Nova city had a weird 1950s 'visions of the future' look. Sunny and very clean. Lots of pastel colors. I liked that too. Pow! Pow! Pow!

I like myself better when I am enjoying a weird Marvel movie than I do when I'm brooding over the news or fights in fandom. I mean, I know I'm living in a decaying empire on a planet that seems about to hit the rocks. But I don't have to let that ruin my mood.