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Luna: New Moon

23 Jan

New Moon (Luna, #1)New Moon by Ian McDonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was a bit disoriented at first by the admixture of common moon colonization tropes with the almost medieval merchant-dynastic politics whose commonplaces include trial by combat and arranged marriages (granted, some of them are same-sex arranged marriages).

This novel is soap opera-meets-space opera, most specifically, a 1980s-prime time type soap opera of the “Dynasty” stripe. Once you accept that, though, it’s good entertainment. Me, I dig soap opera when it’s done well, as it is here.

I found the feudalistic/Wild West/post-nationalistic depiction of the Moon’s near future unlikely, but the narrative admits freely that that is the kind of world it is depicting. It helped having one character’s (Adriana Corta) past set in our present as a bridge between the now and the future of the story.

Indeed, this first novel in the Luna series is Adriana Corta’s story. She is the common thread that knits together the various story lines of her children, grandchildren, allies, and enemies.

There is also a “character of invitation” (a character with a background more like the reader’s), Earth-born Marina Calzaghe, who reacts to and interprets the actions of the characters in a way most readers will. This also helped ground me in the story. However, you don’t start to see those reactions until after you’ve been thrust into the story world as it is perceived by Moon natives.

This book is way sexier than KSR’s 2312, I must add, although it is downright pornographic in places.

View all my reviews

Why I am perfectly fine with not calling Pluto a “planet”

16 Jul

The solar system is a much more interesting, complicated place if we throw out the classical “Solar System has 9 planets” model we learned in grade school. And Pluto is just as special.

20150714_pluto-nh-ehealth1

Continue reading

Confessions of a Hero Whore

30 Mar

dresdent_files

More often than not when you ask me who my favorite character in a book, film, or television series is, it’s the hero. Not that I don’t appreciate the grayer characters, the morally ambiguous types–tricksters, shady allies and informants, double-agents, self-serving baddies with sympathetic pasts and motivations. But I think sometimes those grayer characters get overvalued, proclaimed “way more interesting” than the heroes, who are decried as boring and predictable when the do the right thing, and lambasted when they make a mistake. Similarly, fans who like hero characters are made to feel like throwbacks to 1952.

But where would we be without the heroes? A story full of characters whose primary motivations are self-serving or up for grabs may make an interesting read/viewing experience, but an abundance of stories like that leave me feeling ungrounded. Morally gray characters are like icing without the cake. I need to have someone in the story who I can root for without feeling like I washed myself with a dirty rag. Someone far from perfect, but who shows genuine courage, and who I know is trying to do the right thing, even if they mess it up a lot along the way. Even if, in the end, they fail.

An engaging hero character requires work on the part of the writer. Many heroic characters face odds so steep that their success, or the traits they possess that allow their success, make them larger than life and difficult to relate to. Giving them flaws that humanize them, though, is tricky. If a hero character is flawed in ways that make him or her unlikable, a reader/viewer can feel manipulated by the narrative–as if they’re “supposed” to like them, even if they don’t.

One thing to remember, though, is that there is a difference between the viewer/reader rooting for the hero even though s/he’s a better man than you, gunga din, and being able to “relate to” him or her. I often don’t relate to the heroes that I find myself rooting for. I can’t imagine being them. But I root for them nevertheless, because the writer has made them sympathetic, human, and likeable.

It’s a bit embarrassing, though, to be asked who your favorite character is and have to “admit”:

Oh, Highlander? Duncan Macleod
Harry Potter series: Harry Potter
Merlin BBC: well, Merlin, of course
Angel the Series: Angel
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Ben Sisko
Once Upon A Time: Emma Swan
Harry Dresden: Harry Dresden

…and so on.

It’s not always the case though. My favorite ST: TNG character was Data. But of course, he was the epitome of the awkwardly sincere trying-to-be-the-best-of-humanity. And my favorite character on Lost was Hurley, but y’know, Everyman with a Heart of Gold, he was. On ST: Voyager, I liked Be’lanna Torres. I have a thing for the fucked-up tough girls. But I’m not sure I would have stayed glommed onto the angry, screwed-up babes if they weren’t flawed-but-trying-to-be-a-good-person. To wit: Faith on BtVS/AtS. Although she was never my favorite character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I never really had one, except possibly the foursome of Buffy+Giles+Willow+Xander. The collective heroic.

Do I get points if my favorite Anne Rice vampire was Armand? He was no saint. I could never stand Lestat, but I liked Louis quite a bit. I prefer my vampires with a soul.

The kinks: stories and our emotional response to them

4 Mar

A friend and I were discussing some of the more “interesting” fannish speculation we’ve encountered while out and about on the interwebs for various reasons re: Once Upon A Time. We both agreed we have no plans to participate in general fandom again. It is a hairy quagmire of divergent points of view and divisive passions, and we have both been there, done that with the bruises to prove it. Best to stick to the discussions we can have with our immediate internet friends.

But that got me thinking about why fandom is the way it is. Anything that makes us equally passionate–hobbies, areas of expertise, particular people, things of beauty–can lead to divergent points of view and divisiveness. We form strong opinions about those things, then the realities of internet communication exaggerate them: a degree of anonymity makes us bolder, ruder, rasher. The visual and aural cues that come with face-to-face or telephone communication are not there, which leads to unintended ambiguity and misunderstanding.

But there’s an additional element to fannishness about fictional books, films, or television shows that also contributes to the potential turbulence of the fan experience: our human response to stories. Continue reading

Once Upon A Time: On Henry

24 Jan

Emma-Henry

I got the first season of OUAT on DVD for Xmas and have been doing a rewatch. Simultaneously, I’ve been plotting the second draft of my novel using the hero’s journey as a rough template, so I had the concept of the Guide archetype in my head while watching.

Assuming Emma Swan is the Hero of OUAT, the first Guide she encounters, at least in season one, is her son, Henry. He has the “Once Upon A Time” book, and he is constantly interpreting events and people for Emma (also, for Mary-Margaret/Snow White, and Graham/the Huntsman) in terms of the book so that she can see herself in the larger picture of what she is supposed to accomplish as the “savior.”

Spoilers through the end of season 1, with some unspoiled speculation

I, Robot

6 Aug

Yeah, so I have an author website launching soon and a website designer who wants that launch ASAP and I am floundering pulling my content together. I mean, talk about your writer’s block suddenly hitting, your word-smithing skills crapping out, and your total lack of Photoshop-fu being your undoing.

That. Me.

So I remind myself, you know, self, when you launched All Things Philosophical on Jan 1, 1999 (!), the show was in frigging season 3 and you were still sweating over your desperate need to prove the philosophical genius that was I Robot, You Jane. People still visited your site and came back when there was more to see. Having more to see is what brings people back.

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Between the lines

2 Apr

One fandom activity I don’t like seeing and don’t enjoy doing is nit-picking plot holes. All fictional works have them, but some people relish the idea of pointing them out and castigating the writers of the fictional work. They relish complaining. Television is especially vulnerable to this because of tight writing schedules and multiple authors.

I hate nit-picking because I don’t like plot holes, they ruin my enjoyment of a book/show/film considerably, and I’d just as soon spackle over them and move on rather than grouse for fun and profit. Back in the hey-day of the ATPo board, we used to spend a portion of our time “spackling” BtVS and AtS plot holes using show canon or well-accepted fanon. We’d pack the hole with speculation, likely or unlikely, and end the post with “spackle, spackle” as a tongue-in-cheek wink to other posters (especially if our hole-filler was a stretch).

I suppose most plothole-filling in fandom occurs in spackle!fic rather than “meta.” And probably more convincingly as well, since fiction is a more visceral medium for making a case.

Regardless of how it’s done, spackling can work surprisingly well for the fan willing to put in the ThinksTooMuch time, because ofttimes the apparently dangling plot point was, in fact, established by the writers, just weakly, or in ways that were obvious to them but not to the viewers.

I am thinking of this today because one of the worst kind of plot holes there is is weakly-developed motivation in a character-driven story.

Regina on OUAT (spoilers to last night’s episode)