October 26, 2013
In some imaginary world there are people out there, readers of this blog, like you I guess, who these last few months have been frustrated. Abandoned. Cast adrift in the universe of Science Fiction. Wondering. Floundering. Without my rushed reviews as guidance they have read the wrong books or watched the wrong films or given up and started reading Fantasy.
All this I know to be untrue (bar the reading Fantasy bit). If you care about speculating on the next superhero film to be made in a years time you are reading io9, if you want to read writers endlessly plug their latest novel/comic or talk about their hangovers you are reading Twitter, if you want to keep up to date on the latest author interviews you are reading SF Signal, if you are obsessed with awards you are listening to one of the multitudes of SF podcasts, if you like SciFi television you are probably just watching everything that is on regardless of its quality, same goes for films. The reduced frequency of posts on this blog has made no difference to your life unless you very specifically wanted to know what I have been reading/watching/listening to.
So, to maintain that illusion that someone cares, let me inform you. The answer is suprisingly little. There have been not many things to inspire me. A few of course, Les Revenants was a superb slow burning take on zombies, The Chaos Walking Trilogy was interesting although unable to maintain it's vibrancy across three books and very recently Salt by Adam Roberts was a fantastic examination of the difficulties in trying to cross the gaping void of cultural differences. But in general I have felt, do feel, out of step with the current state of Science Fiction.
On TV only The Walking Dead maintains my interest. Every week I fall asleep whilst watching The Agnets Of SHIELD (literally). I gave up on everything else. It all feels so bland and formulaic. Where are the issues and agendas? Where is the passion? Where is the relevancy?
With books I have struggled to find anything that sparked my interest. I have even failed to read Empty Space which I have started three times and given up on. Everywhere I look it's urban fantasy or Game Of Thrones or YA. It's authors and publishing struggling to make a profit and somewhere inside of that the urgency is lost. I want a book that gives me a future, that is screaming for revolution, that shows me change. The only novels that have come close to that for me recently are Little Brother and Homeland by Cory Doctorow, both written for the YA audience. What does that say? Have we given up on the adults? Are we too old to change anything? I just don't think so. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places? I've been listening to Clarkesworld podcasts and Lightspeed podcasts and the stories there don't grab me. The only short story I can even remember from the last few months is by Tim Maughn and it was published on Medium! I must be missing something, there must be more out there like that, there must be places to publish fiction like that.
Maybe I'm craving primary (or at least secondary) sources? The things that pique my interest right now are Bruce Sterling's blog, are Arc Magazine, are people looking at a possible future via speculation, people doing real research even. Perhaps this is the point I give up on consuming Science Fiction? Instead of reading and writing so much I've been coding, writing open source code, making something. It may only be an app that plays sounds or some new blogging software but there is something about open source that feels like the future. That feels worthwhile. At least more worthwhile. I want that feeling back from my Science Fiction.
That's it, a splurge of thoughts, unedited, typed in one sitting, with no conclusion. It's an ongoing conflict and this is just a snapshot.
July 27, 2013
May 27, 2013
May 17, 2013
"60 SECONDS!"The Non-Stop Party roared into a moving countdown, the crowds loud and boisterous and ecstatic, the music frenetic and infused with energy."What?" said Lenah, she couldn't hear the words that Karl spoke so stepped closer to him, her hands on his upper arms, her ear to his mouth."I'm leaving," said Karl.
May 12, 2013
April 13, 2013
March 30, 2013
March 25, 2013
March 16, 2013
Somehow I managed to miss the first waves of adoration that The Hunger Games induced on its release. I said that about Twilight too, I think this once and for all indicates that I am old and that I have no idea what's cool with "the kids". So, when the film adaptation arrived I was keen to see it and thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, unlike many adaptations, watching it left me with a strong desire to read the novel, easily satisfied by the box set of the trilogy with the lovely "grown up" cover art.
As I'm talking about the entire trilogy here there will be spoilers, so if you haven't read all three please go and do that now. If you're anything like me an entire weekend will be consumed by the stories of Panem and you'll be back here in no time.
On with my ramblings.
The consequence of the novel being told entirely in first person from Katniss's viewpoint, unlike the film, is that it engulfed me rapidly in the world of District 12 but took a bit longer to discover its full nature. As I knew this world already I can't comment on what the effect would be like if you didn't know, but the emphasis on the character is effective and well done. Despite knowing the plot the book was a joy to read, I instantly began to care for Katniss and her family. Like the film I think the best part of The Hunger Games is the first half, when the world is still to be discovered, when we learn what the games are, when we are repulsed at the show and glamour in the Capitol for the slaughter of children. The games themselves I found less interesting, however in the novel the timespan is at least increased which makes more sense. It's a game of survival against the elements as much as the other competitors, something that was hard to convey in a two hour film. I also enjoyed the chance the novel offered to more fully explore the important relationships between Katniss and Peeta and Gale.
One of the key scenes in the film that I thought set it apart from a standard adventure film was the scene of uprising in District 11, hinting that there was more to this world than we had seen. In the novel, due to the first person nature, we don't see that, instead though we get the feelings of Katniss, her hate of the Capitol, the hints that the oppressed are ready for a change. And then we get two books to see the consequences.
I devoured Catching Fire and Mockingjay in a weekend. I literally could not put them down. I find it hard to separate the two now, in my mind they're the full story of Panem. The first book stands apart because I had seen the film, but I'm sure if I hadn't all three books would be merged in my mind as the big arc of Panem.
As a story it continually surprised me, switching from a story of oppressed people and their control, to the story of a revolution, to a wide-screen war adventure and back to the small, tight focus of a tragic story of love and family. I loved these gear changes. I loved the focus on the damage that the games had inflicted on the winners, it wasn't dismissed or ignored, it was dealt with. Maybe condensed, yes, but I felt the novels attempted to deal with the mental damage caused by war and conflict.
The second games I found to be perhaps the weakest part of the story. I know it's the hook, but it felt like the most ideas driven part of the novels and wasn't executed s well as I'd wanted, like I would expect from a top class SF novel. Instead the novels are best when they are focusing on the characters. Sure there is plenty of adventure but it's there to show us the people.
I've heard some people complain that The Hunger Games is unrealistic and that a game which involves the slaughter of children is an ineffective way to oppress the masses. I have never seen the games as part of that tool, I see the games as a cruel punishment, a taunt, the people are already oppressed and helpless and the Capitol kills their children to make them angry and unhappy. The idea that the districts could even attempt to rise up against the Capitol is never even considered. Why should it be? They are all powerful, they are all controlling, they are arrogant. Only when the uprising begins do they even consider it possible. Katniss and Peeta were indeed the catalyst, they were the ones who out of all those children stood up to the Capitol and were prepared to sacrifice themselves to prove a point, to fight against the oppressors. Before them no one thought it was possible. They really were the spark.
Finally to the ending. It can be hard to end a trilogy. Very few have endings that I remember, perhaps only Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy left as a permanent memory. The Hunger Games trilogy has joined this, indelibly imprinted in my mind. Heartbreaking yet offering us all hope. Life carries on. We can carry on. We can love and live and we can, if we are lucky, be happy. We can make a better world for a children, it may be hard, it may cost, but it will be worth it.
February 3, 2013
- They can enter your house without asking. ARGGGH! How terrifying. It was one of their key weaknesses. Now they can just stroll into your bedroom and kill you. This does not seem to be a big deal in Twilight because there is always a good Vampire or a good Werewolf to guard you. Well lucky for you Bella, everyone else is getting killed in their sleep.
- They sparkle. WTF?! That's the weakest excuse I've ever heard for not appearing in sunlight. Oooh, can't go into the sun because I'm a bit sparkly. Once again a prime weakness of vampires taken away and it's made out to be a real drag... they have to live in the cloudy Pacific Northwest, dude that sucks.
- They all have superpowers. Because being an undead, superfast, superstrong killing machine isn't enough. Obviously.
- They have rules and the only reason to obey the rules is because otherwise Michael Sheen will get a bit stroppy with you and do that crazy laugh.