Friday, November 27, 2009

The Protagonist Gets a Tree

Happy Holidays!

(and thanks to Stephanie, our wingman, for all the great photos!)

Happy Thanksgiving


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Quote of the Evening

"I don't want to survive. I want to LIVE."
- The Captain, WALL-E

Monday, November 23, 2009


I have a good many things to be thankful for, but it really hit home today as I was browsing through these blog archives.

The last five years have been nothing short of... harrowing? Amazing? Harrowing and amazing, perhaps. In any case, it's made me even more incredibly thankful for where I'm at right now. 2006/2007 is a particularly bitter and amazing year of archives. When you read about just how bad things had gotten, it's nothing short of a bloody fucking miracle that I'm where I'm at now.

I'm awestruck at how things have turned out.

Thanks to all the regular readers who have shared this incredibly weird, rocky, wild ride. And thanks for sticking with me as the beat goes on.

Here's to another (hopefully less harrowing) five years...

Remember, as I oft-repeated at the end of every blog post:

"Tomorrow will be better."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Branded: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

New guest blog post up at Ecstatic Days: Branded: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

HealthCare Concerns

Is anyone else really concerned that the latest "health screening reversals" have targeted women? See mammograms, and pelvic exams. I have yet to see the "let's stop screening men for prostate cancer" and "forget the colonoscopies" announcement.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

There Will Come Soft Rains

Short animation based on the Ray Bradbury story of the same name.

In Case There Was Any Doubt About Who's Creating Your Media...

... and why it's still assumed that every audience member is straight, white, upper-middle class, and male.

WGA report examining employment and earnings trends for writers in the Hollywood industry:

2009 Executive Summary (.pdf)
2009 Hollywood Writers Report (.pdf)

(via deadbrowalking)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book Rejection Bingo

In conversation, a writing buddy of mine expressed interest in tracking down a "book rejection BINGO" card. I'm startled to say that, after much searching, I failed to find one.

So.... I made one!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Don't worry about the world ending today. It's already tomorrow in Australia.'
- anon

100 Words

New guest blog post over at Ecstatic Days, 100 Words.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Your Daily Dose of Privilege

How Not To Be An Asshole: A Guide For Men

Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

And for the record, yes, I do risk assessments all the time. If you're born female, you learn how to do this from the time you're very small. A woman would have to live in the absolute bread basket of rich, white, young, and gated suburbian privilege to not do a threat assessment every time she walks down the street (in fact, I have yet to meet a woman who doesn't do a threat assessment every time a strange man talks to her).

We grow up with stories about how it's our duty to protect ourselves from being raped, attacked, abused, murdered, and mutilated. And we hear stories all the time of female friends and family members who've been abused and harassed by men - sometimes strangers and sometimes men they love. It's pretty clear from the culture at large that nobody else is going to "save" us from institutionalized male aggression. I'm surprised that more male commenters on the Schrodinger post didn't seem to realize that. That's privilege, I guess.

Why do you think I took up boxing in Chicago? Do you have any idea how much women in get harassed on the street, trains, and buses, particularly in big cities? I'd say, at least twice a week I had some guy yelling something at me in Chicago, making inappropriate or uninvited comments, or otherwise trying to strike up unwanted conversation.

"Fuck off," works very, very well. Yes, you feel like a steely bitch for saying it. But men generally accept "fuck off" a lot more often than the nervous smiles we've been trained to give them. They may yell back at you, but they do fuck off. The polite, nervous "no"s never work.

It's hard to rework your training, and I hate that so much of the "fuck off" thing has to rely on women re-training themselves. This is why posts like the above are so important. Changing the culture of male aggression means changing the way men interact with women, not just the way we respond. If you're going to change anything, it takes concerted effort on both sides, not just boxing lessons and foul language from potential victims.

And, you know, I'll take foul language and good right hook over that terrified nervous rabbit feeling I get when I'm trying to be polite to some stranger who thinks that because I'm a woman he has the right to poke at me.

This doesn't happen as much to guys because 1) they're seen as people 2) they're seen as people who will kick the shit out of you if you keep fucking with them.

I can't do much to change #1, but I can take some action on #2.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Oh, thank God.


Whedon is wasting his time on this one. Think of the incredible shows he could be creating RIGHT NOW but hasn't been for the last year and a half because he's been hip-deep in this piece of crap.

You can love two or three series from a writer, and hate their third. It's okay. It's allowed. Sometimes writers fail. It happens. I would have much rather he was attempting something great, like Firefly, than this piece of crap.

Moving on.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Recommended: Heart of Veridon

I picked up Heart of Veridon, by Tim Akers, quite by accident. I was actually looking for Graceling and something by somebody named Connelly. I couldn’t find the Connelly and once I picked up Graceling, the prose on the first few pages was just so dull I couldn’t get myself to buy it.

Veridon was sitting on the shelf with the cover facing outward, and who isn’t going to pick up a book with a rotting, menacing, mechanical angel on the cover?

So I did. Read a few paragraphs.

It only takes a few paragraphs to know whether or not a writer actually knows how to write. It only takes a few sentences to figure out if they’re writing the type of story you’re interested in.

I didn't even get to the end of the first page. I bought the book.

This is an incredibly good read. It has its flaws – which I’ll go into later – but man, what a read! This is an incredible, creepy, messed up little Victorian/noir/steampunk/bug tech world full of massively screwed up people.

I loved it.

Way more readable than anything by Mieville, and far more boneshaking than Boneshaker (which has, alas, been consigned to the bottom of my reading pile after I discovered there's very little in this book that's shaking my bones, 70+ pages in).

In Heart of Veridon, our protagonist is Jacob Burn, an outcast “noble” with a bum reconstituted Pilot’s engine in his chest that once allowed him to fly zepliners. It's basically a steampunk version of hooking into a spaceship and becoming one with it in order to fly it. After getting cast out by his family, Jacob’s been doing odd jobs for a shady crime boss named Valentine, which has led him on board the particular zepliner, Glory of Days, which we find ourselves on in the beginning of the book.

Suffice to say, Glory of Days doesn’t quite make it back into Veridon, the city at the heart of this novel. It’s hijacked by an unknown group or groups of people who go ravaging through the ship. With his dying breath, an old acquaintance of Jacob’s who he bumped into on the ship hands him a mysterious Cog – basically a religious relict in this world – and tells him to bring it back to the city.

Then, more chaos. Shooting. Blood. Crashing.

Mmmm mmmmm.

It’s a fantastic novel opener, and things just keep going. I love the worldbuilding in this book, and the religions are… beautiful. I have never seen gods and religions done with just this right blend of sadness and creepy.You see, there are things in the world of Veridon that its residents did not and do not understand. Things that we, the reader, still don’t understand, and so they worship them. They create entire temples around them. It’s the first time I’ve convincingly seen gods created out of what are, quite possibly, advanced/aging races and/or their relics. What I love about this is that is speaks so… poignantly about the human need to make sense from nonsense, to control what they don’t understand and completely botch it in the process, and to worship what we fear in order to feel that we have some control over it.

Now, I have a lot of love for this book – I stayed up late last night to finish it, and it only took me a couple days to read because I was picking it up whenever I had a spare moment – but it does have its flaws.

The female lead carries a sword and a shotgun at one point. She’s tough as nails, full of secrets, and has no qualms being a whore, to boot - and I was desperately hoping Akers would pull an Ever After at the end of this one and she wouldn’t need any saving. But, well. There are two more female characters – both tough, calculating, and vindictive. Neither has a great end. I was secretly hoping that one of them would break free and just torch the whole fucking city. You’ll know which one when you read it.

Bah. This was more than a little disappointing. On the one hand, bad things happen to pretty much everybody in the book. On the other hand, there aren’t a whole lot of female background characters, so these were the only ones I had to root for, and they were pretty badly treated there at the end. That said: they were certainly cool enough to root for, and disappointing as the ending was in that regard, I appreciated a book that gave me a full cast of fleshed out characters.

There were a couple of annoying structural flaws. The first was that Jacob keeps repeating what’s just happened to him to characters not in the know. We have to sit through his version of events every time he fills somebody in on them. It got old, even when it was over in just a couple paragraphs. A one line, “I filled him in on what happened,” would have been fine. Overall, folks sat around and talked a little too much (as a writer, I felt I recognized this is as the writerly, "Holy shit, a lot of shit just happened. I'll have my characters sit around and figure the plot out while I take a breather."), and there at the end, the bad guys were actually *inviting* Jacob to ask them why they did what they did, you know, so they could exposit their reasons for being so bad. It was the classic bad guy monologue. It was a little silly.

Finally, there’s Jacob’s motives. There at the end, I was just like, “Dude, give up already! Give him the relic and have him destroy the fucking city!” (OK, yes, I may have been on the side of the chick who wanted to burn the city to the ground. But if I’d been fucked over so much by this city, it’s what I’d want too. I was totally on her side. It’s a creepy city). Jacob’s motivation for wanting to save the city was… strangely absent. I kept looking at what people had done to him, how much he’d been screwed over, how toxic and creepy the place was, and I just couldn’t figure out why he kept going when any reasonable person who have stopped (especially at the end, when he’s fighting this crazy rotting mechanical angel in a scene that, oddly, put me in mind of the end battle between Deckard and Roy in Bladerunner).

Overall, the characters were put together very well. Everybody had their own secrets and motives – many of which weren’t even totally revealed at the end. They were complex characters. I remember being struck, in the beginning, at how Jacob’s voice would weave between street tough and educated nobility. It really did that. I initially thought this was a clunky first-time novelist mistake, until I realized that, in fact, the character had been raised a noble and simply spent the five or so years in exile as a street tough. The strange voice changes made a lot more sense.

In fact, some of what makes this book such a good page turner is that Jacob is incredibly unpredictable. At one point, when the calvary comes in toward the end of the book, he refuses their help. Yes. Refuses. He gets out and the book goes on and you’re like, “What the hell? That was a comfortable trope you just totally stomped on!”

He makes a lot of mistakes. Mistakes that get people killed and get him into deeper trouble. He’s not a hero, he’s tragically human, and tragically flawed, and it shows every step of the way. I like flawed heroes. Jacob is a good one.

In any case, this is a wonderfully wild ride. Rotting angels, fish people, half-mechanical people, bizarre alien gods, steampunk tech, bug tech, shotguns, outcasts, folks coming back from the dead, folks who can’t die, crazy mods, zepliners, chicks with swords (or, at least, a large knife), and lots of gunfights and backstabbing and double-crosses.

What’s not to like?

Did I mention there’s a chick with a shotgun? And a totally rotting half-mechanical angel on the cover?


Monday, November 09, 2009

Prince of Persia

Sooo.... let me get this straight. You had folks like this chick and this guy to carry this movie:

And YOU CHOSE this guy and this chick?

I'm sorry, what planet are you living on, Hollywood? Because it's not the same planet I'm living on.

Also, it looks like a terrible movie.


This was not a bad movie.

No, really!

I’m a sucker for psychological horror in spaaaaaaace and this was a prime example of that. It’s not a great movie, but it was... entertaining. This may have been because I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from it.

The conceit behind Sunshine is ridiculous, of course. If you’re watching a movie for SCIENCE you should probably just… stop. The premise is, hey, the sun is dying! Humanity launches a manned spaceflight to save it! By launching some sort of superior nuclear physics-thing bomb into the sun!


This is why it took me so long to see this movie. How utterly stupid, right? I haven’t seen The Core either, and I was leery of this damn thing turning into the ridiculous gore-fest that was Event Horizon. I’ll take crappy science over crappy, nonsensical gore any day (I found Sunshine far creepier than Event Horizon, actually. It's all about what you don't know and what you don't see. The more gore, the more ridiculous the movie, for me. I prefer subtlety).

But, see, Sunshine had what a lot of crappy-science movies don’t have: an excellent cast, great effects, tight and suspenseful direction, AMAZING soundtrack, and wonderfully creepy shenanigans. All that… in spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace.

And who doesn’t love adventures in space?

The cast included Cillian Murphy and Michelle Yeoh, which gives you an idea of how seriously (B+/A- movie actor seriously) the cast took it movie. And trust me, that helps. It reminded me a lot of alien in that way – you put a strong cast and creepy direction into a lost in space movie, and you can carry it a long way.

The cast was reasonably diverse, split pretty evenly between white and Asian characters (tho at the end of the day, it was still white guys saving the world and fighting each other. The captain, psychologist, and navigation guys all check out pretty early. And the female characters only seemed to make it so far into the movie so somebody could be menaced at the end – would have preferred it was the navigation chick who got frozen to death trying to save the ship instead of held off til the end so she would go down with the male lead, but - you win some, you lose some).

Overall, it was a well-paced movie right up until those last 10-15 minutes, when things got weird. And yes, in case you’re wondering, in a movie about a group of people who are *restarting the sun* there are a LOT of moments where you just have to let them handwave-handwave their way out of things. Like how the fuck is he hanging onto the ass-end of a spaceship whose rockets just went off must be ignored… and there are lots of cut-aways of even more improbable scenes like how he then opened up the airlock and crawled inside while the rocket boosters are STILL GOING OFF (and let's not get started with the whole "oxygen garden" business, or the space walking suits, or the ridiculous observation window).

But if you liked Pitch Black, I think you’ll like Sunshine. Good cast and a lot of fun so long as you don’t think about it too much. I rate it slightly better than Babylon A.D., mainly because the ending to that fucking movie was about on par with Padme’s “lost the will to live” bullshit. I will make many allowances for my SF popcorn, but empty vessel female characters are not one of them.

Friday, November 06, 2009

God's War Update

Guest post over at Ecstatic Days about Surviving the Book Contract that Wasn't.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

I am not pleased


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Maine, Or, the Legacy of Why We Don't Vote on Human Rights Issues

"Someone in power is finally going to state the obvious truth that gay marriage is absolutely necessary, and they're not going to put it up for a vote, because that's not what you do with basic human rights. You don't let six wolves and four sheep vote on what to have for dinner (or in this case, what, fifty-two wolves and forty-eight sheep?).

The National Guard will stand outside the courthouses and force you to grow the hell up, and you will be remembered in history like those sad ugly white people yelling at the black kids coming to class.

And this isn't the fifties. This is the twenty-first century. Your bisexual grandkids will still be able to Google your sorry ass and see that you were a spiteful hateful closeminded bigot. They'll have your lying ads, annotated with footnotes showing how you knew you were lying at the time. They'll have your ugly homophobic comments and your hate-filled fake news reports captured in crystal clarity on whatever magical Internet++ they're using decades from now. And they're going to be ashamed of you.

All you've done -- all you've accomplished with your lies and hate and fearmongering -- is to delay the inevitable. In the next few years, every widow who loses her home because she "wasn't really married" to her life partner, and the life partner's kids have a good lawyer? Every man who dies scared and alone because the man who should have been his husband wasn't allowed to be at his bedside? Every not-spouse who dies because of not-health-coverage, coverage they would have gotten were they married? Every one of those things that happens between now and whenever the National Guard puts a little learnin' on you? That's on you.

That's your legacy.

(read the rest)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Heart of Veridon

Picked this one up on a whim at Books & co today while I was looking for something else (ended up passing on the other one and got this and Best Served Cold instead).

Folks, I may be in love. I'm 30 pages in and really hoping he doesn't screw it up.

Proper review when I finish, but the guy sure knows how to take you on a bloody, weird, wild ride.

If chicks with swords show up later, I'll have no complaints!

Why is it...

... that so many "lit" stories are about 1) whiny emo college students 2) whiny sub-par college professors?

I wonder, indeed.