Category Archives: F/SF

Rogue One: Thoughts

Right, so Rogue One Spoilers, naturally. Right from the get go.

I was nervous about The Force Awakens. I had seen The Phantom Menace in theaters on opening day, and turned out to be a bad life choice for me. I wasn’t sure that even The Mouse could save Star Wars movies. I turned out to be delightfully wrong. Based on the strength of that, I was cautiously optimistic that Rogue One would not bring us back to the bad old days (for me) of the prequels.

So, the short answer is, in the main, it was an excellent war movie Star Wars movie. The movie made some choices I don’t think worked as well as they might have, though, and at least one choice that I actively hated.

So, the plot is, if you didn’t know, is the story of how Leia got the plans on the Tantive IV in the first place. How were those plans gathered? Rogue One tells us how we get there through the eyes of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). Jyn is the daughter of a Imperial weapons designer (Mads Mikkelsen) who tries to go straight, fails, and is dragged back to finish his great project–yep, the Death Star. Years later, Jyn, living alone, gets recruited forcibly by the Alliance only at first as a way for the alliance to reach a splinter Rebel leader (Forest Whitaker’s character) who has gotten a message from Jyn’s father about a weakness in the Death Star. In the course of that mess, she gains companions, comes to join the rebel alliance, and finally steps up to lead the mission to try and get the full plans of the Death Star to exploit that weakness.

So, what worked?

This movie is the best war story we’ve seen in Star Wars and it brings the cost and nature of war, and occupation to Star Wars that exactly none of the rest of the movies have done. We see what an occupied city looks like, and acts like. We get to finally see what the hell an AT-ST (the small chicken leg walkers maligned in Return of the Jedi) are good for–they are for urban population control. Its SO obvious, now! We get some gorgeous cinematography…like when we see our first Star Destroyer, emerging out of darkness into bright light. So gorgeous. The strong use of practical effects and keeping in with the in-universe tech of Star Wars kept me in the story–whereas the CGI shiniess of the stuff in the prequels kept looking like a video game and not really Star Wars at all. K-2S0 gives us a different kind of droid character–not the adorable small droid (r2d2, bb8 type) and not a fussy protocol droid, but an reprogrammed Imperial Droid with a snarky sense of humor. And Y-Wings (my favorite ship in the Star Wars universe, obsolete as they are) prove their mettle in disabling a Star Destroyer. Badass!

The fact that we see a lower power setting for the Death Star, “only” destroying a city, is terrifying. The Empire could use the Death Star and not even have to “go all the way”. Destroy a portion of a planet to make its mark and let the rest fall into line, keeping the valuable real estate. That’s a frightening reimagining of the level of its powers.

What didn’t work?

First and foremost, the two CGIed actors–Carrie Fisher’s Leia in a cameo at the end, and throughout the movie Cushing’s Tarkin. The technology to make them not uncanny valley is not there yet, and Tarkin, especially, when he was in groups of people was noticeably “not real” and the body language and look are all wrong. While I can see why the character was essential, making a CGI version of him didn’t work. I suspect, though, that the technology will definitely get a boost after this movie. This movie won’t be the last time we get a digitized actor in a role.

I also think the team was maybe one character too much for some really meaty development of the characters. Jyn gets an arc, but no one else really does. Cassian doesn’t, certainly, although he gets a moment of not taking a shot he could have taken. More could have been done with that. And would it have killed the movie not to Smurfette Jyn on the team?

I am of two minds about the reveal in this movie–that the thermal exhaust port was a flaw in the Death Star by design in the beginning by its designer, meant to be an exploit to be used to destroy it. While that does clear up the “why is there such an obvious way to destroy it” problem of the massive thing–it was made to have a flaw, on the other hand, the dialogue in Star Wars now feels a little discordant–“we’ve found a weakness” is not quite “Finding *the* weakness left there”. Its a subtle distinction but its a real one. In a similar mind, the dialogue about the Tantive IV being a diplomatic ship on a diplomatic mission–well, Vader knows *patently* that’s not true–because he watched it escape. Even further, in the crawl to A New Hope (and there is no crawl to this movie, by the way), the crawl mentions that the Rebels have achieved a victory over Empire forces. This was…not a victory. The Empire loses a couple of Star Destroyers and lot of materiel, but the Rebels take heavy losses, including their flagship. Pyrrhic victory at best, and if Vader had been a little faster…no victory at all.

The fact that all of the main cast die was, in the end, no surprise. It avoids the “Where were they for the rest of the movies” problem, neatly.

I can say, that two movies into their ownership, The Mouse seems to know what its doing with Star Wars film. I want to see more Star Wars films, both in and out of the main storyarc. Rogue One has solidified me being excited for Star Wars again. No small feat.

The 2017 Down Under Fan Fund and me

The 2017 DUFF Race is on.

DUFF is the Down Under Fan Fund, which is dedicated to sending a fan from the US to Australia (and vice versa) for purposes of connecting fans from
each of the antipodes.

https://downunderfanfund.wordpress.com/2016/12/22/2017-nominations-now-open/

I’d like to put my hat in the ring. The thing is, I need YOUR help.

According to Lucy Huntzinger, current administrator of DUFF:

Each candidate posts a bond ($5US) promising to travel (if elected) to a major convention on the other side of the Pacific, and provides nominations from five nominators (three from North America, two from Australia or New Zealand); it used to be we had to have their signatures, but I am okay with them sending me an email stating that they are nominating you for the 2017 race. They should use this email address and I must receive their nomination by January 22, 2017.

So I need nominators from Fandom, from both sides of the world, to make this work. Would you be willing to nominate me? Email me at jvstin@gmail.com AND Lucy at huntzinger@gmail.com

Hugo Delenda Est (?!)

One of the surging Puppy memes lately, in the wake of the 2016 Hugo Awards and the inaugural 2016 Dragon Awards, is “Hugo Delenda Est”. A check of Google shows that the idea has been in Puppyland for at least a year, but I noticed it when I visited John C Wright’s blog. , when he took issue with comments about the Dragon Award winning Somewhither. At the end of that post, he signed it off for (as far as the first time I can tell) with that phrase.

In PKD** fashion, I am tempted to tell you all about the etymology of the phrase and its origins. Rome and Carthage, Cato the Elder, and all that. I do find it interesting that the Puppies have cast themselves as Rome, and the “Puppykickers and SJWs” (their labels, not mine) as the Carthaginians. Since the Carthaginians performed child sacrifice (and truthfully, at that period, so did the Romans), the anti-abortion side of the Puppies might find this parallel even MORE appealing and apropos.

I do find it interesting that the “mask” is off. Mr. Wright was genuinely pleased by his Hugo nominations, and John, fun fact, its an honor to be nominated, even if you lose. But it appears that the “Puppykickers and SJWs” use of the No Award option the last couple of years cannot be borne.

So Hugo Delenda Est?

Bitch, please.

There have been complaints about who has gotten Hugos since, it seems, since the second year of the awards (They Rather Be Right, *really*?). And as Cora Buhlert pointed out in a recent blog post, back in 2013, when the Puppies were just getting going, there were rumblings and discussions in the SF field about the kind of works that were getting nominated. Those complaints were that the award was TOO commercial and was missing important books and stories in the field in favor of much more commercial and mainstream works. (In other words, the exact opposite argument the Puppies advance). I should know about these rumblings and discussions–because I was there. I was actively tweeting and commenting and talking on podcasts at the time. I ALSO remember that some of those people who were unhappy pondered and contemplated the possibility of starting a new award. That turned out to be naught, because, well, its difficult to get an award up and running. Look at the Dragon Award, where a suspicious number of the winners match Theodore Beale’s “Not a Slate” slate.

But destroy the Hugos? Why? Isn’t destroying the Hugos because you don’t like the books and works winning a case of that charge you throw at SJWs of accusing Puppies? Are SJWs wrongfans having wrongfun?

We’re not having wrongfun, and you aren’t either when you read the works you like to read and talk about same. As I have said a thousand times, my only beef with the Puppies in regards to the science fiction they love is the use of slate tactics to put works on the Hugo ballot..

My only beef with the Puppies in regards to the science fiction they love is the use of slate tactics to put works on the Hugo ballot.

And when you try to *troll* the awards by slating Chuck Tingle, then my ire gets up to 11.

Read what you love, and be done. No one has to destroy anything. Or should want to.

**Oh yes, this SJW read and talks about Philip K Dick, Jack Vance, Alfred Bester, Robert Heinlein, and plenty of other authors that, if the Puppies are to believed, I should say penance to a statue of Astarte for if I even utter their names.

No, we don’t hate Sad Puppies for the reasons you give.

believe the gap between the puppy kickers and the sad puppies was trenched deliberately. It is not because they misunderstand us that they hate us; they hate us because we love science fiction for its own sake, as an imaginative exercise opening realms of wonder. They see science fiction as they see all things, as tools useful for social engineering and thought policing. We seek to free the mind, they seek to chain the mind.

–John C Wright. “Superversive: Puppy Pictures, Please

No, John. “Puppy Kickers” do NOT hate the Sad and Rabid Puppies because you love SF for its own sake. Those opposed to the Puppies object
to Theodore Fucking Beale making slates and using such tactics to put shit works on the Hugo Ballot.

I do not hate Theodore Beale because he loves SF for his own sake. I hate Theodore Beale because in a fit of pique, he has decided to try and spoil Science Fiction for his own amusement. Or do you think it was an act of love and respect on Theodore Beale and the Rabids part for Science Fiction that they slated Chuck Tingle onto the Hugo Ballot this year?

Theodore Beale and the Rabids are Jokers, John, in the Batman sense of the word. I hate him because he is anti-Science Fiction, against this genre that you *know* that I love.

The Golden Age of SF is 12 and the unbound time of SF

“The Golden Age of SF is 12”

You’ve heard that phrase, right?

For me, it may be the SF I read when I was 12, but I was not yet reading contemporary SF at that point. Thanks to an older brother introducing me to HIS Science fiction, I was reading for the most part slightly older science fiction than the contemporary at the beginning.

The 1984 Hugo novel nominees, for novels in 1983, when I was 12:

Startide Rising by David Brin [Bantam, 1983]
Tea with the Black Dragon by R. A. MacAvoy [Bantam, 1983]
Millennium by John Varley [Berkley, 1983]
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern by Anne McCaffrey [Ballantine Del Rey, 1983]
The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov [Doubleday, 1983]

I read none of these in 1983 or 1984. It would take me a couple of years to discover Brin, Varley, McCaffrey. It was a long time before I hit on MacAvoy. I was reading Asimov at that point, Asimov was one of my first authors but I was reading used paperbacks, not new ones. So I didn’t get to this one for a while.

Similarly, I hit Cyberpunk and Neuromancer a few years after its Annus mirabilis of 1984. I wanted to “catch up” with all the back history of the field, you see.

Zelazny’s Merlin novels were the first novels I was eagerly trying to read “in real time”. As time went on, I slowly started to shift toward new or recently published SF. It was the mid to late 90’s when I started reading Hugo and Nebula nominees in the year they came out, as a way of staying abreast of the field.

When I started reviewing seriously enough to have publishers start sending me books was when I started managing to read books *before* official release, but that wasn’t until about 5 or 6 years ago.

My Genre Stuff this Week 4/15

On SF Signal, I review APHRODITE TERRA, edited by Ian Sales:
http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2016/04/book-review-the-anthology-aphrodite-terra-captures-the-harshness-of-venus/

On Skiffy and Fanty, I review OWL AND THE CITY OF ANGELS by Kristi Charish
https://skiffyandfanty.com/2016/04/14/book-review-owl-and-the-city-of-angels-by-kristi-charish/

On SFF AUDIO, I discuss The Lottery by Jorge Luis Borges
http://www.sffaudio.com/the-sffaudio-podcast-364-audiobookreadalong-the-lottery-in-babylon-by-jorge-luis-borges/

Puppies, Slates Recommendations, and Christmas Card Lists

You’d think people would have the grace and good manners that, if someone asked you to leave them off of your slate/not a slate/christmas card list, you would have enough respect for them to actually abide by their wishes. You like Reynolds work enough to put it on your slate/not a slate/christmas card list, and yet when he asks you to remove him, you get hostile about it?

I am particularly thinking of poor Alastair Reynolds here, whose Slow Bullets has been caught in this mess. Cat Valente, too, is not happy by this. As always, File 770 is rounding up reactions and responses from the Puppies and others.

Author, Creator: If I were to ever put up such a recommendation list, and you asked me to remove you, I’d do it, immediately, without question.

Representation and Advocacy for same–Women and minorities in SFF

So, the newest SF Signal Irregular, James Wallace Harris had a post on staying on the Cutting Edge of SF. Go read it, I’ll wait.

The list of works that he cites has, become, rightly, something that Juliet McKenna has pointed at for a large and fatal flaw: There are no works by women in it.

“erasing women authors impoverishes SF&Fantasy for everyone by limiting readers’ awareness and choices today and by discouraging potential future writers”

She’s right. But here comes my small dilemma. I see this, I see the issue but what should I do, and what shouldn’t I do about it? I don’t want to come off as White Knighting. Women like Juliet McKenna, and Aliette de Bodard, and Elizabeth Bear and many others are perfectly capable of defending themselves, and advocating for us all doing better. I don’t want to be seen as trying to horn in and speaking louder than they are. I don’t want a problem addressed only because a man is talking about it–I want their voices to make the change. But I also want to show my support for their position at the same time. Its a balancing act I am still learning about.

It’s not a matter of diversity for the sake of diversity, its a matter of avoiding the deliberate or unconscious erasure of works by women and other minorities.