Tag Archives: fantasy/sci-fi

Oh Conan Yes!: Defending the new movie

Went and saw the new Conan movie last night and it was amazing!

Okay so number one a lot of people have been calling the Schwarzenegger movie a classic and “How could they redo it?” and on and on and on. So let me just say I own the first movie on DVD along with Red Sonja. So don’t try to bullshit me into this world where the original Conan is some amazing bit of film. It is camp, high camp (as if any movie with Arnold could be anything but) and not even James Earl Jones turns it into some amazing bit of art. And if I’m remembering correctly everyone dies in that version, Conan comes out the other side but not many other allies survive. Nostalgia can be a powerful thing and I like the original film but come on.

Now on to the new film. Will contain spoilers:

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World Science Fiction (Renovation) – Here I Come!

So I will be attending my first ever World Science Fiction Convention this year! 2011’s con is Renovation in Reno, NV. I’ve always wanted to attend a World SF Con and with it being so close geographically this year and a couple of other things that came together it looks like I’m gonna make it! There’s still the matter of rooming to be worked out (if you need a room I have slots, please be not-a-serial-killer, smoking I can live with a knife in the back not so much). Hope to see at least some of my friends from WisCon and World Fantasy there. I’m also going to be on 7(!) panels. Exciting and nerve-wracking.

Here are my panels for the Con:

Thu 14:00 – 15:00, Science Fiction, Gender, and Social Change(Panel), A03 (RSCC)

The workings of any society are a confluence of many different forces and movements. As society changes, its literature and arts (including SF) reflects, anticipates, and perhaps influences the direction and scope of change. How has SF influenced and reflected the changes in gender and gender roles over the past quarter century? As we look back to the work of writers such as Ursula LeGuin and Joanna Russ in the sixties and seventies, what can we say about their impact and
that of their heirs today?

Alexandria Brown (M), Ctein, Amy Thomson, Mari Kotani and Naamen Tilahun

I’m very interested in who we think are the heirs to LeGuin and Russ. Not just authors with a feminist slant (while many authors tend to deny this label) but authors where feminism and gender roles are central to their work in many ways.

Thu 15:00 – 16:00, Why We Still Love _The Twilight Zone_ Fifty Years On (Panel), C1 (RSCC)

While science fiction for kids filled the TV screens of the ’50s, Rod Serling’s _The Twilight Zone_ was, arguably, the first SF show for adults. Featuring sophisticated themes, good writing and a surprising number of young actors who went on to be stars, _The Twilight Zone_ is a classic of the genre everyone should be watching. Our panel talks about some of their favorite episodes and why they’ve lasted.

H. G. Stratmann (M), Gary Westfahl, J. Steven York, John DeChancie and Naamen Tilahun

Okay, admission time. The Twilight Zone freaks me out! Don’t get me wrong, I love it but it still freaks me out. It is one of my mom’s favorite shows so I was exposed to it a lot growing up and I still feel terror over certain episodes (mostly more obscure eps like the one with the bus stop and the doppelgangers). Amazing show, effective and creepy and oh so sci-fi.

Fri 10:00 – 11:00, SF We Love by Writers of Color (Panel), A03(RSCC)

Are you curious about SF by writers of color. How do you
find the good stuff? There are many reading options, and many ways of connecting with the various communities of color producing excellent SF. Join us to look at reading lists from the Carl Brandon Society and other sources. And bring your own suggestions and your squee.

Naamen Tilahun (M), Vylar Kaftan, Anne Gray, Bradford Lyau

Definitely have authors that I think are getting some attention but deserve a lot more. Readying a list.

Fri 11:00 – 12:00, Minority Representation in SF Art and the Ugly Reality (Panel), D05 (RSCC)

Minority representation needs to get better in our visual SF, including casting in film and TV and the design and selection of cover art. A discussion of what’s wrong with the status quo and how the industry can and should improve.

Lee Moyer (M), Aliette de Bodard, Lee Harris, Naamen Tilahun

I have examples I can bring! Examples from multiple decades! Gotta dig through my books and pull out my old copy of Butler’s “Dawn”, Emily Deveport’s “Larissa”, Laurie J. Marks’ “Fire Logic” and of course bring up the recent controversies in cover art and the idea that asking for accurate and inclusive cover art is somehow being a problem author.

Sat 14:00 – 15:00, Unsuppressing Women: The Work and Legacy of Joanna Russ (Panel), D05 (RSCC)

Joanna Russ was one of science fiction’s first
feminist writers and a leading literary critic. Our panel looks at her fiction, reviews, and critical work, and assesses her lasting impact on the field.

Farah Mendlesohn (M), Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Naamen Tilahun, Gary K. Wolfe

Love, love, love Joanna. I’m doing a series over at Feminist-SF The Blog called Remembering Joanna about reading four of the more obscure works she wrote. Only the first part is up so far but I’m hoping to get at least one more up (if not the whole sequence of four) by the time I leave for WorldCon.

Sat 15:00 – 16:00, The Paranormal as Metaphor (Panel), A16 (RSCC)

Paranormal fantasy, including urban fantasy and paranormal romance, is among the most popular genres within speculative fiction. One intriguing aspect of this type of fantasy is its role as a stealth route toward social commentary and change. What are the issues being examined and how effectively are the experiences of various groups presented?

Naamen Tilahun (M), Lucienne Diver, Carrie Vaughn, Rose Fox, Patricia Briggs

Really like the idea of this panel, totally had the discussion of metaphors of vampires and werewolves and witches in on of my classes last year and really enjoyed it. Also sort of want to bring up the opposite effect in metaphor. The way in which Twilight and some other YA works attempt to rework the mythos of these creatures into something that is safe and somewhat non-sexual when their initial metaphor had such a sexual connotation.

Sun 13:00 – 14:00, Feminism in Science Fiction and SF Fandom (Panel), C1 (RSCC)

Feminism and feminist themes are an integral part of SF and Fantasy. There is major annual feminist SF&F convention (Wiscon). Last year the _The Secret Feminist
Cabal_, a cultural history of science fiction feminisms was published. What role does feminism play in modern day science fiction and fandom, and how is that role traceable the seventies and before?

Renée Sieber (M), Ellen Klages, Joan D. Vinge, Naamen Tilahun, Jed Hartman

Loved The Secret Feminist Cabal when I read it when it came out. Gonna try and re-read it before the Con so all of it (or at least the more pertinent bits) are fresh in my mind.

So that is my WorldCon schedule. Hope to see some of y’all there!

So Close Yet So Far!

So I’m obviously not as plugged in as I thought I was because until last night I had never heard of the Emmy-winning web series Satacracy 88. Twenty-four episodes were done in ’06 and ’07 and they are all viewable on hulu. Now the pluses are complex, interesting Woman of Color protagonist, plenty of People of Color,  passes the Bechdel Test, gotta support indie art and the plot is pretty interesting and grabby.

I stayed up late last night watching the whole thing, each episode is only 3 -5 minutes and I was loving it until I reached the end. Now I’m not gonna ruin it for anyone who is going to head over and watch it but I found it anti-climactic and boring and just plain annoying.

This time though I can’t really blame the creators or the showrunners for the badness. See, Satacracy 88 comes to us via ItsAllInYourHands.Com where at the end of each episode the protagonist is left torn between two possibilities and the audience vote decides which way they go. It’s like a group census Choose You Own Adventure Book!

They have two other shows on their webpage and on hulu.com but I’m too burned on how Satacracy 88 ended to put myself willingly into mob rule television again anytime soon. I would recommend people go watch it if only so I can have someone to discuss some of the possibly problematic elements I recognized. One of which was Satacracy 88’s origin story which I put under a cut so as not to spoil:

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Heroes – I Don’t Even Watch You And I’m Sick Of You

Okay geek confession time – I don’t watch Heroes.

I know, I know *wrist slap* bad sci-fi comic geek.

I tried during the first season and got about 11 episodes in mostly carried by my interest in the Nikki/Jessica and Claire characters – I like crazy, homicidal women and women who will put a man through a car windshield. But I’ll be honest my interest was simply not enough to carry me through the winter hiatus/re-runs. Plus the race politics from the jump were sketchy as hell. We had the silent Haitian – who I’m pretty sure still doesn’t have a name, the drug addict Latino Issac and the criminal black man DL. Sure we had Simone but she had no powers and look how she ended up. Then there are Hiro and Mohinder who are based on the “overachieving Asian” stereotype.

Now some of you are sitting back there thinking “How can this guy critique the show when he’s only seen 11 episodes?” and I agree that I can’t do an in depth critique but the fact of the matter is that being in geek circles I know the basic story lines of what has gone down on the show and really it sounds like its gone down the toilet hardcore.

I watched parts of the third season opener with my housemates and as K. Tempest Bradford says in her awesome column on the premiere Unbreakable Habits: Heroes Returns (which y’all should check out) it was “Two hours I will never get back.”

It was simply train-wreck after train-wreck and as one of my friends said (can’t quite remember who) “Heroes never met a stereotype it didn’t like.” and that’s one of its main problems right there. Every brown and female character on the show starts as a stereotype and I have yet to see them grow beyond that or disrupt that even a little bit (of course most don’t live long enough to get the chance). Mohinder and Maya engage in the out of nowhere rough brown people sex after he injects himself with the serum. The literalmagical negro in Africa – who again I don’t think we have a name for as of yet – helping out white boy Matt Parkman. The friendship between Hiro and Ando being broken apart by Hiro’s continued naivete and obsession with the truth of comic books – at this point it’s just annoying because he makes stupid ass decisions over and over again. You think that after the first two seasons he would have learned something. And there’s … have any of the other brown characters been featured as of yet? Micah? Monica? Are they just gone into the ether never to be mentioned again? 

There are basically no strong female characters on the show who are not evil in some way – the only two I noticed were crazypants sociopath Elle and manipulative Angela Petrelli. The other women have been crippled or broken in ways where they basically have nothing left of the fire that attracted me to the show for even that short while.  And can we talk about the lack of diversity in the female characters? I’m not just talking race here but size and hair color as well – there’s a preponderance of the the skinny white blond girl that Ijust find confusing and odd – Daphne, Elle, Claire, Nikki/Jessica, Tracey I mean damn is there some linkage between blondness, skinniness and the gene that gives these folks powers? Also don’t even get me started on Niki/Jessica’s death and the whole any sexually free or confident woman must die trope and the whole Tracey vs. Niki/Jessica thing they’re trying to do – show how different they are which stinks of  and plays on the Virgin/Whore dichotomy women are constantly subjected to in our society.

The other part of Heroes that works my last nerve is that its comic in visual form which I normally would be down with but all their are doing is taking X-men and Justice League swallowing it down and regurgitating it onto the screen. There is almost nothing new or original in what they are doing. Every snippet I watch just reminds me of a comic I watched as a child. Sylar as the third Petrelli brother = the search and mystery surrounding the third Summers brother. The Shanti virus = the Legacy virus. The future “league of villains” thing = something we’ve seen dozens of time. And as my housemate Jackie pointed out the whole third “book” Villains is just a rehash of Kingdom Come …but y’know bad.

They say there are only seven original stories and everything after is simply a copy of those. Yeah that’s all well and good but if you’re going to rehash a bunch of things I read growing up then you need to add something, make it your own in some way otherwise it’s just seems like boring adaptations of old favorite but without the characters and twists that made it great.

Critiquing Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon created – Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Serenity and the upcoming Dollhouse. Now I have issues with a lot the shows listed, I’m also a huge fan. My problem isn’t entirely with the shows but also in the way a lot of of fans perceive Joss. He gets a lot of cachet from certain segments of fandom – about how he loves strong women, how he describes himself as a feminist, his population of diverse women.

Yeah I kind of scoff at all of that. First of all I will never understand why men who choose to treat women decently get a fucking medal, that should just be par for the course. I know it’s not and we as a society need to work on that but handing out cookies to these men and not allowing them to be critiqued or not critiquing them just allows them to get away with a lot of bullshit – that without the cachet of being a “feminist man” or “pro-feminist man” they would be torn to shreds for.

While I love Buffy & Firefly. (Angel I’m kinda *meh* on) the first thing that I notice is that Joss likes a certain type of woman to be strong: they have to be skinny and white and ever so traditionally beautiful. Not really that feminist to me. I’ve had a lifetime of reading comics where skinny  women become superheroes all the time. Buffy was little different from them to me. I liked her sarcasm, her determination but didn’t truly see her or the show as ground breaking…wait rephrase perhaps it was ground breaking for the medium of television specifically. But it seemed to me that everytime there was a feminist moment of fabulousness it was always within this very narrow view of women so that no ground was actually gained in my eyes. If it was anything it was the feminism he ascribed to was this prevalent “girl-power” pseudo-feminism. Yes, it was great to see girls and women being strong but you know what I would have loved? If we could have seen women of different colors, sizes, abilities, classes being just as strong without fucking up and killing someone innocent (Faith) or dying (Kendra).

And so often the shows fell into stereotypes and tropes:

The destruction of Angel’s life through Cordelia’s rampant sexuality and yes we find out she was possessed and it wasn’t really her but that whole excuse was way muddled and not thought out. 

I would have loved for Gunn (the only recurring POC in his first two shows) to just be able to be smart without a mystical intervention.

The dead lesbian – Tara

The breakdown of women without a male partner or when the male partner leaves – Buffy, Anya, Willow and on and on – in a way where we rarely if ever saw the reverse with Xander and Giles.

There’s a way in which Joss likes to consistently pair physical strength in girls with emotional weakness or fucked-up-ness, almost as if they have to exist side by side and that’s what pissed me off more than anything.

And yes we can’t say that Joss had a hand in all of those, he was the creator but he did not write every episode but as the creator he sets the tone, the pace and the message of the show. None of the show writers are going to write a character completely out of the character that Joss has set. It’s a trickle down effect.

Also I think most of us can agree while Joss might have an inkling of feminism he’s really bad at race…really really bad. Yes, in Firefly we have a mixed crew – which I love – but there’s a way in which River and Inara never have their heritage brought up and the complete absence of Asian folks in this Asian inspired show could be a whole post in and of itself. Just plopping down some folks of color is not good race politics you have to explore it at least a little – and I know he only had 12 episodes. Also the gender politics in Firefly/Serenity weren’t the best. In fact cracked.com listed Hollywood’s 5 Saddest Attempts at Feminism– River’s at #3.

I want to talk about these things, I want to talk about his consistently really bad race politics in all three of his shows. I want to talk about the co-opting of feminism by the mainstream into this whole “girl power” movement where there’s not real critique of power structures and the similarity of this “girl power” movement to the Republican ideology of “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” without any discussion of the continuing hierarchies and how difficult that can make it. I want to talk about all of that and how that’s filtered into Joss’ work but all too often I’m completely shut down by calls of “He’s a feminist!” as if that gives him a free ride to do whatever else he wants.

I own: all 7 season of Buffy, Firefly, Serenity & the first two seasons of Angel so it’s safe to term me a fan but I know that Joss has issues that crop up as do all creators. Shoot I know my own work probably has issues but I would hope that no one would give me a pass, that folks would tell me imy issues so I could be aware of it and either acknowledge it as a problem that had to exist in the work or apologize and try and do better next time. When we don’t allow for these critiques and questions to be voiced then we’re doing a disservice not only to the work but to the creator as well.

There might be posts later that focus on these shows and specifically their race politics when I get the time because:

Buffy – So. California town with little-to-no People of Color?

Angel – Only representation of POC is the trope of ghetto-gang-hustler?

Firefly/Serenity – The already mentioned absence of Asian folks coupled with the complete appropriation of their culture.

More of me @ Fantasy Magazine!

My second column about SGA is up at Fantasy Magazine right now:

Now this is the point where I and anyone else raised on sci-fi/horror films began to scream, “No don’t do it! Don’t go on the ghost ship!” While on the ship energy begins to build up (”Run, run now! Like the wind fools!”) and in a blink something happens (”You’re screwed.”). They figure out that there’s a drive on board that is jumping them through dimensions rather than space (”See, screwed.”)

Check it out.

Two Months In The Making!

Okay so the Top Eleven Obscure Works as nominated and voted on by Feminist SF – The Blog! readers is now up! It’s been a bit over two months since I first suggested the list and looking at the final eleven books (there was a tie) I’m extremely gratified – by the fact that it’s out and done, the fact that so many participated in the process and the fact that I now have 7 books to add to my mental reading list (and I already own two of them just haven’t gotten around to reading them yet) and the four I have read on the list are all fantastic reads.

So go check it out, comment and link far and wide!