There Is and Was No Conspiracy

I wasn’t going to go to Spokane for the World Science Fiction Convention.  I have a lot of work on my plate, a number of other trips so adding in Sasquan seemed like just too much.  Then Puppies happened and I knew I had to go.  My friend David Gerrold (the man responsible for Tribbles and defeating the Klingons with said aforementioned tribbles) was the guest of honor, and it seemed like there was a very good chance his moment in the sun was going to be spoiled by a food fight in fandom. 

For those of you not be seeped in the lore of fandom — it’s a great honor to be selected as a worldcon GoH.  And the modern practice is that you only get one.  In the old days Robert Heinlein was GoH four times, but that’s not how it’s done today.  You have one bite at this apple.  The unpleasantness that exploded when the slate of nominees was revealed meant that there was a good chance David’s moment was going to be scarred by “tension, apprehension and dissension” to quote Robert Silverberg quoting remarks from the 1968 Worldcon.  That meant I was going to go attend Worldcon come hell or high water and try to be there for my friend.

I also have a number of friends among the hard working fans who put on Worldcons (no easy task).  These are people who love our field and donate their time and energy to throw a party every year for all of us (normally) joyful nerds who love rocket ships and unicorns, fighting robots and spell flinging mages, dystopias and utopias.  They also didn’t deserve to cope with all this tribulation without folks showing up who wanted to celebrate the field.

I was also privy to George’s plan to present Alfie’s to those folks who had been pushed off the ballot by the slate.  You can find George’s remarks on how he did it and why he did it here — What’s It All About, Alfie?   I wanted to show support for his laudable effort to honor folks who had been damaged by the “tension, apprehension and dissension”  And it wasn’t all about the Hugos, it was also George reclaiming the Hugo Losers Party which has become a rather stuffy affair.  Years ago I got to be a co-conspirator with George at one Losers party where I let George in an adjoining door so he could cover Gardner Dozois with silly string as he reclined on the bed in a hotel room.  Gardner then rampaged through the party like the Creature of the Black Lagoon.  Ah memories.

Anyway, I went to the Worldcon, and I had a great time.  I got to meet Jim Wright who writes the amazing  Stonekettle Station Blog.  I got to interact with a lot of great people at my Kaffee Klatch and my reading.  I hung out with the amazing Willis clan — Connie, Courtney and Cordelia.  Michael Cassutt kept me laughing at his wit and cynicism.  I had breakfast with the elegant and brilliant Kate Elliot.  I was also there because my friends Emma and Peter Newman were up for a Hugo for best fancast with their charming, witty, interesting and all around delightful Tea & Jeopardy.  Since they sadly couldn’t attend worldcon I had been tasked to accept the Hugo should they win and read the moving speech they had prepared.

So now it was Saturday night.  Hundreds of thousands of words had been written and a thousand insults exchanged about the controversy of the Sad and Rabid Puppies and the battle they imagined they were having with the SJW (Social Justice Warriors).  The moment of truth was at hand.  Thousands of supporting memberships that had been purchased.  By whom?  Puppies?  Gamergate fellows?  Old line fans?  New Fen?  None of us knew and some of us were pessimistic.  Me among them.  But not David.  He sensed that fandom would come galloping to the defense of the community and the award to say — “Look, we don’t object to you, your religious beliefs, your political philosophies, your love of military S.F. or Sword Swinging Barbarians, Mighty Thewed Heroes and Women in Chain Mail Bikinis Clinging to Said Heroes, in short Big Dumb Fun but we want you to not game the system.  Nominate what you love like we’ve all done for decades, but don’t create a slate.

I slipped into my slinky blue cocktail dress complete with a rhinestone shoulder strap and went off to sit in the very front row and watch the Hugos.  David Gerrold and his co-host Tananarive Due were brilliant.  Tananarive was dressed in a red Star Trek uniform and channeled the the spirit, beauty and courage of Uhura.  David was dressed as an homage to Dr. Who, but with the addition of a rainbow bow tie and rainbow suspenders to honor the historic extension of civil rights that had happened this summer.  There were Daleks and Grim Reapers, Jim Wright, Robert Silverberg and Connie Willis.  There were winners and there were No Awards.  There were cheers for No Award which I regretted though from my vantage point it seemed more like the cheer was for rejecting the tactics of the slate rather than the nominees.  It was probably not in the best of manners, but truthfully our tribe is a bit socially dyslexic.  The one time people started to boo David immediately went off script and said that kind of behavior was out of bounds.  It didn’t happen again.  I was sorry that No Award took both editor categories.  I had ranked the editors, and placed a certain Rabid Puppy below No Award, but that wasn’t how the majority voted.  Hopefully this slate nonsense will stop and these talented editors will once again be on the ballot.

After the ceremony I stopped briefly by the Hugo Nominee Post Reception and then it was off to the Fun Party.  George’s Hugo Losers Party at the Glover Mansion.  There was a terrific band playing great music, and I danced until my legs were shaking.  (David Hartwell can really cut a rug).  There were delicious hors d’oeuvres, champagne and an amazing cake.  The highlight of the evening was George and others presenting the Alfie’s named in honor of Alfred Bester winner of the first Hugo for novel.  Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos were given Alfies for making the very hard choice to take themselves off the Hugo ballot because they had been placed there by the slate.  When Kloos withdrew it allowed the Three Body Problem to be placed on the ballot and it eventually win “The Big One” as George would say.  George also gave awards to Eric Flint who’s calm and rational writings on the controversy had been an oasis of civility in a sea of vitriol.  The entire event was  very moving, but I share George’s hope that he never has to do it again.

So now I have to address the boatload of idiotic conspiracy theories that have sprung up from the fervid brains of the Puppies both Sad and Rabid.

No, George did not know in advance who had won and who had lost.  He had to wait for the pink sheet that detailed the Hugo nominations before he could figure out who was going to receive an Alfie.  I know because I had to check in with him when thing were running late for presenting the awards, and he told me in harried tones that he had had to wait for the breakdown to come out and everything was running late.

No, George did not buy 3000 memberships and tell them how to vote.  Has anyone looked at fandom?  Herding cats wold be easier.  And seriously — George is the guy who loves this award.  He would never, ever game his beloved Hugos.

No, the Puppy votes were not “discounted”.  It’s the Australian ballot.  It’s confusing.  Here’s a link where Ranked Voting is explained.  Try to understand.  So you don’t get your money back.

No, you can’t sue.  You have to show harm before you can get into court, and you have to have standing to bring a lawsuit. If someone calls you a banana that might hurt you deeply, but the court will not provide a remedy for your pain.   You voted/you lost.  If your argument had merit I’d be suing over the 2000 election.  Let it be noted that I didn’t.

Here is my final plea to the readers who might stop by.  Please read and enjoy our genre.  Buy a supporting membership to MidAmericon2 2016, nominate the books and stories and movies you love.  Or buy an attending membership and I’ll see you all in Kansas City next August.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Let me stipulate right up front that I loved this movie.  I want to see it again and that’s really rare for me.  I went in torn between hope and trepidation.  This was either going to be very good or a total train wreck.  On the one hand you had Guy Ritchie directing.  On the other it was based on the Man From U.N.C.L.E  I loved the show as a little kid.  I was madly in love with Illya Kuryakin.  I even got to go on the set because of my father’s business partners in Los Angeles who had connections to the movie business.  It was the first time I was ever on a set and David McCallum was even more handsome in person then on film.

Years later they started showing the TV show on Nick at Night.  I was so excited.  I settled down to watch this beloved childhood series.  And I was shocked.  Somewhere in the intervening years they had reshot all the episodes and made them shitty.  I stopped watching and resolved to just keep my gauzy memories.

So now there’s a movie and I headed out last night filled with hope and fear.  I say again — I loved it.  The two leads are handsome and charming.  Suggestive lines are uttered by Napoleon Solo, but unlike the ghastly Roger Moore Bond movies they weren’t stupid suggestive ranging into creepy suggestive.  Illya is one deeply psychologically messed up guy which I loved.  The female character, Gaby, is strong and capable and keeps you guessing.  She’s also not Hollywood pretty.  Instead she is interesting.

It was set in 1963 and Ritchie sent a love letter to that era.  It made me think of the glamour of the early Bond movies, or the film GRAND PRIX (a movie about formula 1 car racing that I adore).  There were exotic Italian locals, and race cars, the amazing fashions of Carnaby Street.  It’s action packed and also very funny.

It has Hugh Grant as Mr. Waverly who is going to lead this new team.  And boy are they a bunch of misfits.  Ritchie made an interesting casting choice.  David McCallum is not a big man.  Illya was slight, more like a whippet than a tank though he was the action guy while Napoleon was Mr. Suave.  In this Illya is a bruiser.  Bigger then Solo with real anger management issues.  He’s a handsome blond Hulk.  At first it threw me, but I ended up really liking the change.

It’s interesting that a Brit actor is playing the American Solo and an American is playing the Russian.  The rest of the cast is very cosmopolitan, and they all work with that light, tongue-in-cheek quality that was a hallmark of the TV show.

I’m not going to talk about the plot.  It’s very sixties spy set up.  The plot isn’t the point.  It’s all about the interactions between the characters which was just perfect.  I really, really hope this becomes a viable franchise and we see more of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Spaceships, Please

I’ve spent a lot of time in Hollywood trying to sell various shows.  Everything from a western set in NM in 1840 to contemporary thrillers, to shows about the army’s CID division.  (Yes, I pitched that before NCIS went on the air, but I was a girl and the reaction in the room was “nobody’s interested in the military.  *sigh*).  I’ve also tried very had to sell science fiction shows.  Even had a pilot shot of one of them.

What I ran into over and over and over again was “spaceships don’t sell unless it’s Star Trek.  Only Star Trek can make spaceships work.”  It was received wisdom.  Then Galactica came along to critical reviews and the mantra became.  “Well okay, Galactica worked but that’s because it was a show about real problems and it was a war story.  The spaceships were just incidental.  And anyway spaceships only work in Star Trek and Galactica.”

Now there is a new chance for those of us who love science fiction to have spaceships on our television screens again.  The Expanse is an upcoming show on SyFy based on the best selling novels by James S.A. Corey.  They are terrific space opera — five books now — I’ve read them all, and they were perfect to be translated to film.

And there are spaceships.  Because it’s set in the asteroid belt.  So I’m really, really hoping this show takes off so I will stop hearing.  “Spaceships only work on Star Trek and Galactica.”

My fingers are crossed.

The Wonder (Irony) that is Century Link

So here is my saga.

On Monday morning the bank that issued my credit card realizes I have been hacked and they contact me.  They cancel the card for my business and send me a new card Federal Express.  Once I have the new card I call Direct TV and AT&T where I have auto pay because of my travel schedule.  They put in the new card number.  Done. I go on XBox Live and Amazon and the app store and do the same.

This morning I call Century Link. I sit on hold for ten or fifteen minutes.  A person finally picks up.  I explain the situation, give them the new number. The girl informs me it will take 2 billing cycles for that change to be effective. That’s 60 days. My response is “You’re kidding, right?” Nope. So I say, “I guess you won’t be getting paid then.” She gets huffy and tells me I should pay in advance. I ask how their incompetence is my problem? I finally agree to pay in advance so they don’t stop my internet of phone. She says she is transferring me to the auto pay department so I can do this, and while I wait she’d like to talk to me about their other services, wireless, bundling my Direct TV _and_ their virus protection for my PC for which I would pay for monthly and they will send a technician to clean my computer, etc. I say I have a Mac. She says, “Oh it’s all in one.” I respond. “Given the competence of Century Link I wouldn’t let you within 10 feet of my computer.” She is huffy again, and stops trying to sell me stuff.

I am on hold for about 15 minutes. Eventually a young man comes on the line and gives me a barrage of Spanish. I politely tell him that I don’t speak Spanish. He says this is where they handle Spanish speakers, but he can help me anyway. I think he’s the auto pay people. I go through it all again. He takes all the information. He tells me it will 30 days before the change is effective. I’m beginning to get a bad feeling so I ask, “aren’t you auto pay so I can pay in advance?” No, he just another division. He says he’ll route me to auto pay, and he’ll make sure I don’t have to pay extra because I’ll be using a person rather then the website. I growl that I better not get charged.

I’m on hold for ten minutes or so, and I find my self back at the opening robot prompt which begins a conversation with Century Link. I keep hitting zero and demanding, agent! representative! agent! representative! I finally get a person. I tell them. “Don’t talk to me. Give me a manager.” They do.

Turns out the young man is from Stanley NM some fifty miles south of me. We have a bonding moment. I tell him the story and that I’m not happy. He says he will fix it. He puts in the new card number (which takes another 15 minutes) and says, “Normally when I update a card it goes through in 3 days.  Let’s hope it works.”  I say, “And if it doesn’t?  Am I going to get a late charge or be disconnected?”  He assures me he has copious notes in the file to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Do I believe him?  Yes.  Do I have any confidence that Century Link will notice the notes much less read the notes?  No.

 

 

Book Recommendation

Last night I was wired after the event at the Cocteau Theater where we launched Victor Milan’s new novel, The Dinosaur Lords so I stayed up way to late reading.  What kept me up until 2:00 a.m.?  Another great book by my friend Max Gladstone.  Last First Snow is the fourth book in his amazing Craft series.

They are fantasy, but fantasy with an urban setting and ethnic and cultural diversity that is refreshing.  For me their real strength is Max’s ability to take law and business, contracts and court hearings and turn them into magic.

One of my biggest objections to most fantasy novels, actually to most science fiction novels as well, is that they don’t explain to me how a given society works.  And how societies work revolves around money and commerce and the legal system that makes those things possible.

The magic in this world is truly bizarre and the practice of the craft takes a toll on human bodies.  In fact one of the major characters (and one of my favorites) is The King in Red who used to be a normal human, but he’s now he’s a skeleton who walks and talks and jokes and wheels and deals and rules the city of Dresediel Lex.

One of the other interesting choices that Max makes is that gods are real.  They are powered by the belief of the faithful, but ritual, by contracts.  Gods can die and in fact the world was riven by a god war several decades before these stories began but it was a war won by humans.

One of the things that started the war was the fact that Dresediel Lex practiced human sacrifice to their gods, but the spark wasn’t outrage in a general sense, but one man’s fury over the loss of his love.  I think that kind of application of the small and personal to the grand and mythic makes for great story telling.

The King in Red had a particular speech in Last First Snow that I loved so much that I’m going to take the liberty of reproducing part of it here.  I have a feeling Richard from my Edge books and the King in Red would have some interesting conversations though the King is far more prone to the use of violence as a means of conflict resolution than Richard.  Anyway, here is part of the speech.

“I dislike the faithful’s smug superiority.  Their assumption that gods will protect them.  They strangled human progress for three millennia, sent millions to their deaths in dumb wars back by dumb theology.  They killed the only man I’ve every loved….”

Bottom line.  These books are unique and well worth reading.  You’re going to learn a lot about the dangers of off shore banking, and the California water wars, and how an underfunded contract can rock an entire economy, and you won’t be a bit bored with these dry economic issues.

Here are the titles of all four books in the series.  Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Full Fathom Five, Last First Snow.

Podcast

I did a fun podcast yesterday with the folks in Minneapolis who are part of that great Convergence community.  Anyway, here’s the link.  Ka1iban and Mikanhana asked great questions and we had a lot of fun.

Just Enough Trope

The Magic of Longhand

Since I have a computer in L.A. I don’t travel between Santa Fe and Westlake with a computer.  I figure I can read and listen to music during travel times.  But on this trip home I had figured out the next scene and I badly wanted to get it down.

So I fell back on a technique I haven’t used in decades.  I took a notebook with me and wrote it out in longhand.  When I first started writing I did everything by hand and then transcribed it on the typewriter.  It takes double the time however so I taught myself how to compose on the typewriter.  Once I got a computer then composition at the machine was a breeze.  I could rewrite as I went, move scenes, make changes without the tyranny of the paper.

Still there was something almost magical about putting down the words by hand.  Cumbersome because I realized I needed several paragraphs that needed to go earlier so I had to write them, but a bracket around them and then draw an arrow to where they needed to go in the prose.

But it worked and now I’m sitting at the computer about to transcribe the scene onto the laptop and of course make changes and rewriting as I go.  It was proof that you don’t need all the fancy tech to write.  You just need the desire and the will.

As I’ve always said — writing is the one profession where you don’t have to get permission or pass an exam.  You just have to write.

Ant Man and Marvel Movies Overall

I’m just back from seeing ANT MAN with my friends Len Wein and Christine Valada.  I really liked it.  It’s a slight film, but it has heart and humor and thank god we weren’t threatening New York, or the Earth or the Galaxy or the whole damn Universe (Thor: The Dark World).  We were also watching it at the sybaritic Cinepolis theater with the full bar and meals and four kinds of popcorn (caramel corn — yum) and reclining leather seats with foot rests, etc. etc.  Paul Rudd is charming and not at all the muscle bound hero.  Michael Peña damn near steals the film.  Evangeline Lilly is a smart competent woman who isn’t traditionally Hollywood beautiful.  The villain felt like he’d been pulled from central casting — all he lacked was a mustache, but the fight sequences were fun because the direction and writers never took them too seriously.  Scenes that were titanic in power when the guys are ant sized are presented as silly when the would pull back to the real world to show a toy train falling over with a tiny “tink”.

I noticed that GRRM wrote a post about Ant Man and talked about the Marvel movies and his rankings (which are wrong 😏  (Teasing.  You get that I’m teasing, right?  I assume some of you heard our debate at the Worldcon in Reno so you know George and I have a long history of disagreeing in fun and with great abandon.)  Anyway, I thought I’d try and set him straight.  Anyway, here’s my list in order of terrific and why.  The two Spiderman films aren’t technically part of the Marvel juggernaut, but he’s a Marvel character so I’m going to include him.

SPIDERMAN 2 with Toby McGuire and Doc Ock (not those terrible remakes).  The scene where he stops the train and the commuters realize he’s “just a kid” can make me cry every time.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER.  Certainly the first half of that film is damn near perfect.  After that it becomes your typical superhero movie, but the early scenes with Dr. Erskine are just perfection.  I use that movie when I teach because it shows the power of the medium to say in a visual what would take pages in a book.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – a perfect little jewel of a movie with flawed characters who touch your heart and who actually grow and change in interesting ways.

IRON MAN 1 — Terrific film about a man finding his soul.  They should have stopped there and just let him be a brilliant asshole in the Avengers movies.

THOR  and not just because… Loki (sigh).  I use that film when I teach to help illustrate the difference between plot and theme.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS – beautiful evocation of a different time and the relationship between Charles and Erik is gorgeous.  It didn’t hurt that the movie had two top ranked actors in those roles.

AVENGERS – I liked the film a great deal.  Too many action sequences but at least they seemed like they were designed to move the story forward.  Unlike the second Avengers film which seemed designed to just have another big CGI fight.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER – a grown up film about issues of freedom and security and a man and a woman who are merely friends.

ANT MAN – (see above)

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (the less said about X-Men 3 the better and this film fixed that).

SPIDERMAN – the first film with Toby McGuire

THOR: THE DARK WORLD

So, I think I’ll stop there.  This was fun thinking back on all the hours of genuine entertainment these films have provided.

Orphan Black Season 3 – Reflections on Violence

For those of you who may not have seen season three of this show be warned; there may be SPOILERS!

Let me say right up front that I think this show is terrific and that Maslany simply brilliant.  Kudos to the Emmys’  for finally figuring out how to get her a well deserved nomination.  But…..

I think this season was weaker then seasons 1 or 2 and I think that was due to a couple of things.  One was the focusing more on Allison then the other clones.  While Maslany’s performance as Allison is great that particular character can become extremely grating and that was what happened for me.  I found myself actually fast forwarding though some of the tedious school board election scenes.  The other problem may be unique to me, but it did start me on a long process of considering the place of violence in entertainment.

Here is the moment that left me feeling ambivalent about the show for the first time.  It was when Helena kills all the drug dealers with an axe because they have taken her “babies”.  I’m not arguing that the drug dealers were dangerous and violent and evil, but what bothered me in the scene was that it was played for a laugh.  There is the initial confrontation with the hapless Donny and Helena facing down the gang, then Donny leaves and after several beats Helena emerges covered in blood with gore dripping off the axe.  She has her babies and a pot load of money which she gives to Donny.  It was clear this was meant to be funny, but I wasn’t laughing.

Maybe it’s because the past month has held the senseless deaths of nine people at a bible study class who were murdered for being black, and the murder of five young men whose only crime was to wear the uniform of the United States.  Whatever the reason the scene bothered me a great deal.  Not only in the moment, but in the aftermath.  There was no repercussions for Helena’s action.  I wasn’t looking for a reaction by the authorities and the court system, but I needed some acknowledgement inside that family that Helena is dangerous.  If I were Donny I wouldn’t be terribly comfortable about having her around my children or my wife.  Instead there’s just the flippant “We came into some money,” to Allison as he stacks bills in the freezer.

I was discussing this with a friend who pointed out the burying the body in the garage sequence, and she asked if that bothered me as much?  It didn’t, but I wonder if that began this sense of queasiness that culminated in the Helena scene.  I could justify hiding the death of the doctor since the company had already declared him dead, and if Donny had gone to the authorities it would have revealed the sisters and endangered them.  He would also have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and the writer’s probably thought a trip through the court system wasn’t where they wanted to go.  But —

Just as I don’t care for redemptive violence as a solution to a conflict in a book or a movie I’m becoming very tired of violence as a source of humor.  I think violence should have power and meaning.  If it’s used constantly as a joke or as a chest thumping Oo-rah!  Go us! then I think it makes us as readers and viewers more coarse and desensitizes us.  There is a reason that cops are sent to therapy after a shooting incident.  Why soldiers suffer from PTSD.  Taking a human life is consequential.

I love action movies and shows.  The books I write tend to have a lot of action, but I make the point in my Edge novels that my hero, Richard, keeps a count of every person he’s ever killed because he doesn’t want to become inured to it.  He wants it to never be easy.

I dislike the fact that creators and writers are making it easy.

Orphan Black

Yeah, I’m late to the party.  What can I say?  I’ve become spoiled with streaming and none of the streaming services — Hulu Plus/Netflix —  I had downloaded to my XBox were showing Orphan Black when ever I went to look for it.  I don’t want to wait for physical discs to arrive at the house so I kept putting off watching the show.  Then XBox Live offered a free month of Amazon Prime.  I knew Amazon had the series because I watched the pilot over at my friend, Mike Cassutt’s house and loved it.

IF YOU’VE NEVER WATCHED THE SHOW & HATE SPOILERS YOU MIGHT WANT TO STOP READING ————-

 

Long story short.  I started watching.  I have just watched episode one of season 3.  Yeah, I binged on the first two seasons.  This is an extraordinary show made even more extraordinary by the monumental talent of Tatiana Maslany.  I’m in the industry and at some point in the second season I was having to constantly remind myself that this was the same woman portraying Sarah, Allison, Helena, Cosima, Rachel, etc. etc.  It isn’t just the switch in accents, it’s her physicality that’s selling this completely.

What has struck me is that despite being created by two men the show is really a meditation on how the world attempts to own women — their bodies, their minds, their spirits.  It’s brought to the fore visually by the number of times we see these women with their feet in stirrups, vulnerable, being probed, used, viewed as vessels as objects to be harvested.

The exploration of gender and sexuality issues is also one of the shows great strengths.  Cosima is a lesbian, Allison is one up tight lady, Rachel very much into being a dominatrix.  there is Tony the trans clone.  And the exploration of these issues isn’t limited to just the clones.  One of the other actors who deserves mention is Jordan Gavaris who plays Felix Sarah’s gay foster brother.  There is a fearless and yet vulnerable quality to this performance that deserves recognition.

Setting aside the performances and the underlying theme of the show I have to tip my hat to the writers ability to keep pulling more and more and more layers off the onion.  Each time you think you found the explanation for the clones another layer is revealed.  It may be that they are just winging it and haven’t thought this through, but so far it’s working and I haven’t gotten that feeling they are just throwing shit to see what sticks.  I hope they have thought this all out as clearly been done with my beloved PERSON OF INTEREST, but for right now I’m more then happy to go along for the ride.

Mass Effect Fantasy

Major game neepery is about to ensue so if you’re not into Mass Effect this may seem like I’ve begun speaking in tongues.

So I had this fantasy about the DLC I’d loved to have played.  I had fun with the Citadel DLC, but thought there were a number of missed opportunities.  And I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the Shepard clone.  (Mostly while I’m stuck on an elliptical machine for 40 minutes.  It’s good to let your mind wander.)

Anyway, my Shepard who is a boy scout tried to save his “brother”, but of course that didn’t work out.  But it occurred to me that this is another Shepard and Shepard manages to elude death and even actual death on a regular basis.  So what if Shepard clone survived the fall from the Normandy and ended up in a clinic down in the Wards getting patched up.

BioWare indicated that when the Reapers decided to relocate the Citadel to Earth some people would have holed up, barricaded themselves down in the Wards and kept fighting.  In my alternate reality you have a Shepard on hand, and so you could have him/her limping around organizing the defense and keeping people alive until the other Shepard could save the day.  It would be a way for the clone to learn to stop being a racist asshole and also redeem their soul.

My feeling is why waste a good clone.  😏

I Guess They’re Scared

I’ve been pondering and honestly trying to understand the rightwing freak out over the marriage equality ruling.  What is it that is so alarming, unnatural, perverse about two people who love each other being married?  They’re always talking about god’s law as revealed in nature — well there are gay animals too so obviously if their god is omniscient then gay critters and people are all in the plan, right?

Then I remembered a conversation I had a few years back with my mother-in-law and I realized that while science fiction may not be 100% predictive it actually does a pretty good job of at least exploring potential advances and changes to technology and how the culture will be affected by those changes.  What had caused my mom-in-law’s distress was Dolly the Sheep.  She asked me in breathless tones “What do you think about this cloning thing?”  And my response was a blasé “What took so long?”  Because I had been reading about clones for years before Dolly came baaaaing onto the scene.

It’s the same thing with the idea of gay couples being fully equal under the law.  We’ve been talking about that in science fiction for decades.  And the new media — video games is equally accepting.  In the games that lean more toward role playing you can be straight, gay, lesbian, you can sleep with aliens or you can just shoot things if romance doesn’t appeal.

I actually wonder if one reason young people are so accepting of marriage equality is because science fiction won.  We are popular entertainment on every level and by and large our field presents an accepting view of how societies should behave toward it’s citizens — gay, straight, trans and maybe someday even aliens.

Bravo Mercedes And Thank You

One month ago my workhorse of a vehicle, my Mercedes diesel GL SUV up and died in the middle of Yale Blvd. down in Albuquerque.  I had just dropped off friends at the airport (thank heaven it didn’t happen on I25 or during my drive back from L.A. with my cats on board.)  I called Triple A and got towed to the Mercedes dealership.  The provided me with a loaner and I headed home thinking this would be simple.

It was anything but.  For three weeks the techs were baffled.  They kept hooking the car up to the computer which told them the car was fine except the car wouldn’t start.  (Apparently there are no longer mechanics just guys who read computer printouts.)  Eventually they called Germany and found the answer.  The fuel pressure pump had blown apart.  Of course it’s a modular unit and has to be replaced and it was expensive.  I say okay because this is a diesel and they should be good for 300,000 miles.

A week later another call.  When the pump blew apart it sprayed metal shavings into all six fuel injectors and wrecked them too.  Now the cost of the repair had doubled to $10,000.  At this point it was time to think about a new car.

But I was bummed and annoyed.  This was the second Mercedes vehicle that had fallen apart at 100,000 miles.  I made a Tweet to that effect and got a Tweet back from Mercedes national headquarters saying to call them.  I did and they opened a file about my vehicle.  With the wonders of computers they could see that I had done ever scheduled maintenance and all of them at dealerships.

Long story short they discounted the repair by %50 so I could get the car fixed and wasn’t faced with buying a new car right now.  I also want to point out that sticking with the dealership for your repairs and doing the scheduled maintenance can pay off in the long run.  I should also mention that Mercedes traded the loaner sedan for a loaner SUV because I needed to take my trash to the dump.  Also great customer service.

I just want to say — Thank you Mercedes.  This is how customer relations are supposed to work, and I’m very grateful.

Inside Out

There will be some spoilers (not huge and probably obvious) but you have been warned.

I went to see INSIDE OUT last night.  I liked it a lot, but I didn’t love it as much as I’d expected to.  Like FROZEN I think it suffered from the hype.  It’s still a very fun and charming movie, but on balance I liked Tomorrowland better.

The reason was a basic writing 101 problem — they didn’t ground me in the theme early enough in the film.  I thought the idea that we need both sadness and joy if we’re to have a full range of experiences was the message/theme, but it was a little unclear until fairly deep into the film.  They kept offering me other alternative threads that might be the theme so I kept grabbing mentally at them instead of being taken where the writers wanted me to go.

I did love the fact that a brain researcher was part of the team that made this film.  In many way Len Wein had it right when he said this was a film for adults that kids would probably enjoy.

Lewis Black absolutely stole the film in his type cast role as Anger.  Amy Poehler was appropriately chirpy as Joy (to the point that I wanted to kill her).  The other stand out for me was Richard Kind as Bing Bong.

My two favorite moments were when our heroes had to go into the area of abstract concepts, and the cat brain at the very end.  It was also fun when they cut into “headquarters” in the parents brains as well.

This is one of those films where I may need to see it again with my expectations re-calibrated and re-evaluate.  I had that happen on Thor: The Dark World too.  It was a good deal better than I initially thought on my first viewing.

Have They No Shame?

Forgive me. I try to keep things fun and talk mostly about writing or horses or games or cool science stuff, but what happened at the Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina has left me shaken. The killings themselves are a sadly familiar story.  Black churches have been targeted before.  In 1963 four little girls were killed when a black church was bombed. As Larry Wilmore pointed out Larry Wilmore The Nightly Show nobody back then tried to claim this was about religious liberty, or that the bombers were architectural critics who thought the building was an eye sore, or some other bogus claim. Everyone knew why that church was bombed. It was done to terrorize African-American citizens in this country as they demanded their equal rights.

It was racism that killed those children.

The spectacle yesterday of a supposed news network twisting themselves into knots as they attempted to cast these murders as something other than racism was disgusting. There are presidential candidates who have taken up this same line of “reasoning” rather then face the fact that racism still runs like a toxic infection through the body of our nation.  I feel sorrow over the senseless deaths.  I feel rage over the actions of a certain segment or our punditry and politicians that refuses to acknowledge the legacy of America’s original sin.

Even if these so called journalists and national leaders didn’t want to grapple with these difficult issues couldn’t they have at least accepted the facts as presented by the killer himself?  Dylann Roof has confessed that he murdered these people because they were black.  Because he wanted to start a race war.  This had nothing to do with religion.  I expect the next move to avoid having to look in the mirror is to talk about mental illness.  No, Dylann Roof isn’t crazy.  He’s a racist.

Ta-Nehisi Coates has written far more eloquently and with greater knowledge then I of the history of oppression in America. Google him, read the articles. You’ll come away with a much deeper understanding of how much of our nation’s wealth was created on the backs of enslaved people.  John Stewart in a powerful monologue pointed out that not only does the confederate flag, a symbol of a rebellion launched in an effort to own human beings, still flies at the state capitol of South Carolina, that African-American citizens drive on roads named for confederate generals.  The Daily Show.

If mapping the human genome has taught us anything it’s that race is meaningless.  At the most fundamental level, in out DNA we are all the same.  We’re human beings.  Maybe someday we’ll come to accept that fact.  But not until cowards stop trying to change the subject.

Appearances

  • August 8th 4:00 p.m.
    Book signing at Page One
  • August 12th
    7:30 p.m.
    Book signing at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego
  • August 28th-30th
    Bubonicon
  • September 4th-7th
    DragonCon
  • September 12th 1:00 p.m.
    Autographing at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces N.M.
  • September 22nd 7:00 p.m.
    Autographing at the AZSF Reading Series, Scottsdale A.Z.
  • September 24th 7:00 P.M.
    Autographing at The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, C.A.

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