- Boskone — Boston February 17th-19th
- Helsinki Worldcon Agust 9th - 13th
- Bubonicon August 25th-27th, Albuquerque, NM
We have a Wild Cards Website, and every so often various writers who play in our shared sandbox write blog posts. Stephen Leigh who has been with us since the beginning of the series has done a blog post about one of our most iconic villain — Senator Gregg Hartmann. It certainly feels relevant at this particular moment. You can read it here:
A Man for All Seasons – Act One
Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.
Written by Robert Bolt (1924-1995)
This is the major reason I fear a Donald Trump presidency. Not the outrageous tax cuts or the trade war he has threatened either of which will crash the economy. Not the ridiculous spats he will launch against world leaders. Not even his control of the nuclear codes because I have to believe that the people around him are smart enough not to want to die in a nuclear conflagration.
I fear him because he has displayed a fundamental disrespect and lack of understanding of the Constitution of the United States, and about the role of the judiciary in our country. Without faith in the rulings of our courts and the primacy of the Supreme Court everyone’s personal safety is at stake. If a president says he can flout the rulings of a court then political opponents can be thrown in jail (we’ve seen this attitude on display at Trump rallies). Unpopular minorities can be harassed, arrested, deported without regard to our laws or our founding documents — a stated goal of Mr. Trump’s and one that has been vigorously applauded by his supporters. Voting rights can be eroded and ultimately removed. Remember it has been the courts that over the past few months have reversed blatant attempts by politically motivated legislatures to deny the franchise to vulnerable segments of society.
There is a crises of faith in all of our core institutions, but I think this constant assault on the judiciary is the most alarming. It can be seen in a Cliven Bundy who refuses a court order to pay the required grazing fees. In a Senate who will not seat a ninth justice to the highest court in the land in direct contravention of the Constitution that they swore to uphold. A supreme court justice in Alabama who refused to accept the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States as regards the right of LGBT people to wed. A county clerk (a government position) who refuses to issue marriage licenses and placed her religion over the law of the land and the rights of minorities.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
We can achieve none of these things unless we all agree to honor certain core institutions. This is not to say they can’t be improved, the rights expanded, the meaning of “we the people” broadened, but we all have to agree not to burn down the edifice that has been built for us with the sacrifice of those who came before us.
I fear that Donald Trump believes he can fly above the flames and use them to propel him to what he wants, and that many of his supporters have forgotten in their anger that oft times the arsonist can be immolated along with the building.
I am so glad to be home. No moon, so the sky is like black crystal. The Milky Way looks like a gossamer shawl thrown over Heaven’s shoulders. The longer I look the more stars seem to appear. There are the big, bold ones trying to see who can throw the most light, and then the small, shy ones peeping out from behind them like elf children. There is a soft breeze carrying the scent of piñon and juniper, and making the trees sigh and dip. My wind chimes are singing to each other. Together they create an A sharp major chord.
And the quiet. Oh god, how I’ve missed the quiet.
**************************************************************HERE BE SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!*****************************************************************************************
Saturday night I took myself off to the Cinepolis to see the new X-Men film rejoicing in the rather ominous title X-Men: Apocalypse. I’ve greatly enjoyed X-Men First Class and Days of Future Past. I’ve been a big James McAvoy fan and Fassbender is perfect as young Magneto so this wasn’t going to be a hardship. However, I was dubious about this new film because it looked like character proliferation which usually leads to a frenetic mess as they try to service all the characters. I’m also getting really tired of apocalypses. I’m reaching the point with these superhero movies where I’m like — “Okay, just destroy the world already!”
I came away from the movie feeling like it was two films that had melted together, and I liked one of the films much better than the other. The small, personal stories were lovely. Scott’s brother, Alex, getting him to Xavier’s school. Mystique/Raven being a hero to mutants around the world. Magneto having made a life for himself. Quicksilver in search of family and father. Charles as gentle mentor and wise teacher.
I liked the dark underbelly where mutants are used and abused in fight clubs. (We went there in the last Wild Cards novel Lowball, and it makes sense), but I didn’t buy that there was all this mutant hate and distrust after the events in Days of Future Past. Also the time line between the final scene in Future Past with Wolverine back at the school and everything fine and dandy, and this new timeline where entire cities had been destroyed and millions killed had my head spinning. How exactly did that happen?
But I get ahead of myself. So our big villain, Apocalypse, arrives and once again we had a megalomaniac determined to destroy the world because…. why? Exactly? And after the destruction of major cities and the deaths of millions we’re going to all end up back at the mansion with the school just humming along…..?
Character motivation was another problem for me. I didn’t get why the three kids joined up with Apocalypse so willingly? I could buy it with Magneto. He had lost everything so Let It Burn seemed like a place he would go, but Storm and Angel and Psylocke ? Wouldn’t they want to get an eight track, and some tapes and go on a date? I guess there was some hint they were mind controlled but it felt very forced to me. Rather like the engineered conflict between Batman and Superman in what had be this year’s absolutely, positively worst superhero movie. It’s like nerd wet dreams — Wouldn’t it be cool if Batman and Superman fight. Even cooler if various X-Men fight just ‘cause.
There were points where I thought I was going to end up liking Apocalypse better than Civil War, but ultimately X-Men lost me when it went to a very comic book place in the final scenes.
Putting aside for the moment the fact that Cairo was completely destroyed and millions of innocent people were killed not to mention other cities with massive destruction, we have Eric murdering six or seven cops because a terrible accident occurred. The cops had come to confront Magneto because of the events from 10 years before. He was, in fact, a wanted criminal. It wasn’t just mutant hate. Then things go pear shaped his daughter dies, and he kills them. Next up the whole world destroying thing, and then the school gets rebuilt and Charles wistfully suggests that he wishes Eric would stay. We once again have the “farewell, old friend” moment. Your old friend just murdered a gaggle of cops and then wiped Cairo off the map!
I’m all for redemption and salvation, but there are some crimes that are beyond forgiveness. Magneto’s actions fall into that category for me. But again, no consequences, no revulsion from Charles or Quicksilver, or Jean, or the pious (and darling) Nightcrawler.
I understand these movies are fantasies, but at least nod toward the bigger issues. And that’s where ultimately Civil War ends up being the better film. I still felt like the fight between Ironman and the Cap was forced, but at least they were discussing big issues about a world in which there are superpowers. Ultimately in Apocalypse the blood of innocents cried out from the sand and rubble, and no one answered.
If only it were a delicious frothy drink. Or a fun game to be played at picnics. But it’s not. The Stasi (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit) was the secret police of East Germany. The organization that had neighbors spying on neighbors and citizens reporting each other. It’s a common creation of authoritarian states. Stalin had the NKVD. Nazi Germany had the Gestapo. I wonder what President Trump will call his secret police?
Here are a couple of quotes from the presumptive Republican nominee for president made on Monday June 13th, 2016 —
“If it can be proven that somebody had information about any attack, and did not give this information to authorities, they must serve prison time.”
“We need to make sure every single person involved in this plan, including anyone who knew something, but didn’t tell us, is brought to justice. These people need to have consequences, big consequences.”
An entire class of American citizens has been deemed guilty and worthy of suspicion solely on the basis of their religion. That is the very definition of unAmerican. It is contrary to our founding documents, our ideals, our sense of ourselves.
If it doesn’t send a shiver down the spine of any thinking citizen then the grand experiment that was American representative democracy is truly ending.
When I was five or six grownups asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said a jockey. They laughed at me and told me “girls can’t be jockeys”.
When I was ten grownups asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said an astronaut. They laughed and me and said, “girls can’t be astronauts”.
When I was thirteen or fourteen grownups asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said President of the United States. They laughed at me and said, “Girls can’t be President.”
Tonight I’m watching history being made. And perhaps more history will be made in November. The world has certainly changed since I was a little girl and a teenager.
I guess my blog is viewed by more people then I realize because my lyrical post about The Magicians landed me an interview/discussion about the show for Wired. Here’s the link where you can listen in while David Barr Kirtley interviews Andrew Liptak and me about the show.
I generally don’t get political here. I talk about movies and games and books, writing, riding, etc. But as this long (too long) campaign season winds toward its conclusion I have to speak up, and plead with Democrats and Independents and progressives to think very hard about wounded feelings.
I have repeated stated that I am team blue. I will vote for which ever candidate wins the nomination. For the record I will vote for Secretary Clinton in the New Mexico primary, but if Senator Sanders takes the nomination I will happily vote for him for president.
There have, however, been many calls — from both sides, though my personal experience has been more calls from Senator Sander’s side — that if their preferred candidate doesn’t take the nomination they are going to take their marbles and go home ie not vote, or vote third party, or vote for Trump or Senator Cruz because that will show them!
First, it’s a great tragedy to not exercise that right. Countless numbers of Americans fought and died so we would have that right and even now we are seeing that precious right being rolled back by Republican state legislatures and we have a Congress that won’t re-authorize the voting rights act. So please vote, but think about the power of that vote and use it wisely.
Which brings me to the plea. Please, please do not allow your personal feelings to have potentially dire consequences for real living, breathing Americans. If we don’t unify and come out in strong numbers to vote in November we make it far more likely that a conservative will win the White House, and in the worst case scenario have control of both the House and the Senate. Please consider what that would mean for —
The poor woman in south Texas who can not afford to make the drive to San Antonio and wait days to have an abortion. There are already woman who have endangered their health by trying to self abort. Consider this exchange —
Amy Hagstrom Miller, owner of Whole Woman’s Health… tells the story of a woman who called her clinic in McAllen to schedule an abortion. It was the day after HB2 had taken effect, and the clinic was unable to provide abortions under the new law.
A clinic worker told the woman that she would need to travel 250 miles to a clinic in San Antonio, get initial counseling, and wait 24 hours for the procedure.
Ms. Miller said the woman responded: “I’m a working mother, I have a job, I have two children at home, and I absolutely can’t travel to San Antonio.” The woman added, “But I need this abortion, I can’t afford to have another child.”
Miller recalled the woman’s next words. “She said, ‘If I tell you what is in my medicine cabinet and what is under my sink, can you tell me how to do my own abortion?’ ” Effect of Texas Abortion Rules
Think about that for a minute. This is a real person. Maybe a neighbor who is willing to risk her health and possibly her life. How much worse will it get if a Republican fills that vacant seat on the Supreme Court? I’m old enough to remember when women went into back alleys for illegal abortions and they died.
Or the minimum wage. There are millions of Americans working two and three jobs to try and support their families and keep a roof over their heads. Do you think they’re going to get that minimum wage increase if we stay home and don’t vote?
There are children whose only meal is the lunch the receive at school. The Congress would like to cut funding for those programs.
There are elderly people who are no longer allowed to vote because they can’t gather the proper documents or can’t afford them even if they can locate them. Students whose college Id’s aren’t considered valid identification, but by god you can vote if you have a concealed carry gun permit. (Perhaps we ought to start a fund so every minority voter, elderly voter, or college kid can apply for the concealed carry.) Consider this situation in North Carolina — North Carolina’s Voter ID Law.
And how about health care? The Republicans have sworn to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If they do that and roll back the medicaid expansions millions of people are going to lose access to doctors and hospitals and many of them will die.
Immigrant families that are going to be torn apart, separated by borders, and if Trump has his way, walls. Or our Muslim citizens who are going to becomes The Other in their own country and subjected to more and more suspicion and harassment.
The LGBT community that will find their right to marry rolled back and disallowed. Or find themselves unable to adopt. I can’t imagine how that must feel for a family. And then there are the so called religious liberty laws that are merely an excuse to discriminate.
What I’m saying is taking a “principled” stand and staying home because your guy or gal didn’t get the nod from the voters and the delegates might make us feel good or happily bitter (I’ll show them), or noble, but it might very well have dire consequences for our fellow citizens. Real world consequence as in hunger or death.
I also don’t buy the argument that by allowing a man like Donald Trump into the White House will “bring the revolution sooner.” First it’s not going to happen and second revolutions usually don’t turn out well. We have a constitutional system in place that has allowed us to work toward a more perfect union. Do we wish certain things could have happened more quickly? Of course. Were there missteps? Naturally. But overall it’s a system that has allowed for progressive change without violent upheaval.
So please, let’s all of us swallow our resentments and set aside our personal feelings and think about people outside our own circles who are hoping we’ll all remember them and their needs. I think the motto of our nation sums it up pretty well.
E pluribus unum — Out of many, one.
I’ve done a lot of adaptations. It’s a tricky skill, but fun. You have to take from the underlying material the essential themes, the emotional sense of the work, keep the characters relatively intact, but be willing to make changes because film and print are two different mediums and they tell stories in different ways. The emotional impact is ultimately the same, but how you get there is different. You have to know what to cut and what to expand.
Right now I’m watching a master class in adaptation. It’s a show called The Magicians, and it’s on SyFy. Yeah, I know, crazy, right? I started watching the show which has great production values, excellent writing and overall a very fine cast. I was so impressed that I bought the first book and started reading.
This is a case where the filmed version is better than the book.
Okay, I’m going to talk specifics from the book and the show which means there are going to be SPOILERS!!!!!!! so stop reading now if you hate SPOILERS!!!!!!
I’ve only read the first book and I have to be honest. While I found the world and the characters interesting the book read more like an outline then a well plotted narrative. It felt like the author was exploring his world, but didn’t totally have a handle on the story he wanted to tell.
Enter the writing team who adapted the book series for television. Right away they made a number of changes. The characters are all older — heading to graduate school rather then high school kids heading to college. That has worked well. They have also slowed down the action. In the book Quentin rushes through Brakebills. In the show he’s still in his first year. It’s working far better.
Apparently the entire story line about Julia, the girl who didn’t get into Hogwarts… er Brakebills, and so becomes a hedge witch begins in book two, but the screenwriters rightly decided to weave her story in with Quentin’s adventures at the school. They find ways to have the two former friends cross paths, and there is an interesting echo in that both of them take casual actions that start to have dreadful consequences.
The show is much darker in tone then the book and the villain far more horrifying. In the book his face is obscured by a tree branch. In the show they use a cloud of moths. Now whenever I see a moth I find myself shuddering. Again as a visual cue it’s brilliant.
A recent episode of the show is the one that really made me hope I have the opportunity to meet with the creative team behind The Magicians and shake their hand. First a bit of context. In The Magicians there is a beloved fantasy book series about a magical place called Fillory and the three children who got to travel there. Yes, very much a call back to C.S. Lewis, but that’s the set up. At the end of book one our heroes defeat The Beast, and have a conversation with the sister who tells why her brother turned into this monstrous figure. In the book she casually tosses out the information that the author of the Fillory books molested her brother when he was a boy. It is literally almost a throw away line.
The show found a far more powerful and interesting way to give us this information. Out of a sentence or two in the book the television writers crafted an entire episode and it was a damn good one. Our heroes have gone to tour the author’s home in search of a magical object. They break in after-hours, and since they are all magicians they begin to see ghostly scenes from the past. They see the author coercing the brother into undressing while the older man takes photos, and then it’s very clear they go off to have sex. Quentin who has adored and revered this writer is sickened, horrified and we see him start to lose some of his geeky innocence and self-doubt and become a man.
As for this magical object. In the book one of the characters just buys it from a magical junk salesman and it happens off stage. He then just turns up and says, “Hey, I have this magic thingee and it takes you to a different world.” Again the adaptors allowed the protagonists to “protag”. They go in search of this object after they’ve discovered that it exists instead of it all being by happenstance.
Bottom line if you’ve toyed with adapting take a look at this show. In its own right it’s a terrific hour of television, and for writers it’s an inspiration and, like I said, a master class in adaptation.
There are going to be spoilers in this post so if you haven’t watched the winter finales of either Gotham or Agents of SHIELD stop reading.
There has been a lot of good boys going bad on television during these winter finales. I had pretty much given up on GOTHAM after the bone stupid legal errors that were being made — “No Bruce, you whiny little shit, you can’t fire me. I’m your guardian. And “No Bruce, you can’t sell the company because you’re like 14 years old and I’m your guardian!” Grrrrr. Anyway, George R.R. convinced me to give it another try and I do love Ben McKenzie who plays Gordon so I started watching again. Only to watch Gordon throw away his faith in our justice system, his belief in the rule of law and gun down a man begging for mercy. Made me a little queasy. Especially since I have just come off watching two films that point out the dangers when we lose faith in our institutions. Both Bridge of Spies and Trumbo explore the carnage that results when we ignore the law. They are both a testament to the rule of law. I’ll write more about them later.
Now we come to SHIELD. I have loved Coulson from the first moment he walked on stage in Thor. He was the human heart of the first Avengers movie. I like the character and the actor. But I was fascinated by Grant Ward. Brett Dalton’s performance as the chameleon-like killer was masterful. He could be charming, dangerous and brooding, or give you the look of a heartbroken eight year old that makes you want to give him a cookie and a hug. There has been a concerted effort by the entire SHIELD team to take down — with prejudice — Ward. Hunter was going to kill him until Bobbi pulled him back from that dark precipice. Jenna tried and failed. Fitz hated the man who had seemed like a such a friend but never resorted to murder. May would have killed Ward the way you put down a rabid animal, but instead the kill went to Coulson.
And I felt like it completely undercut the basic decency of the man. I don’t mind that, but they better deal with the fallout from a good man basically losing his moral compass. Yes, Coulson has killed people before, but they were agents trying to kill him, or an Asgardian god who was about to escape and rain down terror on the Earth. The killing of Ward was particularly brutal and personal and literally hands on. It was an act of vengeance which made Coulson no better then Ward. Ward had killed Coulson’s lady, Roslyn, as payback for the death of Ward’s “love”. I put that in quotes because the relationship between Ward and Agent 33 was a sick folie à deux and of course it was Ward himself who killed his reputed love.
I worked on a serial killer show called Profiler and I know a lot about murderers the methods they employ. The use of your hands to kill someone says a lot psychologically about a person. The way Coulson killed Ward was particularly horrific — using his artificial hand to crush Ward’s ribcage and heart. It was an incredibly powerful moment, a fascinating choice and they better pay it off. Fitz who has now become the “decent man” seemed horrified at Coulson’s actions which is as it should be.
With Gordon we have him using a gun. I again worry that the writers/creators of Gotham are losing sight of what made us care about the man who will become Commissioner Gordon. I don’t have confidence that they know that they’re playing with the heart of darkness and how to deal with that.
With the team on AoS I have confidence that they will explore the darkness that Phil Coulson has entered.
Tuesday night I was at dinner with Connie Willis, Daniel Abraham and a number of folks from the science fiction community in New Mexico. Connie had been given a sack of wrapping paper because she collects wrapping paper. She gave us the fascinating background on why it existed. Prior to 1920 packages were just wrapped in brown paper or tissue with a ribbon. It was the crash and resultant depression that led to the creation of wrapping paper. People didn’t have money for expensive gifts so they wrapped the inexpensive gift in pretty paper to make up for it. Connie said she could identify the decade by just glancing at the paper. During the 1960’s it was all psychedelics, then mylar came in and foil, etc. etc.
I collect antique sterling silver flatware. My pattern is Violet by Wallace. It’s a lovely art Nouveau pattern, and while I collect because it’s beautiful I collect it because of what it says about the era in which it was made — roughly 1880 to 1910. It was a culture where you had “staff” to keep it all polished. Where you had a luncheon place setting and a dinner setting. Serving pieces for every conceivable kind of food. I have a lettuce fork, a pickle fork, chocolate spoon, strawberry fork, fish fork, jelly spoon, baked potato server, fish server, etc. etc. I also have this lovely filagreed piece which was a bonbon server. It is meant to keep the powdered sugar off your fingers or clothing.
I decided I wanted to use it for Thanksgiving so I made dates stuffed with cream cheese and pecans and dusted with powdered sugar and I will serve them with the bonbon server.
I try very hard to obey the Godwin rule. You don’t bring up Nazis unless you are talking about actual Nazis, but the current Republican field and in particular Donald Trump is making that incredibly difficult.
His race baiting has been with us from the beginning, but when he remained silent in the face of suggestions that all Muslims in the United State should register and carry ID identifying them as Muslim, and continued to stay silent when it was pointed out that this was perilously close to what was done in Germany in the 1930’s. Then he said in Alabama “I want surveillance on these people.” Threatening and imprecise. Does he mean all Muslim Americans are going to be surveilled?
At this same event in Alabama a Black Lives Matter activist was attacked, kicked, choked, called the N word and thrown out. I understand that protestors are going to be escorted out of events, but demonstrating and protesting is a fine old American tradition. This kind of thugish behavior was chillingly reminiscent of the gangs who supported Adolf Hitler and roamed the streets of Germany while dressed in brown shirts.
So Trump is making it very hard to avoid stumbling into Godwin territory.
Then last night Trump put up a Tweet with completely bogus crime statistics that is racist in the extreme. Charles Johnson, a recovering conservative who pens the Little Green Footballs blog did some sleuthing and found the source of the erroneous statistics. It’s a Neo-Nazi site. You can read about it here. Tweet Source.
To date Mr. Trump has not yet removed this Tweet straight from the swamp and bile of white supremacy. Will he? Probably not. The man seems incapable of admitting to any mistake or error.