Previous Posts: November 2011

Out Of Character Dept.

At the risk of going back on what I just wrote about the other day ... As research-of-a-sort for the story I'm working on, I was given pointers towards a whole slew of space-opera type works. Some are more blatantly...


At the risk of going back on what I just wrote about the other day ...

As research-of-a-sort for the story I'm working on, I was given pointers towards a whole slew of space-opera type works. Some are more blatantly in the military-SF vein than others, but they all had certain elements in common. Most obvious was what other people have called "tech porn" — long, frothy descriptions of docking sequences, or elaborations on how this or that tech works.

My first reaction to most of this stuff was "Gawd, this is boring." Puts me right to sleep, it does. This from someone who writes about technology for a living — which is why it puts me to sleep. The last thing I want to read about when I get off work is some tarted-up analogue of what I was reading about on the job. I wanted to read about people, not machines.

Then I realized the audience for those books might well pick up anything from my own shelf — ostensibly about people, not machines — and have the back of their head hit the chair as they nod off, and I stopped fuming and started thinking.

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Tags: fantasy science fiction writing


Tasteless Dept.

Why readers' and writers' tastes are at odds so often.


Some of you might remember that scene in Sideways where Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Hayden Church) are sampling some wine from a vineyard named "Frass Valley" (ha!).

Miles, the oenophile, is repulsed: "Tastes like the back of a f-in' L.A. school bus.  They probably didn't de-stem, hoping for some semblance of concentration, crushed it up with leaves and mice, and then wound up with this rancid tar and turpentine b.s. F-in' Raid."

Jack's amiable reply is "Tastes pretty good to me," and he downs the rest of his glass without complaint.

I know more than a few people who are like this when it comes to, say, bad fantasy or sci-fi. I come back to them with my complaints about whatever I've been reading lately, about how the writing is just awful, and they reply with some variation of Jack's shrug-and-frown "Tastes pretty good to me."

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Tags: writing


0Q84 Dept.

I have been reading, not very enthusiastically, Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. One of the major plot elements involves a writer who is hired to rewrite a young girl's fantasy story and make it more readable, a act somewhere between forgery and...


I have been reading, not very enthusiastically, Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. One of the major plot elements involves a writer who is hired to rewrite a young girl's fantasy story and make it more readable, a act somewhere between forgery and hoax. Oh, irony.

The book itself feels like the end result of such a larceny: it reads less like Murakami and someone who read several of his books and performed a point-for-point mimicry of his style. (I know full well he wrote the book, which makes it doubly depressing.)

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Tags: books Haruki Murakami writing


Cine-minus Dept.

I don't normally read io9 (mostly a time constraint), but a friend linked me to a piece where the title tells it: Why We Can’t Have Great Movies. Two words: risk aversion....


I don't normally read io9 (mostly a time constraint), but a friend linked me to a piece where the title tells it: Why We Can’t Have Great Movies. Two words: risk aversion.

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Tags: movies


Book Reviews: Black Jack Vol. 16 (Osamu Tezuka)

The penultimate Black Jacking, with a final installment that's to Tezuka what a side-long song is to a Krautrock band.



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The penultimate Black Jack collection still sports some of the same hit-or-miss flavor of all the volumes since #11 or so, but the standouts this time around are as good as anything ever created for the series. Most striking is the last story in the volume, “A Passed Moment”, which runs for almost a hundred pages — an epic-length production compared to the usual 16- to 24-page stories that made up the series. It opens with a young taxi driver who has a taste for embroidery and other decidedly nonmasculine things, and then works its way by various Byzantine degrees to a country in revolution where said young man died once … or did he? It’s a dizzying achievement, one of the sorts of things Osamu Tezuka fans will most likely point to as an example of how uninhibited and absorbing his imagination could be; spun out a little longer, it could have become a self-contained epic in its own right on the order of MW or Book of Human Insects.

The rest of the book is no total slouch either: I particularly liked a story about Black Jack’s assistant Pinoko becoming the object of a crush by a man who never sees her face (they share the same bathhouse), and there’s a remarkably cynical skewering of Hollywood (and, by extension, inequality in America) in a chapter where Black Jack’s skills are to be captured on film against his will. And in “Miyuki and Ben”, there’s the recurrence of a theme which has pervaded Black Jack since its inception (and which also appears in “A Passed Moment”): how body and spirit are interwoven, and how the death of one can mean a new lease on life for another. It’s always amusing how Black Jack — and Tezuka, too — can see organ and tissue donation as something inherently romantic instead of, as most of us do, something quite a bit icky.

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Tags: black jack books Japan manga Osamu Tezuka review


Book Reviews: A Bride's Story, Vol. 2 (Kaoru Mori)

2nd volume of manga exploration of nomadic steppe life remains endearing and beautifully-drawn.



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Always nice to see a series continue to fulfill and surpass the promises laid down in its first volume. Here, in the second installment of this minutely-detailed look at life amongst the 19th-century nomads of the Silk Road (distant ancestors of mine!), Amir, the bride of the title faces down the threat of violence aimed at her and her young husband; develops friendships with both older and younger women via two different domestic crafts (baking and embroidery); and learns a little more about what drew the mysterious Englishman, Mr. Smith, to her corner of the world.

The detail on the page isn’t just limited to Kaoru Mori’s illustrations, although that’s where the reader encounters it first: it’s also in the web of relationships that binds both Amir and her young groom Karluk to people both close and far. The only thing that seems slightly out of place is the action-movie heroics that Karluk uses to protect Amir when her family attempts to steal her back away. So much of what Bride’s Story special had nothing to do with such things in the first place, so it’s distracting to see such flashy theatrics shoehorned into something that revolved mainly about not just whether or not this young couple would remain together but whether or not they deserved to.

But forget the quibbles. If you haven’t started picking this one up, go back to the first volume and see firsthand why it’s such a standout title; it’s a beautiful series in more senses of the word than one.


Tags: books Japan Kaoru Mori manga review



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This page is an archive of entries from November 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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