Previous Posts: December 2012

The 10th Level Dept.

Spontaneous creativity is a grail for creators, but what precisely is in that particular cup?

Zeami Motokiyo, widely considered to be the man who developed the foundational aesthetics of  drama as we have come to know it, once wrote a treatise about nine levels or grades of acting quality. The topmost grade, myōka-fū, is said to be a performance of total sublimity and spontaneous perfection. As Masaru Sekine put it:

An actor, to create this supreme art ... must reach to the depth of subconsciousness, so that his body moves almost on its own and his voice comes completely spontaneously. His acting surpasses his own intention. ... The actor himself cannot explain his own performance at [this] leve, as he hardly realizes what he is doing .... [I]t is beyond an audience's powers of analysis or praise.

(Emphasis mine.)

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Tags: creativity inspiration Japan

This Is The Show That Never Ends Dept.

Some things can go on forever without becoming interminable. Some can't. Hard to tell which, sometimes.

Why We Love Things That Won’t End | Nerd Caliber

... why do people love things that go on forever?  One answer is simply this – it gives them an axis around which a lot of socializing, meeting, and creativity happens.  It’s reliable as well as stimulating, and it makes our natural community building easy. Next time you wonder why something won’t end, remember how many people don’t want it to.

The image featured above the post is — appropriately enough —  Doctor Who, which has survived, thrived, and re-engineered itself for only slightly fewer generations than James Bond. Fitting as a place for me to start my commentary, too, since my own Who fandom started as a kid with the local PBS outlet screening the show and has continued right up to the present day.

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Tags: entertainment media

All Beings Shall Make Merry...

... Under Pain Of Death

... Under Pain Of Death

(Not like you needed me to tell you that, but hey, bears repeating, right?)

((Virtual Kewpie doll to anyone who gets the reference first.))

Tags: excuse our dust

Radio Silence Dept.

See you next year.

On vacation, and prepping some other projects. Don't expect much from me until 2013.

Enjoy your Arbitrarily Demarcated Solar Cirumnavigational Chronology Day.

Tags: excuse our dust

Closing The Mind's Eye Dept.

Is "reality" in entertainment overrated?

space1970: Reality is Overrated

... the new Galactica may have been a "better" show than the original in most quantifiable ways - arguably better overall production values and effects, more naturalistic acting and more sophisticated writing - and I liked the show okay, I still like the original, 1978 Battlestar Galactica better.

There's more in that vein (it's short, go read it), but it made me think about something that started making the rounds these past couple of weeks in conjunction with the release of The Hobbit. I haven't seen the film in 48FPS or 3D, but it struck me as odd that one of the attractions for those formats would be to make the resulting film "more real".

This strikes me as a confusion of intention. A movie — or book, or comic, or what have you — doesn't need to be real so much as it needs to be credible. It has to generate something which can serve as a receptacle for our credulity. That something might well be visceral realism, but most of the time it doesn't need to be. Are we any the less emotionally involved in what happens between Dumbo and his mother because the backgrounds (and the foregrounds, and the characters) are painted instead of being rendered as super-detailed CGI?

The push to make our entertainments more "real" in every respect, from the way they look on down, is having unexpected side effects. Or rather, it's allowing a shifting of burden that hollows out the resulting product. If a movie presents me with a forensically realistic-looking presentation of things which have no foundation in coherent human behavior, they are no more "realistic" — less, even — than the stick figures of XKCD. We can put most anything we want on a screen these days, but that implies we know what we want in the first place, or why we want it there.

I'm not about to abandon all of the sophistication we've added to our entertainments over the past few decades. Some of those innovations and expansions are valuable. I am, though, convinced that the more we train people to let the entertainment do all the heavy lifting and suspension of disbelief for them, the more impoverished our imaginations become as a result.

On the recent re-release of The Holy Mountain, there's a moment where Jodorowsky comments on the fact that when his characters speak, their mouths don't move. "And why should they?" he says. "It's a movie!" I am not sure I want to live in a world where people do their best not to understand what that means.

Tags: entertainment fiction imagination realism

To The Wonder Dept.

About the wide-eyed artists in my life, and a few shut-eyed ones.

Digging back through the previous post, I had to ask myself what it was that seemed to have gone missing from SF&F as of late — what it was that I looked for when I had my "400 Bad Books In One Year" experience to prepare for my current dive back into SF. I think I know what it is now: the sense of wonder.

The sense of wonder is a slippery thing. It can manifest in one work by a creator but not another, or across an entire creator's oeuvre. Because it's a sensibility, a way of treating the material rather than any particular element, it's even harder to pin down.

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Tags: creativity

Antisocial Networking Dept.

FaceLinkTwitBookFeedSite ... Plus!

(I've been saving this one for a while, but after my last round of wresting with HootSuite, I decided to post this.)

I use multiple social networks — not because I like to, but because I have to. Here is what using social networking has come to mean to me.

Imagine you have seven phones on your desk. Most are pushbutton; one is still rotary. One is a cellphone that gets great reception but has terrible battery life. The other one, great battery life but lousy signal. One only works as a speakerphone because it has no handset. Another has a cordless handset but half the time you can't use it because it picks up garage door opener signals. One is a ham radio, which only lets you broadcast for ten seconds at a time, but it has amazing signal range.

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Tags: technology

Flight of the Vajra: Not Fade Away Dept.

Looks like I wasn't alone in feeling that SF is losing its luster, but that just makes my job as a creator of same all the tougher.

Los Angeles Review of Books - The Widening Gyre: 2012 Best Of The Year Anthologies

THE OVERWHELMING SENSE ONE GETS, working through so many stories that are presented as the very best that science fiction and fantasy have to offer, is exhaustion. Not so much physical exhaustion (though it is more tiring than reading a bunch of short stories really has any right to be); it is more as though the genres of the fantastic themselves have reached a state of exhaustion. In the main, there is no sense that the writers have any real conviction about what they are doing. Rather, the genre has become a set of tropes to be repeated and repeated until all meaning has been drained from them. ... Asimov’s [robot] stories can still entertain, and [Elizabeth] Bear’s story ["Dolly"] is much the same, but to find that one of what we are told are the best stories of 2011 is ploughing a furrow that is more than seventy years old is somehow dispiriting.

There is much meat in the article, not least of which being the insight that a story needs to be more than just called SF to be SF. I also nodded at the notion of how SF is simply falling back on the tropes of fantasy as a way of evoking a future where "things are so different that there is no connection with the experiences and perceptions of our present."

This was something I myself mused over in the early days of writing Flight of the VajraI had to split the difference between the future I wanted to talk about and the present that I was writing for; if I leaned too far forward, I'd run the risk of losing everyone. I'll leave it to the reader to determine if I struck that balance.

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Tags: fantasy genres Karlheinz Stockhausen science fiction Science Fiction Repair Shop

Flight of the Flight Dept.

Website Sokoban time.

Back when I inagurated the Flight of the Vajra section of the site, I decided to use it not just for promotional material about the book, but to discuss issues and ideas that were touched on by the book itself — a sort of thematic run-up to its release. Time went on, and I found the discussion straying from its original course — so much so that I found a whole new rubric had to be chosen for it.

And so began the Science Fiction Repair Shop, where I talked about how SF (& fantasy) could be improved, both by infusing it with elements from mainstream/literary fiction and by allowing the reverse to happen as well. The title stemmed from a series of posts I made recently where I took SF&F works (mostly film) that I felt were lacking in some way and suggested improvements. It wasn't until just now I realized that label worked well to encompass the general flavor that my "discussion" posts under Vajra had taken on.

I'm in the process of moving many of those Vajra posts into SFRS, as a way to clean up the former category, give the latter a good roster of content, and pave the way for the real pre-publication material for Vajra to make their appearance. So: excuse our dust.

Tags: excuse our dust Flight of the Vajra Science Fiction Repair Shop

Movie Reviews: 10,000 B.C.


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Dim-witted but sporadically enjoyable attempt at a crossbreed between revisionist caveman stories (Quest for Fire, The Clan of the Cave Bear) and peplum epics (Ben-Hur). Good points: nice sense of epic scope, especially in the last third or so of the film, which hints at a larger mythology than we actually see. Bad points: inane accents, eye-rolling racial stuff (World Saved By White Guy, Again — More At 11), and one of the dumbest kill-a-character-then-bring-them-back-to-life-because-we-said-so story twists. Directed by the guy who blew up the White House.

Tags: movies review

Movie Reviews: John Carter

Not a disaster or a game-changer, but well worth a look.

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Would it be awkward to say that the box-office bomb that sucked $250 million out of Disney's pockets and touched off a regime change in its management ranks is ... only pretty good? I say "only" because it's not the disaster some feared (or hoped) it would be, nor is it a game-changer, nor an unrecognized classic. The culprit was the terrible marketing: an incoherent ad campaign that didn't give the flavor of the film; cold-footed focus-grouping (the of Mars was dumped because of this); and some of the blandest and most forgettable promotional art of any movie in recent history.

But hidden inside this tasteless gift wrap was a genuinely good film, if also a bit overstuffed. Confederate soldier Carter mistakenly teleports himself to Mars and is plunged into a multi-front struggle between various factions trying to seize control of it, but his bullheaded stubbornness and a little superhuman ability picked up along the way — along with a four-armed friend voiced by Willem Dafoe — help him save the day and win the hand of a Martian princess. Not that she needs any saving herself, which is fun to watch.

Adapted from a number of Edgar Rice Burroughs's seminal pulp fantasies — themselves an influence on everything from Star Wars to Guin Saga*JC contains about fifty percent too much plot for its own good, but also doesn't make the mistake of simply lumping everyone into "good" and "evil" camps and letting them take a whack at each other. It's 3 hours of movie in a 2-hour bag, but in the end it plays out better than you might expect — and the way the movie ties itself back into Burroughs's own life mythology is, as a friend of mine used to say, dash clever.

* which, now that I think about it, will never get filmed no thanks to this film stiffing bigtime.

Tags: adaptation Disney Edgar Rice Burroughs fantasy movies science fiction

Ungrinding the Gears Dept.

Facebook users, I'm not snubbing you. Honest.

Forgot to turn back on commenting via Facebook and all the other third-party services during the last upgrade. Should be fixed now.

Tags: excuse our dust

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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I'm an independent SF and fantasy author, technology journalist, and freelance contemplator for how SF can be made into something more than just a way to blow stuff up.

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