Thursday, September 03, 2015

Providence issue 4 - a review

Proper review shortly:  temporary review 9/10 - my favorite issue so far.

Monday, August 24, 2015

SOMEWHITHER - by John C. Wright - a review part 3

I've now finished the book.

At 87% through (sorry Kindle makes page number refs hard) - an explanation in the text altered my understanding of the Cainen aeon which is the birth-origin of the hero, so lets look at that first because the author's intent there shows up some wider issues.

The undying creatures of that aeon, whose world is a nightmare of perpetual immortal, rape, breeding,  war  etc - where the still living bodies of ones adversaries have to be buried so as to 'make room, make room' are the outcome both of eating the fruit of the tree of good and evil, and the fruit of the tree of life.  I was wrong in my theory it was just the later.

Unfortunately while the description of the world is graphic and effective - I can't believe in it, either in or outside of a biblical perspective. [I could have believed in it if the entities had no intelligence, hence my theory, but with it I can't accept the premise that their is no possible gain from co-operation.]

Non-biblically, I'm unconvinced by the author's 'given' that there's no reason for co-operation among immortals, and hence never an end to the every being for itself melee.

An obvious good resulting from mutal co-operation for instance is *not being raped* the most logical result I think would happen from an immortal set up 'as given', would be armies of women co-operating to bury the (rapist) men, and an immortal lesbian sisterhood ruling.  [I think it may be telling that immortal women have no 'agency' in the author's Cainan aeon.]

Another obvious good - where offspring are immortal competitiors for whom you feel no affection is, after several generations of working that out - is contraception.

Now Wright as a Catholic of course hates this and considers it sinful, but that's not going to dissuade a race of sinful immortals, whose alternative is continual attempted murder/ enforced perpetual solitary confinement. [It's not clear what happens to an immortal buried beyond the compression point of flesh, as their mass and structure doesn't obey conservation of mass laws, but being crushed under the earth forever isn't very nice either.]

In short, this bit of the book fails for me because the consequences of a set of given rules are what the author wants rather than what I think logically can be shown to evolve from the rules. This impacts belief. 

Biblically, my problem is - if you're writing a book that takes as its premise that the biblical account is at least mainly true (although the book doesn't imply a short geological age for the flood, nor explicitly does it have a worldwide flood- as it has chinese geomancers surviving it in their lands by deflecting it with dragon energies (reportedly)) - I think you have to cleave to the 'fundementalist'/biblical as much as possible, so when God drives Adam and Eve from the garden in Genesis and sets the angels with swords there to defend it (He only does this in one aeon incidently, ours) - he leaves a humanity which is - if not immortal -  biblically very long lived.  Long before it would fill the world sufficiently to approach the continuous warfare conditions of the Cainen aeon, it's discovered co-operation 'making nice things' (another obvious co-operative good, nice things > shelter and clothes) and set up the foundations of babel - so what stops that Cainen aeon running parallel to that only with immortals? [Co-operation being discovered long before the all vs all collapse point] Only so far as I can see authorial fiat.

This happens also as we head on, with the books' use of vampires (Those Who Quaff Blood Like Wine).  Wright wants to set the rule that the cross works [automatically] as a dynamic symbol of christ's power not of the belief of the wielder - this is let me stress absolutely fine as a given in a  vampire using novel, vampires are often glossed as having an origin in sin, and I can see why Wright doesn't want to go down the 'faith as energy' route [which for instance in Doctor Who sees vampires defeated by fate in the Russian Revolution, or the Doctor's faith in his companions] but there needs to be consistency both thematically for 'vampires are like demons' and for similar issues 'what you believe/it's God's power/action' Wright's vampires however aren't vampires, they're people from an alchemic aeon who have replaced their blood in part with alchemic silver (?) and lost the part of the soul that makes moral judgements - this in itself is nice invention, but as a backstory, how does it justify the automatic curse of the cross upon them?  Is alchemy or soul-lessness inherently cross invoking, if its not trad vampireism?  We don't know.  Equally in the final battle of the book, Foster Hidden who it is revealed is a worshipper of Odin invokes Odin, and is as a result empowered in combat. Is that his faith?  Is that God choosing to empower a believer in a false god, because even though Odin is not a read God, the cause and the faith are good (but if so how is that not 'the faith' of the user).  Or is it Odin, but if so what does this do for the 'biblically true' backstory.  If X happens because God Z chooses that it should, how can you tell that your belief that God Z is God Y(the one you've been taught of) is true rather than GodX(Odin)? If a 'real' in the book God can empower an Odin worshipper, how do we know the only 'real' God in the book isn't Odin?  'empowering the Christ worshipper with the cross'.  Once opened this can of worms wiggles both ways.

The first book ends in a rush of quasi-actions and quasi-moral questions that seem only partly thought through (or to be fair, perhaps only partly addressed in this volume - others may follow.)  Is it always right to keep your word to monsters?  Does it matter if you keep your word to one monster and thus be responsible for its killing if you do not defeat it, when your facing a Dark Tower filled with lots of monsters and there's a whole world of ones like the one you've made the promise too?  [Does it particularly matter because you may have given that monster special superpowers when you got it to devour another different monster for you?]

And now we also come to two underlying threads/beliefs in the text which may make this a troubling book for many.  One is Mr Wright's position on abortion - he's against it (which as a Catholic may be expected, and respected) but he seems to regard it as 'so obviously' the telling sin of our world that its practically our *multiversal identifier*  "the world where they kill their children".  Leaving aside whether or not there *are* sins, or whether this *is* one - while I would be willing to read a book in which the angels sorrowfully consider this our problem and/or the actual ethics of the position were addressed, the ball is startlingly fumbled by placing the criticism in the mouths of the masters and lackies of the Dark Tower.  Reading a book in which our table manners are criticised by cannibals may be interesting and make a sly point - but it can also generate disbelief.  I don't find it believable that (if abortion is evil as a given) it would not be used by the Dark Tower rulers to remove predicted malcontents [it could be argued that if they aren't allowed to be born the evil yet working astrology can't predict that they ought to be killed...but the evil yet working astrology has the rules the author sets for it, and it could as easily work from a moment of conception, which moment could itself be predicted when it resulted from lower nature.]  What benefit do they have not to sin; would not the Evil Power pulling their strings want them to be Evil in that respect also?

The other thing is 'female agency' and 'depiction' - all the things done by woman to advance the plot (and being fair there are many) are off stage and rendered secondary by the decision to run a male main character as the sole narrator.  The infatuation of the main character with the heroine isn't checked / amended by circumstances in the first book - I was rather hoping he might see a better prospect and companion and equal in the Monkey-masked thief, but as this book ends it is looking as if the infatuation is being foregrounded as the correct and obvious way to find a lover/mate/wife and indeed to interact with girls/women in general.  I am not sure of this.

[A further aside, both Mr Wright and I have written novels with a Captain No-One in, why not buy my (and co-writer Jonathan Dennis novel) - see page aside! and compare the two.  This is not a co-incidence as we both have Captain Nemo as a source!]

Final summary.  As the first book in a series I mark this as 6/10.  I'd probably read the next book, but I would be doing so in part in hope that some of my issues with arbetary worldbuilding in this would be addressed.  I'd rate it historically as a good 'second' level SF/fantasy - Philip Jose Farmer's world of tiers, rather than his Riverworld.  If it were Hugo nominated in 2016 on its own merits, I'd judge it against its peers but I would be surprised it had been considered Hugo level.  As part of a slate I would probably No Award it.

[Tidied up a bit, clarificationary text in square brackets.]

Friday, August 21, 2015

A brief history of the File 770 Film Club / Kickstarter projects

Film makerFilmCommentAuthor
Mike Leigh'sSpiderman
I’d watch that. Alison Steadman as Aunt May, Timothy Spall as Uncle Ben (who isn’t dead). The whole film is set in the suburban house in South London. Peter Parker doesn’t appear as such but the two characters talk to him or call up to his room or take phone calls from him. On the radio we here occasional news reports about Spiderman fighting Doctor Octopus at Canary Wharf - 'Camestros Felapon
Tommy Wiseau'sBlack WidowRay Radlein
John Walter's Wonder Woman
I could go for either Divine or Mink Stole as the star - Microtherion
Michael Bay's SandmanJack Lint
Zack Snyder'sSupermanJamoche
Wernor Herzog'sSquirrel Girlestelle28
Woody Allen'sMs Marvelco -starring Woody Allen as Love Interest - estelle28, "shudders" - Jamocheestelle28
Miranda July'sBatman vs Superman
Which would consist of one very long dinner conversation that would consist mostly of keeping the cat off the dinner table - Will. ('I would pay money ton watch this' Kyra)
Larry Clark's The RunawaysNigel
Lars Von Trier'sCaptain Marvel
…I hate you. Like, a lot. Lord what a terrifying notion - MaxL
Wes Anderson'sThe Punisher
This, however, couldn’t be worse than the Punisher movies that actually exist, so…MaxL    'I desperately want to see this movie.' - Gully Foyle
Francis Ford Coppela'sThe Wonder TwinsRed Wombat
Peter Greenaway'sHulkNigel
Andrei Tarkovsky'sShe-HulkNigel
Ingmar Bergman's DeadpoolNigel
Ridley Scott'sDeadpoolJon Metzler
Guy Richie'sMausNigel
Terrance Mallick'sGuardians Of The Galaxyestelle28
Merchant Ivory'sAkiraNigel
Alan Bennett'sPunisher War Journal
Starring Julie Walters as a middle aged civil servant who has runaway from her job for reason that aren’t revealed until the end of the film. She is sitting in a tea-shop in Harrogate and the only reading material she has is a copy of The Punisher. She reads parts of it aloud and comments on the events in the book and tells anecdotes about her life.
Camestros Felapton
Michael Apted's X-Men First Class Camestros Felapton
Stanley Kubrick'sHulk 2 - Hulk vs DeadpoolEd
Uwe Boll'sThe SpiritThe winner takes on Ray Dennis Steckler’s Batman.
Richard Brandt
Ulli Lommel'sThe League of Extraordinary GentlemenThe winner takes on Ray Dennis Steckler’s Batman.
Richard Brandt
Ray Dennis Steckler'sBatmanRichard Brandt
Gus Van Sant'sJosh's Trank's Fantastic FourShot-for-shot remakeKyra
Woody Allen'sKickAssCpaca
David Cronenburg'sFantastic FourThink about it.Cpaca
David Cronenburg'sPlastic ManThink about it.Cpaca
Kevin's Costner'sThe Incredible Hulkstarring Costner as Dr Bruce BannerPaul Weimer
Douglas Sirk's LoboBruce Anthers
Nora Ephron'sThe PunisherCpaca
Mel Brooks'WatchmenCpaca
M. Night Shyamalan'sThunderboltssnowcrash
Uwe Boll'sThe Authority
Uh, this was already made, but it was called Man of Steel for some reason - MaxL
Tyler Perry'sStormsnowcrash
Reginald Hudlin's Black Pantherwait...snowcrash
Spike Lee'sSense and Sensibility(first mutation of meme from 'Superhero films - SBJ)All the Great and Powerful
Godfrey Reggio’s
I would watch this - GregBruce Baugh
David Fincher’sDamage ControlBruce Baugh
Ken Russell’s
Bruce Baugh
Busby Berkeley’s
Doom Patrol: The Musical
(First thought was John Hughes, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I would watch the hell out of a Doom Patrol /Breakfast Club mash up.) Busby Berkeley’s Doom Patrol would be awesome - The line “The kid is green, Chief, green! From his greasy Beatle haircut to his pointed Italian shoes! You’ve been with this freak farm so long you don’t know a norm from a goof-o!” would be an entire production number - Kurt Busiek
Jean-Luc Godard'sIron Man
Iron Man is a metaphor for capitalism.  The movie is nothing more than footage of on-set arguments between Godard and Robert Downey Jr. about how there is nothing actually resembling a superhero scene in this script, interspersed with black-and-white title cards, shortly before Downey quit in protest.
Baz Luhrmann’s 
The Dark KnightIphinome
Baz Luhrmann’s Swamp ThingKurt Busiek
Michael Moore'sMr AMark Hopper
Mel Brooks'Judge Dredd
What was the original question? Movies I’d pay to have made? That sounds amazing - Kathodus
Errol Morris'PREZI would watch this - GregMark Hopper
Ken Burn'sMARVEL's Civil WarWhile I'm on documentariesMark Hopper
Savage Steve Holland'sLegion of SuperheroesKurt Busiek
Lisa Frank'sMad MaxPerhaps bending the meme too far, but I wanted to think of the craziest thing I could:
Nora Ephron'sSin City
appearing in a double bill with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Dune” … oh, wait a minute…
The Other Nigel
Mel Gibson'sLuciferVertigo ComicsCpaca
David Cronenbergs' 
Squirrel GirlA woman is, without her knowledge, injected with an experimental serum when visiting a hospital. At first it gives here stomach aches, then she starts to give birth to small naked squirrels. The squirrels crawl into the vents of her apartment to attack other tenants.Hampus Eckerman
David Lynch'sSquirrel Girl
Exactly the same plot but there is a dark shadowy corner in the hospital that people vanish into.
Camestros Felapton
David Lynch’s‘Michael Bay’s Astro City‘
Not actually a film of Astro City by Michael Bay but a nightmarish film in which such a film is contained in the same dark shadowy corner from David Lynch’s Squirrel Girl. 'I think this wins' - Greg
Camestros Felapton
Charlie Chaplin’s Daredevil. 
The Little tramp finds himself in Hell’s Kitchen New York. He keeps accidentally knocking over Wilson Fisk with a ladder.
Camerstros Felapton
Herchel Gordon Lewis'PromethiaRay Radlein
Russ Meyer'sA Distant SoilRay Radlein
Zalman King'sPunisher's War ZoneRay Radlein
Martin Scorsese'sBluefellas
Martin Scorsese’s Bluefellas. As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a smurf.
Clint Eastwood'sAquamanWill R
Coen Brothers’s Dick Tracy. 
John Goodman is Dick Tracy.
Camestros Felapton
Blake Edwards’s Attack on Titan (live action version). The opening credits are animated though, with a Henry Mancini score.
Camestros Felapton
Albert Broccoli Presents Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
 “The name’s Smiley, George Smiley” [cue theme music…]
Camestros Felapton
Lars Von Trier'sWonder WomanWanderfound
Sylvester Stallone'sY-The Last Mansnowcrash
Katheryn Bigelow'sTransmetropolitansnowcrash
Tarsem Singh'sSaga
actually I’d watch the heck out of this – wouldn’t make a lick of sense, but it would be pretty…)
Stanley Kubrick'sPower Puff Girlsif only for the masked orgy scenesCpaca
Blake Edwards’s BatmanHampus Eckerman
Mel Brooks'Swamp ThingHampus Eckerman
Spike Lee'sSailor MoonCamestros Felapton
Akira Kurosawa'sHoward The DuckHampus Eckerman
Akira Kurosawa'sFour Turtles
Wait, is this films we would or wouldn’t watch?
Alfred Hitchcock'sThe BurbsSBJ
Coen Brothers’s Big Trouble In Little China
need to remind myself that the Coen Brother’s Big Trouble in Little China isn’t an actual thing. Just edit out Kurt Russell and edit in the Dude - Camestros                                                                          The Coen Brother’s “Big Trouble In Little China” (2016)
Soundtrack album
1. Heart full of Hope (Young Chinese Dogs)
2 To Be Such A Man (Wei Li)
3 Street Brawl Polka (trad.)
4 I Love You Green Eyed Girl (Wei Li)
5. Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting (Carl Douglas)
6. Here Come The Storms (John Carpenter)
7. Devils Cup (Young Chinese Dogs)
8. Lo Pan’s Lament (The Dixie Chicks)
9 Men Of Iron (Surfjan Stevens)
10. The Coupe de Villes (John Carpenter) (SBJ)
David Cronenbergs' The Importance Of Being Earnest
The scene with the baby in the hand bag is harrowing but powerful drama)
Quentin Tarantino's An American In ParisSBJ
Fritz Lang'sSuperman The MovieSBJ
Wim Wender'sCrisis On Infinite Earths
Wenders artfully captures the feeling of infinity.
Camestros Felapton
Jane Campion'sCable and the New Mutants
Holly Hunter is Cable.
Camestros Felapton
Sam Peckinpah'sAstro-BoyCamestros Felapton
Alfred Hitchcock'sThe LoraxCamestros Felapton
M. Night Shyamalan'sScott McCloud's Understanding ComicsCamestros Felapton
Leni Riefenstahl'sSupermanMrc
Walt Disney'sV for Vendetta
‘Effie’ as Princess, V as Prince, the deathcell song is my favourate since Frozen - SBJ
Cadbury Moose
Mel Brooks'AlienCadbury Moose
Jim Henson'sDeadpoolOneiros
Georges Méliès’s 
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
a boy who lives in a railway station befriends a long forgotten Martin Scorsese and they then fly to the moon.
Camestros Felapton
George Pal's2001 a space OdysseyLorcan Nagle
Robert Altman'sAvengersNigel
Alan Moore'sSuckerpunchfrom film to comics Camestros Felapton
Tim Burton'sPlanetary
Tim Burton’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s stage musical of Planetary. Obvs Johnny Depp plays Elijah Snow, Helena Bonham Carter plays Jakita Wagner and Angela Lansbury in an Oscar winning turn as The Drummer.
Tim Burton'sLovecraftBio-picSBJ
Gareth Edward'sThe Muppets Take ManhattenSBJ
Jean-Pierre Jeunet'sJudge DreddThis one I'd really like to seeLorcan Nagle
Ron Howard'sSpeed RacerJames Garner as Racer XSimon Bisson
Sergio Leone'sMy Neighbour TotoroCadbury Moose
Sam Peckinpah'sWizard Of OzCadbury Moose
Pedro Almodovar’s Wonder WomanGinger
Guillermo del Toro’s Incredible HulkGinger
Joseph L. Mankiewicz'sTeen TitansWith Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm. An ingenue insinuates herself in to the company of an established group of Superheroes……’s “All About Terra” in this tale from the Teen Titans..SBJ
Alexander Korda'sThe Legion Of SuperheroesSBJ
David Cronenbergs' Ant ManNiall McAuley 
Roman Polanski’s X-Men Origins WolverineNiall McAuley 
Ron Howard'sBatman /SupermanNiall McAuley 
Ang Lee'sDark CrystalLive action, CGI-assisted in places.Abi Sutherland
Christopher Guest'sWatchmenJane Dark
Hayao Miyazaki’s TerminatorYou know this would have a moment where bishoujo Sarah Connor takes to the skies, soaring above the burning Urban wreckage - lunarGJane Dark
Sergei Eisenstein’s The Sound Of MusicCadbury Moose
Andy Warhol'sThe Walking DeadSomething he made or a description of him - SBJCamestros Felapton
Werner Hertzog'sFitz the CatCamestros Felapton
George Lucas'XKCDCamestros Felapton
Doris Wishman'sFantastic FourLunarG
Ealing Comedy'sThe Batman RisesSBJ
Ealing Comedy'sReservour DogsNo I'm Mr Lavender'SBJ
Aaron Sorkin’s Young FrankesteinStoic Cynic
Micahel Bay'sThe Care Bear MovieStoic Cynic
Kenneth Banagh'sPowerpuff GirlsThe Mojo Jojo soliloquies would be AWESOME!Stoic Cynic
Jerrry Bruckheimer’s La Jettewhich I first saw at a Worldcon, btwRob Thornton
Ingmar Bergman's A HamiltonCombining the superhero movies and the high culture talk, there is the Swedish superhero movie that never wasJohan P
Nick Park'sTronI would totally pay to see that - Cassy B That needs a Kickstarter campaign - Ed Actually, it would be great if Aardman Animation could do something along the lines of the lego tie in movies.Cadbury Moose
Garrison Keillor'sWatchmen(It turns out that Guy Noir has been wearing a very weird mask this whole time, but nobody said anything..,) [Radio Play]RedWombat
Ed Wood Jr'sThe MartianWanderfound
Ed Wood Jr'sOne Bright Star To Guide ThemHampus Eckerman
Tommy Wiseau’s One Bright Star To Guide ThemOneiros
Bert I Gordon'sGodzillaHampus Eckerman
Michael Bay's One Bright Star To Guide ThemNigel
Eli Roth'sBetty and VeronicaRichard Brandt
Terrance Mallick'sBig Boys' Don't Crysnowcrash
Tyler Perry'sOne Bright Star To Guide ThemMatt Y
Quentin Tarantino's On A Spiritual PlaneBruce Baugh
Studio GhiblisThe Parliament of Birds and BeastsHampus Eckerman
Louis Malle's My Dinner With Totorothis would be a thing of beauty - AmoxtliOneiros
Wim Wender'sFury Roadwith Rudiger Vogler as Max.Amoxtli
Vittorio de Sica’s The Hunger GamesAmoxtli
Stuart Gorden'sTotalledHampus Eckerman
Andy Warhol'sStarship TroopersStuart  Schwartz
Ken Russell’sThe Last UnicornHampus Eckerman
Woody Allen'sThe Female ManDouble featureSeth Eckerman
Joss Whedon'sTarnsmen of GoreDouble featureSeth Eckerman
Michael Bay's The Left Hand Of DarknessPeace is My Middle Name
Wes Anderson'sHellraiserstarring Bill Murray, Angelica Huston and Owen WilsonScott Frazer
Stuart Gorden'sCharlie and the Chocolate Factory"The Nightmare Factory" - Thomas Ligotti scriptsSBJ
Merchant Ivory'sDemon[Jason Shiga’s] DemonRay Radlein
The Wachowski'sAmerican SplendorRay Radlein
Sam Peckinpah'sCastle WaitingOh, I've wanted an adaption of this for so long, sob! - SBJRay Radlein
David Cronenberg'sAmerican Elf- is this the same as what we call 'Elf' in the UK - SBJRay Radlein
The Farley Brother'sOur Cancer YearRay Radlein
Judd Aptow'sFrom HellRay Radlein
Seth MacFarlane'sMausRay Radlein
Chris Colombus'sBarefoot GenCamestros Felapton
John Landis'LogicomixCamestros Felapton
Dave Lean'sTransformersJohn Mills *is* Optimum PrimeCamestros Felapton
Bryan Forbe'sLeague Of Extraordinary GentlemenCamestros Felapton
Buster Keaton'sElektraCamestros Felapton
David Attenborough'sGandhiCamestros Felapton
Richard Attenborough'sLife On EarthCamestros Felapton
Merchant Ivory'sMiraclemanBruce Arthurs
Sam Peckinpah'sThe Muppets Take ManhattenCpaca
Terry Gilliam'sLord Of The Ring's“We were somewhere around Mordor on the edge of the swamp when the drugs began to take hold. ”Cpaca
Michel Crichton'sDeadpoolStrring Marcel MarceuRev Bob
Ralph Bakshi'sCaptain Carrot and The Amazing Zoo CrewSBJ
Oliver Stone'sHoward The DuckNigel
Oliver Stone'sWho Framed Roger RabbitNo really who was it -SBJ
Nicholas Winding Refn'sThe TickM.C. Simon Milligan
Pier Paolo Pasolini’s DiabolikM.C. Simon Milligan
Michel Bay'sThe Desert PeachM.C. Simon Milligan
Big Lebowski in Little China