{scifi} hot chicks in space

The Hugo Project

The Hugo Awards are given every year for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. Hugo Awards have been presented every year since 1955 (Wikipedia).

This project was begun September 10, 2009. Being the insane soul that I am, I've decided to read every Hugo award winning novel. Ever. I don't have a time limit. Trying to read them all in a year would be suicidal. Here's the list. I try not to have spoilers in my reviews, but still give an impression of the novel's plot and mood. If they seem a little vague at times, I apologize.

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{scifi} hot chicks in space

Hugo: The City and the City (2010)

The City and the City by China Miéville
Read September 12, 2013 - September 20, 2013

Premise: Two cities co-exist in the same geographic space--to the point of adjacent buildings being in different cities--only separated by the culture of each and the compliance of the citizens to maintain the boundaries. A detective in one city investigates the murder of a young woman from the other city whose body, somehow, has made it across the border.

Verdict: This book was amazingly evocative while still staying true to its appropriated genre style--by which I mean, the sparse language of the crime/cop novel was used very well to describe the setup of the cities in question (which I myself have failed to do five times now when trying to explain this book to people.) Sometimes I would look up from the page and have to readjust to the world not being the way it was in the novel. I found the climax itself a bit confused and muddled but I guess, in the end, it all came out rather nicely (if slightly predictable--which isn't a strike against it by any means.) I had some plot hole complaints while reading it, but once I was finished it all shook out well enough that I don't feel like complaining anymore.

Definitely recommend--especially if you want to give yourself a little trippy break from the real world.
{misc} robot love

010: Pacific Rim, or: how to have a perfectly amazing story about two people THAT'S NOT A LOVE STORY

Once upon a time, I used to track various tags on Tumblr related to the TV show Elementary. In those tags, I saw various fans being upset that everyone was celebrating the way the creators said "they won't" in regards to the "will they or won't they" (bang like rabbits) question that media and culture tries to project onto a show about a man and a woman with a strictly platonic but very close friendship. "But I ship it!" these people opined. "I hate seeing everyone saying how glad they are they won't ever be together!" This strikes me as funny for many reasons but particularly for one. Basically every television show ever broadcast in the United States asserts that a man and a woman cannot be friends without some (possibly hidden, but always there) romantic or sexual intentions upon said friend. Our media slams this into our faces every single day, to the point where it's the only message getting through and a vast majority of people start to actually believe it. "If it's not true, then why does the stereotype exist?" they say. Because media shapes our worldview and what goes into our media is limited by the worldview of those who own it. And yet this (admittedly rather small) group of fans is upset that they're given a text in which this doesn't happen.

Now, Pacific Rim. Pacific Rim, Pacific Rim, Pacific Rim. Quite a few of my friends told me to go see this movie. Friends I trusted. So I went. I walked into the theater about five minutes before the trailers started and saw about 20 people in there already. Which was weird, because most movies I go to there's like no one in the theater. What was extra-weird was that it was literally 100% male. Not a woman in sight. Not a sister, or a daughter, or a mother, or a date. Ok, sure. I sat myself in the back row and only narrowly avoided kicking the loud dudebros in front of me in the back of the head throughout the movie. (This is relevant, I assure you.) A few more people trickled in during the trailers: all men.

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009: Supernatural Fights the Patriarchy... sort of... kind of... a little bit

I've always had a bit of a problem of reading everything in the most ultra-feminist way possible. I took Byron's Don Juan and wrote a six-page paper in undergrad about how it was a liberating feminist text that demonstrated the sexual agency and independence of women. The point being: I will find just about anything "liberating" unless it is deliberately (or poorly) constructed to show women as unbearably awful stereotypes of various kinds. If your characters are flat--forget it.

Which is why I found it interesting when I did finally watch Supernatural that so many people see the text as misogynistic and anti-feminist. What I saw--especially in the early seasons--was a lot of monsters that directly embodied the pitfalls and oppressions of patriarchy being defeated by two very pretty men who seemed to be quite aware of the dismantling, un-apologetically emotional, and firmly secure in their masculinity. Now, no, it's not to the degree that Buffy's monsters embody the tribulations of teenage life. And Buffy gets to kick her own troubles in the ass rather than have pretty men swoop and save her from them (which self-saving is precisely the point of Buffy.) But it did seem to me that the monsters in Supernatural--based largely on urban legends, myths, common horror movie tropes, etc.--often represented some sort of systematic societal evil, usually leveled at women, and that killing the monsters was a way to vanquish those evils.

Now, clearly there are some serious bits of misogyny in the show--not denying that. Oftentimes that comes from fandom backlash against characters, or just plain lazy writing. And I wish I hadn't thought to write this at frickin' 11PM or I could provide some examples and some more coherent thoughts. But I did want to sort of remind myself that during my first watch I did very seriously see a lot of the monster-fighting as something like this. Once we get into both the Christian Lore and the Economy of Souls (see previous SPN related posts) I still feel like Supernatural's purpose is to somehow digest the contradictory bits of our culture and social pressures and make them usable to us as a modern audience. That, I think, is for some time that's not 11PM. I haven't tried to write proper meta in months so I think I've exhausted my efforts.
{scifi} hot chicks in space

Hugo: The Diamond Age (1996)

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
Read July 3, 2013 - July 21, 2013

Premise: In the not-too-distant (but not too close) future, you can compile anything you want almost-for-free out of centralized matter compilers, the world has split into "Phyles" or self-defined ethnic groups based more on shared values than on national boundaries (which are defunct) and you can make some seriously sophisticated technology if you know how. One man, Hackworth, is asked by his company's CEO to make "The Young Lady's Illustrated Primer," or a computerized educational book that will teach the CEO's granddaughter "subversiveness" in the face of the strict moral codes of the Neo-Victorian Phyle she belongs to. Hackworth does so, compiles a stolen copy for his daughter, is mugged by thugs, and the copy falls into the hands of Nell (who amounts to something like a street urchin in this society.) Nell is basically raised and educated by the Primer (and the "racter" or actor hired to read the lines to her.)

Verdict: I adored this book, and then it got more towards me being emotionally confused instead of just adoring. There were parts in the novel related to literacy and adventure that got me kind of choked up because they were very poignant and beautiful. The parts where the Primer is a refuge or an incredibly patient and effective teacher are amazing. I'm even especially fond the Stephenson's technological future and the way he envisions race, class, and ethnicity in a world that's both idyllic and Rodenberry-esque but also horrific and full of culture-clash and racism without shying away from it. Which is why I think the climax/conclusion is sort of rammed onto the end and not as self-aware as the rest of the book, just because of the creepy racial implications that it has--more with regard to Nell and her Mouse Army, and Hackworth's Seed than anything else. Neo-Victorians are basically the white English-speaking folks from around the world, with modified Victorian mores. Pretty much all of the main characters are Neo-Victorians who live in Shanghai (which isn't abnormal because it's illustrated in the novel that the various races/ethnic groups have spread all over the world regardless of national boundary. I don't want to spoil anything but I'm not as thrilled with the last like twenty pages of this book as I was with the rest of it.)

[Actually I need to say something spoilerific here]I do really like Nell's being the sort of "big sister" to the "Mouse Army" (which is a bunch of rescued ethnic Han Chinese girls from the devastated interior of China), and I found it very touching when she basically freed them from enchantment in the Primer, but it got sort of weird when they lifted her up on their arms in real life and started carrying her through the streets. Also: the bits where Nell is raped and she "transcends her soul with the power of her mind" or whatever the shit were just sort of like wtf.

I also feel like I'm less inclined to forgive it these faults because it was incredibly well-written and well-imagined and I'm astounded that it was written in 1995 and (a few notable times) forgot that it wasn't actually real life.

I really loved reading this until I got around to the strange conclusions full of white saviors, and almost-ignored rape and now I'm just confused as to how I feel because a large part of the story was about the fluidity of ethnicity and "nationalism" when such things are largely defined by technological practice and shared social codes. So I don't know if it's like "hurray, white saviors!" or using it to make a point or was just a spiffy conclusion or what.

oh my god, fanlistings still exist

That is the cutest most quaint fandom throwback I've ever seen and it's made my morning.

I think I actually used to run a few fanlistings, but they were on Geocities and I didn't know what CSS or PHP or MySQL was or anything so it was like me going in and manually updating the thing every time someone filled in the e-mail form.
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The Various Ways I Take Compliments of a Personal, Physical, or Intellectual Nature

 1.) Shut the fuck up.
 2.) You are so precious, I love you.
 4.) Are you high?
 5.) What do you want?
 6.) Wait, what did I say?
 7.) I think perhaps you need new glasses.
 8.) (Clearly this person is insane, so I will edge away slowly without saying anything.)
 9.) No.
10.) Um... thank you?

008: Supernatural's Economy of Souls (or: a Rambling Defense of Sera Gamble)

I know Seasons 6 and 7 for Supernatural in particular get a really bad rap, but I think they're brilliant for a variety of reasons. They're messier than the first five (which, upon close scrutiny, are actually pretty messy), but they take that first-five mythology and they make it better (why does that sound like a freakish inversion of the Final Five Cylons? OFF-TRACK)

Now, I came into this late, so I got to watch Season 1-7 straight through in like two weeks of insane main-lining. I'll admit that S6 had me on the ropes. They introduced plot after plot and I was like "there is no way you're going to wrap up these fifteen different things in one big bow, and if you don't do that I'll be sorely disappointed." But! They did. Everything in S6 mattered even if it was kind of "wtf" there until like episode 20 or whatever the hell. But even then, rewatching it, it's all there. All the little clues add up.

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