Posts Tagged ‘discussion’

Star Trek Discovery, Mid-Season

Back in October, we talked a bit about Star Trek Discovery, which was fairly new at that point. And I think I spent most of the post complaining about CBS Access, actually.

(We have managed to get several free months out of CBS Access now, so I’m a little less grumpy about the whole situation, though it is still stupid and we had to buy my MIL a Roku for Christmas so she could watch the show.)

Discovery had 9 episodes in the fall, then went on a mid-season break, and started back up this past Sunday with the second half of the season.

(I have Feelings about Sunday’s episode. Most of them fall into the “sdfhkesfhsfhddf amazing” category but I am also REALLY MAD about one little part so I haven’t been the best conversationalist on the topic.)

So, now that we’re further into the series and the show is more established, how do I feel about it?

I love it. I unabashedly love it. Have there been some less than stellar episodes? Yes. Are there some characters that I don’t like that much? Yes. But that’s television.

(Stamets is no longer a no-go for me, but I still don’t like him as much as I want to like him.)

(Tilly, however, I ♥.)

The acting is great, the writing is good, the throwbacks to the original series and even Enterprise make me happy, and for whatever flaws you want to point out (mileage on that seems to vary person to person), the story is interesting and engaging. It is good television. And it is good Star Trek.

(Though I am sad that it is too adult in content to be able to watch with my kids. Most episodes are rated TV-MA, and it does get dark and scary in some places. But I can still watch TOS and TNG with my kids when they are willing to sit down and watch Trek with me, which, to be honest, is not often.)

(Though we did watch this very interesting Next Gen ep the other day that I don’t remember, about a Romulan who comes to the Enterprise with information, fully intending to betray the Empire to help avert a war, but the Empire has fed him false information so he basically just proved he was a traitor and the Federation got nothing useful.)

(I ♥ Romulans.)

The new plotline that started up on Sunday is amazing and I wish I could gush about it more without revealing major spoilers. I’m super excited about this week’s episode.

So if you’ve been holding out on watching Discovery for any reason, I’d say go for it. As I said last time, it takes a few episodes to get the shakes out, but man, it is so worth it. You should catch up now, so we can flail about the next few episodes together, because they promise to be doozies.

Watching Discovery already, Squiders? Thoughts? Captain Killy, amirite?


Library Book Sale Finds: The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Hey, look, squiders! I actually picked a scifi novel out of the bunch for once!

(Well, in actuality, I was talking to my grandmother about Connie Willis and the Oxford time travel novels because I’d seen Connie at MileHiCon and I’m a bit of a fangirl about her. And the next time I went by, my grandmother was reading The Doomsday Book and I was like, “Hey, I have that book and I should read it and then we can talk.” Except, of course, my grandmother is 95 and has nothing to do except read all day, so she was done in about four days and it took me three weeks, and she’s probably read four other books by now.)

Title: The Doomsday Book
Author: Connie Willis
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Year: 1992

Pros: Excellent twists mid-book, Colin, Mr. Dunworthy, Kirvin trying to speak Middle English
Cons: Drags a bit for first third of book

Let’s talk for a minute about the Oxford time travel books. There’s four novels and one novella in the series, and now I’ve read them all except for the novella, though Connie has it nicely available on her website, so I can get there shortly. (All five entries won Hugo awards, if you care about that sort of thing.) The premise is that sometime in the mid-2000s or 2100s (the Internet is telling me both and I can’t recall which is correct off the top of my head) time travel was invented. However, you can’t bring things through time, so commercial interest quickly died off and time travel became the realm of academics, “historians” who travel back in time to observe how life worked or important events, etc. There is some amount of “slippage” based on how far you’re traveling and how close you are to milestone events (which tend to be unreachable directly).

The Doomsday Book is the first of the series, published in 1992. (The novella, Fire Watch, is technically first, being published in 1983. Then there’s To Say Nothing of the Dog, 1999, and the duology of Blackout/All Clear from 2010.) I will say that time travel is more of a frame story, and most of the novels tend to be historical in nature. Blackout/All Clear is a brilliant WWII story within the trappings of time travel (which mostly doesn’t work throughout for Drama), for example. (To Say Nothing of the Dog is not as historical as the others. That’s not to say that there’s not historical elements–Ned and Verity spend a lot of time in WWII era–but it’s not the focus. It’s much more of a farcical/romantic comedy.)

The Doomsday Book is a play on the Domesday Book (pronounced the same way), which was produced by William the Conqueror in 1086 to take stock of the land and ownership thereof in England after the invasion. The Medieval department has just gotten access to the “Net” (the process that time travel works through) and are taking advantage of the history department head being MIA to send their first historian back to 1320. The 1300s have a danger rating of 10 (because of things like the Black Plague) so they’re supposed to go through a bunch of tests before sending people, but screw that. Nothing can go wrong, right? 20th century has been sending people forever.

Of course, things go wrong.

Like most of the series, the book switches between “modern day” Oxford and the historian (Kirvin, in this case) in the past. (To Say Nothing of the Dog stays in Ned’s point of view throughout, if I recall correctly, but he’s going back and forth through time so often that he can carry both time periods on his own.) An interesting mechanic of the time travel is that time is equivalent. So if you want to spend a week in 1918, for example, a week has to pass in the current time as well before you can be picked back up. This makes missing your “drop” a big deal as you can’t just go back and try again.

There are some comedic elements, such as when Kirvin realizes basically everything she learned about the time period is incorrect (and her attempts to understand and speak Middle English) and the general snarkiness of Mr. Dunworthy’s thoughts (he’s our viewpoint character in the “present” day) and Colin in general. (I ♥ Colin, and he’ll be back in Blackout/All Clear.) But this book is closer in tone to Blackout/All Clear, more serious, and it doesn’t shy away from the less appealing aspects of the time period.

(Seriously, though, if you haven’t read Blackout/All Clear I highly recommend it. It’s long–1300 pages between the two books, but it’s one of those books you read and are awed by.)

(Not great for re-readability, though.)

Overall, it’s a good book, especially once it gets moving about a third of the way through, though I like the later books in the series better. It’s always nice to see reoccurring characters (Mr. Dunworthy is a constant throughout all the books) again, and the comedy is spot-on when it’s present. I’d recommend it, especially if the series sounds interesting to you.

Back Thursday for more common writing mistakes.

Read any of the Oxford time travel series, Squiders? Thoughts? Which one is your favorite?

Why I Loved Ghostbusters

Yay! Time for polarizing opinions!

Unless you guys have been living under a rock recently–and if you have, congrats, because this whole thing is ridiculous–you know there’s been a ton of controversy around the remake of Ghostbusters, mostly because of the decision to make the Ghostbusters women instead of men.

To which I say: sigh. Really? Is this really the worst thing that has ever happened to a remake? Have you seen some of the remakes that have come out lately?

Oy. People, your priorities are messed up.

But, anyway, let me say that I have seen the original Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, enough times to recognize and make quotes from them, but not enough times that they haven’t kind of conglomerated into a single movie in my memories. The first one is the one with Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis, yes? Gatekeeper, keymaster? Actually, looking on Wikipedia, maybe I’ve never seen Ghostbusters II, because that does not sound familiar at all. Okay! So I’ve seen the first movie a bunch apparently, and superimposed it into ideas for a second movie, which I apparently did not see or do not remember.

In my defense, both movies came out when I was very little. I was 1 when the first one came out, and 6 for Ghostbusters II. Most if not all of my nostalgic love for the franchise comes from the TV series from the late ’80s/early ’90s, which my sister and I watched religiously.

My thoughts when the remake was announced were basically along the lines of ugh, really? Must we remake every little thing that was ever at all successful? Couldn’t we at least remake things that were terrible and try to make them not suck instead of the other way around? And then I essentially wrote it off as a bad idea and forgot about it.

Then the announcement about the switch to it being a woman team came out, and of course the angry nerdboys of the Internet, most of whom probably hadn’t even thought about Ghostbusters in twenty years, came out in droves, which is always a bit sad, because, honestly, don’t these guys have anything better to do with their lives? Anything more fulfilling to worry about? If the worst problem you got is the diversification of a franchise from your childhood, man, something’s wrong with you.

I had a mixed reaction to the news. Part of me was intrigued, because we were at least going to try to do something different instead of just making the same movie over again for no good reason. But part of me was worried that they were going to do a terrible job, because most remakes are horrible, lazy things with bad writing and unnecessary action scenes, and if we were doing it just for a stunt, then it was a terrible, terrible idea.

But then the cast was announced. And then the first trailer came out. And it looked amazing, and I was onboard all the way.

Now, I will say that I am not someone who gets terribly invested in my media. I have never been one of those people threatening a studio making one of my favorite books or any of the crazy things people do. I like to evaluate everything on its own, without connections to previous movies/books/TV shows/video games, etc. So ragehating on something before it even exists is very foreign to me. (See above: don’t you have better things to do?)

So I went into the theater on Sunday expecting and hoping for a good movie, and that’s what I saw. A funny movie, with great chemistry between the leads, and some really cool bits, and at least one bit that actually scared me for a second (which was embarrassing, because I went with people I don’t know very well). It was what I hoped it would be. And I loved it.

Was it perfect? No. There’s a couple of throwbacks to the original movies that don’t really fit, and a character relationship subplot that’s a bit sloppy. Also, Kristen Wiig’s hairstyle just–I don’t know, I don’t like it. That’s a minor complaint. In general, it’s everything you need and expect a Ghostbusters movie to be. I cannot recommend it enough. I especially liked the characters of Holtzmann (which is an excellent name for an engineer, just saying) and Patty.

But, as you know, I exist on the Internet, and so I have also seen some reviews from people who really, really hated it. And I find myself wondering–did we watch the same movie? Are some of these people pretending to have watched it just so they can “legitimately” harp hate on it? Did they go in with low expectations and then spend the whole movie cataloging every mistake to justify their previously formed opinion? Did they watch the original right before going in and then fume about every difference?

I mean, I know people have differing opinions, but the wide divide between love and hate on this one seems very extreme.

Anyway, I loved it. I am plotting to go see it again if I can find babysitting, and I’m already planning on asking for it for my birthday/Christmas depending when it comes out on video.

Have you seen it, Squiders? What did you think?

No Happily Ever After?

My husband and I finished up watching Wayward Pines last night (Yes, I realize we’re about four months behind, which is actually pretty good for us, television wise). And the series was working toward a conclusion, and working, and working–and then it kind of jumped the shark at the last minute.

And I understand, logically, why they did–to leave themselves open for a possible second season, even though they used up all the source material in the first season–but it still annoyed me.

(And this morning I did some research, before I got too annoyed, to see how the books ended so I wasn’t wildly out of line.)

It just…it almost seems like it’s a trend now. It’s bad enough that we seem to have gotten to this point where everything has to be dark and gritty much of the time, but now nothing can end on a good, or even a hopeful, point.

Sometimes this can be good, but more and more I’m just finding it a little exhausting. I look at the news, and all the terrible things happening around the world, and now I can’t even escape into media because it’s just more of the same.

And I know the argument is that it’s more realistic, that bad things happen and nothing is ever truly good, but can’t we have some hope? Some peace? It’s fiction, so can’t we occasionally bend the rules?

(Ending this here because I am typing outside without gloves and it is freezing and also now snowing, and I regret my decisions in life.)

What do you think, Squiders? Any recs for good, engaging media that is not all dark and “oh noes” all the time?

(And Merry Christmas, for those who celebrate, if I don’t get here on Thursday!)

Women Characters: Defined by Relationships

Sometimes my mind gets highly analytical. I think it must come from my engineering background. But I’ve noticed, recently, that a lot of women characters are missing a husband, or a child, or both, as a way to make them sympathetic, to give them a tragic backstory.

And this annoys me, probably on two fronts: 1) as a wife/mother myself, I don’t like to think about such things, and 2) this is so common it seems like no one can think of anything else to give a female character any depth.

I think we’re all familiar with the concept of fridging, which is where a character, usually a woman, is killed, maimed, or otherwise hurt or devalued to advance a main character’s (often male) character development.

And this seems related–that a woman is often defined by her relationships to others. Now, we’re all defined by our relationships, to some extent, but it sometimes seems like a woman is reduced to the sum of hers, rather than being given her own personality.

So female leads are often described by their losses: a child or a husband, if old enough, or a parent or a “true love,” if younger. Rape is another common tragic backstory trope, and again, we are often shown her relationship to men, in this case, or sometimes even her rapist depending on the story.

Sometimes we see male characters defined by a relationship (Mel Gibson’s character in Lethal Weapon, for example) but this is less common.

What do you think, Squiders? Am I off the mark? Reading the wrong sort of books? Or does it feel like, to you, women have the same common characterizations, and they’re based off the people around her rather than herself?

General Media Update

Today’s been rough, Squiders, so for the sake of my poor brain, I’m going to keep this simple and go through some of the speculative fiction stuff I’ve been consuming lately.

1) Forever
Forever is a crime procedural/supernatural show on ABC. I started watching it because a friend is obsessed, and I’m glad I did. I did binge the whole season (the finale is on next Tuesday) in about a week in a half, but I really like it. I like all the characters, I like the way they’ve twisted the crime procedural and supernatural plots together (especially since so many shows keep them separate, for some reason. Why mix genres if you’re not actually going to mix genres?), I like the writing. It’s one of the best scripted shows I’ve seen recently, and the cast is brilliant and I love them all. Unfortunately, the show is in a dead time slot and ABC has done a crap job advertising it, so it seems like a lot of people have missed it. But I highly recommend it, and I also recommend starting from the beginning so you can watch the story unfold.

2) The Queen of the Tearling
The Queen of the Tearling is a fantasy (???) novel that came out last year by Erika Johansen. My BIL recommended it to me at Christmas, and I finally got around to reading it (well, my library got a physical copy for me to check out). I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s very much a set-up novel, but there’s enough hints of stuff happening in the background to keep you interested and reading. I’m very much intrigued about the world-building. The setting and the plot are very much fantasy, but there are hints that it might be science fiction, or possibly alternative history. And I admit that it annoys me that I can’t tell, but I did enjoy the book enough that I will pick up the next one when it comes out.

3) Welcome to Night Vale
I was all caught up on Night Vale as of last October or so, and then I stopped listening. Not sure why–easily distracted, partially, and I think it may have been because they had a really interesting story arc going for several episodes, leading up to the 50th episode, and then, afterwards, they went back to their normal format, and I found it kind of a letdown. But I’ve started listening again (picking up where I left off), and either because there’s some distance between me and that story arc, or because they’re dangling the occasional tie to past events, I’m enjoying it again. Give me a week or two and I should be caught up to present day.

How about you, Squiders? Anything interesting you’ve read/seen/listened to lately? Any comments of anything I’ve read/seen/listened to?

Are Blank First Person Characters on Purpose?

So, our Twitter book club is reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin this month–which is the first of a high fantasy trilogy that came out about four years ago–and we all noticed something pretty quick.

The book is in first person, following Yeine, who, as tends to be a trope sometimes, is an outsider to the society that the story takes place in. But while the world is very interesting, and the other characters are as well, Yeine herself is pretty…blank. We get a physical description of her, but when she expresses opinions, it’s more “in my country we do it this way instead” or “my grandmother always used to say this” instead of what she thinks about it. I’m about halfway through the book and she’s just starting to do and think things as opposed to just observing.

This is a book that’s been highly recommended to me, and is one that I think is generally well-regarded in the SFF community, which makes me think that the blank first person character is on purpose.

As readers, we often rely on the viewpoint characters to be our eyes and ears in the fictional world. And there is a theory that says that, the less detail you give to a character, the more a reader can insert themselves into said character, and the deeper they can get into a story. It’s the reason why video game characters like Link never say anything.

Now, I don’t know that that’s necessarily true, because everybody reads a little differently and experiences things differently. I’m not a huge fan of blank first person characters because I am never going to see myself further in that world, not in that medium, so I prefer to have a strong character that I can care about, that I can sympathize with when bad things happen, and cheer with when badass things happen. But I suspect it does work, to some degree, because these blank first person characters seem to be getting more common lately, especially with female protagonists. (If you can think of a blank first person male protagonist, please let me know!)

What do you think, Squiders? Blank characters you can “become,” yea or nay? Thoughts on The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms specifically, if you’ve read it? Other examples you’ve noticed, male or female, especially in speculative genres? If you’re a writer, is this something you use, and why?