asterroc: (Astro - H-alpha)
Features on Pluto are being named after non-Western myths and characters from Western fantasy novels.

A large splotch that resembles a whale was named Cthulhu, a deity from a H. P. Lovecraft story. Other splotch names included Meng-Po, the goddess of forgetfulness in Chinese mythology; Balrog, a creature in J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” books; and Vucub Came and Hun Came, death gods of Mayan mythology. --NY Times, Kenneth Chang


On the one hand, I'm always happy when they go to non-Western myth. On the other hand, it feels disrespectful to put them on the same level as Western fantasy novels.

Discuss.

Originally posted on Dreamwidth. comment count unavailable comments there. Comment here or there.
Anne McCaffrey was my first introduction to Sci-Fan, or at least the first one that stuck in my memory. Lessa and the Rowen were role models for me, showing me strong women who didn't let men stand in their way. Damia working through her pregnancies instead of being forced into some protective feminine seclusion, continuing to work alongside her husband as they raised their children together, this was the norm. Even Menolly's situation was shown as being a throwback to an older and worse time when men didn't think girl children were worth anything, a backwards and backwater way of thinking. I didn't need to be a feminist in my youth because McCaffrey showed me that it was completely normal for women to work alongside men.

And I knew I had finally come of age as a feminist when Kristin Bjornsen's meek acquiescence, nay welcoming, of her own date rape disgusted me and made me turn away from McCaffrey's works.

For a short period of time. I cannot stay away from her works forever. She is -was- the product of a more backwards age, and like Menolly she was always struggling to leave it in her writing. I hope for her sake that she has found a better and fairer place.

Originally posted on Dreamwidth. comment count unavailable comments there. Comment here or there.
asterroc: (xkcd - Fuck the Cosine)
I'm reading Ben Bova's "The Alien Within", Book 2 in the Voyagers series, and it's been years since I read the first one. Bova writes interesting complex characters*, with layers upon layers of deception, sometimes including self-deception as well. His women however are always described in terms of their sexuality - their appearances are described in sexual terms, they react to the other characters* in the story in sexual ways, the other characters (both male and female) react to them sexually (men analyzing their sexual attractiveness, women treating other women as rivals for sexual favors), and every woman with a name slept her way into her current position. It's absolutely disgusting.

*Where for Bova "character" means "white male", and everything else is an exception.

Bova also exoticizes the "orientals" in the story, using the exoticism as another sexual attribute in the "oriental" women, and as a sign of strength/power/fighting skill in the "oriental" men.

This book is really the product of a maladjusted mind. I'm willing to finish it (there's very few non-fiction books I won't finish after I've voluntarily started them%, and fewer yet in SF/fantasy), but I don't think I'm ever going to read another Bova novel. Shame, he's written so much.

%A couple corrections are noted in this sentence - strike throughs indicate removed, italics indicate added.
Am I the only one who is severely bothered by the seasons in "A Game of Thrones"? A big premise of the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series is that seasons last multiple years. But, at least in the first book, there isn't any explanation of this given, not even a supernatural/fantasy one.

Cut for people who don't care about why this bothers me. )

In the end, I think I have to conclude that Martin doesn't know jack about astronomy, even what they teach you about the seasons in elementary school, and just move on and try my best to stop gritting my teeth every time he refers to multi-year seasons.

And I'll leave you with this.

Axial Tilt is the Reason for the Season

Trope?

Nov. 9th, 2010 09:23 pm
asterroc: (xkcd - Fuck the Cosine)
Is it a common stale sci-fi trope to have a supposedly sentient alien race actually have only males be sentient and females are bestial breeding stock, or is it only Orson Scott Card (the Piggies in Speaker for the Dead) and Larry Niven (Kzin and Puppeteers in the Ringworld/Man-Kzin Wars universe) who are guilty of it? This sort of things is really the worst possible example of how many authors assume males are standard and only put in females if they're making a point.

Are there any cases of the reverse, a supposedly sentient alien race where actually only the females are sentient and males are bestial breeding stock?

Relatedly, does anyone remember enough about Anne McCaffrey's Catteni (Freedom's Landing series) to recall much about Catteni females? I've a distinct impression that either their females were also non-sentient, or at best they weren't mentioned as being anything special. Certainly the protagonist female wasn't anything special, with her battered woman syndrome that's taken for entirely normal.
I am currently listening to an unabridged audiobook1 of Frank Herbert's Dune with a full cast doing the different characters. I am wondering about the editorial/production choice to have a full cast, and about the claim of unabridged.

The conversations as read have very little "Paul said," "Jessica replied" sort of commentary. They tend to be only what the individual people actually said. For example, if Jessica were and Paul were talking about his homework over breakfast, and Leto walked in in the middle of it...

"So did you finish your homework last night?"
"Very quickly, it was just algebra."
"And what did you learn from it?"
"If you drop a book from the top of a building, its motion is governed by a quadratic equation."
"That isn't what I was taught, since you also have to take air friction into account."
"But you can simplify the equations if you make the assumption that there isn't any air friction."
"And we haven't gotten up to air friction yet."2


In the audio book, since there are three different readers for the lines said by Paul, Jessica, and Leto, it is obvious who said what, but there aren't any "Leto walked into the conversation and commented that..." that in a print version of the book would indicate who said what in a long exchange, or if three people are involved in the conversation. Is this lack of "Paul said" actually in the original text, or was there an editorial decision to remove those? If the original text did not include any "Paul said"s, that would explain the production choice to have a cast.

And while I'm asking, is there a name for doing "Paul said"s, or for not doing them?

1The production is copyright 2007 Audio Renaissance, and narrated by a cast listed on Audible.com as Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton,and Simon Vance, but possibly including more.
2In case you're curious, my intent here was for the speakers to be JPJPLJP, though the last L and J could be swapped and still have it make sense.
I just started the audiobook of "The Giver" by Lois Lowry, and I'm nearly done, it's a short and enthralling read. It's aimed at young adult readers, but it's really secretly hard Sci-Fi / speculative fiction in the grand style of old: it proposes a future setting and explores how people (in this case an 11-year-old boy) would react within that setting. [livejournal.com profile] calzephyr77 I think it was you that liked YA and wanted to read more SF; this one is definitely worth the (short) read. The audiobook production tries to enhance things by adding ambience music; I recommend the print version instead.

Edit: I didn't realize that this book had been out forever, so it didn't occur to me that there might be spoilers in the comments. There are, though not horrible ones as of yet. Just don't read the comments if you don't want to be spoiled.
For a film that opens with a heavy-handed exposition about how society has moved past all racism and sexism, the makers of the movie sure display a lot of stereotypes and biases. Don't watch this movie if you're looking for a world free of sexism (all the female surrogates wear heels all the time!), racism (there are two characters that are black only to make a statement, and a third dark-skinned individual because the actor happens to be so himself), bias against particular religious groups (there is a group that has aspects of evangelism, and they're not the good guys), age-ism (many characters use younger appearing surrogates), fat-ism (one of the more beautiful surrogate is revealed to have a fat operator, and when the characters meet a fat person they immediately ask him why he's not using a surrogate), or socio-economic/US-centric bias (the intro exposition says that in 19 years from now, 98% of the world is using surrogates, totally ignoring the fact that there are nations other than the US, or that they are poorer than the US). Do watch it if you're looking for an action flick that pretends to be intellectual. I wouldn't say I *liked* the movie, but I didn't regret watching it.
I was recently talking with [livejournal.com profile] calzephyr77 about how so few SF pieces include people with disabilities. The only book/series I could come up with, The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey has the same problem with disability as her other novels have with feminism, in that although she puts the disenfranchised individuals in the limelight, she does nothing to challenge the discriminatory nature of either present day or her fictional society. The only movie I could come up with while thinking then was Avatar, though Daredevil could also do.

I'm currently rereading Heinlein's "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls," my intent being to examine his treatment of women with my current understanding of feminism, rather than how I thought about the issue when younger. I have been pleasantly surprised when ever half hour or so something reminds me that the main character uses a prosthetic leg. It's an unavoidable part of the narrator's life and affects fro the little things like his walking speed to his choice to live in a low gravity environment, but it's not something that permeates every moment of his (or the reader's) thinking.

Can anyone make any other recommendations of SF books with characters with disabilities for me to read? The overall read needs to be good, but I'm curious about both good and bad treatments of disabilities.
If were pissed off about Racefail, you'll want to promote this. If you write, you'll want to at least think about this. It's a contest for the best science fiction short story about "a world where universal access is a shared cultural value." Deadline Aug 15, word limit of 5,000, prize of $300 or 6c/word.

http://redstonesciencefiction.com/contest/
Anybody here had to get past an institutional ethics review board for an experiment? I'm writing a sci-fi/fantasy short story that involves human subject research and I'd like to see some documents people have to produce to get past ethics review boards. It doesn't have to be humans, experimenting on mice is fine too. I'm looking for things like forms that you fill out for the board, forms that you create for the subjects to give informed consent, and justification papers that you submit to accompany the paperwork. It doesn't have to have been successful.

If you're willing to show me such things but don't want it public, you can email me at zandperl-AT-gmail-DOT-com.

Thanks!
asterroc: (xkcd - Binary Heart)
I seem to recall reading in someone's LJ, most likely [livejournal.com profile] datan0de's, the possibility that the Terminator and Matrix series could theoretically be the same universe / continuity. Anyone care to discuss further or have places to point me to read about others discussing it further?

I just watched the original Terminator, and it's got me wanting to write fanfic - I haven't done creative writing in forever.
asterroc: (xkcd - Fuck the Cosine)
I used to think when I was younger that Anne McCaffrey was a feminist writer. This might have been partially due to the fact that I viewed my mother as a feminist and she was the one who started me on the Dragonriders of Pern series when I was still in elementary school. It was probably due more to my early notions of what feminism entailed: McCaffrey was a woman, and her books contained a lot of strong women characters who bucked the norm. What I failed to see that the time was that while they bucked aspects of the norm, they did not fight against the gender stratification of their societies, and all of McCaffrey's societies were gender stratified.

And "Freedom's Choice" fits neatly into this trend of hers. "Choice" is the second in the 4-novel Catteni series - I've only read the first two so far, but I'm a glutton for punishment and do intend to read the rest. The main character Kris Bjornsen is a strong woman fighting against the slavery of mankind by an alien race. She takes on a role advising the first leader of the involuntary colonists dropped onto an unknown planet by the enslaving race, and then continues to serve the colony as a scout.

Where the series takes its sharp turn from feminism is when Kris is informed that the leadership has decided (while she was out scouting) to start pregnancy rosters whereby all women in the colony would take turns bearing children. Kris's response is a petulant whine that she doesn't want to have children, or at least to put off childbearing for years (her friend implies this is selfish, and tells her Kris's name was put at the bottom of the list because of her value to the colony), or concern that she will not be a good mother (this problem too has been solved, with creches where unwilling incubators can drop off the babies after birth and never have anything else to do with them, though it's never indicated that anyone actually does this). McCaffrey blows off Kris's concerns as being childish and irresponsible; nobody ever takes them seriously, not even Kris's alien lover (who because of being a different species could never be the father of a child of Kris).

Kris goes along with the program in the end, never outright objecting to the leadership at all. In the end though, the reason she goes along with the program is even worse (IMO) than the program itself. After rebuffing dozens of men trying to get in her pants with the excuse that it's for breeding purposes, Kris is date-raped while drunk. She excuses it to herself as "oh, I was just drunk," and yet she never tells anyone else (not even her lover), when she learns she is pregnant she is embarrassed and then enraged that one of her "friends" reveals it to everyone (and even tries to attack the "friend" and has to be held back), and moreover Kris doesn't even reveal to her rapist that he is the father - if that isn't a clear sign that the sex was NOT a good thing, I don't know what is. And to make it clear that Kris's rape was a good thing and her distaste for it a bad thing, at the end of the book McCaffrey has an omnipotent race appear and reveal to Kris's rapist that the child is his, and he offers to help care for the child when she has to go on another scouting mission. Kris is filled with a benevolent glow and realizes the childishness of her past actions.

Because we all know that a woman doing anything other than meekly submitting to a culture that promotes women as vessels for men's seed is just childish.

How did I *ever* think McCaffrey a feminist? I kinda want to reread the Pern series now, but am afraid to do so (what with the dragons' rape flights and all).

Star Trek

May. 25th, 2009 10:16 pm
I don't think this is really spoilery, but just in case )

You know you're tired when you type "lj-cute". Have I mentioned I'm sick? I might even have pink eye, yay.
Started reading "The Forever War" by Joe Haldeman (traditional print book), and it is reaffirming my love of older science fiction / speculative fiction.

A few comments about the first 50 pages of the book; I don't think they're spoilers, but you might. )
Yoinked from [livejournal.com profile] kadath

According to the Science Fiction Book Club, these are the 50 most significant SF & Fantasy Books of the last 50 Years, 1953-2002. Bold the ones you've read, strike the ones you hated, italicize the ones you couldn't get through, asterisks for the ones you loved (more asterisks, more love), exclamation points for the ones you own.

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
3. Dune by Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin! (previously owned, don't know where it is now)
6. Neuromancer by William Gibson
7. Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke (hm, I might have read it, I forget)
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick (I need to read this one)
9. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury*
11. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (I might have read)
13. The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov (might have read?)
14. Children of the Atom by Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight by James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett (I don't think I've read anything by him, strangely)
17. Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey! (enjoyed it, but wouldn't say I loved it)
22. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card*! (still one of my faves, though the rest of the series I'm mixed on)
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway by Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling (the main thing I liked about this was that it gets kids reading)
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams*!
28. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson*! (just recently, on audiobook)
29. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (I think my mom owned it)
30. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (I think I disliked? I forget)
31. Little, Big by John Crowley
32. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement
35. More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man by Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach by Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke* (I can't remember much of it, but I liked it then)
39. Ringworld by Larry Niven* (OMG yes! I love anything Niven)
40. Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (way too tedious)
42. Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson*! (own abridged audio, afterwards read full version in print)
44. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (much better than the movie)
47. Stormbringer by Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks (the only way I got through this was I accidentally read the Elfstones first, and yet I have recently wanted to get back into the series.)
49. Timescape by Gregory Benford (read it for a class. science good, characters are 2-D cardboard cutouts)
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer

Just so you know, the Science Fiction Book Club is the one that keeps sending you unsolicited catalogs entirely full of Honor Harrington paperbacks, Star Wars hardcovers, and Stephen King, with half-naked women sprawled over dragons on the cover and an offer of a free pewter wizard figurine with club membership (see order form for details.)
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (free streaming for a limited time) is what you would get if you made a show crossing The Venture Brothers with Flight of the Conchords, in a way that can only be done by Joss Whedon and some of his favorite actors. Episode I (of 3, each around 13 minutes) is currently available.
If you're looking for a short sci-fi read, give this one a whirl.
Robert Asprin was found dead in his home yesterday evening. Cause of death doesn't appear to have been revealed. He was only 62 with no known health problems, but also avoided doctors so it could be they were unknown.

http://www.sfwa.org/news/2008/rasprin.htm
http://www.mythadventures.net/
http://bolditalic.com/quotulatiousness_archive/004578.html
First off, if you haven't watched the first one (Day Watch) recently, be sure to at least read its Wikipedia page before watching this sequel. Unlike domestic movies, there was no handy-dandy summary at the beginning reminding you of relevant parts of the first movie, and instead it jumps right in expecting you to remember all the characters.

Second, this movie seemed like a low-budget sequel to its predecessor, Night Watch. The special effects of the Gloom were very toned down from the first movie, and there weren't any of the cool subtitles effects from the first.

The plot is good, though a little hard to follow if you've forgotten the first, so it's definitely worth seeing. The Chalk of Fate is a bit cliche, but it works well enough as a plot device in the movie. It's interesting how the penultimate fight of Evil vs. Good boils down to the oh-so-human fight of two Others, supernaturally empowered former-humans, for the love and affection of one flawed man. In the end he makes his choice and redeems himself.

Edit: It's worth noting, that Day Watch ends so that it seems the series is over - except that the answer of how the Great Other choosing one side or the other will win the war for Light or Dark. Perhaps that is to be answered in the upcoming third movie of the series, titled either Dusk Watch or Twilight Watch.

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