The SFF Film Odyssey (2010) List of Reviews is available here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

On Agency: Strong Female Characters, the Myth of Non-Action, and Jupiter Ascending

By now you'll have heard the "Jupiter Jones doesn't have agency" criticism of Jupiter Ascending (dirs. the Wachowskis; 2015).[1]  The gist of the argument, as far as I can tell, is that Jupiter doesn't have agency (or enough agency) because she does not become a "strong female character" until the last possible second.  Andrew O'Hehir, for example, wrote in his Salon.com review that
Jupiter has less female agency than any character ever played by Doris Day. Compared to this movie, the Disneyfied feminism of “Frozen” and “Brave” and “Maleficent” feels like Valerie Solanas’ "SCUM Manifesto."
Peter Debruge wrote in Variety that
[although] clearly conceived as an empowered female heroine, poor Jupiter spends most of the movie being kidnapped and shuffled from one unpleasant situation to another, whether that’s being nearly assassinated during an egg-donating operation or pushed into a marriage with a two-faced Abraxas prince.
Sam Maggs wrote in The Mary Sue:

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Worldcon 2017 Site Selection Process: A Simple Step-by-Step Guide

Recently, one of my friends confided in me that she found the process for voting for the Worldcon site complicated to the point of being off-putting.  So I decided to make a simplified template to follow for this year's site selection process.  For a far more detailed version, I strongly suggest you read Crystal Huff's excellent post on the subject.

I will update this page with when additional information (links, dates, etc.) becomes available.

1) Buy a Membership to Sasquan 2015
In order to vote for the 2017 Worldcon site, you must have a supporting or full membership to the 2015's Worldcon.

2) Wait for the Site Selection Ballot to Be Announced
Sasquan 2015 should announce the Site Selection Ballot at some point in June or July.  It should be announced on the website, in one of their update emails, and in their updates in print (you'll need to have a membership to receive one of the last two pieces).

3) Pay Your Site Selection Ballot Fee
Fees will vary depending on the year for reasons I don't understand.  According to Crystal Huff, the number usually rests between $40 and $70.  Sasquan 2015 will tell you how to pay this fee if you are not attending the convention.

Note:  This fee automatically transfers into a supporting membership for the winning bid.  The winning bidder may also extend additional deals for full memberships after the selection process is over.

4) Download the Print Ballot OR Go to the Site Selection Booth During Sasquan 2015
Worldcon does not currently allow electronic voting, so all ballots must be submitted at the 2015 convention OR by mail.

Print ballots should be available when the Site Selection Ballot is announced.

5) Submit Your Ballot
If you are not attending Sasquan 2015, then you must print, fill in, and mail your ballot to the address provided by the deadline.  This date is usually in August and is marked as a receipt date (i.e., it must be in their hands by that date).  Obviously, the deadline is much later if you're actually attending the convention.

That's it.  Pretty easy, right?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

On the Raging Child of Science Fiction Neo-Snobbery

On a foundational level, the most visible element of SF awards discussions concern subjective assertions about literary quality.  I have participated in some of these discussions over the years, podcasting about nominees I disliked for whatever reason and otherwise raging against what I perceived as the absence of taste within certain award-giving communities (mostly the Hugos).  The further away from those first instances I become, however, the more I realize how foolish these discussions really are.  Why rage against a difference in literary tastes?  I can no more tell someone what they should like than they can me.  At best, I can make a case for what I consider to be "good," but even then, the most effective arguments are those that explain why a text is interesting, not why it is qualitatively better, since the latter is, for the most part, impossible.  What we consider "of quality" could make for a very confusing, intersecting Venn diagram.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Retro Nostalgia: Equilibrium (2002) and the Paradox of Emotion

If you blinked back in 2002, you might have missed this lesser known Christian Bale vehicle featuring stylish gun kata and deliberate and sometimes excessive homages to George Orwell's 1984 (particularly the 1984 adaptation starring John Hurt).  Indeed, one could describe Kurt Wimmer's Equilibrium as Orwell on drugs.  

Here, Orwellian propaganda is apparent in the frequent appearance of Father (Sean Pertwee) "teaching" the masses about the dangers of "feeling" and the need to relinquish that human quality for a stable society.  The gesture is reinforced from the start by a veritable lecture, rife with images of human violence, in which Father reminds us that the people of this future have barely survived World War Three, and that humanity cannot survive another such war.  We must not feel if the world is to survive, it seems; and so we must voluntarily purge emotion by taking injections of Prozium.  On one level, this is hardly an irrational prospect, it would seem.  

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Space Opera and Epic Fantasy: Two Trees Sharing a Root System (and Then Becoming Two Big Nasty Trees That Eat Other Trees, or Something)

Last month, Paul Weimer suggested I write about the connections between epic fantasy and space opera.  Initially, I didn't know how to approach the topic.  Paul, you see, is far better read than myself, particularly in the literary history of science fiction and fantasy.  What could I say about the topic that Paul couldn't say better?  Well, I'm going to take a stab at it!

There was also another problem:  which period of these two genres are we talking about?  If we're looking at the early years of space opera and epic fantasy, then the connection is apparent, but diffuse.  Both epic fantasy (what might have been better termed as heroic fantasy in its "root" period) and space opera in the first half of the 20th century shared roots with the adventure fictions that preceded them.  Space opera arose, more or less, out of the planetary romances of writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, proto-space opera writers like E.E. "Doc" Smith (though some might disagree with that assessment) and late-19th century "future war fiction" (see I.F. Clarke; I would argue that space opera gets its political undercurrents from this movement).[1]  Both forms (space opera and planetary romance) are hard to distinguish,[2] since they often share in the same melodrama, with "space opera" typically playing within a much wider canvas (though not always), and both forms share a common root in the late 19th century adventure stories and the pulps that followed.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

My Complete 2015 Hugo Awards Nominations Ballot (Finished on 3/10/15)

It's that time again.  Hugo Awards time.  Since the nomination period closes on March 10th, 2015, I figure it's time to start sharing my ballot with the world.

Note:  this list is extremely incomplete and will be periodically updated as I find things to add to unfilled categories.  Categories are also subject to change.  If you have suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments (seriously; I'm very scatterbrained at the moment, so I'm missing all kinds of things).

Here goes:

Helsinki in 2017: Why I Support the Bid & the Supreme Awesomeness of Finnish Care Packages

If you didn't already know, I'm a huge supporter of Helsinki's 2017 Worldcon bid.  A huge supporter.  I did the whole pre-support thing when I was in London last year, and I intend to go through the whole process of voting for Helsinki at this year's Worldcon -- well, not at the actual con, mind, but you get the idea.

I've never done anything like this before.  But in the last year-ish, I've met and talked to numerous folks from Finland or involved in the Helsinki bid (Crystal, I'm talking about you!), I've held and taken many pictures with Moomins, and I've learned about Helsinki itself.  Plus, I love Nightwish: