Sunday, January 14, 2018

Time Shadows: Second Nature

Cover by Iain Robertson

I have a story in the just-released Time Shadows: Second Nature Anthology.  If you like Doctor Who, me or charity (because all sales benefit CODE) please check out the collection. You can order it at this link.

Time Shadows: Second Nature is an unauthorized, unofficial Doctor Who short-story anthology for charity from Pseudoscope Publishing. All sales proceeds benefit CODE, an NGO which advances literacy and learning in Canada and around the world. The anthology features 23 stories, 1 illustration and a foreword by John Peel. Synopsis: Everywhere he goes, the Doctor is confronted by mysteries and marvels, danger and delight. Along the way, the Doctor encounters a medieval knight in a supermarket; some time-displaced Vikings; a weapon from the Time War; a stain on his office carpet, which poses a threat greater than Bill can imagine; and so much more. He brings hope to the oppressed; he never gives up and never gives in. To the Doctor, that is Second Nature.


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Friday, January 12, 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi



I can’t think of a specific set piece that I hated more than Poe’s phone call at the beginning. It embodies everything I dislike about the Star Wars universe. Poe was the breakout star of The Force Awakens. He had been slated to die, but they changed the script to allow him to live because everyone loved him so much, and this scene made me hate Poe.  Also, the writing was just terrible, with Hux channeling Rolf the Nazi boyfriend from the Sound of Music and speaking in “Your father, the king” exposition

Blue Milk: I had actually absorbed Alton Brown’s explanation from several years back that the blue milk from Star Wars was not actually milk.

All milks are colloids, essentially water in which protein spheres and fat globules are held in suspension. The protein and fat scatter visible light in such a way as to appear white. Now, skim milk can look bluish, because without much fat more light bounces off small clusters of protein mol­ecules called casein micelles, which tend to scatter shorter (blue) wavelengths. But even if it were completely fat-free, milk could never look that blue.

And why would farmers have fat-free milk anyway? It makes no sense. You could argue that the milk on Tatooine contains some completely alien protein, but even then you’d have to explain where the heck this blue milk came from. Clearly, this is a desert planet with no signs of herding animals ­capable of being milked by ­humble farmers. Bantha? Ha!

But it could be plausible! Alton speculates that the blue milk could be a vegetable milk, like Tatooine soy — and that Luke Skywalker’s adopted parents were vegans. “This would explain their dour, grumpy demeanor,” he notes, “and as we see later from their remains, they’re already suffering considerable loss of bone mass. I rest my case.”

Kind of gross and unnecessary, but whatever.

A slap across the face is always bad writing unless one character is challenging another to pistols at dawn

It’s weird that the best parts of the movie involve Kylo Ren.



I thought Leia’s floating through space bit was cheesy, but I don’t think I could have handled it if they had killed her off.

Laura Dern’s character should have treated Poe with more courtesy, but she was never wrong. I’ve never been in the army, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work well if everybody runs off to do whatever they feel like.

“We are the spark that will light the fire that will burn the First Order down.” That’s a little awkward and unwieldy,  but I’m willing to forgive it if it turns out to be a reference to "The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower".

Rose was wonderful. The story needed a human character instead of the high mimetic mode archetypes and she was perfect.



There was no tension in the chase scene and I think that was the biggest problem with the movie.  It should have been oppressive and relentless and inevitable. Instead, it was a leisurely jaunt through outer space that permitted a forty-five-minute excursion to Space Monte Carlo.



I yelled out, “It’s the Boy Who Lived!” when Luke failed to kill Kylo Ren.

I thought Yoda was used really well. Best use of the character since Empire.

Poe’s mutiny pissed me off. He’s clearly fucking up constantly throughout the entire movie, but the audience is meant to sympathize with him. Also, it made Leia look dumb for putting the Vice Admiral in a position where she would be promoted to the leadership role.

At this point I felt that the movie was a deeply shitty film with some standout moments, and almost in the span of a scene I went to thinking of it as a flawed masterpiece.

The codebreaker betrays them, Snoke set them up. Most importantly, Laura Dern had a plan and Poe fucked it up with his antics.

I really enjoyed the scene in the throne room. Snoke is kind of a tool, and he looks goofy, but at least he dies after setting up a pretty cool scene.

The salt planet had some striking visuals. Jen liked the salt foxes.

I liked everything about Luke’s appearance there. How Kylo Ren first tries to kill him with the AT-ATs before coming down to for the duel. It didn’t work, but props for trying. It reminded me of one of my favorite passages from Tolkien.

Then Fingolfin beheld (as it seemed to him) the utter ruin of the Noldor, and the defeat beyond redress of all their houses; and filled with wrath and despair he mounted upon Rochallor his great horse and rode forth alone, and none might restrain him. He passed over Dor-nu-Fauglith like a wind amid the dust, and all that beheld his onset fled in amaze, thinking that Oromë himself was come: for a great madness of rage was upon him, so that his eyes shone like the eyes of the Valar.

 Thus he came alone to Angband's gates, and he sounded his horn, and smote once more upon the brazen doors, and challenged Morgoth to come forth to single combat. And Morgoth came. That was the last time in those wars that he passed the doors of his stronghold, and it is said that he took not the challenge willingly; for though his might was greatest of all things in this world, alone of the Valar he knew fear. But he could not now deny the challenge before the face of his captains; for the rocks rang with the shrill music of Fingolfin's horn, and his voice came keen and clear down into the depths of Angband; and Fingolfin named Morgoth craven, and lord of slaves. Therefore Morgoth came, climbing slowly from his subterranean throne, and the rumour of his feet was like thunder underground. And he issued forth clad in black armour; and he stood before the King like a tower, iron-crowned, and his vast shield, sable on blazoned, cast a shadow over him like a stormcloud.

But Fingolfin gleamed beneath it as a star; for his mail was overlaid with silver, and his blue shield was set with crystals; and he drew his sword Ringil, that glittered like ice.

That said, I kind of agree with what Hamill has said in interviews. Luke is not well-served by this script.

I think it’s a very good movie that has some profound flaws running all the way through it, but these flaws might be essential to what does work in the movie.


And Porgs? They’re fine, I guess.  They’re cute and designed to sell plushies, but they didn’t get a whole lot of screen time, so I didn’t find them intrusive.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Nine Princes in Amber: What did Eric know and when did he know it?

Someone recently posed a question in a comment and I thought I would reply in a post rather than in a comment.

The question:
just finished book 1. is the following a plothole?
In his cell, corwin mentions not knowing how long it would take for the guards to notice his food being uneaten, if he were to escape. 
He escapes through the Lighthouse etching by the card maker, and spends 4+ months with the Lighthouse keeper!
Is Eric so busy to not check out the cell or listen to a report on two strange etchings on the walls of the scene of corwin's disappeance?
Or have they all really not noticed and have been shoving 4 months worth of water bottles and bread under the prison cell door?
Maybe the card maker came in every day, with a light source, and took the extra food? 

 hat's a good point, and that's something that had always bothered me. I read it again because I needed a refresher on the timeline.

Several books later one of his captors mentions that they knew that he was receiving care packages from a visitor, so that might account for some of the delay in their response.

However, that ignores the fact that he lit a fire in his cell. They're hardly concerned for his welfare, but it's just due diligence to check it out, if only to ascertain *how* he set the fire.

From there, it's not much of a leap to investigate the lighthouse. It's unlikely that they would recognize it as a Trump image, but it's enough of an anomaly that they'd want to dispatch some investigators to see how it figures in with Corwin's disappearance.

So, how does this strike you for an explanation? We'll be charitable and say that no one was around when Corwin set his mattress on fire and the cell smells so bad that it covered up the smell of burning.

After a week or so Corwin's jailers notice that he's not eating his food. Nobody wants to be the one to tell Eric that a prince of Amber died in the dungeon, so they kick the can down the road and just sit on the information until it comes time to celebrate Eric's coronation. There is no hiding Corwin's absence at that point, so somebody tries his Trump to determine what's going on.

They have no idea of how long he's been gone by this point, and he may be sufficiently recovered to defeat Eric at this point, which is why Eric doesn't immediately depart for Cabra himself. We'll assume that he dispatched some palace guards to check out the lighthouse, but it takes time to set it up and Corwin is already gone by that time. (Poor Jopin is probably in for an unpleasant conversation, however)

Speaking of Jopin, we'll assume for the sake of this discussion that he knew Corwin was lying about having been in a shipwreck, even if he probably didn't know his identity right off the bat. A sailor is going to have more a suntan than someone who spent the last five years in a dungeon and there is no disguising that. Jopin probably thought, "This guy is lying about the shipwreck, but he needs help and I don't get many visitors."

Does anyone else have any thoughts? 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Watch this space!

Time to end my hibernation and make my triumphant return. Stay tuned, for normal posting shall resume shortly!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Broadchurch


I'm embarrassed to say that I had never seen Jodie Whittaker in anything, so I sat down to watch this in order to see what I could expect from her and Mister Chinball.

First thoughts. It made me think of the Prisoner, in that the story is set in a surreal village apparently inhabited entirely by past and future Doctor Who actors. (Funny story, I mentioned to Jen who Jodie Whittaker was and that she would be playing the next Doctor. I didn't say anything about David Tennant and apparently, all through the first episode, my wife was thinking, "Wow, that guy really looks like David Tennant! But it must be a coincidence. Josh would have certainly mentioned it if he was.")

It's pretty brutal so far. Our daughter is the same age as the victim in the show, so it seems really personal. It's compelling, but there is no way we're going to binge watch this one. We're going to need something with a bit of levity between episodes.

 Wow! What a great show! Olivia Colman...Wow! I understand why people wanted her to be the Doctor. Really like what Chinball did with it. I hope he brings this aesthetic to Doctor Who. I’ll confess that I don’t like him as a writer. The Power of Three was not to my taste, but Cyberwoman was so bad that I told my friends, “Episodes like this are the reason I’m embarrassed to tell people that I watch science fiction.”But being a writer and being the showrunner involve an entirely different set of skills, so I am cautiously optimistic to see what he brings.

I felt smart for figuring out the killer ahead of time.




Spoiler








I noticed that one of the Netflix thumbnails for the series as a whole had all the families clustered together. Tennant and Colman were in the foreground and I got to wondering why her husband wasn't there. If the pattern held, he would have been off to the back and the side, but he wasn't. I figured that this must have been done for a reason, so I watched the rest of the show with the suspicion that he was the killer. I even wrote it down and then dramatically revealed it when they caught him.
On the fence about series two. I enjoyed the first one so much that I don't want to taint it with a second series that won't be as good.

And on a similar note...Gracepoint. What is it about my country that drives us to create subpar localized remakes of great British television? It looks like they kept so much of the original and the changes they made seem entirely arbitrary. David Tennant reprises his role, but with a different name? How bizarre.