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Fandom & adaptations

So who’s seen Ender’s Game?

Is it any good as a movie?

Unrelated question: which, if any, parts of the feel & experience of the book does it get right?

It’s funny, isn’t it, that those are unrelated questions? And movie reviews can only answer the second question when it’s obvious that the reviewer is a fan. e.g. for The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey (3-part Hobbit: WTF?), go straight to Anthony Lane’s review. It summarizes very neatly to “I loved it — but I’m a fanatic” (which is also, word-for-word, my own review of Terminator: Salvation).

I haven’t seen a fan’s review of Ender’s Game. (No, I haven’t searched at Hatrack River, why do you ask?) I knew I was in the wrong place at Entertainment Weekly upon reading, “The problem is, these initiation and training scenes go on forever.” I’m not a Card fanatic, but I’m pretty confident that anyone who considers Battle Room a problem hasn’t the slightest idea what Ender’s Game fandom is about.

P.S. Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham is, in theory, an unadulterated stroke of genius. Please tell me that, unlike Russell Crowe as Javert, it also works in practice.

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Tolkien academia for a popular audience

This Washington Post article discusses the story of a Tolkien scholar whose strategy of producing podcasts about Tolkien’s novels for public consumption seems to have won him some success in academia, not to mention a large online following.

The hub of his online activities is a website called The Tolkien Professor, which includes the aforementioned podcast lectures, links to both primary sources and criticism, and information about skype-in office hours.

Aside from the content of his work, Corey Olsen’s career trajectory strikes me as interesting in several respects. It reflects a more-or-less successful bid to make a career of studying genre literature in the academy. It reflects what I view as a commendable effort to reach out of the academy and engage a popular audience with academic research–I would love to see this happen more often, and to be rewarded rather than (at best) tolerated. Finally, of course, it raises the question of college classes being made available free and online–a trend which is extremely exciting, but which is not uncomplicated by questions about the future of academic institutions in a world where higher education costs are skyrocketing. Are universities going to go the way of the newspaper? How should we feel about that if they do?

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Space Ace, um, of Cakes

This has to be seen to be believed.

At first look, the opening picture just looks like a stack of toys.  But when you realize that it’s all edible, mostly made of fondant — and not just impressive fondant statues of Marvin the Martian, Audrey II, and the Alien queen (piping gel drool!), not just Han Solo frozen in carbonite, ALF, Tom Servo complete with translucent Life-Saver head, a Dalek victim, and more, but also a cake pan underside made into HAL’s brain room, a fondant Tardis, and an inside joke only a SF geek could love — that’s in addition to the Obvious Exploitable Weakness — then you start to realize it’s pretty amazing.  Oh, also, she made a brick wall out of 1,500 fondant bricks mortared with royal icing, and two tiled movie-theater carpets out of caned fondant.

Look, really you just need to click on the first link and look at the whole thing piece by piece, to appreciate its utter majesty.

The awesomeness of the creator, Kimberly Chapman, is not to be underestimated.  Her other works of cake and sugar art include a Periodic Table of Cookies, a Fraggle Rock cake, a Shelob cake and an Orc head cake.

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Another mashup, of a sort

I think it would have been even better if they had used music from LotR, but I still got a good chuckle out of this:

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Klingon Opera

On the opening of the new Star Trek movie, I had to make sure you got your dose of Klingons. So here it is: Floris Schönfeld has written a Klingon Opera, which was performed at the Water Mill in New York. NPR did a story on it today and provided a link to the Klingon-Terran Research Ensemble.

It sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it? I thought so, too. Then I started thinking about how this is one of those amazing things about art: that it can take inspiration from anywhere. No matter the source, if you can create something which speaks to some aspect of our humanity, it doesn’t matter what inspired it. Truth can come from surprising places, and we can find important insights into the patterns of life and interaction in all sorts of human creations, even (perhaps especially) in those created primarily to entertain. We shouldn’t reject something as not being meaningful, just because its source is unexpected or unorthodox. One of the reasons people love Star Trek itself is that it frequently grapples with meaningful human issues, even as it’s surrounded by rubber suit aliens and gobbledygook science. There’s no reason Klingon opera can’t do the same.

Then I watched some. I’ll admit, while I did think their exploration of sound and its qualities was interesting, I found it more than a little bit stilted…and kind of ridiculous.

On the other hand, I feel that way about most opera. Enjoy the new movie!

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The Future of Companies

A lot of science fiction deals with how our future economic world will be structured–from libertarian autonomous corporations (Jennifer Government or Snow Crash) to a single global government entity (Star Trek). Given our current economic climate, I thought I’d share a couple of recent thoughts in those directions.

First is an idea that I find quite appealing: the open company. Now, many of you will protest that open source companies are old news; heck, Red Hat has been public for almost ten years now. But this is something new: the idea of running a company not about open source products, but running the company as if it were an open source project. Essentially, this means that anyone can contribute whatever they feel motivated to, and be paid using a peer-rating system. It sounds pretty idealistic: the idea that in the future, we can literally just create whatever value is of interest to us and get paid appropriately. And it may only work when most of the output is intangible. But I think it’s a fascinating notion, and Alexander Stigson, creator of the E Text Editor, says he’s actively moving his company to become an open company. I’m really excited to see how that turns out.

Second, a link to a recent post by Tim O’Reilly, on books that have shaped the way he thinks. I think it’s interesting not just because he cites Dune as one of his influences, but also because he cites Rissa Kerguelen, by F.M. Busby, as

[a] science-fiction book I read at about the time I was starting my company, and that influenced me deeply. One key idea is the role of entrepreneurship as a “subversive force.” In a world dominated by large companies, it is the smaller companies that keep freedom alive, with economics at least one of the battlegrounds. This book gave me the courage to submerge myself in the details of a fundamentally trivial business (technical writing) and to let go of my earlier hopes of writing deep books that would change the world.

I think it’s important to remember that new ideas can be subversive; that both startups and science fiction are often about pursuing new ideas; and that new ideas have the potential to change the world.

Finally, on that note, I thought I’d add a quick link to the NationStates site, a free sort-of-game from the author of Jennifer Government. Enjoy!

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People of Color in SF

A friend of mine pointed out that the 12th Annual People of Color in SF Carnival is seeking submissions now–they’re looking for weblinks, blog entries, and the like. They’ll then weave them together to give a sense of what the present conversation is when thinking about race in SF/F. You can check out the call here or see an example here. It seems pretty cool, and it’s already pointed me to a new webcomic (Magellan, for those who are interested in superheroes). So if you know of any links related to the theme (or wanted to write one for hrsfans.org), send them to mvelazqu AT umd DOT edu by 2/27/09.

From http://thehathorlegacy.com/books/poc-carnival-yay/:

This month’s theme focuses on the role PoC characters have in the products of our fandom — as accessories, as absences, and as convenient plot devices. This issue of absence is particularly important — what does it do to fic to have the “real” experiences of PoC constantly referred to but never there? What does it mean that series like Xmen or [Harry Potter] draw on specific histories of race and violence, but do this without themselves referring to racism or anti-Semitism in text? Here, we’re focusing will be on science-fiction and fantasy, speculative fiction, and other types of mediated imagery, including webcomics and movies.

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