Quotes: Infohistory Is a Mess

Elizabeth Bear’s scifi novel Machine has a succinct sum-up of just some of the problems concerning information retrieval:

“Wait,” I said. “How can information decay?”

“They used to call it bit rot. Servers get taken down, data falls through the cracks and doesn’t get backed up. Physical substrates are destroyed or damaged, or degrade over time—especially the primitive ones. A holographic diamond is very durable but can’t be changed once it’s written to, and magnetic media only lasted a decan or so under ideal conditions.

“And even if the data is preserved somewhere, that somewhere might not be networked. If it’s networked, it might not be indexed. Even if it’s indexed, it might be half the galaxy away and take two or three ans for the file request to get there, be fulfilled, turn around, and come back. And then you might find out that you needed different files entirely.” He huffed with great satisfaction. “Infohistory is a mess.”

– from a discussion between Dr. Brookllyn Jens and the medical librarian AI Mercy in Machine by Elizabeth Bear [original emphasis]

Despite this being from a fictional work, it rings very true. My librarian heart was delighted to read an account that acknowledges not just the physical difficulties of dealing with old media—whatever shape that media might take, from cuneiform to CDs—but also the search-related problems. Metadata, or in case of libraries, the information about the items in the collection, doesn’t feature in stories very often. Also, it is why good reasearch librarians and archivists are worth their weight in gold.

Bear, Elizabeth. Machine. London: Saga Press, 2020, p. 203.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Trailer for Debris

Has anyone followed news on Debris? It’s a new tv series described to be a bit like Fringe. Here’s a trailer:

DEBRIS | Official Trailer by NBC on YouTube

The story follows two agents, one from MI6 and the other from CIA, who investigate debris—surprise, surprise—from an alien spacecraft falling to Earth.

Debris is set to debut on NBC on March 01, 2021.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Protagonists with Radical Acceptance Decide to Let Adversity Wash over Them

Fantasy and science fiction author Vida Cruz tackles an aspect in SFF that was new to me: that BIPOC protagonists are often seen by (white, Western) editors and readers as inactive, and why that’s false.

(I’ve written elsewhere a little about teaching myself to read novels in English after I started learning the language in 7th grade, how it’s so effortless to me now because I took the time and trouble then, and how reading mostly Anglo-American literature has shaped my thinking and expectations of stories.)

Cruz’s thread starts here. I’ve unraveled it below:

***

I want to talk about how western editors and readers often mistake protags written by BIPOC as “inactive protagonists.” It’s too common an issue that’s happened to every BIPOC author I know.

Often, our protags are just trying to survive overwhelming odds. Survival is an active choice, you know. Survival is a story. Choosing to be strong in the face of the world ending, even if you can’t blast a wall down to do it, is a choice.

It’s how we live these days.

Western editors, readers, and writers are too married to the three-act structure, to the type of storytelling that is driven by conflict, to that go-getter individualism. Please read more widely out of your comfort zone. A lot of great non-western stories do not hinge on these.

Sometimes I wonder if you’re all so hopped up on the conflict-driven story because that’s exactly how your colonizer ancestors dealt with people different from them. Oops, I said it, sorry not sorry. Yes, even this mindset has roots in colonialism, deal with it.

If you want examples of non-conflict-driven storytelling google the following: kishoutenketsu, johakyu, daisy chain storytelling/wheel spoke storytelling. There was another one whose name I forgot but I will tweet it when I recall it.

Anyway, I think there is a space in literature and beyond for stories about radical acceptance or that have a radical acceptance aesthetic. Accepting the things you cannot change but dealing with them in your own way. No pyrotechnics but plenty of potential for drama.

What you want in a story is drama. Conflict does not necessarily equate to drama. Conflict is driven by two or more forces colliding. If a protagonist decides to let the force wash over them instead, that does not mean the protagonist is inactive.

Once again, I repeat: SURVIVING IS A DECISION. BIPOC based in Western countries do it all the time. Us third worlders do it all the time. But of course if you grew up white in a Western country, being mired in hopeless systems will be hard for you to grasp.

And if you’re a BIPOC author, listen: you may be already as good, if not better, than most of the competition out there. You keep getting rejected not because your story sucks but because white editors do not know how to read your work. Keep trying.

Last but not least, we don’t just need diverse demographics for everything, WE NEED DIVERSE STORIES. Get your colonizer heads out of your asses and seek out other traditions. End rant.

I found the other storytelling structure! It’s called Robleto and is of Nicaraguan origin.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

One last! Another type of story that everyone loves (or pretends not to love) but no one will publish in the west is FLUFF. YES THAT’S RIGHT, FANFICTION FLUFF. SUCK ON THAT.

It has been pointed out several times so I will amend the thread to say: all my points apply for disabled, neurodivergent, and chronically ill protagonists, too. Our way of showing agency is DEFINITELY different from yours so please be mindful of that.

***

For me, the main point Cruz makes is:

“What you want in a story is drama. Conflict does not necessarily equate to drama. Conflict is driven by two or more forces colliding. If a protagonist decides to let the force wash over them instead, that does not mean the protagonist is inactive.”

– Vida Cruz on Twitter

This reminds me of my frustration with the Halle Berry -led SF series Extant (which I referred to in an earlier post). I’ve asked myself whether they really wrote her merely feeling and flailing around or whether it is my misreading. Granted, it was some years ago now, but I don’t think I misinterpreted it; Extant lacked self-awareness or self-examination. (Or perhaps the writers’ room was forced to put out such claptrap by people higher up in the production.)

Possible examples of stories with radical acceptance / survival protagonists that do come to mind include the novels The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow (Black protag) and Among Others by Jo Walton (disabled protag).

Anything you can think of? Please share! The concept is something I’m still mulling over, so more examples would help.

Also, any suggestions on a concise name for protagonists like this? I’m drawing a blank for the moment.

Story Time is an occasional feature all about stories and story-telling. Whether it’s on the page or on the screen, this is about how stories work and what makes us love the ones we love.

Animatic Murderbot Fanart

Creator mar made an animatic Murderbot video – because who wouldn’t want Murderbot on the screen! – and uploaded it for us to view.

Note: the creator’s content warning’s are: blood, guns, scopophobia, slight body horror, and injuries. There are also slight spoilers for Network Effect.

I’m Not Your Hero – The Murderbot Diaries Animatic by mar on YouTube

The animatic is set to Sara Quin and Tegan Quin’s “I’m Not Your Hero”. The song wasn’t familiar to me, but I have to admit it fits pretty well.

And, seriously, someone please buy the rights and develop a fantastic longform Murderbot screen adaptation. Like, now! *standing with money in my outstretched hand*

Found via Tor.com.

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.

The First Villeneuve Dune Trailer Is Out

The first trailer for director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is making its rounds, and it sure looks shiny:

Dune Official Trailer by Warner Bros. Pictures on YouTube

We don’t see many women doing much of anything, just standing, staring, emoting, and kissing, which is complete, utter, and total hooey compared to the book; I hope it’s just a case of trailers always lie.

At least Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam is prominently monologuing, but we hear nothing of Lady Jessica or Chani. As Charlotte Rampling is playing the Mother, Rebecca Ferguson Jessica, and Zendaya Chani, I have no doubt we’ll see stellar performances for the main female roles.

Timothée Chalamet plays Paul. I’ve only seen him as Laurie in the newest Little Women (2019, directed by Greta Gerwig) and apparently in Interstellar; I didn’t like his version of the former and remember nothing of the latter, so he’s a big unknown as far as I’m concerned. I saw someone critique him as being an okay choice for young Paul at the beginning but not having enough gravitas (to paraphrase) for the older Paul Muad’Dib. Plausible, I agree; I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Oscar Isaac I’m looking very much forward to, if for nothing else then to see whether he has the range to play Duke Leto. Stellan Skarsgård, Javier Bardem, and David Dastmalchian I would also expect to do just fine if not directed to be too hammy. But the rest… Well. I get that Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, and Dave Bautista are big names, but I find them uninspiring choices. Again, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

I’ve also seen the two previous big screen adaptations (the 1984 movie directed by David Lynch and the 2000 miniseries directed by John Harrison). Both had some flaws that to me weighed the adaptations down more than the positives could buoy them, so I’m looking forward to Villeneuve’s version. It certainly looks gorgeous.

At the same time, I agree with an online contact who elsewhere said that they’d like something that’s more relevant to 2020s than to the time the story was written (1965).

At this writing, Dune is set to be released on December 18, 2020.

I doubt we two will see it in the theater unless there’s significant improvement in the local covid-19 numbers, so I’m hoping for an early release to either streaming services or disc.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Quotes: A Human Being with Hope Can Continue on Far Longer

In The Light Brigade, what I consider her most mature work yet, Kameron Hurley gives her protagonist Dietz this monologue about hope’s role in shaping human behavior:

“There’s a huge mental release in knowing there is an end to pain. A human being with hope can continue on far longer than one without. Did you know those who are mildly depressed see the world more accurately? Yet they don’t live as long as optimists. Aren’t as successful. It turns out that being able to perceive actual reality has very little long-term benefit. It’s those who believe in something larger than themselves who thrive. We all seem to need a little bit of delusion to function in the world. That belief can be about anything, too. Could be a god, a corporation, a society, like our various militaries instill. A sense of belonging. Could be national pride. Or the desire to make the world a better place. Or see the world burn. Personal or political. But … something bigger. Something greater.”

– Dietz in Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade

We’re six to seven months into the covid-19 pandemic, depending on your definition of the epidemic start date in the western world. I could use some mental release right about now, and I know I’m not alone.

Alas, as far as we know, nothing specific is in the pipe to be released very soon. But there is hope!

Obi-Wan Patience

The good news is that by all accounts SARS-CoV-2 will respond to a vaccine. The bad news is that we need to wait and be patient, stay home as much as possible; and when we cannot, keep a safe distance, practice good sneezing hygiene, wear masks, and wash our hands.

Star Wars Stay on Target

Stay on target. Stay safe. We will prevail.

Hurley, Kameron. The Light Brigade. New York: Saga Press, 2019, p. 116.

Images: Obi-Wan Patience via Giphy. Stay on Target via Giphy.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Quotes: People Will Fight for the Idea of Decency

This quote from Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade seems pretty apt for the covid-19 pandemic in the west:

“[Companies] started losing when they forgot how to be decent. People will fight for the idea of decency. They will fight for someone who treats them like people. They fight for beliefs far longer and harder than out of fear.”

– Dietz in Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade

So let’s treat each other as people. Because we’re in this together; health care experts don’t talk about herd immunity without reason.

Because we’re only in the beginning of it; even the most optimistic models don’t predict the peak to occur very soon.

And because we’re social critters, descendants of people who liked other people despite their origin or color or dance moves or whatnot. We’re here because we like doing things together. (And I realize how funny that may sound coming from a huge introvert such as myself, but there it is.) At each individual’s preferred amount of togetherness, but together nevertheless.

Hurley, Kameron. The Light Brigade. New York: Saga Press, 2019, p. 141-142.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Star Trek: Picard Series Trailer from NYCC

Oooo—I can’t believe I didn’t yet blog about the second Star Trek: Picard series trailer that came our way. This was released at New York Comic Con.

Star Trek: Picard | NYCC Trailer | CBS All Access by CBS All Access on YouTube

Like the San Diego one, this trailer looks so awesome! The Borg presence doesn’t seem quite as heavy as the SDCC trailer gave reason to believe (but then again, you never know). It’s lovely to see glimpses of the old TNG cast, however, and the spiffy new tech and props look absolutely amazing. Mostly I’m thankful to see Sir Patrick Stewart in another genre production, for he is getting old and who knows how much longer he’ll have with us.

Picard is set to premier on January 23, 2020. Soon!

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Second Trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now a month away. Here’s the second (and apparently final) trailer:

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker | Final Trailer by Star Wars on YouTube

My my, it looks more epic than before, and you really cannot fault episodes VII and VIII for being bland. Furthermore, the movie seems epic in all senses, with beautiful work in both the visuals (environments, propping, fights—did you notice the outstanding cutting of the trailer?) and the story (resistance, courage, friendships, sacrifices).

Now I have one wish: that J.J. Abrams won’t ruin it. (His work has been a hit or miss for me in the past.)

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Delightful Music: Fringe Theme

One of the most enjoyable things about Fringe is the theme song. Here is a full, 6-minute version:

Fringe Theme [FULL] via mrbrzoskwinka on YouTube

It’s composed by Michael Giacchino, who has an extensive music department background in genre tv, movies, and games (Jurassic franchise video games and movies, Alias, Zootopia, some rebooted Mission Impossible and Star Trek movies, Rogue One and both of the new Spider-Man MCU movies, for instance).

It’s rare to come across a speculative show theme that uses the piano so unapologetically, let alone a story of an FBI agent investigating weird crimes. I’m in no way an expert, but I seem to have noticed that piano has fallen out of fashion these days, so for me the Fringe theme is valuable on those grounds as well.

An occasional feature on music and sound-related notions.