Quotes: In the Hopes that They Will Be Able to Pass for One of the Glintelligentsia

“The Merita hotel chain offers rooms at a steep discount to people whose Information shows that they are interesting: as cocktail-chatter counterparts, as connections for enterpreneurs, as potential romantic partners. It’s a strategy to convince wealthier, duller clientele to pay a premium in order to share some sparkling conversation, or in the hopes that they will be able to pass for one of the glintelligentsia themselves.”

– Malka Older, Infomocracy

I just love the word glintelligentsia! It should be in mainstream use already. 🙂

Older, Malka. Infomocracy. New York, NY: Tor.com, 2016, p. 77.

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

Western Asian Science Fictional Art

Omar Gilani is an illustrator, designer, and concept artist currently based in Pakistan. Not all of his art has sci-fi elements, but the pieces that do are amazing. Take a look:

Omar Gilani 2
Omar Gilani
Omar Gilani 5
Omar Gilani

The engineer-turned-artist takes inspiration from everyday life and combines traditional drawing with digitally created elements.

Omar Gilani sits4
Omar Gilani
Omar Gilani maybe3
Omar Gilani

I am very sorry I found out about his work only a day(!) after the Hugo nomination period closed. Well, hopefully he’ll continue producing genre art so I can nominate him next year.

Found via Islam and Science Fiction.

Crossposted from the Playfully Grownup Home blog.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Tips Needed: Years-Long Story Arcs on Screen?

Recently I’ve been thinking of Babylon 5 quite a bit from the storytelling point of view. When it first aired (1994-1998 in the U.S.), it was unique in my experience (which was, at the time, still quite limited) for a few things.

The Catholic Geeks babylon52

Firstly, I loved B5 for its complex, detailed, and consistent world. I hadn’t seen that level of commitment to worldbuilding on tv before. Also, the plot moved on several levels, from individual concerns to multi-species war, and involved political struggles, religious prophesies, racial tensions, social pressures, and personal rivalries of many kinds. At times it was heavy-handed, for instance in its discussion of authoritarianism vs. free will (“Who are you?” “What do you want?”), but not consistently across every plotline, if memory serves. (Note to self: It’s clearly time for a rewatch!)

What really sets B5 apart from other attempts, however, is that it’s carrying essentially one huge story arc over years of tv programming, not just one season’s worth. The creator, J. Michael Straczynski, conceived of the whole plotline before the series was written for tv. Apparently, it was specifically supposed to be a “novel for television,” with the core plot points figured out beforehand. (That’s my biggest beef with the current Doctor Who, for example: the writers are struggling to fold in new storylines into the existing canon—even very recently created canon—and it shows.)

Game of Thrones and The Expanse feel very similar to B5, being tv adaptations of stories already in existence, and I’ve really enjoyed those aspects of both. Before them, though, I can’t really remember seeing that many quality series that incorporate truly extended story arcs. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the Battlestar Galactica reboot all tried, even though none of them really implement as overarching a story as B5 does.

I’ve been wanting to see (and not just read) long plots lately, so I’d really appreciate your input. I still haven’t looked into Straczynski’s new series sense8—does anyone know whether it has a similar structure? Or can you recommend any other genre shows with long-term payoff?

Image via The Catholic Geeks

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

 

Han Solo: A Smuggler’s Trade – A Fan Film par Excellence

More fan projects from the Star Wars universe! This short, unofficial, non-profit Han Solo fan film really nails the mood and attitude:

Han Solo: A Smuggler’s Trade – A Star Wars Fan Film by Jamie Costa

The story is by Nathaniel Nauert, and the screenplay is by Nauert plus Jared Bell and Keith Allen. Allen also directed the short.

The production did a fantastic job with propping, lighting, sounds, music, and effects. Nice work!

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

Quotes: She Tried to Take It All in

“She tried to take it all in, to memorize every detail of the amazing historical event she was witnessing: The young woman splashing in the fountain with three officers of the Royal Norfolk Regiment. The stout woman passing out poppies to two rough-looking soldiers, who each kissed her on the cheek. The bobby trying to drag a girl down off the Nelson monument and the girl leaning down and blowing a curled-paper party favor in his face. And the bobby laughing.”

– Connie Willis: All Clear; London, 7 May 1945

Just a part of the World War II Victory in Europe Day celebration in Trafalgar Square, London, according to author Connie Willis. What a delightful image, especially the bit about the bobby and the girl with the party favor!

Willis, Connie: All Clear. New York, NY: Spectra, 2010, p. 14.

(This quote comes from my 21 new-to-me SFF authors reading project.)

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

Quotes: More Open to Imagining Better Worlds that Might Be Possible

“Science fiction came into being in response to a new thing in human history: the understanding that not only was the world changing, but also that the rate of change was speeding up. That in a normal lifetime, you could expect to experience multiple episodes of rapid, disorienting change. Science fiction at its best has always been about examining and inhabiting those experiences when the world passes through a one-way door.

“Modern science fiction grew up in the Great Depression and flourished in World War II. It thrived in the strangeness of the 1950s and the different strangeness of the 1960s. It has continued to be an essential set of tools for engaging with our careening world.

[…]

“And I really do believe that science fiction and fantasy storytelling makes us, in some fundamental way, a bit more practiced in the ways of a world caught up in wrenching change—and more open to imagining better worlds that might be possible.”

– Editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Like I wrote in my Arrival Recap: I explicitly do not want all of my reading and viewing rehashing the same old stories over and over, because SFF is explicitly about examining other possibilities.

Nielsen Hayden, Patrick. “The prospect before us.” Making Light, November 9, 2016

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

The Expanse Season 2 Trailers

Trailers for the second season of The Expanse are out!

THE EXPANSE | Season 2 Trailer | Syfy

THE EXPANSE | Season 2 Trailer #2 | Syfy

I saw the first season well after it had broadcasted. It’s clear that it merely scraped the surface of the story, but I liked it enough to want more. The writing managed quite well to avoid infodumps while giving us enough to understand any given situation. Most of the cast was new to me, but I enjoyed their performances. Detective Miller was the most boring character of all; I liked the crew of the Rocinante, though, especially Nagata and Burton.

Season 2 will be out February 8, 2017.

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Arrival Recap

So, here are some initial thoughts on Arrival. Spoiler alert is most definitely in effect!

Twitter Arrival Movie Poster Aug 16 2016

Things I loved:

  • No stealth female protagonists here, but an actual, full-time, proper female lead who isn’t there for her boobs and butt, but brains!
  • Top notch plotting, dialogue, and characters, all in all. Also the directing, sets, music, and effects were impressive.
  • Some of the trailers make it look like the linguistics lecture in the very beginning is in a huge auditorium with only a handful of students attending, which might have meant that the movie university was going to have a neglected linguistics department or lukewarm students. Not so. There was a good reason why students didn’t show up, i.e., the alien landing.
  • Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) was treated as an expert almost universally. Notable exceptions were a CIA bloke at the Montana camp and Dr. Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), the male lead. The latter, upon meeting Dr. Banks for the very first time, quoted something she’d written and said something to the effect of “Too bad it’s wrong.” Tut tut. He got over himself, though.
  • Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), the army liaison for the civilian consultants, was an actual ally to Dr. Banks and Dr. Donnelly, not an antagonist. It would’ve been so easy to take the lazy road. (Then again, they did take it with the antagonistic CIA bloke.)
  • The complexities of language and communication were explained with easily understandable comparisons.
  • Languages were treated as the complex systems that they are, i.e., other levels beyond the lexicon got attention.
  • Many of the English translations of the heptapods’ language were messy (e.g., “Abbott is death process” = “Abbot is dying”). As a non-native English speaker who operates with two languages on a daily basis, I found it very realistic. There are times when quick and dirty is what you need, and others when you can spend more time pondering. In a first contact situation where political and military pressures are high, there might not even be a need to polish the English syntax as long as the message is unambiguous.
  • Some of the aliens’ language was subtitled. I’m a visual person; in addition, I can’t always hear everything in noisy environments such as movie theaters or restaurants. ❤ subtitles!
  • The story is very explicit about the need for people work together to solve problems without feeling preachy. YMMV.
  • A male hero doesn’t punch an alien in the face at the end. I’m all for punching the bad guys—now and then. I explicitly do not want all of my reading and viewing rehashing the same old stories over and over, because SFF is explicitly about examining other possibilities. It feels (’cause I haven’t seen any statistics or anything) like lately we’ve mostly gotten the punchy kind of SFF. It was so nice to face a different fare for a change.

Things I didn’t think were quite as successful:

  • Only one prominent female speaking role. For realz. Surely you’re better than that, writing team.
  • The conflation of linguistics and translating. Of course the two disciplines are related, but each comes with its own set of principles and tools.
  • Dr. Banks and Dr. Donnelly each got their own team in Montana, but the teams were hugely underused. They might have been completely omitted for all the difference they made.
  • Dr. Banks’s visions affected her thinking and behavior, but weren’t integrated into the dialogue terribly well. The one time they tried (“Are you dreaming in their language?”), she responded very defensively, and the matter was dropped without further exploration.
  • Non-linear time as part of the plot. It’s a very difficult concept to pull off successfully. I haven’t come across a story yet where I think it works to its full effect. (I might feel differently about “Story of Your Life.” Note to self: Find it & read.) Even so, the execution in Arrival was one of the most elegant I’ve encountered, and the reveals were well-paced.
  • At the end, the aliens indicate that they’re sharing their full language with Dr. Banks because in 3,000 years they will need humanity, but that was it. What a cliffhanger!

I’ll finish with a couple of links:

How the writer of ‘Arrival’ spent a decade getting his sci-fi Oscar contender made. An interview with screenwriter Erik Heisserer that sheds light to the difficulties in getting a movie project greenlit and adapting the inspiration story.

‘Arrival’ Author’s Approach To Science Fiction? Slow, Steady And Successful. An interview with Ted Chiang, whose short story “Story of Your Life” (1998) was the basis for Arrival.

Ted Chiang, the science fiction genius behind Arrival. Another focus piece on Chiang.

Image via Arrival Movie on Twitter

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Arrival—Establishing Common Ground

A new Arrival screen ad is out! (Published today, in fact!) In an atypical move, the trailer (if you can call it that) starts with several completely unrelated clips of people in an experimental situation:

Arrival (2016) – “Common Ground” – Paramount Pictures by Paramount Pictures

…except that, of course, the clips aren’t unrelated. They show two strangers with no shared language trying to figure out what they have in common. It’s quite clever; see for yourself.

Two weeks to go till opening night!

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