At the right time, in the right place, words have the power to change the world.
Tor.com comics blogger Tim Callahan has dedicated the next twelve months to a reread of all of the major Alan Moore comics (and plenty of minor ones as well). Each week he will provide commentary on what he’s been reading. Welcome to the 27th installment.
Last week, I explored the first half of Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s hefty From Hell collected edition, and this week will bring us to the final chapters and the illustrated post-script, where Moore provides a reflection on the fractal complexity of Ripperology, and where it leaves us in the end.
Series: The Great Alan Moore Reread
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer S2 finale opens with a flashback to the land of TeeVee History, where the men are men and the pubs are Ye Olde. Back in these longago times we see Liam, the callow youth destined to become Angelus, out on a booze-up with a buddy. He runs into Darla (Hi, Julie Benz, always happy to see you again!) who inexplicably takes a shine to him. Maybe it’s his bad manners, or his shaky Irish accent, but she gives him a wisp of a sales pitch about seeing the world and being all that he can be. Liam, bored to the teeth with everything around him, snaps up the bait.
“Close your eyes,” Darla tells him, before moving in for the kill.
Things got off to a characteristically grim and shocking start on this week’s episode of Game of Thrones.
After the opening scene, we were treated to an episode heavy on characters. It was a welcome relief after the torture and gratuitousness of last week. Why, this might’ve been the first episode of Game of Thrones without a single bared breast. (Except for that shirtless fat guy begging in King’s Landing.) But just because this episode didn’t earn a hard R doesn’t mean it was without some exciting developments.
Warning: episode reviews contain episode and book spoilers. If you want to remain spoiler-free, follow Leigh Butler’s read of ASOIaF. Tor.com is not liable for your further enjoyment of the series if later books get spoiled in the comments.
Series: HBO’s Game of Thrones
Historical dramas have a lot in common with science fiction when you consider how alien/exotic the settings might seem to a contemporary audience. As a kind of squeakquel to the Arthur C. Clarke maxim; “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” I’d like to assert that any sufficiently different set of social mores in a historical context is indistinguishable from an alternate universe. Consider the following bizzaro dimension: limited electricity, paranoia related to class struggles, shifting loyalties, and rigid caste system. Could it be Battlestar Galactica? Yes. But it’s also Downton Abbey!
What does Downton Abbey have in common with Battlestar Galactica? Well, both shows have two central cores that make them thematically identical; all the characters are struggling against outside influences to maintain the status quo and preserve a way of life which is threatened. Second, and probably more effective; both shows constantly tease the audience with secrets, and star-crossed lovers.
So, The Raven isn’t very good. It takes a randomly selective reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and a few bits of triviata from his life and grafts those onto a by-the-numbers serial killer narrative in which the Poe character, the ostensible lead, is completely superfluous.
[Read more. Spoiler, of course.]
Spoilers for the film.
That superfluity could have been fixed, but the serial killer angle is unsolvable, and like the locked-room mystery that Poe pioneered in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” it’s a conceit that’s run its course as a fictional device.
There are a few examples of serial killer stories that have worked. The Silence of the Lambs is both an excellent book (as is Thomas Harris’ earlier Red Dragon) and movie, presenting a credible and compelling procedural, though it presented a massive difficulty curve for any imitators. David Fincher’s Se7en got around that issue by presenting its serial killing as less a naturalistic procedural than an elaborate moral parable. Unfortunately, nearly every serial killer movie since (to say nothing of serial killers on TV) seems to have only retained one aspect of Se7enone that’s based in a massively reductive read on psychopathology, though one very convenient for bad serial killer storiesof the killer leaving the detective(s) a trail of clues right to his door, because he “wants to be caught” or some such.
The killer in The Raven goes to extremely elaborate means to recreate murders from Edgar Allan Poe stories, and further to do so in Poe’s own city of Baltimore, in 1849, shortly before Poe’s death. For some odd reason, even though the killer is drawing from an already extant body of work, the police enlist Poe to take part in the investigation, though they could just as easily have left Poehere played by John Cusack as a reckless, deeply unpleasant drunk who never says in one word what he could say in tenout of it and focused on finding the killer. Eventually the killer kidnaps Poe’s fiancee (Alice Eve, looking eerily like Kristen Stewart at times), at which point the lead detective (a competent if resolutely bland Luke Evans) lets Poe run around drunk with a loaded gun.
At one point, there’s a reference to criticism being “the easy stuff.” While I could get all bent out of shape about that being untrue and how anyone who thinks criticism is easy either hasn’t done it or is doing it wrong, The Raven has bigger problems that are actually related to the way the line is tossed off rather than what it actually means. All of the allusions to Poe’s life and work in The Raven are made in a similarly glib fashion. Its attitude toward Poe’s stories and poetry is “Hey! Edgar Allan Poe! Awesome!” Well, yes. But don’t tell us, show us why. The Raven spends an inordinate amount of time lecturing about how great Edgar Allan Poe is, and comes complete with a lot of heavy handed jokes about Longfellow and a weirdly unconvincing rote love story.
The biggest problem with the movie is the seeming indifference of its makers. The cast (Cusack in particular) acts up a storm, but are forced to speak ponderously expository gobbledegook dialogue and manufacture emotions that the script doesn’t provide. The love story is a particularly egregious misfire. Given that the movie tells us in the opening title card that what we are about to see is the last few days of Edgar Allan Poe’s life, and that shortly after we see him in love and proposing marriage, it’s puzzling and unfortunate that that love story has no resonance whatsoever, other than the kidnapped fiancee being a MacGuffin that Poe and the police need to rescue from the killer.
It’s really a shame that The Raven is as bad (and boring) as it is, because it could have been a great Poe geek-out with a half-competent script and a director who was awake. But, alas, some things are not meant to be. Fortunately Poe’s work is fairly easy to find and read, and there are still those excellent Roger Corman movies of “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” and so forth. The Raven is not of that caliber, and isn’t even “so bad it’s good,” it’s just a dreary mess.
So that excerpt of Darth Vader and Son had you weeping with joy, didn’t it? Have you bought a copy already? Well, if not (or if you’d like another copy to give to a friend), we’ve got the perfect sweepstakes for you! We’ve got three copies of the book just comment to enter and you might win!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 or older. To enter, comment on this post beginning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) April 30, 2012. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 p.m. ET May 3, 2012. Void outside of the 50 US and DC and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan Publishers, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.
Famous for his work on The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline, Henry Selick is set to adapt a film version of Neil Gaiman’s Hugo and Newbery award winning novel, The Graveyard Book. At this time it is unknown who will be writing the screenplay adaptation nor is it known if the film will be stop motion animation in the style of Selick’s previous work.
The Graveyard Book tells the story of Nobody Owens, an orphan raised by ghosts in a graveyard. We’re excited about whatever form the film adaptation takes and can’t wait for its eventual release.
“Cast your nets, wanderers! Try me with your questions, and let the contest begin.”
—Blaine the Mono, to Roland and the Ka-Tet, at the end of The Waste Lands
Welcome to A Read of the Dark Tower series. Join me each week as I, Constant Reader, tackle the magnum opus of Stephen King’s career for the first time. If you want to discuss in general terms or talk about these first sections, join me by commenting here.
When we last left our ka-tet, they were finishing up with Blaine and heading in search of the Beam.
Series: A Read of The Dark Tower
Welcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.
Today’s entry is Part 16 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapters 33 (“Catelyn”) and 34 (“Jon”).
Previous entries are located in the Index. The only spoilers in the post itself will be for the actual chapters covered and for the chapters previous to them. As for the comments, The Powers That Be at Tor.com have very kindly set up a forum thread for spoilery comments. Any spoileriffic discussion should go there, where I won’t see it. Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself.
And now, the post!
Series: A Read of Ice and Fire
This whole Sheep Invaders thing has gotten us thinking about lasers being used to get wool. Or lasers being used to alter clothing? Or lasers being used to get juice out of certain kinds of fruit. In short, why aren’t there more pratical lasers? (And we don’t mean laser pointers. We know ALL about those.) Today’s morning roundup as lasers in it.
1.) A working phaser? Come on. We need to know if this is real.
2.) Play Sheep Invaders online
3.) Yes. The bees.
Holy cow, every trailer is getting me more and more excited to see this.
Tor.com is celebrating National Poetry Month by featuring science fiction and fantasy poetry from a variety of SFF authors. You’ll find classic works, hidden gems, and new commissions featured on the site throughout the month. Bookmark the Poetry Month index for easy reading.
On this Saturday we’re featuring a new composition from Catherynne M. Valente, “Aquaman and the Duality of Self/Other, America, 1985.”
Series: Poetry Month
Before Sunrise: A shade wanders around in the night until it makes a life-changing encounter. (5:26 minutes)
Red: One of the more interesting tellings of a classic tale, featuring the best antagonist ever put on film. (2:33 minutes)
[Watch the films after the jump]
by Kealan O’Rourke
by Hyunjoo Song
For more animation, visit our Saturday Morning Cartoon Index.
René Walling is a fan of SF, animation and comics, this has led him to co-chair Anticipation, the 2009 Worldcon, be involved with fps magazine for more than a decade and start Nanopress, a Canadian small press. He looks forward to living on Mars where he would benefit from having more than 24 hours in a day.
Series: Saturday Morning Cartoons
This is not exactly a Star Wars mashup video. Instead, apparently, DJ duo Hot Problems have released this lip-syncing Star Wars sing-a-long as the actual music video for their song “Party With My Friends.” The lip-syncing is beyond impressive. Our favorite part is when one Luke nods at another Luke. Or maybe when Bib Fortuna says “let’s do a shot!” Or when Jar-Jar becomes Michael Jackson. Or…oh just watch it.
Interestingly, Hot Problems also claims to be from the future. From their Facebook Page
“Dr. Hot and D.J. Problems are two men from the future who have come to 2012 to make a dance-pop record. Sounds ridiculous, right? Wrong. Believe it or not, the fate of the planet hangs in the balance.”
Hot Problems, we will follow your career with great interest.
Stubby the Rocket is the voice and mascot of Tor.com and is going to party with its friends tonight.
You’ve just read an excerpt of Steven Erikson’s new short story anthology, The Devil Delivered and Other Tales now read them all! We’ve got five ARC copies in the office, and you want them. You know you do. So comment below and you might win!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 or older. To enter, comment on this post beginning at 4:10 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) April 27, 2012. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 p.m. ET May 2, 2012. Void outside of the 50 US and DC and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan Publishers, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.
Fans of the Malazan series are sure to love this excerpt from Steven Erikson’s upcoming book of short fiction! Take a look at The Devil Delivered and Other Tales:
In between writing his ten-book epic that changed the way many look at fantasy storytelling, Steven Erikson also wrote great stories set outside of his awe-inspiring Malazan world. These three tales contain all the same style and flavor that made him a New York Times bestseller.
This collection includes:
“The Devil Delivered”: In the breakaway Lakota Nation, in the heart of a land blistered beneath an ozone hole the size of the Great Plains of North America, a lone anthropologist wanders the deadlands, recording observations that threaten to bring the world’s powers to their knees.
“Fishing with Grandma Matchie”: A children’s story of a boy tasked with a writing assignment becomes a stunning fantastical journey with his tale-spinning grandmother.
The “Fab-Abs” club loves its way toward summer with 18 new paranormal romance titles for May, including the kickoff of new series by Anya Bast, Donna Grant, and Pamela Palmer, and sophomore titles from Zoe Archer, Joey Hill, and Shona Husk. Then there’s the three-dozenth (really!) title in Harlequin’s Rogue Angel series by the “House” name of Alex Archer.
Fiction Affliction details releases in science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and “genre-benders.” Keep track of them all here.
Each year Greg Manchess, Dan Dos Santos, and I ask a dozen artists to create a 5×7 painting of their choosing. These miniatures are exhibited at the Society of Illustrators and then placed on auction with all proceeds going to the Society’s student scholarship fund. I’m excited to say that the auction is now up on ebay and will run until the evening of Sunday, May 6th. Here is an opportunity to own artwork at an affordable price and help some young illustrators at the start of their carreers.
Bidding is taking place here.
You’ve probably already seen The Hunger Games a million times by now. Read every magazine piece, watched every YouTube video. Have you listened to the soundtrack yet? Probably.
But if not, you should. The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond stands as one of the great film soundtracks of recent years. It, like T-Bone Burnett’s soundtrack for the Coen Brothers’ film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, as well as every soundtrack for every Quentin Tarantino film ever created, is a narrative in its own right, allowing the listener to know and live in the world of the film long after the screen goes dark. The album boasts talent like Taylor Swift, The Civil Wars, Kid Cudi, The Decemberists, Arcade Fire, and Neko Case, creating a rich tapestry true to the dystopian Appalachian core of both the Hunger Games film and the books.
I can’t stop listening to it.
Hi, kids! In the spirit of “better late than never”, here is my final wrap-up report on JordanCon 2012, which took place over this past weekend and somehow did not quite manage to kill me with fun. It tried, though!
No, really. I am still recovering from Saturday (well, the whole weekend, really), which is just sad. Getting old sucks.
But anyway, I did in fact survive, and now I’m gonna finish telling you how! Whoo!