Read & Watched Lately (May 2007)

A back injury in mid-May landed me on my back, in pain. Which meant I got a lot of reading done this month, not only books I’ve been meaning to get to, but also the chance to catch up on my magazine subscriptions. Of course, I have a new copy of both Interzone and F&SF, but that’s a good thing, actually.


Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 2007

I wasn’t crazy about the Gene Wolfe story, so all the articles in praise of him just sort of muddled things for me; I thought the best pieces were (definitely) the David Gerrold (it was fun!) and the Donald Mead. The David Levine was cute, but, well, more an idea of a story than a story.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, May 2007

This was a really good issue. The MacLeod, Bacigalupi, and Attanasio stories were all great, and the Wentworth was pretty damned good too. Webb’s story reminded me a little too much of an episode of the Twilight Zone I once saw — the TV program had more Lovecraftian stuff, but the horror of the bed and of a grandparent with a magical book were basically the same — yet some I’ve discussed it with ranked the story high anyway.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, June 2007

The Marta Randall is the best of the bunch, but I just wasn’t overall impressed with this issue. The Sheila Finch and the Irvine were serviceable, the Fazi was well-written (I think) but not my thing, and the Charles Coleman Finlay amused me, but didn’t leave much of a mark. As usual, I didn’t get the Matthew Hughes at all. I did enjoy Paul di Filippo’s attack on Terry Goodkind’s moralism.

Interzone 209

This was the 25th anniversary issue, and Interzone did not fail to impress. The one I liked the least, I disliked for reasons of style — Hal Duncan’s just not my thing — and in general, I have to say that Interzone really does look to me to be a top-flight magazine, the kind of venue in which I’d love my own work to be printed. They even had a story for free, online, because it’s too big to fit into the print edition. (I haven’t gotten around to reading that one, but it looks interesting.) I am not at all regretting my subscription to Interzone — in fact, I’m very glad of it, and I’m sure to renew next year!


Deconstruction and Criticism (Continuum Impacts) by by Jacques Derrida, Geoffrey H. Hartman, J. Hillis Miller , Harold Bloom, and Paul De Man

To be honest, I gave up on this book. It seems to me largely a waste of time. It did confirm for me, however, that I shan’t be wasting any more time reading Derrida. As I recently posted, it’s wash for the hogs. The Bloom also seemed to be saying very semi-obvious (to me, as of elementary or maybe middle school) things in a highfalutin’ tone. Not worth the time. (Though some of Bloom’s other writing is worthwhile.)

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

This was my second read-through this semester (and my third or fourth ever), but I didn’t note it the first time. I’ve actually read certain sections of it many, many times. I’ve also been comparing it with the film. Mostly, I prefer the book, which is much more an intelligent, blunt, and harsh statement of anarchist sentiment and thought than we ever saw in the movie. Now, having looked very closely at the graphic novel again, I understand some of my friend Marvin’s misgivings about the film when it first came out. As a dystopia of its own, it’s fine, and there are some things in the film that out do the movie, but the core story and the core values of the movie are far from — and more watered-down than — those stated in the book. The one cut by the Wachowski brothers that I have to praise is the love/obsession that Susan (in the movie, Sutler) has for his computer, Fate. I get it, I get it, the love of soulless machine and all that, but all the same, it didn’t fly for me. But otherwise, it seemed to me that the graphic novel is real literature, where the film was, well, just an attack on certain figures in contemporary society and politics who deserve to be attacked, but which won’t be anywhere near as parseable, or as significant, in half a century.

Titus Crow, Volume 1: The Burrowers Beneath & The Transition of Titus Crow by Brian Lumley

Some books are so bad that they’re good. I didn’t feel that way about this. It did give me an idea for a short story, but I’m glad I didn’t pay for this trilogy of hardcovers. (I picked them up for free after they sat in a bar for months on end, untouched.) The second novel in the book is much better than the first, but still not so great, and I’m kind of wondering whether I’ll get curious enough again to dive into the second and third volume. I kind of doubt it, but I am keeping them around, just in case. Lovecraftian? Sort of. Some neat ideas? Yeah. But some pretty embarrassing writing, too. If you ask me.

Angry Young Spaceman by Jim Munroe

I had this on my shelf before I read Scott Burgeson’s review in Korea Bug, but I wasn’t spurred into reading it until after I read Burgeson’s discussion of the book. Charles de Lint said it was “unquestionably science fiction,” but I beg to differ. Having lived in Korea for five years, the book is much more a veiled travelogue of a self-righteous, politically-corrective, bitter foreigner in Korea. (I’m not saying Munroe is this, but his character sure is.) I will say that half the time the story ignores the basic setting. Characters are pouring mugs of drinks, and sipping them, in “liquid atmosphere,” which I take it to mean underwater. The Octavians — the aliens to which the narrator in the novel is teaching English — are very straightforwardly Koreans, to the point that plenty of the words in the novel are straight from Korean. (Burgeson points out a number of them, so I won’t repeat it here.)

Frankly, this isn’t science fiction of a kind I like. In more skillful, SF-trained hands, like say, those of Rudy Rucker, “transrealism” offers some great colors on the palette, but Munroe’s approach to the SFnal elements in his story are more haphazard and sloppy. To anyone who actually knows the SF genre, it is a bad, weak SF novel. However, I’ve noticed time and time again that those who don’t know much about SF seem to love extolling the “cleverness” of the stuff that’s only weakly SFnal, because usually the weak SF is busy exploring questions that are wholly contemporary, and Murnoe’s book is like that. The questions are all about race, identity-of-the-other, identity-of-self-as-other, colonialism, appropriation, media manipulation, and things like that. The zoney-eyed incantations of Cult of PoMo teachings distract people from the fact that the questions we face about life are far different than those our great-grandparents ever imagined, and that it’ll likely be like that in the future too, so to them, the real core of SF — asking wild, ever-more-mind-shattering “what if?” questions, is not of interest. They want only the trappings of SF, a veneer that lets them “playfully” discuss the same crap that the academy is myopically fixated on. So they love bad SF. And, I imagine, academics probably adore this novel.

But, hey, that’s just my view, both of SF and of Munroe’s novel. He’s more published than me. But seriously, if you’re a dedicated SF fan, you probably won’t like this.

The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

Fascinating stuff. I knew a little bit about Gnosticism before I read this, especially Manicheism, but this is much more a fascinating look at the early church — the chaos, the multitude of ideas and understandings vying for a following, and a fascinating assessment of how we ended up with the kind of Christianity we finally did get: the theology, the politics of tha theology, the theology of politics, and so on. It seems the Church did indeed invent spin. This will be great background for my revision of “Soul Competency,” when I finally get around to it.

Space War Blues by Richard Lupoff

Weird novel. This was recommended to me by Vernor Vinge during our private discussion of my story “Lester Young and Jupiter’s Moons’ Blues” at Clarion West last summer. It’s a complicated work, but since it was easier for me to get my hands on than the novella in Harlan Ellison’s Again, Dangerous Visions, I went ahead and read it. The reason Vernor recommended it was, I think, the way it handles ethnic-identity and dialect-forms mapped onto space adventure. It certainly suggested some interesting things in terms of the space-side elements of the novel I’m planning in the same world as “Lester Young…” but in other ways, I’m not sure the novel aged so very well. It was fun, but there were bits where I cringed. Why was it the N’Haiti government who came up with techno-zombies? Why were only the N’Alabamans speaking with such thick dialect? Some interesting questions. I’m sure exploring the answers would be interesting, too, but not right now. But it was interesting, especially to me since I don’t read a lot of really old SF (and since this book dates back to the late 60s, you can see what I mean by “really old”).

The Canterville Ghost and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde

Someone called Wilde “irresponsible,” but to me, he’s much more “irrepressible.” I probably wouldn’t have gotten along with him, and some of the other stories in the collection were merely so-so, but I really got a kick out of the title story in this tiny Dover cheapie. Americans being haunted — except not really being haunted at all! — by a frustrated British ghost? If it weren’t over a century old, I’d wish I’d thought of it myself.

Magnificent Corpses by Anneli Rufus

Spooky. Corpses on display. Saints’ stories. Thoughtful discussion of same by a nonbeliever with a sensible, critical, and interesting perspective. There are some parts of Catholicism that are weirder than anyone ever mentioned at Sunday School, and this business of relics and reliquaries and dead bodies preserved all over the place is just fascinating. It’s kind of a necrosacral travelogue.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

It’s probably — no, wait, definitely — weird that I never got around to this book until now, considering how much I like PK Dick’s writing, and how much I’ve loved the movie Blade Runner, over the years. Yet it’s been waiting, on my shelf. What can I say? Reading it was a joy. Ben recently posted about a recent re-watching of the film after having finally read the book, and I have to say some of his points are quite astute. I have my own ideas about Turing Tests, which I’m not going to spew here as they’ll form the basis of a short story one of these days. Like Ben, I too think that Mercerism and mood control was an important part of the book, and also intimately tied to the whole dichotomy of human/android very deeply, which kind of means I find it disappointing that this link was excised from the story in the film version. After all, if human moods are so easily manipulable, either by drugs or technologies, or even by techno-religious propaganda (as with Mercer) then this suggests a very mechanistic underpinning to human emotion, and the whole, “Androids aren’t human because they don’t feel empathy” schtick goes out the window. The book is more mind-bending than the film, in many ways, and the “interspecies love story” in the film version that Ben finds so “contrary to the spirit of the original” seems to me more like an alternate route Deckard might have, and indeed considered taking. It’s also, sadly, a weakening of the story, though I also have to say I enjoy it in the film version, so, what are you going to do?

Anyway, this was a quick read and fascinating. I practically inhaled the novel. The one thing I’m still puzzled about, or rather, that remains afterward to haunt me, is the appearance of Mercer and Deckard’s experience at the end, something left out of the movie but which seems crucial to the book, for me. It’s like the end of The Lord of the Rings, when the hobbits got back to the Shire only to find things there completely screwed up. Yeah, I knew it wouldn’t be in the film, but hell, it seems to me it’s the very point of the story, the most important part of all! Ah well… happily, film versions don’t render book versions unavailable.

Movies & TV series:

Life On Mars, series 2:

Excellent, though I’m sad to see the end of the series. However, theres a spinoff. I’m looking forward to that, I assure you!

The Sopranos, season 1:

I got this because it was on sale. Big fun. I definitely must check out the newer seasons.

Deja Vu

I liked this, but not as much as I’d hoped. Some of the science-fictional trappings were really hokey, but, you know, it was fun and interesting enough.

Children of the Secret State

This is a great documentary for people who claim North Korean refugees exaggerate how screwed up North Korea is. I hate it when people mak that claim, and the response of Kang Chol-Hwan (author of The Aquariums of Pyongyang) to reporters assessing the same comes to mind: Why don’t you go and live up there, if you think it’s not so bad?

I swear, the widespread denial of those conditions among South Korean leftists and youth today scares me. How they’re going to deal with it in retrospect, when it becomes absolutely undeniable how screwed up the North has been all this time, is beyond me. But people are good at tuning things out, I guess. Don’t you tune it out. Pay attention. It might be slanted, but that doesn’t mean it’s not also true.

Asterix & Obelix Contre le Cesar

The comic books are better. It’s okay. But don’t waste money on it like I did. Spend your money on the comics, instead.

Conan the Barbarian

Oh my. I didn’t remember quite how bad this is. Sometimes when I think about accusations of how sexist media is, I have to wonder, but man, there’s no question when it comes to Conan the Barbarian. In addition to bad acting, and being a kind of cheap version of Frazetta paintings come to life, it has what is, to me, almost the worst director’s commentary ever, which is not helped at all by his discussions with Arnold.


Yeah, this might (sort of) be PKD, but it’s, well… all I can say is, it’s not art. I had enough fun, I was distracted enough, and I liked the ending/not-ending. But it’s probably worth waiting till DVD. Unless you’re REAL bored.

The Insider

This is a great film. It once again reinforces my sense that the intersection of money and legal/political power is the single most powerful threat to freedom, and the single most difficult obstacle between a so-called free society and a real free society. How such a frantic scramble to hide already well-known facts, and to cover for obvious perjuries, could have occurred is simply insulting to the American public. The enemy is not Big Tobacco, though: Big Tobacco is just the handmaiden of evil. The real evil is the aristocracy of the rich, who fight to maintain a society where money translates into a perversion of the justice system and of politics. This film is a fascinating exploration of that dynamic.


This was merely so-so. I do want to read the book it was based on: an alternate history in which the Nazis took over Europe and America and the Nazis are making friendly sometime in the 60s, in order to oppose Russia? Rutger Hauer did a good job, regardless of the flaws in the film. It didn’t hold my attention constantly, but for a made-for-TV thing, it was pretty good.

Dark Days

A fascinating documentary about people living underground in the complex underground tunnel system adjoining the New York City subway system. Watching the “making of” feature is an absolute must! It’s moving, at turns hilarious and heartbreaking, and an absolutely brilliant idea. Very worthwhile!

In the Queue:

Right now, I’m reading a slave-narrative by Harriet Jacobs, titled “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.” It’s harsh.  Next u, I’ll be reading some nonfiction about Northeast Asia, especially North Korea (and 1930s-1950s Japan and China), in preparation for the novel drafting I have planned for the Clarion West Write-A-Thon. (More about that soon.) I also hope to catch up on my magazine subscriptions, with an issue each of Fantasy, InterZone, and F&SF in the queue. I have a few movies in my queue as well: The Fountain (though I expect to hate it), Pan’s Labyrinth, a couple of North Korea-focused documentaries, and more. The longer my back ails me, the more I’ll be reading and watching a lot… and writing less, which is bad, but, hey, let’s consider it a break.

19 thoughts on “Read & Watched Lately (May 2007)

  1. It’s funny – a year in South Korea convinced me that capitalism works. Five years of working part time, living at home and I was looking at a lot more scraping by after finishing university in Canada. Manitoba has a much more generous safety net than South Korea, but something is missing back home.

    I loved how the gloves came off in the hogwan I was working at. The boss didn’t care whether or not I went to a good university or what part of town you came from. If you could keep the enrollment rates up, you got more money. I wasn’t the greatest teacher at ECC, but after a year, I could see I was in a better position by the end of the year than when I started. Not every instructor could say that. But people pretty much got what they had coming to them.

    I’m hoping for more of the same in the USA!

  2. Mark,

    Yeah, well, you were a white male Anglophone in South Korea. Of course capitalism worked… for you.

    You say that your boss didn’t care which university you went to, or which part of town: but I am quite certain your boss preferentially hired whites over other native speaking Anglophones; I’m certain your boss had a thwarted preference for female teachers, since they’re harder to come by here; I’m sure there were all kinds of factors at play that just never came into play because white male anglos are shielded from the worst of them. What’s more, Koreans suffer from them doubly.

    Gender, age, and physical beauty actually are hiring points in Korea. Popular consciousness seems to have simply accepted that cosmetic surgery is a good idea in terms of securing competitive advantage in a cutthroat capitalist society. Likewise, regionalism is absolutely rampant here: if you’re from the wrong region, it’s as likely to exclude you as being an ex-con or being a Southeast Asian.

    And capitalism doesn’t seem to work so well for, say, Nepalis here, or Nigerians: I knew (in passing) a couple in Jeonju, and the husband was a Nigerian who took a job in a factory that preferred to hire Nigerians. When he arrived, it quickly became apparent why this was their preference. He said he’d never seen conditions as dangerous or brutal even in Nigeria.

    It doesn’t even work so well for the middle class, which is why middle-class people are revelling in the whole scandal over the Hanhwa chairman Kim Seung-Youn’s, well, all kinds of nastiness performed with what was, until now, impunity because he was rich. Wealth-vs-everyone-else gap issues are all over the news now, for a reason: there are many who remain above the law in this society, and money seems to be what puts them there, period. So naked capitalism isn’t “working for” the majority of people here.

    Likewise with your boss’s conception of teaching. In my opinion, it’s probably a fine way to run a hakwon, but a shoddy way to educate people. That’s the thing: capitalism works for certain people, in certain ways, but since certain values aren’t easily monetizable, it cannot work for everyone. The things easiest sold are not things that benefit people: you can sell way more shitty hamburgers with bad ingredients, because they’re cheap and fatty enough to sate a certain kind of common hunger, but you can only sell so many expensive, but healthy, dinners. The problem is that things as they are, you end up with an obese society. But if one wanted to run a hakwon where the quality of teaching — not the quality apparent to students, half of whom don’t really want to learn badly enough to learn, or th quality apparent to other teachers, who often base evaluations of their co-workers on personal exchanges — one would be hard-pressed to keep classrooms full, because actually learning English as a foreign language, when you break it down, can sometimes be fun but involves a lot of boring repetition, practice, and drudgery. Nobody I know who mastered English without growing up speaking it got that way because of picture bingo or spelling races, which, yes, some teachers play with adults.

    So, anyway, while I know what you mean, and agree that there is something missing in Canada — I’m beginning to think it’s the kind of freedom people have in other places, wiggle room to pull themselves up from the ground, especially in youth — I don’t think dismantling the safety net is the way. Rather, making it more efficient. But then, I doubt a full-on American approach would work in Canada: it’s a different society, geographically, resource-wise, and in many other ways.

    I do wish you all the best in the States, though.

  3. It definitely wasn’t a cakewalk, and being a white anglo male didn’t protect me from my boss when I couldn’t keep bums in seats my first couple of months at ECC. It was a good lesson though, and I learned pretty quick I couldn’t coast through my year at the hogwan.

    It certainly didn’t help me get a job teaching English to stockbrokers (they wanted a blonde with a big rack) but that was their loss, not mine.

    On the whole it was a positive experience. We had a very diverse group of teachers at the ECC I worked at, and as long as I worked hard and dressed professionally good things happened to me.

  4. Mark,

    Yeah, I wasn’t try to say it was necessarily easy for you; just that it was possible for you. There are loads of people who are equaly qualified to you, or (having studied language acquisition & linguistics extensively) are more qualified than you who would be unlikely to get a chance to work their butts off and be renumerated for that quality work.

    When you’re in the pool of people who don’t have all the opportunities (like “blondes with big racks”) but you’re in the next most favored pool, it’s easy to see things in a positive light. But the fact of the matter is that as a culture-wide phenomenon, capitalism — even the kind that rewards hard workers and lets people who don’t do their jobs go — can’t be trusted to truly reward hard workers. The bigotries, biases, and blindnesses of whomever’s doing the hiring and evaluating are going to come into play… and even when it comes to ECC, where students’ evaluation of teachers is judged by re-enrollment, other factors will come into play.

    Frankly, I think using student enrollment is good business sense, but it also lowers the quality of English-teaching significantly. It’s not just coincidence that Koreans spend more than any other country in East Asia (and maybe the world?) on learning English, and yet aren’t on average improving their English ability in a significantly proportional way because of this spending. (That’s what a recent report claimed.) EFL is an industry here, and its purpose is to make money,and it secures that by convincing people that English is necessary for everyone. Thus everyone needs to have a TOEIC score on his or her resume.

    If you give students what they think they want, you’re doing them a profound disservice. If you help them to see what they need, to actually learn, half of them will quit — as they well should, since it’s better to walk away knowing you’re not going to put in the work it’ll take — and the other half will be realistic in their expectations and dedicated in their pursuit of mastery.

    But the problem is, that in my experience many of those who actually have the gumption to master English aren’t the ones who can afford topay for higher-quality classes. So capitalism and quality don’t intersect in any sensible way.

    Put another way: if someone like Bach were alive today, his CDs would be selling only a fraction of those by Britney Spears, and in purely capitalist terms, he would be an “insignificant musician.”

    Interesting note about the cakewalk: did you know it was a dance invented by black plantation slaves to mock the pole-up-the-ass gait of their white “masters”? The whites saw and admired the “dances,” and demanded the slaves teach them to them, never realizing that the joke was on them.

  5. Actually, I believe I learned that reading your blog – I think that Slate may have had an article on it at sometime as well. Maybe it wasn’t the most apt expression given the venue but it did fit.

    Ultimately, I look on South Korea as a little lab that worked out really well for me – time spent in Asia is unfortunately not as rewarding for other people.

    I can’t really argue with your structural analysis of South Korean society. I have to defer to your expertise – your command of the language is light years beyond mine. It’s one of the reasons why I take a live and let live approach to my time in South Korea – I’d rather give them the benefeit of the doubt and look at the glass as half full.

    However, I think some of your other analogies are faulty. Bach is still Bach and he is selling a fraction of what Britney Spears sells today even if the quality of his music is supposedly better.

    However, Britney’s sales figures aren’t as impressive as they look – how much do you think her catalog is going to be worth in ten or twenty years? To put it another way I’d take the publishing rights to Gershwin, Porter, or Rogers & Hammerstein in a heartbeat over Spears’ any day.

    As a musician she was/is/will be insignificant, especially when you compare what she has done with what Americans were doing on Broadway in the first half of the twentieth century. In purely capitalist terms, she doesn’t make the grade, at least when compared with her predecessors. The could deliver quality and put bums in seats without breaking a sweat.

    With the advent of the long tail, you’ll still see acts like Britney, but you’ll actually see fewer and fewer of them. What we are seeing a rise in now, and will see more of in the future is more niche marketing. Smaller acts have options that weren’t available to them ten or twenty years ago.

    Even before the advent of the internet and “the long tail” record sales during the eighties and nineties weren’t as impressive as they were thirty or forty years ago. Timid entertainment companies in general have been dividing up steadily shrinking slices of a smaller and smaller pie.

    Corporate timidity is bad enough, but when you throw government into the mix things get even worse. While I was waiting for my K1 visa in Canada, my entertainment options shrunk because the Canadian government needs to subsidize Canadian media moguls.

    I couldn’ shop on the American Version of the Apple Store or get books from because Canadians need to be protected from foreign competition. I couldn’t buy the products I wanted because of Canadian content laws. That’s my disposable income and if I want to spend it outside of the country I should be free to do so.

    It gets even more oppresive when it comes to…healthcare. I can spend as much as I want on booze, cigarettes, or coffee, but I can’t use that cash to buy myself private health insurance if I want, or jump the queue. I was working at a call centre, but I would have gladly given up some of the disposable income I had for the peace of mind an insurance policy can bring.

    While I’m not opposed to government intervention in catastrophic cases (I’ve benefeited from it in fact) if I have the money, why shouldn’t I be able to spend it on health care services?

    The best $300-$400 I ever spent in Japan was at a hospital when I came down with food poisoning. I was lucky – I was able to get the money back with the insurance my employer had, but believe me, after what I went through and after the care I got, the $300-$400 was worth it even if I couldn’t have gotten it back.

    Moving away from your take on The Insider, I’ve been thinking of picking up Angry Young Spaceman by Jim Munroe. If it’s under three hundred pages I’ll probably give it a shot. Watching programs like The Sopranos and Weeds always whets my appetite for fiction.

    I’d been interested in watching Conan The Barbarian because it had a script by Oliver Stone, which come to think of it isn’t such a selling point and was directed by John Milius (he was involved with Apocalypse Now and is friends with the Coen brothers who based bits of the Dude and Walther on Milius. Do you care to expand on why you didn’t like that movie?

  6. Mark,

    Okay, I’m gonna step away from the whole thing before I start looking like a ranting commie. Which I’m not, and I am horrified at the fact you cannot order from if you’re in Canada. That’s absolutely retarded. And with health care — well, all I can do is cite John Ralston Saul’s criticism that health care in Canada is hobbled because successive generations of politicians have found it beneficial for themselves to hobble it, in order to point out that it’s a mess. All the things the CCF did in Saskatchewan back in the day, it did with a balanced budget. At least under Tommy Douglas.

    Britney: yeah, she’s dreck, and in the long term, you’re right: she’ll be a cultural curiosity, somewhere a bit more significant than Paula Abdul but somewhere below Michael Jackson. And yeah, in a Long Tail Market there will be fewer Britneys, but first I think there’s a BIG war to be fought with the copyright industry — you read that right, not the music industry, but the copyright industry, all the lawyers and judges and lawmakers who build careers and buy yachts with money made because the system is so fucked-up, unwieldy, and prone to corporate manipulation. Until that battle is won, the Long Tail won’t come into its own.

    As for Angry Young Spaceman, I don’t recommend the book, personally. You’ll get a few moments of, “Oh, yeah, I remember Korea that way,” but unless you inhale books, there are better ones to stick your nose into. (It’s about 300 pages, though.) I’d much sooner recommend a book like River of Gods which was hailed as one of the best new cyberpunk revival novels of the decade. Future India, supposedly outstanding in its treatment of the place, according to at least one Indian SF fan I know.

    As for Conan — hey, it’s cheap, rent it and see for yourself. Just expect it to suck, and remember that you’ll never get that hour-and-a-half (or whatever it is) back. It’s dreck, plain and simple: like a Frazetta painting come to life, but on a severely restricted budget. It oozes late-70s/early-80s, it oozes pulp (but in a bad way, not a good one), and it simply oozes. Every woman is half-nekked, every muscular dude is 3/4 naked, and the plot is damned flimsy. It’s just a painful film to watch, and even worse with the director’s commentary on.

  7. The long tail has already begun to come into it’s own – if you have the time and the inclination (your reading list does look very long and impressive) The Long Tail by Chris Anderson is a very fascinating read.

    I’m not sure what reforms are needed as far as copyrights and patents are concerned. I do know that the music industry has embraced a lousy, dysfunctional business model and while I’m opposed to piracy, well, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of people.

    I don’t want to sound like a raving libertarian but I do want maximize my consumer options in whatever area I choose to use my discretionary income.

    You could say I’m pretty much pro-choice across the board – so much for the Catholic education my parents paid for…

  8. Mer,

    Can you download safely in Australia? I got it via bittorrent, as part of a set of North Korea documentaries, since I’m gearing up to expand my South Korean superhero novella into a novel, and am soaking up as much North Korean information as possible. Try Mininova or Pirate Bay!


    I don’t know: I think in certain media maybe it has, but as long as media is bound in traditional formats (by dysfunctional business practices and dysfunctional forms of copyright law), it won’t truly come into its own. Amazon and iTunes Music Store (with its awful DRM) are the best we’ll get. But I do intend to get to Chris Anderson’s book sometime before it’s completely obsolete.

    As far as reforms for copyright and patent, check out the work of Dr. Lawrence Lessig, especially his (free online) book Free Culture, which is available in PDF and even audiobook format. And then, if you’re hankering for good fiction on the theme of copyright, technology, and freedom, check out Cory Doctorow’s stories in Overclocked: many of them are available as podcasts on his site, but the book’s such a nice artifact to have.

    I believe in copyright, too, believe it or not. But I don’t believe copyright should be forever, and I don’t think copyright should be used to hobble popular culture. I believe in a public domain that is vivified by continual addition of works to it, because, unlike most copyright advocates, I think human creativity isn’t just about money: it’s a huge, grand, cacophonous conversation and sometimes letting others speak is more important than the fact they’re riffing off your ideas in what is, after all, a reasonable way. Ideas truly do become part of culture more quickly than our laws acknowledge, and to some degree that’s okay, but the disconnect is just too huge right now.

    And that’s why I have some issues about breaking everything down to “consumer options.” As soon as people conceive of themselves as mere consumers, they’ve forgotten to think of themselves as citizens — an amnesia that’s sadly endemic today — and then we’re a lot closer to step one than I like to see us.

  9. Thanks for the reading suggestions – if I get into law school this is one of the fields I’d be interested in studying and practicing. I’d agree that the copyright extensions granted to the Walt Disney company on Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, et al. are feudal in the extreme.

    I don’t necessarily see matters in terms of consumers vs citizens so much has how much power the state is allowed to hold over the individual.

  10. I’ve read Munroe before – I reviewed his debut novel, Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gas Mask for Uptown Magazine. I don’t think he is the equal of Russel Smith, but as first novels go it wasn’t so bad I’d be willing to give Sillicoe a chance – the only other copy of works available at my local library branch.

  11. Sillicoe?

    I haven’t read Smith, but his fiction looks like the type I wouldn’t get much out of… just unlikely to be my kind of thing. But I may snag a copy if I ever see on around, and give him a try, just to see.

  12. Yeah, well you’re talking to a guy who loved Lost Girls And Love Hotels, Waking Beauty, Prep, Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, Diary of a Married Call Girl and has read pretty much everything ever written by David Gilmour, Elyse Friedman, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Christopher Buckley, P.J. O’Rourke, Russell Smith, Will Self, and Tom Wolfe. So any recommendations that I give you can pretty much take with a generous helping of salt.

    I don’t know anything about Sillicoe other than the title and the author, Jim Munroe. I’d be willing to give him another shot though, see if he passes the fifty page test, although lately I’ve gotten so lazy I can’t be bothered to read much more than a page or two if I don’t like something right off the bat. I also put that Doctorow book on hold.

  13. Waugh amuses me, though I haven’t read much of him. Graham Greene has been excellent the last few times I’ve read him.

    The rest of your list I’ve never gotten into.

    As for Munroe, I’m unlikely to read him again. He’s just an inferior writer compared to the SF authors who are serious about this territory.

    This review of Everyone In Silico left me aghast in (a) ranking Coupland with Sterling, since Sterling is head, shoulders, and knees about Coupland in creativity and intelligence, and in (b) praising Munroe’s craft in comparison to Sterling’s. Unless he’s improved vastly, I’m going to have to shake my head and email Martin, who I happen to know over on Culture list.

  14. I’ll admit I haven’t read as much Munroe as I have read Coupland, but as first novels go I thought Flyboy was good, but a little clunky. I think Munroe lets his politics get in the way of his art – he is an Adbuster first and a novelist second. Coupland has a really good neutral, dispassionate perspective that doesn’t get in the way of his telling a story.

  15. Mmmm, I think you’re right about Munroe being an Adbuster first and a novelist second. When he maps that onto living among aliens, who are pretty transparently a metaphor for Koreans, what we get is, at least to me, quite messy, in a not-very-interesting sense of “messy.” Maybe his stuff set in the recognizably Western world works better, but I do think he’s using SF tropes in a way that’s ultimately unsatisfactory for people well-steeped in SF.

    I’ll admit I haven’t actually read Coupland, beyond a few pages of Generation X. I have the book, I’ve been meaning to read it for years, but it never grabbed me, is all.

    And yeah, I’m beginning to be like you: if something doesn’t grab me early on, and I have no other motivation to read it — it’s not been lauded as “the best thing evar!” by friends I trust — then I usually give up on it. Too many books — in my house, let alone in the world.

  16. Generation X is probably one of those books I’d give up on really quickly now. It’s a shame he is probably going to be remembered for that book when his other novels like Microserfs, Miss Wyoming, Eleanor Rigby, and Hey, Nostradamus! were much more memorable efforts.

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