24 January 2009

Jesse McCartney: Total idiot?

Dear pathetic wanker:

You are not my Zuko. Your recent interview on the John & Jay show (more info here*) showed that you've clearly done a lot of research to learn about your character. You've even taught me a few things I didn't know about my favorite show.

For example, you taught me that Avatar is an anime that was huge in Asia, so they brought it over here for 3 seasons and showed it on Nickelodeon. Wow! I never knew that creators Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko were from Japan!

Thanks to Paramount's idiotic casting decisions, and the sheer idiocy of the two actors who've given interviews this week regarding the property, I've gone from guardedly optimistic to pissed off and outraged. Good job, Paramount. This fan had been considering seeing the movie if the trailer looked like MNS hadn't fucked it up too badly, but now even if you gave out talking Emo!Zuko figures and gave me free admission, I wouldn't set foot in the door.

Great job!

No love,
Pissed-off Avatar fan.

*If you don't want to listen, the reactions in the comments sum it up. There's a straight mp3 version linked in comments, and the relevant part starts about halfway through.

20 January 2009

President Barack Obama.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

Oh, I hope so.

I want to shake off the feeling of dread the last eight years have given me, and be proud, or at least not embarrassed, that I am American. Dear Mr. President, please be the change we believed you could.

It's snowing!

One of those rare events here in the South, so we all get excited a bit and go in late to work, if at all, and swear at the morons driving 80 mph in their SUVs.

My employer is opening at 10:30, which is pretty awesome. Though the roads are still kind of bad.

I wonder if they'll put the Inauguration on the TV in the waiting room, or if I'll be able to watch a live video feed on CNN or hulu or something.

19 January 2009

Weekend of failure!

A friend of mine decided that, since it's a holiday weekend, she would set herself an impossible goal and fail to meet it. I joined in, since that sort of thing is always fun.

I decided I'd work on the kids' story, but I never figured out a plot, so it's sitting at 300 words. Then I decided I'd punt and work on something else, but that's not coming, either, and what I'd like to do is take a nap.

The cats sleeping on either side of me aren't helping a damn bit, either.

So maybe I'll punt Necmiye's story, too, and type up some NBR, which actually has 37,000 words typed up, so it'll be closer to 45K when I get the skeleton typed up. Then revising, revising, revising. And making it a real story, with descriptions and symbolism and foreshadowing. Maybe even sex.

The desire to take a nap, however, is overwhelming. Maybe I'll eat something, since I'm kinda hungry, too.

There's a winter storm watch from tonight until the end of the day tomorrow. I wouldn't mind a snow day from work, but I doubt they'll close. I just hope I don't get yelled at for not wanting to drive my small sporty car in 2-4" of snow on North Carolina roads, with North Carolina drivers. Or for being late, when I'm the only damn person on the road driving at a sane speed.

10 January 2009

Finished short story?

So, I've got some writing goals for the year. 1: Finish 4 short stories and submit them for publication. 2: Get NBR ready to query.

I have Seeds of Rebellion, 6900 words, awaiting crit from my writing group. I think the last thousand words or so need some editing and revision, especially the ending, but I'll get some peer opinions.

I'm working on the ghosts/trains story now. I think I need to change it to third person (it's currently first) to make it work better. It reads more like a memoir/diary than how I want it to be. But it stands at 1600 words, with some outlining of the whole thing so I know where it's going. I'm still stewing on the POV change, though.

No idea yet what the other 2 will be. I'm pondering a children's story version of part of the ghosts one, with the setting changed. There's a creepy bit of history regarding a part of the Spree River and the Berlin Wall and kids drowning because the West German fire department couldn't go in (jurisdiction and stuff) and the East German *wouldn't.* Soviet-era Germany was a strange, sad place.

NBR has about 30000 words typed up, the skeleton of the story (though I have 2 chapters yet to type up from the handwritten draft). The first chapter is reasonably polished, but that leaves 28 to go. It's gonna be exciting. I hope I can get my act together and finish it. That's why I give myself targets.

Finished Kushiel's Dart, finally.

It got more interesting once the plot got off the ground and the writer introduced characters I didn't want to kick in the shins. The prose was still tedious and overwritten and florid, but there was finally a story in there! Some action! And things happening! But it still didn't suck me in and make me want to go out and read the rest.

I think I finally understand what people who can't get into Tolkien are talking about -- and his writing is less convoluted, even if he spends an entire page describing the history of a particular hill. Seriously, since I read LOTR in my formative years (I think I was 8 or 9 the first time I read it), you'd think the dense, detailed descriptive passages wouldn't bother me, but there's just something about the writing in KD that makes my eyes glaze over.

Though I think it's most likely the fact that I can't stand the character who narrates it. Which is a serious hindrance to my enjoyment of the series. I mean, Phedre's kind of a Mary Sue - she's got this awesome ability that no one in generations has had, and she's super hawt, and she's super smart, and she's got the brain to figure shit out before other people do. (Not that she lets the reader know what's going on, mind you.) It's true, she's not perfect, and she screws up mightily a couple times, but she's still pretty Sue-ish.

06 January 2009

More on Kushiel's Dart

I'm more interested in the book, now that it's gone from being focused on this pampered courtesan and her self-absorbed whining to having some action, but it's still got a lot of self-absorbed whining from the pampered courtesan.

When you're reading about these barbarian tribes planning to invade the protagonist's country, and you want them to win, because of the protagonist's arrogant national chauvinism, the writer's doing it wrong.

When you burst into laughter reading this "brilliant" poem by the man who would have been the King's Poet except for a little controversy, because it's so trite and silly, the writer's doing it wrong.

Unless I'm completely missing the point, and the narrator of Kushiel's Dart is supposed to be someone you hate rather than identify with, and Terre d'Ange is supposed to evoke feelings of annoyance at their pretentiousness. Because if that was the goal, Jacqueline Carey succeeded brilliantly.

02 January 2009

The problem of Phedre

When perusing the shelves at bookstores, I saw a cover with a woman looking pensive and a tribal-ish tattoo on her back. I probably picked it up and read the cover copy, then put it back down, because I wasn't sure I'd like it, and I hadn't talked to anybody who'd read it to let me know if it was any good.

So for years I saw Kushiel's Dart on the shelf, then its growing stack of sequels, but I didn't pay it much attention. Then I saw somewhere on the internet (unfortunately, I can't remember where) that the series had garnered rabid fans, who were going out and getting themselves tattoos to match the heroine's.

I still ignored it. But having been thwarted on my last trip to the library to pick up the third Promethean Age book by Elizabeth Bear, I perused the science fiction section for another book. My eye landed on Kushiel's Dart. I opted to take it out, but only it and not its sequels.

That was a good decision on my part, let me tell you.

I have problems with this book on two main levels. First, the storytelling isn't compelling. Second, it makes my feminist rage kick on.

The story is told in first person. That doesn't bother me, really. Some people dislike first person, since it means that you know the narrator survives whatever happens, but I don't care overmuch. What bothers me about the storytelling is that the entire first chapter is telling, not showing. The first instance of dialogue wasn't until about page 20.

Carey front-loads the history of the world, a sort of alternate medieval-era Europe, and Phedre's history for 3 or 4 entire chapters. Friends, I rolled my eyes and nearly fell asleep.

By the end of the 5th chapter, not much had happened, but we knew that Terre d'Ange, located about where France is today, was founded by an angel who sprang from the blood of Yeshua and the Magdalene's tears and his Companions, each angels with a certain specialty. We learned that one of Elua's Companions was an angel named Naamah, who gave her body to strangers and pleasured them for coin, because she loved Elua. We learned that certain people in Terre d'Ange practiced Naamah's arts. More on that later. We learned that Phedre literally experiences pain as pleasure, because she is a true anguissette, marked by Kushiel, the angel of punishment.

We also learn that all Phedre really wants is to be a whore who gets beaten and fucked. Oh, sorry. She was born into a House in the Court of Night-blooming Flowers, which raise and train "adepts of Naamah," and each House has its specialty. But someone buys her bond, and she becomes an independent "servant of Naamah," until she has enough gifts from patrons to complete her tattoo, at which point she's free. But since I call things as I see them, she's a whore.

While Carey's skill at crafting sentences and deft imagery is exquisite, her ability to engage this reader is not so. I don't find myself caring particularly what happens to any of the characters, and 125 pages into a 700-page book, I'm still not sure what the plot is, aside from Phedre wants to get fucked, and Phedre gets fucked. She also gathers information for the man who bought her bond from her patrons.

As a feat of storytelling, Kushiel's Dart does not engage me. The descriptive imagery, for all its florid purpleness, isn't enough to make me care what happens to these people.

The other main problem I have, if you hadn't guessed already, is the whoring. The people born into the Night Court are obligated to serve the house they are born into (or one whose "canon" they match better). The Dowayne of the House owns their bond, and when they turn 10, they're moved from the nursery into the apprentice halls. When they turn 12, they are initiated into the "mysteries of Naamah" and spend the next four years learning the sexual arts. (From books, apparently.) Then when they turn 16, their "virgin price" is sold. They are indentured to the house until they've "made their marque," and the fees for the marquist (tattooer) must come from a separate gift specifically for that.

This is problematic on so many levels, I don't even know where to begin. OK, that's not exactly true. I'll begin with the whole being born into indentured whoredom part.

Unless the child is flawed in some way, it is taken in to the House of its mother until it a) makes its marque or b) reaches age 10 and its bond is sold to a different house, where it remains until it makes its marque. The child has no choice in the matter of whether it wants to become an "adept of Naamah."

They begin their training when they are old enough to serve in salons. They learn to kneel in deference to patrons. They learn to serve food and drink to patrons and guests in the House. They hear giggled tales in hushed whispers from the children old enough to be apprenticed. Old enough, apparently, is age 10.

Carey labels it as religion, tries to pretty it up with words like "adept" and "servant of Naamah," but it's still prostitution wrapped up under that package. Indentured prostitution. It's sex slavery tied up in that cutesy bow, under the shiny wrapping paper of religion.

While I want to be happy that her invented religion doesn't consider the sexual act a horrible thing, like our Puritan forebears did, I can't get past the part where her invented religion celebrates sexual slavery of children.

If Kushiel's Dart suffered from only one of these flaws, it might be a tolerable read. Unfortunately, the combination of the two of them makes it excruciating. I've been told that it gets better, or the pace picks up, or something, about halfway through. I'm still reading, in hopes that it does. But I don't think I'll be able to get past the sex slavery of children.