Archive for May, 2005

Straw Dogs Meets Deliverance: Oh Boy, I Sure Do Want to Sign Up For That One

May 31, 2005

Some people just don’t know when to retire.

The red bandanna and the hunter’s knife are back: Sylvester Stallone is set to reprise his role as Vietnam vet John Rambo, 17 years after his last outing.

Stallone, now 58, will don combat trousers for a fourth time, this time to slug it out against American white supremacists bent on killing his wife and daughter. In the new film, the grunting killing machine has turned middle-class family man and has “assimilated into the tapestry of America,” according Stallone, who is also the movie’s scriptwriter. He promises a film in the vein of Straw Dogs and Deliverance.

It reads like something from The Onion.

How Long Until the Government Starts Monitoring What You Eat?

May 31, 2005

In the past, his parents had no clue when he bought a treat at school. Now, thanks to a new school-lunch monitoring system, they can check over the Internet and learn about that secret cookie.

Health officials hope it will increase parents’ involvement in what their kids eat at school. It’s a concern because federal health data shows that up to 30 percent of U.S. children are either overweight or obese.

“My parents do care about what I eat. They try, like, to keep up with it,” said Hughes, a 14-year-old student at Marietta Middle School.

Because it’s best that your children learn right away that you don’t trust them to make good decisions, and more than that, that you don’t respect them. This way, your children will remain child-like and dependent all their lives.

What good sheep-like citizens they will make!

Why Does This Not Surprise Me?

May 31, 2005

New love can look for all the world like mental illness, a blend of mania, dementia and obsession that cuts people off from friends and family and prompts out-of-character behavior – compulsive phone calling, serenades, yelling from rooftops – that could almost be mistaken for psychosis.

As an SF writer, I wonder, could you start requiring your lover to “test” their love for you with a brain scan?

Ah, think of all the dystopian possibilities…

The Holy Womb of Antioch

May 31, 2005

“Love can’t save you Padme. Only my new powers can do that.”

“Hold me like you did by the lake in Naboo.”

And I’m thinking, “Sweet fuck, why?”

To his credit Hayden Christiansen really gave it his all. He told the story he wanted to tell, he worked as best he could with the lame dialogue and sudden loyalty-switching scene that had very little lead-up. It was a poorly written script. Lucas spent the first half of the movie lovingly panning through long, drawn-out shuttle docking sequences, and must have realized two-thirds of the way through the film that he was actually telling a story that somehow involved the actions of people, and he spent the last half of the movie cutting through a series of quick-cut scenes of the most disrespectful sort that not only insult your actors, but insult your own worldbuilding skills, so that Super Jedi who can “sense” things with the force get taken out by a couple of blaster-shots to the back (in fact, only two Jedi besides Obi-wan actually get any sort of actual fight scene when they get turned on, both of them being men).

The tragedy of this movie is watching what is, at core, a really great story about how power corrupts, and how you kill what you love, and turn yourself into a monster. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch someone who’s a great “idea” guy fuck up stuff like the actual telling of a story: he has no intuitive sense of narrative drive, of how to cut a scene, of when to trust his actors to deepen a scene, of when to edit a fight scene because they all look alike. In fact, he’s not even sure of the right balance between fight scenes and character/plot scenes. Any scene with dialogue is almost always painful. Ewan McGregor is about the only one who can do anything at all with the shitty dialogue, though Hayden gives it his all: you can tell that he was holding out for this movie and fuck George if he wanted him to play it wooden, cause this is why he signed up for this shit, to be fucking Darth Vader.

And then, of course, there’s the Holy Womb of Antioch.

I mean, Padme.

The Senator, right? Busy doing senatorial things, meeting with people, having her own subplot, caught up in negotiating with Jedi and telling Palpatine to fuck off and engaging in long talks with the new Queen about domestic policy and…

Oh, I’m sorry, I was thinking of the wrong movie.

In fact, every scene Padme is in, she’s sitting on a couch or standing at a window or standing on the balcony staring blankly at something, pregnant, (because everyone knows pregnant women live like invalids) waiting for the scene to start. Waiting for Anakin or some Jedi to come in and break up her staring-at-the-wall reverie. Natalie Portman checked out of this movie a long time ago. And who can blame her? It was utterly obvious from the writing that she was only there as a peice of scenery. Her hair and clothes changed drastically with every scene; she was a walking, talking set peice.

And her death scene? Oh, yea, death scene in childbed in the 80th century! The robots attending her surmise that “There’s nothing physically wrong with her. She just seems to have lost the will to live.”

Lost. the. will. to. live.

Luckily, she lives long enough to contort her face into what resemebles the face one would make during a particularly troublesome bowel movement, and squirt!-squirt! – there’s Luck and Leia! Isn’t that cute! I’m the director, and I’m just going to blast through all this silly plot and character stuff here at the end, cause everybody already knows what’s going to happen. I’m going to let the next three movies in the series inform just how significant this moment is, so I don’t have to work at it and write actual dialogue that makes sense!

So the men and robots make the decision to “operate” quickly to “save the babies” – an operation which essentially consists of her delivering the kids the regular way, not via Cesaerean, so I’m not sure what planet these robots came from where they thought natural childbirth was an operation, but they should probably be mindwiped.

But lo! Padme’s death is appropriately celebrated like any good female martyr’s – there’s a great parade through the streets and she’s in an open coffin with flowers all over her like good virginal Snow White. Having fulfilled her purpose for living, the Holy Womb is delivered unto the underworld. All hail the holy womb!

And this is the end, purpose, and plot we get for the only female heroine in the entire movie. She exists to give birth to Darth Vader’s kids. No hopes, desires, dreams of her own, except to escape back to Naboo with Vader and raise up his babies. Um, hello, isn’t she a Senator? Isn’t there work to do? Shouldn’t she have scenes where she did work? Couldn’t she have been better involved in the plot? I’d almost rather she didn’t have any scenes at all and the babies were just sent off to Obi-wan to distribute, but we were supposed to have these stupid scenes with Vader and Padme where they had this obvious love and chemistry for each other, so we could see why he’d go crazy and go all dark thinking that she’d die unless he had his “new powers.”

It’s such an incredibly sad movie to watch because you can see all these really neat set peices: the image of the Jedi temple burning, Anakin going in to kill all of the Jedi – including the children, the plausible scenerio of how a president/prime minister becomes a despot by ruling through fear, all of Yoda’s extreme coolness, Obi-wan’s affection for Anakin. All ruined, just ruined, because the delivery was for shit.

I just didn’t buy it. It was poorly written, and the actors were insulted with very little slow scene time in which to emote or at least pretend to feel something. Instead it was “line, line, line, CUT: new scene line, line, line: CUT.”

Luke! Leia!

The end.

Thank God. Because really, Luke and Leia are way more interesting in the next three movies than just about anybody got to be in these three movies, so the sooner we get back to them, the better.

If anyone ever comes to my house and discovers that I own any of these three prequels, please feel free to put me out of my misery.

Memorial Day

May 30, 2005

“I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men [sic] to die in.”
– George McGovern

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech, American Society of Newspaper Editors, 16 April 1953

“Draft beer; not people.”
-Author Unknown

“The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.”
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

“It doesn’t require any particular bravery to stand on the floor of the Senate and urge our boys in Vietnam to fight harder, and if this war mushrooms into a major conflict and a hundred thousand young Americans are killed, it won’t be U.S. Senators who die. It will be American soldiers who are too young to qualify for the Senate.”
-George McGovern

What I’m Working On Tonight

May 30, 2005

God’s War

1.

Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert. Drunk, but no longer bleeding, she pushed into a smoky cantina just after dark and ordered a pinch of morphine and a whiskey chaser. She bet all of her money on a boxer named Jax, and lost it two rounds later when Jax hit the floor like an antique harem girl.

Nyx lost every coin, a wad of opium, and the wine she’d gotten in exchange for her womb. But she did get Jax to bed, and loser or not, in the desert after dark that was something.

Especially considering Nyx’s profession.

“What are you after?” Jax murmured in her good ear. They lay tangled in the sheets like old lovers, a losing boxer with a poor right hook and a tendency to drop her left, and a wombless hunter bereft of money, weapons, food, and most of her clothing.

“I’m looking for my sister,” Nyx said. It was partly the truth. She was looking for a lot of people.

Jax could only get her halfway there.

Nyx woke sometime after dawn prayer with a hangover and what felt like a wad of cotton in her belly. The pain wasn’t supposed to kick in until noon. She should have started drinking to prep for the pain, but she had another sort of boxer to meet in Faleen, and four women and a eunuch on her tail looking for a womb she’d dumped at the butcher’s. They would take her without the womb, of course, but dumping it kept them occupied in the fleshpots a day longer.

She pulled on her burnoose and pushed into the short hall. Jax was long gone, and the cantina was mostly empty. There was a room charge to pay, the cantina keeper told her. She put breakfast on the tab and slipped out the back.

A girl was selling sand cats in a pool of smoke weeping out from the back end of the cantina. It was a bad day for smog, even this far outside the cities. The thick air trapped the smoke too close, cloying close. Nyx pulled her gutra over her face, tucked it up under the aghal.

“You seen any bakkies on this road?” she asked the kid.

The girl spit red. “You want a sand cat?”

The kittens in the cage were bloody, half-starved. Flies circled them. The girl didn’t look much better.

Nyx was shit and gone from Punjai.

She walked. She looked back, once, at the smoky cantina and the starving girl, and wondered who they were burning back there.

The sun bled across the big angry sky. The road was unpaved, mostly sand and gravel. She had traded her good sandals for directions out of the fleshpots, too dopey to figure her way out on her own. Under the burnoose, she wore little more than a dhoti and breast binding. She had an old baldric – her dead partner’s – buckled too tight.

All the sheaths were empty. Had been for some time.

She was reminded of some proverb about meeting God empty-handed, but morning prayer had come and gone, and she hadn’t knelt. Her knees weren’t calloused anymore. Not from praying, away.

She hitched a ride on the back of a snarling cat-pulled cart just before midday, and by late afternoon she found a bodega and a call box and a sign telling her she was thirty miles from Faleen.

She made a call.

Two hours later, Kine pulled up in a bakkie spewing red roaches from its back end.

Kine leaned over and pushed the door out.

“You’ve got a leak in your exhaust,” Nyx said, sliding onto the seat.

Kine was an unremarkable woman, big in the hips and slight in the bust, average height, long face. Her hands had the brown, worn, sinewy look of old leather, but her face was younger, fleshier. She wore an embroidered housecoat and hijab over her dark hair, but Nyx figured there was very little on underneath the coat. It was a hot day.

“What’s her name?” Kine asked, shifting the bakkie into gear.

“Who?”

“I can smell her,” Kine said.

“I lost a bet,” Nyx said.

“Where’s Tej?”

“Dead. I couldn’t get him back over the border.”

Kine pursed her lips, a thousand daggers of disapproval in her dark eyes. She never frowned, never that, but the tight mouth held back words her God didn’t permit her to say. Nyx knew that well enough. She’d known Kine long before she went conservative.

They blew back out onto the road. The shocks in the bakkie were going out.

“Where am I taking you?” Kine asked.

“Faleen.”

Nyx looked out the window, watched the flat white desert turn to dunes.

“A ship just came in from New Canaan,” Kine said. Faleen was a landlocked city. Only one kind of ship docked there. “If you’re looking for the magicians –“

“Which sect?”

“Yebez. This is God’s war we’re fighting. They want a part in it.”

“God didn’t say anything to me about it. Does the radio work?” Nyx asked. She leaned forward to fiddle with the tube jutting out of the dashboard.

“No,” Kine said. She pinched her mouth again, then – “How did you lose Tej?”

Nyx was bleeding again. She could feel it. She needed something stronger than liquor.

“You have any weapons on you?” Nyx asked. She kicked the radio tube. It rattled. All the news was behind her.

“Who’s tracking you?”

“What is this, the fourth inquisition?”

“Nyxnissa?”

Nyx pulled her gutra free, dipped her head out the open window. The air was clearing up.

“Raine,” she said.

Kine’s face scrunched up like a prune. She shifted gears. The bakkie rattled and picked up speed. Dust and dead beetles roiled behind them.

“You’re putting me in a pot, sister-mine,” Kine said.

“I wouldn’t be blood if I didn’t.”

“I’ll drop you at the gate, no farther.”

The gate was good.

“You never could get a man back over the border,” Kine said. Her expression hadn’t changed. She had liked all of Nyx’s partners, even the men. Kine thought she was a good progressive conservative for putting up with Nyx’s male partners.

“Tej was a good boy. The only one of yours I liked. You kill good men for a lost cause.”

“Raine always got us back out.”

“Raine isn’t a bēl damê, he’s a bounty hunter.”

“There’s not much difference.

“It’s all the difference in the world, in God’s eyes.”

They’d turned off the gravel track and onto the 101 Highway that bisected northern Nasheen from the Chenjan border to the sea. Splintered red rock jutted up from the dunes or lay scattered among them. A careful eye could spot the shimmering casings of unexploded bursts lining the highway. The road signs were popular shooting targets for Chenjan operatives and Nasheenian protestors, and most of the metal markers were pocked with bullet holes and smeared in burst residue.

Nyx supposed that there were worse places to go to sell the last of what she had, but she couldn’t think of any. Except maybe Chenja. And she’d already given Chenja enough of her. And enough of everyone else.

She tightened her baldric.

Eighteen miles to Faleen.

What I’m Working On Tonight

May 30, 2005

God’s War

1.

Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert. Drunk, but no longer bleeding, she pushed into a smoky cantina just after dark and ordered a pinch of morphine and a whiskey chaser. She bet all of her money on a boxer named Jax, and lost it two rounds later when Jax hit the floor like an antique harem girl.

Nyx lost every coin, a wad of opium, and the wine she’d gotten in exchange for her womb. But she did get Jax to bed, and loser or not, in the desert after dark that was something.

Especially considering Nyx’s profession.

“What are you after?” Jax murmured in her good ear. They lay tangled in the sheets like old lovers, a losing boxer with a poor right hook and a tendency to drop her left, and a wombless hunter bereft of money, weapons, food, and most of her clothing.

“I’m looking for my sister,” Nyx said. It was partly the truth. She was looking for a lot of people.

Jax could only get her halfway there.

Nyx woke sometime after dawn prayer with a hangover and what felt like a wad of cotton in her belly. The pain wasn’t supposed to kick in until noon. She should have started drinking to prep for the pain, but she had another sort of boxer to meet in Faleen, and four women and a eunuch on her tail looking for a womb she’d dumped at the butcher’s. They would take her without the womb, of course, but dumping it kept them occupied in the fleshpots a day longer.

She pulled on her burnoose and pushed into the short hall. Jax was long gone, and the cantina was mostly empty. There was a room charge to pay, the cantina keeper told her. She put breakfast on the tab and slipped out the back.

A girl was selling sand cats in a pool of smoke weeping out from the back end of the cantina. It was a bad day for smog, even this far outside the cities. The thick air trapped the smoke too close, cloying close. Nyx pulled her gutra over her face, tucked it up under the aghal.

“You seen any bakkies on this road?” she asked the kid.

The girl spit red. “You want a sand cat?”

The kittens in the cage were bloody, half-starved. Flies circled them. The girl didn’t look much better.

Nyx was shit and gone from Punjai.

She walked. She looked back, once, at the smoky cantina and the starving girl, and wondered who they were burning back there.

The sun bled across the big angry sky. The road was unpaved, mostly sand and gravel. She had traded her good sandals for directions out of the fleshpots, too dopey to figure her way out on her own. Under the burnoose, she wore little more than a dhoti and breast binding. She had an old baldric – her dead partner’s – buckled too tight.

All the sheaths were empty. Had been for some time.

She was reminded of some proverb about meeting God empty-handed, but morning prayer had come and gone, and she hadn’t knelt. Her knees weren’t calloused anymore. Not from praying, away.

She hitched a ride on the back of a snarling cat-pulled cart just before midday, and by late afternoon she found a bodega and a call box and a sign telling her she was thirty miles from Faleen.

She made a call.

Two hours later, Kine pulled up in a bakkie spewing red roaches from its back end.

Kine leaned over and pushed the door out.

“You’ve got a leak in your exhaust,” Nyx said, sliding onto the seat.

Kine was an unremarkable woman, big in the hips and slight in the bust, average height, long face. Her hands had the brown, worn, sinewy look of old leather, but her face was younger, fleshier. She wore an embroidered housecoat and hijab over her dark hair, but Nyx figured there was very little on underneath the coat. It was a hot day.

“What’s her name?” Kine asked, shifting the bakkie into gear.

“Who?”

“I can smell her,” Kine said.

“I lost a bet,” Nyx said.

“Where’s Tej?”

“Dead. I couldn’t get him back over the border.”

Kine pursed her lips, a thousand daggers of disapproval in her dark eyes. She never frowned, never that, but the tight mouth held back words her God didn’t permit her to say. Nyx knew that well enough. She’d known Kine long before she went conservative.

They blew back out onto the road. The shocks in the bakkie were going out.

“Where am I taking you?” Kine asked.

“Faleen.”

Nyx looked out the window, watched the flat white desert turn to dunes.

“A ship just came in from New Canaan,” Kine said. Faleen was a landlocked city. Only one kind of ship docked there. “If you’re looking for the magicians –“

“Which sect?”

“Yebez. This is God’s war we’re fighting. They want a part in it.”

“God didn’t say anything to me about it. Does the radio work?” Nyx asked. She leaned forward to fiddle with the tube jutting out of the dashboard.

“No,” Kine said. She pinched her mouth again, then – “How did you lose Tej?”

Nyx was bleeding again. She could feel it. She needed something stronger than liquor.

“You have any weapons on you?” Nyx asked. She kicked the radio tube. It rattled. All the news was behind her.

“Who’s tracking you?”

“What is this, the fourth inquisition?”

“Nyxnissa?”

Nyx pulled her gutra free, dipped her head out the open window. The air was clearing up.

“Raine,” she said.

Kine’s face scrunched up like a prune. She shifted gears. The bakkie rattled and picked up speed. Dust and dead beetles roiled behind them.

“You’re putting me in a pot, sister-mine,” Kine said.

“I wouldn’t be blood if I didn’t.”

“I’ll drop you at the gate, no farther.”

The gate was good.

“You never could get a man back over the border,” Kine said. Her expression hadn’t changed. She had liked all of Nyx’s partners, even the men. Kine thought she was a good progressive conservative for putting up with Nyx’s male partners.

“Tej was a good boy. The only one of yours I liked. You kill good men for a lost cause.”

“Raine always got us back out.”

“Raine isn’t a bēl damê, he’s a bounty hunter.”

“There’s not much difference.

“It’s all the difference in the world, in God’s eyes.”

They’d turned off the gravel track and onto the 101 Highway that bisected northern Nasheen from the Chenjan border to the sea. Splintered red rock jutted up from the dunes or lay scattered among them. A careful eye could spot the shimmering casings of unexploded bursts lining the highway. The road signs were popular shooting targets for Chenjan operatives and Nasheenian protestors, and most of the metal markers were pocked with bullet holes and smeared in burst residue.

Nyx supposed that there were worse places to go to sell the last of what she had, but she couldn’t think of any. Except maybe Chenja. And she’d already given Chenja enough of her. And enough of everyone else.

She tightened her baldric.

Eighteen miles to Faleen.

Wiscon….

May 29, 2005

… was great. Had to leave early due to scheduling and life events, and etc. but I had a blast. Got to meet great people, had a great time.

Looking forward to next year. It’ll totally rock the house.

Things are great.

What I Love About Wiscon

May 28, 2005

It’s incredibly nice to find your people. It’s incredibly surreal to have several people stop you in the hall and go, “Kameron Hurley? Brutal Women? I love your blog!”

Next year, I’d rather they were loving my fiction. But hey, I’ll take what I can get.

Next year. The fiction will pay off. I’m passionate. I believe in it. Things can be really different.

And now I will cease drunken posting, in case I get myself in trouble by talking about James Frenkel.

Ahem. Yea.

Also, need to call Simon and Ashley at some point – dude, let’s do lunch.

What I Love About Wiscon

May 28, 2005

It’s incredibly nice to find your people. It’s incredibly surreal to have several people stop you in the hall and go, “Kameron Hurley? Brutal Women? I love your blog!”

Next year, I’d rather they were loving my fiction. But hey, I’ll take what I can get.

Next year. The fiction will pay off. I’m passionate. I believe in it. Things can be really different.

And now I will cease drunken posting, in case I get myself in trouble by talking about James Frenkel.

Ahem. Yea.

Also, need to call Simon and Ashley at some point – dude, let’s do lunch.