The longer I think about it, the more utterly furious this movie makes me.
Though I will say, Oblivion is an incredibly pretty movie. (Though is it me, or does all the tech look like it could have come straight out of Aperture Science?) It’s just gorgeous. The landscapes Tom Cruise flies over as Jack Harper left me absolutely breathless as a geologist (even while, as a geologist, my brain was screaming THAT MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE). It’s beautiful. It’s stylish.
It makes no fucking sense.
I could go on and on about the ridiculous science (the moon blows up so there are earthquakes and tsunamis what) but frankly at this point, expecting a movie to have even a passing handshake relationship with science is really an invitation to just never enjoy another scifi film again. So fine, Oblivion, I will give you your ridiculous MacGuffins, and well may you enjoy them.
It’s the plot that does it. The plot is one where, if you can thread your suspension of disbelief along, it almost scans. And then something happens and WHAM you’re left wondering what kind of incoherent dartboard of ideas was used to produce this story. To be honest, I cannot even describe to you in detail what major plot holes really tripped me up. The plot has completely slipped from my mind, not because I wasn’t paying attention, but because the lack of internal logic honestly made it hard for me to parse the events when considering them later, while at the time it all superficially made sense. This is a movie that desperately wants to be a mind screw, and it almost succeeds as long as you clap your hands hard enough and believe in fairies. The reveals were shocking, until five minutes later my brain caught up and thought Now wait one damn minute…
But no. The thing that has me breathing fire right now is the fact that of the three main characters in the movie, two were women, and there was not even a sliver of agency between the two of them. The only “female” character that got to be anything but a passive vehicle for Tom Cruise’s soulful or nutty looks was Sally, and I put female in quotation marks because she was, in fact, and evil alien computer thing that just happened to sound like a Southern belle.
And then he blew her up so. Oh well. He destroyed the only female that wasn’t a passive receptacle. Parse that how you will.
So much about this just chaps my ass. If nothing else, a giant point is made in the movie that Jack Harper was an astronaut, and thus one of the best the Earth had to offer. Well, both Victoria and Julia were astronauts on the same goddamn mission, and they were both utterly useless. Victoria existed only to mindlessly adhere to rules and regulations and then, in what I’m sure is complete adherence to the intelligence, determination, and curiosity inherent to being an astronaut, betrays Jack because she’s upset he likes another woman better than her. She doesn’t stop to ask why shit that makes no sense keeps happening. And then she gets blown up by a drone like a sad little foot note, having acted as the agent of her own death.
And Julia? A million times worse. She seems to exist only for Jack to save her repeatedly (four times, by my count) and then help him regain his memories by pointing out that she’s his wife. Oh, and get knocked up. The one meaningful decision she makes in the entire goddamn movie, which is to sacrifice herself with Jack to save humanity, is disregarded by him in one of the more obvious plot holes (where did they get another sleep chamber? how did they transfer her? why bother to put her in the sleep chamber at all except as deus ex machina?) in a way that I’m sure is supposed to be about twue wuv but really just highlights the fact that nothing a female character in this movie does has any goddamn meaning.
Argh. ARGH. I don’t know what makes me angrier, that I sat through two hours of beautiful wasted potential where the plot shit on me at every turn, or that this movie made me actually hope it would be good scifi.
If you know any writers, you’ve probably seen this spewed all over social media today. Well, it’s my turn to spew. Amazon is starting a new scheme, this one to sell fanfiction. For profit.
That’s right. Fanfiction. Making money off of it. This is a thing now. Well, it had the feeling of inevitability as soon as everyone realized 50 Shades of Gray was tarted-up Twilight fanfiction.
I have some very complicated feelings about this, both as an author and as a fan. The author gets to go first:
I had one moment of pants-shitting terror until I actually read over the terms. The fact that this for-profit fanfic will be limited to only properties Amazon has a deal with, and that royalties will be paid to the owners of that property soothes a lot of potential worries that I might have had, and goes a long way to explaining how this venture would even be possible. They’re not going to go selling fanfic at random. And there’s actually a lot of control by the owners of the original properties (from the Kindle Worlds authors page):
World Licensors have provided Content Guidelines for each World, and your work must follow these Content Guidelines. We strongly encourage you to read the Content Guidelines before you commit the time and effort to write.
So that’s certainly offering more control over content than regular fanfiction does. This means if the original property owner wants no slash, there will be no slash. (More on this later in the fan section.) Honestly, this doesn’t sound like fanfiction so much as a new model for writing tie-ins. So yeah, from the viewpoint of writing, it sounds like it could be beneficial – original property owners could make some money, starting writers could make some money for something they’d otherwise give away for free, win-win, right?
Hm, maybe. One of the major issues that’s making me feel uncomfortable with this scheme is right in the terms as well:
When you submit your story in a World, you are granting Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all the original elements you include in that story. This means that your story and all the new elements must stay within the applicable World. We will allow Kindle Worlds authors to build on each other’s ideas and elements. We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.
Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright.
Emphasis in both passages added by me. First off, all rights for the term of copyright is something that had writers across the internet shitting their pants over the originally proposed contract terms for Hydra and its sister imprints. These are bad terms. The term of copyright at this point, with the ludicrous nature of copyright law, means “as long as we can squeeze even a dime out of your work’s rotting corpse.” Copyright effectively does not end as long as someone cares enough to renew it.
Add to that the other part. Basically, any original work you add in this for-profit fanfiction, be it plotline or world element or character effectively ceases to belong to you in any useful sense. If I’m reading this right, you can no longer use these original elements of your own outside of this fanfiction. And even better, the original owner of the work can use your story elements without so much as giving you credit. This may sound fair at first blush (this is fanfiction, after all, right? You’re getting paid, right?) but I’ve known a ton of people who write fanfic (including myself) who have gone on to use elements they first developed in fanfiction to fuel their own original endeavors. Come up with a cool side character that you can transfer into your own original universe and then write awesome novels about? Tough titties.
So that’s something I find incredibly worrying.
In a more abstract sense, I’d also like to throw in a little “won’t someone think of the children?” Part of what had people up in arms about the Hydra debacle was that it blatantly targeted struggling writers, because they were the most likely group to go for shitty contract terms and not know better. This has all of the same hallmarks, but potentially worse since the series in question could have a very teen-heavy fan (and writer) base. Get ‘em while they’re young, eh, and then they’ll think term of copyright is a-okay?
It’s not entirely downbeat. I think this might be a shot for new writers to start building their own fan base, which could be useful when they branch off and start writing their own work. Hell, it could be a way for talent to get noticed by the people who run these properties. Who knows.
Though that does circle us back around to the question of quality control. Obviously there will be some, thanks to the “Content Guidelines.” But I’m curious to know how much editing will be done. How much will this be an opportunity for writers to actually improve their craft? I’ve already seen epublishing treated often as a “well fuck the editors they don’t see my obvious talent I’ll just self pub online” escape hatch by writers that honestly need more work. (Please note, I am not saying all self published work is like this. Some of it is phenomenal.) Will the Kindle Worlds get swollen with badly written works by writers who are not getting the necessary guidance to improve? Look at the internet, man. There is a lot of fanfic out there. And a lot of it is really, really bad.
Which brings us around to my much less mixed and generally less positive feelings as a fan.
Let me just put it out there that I find the idea of for-profit fanfiction thoroughly repugnant, as someone who has been writing fanfiction nearly her entire life. This is a little less so on the grounds that it’s done in concert with the creators, but still. In the depths of my fannish soul, I do not like it. Maybe I’m one of a dying breed.
Beyond that, there are two main concerns that I have as a fan:
1) If this becomes a useful revenue stream for the property owners, will this give them incentive to try to crack down on free fanfiction on the internet? While we know that fanfic has a way of surviving even when the holder of copyright doesn’t like the fact of its existence, this could make life very unpleasant for people. Obviously, this is a moot point unless the “licensed” fanfiction starts making a lot of money. But one does have to wonder, why bother paying even a pittance for fanfic on the Kindle when you can get it for free at AO3 or Fanfic.net?
Other than for the shiny badge of sanction, I suppose. Which brings me to point the second:
2) The “Content Guidelines” were mentioned before, but we don’t know why kind of things might be in them, other than no porn. How strict a control will there be on what is depicted in these stories?
While much of fanfiction is pure, joyful (and often badly written) brain crack, the one thing it can do, at times unwittingly, is give voice to viewpoints and characters that are marginalized in the original properties. For example, while a lot of slash can be porn for the sake of porn, it’s also there as a vehicle for depicting relationships between male characters where there wasn’t one in the series. While homosexual characters are becoming more common in the actual shows themselves, if you believed fanfiction you couldn’t throw a rock in a given episode without hitting a gay character. And while this may sound flippant or trivial to you, I believe it can have a profound impact. Frankly, yaoi and slash fanfiction were what started me as a teenager on my journey to realizing that gay people are (holy shit) people, and that I’m bisexual. Fanfiction can let side characters, often people of color, shine when they are given no opportunities in their original show. How will this work with content guidelines, and so on?
There’s a lot of fanfic out there. And there’s a certain magic to having to sort through it all to find stories you like. In the process, you’ll often find out that what you like isn’t necessarily what you thought you’d like.
A lot of this is just me spinning my wheels. Kindle Worlds is a thing that’s going to happen, and there’s no stopping it. There’s also no knowing how profitable will be. It could be a massive hit. It could be dead and forgotten in a year. We’ll find out. But while we wait to see how it develops, I can’t shake my feeling of profound unease.
While I’ve seen several blog posts that include, “If property X were in Kindle Worlds, I’d sure be tempted to write for it…” I’m not going to join that club. I have no interest in this scheme, not under those terms, no way, no how. Not even if it were Avengers. Because I do it for the love. And because some day I’m going to write the adventures of the little waffle iron that could.
I have some very complicated feelings about this movie. There will shortly be SPOILERS, which I will put under a cut.
First, things I loved, non-spoiler version:
- Zachary Quinto is the sassiest Vulcan ever. I loved it.
- While I have many complaints about the script, the banter was excellent and everyone got a good moment.
- Simon Pegg stole every scene he was in.
- Zoe Saldana was reasonably badass. (I’ve seen a lot of complaints about Uhura’s role in this movie, and I… didn’t really see where they’re coming from for the most part.)
- Sulu (John Cho) had some great if understated moments.
- Kirk did manage to have some good character development so he was less of a frat boy THANK GOODNESS.
Okay. Now on to what I have complicated feelings about. SPOILERS. (Also, technically a spoiler for Iron Man 3 is now included so beware.)
“You wouldn’t dare.” The conductor, a fit man in a crisp blue uniform now unfortunately stained with sweat and powder thanks to his insistence on resisting rather more athletically than had been necessary, gave her a wide-eyed look. Recognition and horror dawned in his eyes as he took in her scarlet coat. There was only one pirate who had that particular quirk of dress, after all. Perhaps he’d missed the memo explaining that the infamous Captain Ramos was female.Marta smiled at him. It was an expression she had, quite literally, practiced in front of a mirror for years to perfect. In her role as pirate captain, that smile was calculated to state, why yes I am quite mad and have a fraction of concern for human life so small, you might as well save your time and round it to zero. “Pirate, Mister…” she peered at his little name badge, “…Lewis. I’m a pirate. Is there anything my ilk does not dare?”
Mostly a bluff, that. Captain Ramos was not one to slaughter droves of innocent civilians, though she had in fact shot a conductor once, because he’d gone after her with a paring knife from a nearby fruit bowl. It had been an embarrassing incident for all involved—terminally so for the conductor in question—but Marta had made good use of it nonetheless in the cause of convincing other potentially brave souls that she really was that mad.
“You’re a madwoman.”
“If I must keep repeating myself, this conversation will become intensely dull.” But she examined him carefully, taking in the signs of distress and mentally calculating which way he would crack if just a bit more pressure were applied. She drew her pistol and pointed it squarely in his face.
The man’s eyes went wide, and he tried to jerk his hands up defensively, only to be stopped by the firm hands of one Lucius Lamburt. Lucius played his part beautifully by growling into the man’s ear, “Now then, sonny, you don’ want ta give us no trouble.” Lucius also played the part beautifully of having been born, as far as anyone could tell, as some sort of gorilla who was subsequently partially shaved and outfitted with the surprisingly well-tailored clothes of a man.
…though knowing Lucius, Marta reflected, he was quite likely serious. The man was unhinged in all of the most useful ways. “If you please, Mister Lewis. I wouldn’t want to overexcite our Mister Lamburt with the sight of blood.”
Lucius laughed in the conductor’s ear, accompanied by a fine spray of saliva. That, at least, was more obviously an act. Lucius had a bit of a thing about bodily fluids.
The conductor was quick to lead her into the third freight car then, and rip up the floor paneling that hid the safe. While the main point of the raid had been the train’s cargo-a shipment of steel bars and some much-needed, delicately machined replacement parts for their various engines-there was really no reason to leave the store of gold and silver on the train behind. It was just good business.
“Captain, this ought to be the last of the crates,” Simms called from behind.
Marta glanced up to see the tall man walking down the narrow hallway toward her. He held one end of a wooden crate that had been painted a rather odd shade of green. “Are you certain, Simms? That doesn’t look like the rest.”
“The maker’s stamp–” Whatever Simms might have been about to point out was lost when the door to the car crashed open and a man with a shock of wild yellow curls flung himself through. His dove-gray jacket was torn and his tie in complete disarray, one glove missing as well, the other stained with ink or possibly grease, it was difficult to tell from this distance.
With wild desperation he flung himself at Simms, arms flailing. “That is my trunk! Mine! You can’t have it!”
The attack was sudden and ferocious enough, despite the almost comical size difference that was revealed when the short, slight man proceeded to cling to Simms like a monkey, that Simms dropped his end of the crate. It hit the floor with a crash and the man who had been holding the other side lost his grip as well, cursing as he did so. One side of the crate lost its integrity, boards splintering outward.
As Simms tried to pry away the fingers of the much smaller man free, bearings cascaded from the splintered crate. Swearing, Simms stumbled and then began to slip freely on them, arms windmilling and legs skating to and fro as the much smaller man pummeled him about the head and shoulders with one hand.
Marta, Lucius, and the conductor, momentarily forgetting he was a captive and this might have been the perfect opportunity to escape, openly stared.
“Ah… shouldn’t someone help that man?” the conductor said, after a moment.
“Naw, ‘e’s fine. Winning even, I’d say,” Lucius answered.
The sad truth of it was, Marta wasn’t entirely certain to whom they were referring.
Released today at Musa Publishing! If you liked the excerpt, there’s more where that came from!
We did a lot of touristy things today, in Wales. We started with Tintern Abbey – we tried to see it in 2011, but it was raining. And raining. And raining some more. In Wales, I know. Who would have thought?
Tintern Abbey is an absolutely beautiful ruin. The scale is fantastic. Being able to look up through the roof into blue sky defines tranquility, and somehow seems right despite the fact that the building was obviously never intended to look like that. Ruins are always presented visually as creepy, but Tintern was nothing of the sort. I think it’s because of the lawns that carpet the area, grass and flowers growing up between the bases of columns that have long since fallen. Tintern looks comfortable in its ruin, and welcoming. It’s a place that wants you to come have a picnic and sun yourself in the grass. It’s beautiful.
(It’s also made from sandstone, and I had a fun time boring everyone by pointing out structures in the eroded stonework.)
Tintern in the rain had its own beauty, though.
It’s just so quiet. The day we went about a year and a half ago, it was just us there. And you could hear the rain, every drop of it, pattering onto the grass and stone. I liked it then as well.
Anyway, after Tintern Abbey we went on to Cheptow Castle, which is another ruin. I honestly don’t have that much to say about Cheptow, other than it sure is a castle. There were more people there, laying in the grass and throwing frisbees. There is something odd about seeing that, as an American. It seems weird to see people playing so casually around something so ancient – the castle’s nearly 800 years old.
Of course that has nothing on our last stop for the day, the Roman Fortress at Caer Leon. Where a lively football/rugby match (they were kind of playing by rugby rules but using a football? Yeah, I don’t know) was happening in the middle of the ruins of a nearly 2000 year old amphitheater.
But the more I think about it the more I like it. What made history in the first place was always the people. Putting something behind glass means that you can look at it, and enjoy it perhaps for the sake of art, but it becomes a thing without life, simply preserved. It feels only right that in the same place humans laughed and played 2000 years ago, we’re there, bringing life to the stones that stand.
(For more pictures, here’s my Picasa Album for today.)
As you can tell by the exceedingly polite signage, I’m in the UK again. I’d forgotten how beautiful it is here in May. Normally we only come in December, for Christmas. But I like this much better.
(We’re here because Mike’s sister is getting married. And then that seemed like a good excuse to see the Royal Shakespeare Company do Hamlet so expect gushing about that later this week.)
I’m actually surviving the jetlag pretty well right now. If you can believe it, I managed to sleep on the plane. This never happens. I think part of this was because I’ve had to start keeping normal human hours, what with working a regular job and all. But also, there really weren’t any movies I was all that excited to see on the list. Instead I dozed as best I could, using Tom Hiddleston reading The Red Necklace to drown out the snoring of my fellow passengers.
I did watch one movie - Rise of the Guardians. A lot of my friends saw it in theaters, and I heard a lot of squeeing. I don’t know what I expected, but… meh. It just didn’t do a whole lot for me, and I’m not even certain why. I think I expected something on the level of Wreck-it Ralph maybe, and Guardians just didn’t have a tight, clever enough script for that. Though there were some fun moments. I really loved the Tooth Fairy giving Pitch a quarter before punching him in the mouth. But I can’t say I’m sorry I didn’t see it before now.
The flight was actually really productive, before I was too exhausted to see straight. I did line edits that I owed, and finished another draft of Significant Figures. I think that story might be just about where it needs to be now.
Anyway, now we’re in Birmingham. Mike’s parents rented a nice apartment for the weekend that we’re sharing, and we went tot he rehearsal dinner for the wedding. Though we begged off going to the actual rehearsal because we didn’t want wedding spoilers. (Translation: Oh god just let me sit on the couch and die.) Tomorrow I have to go bra shopping first thing in the morning because I forgot my strapless bra in Houston (it’s always something) and then as a reward we’ll see Iron Man 3 which I’m so excited about I can only express it by keysmashing. (U#)INGWEHR((Q#
Going to stay awake a bit longer and then see if the sleep thing will happen. Could this be my first time ever in the UK not destroyed by jetlag? We’ll see!
Thundering down the pavement at 26 miles per hour, rattling over bumps and potholes, hands going numb. It’s night, red and white lights flashing everywhere. There are people in front of you, behind you. You’re a freight train. You’re unstoppable. The wind is so loud in your ears you can barely hear your iPod.
And for one perfect moment, everyone pulls together. You’re a human being with 50 legs, 25 hearts, and you take in a breath and bare your teeth at the road.
That was my night. How was yours?
Which is to say hello everyone, I actually am still alive. I’m just kind of having a rough time getting adjusted to that having a real job thing and figuring out when I can do non-job stuff like writing and blogging and exercising. I’ve given exercise a priority for now (since I’m feeling awesome) and as a result I’m feeling even more awesome, but feel like I don’t have much time for anything else on the weekdays.
Today, instead of exercising, I went shoe shopping. Which is not my least favorite kind of shopping, shockingly enough. I’d still rather shop for shoes than for any kind of clothes, for example, or for a house. Shopping for shoes has never made me feel either terminally unattractive or exceedingly poor, just… frustrated. But today I was victorious! I got a new pair of shoes for work:
You are not seeing this incorrectly. Those are men’s dress shoes. It’s all part of my grand plan to confuse everyone I work with about my sexuality. (Kidding.) (Mostly.) Actually, it’s because I fucking hate women’s shoes, particularly dress shoes. They are never comfortable. It’s like whoever designed those shoes started out on the premise that obviously women do not want to walk like normal humans. And never have foot problems. And never need to wear insoles.
Well, I have problems with my feet, and I need to wear insoles, and I think it’s a really bad sign when I find myself wishing I could wear my freaking cycling cleats in the office because they hurt my feet less. And thus – men’s shoes.
One thing I did find weird about trying them on is that they make my feet feel huge. I’m thinking it’s the square-ish toes. I feel like most women’s shoes are really trying to minimize our feet, so this feels very weird indeed.
Anyway. New shoes. Hooray. We’ll see how that goes.
Otherwise the new job is great. My coworkers are all super nice people. I love my mentors and I’m learning a lot. The learning curve is incredibly steep, but I think I’m doing an okay job of clawing my way along it. I’ve been looking at thin sections and describing core, and that’s all stuff I like. I get to play with a tablet, which is fun.
No one’s seriously attempted to kill me during my morning or afternoon bicycle commute yet. So that’s fun too. Hopefully it’ll stay that way.
I have seen Twitter exploding over this for the last two days, and to be honest I had no idea what the hell it was about, other than it had something to do with abortion. In case you’re in the same boat as me, here are some links to get you started. Because while this is very, very disturbing stuff involving extreme medical malfeasance, abortion, and infanticide, if you can handle reading about it you should.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell ran a “clinic” (I use the scare quotes on purpose) where mostly low-income women went for late-term abortions. PZ Myers summarizes the retch-inducing details here. The full grand jury report here, not for the faint of stomach.
I’ve already seen it used several times as an argument for regulating abortion even more or making it illegal. On the contrary, I’d say it makes even more of a case for keeping abortion legal, and points to the hideous inequalities in healthcare faced by poor women.
Gosnell is (allegedly) a criminal. He’s on trial because what he (allegedly) did broke the law. Part of why he remained free for so long was because his victims were afraid to report due to their own part in these illegal late-term abortions. (So yeah, making more abortion illegal will surely put a stop to that problem.) But moreso, it was a hideous failure of the government that he was not stopped sooner. Hell, the only reason he was caught was because he was illegally prescribing drugs, not because he was destroying the health and lives of the women who resorted to his “care.”
Gosnell is the one on trial here, but the terrible inequalities that put these women in such an untenable position and the utter negligence of the government were what made his so-called “clinic” possible.