Saturday, December 24, 2011

I was a fan of the original series, which was quite groundbreaking in its own way, so it's interesting to see this test for an animated version that never got off the ground. The writing seems a bit clunky and obvious compared to that of the show, but one hopes that would have gotten ironed out had the cartoon been picked up, and the character design and animation aren't bad, at least by tv standards, and manage to capture a bit of its predecessor's flavor, even if, when all's said and done this still remains only an interesting curio.

Merry Whatever, Folks!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Re: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

It's not a bad movie, really. Truth be told, it's probably better than the original. Still, it's a bit dispiriting to think that someone like David Fincher, a preeminent visual stylist with a distinct directorial voice - someone with a legitimate claim to being the Stanley Kubrick of his generation and someone who's pretty much at the top of his game artistically and commercially right now - is in charge of this thing, no matter how good a job he's done with this one or how well he does on the other two. After all, when all's said and done, they're still just potboilers for all the hype, potboilers for which perfectly competent film versions already exist. Now, however, because Americans can't be bothered to read subtitles, we're going to have to wait another four or five years or so for another Zodiac or Fight Club.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the SupernaturalCharles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural by Jim Steinmeyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charles Fort's renown rests primarily on four books -- The Book of the Damned, New Lands, Lo!, and Wild Talents -- unclassifiable shaggy dog collections of old newspaper and magazine accounts of rains of frogs and other assorted critters, mysterious disappearances, unexplained phenomena of all sorts, and so forth, all shot through with wryly sardonic humor and a palpable sense of glee at tweaking consensus reality. Unlike Charles Berlitz, Erich von Daniken, or most of the other hucksters who peddled tales of the paranormal after him, however, he never took himself too seriously, occasionally offering half a dozen conflicting "theories" explaining his subjects in the course of a couple of chapters. In his own way he was a true skeptic, as likely to doubt the fantastic and the supernatural as much as received scientific wisdom (his legacy lives on in the pages of the magazine Fortean Times which concerns itself at least as much with why people believe in the paranormal as whether it's actually true or not).

Steinmeyer, a professional magician and historian of magic, doesn't add much to Fort scholarship that hadn't already been said by Damon Knight in his somewhat more critical Charles Fort, Prophet of the Unexplained, but it's a lively, well-researched, and well-written portrait of a great American eccentric, and a good place to start for someone just getting interested in the man and his work.

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Friday, July 08, 2011

Paris in the Twentieth Century: Jules Verne, The Lost NovelParis in the Twentieth Century: Jules Verne, The Lost Novel by Jules Verne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

By now this novel's history is well-known: originally written by Jules Verne as a followup to his first bestseller, Five Weeks in a Balloon, it was rejected by his publisher, who had been hoping for another rollicking adventure story like its predecessor, rather than the rather dour dystopian story Verne turned in. Verne evidently took this rejection to heart and spent most of the rest of his career writing the slick, fast-paced, somewhat formulaic, if often highly entertaining, proto-SF novels with which his name has become synonymous, while this book was forgotten until the manuscript was found in a family safe where it had been gathering dust for 130 years.

On the whole it's more interesting as an artifact than a novel: the story, about a young man named Michel Dufrenoy, a sort of hippie avant la lettre who dreams of being a poet in an age (the far-flung future of 1960) that only cares about commerce and technology, is not much more than an armature on which Verne hangs his often prescient depiction of 20th century Paris (what he gets right and what he gets wrong are often amusingly at odds -- he predicts a sort of version of the internet, yet his characters still use quill pens); as such this belongs firmly in the "Grand Tour" tradition of SF, alongside Stanley G. Weinbaum's A Martian Odyssey or Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, where the world in which the story takes place is as much the point as the story itself.

Nevertheless, there's still an interesting autobiographical aspect to this story: Verne, the son of a highly conservative provincial lawyer, was something of a bohemian in his youth. He worked for a while as a sort of gofer and hanger-on to Alexandre Dumas pere and tried his hand -- unsuccessfully -- at playwriting before turning to fiction, so it's hard not to see at least a little of him in Michel Dufrenoy, and to wonder if the rather more ambivalent attitude toward technology depicted here was something Verne really felt before he embarking on a career celebrating its wonders.

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Friday, July 01, 2011

Now, I Never Saw the Original Film ...

... nor do I have any particular desire to see this one, either, although I'd love it if it turned out that the reason there are no people in its universe is that they're actually sequels to Stephen King's Maximum Overdrive and that the cars had previously risen up and killed them all, perhaps revealing this development when, during the course of their zany misadventures, the cars run across an isolated group of human survivors holed up in a remote desert gas station and proceed to systematically slaughter them.

In a wacky, heartwarming way, of course.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream AnthologyFeeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology by James Patrick Kelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ironically, my only real complaint about this book is the concept behind it: I'm not sure that the term "slipstream" (coined by sf writer Bruce Sterling to describe superficially mainstream literary works that nonetheless incorporate genre elements) is really a useful or even meaningful term. For the most part works described as such seem to end up being defined more by what they aren't than what they are: science fiction whose "scientific" aspects are nonsensical or only tangential to the plot, fantasy whose magical aspects may be imaginary, horror that goes for the slow burn rather than the outright scare, "magical realism" not written by South Americans, and so on. Attempts to define it as a hard-and-fast category seem born out of the same geeky compulsion towards rating and categorization (affectionately parodied by Nick Hornby in HIGH FIDELITY), that leads indie music journalists to get into flame wars about who was the best country-ska fusion band of the mid- to late 80s or whatever.

That said, though, I also have to admit this is one of the best collections of short stories I've read lately. There isn't a dud in the bunch. The editors have chosen a superstar lineup of the best writers working this particular vein from both sides of the literary/genre divide, including Sterling himself, Jonathan Lethem, Kelly Link, George Saunders, Jeff VanderMeer, and others. Even though most of these stories would fit quite comfortably into anthologies of sf, fantasy, horror, or quirky New Yorker-type mainstream fiction, it was great to have them all in one volume, so if the term "slipstream" has any utility at all, this would be it.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011


Just as their smaller cousins like to get fucked up on catnip, Jaguars enjoy tripping their brains out on Ayahuasca.

Jaguar eating ayahausca
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