Sunday, September 27, 2009

Year of Our War

The Year of Our War
Steph Swainston

This book has single-handedly grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and dragged me solidly over into the territories of contemporary fantasy. I had wanted to read Mieville's Perdido Street Station and was curious about the New Weird writers (Vandermeer and Harrison, specifically, though Swainston and Mieville count towards this group as well), but picked up Swainston first because I was interested in reading something not written by a dude for a change (also a big factor in reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell).

The Year of Our War opens with some fantastic combat prose, think the Illiad infused with modern tactics and logistics, of humans and Awians (flightless humans with vestigal wings) against a horde of insects told from the perspective of Jant, the Emperor's Messenger.

Jant can fly, you see. He's half Awian and half Rhydanne, a sort of cat-people from the mountains that have a slender physique and a lightweight build which make the otherwise useless Awian wings suddenly functional. Jant is also immortal, by which I mean he can't age, but can be killed, by virtue of being a member of the Emperor's circle. Certain individuals, by being the best at certain things – the best messenger, the best archer, etcetera, are granted immortality by the Emperor and get to live at Castle and assist the nations of the Fourlands against their common enemy, the insects. Jant also has a problem with needles.

A crucial mortal leader dies in combat with the insects, setting off a chain reactions of events that brings the confederated nations to the brink of war with each other and annihaltion by the insects And the thing is, its kind of the circle's fault, since immortality is bequeathed on a set of skills specific to combating the insect hordes, the aforementioned slain mortal leader meets his end going overboard trying to catch the Emperor's attention so he can win immortality.

The entire book is full of these sort of complications, but is also bereft of exposition. History and world building, socio-political critiques, Jant's drug problem, all of these are dropped at the reader in the narrative. So the plot carries one along at a quite rapid pace while leaving in its wake a vibrant and rich setting. Swainston gives us the double thrill of a bang-bang-bang plot and the wonder of world-building at the same time. The Year of Our War is a true treat and I recommend it whole-heartedly.


Friday, September 25, 2009

chrono-heat death of the universe

An Alien Heat
Michael Moorcock

The Hollow Lands
Michael Moorcock

The End of All Songs
Michael Moorcock

In a distant future, the denizens of earth enjoy access to nigh unlimited power. With the use of rings which harness practically divine energies generated by vast abandoned cities, they know no hunger, no cold, no want. They reshape their bodies, fashion buildings, clothing, even living things and the very land itself with a thought and a twist of a banded ring. Even death does not hold its thrall here, as friends simply reconstitute the dead (the philosophical wrangle of this is never broached: is a person who is reconstituted from the memories of others really the same person?).

In this future without want, without fear, humanity confronts its oldest nemesis: boredom. The years are passed fashioning elaborate themed parties. Most of these are inspired by history, which the inhabitants of the future mangle gloriously.

Jherek Carnelian's taken a fancy to the late 19th-century. His preferred mode of travel is a flying, jewel-encrusted steam locomotive(!!). His 19th-century style ranch features robotic U.S. Cavalry which slay a herd of buffalo every day. He's particularly fascinated with the 19th –century concepts of Virtue and Love, and how the two relate. When a time traveler from the 19th century, and a woman nonetheless! arrives in Jherek's time, he decides he will fall in love with this Mrs. Amelia Underwood.

Then follows the tricky business of getting Amelia over to his place, his near-helpless courtship, her disappearance back into time, Jherek's pursuit and return. Oh, and the End of Time is approaching, a sort of chrono-heat death of the universe, directly due to the massive energies consumed by the power rings.

I decided to read this series because Michael Moorcock called it a "favourite" and I thought that an interesting thing to say.1 You'd think this was a quirky sci-fi tale but really its more the romantic fantasy – I have to confess to a certain thrill to Jherek and Amelia's first kiss. Either way, the Dancers at the End of Time possess a general lack of violence or the threat thereof which I'm not entirely used to in my sciffy/fantasy readings2, but which I found both refreshing and enlightening.


1 From a quote from his website:
"I have a number of favourites, depending which genre you're talking about. I like Dancers at the End of Time but probably Gloriana's my favourite fantasy. Elric's my favourite fantasy character. Mother London is my celebration of London and it's probably my favourite book, though I think the Pyat sequence is probably the best thing I've done in that I had incredibly high ambitions for it and do believe I pulled it off (which I wasn't sure I could do). Then there's Jerry Cornelius. Mrs Cornelius is my favourite character. It's really like asking a mother to choose between her children."
Okay, so he only says he "likes" Dancers at the End of Time, but I've already read Gloriana and the Elric Books, so I figured that gave me a reading list of Dancers, Mother London, the Pyat books, and the Cornelius quartet. The Cornelius books are next on my list.

2 Jherek and his friends can't even comprehend the threat of physical violence, or even death By extension, when warned of this impending End of Time by an alien messenger, they are maddeningly dismissive of its import. In fact, since said annoucement is made at one of the aforementioned delirious parties, its shrugged off as poor taste and cheap theatricality.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

paper forms of escape

Great. With all my Gundams in storage at my mom's house, now an old college professor of mine turns me on to these:

Papercraft has been one of my favorite spectator-only crafts for a couple years now, after I saw mockups of some of those absurdly cute tanks from Advance Wars, but I'd never had the slightest desire to participate. Until now.

Kinda digging on the aesthetic of the Piperoids, but I can see the cutesy/minimalistic palling rather quickly. (Never had the slightest use for Kozik stuff, for example.) Much more up my alley are the Kami-Robo, with their Kinnikuman (U.S. M.U.S.C.L.E.) vibe. Like, check the flow chart.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

drunken double feature

Oddly(1) hesitant to speak too strongly, I suggest that if you don't like District 9, you are not my sort of person. A blend of Alien Nation and Day of the Dead and the Office, it's a thrilling blend of genre craftsmanship and decent politics.

G.I. Joe continues the stupefying career arc of Steven Sommers. With his usual blend of wholly forgettable villains, blankfaced skinny betitted chicks (unfortunately always given far too much to do) and an obsession with racial stereotyping, he shoehorns in all your favorite figures of action: ninja, bland guy, black dude with big guns, shuffling minstrel--along with backstory and characterization lifted straight from Star Wars.

It's probably as good a G.I. Joe movie as could have been made by anyone at all. There's a stretch in the second reel where nothing blows up for a preposterously long time, but that's mostly offset by a stunningly hot sequence later where a brutal beating is intercut with a flashback sex scene.

Under no circumstance should anybody involved with this movie profit by their involvement. Other than that, mildly recommended as a scene-by-scene exploration of the reasons why Team America: World Police was a parody.

(1) An expensive town, Santa Destroy seems incapable of supporting an adequate beer theatre. Thus I have taken one of my primary loves off the menu, and essentially no longer allow myself to go to the movies.

There are, however, exceptions.

Of late have I taken to bottling up, hitting the theatre and sneaking into a second feature. In this way I can basically afford to indulge in this activity that has defined my entire life.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

for all the wrong reasons, I can no longer hope

Not quite dead yet, you see.

2 weeks ago, I managed what will likely be my biggest jaunt of 2009, a week traipsing backpacked around the world's biggest trees, next to the world's biggest ocean. Camping trips are, 4 years in, still very much a novelty for me (decidedly a town boy) and the jars and stubs imposed by a week mostly deprived and out of doors inevitably do violence to my (way of) life.

I brought more than trail mix home from this trip.

First, after a bookless, image-free and silent week, I needed a fair orgy of consuming. Both to shop and to wallow. Somewhere along the coastal trail I attained the belief that I am become old, a decision/realization with a single exponent: I am now too aged to wear tshirts alone.

Thus the first leg of my journey to acquire and to consume--to the flea market where I could seize collared shirts. I found many potentially suitable items, and settled upon one, a red plaid with short sleeves and a dynamic cut. (The remainder of my cashes I did disperse amongst the shadier aisle of the parking lot for 3 dvds for gentlemen, for another thing I did lack for 1 week was self-love.)1 Enough.

Soon I browsed the mediocre shelves of my nigh-local Game Store. Ah, finally a with-manual2 copy of Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection.3 Also an copy of a (auteur 'lert!) Suda 51 rarity: Flower, Sun and Rain. Minutes and coffee later I graced the localish book store. Not entirely my favorite, this one yet yields reliable...finds. Though not treasures. This trip I succumbed to the worst of my impulses and bought Spook Country, which, yes, I already own alongside the newest Cometbus, which I may never read4, and a pair of paeans to albums that I adored and thus shaped5 me: Use Your Illusion I & II and Double Nickels on the Dime.6

Naturally after still more coffee I went home and read You Can't Win. Then Spook Country.7 I'd read Use Your Illusion at the coffee shop. But how far can that tiny consuming-leg really go?

After work monday, I scoured the Broadway Goodwill on the way home. Alas but that this Broadway Goodwill is utterly unlike its Portland homonym, where never once did I fail to find; this Santa Destroy version is barren, bereft. Nary a shirt combining stain-lacki with the presence of every button. Nary a book of interest. Tuesday's infiltration of the Chinatown Salvation Army would prove substantially worthwhiler.8 2 passable shirts. (One recieved violently mixed reviews, which is exactly the sort of reactionreception I hope for when I'm buying emblems of grownupity which I hope will camouflage me at work.)

Also I scored an unopened copy of the Dark Crystal9, a GCN copy of The Sims: Bustin' Out and Aronofsky's shatteringly wonderful the Fountain. All of that for 5 wing-wangs. Also a cookbook, but I'll let Collision detail that messwreck.

Sims: Can't play. Need another memory card, which I recall is a tough motherfucking (item to) score. Deal with that another time, perhaps.

Gottlieb: the knock on their tables was always: boring. Beautifully built, Gottlieb tables were marvels of engineering but had all their design chops focused on how shit works, and not on what a player might want or be interested in.10

The game is similar, and the techology is clumsy, with meh camera angles, oddly intrusive glass reflections and a very poor decision about the flippers: having to pull the triggers all the way = total garbage. But this joint decidedly isn't 100% weapons-grade bolognium. Nor is it just 'pinball so I like it'. It's good pinball. So I like it.

Methodical and demanding, these tables insist upon skill and patience in equal measure. Probably this setup is the proximal inspiration for Dream Pinball, a DS game I have written easily 10,000 words about. Words you will never read.

Flower, Sun and Rain. We rep Atlus hard here in Reviewiera. Because we both like and respect those motherfuckers. You know what you're getting: enthusiastic and attentive forays into all that is niche.11 Porn for enthusiasts. The surprising thing is that they don't seem to garner all that much underground analysis. The press digs the shit out of them, this much is obvious, but I don't see a great deal of interest among the hobbyists.12 This is all by way of a digression, because while I like and respect Atlus, it's Grasshopper who I melt for.

Grasshopper games will always provide me with menu/item text that redeems even the lamest title.13 Contact, probably my favorite game, had equipment description 1liners that elicited genuine laughs. FSR is similar. Most of the game involved plowing thru dialog--not dialog trees, just plain dialog--and looking up (painfully telegraphed) answers to (usually transparent) puzzle-questions in a guidebook that lives in your inventory.

So it's good that those 50odd guidebook pages are well conceived and competently written/translated. Game's a real slog & noone could deny this. But--it's a Suda 51 game, and he's the most interesting postmodernist in the industry14--the game knows it's a slog. It's supposed to be a slog because all adventure games are slogs and it comments on the trudges it inflicts. This aware commentary doesn't entirely mediate the slogness, but I'll take a game that notes the limitations of its genre over one that simply recapitulates them.

Also a few moths back I indulged in another denigrated pleasure, scoring 3 Milestone shooters, 2 of which I already owned, for the Wii. The Ultimate Shooting Collection, comprising Chaos Field (GCN), Karous (DC), and Rdio Allergy (both, sorta). This version of Chaos Field sucks compared to the GCN version, so fuck it. Karous seems much the same--still a moody romp with a difficulty level nicely tuned for a man who likes but is not terrific at shooters. And Radio Allergy is simply the midpoint. Not so hard, not so accessible/easy (=a certain kind of fun).

Shooters are a weird genre. I've written at least 40,000 useless, unilluminating words on them, as their conventions seem to me to be absolutely constituative of the formal pleasures of the videogame medium: pattern-based skill challenges with increasingly interesting realtime pictures. Yet all I seem truly to respond to within the genre is that which seems to leave the devoted enthusiast community cold: Milestone, Iridion II, while the consensus good/formative pieces, like Xevious or Gradius or whatever, I find...well, too hard. And utterly unengaging.15

Also I play I lot of Alien Syndrome But that's probably for another time.

1. And my sometime lady has of late quit the city across from the city by the bay, repairing herself to Portland. More of this anent, perhaps.
2. As I am 1 stickler, by volume, not weight--indeed. No settling occurs.
3. Did you know I once sold Gottlieb pinball machines--or anyways was paid to try to do same--when they did in that market bring up a savagely pedestrian 3rd place to Bally/Williams slash Sega/Data East? 'Tis true.
4. The last one was That Bad.
5. Deformed?
6. That latter a long-craved and -deferred replacement for a book I oncet loaned a coworker. My mistake and my loss.
7. My Gibson/Stephenson sketch really really is coming soon. Please anticipate it.
8. Allow me now to welcome Substantially Worthwhiler--or Trash Idolizer--to the Reviewiera tribeclan. Moiety? Despite his laughable assertions re: Heata, we' e pleased and proud to have this man On Our Side.
9. This was a HUGE hit in Japan upon its release, and I attribute essentially all aesthetic features of JRPGS to this film. Seriously. Go watch it before you come with your Tezukafied Disney bullshit.
10. This is parallel to my take on Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy, which I happen to adore despite the fact that not a second of its ample preparation time was spent giving a dang what anybody would/wouldn't like.
11. Interestingly, the localization enthusiasm/attention levels are often greater than the inspiration/excecution levels. Meanies might dub this "turd polishing". I prefer to think of it as "genre exemplars, respectfully treated".
12. This may be because marks are too busy digging on the games to write longwinded internet pieces about them, while the smarks feel pandered/catered to and therefore get suspicious any time somebody actually gives them what they want.
13. Hitting the ever-popular "not the best, but the best at things I care about" note. See also Yoot Saito.
14. A guy who deploys a preposterous control scheme, to cram home the notion that this is a light-gun game you're playing without a light gun? "Here is a game you'd forget in a week if you were playing it the way it was meant to be played. Now you'll remember it forever b/c it's almost--almost--unplayable. Ah, Killer 7. Ah, Suda 51. You're not Carpenter, you're not quite Tarantino, but I think maybe you're Paul Verhoeven. Or, if you keep making things as wonderful as No More Heroes, David Cronenberg.c
15. My suspicion is that this doesn't actually have anything to do with me not getting the genre or me misidentifying the important tropes. I think it's just a matter of certain styles combining with a certain lack of patience/skill. Which admittedly maybe means I just don't know what the fuck I'm talking about.

a. Best movie of the 90s? Good performance from De Niro? I recall exactly zero De Niro performances that weren't either vomitous self-parody (Midnight Run, say) or tainted and ruined by memories of same (Casino, for example).
b. Yes, still.
c. I really intended not to explain this claimpoint. The idea I have is here is a formalist. Which is to say a historian and traditionalist who is also obsessed--obsessed--with the potential (effects) of the medium. So Cronenberg sees the Matrix and says 'hey, an action movie can tell 2 or 3 parallel conflicting stories simultaneously'i and comes up with Existenz, which tells 2 or 3 conflicting parallel stories simultaneously, and he makes an action-thriller with almost no action, no thrills, but incredible visceral impact.

Goichi Suda does the same thing w/ Killer 7. He notes that if you control the player's movement, as in a rails shooter/light gun game, you can (a) drop in some really keen camera angles and (b) dictate the story-flow absolutely. So you get a game with the most convoluted storyii imaginable, staggeringly nifty presentation and (c) mechanics you have to fight unstintingly to access (a) and (b).

i. Maybe he saw Total Recall, too. Not impossible, I guess.
ii. "Story"?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

shallow are the ashes (of the children of men)

[Being the 7th installment of stuff I've been reading recently.]

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Suzanna Clarke

In the midst of the Napoleonic Wars, one Mr. Norrell has assembled the greatest library of magical texts in all of England, and with a showy display at York, revives the art of Practical Magic (as opposed to mere Theoretical Magic). Desperate to assist the war effort, he brings a Minister's young wife back from the dead with the assistance of a Faerie (the Man with the Thistle-Down Hair) in order to win favor with the Cabinet. He goes on to aid the British navy, conjuring up fleets of ships made from mist to blockade harbors.

It is around this time one Jonathan Strange makes Mr. Norrell's acquaintance and becomes his apprentice. Strange journeys to Spain where he operates as a field magician in the service of Wellington's army with much success.

However, when Strange returns his opinions of the practice of magic have changed to a more laboratorial approach, as opposed to Norrell's more bookish approach. Norrell also fiercely opposes any contact with Faeries, while Strange desparately wants their assistance, as the greatest English magician, The Raven King, was faerie educated.

The Man with the Thistle Down hair continues to abscond with English men and women, eventually driving Strange to Venice, and causing him to become captive in a tower of billowing darkness.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a weighty tome clocking in at the 800+ pages mark. It is written in a Jane Austen style, but I have to confess I've never actually finished any actual Jane Austen or the like, so I suppose in a way it’s an Austen-style but actually reads a little easier. On reflection, individual chapters are really brilliantly paced – a steady build to the next event, while the characters behave according to the norms of the period. Physical and social settings are era appropriate, sometimes delicious.

The real brilliance lies in the footnotes, which contain a detailed fictional bibliography of the History of English Magic. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Norrell and Strange are very (very) minor league English magicians, only doing their best to stand on the shoulders of giants. Especially the Raven King, a human raised by faeries who appeared in Northern England and acquired the same from the English king as a kingdom of his own (a claim he technically still holds – George III is only northern England's steward and caretaker), who takes on the dread proportions of nightmare as his history is revealed footnote by footnote.

The book is not for everyone, however, mainly due to the period-authentic pacing and writing style (easily slow and plodding, if one is impatient), and, as above, the main characters are rather mundane and not even supremely talented at the practice of magic.

Still, it’s a fresh piece of fantasy ("steampunk" even, of a sort), and one shouldn't just read Lieber and Moorcock forever (tho' one certainly could).


Saturday, April 04, 2009

your hands, my heart: what's so hard about that

Finally made it to a Warriors game last night. Pretty good turnout for a game late in a futile, ruined season; some culture shock, though. The crowd was undeniably Into It, with roused cheers never more than a half-decent play away. And the booting of evil-team failure was as robust as ever I've heard--when some cat missed two consecutive dunks, the rafters went a'-rumblin' for sure.*

And the crowd--to my relief but lack of surprise--passed my bush-league test, by cheering fairly well for the feat of the evening, a hesitation move perpetrated by Chris Paul, resulting in a truly wonderful cradling the ball stride goalward and gorgeous layin. In general, they seemed sure the Warriors would lose, getting ugly at 4-0 Hornets with around 9:45 left in the first. Late, when the game was tight, there would be total silence as Chris Paul plied his vile trade on the perimeter, and surging gouts of noise when West did brick off the glass, and the Warriors took to the offensive (tentatively and glitching).

Oakland boasts a crowd entirely ready to be won over. It's lovely, and a remarkable departure from the Portland crowd, richly blending entitlement and ignorance.

Unfortunately, my Portland-style commitment to heckling didn't go over for shit.** In the third, when my snack-bar excesses began to get on top of me, and as the Warriors gave up the bulk of their halftime lead, the furry hipster twits next to Abe and me were heard to enquire "Whoa. You ever been to a game with this guy before?" Whatever. Fuck you. White people wear sweaters to basketball games.

A few notes. When you show up and the home team has six guys in the layup line? Bodes ill for the evening's competitive balance, no? When the opening tip is botched, a fellow is entitled--indeed likely--to thoughts writhing toward the freeness of the tickets and the eleven dollarness of the pale ale. Early, it was Warriors 10, Chris Paul 10, David West 2.

At around 15-12, some cub with a vast, unmanageable head moved in front of me. With some despair, my eyes scampered around for a while.

I will not understand why the franchise's banner is relegated to the side of the arena, essentially invisible. True, it's 34 years old, but that seems a poor reason to quit wallowing in it.

In the first half, the Warriors' unvaunted offensive sets seemed to me to bespeak a philosophy running something like "if we don't run any plays, they can't defend them!". This is particularly amusing given the lengthy, po'-faced coverage in local media on the topic of Nellie's revamped offense. (Halfway thru the season, he realized he didn't have any point guards, and if you can't run a real offense, you might as well have one guy trying to break down his man off the dribble while four guys camp on the 3-point line, waiting for their defender to do something stupid. PROTIP: their defender will eventually do something stupid.)

Sobersided analysis aside, if you've got a backcourt of Crawford and Ellis, you might actually as well just let them freelance a lot and spend your evenings hollering "pass" every couple possessions. Beats actually trying to design sets cohering around Stephen Jackson's (functional, Raphaelite***) insanity.

Eventually I remembered the atrocities perpetrated by David West--second in a noble lineage of History's Greatest Monsters at the four from Xavier--vis-a-vis my crippled foray into fantasy basketball this season. My thoughts turned away from my second trip to the bar (not the snack bar) and turned towards a fraught yearn that somehow, some way, my words could reach the man and ruin his life.


The evening bloomed into a middling example of late-season meaning. Hornets exposed as a pathetic mockery of a contender, with CP3 a selfish gunner incapable of involving himself with any team member. Warriors demonstrating again such a thorough commitment to pointless, head-down freelancing that they must actually be being coached into it. Warriors fans intense, tense and grateful.

Fat, fat, happy, drunk.

*After the second dunk-butchery, CP3 ran down the board and took it to the hole himself, unopposed breakaway. The cat who'd missed the two dunks was right next to him, wide open obviously and necessarily. This savage violation of every rule of point guard play led me to bellow "Paul, you're in the hall of fame of bush-league hacks!" This was recieved like the introduction of pornography to sunday dinner.+

+I should note that I adored (major swathes of) Andre Miller's Nugs tenure, which featured nigh-endless callings of his own number. My rule of thumb was that if he had eight assists, he'd probably only actually passed twelve times. The difference is that nobody worth listening to ever said Andre Miller was a good point guard.

**At a Lakers game some years back, DDT at one point reduced me nearly to tears by hollering "Tonight we raze the peninsular villages!".

***The other one, the Ninja Turtle.

Heckling is, I think, an exponent of Portland's peculiarly thorough involvement with localism (equally describable as Portland's compleat obsession with its piddly, second-rate self). Since everybody on stage is literally your neighbor and peer, there's no barrier to abuse, no separation between performer and audience.++

Now, Oakland is at least partially infected by the Bay virus of self-importance and utter absorbtion into self. The difference is that Portland at least knows it's no first-rank city; the Bay genuinely believes it's a cultural heavy hitter, on a par with New York, London, Paris. Which blends the annoyances of the second rate with the frustrating asininity of the delusionally self-important.

But, since Oakland thinks it's great, and thinks its products matter in the grand scheme of things+++, some jagoff in a black sweater hurling abuse at a putative MVP candidate is likely to be a nutjob worth ignoring, rather than one voice amongst a panoply of same, perhaps an initiator of conversations and a positer of position.

And yes, I do get that heckling is a twerpy manifestation of smug hipster claims to importance, wherein the act of judgment is held to be at least equivalent to any act of creation.

++This, by the way, explains why a heavy metal band like Poison Idea is such a conundrum for categorizers of music. In formal terms, they are undeniably purveyors of moderately competent heavy metal. However, there's something not easily definable about them that queers and clouds the issue something fucking fierce. Best way to explain it runs: it's metal played by punks; they're from Portland.

+++With the exception of Neurosis, they don't, they really really don't.

Friday, April 03, 2009

write a new tune

I don't that often do this, but this review actually made me laugh out loud. More than a single time.

In other news, I'm broke as a joke, working 50-hour weeks to try to make up for it, and desperately craving the following:
new hat (black, summer weight)
new shoes (two pairs Starburys, prolly)
House of the Dead: Overkill
Grand Theft Auto DS (I keep trying to remind myself that it's a driving game, and I basically can't stand driving games)
new front wheel for my commuter bike
new brake cable for my fun bike
new bike bag (I loathe my backpack)
new pants (bike wreck shredded my work pants, and nothing else I have is entirely appropriate for an office environment)
DVD player (so I can enjoy my new Venture Brothers Season 3 dvd)

Oh yeah: I'm going to a Warriors game tonight. So I got that goin' for me.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I'm inclined to go finish high school to make her notice that I'm around

As DDT muses on Astro Boy and upon Akira versus Blade Runner, I read somebody finally telling my truth about Watchmen: great mostly because historically important, not so much because of its actual success in/of execution.

For ten years or so, I've been wondering if maybe I loved it so much b/c I was so embedded in the superhero genre. What would somebody think of Watchmen--or the Dark Knight stuff--if they HADN'T grown into a Marvel Zombie as a reaction against their father's love of Superman comics? My contention is that the primary genius of these works is that they reimagine certain genre conventions; as such, they may be smarter and more interesting than straight works in/of that genre, but they have less energy and actual invention (as opposed to reaction) than straight genre pieces.+

Or maybe I'm just suffering from Watchmen fatigue, b/c I read it at like 14, and read and reread it in my obsessive way(s) and have been hearing everybody ELSE babble on about it for a year or so now. (See also my recent suspicion that Moore, for all his smarts and skills, doesn't have much to say.)

At some point, I should go back to my Levi-Strauss, bone up on my structural study of myth, and show that Watchmen is the most structually* perfect** piece of mass-market art ever made, probably.***

(Image stolen from

I don't know why I never thought to google her before. I literally grew up on Crematia Mortem, a KC version of Elvira, with more wit and smarts. Late-night horror flickering on a too-small tv, all the ads tiny local businesses, up late on jellybeans and the sheer adrenalized pleasure of being up late for its own sake. Nothing like this exists anymore, probably. There have, naturally, been greater losses, but some cursory googling and clicking I find myself heartened by the reasonable amount of information out there. Gone and lost, yes, of course, but at least not forgotten.

Quick reviews:
Phoenix Wright (DS): Pretty good. Point-and-click "adventure" game, basically just a reading game. Like playing an episode of Perry Mason. Nothing in the world wrong with playing an episode of Perry Mason.++ I have a minor quibble that all the stores are lighthearted stories about murders. It's a wierd disconnect. I'm impressed by how quickly and thoroughly the makers make me care about Phoenix's (quickly murdered) mentor. Not sure how they do that, exactly; might be the titties.

(Image stolen from

Jake Hunter (DS): Pretty good. Even more of a reading game than Phoenix Wright--actually basically a visual novel. And not a very good novel at that. Got HORRIBLE reviews and I can't really tell why. Not a great value for money, I guess, but for 20 wing-wangs, I really am not prepared to bitch too much.

Touch Detective (DS): Lighthearted point-and-click adventure game; much more of pixel-hunt and DESPERATELY ANNOYING puzzle play than reading play. I love the visuals, loathe the puzzles, am basically enthusiastic about the whimsey. There's a LOT of whimsey. Typical Atlus game--wonderful style, but substance that's undercut by its insistence on difficulty.

Hotel Dusk (DS): If you play only one point-and-click adventure game with a HEAVY reading component, give Phoenix Wright a skip and try this one. Couple really wonderful puzzles, well-honed noir text, and an exceptional sense of tone, with resignation nicely leavened by humor.

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (GCN). Finally got my GameCube back, and dicked around with this for a few nights. It really is absolutely gorgeous and fairly dull with only one player. Maybe I think it's dull because I really suck at action RPGs. But this is just a less hip version of the equally beautiful, and equally dull, Phantasy Star Online. I have a minor plan to browbeat DDT into buying a DS so he and I can annihilate space and play the new DS version of Phantasy Star Online, but I don't think this will ever happen... If it DID happen, then my penchant for creating support characters maybe wouldn't get me killed all the fucking time.

Oh, who am I kidding? DDT would pick like a ranged magic user or something, I'd pick a ranged combat person, and we'd get squashed constantly b/c we refused to just play a fucking tank.

Alien Hominid (GCN): ABSURDLY hard run-&-gun shooter. One-hit kills, stiff controls, good but tension-enhancing music. I'm playing it on medium, and really the only version of the game I can play at all is "how far can I get before I have to continue". Brutal and not actually very fun (similar to PN.03, actually) but weirdly suffused with genuine joy. It's clear that the art--all of the art--was loved as it was being made, and that carries me through pretty far. Well, as I mentioned, I don't actually get far, but it keeps me coming back to try to perfect and polish my performance of the tiny fragment of the game I'll ever actually get to see.

Viewtiful Joe (GCN). All the good stuff about Alien Hominid, but substantially more accessible, without being in any sense easy. I will likely never finish this game--it's one of the first ones that I picked up when I picked up my GCN for the second time--but playing through the first few bits has been one of the most reliable pleasures the medium has ever offered me.

Onechanbara: Zombie Bikini Slayers (Wii). Because my main problem with Zombie Revenge really was that all the player characters and bosses weren't hot half-naked chicks. There are some wonderful things about Japan, and this infinitely stupid game is one of them. Plus, it demonstrates beyond any disputation that No More Heroes got a hell of a lot right about its combat, b/c all the criticisms more or less unfairly levied against it are actually accurate when it comes to Onechanbara. But come on. You're playing a game with "Zombie Bikini Slayers" in the title. The fuck did you expect?

+The pirate stuff, while still striking me as basically pointless and baffling in its inclusion, is a straight exercise in genre tribute. As such, it's energetic and fun in a way that nothing else in Watchmen is, really. Except maybe for the romance comic tribute denoument, when Dan and Laurie get to gad about in exciting new wigs...which also, of course, is another genre exercise.
*In the sense of structure as known by structuralists. This word probably should have been structuralist-ally.
**In the sense of "complete", not in the sense of "good". It's finished off exactly the way it was supposed to be, for better or worse.
***Don't laugh, but Star Trek: Nemesis is also structurally perfect. Misbegotten and dull, but perfect.
++All punks love Perry Mason. I don't know why.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Streets of Astroboy

Turns out the world if full of Astroboy graffitti.


Shooting for the Stars

Astro Boy

astroboy media
image:wednesday Mc Shiver

Astroboy! astroboy by UfO
image:dier madrid; image:UfO


Astroboy IMG_4789
image:Rubira; image:nettsu

castro boy Astro-streetart
image: sensemaybenumbed; image:The Daemon


Astroboy x subversion

It goes without saying, the last one's pretty awesome.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Many Faces of... MITCHELL!!






I really need to watch this episode again. Always get seduced by some other, newer re-released episode or set whenever I'm about to take the plunge.

Fat says this episode always makes him cry (its Joel's last), the big ol' softie.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

a cheap paperback life


locusts, rain and the cosmic thwart

I've lived in Santa Destroy for coming up on 10 months now. I'm preparing to move for the second time. It's been raining for days.

I live pretty close to the bone here: I wasn't working those first four months, the surround be 'spensive* and I don't exactly have the best job ever had by dog, man or boy. One of the biggest structure hits I've taken involves my DVD player. The second I got it uncrated, I discovered that the remote had become one with the infinite. Its functionality is thus down to play/pause, stop, and open/close.**

It's been raining for days. A specific kind of rain unknown, basically, in Portland: hard, loud, spatters and pools. Melancholy and drunk in the afternoon, trying to pack without any boxes to speak of, I throw movies on in the background. The rain and the lack and the muted emotional palette put me in the mind of Evangelion, never afraid to give you a half-minute of raindrops pounding slick city streets or the desolate, isolated drone of locusts.

Alas, my copy defaults to the dubbed version, and I can't change that. I made it all the way until Shinji opened his mouth, but I absolutely can't tolerate the wrong voices this time around. All I want is my friends in the background, half-distracting me from the tedium of cramming my preposterous piles of prized possessions into more mobile configurations. Cold blusters outside, I'm blowing spit bubbles, strangely drained, out of both beer and hope. 10 months. Ready for that new life any day now...

Couple weeks ago, I picked up Super Dodgeball Brawlers for my DS. Like so many of the modern-era Nintendo products I've picked up, it's optimized for multiplayer. Like half the world at the moment, "optimized for multiplayer" actually means "pig-fucking useless in single player". Took maybe two couple-hour sessions to complete,

Not terrible, though: I'm a sucker for the Kunio steez, and the game plays at an excellent pace, both quick and heavy. There's the predictable amount of micromanaging possible, with mostly pointless items and accessories, and I have to admit that I had ridiculous fun making a custom squad.

That's Collision, me, DDT and Silken Thomas there. Good stuff. Thoroughly mediocre experience, but there's very much a time and a place for mediocre experiences. Here in Santa Destroy, in the rain.

It's been raining for days.

*Makes me pensive.
**I've tried two separate low-rent universal remotes. Neither supports my mighty Coby model.

Here come the dreams that are split at the seams

John Shirley

In Eclipse, many of my favorite things about John Shirley dovetail together, creating a sort of Janus-faced monstrous representation of my tastes in writing, culture, and politics. Eclipse portrays the near-future unfolding of a neo-fascist supra-national empire in the wake of a non-nuclear World War III. Europe is in ruins, but armistice has been achieved (or at least stalemate), and to bring stability to the ruins of France a third-party security megacorporation called Second Alliance (SA) is contracted to begin the rebuilding. Of course, it turns out the SA is part of a complex and broad-sweeping neo-fascist plot of world domination, headed by an American evangelical Christian.

In opposition to this plot is the New Resistance ("NR"), headed by an ex-Mossad higher-up named Steinfeld and financed by an American billionaire who is also SA's chief economic rival. The book mainly traces the paths of several individuals who become part of the NR for a myriad of reasons, and this volume also features a parallel storyline involving the SA takeover of FirStep, the space colony orbiting the earth.

As great as Shirley is at sketching the insidiousness of this neo-fascist plot (there's a great sequence where these two neo-nazis from Idaho show up at the SA compound, dressed out in full Third Reich regalia, and one of the upper-level SA execs summarily shoots them in the woods while explaining to them that the whole Nazi-model is both stupid and not ambitious enough, and of the effect of the war (or crisis, generally, I suppose) on the modern world (a great bit by one character, "Hard Eyes," about how before the war he didn't care about much, just when the next new digital music player was coming out – the pointless but comforting rhythms of consumerism), the heart and soul of this book is Rick Rickenharp.

Rickenharp is a washed-up rock star of the 1970s-1980s mould: long hair, blue jeans, leather jackets. But his preferred music form fell out of style long ago (except for a short retro craze), and the book finds him playing a gig in FreeZone, a floating city somewhere near the Canary Islands. Rickenharp and the band realize they're playing their last show together, and then Rickenharp runs off with a younger blue-haired girl and her friends to join the NR. Later, Rickenharp confesses of feeling "awake" or "alive" for the first time in a long time, if not ever. The book's must-be-read-to-be-believed conclusion revolves around Rick's last performance.

Eclipse Prenumbra
John Shirley

Eclipse Corona
John Shirley

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend the second and third volumes of this series as strongly as the first. As mentioned elsewhere1, Shirley has integrated several of his short stories into the narrative of both these novels, especially Eclipse Prenumbra. Still, Prenumbra includes more of the FirStep storyline, which is actually quite compelling, and I almost wish all of that arch could be collected in one volume. Shirley also forays into pretty straight combat narrative for brief spells. And although I was disappointed to discover he had conscripted previous short stories into the Eclipse narrative, Shirley really did a superb job stitching those stories and characters together into a larger narrative – for the most part you are only dimly aware that the narrative has gone a bit tangential.

In Corona three things stand out: a fantastic sequence about an SA diehard who comes up to the brink of the SA's true purpose (genocide) and finds that he cannot follow through. Secondly, a compelling tale of an undesirable confined to an SA version of the Warsaw Ghetto, and the unfortunate circumstances of his escape. And lastly, of course, the NR Strikes Back to bring the sequence to its end.


1 See my notes on Shirley's short-story collection Heatseeker.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

never a simple chimaera

It has been a while, and then a while. In the doldrums, becalmed by a season in which my local Warriors are tepid whilst bland. My ancient ways of loyalty to Denver have been sorely strained by their unintriguing competence; I retreat to my tent with a stack of novels.*

Through the summer, I fattened myself on the works of Steve Gerber, as Collision's interest spurted into obsession. Mostly I found Marvel Essentials collections--volumes containing 20-some issues, & the only way to read comics in these revolting times. In order:

  • Howard the Duck
  • Man-Thing
  • Man-Thing 2
  • Hard Times: 50 to Life
  • Omega the Unknown
  • Howard the Duck MAX
  • Dr Fate: Countdown to Mystery

All this in something like 6 or 7 weeks.

Gerber is the echt humanist--angry, frustrated, despairing, depressed, energetic. I like him less than Collision does, b/c I'm nearly as interested in things as I am in people. (Also, unlike Collision, I haven't that much use for those works mainly about comics: HtD, Omega the Unknown... For me, his greater achievements were not primarily critical: Dr Fate, Hard Times, HtD MAX, and above all, Man-Thing.)

Still, though nothing here topples V for Vendetta from Fat's Throne, I do now suspect that Moore, for all his mammoth achievements and indisputable genius...doesn't actually have very much to say. Or, anyway, anything much to say about things other than books. Gerber at his best is at least talking about life, the intercourse of those sad, confused apes & the tragedies, hijinx, frequent lived nightmares & occasional connections they variously chase and endure, like so many mad, desperate pinballs.

I have since summer sworn off buying comics for the remainder of 2009--a protest against bad products delivered thru an absolutely asinine business model. My swan song (of myself) was American Flagg.

This monumental little triumph displaced from Fat's Throne of recommendations the Dark Knight. Turns out, a couple years before Miller, Chaykin had done everything Miller would do, only more inventively & much, much funnier. Also, his characters are closer to actually, interestingly fucked up (impotent, drunken, violent in sex & friendship) than Miller's cartoons of fucked up (grimjawed revengey solitude).

Stunning piece of work, and an essential experience whether or not comics (or cyberpunk) is of interest to you.**

I also had a long engagement with Michael Moorcock. I'm not quite ready to blurb on this, however I note for the moment that one conquering facet is his combination of a set of explicit politics with a set of aesthetics, this combination forming what I'd call the ethic of these books.

Moody bastard heroes, strong & mostly aloof, generally looking out into lives suffused with doom like ashes freshly on a tongue; yet arguing to & for truth, fumbling towards good & the good; trying.

Also, this cover sells itself.

*There is going to be a notion about how nobody is paying attention to the Nuggets, so lookout, West! This will inflate right quick into a widespread belief--and a positive raft of posts--that nobody is talking about the Nuggets, thus the dark horse in the spot light.

**One big success for Miller, though, was the Spirit. Here, he mangaged to combine Eisner's slapstick (schlubs, schmucks, & schlemiels) with Eisner & Miller's noir (dolls, molls, thugs, fists bricks & breasts). Somehow, it worked marvellously, this blending of two quite distinct refractions of life.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Hanging at street lamps looking for action

Pat Cadigan

I was pretty stoked when I found this paperback at the Goodwill for a buck, since I'd heard about Cadigan as a kind of o.g. cyberpunk, and I had recently become a bit self-aware of the lack of female authors in my library. The premise is certainly interesting: when technology can interact with the human brain, then a multitude of pleasures will be generated using that technology, and, as with all pleasures, some will cross over in the realm of vice. And were there is vice, you essentially get… social workers. Our protag is one of these psych-social workers, who uses tech to actually get inside her patients' heads. Includes a fave insight from a novel ever: that our delusions are precious to us. Personally I found it difficult to read. Cadigan's prose doesn't work that well for me, and the afterword reveals it was originally a series of short stories, which might explain some difficulties I had keeping my attention on the plot.

When Gravity Fails
George Alec Effinger

The first of Effinger's Marid Audran novels, set in the Budayeen pleasure district of a fictitious desert Arabic city.1 In a future where almost all enjoy the varied benefits of "chipped-in" neuro-enhancements2, Marid Audran opts instead for wily street-smarts and a steady diet of pills and alcohol. Marid is a fixer, always hoping to mediate or facilitate his next few months rent, and is quite good at it, in a way. Then Friedlander Bey, the city's own criminal godfather, as it were, taps him to look into a murder. Along the way Marid must become the things he most prided himself for not being, though, in the process, one has to question whether he was much at all in the first place. The Budayeen, it turns out, is almost exclusively the territory of sex-changes and the heavily physically modified; various ex-pats and the faux-couture. No one really amounts to much, however, and most are merely the pawns of men like Bey. I regularly regret the untimely passing of Effinger in 2002.

Islands in the Net
Bruce Sterling

Previous to this book3, I think the only work by Sterling I had read was the anthology Mirror Shades, A Good Old Fashioned Future, Schismatrix Plus, and his Gibson collaborative effort, The Difference Engine.4 In short, he was mainly an editor on Mirror Shades, Old Fashioned is easy to like, being both short stories and a particular good collection of the same, and Schismatrix Plus is a cyberpunkian-spin on Stapledon-flavored space opera, so none of these are particular indicative of Sterling Just Being Sterling. Islands in the Net, however, gives you a strong sense of why he was the Cyberpunks' guru-in-residence. At face, this is a story about a married mother who is part of a near-future national-level co-op business, who is selected to represent her company in Granada. Events with potential world-shaking consequences follow, taking her on the patented Sterling Candid-esque journey 'round the world: Galveston, Texas – Granada – Singapore – Africa. At each stop we are given a sketch of some new model of the world. Models, which, in some standard "futuristic" sci-fi story, would be the (paternalistic) "hero" of the story: hi-tech super-soldier rebels in Granada, a tiny city-state with the tech and the will to power in Singapore, or bigger-than-life warrior-poets playing Laurence of Arabia on dune buggies in the Sahara. But in each case these models lose out our maternal protag. A sobering and thoughtful (and hopeful) look at the future.


1 This city, but specifically the Budayeen, is heavily modeled on New Orleans, Effinger's adopted home. An odd pairing, to be sure – a barely concealed Bourbon Street mapped onto a well-researched Islamic future.
2 But the 'Net is oddly (and kind of refreshingly) absent, or at least not mentioned.
3This book along with When Gravity Fails consist of Exhibits A and B in cover art my wife makes fun of me for. Gravity Fails' rendition of Audran (we can suppose) is a bit on the effete side, and Islands features cleavage. Obviously, there can be nothing serious to contemplate in these books, to judge by the covers.
4 I have come to grips with my feelings that the Difference Engine is not a very good novel. Mind you, it's actually much better than a ton of stuff out there, and is actually pretty marvelously detailed, but I don’t think it plays particularly well to Gibson or Sterling's strengths. Sadly, I think I've actually read this book THREE times, which probably makes it Exhibit A in the criminality that can result from re-reading books in your personal collection.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

press my face up to the screen

A Circular of Recent Literate Goings-On, or, D.D Tinzeroes Reviews the Recently Read, No. 4. This batch comes highly recommended.

The Anubis Gates
Tim Powers

There is no better introduction to Powers than the Anubis Gates. 'Course, this one won some awards and stuff, so I suppose it's arguably his best. Academic type specializing in the poetry of Lord Byron and the like gets to go back in time to meet Woodsworth. Get's stuck. Turns out ancient Egyptian magicians are running around England, burning down London and the such. Puppets (sigh) and a seriously messed up clown puppeteer. Good London stuff. Magic. More time travel. The fictitious poet William Ashbless, whom was co-created by Powers and Blaylock in university, factors heavily. Powers' signature style of systemized magic is present: in this case magic can be negated by one's feet on the ground.

Lost Cities of the Heart
Lewis Shiner

I really adore this book. Shiner's prose and characterization are strong as they were in Slam. A rock star (Eddie) leaves it all and goes to the Yucatan to be with Maya Indians.1 His more straight-edge brother (Thomas) did college research at Mayan ruins in same vicinity. The unrest of 1980s Mexico intervenes to send Thomas in search of Eddie, joined by Eddie's estranged wife, who Thomas has a major hard-on for. Love triangle develops. Jimi Hendrix cameos. Mexican rebels. American mercenaries. Mondo hallucinagenic mushrooms in the shadow of the Mayan pyramids. Time travel. Helicopter combat. The ending's perhaps a little hectic and messy, but it early work for Shiner, really, so the overall strength outweighs the demerits.

Holy Fire
Bruce Sterling

I hadn't read much of Sterling's later works, but Holy Fire surprised me. In a future where near immortality is common, and the world is governed by the medical establishment (when you can live forever, or very close to forever, things like money, governments, wars and the like become irrelevant), one member of the elite tries a new, experimental procedure that literally strips you down to your brain and spinal cord and builds a Brand Spanking New body back up around you. The side effect, however, is that you regain that youthful recklessness – the experience of old age is mostly forgotten. What follows is a sort Candid-esque tour of a future full of Sterling ideas.2 Gossamer jetliners. Post peak oil need for plastics met by landfill mining and recycling plastics found within, so that there are landfill millionaires, as it were. Laptops built into smart-fabrics. People experiment with the potential of their medically mastered world. An artist takes a drug to sabotage his memory so his style stays fresh: no two pieces are the same. Another guy goes to a sort of reverse-evolution resort: they'll regress you into the missing link and you can spend your days scavenging for shellfish on a beach somewhere. Even the ending doesn't bug me.


1 A strangle parallel to Kadrey's Kamikaze L'Amour
2 A familiar model for Sterling.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


"You love them in red, then you love them in blue, but mostly you love them in red," said Fat suddenly, unexpectedly.

D.D., knowing this to be a quote from something, furrows brow and paces about in concentration for a few minutes. Stops, looks at Fat, "I can't place it."

Fat grins, "MegaForce!" he says.

D.D. scrunches his nose at Fat, his mouth becoming a sort of sideways question mark, "why are you thinking about MegaForce?"

"I have no idea."


Sunday, January 25, 2009

tighter packed with stuffing

Fat found this plushie seat on Play-Asia, tho' it be unclear what he was looking for when he found it. He introduced his discovery with the words:
The description here Gives me the jibblies, but sorta makes me smile?

It's complicated.
The description in question being, I presume,
Plushes usually sit on your lap as you watch TV or sleep in your arms on your bed. To return the favor, the Dokodemoissyo cats are letting you sit on them. Heavier than normal plushes and tighter packed with stuffing, these plushes work well as TV stools, as especially for children or petite people. Place them in front of the TV screen and bounce on their heads when you see something exciting.

Mirror the cats' moods when you sit on them, smile happily or be hysterically happy, after all, these cats are here for just that, to cheer you up.
It is a bit odd, and I see where he's coming in. I replied that the diagram was perhaps more jibblies-istic.

plush seat.jpg

A curious diagram to western eyes, for sure. It all makes more sense in terms of 18-mat tatami apartments, course.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Scratching the Light Off the Horizon

A Circular Containing an Continuation of Books of Interest Read in the Period 2007 to the Present, by D.D. Tinzeroes, No.3.

The Stars My Destination
Alfred P. Bester

I read this after readings its high recommendation in Michael Moorcock's "Starship Stormtroopers" essay (he categorized it as a truly radical piece of scifi), and then having it "of course, I assumed you had already read it" recommended by Fat. It did not disappoint. Apart from the simple joys of a Count of Monte Cristo retell w/ scifi trappings, a strong protag in Gully Foyle, and the great ending Moorcock is right to put on a pedestal, I think I was most impressed with Bester's use of jaunting, his name for the practice of teleportation, a common practice by humans in his setting. Indeed, the book begins with an account of the origins of this practice, and I have to admit, I was a little skeptical: I mean, a future where not only people can teleport at will, but EVERYONE can teleport at will? It just seemed a bit silly. But lo and behold, a hundred pages or so later and I realized I wasn't even giving this jaunting business a second thought. This is called good writing, because Bester's descriptions and use of jaunting are both so casual and yet rigorously part of a defined system that the reader comes to think as little of it as the act of walking or talking. Bravo.

A Fire in the Sun
George Alec Effinger

The second Marid Audran/Budayeen novel. Marid adjusts to his new life as unwilling servant of mega-gangster Freidlander Bey. Bey buys him his favorite bar. Marid seeks out his birth mother. Good police procedural stuff with Marid partnered with a city police officer. Further exploration of Arab and Islamic customs and concepts. It occurs to me that perhaps the best part of the Budayeen stories is that there's a fairly large cast of characters, who, once introduced in one novel, crop up in the subsequent volumes. Better yet, things to not remain static. Every character is up to something, and even Marid's attitude and station in life changes dramatically from when he met him in the opening pages of the first volume.

Rudy Rucker

The inaugural volume in Rucker's Ware series (followed by Wetware, then Freeware and Realware). Introduces us to the sentient robots, the Boppers, who live on the moon. The boppers invite their creator to visit the moon, so that his mind can be imprinted to file and he may live forever, as it were. For '82 this book has aged very well, both in terms of ideas and writing.

The Drawing of the Dark
Tim Powers

Powers said something about once about getting his ideas from the little things in history that don't quite fit. For example, when the Ottomans reduced Hungary, they pushed on to lay siege to Vienna, even though season for warfare was drawing to a close. Why? After all, heavy rains forced them to leave their heavy siege cannons behind. Powers answer is that the conflict is actually orchestrated by agents of the magical Kings of the West and the East. And a mercenary named Duffy is handpicked to essentially be a bouncer at a very old brewery in Vienna, the dark bock originating from which is suddenly a big deal. Great throw-away line about all religions being based on the brewing of beer (which is a pretty miraculous process, if you really think about, and if a society had never tasted or even conceived of beer before, I suppose it would be pretty awesome if someone suddenly showed you how). As before, strong systems of magic, which are simultaneously loose yet constrained, in the background and yet very central.

Global Head
Bruce Sterling

A collection of Sterling's short stories, and, I must confess, I was not terribly smitten with this omnibus. A Good Old-Fashioned Future (1999) and the Shaper-Mechanist shorts are both more interesting and more entertaining. The first story, about a genetic engineering industrial accident, that causes dogs and cats and other animals to become intelligent on par with humans is pretty good, albeit brief, but is perhaps also indicative of the volume a whole, ideas that can't seem to break free from the cruel gravity of idea and make their way on to story.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Generation S[EGA]

Generation S

This beauty comes via the 'Yard, off the back of an otherwise generally bland t-shirt that came with the legendary SEGAGAGA box set which Gagaman recently 'quired. I kifed his pic and cleaned it up a little in 'shop. If he's got a scanner he should just platen the thing and make stickers or something. Those hanging controllers are just the tits.1


1As Fat might say.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Six hail marguerita, we're going straight to hell!

Being a circular of items recently read by D.D. Tinzeroes, Number 2.

George Alec Effinger

The third and final (published) volume of Effinger's Marid Audran Budayeen novels. Set in a near-future unnamed Arab city, which most resembles either Cairo or Damascus, I think. This one's probably the least sci-fi of the batch, really, with tech-elements serving only to provide plot leaps (but never a crutch). But then again, since the style of the Marid books is Sam Spade-in-Cairo, all these a really are is hard-boiled detective novels with some Godfather elements mixed in. The book's basically a big bedouin-in-the-desert sequence followed by a Marid-in-the-City section. Marid's goal is revenge, and his lessons in the desert aid him on his return to the city.1

George Alec Effinger

A collection of Effinger's short-stories, published after his death, dealing with the Budayeen district of his fictional desert city, including the first 2 chapters of the unfinished 4th Marid Audran novel. "City on the Sand" stands out, about a ex-pat (unpublished) author wiling away his days in front of a café.

Olaf Stapledon

What is the evolutionary future of man? When this topic comes up, I now just recite the crux of Stapledon's narrative. We are the First Men, according to a well-defined criteria set out by Stapledon. The Second Men are giants, 8-10 feet tall, because for the human brain to become larger, by extension, the body's frame must grow as well to support the overlarge skull. Stapledon carries this exercise on through several iterations, up to the 14th Men, who live on Uranus, I think (this is after stretches on Venus and Jupiter, and after the Sun goes red giant). Puts Sterling's Schismatrix in a new light, which was dedicated to Stapledon, and likewise involves several iterations of humanity.

Rudy Rucker

The second installment in Rucker's ___ware series. In this one the creators of the boppers (sentient robots who live on the moon, because the freezing vacuum negates the need for super cooling systems for their circuitry) revive their dead creator, and set about the creation of a new race of biorobots which can live on earth. Includes one my favorite insights ever, observed by a bopper, that the two greatest flaws of humanity are boredom and selfishness. A quick read, lots of fun.

John Shirley

A collection of Shirley's short stories, supposedly the stuff which influenced and inspired Gibson, Sterling, Rucker, and the rest. There's really very little of the dystopian future type stuff here, and even less tech-stuff, really, but Shirley certain is a hotbed of ideas, I'll grant. The biggest disappointment here was that Shirley integrated bunch of these stories into the 2nd (mainly) and 3rd volumes of his Eclipse trilogy, which his right and privilege, and certainly explains a couple of somewhat tangential chapters in those volumes, but after identifying the first story w/ which he did so, there were a several others which I skipped since, technically, I'd already read them. Faves for me included: a bit about nuclear war being the result of Events, which are conscious entities, who destroy the earth to make it an exhibit for a sort of cosmic World's Fair, judged by Time itself; paintings in the modern art style are actually beings from another dimension, which come alive after reaching a critical mass of art (this story is, like, 2 pages long); a piece about getting in this egg-device and visiting heaven, which creates hell on earth for the poor; and (my favorite) a sort of stage-by-stage environmental narcotic tenement building in New York, the climax of which is a hypodermic set into the nipple of a massive boob-wall, through which you are shot up with the real personality of a real person.2


1 The cover art to the Marid novels are hilarious. The artist is trying to capture "future-arab" but his main way of doing this is to just throw a flying car in there, even though flying cars are no where to be found in the Marid novels. These covers are also part of the proud tradition of my wife mocking my reading choices based on terrible cover art... (men who look "gay," and women with inevitable visible cleavage).
2 I vividly recall reading this last story in the 2nd Eclipse book, while sitting at Basement Pub, waiting for Fat to show up.