I can’t deny it … “Game of Thrones” has entered a wrap-it-up-quick-and-dirty phase since expanding beyond the end of the book sources. The quest to nab a wight was fun enough to watch, but was a grindingly obvious plot-pusher from the start. The revelation that wights collapse when their maker is killed an apt surprise — but then doing in the Night King becomes such an obvious game-ender that it’s obnoxious it doesn’t happen. My favorite zinger — the undead bear. A truly cool monster and a nice foreshadow that animals get to walk the night, too.
According to us hardcores, there are three levels of Old Tech Monsters:
Worst: Lizards and frogs with shit glued onto them.
Meh: Guys in suits, no matter how nifty the suit (James Arness, as “The Thing From Another World” was the best, except I keeping seeing it wearing a cowboy hat since I found out who it was.)
Best: “Dynamation” and its relatives — this required serious art and craft and the payoff could be superb. If you haven’t seen “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,” what are you waiting for?
Second it busts forever more the bogus reputation of chess as a game that favors brilliant minds. I grew up soaked in this hooey, which I noticed was most loudly pronounced by chess nurds (which I forgave because almost all of them were stomped like insects in other aspects of their social and intellectual lives). But I also suffered from it because I was lousy at chess (“not really so smart, huh?”). By struggling unsuccessfully to get better, I did come to appreciate that the game had its appeal and virtues, but I’ve never heard them articulated as well as Master Kasparov does here.
Finally I get the thrill of a chill by confirmation, once again, that too many people prefer zippy bullshit to the truth.
The connection to Melville is spot on target. Mord and even Borne him/her/itself are clear descendants of Moby Dick even if in no way derivative. Much more accurate than the Lovecraft comparisons. After all, Melville was somebody who had dribbled the salt from his body into the salt of the ocean and knew nature. Lovecraft was more like a strange kid who secreted himself in the basement and yelled for you to come down and kill a spider for him. Also — gives climate catastrophe the key role in the story it deserves. Bizarrely all but passed over in some other reviews I’ve read.
I knew I’d seen Steve Bannon somewhere long ago. I paid an intense but brief session of attention to the Biosphere 2 calamities more than 20 years back because it seemed like some muddled sci-fi story come to life. Biosphere 2 did not have clear, compelling explanations of its mission, and it seemed as much con job as science. Had no clue how common its tone and temperament would become in American culture and politics.
Just as quick reminder — all “Alien” themed movies and whatnot, whether they like/admit it or not, derive from two 1939 stories by A. E. Van Vogt — “The Black Destroyer” (giant catlike monster plays dumb and harmless, is taken aboard spaceship, proceeds to start dining) and “Discord in Scarlet” (bizarre, shape-shifting organism plants carnivorous eggs inside space travelers). These were also Van Vogt’s first published stories and they are written with feverish intensity. The humans are no more than stick figures, but the aliens are unforgettable. Both included in the recommended book, Voyage of the Space Beagle.
(Of course it has to be admitted that the year before the Van Vogt stories, John W.Campbell published his masterpiece, “Who Goes There?” — which puts a carnivorous, shape-shifting alien into an isolated polar encampment.)
This was a tweet from me yesterday:
I’m convinced the movie “Arrival” is a big deal, one way or the other. Will try to do some yap about its science and its fiction tomorrow.
A pret-ty obvious notion, I guess —since it’s now been done with more polish and detail than I could ever manage.
Still, I have a few small glosses.
LOTSA SPOILERS ahead — if you have seen the movie and read the novella, no problems. If you need to do either, stop reading.
Ted Chiang’s story is exceptionally smart and inventive, but the movie is a vastly greater work of art — the current-best model for how to expand and deepen source material.
The oddest thing that nobody mentions is that “Story of Your Life” was written in 1998, a far calmer and more peaceable era than today. I agree the military-assault sequence that’s not in the original story feels nailed onto the narrative, but it would seem bogus to be as accepting as the nations Chiang depicted.
It’s smart to make the ships appear only in a few places rather than hundreds. Also to make them colossal and intimidating (though “Story of Your Life” does include its own trick about the aliens’ physical presence).
Yes, Chiang is hardcore computer-nurd. He has the aliens using their own variety of thinking machine. Ho-hummer. The octopus-ink alternative in the film is genius.
Unfortunately, the aliens themselves in “Story of Your Life” are much more cartoonish — based as much on starfish as octopi — and with a ring of “lidless eyes.” I know eye structures reoccur endlessly in evolution, but I thought the business of creatures that suggested a face at times without having one far superior.
As a brainiac run-through, I enjoyed the explication of how Heptapod B was decoded in “Story of Your Life.” Very convincing. But it would have dragged the movie to a brutal halt.
Finally, I think the death of the daughter is handled better in the film. If she dies from a fall during cliff-climbing and it’s made an aspect of her defiant nature, there’s an unavoidable whisper that it’s at least a smidgen her “fault.” Incredibly rare disease indicates the aliens might not have known all the ins and outs of exposure to their environment on human DNA.