Why So Apocalyptic?

Ace of Spades has an interesting discussion on it here: Blame it on Obama!

Now that I have the DHS’ attention, (Which would not be the 1st time with one of my blogs. (*cough I dared mention Tea Party positively. Guess who visited the next day? cough*) let me explain: Hollywood follows the angst of the age. This ought to be axiomatic. Patriotic war films played on the fears of the enemy. Then the revisionist ones turned on our own fears of how our military was misused (Platoon, BlackHawk Down.) Westerns did the same with antiheroes becoming the “We’ll take ours” replacements for the libertarian heroes of another age. And John Wayne himself played on both sides of that divide. As Davey Crockett in the Alamo, and the first, and perhaps greatest of Western anti-heroes Ethan Edwards of The Searchers.

The 70s saw a spate of disaster movies that played on fears of corrupt government, running out of energy, 3 Mile Island to infinity, and so on. And then came Hollywood’s claim that the 80s were all about Greed. Funny, I was a teenager then. I don’t remember it the way Gordon Gecko claimed it. I would say it was the last time you were allowed to feel good about being American. Lots of people now talk about how ‘inevitable’ the fall of the USSR was. But they don’t seem to remember how Academia at the time was certain the Soviets would triumph. Red Dawn anyone?

Now, to the extent that Hollywood can be honest, they’re looking at the nihilism of our age. The disgust at the lack of progress we were promised. The difference between the world we imagined and the world that is. And the era of apocalypse is here. Zombies, “climate,” the Sweet Meteor of Death. We’ve always had some interest in the grinning mask of the Four Horsemen. It’s why the one book of the Bible anyone will stop to listen to interpretation of is Revelation. Why the core of communism is a reinterpretation of Amillenial Christian Eschatology in atheistic trapping. They admit this much. But they won’t touch the why. Because the why gets too close to the truth of the last decade: Big Government hasn’t delivered. It hasn’t overthrown Big Corporations, because they’re the ones who buy the seats at the table. It hasn’t helped the little guy. They’re still just as poor. Real wages have stagnated, so it’s not helping the middle class either. And there’s just not enough justice in Social Justice to justify the triumphalism. Not enough progress in progressivism. It’s been a decade as the hamster on the mill, and things just seem to be slowing down. Even the steampunk I love hints at this. The future we dreamed of isn’t the future we have. We recast it as Jules Verne and HG Wells’ future. But it’s the same fact: We went off track. The golden future was gilded.

The good news is: We aren’t finished yet. As long as we’re alive, there’s time to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and right the ship. But first, we need to be willing to say, “We can do for ourselves. Thank you very much,” to our so-called betters who would like to do everything for us. We are not pets. We are people.

I Agree That Craig’s Bond Has Been a Masterstroke

of nostalgia and ‘older heads’ dealing with modern problems that the modern Establishment doesn’t have the stomach to solve anymore. It’s the triumph of 007’s reinvention. One I was personally dubious about when I first heard Craig was cast to the role. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/james-bond-spectre/daniel-craig-007-casino-royale-skyfall/

And I have to admit these Bond writers are smarter, and slicker than any since the original team with Sean Connery. Not that they’ve been flawless. I thought the ending of Skyfall a bit too contrived. And of course, Quantum of Solace was a placeholder that is almost as forgettable as most of the Brosnan and Moore eras.

There is one thing I disagree with from the article: That is, that Craig’s Bond would’ve voted for Cameron. Cameron is entirely too hipster-friendly for this James Bond. This Bond’s skepticism of Establishment and cynicism toward the government that employs him, would make him an unabashed supporter of UKIP. And that might be one more reason I like him. 😉

In Which The Evil League of Evil

Once Again Demonstrates it Knows More About Sci-Fi than The Grauniad. Well-played, Mr. Knighton.

http://tlknighton.com/?p=6989

Folks, just because you decided to sit down and read the synopses of a dozen movies, does NOT make you the expert on said movies. I’m not as big a fan of some Dystopian Fiction as our Fisker is. I think Divergent is rather poorly done (with flat-out terrible science in the succeeding installments). And I would say that Mockingjay is a desperate attempt to retrieve a Leftist vision from what was (intentionally or not) an anti-Big Government story. With the result that honestly, the third book falls flat, IMHO. It also doesn’t help that Katniss goes from central player to ‘hardly a participant.’ It may be more realistic, but it’s not interesting reading to have everything go on off-stage.

But I do love Blade Runner and would play Shadowrun in about as much time as it would take to grab my books and dice. So I can’t say I hate it, either. Indeed, a number of my stories are post-apocalyptic. Though one is already in the rebirth of civilization. Another is…well, the Guardian would hate it: It’s Weird Western, so it’s post-nuclear/magical apocalyptic Dystopian AND lone gunslinger. But yeah, it has action. 😉 And my Urban Fantasy isn’t post-apoc yet. But if I ever write it far enough, I’ll get there, Kate Daniels style.

The bottom line as to why Dystopias are fun to write is, as Knighton says, it makes the commonplace interesting to write about. “Just another day in the office” is boring as probing for earwax. “Everyday is a struggle for survival” is inherently more interesting. That’s also why The Walking Dead despite its characters being Too Dumb To Live, is better television than 95% of the dross on the little screen. We’re convinced anything can happen. Anything can go wrong. It’s the NASCAR principle brought to scripted TV “Come for the car-crashes, stay for the concessions.”

An Exceptional Article On Comic Fiction

One that can be expanded to fiction in general: http://www.reaxxion.com/6512/erik-larsen-speaks-on-online-outrage-women-in-comics-and-sexist-costume-designs

One of the reasons I truly despise the discussions of ‘outfits’ in fiction is that they forget that speculative fiction is meant to be idealized. “Realism” is, quite frankly, what most of our audience is trying to get AWAY from. Now, in a movie setting, I understand more of it. Because they are real people having to look like they can do real things. The fantastic elements also end up toned down as a result. But even then, I’ve said before: It made sense in the Batman movies. Because he’s clearly a ‘normal’ person going against ‘normal’ enemies. His superpower is being all-prepared with Bruce Wayne’s almost infinite resources. This did not carry over well to Man of Steel, as Superman is quite clearly other than human.

But this has, in some sense, what has always been the problem with Superman in all his incarnations. The greatest threat Superman ever faces is himself. His rogues’ gallery is weak. And the only way to threaten him is to find unobtainium. I also laugh at the ‘realistic’ Wonder Woman suit. As Larsen’s counter makes clear, her attire clearly recalls her origin story. And it is not her outfit that makes her look ‘weak.’ I laugh at how the movie costume is running away from her iconic look as fast as it can, and the critics STILL body shame her.

With a certain segment of the population, there will *always* be body shaming, unless no one beautiful is seen in public. I would never Suggest Just Who that might be, however.

A snippet from my current project

Here’s something I can share without too many spoilers. Amuhan Arsah is the Strategos (General) of Susa for the Marqashian League. He’s unifying the tribes of Kidwy behind him before he marches on their shared enemy. It isn’t always a pleasant march. 😉


 

If I would have been forced to describe the last day’s march on Trystwy in a single word, it would’ve been ‘swarmed.’ Never have I seen so many ways to be attacked by relentless, blood-sucking insects. Leeches waited in the swamps our march skirted. Mosquitoes and black-winged moths both descended on us in fast-moving clouds, as maddening as Shahrak Horse Archers. Even Shayla, whose ebullient mood had proven infectious since joining us, frowned and muttered, “Khepra Himself must have planted His seed in this bog.”

As a third mass of bugs appeared, thick enough to conceal the sun, Tiernan dismounted from his horse snarled, “Erebus take this!”

“Run faster!” Spiros taunted. “Maybe we can use you as bait!”

When Tiernan arrived at the bank, he didn’t dive into it, instead he reached into the mud with both hands and slathered it over his exposed arms and face. Clumps rolled down his short beard and tumbled back into his hands. The Thunderbolts hooted, but Shayla leaned forward on her pony like a cat being teased until its rump raises and wiggles. He returned to the ranks with a wide, lips-sucked-in grin that resembled a matron’s toothless effort. Even I found it impossible not to shake my head at the bard.

He had the last laugh, for as the bugs feasted on us, he rode through them without so much as a flick of the finger. When next we passed a spring with sufficient bank, half the host dove for the mud. I found myself tempted to join them, but as Strategos, my duty was to bear every burden without flinching. No matter how trivial it might seem. So I contented myself with swatting those insects that slipped beneath my hood or up the sleeves. With the low shoulders of Shayla’s gown, I knew that she had to be suffering worse, despite her cloak. So I cleared enough space with a hand for me to talk. Then I asked, in a tone I thought gentle, “I’m assuming Tiernan’s remedy is part of your folklore. So why didn’t you avail yourself to it, Shayla?”

She turned up her nose at me and harrumphed, turning her pony around and disappearing into the ranks behind as I gaped until a moth found its way to my tongue. That cost me much in military decorum. Tiernan covered his mouth and chortled. “The Chief didn’t lie when he said taming that one is like saddling the wind. Be thankful she’s infatuated with you.”

I feigned a blink as we resumed our march. “What convinces you she is?”

“Gods Amuhan!” His chest quivered. “Her eyes never leave you. Even now, she watches your back. Her hand ‘accidentally’ finds yours whenever it can, and brushes your arm or leg when it can’t.”

I tucked my head further into my cloak to hide my blush as another cluster of dried mud fell from the bard’s smirking face. “But you knew this already. Because while most Gods have favored you, Telas did not. You’re no better lying than the child caught with a chunk of bread from the oven.”

Snickering, I looked back at Shayla. Her head turned and dipped, like she was unaware of where I was. But before I returned my gaze to the road, her golden eyes belied the claim of disinterest. “Yes I did know,” I affirmed. “Though hearing you say it encourages me. One never is quite certain if a man’s heart isn’t playing tricks on him when it comes to the affection of a woman. Still, there’s something strange about her family.”

My bannerman’s face narrowed into a line. So I leaned a hand on my knee. “Let me guess: You know because it echoes the story about why you left your mother’s people?”

Tiernan winced. “I’d hoped you hadn’t seen my reaction to your analogy.”

“I did, comrade.”

After glancing over his shoulder to ensure Shayla’s pique hadn’t passed yet, the bard said, “Lord Amuhan, I’ll tell you my story. It’s up to her to tell you how close it is to her own. But I’m certain the same law is involved.”

“What law is this?” I drummed a finger on my thigh. Then flicked at another mosquito.

“Our people have a custom when duels are fought. To prevent retaliation, the victor must take the surviving spouse and any children from into their own family.” His eyes flicked to Shayla again.

“That explains why she and Carii are so different in temperament and looks.” I stroked my chin. “So the Chief became her husband to guard the daughter. And she took up her training because Shayla possesses talent as well.”

“Probably,” Tiernan conceded. “I was accepted among the Lexovi because of my Mother’s talent. She had birthed me before becoming Beien Ciall to them. But another challenged and defeated her. All such duels are to the death. If there isn’t a death blow, the victor carves out the loser’s heart. “ He paused and cleared his throat, and I glimpsed a sheen over the big man’s eyes.

“And by law, you had a new mother,” I finished.

He nodded grimly. “Understand, that most of the time, such ‘adoptions’ go well enough. However, in my case she didn’t want a ‘half-breed’ for a son. Now I became an outside in truth. And if a boar’s tusks were laced with poison, would any think to look before I died?”

“No, they’d never know,” I replied with a shake of the head. “They’d assume you succumbed to the wounds. So how did you—?”

“I’m not a bard because I have a strong voice and love to collect stories that can be put to song,” he answered dryly. “Mother taught me much of herblore and natural remedies. She also taught me a good deal about ritual magics.”

My eyes rounded. “Why didn’t you say this when Toi was poisoned?”

Tiernan shook his head. “You forget, he walked away. We thought it little more than a scratch. It wasn’t until the Priestess couldn’t heal him that she even thought to look for poison. By then, Toi was already dead. Besides, the chemist seemed to do a thorough enough work in identifying it. And I had never seen it before either.”

I closed my eyes and remembered the yellow ball and black bile extracted from his body. The bones broken from convulsions and contorted expression on his face as the poison killed him. There wasn’t a pit in Erebus deep enough for his murderer. And I wasn’t certain the order to kill me had come from Davos either. “I appreciate you telling me this, Tiernan. It couldn’t have been easy.”

“I’ve gone this far in disclosing the ways of Mother’s people,” the bard said with a deep frown. “You should know, even if Shayla were Carii’s birth daughter, eventually the two would become rivals. And only one could remain in the tribe.”

I hung my head. Rain Dancer sensed my distress, mincing his steps as I looked over first one shoulder, and then the other for the wilder woman. I caught a glimpse of her blond mane near Captain Spiros at the front of the Hundred Hands. A stab of jealousy pricked my side, though if I had been the newcomer, I’d be as curious as Shayla to learn of the new cultures.

“The condor was hers? Or Carii’s?”

“Hers,” Tiernan answered without hesitation. “She’s the curious one. And the birds are already bound to her arms.”

I pivoted and made an interrogative grunt. He shook his head. “Now I am getting perilously close to discussing secrets Mother made me swear I’d never share. If she wishes, Shayla will explain herself.”

With a sigh, I answered, “For an explanation, this isn’t helping me understand her very much.”

Tiernan chuckled. “Lord Amuhan, I may be a bard. And I certainly know the ways to woo women. But I’ve never made claim to understand them.”

I laughed so hard, I nearly swallowed a mosquito.