MidJourney: Starmen of Llyrdis

The typography is very good. But it’s not the right cover for this book.

So, over on the According to Hoyt promo post, there is a link to a reissue of Leigh Brackett’s classic and excellent Starmen of Llyrdis, re-packaged by Jason Fleming and with a new cover that, not to mince words, is awful.

(This is not to say that you should not read the book, which is truly excellent; and if you’re going to do that, you might as well support a local sf author and buy that copy of it: amazon link.)

But the cover has absolutely nothing to do with the story, only hints at the genre, and in fact highlights a character that is barely in the novel and generally has an antagonistic role.

The Starmen of Llyrdis is a novel from the Golden Age of Science Fiction, by one of the Grandmasters of the genre. It’s about a sense of wonder, exploration, the boldness of explorers and the yearning of all men to sail beyond the shores they know. It showcases a cast of vivid (if sketchy) pulp fiction-esque iconic characters, very few of whom are poutingly passive space princesses. (There is an enormously wealthy love interest….who is again, mostly an antagonist. You’re not going to catch her pouting pensively: she’s too busy driving men insane for her own personal amusement and laughing at them for falling for it.) It’s full of nightmarish forbodings and blazingly-fast action.

Those are things that are not really conveyed well by having a flat-angle portrait as your cover.

So, I headed over to MidJourney and spent about ten minutes generating art, and then I went into Powerpoint and spent about twenty minutes trying to figure out fonts and such. That’s definitely the part that needs expertise.

The images are different sizes because I forgot to set the aspect ratio initially and just cropped them down to rectangles in powerpoint afterwards.

Anyhow, it’s a good book.


“Well, I got suspended from TV TROPES,”
“Oh, wow, how did that happen?”
“They didn’t like it when I said it was hilarious that Galadriel tried to swim from Valinor to Middle-Earth.”
“She what?”
“She dives off the boat that is taking her to Valinor and tries to swim back. I put it in the funny page and they didn’t like it.”
“….and they suspended you for that?”
“Well, what got me suspended is when I put it back again when they took it down. They didn’t like it. And they took it down right away, too. They were monitoring it very closely.”
“They didn’t think it was funny?”
“They said it was supposed to be dramatic, and therefore I couldn’t put it in the funny category. The funny category is supposed to be subjective, by the way, so they had no business changing it. They did it purely to protect the page. The Rings of Power pages are about, like, a tenth of the size of the House of the Dragon pages, and it’s because they won’t let anyone post anything except positives, and no one really wants to post anything positive for Rings of Power.”
“Don’t they post positive things?”
“There’s nothing good to say about it! They don’t really care about it, either. They really don’t, they can’t. They just want to control the information about it.”
“Huh. Do they work like Wikipedia?”
“I dunno, I don’t care enough to find out.”
“You have been on TV TROPES for a long time.”
“Yeah, well…”
“Well, you can change your IP, change your login name and get back to work in the trope mines.”
“Yeah, no, joke’s on them, I have blocked TV TROPES so I can’t get to it anymore. Except on my phone.”

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – DVD Commentary by professional critics

Reposted from Movies With My Mother (and cousin), because it made me laugh.


“What do we wanna watch?”
“You want subs?”
“Uh…ok. Let’s watch Japanese Macbeth.”
“What are we watching?”
“Japanese Macbeth. Black and white Japanese Macbeth.”

[We watched: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword]

“Let it be known that I am not the one who selected this movie. She did.”
“I did!”
“She wanted to watch it.”
“I wanted to watch it!”
“…You really do want to watch it?”

” It says, ‘For centuries’…”
“Wow that font is terrible.”

“It’s an elephant.”
“See, I told you. It’s like Lord of the Rings.
“Is that an elephant? What is an elephant doing there? Is it in India?”
“It’s a new version.”
“…Is it a musical?”

“That poor horse.”

“What is going on!? None of you are answering me!”
“They’re having a battle and Arthur’s father is going to get killed.”
“Who are they? Why are his eyes red? What are the elephants doing? What is he going to–Oh my gosh!”

“He’s about to murder his family.”
“He’s going to murder the family and become evil king, except Arthur is going to escape and come back later.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, did I just spoil it for you?”
“And he becomes KING.”

“Why did he kill her!?”
“I dunno?”
“What was the point of him killing her?”
“I dunno!”
“There was no point, how come he killed her!?”
“I dunno! There’s no subtitles!”

“Can we get subtitles?”
“You can get subtitles in English, you know.”
“We don’t have subtitles.”
“Shush! What are they doing now?”
“Killing each other.”

“An arrow killed her. That’s the arrow sound.”
“Who SENT the arrow?”
“The evil–” “–Jude Law. Jude Law sent the arrow.”
“Because he’s CRAZY!”

“Remember, you’re the one who wanted to see this.”
“I DID.”
“Past tense?”

“Moses moment…Who are they?”
“He’s been adopted by prostitutes who drew him out of the Nile.”

“Why’d he take his shirt off?”
“You don’t do that when you’re upset?”

“What’s this?”
“That don’t look like no sinkhole.”
“It’s the sword.”

“This is England?”
“It’s always England.”
“Why were there elephants in England?”

“It’s a bowl of spaghetti!”
“It’s a siren. I think he’s consulting the siren….OH MY GOODNESS!”
“What is the price?”
“Killing someone he loves.”

“What is going on?”
“They’re hiding a Resistance guy.”
“Why is there a Resistance?”
“Because the bad guy is king, there has to be a Resistance so the good guy can lead it!”
“He’s leading it?”
“Not yet. He has to be king before he can lead it, and before he can become king he has to lead it.”
“He’ll pull the sword from the stone, too, watch.”

“The guy hiding, was that the guy they took out?”
“No, the guy–which guy? That guy?”
“The guy who was bleeding, not the guy they took out.”
“The guy who was bleeding is the other guy. What guy are we talking about?”
“Pause it.”

“I can’t tell when they’re going to have bad stuff! I have to cover my eyes!”

“Ze Vikings!”

“Why do you care if the people love you?”
“Because, if you leave your castle, they’ll shoot you.”

“Weren’t the Vikings later anyway?”
“No, they were always up there. Because they’re Nordic.”
“No, this is like 400 AD, right? Didn’t the Vikings only get started like later? Like, they were really all over the place at 900, 1000 AD, I think.”
“They were there in the movie with Kiera Knightly.”
“They were forest creatures!”

“That looks like one of the creatures from–”
Lord of the Rings!”
“It’s just a DOG!”

“Whoops, no need to kill him, he dead.”

“Oh look, it can’t. Oh….it can.”

[to the music] “Kaw kaw kaw kaw kaw!”

“Waitaminute, they haven’t killed him yet?”
“They put him in prison.”
“With food and water?”
“Just water.”
“And shackles!”

“He’s monologuing! Why is he monologuing! Kill him!”

[The Mother of Skaith]: “Gwenivere is a witch?”
“Gwenivere is a witch?”
“Gwenivere is a witch?”
“Gwenivere is not a witch.”

“He’s going bald.”
“He is.”
“Wasn’t he young just a little while ago?”
“He is old!”

“They’re going to throw him down a well?”
“They’re going to throw him off the tower. It’ll be great.”

“Is that in the book? All the animals going crazy?”

“What? Why!”
“It’s the only way out!”
“Ohmygosh! They jumped off the cliff!”
“Do you need a hug?”

“Of course she’s Romanian or Slavic.”
“They don’t grow goodlooking actresses in England.”
“…It’s their teeth.”

“They reached the Robin Hood lair now.”
“And now they’re boiling eggs.”

“…it’s called Percocet, dude.”

“You guys shush up.”

“I’m waiting for the Princess Bride quicksand.”

“It’s Lord of the Rings.”
“No it isn’t. Lord of the Rings was GOOD.”
“Did you see all the Hobbits?”
“The Hobbits were bad. Lord of the Rings was good.”

“Witch! Witch! Just say Witch!”
“What is ‘mage’?”
“It’s the trendy stylish way to say magician. Witch just sounds better. And more accurate! It’s Celtic!”

“Why is he fighting the Grim Reaper?”

“Wow his dad got tore uuup!”

“OH MY GOODNESS IS HIS DAD THE STONE?…he just pulled the sword out his father’s back. Think it severed the spine?”

“Look! Elephants!”

“WHAT. They would NEVER say that. You–you–you know what you have here! This is not realistic!”
“The giant elephants didn’t tip you off?”
“Even if it’s a remake, you still have to be, be faithful to the source. Even in 4th Century England!”

“He’s gonna kill the daughter.”
“Of course he is.”

“The soundtrack is really mediocre.”
“Mediocre, and unfitting.”

“So he wanted to be a mage, but he’s not naturally, so he had to buy the right.”

“Oo! He’s a good villain when he’s not monologuing.”

“That’s Chinese.”

“This is a British movie, with a European cast, with a black guy and a Slavic actress….and a Chinese guy…and they all have American names.”

“They need to shoot the messenger.”

“Very considerate of the tower to collapse on itself, like that.”
“Yeah. It’s very Lord of the Rings….”
“Now all they need to have is the Eagles show up.”
“They have an eagle! She has it!”
“But it’s not giant.”
“It’s big…”

“Please remember, you were the one who wanted to watch this.”
“I did. Past tense.”

Readlist – The Durdane Duology and more

– The Durdane Trilogy (The Faceless Man, The Brave Free Men, The Asutra) – Jack Vance. This is a trilogy that really, really should have ended with the second book. Or at least, had a hard-handed editor crack down on Vance, who allowed his cynicism and (apparent) dislike of the main character invalidate that hero’s entire arc, work, and struggles.

Books 1 and 2 set up a subtle parallel between the main hero, Gastel Etzwane, and the two most prominent supporting leads: the mysterious and neutral Ifness, and the fraught Jerd Finnerack. When Etzwane is a young boy, fleeing from mortal danger, he encounters Ifness–who (bound by a strict policy of neutrality!) refuses to help. Later, when Etzwane encounters Ifness again as an adult, Ifness–ostensibly for reasons of sheer pragmatism but, potentially, also as a subconscious or semi-conscious atonement–makes Etzwane his accomplice and sets the reins of power in his hands, before exiting stage left in the fashion of mysterious mentors.

Meanwhile, when Etzwane was also a boy, he did a great harm to Jerd Finnerack, who was attempting to help him; and when he is able to, recruits Finnerack as his assistant…and sets the reins of power in his hands.

Etzwane is not particularly bitter against the man who harmed him, or at least can control the desire to act on his dislike; Finnerack is, and might–or might not. The conflict between the two grows throughout book 2 as they both increase their abilities–Finnerack more so than Etzwane, and Finnerack with decreasing stability. It is one of the driving sources of tension in Book 2, as our heroes  clash even while they are attempting to unify the planet and destroy the barbarian hordes of invaders. –with heroic, protagonistic success, but not without incident–

And then, Ifness comes back and takes over (the neutrality policy has changed! Now his actions are, it is revealed, motivated by a desire to embarass and displace his superiors), and Gastel Etzwane’s time, efforts, sacrifice, struggles, worries, plans, and battles are completely forgotten or negated; Jerd Finnerack is destroyed as a character with an almost cruel abruptness. Several fairly important plot threads are completely abandoned in order to make this work. Worse still, this is all done together with a bait-and-switch moment that was aggravating just on the surface of it.

Still, Book 2 provides an overall satisfactory conclusion to the problems of the world Durdane and its leadership, and the journey of the boy Mur, aka Gastel Etzwane, the musician who became its leader.

The way Book 3 ends makes me assume Vance was forced to write another chapter just for the sake of it, disliked the obligation, and decided to deliberately make the readers suffer. Here’s how: he takes a bunch of standard SF tropes and our hero…and then (with malicious intent!) applies “Except Now Reality Happens” to what should be very simple tropes. Planetary barbarians capture spaceship to rescue their womenfolk!….ship is recaptured after a brief siege because the barbarians can’t make it go anywhere, up down or around, and all survivors (did we mention they started killing each other after a week or so, including the named characters that were specifically pointed out as knowing the odds and the risks of a rescue mission and went for it anyway because they loved their daughters) are enslaved along with the girls. Again, it’s not in the content–it’s in the execution; and it’s in the denouement, which is infuriating all on its own without adding the additional insult that it does have.

Will you look at that, turns out I did have something to say about this book. I think it sucked.

As far as the good stuff goes: Books 1 and 2 for the most part are standard and I did like them: they have characters, character arcs, development, motives, and a plot that allows the characters to be proactive and effective. Book 1 Etzwane is largely motivated by trying to redeem his mother’s slave-indenture, making his mother one of the more prominent female characters in the pulp scifi galaxy. And she’s a rather good character as well. Might have to make a “mothers in SF” post one of these days. And I will say that that’s an OK cover to book 3. If only it had a good book to cover. Damnit.

– The Blue World – Jack Vance – See, Vance did know how to write pulp-action scifi. He just had to layer it in elaborate worldbuilding and add sly layers of humorous backstory. I read this one as a palate cleanser. (Literally: I stayed awake another two hours to read it, just to get The Asutra out of my head.)

Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik – This one has definitely entered the rotation as one of my go-to relax reads, and I’m glad to say it’s held up on each repeat.

– The Fifth Elephant – Terry Pratchett – “Vimes in Uberwald will be more amusing than an amorous armadillo in a bowling alley.”

Small town libraries

Are pretty awesome, even if sometimes they operate by odd rules. Turns out, my library card for Town A Library is not accepted in Town B Library, twenty miles away in the same state and county. However, my card for County XZ library–one hundred and fifty miles distant as the car drives–is.

“Huh. There you are.”)

Or would be, if I’d gotten it renewed before, y’know, moving three hours away.

On the other hand, since I’ve just gotten my brand-new Kindle fired up and loaded, it’s probably for the best. Even though I’ve wanted to read Tarzan Alive since I was eleven years old.

On the gripping hand, paperbacks were 0.25$.

  • Son of the White Wolf – Robert E Howard
  • Solomon Kane: The Hills of the Dead
  • The Moon of Skulls

And, changing genres (to donate to a homeschool group I know of, which will probably thank me profusely and then ignore them because kids these days):

  • Anne of Green Gables – Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • Anne of the Island
  • Anne of Avonlea (helpfully degunked by the nice lady. Well, 90% degunked)
  • Anne of Windy Poplars

derriere variations

“Turtle, you better haul ass.”

“I feel like I should be above this.”*

“Right, because [S] is a dumb-butt who can’t shovel six inches of crap out of his cages before he takes photos of them.”

“You mean like a FOIA? Those things are a pain in the butt, Dr. C.”
“So is [R]!”
“….that is not a very good person.”

“So for [M], should I take _ as bodyguard?”
“You need to take someone, because [M] is a shit-ass.”

*direct quote included because I feel if you say this out loud in an angry mutter when you have been caught red-handed in a malfeasance you are, and should regard yourself as, a jackass.

DNF Movie Review – Occupation: Rainfall (2020)

Operation-Rainfall-600x873 TLDR: it starts of really quite well, and then it lost me about thirty minutes in, just about when the plot killed any good will I had towards an action-heavy, low-cringe opening.


The blurb–and the opening voiceover narration–tells me that this movie is set two years after an alien invasion struck Earth in two waves, first by a drone bombardment from orbit, then by actual invasion. The invasion was thwarted, as these tend to be, by a “handful” of brave men and women rather than, y’know, the combined might of the world’s militaries; but the second wave is proving harder to deal with.

Right off the bat, this movie gets on my right side, because it gets straight into the business of us watching a handful of “brave men and women” fighting aliens…like, right into it, and it’s got things I like, like air support, and helicopters, and radio chatter, and lasers, and less than seven minutes in someone says the mission is a go, which is always fun. (pause here to note that someone, presumably our hero, flips off an alien with a grenade pull-ring on his finger. HAH.) With one very brief exception, there has been no exposition so far and actually, as of ten minutes, no cringe.

But that may change. Oh, and it’s also set in Australia.

There are also some aliens who don’t want the war to continue, and are helping, supplying, or fighting with the humans. They aren’t very well regarded by the humans who have lost friends and family members to, y’know, alien warfare.

There is also a hot Asian chick and a slightly less hot Australian chick who flies a fighter jet. Both of them show rather more cleavage than is professional in an apocalyptic military situation. I mean….are uniform dress codes really going to go that far downhill after the apocalypse? The guys aren’t going around shirtless. They seem to be in decent order. Odd and also, come to think of it, universal in the lower class of post-apocalyptic movie. Terminator (the good one) did not have this–the soldier girl was wearing pretty much an identical uniform to Kyle. Hm. Mad Max (the second one) didn’t have this, either. The Warrior Woman wore the same kind of cobbled-up hockey pads as the guys. Uh…The Blood of Heroes (that movie with Rutger Hauer, you know. The one I haven’t actually watched yet)–that one didn’t have excess cleavage, either, but it was about professional touring athletes, not soldiers. Well, semi-pro. Well. Kinda.


So! At the briefing, the squadron leader guy (who is less handsome than the flipping-off-aliens guy and therefore less a) important, b) heroic) is in favor of evacuating Sydney along with all civilians. Some older guy with an indescribable accent points out that they’re still finding civilians. Also, something something, send a ground recon, any volunteers? (Hot Soldier Guy volunteers. I have a feeling he prepared for this role by watching Black Rifle Coffee Company videos, because he’s got that exact attitude and beard.) The other person going along is one of the alien defectors, and they’re riding space horses. What, were regular horses too expensive to film? Were ATVs too expensive to film? Sheesh.

Y’know, now I want to see a movie with the heroes riding tactical side-by-sides into battle.

Black Coffee Soldier Guy continues to act with consummate unprofessionalism towards his alien ally, but never mind, the evac is beginning and jets go vroom and doors go slam, and it’s actually very exciting until it stops happening one brief montage later, hmph. The unprofessionalism continues when the civilian Grays–females and juveniles–are also left behind/refused to be let on the transports, despite Hot Asian Chick speaking up for them.

Anyway, Sydney goes boom.

OK, honestly, I’m bored at this point and don’t really know or like any of the characters except Gary the Alien (Lawrence Makoare, AKA Lurtz, Gothmog, and the Witch King of Angmar). Not that they’re poorly written!–everyone so far is pretty distinct. But they are unlikable.

This movie needed to strip down, go bare-bones on the plot, go small-scale. Take us minute-by-minute on the evacuation. Go house to house rescuing the civilians. Show our heroes going down to the last bullet. Or something like that. That’s how it kind of started out, and being down at the ground level is an interesting and new perspective on an alien invasion (Battle: Los Angeles the only other example I personally could name), without pretending that your heroes are going to make a massive difference in the outcome of the war all on their own–but acknowledging that they can make a difference by saving some lives right here, right now. A ragtag band of brave men and women successfully getting a convoy of refugees out of a warzone? That’s interesting. Saving the entire world and winning the war at one cunning stroke? Dude…it’s been done before and it was boring and unconvincing every single time after the first.

Yeah, and at this point I wandered off.