MidJourney: Dragons are a girl’s best friend

Frazetta Girl Friday – Eowyn

“Eowyn and the Nazgul” by Jorge Carrerro
(Nice, because I got it off somebody’s tumblr, uncredited.)
Adam Schumpert adam.schumperts.com
“Eowyn and the Nazgul” by vbagid
“No Mere Man” by R-Tan (??)
My actual favorite here.

The actual Frazetta “Eowyn vs the Nazgul” pic is laughably pathetic. As is the original lineart, which I would heartily not recomend any one look up on the Frazettagirls.com website and then purchase.

Poetry Corner – The Sisters

Actually, this is Lamia and it looks like it’s by John William Waterhouse.
We were two daughters of one race;
She was the fairest in the face.
    The wind is blowing in turret and tree.
They were together, and she fell;
Therefore revenge became me well.
    O, the earl was fair to see!

	She died; she went to burning flame;
She mix’d her ancient blood with shame.
    The wind is howling in turret and tree.
Whole weeks and months, and early and late,
To win his love I lay in wait.
    O, the earl was fair to see!

	I made a feast; I bade him come;
I won his love, I brought him home,
    The wind is roaring in turret and tree.
And after supper on a bed,
Upon my lap he laid his head.
    O, the earl was fair to see!

	I kiss’d his eyelids into rest,
His ruddy cheeks upon my breast.
    The wind is raging in turret and tree.
I hated him with the hate of hell,
But I loved his beauty passing well.
    O, the earl was fair to see!

	I rose up in the silent night;
I made my dagger sharp and bright.
    The wind is raving in turret and tree.
As half-asleep his breath he drew,
Three time I stabb’d him thro’ and thro’.
    O, the earl was fair to see!

	I curl’d and comb’d his comely head,
He looked so grand when he was dead.
    The wind is blowing in turret and tree.
I wrapt his body in the sheet,
And laid him at his mother’s feet.
    O, the earl was fair to see!

- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Memories of the Sword (2015) – Movie Review

memories_of_the_sword-p1So, Memories of the Sword is an attempt to put an entire twenty episodes’ worth of plot and drama and twists and emotion and grandiose sets and elaborate costumes into a two-hour movie. And it’s actually mostly successful. At least, it held my attention all the way through. Or at least, held parts of my attention from the background whilst I was, well, doing whatever it was I was doing that day.
(What day is it, anyway?)

Plot? It’s impossible to discuss, even in brief, without SPOILERS.

There’s this swordsgirl, and there’s her not-mother swordswoman who raised her as an instrument of vengeance to kill her father, oh wait he’s not her father (except that he totally is and her identity is faked down to the distinguishing scars on her back) and that is also her mother. She bumps into a handsome young swordsman who happens to work for not-Dad and they spar. I mean, with kung fu. Anyhow, why not-Dad has incurred the wrath of not-Mom is about eight episodes worth of plot in and of itself, and it’s really a mark of great skill and also enormous restraint on the filmmakers’ part that they restricted it to as concise and brief flashbacks as they have. Why he deserves killing in the present is mostly because he’s taken the “then let me be evil” path and is gunning for the throne itself. One of the things that could derail his plans–is the reappearance of a few people from his past. So Swordsgirl, as things proceed along their path, has a set of choices to make. Will she carry out a revenge in which she really has no part? Will she kill the woman who raised her or will she turn her back on everything she has been taught? Will she choose freedom, or will she choose duty? And what the hell is your duty, anyway, under circumstances like this?

Personally, I feel that killing absolutely everyone, setting the palace on fire, setting the city on fire, and walking off into the sunset with the flames at your back and a sword in your hand is a fine idea, but that might just be my biases speaking.

What I liked:27550676_memoriesofthesword_still3
– The fact that the young heroine was actually able to keep up with and inflict damage on the (conflicted and distraught and unarmored) villain, even after their connection was uncovered. Usually you don’t see girl heroes being able to actually win Fights To The Death For Vengeance. Vengeance is usually men’s business.
– I didn’t see the final twist (an actual spoiler): that Hong-yi the dead swordsman’s daughter is actually Sul-hee the live swordwoman’s daughter, just because the logic behind it is bonkers but, y’know. Kdramas.
– Actually the heroine was quite good, both from the characterization standpoint–starting out as a happy-go-lucky swordsgirl to whom Bad Things Happen, but who manages to a) retain her personality, b) stay consistent within that personality, c) accomplish her goals–and from the fact that she starts out quite badass, continues her training and becomes more so, and then fights the villain on almost equal footing and ends up defeating him. Oh, and she outfights her putative love interest, too. Oh, and the young-love story was kept to a minimum and did not overpower the rest of the plot, which was nice.
– I did like the villain, surprisingly enough. Most Kdrama villains are Evil with a capital Moustache Twirl. This one was just conflicted and self-hating enough to be sympathetic, effective enough to be admirable (well, aside from killing random craftsmen and their familes), and he was charismatic enough that it made sense people (such as Love Interest Kid) would prefer to work for him rather than Other People In Silly Hats. And also, pretty badass.
And also good-looking.

Note: Effing WordPress will not allow me to insert the effing picture where I freaking want it to go. You’ll have to take my word for it on the last one.

– Oh, and the colors/shots/scenes were very pretty.

What I didn’t like was:
– The Koreans just can’t do fight scenes all that well, or at least they’ve been severely not up to snuff in the last few movies and all of the dramas I’ve seen. They rely heavily on slow-mo and have very simplistic choreography and fixed cameras. The pace of the movie tends to slow down around these scenes, too, which are too-obviously intended to show that the hero Is Cool, watch him kick ass (very, very slowly). That said, the other cinematographologic (or whatever the word is) fixation with pretty faces and pretty costumes and pretty colors almost makes up for it. Not quite, though.
– That’s about it. It’s not half bad.

Rated: Blood on the snow. Lots of blood on the snow. Continue reading “Memories of the Sword (2015) – Movie Review”

Review – Aeon Flux

charlize-theron-aeon-flux(repost from last year, because I’m too busy watching my Cdramas to actually review them….)

So Aeon Flux is a 2005 movie based loosely on an animated TV short series, blah blah blah, starring 6-foot-plus Charlize Theron as the titular Strong Female Character, and directed by a woman. If you wanted to be nasty, you could probably compare it to Wonder Woman, which also starred a beautiful woman, was about a powerful woman, and was directed by a woman, but was actually really good and made a lot of money.

This movie is not good.

It’s terrible.

It’s terrible in a stylish, hallucinatory, breaking-the-laws-of-physics fashion that undercuts the cool stuff that really is there and leaves you wondering if those brownies were spiked. Did she just dig that bullet out of him with her fingernails? How does doing a backflip make you immune to gunfire? Why is the Bregnan surveillance apparatus a pool of water that can be disarmed with one swirly grenade? Why is the approach to the Supreme Leader’s private residence a garden guarded only by razor-edged fake grass and one tree with attack fruits that spit hypodermic darts? How come the Supreme Leader’s most effective security agents is not any of his highly trained, armored, heavily armed guards, armed with guns, but his secretary, armed with a club? Why was the violent, known-wolf assassin not searched after being taken into custody? And what the hell is up with the blimp? No, seriously. Really, what is the blimp for? Why is it just floating around? What are the streamer tails on it for? How come, if you were using water-based information storage (?) before, the blimp instead uses solid-state holograms? What the hell is it with the old guy? Is he a hologram all the time? Why does he appear to be wearing a space suit shaped like a cocoon and why is he apparently naked under it? And why does the blimp have the streamer tails on it? Are those the only way to get on board? Are they the standard way to get on board? Why do you even have those?

Now, cool stuff there is: there’s imaginative biotechnology: human modifications and gadgets that make a lot of sense–implants and chemical (aha) messengers. But then there’s the requisite Hollywood stupidity that comes with it. That’s not how virtual reality works. Not even a little. Please. That’s not how cloning works. Not even a little. That’s not how memories and the brain work. Not even a little. Why be stupid? Because you are a stupid and lazy writer who can’t be bothered to use your brain or respect your audience’s intelligence enough to try.

The other good thing is that the movie itself is filmed in a bright, clean, stylish fashion–

Oodles of stylization

–showcasing plenty of set and costume design. When in doubt: high collars and high cheekbones are always going to go over well. And parasols are always nice.

The third good thing is that the casting is good, even if the acting isn’t.

Absolutely everyone is required at all times to maintain a harsh poker face and speak in a level monotone, preferably a whisper. Only some of the actors can actually, you know, act under these circumstances; but as far as depicting a far future society filled with genetically modified, carefully selected human beings in perfect health and nutrition … this, it certainly does. Sophie Okonedo in particular impresses as someone who actually makes the most of her stone-faced screentime. (see above, re: cheekbones.) Marton Csokas …. well, in addition to the high collars, also has a great jawline.

But here’s the worst thing….once this movie has set everything up, weird, hallucinatory, illogical, and stylish as it is…it stops, backtracks, and then tries to explain. Don’t do that. You shouldn’t have done that. You’re too dumb to make it make actual sense, and all you did was ruin what weird, stylish charm you did have. And without that, we’re back to WTH-ing at some of the dumbest wetware technology, moronic security systems, ineffective mooks, incoherent terrorist organizations, and most illogical dictatorships ever.


Rated: it was watch Aeon Flux or do something productive….

The Price of the Stars – Debra Doyle

The Price of the Stars – Debra Doyle & James MacDonald

The Stars Asunder is an excellent title for an SF book. Unfortunately, it’s also book five or six of this series (the Mageworlds), and more unfortunately it was the only book my local library had at the time, which was about ten years ago. At the time, I was in a read-everything phase, and gamely attempted to chow down–with no success. Book six was just not an accessible enough jumping-in point. However, book 1 exists and I finally stumbled across it. I’m both happy and unhappy that I did. So my alphabetical traverse through my ebook library has reached the Ds and fortunately this one packet seems to have the entire series, in nicely numbered order.

It reminds me of Star Wars and James H. Schmitz. In fact: I’m pretty sure it’s meant as a Star Wars post-OT with the serial numbers filed off story. It’s got the powerful and popular once war-hero Domina married to a now-General, once-pilot and privateer who flew the Web in six hours flat (well actually closer to seven. Or six and a half. Note: hours, not parsecs, good grief). It’s got his ship from the days of his youth, the Warhammer, an archaic craft with outsized engines and more firepower than a cruiser twice its size, which he’s worked on and knows every screw and bolt and scratch. It’s got the ersatz-Jedi: the serene, staff-wielding Adepts, and their hated mortal enemies, the Mages. It’s got, not furry but still fiercely honorable and dignified saurian hunter-killers who speak in growls that humans can understand but find hard to make themselves.

It’s got a heroine who is tough and talented, but not so much that she doesn’t heed her mysterious and hypercompetent mentor or her navicomp, who is fiery and feisty and authoritative and smart, good in a fight, yet still vulnerable to injury–physical or emotional. It’s got her brothers: the Adept Owen (OK, IF THAT’S NOT A DIRECT SHOUT OUT I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT TO SAY) and the towering Ari. It’s got a young and inexperienced Adept with the unenviable position of bodyguarding said Ari. It’s got hoverbikes and gamblers and crime lords and raids and radio chatter (I really love radio chatter in fiction. In real life, it’s mostly “who was that for?” and random bursts of static when somebody presses the button accidentally.) It’s got a mysterious mentor and a complex backstory (or at least the pleasant illusion of one–the Magewars sound interesting and well thought-through). It’s got a swift-moving plot with intelligent heroes and also intelligent–though yet unseen (I’m on page 151/289) villains. It’s got gunfights, plane chases, space chases, knife fights, gambling dens, eye patches, and gunbelts tied down low. It’s got pacing and humor and and gun duels, sword-staff duels, mage duels, and heroes in long coats firing guns akimbo (that scene bears mentioning twice!)
It’s got emotional resonance.

It’s made me laugh and thrill and rush home to read as much as possible on break and then get really sad, because it’s made me want Star Wars–real Star Wars–again, and I won’t ever get it.

But this is one of the closest–and hands-down the best-written–analogues thereof I’ve seen yet.

Rated: The stars are ours!

The Spirit of Dorsai – Gordon R. Dickson

“–But these old sci-fi books, they’re not very pro-women. They don’t have very many strong female characters.”
“That’s not actually true. I think what most people are thinking of when they say that is like the old school pulp stories. Those are like: hero good, villain bad, girl pretty, pew pew pew, and then hero saves the day. And for those kinds of stories, having nuance and subtlety isn’t a selling point. So you want to not let other characters be strong because you don’t want to take the spotlight away from the hero. They’re stories that are meant to be very simple, they’re meant to go a certain way. So, the hero is always going to get the girl in the end, and the hero is always going to defeat the villain. And it has to be the hero who defeats the villain, and the heroine has to be someone you want the hero to end up with. Those are like the rules you have to work inside of.”
“Yeah, and the rules say that the women are like damsels in distress.”
“Not necessarily. Like, it’s pretty common to have the damsel have a dagger, or have a blaster, and pretty common for her to actually be able to at least get a stab in, but the main thing is that you just don’t want to show up your hero too much.”
“I don’t know…I just want to see more empowered women.”
“Oh, no, if you’re like looking for the actual female characters in science fiction who are like really cool, who are either straight-up asskicking badasses or just, y’know, strong-willed and take no [redacted], there’s lots of those.”
“Well, yeah, like in Aliens–”
Aliens is like the go-to example, but that’s only because people are uncultured idiots who don’t read books. Mil-SF particularly has a lot of women soldier characters. There’s Honor Harrington. There’s Herris Serrano….there’s Cordelia Vorkosigan…there’s probably a lot more that I don’t know about because I don’t read a whole lot of Mil-SF.There’s a lot, OK, because once you’ve got power armor in your universe, there’s no real reason to keep women out of combat.”
“No, for real, that makes sense.”
“So, yeah, there’s lots. The thing is: you have to read the books to read of them…There’s even like this one book–it’s a short one though, it’s more of a novella–about this one woman who is ninety-three years old and is appointed district commander when her planet is being invaded. Amanda Morgan.”
“Yeah, and so she’s ninety-two or ninety-three and the men are off-planet, which is why they’re being attacked, so she plans so the battle is fought–and won–by the elderly who have to stay home and then the teenagers. And, it’s a short story, so it’s not all that in-depth, but my point is: there are plenty of heroines in sci-fi.”
“Yeah, so I’m a nerd. Sorry. I’ll tone it down in the future.”
“You’re like a mega-nerd.”
“I’m going to shut up and go away now.”
“You don’t have to!”
“I got books to read!”
Rated: Stone are my walls–and my roof is of timber–but the hands of my builder are stronger by far.