Seeing The Force Awakens -- with never-before-mentioned spoilers!

Hilde and Tabbi and I went to a late (10:30 PM) showing of The Force Awakens last night. The other half-dozen people in the theater were, I guess, the other six people in the world who hadn't seen in yet either.

By the way, THANK YOU, INTERNET! for actually keeping yourself sufficiently spoiler-free long enough for me to be surprised by some of the things in the movie.

(And... not surprised. As others have mentioned, it shares a lot of the look and feel and overall story-arc of 1977's original Star Wars. Well done, but there were moments I felt like I was watching a remake, rather than a sequel. I won't be surprised if it's nominated for a Hugo, but I'd be surprised if it won; 2015's had a bumper crop of good science fiction in movies and television, enough that there'll probably be loud cries of dismay about the works inevitably left off the final ballot.)

I've decided to go ahead and post a few spoilers about the film. Bonus spoilers, that I haven't seen anyone else post about yet. But I'll put them below a cut:


My Bit To Solve The Cat Photo Shortage On The Internet

Caught Tyr in a good light that shows his blue eyes to advantage:

It's A BLTaffle Day

Bacon, Lettuce* and Tomato... with waffles.

Pretty darn good, actually.

*Full Disclosure: that's actually spinach standing-in for the usual lettuce.


Ugly Inapplicable

The recent decision to cease using Gahan Wilson's statuette of H.P. Lovecraft as the official World Fantasy Award trophy has engendered a lot of comment and conversation online, both pro and con.

The arguments favoring that change include the charge that Lovecraft was a racist, and his visage is no longer appropriate for a trophy given to increasing numbers of minority/female/non-heterosexual writers in a literary genre that also increasingly includes minority/female/non-heterosexual protagonists and characters.

Lovecraft was, yes, a racist. That racism was expressed both blatantly in his correspondence and more covertly in his fiction. (Lovecraft's stories seep ichorously with "fear of the other".). Some argue against the change on the grounds that he deserves the honor for his still-influential fiction, and his personal beliefs and attitudes should be irrelevant. Plus, the argument sometimes continues, his racism began to lose some of its virulence later in Lovecraft's life. He died at only age 46; might he not have eventually become a (relatively) non-racist person if he had lived a full lifespan and continued to modify his beliefs and attitudes?

Pro-change arguments also include the charge that Lovecraft should never have been the face of the World Fantasy Award in the first place. Lovecraft's fiction is, with only a few exceptions, firmly in the horror genre. It's the World Fantasy Award, the argument goes, and Horror is only a subset of fantasy's breadth and possibilities. (Some also argue that Horror is effectively a separate genre from Fantasy.)

The argument continues, sometimes in calm and reasonable voices, sometimes in, um, un-calm, un-reasonable voices.

But none of the arguments I've mentioned above are why I'm writing this post. I'm generally in favor of replacing the WFA trophy with something different; I like the suggestion of making it a figure of a chimera. I tend to fall into the camp that thinks Lovecraft was probably a poor and too-narrow representative of the wide fantasy field in the first place. I also think whatever suitability Lovecraft might have had as the face of the World Fantasy Award has passed; the social and political baggage he carries has grown heavier as years have passed, as society and the world has changed.

But I'm writing this to complain about one other argument that people have been making.

They say the Lovecraft statuette should be discarded because "It's ugly."

Well! Besides the fact that it's kinda (a lot) rude to call someone or their artistic representation "ugly", I'd argue that it's just plain not true in this case.

The WFA statuette was designed by Gahan Wilson. Gahan Fucking Wilson, for God's sake!

Gahan Wilson doesn't do Pretty. Gahan Wilson doesn't do Normal.

What Gahan Wilson does is Grotesque.

"Ugly" is a value judgment. "Grotesque" is a style statement.

When Gahan Wilson draws or sculpts a face, it's going to be bulgy and lumpy, exaggerated and twisted. Lips sag, jaws jut, and don't even think about the teeth. Here's a sample of Wilson's line art:

Pretty Grotesque, eh?

But for those of us who do like or love Wilson's work, the Lovecraft statuette isn't "ugly". It's exactly what one would expect from Gahan Wilson. Exaggerated. Off-kilter. Cartoonish. (Oh, hey, what's Gahan Wilson best known for? Being a cartoonist.) 

Here's one of numerous realistic renditions of Lovecraft by other artists. This one's by Lee Joyner:

I have to say that, except for the tentacular base, that's... kinda boring. He looks like he could be a college professor, or a church deacon. The artist has made Lovecraft look... normal.

Y'know what? I actually like the WFA Lovecraft statuette, even if I don't think it's the best choice for an award trophy. I think its off-kilter, unrealistic, unorthodox appearance captures the essence of Lovecraft's own off-kilter, unorthodox mind and personality.

(I should probably mention that I have, at times, described the WFA statuette as "a gruesome little mutant spud, harvested from a potato field planted above an old Indian graveyard located far too closely downwind of former nuclear test sites". But I mean that in an affectionate way, not to denigrate the work.)

Maybe Gahan Wilson's style doesn't appeal to you. Maybe the entire Grotesque style of art doesn't appeal to you.  Maybe you don't love it. Maybe you don't even like it, no, not a little bit. Maybe it leaves you cold.

Fine. You're entitled to say any of that.

Just don't call it ugly.

Because that word is rude. And ugly.


Musical Faunch -- Upcoming MIM Concerts

Phoenix is home to the Musical Instrument Museum, displaying hundreds of global instruments on exhibit. They also have the MIM Music Theater, featuring ongoing series of musical performances and concerts, with a wide variety of styles and musicians. The latest listing of upcoming performances contains even more I'd like to see than usual:

The Klezmatics, December 22nd.
Ladysmith Black Mazambo, January 16th.
Caravan of Thieves, February 4th.
Steep Canyon Rangers, March 7th.
Lunasa with Tim O'Brien, March 15th.
Hanggai, March 31st.
Chick Corea and Bela Fleck, April 24th.
Dick Dale, May 7th.

These are just the ones I'd like to see. The full listing of upcoming performances is here, and additional artists are frequently added.

I will probably only make it to one or two of the concerts, though. Some overlap with work nights, and lack of time or tight finances (tickets range from $28.50 for Caravan of Thieves, to $68.50 for Corea and Fleck, higher for premium seating) have tended to be issues with past concerts I've wanted to attend.

But here are some YouTube videos of the ones I'd like to see. Enjoy.


My Semi-Nano Month

While I'm not inclined to try to do the full Nanowrimo thing -- write 50,000 words during the month of November -- I took the opportunity this year to see if I could manage to write more frequently. My fiction writing has generally been one night per week, with word counts ranging from a low of about 150 words to a high of about 2,000, with about four to six hours time involved.

For November, I tried to set aside a half-hour per day. Didn't completely succeed at that -- weekends, when I work two 12-hour shifts at the day job, were especially difficult -- but I managed to get in 19 writing sessions, getting nearly 9,000 words written. I had started with about 1,000 words previously written on a story, and completed the first draft of "The Return of Dodge Tombstone, Outlaw-At-Large", with a day left to spare in November, at about 9,700 words total.

My general impression of that first draft is that it's noticeably rougher written than the work I've done in the once-a-week writing sessions. For the weekly sessions, I've usually been thinking about the story for the intervening days, so when I actually get words on paper, they're pretty well thought out and clean. (Bumper sticker version: "Write your second drafts first.") The daily-session stuff will need a greater amount of editing and revision.

The story itself is a straight Western, rather pulp-magazine-ish in flavor and feel. (Well, kinda straight; I always try to put some kind of twist or difference or weird shit into my stories.) Since the markets for short Western fiction are rather thin on the ground, I have no idea when or if it will ever see publication. Perhaps appropriately, certainly ironically, I may have shot myself in the foot by writing a Western story.