Just Say No to One Planet, One Language

One of the things I find a wee bit annoying about this Slate piece on science fictional languages is that it heavily references Star Trek (not even real Trek but that JJ Abrams thing from 2009) yet keeps talking about all science fiction writers like we all do it this way. Granted, there are some literary examples given, but they are very few and not the focus the way Star Trek is.

Darmok and Jelad at Tenagra

Dathon is having none of your linguistic simplicity, no sir.

First, let’s talk about Trek and alien language and culture. The thing all TV and movie iterations of Trek have done is treat each planet like it has one culture and one language. This is why Uhura’s line about three dialects makes some small sense in the world of Trek because Romulus, Star Empire it may be, metaphorically represents one country. A country that is probably small in comparison to Vulcan or Earth since it’s made up of the descendants of refugees.

It’s the same with every Trek culture. Only the ones we see multiple times ever move away from homogeny. How many years and new series had to go by before we saw a non-white Vulcan? There was once an “albino” Klingon, but otherwise they’re generally dark-skinned in TNG-era Trek. They do have different head ridges as time goes on. Did we ever see a Cardassian that didn’t have the very same coloring, bone structure, and facial markings as the first one we saw?

Even the humanoid species that looked exactly human on the outside lacked variation: with few exceptions they were all white people. If we got wild there might be a green person or a blue person with funny horns, but always the same blue or green or whatever.

To go along with the thing where everyone on the planet looks the same (even the same haircut. Do Romulans even have barbers? They would have the most boring jobs ever) the cultures were always the same across the planet. Everyone would talk about how to deal with the Bajoran people or Trills or whatever as if there was only one way to do so. One culture, one society.

The only time I remember TNG-era addressing this was an episode in season 7 when 2/3rds of a planet applied to join the Federation while the other third wanted nothing to do with it. Still though, that’s just two societies on one planet.

I realize that this is part of the utopian vision of Star Trek. That as people of different planets evolved and mass/instant communication became possible, soon they would all become one global society. That’s certainly the way Earth is presented. In the 24th century we’re all one culture: American culture. You can pretend Picard is French all you like, even with his strangely British accent, but you cannot tell me he acts in any way specifically French or even in any way specifically like a man who grew up three centuries from now.

That’s not the point, of course. Because science fiction is about us, right now, and always has been. And I have no beef with that, theoretically.

However, my story in Federations was written specifically in response to TV science fiction ideas about homogeneous alien cultures. I reject them. And I believe a lot of good science fiction novel and short story writers do as well. Because we’re not constrained the way TV writers are.

As much as I’d love more alien cultural diversity in Star Trek, I recognize that it’s mostly metaphor. I also recognize that if we were going to be super realistic, TV episodes would be boring as hell. Can you imagine the tediousness of having to deal with multiple governments and cultures on every single planet? It’s hard enough to deal with just one.

If Star Trek can’t do more than one culture per planet, how do you expect more than three dialects of Romulan? Even if you adhere to the thinking of a planet = a country, most countries have more than three dialects going on. But in every episode we’d be figuring out how to talk to new aliens or even some the Federation has already met because they’re not in the Federation yet. The universal translator takes care of that for us and we can move on to the story.

For the sake of the narrative and simplicity you have to be willing to put up with some handwave.

That doesn’t mean the same applies to science fiction literature. It shouldn’t, at any rate. I wouldn’t assume that it does.

I’m not as up on my space opera as I probably should be, but I know for my own works I try to be careful about falling into planet = one culture thing. Same as I try not to fall into the Planet With A Universal Climate trope. The SF I’ve read using that is also usually more on the metaphorical side and I’m down as long as the author clearly knows what she’s about. It’s when authors get lazy that this becomes a problem.

It seems like an awful lot of work to have to come up with multiple cultures and societies and mention multiple languages and dialects when you write stories dealing with alien worlds or even colonized ones, right? That’s because it is. This is what makes fiction rich and complex. And no, it doesn’t mean having to work out every single detail, it just means not falling back on what’s easy. That’s okay for TV, not so much for literature.

Even though the Slate article is at pains to try and paint the single language thing as scientifically valid, I don’t see that as the way to go. From an alien perspective all of Earth’s languages might seem, at the core, to be all one. And on a certain level that might be right. That doesn’t mean it’s a universal truth, does it? The way different cultures use language has huge effects on how the people in those cultures think, and dealing with those differences has a huge impact on how we Earthlings deal with each other and how we’d deal with alien cultures.

I’m just sayin': leave the one language, one culture, one planet simplicity to TV. Because it’s TV.

My Faves: Time Travel Fiction and Media

Fans of NPR’s Weekend Edition may have caught a familiar voice when listening to the segment on time travel fiction. I had a great time talking to Petra Mayer about time travel, a topic near and dear to my heart. Yes, I am still writing a novel with time traveling twins (same world as my story in Diverse Energies). Now that all of NPR knows about it I guess I should finally finish.

In the mean time you can enjoy my best-loved time travel books, stories, and other media!

“It’s All True” by John Kessel (contained in his collection The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories)

I mentioned this during the time travel panel at ReaderCon. In this story, a future society has invented time travel and they use it to go to parallel worlds, travel back in time, get famous people from the past, then bring them forward in time back to their own timeline. Thus avoiding changing their future. I swear this makes sense. The story centers around one guy’s attempt to convince Orson Wells to come to the future.

the freedom maze and kindred

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman and Kindred by Octavia Butler

I mention these two together because they share a basic premise (but are very different in sensibility as well as plot). In both, a person from modern times is thrown back into the era of American slavery, ends up with people who are her ancestors, and has to live as a slave for some portion of time. In Kindred the person is a grown woman who is pulled backward in time multiple times. In The Freedom Maze the person is a young girl who is actually white, but because she’s very tan is mistaken for a mulatto. She stays in the past for weeks and it’s unclear whether she’ll ever get back home. Both novels explore modern perspectives on the past in interesting ways.

Past Tense” and “Trials and Tribble-ationsStar Trek: Deep Space Nine

Some people will try to tell you that the best Star Trek episode about time travel is “The City on the Edge of Forever”. I don’t mind telling you that those people are wrong. As with so many things Star Trek, DS9 has the best episodes using this story vehicle. My ultimate favorite is, of course, the tribble one where the crew of DS9 travel back to the episode “The Trouble With Tribbles” and have to blend in with the original Enterprise crew. It’s awesome on so many levels from how seamlessly the effects crew blended the footage from TOS with the new footage to moments like this:

However, “Past Tense” has stayed with me all these years for a different reason. DS9 was often very social justice oriented, and this episode was chock full of it. For once, when Star Trek people ended up in the past on Earth it was not in the 20th century. Instead, they land in 2024 (still in San Francisco, though) in a dystopian America that is sadly not that hard to imagine. People who are poor, sick, or just undesirable are cordoned off into ghettos. And not just ghettos in the urban sense, but actual ghettos with walls and fences and an inability to get out where people have to fight over food rations and only get a place to sleep if the local gangs think you’re okay. It’s terrifying and not that far off the mark. This episode aired about 20 years ago. 2024 is 10 years from now. Think Star Trek will prove prescient?

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

This series didn’t get a chance to flourish fully and it ends on what could be a cliffhanger or what could seem like a satisfying end given that we sort of know what happens after. The second season dragged in the middle for sure, but overall this is one of the best entries in the Terminator franchise, right up there with T2 and way better than T3 or what weird one with Christian Bale.

The main characters in SCC don’t do much time traveling themselves. What I loved about the time travel elements is that the war between Skynet and the humans takes place not only in the future but across both the relative past, the future, and the present. Several people and Terminator models are sent back in time at different points for specific and long term missions. And each time a person or group of people are sent back, it changes the future. So that woman you knew in the resistance and see again on the street might not be the exact person you knew, but a version of them.

And even when they strike a blow against Skynet, be it by destroying tech that will lead to it or getting rid of a Terminator come to kill someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean Skynet won’t still rise, it’ll just rise at a different date. All these elements are key to the plot, and kudos to the show for making all of this relatively straightforward and understandable. It’s not just some jumbled timey-wimey mess.

I am always looking for more time travel fiction to add to my to-read pile. Rec me some in the comments, if you would!

Con or Bust Auction Begins Today!

It’s that time of year again. The Con or Bust auction is on, and you can bid to win some seriously fabulous stuff ranging from awesome books to fiction critiques to swag of the highest order. All proceeds benefit the Con or Bust fund which “helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions” by providing financial assistance. If you don’t know why this an important and worthy thing, ask me and i’ll explain it.

Before I get into the links to the stuff you should definitely bid on, I also want to say that if you are a person of color who really wants to attend a specific convention this year but cannot, please do request assistance. You do not have to be financially destitute to ask for or receive assistance. I bolded that because I want to make sure everyone pays attention. There are many reasons why you may not be able to attend a con (including that you are budgeting for other, less expensive for you cons) but really want to because it could be supremely beneficial for whatever reason. You are totally allowed to request money, so please do. The whole reason Con or Bust exists is so that the community benefits from your presence at cons as attendees, audience members, programming participants, and volunteers.

With that out of the way, I wish to call your attention to the following awesome auction lots that you should totally bid on!

Fancy Fan Signed by Star Trek’s Garrett Wang

Garrett Wang Signed This

 

Fancy Fan Signed by BSG’s Edward James Olmos

Edward James Olmos so totally signed this

Yes, that is the type of fan I usually carry. It has the dragon design on the other side, but what you really should care about is that these fans were actually touched by Olmos and Wang. The DNA is still on them!

I also put up collections of magazine back issues that I no longer need (but are too good to just toss) that includes some very pretty issues of Weird Tales and all of the print issues of Fantasy Magazine. Check them out here.

Here are some other great auctions not submitted by me:

 

It’s sort of like an Exquisite Corpse…

It's sort of like an Exquisite Corpse...

There’s a long-term project I want to do with the Interstitial Arts Foundation, but it will require quite a bit of coordination and people power, so I’m not entirely sure how to get it started. However, I know I have about 7 million intelligent and creative friends who might be able to help out or point me in the right direction or give advice, so I decided to post my idea here.

So far the IAF has done several great projects to support interstitial fiction and writing about interstitiality. There are the anthologies, Interfictions and Interfictions 2, and the magazine Interfictions online. We’ve done two auctions where we asked visual artists and crafters to create art based on the fiction, but we’ve never done the reverse and not a lot with interstitial art outside of literature. This isn’t because the IAF is only concerned with lit, it’s more to do with who is doing most of the volunteering and driving the projects–i.e. artists whose focus is mainly writing.

This project will eventually grow to involve artists from all the different disciplines and will start with musicians. The idea is to invite musicians, singers, and songwriters to create songs, symphonies, sounds, or whatever else they’re moved to do based on interstitial fiction. Just as with the last auction, we can provide copies of stories from the Interfictions anthologies. Plus, there are now several available online for free. This time, we won’t limit it to interstitial writing published by the IAF — musicians can base their music on any piece of writing they see as interstitial. I know there’s a list of interstitial fiction around somewhere that we can dig up.

Once all the musicians involved are done and the music available to all, we can move on to the next artist group. My thinking is that we ask dancers and other movement-based artists to create a short performance or dance based on the music. Then, once those are complete, maybe visual artists create art based on the dances or textile artists create clothing for the dancers. And on and on until we hit multiple artistic disciplines and perhaps, way down the line, bring it back around to writers.

This could turn into quite a big project, thus the need for excellent project management. We’d need at least two people to coordinate who are musicians themselves and have contacts in that community. One of these people should be familiar with how rights work and help us craft the best way to present the idea to musicians. The IAF wouldn’t want exclusive rights to publish the music, but would like the ability to include the song on a compilation album of our own. Plus, we want other artists to be able to freely build upon the music for the next step in the project.

There are probably other considerations I haven’t thought of–please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Does this seem like a doable idea?

Chicks Unravel Time Readings & Signings in Worcester, MA & New York City

Chicks Unravel Time Readings & Signings in Worcester, MA & New York City

Chicks Unravel Time comes out in just a few days! Eee! I’m very excited. This book is bound to be really special. I’ve already had a sneak peek at a couple of the essays and I will predict that Doctor Who lovers will enjoy every page.

Some related events surrounding that. First, to get the bad news out of the way: I will not be attending Chicago TARDIS this year. I know, very sad! But family obligations + lack of money = no Tempest at the con. However, there will be a panel and signing and all of that with the fabulous editors, Deborah Stanish and L. M. Myles, plus many of the contributors. So if you can get to the con, go check it out!

Good news is that I will be at two more local reading/signing events!

The first is in Massachusetts near Boston, the second right here in my hometown of NYC. Details:

On Saturday, November 17th, Annie’s Bookstop of Worcester is holding an all-day Chicks Unravel Time event. I’ll be there alongside Jennifer Pelland, another of the book’s contributors, plus Katy Shuttleworth, cover artist extraordinaire. We’ll be reading, signing books, and hosting a roundtable discussion/Q&A. The store has promised us some surprises as well, and there will be tons of Doctor Who merchandise besides the book to peruse. So please do come!

Location: 65 James Street Worcester MA 01603

Time: 11/17 1PM – 6PM (come early for the reading/signings)

Next up: NYC Doctor Who shenanigans!

The Doctor Who NY group is hosting a reading/signing/book launch event at The Churchill, a pub that appears to be very fancy. This event is going to be loads of fun since both Deborah and Liz will be in town. Then Liz goes back to Scotland and we all cry.

There will also be copies and discussion of a couple of other recently published Doctor Who books that night as well. So overall it will be a big one for NYC Doctor Who fans.

Location: 45 East 28th St (near Park Avenue), New York, NY

Time: 11/28 6:30pm

Here’s a Facebook page for the event if you’d like to RSVP there.

Can’t come to either of these events? Sadness! But you know what you can do? You can pre-order your copy of Chicks Unravel Time. Yes, you can!

 

10 Better Choices For The Next Doctor Who Companion

10 Better Choices For The Next Doctor Who Companion

Yesterday the Doctor Who crew announced that they’d chosen the new Doctor Who companion that will take over from Karen Gillian and Arthur Darvill: Jenna-Louise Coleman. Moffat has heaped much praise upon Miss Coleman and said that her energy matches and even exceeds that of Matt Smith, so we should all rejoice.

Yet my first thought upon seeing her was: another young, white female? Really? That’s the best we can do?

I know nothing about Coleman and I have no reason to believe she’s not a good actress. So, nothing against her personally and all. This is more about the general banality of choice here. I shouldn’t expect much from Mr. Moffat given his track record — he did choose Matt Smith, after all — but is it so much to ask that a TV show about an 1100 year old time traveling alien be more than just the same old tired stuff all TV is about? Do we really need another young, white cis woman to compliment the young, white cis man at the center of the show?

Say what you will about Russell T. Davies (and I have said plenty in my time), he at least had the balls to change it up a bit when it came to companions. There were two companions of color on his watch, plus an omnisexual man, plus a woman with some years and experience on her.

Given the show’s penchant for picking actors and actresses from past episodes, I can think of 10 really good choices for companion that each bring things to the table we haven’t seen in a while and break the young, white, human female mold in different and interesting ways.

Madame Vastra and Jenny

Madame Vastra and Jenny

I’m starting with these two because I know so many people will agree. Moffat introduced them in “A Good Man Goes To War” and I’m pretty sure the entire fandom went nuts for them right away. They’re clearly lesbian, clearly in love, and would clearly bring some welcome snark and spark to the TARDIS. Especially because Vastra is all about not putting up with the Doctor’s bullshit. Yes, Jenny is a young, white female, I know. But this combo works so well. Plus she’s from our past and it’s been a while since the Doctor pulled a companion from sometime other than contemporary Earth. Vastra is non-human; again, something the show used to do and hasn’t yet since it came back. And with the whole lesbian thing we can finally leave behind the whole Girl Moons Over Doctor thing.

Canton Everett Delaware III

Canton Everett Delaware III

Any excuse to allow Mark Sheppard to take up more screen time on my TV is a good one, right? Beyond that, it seemed clear to me that when older Canton shows up in “The Impossible Astronaut” he had been through many more adventures with the Doctor than we saw. Why not add him to the TARDIS crew for a season? Let him bring the man he loves along (a gay black man from the 50’s in space? YES. Call Idris Elba).

Amara Karan

Amara Karan

When “The God Complex” first aired I remember a bunch of people said that they wished Rita hadn’t died because she’d make a fantastic companion. I wholeheartedly agreed. Just because Rita is dead doesn’t mean that Amara Karan can’t be a companion. It’s what happened with Freema, after all. She’s such a fantastic actress, just give her another great character and she’d be fabulous. Plus, she’s a woman of color. Honestly, the show needs to prove that Martha wasn’t just a token by being a little less white for no good reason.

Alonso Frame / Russell Tovey

Russell Tovey

Since we’ve seen Alonso twice now, I think he’s a good candidate to be a companion, but I’m not wedded to the character from “Voyage of the Damned”. Russell has a nice wide range and does crazy flustered really well. Maybe even better than Matt Smith. I don’t think he’d make a good solo companion, but perhaps teamed up with Amara or Lenora in a non-romantic way it could work. He’d also make a great alien with those big ears.

Lenora Crichlow

Lenora Crichlow

Ever since I saw Lenora in “Gridlock” I have loved her. I definitely don’t want to see her play the character from that episode as a companion, but someone new. As a Being Human fan it would give me no end of squeezing to see her and Russell Tovey as companions together, but that might just be too Brit-TV incestuous. Pair her up with Canton, maybe? Then you have a nice triad. An older guy to be sort of steady and reasonable, Matt being all muppety, and a younger woman to be the balance between them. Though, honestly, I’d love to see Lenora play someone 180 degrees from the roles I’ve seen her in so far.

Naoko Mori

Naoko Mori

I’ll say this up front: there’s no good reason why Torchwood’s Toshiko Sato is dead. Though I wouldn’t be down with them bringing that character back for Doctor Who, Naoko Mori should definitely get another chance at the Whoniverse. She’ll be the first Asian companion since the dude in the American movie. My only fear with her is that, once again, the writers will go for the easy stereotypes – shy, good at maths, bad at interpersonal relationships, computer wiz. Ugh. Naoko is so much better than all of that, as the show should be.

Clyde Langer (Daniel Anthony)

Clyde Langer

Bringing in someone from The Sarah Jane Adventures would tie the Whoniverse together even more. I like Luke, though I don’t think the whole innocent super genius thing would work all that well on Who, especially up against 11. Clyde is a different sort of person, and his personality would compliment Matt’s manicness well, I think. Plus you get the benefit of a person of color and someone who won’t be over-wowed by all the strangeness yet remain grounded.

Dichen Lachman

Dichen Lachman

Dichen slips in as a Whoniverse alum just barely since she had a small part in Torchwood: Miracle Day. However, my recommendation is not based on that. I had to watch every episode of Dollhouse so I could write about it. Despite the absolute torture of such a thing, I did notice that Dichen outdid most of her co-stars on a regular. One of the few good things about Dollhouse was watching her and Enver Gjokaj school everyone on how the whole new character every episode/scene thing was done. Not that most of them learned. I see her as a companion with a lot of mad energy. Or maybe even a Time Lady. Let’s rescue Romana from E-Space and revive her as a mixed-race woman of color!

Gina Torres

Gina Torres

This entrant right here is just some wish fulfillment. I’ve watched Gina Torres be a badass awesome lady through many a TV show, both good and bad. I say let’s bring that to the TARDIS’ doorstep and see what comes of it. She’s a woman comfortably above tweenage with some gravitas to her, has the body to do all the running necessary, won’t let the Doctor walk all over her or fall in love with him, and is probably comfortable destroying whole galaxies if you get in her way.

There you go: 10 awesome choices that aren’t the same old banal young, white female we’ve already been there and done.

Who would you add to the list?

Let’s Talk About Human Nature

Let's Talk About Human Nature

Specifically, the Doctor Who series 3 episodes “Human Nature/The Family of Blood”.

Those of you who read my Chicks Dig Time Lords essay know a bit about how I feel about this episode, specifically Martha in this episode, but I’ll give a small bit of explanation and background for those who don’t.

In this two-parter, the Doctor runs away from the Family because they want to capture him and feed off of his Time Lord essence. So he hides the Time Lord bit of him in a watch (aided by the TARDIS) and hen goes to live as a normal human for a bit so that they can’t find him. The species the Family belongs to apparently have a short lifespan, so the Doctor knows if he can just wait them out in hiding, they will eventually die.

So the Doctor becomes human and hides out in pre-WWI Britain as a teacher in a rich boys school. Martha is his companion, so she has to hide out, too. So she gets to be his maid. Since he brought her along with him to this job as a teacher (I think the explanation was that she was his family’s maid) she focuses most of her energy on caring for him, but is also made to do work around the school. At one point we see her cleaning floors with another maid she’s become friends with.

Then, of course, the Family shows up, stuff happens, big adventure[1].

I have a lot of problems with this episode.

  • For a long time I wondered what possible justification the Doctor had for taking Martha to this time period and this place on earth when he had, oh all of time and space to choose from?
  • People have pointed out that the Doctor did not choose the time and place, the TARDIS dd. Well, TARDIS: wtf? Still not okay[2].
  • It’s yet another example in a long list of examples where Martha is put into the Mammy role. I might have let it slide except it happens so often it’s a damn theme, and that’s really problematic.

There are a lot of different strings tying this all together. To start, this episode was based on a Doctor Who novel written by the dude who also wrote the script: Paul Cornell. Apparently RTD liked the book so much he asked Cornell to make an episode of it. But the book was written some time ago starring a different incarnation of the Doctor with a different (white) companion. And thus the companion’s role was very different in the book.

By doing this episode during season 3 Cornell and the creative team introduced a tricky element that wasn’t in the original. They did address race more than once, and that’s good. But they only addressed race in the more surface, basic ways while letting other deeper issues stand.

This is more complicated by the fact that I really like the episode overall. It’s well-written and the story itself is interesting and the dilemma the Doctor faces in the end is crunchy and thought-provoking. I’ve found myself wishing many times since watching it that they’d done this episode with a different companion, because obviously there just wasn’t enough deep thought about race to do it the way they did without being super problematic. Or, that’s the way it seems from the result.

So what precipitated this post? Over on Tumblr I reblogged something from Karnythia about this ep where people expressed their frustration with it. It’s the part where the nurse that the Human!Doctor has fallen in love with is talking to Martha, who reveals she is a (medical) doctor. The woman then says: “Women might train to be doctors, but hardly a scivvy and hardly one of your colour.”  Karnythia points out:

“Black women had been training to be doctors in the UK & the US for almost 40 years at this point. Were there a lot of them? No. But there was a lot of coverage of the ones who did succeed. If she knew women were training to be doctors, then she knew some of them were women of color.”

Perhaps she would have, but the writer and the creative team apparently did not[3].

That gives me a whole other reason to be mad at this episode.

As I said in my Chicks piece, I don’t think anyone was being intentionally racist here and it’s clear that some thought was given to race when they decided to do these episodes with Martha. That’s a good thing. But when you’re dealing with something as thorny as this, you can’t just put some thought into race. And as many people have pointed out, there is all kinds of just on the surface or just under the surface problems with race in the new Doctor Who[4].

These episodes are a source of great rage because of the lack of deep thought about race. For me, the rage is informed by that and by the knowledge that it could be such a good episode if not for this stuff.

And it all makes me realize I need top hop on getting this book started with Karnythia.

Footnotes

  1. If you want a full synopsis, check Wikipedia.[]
  2. In the world of the show that is bad enough. But I find it to be handwavy and bull on the part of the writer/creators/whoever came up with this idea. It looks like they’re trying to absolve the Doctor of responsibility here, and that’s a dick way to do so. Plus, it doesn’t fly for the TARDIS, either, as it’s been well established by this point that it has a consciousness, too.[]
  3. Or there’s another explanation. I think we may find out.[]
  4. The classic episodes, too, of course.[]

Doctor Who Debate: Davies vs. Moffat

Doctor Who Debate: Davies vs. Moffat

At Dragon*Con last weekend I went to a panel called Doctor Who: Davies vs. Moffat in the Brit track so as to cover it for the Daily Dragon. The panel discussion was… less than robust, I would say. But then, this topic could have people going on for hours and we only had one. I wrote it up for the DD here, if you care to read.

Coming away from the panel I felt that I’d like to continue the conversation in a venue better suited to deep conversation. And here we are.

The basic idea behind the panel was to examine Doctor Who and debate which “era” of the show — the one headed by Davies or the current one by Moffat — is better overall. Of course, with both showrunners there’s a lot to pick apart and examine and for some there may not be a better overall choice. It’s completely legitimate to point out the areas where either of them excel or falter. And, of course, there will be some pitting the various Doctors against each other.

To back up your arguments, you may mention any episode that’s been aired but don’t reveal any spoilers from unaired stuff. By aired I mean aired in the UK. If you really, really don’t want spoilers for the most recent stuff, you should probably skip this one.

To start the debate, I’ll ask of folks: who do you think is the better plotter? On an episode by episode basis I would have said Moffat until season 5. On an overall arc basis, I’m saying Davies. So far The Silence just makes me roll my eyes, and I wanted to stab the Pandorica thing from the word go. Season 3’s arc was much more satisfying and well constructed… until the Tinkerbell bit.

What say you?

Dragon*Con 2011: The Late, Late Report

Dragon*Con 2011: The Late, Late Report

I’m horrible at posting timely con reports, so I’ve given up worrying about it. It’s been a week since Dragon*Con ended, so at least with this one is up faster than my WisCon or ReaderCon reports. No, you didn’t miss them… they aren’t posted yet.

Onward!

This was my first Dragon*Con, and I was slightly worried about feeling overwhelmed. However, I had the chance to work for the at-con newsletter, the Daily Dragon, and that helped me feel less at sea. I had specific things to do and I spent most of my time doing them. Those specific things involved copyediting, being on call in the DD office, covering panels, and interviewing people. Being a journalist is a bunch of fun.

I had a great time talking to Ann and Jeff Vandermeer about steampunk and Alethea Kontis and Leanna Renee Hieber about being pro guests who are also fans. But the absolute highlight of my con was getting to interview Kate Mulgrew, Star Trek: Voyager’s Captain Janeway. I also got to interview Brent Spiner of The Next Generation.

For Kate Mulgrew, I had to chase down her agent, then come sit at her signings three times before he found time in her schedule. William Shatner had just denied a couple of my colleagues an interview, so I was nervous. But Ms. Mulgrew wasn’t as ALL DONE THIS as Bill (and I don’t blame him, he did three solo panels and signed 4 times) so she granted me five minutes.

I’ve met her just once before, and she was just as warm and funny as before. She has this commanding attitude that I adore. It’s not obnoxious — more like a very forceful matriarch. If she tells you to do something, you do it because obviously she thinks it’s best. Plus, you don’t say no to Captain Janeway. Read the interview (Kate says so.)

Talking to her about how there needs to be more women leaders in the Star Trek franchise, I had this awesome idea for a panel at Dragon*Con about female leadership in SF. My dream panel would be Kate Mulgrew, Nana Visitor, Mary McDonnell, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, and Gina Torres. I also think that would make an excellent pop essay book, with the volume split between TV/Movie properties and SF novels. As things ramp up for next year’s D*Con, I’ll see if the panel is possible.

I was in the autographing room on Monday waiting for Brent Spiner to have time when I noticed that Robert Duncan McNeil (Tom Paris, Voyager) had a life-size cutout of himself in character sitting on top of his table. Not next to, on top of. I went over and asked, “How much to take a picture with the cutout?” because pictures with him were $10 and that’s just not my thing. Thankfully he has an excellent sense of humor and joked with me about it and, when I came back to actually take a picture with the cutout in my absolute silliness, decided he needed to be in the pic, too. I let him. You know, to make him feel better.

Tempest Bradford and Lt. Paris... and Robert Duncan McNeil

I also had one other mission during the con, which was to sell fans and raise money for Con or Bust when possible. I didn’t sell many fans, but my roommate, Mary Robinette Kowal, sold TONS. She’s a sales machine and earned Con or Bust a lot of money.

In addition to selling fans, I also asked some actors of color to sign one so we can auction them off. When I get home I’ll post pics. Edward James Olmos (BSG) and Garrett Wang (Harry Kim, Voyager) both signed readily and were very sweet about it. In fact, Garrett misunderstood my request (I’d asked him the night before in the green room) and had a picture he’d planned to give me of Robert Beltran, Robert Picardo and himself in character, signed by all three. It’s really adorbs. I gave him a fan in exchange for the picture and we’ll auction that off, too.

Sidenote: Garrett Wang is awesome. He runs the Trek Track at D*Con and does a fantastic job, does funny as hell spots for Dragon*Con TV, and spends hours and hours in the autograph room so everyone who wants to see him gets a chance. Plus, he’s super sweet, like I said.

That was pretty much my Dragon*Con. I met many awesome fans, hang out with the fabulous Daily Dragon staff, saw fantastic costumes, got to go to panels, met one of my heroines, and had conversations with a host of fabulous people. I’m looking forward to going back next year.

My World Famous Risotto Recipe

My World Famous Risotto Recipe

I’m contributing risotto to Thanksgiving dinner, and I could not find my piece of paper with the recipe on it! Good thing I posted it online a couple of years ago. Here’s a repost of that post with not only the recipe but how I came to make the best risotto in the entire world.

People often ask me about this recipe because my risotto is FUCKING AMAZING. I keep telling them that the whole thing was a work in progress and the ability to make it exactly like mine depends on several factors, including location. But still, I am not one for keeping amazing food a secret.

First thing I will say is that anyone who doesn’t know jack about risotto should first find the Good Eats episode wherein Alton Brown explains how to make it. It’s called Do The Rice Thing. You don’t need to watch it so much for the recipe, but for his explanation of technique. I try to explain technique and people look at me funny.

The basic recipe comes from Alton, of course, and you can find it here. I do not put in asparagus and random wild mushrooms. I do not use dry white wine. I do not use onion, lemon zest, or nutmeg. I do use the rice, tho!

Here is my recipe, modified from Alton’s:

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, stock or Pot Liquor
1 cup Barbadillo Oloroso Sherry
2 tablespoons unsalted butter/duck or bacon fat
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups Arborio rice
1-2 cups mushrooms or anything you’d like to try
1 cup meat of some kind
2 ounces grated Pecorino Toscano Fresco

In an electric kettle or medium saucepan with a lid, combine broth and sherry and heat just to simmering. Keep warm. In a large 3 to 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter/fat. Add the rice and stir. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the grains are translucent around the edges. Be careful not to allow the grains or the onions to brown.

Reduce the heat to low. Add enough of the sherry and broth just to cover the top of the rice. Stir or move the pan often, until the liquid is completely absorbed into rice. Once absorbed, add another amount of liquid just to cover the rice and continue stirring or moving as before. I usually have to pour in about 4 – 5 times. It should take approximately 35 to 40 minutes for all of the liquid to be absorbed.

After the last addition of liquid has been mostly absorbed, add the mushrooms and whatever else and stir until risotto is creamy. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. Taste and then season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Interested in the long journey between Alton’s recipe and mine? [Read more...]

Is It Okay To Dislike Gwen If I Swear I Won’t Use Misogynistic Language?

Is It Okay To Dislike Gwen If I Swear I Won't Use Misogynistic Language?

Over at GeekFeminism there is a really great post about how hating on women characters isn’t cool, especially if you’re doing so using really misogynistic language. It’s definitely worth a read. As I was going through the post, I found myself cringing at the language and hatred on display. I mean, I have issues with Gwen, too, but dear Isis, people, must we make fun of the gap in her tooth?

Scrolling down the comment thread, I saw this from Lizabeth S. Tucker: “I also believe that the reason that a large number of female characters on television series are not liked is simply because they are badly written. I always hope for a strong female character, not necessarily perfect, but one who holds her own, who stays in character.”

Yes. Absolutely yes. And no where is more apparent than with Gwen Cooper. Let it be known up front that I do not usually like Gwen. I did not begin disliking her immediately, as many fans did, but over time. After watching my favorite Torchwood episodes over and over again, I discovered that the times I really wanted Gwen off the screen were the times she was in a room with a guy she was snogging or wanted to snog. She was fine in scenes with Jack until the horrendous moment when Torchwood decided that the two of them were inexplicably in love. Anything she did when Owen was around annoyed the hell out of me until they finally got over each other. And I am convinced that I hate Rhys only because we rarely see him not with Gwen, and thus everything is just horrible all around.

When Gwen is not in a scene with a man she fancies, suddenly all the things that I find annoying about her fall away and she becomes a character I can really like and root for. So what’s up with this? I suspect that it’s because many of Torchwood‘s male writers do not know how to write relationship and sexual tension stuff to save their lives. They do not know how to make a woman be in love or in lust without being insipid and ridiculous. Need more evidence for this hypothesis? Look 3 feet to the left where Toshiko is standing.

And, as always, I blame Chris Chibnall most of all.

So really, the problem here is not Gwen, it’s the writers. And I’ll just bet if you went through every episode of Torchwood that was written by a man (with the exception of Russell T. Davies), you will find the bad writing, characterization, and awkward, bullshit sexual stuff with Gwen and Tosh (though Tosh’s stuff was limited to Owen, mostly, and her badly written character we felt sorry for). If you look at the episodes written by women, I bet the better aspects of both Gwen and Tosh come to the fore, and we feel less sorry for the latter and/or more warm toward the former.

Not At All Innocent or Hypothetical Question of the Day

Not At All Innocent or Hypothetical Question of the Day

This is for the writers out there. If you were to get the urge to write on a mobile phone (not a whole novel, say, but whenever you needed to bust out some words and it wasn’t practical to do so on a netbook), what qualities would have phone have to have to make you comfortable doing so?

I would imagine a physical keyboard is a must, but that’s because I can’t type very fast with on-screen keyboards. Others are better at it. Regardless of whether it’s physical or not, I definitely feel like a qwerty-style keyboard is a must.

Do you agree? Also, what other aspects of a phone are important? Screen size, operating system, apps?

JemCon 2010, Who’s In?

JemCon 2010, Who's In?

Okay, JemCon is the last weekend of this month. Hotel rooms are inexpensive and membership is similarly so. I want to go. I want to dye my hair purple and pretend I can play the drums. I want to recapture my misspent youth. I want to karaoke with other people who, like me, still remember the words to the songs (mainly because we were just listening to them last week).

Here’s what’s needed:

  • Someone who can drive.
  • A car.

That’s pretty much it. I have another non-driving friend interested, and we’re willing to pay for gas and such. Anyone out there wanna go?

This is what I get for not updating my plugins enough

I just now noticed that JournalPress now allows users to choose which LJ icon they want to use. Yay! So now you won’t always see my fan icon (though mostly you still will) and posts from the tech blog will have a different icon so they’re easier to identify/skip if you want.

Now if only someone would update/rewrite the plugin that allows comment syncing between LJ and WordPress, we’d be in business.

I hate to harsh anyone’s squee, but…

I hate to harsh anyone's squee, but...

The Doctor Who season finale was just as mediocre and disappointing as the rest of the season. I don’t know what the hell everyone else is so happy about, except perhaps Steven Moffet’s lackluster turn as head writer has somehow lowered everyone’s bar and they were happy to see anything resembling a moving bit of drama. Cut for spoilers, unfortunately too late for many… sorry. :(

[Read more...]