Take me home.

I’ve just finished a first draft of the novelette (I ultimately didn’t go with the restructuring I was hopping to do, because of time contraints) and given it to my weekly writing group for crit, and this morning I was casting about to find something to distract me from “oh dear god did I actually leave all those things in there they are so goofy.”

Bethesda stepped up.

I was gleeful to start with, and then someone pointed out that at 0:29, you can see a date on the PIP-Boy, and that the year is 2102. In-universe, this puts it 25 years after the Great War and 159 years before the first Fallout.

It’s not that I don’t love the Fallout setting, and the way the institutions have grown up over time (and yes, still ridiculously pleased that the Khans survived New Vegas; they’ve been around longer than the NCR!), but I love the Fallout world, too, and am very curious to see what it was like a mere generation after the bombs fell.

I am so very much looking forward to this.

“Song for Three Soldiers”, Stephen Vincent Benét

Oh, where are you coming from, soldier, gaunt soldier,
With weapons beyond any reach of my mind,
With weapons so deadly the world must grow older
And die in its tracks, if it does not turn kind?

Stephen Vincent Benét isn’t very well-known for his science fiction, as far as I can tell; he wrote “By the Waters of Babylon“, and the story is known, but since he was better known for other work and came to science fiction late in a relatively short life, his name doesn’t bubble to the top very easily in genre discussions.

I ran across the poem while looking up The War Game (1965, BBC, an “and you though Threads was upsetting” kind of mockumentary), which uses it as an epigram. About once every eight months I run across it again, and then I spend three days humming it to a tune that’s something like “The Streets of Laredo”.

This time, I thought I’d share; the text in its entirety is here.

“The Screwfly Solution”, James Tiptree, Jr.

AP/Nassau: The excursion liner Carib Swallow reached port under tow today after striking an obstruction in the Gulf Stream off Cape Hatteras. The obstruction was identified as part of a commercial trawler’s seine floated by female corpses. This confirms reports from Florida and the Gulf of the use of such seines, some of them over a mile in length. Similar reports coming from the Pacific coast and as far away as Japan indicate a growing hazard to coastwise shipping.

That cheery fragment is actually one of the less upsetting pieces of text in Tiptree’s “The Screwfly Solution”. It’s a fairly hard-hitting story, especially when you (for example) go in thinking that while it’ll probably be a good story, it’ll be a little dated and there’s no reason to think it’d make more of an impression than others you’ve read.

(I was corrected. To borrow a phrase from another work, I was corrected harshly.)

That short story’s remarkable to me at least in part because I honestly feel like the last few lines weaken the horror of it. Partly that’s surprising because I find most of Tiptree’s work is remarkably consistent and builds well on itself; partly that’s interesting because I’ve got a class on beginnings and endings tomorrow, and I’ve been thinking a lot about them lately.

Tiptree wrote a great many stories, and it’s hard to choose what to recommend first, but after “The Screwfly Solution” you could do worse than go with “Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light!”, “The Man Who Walked Home”, and “The Girl Who Was Plugged In”.

The Sheep Look Up, John Brunner

Latro, California: “Terrible diarrhea, Doctor, and I feel so weak!”/“Take these pills and come back in three days if you’re not better.”
Parkington, Texas: “Terrible diarrhea. . . .”/“Take these pills . . .”
Hainesport, Louisiana: “Terrible . . .” “Take . . .”
Baker Bay, Florida . . .
Washington, DC. . . .
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania . . .
New York, New York . . .
Boston, Massachusetts . . .
Chicago, Illinois: “Doctor, I know it’s Sunday, but the kid’s in such a terrible state—you’ve got to help me!”/“Give him some junior aspirin and bring him to my office tomorrow. Goodbye.”

EVERYWHERE, USA: a sudden upswing in orders for very small coffins, the right size to take a baby dead from acute infantile enteritis.

I skimmed my first John Brunner novel somewhere in my early 20s and thought it was creepy but neat.

I read my second John Brunner novel in 2007. It was Stand on Zanzibar. To the best of my recollection, I spent a weekend feeling very stunned by the influx of information and the intensity of the plot. The last SF novel I’d read about overpopulation was Make Room! Make Room! and while I liked it, it did not quite have the impact of Brunner’s mosaic of plot, sorrow, and horror.

This quote is from The Sheep Look Up, which is about pollution in the same way Stand On Zanzibar is about overpopulation. I don’t find it quite as affecting as Stand on Zanzibar, but it is most definitely worth reading.

Image is found here, by Witch Kiki, used under the CC0 1.0 license

Come and get some mercy.

Well, season 2 of Z Nation is complete and I am giddy.

There are other shows with zombies (I am pretty sure… although these days I’m only watching iZombie, and it kind of doesn’t count). There are other shows with pulpy, bright-and-quickly-drawn characters.  There are other shows with kind of cheesy premises that carry themselves through sheer momentum.

But.

Continue reading “Come and get some mercy.”

Well that was a fortnight and change.

I have learned several things in the last couple of weeks.

  1. I get a bit sad when I can’t be at home for Hallowe’en. I’m not saying I won’t ever go to a convention on Hallowe’en again, but I’m definitely going to keep it in mind when planning stuff in the future.
  2. A weekend away with nothing to do, minimal internet access, smart kind people, good food, lovely scenery, silly or good movies, makeup, and a bottle of wine is kind of lovely. I want to do it again.
  3. Nonetheless, two weekends away from home at once throws me for a loop. I think if I do something like that again, I definitely need to look at booking a day off to get back into
  4. Fallout 4 is making me happy. It’s good to be back.
  5. For NaNoWriMo: discounting the two days I didn’t write, I’m averaging 1739 words a day; discounting the three I was sick, I’m averaging 2011. I’m behind where I’d like to be, but if I keep up my pace, I should be able to finish on time.
  6. Knitting is still not happening. This was pretty upsetting to me, but I’m hoping it changes in the future.
  7. I have found Cat Rambo’s post on preparing for NaNoWriMo to be really helpful, actually. I did not do so well with #2, clearing the decks, but I’ve known for a several months that not playing Fallout 4 in November was not going to be an option.
  8. Related to this: Novels are hard. Novelettes are a thing that I’ve accidentally committed a couple of times, because I write long, but novels? Novels are a whole different beast. It’s like the difference between knitting in the round (a fiddly act which involves double-pointed needles that are, nonetheless, usually held pretty firmly in place by yarn) and trying to juggle a handful of spaghetti. There are ends and connections everywhere.
  9. Yes, this is with an outline. Admittedly not a super-complete one.

That’s about the state of the month so far. If I don’t manage to update a bit more often, I’ll be back in December. Right now, though, I have managed to gouge out enough time to catch up on The Flash and I am by-god going to do that.

(Cisco isn’t naming people. It’s so wrong.)

And the year rolls ’round again.

(In a weirdly light-hearted counterpoint, I have “Don’t Push That Button” by Duane Elms running through my head.)

I’d have said something about this earlier, but Saturday was for unwinding and Sunday involved poking my computer with sticks until it stopped giving me kernel errors.

September 26th was Stanislav Petrov Day, which is an entirely unofficial holiday. Short version: 28 years ago, Stanislav Petrov did not push The Button. The systems he was dealing with told him he should, because the Americans had very definitely fired missiles, and he didn’t.

(Twenty-eight years ago, it was 1983. If you were talking about The Button being pushed, you were talking about nuclear war.)

It’s a day I notice for several reasons, which are in no particular order

  • not being dead is awesome;
  • oh look, more post-apocalyptic references;
  • I wonder how often it nearly happened; and
  • I cannot imagine what it was like to live in that context, and I am curious.

I’ve rambled about the last a bit; as I’ve said before, I don’t think I can get it, although I think I can understand it.

Anyway. The weekend involved a slightly higher consumption of post-apocalyptic fiction than usual, and a general state of not being radioactive smithereens. It’s occasionally nice to pause and appreciate the little things.

I think it’s the insects’ turn.

Poster for the 1988 movie MIRACLE MILE. I rewatched Miracle Mile tonight; last night, actually, by the time this post is done. (Spoilers follow.)

If you don’t know it; it’s a 1988 movie about a guy who accidentally gets a phone call telling him nuclear war is starting (has started? the missiles are locked in, at any rate), and LA will be nuked in 70 minutes. The rest of the movie is him trying to get to his girlfriend and escape the city.

He manages one of these things.

Miracle Mile is dated, and its pacing and dialogue make it a bit hard to approach, but it pulls itself together as the film goes on. Some of the scenes towards the end are surprisingly bleak; the frantic crawl through the traffic jam is something I’ve never quite seen a match for. And it is an unapologetically downer ending[1]; I find it rather touching as well, which mellows it slightly, but fundamentally this is a movie that unquestioningly accepts that  nuclear war is going to be the end of things and waits for the characters to catch up.

“People are going to help each other, aren’t they? Rebuilding things?”
“I think it’s the insects’ turn.”

I would love to see a remake of it, but I’m not sure it could be done. It seems very much a movie rooted in the Cold War; the idea that a nuclear war could happen, that it was such a real and obvious and accepted fear that with so little prompting people would behave that way. I think you could convey a world in which that fear was present, but I think that for the audience it might be a case of learning that fear, not recognizing that fear.

[1] I said, to the light of my life, “is it really that much of a downer?” And he said to me, “World War Three started, LA is nuked, the main characters drown in tar. It’s a downer.”
He has a point.

The radical notion…

I’ve been thinking a bit about Mad Max lately; specifically the Fury Road movie. I’m fond of the franchise in general, although my interest mostly lies with the post-apocalyptic setting of the second, third, and now fourth movies. And the fourth movie makes me extremely happy.

I am very fond of the post-apocalyptic genre, and I found the character of the protagonist–the fact that she existed, and how the movie handled her–to be deeply affecting in a good if startling way. That said, while I’d heard that the movie was being described as feminist, I don’t think I really thought about it at the time.

(I actually tried pretty hard not to think about it, because I was honestly not expecting it to be really better than most action movies, and I did not want to get my hopes up and have disappointed hopes get in the way of my movie enjoyment. I am not sure if this is selfishness or compartmentalization, and I am okay with that.)

I’ve seen arguments both in favour and against its being called a feminist movie. I’ve thought about it, and because it helps me to write things out when I think about them, I am rambling about it here. I think there are a few ways to parse the definition; looking at the creation of the work, and two ways of looking at the work itself.

Also there might be spoilers, I guess, so time for a break. Continue reading “The radical notion…”

“God, I hate the apocalypse.”

The opening chords and the "Have MERCY" catchphrase are stuck in my head, and I am gleeful.
The opening chords and the “Have MERCY” catchphrase are in my head, and I am gleeful.

It’s been a frustrating sort of day, so I am accentuating the positive. (This is me, so I am doing so by discussing Z Nation.)

God, I love that show.

I’ve basically dropped The Walking Dead, which I’m sure continues to be a well-acted depiction of desperate people driven to cruelty and making harsh decisions as kindness is slowly eroded from a dying world that they have no hope of salvaging.

I don’t think Z Nation is as good, in terms of narrative consistency or pacing, as TWD. I’m okay with that. It’s cheesy in its simplistic approach; it openly says that anyone still around three years into the zombie apocalypse is some kind of pulp-action-adventure badass, and then uses that as a reason to eschew grinding subsistence-level misery and proceeds to give a group of flawed, hopeful, mostly well-intentioned and kind characters a chance to actually do something that might save the world.

It has dark humour. It’s fun. It’s hopeful, in the game grim way apocalyptic settings can be if you give the characters an actual chance to achieve something. And there are moments–when Murphy leaves the door open–when I am actually shocked and horrified by the bad things people do. I like that. I appreciate the hell out of a post-apocalyptic story that can still make cruel things upsetting instead of allowing them to fade into a background slurry of mean-desperate-selfish-mean. Continue reading ““God, I hate the apocalypse.””