URLs du Jour

2012-10-15

  • spoiler bitch An insightful blog post from the wish-I-was-as-cool-as Nick Gillespie; Nick analyzes, and mostly debunks a Politico article discussing how big-L Libertarian candidates could act as "spoilers" to GOP prospects. Sample:

    Let it be noted that no third-party candidate anywhere ever cost a major-party candidate an election. Have third-party candidates gotten vote totals that more than cover the spread between the Dem and the Rep? Of course.

    But major-party candidates lose elections all on their own. If they cannot close the deal with voters - even with all the institutional advantages they possess - well, that's their problem. Don't blame others for your own failure to woo voters.

    Indeed, the whole spoiler thing tends to falls apart when you look more closely. To wit, here's part of the discussion about the Senate race in the Show-Me State, where a lackluster and thoroughly undistinguished incumbent is facing a challenger whose basic grasp of biology suggests he'd be a first-question washout on Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?:

    … and I suggest you Read The Whole Thing™. (Maybe if I bought a leather jacket, I'd be as cool as Nick? Nah, guess not.)

  • If you haven't already done so, you gotta go to the Google today and check out their homage to Winsor McCay, creator of Little Nemo. (If you miss it today, you might be able to dig it out of Google's doodle archive, which I recommend.)

  • You might have heard about Argo, Ben Affleck's new movie. It's supposed to be pretty good, and it's based on the real-life story of the rescue of American embassy personnel from Iran in 1980. The gimmick (revealed in the trailers) is that the CIA's cover story to get into Iran is that they're making a sci-fi movie titled Argo.

    And you might have also seen one of my perennial gripes: We get piles of movies based on the works of (for example) Philip K. Dick, Richard Matheson, and Jack Finney. More power to them, but what about my favorite SF authors, like Robert Heinlein?

    Or Roger Zelazny?

    Well: it turns out that the fake movie Argo, was based on Zelazny's Hugo-winning novel Lord of Light.

    But (of course) they didn't make a movie based on Lord of Light, either in 1980 or today. But there's a website devoted to it, including some old artwork by the great comic book artist Jack Kirby. Kirby's drawings were borrowed (the website says "stolen") by the CIA to nail down the cover story. Fascinating.

    If Argo does well, maybe Affleck could get Lord of Light made? Seems only fair.

The Disappeared

[Amazon Link] So about 18 months ago, I happened upon this io9 list of the "Top 10 Greatest Science Fiction Detective Novels Of All Time".

Two I had already read; they were, I thought, reasonably decent.

So I started in on the ones I hadn't read. Results on the next six: not bad; mediocre; not my cup of tea; meh; hated it; pretty good.

That's not a bad batting average, but for a "Top 10 Greatest" list, it's surprisingly awful.

There's something about a project of this sort that compels me to finish it, so up comes The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. (io9 actually recommends the whole series, and this is the chronological first in the series.) Another loser, I'm afraid. But at least the Kindle version was relatively inexpensive.

It is set mostly on the Moon, in a time when interactions between humans and intelligent species are common enough to set up legal rules for conflict resolution. And the rules make Draco look like an ACLU card-carrier: if you run afoul of an alien legal system, they get to do pretty much whatever they want to you and your family. Tough darts, kid.

Unsurprisingly, there is a thriving market in "disappearance" services, which promise to extract you from your current life, and set you up tracelessly as someone else, somewhere else, all in order to escape alien legal punishment.

The story here involves two lunar cops dealing with some thorny cases where disappearance has been unsuccessful: one race has kidnapped a couple kids to atone for the sins of the parents; another has slaughtered the passengers of a ship, who thought they were being taken to safety; a third is looking to track down a lady lawyer they hold responsible for the subsequent crimes of a client she defended. It takes a Real Long Time for the cops to figure things out: the disappearance service common to all three cases has decided to make a little more money by betraying their clients to the aliens.

Ms. Rusch is an amazingly prolific professional writer, and won some awards, so you might have better luck with her than I did. Her prose was (mostly) professional, but lacked sparkle and failed to grab my interest. As the book wore on, I got the feeling she was padding things to meet some contractually-obligated word count. One chapter opens with a character waking up to find his right foot asleep. But—ah—a few sentences later, we discover "Only one side had fallen asleep. The other side was just fine."

Good to know. The few fractions of a second I spent parsing that are now gone, never to return.

There are also signs of shoddy editing. One guy says "I was never really comfortable with the way we were flaunting the law." Another reflects that he'd heard some bit of advice "from every single officer he'd spoken too." If my unprofessional eye can catch such boners, there are almost certainly others. Fair or not, I hear the publisher saying: Proofreading? Nah! Just get it out the door so the boobs can buy it.