Thursday, November 20, 2014

Olive Kitteridge review

"Olive Kitteridge," the HBO miniseries, is a character study of a remarkable woman: bright, depressed, judgmental, and -- this is key -- able to see through other people's phoniness and bullshit, while unable to see through her own.

We know little of Olive's (Frances McDormand) background, other than that her (undiagnosed) clinically depressed father blew his own head off with a shotgun. In the miniseries, Olive is presented as an adult, fully formed: a wife, mother, and math teacher at the local public school. The marriage seems solid, although they are clearly bored with each other. Husband Henry (Richard Jenkins) is the local small-town pharmacist. They live on the coast of Maine.

Their only child appears to be bright, listless and unhappy, making little effort in school. He doesn't like his mother, who he says is hyper-critical of his every short-coming. Olive, while interested in her son, is disappointed by his lack of effort. She takes an interest in the students at the school who have great potential, yet who struggle because of family circumstances. She helps as she can with the depressed single mother of one of her talented students. She gravitates to the misfits and those in need.

The story is a chronicle of the relentless march of time, aging, and death. Olive's marriage has gone hollow and she struggles to find meaning in retirement after her teaching career. Every detail is keenly observed, making it all the more painful. The relentless march touches her or those near her with frailty, illness, and death.

Her son (John Gallagher, Jr.), after a failed first marriage has become alienated and uncommunicative. A bright spot, the birth of a grandchild, she learns about months after the fact. Much as she learned of her son's second marriage.

In the fourth hour of the four-hour miniseries, Bill Murray appears as a neighbor that Olive develops a relationship with. Some viewers may be allergic to Murray, but for me Murray was the perfect choice. All of the acting is top notch, with Frances McDormand giving her best performance ever. And, yes, that is saying a lot, for those who know her remarkable career.

Lest this sound depressing and unwatchable, let me assure you, this is a wise, even spiritual take on growing old. This is easily one of the most remarkable programs on television in 2014.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Book purchases at Loncon 3, part 2

More profligate book buying at Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, held August 14-18, 2014, in London.

This time I'm focusing on small press publishing in the United Kingdom. Many of these titles are, I think you'll find, are difficult to find in the United States, and where they can be found the price will be a bit high. Click to enlarge the photos.

Three hardbacks and a trade paperback from NewCon Press, United Kingdom.

 The Race by Nina Allan, a debut novel.

 The Peacock Cloak, a collection of 12 stories by Chris Beckett.

 Marcher by Chris Beckett, his second novel.

Sibilant Fricative: Essays and Reviews by Adam Roberts,
with an introduction by Paul Kincaid.
This is published under the Steel Quill Books imprint of NewCon Press.

Four trade paperbacks from Beccon Publications, United Kingdom. 

Stay by John Clute, a collection of reviews, essays,
and five short stories. Clute's most recent book.

Pardon This Intrusion by John Clute,
containing essays, addresses, and introductions.

 Canary Fever: Reviews by John Clute.

 Call and Response by Paul Kincaid, reviews and essays.

Related links:
NewCon Press
Beccon Publications

Related link on this blog:
Book purchases at Loncon 3 (part 1)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book purchases at Loncon 3

I did my fair share to support the book publishing industry, especially the small press community, when I was in the dealers' room at Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, held August 14-19, 2014, in London.

The books pictured here represent some of the amazing vitality of small press publishing in Australia. As anyone who has tried to purchase books from Australia knows, shipping costs are remarkably high. I was very pleased to purchase these in person. Click to enlarge images.

Five paperbacks from Twelfth Planet Press, Australia.

A double, in the style of the old Ace Doubles, with Above by Stephanie Campisi 
back-to-back with Below by Ben Peek. 

 Cracklescape, four stories by Margo Lanagan, 
with an introduction by Jane Yolen.

 Love and Romanpunk, four stories by Tansy Rayner Roberts, 
with an introduction by Helen Merrick.

 Thief of Lives, four stories by Lucy Sussex, 
with an introduction by Karen Joy Fowler.

Caution: Contains Small Parts, four stories by Kirstyn McDermott, 
with an introduction by Kij Johnson.

 Two books, a hardback and a trade paperback,
from Ticonderoga Publications, Australia.

Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies: The Essential Lucy Sussex
a collection of 25 stories.

 The Bride Price, a collection of 13 stories by Cat Sparks.

Related links:
Twelfth Planet Press website
Ticonderoga Publications website

Related link on this blog:
Book purchases at Loncon 3, part 2

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Loncon 3 notes and quotes

Notes from Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, held August 14-18, 2014, in London.

Thursday panel: "LOLcats in Space: Social Media, Humour, and SF Narratives."
Panelists: Andrea Phillips, Jean Johnson (m), Adam Roberts, and Charles Stross.
During introductions: "I'm Charles Stross and I tweet too."
Adam Roberts on the Culture novels of Iain M. Banks: "You'd much rather be a Mind than a meat person."
Charles Stross: "The modern human condition is a cyberpunk dystopia ."
Adam Roberts' T-shirt read: "I may at any point turn into my superhero alter ego."

Thursday panel: "Loncon 3 Guests of Honour Discuss Iain Banks."
Panelists: John Jarrold, John Clute, Jeanne Gomoll, Malcolm Edwards, and Bryan Talbot.
Asked to recommend an Iain Banks book:
John Clute named A Song of Stone.
Malcolm Edwards named The Wasp Factory. Edwards said he had seen an editor's note rejecting the novel: "Very well written but far too weird ever to be published."
Bryan Talbot named The Crow Road and Whit.
Jeanne Gomoll named Look to Windward and The Player of Games.
There was some consensus among the panelists that Use of Weapons was one of Banks' finest science fiction novels.

Thursday reading: Kim Stanley Robinson.
Robinson read from his forthcoming novel Aurora (due from Orbit in May, 2015), a generation starship story. The passage that he read concerned a woman teaching the ship AI to write a narrative of the journey.

Thursday panel: "Ideology versus Politics in Science Fiction."
Panelists: Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Martin McGrath, Laurie Penny, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Jon Courtenay Grimwood.
Several panelists discussed the point that science fiction novels frequently focus on a revolution, then skip the important next step: the formation of a new system of government. Martin McGrath recommended Eleanor Arnason's Ring of Swords as an exception includes the negotiation of a new system after the revolution. Other panelists cited Robinson's Mars trilogy as another positive example.

Friday panel: "Interview of John Clute."
Jonathan Clements interviewed Guest of Honour John Clute.
On how authors react to negative reviews: "I think authors like to be screwed in the right way," said Clute.
On reading a novel: "Any house you've entered, you've broken into," said Clute. Authors are surprised by criticism.
"It is intellectual treason to ignore endgame," said Clute. It's essential to talk about what the book is about. The phobia about spoiling the ending is nonsense.
The SF Encyclopedia (follow here) now at 4.5 million words. Clute wrote about 2 million of those.

Friday panel: "A Conversation with Malcolm Edwards."
Chris Evans and Stephen Baxter in dialog with Guest of Honour Malcolm Edwards.
Malcolm Edwards said that in his best six weeks as editor he was able to acquire these three novels for publication: Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock, Neuromancer by William Gibson, and Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard.
Among his accomplishments, he published Paul McAuley's first novel.
The worst ever books he published: Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee's Cradle and A Man of Two Worlds by Brian and Frank Herbert. Frank Herbert wasn't much involved in the book, Edwards said.
He published the first novel by Neil Gaiman, Good Omens, which was also the last time he published Terry Pratchett, the co-author.
On the Gollancz SF Masterworks series: "The Forever War and The Stars My Destination were out of print. Well, I thought, there's a list there. I think that will be my legacy," Edwards said.
Another accomplishment: Gateway a vast ebook collection available online.

Friday panel: "Evolution of Encyclopedia of Science Fiction."
Panelists: Jonathan Clements, John Clute, Neal Tringham, David Langford, Graham Sleight, and Rick Wilber.
All cover images are first edition covers. Part of the argument of the SF Encyclopedia is to capture how books were presented at the time they were first published, according to Clute.
The Encyclopedia is different from a Wiki. It is curated and opinionated, making an argument, possibly including original research.
The most often accessed theme articles are "aliens" and "near future," according to Langford.

Friday panel: "Fantasy vs. SF: Is the Universe Looking Out for You?"
Panelists: Stephen Hunt, Anne Lyle, Ian R. MacLeod, Robert Reed, Rebecca Levene.
Fantasy and SF are trading places a bit. "We're much more likely to create a dragon than to explore even the outer solar system," said Ian R MacLeod
Robert Reed described billionaire Warren Buffett as a magician. Money makes the trains run. "Money as magic."

Saturday panel: "The Politics of Utopia."
There was concensus that Iain M. Banks' Culture novels are utopian
"Utopia is a process not an end state," said Kim Stanley Robinson. 
Robinson asserted that Abraham Lincoln was an SF author. "That government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth" uses the phrase "shall not perish" as a future imperative, a science fictional declaration.

Sunday panel: "Becoming History."
Panelists: Graham Sleight, John Clute, Peter Higgins, Elizabeth Hand, and Christopher Priest.
What novels exemplify the use of a science fictional or fantastic gaze on the history of the 20th Century?
Peter Higgins named Declare by Powers, Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis, the first of a trilogy, and The Land Across by Gene Wolfe.
Elizabeth Hand named George Saunders, for his "funny and savage" stories.
John Clute named Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald.
Others mentioned: The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar, Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins, and The Adjacent by Christopher Priest.

Sunday Filk.
"A Child of the Library" a moving song by Piers and Gill Cawley protesting library closures (follow for lyrics and video).

Sunday panel: "The Darkening Garden."
Panelists: Lisa Tuttle, Paul March-Russell, Paul Kincaid, Nina Allen, and Helen Marshall.
John Clute's The Darkening Garden (2007) argued for horror as a core mode of 21st Century fiction.
Horror is an emotion not a genre, according to Douglas E. Winter.
Kim Newman says you need an element of the irrational in horror. The panelists generally agree.
Nina Allan recommended The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates
Clute used the term "vastation" to describe the reaction to the holocaust. The term comes from Swedenborg.

Related links on this blog:
2014 Hugo Award winners
John Clute kaffeeklatsch
Loncon 3 panel photos
More Loncon 3 panel photos
Still more Loncon 3 photos
Yes, more Loncon 3 photos

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Yes, more Loncon 3 photos

More photos from Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, held August 14-18, 2014, in London.

 Kathleen Ann Goonan, writer,
"The Politics of Utopia"

 Kim Stanley Robinson, writer,
"The Politics of Utopia"

David Farnell, scholar,
"The Politics of Utopia"

Worldcon Philharmonic Orchestra

Broadway at the ExCel London convention center. 

Fan Village

George R.R. Martin
reading from his forthcoming book.

David Langford, writer and editor, and Jonathan Clements, writer and editor,
"The Evolution of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction"

 Neal Tringham, writer and editor,
"The Evolution of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction"

 John Clute, critic and editor,
"The Evolution of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction"

 Graham Sleight, critic and editor, and Rick Wilber, writer and editor,
"The Evolution of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction"

 Kim Stanley Robinson, writer,
reading from his forthcoming novel.

Ian R. MacLeod, writer,
reading from his forthcoming novel.

Related links on this blog: