Kvetch of the Day: SF Diplomat

I think I may have some sort of Jonathan McCalmont allergy. I haven’t had a look at his ill-named SF Diplomat blog since the fantasy-is-authoritarian kerflufflet last summer. But today, in a desperate attempt to stave off useful labor, I followed a link from a friend’s page to his entry ripping Neil Gaiman’s praise of the Kindle. Personally I’d be interested in an e-reader that seemed like it was worth the trouble and money, but as the Kindle seems like an ugly inconvenient box that costs too much money and is packed with DRM technology and ways to go on siphoning cash from your pocket even after you’ve bought the thing, I was perfectly prepared to see someone put a verbal stake through its heart.

McCalmont begins promisingly:

Lots of people have been commenting upon the launch of Amazon’s new Kindle. Personally, it strikes me as an overpriced, crippled piece of junk put together in order to service an eBook market that no major publisher has any faith in.

Go, team. He goes on to talk about Gaiman’s overblown praise of the thing, and I didn’t expect this to bug me. Gaiman’s a talented writer, doubtless without a doubt, but I have sometimes felt that the buzz-to-honey ratio runs a little high.

After mocking Gaiman’s blow-quotes for the Kindle (which are eminently mockable), McCalmont goes on to dredge up Gaiman’s praise for Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: “Unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years”–a sentiment many would question, even if they liked the book, as I did.

Then McCalmont amuses himself and his dwindling audience by inventing blow-quotes for a series of apparently disreputable things and putting Gaiman’s name on them. Dumb, and slimy, even if the quotes were funny (which they’re not). If you can’t nail somebody with their ipsissima verba, maybe they don’t deserve nailing.

While at the site, I read his review of the Zemeckified Beowulf, a movie I’m probably going to have to see. McCalmont’s mixed feelings oddly echo my own premonitions, but I found myself annoyed with the pseudolearning about Old English and medieval literature he deployed in the service of his usual fantasy-is-bad-ick-put-it-down rant.

So I think I’m going to have to find more productive ways to avoid work. Is what I guess I’m saying.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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6 Responses to Kvetch of the Day: SF Diplomat

  1. davidcapeguy says:

    It’s nice to hear someone not genuflecting to the Kindle. I heard the head of Amazon puffing about it on NPR, and every question put to him by the female interviewer, he’d respond: “That’s a very good question…That’s an excellent question…That’s an outstanding question…That’s a superb question.” It sounded so condescending that I expected him to pat her on the head, slip her a Milk-Bone, and tell her she was a good girl when they finished. (He ducked all rather more penetrating questions she put to him, by the way.)

    I’ve still yet to see just why we’re supposed to want this thing. It’s just another “upgrade” that’s supposed to make everything we’ve previously purchased old-fashioned and undesirable, and then in ten or twelve years they’ll come out with a Kindle II that makes all the books we bought for Kindle I obsolete, and guess what…we get to buy it all over again!

    I also think Kindle is rather a poor name. I suppose they mean that it’s supposed to start a fire to read within us, but it could also have the Farenheit 451 meaning. Not good, that.

    I, too, have never been able to get worked up about Neil Gaiman’s work. That bothers me a little, since I’ve heard him speak at a few conventions, and I find him charming, interesting, and very funny. But in his work: I found his novel about the London Underworld dull and, much as I hate to use this word, derivative. It just felt like warmed-over background sets for Doctor Who.

    I also found Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell quite dull, giving up on it about a third of the way through. I truly wish we could return to a 1960s-style of 200-page novels. These 900-page monstrosities are so insanely padded, it’s embarassing.

    Saw Beowulf today, by the way, and liked it. I saw it in 3D, which helped considerably. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s one of those movies I’m only interested in seeing once…not certain there’s enough there there for repeated showings.

    • JE says:

      Amen to all this about the Kindle (and NG).

      I liked JS&MrN, but I did think it had a lot of excess–like many 19th C. novels (or 21st C. novels, for that matter).

      It looks like I should see Beowulf soon–it seems to be fading fast at the box office.

  2. Anonymous says:

    First, a comment from my eyes: Paper good!

    Moving on, the wife and I made a trek down to the cities to see Beowulf in 3D and eat a killer Thanksgiving brunch. I figured if either of them wowed us, it’d be worth the trip. The brunch did.

    I had my doubts about this movie since seeing the teaser. Usually I’m more hopeful about fantasy. But I figured if I was going to see it, 3D was the way to go.

    The 3D was cool at times, but didn’t wow me the way, say, Creature From the Black Lagoon did. I saw a lot of ghost images, which muddle things quite a bit.

    As is often the case, the best scene in the movie is in the trailer. The only wow moment for me is when Beowulf has Grendel’s arm caught in the door. Not much humanity left in the hero at that point.

    • JE says:

      I’ll always prefer real books to e-books for actual reading. It is awfully handy to be able to carry a research library around in a flash drive, though–wish I’d been able to do that in grad school…

      I think I feel that way about actors, too (i.e. favoring real actors over electronic simulacra). I realize that integrating live actors with CGI environments is tricky, but I don’t think the answer is to get rid of actors, the way Zemeckis seems to be trying to do: the situation is starting to remind me of “The Darfsteller”. But I guess maybe I should go see the movie before I whine any more about it.

      • Anonymous says:

        That was me, by the way.

        When I first saw the teaser, I thought they were doing the CGI equivalent of rotoscoping. But for most of the movie, movement looked bad. Definitely not rotoscoping.

        –Jeff Stehman

        • JE says:

          Hi Jeff–I figured it was you.

          CGI-rotoscoping sounds like a promising route. I wish Zemeckis were more flexible in his techno-thinking. I’m not opposed to CGI-intensive movies: I liked 300 and rocked on Sky-Captain and the World of Tomorrow. But I’m sceptical about motion-capture ever being able to cross the Uncanny Valley.

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