“Enos Marmor Iuvato!”

Movies don’t generally do space adventure well. The best sf movies involving space travel are mostly science fantasy (e.g. the Star Wars franchise). Which I also like, but which is different.

So I was excited to hear about Mars, an independent film mixing rotoscoped live action mixed with animated footage. Waking Life… in SPA-A-A-A-ACE? Had to see it.

Now I’ve seen it and I have to admit I’m a little let down. How can a movie be so dull when it features Kinky Friedman playing the President of the United States?

Lackluster acting is part of the problem. The dead-voiced, unconvincing performances of Howe Gelb (as NASA somethingorother Shep McWhatsisname) and Paul Gordon (as billionaire astronaut buzzkill Hank Morrison) brought the temperature down to lukewarm whenever they were onscreen.

But the finest actors in the world couldn’t have saved the script, which is an incoherent jumble that doesn’t quite tell any of the various stories it touches on.

There are some good bits, here, though: some comicbooky animations of space-travel via ion-cannon; the idea of terrestrial life infecting the Martian landscape; artificial intelligence kindling in landrovers; love and last chances in an alien landscape and in a half-empty mission-control room; a daring extravehicular repair mission in deep space.

Good intentions and good details don’t quite make the movie work, but it wasn’t a complete waste of time. There were nice performances by Cynthia Watrous and Michael Dolan running the earthside operations for a robotic Mars rover, and the lead actors (Zoe Dean and Mark Duplass) did well with a romance that was predictable but understated.

Not a must-see, but maybe worth seeing once. With a better script, a low-budget/low-fi movie like this could really be great.

MARS – The Movie [HD Trailer] from Geoff Marslett on Vimeo.

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Keep It or Chuck It?

I moved at the beginning of May this year, for the first time in ten years, and the event reminded me of something I had been vaguely conscious of for a long while: I own too many books.

At one time I would have denied this was possible. But that was before I had to lift all those damn boxes.

It was also before the e-reader revolution got well underway. Nowadays I have to ask myself: Do I really need a copy of Hardy’s Jude the Obscure? In the unlikely event I want to read the book again, I can download a version from The Gutenberg Project or Google Books and read it on a handheld device.

So I’m going to chuck my hardcopy of Jude the Obscure.

A tougher choice was my copy of Neider’s edition of Twain’s Autobiography. But a definitive edition of the autobiography is coming out from University of California Press; I already own volume 1; the text is being released online; and Neider messed with the autobiography to construct a narrative form Twain never intended. Neider’s Twain gets chucked.

But I’m keeping both my copies of The Mysterious Stranger. One is the definitive tombstone edition from Library of America. The other was given me by my grandmother, now long dead. Both are unchuckable.

In the middle, between the must-be-chucked and the unchuckable, is a very large range of books, most of them genre paperbacks, where some sort of evaluation has to be made.

Sometimes the evaluation will involve a reread, and I thought I’d post the reviews here, in an attempt to bring the blog back from the near-death state it’s been lingering in of late.

It’ll be sort of like Keith Phipps’ Box of Paperbacks Book Club, except there’s more than one box, and except that I’m not going to review every volume, and also no one is paying me to do this, and I’m not Keith Phipps, and there are some other smaller differences.

First up: Gunner Cade by Cyril Judd (if that is his real name!) in a 1983 reprint edition from Tor.

“He was quiet…mostly kept to himself.”

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Tosher

I hate it when people start a piece of writing with “According to Webster’s Dictionary” or similar cringes before the audience. But whenever I think of Daniel Tosh (which is seldom) I can’t help but think of the (British English) definition of “tosh”, which is “nonsense, trash, bullshit”. I checked out the etymology today at the Oxford English Dictionary and didn’t find one. (Aside to the OED: Be ashamed.) But one of the early appearances of the word was in cricket slang, where it referred to “bowling of contemptible easiness” (a “meatball” in terms of American baseball slang). So maybe it’s a variant of “toss”–a throw that’s contemptibly easy to hit.

The takeway, I think, is “contemptible easiness”. Is there a better way to sum up Tosh’s schtick than that?

Normally the guy doesn’t appear on my radar, because I have more reliable sources of funny stuff on the internet (starting with the internet).

But I’ve been hearing and reading stuff about him lately because of this business, where he apparently was trying out a riff on rape jokes, a member of the audience objected, and he speculated about how funny it would be if the audience member were gang-raped, then and there.

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The Re-Mazing Spider-Man

Can You Spot the Double Entendre?

I went to see The Amazing Spider-Man last weekend, like millions of my fellow Americans, some of whom had seen it before.

Sometimes I felt like I’d seen it before, too–but as someone who’s been following Spidey’s career for well over 40 years (albeit intermittently and lazily, since that clone-saga-thing) I have a high tolerance for repetition. On balance, I liked it a lot.

My sort-of-review below the jump.

“Swing Into Action!”–Generous Jim

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Renegging: Bad reviews and bad ideas

Maybe I’m more haunted by the Zeitgeist than I think. While I was mulling over my post on negative reviews this weekend, writers stung by bad reviews were bouncing all over the internet.

For instance, a guy who bragged about his cunning plan to give a one-star review to the woman who had the temerity to give him a two-star review on Amazon. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work.

(I link to the Making Light entry because the reviews themselves have been expunged. Also I don’t want to drive traffic to the guy’s site. He doesn’t even have lists of things!)

A more productive response to a bad review (not just a negative review) appeared at Salon.com around the time of the King slapfest and I was remiss in not mentioning it before. (This came up in the comments section, along with other good points by Charles Stross and others.)

In passing: Making Light is one of the few places on the internet where reading the comments section is not a waste of time, due to their ruthless and humane moderation policy.

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Negging: On the art of negative reviews, and containing two (>2<) lists

I was reading an extremely negative review of my third book the other day, and found it a strangely painless experience. I felt like I was watching a cat chase the red light of a laser pointer around a room: there was something essential about the process that the cat (and the reviewer) just didn’t get.http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/are-laser-pointer-toys-really-safe-for-my-cat

That’s not necessarily the reviewer’s fault. It’s a writer’s business, especially a writer of genre fiction, to make an impact of a certain type on the audience, and if that fails to happen it’s most likely the writer that’s to blame.

On the other hand, I sort of feel that if someone thinks the last eighty pages of one of my books is genuinely irrelevant to what has gone before, they weren’t reading attentively enough to have their opinions taken seriously.

Shortly after reading that dumb takedown of one of my own books, I read a dumb takedown of Stephen King.

Jump into the dumb!

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Purfuit of Happineff!

Checking in here to wish a happy Independence Day to my compatriots, a happy Wednesday to all.

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Roming Again

Having gotten married and having moved all our worldly possessions to one flammable location, and placed them under the protection of a pair of fire-breathing slavering beasts and a gang of meth-addled bikers, Diana and I flew off to Italy for a few weeks of workingvacationmoon.

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Moved to be moody, and moody to be moved

THE SIXTEEN STAGES OF MOVING

1. I want to move.

2. I hate to move.

3. I ought to move.

4. I hate to move.

5. I have to move.

6. Find a place to move to.

7. I will pack up my things. Tomorrow, sometime. Or the day after.

8. Oh. I move tomorrow. I guess it’s time to pack.

9. So. Many. Boxes. Of. Books.

10. I hate to move.

11. How important is a cleaning deposit, anyway?

12. Ow.

13. I hate to move.

14. Moved.

15. I’m glad I moved.

15b. But I am never moving again.

15c. And next time I’ll do it so cunningly that there will be no stress whatsoever.

16. I want to move.

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Make Womb! Make Womb!

As fate and my innamorata would have it, I watched (within the space of a few days) two movies based on old Ira Levin┬ánovels: The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby.

It seems crazy to give a spoiler alert about movies a couple generations old, so I’ll cut to the chase. Both stories end with the main character, a woman, happily at home in the heart of her family, and in an extended and supportive community.

In other words, these are nightmares.

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