greygirlbeast: (grey)
Though I slept eight hours or so, I feel like I didn't sleep at all.

And there's so much sun Outside. If I didn't mind a little chill–and I don't–I could spend the day swimming at Moonstone Beach. Same for yesterday. It was "supposed" to rain yesterday and again today. And the rain keeps running away from us. I think I'm going to write a paper titled "Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and New England Weather."

Yesterday, the CEM for The Drowning Girl: A Memoir was sent to my publisher from the Jamestown post office out on Conanicut Island. It should be in Manhattan by Wednesday. For the most part, it's now out of my hands.

We spent the afternoon, at West Cove, mostly beach combing. The water was very calm, only a few scattered clouds in the sky. When we arrived, there was a great deal of plastic litter (mostly old Clorox bottles–often used for floats on lobster pots–and soft drink and water bottles) along the shoreline. Spooky and I hauled a great deal of it up above the surf line, and then later someone else came along and gathered up still more. Lots of things wash up in West Cove. Sadly, a lot of it is refuse. It's hard to enjoy being at West Cove after such a futile task.

But we found some good beach glass. I only found one nice bird bone, which was unusual. There were kayaks, canoes, sailing ships, and other boats. We took a lot of photos, and I'll post some of them tomorrow. Just not up to the chore of Photoshop and ftp today.

Back in Providence, we dropped by the p.o. There was a box of antique porcelain doll heads Inzell, Germany for Spooky, and comp copies of the Lovecraft Annual (No. 5) were waiting for me. This issue reprints the Guest of Honor speech I gave at the HPLFF in Portland, Oregon last October. Oh, and there was also a resin cast of a raven skull for Spooky. Such is our mail.

There was pizza from Fellini's for dinner. As days off go, I've had worse. We did get more of The Sundial read, and finished Season Two of Mad Men.

---

Seems like I had more thoughts on The Stand, things I forgot to say yesterday, but now I've mostly forgotten them all again. I know I was going to mention how poorly paced the book is. Having read it again, I'm more amazed than ever that King released an "extended" version. The original is already too long. He could easy have cut out half the stuff in the Boulder Freezone, and it would have only helped. The novel all but grinds to a halt in the middle.

This is what a blog entry looks like when I really can't seem to muster the resolve to write a blog entry.

Anyway. I'll be over here, talking to myself.

Weary of the World,
Aunt Beast
greygirlbeast: (Default)


greygirlbeast: (white)
One cannot genuinely hate a season, but autumn instills in me a deep uneasiness. Yesterday and today, it feels like autumn here in Providence. That carnivorous blue sky, low humidity, temperatures in the seventies Fahrenheit. I'm glad for the break from the heat, but not glad that means a splash of autumn in July.

Dreamsickness this morning for the first time in a couple of months. I have a pill to stop that now, but something nasty wriggled in under the pharmacological wire.

Every bit of yesterday was spent editing "The Maltese Unicorn." No, that's not quite true. Only the hours spent working. And I didn't finish the editing. It sprawls over into today, and maybe also into tomorrow. Did I write anything new yesterday? Yes, but I don't think there was any net gain. I would write a paragraph, which would take half an hour or an hour, and then I would erase it.

Please do have a look at the current eBay auctions. Thanks very much.

When the editing was done for the day yesterday, I watched an episode of American Experience about the Dust Bowl (Spooky had gone to the market). I found a curious parallel. During the 1930s, during a time of great economic hardship, the nation is suffering a man-made ecological disaster, an agrocalamity. Short-sighted farming techniques in the Southern Plains led to conditions in which a layer of topsoil that had taken a thousand years to form was blown away in a few minutes. Anyway, now, in a time of economic hardship, the nation has suffered a man-made ecological disaster, an petrocalamity. Short-sighted use of fossil fuels, combined with greed and carelessness, is threatening a gulf ecosystem that has taken many tens of millions of years to evolve. In the episode of American Experience, a number of people who had been children during the Dust Bowl were interviewed. There are two I would like to quote:

Melt White, Dalhart, Texas: "It looked like the greatest thing would never end. So they abused the land. They abused it somethin’ terrible. They raped it. They got everything out they could. And we don’t think. We don’t think. Except for ourselves and it comes down to greed. We’re selfish and we want what we want and we don’t even think of what the end results might be."

J.R. Davison, Texhoma, Oklahoma: "I think that most of those people thought this is just what we might say 'hog heaven’. It’ll always be this way. So they kept breaking this country out and they plowed up a lot of country that should never have been plowed up. They got the whole country plowed up nearly and, ah, that’s about the time it turned off terribly dry."

Change a few words here and there, and this could be an interview in, say, 2075, of people who were children during this year, recalling the spring and summer the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico bled crude oil and methane.

And now I have to edit.
greygirlbeast: (white)
Supposedly, today will be a little cooler than yesterday. Here in Providence, the temperature reached about 87F. That was Outside. Inside the House, the temperature reached 86F and stayed there for several hours after sunset.

Yesterday, I wrote 1,459 words on "Tidal Forces." I wrote one of the few intentionally frightening scenes I've ever written. I realized, as I began it, that I meant it to be frightening, and I didn't shy away from my intent. This story will be included in Sirenia Digest #55. I think it has a sort of Theodore Sturgeon meets Shirley Jackson feel, but I might be mistaken.

Please have a look at the current eBay auctions. Some stuff we've not auctioned in a while, including a copy of Trilobite: The Writing of Threshold, which I don't think we've auctioned in years. Thanks.

---

Yesterday was Litha, Summer Solstice, but we did not go to the sea. I simply could not bring myself to do it. The continuing BP/Deepwater Horizon disaster has made me increasingly reluctant to face the sea. And yesterday, it came down to a story about BP stopping boats that had been dispatched to rescue Kemp's Ridley sea turtles from the oil, about the boats being turned away by BP, who then set the oil ablaze, knowingly burning turtles alive. My anger and guilt and sorrow has surpassed my ability to articulate these emotions. Yesterday, at first I thought we would go to Moonstone beach and spend the evening cleaning plastic debris off the beach. But then I thought about the gasoline we'd have to use to go there and back, forty-five minutes or so each way. Could we possibly pick up enough plastic to justify the gallons of gasoline we'd burn to get there, the CO2 and other emissions, the oil? In my head, I went round and round and round. So we stayed home. There's no way not to be complicit in the present worldwide "petrocalamities," from the Gulf of Mexico to the Niger Delta. Every time I flip a light switch, or brush my teeth, or go to the market, I am a part of the problem. Sitting here writing this blog entry on a computer composed primarily of petroleum byproducts, a computer that was shipped to the store where I bought it using gasoline and oil and diesel (and I drove to the store), a computer run on electricity generated (at least in part) by the burning of fossil fuels, blogging while I sit in a mostly plastic chair...I am part of the problem. And the only way out of the problem, in truth, the thing that no one wants to believe, is to bring about a world with drastically fewer people. To stop having babies. But that's not going to happen, not ever by choice— because we are greedy and lazy, selfish and ignorant —until the compounded actions of humanity and limitations of the biosphere force it to happen.

The US uses more oil than any other nation on earth, something like 20 million barrels per day, with China lagging a distant second with about 7 million barrels per day.

And, for me, it all comes down to sea turtles being burned alive.
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I retweeted this story a few hours ago, and it has all but shut me down today. You think you've heard the worst you can hear, that you've embraced the full measure of the horror, and then you hear something more appalling.

BP "burning sea turtles alive."


And there's this video clip:



Most of the turtles in question are Lepidochelys kempii, or Kemp's Ridley turtles. It is a critically endangered species, one of the two rarest of extant marine turtles (the other being the Olive Ridley, Lepidochelys olivacea). It's difficult to estimate the size of sea-turtle populations, but biologists believe that only about a thousand breeding females survive in the wild.

But this isn't actually about the species in question being endangered. If one one turtle from a non-threatened species had been burned alive, one that BP could have allowed rescuers to save, this crime would be just as vile.

Fuck them all to hell.
greygirlbeast: (Default)
Not enough sleep last night. I stayed up too late, and the neighbors are too noisy too early for us morning sleepers. Outside it's a mere 67F, but sunny. Sunny is good, as I squint at the screen.

Yesterday, I wrote a lot, and I hope that I wrote well. I did 1,343 words on "The Maltese Unicorn" (in five hours and forty-five minutes), and if only I could write that many words every day. I'd settle for every other day. But, there was a meeting with the producers and some studio execs and their accountants, and at least I'm not having to step down as director. Yeah, we're over budget on this shoot, but they've got confidence I'll stay on schedule. Of course, the big SFX scenes are still to come.

If you've not already looked at the current eBay auctions, please do. Proceeds go to help offset the costs of attending Readercon, one of only two cons I'll be doing this year. Also, you should have a look at Spooky's Dreaming Squid shop at Etsy. She's just finished a couple of new paintings, Owl in Red and The Ravens Three. The latter is one of my favorite paintings she's done.

Someone wanted to know, yesterday, on the subject of the cost of attending Readercon, why I'd not been "invited as a panelist, reader or speaker." This was an innocent enough question, the assumption being that Readercon pays the expenses of professionals who attend and are part of the programming. This is not, however, the case. Readercon is a small and intimate con. A large percentage of the guests are professionals (writers, editors, publishers, etc.). This is not a big media con like Dragon*Con or Comic-con. The organizers of Readercon could not ever hope to cover the expenses of those of us who take part in the programming (as I've done the past two years). But it's also one of the few cons I can bear to attend, so for the past two years I've managed. However, the past two years, I've also asked readers for help with the costs, even though most of them will not be able to attend. These costs are not inconsiderable, which might seem especially odd given that the con is just up the road from Providence, in Burlington, Massachusetts (about an hour's drive).

If you break down the expense, it's something like this: The hotel room for three nights (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) comes to $333 (plus tax). I get Spooky's con membership at a discount (mine's free), so that's only $20. Then you have to factor in what we'll spend on meals, which will be more than we'd spend at home, because we're limited to restaurants either within or very near the hotel. Plus, because I pretty much never buy new clothes, not until circumstances conspire to force me to, I'll have to get a couple of outfits before the con. And there's gas and incidental expenses, so that, when all is said and done, Thursday through Sunday at Readercon 21 will likely cost me in excess of $500 (and in August I have to pay taxes). Truthfully, I have no idea whatsoever how some writers do so many cons in a year, including truly expensive ones like WorldCon and the World Fantasy Convention, which involve long-distance travel (unless you're lucky enough to live in that year's host city).

A big thank you to Steven Lubold for his latest readerly care package, which reached me yesterday. It included, among many other things, Jennifer A. Clack's Gaining Ground: The Origin and Evolution of Tetrapods (2002) and John Long and Peter Shouten's Feathered Dinosaurs: The Origin of Birds (2008). I'd never be able to afford these books on my own, and they are much appreciated. Another thank you to Britt Marble, who sent me and Spooky matching octopus charm bracelets, as early anniversary gifts. These sorts of packages truly help brighten up a day.

Last night, I read the third (and, sadly, final) issue of Felicia Day's The Guild comic, and late we watched David Lynch's Wild at Heart (1990). I'd not seen it since...I don't know. The mid nineties, maybe, which is strange, as I was once ridiculously obsessed with the film. Probably not the best choice for a "bedtime story," but there you go.

Here's a link to a very nice piece on my writing by Paul Mathers.

---

And yes, this is Day 50 of the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil "spill." I've been tweeting a good bit about the disaster, but still haven't found the resolve needed to sit down and write out something long and coherent. I look at the facts and the figures, and I see the dying wildlife and ecosystems, and I hear the idiotic things being said by BP, and my brain skips a beat. For now, it is simply more than I am capable of addressing in a blog entry. It rarely leaves my mind, day after day after day.
greygirlbeast: (white)
Some days, I haven't enough for a good blog entry. Some mornings, I have enough for three. This morning is of the latter sort. Full-on spring seems finally to have come to Providence. Sunny with a chance of thunderstorms today, and a bit warm in the House. I have the fan going in my office, and the window open.

There's a very nice new review of The Red Tree up at Green Man Review.

Also, Lou Anders emailed me the Publisher's Weekly review of Swords and Dark Magic, the anthology that includes my story "The Sea Troll's Daughter" (mentioned prominently in the review). Here it is:

Swords and Dark Magic Edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders. Eos, $15.99 paper (544p) ISBN 978-0-06-172381-0

Editors Strahan (
Eclipse 3) and Anders (Fast Forward 2) present 17 original stories that recall the classic works of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber. To earn the book’s subtitle of “The New Sword and Sorcery,” Gene Wolfe puts on literary airs (“Bloodsport”); Tim Lebbon contributes some of the graphic horror and moral twists of the New Weird (“The Deification of Dal Balmore”); and Caitlín R. Kiernan introduces a complicated heroine rescued by the ostensible villain (“The Sea Troll’s Daughter”). But most of the stories are more traditional tales of apprentice mages coming-of-age and down-on-their-luck mercenaries facing unexpected perils. Fans of the classics will appreciate the tie-ins to familiar series by Michael Moorcock, Glen Cook, and Robert Silverberg, plus a “fully authorized” Cugel the Clever cameo by Michael Shea. (July)

And here's the cover from the Subterranean Press limited edition of the book. I'm very pleased that the cover art (by Dominic Harmon) was clearly inspired by "The Sea Troll's Daughter," a story which is, essentially my lesbian/feminist reworking of Beowulf:



---

Yesterday, we took advantage of the excellent weather to get out of the House. I'd not been Outside in about a week, what with all the work on Sirenia Digest giving me such a seemingly valid excuse not to leave. Spooky needed more beach glass for her jewelry-making endeavors, so we headed to West Cove, the best place we've found in Rhode Island for glass. As we made the familiar crossing of the Jamestown Bridge to Conanicut Island, over the West Passage of Narragansett Bay, we could see that the water was rough and choppy. There had been thunderstorms all morning. We drove to the ruins of Fort Wetherill. Instead of immediately going down to our usual spot on the beach, we spent some time exploring the granite cliffs just south of the sprawling concrete remains the fort (ca. 1940). In some places, the bluffs here tower a hundred feet above the sea. There's a clear view south and east to Beavertail. The wind was wild, but I got right up on the edge.

The rock here is a porphyritic granite (porhyritic meaning that the stone has large-grained crystals, such as feldspar or quartz, dispersed in a fine-grained feldspathic matrix or groundmass). According to my geologic map of Rhode Island, the age of the granite here is uncertain, and it's dated only as "?Late Proterozoic," so let's say 1,000 to 542.0 million years ago. That means the rocks are quite a bit older than the Cambrian and Ordovician slate and phyllite at Beavertail, two miles to the southwest.

Heading back towards west cove, walking northeast through the woods, we found a fantastic ravine the sea's cut into the granite, maybe thirty feet deep and some sixty or seventy yards long. The waves rush into it and crash loudly against the walls, throwing spray high into the air. A little north of the ravine, we investigated a beach we'd seen from a distance, but never tried to visit, as the path down to it is steep. I suppose we were feeling intrepid yesterday. The small "beach" (all cobbles, no sand) was alive with tiny wolf spiders, so we dubbed it "Spider Cove." We found a few interesting bits of glass there, before moving on to our usual beach farther north.

I needed to relax, clear my head, and let the sea soothe my nerves. But my mind was too filled with the news of what's happened and is happening and will be happening for a long time to come in the Gulf of Mexico, in the wake of the sinking of BP's Deapwater Horizon rig. I sat on the rocks, trying to hear and see nothing but the wind, the sound of the breakers, the colors of the day, but there was no way to push back the horrors of the oil spill. I felt an odd guilt, sitting there with the bay lapping at my feet. In less than an hour, I'd seen fish crows, cormorants, egrets, gulls, all manner of songbirds, a rabbit, a turtle; the woods and water and sky were alive. How easy it would be, I thought, to lose all this. How quickly a single mishap of technology could devastate and change this ecosystem, possibly forever. I stopped looking for beach glass and sat writing in my notebook:

How do I explain to someone that it is the ocean itself that I worship? Not some deity of the ocean, some anthropomorphic thing that resides in the sea, but the whole of the sea itself (Panthalassa). How do I explain how my "goddess" has been and is being defiled?

Anyway, I have some photos from yesterday (more tomorrow):

3 May 2010, Part 1 )
greygirlbeast: (goat girl)
It's hard to think of much of anything right now but the catastrophe unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil still spewing from the broken pipe five-thousand feet below the remains of the Deepwater Horizon. It's pretty much a given, at this point, that coastal ecosystems and economies from Louisiana to western Florida will be devastated. Now, I'm also seeing reports that the oil will likely enter the Gulf Stream and hit the beaches of eastern Florida, and that it may even affect much of the Eastern Seaboard. In theory, it could reach as far north as Rhode Island and Cape Cod. Humanity creates disaster that will, at least in the short term, leave scars on a geological scale. I cannot help in the wildlife rescue efforts, because I'm not there, and I have no money to donate to the efforts. And I loathe this feeling of helplessness, and the knowledge that I'm as much to blame for this nightmare as anyone else who uses gasoline and oil and plastic. My complicity is explicit.

---

All of yesterday was spent getting Sirenia Digest #53 out. Reading and editing the two new stories, writing the "prolegomenon," laying out the issue, etc. If you're a subscriber you ought to have the issue by now, as it went out early last night. If you've not received it, email Spooky at crk(underscore)books(at)yahoo(dot)com and she'll fix you up. New subscribers always welcome. Here's the cover from #53:



Last night, we watched Wes Anderson's The Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on Roald Dahl's book. Another very wonderful film from Wes Anderson.

And there's also a photo I snapped yesterday, Hubero bathing on my desk while I was trying to work. It's behind the cut:

1 May 2010 )


And here's a very fine thing, a short (interactive) film using Arcade Fire's Black Mirror. I have to love anything that manages, simultaneously, to evoke Fritz Lang, Lovecraft, and Busby Berkeley.

And here's the link to the current eBay auctions. Please have a look. Thanks.
greygirlbeast: (white)
We awoke to a dusting of new snow.

Yesterday, I managed to write what might be the first 1,255 words on the prologue of The Wolf Who Cried Girl. I won't really know if I'm on the right track until I read it again today, but I do have some faint hope of finishing the prologue this afternoon. Unless I have to throw these words out and start anew; I am having a great deal of difficulty finding the tone of this novel, finding its voice.

But yeah, a much better day, as far as writing is concerned.

Also, well...there is some really cool news regarding the Audible.com adaptation of The Red Tree, but I haven't yet asked permission to share it, so that will have to wait. But...it's cool.

---

Also, yesterday I started reading "A reevaluation of the manus structure in Triceratops (Ceratopsia; Ceratopsidae)," and finished Alan Weisman's brilliant The World Without Man (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007). It's not an easy book to read, even when you already have a pretty good idea how much human beings have loused up this planet. And yet, despite the catalog of extinctions and poisons (including dioxins which will still be here when the sun finally novas, billions of years after humans have finally become extinct), it is a book laced through and through with hope. Because it calmly and with good science assures us that life on Earth will continue long after Homo sapiens is gone, even if Homo sapiens will have forever altered the course of evolution. As marine biologist Eric Sala put it (quoted by Weisman), "If the planet can recover from the Permian, it can recover from the human." And that is a comforting thought, indeed. I strongly urge you to find and read this book, and again I thank David Szydloski for kindly sending me a copy.

There is a passage I would like to quote, if only because it tackles a problem that virtually no one is even willing to discuss, even as we see ecosystems collapse and the climate change accelerate, that of voluntary human population control:

"Yet the biggest elephant of all is a figurative one in the planet-sized room that is ever harder to ignore, although we keep trying. Worldwide, every four days human population rises by 1 million...

The intelligent solution would require the courage and the wisdom to put our knowledge to the test. It would be poignant and distressing in ways, but not fatal. It would henceforth limit every human female on Earth capable of bearing children to one.

The numbers resulting from such a draconian measure, fairly applied, are tricky to predict with precision: Fewer births, for example, would lower infant mortality, because resources would be devoted to protecting each precious member of the latest generation. Using the United Nation's medium scenario for life expectancy though 2050 as a benchmark, Dr. Sergei Scherbov, who is the research group leader at the Vienna Institute of Demography of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and an analyst for the World Population Program, calculated what would happen to human population if, from now on, all fertile women have only one child (in 2004, the rate was 2.6 births per female; in the medium scenario that would lower to about two children by 2050).

If this somehow began tomorrow, our current 6.5 billion human population would drop by 1 billion by the middle of the century. (If we continue as projected, it will reach 9 billion.) At that point, keeping to one-child-per-mother, life on Earth for all species would change dramatically. Because of natural attrition, today's bloated human population bubble would not be reinflated at anything near the former pace. By 2075, we would have reduced our presence by almost half, down to 3.43 billion, and our impact by much more., because so much of what we do is magnified by chain reactions set off through the ecosystem.

By 2100, less than a century from now, we would be at 1.6 billion: back to levels last seen in the 19th century, just before quantum advances in energy, medicine, and food production doubled our numbers and then doubled us again. At the time, those discoveries seemed like miracles. Today, like too much of any good thing, we indulge in more only at our peril.

At such far-more-manageable numbers, however, we would have the benefit of all our progress plus the wisdom to keep our presence under control. That wisdom would come partly from losses and extinctions too late to reverse, but also from the growing joy of watching the world daily become more wonderful. The evidence wouldn't hide in statistics. It would be outside every human's window, where refreshed air would fill each season with more birdsong."

Of course, I do not believe this is remotely possible. Weisman is essentially correct, in theory, but I think he vastly underestimates humanity's hardwired need to reproduce, and reproduce, and reproduce, even if reproduction, ironically, means its own present misery and premature extinction (and that of so many other species). He ignores selfishness and short-sightedness. He ignores greed. He ignores all those countless differences in religion and ideology that keep humanity divided and always at one another's throats. Ultimately, it is a solution humans are neither smart enough nor humane enough to choose. But it is a grand thought, that human beings would willingly step back from the precipice and start putting things back together again.
greygirlbeast: (Kraken)
No writing yesterday. And I don't much feel like writing about that just now. More and more, I do not feel like writing about writing. I'm even less inclined to write about not writing. Except, yesterday I learned from my agent that the signed Audible.com contracts that were mailed back to NYC on December 11th never made it to NYC. So...I'm waiting to see what I'm supposed to do now.

Yesterday, we did the same thing we did last January 4th. Maybe this is the beginning of an annual pilgrimage. Maybe it's only a coincidence (yes, I do believe in those). We drove from Providence to Conanicut Island, to Beavertail State Park. Like last year, there was snow. Actually, quite a bit more snow this year than last. And colder, I think. And I wasn't dressed as well for the weather. All that ice and snow made it too treacherous to attempt to make it down onto the rocks. But we watched gulls and murres, cormorants and crows.

Last night, in a moment of weakness, I bought asparagus from Peru. That's fucking insane. Asparagus from Peru. How much fucking fuel was burned, how much C02 released into the atmosphere, to get that asparagus some 3,500 to 4,000 miles from Peru to Rhode Island? We have perfectly good asparagus grown right here in the state, a few miles from our house. But it's not asparagus season in Rhode Island, and I had a moment of weakness. This civilization (and much of the present biosphere) will fall at the mercy of a trillion trillion moments of seemingly insignificant luxury. Seemingly insignificant, that is, when each is considered alone. It's not so much the big things that kill worlds; it's all the little fucking things that come before the big, inevitable things.

There are photographs from yesterday:

4 January 2010 )
greygirlbeast: (Neytiri)
There was no time yesterday for a blog entry, as we had to drive to Massachusetts to find a screening of Avatar that wasn't 3-D.But, had I made an entry yesterday, I would have said that, on Thursday I somehow went from completely locked up (first half of the day, carrying over from Wednesday and Tuesday) to writing 1,106 words on "The Jetsam of Disremembered Mechanics." Which was a huge relief. I might survive this month, after all. Today, I'll go back to work on the story, and hopefully it will be finished by Sunday evening, and I can move along to Sirenia Digest #49.

---

So, yesterday we drove to Massachusetts for a 1:30 (CaST) showing of James Cameron's Avatar. And I think (given how many times I've said I'm not someone who can write actual film reviews) I'll just cut to the chase and say that this is a brilliant, stunning, and terrifying film. In some ways, it's a film I've been waiting my whole life to see. Not merely because Cameron and Weta have created such a convincing extraterrestrial biosphere, and not only because it speaks to my "parahuman" psyche, but because that "alien" landscape is merely one part of such a grandly sublime package. During and after the film, my head was crammed full of things I wanted to say here, and I should have written those things down, because now I can't seem to find the words. The film affected me deeply, and on a level I'm not sure I can articulate. Generally, reviews are either evaluations, arguments, or a combination of those two things. I can evaluate this film, and if I had a good deal more time at my disposal (and the requisite motivation), I could also argue why this film is not only a great film, but why it is an important film. They might even be convincing arguments for some. But I'm going to have to settle for something more to the point.

With Avatar, Cameron (and all those who worked with him) have created a film that places humanity in the role of alien invader, inverting Wells' War of the Worlds formula. Which is exactly what I was hoping to see. Indeed, I would say that Cameron inverts one of his own earlier efforts, Aliens (1986). In 2154, a joint military/corporate effort from a dying earth seeks to exploit the mineral resources of an earth-like moon circling a gas giant in a distant solar system. The problem, of course, is that a sentient race lives on the moon, one that is....well, we get into spoiler territory here, and I very much don't want to spoil this for anyone. I'm honestly not sure what to say (as I may have said above). Roger Ebert and other genuine reviewers have already said so much that needed saying about the film.

I'm not so much impressed that, with Avatar, Cameron was willing to make a film with such a strong pro-environmentalist and anti-war message. Lots of people are doing that (though none have risked this sort of budget in the process). What truly impresses me is that Cameron has made what is essentially an anti-human film. On Pandora, in the conflicts between mankind and the Na'vi, we see what we've seen on Earth for the entirety of human history. In general and with precious few exceptions, humans will go to any length to exploit Nature for short-term and short-sighted gains. And "contacts" between technological and not-so technological civilizations pretty much always end with the latter getting throttled, displaced, and often driven to the brink of extinction. Avatar says, as I have always said, that there's no reason whatsoever to think things would be any different were "we" to encounter another civilization on another planet. But there's more here than some hackneyed, naive fairy-tale of the "noble savage." At the core of this film is an ingenious sort of evolutionary surprise that gives the Na'vi a fighting chance.

I'll also say that Avatar impressed me as a profoundly pagan film, but I know that it's too easy to see what we want to see in art that we love. So I'm not going to dwell on that (though Avatar already has some Xtians in a lather for this very reason).

I could go on and on, but I won't. I will say that I thought the science was pretty decent. Sure, there are a few holes here and there, but they're nothing serious, nothing that interferes with the story. I could believe in the animals and plants I saw on Pandora, that I was seeing viable ecosystems. The creatures are as amazing and gorgeous as any fictional fauna and flora that have ever graced a screen, and I very much hope that we'll see a book from Weta Workshop like the "natural history" of Skull Island they released back in 2005, because I very much want to know more.

Go see this film. It's a damn good movie. Like The Road, It's terrible and beautiful and true. Which means that it's important.

* H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds (1898)
greygirlbeast: (Default)
Immense ice shelf breaks off in Canadian Arctic

The 66-square-kilometer (25.5-square-mile) ice island tore away from Ellesmere, a huge strip of land in the Canadian Arctic close to Greenland. & etc.

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

February 2012

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