LonCon 3 – Suggestions?


So I’m on a couple of panels for LonCon 3, and I need to do some homework so that I’m properly on the ball. Suggested (re)reading (and viewing I suppose) please, from all you SF fans out there.

First one:

WE CAN REBUILD YOU. SF medicine regularly comes up with “cures” for disabled bodies — from Geordi LaForge’s visor to the transfer of Jake Sully’s consciousness in Avatar — but the implications of such interventions are not always thought through as fully as we might hope. How does a rhetoric of medical breakthroughs and scientific progress shape these stories, and shape SF’s representation of lived physical difference? In what ways can SF narratives address dis/ability without either minimising or exaggerating such difference?

My immediate thought is Anne McCaffery’s The Ship Who Sang and from the film world Gattaca, but can anyone suggest any other SF where future-science plays a major part in coping with, or celebrating disability? I can think of piles of fantasy, but not so much SF. Obscure short stories maybe? Oh, something just surfaced in the old brain there – Vonda McKintyre – must find… Suggestions (of things you have actually read or seen yourself, please) in the comments please!

Panel number 2:

Liechester Square: Getting London Wrong

If there’s one thing you can guarantee about the reaction to any piece of SF set in London, it’s that British fans will delight in nit-picking the details: you can’t get there on the Piccadilly Line! So who are the worst offenders? Whose commodified Londons do we forgive for the sake of other virtues in their writing? Do we complain as much about cultural errors as geographic ones, and if not, why not? And given London’s status as a global city, is it even fair to claim ownership of its literary representation?

Suggested reading /viewing on this one? (Cliff – any particular episodes of Dr Who?)

I’m thinking Day of the Triffids, Quatermass, Rivers of London, Un Lun Dun, Veronica Britton, the dreadful (but London set) Avengers movie. There’s something by Diana Wynne Jones (I think) tugging at my memory too.

I don’t want to read or watch the entire enormous oeuvre of London Sci Fi, but any suggestions for particularly well-handled London, or particularly badly imagined London? Anything that makes you cry out as Lyra does, of Oxford, in The Subtle Knife:
That’s not my London!

Comments invited!

Five Films in Eight Days


Okay, I admit it, I’m a Cinema Enthusiast, a Film Buff, a Movie Geek … choose your epiphet; I’m one of those people who stay to watch the credits and not just for the Pixar ‘out-takes’.

And if you are wondering why I’m going on about films skip to the final paragraph and find out.

Until recently there’s been a bit of a film famine, nothing I wanted to see, no time to see it, or a lack of energy/determination to get to the cinema- unless we take the car, our nearest cinema is two bus journeys away.

Then we hit on the wheeze of combining our weekly trip to our local farmer’s market  with our cinema fix.  We can park for free, then take a virtuous mile and a bit walk across the heath and Greenwich Park clutching something to eat bought from the market or Handmade Foods, then go to the lunchtime showing at the Picturehouse which is cheap and somehow magnificently decadent, especially on a sunny day.

This worked very well for a few weeks, and then half term rolled up and all these lovely films…

It really takes discipline and planning to see a lot of films in the same week.

1st Sunday Lunchtime: The Social Network *

The True Story of the founding of Facebook.

Oh dear.  When I saw the trailer for this I thought that looks boring, but then I discovered it was scripted by Aaron Sorkin, whose work on West Wing I adore, so we gave it a go.

NO, no, no!  This was more Studio 60 than West Wing and even Mr S. could do very little with the basic premise, or make me care one bit for any of the characters. Possibly the fear of lawsuits stopped them from the flights of fancy this needed to raise it from its yesterday’s-cold-pizza-for-breakfast mentality.  It was at times funny, but I was really resenting not being out in the sun for this one.

Tuesday evening: Mary and Max ***

The True Story of the long-distance friendship between a lonely child and an autistic man.

Give me animation and I’m happy ferret.  M&M is clay-mation in near monochrome and looked lovely, the story was excellent (if a little long winded) and the vocal acting terrific.  I did however find the narration (by Barry Humphries) a little annoying.  It wouldn’t have hurt to have less of it, the pictures were doing fine, although I did enjoy “Max had no desire to kill the mime artist … unlike most other people” the timing was spot on.

Wednesday evening: Africa United ****

A group of children set out to get to the World Cup and end up walking across half of Africa.

This was the highlight of the week.  I have no interest in football, and I don’t like to be harrowed, (I go to the movies for entertainment), so this tale of child soldiers, Aids and sexual exploitation wasn’t  going to be an obvious hit with me.  However, the child actors are charming and engaging without straying into saccharine(and they can ACT, not something you’d hold against every child that ends up on screen) the script is by turns dramatic and hilarious, and the characterisation convincing.  And there was some unexpected animation for fantasy sequences, which sounds as though its weird or trite, but actually held the story together.  It doesn’t get 5 stars because it managed to be short on tension – there was never any question they’d get there – and the would-be twist at the end wasn’t quite convincing.

Thursday evening: Despicable Me ***1/2

Dastardly villain teetering on the brink of being a has-been plans daring heist but is foiled by a group of cute orphans… yes… sounds a bit Scooby-doo doesn’t it?

More animation, happy, happy me.  A close runner for hit of the week.  The visual jokes were wonderful and I really liked the idea of villains behaving like small businesses, going cap in hand to the Bank of Evil “formerly Lehmann Brothers” for a loan to get the equipment to steal… well if you haven’t seen it, I won’t tell you what Grue wants to steal.

The little yellow hench…men? henchies?  are cute, and I deeply enjoyed Grue knowing every single one of them by name, like some earnest boss of an international uber-firm doing his absolute best to be down with the workers.  The way the children foil Grue’s plans is not what I had anticipated from the trailers, but the plot is rather obvious so only 4 stars, and saccharine creeps in, so it loses another half a point there.

Oh, but a big plus was Julie Andrews voicing Grue’s mother, deeply unimpressed by her son’s attempts at skulduggery.  She’s brilliant.

2nd Sunday lunchtime: The Kids are Alright ***

Yea!  A Lesbian Movie!  Julianne Moore and Annette Bening!  Women on screen not wearing makeup!  Hurrah!!

Um, no, I’m afraid not.

Whilst this is a thoughtful study of how a relationship can crumble under the pressure of an interloper; and it did, eventually, claw its way back from being ‘what lesbians need is to be screwed by the right man’, it’s a pity it felt the need to go there in the first place.

Both Moore and Bening are terrific, but Ruffalo’s blurry greeny-come-lately was so abundantly unattractive (oh I know, I would say that) that the idea of Moore’s character getting further than that initial embarrassing kiss (a kiss which was completely plausible) drew loud snorts of derision from me.

So despite the healthy matter-of-fact-ness of a realistic lesbian couple (at last! Although what was all that with the gay male porn?), and a realistic lesbian relationship (although don’t these women have any friends? And any lesbian friends even? Talk about isolated!) – if you haven’t seen it yet, wait for the video, so you can fast forward through the boring hetero-sex: the story loses nothing for missing it out.

Ok, why is there all this stuff about film on a blog that’s meant to be about writing?  Well, as with children, so stories.  It’s the old nature/ nurture thing.  I can’t help but be influenced by what I watch, be it in terms of cinematic editing style, particular visuals that stay with me, or sometimes speech patterns.   I find things surfacing in the oddest way, and I have to stay alert!  I have to check… is this just an influence or is it pastiche, cliché, or worse, plagiarism?  but I can’t write in a vacuum, so what’s next- Ah, Mike Leigh’s Another Year. That’s this week’s fix sorted then.

Copyright Cherry Potts 2010