Review: Cleverman

Koen is a human trafficker, not a typical profession for a character in a superhero themed television show and even less likely for a central character. In a near future Australia, Koen is an young, urbanised indigenous man running a scam – sneaking “hairies” out of the restricted zone in which they are forced to live. A formerly clandestine group of people who are stronger, longer lived and hairier than most, the hairies are regarded as too violent and dangerous to live among humans…

This first episode is heavy on world building and while the ideas and analogies are not stunningly original, using the multiple contexts of Australian Aboriginal mythology, the marginalisation of indigenous peoples in Australia and Australia’s harsh mandatory detention policies for refugees gives them added weight.

Veteran actor Jack Charles adds an a supernatural element to the story – summoning some sort of meteor/monster and setting off a chain of events that will directly effects Koen.

An unlikable hero, and an original take on some old ideas, Cleverman looks very promising.

An episode recap at The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/jun/02/cleverman-recap-season-one-episode-one-supernatural-and-political

Currently anticipating: Cleverman

Exiled on the farside of this planet (at least until Sunday) excitement about TV tends to be secondhand – i.e. when a show from somewhere else will be shown in Australia. So that tonight there is a new Australian made SF show on free-to-air public TV is very exciting.

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/may/31/dreamtime-dust-masks-and-tons-of-fake-hair-the-making-of-cleverman

With a substantial indigenous cast and xmen-ish premise it sounds very promising. A review of episode 1 tomorrow 😉

The Alt Right Ruin Everything – Even Laughing at Conservatives

platonictrumpWe segue from the antipodes and back to US politics.  In the farce that mainstream conservative has become, commentator and pundit William Kristol has been a tragi-comic figure. During this election cycle his capacity to make wholly wrong prognostications has only increased. However, he deserves at least some little kudos for sticking to his anti-Trump guns.

Kristol announced that he would back an independent third candidate rather than vote for Trump or (presumably) Hillary Clinton. To this end he recently announced who that third candidate would be…and the answer was David French. An answer that was greeted by the world (or at least those people still listening to Kristol) with ‘who?’

French has the following qualities:

  • He is, by training, a constitutional lawyer
  • He writes for the conservative National Review Online
  • He is very conservative both socially and economically
  • He isn’t Donald Trump

Quite why anybody thinks he’d been an attractive candidate for US President is a mystery. He looks like an insider but with zero name recognition. In an election cycle where populism (always a strong feature of US elections) is the dominant theme, he is the antithesis of a populist choice. Too far to the right to attract the center from Clinton (or possibly even moderate Republicans disenchanted by Trump), lacking any name recognition or any particular feature that distinguishes him from ‘random conservative guy that Bill Kristol knows’. Possibly the most positive feature froma Republican perspective (and a negative feature from a Democrat or left perspective) is that he is unlikely to split the vote or generate any additional party disunity.

Enter the Alt Right. Their reaction has been vitriolic. https://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2016/06/ladies-and-gentlemen-your-third-party.html and this race/sexual themed attack of course is neither new or even an escalation. That is pretty much their business as usual position on anybody perceived as enemies IN PARTICULAR those on the right. The trolling/harassment tactics developed by the Alt Right and used against ‘SJWs’ are now deployed to their more immediate rivals – other right wingers.Meanwhile the non-Alt Right (which note is broad enough to still cover a slice of transphobic racist misogynists) is discombobulated.

Unfortunately this drains what pleasure there might be in laughing at Kristol’s gambit.

Hugo Choices 4: Best Short Story

Previously on Hugo Choices:

Current Hugo State of Play

Hugo Choices 1: Best Novel

Hugo Choices 2: Best Related Work – The Story of Moira Greyland

Hugo Choices 3: Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

Best Short Story

A very mixed category with most of the various consequences of Castalia House’s briefing campaign on display.

Two self-excluding works are:
“If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and S. Harris (voxday.blogspot.com, Jun 2015)
“Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
The first is a clumsy pastiche of Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were A Dinosaur My Love” and the second is a story (more of a scenario with some speaking parts) about the Chinese government using biological weapons in Africa which manages to combine scary-Chinese racist tropes with African racist tropes in one package.

That leaves three at least semi-legit nominees:
“Asymmetrical Warfare” by S. R. Algernon (Nature, Mar 2015)
“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015)
Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle (Amazon Digital Services)

My ranking goes:

1. “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015). Maybe not the best short story of the year but clever and insightful. I like explorations of what artificial intelligence might be like that doesn’t rest on soulless-calculator-Vulcan cliches.
2. No Award. Usefully Alyssa Wong is a nominee for a Campbell Award and so her Nebula Award-winning story “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” is in the Hugo Packet as a sample of her writing. So it is an obvious pick for a comparison work for this category. It is further down the horror axis then I like but it is an excellent example of great writing in support of a strong story. Are the other nominees close to that? Nah. So No Award gets the number 2 spot.
3. “Asymmetrical Warfare” by S. R. Algernon (Nature, Mar 2015) Yeah, its OK. Nothing wrong with. It reminds me of some of the quality of works we saw last year from the Sad Puppy slates – you can see why somebody would publish and you aren’t going to resent having read it if you come across in a magazine but it isn’t particularly notable or amazing. It does gain a degree of surreal humour if you read it in the voice of Patrick Star from Sponge-Bob Square Pants.

4. Speaking of surrealist humour: Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle (Amazon Digital Services). Now, we prejudging the WORK, not the meta social-media performance art that is Doctor Tingle. It isn’t unfunny, the wider joke of the pastiche of erotic/pornographic fiction requiring a perfunctory plot prior to genital contact is a bit hackneyed. It is going on my ballot but below No Award. Yes, yes, it is tempting to vote it 1 as a kind of behaviour randomisation raised a middle finger at the Rabids but they won’t care sufficiently for that to be worthwhile.
5. Um, that’s it.

Next time BEST FANZINE!

It’s all connected in a great big ball of interconnected connections

In a recent post I discussed the Australian Election and in many other posts, I have discussed the vagaries of the Alt-Right – most noticeably Mr Vox Day. Today Liberal* Senator Corey Bernardi tweeted a link to an article by Vox Day’s pal Roosh V.

Roosh V, of course, being the proponent of a particularly nasty form of the alt-rights pick-up artist/pro-sexual assault wing and also a man who the Australian government (of which Senator Bernardi is a member) recently banned from entering Australia  (a ban which in turn was presented by the alt-right as terrible censorship/oppression because apparently they the tough border protection laws they want shouldn’t apply to people whose blogs they like because reasons).

Now all that inherent incoherence is not what this post is about. This post is about this tag-line on Senator Bernardi’s Twitter account:

Conservative Senator for South Australia. Representing the Australian Majority and speaking up for common sense.

“Common sense” has taken on a special kind of branding for a section of the right, where the term seems to indicate “saying things that have some superficial relevance but with a moment’s reflection make no sense at all” such as supposedly pro-family values politician promoting the website of a pro-sexual assault member of the alt-right.

*[i.e. conservative, Coriolis effect etc]

Review: A Brief History of Seven Killings

This is not an easy book, indeed, it is in every way a difficult book. There are multiple narrators with distinct voices and styles of expression and jarring shifts of perspective. The pace is slow but in a relentless way as tensions swirls around the 1978 Jamaican general election and Bob Marley’s attempts to bring a degree of civil unity via a peace concert. In the process we meet the voices of the people involved in an attempted assassination of Marley, as the violence grows deeper, guns flood into Jamaica and the CIA becomes embroiled in the world of ghetto violence and political corruption.

This is an emotionally taxing book. The violence is graphic and appalling as we learn about the history of abuse and violence behind several of the characters. It is, at times, too much and too hard to continue reading.

I don’t know how well the book works. Possibly it really is all too much. There is no doubt in my mind that Marlon James is an extraordinary writer and his capacity to draw out these characters is compelling. However, I found it hard to focus on events and had to force myself at times to persevere.

A challenge rather than a pleasure but a challenge worth taking.