Draft Timeline Update

This is the draft of Hugo 2016 section of the Puppy Kefuffle Timeline. Once this section is done, I’ll call the timeline done and complete. Any further events, kefuffles etc won’t be included on this timeline.

Suggestions, edits, typo-corrections all welcome. The interval between slates/lists being announced and the nominations being announced is a bit lacking in events. I haven’t included much on the 3SV and EPH+ discussions yet either.

Review: Rogue One

[Update: Wrote this yesterday and put it on schedule for later. Woke up this morning to learn that Carrie Fisher has died. I omitted from the review (so it would be a minor surprise for anybody who didn’t know already) that there is a CGI Princess Leia near the very end of the film receiving the plans for the Death Star.]

Well, that was fun in a Blake’s 7 sort of way.

What I liked about the film was it had a certain freedom to it. The story has one simple job: by the end of the plot, the plans for the Death Star have to be on a Rebel spaceship pursued by Darth Vader. How to get to point B is undetermined and indeed where point A is to start with nobody knows. Indeed, the film initially is a bit confused about where A is, flitting from one plane to another. However, after some initial rushing around the galaxy, the story comes together.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, captures a nice sense of both bravado and cynicism as the daughter of the man who designed the Death Star. Her emotional journey isn’t complex but given the number of genre films in which people appear to act incomprehensibly it was nice to have a character whose motivations were personal and direct. Her shift from reluctant rebel to a leader of a commando force is shaped overtly and plausibly by plot events.

The Rebel Alliance is given some genuine depth as an actual alliance – not quite overtly at war with the Empire, split into factions, divided on policy and still hoping to use the Senate to curb the excesses of the Emperor. Forrest Whitaker plays Saw Gerrera, a more fanatical rebel who has split with the Rebel Alliance due to their concerns about his extremism while Diego Luna plays Cassian Andor – an apparently high-ranking Rebel Alliance intelligence officer with a murderous ends-justify-means approach. This is a very dark portrayal of the good guys for Star Wars. It is also the only Star Wars film in which the emphasis is primarily on the Rebel Alliance as an entity.

The CGI gimmickry of resurrecting Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin is somewhat dubious (plus one surprise extra character at the end). However, Darth Vader gets some effective scenes and while tonally very different from A New Hope, the film works as a bridge between the overly shiny and humourless prequels and the original trilogy.

Echoes of The Magnificent Seven and/or the Dirty Dozen in terms of the gathering of the rag-tag collection of rebels. Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe, as a blind ex-Jedi (or maybe just a force sensitive follow of Jedi spirituality) gets both great fight sequences but also adds a more downbeat view of the force as a power. Wen Jiang as Baze Malbus gets less to do but still manages to bring a sense of character to a role that would otherwise be just a guy with a cool accessory for the action-figure version. Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook the defecting Imperial pilot also manages to give a sense of a distinct character amid the multiple jumps from planet to planet.

K-2SO is the best though, obviously.

Here is a picture of him wishing he was in a Studio Ghibli film.

Worth seeing? Yes.

Better than the Force Awakens? Um, not really comparable. As it indicates, this is a film in the Star Wars universe not a Star Wars film. It doesn’t follow the same beats as a Star Wars film – which is a good thing because it isn’t constrained by them.

Take the kids? It’s a bit more grown up than your standard Star Wars fare but then again my kids saw Episode 3 when they were tiny and they loved that…

Political? Sure, as Star Wars has always been about people fighting authoritarian imperialists. However, it’s also more realistically political and has a stronger sense of the cost of revolutions, insurgency and rebellions. Unlike the original movie, the use of weapons of mass destruction is shown here to impact actual people. We see the occupied cities that are destroyed and there is a sense of not just that people are killed but that cultures are being destroyed.

You’ve seen it already? Oh, ok here, have another K-2SO picture to cheer you up.

Review: The Return of Doctor Misterio – 2016 Dr Who Christmas Special

Steven Moffat is many things but one thing he is, in particular, is a writer of romantic comedies. The much-discussed sexism that runs through his work is the sexism that rests on a notion of men and women being intrinsically different but in mutually funny ways from which can spring glib generalities and plot-driving misunderstandings. Moffat’s fascination with people with unusual minds, puzzle plots and with SF/F fiction helps distinguish him from the similar writers such as Richard Curtis. Yet, like Curtis he knows how to play with romantic comedy both subverting it and affirming the genre at the same time.

In the 2016 Christmas Special, Moffat lays out a gentle Richard Curtis-like romantic comedy but about superheroes and alien brain parasites. No puzzles and an evil invasion plot from the bad guys that echoed both Watchmen and the Aliens of London episode from series 1 of the reboot. A wise choice that made for a funny and light episode.

The episode was not a deconstruction of the superhero genre but played the tropes simply and straight but also at a relatively shallow level. Primarily a play on the Clark Kent/Lois Lane, secret identity, romance angle but with an added play on romantic comedy trope of the woman who somehow can’t see the man she actually is looking for is standing right next to her.

Capaldi has fun in a double act with Matt Lucas as Nardole who we last saw in Christmas 2015 being decapitated by a cyborg.

I’d hoped that we’d get some twist on the sinister-German character (Dr Sim played by actual German actor Aleksandar Jovanovic) but while nicely acted the role was purely for the purpose of rolling out the cliche. Yes, probably intended to be an ironic nod but 2016 is not a good year to roll out British casual euro-stereotypes.

Review: Sci-fi Chronicles


Father Christmas brought me a big thick SF encyclopaedia thing called ‘sci-fi chronicles’.

It’s fun and colourful but with an emphasis on film and TV as a measure of notability. However, its use of timelines provides a neat way of showing the development of particular properties across different media.

Rewatching The Poseidon Adventure

There has been some debate on the Intertubes about whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie. I don’t see much of an issue with that – seems very much a Christmas movie. However, I wonder if, like many British people, I have a skewed perspective from a notion of Christmas being a time when TV would show BIG ENORMOUS MOVIE as a centrepiece of Christmas TV. I doubt I ever saw The Poseidon Adventure at Christmas for various reasons but it was the film that kept occurring to me as somehow vaguely Christmassy. This will be long…[updated with pictures]

Continue reading “Rewatching The Poseidon Adventure”

Review: Babylon’s Ashes (Expanse 6) James SA Corey

Maybe not the Expanse novel readers in 2016 might want but certainly the one most in keeping with the year. https://www.amazon.com/Babylons-Ashes-Expanse-James-Corey/dp/031633474X

Six novels in and with a TV series also, the ‘universe’ (OK mainly a solar system) of the Expanse now has a wide set of characters and background. Babylon’s Ashes makes full use of the previous novels to deliver a geopolitical* thriller of war, terrorism and things going collectively to shit.

With the previous novel (Nemesis Games) a huge act of terrorism turned the existing political norms of the solar system into chaos. Babylon’s Ashes follows multiple characters in the aftermath of those events as things get worse and then worse again. This is easily the most grim of the Expanse novels, partly because the possibility of a solar system wide social and economic collapse is added to the series of more immediate disasters.

Much less of an exciting space adventure than the previous novels (although there is no shortage of space battles) but I think this is possibly the best of the series. As a story, it would be impossible to tell as a single stand-alone novel and makes effective use of the 5 novel deep back story. Previous decisions and actions all have consequences, the bad guys are plausible, characters have coherent motivations and events are described coherently.

Least good aspect: the ending wraps up everything a bit too quickly but presumably the composite being that is James SA Corey is saving up more complications and intrigue for book 7.

*[which can’t be the right word in context but imagine a word that means the equivalent thing for solar system wide factions sorting out their differences in a bad way]