In other words, it’s as unsatisfying as the Creationism it appears to espouse. So bitterly disappointing in so many ways, the nicest thing I can find to say about it is that it looked nice. Ben Peek offers a more detailed analysis.
Me, I’m off to watch Alien, when Ridley knew how to tell a story with heart, and then Aliens, to be reminded how you can actually give a damn for a multi-character movie.
From the Queensland Writers Centre bulletin, a great event for genre writers:
The Australian Writer’s Marketplace is proud to announce GenreCon!
Rydges Paramatta, November 2-4th 2012
GenreCon is a three-day convention for Australian fans and professionals working within the fields of romance, mystery, science fiction, crime, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and more. One part party, one part celebration, one part professional development: GenreCon is the place to be if you’re an aspiring or established writer with a penchant for the types of fiction that get relegated to their own corner of the bookstore. Featuring international guests Joe Abercrombie (Writer, The First Law Trilogy, Best Served Cold, The Heroes), Sarah Wendell (co-founder, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books), and Ginger Clark (Literary Agent, Curtis Brown).
For more information, visit GenreCon.com.au. Early bird rates available to the first 50 registrations.
The event looks to have a strong industry and networking focus, and the ticketing system includes mention of pitching opportunities.
Ticonderoga Publications have opened for submissions to their next year’s best of Australian and New Zealand fantasy and horror. Stories published this year are eligible; deadline to sub is January 20.
Anywhere But Earth, Coeur de Lion’s science fiction anthology in which I’ve gone all godbothering vampire conquistador, is launching at a spec fic fest in Sydney in November — sad to miss that. The day includes an opportunity to pitch to ‘an industry professional’.
And there’s more about the e-format for Aurealis at the Aurealis website. Looks as if my Aussie werewolf yarn will be available in the Feb or March issue, which is, I believe, still going to be free to download.
Oh, oh: Louise Cusack is returning to the world of MS assessments — briefly. Catch her while you can; she gives great feedback.
Usually, mention of ‘hard SF’ would make my eyes glaze over. I’m the kind of tech-zombie who is happy to just press the button and have the machine do its thing, without too much thought for the how. It’s only when it doesn’t work that I start to ponder, and even then it’s a case of hard Fs rather than hard SF. So when Engineering Infinity (Solaris) landed in my mailbox and editor Jonathan Strahan started talking about hard SF in his introduction, I started to sweat. But whew – as Strahan says in summarising his anthology, these aren’t necessarily hard SF stories in the classic mould, though they do all have humanity and technology bumping heads and seeing what happens. It’s a superb collection of 14 well-crafted and quite varied yarns. One of the most technical — Peter Watt’s ‘Malak’ — was one of my favourites, along with Greg Benford’s serial killers meet time travel yarn and Charles Stross’s space zombies. Definitely a book to keep an eye out for, regardless of whether you like your SF hard-boiled or runny in in the middle, with that tasty side of humanity. My rather more considered review is up at Asif.
Coeur de Lion has released the table of contents for its forthcoming anthology Anywhere But Earth, and wow, I’m very glad indeed to be in this one. Editor Keith Stevenson’s summary of my ‘Messiah on the Rock’: “Arse kicking atheists and messianic alien vampires”. Twenty-seven yarns all set somewhere that isn’t there — this is gonna be fun! This isn’t necessarily the final cover, and the anthology is due out late 2011.
Victoria’s popular-vote awards for locals, the Chronos Awards, have opened. Details at this LJ site. The awards are to be presented at Continuum 7, in Melbourne at June. Continuum members are eligible to vote, and voting memberships are available for $5 if you aren’t attending the con.
It’s worth noting that the con is appealing for panellists if you’d like to get involved.
If you’re looking for a bug hunt, you should probably head over to the aisle with Alien vs Predators or Aliens or somesuch. Gareth Edwards’ Monsters is not about the critters from outer space, but our reaction to them.
The scenario is this: a NASA probe carrying alien life from somewhere in our solor system has burnt up in the atmosphere, but consequently, strange creatures have appeared in Central America, to such an extent that much of that region has been declared a quarantine/infected zone. The creatures have a seasonal migration during which things get particularly hairy for those caught in the zone. In this case, there’s a photographer, Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), and Samantha (Whitney Able), the daughter of his media mogul boss. Kaulder, who would rather be chasing fame and fortune with his camera as the creatures hit the road, is instead saddled with babysitting duty — daddy wants his daughter shipped out on the first available ferry to the USA, where her fiance is waiting.
Naturally, the travel plans are somewhat interrupted, and the two get to reveal certain truths about their personalities and lives.
There’s no real big picture to the alien encounter, and I don’t want to give away much about the nature of the critters, but this is a very localised story — the opening titles annoy with mention of ‘half the country’ without saying which country (we presume America, the movie is set in Mexico); there’s no mention of how the rest of the world is faring, or even why Sam has to leave by ferry rather than say, by air, or by going to a different country south of the zone. Maybe I was dense and missed the salient details. Certainly, at movie’s end, I wished I’d paid more attention to the opening scenes; now I really want to see those again, just to confirm some things.
The thing is, this IS a very personal movie. It’s about the two Yanks and the place they’re in, about how the politicians have responded to the arrival of the alien lifeforms — America, for instance, takes its Mexican border fence a massive step further and builds a modern Great Wall — and how this varies to the response of the people still living within the quarantine zone who are dealing with this change in their natural environment while the jets rain down bombs and chemicals and the tanks rumble through the streets.
Monsters is elegant and understated and beautifully acted, the dialogue so natural in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if some was simply ad libbed. The relationship between Kaulder and Sam unfolds at such an unforced pace, it’s a delight.
The director knows when to use handheld and when not to and the use of the aliens is wonderfully controlled to deliver moments of tension and of wonder. Not a bad effort for a low-budget flick! (IMDB says the estimated budget was a mere $200,000. Amazing.)
There are some clever Jurassic Park/War of the Worlds moments to add tension and action, but it’s the very believable portrayal of two ordinary people, and indeed a nation of ignored people, under stress that makes this movie one of the year’s best, and certainly a sterling addition — following on from District 9‘s alien-as-refugee scenario last year — to the canon of alien invasion movies.
Aurealis releases a set of “classic Australian SF” novels (published originally 1880s-1930s; I suspect the SF is speculative fiction rather than pure science fiction) with introductions by some of the today’s best talent.
And Macabre, a door-stopper of a volume that showcases Australian horror stories from yore to now. Due out in September.
I finally succumbed to the allure of James Cameron’s 3D SF extravaganza Avatar, partly because of all the mixed reports about it, primarily because it was really hot here today and three hours in air-conditioning (with choc-top icecream!) was not to be sneezed at.
Don’t really want to dwell on it, the thing has been hashed around all over the net (for instance, at Talking Squid), but my quick reaction is: thank goodness for the 3D effects. I thought they were handled so very well. The depth of field is the real highlight of the format for me, rather than things popping out of the screen at you, and the scenery shots and even the live action stuff provided plenty of this kind of immersion.
And Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver were pleasures to watch, too.
Regrettably, the storyline was thin and hackneyed, the theme overly overt, the indigent aliens the same old patois of Earth tribes minus any of the nasty stuff — some kind of Jamaica meets Native America. And their tactics, even with a Marine at the helm (because you need a Great White Hunter to save you when you’re a native), woeful. Honestly, the Ewoks did better using bows and ropes against mechanised troops. And the Empire at least had a reason for staging a ground assault. Anyhow, I guess I shouldn’t knock the good old Gaia message too much; friends in the northern hemisphere are dodging blizzards while we’re dodging forest fires.
If Cameron had chopped the film back to even two thirds of its length, and used the money he’d have saved to fund some truly alien aliens and a storyline with a little more moral complexity, Avatar could really have been something.
In other words, it delivered pretty much what I expected. And the cinema was cool.
Another flick with some groovy special effects I saw recently was The Lovely Bones. I’d had high hopes for it, because Peter Jackson also directed Heavenly Creatures, which used special effects brilliantly to convey two girls’ fantasy world. (And, um, that little Lord of the Rings movie. All three of ’em.)The Lovely Bones showed us images of a pre-Heaven limbo, which were striking. Largely irrelevant to the story, but striking. Sadly, this movie also left me feeling a little underwhelmed, mainly because the narrator has so little to do with the story. She’s an observer for the most part, after her death sets balls in motion, and so we’re always kept at a remove from the characters and the action. It was too sweet and had too many endings for my taste.
The finalists for Australia’s premier speculative fiction awards, the Aurealis Awards, have been announced on the website.
Great to see some new names in the mix as well as the stalwarts, and Brisbane’s Peter Ball running for the greatest over-achiever award with his swag of nominations.
The winners will be announced in Brisbane on January 23, which will mark the end of Fantastic Queensland’s tenure as hosts of the awards. No word yet on who will be taking over the prestigious but invidious task.