Stupidity So Dense, It Warps Space and Time

Over at Making Light, Theresa Nielsen Hayden brings to light one of those fleeting internet phenomena, a piece of self published Star Wars Fanfic. For sale on Amazon. Another Hope, is being sold by it’s frighteningly clueless author, Lori Jareo. In her “Author Interview” (which I suspect is her asking herself questions) we find this little gem:

Q: Having set Another Hope in an already existing universe, I find myself wondering if there was any concern on your part regarding copyrights?

No, because I wrote this book for myself. This is a self-published story and is not a commercial book. Yes, it is for sale on Amazon, but only my family, friends and acquaintances know it’s there.

My jaw has gone all slack at the gaping stupidity. Luckily, John Scalzi has all the salient criticism about how some one, especially someone purportedly an editor for their very own poetry publishing house should know better than to think this is just peachy and won’t George Lucas just get a kick out of it:

This would be bad enough if this woman were just some clueless person letting off some Mary Sue steam and then getting the idea that, gosh, this could be a real live book, but in fact Ms. Jareo purports to be a professional editor — which is to say she really has no excuse. In her interview Ms. Jareo mentions something along the line of “George Lucas says as long as no one is making a profit, tributes are wonderful,” but I think she rather seriously misapprehends what Lucas almost certainly means here. Leaving aside the fact that even if Lucas tolerates a little geekery on the down-low, he’s still fully invested in his copyrights and can enforce them at will and at whim, there’s the issue of scale. Geeking out with little stories of Yoda and Chewbacca on the Wookiee Planet on a personal Web site that’s visited by your friends is one thing. Publishing an unauthorized Star Wars novel via your publishing company and putting it up for sale on Amazon (not to mention Barnesandnoble.com and Powells.com) is really quite another.

I’ve said before I think fanfic is generally a positive thing for any science fiction universe, but I don’t think being a fan means you suddenly have a license to be stupid. Publishing your fanfic novel and selling it online is just plain stupid, and publishing your fanfic novel and selling it online when you’re theoretically a professional editor is just about as stupid as you can get without actually receiving head trauma from a tauntaun. If Ms. Jareo is lucky, she’ll only get smacked with a Cease and Desist order from Lucas. If she’s not lucky — say, Lucas wants to provide a cautionary example to ambitious-to-the-point-of-oblivious fanficcers everywhere — she and her company are going to get their asses sued, and given the blatant and obvious and self-incriminating copyright violations here, she should be thankful if she gets out of it without all of her assets, and the assets of her publishing company, encased in carbonite.

As it stands I think it’s worth it to start a pool on how long it takes for Ms. Jareo’s book to get pulled from Amazon. I’ll say this next Monday by 3pm Pacific. Any one else want to bet?

How Great Is Wikipedia?

This question gets asked a lot. We librarians have criteria for evaluating a resource: reliability (Wikipedia is always there), authoritativeness (check out the recent study published a few months back in Nature), depth (1 million plus articles and growing daily) and specificity.

this last one is key. It measures how much a resource know sits audience, and how well the contributers provide that need. It’s a gage of how much passion the contributors have for their subject. So, how specific is Wikipedia?

Today I found this article: Gorillas in Silver Age Comics.

It’s that specific.

Sick But Still Here, Watching TV

Cat pictures and even some thoughtful content are on the way– I’ve been getting over a cold and busy at work, as if that’s an excuse.

Meanwhile, I’ve been geeking out over the new Doctor Who series, which is now my number two favorite show on TV, after Battlestar Galactica. I don’t think it’s at all too early to declare a new golden age of TV sci-fi at hand. That both these shows are re-imaginings of classic series grown stale under their own weight probably has something to do with it.

I noticed this with Batman Begins; after years languishing in the hands of people who didn’t get the source material to begin with and produced rudimentary derivatives based on their own agendas, studio execs have wised up and decided to let the fans who grew up on these series have a go. And it’s paying off because the best work is done out of love for the ideas.

Happy New year to the Librarians of Gondor!

My Archivist buddy, Jenny sent me this from the Archivist’s Daybook:

March 25 Today is celebrated as New Year’s Day in the Kingdom of Gondor, for it is the anniversary of Sauron’s fall. Despite his power as a wizard, Gandalf needed to perform archival research to confirm his suspicions about the true nature of the Ring, thus setting in motion the events that led to the end of the Third Age. Tolkien’s personal and academic papers, as well as most of his literary manuscripts, are at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, but Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has an extensive J.R.R. Tolkien collection that includes the original manuscripts and multiple working drafts for The Hobbit (1937), Farmer Giles of Ham (1949), and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955).

Towards a Geek Enlightenment

My little Star Wars rant ran long and some may find a hint of desperation in the tone. With the Star Wars movies done at last and no new Star Trek series/ movie on the horizon, there’s been talk of a void in the world of geekdom. Some are concerned we’ve lost our guiding light and that geeks like me are flailing because the sagas of our childhood have finally come to a close. Luckily, our young Prince of geek, Wil Wheaton sets things straight:

I actually think it’s the beginning of a new golden era for geeks: technology is putting massive computing power in our hands, we’re never more and a few hundred feet from the internets, we’ve got our own network (sci-fi channel) and the big summer blockbusters are all inspired by comic book movies. HHG comes out this year, it looks like Peter Jackson is going to do The Hobbit, there’s talk about a movie based on The Watchmen in 2006, and there’s a Firefly movie due out as well. Don’t overlook Sin City, or Hellboy, and don’t forget the new Battlestar Galactica! (Ron Moore is even connecting with geeks using the unprecedented medium of podcasting commentaries *for free* on all the new episodes, as well as communicating directly with the show’s fans via his blog.)

That tone in my previous rant was not desperation, but frustration. Contrary to popular opinion, Star Wars and Star Trek were never the twin suns lighting our imagination. Mostly, they were just a plateau where we got comfortable and set up a base camp. We stayed too long and forgot that we were supposed to keep on climbing the next day. Well, now that Lucas has struck camp and Rodenburry’s ghost has finally been set free, we can set out once more to see if we can’t find our Geek Shangri La.

Sure, we’ll all miss Kirk and Luke and Han. But their descendents are already with us and they are brighter, faster and smarter than their forefathers.

The Bronze age of Sci-fi is over. Let the Enlightenment begin!

Wookie Talk

Years from now, Sociologists may be able to explain why my wife and I spent a perfectly good Saturday afternoon standing in line to see Revenge of the Sith.

Going into the theater, I was expecting to be disappointed. After all, no one in their right mind would expect Lucas to pull himself out of the pool of money he’s been wallowing in for the last twenty five years and actually make a decent film, rather than another self indulgent special effects vehicle. I had a glimmer of hope that the movie would at least be watchable. Most of the reviews I had read before hand had said it wasn’t as bad as the previous two episodes. Perhaps that was just the nostalgia of those particular reviewers clouding their judgement. Or maybe Lucas got to them with his Jedi mindfuck. But these people have genuinely misinformed the public and should apologise.

Sith is a bloated, twenty-three car pile up on the side of the motion picture superhighway. It’s cinema carnage, like someone ran over a bus full of Wookies. Special effects litter the side of the road for miles. Luckily, Natalie Portman, Ewan Mcgregor and Samuel Jackson walked away from the crash with just a few cuts and bruises, but Hayden Christianson wasn’t so lucky. It’ll take years of traction, and probably acting lessons to salvage his career.

Not one moment of this film makes a lick of sense. The story is little more than a kludge designed to superglue lightsaber battles onto explosions. We’ve grown accustomed to Lucas inability to write dialogue that passes as genuine human speech, but he seams to have had the last shred of his ability to write convincing characters surgically removed. Not that you’ll realise it until about thirty minutes after you leave the theater. It takes about that long for the buzz of spectacle to wear off. Your mind is bombarded from the first frame by impressive imagry, all of which means little. Interspersed between explosions are minute and a half scenes of actors explaining what they just did or what they will do next. Or awkwardly professing their love, in the manner of Vulcan preteens who are putting on a show illustrating this thing humans call love. You’ll spend the rest of the night trying to figure out what just happened durring the last two and half hours, which can be fun, if you’ve just seen a film by David Lynch, or any director and writer who is smart enough and trusts their audience enough to let nnuance and ambiguity play their part. Half the fun of going to movies is having some intangible subtext to chew on for a while, even if it’s just the drive home. And for Sci-fi movies, it’s a prerequisite.

But there is no nuance in RotS. It’s like he saw the Passion and said, “Mel Gibson’s a genius! I’ll just beat my audience senseless with the point, pound every moment I want to emphasize roughly into their skulls and then blink some lights! They’ll walk out of the theater dazed, and with a headache! I’ll make millions!”

This is the movie that all those skeptics were talking about a few years ago when the first wave of digital movies came about. They were concerned that story, characterization and ambiguity would be thrown out in favor of whizbang and cartoon nonsense. Now, if Lucas had made this movie circa 1995, he might have been hailed, once again, as a technical innovator and we would have overlooked the fact that the story is garbled nonsense because at least he was pushing the boundary of what the medium of film could be. But instead, he made this movie in 2005. After Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, there’s no excuse for digital sets that look flat and restrict the actors to a small space in which to move. After Lord of the Rings, there’s no excuse for digital characters to be hollow. Golum has not just weight but gravitas. You feel for him as a character because Andy Serkis and WETA went the extra mile to make him not just look cool, but to emote like a human actor. Yoda never feels like he’s really there. Frankly, I would have preferred the puppet. In fact, I would have loved to have seen puppets-as-aliens all over the place. Jim Henson’s Co. did it for Hichhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, George, why can’t you? You have Frank Oz, possibly the world’s greatest living puppeteer sitting in a sound booth, talking like Grover instead of crawling around under the set like a madman. The technology and know-how is there, Lucas simply refused to use it. Instead of building on what other people had done, he reinvented the wheel, only he made his square, so it’d be different than everyone else’s

In the end, that’s all this movie, and all the Star Wars movies are about: techno-cool stuff. George Lucas should have made a video game and let other people make the movies. Instead, in his attempt to tell, “The rest of the story”, he strangled all the drama out of the existing films.

Do you remember where we first see the Death Star, in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, when Han Solo mistakes it for a moon? It’s a wild and disorienting moment, filled with awe and surprise. And it’s meaningless now, because we see the Death Star being built outside the window of a star destroyer at the end of Sith.

Jabba the Hutt used to be this mysterious name dropped once or twice in the first two movies. Who was this gangster that was so bad, Han had to abandon the rebellion, just to pay him back? Then, in Jedi when the curtain opens and we discover that he’s a giant slug! Well, in the special Editions, Jaba slithers into a scene in the first movie, to haggle with Han like a common criminal. And Greedo shoots first? What?

Then there’s the moment. I don’t even have to describe it, because it’s one of the most startling revelations in all of film: when Vader tells Luke who his father is. Except, if you watch the movies in numerical order, the moment is deflated. You already know Luke’s father is the whiney, spoiled Jedi kid who pisses all over three films.

With the ccompletion of this movie, Lucas has revealed the final shocking piece of the picture, and chronicled the rise and fall of the spoiled little Jedi who got everything he wanted and it still wasn’t enough to make him happy. Not exactly Joseph Campbell material, more like B-list Mother Goose.

And of course, it’s our fault. The fans made him what he is today: a geek with too much money and not enough friends to tell him when he’s wasting his time. We were too busy dreaming in the good parts of the story to realise Yoda wasn’t a sage, but a puppet selling us sci-fi fetish with no soul.