storyrainthejournal: (Default)
2017-10-09 01:28 pm
Entry tags:

my thoughts on Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 has lots of great technology riffs and visuals of a beautifully (unnuanced) dystopian nearish noir future. I love that stuff—gadgets, technology, future landscapes, urbanscapes, interiors. I am a science fiction loving girl.

But the movie has zero other science fictional world building—that is, social world building that admits of any desires or worldviews of any individuals other than heterosexual, normative, white men. Even the replicant protagonist is a het, white, normative guy—who projects his perfect dream woman onto a sex worker to have sex with her. And, ooh, ahh, what a cool scene. /sarcasm. It made me sad, annoyed, and bored as shit, that scene. Because it’s just an externalized realization of the Same. Old. Story.

High heels, naked women objectified all over the place—where are the beautiful, objectified young men, large women, androgynous individuals? Where are the desires of literally everyone else? Where are the women and people of color who aren’t props and furnishing for the world of straight white men? Every single female character in this movie is a prop or foil for white straight males, either the protagonist, or Deckard, or the Jared Leto character. And do I even need to mention the few PoC minor characters? Yeesh.

If that’s how humanity develops, admitting nothing of the diversity of aims and needs, worldviews, strengths, and desires of anyone but the ones western culture has always served—to say nothing of the visions of all the very intelligent people working on green answers to the issues that become Blade Runner’s environmentally bereft future—humanity may as well be killed off right now. When science fiction does little beyond spinning the worst technologies forward while reifying the oldest, most retro, and tired of male, western, heterosexual angst, desires, and projections onto others—literally mapping them onto others in that one scene, and projecting them hugely into the landscape in others—science fiction is lazy and not doing what it needs to do.

You could say that all this objectification of women was in keeping with the noir aspect of Blade Runner, but I’d say there was cherry picking there, too. And I’d also say I want more, I want better. Given everything going on in our world right now, I think we need better from big budget Hollywood movies, which command so much attention and money. Maybe that’s hopeless, but I think we have to ask, and keep asking, for it.

At the very least, for Blade Runner 2049 to have been truly remarkable and worth doing, for my money anyway, the protagonist should have been a gay man, or a woman, or a PoC—or all of those.


storyrainthejournal: (Default)
2017-07-18 05:11 pm

my beautiful book needs more love

So, as I watch my lovely book sink into obscurity, here are some reader reviews of Substrate Phantoms to make myself feel better, since apparently it doesn't merit reviews in the critical key venues, or enough notice or attention to get on any best of lists or summer reads lists in major publications, which, frankly, breaks my heart. *Shakes fist at people ignoring my beautiful book.*

But I am very thankful to those individuals who have read it and said very best-of kinds of things. A sampling:
Oh, yes. Jessica Reisman definitely writes my kind of science fiction. The kind which includes wonder. 

I also particularly enjoy novels about life in a particular place, whether a space station or a starliner. What it is like to live in such a culture....
I also enjoy good worldbuilding. This book is full of not only a richly detailed world but complex well-developed characters who I was sorry to let go. (Sequel, please?) I particularly enjoyed her use of language. This culture has its own slang but there was enough context and enough that reasonably could be extrapolated from today's world that I was able to keep up smoothly.
Substrate Phantoms has it all. A well-told tale and a very satisfying read indeed. I highly recommend Substrate Phantoms to all who enjoy speculative fiction and have not lost their sense of wonder!
- Margaret A. Davis on Amazon

I started out liking this book. By the two-thirds mark, I loved it. At the end, I was sorry it was over.

In this far-future space opera, Reisman spins a tale both intimate and cosmic. Its two settings are vividly realized. One is Termagenti Station, a manufactured world with a deep structure and culture, appropriately exotic yet accessible to the reader--a combination not always easy to pull off in far-future fiction. The other is Ash, the planet below, a world slowly being adapted for human use. Jhinsei is a young man of unknown parentage who, after losing the only family he has known, becomes aware that the station--or is it Jhinsei himself?--is haunted, and by no conventional ghost. Meanwhile, another young man, Mheth, discovers uncomfortable truths about his own powerful, privileged, damaged family. Their fates are intertwined with that of another being--one that is sought after for its power to transform, or to destroy. What might first contact with another intelligent species really be like? What might we do to it--or it to us?

Reisman shines in her use of language. She captures the perceptions and emotions of her characters, and limns the worlds around them, in words both evocative and precise. In this way she sometimes reminded me of my favorite speculative-fiction writer, Jack Vance, especially in her rich but deft descriptions of Ash's beauty and strangeness. (I smiled to see the particularly Vancian word "nugatory" at one apt point.) The events and ideas of this novel are large, but there is power in the author's evoking of their interior repercussions. Highly recommended as an example of character-driven space opera.
- Rebecca Stetoff Amazon & Goodreads
storyrainthejournal: (fable)
2014-06-25 12:04 pm
Entry tags:

micro reviews, one movie, two books

No spoilers beyond what you get in a preview or blurb.

I saw Snowpiercer with an excited crowd of Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow attendees. We’d all ridden on the Hill Country Flyer steam train (I was in the Silver Pine car and my seat mates turned out to be very fun young women, one of them friends with Genevieve Valentine, whose new book I actually happened to be reading at the time, more about, below*) to the screening site in Burnet.

One of the coolest things about seeing the movie this way, besides the very gracious, funny, and informative presence of director Bong Joon Ho for Q&A, was the way the outdoors managed to augment the film at key moments, with a brief cooling and rise of the wind, a well-timed blowing of train horn, the arc of stars above as the night darkened.

As for the movie, despite the presence of some fairly large and hard to swallow world building and narrative leaps, I very much enjoyed it and was thoroughly engaged throughout. The world of the train is fantastic, and the performances are all around extremely fine--the presence of the two main protagonists from The Host very welcome. The entitled vs. marginalized/have vs. have-nots/grueling struggle with violent, psychopathic social injustice embodied in the film is one that easily finds traction for me, but it’s also one I think Bong Joon Ho dramatizes to devastating effect.

*The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
Very much enjoyed this, and read it compulsively fast. The Twelve Princesses is beautifully transposed to prohibition era New York. It's one of the more compelling fairy tale on its own, but The Girls at the Kingfisher Club makes something much darker, realer, and emotionally truthful of it. It rings true the way the best fairy tales do, while also being historical fiction with a PBS/BBC-like quality costume drama factor.

Child of a Hidden Sea
Just out, this is the first book in A.M. Dellamonica’s Stormwrack series, a very different feeling kind of portal fantasy set, largely, in an age-of-sail world somewhat like ours might be, someday--but then again, not. The world building, on an environmental, natural world scale, is phenomenal, detailed, and endlessly interesting; the magic system, deeply entwined with an equally complex and well-articulated legal system, reveals a great deal about the world and the many cultures inhabiting it. There’s swashbuckling adventure, moral quandaries, and a lot of fun.

(Full disclosure, the author is one of my dearest friends, and I read early drafts of this book, and the next in the series, a while back. The world and its characters have stayed with me, vivid and loved.) 
storyrainthejournal: (Default)
2011-05-17 02:09 pm
Entry tags:

Two brief reviews & musing on female writers over a certain age...

Reading: So, I very seldom write real reviews; I did for a while, for various pubs, but it always felt just too much like setting out to write an academic paper, of which I wrote so very many over the course of my undergrad and grad work, and which I decidedly did not wish to continue writing--I was very good at them, actually, according to my more scholarly professors, but I wanted to devote that writing juice to fiction, not academic papers. So, I give reviewing pretty short shrift. Also, my reading time is so limited by dayjob schedule combined with writing needs/demands and energy limited by health stuff that I'm a little embarrassed how long it takes me to get through a book these days. It used to be I read several books a night, then, when I got over my teen insomnia, several a week. Now, one every several weeks.

But recently I've been feeling...I don't know...guilty, I guess...about this lack, like I'm not putting enough back into the community in this respect. So I'm going to try to do short but hopefully not useless little reviews on a more regular basis. 

Finished Catherynne Valente's Deathless last week. This is a book like a cut ruby, hard and filled with color, and deep, and you get to walk into its faceted depths where there is also incredible warmth and wonder. A number of very good reviews have been written about Deathless (A.M. Dellamonica's at and this one from the Little Red Reviewer); I'm not going to reinvent the review wheel on this one. I'll just add that the characters and worlds of this book are, and will be for a long time, alive in my head, in my sense memory, and in the marrow of my bones, because they burrowed in there when I wasn't looking. This is a great good thing.   

Over my long weekend just past, I also read Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making and, though it's supposedly YA and certainly wears less serious clothes than Deathless, I love this book more and rather gushingly. How can you not love a book with voleries of wild bicycles, a wyvern whose father was a library, talking leopard, panther, and tattooed Marid? A book that leavens alchemy-minded spriggans and wonderous fairyland feasts with quantum paradox theory? If you're me, you can't not love it, you will love it, it will make you laugh, fill you with deliciousness, and keep you highly engaged and entertained from beginning to end. (I guess if you hate intelligent whimsy and little girls with stubborn intelligence, it might not be for you, but too bad for you, then.) I'll be gifting this one here and there.

Both highly recommended.

Musing: So, a couple of weeks ago, a writer friend told me about another writer friend, who happens to be a woman over 50, who confided in her that she never tells people at conventions and the like how old she is, because when she does, they just dismiss her. I've been thinking about this off and on since. My immediate reaction, internally, was that I certainly won't do that (just a few more years and I'll be 50) because if every woman writer over 50 keeps it to herself, we remain invisible and dismissable, and because, really, fuck all the shitheads who dismiss women over 50 anyway.

However, I kept these thoughts to myself at the time, because I can totally understand why this woman does it. It's true--people, and men most especially--do dismiss women over 50 as people to pay attention to. Male writers over 50 get plenty of respect, but women? Only one or two, the token greats.

Of course I also feel like many (most) men already dismiss me; I'm no longer young and fresh and have never been particularly exotic, goth, or otherwise overtly sexay. I don't have that certain allure that seems to really help hold male attention. And so I'm not really worthy of attention--not just for my writing, ideas, vision, and intelligence, certainly. (Except to a few of the more intelligent, sensitive, and deeper sorts of men, to my experience.) And this will only get more so as the years accrue. I'm not upset about it for my own sake, particularly, but on a more global level? It's stupid and sucky and you know what? Men who are writers in a genre about possibility and vision should do better.

I know I'm generalizing madly, but really, that friend of a friend can't be the only woman writer over 50 who just hides her age and won't mention it, so clearly there's an issue there.

storyrainthejournal: (bookship)
2010-08-31 09:12 am
Entry tags:

The Native Star is now available!

The Native Star, by M.K. Hobson—being an enthusiastic review with minor spoilers

This is a gem of a novel, faceted and full of fascinating world building. The characters all live on and off the page, pig-headed, brave, and as loud with inner life as the earth of Hobson’s alternate age of industry America is with magic. There are biomechanical flying Cockatrices, magic gone wrong creates a mutant raccoon and zombies, and there's Credomancy—an entirely awesome school of magic that runs on belief. It’s a great ride, and Hobson’s sure handling of everything from magic’s class system, economies, and technologies to the course of rocky true love keeps it effortlessly engaging.

While Miss Penelope Pendennis, trade union representative for the Witches’ Friendly Society, is easily one of my favorite secondary characters ever, the book bursts with a lively supporting cast, from a Miwok holy woman and a revolutionary farmer to slick, politically minded warlocks and a secret society called the Sini Mira.

The machines of industry run on magic in this alternate America, and there are enough serious players with their own complex agendas ranged against our heroes Emily Edwards and Dreadnought Stanton (Best. Name. Ever.) to make me excited for The Native Star’s sequel, The Hidden Goddess.

If you need a taste, or if the book isn't on the shelf at your local bookstore today, you can read the first chapter here.


storyrainthejournal: (happycat)
2008-04-26 10:26 am
Entry tags:


Happy-making review of "Flowertongue" just up at The Fix. It begins The highlight of this issue is "Flowertongue".... It ends with For my money, it’s one that should appear on the Year’s Best lists.  Color me insanely squeeful. That won't ever get old.

In other news, had a very good time last night, seeing folks and talking and signing a few things. Tonight, we get glamorous.
storyrainthejournal: (colette'shandw/cat)
2008-03-13 01:18 pm
Entry tags:

hubbly and bubbly

Nice pocket review of my story “The Blue Parallel,” at The Fix, as part of a review of Hub, issues eight through 12.
excerpty excerpt
That she is able to get that much depth out of the setting in a short, and do so without bogging the story down, is impressive… All in all, it’s worth checking out, and I know I’m going to be keeping an eye open for future works in this world.
You can still read this story for free. Here’s a direct link to the pdf of Hub #11.
storyrainthejournal: (luminousrain)
2008-02-25 10:36 am
Entry tags:


Courtesy of the excellent [profile] camillealexa, a nice little new review of The Z Radiant has appeared at The Greenman Review.
Being swept along by The Z Radiant is like being swept along by a river with deep currents; sometimes you float along the warm surface amid the shimmer of light glancing from the shallows, and other times you feel the cold gripping your legs, leaving you gasping for breath.
storyrainthejournal: (colette'shandw/cat)
2006-02-11 08:24 am
Entry tags:

technologies of writing and my altered mind

Technologies of Writing at the Ransom: The highlights for me, beyond the cuneiform and other ancient forms, were an Edward Gorey manuscript page, with an unpublished poem scrawled on it amidst illustrations of an entirely Gorey nature; Poe's writing desk and the long scroll of his original ms of one of his stories, which he wrote that way so that there wouldn't be any mistakes in the printing, getting pages out of order; a tiny page with tiny tiny writing on it from Charlotte Bronte's original ms of her story "The Green Dwarf," written so small that it's theorized she did it with a swallow feather.

There was also an amazing custom built writing chair, which, while comfortable and useful looking, reminded me somewhat of Marat in his bathtub.

Then S and I went across the street to Cafe Matisse and had some nourishment; it was actually cold and blustery out. Altogether, most satisfactory.

The Leo horoscope for this weekend is entertaining:

Your Weekend: The Full Moon in your sign, coupled with the alignment from Venus to the Sun, is the celestial equivalent of a cocktail of mind-altering drugs. It's like drinking half a bottle of absinthe and chasing each shot down with a double espresso whilst in the middle of a course of muscle relaxants. That may be enjoyable if you have nothing important to achieve, no situation to remain sober and responsible for - or if you need to communicate intelligently to anyone. Otherwise, watch out this weekend and get others to watch out for you. You're about to go on a high!

And it's not far wrong, judging by my mood this morning. I've been singing to the cats, to the tune of I'm So Pretty from West Side Story:

I've got kitties
I've got kitties and kitties and looooove!
And they're kitties, such adorable wonderful fluff

etc. (see the silly cat in the mirror there--what cat, where?)
storyrainthejournal: (contemplative)
2006-01-24 03:08 pm
Entry tags:

meant to post this awhile ago

Nice review of Interzone #201 and of my story in the current IROSF short fiction review. Scroll down for it.