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Sports Night, if you haven't heard of it, is the show Aaron Sorkin created before The West Wing. It was a half-hour show set backstage at a late-night cable show called, yes, Sports Night, and ran between 1998 and 2000. Thanks to the kindness of [ profile] lamentables, I've been gradually working my way through it over the past couple of months.

Now, I knew from a certain episode of The West Wing that Sorkin seemed to be a space fan, but I was still taken a bit by surprise by 'The Sweet Smell of Air'. Dana Whitaker, the producer of Sports Night, wants to discuss a potential Michael Jordan interview with her boss, the managing editor Isaac Jaffe:
DANA: Hi, Isaac--

ISAAC: Hi. Dana, listen to this, this is fantastic. [reads from magazine] "Bioengineering might one day create living creatures adapted to survival in space."


ISAAC: Space birds.

DANA: ... OK.

ISAAC: Don't you wanna know how they're gonna fly without air?

DANA: Uh ... OK.

ISAAC: It says here they're gonna fly on sunlight.

DANA: ... So, we got this Michael Jordan offer ...

ISAAC: And further out where the sunlight grows weaker, they're gonna bioengineer a squid.

DANA: ... Squid?
Read more... )

Reports that Aaron Sorkin is a Stephen Baxter fan remain unconfirmed.

The End

Dec. 12th, 2005 09:06 pm
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[ profile] grahamsleight points to an article about last lines:
One of the favourite games of literary people is that of best first lines. Everyone enjoys reciting them; the bizarre (Earthly Powers), the haunting (Rebecca), the august (Anna Karenina), the casual (Howards End) or the strangely anonymous (Jane Eyre). First lines are great fun. But they aren't really as important to a novel as the last lines. From a terrible first line, a novel may recover; the last line is what it leaves a reader with.
And, you know, it's not wrong. Obviously last lines only really have their full impact if you've read the rest of the story, and very often it's about the last paragraph not just the last line but still, it's not wrong. We should talk about last lines more. There was even a conversation about last lines on this very journal a couple of days ago. So let's have those, and some more:
Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson:

When he was done he put down his tools. Behind him Orange County pulsed green and amber, jumping with his heart, glossy, intense, vibrant, awake, alive. His world and the wind pouring through it. His hands came together and made their half swing. If only Hank hadn't caught that last one. If only Ramona, if only Tom, if only all the world, all in him at once, with the sharp stab of our unavoidable grief; and it seemed to him then that he was without a doubt the unhappiest person in the whole world.

And at that thought (thinking about it) he began to laugh.

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi:

It is that which at this instant, issuing out of a labyrinthine tangle of yeses and nos, makes my hand run along a certain path on the paper, mark it with these volutes that are signs: a double snap, up and down, between two levels of energy, guides this hand of mine to impress on the paper this dot, here, this one.

'The Girl Detective' by Kelly Link:

She came down and stood under the tree. She looked a lot like my mother. Get down out of the tree this instant! she said. Don't you know it's time for dinner?

'Hell is the Absence of God' by Ted Chiang:

And though it's been many years that he has been in Hell, beyond the awareness of God, he loves Him still. That is the measure of true devotion.

Voyage by Stephen Baxter:

By God, she thought, we're here. We came for all the wrong reasons, and by all the wrong methods, but we're here, and that's all that matters. And we've found soil, and sunlight, and air, and water.

She said: "I'm home."

A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell:

One hollow, hateful little man. One last awful thought: all the harm he ever did was done for him by others.
Many, many more here. But what are your favourites? (And I don't just want 'The Nine Billion Names of God' and Lord of the Rings; be creative!)
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Ted Chiang responds to this post by Sarah Monette and suggests a way of looking at the differences between sf and fantasy:
I submit that what distinguishes magic from science--even imaginary science--is the role of consciousness. Magic has a subjective component--the intention, desire, or willpower of the practitioner--that is explicitly excluded from scientific experimentation.


This perspective helps illustrate why, even though fantasy doesn't have to be pre-industrial, fantasy works so well with a pre-industrial setting. Before industrialization, it was easier to believe that we lived in a universe that recognized persons. And even though fantasy doesn't have to be nostalgic, it's easy to romanticize the days when an individual's labor mattered, and you couldn't be replaced by a machine.

Similarly, this perspective illustrates why, even though science fiction doesn't have to be about technological advancement, it is so often concerned with the notion of progress. Once conscious intention was removed from the creation of devices, inventions could spread so rapidly that you could see society change within a single lifetime. And even though SF doesn't have to be cautionary, it's easy to worry about the dehumanization that can result when conscious intention is removed from too many aspects of life.
EDIT: Jeff Vandermeer (and Evil Monkey) respond here.

EDIT: And [ profile] truepenny completes the circle here by arguing that definitions are useful after all.
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Crooked Timber have a virtual seminar up that focuses on Susanna Clarke's wonderful, Hugo- and World Fantasy Award-winning novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. There are a variety of essays, all linked to from the introduction, and then a response from Clarke, including a thoughtful response to the oft-voiced question, 'where did the female magicians go?', as well as this on the possibilities of fantasy:
Firstly fantasy can be about giving power, strength, importance to the small and weak. Thus the smallest, weakest person—Frodo Baggins to take an example entirely at random—goes off to fulfil the Most Important Task. And turns out to be the only person who could have done it. Ditto Stephen Black.

Secondly Fantasy (and SF) can be the opposite of this. Instead of Giving Importance to People, it can Humble People. It can be about turning our view, however briefly, away from ourselves; it can be about glimpsing that human beings are not always, forever, and irrevocably, the centre of the universe. If you are C.S. Lewis, writing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, you turn our view away from ourselves to God. (The children become kings and queens —which looks a bit like giving power to the weak, but as they are self-confident, middle-class English children, they never seem that weak or small.) If you are Alan Garner, writing Thursbitch, you turn our view away from ourselves to an actual, historical valley in northern England which stands for all the places in northern England resonating with their own, not-human placeness. I’m with Alan Garner: the landscape of England (particularly Northern England) is the bit of magic we can actually see and touch for ourselves.

I rather like this use of fantasy, partly because is that it’s something we do so much better than the literary fiction people. Literary fiction sticks resolutely to the human. But the world seems to me so much bigger than that.
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Via [ profile] coffee_and_ink: "When you see this on your flist, quote Firefly. Unless you don't happen to feel like it, which is perfectly fine by me."

Everyone else will quote the funny bits, so:
I am very smart.

Went to the best Medacad on Osiris, graduated top three percent of my class. Finished my internship in eight months. 'Gifted.' Is the term. So when I tell you that my little sister makes me look like an idiot child ... I want you to understand my full meaning.

River was more than 'gifted', she was ... a gift. Everything she did, music, maths, theoretical physics, even dance; there was nothing that didn't come as naturally to her as breathing does to you or me.

[smiles, remembering]

She could be a real brat about it, too. She used to tell me--


There was a school. A, uh, government-sponsored academy, we had never even heard of it but it had the most exciting program. The most challenging. We could have sent her anywhere, we had the money ... but she wanted to go. She wanted to learn. She was fourteen.

[A moment of bitterness, then he pulls it together.]

I got a few letters at first, and then I didn't hear from her for months. Finally I got a letter that made no sense. She talked about things that had never happened, jokes we had never ... it was a code. It just said, 'They're hurting us. Get me out.'

-- Simon, 'Serenity'
The occasion (as if you didn't know) is that Serenity is out in the US this Friday, and over here the week after.


Jul. 8th, 2005 10:46 am
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Just because. The London News Review:
What the fuck do you think you're doing?

This is London. We've dealt with your sort before. You don't try and pull this on us.
Someone, via [ profile] andrewducker:
Cultural differences

The responses by people today really highlight for me the differences between Americans and English people.

Americans: OMG! there's been a terroroist attack! My prayers are with you!!

English: London's been bombed. Shit. that means the tube is closed. I wonder if I can still make it into town tonite to see that play I have tickets for. Not to say this isn't upsetting or that people aren't worried. There's just a certain lack of melodrama.
Ken Livingstone:
In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.
Coping with emergencies the British way: The nearest branch of Pret has sold out of chocolate cake.


When the news reporter said "Shopkeepers are opening their doors bringing out blankets and cups of tea" I just smiled. It's like yes. That's Britain for you. Tea solves everything.
You're a bit cold?
Your boyfriend has just left you?
You've just been told you've got cancer?
Coordinated terrorist attack on the transport network bringing the city to a grinding halt?
And if it's really serious, they may bring out the coffee. The Americans have their alert raised to red, we break out the coffee. That's for situations more serious than this of course. Like another England penalty shoot-out.


It's hard to panic the British. They've dealt with the Blitz, the IRA, the Silurians, the Zarbi, the Daleks, the Cybermen...
And for the London PoV on these attacks, well we get on with it. Trying to terrorise a city that lived with the constant threat of bombs for the best part of 30 years was a pretty stupid idea. And the swift, efficient response of the emergency services and lack of widespread chaos and panic shows that it was something that London was prepared for, in fact I'm suprised it hadn't happened sooner. I suspect by next week it will be pretty much business as usual, and for most of us all the excitement today will feel like a distant memory.

I'm not trying to belittle the memory of the 39 people who were murdered today, or the many hundreds injured. Families and friends will be in mourning for a long time to come, and my thoughts are with them. But I think London as a whole will refuse to be crippled by this, and will get up, dust itself off, and move forward as it always has done, indeed its started already. Outside the affected zones life pretty much continued as normal, I know it did here in West London at least. I think if the terrorists were expecting some kind of victory here in London today, they were sorely disappointed.
And as a final footnote, the tun still happened.


Apr. 23rd, 2005 12:15 pm
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From 'The Rapid Advance of Sorrow' by Theodora Goss:
The poetry of Sorrow may confuse anyone not accustomed to its intricacies. In Sorrow, poems are constructed on the principle of the maze. Once the reader enters the poem, he must find his way out by observing a series of clues. Readers failing to solve a poem have been known to go mad. Those who can appreciate its beauties say that the poetry of Sorrow is impersonal and ecstatic, and that it invariably speaks of death.
The rest of the story is equally bewitching. Go read.


Oct. 29th, 2004 10:20 pm
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The internet is too big. I go away for one week (six days, really), and come back to find more things I want to read than I could possibly hope to catch up on. I knew this would happen, mind you, but it's still annoying.

I was down in Cornwall, for those who may be interested, braving sheet rain and howling wind to, er, sit comfortably all day and read books, and sit companionably in the evening and eat large, rich meals. Hey, I gotta be me.

There was one clear afternoon on which we ventured down to the coast, but the tide was in and the beach was frothy with spume, so we didn't get very far. It's hard to describe the spume; it had the consistency almost of whipped cream. It rippled like jelly as the wind blew over it; when the wind blew especially hard, fragments flew into the air and swirled all around like snow or white feathers. It was a little disturbing.

Quote of the week comes from KJ Bishop's debut novel, The Etched City:
In Beth's language he could, if he wished, say 'I love you.' In Anvallic this phrase was impossible, for cariah, loving, had no form in the singular person, but could only be expressed in the plural. It was understood to be something that existed as a mutual sentiment or not at all, and it implied a voluntary blending of identies. When one person wished to affirm cariah with another, the expression most often used was 'we love as water loves water and fire loves fire.'

To say precisely 'I love you,' he would have needed to use naithul, which had the meaning of turning or leaning towards the object of the verb. It variously implied fond feelings, admiration, carnal desire or even fervent devotion, but held no implication of reciprocal sentiment. Marriott's obsession with Tareda Forever was a case of naithul at its worst. Equals rarely used the term towards each other.

There was another word, suhath, denoting a person met at a crossroads. The sense was of two travellers meeting, enjoying each other's company, then parting and moving on. Gwynn believed Beth and he were of this kind. he refrained from hoping for more, except for one thing: to understand her before they parted.

Much as I like it, the quote doesn't really do justice to the main flavour of the book, which is lush, decadent, slightly surreal. Michael Moorcock says many complimentary things about the book, that I would mostly agree with, here. There's an interview with the author at Strange Horizons, here.

I also read a whole bunch of space opera, about which more tomorrow, hopefully.

I've been fairly well insulated from the news, since we didn't buy any papers, and barely watched TV or listened to the radio. The one event that did reach us, via a text message sent to Alex, was the death of John Peel. I think it's the first time that a famous person dying has actually felt like it affects me in some way. I didn't discover Peel until much later than I should have done, and I wasn't ready for him to go. [ profile] immortalradical wrote a good post about Peel here. Collected links are here.

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