Hyperpat\’s HyperDay

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Archive for March, 2008

2008 Hugo Nominations

Posted by hyperpat on March 21, 2008

The nominations are now officially out (somewhat earlier than planned due to someone posting them on the net before they were supposed to). Of greatest interest to me, as usual, are the nominations for best novel. Once again, there are no women represented in this category, although there are several in the other categories. There will probably be some more flack about this, which I believe is really irrelevant (see my post on the 2007 nominations  The Place of Women in SF ). Of far more importance is just what the quality level is of those that are nominated. I’m happy to say that of those I’ve read so far (Scalzi’s Last Colony, Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, and Stross’s Halting State), the quality level is quite high. So far, Chabon’s work has my vote, as a truly original alternative history work with some good characterization and a cultural outlook not often seen in sf, closely followed by Scalzi’s work. Stross’s work is not quite to my taste, though still original and well written, with perhaps a little too much emphasis on heavy-duty computing possibilities. So far, anyway, of what I’ve read, all deserve to be on this nomination list (unlike some years where I’ve really wondered just how the heck that particular work made the list). I’ll report later when I’ve had a chance to read the other two nominees.

Also of interest is the fact that Mr. Scalzi, for the second year in row, has been nominated as Best Fan Writer. I expect more flack about this, seeing that some people don’t think professional writers should be eligible for this category, but given the tremendous amount of writing he does over on his blog about all kinds of subjects relating to the sf field and his constant promotion of newer writers and new good works within the field, to my mind at least he certainly is filling the function good ‘fan’ writers are supposed to.

Also of interest is the nomination in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category of Battlestar Galactica’s “Razor” episode. As this is one of the better episodes in a series that has had consistently high quality, it certainly has my vote. In the Long Form category, Niel Gaiman’s Stardust is the best as far as I’m concerned. I was disappointed in the Golden Compass, and the obligatory Harry Potter entry was just plain poor.

Overall, though, it looks like it was a good year for quality sf.


Posted in Books, Hugo Awards, Movies, science fiction, SF | Leave a Comment »

More Hollywood, Please

Posted by hyperpat on March 17, 2008

Hollywood needs to make a lot more movies. To which you say “I’m already drowning in them, I can’t keep up!” And if you just look at the total number of movies that are made, you’d probably be right.

But consider this: I typically watch about two movies a week on TV (I watch very little else except House). Over a year’s time, that adds up to a hundred flicks. Does Hollywood make that many in a year? Sure. But not the kind I like. I want good, well acted movies, that have a plot line that’s at least a little different from the last 50 they made in that particular genre, have decent production values, intelligent dialogue, characters I can relate to, no obvious factual boners, and in a genre that I like (i.e, I almost never watch what passes for ‘horror’ movies today, ditto most of the mindless comedies). Given the number of genres (Western, science fiction, romance, comedy, mystery, horror, drama, historical, animated, etc.) the number made in any one genre is not that great. Applying Sturgeon’s law (90% of everything is crap) to those that do fall within genres I will watch, and the number of new movies made in a year that I’ll will watch with satisfaction is perhaps 10. Clearly this leaves a large gap, which up to now I’ve had to fill with watching the better movies of the past, sometimes multiple times. This situation can’t continue forever – eventually (like now!) I’ll run out of decent older movies to watch. Worse, all the TV stations that specialize in movies seem to think that I want to watch the same movie 27 times in one month before they will deign to put a new movie into the lineup, which often leaves me with absolutely nothing to watch on a particular night (Nope, seen that one already; nope, that’s one’s terrible; nope, that one’s in a genre I don’t watch as it doesn’t interest me; etc, etc, etc.) As I hate commercials interrupting a movie, this limits my choices even more to those channels that show movies without them.

Now I’m probably fairly typical in terms of my total movie consumption, though other people will probably prefer movies I won’t touch – which is fine, everyone has their own tastes. Hollywood should be aware that there is a demand which they are not satisfying, and which should translate into more profits for them. But there’s a problem. Say they actually produced 10 times as many movies in a year than they do today (assuming they could find enough actors, writers, producers, cameramen, stuntmen, grips and what have you), how are they going to make money off of them? Right now, most movies are expected to at least come close to making back the costs at the first-run movie theater, with (hopefully) some chance at real profits from overseas and DVD sales. This requires enough theater screens to actually show all these movies, and an audience willing to shell out 10+ dollars for every movie they see in the theater. I don’t think these exist. Some other means of distribution needs to be found that pays real dollars to the studios. Pay-per-View and Video-on-Demand has started to fill some of this, but right now this is pretty much limited to movies that have just finished their theater run. Why not open up their entire catalogue to the stay-at-home movie watcher? Or for that matter, put the catalogue on the internet, and let people download what they want without clogging up the limited bandwidth available to satellites and cable networks (or course, this would then clog up the internet pipes – let’s build that high speed pathway out to the final home connection!). If they can get enough people to go the Pay-per-View route, they can probably make more money than in first-run movie theaters and still keep the price down to something the average viewer can afford (like $3-4 per new movie, maybe $2-3 per for older ones).

Of course, one of the other options Hollywood could choose is to quite making nine bad movies out of ten, which would give them more than enough material to satisfy the movie demand. But that will never happen.

Posted in Movies | 4 Comments »

People Helping People – Something that Works

Posted by hyperpat on March 3, 2008

Scalzi is, once more, on his soapbox over on his Whatever blog about what being poor is like and what should be done about it. His original essay on this subject appeared way back in 2005, and has been reprinted, linked to , and discussed in numerous forums, including my own here at Being Poor is Not a Crime. This is one soapbox I hope he never gets off of (and feel pretty sure he won’t), because it’s a real problem here in America that most people blithely ignore and would just rather not hear about.

His latest post makes a strong argument that shaming those who are poor merely because they are poor is not going to help: the great majority of those in that situation don’t need that kind of motivation to get out of their fix (they get more than enough of that as it is, thank you very much, merely from the stupid bureaucratic rules we have imposed for people to receive government aid). Rather, what they need is real help in terms of doing things that allow them to get more education, or ways to allow them to work while their kids are properly cared for (without having the child care cost more than what they can earn), or real help with medical conditions (universal medical insurance would help greatly in this regard) – this list goes on and on. Getting this type of aid to those who need it doesn’t just mean dropping a check in mail (though this helps too) – it means you personally doing things to help: babysitting those kids, driving the person to their medical appointment, helping them fill out some of those nightmare government forms, or giving them some private tutoring. The point of all these types of aid, though, is that they are of the nature of something that Robert Heinlein advocated as ‘Paying it Forward’. Help those who need it, not because you think you might get something back, but merely because it’s the right thing to do, and gain satisfaction in knowing that once those you’ve helped can afford it, they, in their own turn, will help someone else.

The net result of this type of aid (as opposed to those forms which stigmatize and otherwise denigrate the poor merely because they’re poor) will be a stronger, more robust America – the type of place that the whole world can look up to.

Posted in Economics, Politics | Leave a Comment »