It’s hard to listen to this song and not think of Peter Boyle as Frankenstein’s monster singing it in Young Frankenstein, but “Puttin’ on the Ritz” is still a great song, and this is a particularly nifty version by the Speakeasies’ Swing Band.
It’s the tenth anniversary of Tor.com, the pop-culture web site, and to celebrate, they’ve released a free eBook entitled Rocket Fuel, which collects some of the best nonfiction from the site over the past decade.
I’ve been writing for the site for seven of those ten years, and I’m pleased to say that one of my articles is in the book, specifically my rewatch of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Far Beyond the Stars.” Plus there’s stuff by Seanan McGuire, Kate Elliott, Judith Tarr, Nisi Shawl, Mari Ness, Jo Walton, and tons more.
Here’s the full table of contents:
Table of Contents
- Preface – Bridget McGovern
- Under the Covers with a Flashlight: Our Lives as Readers – Emily Asher-Perrin
- Sometimes, Horror is the Only Fiction That Understands You – Leah Schnelbach
- The Bodies of the Girls Who Made Me: Fanfic and the Modern World – Seanan McGuire
- Writing Women Characters as Human Beings – Kate Elliott
- Meet My Alien Family: Writing Across Cultures in Science Fiction – Becky Chambers
- So How Does a Centaur Eat, Anyway? – Judith Tarr
- Fantasy, Reading, and Escapism – Jo Walton
- The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (and Why You Should Read It) – Leigh Butler
- Robert Jordan: The American Tolkien – Michael Livingston
- The Trial of Galadriel – Jeff LaSala
- Good Idols: Terry Pratchett & the Appropriate Hug – Lish McBride
- Orwell and the Librarian, a Love Story – Alex Brown
- Beloved: The Best Horror Novel the Horror Genre Has Never Claimed – Grady Hendrix
- The Peril of Being Disbelieved: Horror and the Intuition of Women – Emily Asher-Perrin
- What Rape Apologists Need to Learn From Jessica Jones – Natalie Zutter
- In Defense of Villainesses – Sarah Gailey
- Queering SFF: Writing Queer—Languages of Power – Brit Mandelo
- Sleeps With Monsters: There’s A Counter In My Head – Liz Bourke
- Apologize to No One: V for Vendetta is More Important Today Than it Ever Was – Emily Asher-Perrin
- Five Books about Loving Everybody – Nisi Shawl
- Safe as Life: A Four-Part Essay on Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle – Brit Mandelo
- The Complete American Gods Mix Tape – Bridget McGovern
- Rewatching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: “Far Beyond the Stars” – Keith R.A. DeCandido
- The POC Guide to Writing Dialect In Fiction – Kai Ashante Wilson
- Homecoming: How Afrofuturism Bridges the Past and the Present – Tochi Onyebuchi
- Nobody Gets Mad About Hamlet Remakes: Why Superheroes Are the New Cultural Mythology – Ryan Britt
- Sowing History: A Gardener’s Tale – Ursula Vernon
- Not Saving the World? How Does That Even Work? – Jo Walton
- Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” Defies Genre – Gabrielle Bellot
- Soon I Won’t Know What the Future Looks Like – Chris Lough
- Bouncy Prose and Distant Threats: An Appreciation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (or Sorcerer’s) Stone – Mari Ness
- Joy, Sorrow, Regret, and Reassurance: The Singular Beauty of The Last Unicorn – Bridget McGovern
- One Day You Wake Up and You Are Grown: Fairyland and the Secrets of Growing Up – Molly Templeton
- Preparing Myself for Death with Joe Versus the Volcano – Leah Schnelbach
This great old song has been going through my head all day for some reason, even though I don’t generally dream of California (and spent a week there in May….).
I wrote this blog post in September 2016, inspired by a Facebook thread that discussed the subject. It’s an important thing for writers to be aware of, particularly aspiring ones.
Aspiring writers are often fearful that someone will steal their ideas. What they don’t understand is that the idea isn’t a commodity worth stealing. What matters is the execution. Both Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Holinshed’s Macbeth start from the same idea, but the former has been a world-renowned play for centuries while the latter is an academic curiosity at best because of the execution of the concept.
Here’s a thought exercise: a space opera TV show about a unique ship that flies around space constantly encountering enemies and foes and problems on all sides. The ship has a charismatic white male captain, a tough female second in command, and a blunt-speaking male subordinate who makes snotty comments a lot and believes he could run the ship better than the captain.
Am I describing Blakes 7? Or Firefly? Or Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda? Or Lost in Space? The answer, of course, is all four, yet no one would ever mix those shows up, nor say that any of the later ones were ripping off the earlier ones.
Anne Hathaway is an amazing Catwoman. Sadly, that’s about all the final installment in Christopher Nolan’s bat-trilogy has going for it, as it has a stupid plot, bad characterizations, wrongheaded philosophy, poor followup on the previous movie, and whitewashed casting of one of the bad guys. Just a mess overall, and a weak ending to the series. The great superhero movie rewatch slogs through The Dark Knight Rises.
The impression at the end of The Dark Knight was that Batman would take the fall for Dent’s death, and also for his criminal acts—but not that he would stop fighting crime. And yeah, okay, this mythical, magical Dent Act may have cut down on crime in Gotham, but it can’t possibly have gone completely away—humanity doesn’t work like that, plus laws take a while to become effective. Instead, we jump the timeline eight years and find out that Wayne has retired Batman, but also retired from humanity, allowing his body to go to seed and hiding from the world, and that he’s done so since immediately after Dent’s death.
This makes about as much sense as Superman disappearing for five years to see if Krypton didn’t really explode—to wit, none. Gotham was still a mess at the end of the last movie, with a lot of work to be done. Sure, Batman would have to cooperate less with the GPD thanks to his taking the rap for Two-Face’s crimes, but why would that translate to him hanging up the cowl?
Episode 9 gives us a couple of great conversations as well as a superb action sequence, episode 10 comes really close to giving us the Power Man & Iron Fist TV show I’ve wanted since 1982, and the final three episodes bring Luke Cage‘s sophomore season to a resounding finish that makes me anticipate season three, y’know, a lot. Check out my review of the final third of season 2 of Marvel’s Luke Cage.
It’s also the final straw for Shades, but for a different reason. He’s not thrilled with the killing of innocents, and he’s right as far as that goes. Criminals killing criminals doesn’t get you much attention from the press or the police, but criminals killing innocents is a whole ‘nother thing. Mariah indiscriminately killed everyone in Gwen’s—including the domino-playing Greek chorus that I so adored from episode 3 (rest in peace, cranky old men)—and that’s a step too far for Shades.
But it’s only part of the problem. There was one survivor of that massacre, Bushmaster’s aunt, and Shades tracks her down, but can’t pull the trigger. Having to kill his best friend has broken him. He can’t be a gangster anymore, and he can’t be the chief advisor to royalty anymore, because Mariah has stopped taking his advice.
So he turns himself in, but even then he can’t get it right. He’s too in love with his lifestyle to be anything other than a dick when he’s making his statement, going so far as to alienate his lawyer (whose son was in Pop’s when Tone shot it up back in season one and is only alive because of Cage). That proves problematic for him, as Knight coerces him into going into Harlem’s Paradise wearing a wire (something a lawyer probably would’ve at least negotiated) and he’s later arrested because his deal was contingent on Mariah being convicted, a deal that evaporates after Mariah dies in prison at her daughter’s hands.
One of the best movies we’ll do in this rewatch, it is a really strong Batman story, a really strong movie story, and a great penultimate role for the late Heath Ledger — though he’s only the second-best villain in the thing, as Aaron Eckhart gets serious props for his Two-Face. The great superhero movie rewatch examines The Dark Knight.
There’s a lot of talk of heroism in this movie, with Batman insisting that he’s not a hero, and Gordon agreeing with him, saying that instead he’s a guardian—and maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. These three movies in general and this movie in particular tries to look at Batman-as-hero from many different angles. However, he’s not the biggest hero in the movie. That distinction goes jointly to the prisoner and the civilian passenger who choose not to blow up their fellows. And yes, the asshole who changes his mind is a hero because he thought it through. He recognized what responsibility he had taken on, to kill a boatful of people. Yes, most of them were criminals (though there were also guards and cops on board, not to mention the boat’s crew). But he would not kill them. And the prisoner who unhesitatingly tossed the detonator in one of the great misdirect scenes of all time was an even bigger hero because he knew the score. Both boats agreed that the prisoners “deserved” to die more, but the truth is that nobody deserves to die, and death is something that should be put off as long as possible, because you can’t take it back. That’s why Batman won’t kill—a rule that Nolan mercifully keeps intact, to the point that Batman is thrice tempted to kill Joker but refuses.