The World is Not Enough

This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.

imagesSummary: in which we get a Bond film that deals with both oil and nuclear weapons at the same time! Swoon! Also Denise Richards is a nuclear physicist and Hamish Macbeth is an unconvincing anarchist.

Alex: one of the things that people remember about this film is Denise Richards. Or maybe that’s just me. So let me get this bit out of the way first. I was already groaning in anticipation of rewatching her in this film. My thoughts were coloured by two things: the first time we see her, and the last time. The first time, she’s climbing out of a hazmat suit and the only way the camera could have fawned over her any more would have been to actually be touching her skin. It’s not quite a strip tease, but mostly because she’s still wearing clothes (a crop top and tiny shorts). Then the last scene… it might actually count as the worst line in Bond history, and let’s be honest that there’s some pretty… oh heck… stiff competition. Her name is Christmas Jones, and I’m pretty sure that’s her name solely in order to set up that last, appalling, joke: Bond saying “I thought images-6Christmas only came once a year.”

So yeh, my expectations were pretty low, and when you take in to consideration my love of Michelle Yeoh just a fortnight prior… I was resigned at best. Turns out, though, that Richards is better than I remembered. Yes her opening scene has her wearing ridiculous clothes, but later she mostly gets to wear sensible clothes (except when Bond is using her to distract someone, which I am not best pleased by). She doesn’t have the greatest dialogue – not her fault – and sometimes her delivery is a bit painful. But she is by no means the worst Bond girl ever, and she’s allowed to be competent at her job, too. Bond says “What do I need to defuse a nuclear bomb?” and she says: “Me.” And then she does it, too, on a speeding rig inside an oil pipeline. So Richards, you were better than I remembered. Good work.

Since I’m already talking about the women: Sophie Marceau… meh. She’s ok. I think the character of Elektra (yay Greek spelling!) is a fascinatingly complex and intriguing one: daughter of a construction baron, kidnapped then escaped when not ransomed; takes on father’s business but insists that it’s because the oil was found by her mother’s family – so Azerbaijani, I think? – and that her father stole it from them. So we get notes of colonialism  in different forms here, which is surprisingly deep. And it turns out that rather than having Stockholm Syndrome – since she’s working with the Big Bad – she turned him, to get revenge on her father. So she has great agency, even though the film insists that she must use her body in order to get it. But I wasn’t in love with Marceau’s performance, sadly (also I can’t help but have the line “I have heard about your…. woman” from Braveheart in mind, which is totally my problem not hers).

And M rocks, as always, and this time she’s in the field! And she manages to Magyver an alarm clock to rig a location beacon so Bond can find her! Brilliant. She’s also revealed to be a mother, which I am unconvinced was a necessary move.

So the plot: someone is sabotaging Elektra King’s pipeline, and because her father was M’s friend M sends Bond to investigate. It eventually turns out that Reynard the Anarchist is doing it – in collusion with Elektra, because the idea is actually to nuke Istanbul, making the three Russian pipelines impossible and therefore Elektra’s pipeline the only one that the West can access. So it’s partly about revenge (dad didn’t ransom me), partly about money, and for Reynard (Hamish Macbeth Robert Carlyle) images-2it’s both about love (of Elektra) and anarchy.

Well, I presume Reynard’s in it partly for the anarchy. He’s called an Anarchist by M et al, but to be honest you never see any real demonstration of his attachment to anarchy as an ideal. He’s also back to being that not-quite-normal Bond villain: he has a bullet in his brain that means he’s slowly losing all sensation, which apparently makes him super strong for some reason? Anyway I think he’s amongst the most boring of all Bond villains.

Far more interesting is Robbie Coltrane, another Scot playing a Russian, reprising his role as Valentin. How can you not love a character who greets Brosnan with “Bond James Bond!” Love it. His caviar factory gets sawn in half by a helicopter tree cutting saw, then he appears to die – but doesn’t – but then does, although not before helping Bond escape from Elektra. He’s a great cameo, almost replacing Felix Leiter I think.

The saddest part about this film is Bond’s scene with Q, wherein Q introduces him to his trainee – John Cleese – whom Bond dubs R. Bond asks, concerned, whether Q is really thinking about retiring; Q doesn’t reply. Desmond Llewellyn died at the end of the year this film was released (1999).

James: I disagree that Q doesn’t answer the retirement question …  Bond shows his dismay that Q is considering retirement and then Q signs off with his famous “Now pay attention, 007,” and then offers some words of advice: Q: “I’ve always tried to teach you two things: First, never let them see you bleed;” Bond: “And second?” Q: “Always have an escape plan” — before he is lowered out of view.  Foreshadowing! Back to the rest of the film then, the opening sequence is one of the best with a high speed boat chase on the Thames.  Like Alex I expected Denise to be more cheesy that she turns out to be, the character is overdone but then many things about this Bond are. Bond is issued with the usual modern era set of interesting gadgets; a ski jacket which can turn into a protection cocoon, another BMW to destroy and a watch with a grappling hook built in.  The twists and turns of the villains and not villains could have been very clever, but in the end Elektra has to explain it all or the film wouldn’t make sense.  2 Martinis.

Tomorrow Never Dies

images-4This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.

Summary: in which Michelle Yeoh is more bad ass than Pierce Brosnan, and the Bond franchise moves with the times to realise that the media can be more terrifying than lone wolf assassins.

105px-Wai_Lin_Tomorrow_Never_Dies

See? Bad. Ass.

Alex: I love the opening to this film. M and various military people are watching a ginormous screen showing a Russian illegal arms bazaar, courtesy of some unnamed-but-we-know-it’s Bond British agent. Once they have confirmation that some important dude is there, the ranking admiral calls in a missile strike and M gets incensed that her man hasn’t had time to get out. And then Bond points out that he’s looking at a nuke OH NOES! Bond then steals the plane and the nuke. Natch. It’s a seriously awesome opening with good dialogue, good tension, great stunts. It sets the film up really nicely… although it actually doesn’t suggest the central premise, which is the power of the media.

The next scene doesn’t flag the media either: a British naval ship is overflown by a Chinese MiG saying the ship is in Chinese waters. Cut to a Scary Stealth Sub with a scary drill, and it turns out that someone is manipulating both the Brits and the Chinese. But then – oh then – we get a scene that’s basically a throwback to Blofeld: a white-haired man directing operations from a secret high-tech base, telling the men on the sub to kill the survivors in the water. What’s different here is that he’s writing headlines as he does it.

images-3

Elliot Carver. Oh, Elliot. You are so clearly meant to be Rupert Murdoch – or maybe that’s just my bias flashing. In my memory he was a bit more subtle than he turned out actually to be; Jonathan Pryce basically chews scenery in some parts of this film. It’s all about the eyebrows. It’s also how he’s written (so he’s like Jessica Rabbit?): this is a man who is pleased when new software is released deliberately full of bugs (so stereotyped Murdoch + stereotyped Bill Gates?), as well as bribing the US president to lower cable rates. And his biggest problem, what makes him act like a petulant little boy, is that China won’t let him play in their media space. BOO HOO. So he’s setting up a confrontation between the British and the Chinese, hoping that things go very badly and a Chinese general in his pocket will end up in charge. So… kinda like some other villains we’ve known, I guess, but this time rather than hoping desperately that people – world leaders, etc – will notice what he’s doing, Carver goes straight to the masses with his newspaper/media conglomerate. I really, really love this concept.images

The women? I’ve already mentioned Michelle Yeoh. She is so, so cool. She gets one awesome lone fight scene which is fantastic; she has images-5some great gadgets (walking down the side of a building, anyone?) and Bond acknowledges her as an equal. The scene with Bond and Wai Lin handcuffed together but riding a motorbike is a magnificent stunt set piece – and I especially love that it ends with a potentially provocative outdoor-fully-dressed shower scene… and she leaves him handcuffed to the shower. Did I mention she’s an agent of the Chinese equivalent of MI6? Intriguingly though the film reassures us that she’s not really a Communist; she specifically says that she doesn’t even own a Little Red Book. I don’t think they ever felt the need to reassure us about the Russian ladies not being Communist; China is somehow more scary? Who knows. I was sad that Wai Lin did indeed end up kissing Bond, but I guess I can’t have quite everything.

Bond can though; he starts off with revitalising a fling with Paris, now Elliot Carver’s wife and played by Terri Hatcher. This role always disappointed me, because Paris is just a pawn to be used by both Bond and Carver to their own ends. Bond’s regret for her ending up dead doesn’t make up for any of that.

And then there’s M, and Dench continues to bring the goods. Possibly my favourite exchange of the entire film:

Admiral Roebuck (played by Dench’s on-screen lover in As Time Goes By): “With all due respect M, sometimes I don’t think you have the balls for this job.”

M: “Perhaps. But the advantage is I don’t always have to think with them.”

Mic. Drop.

This film wasn’t quite as good as I remembered, but it’s still enjoyable and has very few cringeworthy moments.images-2

James: The height of modern technology, a Nokia clamshell ‘smart phone’, dates the gadgets in this Bond somewhat – Bond can however drive the car with it so that’s quite cool.  It is still one of my favourite modern era Bonds, a nice balance of humour, gadgets and action.  Why oh why does Bond (especially Brosnan it seems) have to tip off the villains that he knows (albeit with clever puns about being all at sea etc)? 3 Martinis


The Bitterwood Bible

Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter has been on my radar for ages, but somehow I’ve just never got around to reading it. For a while I didn’t realise it was available as an ebook – and Tartarus Press does lovely hard copies, but they’re a leedle expensive for a book you’re taking a chance on. And I also wasn’t sure that these stories were ones that I would really connect with. I mean, yes, I loved “Brisneyland by Night” in Sprawl, and a few others Slatter has written – especially with Lisa L Hannett – and Midnight and Moonshine made me cry with its beauty, but… I just wasn’t sure. And then I found out that Slatter had a set of ‘prequel’ type stories coming out, so I thought I should read those first.

images-3Halfway through reading The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, I finally bought myself Sourdough because there is no way I can now not read that collection. Because I am absolutely an Angela Slatter convert.

The stories collected here are not quite a mosaic in the same way that Midnight and Moonshine are. There, each story was clearly connected – most often by family, which made it seem a generational saga. Here, while there are a couple of stories that feature the same protagonist, a few more with recurring cameos, and most set in the same place or with the same background characters, it’s more like a series of stories set in a couple of distinct suburbs or small towns. Of course you’re going to get the same bars, or neighbourhood characters, or landmarks mentioned; that just makes sense. But the narratives themselves aren’t necessarily connected… although sometimes they are. And these locales that Slatter has invented are very believable. They’re well-realised, and they’re familiar in that fairy-tale sort of way. Because these are indeed a sort of fairy tale. There’s not a whole lot of magic; what there is is generally a quiet, dare I say domestic without it being in the slightest derogatory, magic; no flashiness or gaudiness here, no winning of wars. That would draw too much attention, and drawing attention in these stories is generally A Bad Thing. The women – and the protagonists are almost all women – mostly want to be left alone, to get on with their lives. Sometimes they’re forced to interact with the world, or with other people, that they’d rather not; because they need to achieve some specific goal, or because they’re being manipulated, or they otherwise have no choice. But you certainly get the feeling that most of them would just prefer never to be in the limelight, not to be a household name… not to stand out.

There are scribes and poisoners, seamstresses and pirates, teachers and coffin-makers and servants. They are mothers and daughters and child-free and orphan, young and old and neither; rural and urban, rich and poor. They have varying degrees of agency and control, varying chances of living after and of living happily ever after.

This is a wonderful collection of stories. They can and should be read and enjoyed separately; they can and should be read and enjoyed together, making a whole even greater than its parts. Oh, and Kathleen Jennings’ lovely little illustrations throughout are a delightful addition; I imagine they’re even more impressive in print, but electronically they’re still fine.

This review is part of the Australian Women’s Writers 2014 challenge.

Kaleidoscope

UnknownDeclaring my connections: the publisher and half the editors of this anthology, Alisa Krasnostein, is a Galactic Suburbian with me; so is the author of the first story, Tansy Rayner Roberts.

I’m a lucky person because I’m white, and straight. I’m marginalised in fiction because I’m a woman who reads science fiction. I’m one of those female readers who long ago learned the trick of imagining myself with the fellas in the books I was reading – courtesy of all those Biggles books, mostly, and all that never-written-down fanfic of joining the Fellowship of the Ring (mostly to swoon over Legolas). So my emotional connection to the idea of needing diversity in fiction is somewhat less than, say, Julia Rios – one of the editors of this anthology – who notes that “As a bisexual Mexican-American woman, I didn’t see myself reflected very often in books I read as a child or teen…”. Nonetheless, I do get personally terrifically bored of straight while male characters, and I intellectually and ethically passionately support the need for diversity in all fiction. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that this project was a great one in theory, and has turned out to be a great one in practise.

Krasnostein and Rios got themselves an awesome set of authors to approach the idea of stories whose protagonists represent diversity, but where that diversity isn’t the point – it just is. Just like it should be in life. So this isn’t an issues book, and it’s not even really a themed anthology. There’s superheroes (hey Roberts, where’s that novel?) and d-mat transportation and mythology and aliens. There’s neurodiversity and mental health issues and gender and sexuality questioning and non-whites! and teens being teens and why haven’t you bought it yet?

I’ve noted before my assumption that picking the first story of an anthology must be hard. I say this with no reference to Tansy being a friend: “Cookie Cutter Superhero” really does deserve to springboard more stories. A universe wherein machines to create superheroes have appeared around the world? Where different countries take different routes to figure out who gets to use it, and the machine decides what they’ll be like? Seriously. Someone get that woman a contract and option the TV rights. And Roberts setting this in Sydney, casually mentioning the indigenous superhero who refused the media’s attempt to make him tribal, and our soon-to-be-superhero lacks a hand and it’s not the focus of the story… everything is right about this story. Up to and including the ending.

There are other stories in the anthology too. Sean Williams throws in a story set in his Twinmaker world, and it’s mighty fine. Gabriela Lee’s “End of Service” is a bit creepy both for the SF elements and for its real-world elements. Faith Mudge’s “Signature” is wonderful and not only because it reminded me strongly of The Changeover which is a pretty sure way to my heart. I hadn’t read a new Dirk Flinthart in a while, so finding “Vanilla” in here was a delight. The title suggested one thing, especially with the discussion around identity and what being a ‘proper’ Australian, or Somali, or Somali-Australian actually means… and then it turned out to have another meaning as well. Karen Healey’s “Careful Magic” is a bit Holly Black, and all awesome. I should not have read Sofia Samatar’s “Walkdog” in public – let that be a warning – I love her use of footnotes, and the eccentric spelling works beautifully, and the format does too. It’s not often you see Celtic mythology get utilised in a story, and Amal El-Mohtar does so wonderfully in a story about owls and displacement.

This isn’t a complete list, by any means. There’s also Jim Hines, Ken Liu and John Chu, Shveta Thakrar and Alena McNamara, and a bunch of others coming at the notion of diversity in YA from different points. As a reader, therefore, thanks to everyone who helped get this anthology off the ground – this is a great book that should do the rounds of every YA reader you know.

You can get this from Twelfth Planet Press direct – Australian release coming in October!

Galactic Suburbia 108

In which we level up in Gamergate, give away Kaleidoscope, and give each other Guardians of the Galaxy mix tapes. You can get us from iTunes or from Galactic Suburbia

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of virtual attacks and physical violence towards women.

Gamergate & Zoe Quinn:

Internet’s Most Hated Person

Charles Tan does a breakdown: Understanding Gamergate.

The word of the day is: doxx

Kaleidoscope ebook giveaway
– contact us via email or social media with a recommendation of a Kaleidoscope-esque YA book or short story in order to enter.

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Tansy: Guardians of the Galaxy, Please Like Me Season 2, Kaleidoscope, Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman, John Chu “The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere” yes finally, shut up.

Alex: Alias season 1; Planet of Exile, Ursula le Guin – and a whole bunch of essays, from Dancing at the Edge of the World and Language of the Night; Landline, Rainbow Rowell; Kaleidoscope; Anita Sarkeesian’s Women vs Tropes in Video Games; Guardians of the Galaxy as well; Radio Lab podcast

Alisa: Rocket Talk – interviews with Kate Elliott and Nora Jemisin; Kameron Hurley; Renay; Podcasts abandoned – This American Life and TED Talks; Frankenstein (Pemberley Digital), Guardians of the Galaxy

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/galacticsuburbia) and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Galactic Suburbia 107

In which, Alisa and Tansy debrief Alex on their Worldcon adventure: The Ritz, the books, the people, the Hugos, the ribbons, the concrete wasteland, and the jet lag. Get us at iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

Here are the magic stats from the Hugo Awards.

If you still don’t have your copy of Kaleidoscope, here are some places you can buy it.

Check out the full Ustream footage of the Hugo awards.

Fakecon in all its glory

Tansy’s post-Loncon Jet Lag Links

Alisa’s Debriefs:

1 – Yarn Edition
2 – Dealer’s Room
3 – The Ritz
4 – The Hugos

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Cardigans

photoWell, I’ve finally done it.

I knitted a piece of clothing that really counts as clothing… because my brain suggests that mittens, hats, socks and scarves don’t really count.

Just don’t argue with the brain. It’s not really worth it.

Anyway, this cute little number will fit my goddaughter for all of five minutes, but she seems to love it for now. In fact I made the mistake of showing it to her before I put the buttons on and it took me weeks, and her mother’s determination for it to have buttons, to get it back in order to attach them.

This was most definitely a labour of love because I made several rather frustrating errors when I started that saw a few hours’ worth of working being ripped and redone.

Twice.

1968: a biography

UnknownThis book came out a decade ago. I think I’ve owned it for that same length of time – I seem to recall getting it as a freebie at some readers’ night at a bookshop. I’d adored everything else by Kurlansky that I’d read, so it seemed like a good deal at the time. And then it just… got lost in the pile of books that I own and haven’t got around to reading. As happens all too often. Plus, I overlooked it because after all, 1968 is really quite recent, yeh? And modern history… well, it’s just politics. And there’s more interesting stuff to read than politics.

I’m not sure what made me pick it up last week. Possibly something I’d been talking about with someone, or I wanted to check something. Who knows; doesn’t matter. What matters is I read the introduction and I was hooked. Kurlansky talks about four significant factors that made 1968 stand out: the example of the civil rights movement in the US speaking to a generation that felt alienated and who despised a war being waged by a massive nation against a small one, and all of it occurring at a time when television was becoming a potent force. It’s not a unique year – I’m sure you could write this sort of insightful ‘biography’ for most years, of the twentieth century especially. But it really is a significant year.

(A little quibble about the cover: the Rolling Stones aren’t mentioned, so why put Mick with either Tommie Smith or John Carlos, who used the Black Power salute at the Mexico Games, and a soldier in Vietnam, and a rocket? It doesn’t really make sense. If they wanted to symbolise the student movement, then surely Abbie Hoffmann or a SDCC poster or similar would have done the trick. It irked me. )

From the point of view of a historian, Kurlansky is quite open about the impossibility of his being completely objective, and in fact rejects the idea of any historian doing so. He was born in 1948 and hence experienced a little bit of what he’s writing about, especially the anti-Vietnam stuff. This comes through in how he writes, but how much that’s a problem is going to depend on how hungry you are for that impossibly elusive objectivity – and how hard you find it to sift the presentation of information to find whatever you think is ‘true’. I think that the medium for conveying the message is worth it, and you just read with that in mind.

And this book is worth reading both for the style – which is intensely readable – and for the content. Kurlansky eschews too many footnotes (and in fact makes that endnotes, and without numbers in the text), so it reads less like a formal history and more as an engaging narrative. Yes the historian in me occasionally frowned at some of the things he says without appearing to back it up. That’s what you get for more conversational-style history… and actually that suggests what this book is like: it felt more like the book of the series. I can easily imagine each of the chapters here being turned into an episode of television.

The absorbing nature of the narrative is aided by the astonishing story that’s being told. Bare bones: Martin Luther King Jr and Robert F Kennedy are both killed in this year; there are student riots/protests/movements all over the US and the birth/growth of significant student movements, as well as in France, Germany, Mexico, Poland and Czechoslovakia, sometimes accompanied by workers’ movements; the Olympic Games in Mexico; attempt at revolution in Czechoslovakia that’s put down by Soviet tanks; civil war in Nigeria; unrest in Israel; the Tet Offensive in Vietnam; Nixon winning the US election; Apollo 8; race issues, gender issues, political issues… . Yeh. It was a big year.

Kurlansky does a wonderful job of putting actions in different places in perspective – connecting them to one another. This is particularly true of the discussion around the student movement, which is really the heart of the book. And there’s something to be warned about: although there is quite a good discussion (IMO) of the Polish and Czech experience, especially, this is still at heart an American book. The Nigeria/Biafra ‘conflict’ is dealt with seriously and soberly, but it doesn’t get nearly as much air time as the attempts at student sit-ins around American universities. Is that a problem? Depends on what you’re wanting out of the book. And it depends on what you think actually made more of an impact around the world at the time, and since then. The by-line is “The year that rocked the world.” Did American students flagrantly defying authorities, and students being beaten by police, ‘rock the world’ more than a million people dying in Biafra? … unfortunately, possibly yes, for several reasons – not least of which is the one that Kurlansky himself spends quite some time discussing: television. There were cameras rolling when students got beaten in the streets of Chicago and New York. Not so much in Nigeria. Plus, the reality is that America had and continues to have more of an impact on world attitudes and trends that Nigeria does – for good or ill, in terms of ascertaining impact it doesn’t matter. My point is more that if you want a book that balances every country’s experience equally, this is not for you. It’s more than the history of one nation but less than a complete history of the world. So check your expectations first.

This is a really fabulous book for bringing out the important issues and the people of this one year. He sets the events and the people into context – casually dropping in Yasir Arafat and Bill Clinton, among others, for future connections, as well as giving background on Martin Luther King and the development of Palestinian identity and the Nigerian conflict and issues in Czechoslovakia. It’s not quite a history of the entire decade but it’s more than just a history of a year.

I love that this book ends with optimism. 1968 itself is such a torrid confusion of hope and despair that going from “racism, poverty, the wars in Vietnam, the Middle East, and Biafra” to the picture of our little blue and white and green marble, as seen from Apollo 8 going around the moon, seems peculiarly appropriate. And then to conclude with Dante – “Through a round aperture I saw appear / Some of the beautiful things that Heaven bears, / Where we came forth, and once more saw the stars.”

This book can be found on Fishpond. 

GoldenEye

UnknownThis review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.

images-1Summary: in which Bond races a plane to the ground, a tank and a train play chicken, and Bond deals with a space laser. Again. Oh also he gets a new face. Again.

Alex: Now we get into the movies that I know really well. What can I say? I’m absolutely a product of my generation. And what’s fascinating is that this film, and Pierce Brosnan, feels much closer to what I understand as ‘classic’ James Bond – certainly more than the Moores, although perhaps I’m just biased… there’s the martini, the gambling, the cars, Q… a bit of banter but mostly cold-eyed getting-the-job done-ness. I mean, look at that stance (on the right). Doesn’t it just – well, not scream, but state politely and firmly and with a gun in its hand that this man will succeed?

The film opens with perhaps the most dramatic opening ever:

… marred only by the fact that there’s about three different hairstyles on the man involved. Oh well. Then a bit later Bond throws himself off another cliff and chases a plane to the bottom of a ravine and manages to get into the plane before it hits the bottom. I’m pretty sure there’s a fundamental lack of understanding of physics implicit in this scene. Oh! And we also saw Sean Bean, as Agent 006 (I don’t think we’ve ever met another oo agent?) get killed! (which just shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.) Although then he turns up as ‘starring’ in the credits – hmm, spoiler much?

Anyway then it’s nine years later, after the boob-filled credits, and Bond is driving fast in a car with a woman – at which point I realised: no woman in the prologue! Amazing!! This woman is meant to be evaluating Bond but instead is all gooey and giggly, and quite put out when Bond starts flirting with a woman in a fast red car who nearly gets them all, and a large peloton of cyclists, killed. This is Xenia Ontatopp, whose name makes even Bond pause, and proceeds to kill her Admiral-boyfriend. We know that she’s going to be bad not so much from the killing but because she’s clearly turned on by inflicting and receiving pain. This is clearly coded as abnormal, and as we know by now, Bond villains are generally abnormal in some way. Also, she goes on to steal a brand new fancy pants helicopter. Bad Xenia, bad!

Meanwhile, in Russia, Natalya the computer programmer is having to deal with sexual harassment from a colleague. Apparently this is funny. (This theme is repeated in an exchange between Bond and the new Moneypenny – back to being M’s secretary – who archly points out to Bond that Unknownhis statement could be seen as sexual harassment and that the punishment is one day having to make good on your insinuations. Way to go scriptwriters, in making sexual harassment at work a sexy sexy thing.) Anyway most everyone is killed pretty soon by Xenia and the space laser – I’m sorry, space-based EMP – called GoldenEye. The EMP is cool but perhaps to most striking thing about this scene is how modern it looks, with its banks of computers. Yes perhaps this dates me – after all they’re all big clunky CRT screens etc – but they’re still on desks, being used by individuals, and there’s a whole bunch of them.

Anyway, because of this event we go back to Britain and get to the best bit of the whole movie: the new M. Hello Dame Judi Dench I love you very much. Seriously the interaction between this M and Bond is the highlight of the entire thing. There’s disparaging discussion about her being a bean counter and then she turns up and is cold, calculating and totally ready to send a man off to die. She’s willing to accept when she’s wrong and she’s willing to do something about it. Also: “if I want sarcasm I’ll talk to my children,” and Bond is “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur.” So tough. So real. So human – “come back alive.”

images-2Eventually it turns out that the helicopter was stolen for Alec – Sean Bean – who’s not dead but is scarred (see? abnormal) and who was always going to use his position to hurt Britain in some way because his parents were Lienz Cossacks, betrayed by the British afterimages WW2. In a botched attempt to kill Bond, Alec introduces him to Natalya – and this picture, on the right, reflects no part of the film whatsoever at any point in time. They end up in Cuba, where they foil Alec’s plans for stealing lots of money and – perhaps more importantly – wiping London’s computer records and sending England “back to the Dark Ages.” Actually Alec, in the not-Dark Ages they had print copies so they would have been fine if you’d used an EMP on them. But I guess your history education is a bit lacking. Anyway, this plot idea is an interesting one – not physical destruction but informational. Also, it reminded me a lot of Die Hard with a Vengeance.

My assessment of the first Brosnan Bond? He looks like Dalton, which is interesting. I think it continues the more violent/’realist’ tendencies of Dalton but is somewhat softer; Brosnan already has more quips than Dalton. M is awesome – did I mention that? On the women issue, Natalya is highly competent as a computer programmer – despite being constantly undervalued by her arrogant “I am inVINCible” co-worker Boris. But Moneypenny is a bit sad, and Xenia chews the scenery like it’s going out of fashion, and Minnie Driver is just bizarre as a Russian gangster’s mistress strangling a cat singing “Stand by your Man.” The explosions are bigger than before, the stunts are incredible, and the chase scenes are fantastic. This is a very enjoyable film.

James: A modern action movie which hasn’t dated as much as I thought it might.  I had never realised how like Dalton Brosnan looked either until this re-watch.  We’re back to the cold war with great classic gadgets, though we see the rise of product placement with the Omega watch foreshadowing Nokia, BMW and others in future Brosnan films.  The portrayal of computer hacking is typical of movies from this era (or full stop?) – the slightly nerdy looking, yet likeable character madly bashes at a keyboard while others look on applying pressure of death or similar and some how when the hack is completed it’s always show in some very cartoonish visualisation rather than they reality of unix terminals and copying files off a system.  Q doesn’t disappoint with gadgets like a pen grenade and we introduce one of my favourite good bad guys Robbie Coltrane playing Valentine a Russian mobster.  The finale of the movie is magnificent set against the background of Arecibo’s 305m radio telescope dish built into a volcanic crater in Puerto Rico (and it really is).  It’s like a less rubbish version of the finale from You Only Live Twice in Japan.  3.5 Martinis.

The Tiptree Award Anthology vol 3

UnknownI just love these anthologies. I love what it showcases – the diversity of what the different Tiptree panels have judged as falling into the category of ‘exploring and expanding gender,’ which is the remit of the Tiptree Award each year. I love that it shows diversity within the genre, full stop. I love that the anthologies don’t just have fiction, and don’t just have fiction from one or two years, but that there’s non-fiction and older works as well. And that the introduction and sometimes the introduction to each piece are interrogating themselves, the pieces, and the scene in general.

There’s a lot to love.

I’ve had this volume waiting to be read for aaaages. I thought it appropriate to read as I rode public transport on my way to interviewing Rosaleen Love – what I’ve read of her work fits into the broader milieu of the works represented here. As I read, I couldn’t believe that I’d allowed myself to leave this book festering on the shelf for so long.

The non-fiction includes an essay of Pam Noles’, called “Shame,” which struck me very deeply: about the experience of watching and reading science fiction as a person of colour, and not seeing yourself. Her dad sounds awesome: he called the movies she was watching “Escape to a White Planet,” and “Mars Kills the White People.” There’s an enormous amount in this essay that I, as a privileged white reader (gender does not trump race – it’s not a competition) probably need to read it again. Several times. And that the editors paired it with Dorothy Allison’s essay on Octavia Butler was very nice – the latter doesn’t talk all that much about race, more about Butler’s vision of women in the future, but the two are surely entwined… perhaps not especially in Butler, but certainly in Butler. And then there’s a letter from L Timmel Duchamp to Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree Jr, which is a lovely musing on what Sheldon/Tiptree as person and as author has meant to one individual.

Geoff Ryman looks at some possible consequences of the internet arriving in an out of the way village; Nalo Hopkinson goes domestic, sinister and mythological all in one hit; Margo Lanagan does weird weird things that I’m still figuring out in “Wooden Bride” – the story that, I think, gets the shortest introduction of all, since “some stories shouldn’t be introduced” and doesn’t that just describe all of Lanagan’s work? Aimee Bender’s “Dearth” is a devastating, heart warming, bewildering story about maternity and mothering… and I’ve just realised the protagonist is never named. And isn’t that a statement in itself. All of the stories so far were new to me, and Bender was a new name. And then it gave me Ursula Le Guin’s “Mountain Ways,” one of my favourites of her short stories. I can’t possibly pick a favourite story, because that would mean choosing between Le Guin and Ted Chiang: “Liking what you see: A Documentary” is another of his glorious mucking-with-structure stories in which the question about whether you should turn off the ability to see/appreciate beauty is presented as if as a transcribed documentary. And the fact that there are no visuals to accompany this story about visuals just adds to its power and general gloriousness. And for the editors to pair this with Tiptree’s “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” – well, I’ll admit that I did not reread the Tiptree. It was just going to be too raw an experience. So too was “Litte Faces,” by Vonda McIntyre, but I didn’t know that before going in. Deeply disturbing and weird (but not entirely in an unpleasant way), as well as powerful and impressive – and so very different. So, too, the final story – different that is, slightly less weird and disturbing – is “Knapsack Poems,” from Eleanor Arnason. She uses a character who is effectively distributed over eight bodies to tell a story of travel and experience, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. I’m not sure the similarities are much more than superficial, but they’re intriguing anyway.

This anthology works as something read from cover to cover in a sitting or two; it could be dipped into over months; it could be hopscotched. It should be read in any way you can.

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