Monthly Archives: November, 2010

Writing masculinity

What better anthology to read at a largely testosterone-fuelled event like a 24 hour bike race than one intending to discuss masculinity? And so it was that I read c0ck, edited by Keith Stevenson and Andrew Macrae.

ETA: I have been reminded that the best way to pronounce the title is with a Scottish accent – “cawwwk” – and then it doesn’t sound nearly so rude.

I got into the Australian sf scene just after this anthology came out in 2006, and despite hearing good things about it and seeing it for sale at numerous cos, I only got around to buying it at WorldCon this year. I feel that I am now a bona fide member of the scene. I read it in a day – it’s only 130-odd pages long, and I’d already read the longest piece in it earlier in the week. Lying in my sleeping bag, my brain started analysing my reactions, and I couldn’t go to sleep until I wrote this:

Taken individually, many of these stories are just sf/f/horrow; quite good, mostly, but not necessarily exceptional in the issues of ideologies they present. However, being collected in this anthology – with such a provocative title – means they create something of a gestalt: they become a sum greater than their parts, forcing the reader to acknowledge and consider the particular modes and methods of characterisation utilised (if, that is, you follow the type of reading suggested by the editors). As a collection, these stories interrogate ways of being male (and, conversely, female) that are possible, acceptable, or viable. The very idea of what it means to be a man is questioned and investigated. In 137 pages, these authors use sf in particular in ways that to me are exactly what the genre should be about: they tell engaging, sometimes creepy, stories, all with quite different characters, and they suggest ways of thinking about ourselves and society that might, hopefully, lead to change in those ways of thinking.

Yes, I get a bit pompous late at night. Anyway, I primarily bought the anthology because of Paul Haines’ Ditmar-winning “The Devil in Mr Pussy (or How I Found God inside my Wife),” which was exactly as creepy and shudder-inducing and brilliantly written as I have come to expect from the man. One of the things I really like about Haines is he in some ways so domestic a writer – most of the stuff I’ve read is set in suburbia, with normal people as the characters – that it is intensely believable and, therefore, intensely horrific. In this case, a couple move into a new house and are trying to have a baby. He’s also trying to write, and ends up taking the cat’s antidepressants. Weird, weird things happen. This was a well-deserved Ditmar win.

I liked most of the other stories in the anthology. Cat Sparks’ “The Jarrah Run” was another favourite, set on an alien world, and kinda interrogating the idea of the knight errant, and “Honeymoon” by Adam Browne and John Dixon was also excellent, with a clever take on suitors fighting for the hand of the maiden. All up, I think the collection basically succeeds in its aims. If nothing else, I was forced to ask of each story what it was saying about masculinity, whether that was realistic or stereotypical, whether I subscribed to that idea or not, and the implications of all of those. There’s violence, and control issues, and sex (lots of sex), helplessness, frustration, and a variety of relationships with women and other men. I’m pleased to have finally read it; I think it’s a really interesting part of the Aussie spec fic scene of the last few years.

Episode 21 of Galactic Suburbia

You can get us from iTunes, or download from Galactic Suburbia.

In which we work, play, shake up our format a little (gasp!) and cover the life & death of magazines, the changing face of the industry, respect for non fiction, sexual harassment, rants, reboots and as usual, books, books and more books.  Also a few sneaky clues about what Twelfth Planet Press is publishing next year!

News

Realms of Fantasy is back, again…

Escape Pod expands: “We have been pushing to expand what Escape Pod does, adding an SF blog and distributing our stories via magazine format. We’re also becoming a pro market, and hope to keep paying our authors pro rates well into 2011 if the donations make it possible.”

Cheryl Morgan talks about paying for reviews as semipro.

On the Cooks Source scandal and seeing stuff on the internet as ‘public domain’.

Jim C Hines on reporting sexual harassment in SF/F.

Old men complaining?  When you get old, do you by consequence lose your sense of wonder? Just simply because you’ve read everything? And is/should all SF be aimed/written for the 60 year old man? And Jason Sanford responds

New Buffy Reboot

New Friend of the Podcast: The Writer & the Critic (Mondy & Kirstyn).

Rambly Discussion
Books that aren’t marketed as being a part of a series…
Publishing, deadlines, and attitudes thereto…
Chat, rants and backpedalling…

What Culture have we Consumed?
Alex: Blameless, Gail Carriger; “The Devil in Mr Pussy,” Paul Haines; Women of Other Worlds, ed. Helen Merrick and Tess Williams; Bold as Love, Gwyneth Jones; Day of the Triffids (2009 BBC production)
Alisa: works too hard, and also Fringe.
Tansy: To Write Like a Woman, Joanna Russ; Marianne, the Magus & the Manticore by Sheri S Tepper; Sourdough & Other Stories, Angela Slatter; China Mountain Zhang, Maureen McHugh, Mists of Avalon movie


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

The Evolution of Ellen Ripley, take 2

I have no idea what happened last time I tried to post this – only half my post appeared! So hopefully my memory is good enough to remember what I wrote…

I love Aliens. I love the action, the characters, and the look. We recently bought the the Alien Anthology, complete with 3D facehugger:

Gross, eh?

So, we watched Alien, and J is convinced he’s never seen it before. Side note here (with spoiler): we met a guy in the UK who had a friend working as Ridley Scott’s PA while this was being shot. Apparently, That Scene where the alien bursts out of Hurt’s chest? No one knew that was going to happen. And I mean no one: not the cameramen, not the actors, not even Hurt himself apparently. They were all told that if they stuffed it up, they’d be looking for new jobs…

Anyway. We re-watched Aliens, and then skipped to Alien Resurrection, having seen Alien3 not so long ago on TV. And it got me thinking about Ripley.

I’d forgotten that, in the first movie, she’s nothing special. That is, she’s a competent third officer, and although Parker and Brett give her crap they still do what she says. But there’s nothing about her that stands out, and watching the movie for the first time I reckon you’d be hard pressed to guess who might survive (except for Lambert. No way was she going to live).

I love Ripley in Aliens the most, perhaps because I’ve seen it so often. She’s a complete wreck at the start, and the loss of her daughter is gut-wrenching. But she hardens up out of compassion for the colonists, and a conviction that she has to destroy the alien, and goes back to the source of her nightmares. There, of course, she adopts Newt, a daughter-substitute, and discovers the alien queen, having children of her own. I don’t remember where, but I read a really interesting analysis once talking about visions of motherhood in this movie – and the fact that Ripley becomes a monstrous mother, like the queen, in defending her daughter-substitute. She becomes a technological monster – a cyborg – so it’s something of a culture/nature clash. She ends the movie having found some semblance of peace, and you’re left believing that perhaps she can have something of a life, now.

Alien3 is, therefore, a gut-wrenchingly awful movie. That they killed Newt (and Hicks! poor Hicks!), and that Ripley then had to an autopsy – so destructive to Ripley’s soul. I enjoyed it enough when I saw it, but listening to Grant’s Bad Film Diaries made me appreciate it all the more; he devoted an entire episode to the movie. It was interesting that in this movie Ripley got to have a ‘love interest’ (she came close, I think, with Hicks, since she was basically Sarah Connor and he Kyle Reese). Not that it’s exactly a loveydovey romance; it’s mutually beneficial, and mutually agreed on, as a comfort. So she’s never distracted from the main task at hand. And then she’s called on to make that ultimate sacrifice, going out in a rather Terminator-esque blaze of glory… and it makes sense; it almost feels right that this should be the culmination of Ripley’s journey.

Except, of course, that it’s not. And bizarrely, the creation that is Ripley in Alien Resurrection feels even more right, in a twisted sort of way. She becomes part of what she fears and hates most, with the memories of that fear and hate. Perhaps the most poignant and chilling moment in the whole film is when she identifies herself as the monster’s mother: after the angst of losing one and saving another, she ‘gives birth’ to a final, loathsome daughter. Ripley herself has actually become a monster, unwillingly, unlike when she took on cyborg monstrosity for just a limited time in Aliens. But ultimately she uses that monstrosity for good… well, we hope so, anyway. I don’t really know what to think about the end of this film. Staring out over the ruins of Paris with Call doesn’t feel like a satisfying conclusion to Ripley’s saga.

The one thing I think could have made the development of Ripley as a character more interesting would have been an ongoing relationship, that adapts and changes with Ripley’s development as a person. I guess she sort of has this with the androids: working well with Ash and then getting shafted by him; fearing Bishop and then appreciating him, before getting shafted by Bishop#2, and then finally making peace with Call. But it’s not the same as watching one relationship change over time. And I don’t count Ripley’s relationship with the aliens here, either, because that’s really always based on hate.

So. I like Ripley. I like that we get the story of a woman in four films, over 18 years. I like that she changes and develops and evolves, that she was one of the early role models of kick-ass women that seem to have proliferated recently (maybe someone should write a comparative essay on Ripley, Sarah Connor, and River Tam? Probably it’s been done). I really like that although in the popular consciousness she might be defined by the action – and especially “get away from her you bitch” – there is more depth to her than that.

She is so very awesome.

A revolutionary feminist

The idea of being a revolutionary feminist isn’t exactly a ground-breaking one. However, in this context, it is, because the woman I’m referring to is Inessa Armand.

Never heard of her? What a surprise.

Have you heard the one about how V.I. Lenin, married but childless, had a lover who was kinda involved in the Bolshevik party?

That would be Inessa. Except that she almost certainly wasn’t his lover, but she was deeply, thoughtfully, and passionately committed to the Bolshevik party.

There are very few books, it seems, that look at the role of women in the Russian Revolution. There have been a few books written about Aleksandra Kollontai, which I’m keen to get my hands on – but for Westerners especially, she’s a ‘fun’ topic because she spouted all sorts of daring philosophies like ‘free love’ and that abortions ought to be legal. I also have a book on my pile to read that collates the reminiscences of women from the early Soviet era. But, really, compared to the number of books on Lenin and Stalin and Tolstoy, let alone the minutiae of aspects of the Revolution, women get short shrift.

R.C Elwood confronted this in 1996 when he wrote about Armand. He is very open about how he came to write the book, which I like: he’d been struck by some seeming inconsistencies around what little was written about her, he suggested one of his students write a thesis on her, and then… essentially his imagination was captured. One of the problems that he faced is that almost none of her writing has been published. While you can go read almost every little note or letter that Mighty Lenin ever committed to paper, not so for Armand. While it appears that she started several articles, most never got published – and the fault for that appears to lie with Lenin, who was dismissive of her work. And while she probably wrote many letters to Lenin, given the 130+ that he is known to have written to her, they have neither been collected nor published (or hadn’t to 1996; I haven’t seen any evidence of them, anyway).

Elwood’s is a well written, and well structured, biography. (It might seem obvious how to structure a biography, but within standard chronology I have read some truly confusing stuff.) He tells Armand’s story in a straightforward manner, and didn’t seem to me to be making too many leaps of intuition. He also incorporates a fair amount of history about the situation in pre-revolutionary Russia, and the immediate after-effects of the October Revolution; as with Lenin, Armand wasn’t actually in the country for the February one. Sadly, for Armand herself and in thinking about how she might have continued to influence affairs, she died in 1920 – while the Civil War was still going, before War Communism was repealed and the NEP introduced. Thinking about it though, this might almost have been a good thing, since she didn’t have to face Stalin’s rise to power.

My one quibble is Elwood’s use of the term ‘feminist’. He never theorises what he actually means by that, and whether he is using the term in a modern or a contemporary way. He doesn’t spend much time – and none early on – discussing what was obviously a problem for the Bolsheviks: that most women who identified as feminist at this time were doing so from a bourgeois perspective. Consequently, there were real problems for women who identified both as Marxist and feminist, since Marxists said women’s issues were a class problem, not a gender one. Anyway, this leads to some sections where it sounds like Armand evolved from feminism to Marxism, which I would take issue with and I’m not sure was Elwood’s intention.

There are lots of things to like about this book, but perhaps my favourite is the chapter focussing on the historiography of the notion that Armand was Lenin’s lover. Elwood details what he reconstruct of the earliest suggestions of such a relationship, then looks at the actual evidence, and points out all the flaws and inconsistencies. Of course, as he acknowledges, it is a possibility he was wrong; they (with Lenin’s wife Krupskaia) did spend a lot of time in the same places, and they did write to each other a lot. But the weight of the evidence at the moment says they were not involved like that. Apparently you actually could be female and have an impact on politics other than through your sex life. Who knew?

Women of Other Worlds

Helen Merrick and Tess Williams had the chance to attend WisCon 20 in 1996. This book, which they co-edited, sprang directly from that experience. It’s a thick book – well over 400 pages – filled with fiction, poetry, and a variety of non-fiction pieces: some critical essays on authors or particular works, some collected correspondence, a few along the lines of memoirs. I haven’t read the whole lot yet, but the pieces I haven’t read are those that relate to work I’m unfamiliar with. So there are a couple relating to Lois McMaster Bujold, for example, which I’ll read when I’ve finally caught up with the world and read her stuff.

A complete review of the book would be… extensive, to say the least. But there are a few pieces that especially made me think. For a start, there were a few pieces of fiction that I didn’t really like. That’s an odd place to start a discussion of the collection, perhaps, but it was an important thing for me to realise and come to grips with. Part of me expects to always like everything in a particular set: all feminist SF, for example, or everything by Ursula le Guin… even everything SF, period. (This account for my dismay at not enjoying Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds as much as I had hoped, given my love of everything else he’s written.) So to discover that I didn’t like everything chosen by Merrick and Williams for inclusion was interesting, and gave me pause, and was ultimately quite useful in helping me think through my attitudes. There was much fiction I did like, of course, and one of those in particular was “Home by the Sea,” by Elisabeth Vonarburg. It’s a marvellous tale about struggling with identity, and family, and personal history, in the context of a vague environmental disaster. Kelley Eskridge’s “And Salome Danced” is also a brilliant piece, creepy and lush and subtle. Showing just how useful the internet has become in facilitating criticism, it’s followed by a essay comprising email correspondence from the Fem-SF list about that story, allowing for all sorts of interesting comparison and discussion.

As an anthology relating to WisCon, there are of course a couple of pieces relating to James Tiptree Jr, although – not unexpectedly – they’re neither straight biography nor criticism. There’s an excerpt from one of the cookbooks put out to raise money for the eponymous award, which is hilarious and sounds delicious and makes me want to buy the book, and Pat Murphy’s reminiscences about how the award got started. And Justine Larbalestier contributes an essay on “Alice James Raccoona Tiptree Davey Hastings Bradley Sheldon Jr”, and the stories told about that collection of identities, that makes me itch to go read the bio sitting on my shelf.

Judith Merrill, to whom the anthology is dedicated, finishes the anthology, with an excerpt from her memoirs, and a reflection on the compiling of the same. She had been a Guest of Honour at the con, and died before the anthology was completed. It’s another bio that I really must get my hands on, because she sounds like a most amazing woman, especially in the context of her time but really for all time. I’ve read hardly any of her work, and I’ve tried looking for one of her novels (Shadow on the Hearth), but she seems to be totally out print, which is tragic.

What Merrick and Williams show in this book is how different sorts of writing can work together to give an impression of a community, all its different aspects and ways of relating and divergences. It’s my sort of book; good fiction, good criticism, humour and an attempt to understand the world, or bits of it anyway.

An open letter

Dear Joanna

– do you mind if you call you Joanna? I’m not going to pretend like I know you from your writing, but Ms Russ feels rather distant and Professor Russ is rather intimidating. I do kinda get the feeling, from your work, that should I meet you in a social setting, after I recovered from my awkward fangirl-induced silence and/or hysteria, you would be Joanna. Thus –

Dear Joanna

I’m 31. That means all of your novels were written before I was born. Much of your short fiction was, too, and almost all of your reviews. (Happily you’ve kept writing essays and the like, so I’ve got heaps still to read – not that I’m even through your fiction yet.) Despite being an historian myself, and one obsessed by the ancient and medieval worlds at that, there is a small part of me that is still somewhat amazed that work from before my birth can have an impact on me. Although I quite like Ancient Greek tragedy, for example, medieval literature rarely affects me on a visceral level; it’s too foreign; I mostly like the ancient tragedies because they’ve become so wrapped up in Western European culture.

The point is, your fiction does affect me. I’m only a child of the ’70s by the grace of three months, and I grew up in Australia, so I don’t really understand the anti-feminist rhetoric that so clearly affected The Female Man, for example. I sometimes get made fun of for identifying as a feminist, which is insulting and horrible and all those sorts of things, but it’s never turned actively nasty, actively hostile – which I know is a blessing. Reading The Female Man, especially the section where you anticipate reviewers’ reactions? Well. It was like a punch to the guts to realise that you expected that sort of reaction. And it makes me admire you fiercely for being willing to put your work out there and endure that sort of reaction because you believed in your work, and in what you were saying.

(All of this may make me sound naive and innocent. I’m not, really. It’s just that my understanding of second-wave feminists’ experiences has often been a bit academic, I guess. Hostile critical reviews, especially when they’ve already been actively anticipated and lampooned, are not academic.)

The first of your work that I read was “When it Changed,” and I had the advantage of reading it without already knowing the reality of life on Whileaway. When I gave a copy of that story and The Female Man to a friend of mine entering law school (she has a Masters in Philosophy as well, don’t worry), I had to scribble out the intro to “When it Changed” because it revealed who the narrator was, which is of course most of the fun. Since then, I’ve read one of your Alyx stories, The Two of Them, “Souls” (which I was overwhelmingly excited to see as a double with a Tiptree story!), and To Write like a Woman. I really enjoyed that collection of your non-fiction, by the way, and I’m dead keen to get the others. You have such an incisive mind, and such a delightful turn of phrase. I especially enjoyed your essays on “What can a Heroine do? or why Women can’t Write,” and “Somebody’s Trying to Kill me and I think it’s My Husband: the Modern Gothic.” You maintain an inspiring balance between humour, and compassion, and cutting criticism that makes your work wonderful to read. So, thank you for that. You have indeed inspired me.

My one issue I wanted to mention is your early dismissal of stories you said you were set in “galactic suburbia.” Admittedly I only know about this from Lisa Yaszek’s book of that same name. I quite enjoy the (well-written) stories set there, and I’m wondering whether you have changed your mind since your discussion of them. If you haven’t, that’s fine… I guess I wonder if, with distance between then and now, things have changed. And at the heart of that wonder is the question of whether you think things actually have changed enough for it to be worth changing your mind. This is getting convoluted; let me explain my (now admittedly naive) thought process. I am presuming that part of your dismissal stemmed from the idea that those stories weren’t feminist enough, and that female authors ought to be writing more challenging, more overtly feminist, work. Maybe I’m wrong; maybe you just didn’t like them. Fair enough. But if my assumption has any truth, do you now think that there can be a place for more domestically-oriented texts? Hmm… it may well be that I am just digging myself in deeper now, and this is making me sound totally unreconstructed.

The reality is, this is fanmail. I love your work. I love that you write/wrote fiction and non-fiction, that you are an academic who is passionate about science fiction, that you are a passionate feminist, and – what spins me out – that you have been those things for so long (sorry, I don’t mean to imply that I think you are old…). You are an inspiration to me.

With deep regards and immense gratitude

Alex

2011 Book Club

Thanks to a tip from Tansy, I have just signed myself up for an online book club for 2011: women in science fiction. I’ve read two – The Handmaid’s Tale and Lilith’s Brood (although I read that as three separate books) – and already own another – Mappa Mundi, which I will read before the designated month because Robson is one of the GoH at Swancon36/Natcon50. Of the others, I’ve been hanging out to read more than half of them, and know the names of most of the others, so this will be a great opportunity to get stuck into them and also discuss them to bits! I’m looking forward to it a lot.

Galactic Suburbia 20!!

You can download us from iTunes or from our website!

In which we talk World Fantasy, female editors, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree Jr, Connie Willis, Pat Murphy, and more World Fantasy – plus Alisa tells us off for not mentioning how awesome certain books actually are (we totally did).

News
World Fantasy Award winners!

Peter Tennant at Black Static looks at the stats for women being published in recent horror & dark fantasy anthologies; the Hathor Legacy compares representation of female authors in two recent horror anthols.

Cat Sparks is the new fiction editor of Cosmos, taking over from Damien Broderick.

Discussion on the lack of female editors in pro fantasy publications (read through the comments which raise many important points about the post).

Steampunkgate (yes, really):
Charles Stross criticises the “glut” of steampunk and calls it out at a subgenre;
Nisi Shawl talks about the literary side of steampunk just isn’t as diverse and interesting as the other aspects of steampunk… yet;
Catherynne Valente rants and then raves about steampunk;
Scott Westerfeld gets cranky about the steampunk haterz.

Small press turned imprint to publish line of multicultural SF/Fantasy for children.

Jeff VanderMeer reports on Amazon Best of SF/F lists for 2010.

What have we been reading/listening to?
Alex: Changeless, Gail Carriger; The Two of Them, Joanna Russ; Brightness Falls from the Air, James Tiptree Jr; Full Moon City, ed Darrell Schweitzer and Martin Greenberg; backlog of Tor.com (esp. AM Dellamonica’s “The Cage” and Robert Reed’s “The Next Invasion“) and Strange Horizons (esp. Sandra McDonald’s “Seven Sexy Cowboy Robots“).
Alisa: Fire Watch, Remake (both Connie Willis); White Cat by Holly Black; Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold.
Tansy: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, NK Jemisin, Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell, by Pat Murphy.

Pet Subject
Capclave and World Fantasy Convention!  Alex and Tansy interrogate Alisa about her trip away, her loot, her adventures and all the gossip.

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

Pitch Black

I’m fairly sure that we watched Chronicles of Riddick at the movies one summer when it was unbearably hot outside. It looked exactly like our sort of thing: futuristic sets, awesome action/fighting sequences… excellent. Then we discovered that Riddick had had a previous outing, so of course it was a no-brainer: we had to find Pitch Black.

They are, of course, remarkably different movies. Pitch Black was made on a very tight budget, with a limited amount of time, in the Australian outback, and falls squarely into the SF/horror bracket. Chronicles had way more money and time – Diesel was a much bigger name three years later – and it is a much more lavish, grandiose film, that’s far more mainstream SF. And you can watch Chronicles without the benefit of Pitch Black, which is a remarkable achievement in a sequel.

But I’m not here to talk about Chronicles; that can wait. We re-watched Pitch Black a couple of days ago, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to muse on a couple of points.

Spoilers ahoy!

I love the anti-hero, and Riddick is close to the ultimate anti-hero. You really don’t know whether he’ll help the other survivors; the only reason I didn’t think he’d go for Johns’ plan is because he loathes Johns more than anyone else. I like that he is just human – frighteningly fast, strong, and quick-thinking, but he has no superpowers. Diesel sure knows how to deliver a line, too, which is one of the things that stops this film being way too grim for my liking.

The supporting cast is largely enjoyable. I love Claudia Black, so I’m always sad when she dies way too early. Radha Mitchell is nicely complex as the navigator trying to redeem herself, and it’s totally gutting that she doesn’t get to leave. Riddick’s one human moment comes with that stricken “not for me”. Paris P. Ogilvie is hilarious, and allows for a nice lightening of the mood; the Imam is an interesting choice for moral compass/unintimidated person. I wonder if he was only possible before the Sept 11 attacks? Perhaps becoming more feasible now…. I love Johns’ character because he alone has any real development – from apparent hero through to junkie bounty hunter, willing to sacrifice companions to save his own sorry butt. Plus, Cole Hauser is cool. And Jack – well, the kid certainly adds an interesting twist when he’s revealed to be a she. The implication that it’s bad enough that a boy would shave his head and enthuse about being a killer, but that for a girl to do so is that much more troubling, is fascinating.

I enjoy the cinematography and setting every time I watch it. There are just enough weird-ass camera shots that it has a less-than-mainstream feel to it, but not enough that I actually feel queasy. And the lighting is immensely effective. It’s overdone, but I think that’s part of its effectiveness. It’s so other, so alien, that the three suns thing feels like it fits right in. The whole eclipse-every-22-years thing? Totally terrifying. And I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this movie, but those damned monsters manage to scare me every single time: I forget when they’re going to appear, and then BAM – shriek! They’re utterly absurd, but they’re very clever.

Pitch Black remains a movie I will always enjoy re-watching.

I [heart] disaster movies

I avoided 2012 when it was at the cinema, because I figured it wasn’t going to be worth wasting my money on it there. However, if you saw it at the cinema and haven’t bothered to rewatch, let me suggest that you get the DVD and watch the special features, especially the one about the ‘science’ behind the movie: it is so, so worth it.

The scare-quotes around ‘science’ in that last sentence ought to tell you a bit about what I thought of this movie.

I have gradually come to the realisation that I am a total sucker for disaster movies. Natural or manmade, it’s all good: from Poseidon Adventure to Dante’s Peak, Inferno to Core, I just love them. Consequently, I really enjoyed 2012. But there’s no way I’m going to pretend that it was actually a good movie.

Some spoilers ahead!

For a start, I really enjoyed Chiwetel Ejiofor. I liked having a smart black man as a lead character, I liked having a sensible geography geek as a lead character, and I always enjoy a good moral scientist v immoral politician stoush. On which note, Oliver Platt was excellent as the politician, and his development from fairly sensible if somewhat (and necessarily) ruthless through to being entirely obsessed with his plan was very well played.

From my memory of the ads, I had thought that John Cusack was the main character, so I was surprised that Ejiofor’s character got quite so much play. I quite like Cusack as an actor, although this role was very different for him – and the whole SF-author-as-character thing generally has me rolling my eyes. His relationship with his family developed in somewhat unexpected ways, for which i was grateful; I had been anticipating a typical overblown Hollywood family – the reason why I won’t watch Deep Impact again, but watch Armageddon frequently. There was a bit of the divorced-parents stereotype playing out with the kids, but actually I thought the son in particular was quite a complex little character, with his angst towards the dad and love of the step-dad and wanting his dad to actually like the step-dad. I figured that someone would end up being sacrificed, one of the men, and I honestly wasn’t quite sure which it would be – and I was a little disappointed when it was step-dad. It would have been a much more interesting movie if they’d allowed step-dad to stay with the family, and also made it much more poignant that Ejiofor had brought Cusack’s book with him. But, you know, they didn’t. (Of course the much edgier version would have seen the two blokes get it on, but that was never going to happen.)

The plot… yeh. It actually had one, which was fun. I thought that the time jumps needed to be done a bit more obviously, because I was confused when they were talking about having prepared for this over years when it was only 10 minutes ago! I liked the split between national response and family response – I thought it was a pretty good split, time-wise. Having read Stephen Baxter’s Flood, when they first started talking about arks I was expecting spaceships, which would have been very, very interesting – and much more complex about how many people they could save. When I finally (eventually, much later than I ought to have) realised they were talking about floating ships… well, ok. It meant they could save more people, which was all nice and touchy-feely. And I had had several thoughts about how the movie could end, and managed to be a little surprised by the conclusion. It was something of a cop-out – especially Our Hero’s dad still being alive on the resort ship – but it was a nice (if admittedly tacky) touch to have them go back to Africa.

I enjoyed the effects. Some nice, utterly ridiculous scenes with the cars and the planes escaping from various encroaching disasters – they actually managed to be engrossing! I was gripped! One or two of the waves managed to not be entirely CGI-looking, which is an achievement.

So. 2012. Glad I didn’t see it at the movies, thoroughly enjoyable on a Saturday afternoon.