Tuesday Jun 06, 2006

Peter's Evil Overlord List

The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord


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Orginally posted on Kool Aid Served Daily
Copyright (C) 2006, Kool Aid Served Daily

Friday Mar 03, 2006

Micah by Laurell Hamillton

The new Anita Blake novel, Micah, is available. I saw it in the airport and I must say I was disappointed in the packaging. If you are used to Laurrell Hamilton's books, they are normally quite large. This one appeared to be medium sized, but I swear it was double spaced inside. Couple that with the short story collection she put out before Incubus Dreams and I think she is exploiting the market.

The short story in Bite was 30 pages long and you might have bought the book thinking you were getting something major about Anita. Considering that Micah is short and already #6 on some best selller list, I think either it is a short story (for what Laurrell has been writing lately) or part of a larger whole. Or perhaps it sets up Danse Macabre.

Wednesday Feb 15, 2006

The art of the trailer

My wife sent me a link to this off of NPR: Not Coming to a Theater Near You: Satire Trailers. Basically, a trailer for a movie can be spun many ways. Some students have been resplicing trailers to suggest a new theme.

In case the link goes away, try: Brokeback to the Future. You ought to be able to find more satire from there.

Also, Google's Video search for trailer spoofs will help.

Sunday Feb 05, 2006

Obsidian Butterfly by Laurell K. Hamilton

I just picked this one back up, I probably read it every 9 months or so. It is my favorite of the Anita Blake series. It isn't just because we get to see the humanization of Edward - it is also the last one which really focuses on the physicallity of Anita. I want to read the books for the action and I happen to buy into Anita as a character. But she is Laurell's voice, and Laurell has decided to focus on the sex and the S&M.

I'm actually very okay with that - it is her right. Normally, I skim over the complicated relationships, teen angst, and discussions about needing a good fsck. But once you get past Obsidian Butterfly, too much of the entire book is that way. I was disappointed in Incubus Dreams - I actually didn't enjoy it. Also, I read Kiss of Shadows in the Merry Gentry series and I never read any of the rest. I can buy into Merry and her plight - but I don't want to just read about her doing it every which way.

When I re-read the Anita series, I tend to start with Obsidian Butterfly and then read the rest in order from the beginning. I did enjoy it again - I was once more drawn into Anita's character. I like the way Laurell fleshes her out. Take for example, the line about the Mexican Restaurant:

Very touristy, which usually means the food won't be authentic or very good. But a lot of the diners were Hispanic and that boded well. Whatever the food, if the actual ethnic group liked the restaurant, then the food was authentic and likely good.

I can imagine this coming out of John Madden. In part, these earthly beliefs are why I like Anita. Perhaps we should call up Myth Busters and see if this urban legend is true?

But anyway, Laurell brings Anita to life for me with these types of passages. They can be patently false - I've yet to find an ethnic buffet that is authentic - other than one which is country, i.e. American. Yet when Anita dusts off these beliefs, it brings home to me she is not perfect and Laurell is not trying to portray a superwoman.

I also like how we've seen the evolution of Anita from someone who killed as necessary to an almost cold blooded killer. She doesn't really regret the loss as she can balance it out with the good she has accomplished.

At times, Laurell weaves these crisis of faith discussions into and out of the books. How many times did we here about the legalization of Vampire Executioners as Federal Agents before it happened. I don't think she is reusing text (as compared to Simon R. Green in the Deathstalker series, i.e., when the one character dressed snazzy and in season, it was always the same style, no matter how many years later.), but trying to maintain some continuity. Again, I like the intent, but when the focus shifts to S&M, I lose interest. I actually do like the exploration of her relationships with her were-cat pack, watch the continuity on how she learns to just touch, but in the later books, when it focuses on the sex, again, I want my simple blow away the bad guys girl to back.

Saturday Jan 21, 2006

Formulas and selling product

I just picked up Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair last night. It read just like Finders Keepers and Gabriel's Ghost. The formula is that an attractive short blonde who isn't any good in relationships falls in love with an older and bigger man. The man has been wrapped up in his career and is surprised that he suddenly has feelings for someone. There is some other interstellar faction also trying to wipe out the good guys. During a struggle, one of the two reveals some deep dark strength to save the day. But that secret casts them in a light which takes away from their humanity. The other struggles with acceptance and when they finally do, the roles flip with the emotional turmoil. In the end, they accept each other and defeat the baddies.

The difference between Sinclair and other SF authors is that her work is blatantly romantic and could easily be marketed in that genre. This deviation is enough to re-expose to me the nature of what constitutes a following. If we examine Modesitt, Heinlein, Anthony, Chalker, Norton, they all have a core formula they follow in their writings. As readers, we get attached not only to the characters, but to the formula we know will be used in new settings. Eventually I got tired of Chalker and his degradation of females - as I went back to works I used to like, I found that theme present. But every time I pick up a new Modesitt series (or jump in the Recluse series), I know what type of characters I'm going to get and what they are going to have to learn.

I can see that with the monster (my son) as well. He wants animals with swords. He prefers cats, but mice, owls, etc. will do. He wants them to talk and I don't think it matters if humans are present or not. Like all good parents, we tried to control guns in the house. We used to also read the books before we let him loose on them. Between work, my own readings, and coaching, I don't have time to weed out stuff for him. We now trust him to tell us that something is not good for him - it works. But he gets his daily doses of violence.

The interesting thought from all this is whether the same formulas work in operating systems? Do I flock to Unix based systems because I like the formula of small tools which can interconnect via pipes? Do I want to avoid Macs because I had a bad experience with them in grad school? I.e., the UI was non-intuitive for me. Okay, I also thought the mini mac was a clunker. I want to like them because all of the cool people like them.

Did Linux work because it plagiarized the proprietary Unix styles? Will the success of OpenSolaris be because it presents the winning formula of Solaris and couples it with the openness that Linux and the BSDs championed?


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Monday Jan 16, 2006

Hostile Takeover by Susan Shwartz

Warning, spoilers abound ahead.

I started this one on the plane ride back from Denver. I didn't finish it that night, which says something about my interest. I think the heroine, CC, got pushed down a crevice on an asteroid, and I was upset that she hadn't learned yet that she always got a push in the back when near an edge.

The blurb on the cover reads:

"Classic science fiction that will put Shwartz squarely in the top rank of science-fiction storytellers, alongside the likes of Asimov and Heinlein." -- Amazing Stories

Well, it does remind me of early Heinlein - an idealistic youngster goes off to space and runs into reality.

What I really like about the characterization of CC is that she is idealistic, yet in a very cut throat civilization. Shwartz takes the worst of our recent corporate culture and extends it to an overpopulated future. Everyone gets a PhD, because there is nothing else to do. Actually, getting a PhD is a social stigma, because it means you come from the lower classes. In CC, we see an academic who has to have surgery, dictation lessons, acting lessons, etc, to throw off her background.

She becomes an alpha executive, with a type A personality. She is sent to an asteroid to take care of some business. She leaves behind a fiance, one who from a better family. She is scared of failing.

She finds that frontier society is not as stratified. For example, the highest socially ranking family which comes out with her actually wants the frontier life and mingles with people from opposite ends of the spectrum. I like that Shwartz does manage to pull off a both a stagnant society and lay the groundwork for how it will eventually crumble in the dynamics of the frontier.

But, CC is almost totally clueless. She finds people, actually almost an entire society, who have thrown away everything she hated back on Earth and are actually thriving in their freedom. She keeps on getting told she fits a mold of an aggressive middle executive and she should let up. She falls in love and doesn't realize it.

She has an old enemy who acts stupid and when he slips up, she doesn't clue in that he is the one trying to kill her. In my view, this is how CC fits the classic Heinlein characterization, the Hollywood ideal. Shwartz did go past this with her vision of a believable cultural and economic system. It felt more plausible, more raw/dynamic that Hollywood norm. I did get the feeling that society was on the cusp of being ripped apart. And CC could be an agent of that change if she wanted to start being proactive.

And I did appreciate that, at the end she was not mad when her fiance dumps her, she realized she was just as shallow and upperly mobile has David IV. It gave me hope that she was starting to be honest with herself and could get rid of her nightmares.

Thursday Jan 12, 2006

Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair

I just read Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair last night. I picked it up because I had recently read Gabriel's Ghost.

So I liked the cover on Gabriel's Ghost and I had read reviews at Amazon which compared her to Steve Miller and Sharon Lee (Mainly the Liaden Universe work).

I can see why reviewers would pick up on that commonality, but I saw a huge difference. The Sinclair books focus more on romance than the Miller and Lee stories. I haven't read any romance novels, but I think the books would deliver less romance than is the standard.

The Liaden stories are concerned with major events and romance kindling in the background. The characters are always young and finding their soulmates. The action is good and the plot keeps you engrossed.

The Sinclair books are romances exploding with passion and major events happening in the background. I got the feeling that if the two main characters had hooked up, then they might have let the events take care of themselves.

What I liked about the stories is that the angst overflowed and the problems felt real. I easily found myself skipping over the love scenes but I couldn't tear myself away from the character development. They, and their problems, popped out at me and seemed plausible. A good contrast would be the Bill Baldwin Helmsman space opera series. Wilf was always falling madly in love with a new interest each novel, but you knew it wouldn't last. And you never got a real feeling for that love interest as a character - no life.

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