Is that a link I see before me?

A thought-provoking post over at Cat Valente’s blog about our fascination with the end of the world and our need to be part of a story:

No one wants to miss out. On the End Times, on the Singlarity. On Peak Oil, which I see certain folk talking about in the same eager terms, looking forward to it in some bizarre subconscious way, disappointed every day civilization does not fall. No one wants to be the generation that just missed being part of the greatest story ever told.

An excellent, insightful piece about the incidental misogyny of cyberspace from a life-long (female) gamer which also touches upon other media/entertainment:

As far as movies go, women spend equally, and women are more likely to spend on books. However, authors and screenwriters know that a woman will see a movie/read a book that appeals to men while the reverse is less likely, so markets skew male and a male-focused product is believed to do better than a female-focused one because of this crossover discrepancy between the sexes.

[The above quote reflects a piece of “conventional wisdom” I hear bandied about a lot these days — and which probably deserves a post all of its own which I may or may not get to one day — and it both saddens and irritates me.  I would like to hope that a lot of men are just as saddened and irritated. After all, isn’t it implying that men are more narrow-minded than women, that they won’t step outside their comfort zone or move beyond what’s familiar to them, that they are incapable of engaging with or being entertained by anything that isn’t all about them? I don’t believe this is true, I really don’t. I would hate to think that I’m wrong. Hmm, yes, possibly a longer post about all this later.]

Paula Guran, the editor of the new The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror anthology series from Prime Books is calling for submissions from writers and publishers. This is a reprint anthology so she’s only reading material published during the calendar year of 2010. Get to it!

Angela Slatter’s debut short story collection, Sourdough and Other Stories, is now available for pre-order from Tartarus Press. As Rob Shearman says in his Introduction:

Sourdough and Other Stories manages to be grand and ambitious and worldbuilding-but also as intimate and focused as all good short fiction should be . . . The joy of Angela Slatter’s book is that she’s given us a set of fairy tales that are at once both new and fresh, and yet feel as old as storytelling itself.

Go on, you know you want a copy.

And finally, because it is my blog after all, Sue Bursztynski has written a review of Madigan Mine over at January Magazine. But be warned, there are what some people might consider spoilers in this one.


Beyond Post-Apocalypse: ‘The Road’

I’ve been fairly disappointed by most of the movies I’ve gone to the trouble to see on the big screen lately. Avatar, Holmes, The Lovely Bones, among others … all big budget productions with effects up the whazoo but all falling down, to greater and lesser extent, in terms of plot and execution. (You remember what “plot” is, don’t you? Thought I’d ask because James Cameron, apparently, does not.) But I do wonder how my level of anticipation influences my experience of a film. If I go into the theatre thinking, this will absolutely brilliant, am I bound for disappointment more often than not? Should I just sit down with my boysenberry choc-top and think, okay, this will be mildly entertaining at least and, oh look, air conditioning, and take anything above that as a bonus? Am I suffering from the malady of great expectations?

The RoadNo, I think not. Because last Thursday I saw The Road, directed by John Hillcoat from a screenplay by Joe Penhall. The movie is based on Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name and the adaptation of the source material is nothing less than masterful. Subtle, faithful and unflinching, with just enough tweaks as were necessary to bring McCarthy’s bleak yet ultimately hopeful story to the screen.

As a novel, I love The Road. It was the first book in a long time that pulled me in so immediately and so powerfully that I found it hard to put aside. I fell asleep late the first night I started it because I simply could not make myself stop reading. It’s a book I recommend to everyone and one that would easily skate into my Top 100 Books Ever List, should I ever decide I have the time to waste in making one. Possibly even my Top 10 List.

Now, I’d heard very good things about the movie from its bumpy and ill-handled release in US cinemas last year. I greatly enjoyed Ghosts of the Civil Dead and The Proposition (two of Hillcoat’s other films) and I’ve seen Viggo Mortensen in enough varied roles to feel confident he could play the Father without any trouble. So I went into cinema with very high expectations indeed. Expectations which were met in spades. The Road is a beautiful, disturbing and vitally important film. It shows us the post-apocalypse as it will be, not how we often like to fantasise about it. No zombies, no flame-throwers, no hiding out in shopping malls or amusement parks, no fun and no wisecracks. Just survival and the brutal, human need to believe that there is something worth surviving for, even if all evidence points to the contrary.

The Road is a near perfect film on all levels. The screenplay doesn’t miss a beat, the direction is elegant and the performances from the entire cast are complex and beautifully understated. The cinematography and the score exquisitely capture the look and sound of a world very much on its knees.

I’m a book person. As much as I enjoy film and television, I’ll almost always take words over pictures. With this bias, I’m often wary of adaptations. At best, they usually offer little more than a visual synopsis; at worst, they feel like they’ve torn the heart out of a much loved story. However, The Road is one of those very rare films that I love equally as much as the book. Let the Right One In is another, as is Fight Club. You need to see The Road, if you haven’t already. Don’t even worry about reading the book first —  in a way, I kind of envy you the tabula rasa experience.

(By the way, the fact that it didn’t get an Oscar’s Best Picture nomination? When there were TEN slots to fill this year? It’s a bloody disgrace and an embarrassment to the Academy, or it should be. I mean, seriously. Avatar? For best picture? Perhaps the apocalypse isn’t so far off in the distance after all.)