Posts tagged with "aliens" - Faerye Net 2011-02-20T14:37:15+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Outstanding. Now all we need is a deck of cards... 2011-02-20T14:37:15+00:00 2012-05-09T23:45:13+00:00 <p>And a <a href="" target="links">brass plaque that reads &#8220;Chekhov&#8217;s Gun&#8221;</a>! I received many fabulous birthday presents for my thirtieth birthday, but none so geeky, and nearly none so unexpected, as this replica pulse rifle from <em>Aliens</em>:</p> <center><a href="" title="M41A Pulse Rifle by Felicity Shoulders, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="374" alt="M41A Pulse Rifle" border="0" /></a></center> <p><a href="" target="links">Ryan</a> got this for me without even knowing that I&#8217;ve been coveting it since age 17. He said he was afraid I would be less excited about having it around than he was. I think once he caught me petting it, that fear was dispelled!</p> Top ten ways I could be a better action heroine 2011-02-15T21:40:16+00:00 2011-02-15T21:43:57+00:00 <p>Some people achieve action heroism, others have it thrust upon them unexpectedly after they finish their waitressing shift at Big Jeff&#8217;s burger joint. I&#8217;m not a good prospect for the former: although P.E. activities with a hint of adventure or violence (obstacle course! archery!) got a better performance from me than team sports, I was never a prospect for rippling athleticism. But there&#8217;s always the latter. You can&#8217;t predict being the accidental survivor of a zombiepocalypse, or indeed the fated mother of mankind&#8217;s savior. I&#8217;d rather be prepared, especially if there&#8217;s any chance of 1980&#8217;s-era Michael Biehn shirtlessness involved.</p> <p><strong>How I could be a better action heroine</strong><br /> <em>Note: list draws from sources in a gender-neutral manner.</em></p> <p><strong>10. Learn Morse Code.</strong> I&#8217;m not sure how useful it is if no one else knows it &#8212; in the absence of Starfleet Academy, I may not put this one into effect.</p> <p><strong>9. Play flight simulators</strong> (See also #8) A little bit more theoretical knowledge of how to fly &#8211; and especially land &#8211; a plane can&#8217;t hurt, and occasionally it can really help. No reason not to do this.</p> <p><strong>8. Practice driving a stick.</strong> In theory, I&#8217;ve known how to drive a manual transmission car since I was commanded to learn for paleontological purposes. Realistically though, I haven&#8217;t driven one in over five years. The choice of cars for breakneck chases and last-minute escapes is not always wide, so it&#8217;s best to be prepared for anything. Should an opportunity present itself, I should practice.</p> <p><strong>7. Practice cheeking pills.</strong> I&#8217;m not saying I <em>expect</em> to have to avoid swallowing mind-numbing medicine in a mental hospital or hoard pills in order to poison my captors, but I don&#8217;t expect to be an action heroine, either. Taking my daily pile of pills just got more heroic!</p> <p><strong>6. Train up sense of direction.</strong> My sense of direction isn&#8217;t bad, precisely. It&#8217;s just limited. If I&#8217;m on foot, it works pretty damn well, and has even impressed people. If I&#8217;m in a car, not so much &#8212; this could get really awkward in case I&#8217;m ever in a car chase. But then, what do I need to know but &#8220;away&#8221;? I may forego doing this, and just hope I&#8217;m never called upon to, say, lead survivors through a maze of ventilation ducts pursued by an alien horde.</p> <p><strong>5. Get baseball bat.</strong> (Or cricket.) Good for zombie-crushing, fending off murderous failed novelists, and, given sandpaper enough and time, staking vampires. It&#8217;s actually very strange I <em>don&#8217;t</em> have a baseball bat, because I was raised in a house where the baseball bat was the what-was-that-noise weapon of choice. As a side note, I&#8217;ll mention I already have done one thing right: learn a sport with a swinging tool. Sure, a tennis racquet is a lousy weapon, but I bet I get a free point in shortsword for that.</p> <p><strong>4. Learn when to remove things from wounds, and when not to.</strong> I often think characters are pulling, say, shrapnel from exploded Terminators from their flesh when they should leave it in at least until there&#8217;s a tourniquet. If I learn this, I can be more helpful in an emergency <em>and</em> a more confident know-it-all when watching movies!</p> <p><strong>3. Get a shotgun.</strong> Watching <a href="">shocking numbers</a> of action movies, not to mention playing video games, has reminded me that the shotgun is your friend. It is suitable for big damn heroics, zombie slaying, and applying delaying force to nigh-unstoppable cyborgs. However, here in the real world, I&#8217;m not sure I&#8217;m ready to take this step. Even though I&#8217;d love to have a shotgun (or a replica pulse rifle, to be honest) hanging on the mantel with a brass plaque reading &#8220;Chekhov&#8217;s Gun&#8221;, it might cause an endless stream of gun-rights arguments in the unlikely event of us inviting people over. Not to mention, it&#8217;s a slippery slope from one gun on the wall to crossed guns and a mounted deadite head, and that just wouldn&#8217;t go with my aesthetic.</p> <p><strong>2. Start carrying a lighter.</strong> Due to my personal history of primness, practicality and asthma, I have never smoked. (Once I had to fend a cigarette off physically &#8211; ah, France!) However, it has not escaped my attention that the ability to summon fire is dead useful. Whether it means summoning help (<em>also</em> 1980&#8217;s Michael Biehn, although tragically fully clothed) via fire alarm or completing an elemental ritual in order to save the universe, the lighter pays its way. Much like a bit of rope in another context, you&#8217;ll want it if you don&#8217;t have it. I&#8217;m seriously considering this.</p> <p><strong>1. Cardio.</strong> (Run away, run away!) Already working on it.</p> Geek Valentine's: Serious discussions for geek couples 2011-02-14T16:21:53+00:00 2011-02-15T21:44:55+00:00 <p>Those of you who know me well may expect that if I acknowledge Valentine&#8217;s Day at all, I usually mark it as Oregon Statehood Day or extol its origins in the celebration of familial and platonic love before its absorption by <a href="" target="links">the romance cult</a>. So I&#8217;m going to shock you: this is an actual romance-related blog post to mark Valentine&#8217;s Day.</p> <p>Good communication is key to any lasting relationship, romantic or otherwise, and there are certain important conversations that the experts suggest people have before entering upon romantic commitments. But those experts are usually not geeks, so they overlook all sorts of situations that are specific to the geek lifestyle (or to the lifestyle geeks wish they had.) So, I have taken it upon myself to lay out some discussion topics. These are not small questions like who drives the starship: they touch on religion, ethics, life, death, and all that sort of thing. It&#8217;s important to settle such points if you want to be celebrating the tenth anniversary of your victory against the forces of evil together, instead of going on adventures all by yourself and wondering where your zippy banter has got to.</p> <p>What is my authority to designate discussion topics for you and your co-protagonist? My authority is that I have a blog and you are reading it.</p> <p><strong>10 Serious discussions for geek couples</strong></p> <p>10. <strong>Am I free to date if you die?</strong> It&#8217;s just good to get this out of the way: how long should you wait to make sure your old honey isn&#8217;t going to be revived, or resurrected by magic, or regrown by sinister corporations?</p> <p>9. <strong>Will you kill me if I am facehugged, bitten by a zombie, et c.?</strong> If it comes to that, your partner should do you both. If you&#8217;re not willing to even get someone <em>else</em> to stake my vampirized corpse, cut my head off and fill my mouth with garlic, what kind of commitment can you offer me?</p> <p>8. <strong>Do we convert if we witness a miracle?</strong> If the Holy Grail cures your dad&#8217;s gut wound, do you consider yourself illuminated, or just move on to the next thing?</p> <p>7. <strong>Do we welcome our alien overlords?</strong> For instance, I&#8217;m pro-cephalopod overlord, but I&#8217;m not too keen on reptilians.</p> <p>6. <strong>Are we going to get cyber implants? If so, how many?</strong> If flashing lights and servos are a dealbreaker for your co-protagonist, it&#8217;s best to know now.</p> <p>5. <strong>Are AIs and manufactured sentients deserving of human rights?</strong> Social justice, baby.</p> <p>4. <strong>Is being body-switched with your worst enemy grounds for a break-up?</strong> For the record, Callisto is very pretty. If you have to switch bodies with an evil murderer, you could do worse.</p> <p>3. <strong>Does the holodeck count as cheating?</strong> However you come down on the general rule, it&#8217;s best to specify that holodeck-snogging people you actually know is creepy as hell, as well as potentially more relationship-endangering.</p> <p>2. <strong>Are we raising the kids Orthodox Jedi or Reform?</strong> Oh, sure, some of us geeks are atheists and so forth, but you know if you raise Force-sensitive kids without any religious training, they&#8217;re much more susceptible to Sith interference.</p> <p>1. <strong>Are we in this for loot, or XP?</strong> Sure, you think this is an abstract question, but when you&#8217;re bickering over whether your co-protagonist should take the dream job or the six figures, or whether to return the culturally significant artifact to the village or fence it, you&#8217;ll realize I was right.</p> What makes a good sequel 2011-01-08T22:07:28+00:00 2011-01-14T16:55:59+00:00 <p>In the movie-watching spree that constitutes the Ryan &amp; Felicity holiday tradition, I have recently watched partial or complete arcs of the following movie franchises: <em>Back to the Future</em>, <em>Star Wars</em>, <em>Alien</em>, and <em>Terminator</em>. (Small spoilers only &#8212; and if you&#8217;re not spoiled on this stuff, welcome to my blog!)</p> <p>Early on in this decadent parade of wonders, Ryan remarked to me that <em>Empire Strikes Back</em> is one of the best movie sequels ever. We talked about that and what it does so well. Then, just now, after rewatching the somewhat lackluster <em>Terminator 3</em>, we watched <em>Terminator Salvation</em>. We had been told it was bad. We decided to try it anyway, out of an unusual completionist urge. (I haven&#8217;t watched <em>Alien 3</em> and don&#8217;t plan to, okay?)</p> <p><em>Terminator Salvation</em> was great. Surprisingly tightly plotted. New Skynet tech and types were logical, part of a burgeoning machine ecosystem. It was well acted, full of ties to the original movie and winks at the entire Cameron oeuvre.</p> <p>This has cemented my desire to think (and therefore ramble) about what makes a good sequel (and in part, what does <span class="caps">NOT</span>.)</p> <p>1. <strong>A good sequel expands the universe of the original.</strong> This should be true of a straight sequel, not just the second act of three. Yes, the viewer loved the first one, but if you rehash the same material, some part of them will wonder why they didn&#8217;t just watch it again. <em>Empire Strikes Back</em> took us to new worlds, showed us a hint of the Emperor we&#8217;d only heard of, brought us inside the Imperial Fleet.</p> <p>2. <strong>It stays true to the original.</strong> This is tricky, but to my English-major self that means it develops at least some of the most important themes of the original. <em>Aliens</em> is a different <strong>genre</strong> from <em>Alien</em>, and some might argue not a true sequel, but it&#8217;s still about the same things: conflict between corporate and human interests, the relationship between human and artificial intelligence, social class, et c. It also means you don&#8217;t add a bunch of extraneous new characters that detract from the ones we know and care about.</p> <p>3. <strong>It deepens the characters.</strong> The feelings between Han and Leia, the risk-taking prompted by Marty&#8217;s insecurity, Ripley&#8217;s motherhood&#8230;these are things that didn&#8217;t exist in the first story, but don&#8217;t contradict it. They breathe new meaning retroactively into the first story while using the increased space granted by success (a necessary condition for sequels) to increase the emotional attachment of the audience.</p> <p>4. <strong>It follows through.</strong> If we were promised post-apocalyptic guerilla warfare, give it to us. If you hung a craft full of alien eggs on the wall like Chekhov&#8217;s gun, take that sucker down and start firing facehuggers. Don&#8217;t promise &#8220;I&#8217;m going to show these people what you don&#8217;t want them to see&#8230;.A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries.&#8221; and then ignore those people to have boring fisticuffs with infinite agents instead.</p> <p>5. <strong>It rewards the audience&#8217;s fidelity.</strong> This is perhaps the riskiest part. See number 1 &#8212; don&#8217;t rehash. The peril of the sequel, especially in action movies, is doing the same thing over, but bigger and fancier. Catch phrases become atrophied, meaningless, a string of checkboxes or gotcha moments. Chases become an obligation, not a thrill. The script serves the formula rather than the story. We didn&#8217;t need to see the T-101 shoot up a bunch of cop cars and smugly calculate 0 human casualties in T3. It was something we&#8217;d already seen, but shorn of the context that made it relevant in T2. A good reference is something that makes sense in the new context to someone who hasn&#8217;t seen the referent. If we haven&#8217;t seen <em>Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom</em>, we don&#8217;t scratch our heads in <em>Last Crusade</em> when Indy says &#8220;Fly? Yes. Land? No!&#8221; Obviously it matters whether he can fly a plane, and his incomplete knowledge creates tension and humor. T4 was full of shots, sets and moments that made devoted fans point and grin, but those things served this movie. Rhyme, don&#8217;t repeat.</p> <p>6. <strong>It surprises us.</strong> Keeping your promises doesn&#8217;t mean being predictable. We have expectations now, and you can play with them. Having the T-101 be the good guy in T2 reversed our expectations. (In T3 it was just a bit tired.) It surprised us. It surprised John Connor. It surprised Sarah Connor into an iconic image of surprise (I know I mentally fall down and backpedal against a waxed floor from time to time.) Set up a love triangle, then knock it down with a relative revelation. Make us expect the repeat, then play against it: a formidable swordsman menaces Indy, he reaches for his gun &#8212; but it isn&#8217;t there.</p> <p>Really, what this all boils down to is respecting the original but showing us something new. The <em>Star Wars</em> prequels contradict the originals and depart from their spirit. <em>Star Trek V</em>, among its other sins, takes us past a Galactic Barrier we crossed in the series and acts like that&#8217;s where no man has gone before. This is simple stuff, really, but I imagine that deep in Hollywood, making something complicated and expensive with hundreds of other people, it&#8217;s easy to forget what you&#8217;re really doing. You&#8217;re gathering the children by the fire to tell them a story. They say, &#8220;Tell us another!&#8221; They say, &#8220;What happens next?&#8221;</p>