Thursday, May 16, 2013

Machines vs. Humans

I seem to like stories about robots who threaten humanity's very existence. I fell in love with The Matrix a few years back (though I've only watched the first movie), am now fairly obsessed with the Terminator franchise, and when my boyfriend introduced me to the remake of Battlestar Galactica I took an immediate liking to it.

So I got to thinking...why do we like the stories about machines that threaten us? And what are those stories really about?

Maybe we're fascinated by the idea of being able to create our own destruction. Maybe it's taking the old story of the child who kills their parents one step further: from child to parent, to the new creation destroying the race who used generations worth of knowledge to create it.

After all, the story of Oedipus is still popular today. Or at least known. (Disclaimer: I haven't read it, but do know the basic plot.) Maybe machines are just a fun twist on the story.

Or maybe we like them because we're questioning if we're really the top predators. Or possibly because we're questioning if we should be the top predator, since it should be pretty obvious that we are.

What do you think? Is it one or both of the things I've mentioned? Or do you have another idea that hasn't occurred to me?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Stuff from Cthulhu Con

There were quite a few short films shown at Cthulhu Con, and I wanted to note down those that caught my interest (and that I remember a week after the fact). There were also a few books/authors that I took an interest in, from what I saw of them at their readings.

BTW, my apologies in advance if my notes here are sort of sparce. It's mostly just something for me for future reference.

Also, I didn't get to see all of the short films. And I'm not even listing all those here that were interesting...just those that are standing out in my memory as I'm writing this post.

Short films

Director: Brian Guardiola
Cast: Mackenzie Weimer, Shannon Burton

This one simply caught my attention because it has a young woman who may be a little overly cautious about something like out of a horror movie happening. Then, of course, she turns out to be in a short horror film herself.

George Jones & the Giant Squid
Director: Vincenzo Perrella
Cast: Christopher Waldon, Zeke Avila

From its title it seems like it should be a spinoff from James and the Giant Peach, but I don't remember the novel very well so I can't really comment on that.

I can say, though, that it was very interesting commentary on blindly following religion. It may have been borderline anti-religion. Speculating on this may be why it caught my attention.

Director: Michael Usry
Cast: Jason Thompson, Christine McCarthy

A child goes missing, and a crazy man claims that a giant grasshopper took her. he crazy?


Michael Griffin

He read a short story that I cannot possibly hope to describe without giving away spoilers. I will say though that he's an author I may want to watch. He has his own blog, and mentions his reading briefly in this post.

Jim Smiley

This author read a chapter from a novel that will be coming out in October, Girlfiends Past. Dark urban fantasy, and he knows how to tease readers with wanting to know what's coming next.

Amanda Downum

She read a bit from a bit of a novel that is looking for a home. (That is, a publisher who will publish it.) I don't have much more than vague impressions of it in my memory, but it was definitely interesting. (Sorry, I may have been having a tad bit of trouble understanding people over the mics...)

Andrew S. Fuller

This guy read his short story that is in the anthology Fish, which is a book that I now want to read. And...I am too tired to do much more than direct you to read about it here, if you so wish.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Using masks

When looking at an old notebook I found the following. It's dated 7/13/2012, and there are minor spoilers for the books mentioned.

Please forgive the bad writing. I think I was just jotting down ideas at the time, and would rather write it down word for word here than fix it up.


I've noticed before how "masks" can be used in books to hide things, or help someone become something else. I put "masks" in quotation marks though because rarely (actually, never that I've seen) is a real mask used.

In Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Guy Montag wears a mask to hide his unhappiness, and Clarisse makes him realize that: "He wore his happiness like a mask and the girl had run off across the lawn with the mask and there was no way of going to knock on her door and ask for it back" (12).

In the Beka Cooper books by Tamora Pierce, Beka is shy in the extreme to begin with. But she finds that she can hide behind her law enforcement uniform as a trainee, and it allows  her to speak to people. (Dress and Dale, book #2.)

In Sevenwaters: Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier, Fianne is shy and I think awkward around people. But she finds that using the magical glamor to make herself more beautiful can give her confidence.

I first noticed this theme when reading a children's book in a waiting room at a doctor's office. I don't remember the title or author of the book, but in it there was a shy fairy of sorts who painted her face. The face paint gave her confidence to play with the other fairies. In the end the paint washed off, and after initially trying to hide she realized that the others accepted her for who she was and was no longer shy.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gaming notes

While at Cthulhu Con I attended a panel that was titled "keeping fear alive in games." Because the games in question are role playing games that are based on stories (mainly H.P. Lovecraft's), I figured I'd stick my notes here.

Some of these are ideas that could be used in writing stories, all are excellent ways to torment either readers or players.
  • Bring in the unexpected.
  • Have players think they're trying to do one thing, then change (or redirect) goals -- bait and switch.
  • Distinguish between anticipation/suspense vs. fear?
  • Players burn down bad guys, then you throw regular authorities at the players.
  • The great Sandy Peteresen had a slip of the tongue in which he called the players "the failures."
  • Rush with snap decisions -- push them too fast to retreat.
  • Unknown is always scarier than the known -- uncertainty.
  • Dice -- introduce random (unknown)
  • Withhold info: give descriptions of injuries, but don't give exact XP (this can lead players to thinking their injures or worse or better than they really are).
  • Know the players: one doesn't like spiders, give them spiders. (This is terrible, mean, and awesome, IMO.)
  • When the players don't know what's going on, they can often come up with ideas that are worse than what's really going on...except for when their ideas fall short of just how bad things are.
  • Rules are there to help and govern the game, not hurt it. Change rules if necessary.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Terminator: notes

I was watching the original Terminator last evening while sewing. And I hadn't meant to take notes...but you know me, English major. And interested in Terminator. Therefore things just happened.

Here are a few things I noted down, some of which may be interesting to explore later.

  • Every time I see Kyle die I'm like "Dangit, why does he have to keep dying..." But thinking about it, in some ways it may be like the typical story where the protector/teacher has to die for someone else to come into their own. (Think Star Wars, and Luke's teachers.) Kyle showed Sarah how to survive, then she had to go out and face the world alone. (Actually I'm not sure if this is a good/accurate comparison, but it's basically what came to mind last night and may deserve some thought.)
  • There's an interesting contrast between Sarah and Ginger -- Sarah is the innocent one, and Ginger is the outgoing world-wise one. This particularly struck me when the two finished getting ready for their dates, and Sarah was dressed rather conservatively while Ginger was outright sexy. More to it of course, especially in the novelization, but that can be explored another time.
  • "Machines need love too." This is what Ginger says in the voice recording. I wonder if this attitude is what got people into trouble with Skynet in the first place...?
  • At the police station when Sarah asks Dr. Silberman if Kyle is crazy, the good Dr. clicks his pen before answering. It sounded sort of like someone getting a gun ready to, he uses his pen to destroy someone, and in a possibly more frightening way than if he just shot them outright.
Sarah and Ginger, preparing for their dates


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