Terry Pratchett Takes Death’s Hand

From Terry Pratchett’s Twitter account https://twitter.com/terryandrob :
AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.

Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.

http://www.pjsmprints.com/

The world of Terry Pratchett was wondrous and wide. It ranged from radio to television to stage to articles to books. It encompassed his beloved novel with Neil Gaiman, Good Omens, his YA fiction, his amazing standalones like Nation, and of course, Discworld, the flat world on the backs of several giant elephants standing on the back of the giant turtle swimming through space that Pratchett visited in numerous books, films, etc. Through Discworld, Pratchett lovingly satirized everything, with such deft, warm strokes that he could get you to laugh and cry at the same time and then go hug your dog. He was a national treasure of Britain, which knighted him, and one of the top twenty bestselling fiction authors in the world.

When Pratchett announced that he had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, it was a deep blow to all in SFFH fandom. In the years that followed, Pratchett stumped bravely for more investment in research of the disease, led conversations about it and end of life issues, and wrote more novels as much as he could in the ways that he could. It lulled us into thinking that there would be more time. But there wasn’t. We have to let him go.

But Discworld, we never have to let that go. It lives on in hearts and minds; its many wonderful characters are ours, his gift to us. It’s like the color of magic, always with us — we can just sort of see it if we don’t look directly at it, sort of greenish-purple. So thank you for that, Sir Terry. Thank you for the words.

*And yes, Leonard Nimoy left us as well after a long bout of ill health. I don’t even know how to do that one, so I thought this combination was appropriate and beautiful.

**Some people feel that letting go is too soon. There is a petition to Death to give Terry Pratchett back. It has over 10,000 signatures so far, so you can check it out if you like.

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Women in Film, Part 1 — 2014 Review

It’s time again for Women In Film, where we look at blockbusters, action films of all types and big buzz films to see how actresses are doing in terms of prominence, box office moolah, and improving the state of female movie stars in the business. In this part, Part 1, we’ll be looking back at the films in 2014 to see what happened, and in Part 2, we’ll look ahead at what’s playing and up-coming in 2015 that we know about so far.

This analysis of mine has been going on since 2012, which media up-played as the year of the woman in film, because there were quite a few movies that year headed by women, including big action ones. As we know, part of that media coverage was simply hype – studies show that women are still hugely behind in grabbing major roles, and behind the camera it’s even worse, except for maybe producers. But it was also a valid reflection of shifts due to the trickle, trickle progress of getting Hollywood to accept and happily exploit the box office power of women, to an audience that largely doesn’t really care if it’s a man or a woman, (or even another gender,) helming a film.

The year 2014 was, like 2013, a year mainly of sequels, old action franchises and superhero films, with Marvel dominating again (more on that later,) none of which tend to favor women as leads. So it wasn’t a ground-breaking year for actresses, like 2012, but it was a consolidating year, which did confirm that women can bring the box office themselves and are increasingly useful in ensemble action films. The bulkhead that was established still remains, with some interesting trends shaping for up-coming years.

Women had high impact roles in many successful action films this last year in which they weren’t the leads. In the superhero arena, Marvel again made good use of Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in the hit Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, and employed go-to geek movie star Zoe Saldana and Doctor Who favorite Karen Gillan, plus a cameo from Glen Close, in the big summer domestic winner, Guardians of the Galaxy. In their ancillary franchises, we had Emma Stone in Amazing Spiderman 2, and X-Men: Days of Future Past making key use of Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, and Ellen Page.

Women were front and center in most of the big sequels: 300: Rise of an Empire, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Fast and Furious 7, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Rio 2, The Purge 2: Anarchy, Horrible Bosses 2, Muppets Most Wanted, Night at the Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb, and the biggest movies globally: Transformers 4: Age of Extinction, and The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. They also had critical leading roles in hits Gone Girl, Interstellar, Hercules, Monuments Men, Non-Stop, The Equalizer, The Maze Runner, the rebooted Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Lego Movie, Big Hero 6, Noah, The Imitation Game, Selma, Neighbors, The Nut Job, Dracula Untold, Into the Storm, Blended, The Boxtrolls, and The Book of Life, and Emily Blunt bluntly stole hit sci-fi actioner Edge of Tomorrow from Tom Cruise.

But while women have become an ubiquitous if not always powerful component of the big action films, playing more than just “the Girl,” how about when they lead the movies? The proven player this year again was The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, the next to last installment of the mega-franchise, starring red hot Jennifer Lawrence. Hunger Games 3 won the U.S. domestic box office for the year, and is still making the rounds of foreign box office for over $751 million worldwide so far. That didn’t make the billion club or yet beat installment #2 of the franchise, Catching Fire, but it definitely made its makers happy and sets the stage for the last film in the story to be quite huge.

The other big female led movie of the year was Disney’s Malificent, a live action alternate version of their animated film Sleeping Beauty, showing the cursing fairy’s side of the story. Starring Angelina Jolie — because who else could have done it that perfectly — Malificent was a big budget film that has taken in nearly $760 million in world box office and will live on television forever probably. (Jolie also got her director on in 2014, with her third film Unbroken, the war bio of Olympian Louis Zamperini, a modestly budgeted action picture that has earned over $160 million and is still opening globally.)

Divergent, considered to be The Hunger Games’ little sister of sorts, was put out as a mid-budget film in the relatively quiet period of March, starring Shailene Woodley. Other recent YA series adaptations had done only middling, and the female led The Vampire Academy, out just before Divergent, had flopped, but Divergent’s high action dystopia brought in over $288 million. Another YA adaptation with a female lead, If I Stay, brought in over $78 million on a miniscule budget, and the buzzy YA romantic drama, The Fault in Our Stars, took in over $305 million on only a $12 million budget.

The surprise hit of the year, however, turned out to be a film called Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson. The mid-budget, largely under the radar sci-fi martial arts thriller ended up with world box office of over $458 million, cementing Johansson’s rep as a star in action films and praised indies. It also meant more interest in inexpensive action flicks featuring a female protagonist, a house built by the Underworld and Resident Evil franchises and recent smaller budget successes like Colombiana and this year’s In the Blood.

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Really Interesting Female Directors

I’m in the soup, but this weekend, I thought this article by Julie Zeilinger for Identities.Mic on female directors of color who are doing and will be doing interesting work was worth bringing to attention. Looking forward to the film adaptation of On Beauty by Zadie Smith.

http://mic.com/articles/110456/these-filmmakers-are-wildly-talented-but-you-won-t-see-them-winning-oscars

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Moving Things Around

In a very short bit of time, my blog, The Open Window, will be having a five year anniversary. This blog was an experiment for me, a lab in which I could try things out and figure out how I wanted to do certain things, in which I got to say some things I wanted to say, and bring attention to some books and artists I liked. There were periods of time that it was neglected, because life got in the way, mostly in a good way. I got a little better at using the formatting devices of Word Press. There were various decorating changes over the years. Now that I’ve entered a new phase of my life, I’m not entirely sure what this blog is going to turn into, but I am going to keep going with it and see.

As I was looking through the stuff I had backlogged from last year, one thing that was clear was that 2014 was a very busy year for issues of diversity, civil rights and social equality, in SFF and book publishing and in many areas outside of those things. And that stuff is important to me, to my family, I’m going to write about it, link to articles I find interesting. But, it’s not primarily what I want this particular blog to be focused on. And so I’m expanding the blog a little, in part to make things easier to find as I did with the Books to Read page. I’ve added a separate page called Social Equality.

I’m still going to do pieces on those subjects on the main page, like the Women in Film review, which will be coming shortly, but those pieces will also be copied on the Social Equality page. Other entries and collections of links to others’ writing on diversity and civil rights issues may be only on the Social Equality page, however, with a link to them on the main page. If you are following me mainly for my talking about those issues or to learn about interesting articles and stories on those issues, you’ll be able to just go to the Social Equality page if you want. (Older pieces on those subjects are available in the blog archives.) So it’s kind of three little blogs together, and I’ll see how that works for me. I may end up changing it; hey, I may get a website at some point. I really don’t know what’s going to happen this year. But we are well into our shiny new century millennium, and while the electricity is still on, we might as well keep talking.

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Diversity and Discrimination Thoughts (Dumping Days)

It’s time again for articles concerning diversity and discrimination that I found interesting last year.

Vikram Chandra wrote an interesting article for Wired about sexism factors in Silicon Valley, U.S. versus sexism factors in India’s tech industry. It shows how notions of gender are cultural and can create different forms of discrimination and inequality.

Amanda Marcotte at Raw Story looks at the ludicrous freakout by some over California’s policy change to a standard of sexual consent at its state universities and colleges. It again looks at how hard it is for people to wrap their heads around the idea that human beings own their own bodies and therefore get to give permission for who touches them sexually and how, especially when it comes to women. When there is progress made on this and other basic civil rights in law and society, the immediate claim is that the people whose rights are being supported will be vindictive, threatening destructors who will rend the very nature of society, democracy, free speech, take your pick. So put that discrimination back right this minute! As always, the fact that some people might have to alter their behavior a little bit to give others equal rights is considered way more important a problem than the actual equal rights.

McSweeney’s offers up a satiric bit called “The Open Letter to the Tiny White Man the Republican Party Has Sent to Live in My Pants.” Which also touches on the topic of women actually owning their own bodies, and getting to decide what is done to it sexually and medically and how they will live their lives.

Attorney Mary Adkins at Slate.com looks at the sexual harassment and assault of naked photos of women and girls being posted on Twitter (and elsewhere on the Net,) without their consent, and the problem with Twitter’s inability to properly enact policy on its large and contentious network.

And speaking of Twitter, Miri Mogilevsky at The Daily Dot did a nice piece talking about how This Week in Blackness‘ Elon James White created a very funny Twitter hashtag called #DudesGreetingDudes. The hashtag campaign is to point out the hypocrisy of those whining over complaints about catcalling and sexual harassment on the street. It proposes that if guys just want to say hi to others and be friendly, that they greet guys on the street the same way they are greeting women on the street. There’s also a nice videotape made re the hashtag, showing this in action:

Chris Sims at Comics Alliance looked at the problem with giant San Diego Comic Con’s attempt to hide on the issue of con harassment, in the belief that this will keep people from thinking that harassment ever happens there, versus cons that deal with the issue realistically. SDCC is so big now that it is in many ways insulated from worrying about audience desertion, as long as Hollywood still loves it. But one serious mishap and lawsuits is an ever present threat at that sort of pretense. With other big cons like New York Comic Con stepping up to have a workable, prominent and advocated harassment policy to its betterment, San Diego is going to have to change its stance soon. But this article shows h0w hard it is to root out institutionalized discrimination at these events so that practical policies can be enacted and enforced.

Also regarding conventions, author K. Tempest Bradford talked about some of the not-fun discriminations that came up at Readercon last year and at other cons for non-white, straight, etc. authors. It shows how this stuff crops up all the time in many different ways that create discrimination.

And further on that theme, Hannah Giorgis at The Soapbox talks about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag campaign and why diversity issues are so critical in children’s publishing.

And last for now, a podcast at Latino USA in which authors N.K. Jemisin, Daniel José Older, and Nalo Hopkinson discuss diversity in geekdom and diversity issues in fiction publishing.

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Some Art To Peruse (Dumping Days)

Still cleaning out my closets, and here are some lovely and strange artworks and links to more.

Artist Carl Jara does amazing things with sand sculptures:

Carl Jara

I unfortunately couldn’t find out whose photo graphic art this is, so if anybody knows, let me know, but I utterly love it, with the ocean as a pup tent:

 

Then there’s the amazing cardboard sculpture art of Kai-Xiang Xhong:

Kai-Xiang Xhong

 

And because I love them, more 3-D chalk art!

 

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On Writing and Publishing Links (Dumping Days)

Some stuff left over from last year, but interesting and likely to be related to interesting developments in publishing coming up:

In 2014, during the height of negotiations with Amazon and other e-vendors, HarperCollins set up selling e-books of their titles directly to readers. Now, this isn’t exactly a new thing. “Direct mail,” as it used to be called, has always been available from publishers, where readers could order books directly from publishers, usually at a discount because of shipping costs. In the 1960’s-1980’s, it was a sizable, though not central, market for paperbacks, with book order forms printed in the back pages of paperbacks, and some publishers setting up subscription services that operated sort of like book clubs, not to mention actual book clubs run by publishers or working with publishers. (The romance publishers had it down to an art form.)

In the 90’s, when the wholesale and paperback markets collapsed, direct mail became considerably less important but still existed. With the Internet developing, publishers set up buy options on their websites, however, that increased overall direct sales. For the last several years, publishers have been setting up selling e-books directly. This is, though, HarperCollins’ formalized, larger effort. Whether that’s going to help with the lack of breadth in the e-vendors market is anybody’s guess, but publishers have definitely amped up more of their book-selling efforts as the market has changed.

To that end, Mills & Boon publishers in the U.K. has also set up not only e-book selling, but doing so to mobile phones easily through an app. This is again a re-adjustment of the romance publishers’ practice of making subscription easy for buyers who will read lots of titles each month.

Related to these developments of publishers are the continual battles going on in the music industry. YouTube is getting serious about trying to compete with various streaming services, and so threatened to ban indie labels that didn’t sign up for its new music service. Likewise, Amazon and other big e-vendors have been pressing smaller houses on terms and marketing fees and signing up for various service programs. We’re going to see a lot more of these kinds of battles in most of the arts.

Other links: an interesting author interview on io9.com with Kelly Thompson, author of illustrated superpower novel, The Girl Who Would Be King, which just got a movie deal. Thompson ended up self-publishing the novel after not being able to sell it, and funded it with a Kickstarter campaign. This is becoming more and more common the last few years — the funding that authors could get from partner publishing by selling a license to a publisher and getting an advance against their royalties, they are now obtaining in a donations model, allowing them to act more effectively as writers and go bigger in production and marketing. It doesn’t work out for all authors, but in the begging electronic economy, it’s a solid model for raising capital support.

Chris Sims of the Comics Alliance wrote an interesting piece on Business Insider about DC and its relationship to Marvel, regarding moves both companies have made regarding their comics, films and other projects.

And lastly, fantasy author N.K. Jemisin offers authors some advice about dealing with reviews of their published work, “Author Strength Training”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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