Posts tagged ‘sci-fi’


3 November, 2013 | | 2 Comments

This does not usually happen to me.  I do not, as a rule, become conflicted about things – do something, don’t do something, make up my mind and get on with my life.  I try, most of the time, to be a person of action – I don’t tend to over analyze or overthink things.

But, Ender’s Game has come out on the big screen.  I’m going to go see it, on the big screen.  There’s no conflict there – I’ve been waiting for this flick since I heard it was in the works.  It has Indiana Jones, for Pete’s sake.  And, oh yeah, it’s based on one of the greatest works in sci-fi history.  Ender’s Game is so good, it’s the only sci-fi book that my mother has read, to my knowledge.   I read it in college, more than 24 years ago, and as I was nearing the end of the book, a really gorgeous redheaded girl that I’d been hoping to go out with some day called me and asked if I wanted to go out right then.

I told her I couldn’t. 

I had 75 pages left, and I couldn’t put it down.  Probably for the best, since I found SOBUMD, but still – the book was that good.  Since then, I’ve stood in line for signings, met Orson Scott Card, and bought all of the books in the Ender series, and many others as well.  Back in the day, before the Internet made everyone as connected as they are now, no one really knew that he held views that were incompatible with those expressed in his books.  It is still amazing to me to find that he espouses such hate-filled homophobic views and yet has written such lovely, loving, and open-minded characters.   I write, or at least I try to pretend that I do, and I’m not sure how I could do that; nor even the other way around and have one of my characters spout nonsensical vitriol and hate without having some other character standing there to point out what an asshat the first one was. 

So, I’m going to see his movie.  I’ve heard a lot of talk about “separating art from politics” and the quote from Oscar Wilde about “The fact of a man being a poisoner is nothing against his prose.”   Mind you, even Wilde, no paragon of virtue there, went on in the same article to say, “Of course, he is far too close to our own time for us to be able to form any purely artistic judgment about him. It is impossible not to feel a strong prejudice against a man who might have poisoned Lord Tennyson, or Mr. Gladstone, or the Master of Balliol.”  In our case, Card is far to much a part of our time to be able to easily wholly divorce his odious and onerous views from his towering literary achievements. 

And so, I find myself conflicted.  I’m going. I’m probably going to like the movie.  I still recommend the book, and its sequel, and the rest of the series.  They’re that good.  But, I feel the need to caveat them to people with, by the way, the author’s a right-wing homophobic nutjob, but if you’re into good sci-fi, you need to read this anyway.  (At least the first two.)

I’ll post a few thoughts, if not an actual review, about the movie once I see it.  Anyone else going?  Not going?  Conflicted?




15 Things NOT to tell your kids…

31 July, 2011 | | 6 Comments

There’s an article over at, which usually has its head screwed on straight, that SOBUMD reviewed, retched, and had the Human Tape Recorder read as well.  She also made gagging noises, and I was forced to step in.  The article purports to review 15 things that should be said daily during your child’s teen years.   Needless to say, I can’t recommend most of these.   


1.   No one will ever love you in the same way or have your best interests at heart more than your mom/dad and I will.   Crap.  This tells them that you and you alone are the only person they should ever trust, setting you up as an authority figure from on high.  You sound like a bully.  Are you unsure of your position as a parent?  Why do you need to tell this to your child, or even to yourself?  You are not infallible, and having their best interests at heart will not make you smarter. 

2.   You have so many gifts and options; I will help you capitalize/benefit from them as best I can.  First, see above.  Then ask yourself how that would sound if someone said it to you, today.   This sounds like pressuring someone to stop JUST SITTING THERE and go out and do something with your life because I know I didn’t and god I wish someone had kicked my ass into gear when I was your age, do you know I won that art contest in 8th Grade with Mrs. Grody’s class, and I could have been famous but I met your father and he needed to go to fucking LAW SCHOOL and where is he now, I ask you, and you have so many gifts, honey, you could really do something, and I will help you monetize your dreams so we don’t have to move anymore, OK?

3.   How can I help you reach your dreams?  Good question.  A better question might be “what are they?” 

4.   No matter what you confide in me, I will always love you and do what is best for you.  Crap.  If you don’t have ANY lines or boundaries, you probably haven’t been on planet for very long – welcome!  Also, you won’t do what is best for them – you’ll do what you think is best for them.  Again, you are not infallible, and having their best interests at heart will not make you smarter.

5.   My job is not to be your buddy.  I am your parent and will love and mentor you.  As best you can.  No arguments here. 

6.   I am sorry.  (Say this whenever you hurt your child, or your child is in pain from something someone else said to them.)  Innocuous in the latter case and not strong enough in the former.  First make sure you’re not going to hurt them again, and tell them why you did it in the first place.  Regardless, the word is “apologize” when you need to. 

7.   I embrace your friends, but I love you the most.  If you’re embracing them so much that your kid wonders which one you love most, I hope their friends are over 18 in most states. 

8.   It is okay to mess up; I do it all the time.  Wrong and wrong.  First, it’s OK as long as you learn from it, and you didn’t hurt anyone else in the crossfire. Some things are important, and if you’re talking to a kid and that kid is about to get a driver’s license, then sometimes it’s not OK to mess up.  Second, if you really mess up “all the time,” I’m calling CPS. 

9.   I am sorry you don’t like my rules, but you will have to abide by them.  I will hold you accountable if you break them and there will be a consequence.  Crap.  Rules are like facts.  Have your kid read Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations” and then talk about this.  I don’t care if you don’t like my rules.  Also, “if you break them there will be a consequence?”  Are veiled and vague threats really the best you can do?  Fear is a bully’s weapon.  Talk about what the rules are and discuss what the punishments for breaking those rules are as well.  Make sure you follow through with them. 

10.   If you are in trouble, call me first, no matter where you are.  I may be angry, but my first concern will always be your safety.  We will talk about punishment or consequences later.  Be smart and keep your wits about you.  If you’re in real trouble, 911 may be your better option.  If you’re old enough to be out on your own, you’re old enough to call the police when you need to.  If you’re not smart enough to know the difference between when to call your folks and when to call the cops, you probably shouldn’t be out on your own.  Also, note the veiled and vague consequences – what are the rules under your roof, and what are the rules if you’ve let your kid out to deal with the world on their own?  Think about it BEFORE it happens.

11.   You are an integral part of this family, and the family needs you to run smoothly.  So take your Castor Oil.  Seriously, one of my best friends was presented with “you are part of the family unit” when asking to complete high school in one state instead of moving in senior year; the response was “What, we’re R2-D2 and I’m an extendable arm?”  If you’re really working with your child’s “best interests at heart,” remember that the best interests of the family may not be the same as the best interests of each member.  Your goal as a parent is to raise a decent human being who can survive without you – not to outbreed the Joneses. 

12.   I don’t care what your friends get to do.  I am not their parent; I am yours and you are my main responsibility and concern.  Ah, making sense here. 

13.   I admire you more than you can ever understand or know.  Back to the beginning of this list – you can’t conceive how much smarter I am because I’m older than you are.  Your words are that they’ll never understand or know how much you admire them, but what they’re hearing is that they will never really understand or know you.  Is that really what you want to say?  Is the age difference between you the main source of your authority?

14.   If you get in trouble at school, be honest with me.  Your teacher is the authority at school and if I hear it from your teacher before I hear it from you, I will feel betrayed or deceived.  I may react to this breach of trust.  First off, make sure you know how this works – in this age of instant communication, the kid may not have access to a cell phone in the school, and you may get a call or email before they get home.  Yes, of course they need to be honest with you in this – as with everything else.  Also, “I may react to this breach of trust?”  WTF?  Back to vague bullying and veiled threats; I “may” react, but you know, I might not, since if you failed that test and it was in a subject that I didn’t care about anyway, and I always got D’s in math as well, and I’d had a couple beers already and you told me this bad news while bringing me another one, and it was nice and cold, you know, I might just not beat you for this one, but don’t let it happen again, youknowwhaddimsayin?

15.   From the first time I saw your eyes, I vowed to be the best parent I could be for you.  I make mistakes but they are not meant to hurt you.  I make them because I love you so much and get scared sometimes.  It is hard parenting a teen (your child will understand this confession).  Crap.  Unless your child is a teen parent as well as a teen child, they’re unlikely to understand this confession – as you yourself have stated pretty explicitly in Number 13 and implicitly in many of the rest of these.  “I make mistakes, but I don’t make them to hurt you, I make them because I love you.”  What in the hell kind of logic do you think your kid is using?   What the hell kind of logic are YOU using?   You were doing better with Number 8 (“It’s OK to mess up!”) than you are here – are you seriously excusing your mistakes by blaming them on “I love you so much?”  I assure you that your teenager will read this as “I make mistakes and they are your fault,” which is actually what you’re trying to say.  It’s not your fault, is it?  It never was your fault. 


After this, it would be disingenuous of me not to post my own set of Big Ugly Truths to say to your kids.  Look for that post this week.



Good ole Jules

24 February, 2011 | | 1 Comment

This past February 8th, Google posted the coolest “Google Doodle” mini-app EVER (and there’s a hi-res version of it here).  Jules Verne was one of my boyhood heroes – one of the best books I read in my youth was Around the World in 80 Days, which given my life as an Air Force brat resonated with me pretty well.  Phileas Fogg and Passepartout were heros, for different reasons – Fogg for being a Don Quixote adventurer, answering to no one but himself, setting out to take huge risks to prove a rediculose point for no better reason than because he said he could; and Passepartout playing the loyal Sancho Panza, facilitating his employer’s madness while by and large enjoying the ride.   (As we said about my ancient Uncle Zignorine, when he thought he was a chicken – sure, it’s a shame, but we need the eggs.)

Jules Verne predicted the future, from submersible ships to space flight, including the concept of mutually assured destruction as a deterrent to war, high-speed trains, calculators, a worldwide “telegraphic” communications network that sounds suspiciously like the Internet, and the idea that governments would execute criminals by electric charge.   That was a hell of a leap in 1863. 

The Google doodle also reminded me of this comic, which I think I’ve linked to here before – but it bears repeating.  It’s called “Mr. Bookseller” by a guy named Darko Macan, a brilliant artist.  The depiction of Anton re-reading his old copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea came to mind as I navigated the Google artwork – lost again as I was in the memory of an old book. 

Good stuff, and my hat’s off to Google for that one.   Next up, stepping into the future with Ray Kurzweil!

Lascivious Legos?

17 March, 2010 | | No Comment

In the catagory of questions I don’t want to be fielding after ten pm, Number One Son came downstairs last night, “Mommy, Daddy, what does lascivious mean?”

Oh god. What the heck are you reading?

“My Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary. What about a lascivious mouth? What’s that?”

Really? Is that from the Lego Deliverance set? ‘Cause I hear banjos when you talk like that. SOBUMD is, by this time, peeing from trying not to laugh.

Turns out, they’re describing Jabba the Hutt as having a lascivious mouth, which I suppose makes some sort of sick, salacious sense.

Chattin’ wit his peeps…

15 March, 2010 | | 1 Comment

So there we were, Number One Son and I, talking to his teacher’s husband at an after-hours school function. This is supposed to be a dance where he has YET ANOTHER chance to interact with his peers, by which I would like to mean “people his age” but should probably amend to “people he bothers to talk with.” He stays for exactly one point five dances and announces that we’re outta here. As a Big Ugly Man Doll surrounded by third graders, I need little encouragement to leave.

As we go to walk out the door, I spy his teacher and remind him that politeness dictates that we make our apologies as we cut out early. She introduces Number One Son to her husband, who asks him about the drawing he’s made.

Number One Son: Oh, this is a picture of the TARDIS, which stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. It’s from Dr. Who.
Teacher’s Husband: Hey, you watch Dr. Who? I used to watch that! Do they still have those tin can robot bad guys with the toilet plungers?
NOS: Excuse me, they’re called Daleks, and they go “Exterminate! Exterminate!”
TH: Right! I remember those! And do they still have…

They went on for five minutes, gushing about the new and old versions of the show.

And as I watched Number One Son find a common ground on which he could relate – head to head, toe to toe – to this guy who’s around my own age, I realized what a fantastic generational bridge science fiction presents. Teacher’s husband hadn’t seen any of the new version of the series – in his mind, Peter Davison is still the Doctor, somewhere beyond the Medusa Cascade – but the shared experience of a well-remembered show provided them both a conversational starting point they would not otherwise have shared.

I’ve noticed this myself with colleagues significantly my senior (which sounds better than ‘old dudes’), that when once in a while I find a shared experience with which we can both relate, it’s generally a science fiction link. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made – of all literary forms, Sci-Fi has always been so uniquely focused on the future that people who read it in years past tend to judge the today’s present against the predictions of their youth. (I, for one, am still waiting for the flying cars and moving roads.)

So long live the Doctor! Number One Son spends a lot of time with the TARDIS, and in a galaxy far, far away. It also gives him access to humor that his age group may not get, but his teachers are howling at – working on something in math, he said, “I’m a Math Dalek! Extrapolate! Extrapolate!”

Even a CyberMan would find that funny!