Sunday, July 17, 2016

Misogynists on movies, or: Who ya gonna call?

Copyrights Columbia Pictures &
Sony Pictures 2016
My daughter Kitty and I saw the new "Ghostbusters" movie yesterday. It's an entertaining flick, embodying the premise, as well as the spirit (sorry), of the original films. The members of the team -- Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones -- are just as funny, and snarkier, as Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson were. Ivan Reitman, who directed the first two movies, is a producer this time around; Ackroyd is executive producer. And each of the surviving members of the original cast (except for Rick Moranis, who has retired from acting) show up in cameos. Even Ramis makes an appearance of a sort, even though he died in 2014. (No, he doesn't show up as a ghost.)

In short, the reboot's DNA is superb. And the film is getting decent, if not spectacular, reviews. Too bad so many of the fans of the original movies have decided not to see it.

Why? The official take, espoused by Reitman and others involved in the film, is that these fans are disappointed there was a reboot at all. The original 1984 film is regarded as a comedy classic; the second movie also did well; and some fans say that after Ramis died and Murray refused to make a third movie, the franchise should have died.

But then there were the trolls. A whole lot of men were upset that the producers had the temerity to cast women in the major roles. Some of them took a stand months ago, saying they would never see this new movie. And a whole bunch of them -- more than 600-thousand -- mobilized in April to make the film's first trailer the most-disliked ever on YouTube.

The scriptwriters, to their credit, took the complaints in stride, and even worked in a couple of digs at the misogynistic mouth-breathers.
It starts after scientists Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), and Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon) post a video online of their first encounter with a ghost, a class-4 apparition. “We have over a hundred comments already and they’re not all crazies,” Yates says. “Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts,” Gilbert reads aloud. 
It's a funny line. But still...seriously? In this day and age, we can't let women wield proton packs?

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given what has happened in other parts of the sci-fi fandom: witness Gamergate, as well as the Sad Puppies takeover of the Hugo Awards. There are clearly speculative fiction fans who like things the way they have been for decades, thank you very much, and who have zero interest in letting "political correctness" creep into their entertainment.

Whatever. While they wallow in their bitterness, the rest of us will enjoy the new "Ghostbusters" (including Chris Hemsworth as the dumb-blond receptionist -- ooh baby!).

These moments of anti-misogynistic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The rise of the citizen journalist.

Roberto Ferrari | Flickr | CC 2.0
I am never going to turn this into a blog about politics; teh intarwebz are already chock-full of 'em. But one thing I've noticed this week -- amidst all the social media accounts of the horrific events in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and Dallas -- is how citizen journalism is playing a larger and larger role in informing us.

Most of you know that I used to be a broadcast journalist. I got out of the business in the late 1990s for a number of reasons, but a big chunk of it involved the changes I was seeing in the industry. The line between news and entertainment was blurring, as news organizations began chasing ratings instead of telling viewers/listeners/readers what they needed to know. At the same time, the lines between objective reporting and commentary had also become less clear.

And the industry was consolidating. When I began working in broadcasting in the early '80s, there was a whole host of network-level radio news outlets: CBS, ABC, NBC, Mutual News, NPR, the Associated Press, United Press International, and I'm probably forgetting some. By the time I got out, UPI was toast. Westwood One had bought NBC Radio News and Mutual News, combined them into one shop, then combined that with CBS Radio News (which is how I lost my last radio job -- the Mutual/NBC newsroom in Washington, DC, was shut down when the networks were consolidated at the CBS studios in New York).

Along with the consolidations came new scrutiny of the bottom line. In the name of maximizing shareholder profits, news staffs were trimmed to the bone, and surviving staffers -- just like survivors of downsizings everywhere -- were expected to do more with less.

One way news operations did that was to develop the concept of citizen journalism: this idea that a regular Joe with a phone could call his local newspaper or broadcast station and report on a fire or whatever in his neighborhood. It seemed like a win/win for the corporate bean counters: the paper and/or the station would get the story without having to pay a reporter to go out and get it. So what if Joe wasn't a trained journalist?

Then came YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook -- places where people were encouraged to share photos and videos of things that interested them. At the same time, smartphones began to proliferate, to the point where nearly everyone had a video camera in his or her pocket. And an interesting thing happened: almost by accident, social media stepped into the real-news void the bean counters had created.

When congressional Republicans shut down official broadcasts of the sit-in at the Capitol last month, the protesting Democrats turned to Twitter to get the word out. When Alton Sterling was killed by police in Baton Rouge last week, it was a group called Stop the Killing that filmed the incident and uploaded it to social media. Then, when Minneapolis police shot and killed Philando Castile, his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, uploaded her video of the aftermath to Facebook. And Facebook was the venue again for live videos of the shooting incident in Dallas that left five officers dead.

What I find interesting is that in most of these incidents, it's not bystanders doing the filming; it's the people directly involved. It's the people I, as a reporter, would have interviewed after the fact: "What did you see? How did you feel?" Without the reporter, there's no buffer. What we're getting now is visceral and raw, and in real time. First person, present tense.

This is corporate media's worst nightmare. Not only do many people now view them as untrustworthy -- a direct result, by the way, of recasting news as commentary/infotainment -- but now their customers don't need them at all. The critics will wring their hands over whether social media ought to be entrusted with the sacred task of deciding what's news -- it's already begun -- but it's too late for that. They're not going to be able to stuff this djinni back in the bottle. And they have only themselves to blame.

These moments of bloggy commentating have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Happy Independence Day! The turtle has been released.

Ikluft | Wikimedia Commons | CC 3.0
It was crunch time for most of last week at La Casa Cantwell, but we burned the midnight oil (and threw in a few other cliches for good measure) and managed to get Turtle's Weir out the door, as promised, on Thursday.

The paperback edition is still in process -- which is to say that I uploaded the file to CreateSpace this morning -- but it, too, will be along in due course. 

Thanks to those of you who have already picked up a copy of the e-book. You're all my new best friends. To the rest of you: it's only 99 cents through tomorrow. After that, the price goes up to $2.99. So you know what to do now, right?

Finishing this book is allowing me to clear the decks for some other projects. Today, I worked on pulling together an anthology of short stories. Most of them first appeared in the Five59 anthologies, but I'm also including a couple of flash fiction pieces from the weekly contests at Indies Unlimited, and a horror story from another anthology. This is the first time I've created an anthology of my own short stories since I put the three Land, Sea, Sky prequels into one volume, and I discovered I had a fairly large backlog. The working title for this new book is Back Home Again, and I expect it will be available within the next couple of weeks.

Once that's done, I'll turn to updating A Billion Gods and Goddesses. It appears Webb and his friends have only added four new deities to our existing motley collection, so the update won't take too long. I should have it done by the end of the summer. (By the way, my offer still stands: If you bought a copy of the first edition of the gods guide and you'd like the update, email me and I'll send you a copy for free.)

And then there will be an omnibus version of all four of the Pipe Woman's Legacy books. I'll be releasing that near the holidays.

After that? I dunno yet. I usually write something new in the fall for release in November; I expect I'll do that again this year. Maybe I'll start a brand-new series. Yeah. I like the sound of that...

These moments of celebratory blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Now on deck: Turtle's...

As alert hearth/myth readers know, I've been trying to figure out a suitable title for my new book -- the fourth and final book in the Pipe Woman's Legacy series, and the twelfth book set in the Pipe Woman Chronicles' universe -- for the past couple of months.

Book titles are funny things, and titles for individual books in a series are odder still. For the original Pipe Woman Chronicles, I picked Seized, a single past-tense verb, for the title of the first book -- and then had to hit the thesaurus pretty hard to find suitable one-word titles for the other five books. (Gravid was perhaps the least successful compromise, as it didn't end in -ed.)

For the second series, Land, Sea, Sky, I went for nouns that had something to do with the elemental force that took center stage in each book: Crosswind for Air, Undertow for Water, and Scorched Earth for, obviously, Earth. That last one was another compromise, as I had to opt for two words to convey the meaning I was after.

Which brings us to the Legacy books. I didn't want to do another round of single-word titles, so I opted for two words, the first being a possessive noun. Dragon's Web and Firebird's Snare worked great for Sage's books, and I thought I was done. But then I realized I needed to give Webb a couple of books, too -- so back to the thesaurus I went. Spider's Lifeline was genius, I thought (if I did say so myself).
A. Balet | Wikimedia Commons | CC 3.0

And then came Book Four.

I knew that part of the plot would revolve around Hilary's kappa, Enkou (sorry if that's a spoiler), so I decided to put the word Turtle in the title. Which meant I then had to come up with a word to go with. Out came the thesaurus again. The titles of Sage's books include terms for traps: web and snare. But a lifeline isn't a trap. It's a way out.

When I saw the word weir, I realized I'd found my title -- because a weir can be both a trap and a way out.

Weirs have been built for centuries, both along rivers and in tidal areas. They serve a couple of purposes: like dams, they can be used to regulate the flow of water; and they can also be used either to trap fish for catching, or to point them toward a fish ladder to allow them to get over the weir. (This photo is of a weir at a grist mill in Washington state.)

Webb's girlfriend's kappa has proven to be a free agent, answering to no other gods -- but he has also proven to be loyal to Hilary, and by extension, to the Curtis clan. So leave it to Enkou to develop a mysterious structure that might save everyone in the end.

Oh, right -- here's the cover.

Turtle's Weir is currently with my editors, and I believe we're on track for publication this coming week -- probably Thursday, June 30th -- but I'll send a newsletter when it's live. This would be an awesome time to sign up for my mailing list, if you haven't already. Just click here and add your name and email address. I wouldn't want you to miss the release date when it's so close.

These moments of catch-and-release blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.