Monday, May 27, 2013

Next gen book blogging and some Star Trek stuff

Feeling a bit rambly this week. Here's some things on my mind.

-What's next for book bloggers - We've talked here before about blogging dying and should it be. I've been writing online since 2006. I've had my ups and downs and lately I've been feeling it. I find it hard to write anything that resembles a book review. And given the limited time I have I'd rather read the next book then write a review for the one I just finished.  Now I'm more of a book talker. I love talking about books and still do a lot of shorter book related posts on social media.  I admire the ability of the daily and near daily bloggers who have been at it awhile and show no signs of slowing (Jen Forbus and Elizabeth White come to mind).

With all of this circling around me I found this post by Tobias Buckell interesting, "The fate of today's book bloggers":

I’m seeing a lot of book blogs that I used to have bookmarked went and folded up shop. I imagine that was as a result of hitting a certain threshold of either of the two points I relayed, and not seeing a way through. Book bloggers are doing it for the love, they’re not making mad money. They’re enthusiastic spreaders of the word.

So what happens when a lot of that joy fades? Do they continue on momentum? Look to monetize the blog? Focus only on the books that they love, and risk losing the audience and community they created (because they’re interested in artist’s artists, or decrying the lack of originality, while readers who enjoy the books being decried decamp)? Get bitter and throw some bombs, which will certainly create debate and energy, but can also create pushback and enough argumentation that they get tired of the fighting about stuff (unless they’re trollish in nature, in which case they feed off the acid and you’ll always have that)?

From later on in the article:

I think book blogging is new enough that a lot of people are finding their way through some of the same issues I’ve seen over the last 15 years with writers (because, lets face it, blogging *is* writing, some of the lessons are transferrable). Writers have been lucky to have other writers a generation ahead passing knowledge back on down, but bloggers are going through it alone, it’s all new.
I don't know what's next for me but I'm feeling it. I've written hundreds of thousands of words over the years and I'm just fucking burned out.

(See also: Why Blogging is Dead and What's next & Sarcasm and Stars The Lowest Form of Reviewing?)

-Khan the cracker:

We saw the new Star Trek movie last weekend and I liked it a lot. As entertained as I was while watching it I've been almost as equally entertained by the criticism and discussions that followed.  One of the ones I've been the most intrigued by was the charge of Khan being white washed.

A brief side-note (as tends to be customary in Trek discussions) attesting to the level of my Trekiness (or not). I've never self-identified as a Trekkie, I've seen all of the movies, a couple of episodes of TNG, and TOS. The first episode of Enterprise. The entire DS9 series (which I liked). I don't know what that makes me or where I fall on the spectrum but there it is.

Within all of that I certainly know who in the hell Khan is. But what I never knew was that Khan was a Sikh. So when the charge of white-washing was leveled I was intrigued. I also had to wonder how many people knew that. Or does my placement on the Trek fandom spectrum mark me as a rube and everyone else knew this but me.

While watching the movie I felt that Benedict Cumberbatch did a great job in many ways. He certainly held my attention. One guy sitting behind us audibly said "Oh shit" during the Khan reveal, I envied him his ability to come to the movie fresh. Side anecdote. I remember going to the movie as a kid and seeing a teaser trailer for Robocop 2: Crime happening, car drives up, door opens, camera pans up to reveal Robocop. We all lost our shit in the theater. Ah the days of being able to be surprised. (I just went over to Youtube to try and find that teaser and am now wondering if the whole thing is a false memory. I'm clinging to it anyway)

Anyway, as good a job as Cucumberlatch did I found myself intrigued by some other possibilities. Like Naveen Andrews or Ben Kingsly in the role.

-Kirk's kinda death scene. I just wanted to take a moment to say that the death scene was done really well. When Kirk says to Spock "I'm scared", it was a great moment in this Kirk's development. It was a wonderfully acted, human moment that was really touching. 

Which isn't to say that the scene wasn't without its problems. But I thought it very good over all and just wanted to take a moment to say so.

Thoughts on any of this? What's on your mind this week?


Jay Stringer said...

I haven't seen it yet. Largely because of that reveal.

I lost interest when I found out that they had rebooted the entire universe to then just do the same films in the same order.

But I can't really criticise the quality of something without having seen/read/heard it. It's a pet hate of mine to see people doing that. So I'll check the film out this week or next.

The whitewashing thing is interesting because on the one hand, I agree completely that it's dodgy to have Khan Noonien Singh played by Cumberbatch. Khan ruled Asia and the Middle East. But Ricardo Montalbhan wasn't "right" either, he was just a different kind of "non white." So wherever we wade in that discussion we run the risk of getting it wrong.

The geeky thing I can't help but notice, though, is that IT MAKES NO SENSE. The universe rebooted at the moment of Kirk's birth. It's fair game that everything to come after that might be different. But Khan was born, lived, and frozen a long time before Kirk was born, so he would still be Ricardo.

But, what the hell, I'll gibe the film a go.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I don't feel they're re-making the movies, personally. But I also wasn't as much of a fan of TOS. The movies I particularly liked with them were #6 as my favorite and #4 as my #2 choice, and I haven't seen all of TOS movies.

The white-washing... I'm not bothered. I feel they probably should have dumped Chekov and put a Muslim on to update the show, and stick to the spirit of the original. Since I would have favored such a change to the original crew (because in the 60s, Russians were "the enemy" and today, well...the wars are in the Middle East) I can't complain about other changes.

But my reason goes beyond that. It goes to the heart of what Into Darkness is really about. This is a commentary on the war on terrorism. What they were doing with Khan was playing with the idea that someone deadly and dangerous and to be feared could look just like us... be one of us. It requires people to look beyond superficial differences and realize your enemy could be anywhere. I feel they made a deliberate decision that suited overall themes, and I think those decisions worked overall.

This film got me thinking in a way that few movies have in recent years. It got me thinking about Zero Dark Thirty, about the documentary I watched on killing Bin Laden, and made me think about the decision to enter another country with the deliberate intent of assassinating someone without a trial, and killing citizens of that country in the process. I understand it. Completely. But it wasn't until I watched Into Darkness that I wondered how history will judge these decisions.

"There will always be those who mean to do us harm. To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves. Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us. But that’s not who we are." James T. Kirk

The movie was very entertaining, but had that extra layer to it, so I think it's probably under-appreciated because of the Khan criticisms and comparisons.

And setting all that aside, I didn't write a review in the end. Part of the reason is the nature of the debates you end up in online. Part of the reason is the fear of criticism from others who think you might have some agenda. The whole sockpuppet thing last year just left a bad taste in my mouth - not in the way it did for others. I just don't believe in censoring reviews. Good or bad, fair or vindictive, once you start, where does it end? Someone who knows me day to day could be mad at me and go write a terrible review of my book tomorrow, or give it a one star review. How is anyone to know? I might know when that happens, but of all people, I can't respond to defend myself.

But now, authors are subjected to a higher level of censorship than anyone else. When I write a review - good or bad - I sign my name to it. I don't believe my praise for anything is of any value if it isn't balanced by my critical opinion so that readers can decide if I'm fair or partial. If all I ever say is that something is great, it gives the impression I like everything and my recommendation is meaningless.

Which brings us back round to blurbs and author endorsements, and trading favors, and it's time for me to move on. I've chosen not to review, or write as much online, because the level of discussion and debate isn't what it used to be. It used to be that people would weigh in, and even disagree, with respect and intelligence. Now it's just slagging off when you don't agree, and the same bickering we see from the same people, and it's old.

If the only way I can write is with a gag rule in place, then fuck reviewing. And, sadly, too bad for anyone whose profile might be raised to bolster sales as a result. If that's what you call being burned out, then I'm in the club.

Jay Stringer said...

I've seen it now.

I was having fun for the most part. I felt the film did the hard work to carry off the mirroring moments. There was some acting and some very slick and tense action.

I felt the subtext was way too on-the-nose to really be subtext. The films topped short of having endless monologues about the themes, which crippled SKYFALL and DARK KNIGHT RISES, but there was just very little subtlety, the audience was credited with very little.

But when I went from "this is loud fun" to "i want to leave" was when young Spock literally dials up The Wrath Of Khan for cheat codes. They've totally undermined Quinto's Spock. Now, whenever he's in trouble, he needs to call up Nimmoy for help. It was a character breaking moment.