January 07, 2004
Things Better in the Movie Version of Return of the King than in the Book Version

Things that I thought were better in the movie version of The Return of the King than they are in the book. First of all, and most extraordinarily: the beacon-fires on the mountain tops... But also: Smeagol conversing with Gollum in the pool, and Sam's arrival behind him... The Witch-King of Angmar looks much more like the Witch-King of Angmar in the movie than he does in the book...* The sallying-forth of the Witch-King and his army from Minas Morgul... The city of Minas Morgul itself... The charge of the Rohirrim itself... Denethor: "That will depend on the manner of your return"... Eowyn and Meriadoc vs. the Witch-King... Gothmog the Lieutenant of Minas Morgul... The battering-ram Grond... Additional better moments, anyone? *I am still, in the middle of the night, hearing the screams of the Nazgul as the army of Mordor sallies forth from Minas Morgul....

Posted by DeLong at 04:12 PM

January 03, 2004
Time Considered as a Helix of Semiprecious Stones Department

Patrick Nielsen Hayden lays a geas upon me. I must--finally--read Samuel R. Delaney's Dhalgren: Making Light: Varieties of insanity known to affect authors: ...And speaking of Dhalgren, for all the crap that novel took inside the SF field, it sold nearly a million copies over a period of ten years. That isn't a flash in the pan of literary faddism. It's word of mouth--people who love it telling other people about it, who turn out to love it too....

Posted by DeLong at 07:22 AM

December 18, 2003
I Did It My Way

I just want to announce that I would pay very very serious serious money for a music video of Gollum singing the Sinatra standard, "My Way." That is all. ’Ring Fanatics Long Wait Finally Ends, With an Eyeful: ...Mr. Serkis closed out the appearance, with Gollum doing Sinatra: "And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain."......

Posted by DeLong at 10:46 AM

Nor Trust in Wodan / Walhall's High Drighten...

The raw ingredients out of which J.R.R. Tolkien fashioned The Lord of the Rings are equal parts Norse-Anglo-Saxon-Germanic myth, chivalric romance, and Christian apocalyptics (evil personified and mighty, but also powerful guardian spirits, and over all a God who arranges things so that the highest prizes fall to those who suffer). The mix is extraordinarily powerful. But if you want the Norse-Anglo-Saxon-Germanic myth itself, akratos--unmixed, undiluted--you have to go elsewhere: to a place like Stephan Grundy (1994), Rhinegold (New York: Bantam: 0553095455: 1994). The dwarf scuttled away between the rocks, slithering into them until Loki could no longer see where dwarf ended and stone began. Only the red sparks of his eyes glowed out of the darkness as his voice hissed: My curse on the ring I made, on all who wear it! Gold fired in blood, ruby blood-red, be you bathed in your holders' blood again and again, the death of athelings and the sorrow of women. Death to every man who takes you, make each woman who keeps you the bringer of death to her kind. Be strife of kinsmen, be breaker of bonds, let no gift and no oath hold where the river's fire burns, let...

Posted by DeLong at 10:41 AM

December 17, 2003
Return of the King Review

Teresa Nielsen Hayden reviews The Return of the King: Making Light: Waes thu Peter Jackson hael! Initial report: It's a swell movie. Grond is a spectacular siege engine. The charge of the Rohirrim at Pelennor Fields had an invisible caption under it that said It is more fun to be cavalry than infantry. Overall, the Pelennor Fields sequence actually manages to top the battle of Helm's Deep, which I wouldn't have bet on without seeing it. Denethor's descent into madness is not as gradual as it might have been, but its full-scale version is satisfactorily disturbing. The Witch-King of Angmar looked just like the Witch-King of Angmar. Shelob was so scary I mostly couldn't watch her. Minas Tirith is perfect. When we first saw the courtyard with the dead tree in it, I looked over at Patrick and saw he had both hands clapped over his mouth, so I judge it looked just like he'd always imagined. Oh, and Eowyn kicks ass. As in the previous movies, Peter Jackson's touch is surest when dealing with monsters and Anglo-Saxons. Some Hollywood stuff snuck in, but there were also some brilliant additions. Call it even, or better than even. The second half...

Posted by DeLong at 03:13 PM

December 09, 2003
The Lords of Gondor

OK. It's time to think about favorite scenes from the first two Lord of the Rings movies. Here's mine: Boromir: My father is a noble man, but his rule is failing and our people lose faith. He looks to me to make things right, and I would do it. I would see the glory of Gondor restored. Have you ever seen it, Aragorn? The White Tower of Ecthelion, glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, its banners caught high in the morning breeze. Have you ever been called home by the clear ringing of silver trumpets? Aragorn: I have seen the White City... long ago. Boromir: One day our paths will lead us there, and the Tower Guard shall take up the call: "The Lords of Gondor have returned." I don't know whether I found the scene affecting because I already knew what Boromir's future holds. Does it have an impact on somebody who doesn't already know the story? And do the words have an impact on people who can't see Viggo Mortenson and Sean Bean's performances in their mind's eye? But it is my favorite scene in the first two movies....

Posted by DeLong at 08:54 PM

December 08, 2003
A Special Oscar...

Time demands a special Oscar for Andrew Serkis and the animators of Smeagol: TIME.com: Seven Holiday Treats -- Dec. 15, 2003: ...So poignant are Gollum's turbid emotions, and so persuasively is this computer critter integrated with the live performers, that he deserves a special acting Oscar for Best... Thing... My precioussss. I wantsss it. I wantsss it now....

Posted by DeLong at 09:31 PM

November 25, 2003
We Wants Our Precious. We Wants It Now!

It is now very clear what we need to do. We need to start a campaign. We need to convince Peter Jackson to have a theatrical release of the extended edition of The Return of the King. Just in a few theaters, just for those of us who are hopeless, and charging an arm and a leg. But we wants our precious--we wants the extended edition, and we wants it now. *Gollum*. The fully-charged up and brilliant Electrolite writes: Electrolite: Lazy blogging: Polytropos says everything I would have said about the extended version of The Two Towers, and does it more crisply than I would have, as well. Recommended: both the extended TTT and Polytropos in general. Polytropos: I finally got to see the extended edition of The Two Towers a couple nights ago. Who knew 43 minutes of new footage could make such a difference? Well, anyone who saw the deluxe DVD of Fellowship, for starters. But for the sequel the burden of those extra minutes was all the greater, because Two Towers had more to make up for. It was an excellent movie with some glaring weaknesses, but not only does the extended cut address many of these,...

Posted by DeLong at 03:08 PM

November 20, 2003
Ah, For the Days When the World Wide Web Was but a Scientifictional Dream...

From Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Making Light: Making Light: I have to quote this one. LanguageHat posted it in the Egoscanning comment thread, in the wake of Arthur Hlavaty’s remark that “I cast no first stones; I was egoscanning when the Web was a scientifictional dream.” Ralph 4CR looked around in astonishment. “You mean… there are invisible beams all around us, carrying information to all parts of the globe, even as we speak?” The Master of Communications turned towards him solemnly. “Yes,” he asseverated, “and the information is not carried whole, but is broken up into a myriad of infinitesimal packets, to be reassembled without fail when they reach their destination.” “You astonish me,” breathed Ralph. “And this information is accessible to all?” “It is,” nodded the Master. “The issues of the day are debated by all citizens, no matter where they may be located, and communication no longer waits on tides or weather.” “And what are the great issues so decided?” The Master cast a glance at the poll on his screen: Which Jedi Knight Are You? He looked severe. “I fear our issues would mean nothing to you across the great gulf of time you have traversed. You should...

Posted by DeLong at 07:38 AM

September 17, 2003
As Flies to Wanton Boys Are We to the Apparently-Transcendant Post-Human Entities

One of the more bemusing trends in recent intellectual life has been the shift by some physicists, philosophers, computer scientists, and others into a field that I can only call "theology": God exists, she is a Programmer, and we are her creations: Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?: This website features scholarly investigations into the idea that you might currently be literally living in a computer simulation, running on a computer built by some advanced civilization. Films like The Matrix and novels like Greg Egan's Permutation City have explored the idea that we might be living in virtual reality. But what evidence is there for or against this hypothesis? And what are its implications? The original paper featured here, "Are You Living in Computer Simulation?", presents a striking argument showing that we should take the simulation-hypothesis seriously indeed, and that if we deny it then we are committed to surprising predictions about the future possibilities for our species... They then attempt to puzzle out rules for living and the consequences of the possibility that we might have a Creator who is an ATPHE--an Apparently Transcendant Post-Human Entity. Robin Hanson, for one, concludes that we ought to "care less about...

Posted by DeLong at 08:25 AM

August 13, 2003
Singularity Sky

Charles Stross (2003), Singularity Sky (New York: Ace: 0441010725). Before the Singularity, human beings living on Earth had looked at the stars and consoled themselves in their isolation with the comforting belief that the universe didn't care. Unfortunately, they were mistaken....

Posted by DeLong at 01:43 PM

August 12, 2003
Grant, Oh Gods...

I've been reading Dan Simmons (2003), Ilium (New York: HarperCollins: 0380978938): Hector stretched his arms towards his son, but the boy cried and grabbed for his nurse, scared at the fierce sight of his father's armor, and especially at the nodding horse-hair plume on Hector's helmet. Hector and Andromache laughed. And Hector took the gleaming helmet from his head and put it aside on the ground. Then he took his dear child, kissed him, and bounced him in his arms, all the while praying to Zeus and all the gods: "Grant, oh gods, that this boy, my son, with whom I am well pleased, may be like me--first in glory among the Trojans! Strong and brave like me, Hector, his father! And grant, oh gods, that Scamandrius, son of Hector, may one day rule all Ilium in power and glory. And grant that all men shall say, 'He is a better man than his father!' This, oh gods, is my prayer, and I ask no other boon from thee."...

Posted by DeLong at 12:41 PM

July 24, 2003
Smart Matter, Smart Muffins

This morning I found myself staring at something called a "Smart Morning Carrot Muffin." I found myself wondering what offensive-warfare, target-acquisition, and information-processing capabilities it had. Clearly I have been rereading too many Ken MacLeod novels too rapidly....

Posted by DeLong at 01:39 PM

July 22, 2003
Cats Are Not Cheesecakes

A nice piece on why Harry Potter is not The Lord of the Rings: koimistress: For They Will Say Both Yes And No: Much has been said about A.S. Byatt's tirade ("Harry Potter and the Childish Adult," NY Times) against not only Harry Potter, but the readers of Potter. When it comes to the importance Byatt places on carefully demarcating the boundaries of childhood and adulthood, I could agree with penelope_z, who quotes CS Lewis's defense of Tolkien's "childish" books: "Critics who treat "adult" as a term of approval instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adults themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence...When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up. But it's more interesting to me to focus on the demarcation she...

Posted by DeLong at 01:12 AM

July 15, 2003
Notes: Ken MacLeod

Dear Mr. MacLeod: Any chance that you have actually written down your analysis/critique of _A Moon Is a Harsh Mistress_ anywhere? Or that you might be persuaded to do so sometime in the near future? MacLeod:Perhaps not all that could be said, but there is this, from a draft of my article 'Politics and SF' in _The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction_ (CUP, forthcoming): [preceded by discussion of other Heinlein works] The work of Heinlein's which has had a more direct, if small, political effect - through its influence on David Friedman and other theorists of anarcho-capitalism, a significant minority strand in modern libertarianism - is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. What is not immediately evident is that the book's hero and narrator is, albeit unwittingly, the villain of the piece. The carefully plotted revolution in a Lunar penal colony - in the name of free trade with Earth - actually succeeds in setting up a democratic state, which destroys the stateless capitalist anarchy which the colonists already enjoyed under the Warden's distant rule. They had liberty already, had they but known it, and by the end there's nothing for a good libertarian to do but move out to...

Posted by DeLong at 04:09 PM

July 09, 2003
Books: Ken MacLeod: The Cassini Division

Ken MacLeod (1998), The Cassini Division (New York: Tor: 0812568583)....

Posted by DeLong at 05:22 PM

June 26, 2003
Another Theory to Explain the Attack on Iraq

Via Gallowglass, a definitely, definitely non-standard possible explanation for why George W. Bush attacked Iraq: "It may be argued that the Bush administration and the Hussein Regime are both in a race against time to gain access and control of the Stargate in the ruins of Uruk or some other location in Iraq, before the prophesied return of the Anunnaki."...

Posted by DeLong at 09:44 PM

June 04, 2003
Books and Movies That Should Not Be

Gary Farber seizes on a transparent excuse to link to James MacDonald's classic reviews of science fiction books and movies that should never have been made or written: Amygdala: ...Which is an excuse to link to Jim MacDonald's classic Red Mike review of ST. Things are bad and getting worse, as a mob of Mobile Infantry types mill about, getting in each others' lines of fire, screaming things like "Run for your life!" or words to that effect. It isn't until later in the film that you discover that milling about is the only formation they practice regularly, and aimless running is their chief tactical mode. But my favorite by MacDonald is his review of 1945......

Posted by DeLong at 10:18 AM

April 13, 2003
Notes: Ken MacLeod

Patrick Nielsen Hayden: Electrolite: Dark light: I have personally felt like I was living in a Ken MacLeod future since sometime not long after 9/11, and I wish he'd CUT IT OUT. But I recommend all of his books. Brits and Europeans should start with The Star Fraction. Science fiction aficionados should begin with The Cassini Division. Everyone else should go directly to The Stone Canal......

Posted by DeLong at 05:24 PM

April 02, 2003
Notes: A Deepness in the Sky

[Potential Spoilers]. I just finished rereading Vernor Vinge (1999), A Deepness in the Sky (New York: Tor: 0812536355). On pp. 699-700, a brief paragraph completely reverses your understanding of the progress of the book's main plot: "Sherkaner Underhill didn't seem to notice. He moved his head back and forth under the [game] helmet's light show. 'There has to be reconnect. There has to be.' His hands twitched at the game controls. Seconds passed. 'It's all messed up now,' he sobbed." When you finish that paragraph, your picture of what is going on in the story is turned upside down. This time through the book, I looked for earlier clues that Vernor Vinge had dropped to what the real situation was. I found a great number of them, and felt like somewhat of an idiot for failing to pick up on what they might have told me had I paid more attention and thought harder: p. 359: Of course, Jaybert took the question to be about his work. "Damnedest thing. I put my new antenna..." p. 371: Locally, the translators had screamed something past the controllers, but the Spiders had not noticed... p. 403: "There has to be a way to...

Posted by DeLong at 06:00 PM

March 31, 2003
Strategy Secrets of Lois McMaster Bujold

Ah. I now have conclusive proof that Matthew Yglesias has been reading too many works of analytic philosophy and not enough science fiction: Matthew Yglesias: Too few troops?: ...One notion that's bouncing around at the moment is the idea that Rumsfeld and the other Pentagon civilians unwisely denied Tommy Franks and the other uniforms the level of troops that they needed to complete their mission. History may or may not prove this criticism to be correct, and given the current situation it seems to have the ring of truth about it, but one should keep in mind that it's not exactly surprising that Tommy Franks thought the appropriate way to conduct this mission was to put as large a quantity of resources at his disposal as possible. That's just human nature. Ask a research scientist about his work and I'm sure he'll tell you that its earth-shattering importance hasn't been fully realized and that he needs more resources at his disposal to complete it. Similarly, whoever heads up the Africa desk at the State Department probably thinks he can't complete his vitally-important missions without more money to open up new embassies and consulates. Public school teachers all seem to feel...

Posted by DeLong at 02:55 PM

February 17, 2003
They Are Rats! Rats with Cute Furry Tails, but Rats!

In my view, Rich Baker has (i) read the works of science fiction writer Geegory Benford a little too intensively, and (ii) gone a little too far in empathizing with the squirrels who are now using their incisors to destroy key portions of his house: Death lurking in darkness: The family has started to become comfortable within the Artefact. The vast pillars that stretch towards a ceiling lost in darkness seem almost as natural as trees, the strange machines scattered across the floor as familiar and comforting as bushes. It's almost easy for them to forget that this place is utterly alien, that it and all of its contents were manufactured and then seemingly forgotten by intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic. They've almost ceased to consider what godlike creatures could discard so many pieces of technological detritus. What the family doesn't know is that lurking out there in the dark are infinitely patient machines whose only purpose is killing. Perhaps they will wait an hour or a day or a month, but they will strike. The vast silent spaces will be filled with sudden, unexpected violence. There will be a blur of metal, the motion faster than thought....

Posted by DeLong at 07:59 AM

September 11, 2002
Reading Mike Ford

From "Scrabble with God," in John M. Ford (1997), From the End of the Twentieth Century (Framingham, MA: NESFA Press: 0915368730). I don't recommend playing with God. It isn't that he cheats, exactly. But the other night we were in the middle of a game, I was about thirty points up, and He emptied out his rack. ZWEEGHB. Double word score and the fifty-point bonus. "Zweeghb?" I said. "Is that a challenge?" "Well..." If you challenge God and you're wrong, you lose the points and get turned into a pillar of salt. "Look outside," He said. So I did. Sure enough, there was a zweeghb out there, eating the rosebushes, like Thurber's unicorn. "I thought you rested from creating stuff." "Eighth day, I did. Now I'm fresh as a daisy. You going to pass or play?"...

Posted by DeLong at 04:24 PM

August 24, 2002
A Debt Incurred...

I'm happy to learn that Glenn Reynolds liked science fiction-writer Eric Flint's 1633 (which I, alas, haven't yet read--althout I liked his 1632 and Mother of Demons very much. I am, however, surprised that Reynolds thinks that what the American left needs is a stronger current of Trotskyism. Instapundit.com: JUST FINISHED READING ERIC FLINT'S 1633. (Well, Eric Flint & David Weber's really.) I went over to Blogcritics and lo and behold, there was this review by Bigwig. The review is spot-on. I, too, was struck by the patriotism in the books. And Eric Flint, a former union organizer, is the kind of lefty that, well, the left needs more of in place of people like Susan Sarandon and Noam Chomsky. But Reynolds's mention does remind me of a debt I owe. At some point in the past Eric Flint recommended Will Durant's multi-volume Story of Civilization as an excellent introduction to someone interested in world history. It has proven just right for the twelve-year-old, who is enjoying it immensely. Thanks, Eric....

Posted by DeLong at 03:57 PM

August 21, 2002
An Appeal to Avram Grumer to Maintain Standards

I publicly appeal to Avram Grumer to maintain his standards. John Derbyshire is a vile, loathsome toad--based not just on what he writes about Chelsea Clinton, but on numerous other of writings. Just because he reads science fiction does not make him a good guy. L. Ron Hubbard reads science fiction. Chancellor Palpatine reads science fiction. Ming the Merciless reads science fiction. P&F: Weblog: I should point out here that while I had initially considered Derbyshire a vile, loathsome toad of a writer, based on his piece about Chelsea Clinton, I've warmed a bit to him after discovering that he reads science fiction....

Posted by DeLong at 07:20 AM

April 20, 2002
Don'ts

"Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger." --Gildor Inglorion "Do not seek counsel from the elves, for they will say both no and yes." --Frodo Baggins "Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup." "Do not meddle in the affairs of hamsters. Just don't. It's not worth it." -- Ailbhe on #afp "Do not meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer." -- Bruce Graham "Do not meddle in the affairs of sysadmins, for they are quick to anger and have no need for subtlety."...

Posted by DeLong at 07:14 PM