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January 2002

Posted 17 January:

Posted 8 January:

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Oscar Wilde Responds

Dear Locus Online,
     From John Shirley's review of The Devil's Backbone: "Pansy buttboys of the studios ... regularly scheduled reamings ..."
     Is Shirley positioning himself for the Howard Stern Award? Please! Adolescent homophobic bigotry is appropriate perhaps for suburban 13-year-old boys but one would hope out of place in Locus.
     Or perhaps John is making a serious claim that the low state of Hollywood film is due to the pernicious influence of pansy buttboys like me? One only wishes it were true.

Oscar Wilde
14 January 2002

Music of the Rings

Dear Locus Online,
     Mr. Shirley's review of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring in many ways reflected my own opinions of the movie (I think Jackson has greatly exceeded the public's expectations.) However, his comment regarding the musical score was odd, at best. Most quality classical music has a certain level of familiarity for people with even a rudimentary exposure to classical music, at least up through the early 20th century. "The Lord of the Rings", as a story, and now as a film, has a mood and timbre that is unparalleled in speculative fiction. The deep sense of history, fate, hope and finality of purpose is as unique as it is moving. To layer the familiarity of, say, Orff's "Carmina Burana" or the Dies Irae from Verdi's Requiem (stylistically evoked in some of the Black Rider sequences) would only serve to distract the filmgoer and bring him or her back from Middle-Earth to the theater. Shore does a beautiful job of setting and complimenting the mood and theme of the movie without being obtrusive, despite its sometimes technical simplicity. This is far better than worrying about a misplaced need to compliment one masterpiece with another. If one wants to hear a symphony, one should buy tickets to see the local symphony orchestra.

Anthony Toohey
13 January 2002

Images of the Rings

Dear Locus Online,
     In reading John Shirley’s review of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring and Craig E. Engler’s response, it seems to me both were a little guilty of overstating the case.
     Certainly the film shouldn’t alter the mind’s-eye images of anyone who has already read Tolkien’s books. However, I have to think that from now on, most children and teenagers who pick up the books will have seen the films first, and for them it could be a different matter.
     Certainly I’m too old to let Peter Jackson’s vision and fine actors re-interpret my personal vision of the characters. But having read A Clockwork Orange as a teenager after having seen the film I found myself seeing Malcolm McDowell on every page. And re-reading it now, I still do.

Steve Palle Hoffstein
Vancouver, Canada
9 January 2002

The 'Price' Of Rings? Just $8.50

Dear Locus Online,
     In his meandering review of The Fellowship of the Ring, John Shirley starts with the premise that seeing this film will somehow forever change readers of the Rings books. His attitude is summed up in this line: "Even if we manage to fire up the Mt Dooms of our imaginations and forge anew our own personal Frodos and Gandalfs, the overall shape and emphases selected by the talented Peter Jackson will tend to color our interpretation of the books when we revisit them. And that's a price to pay indeed."
     I think Shirley is vastly overstating the case here. The only price I'm paying to see The Fellowship of the Ring is the $8.50 it costs to see a movie in my town. The image I have of Ian McKellen as Gandalf does not alter either the image of Gandalf I painted in my own mind's eye after reading Rings (and now rereading it) or, for that matter, the image of Gandalf as imagined by Ralph Bakshi in the earlier animated Rings feature. They are three distinct entities in my head and, I suspect, in the heads of most readers/viewers. Shirley makes a couple of valid points in his review, but this isn't one of them. (This also makes me wonder what vision of a character Shirley has after he's seen two or more live-action adaptations of a book, such as the David Lynch Dune vs. the John Harrison Dune. Does he see William Hurt or Jurgen Prochnow for Duke Leto? I see neither.)
     Overall I think The Fellowship of the Ring is a solid cinematic take on the book, but not perfect or definitive. I'm glad to have seen it, but it certainly won't alter my personal vision of Tolkien's writing.

Craig E. Engler
General Manager
2 January 2002

Conceptual Design

Dear Locus Online,
     It's interesting to note that the makers of the current set of Lord of the Rings movies hired Alan Lee and John Howe, two illustrators noted for their interpretations of Tolkien, as "conceptual designers." If our visualizations of the Ring trilogy will be forever influenced by these movies, it's good that the movies themselves drew upon images already in the minds of so many of us. In particular, some scenes seem to use color filtering to create a monochrome effect similar to Lee's work.

Rob Tomshany
22 December 2001

[ This week's Science Fiction Weekly editorial by Scott Edelman discusses Edelman's 16-year-old son's reluctance to see the film because "He has his own vision of Frodo, Gollum, Gandalf and the others, and he doesn't want those portraits erased" ...
--ed. ]

Decad, an anthology edited by Nick Gevers

Dear Locus Online,
     Evocative. Haunting. Especially the Oobleck reference.
     A classic anthology on the model of Beerbohm's A Christmas Garland!

Rick Bowes
17 December 2001

Comment on Candas Jane Dorsey's 9/11 Commentary

Dear Ms. Dorsey,
     One of the more discouraging things about human beings is that they generally instantly integrate new events into their pre-existing worldviews.
     Your article in Locus Online on 9/11 seems to be a case in point.
     In particular, it's informed by an assumption that the attack was somehow motivated by economic deprivation.
     You have failed to note:
     a) that the organization concerned is headed by an extremely wealthy polygamous man, born to a huge fortune, who lives in considerable luxury;
     b) that the actual hijackers were men* of middle-class background and had excellent employment prospects — not exactly the wretched of the earth; and
     c) that none of their stated demands had the slightest reference to economics — although the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 was listed as a grievance.
     One should do people the common courtesy of believing that they mean what they say, rather than imposing one's own cultural preconceptions as to what is credible upon them. For example, assuming that their religious ideology is "really" about economics.
     When Mr. Bin Laden and his associates say that their primary concern is imposing their own (rather eccentric) view of Islam on the entire world by force (not to mention killing the Jews) we should take them at their word.
     That is exactly what they want to do; no more, no less.
     You should also note that Mr. Bin Laden's preferred government, the Taliban — in which he was a major player — paid no attention whatsoever to the economic welfare of the people of Afghanistan.
     They just weren't interested. They made no attempt to repair the roads, get the irrigation system working again, or to take any other measure aimed at reducing the abysmal poverty, hunger and misery which surrounded them.
     Instead they focused on things they considered more important: making all women wear burkas and denying them all employment and education. Literally. And, of course, health care: far better that they die than be touched by a male physician.
     Not to mention executing all the gay people they could catch by pushing walls over on them, and blowing up "idolatrous" statues of the Buddha.
     To use a North American comparison, mainstream Sunni Islam is equivalent to the most extreme forms of hardshell Baptist fundamentalism.
     Bin Laden's Wahabi-influenced version is equivalent to the wilder Christian Identity/Aryan Nation type of right-wing lunatic.
     In other words, yes, they're full of rage against the West in general and the US in particular; and the reason is simple.
     They're fascists.
     Clerico-fascists, to be precise; rather like the Croatian Ustace of World War Two, or the Falange in Franco's Spain.
     They hate the thought of women having any rights, of people choosing their governments, of people being free to chose any religion (or degree of irreligion) they please. They regard these things as unspeakable evil; they're also seriously torqued off that the Muslim world has been retreating in the face of Western power for the last 500 years or so.
     You know, things like British gunboats forcing the Arabs to give up the slave trade, once we'd decided it wasn't kulturny ourselves.
     You are aware that the first recorded uprising by black plantation slaves took place in Iraq under the Abbasaid Caliphate, aren't you? And that the fundamentalist regime in the Sudan has been reviving chattel slavery in its genocidal war against the black animists of the southern Sudan?
     I won't even get into the loopy assumption that our affluence is somehow the product of the Third World's poverty; although a simple comparison of North Korea (hermit state isolated from the world market) and South Korea (participant in the world market) would be enough to show that this is severely false-to-fact. North Korea has millions dying of starvation. South Korea has an obesity problem.

S.M. Stirling
4 January 2002

     * Mohammed Atta, the chief of the cell that hijacked the aircraft, left a will which contains a directive that no "unclean" woman be allowed near his body, by the way. You should read it. It's an interesting document.

     PS: when someone makes war on you, you're at war. You don't have a choice in the matter, since coercive violence is the one unilateral and universal form of communication.
     You can chose not to negotiate or talk with someone, but if they start beating you up, you're in a fight absolutely regardless of your own desires.
     You can only chose between fighting back, surrendering, and running away. There is no box marked "other".
     So yes, people down here got belligerent after 9/11. One often does, when attacked, if one is anything but a suicidal masochist. They struck a blow at us; we are going to crush them out of existence for it.
     Rather like Pearl Harbor, and the war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

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