Learning to Write the Other

And to become what the other look on . .It’s been a while since I wrote about a class I’m taking. I just started a six-week-long online class, “Writing the Other,” led by writers Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford. It’s tough for me to fit a class with my work schedule, my interminable commute, my writing, daily life, and just plain recovering from all this. But six weeks doesn’t seem too long, I think I can do this.

The class text is Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, an inexpensive purchase as an ebook and one that can also be used for self-directed learning. We also use the essay collections curated by Jim C. Hines, Invisible and Invisible 2.

The instructors have gathered a collection of interesting links, but I’ll leave it to them to share their class material as they see fit. However, I had done my own gathering ahead of the class (including articles by the instructors), so I’d like to share those articles with anyone interested.

In addition, I would like to share a few tools I find useful in completing the assignments, for the benefit of classmates and others:

Image Credits: “And to become what the other look on . .” by Jef Safi, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

First Impressions: Mindjammer

Mindjammer RPG coverI’d been eyeing Sarah Newton‘s Mindjammer Roleplaying Game (Mindjammer Press/Modiphius Entertainment) since it came out, but to be honest, the price was a little steep for me — it seemed completely reasonable for such a book, but I still have to think about the amounts I spend on games, versus how likely it is that I will get to play or run the game. I kept waiting to find a used copy at my FLGS, but it’s Annah Madriñan’s moving sale last week that gave me the chance I was looking for. I bought Annah’s second copy and it promptly arrived, in near-mint condition.

I read through a chunk of the game this weekend and it’s so good! I just had to go buy the novel by the same title which Sarah wrote for the setting.  If you like science fiction writ large and can afford it, this book is completely worth the price tag. I think I will run this at Big Bad Con this year. The new Hearts & Minds adventure and any upcoming supplements are now moving up my to-buy list.

The game offers a splendid amount of choice in terms of scope, style, and stories of transhuman science fiction, while offering a rich setting to tie into if you want. It also occurred to me that if you love the ideas in a story game like Joshua A.C. Newman’s Shock: Social Science Fiction (Glyph Press) or its follow-up Shock: Human Contact but are more comfortable with classic RPGs where everyone plays a character, the match could be great. You’d play an episode of Shock to create the broad strokes of your setting, then use Mindjammer to flesh it out and create a campaign.

Mini-Review: Jurassic World

Jurassic World logoOK, this is definitely spoiler-free if you have seen any of the movies in the franchise before. The only spoiler here is that there is no spoiler. Jurassic World is exactly what you think it will be: visually stunning, and apparently written in cooperation between a pre-teen fan fiction beginner and an Internet bot.

Yes, that’s what I expected. No, I had not intended on paying money to see it in theatre, but after a shitty week I felt like seeing dinosaurs smashing stuff, so I changed my mind and woke my poor husband early-ish on a Saturday to catch the matinee. I had fun, but in exactly the way I was expecting. Here is my quick-score overview, all rated from 0 to 5 for worst to best:

  • Visuals and special effects: 5. It looks really sharp throughout.
  • Musical score: 2. John Williams on his slowest day, cloying Disney theme-park soundtrack.
  • Writing: 0. It’s profoundly derivative, inconsistent, and the dialogue makes George Lucas at his worst sound like Joss Whedon on a good day.
  • Casting: 3. Eh, it’s OK.
  • Direction: 0. The characters are weather vanes and it’s damned windy. “What’s my motivation?”
  • Editing: 3.5. Not bad, but could have been greatly improved by cutting out all the spoken lines.
  • Property Destruction: 4. Not a Pacific Rim or a Mars Attacks!, but respectable. However, I would have liked more buildings smashed and fewer extras chomped.
  • Diversity: 2. It has some intriguing non-white characters but only in support roles and without much agency.
  • Feminism: 0. It has no redeeming feature in this regard.
  • Carrie Fisher Award for salvaging dignity (a mere shred) despite awful lines goes to Chris Pratt.
  • Steven Seagal Award for inexplicably exiting the movie early goes to Irrfan Khan, who probably decided partway through that he had to save his career from this movie.

In short, you should only see this movie if, like me, you are really in the mood for this: