Friday, December 17, 2010

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2010, pt. 14: Carrie Devall

Highlights of 2010
by Carrie Devall

Back in those earlier parts of the year when it was possible to leave the house without shoveling through waist-high snowdrifts, the viewing and reading highlight of 2010 for me was probably the long-awaited movie The Runaways. Yes, I know.

And it had scantily-clad, seemingly vapid actresses Kristin Stewart and Dakota Fanning pretending to be, well, scantily-clad, seemingly vapid (and/or drunk and drugged out) rock 'n' roll queens, but there was a lot of interesting stuff going on in the text and subtext thanks to director Floria Sigismondi. And both actresses do a pretty credible job of singing (and pouting and posing) like Joan Jett and Cherie Currie. And the music was pretty good.

But as one of those girls who scoured used record stores for LPs and 45s by the Runaways, Girlschool, Vixen, Fanny, Lita Ford, Suzi Quatro, and any woman who could play rock and roll or heavy metal guitar, bass, or drums, and, yes, even cheesy girl bands like the Go-Gos and the Bangles… the movie didn’t disappoint. Riot Grrl was okay. And the way the music scenes have so been opened up in so many ways in the last ten or fifteen years rocks, but it’s nice to be reminded of the days when a girl would walk into a music store and have everyone laugh and throw things… well, some things haven’t changed…

I also enjoyed several other reprobate thrills, like the Social Network for the rapid-fire social commentary of Aaron Sorkin. The ritual semi-annual re-viewing of Little Darlings surprised me yet again with its surprisingly feminist take on adolescence, class, and the so-called sexual revolution (plus its 70s summer sleep-away camp scenes are funny as heck, and Kristy McNichol is just another one of those Runaways-era baby dyke obsessions). And I introduced someone new to the killer opening scenes of Foxfire, with a very young, androgynous Angelina Jolie in big black boots and a leather jacket wreaking havoc in the lives of some very sexist men and a very young Jenny Shimizu in a first or early speaking role (which led to the Jolie-Shimizu entanglement).

As for more appropriate highlights of 2010, La Mission, a film festival favorite starring Benjamin Bratt and written and directed by his brother, was an interesting if sometime stilted exploration of homophobia, race, and class issues between different folks in a rapidly gentrifying Latino neighborhood. The young star was great and the music was awesome.

And scifi flick Moon directed and written by David Bowie’s son Duncan Jones and starring Sam Rockwell was an interesting exploration of several issues a reader of hard SF novels would not find original (AIs, Blade Runner-style clones, the effects of radiation and sensory deprivation on astronauts, etc.) but this movie manages to make it feel fresh and even moving.

Books didn’t thrill me as much this year, and the SFF short story scene felt really stale to me despite lots of new magazines, but I did enjoy Daniel Abraham’s collection Leviathan Wept and Other Stories, which had some really funny stories, Tobias Buckell’s short story collection Tides from the New Worlds, which is now available in electronic formats (and he was a great first-time Guest of Honor at Oddcon 2010 too), and Ellen Datlow’s anthology Digital Domains, which contains stories from Omni, SciFiction, and Event Horizon, including Richard Bowes’ “There’s a Hole In the City,” Maureen McHugh’s “Frankenstein’s Daughter,” Karen Joy Fowler’s “What I Didn’t See,” and Severna Park’s “Harbinger.”

Elizabeth Nunez’s Beyond the Limbo Silence (1988) was one of those books I randomly picked off a library shelf and had me wondering why I hadn’t read any of her stuff yet. West Indian girl gets invited by missionaries to attend a Midwestern religious girls school in the 1960s is the basic plotline, but there’s lots more going on.

I enjoyed much of Visions of Tomorrow: Science Fiction Prediction, an anthology of stories that predicted technological things that we now take for granted or are coming to pass as we tweet and 'book towards 4G and the latest future of marketing. An old school novel I found engrossing was Ben Bova’s Mars, partly because it was fascinating to see how much more we know now about the red planet. Ian McDonald’s Ares Express was a good read, with a cool female main character.

Paolo Bacigalupi’s short story collection Pump Six and Other Stories annoyed me on some levels (again, having read most of the stories in magazines before) because the roles women play just seem repetitively negative, but it also includes a lot of interesting world-building and future projection going on, without the same-old, same-old, and hard-driving, well-developed writing. And I found myself appreciating The Wind Up Girl much more than I anticipated.

Last but not least, I spent a week enraptured with Cory Doctorow’s Makers. And finally got around to reading Little Brother, which I found alternately annoying and awesome but can’t say it didn’t make me do a lot of thinking. I ended up wishing there were more women writers engaging in a more direct dialogue with writers like Bacigalupi, Doctorow, and Ted Kosmatka, but that’s another panel, eh.

Carrie Devall recently won first place in the Oddcon 2010 speculative fiction contest. The winning story, "Can't Stop, Won't," also appears in Northern Lights: 20 MinnSpec Tales (Sam's Dot Press, 2010). She attended Clarion West in 2007 and writes from Minnesota.

No comments: