Tuesday, December 29, 2015

106: The 2016 Jetties Award Show!

2015 has finally taken the hint and is reaching for his coat, so let's talk about him once he's gone! Join us for our best of the year show featuring everything worth talking about in the past year. Plus, we talk 2015 music AND The Force Awakens with Music Guru Tara! Play us off!

Traitor!

Friday, December 25, 2015

105: Do We Know It's Christmas?

Christmas Time is here and we're bringing you all the cuts from nerd entertainment that forgot to get a gift for their Secret Santa! Naughty list! Plus, we smooth groove the news and we talk The Death of Captain Marvel, the greatest Christmas hero of all! Mentor sees you when you're sleeping!
True story.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Rey of Light

Max Landis is an arrogant, spoiled loudmouth who has never made a good movie. He is also not wrong about The Force Awakens.
Fashion? We don't know...
Actually, ‘never’ might be unfair; his short ‘The Death and Return of Superman’ was pretty good but it only serves to highlight why he’s right (at least in principle) about Episode VII. ‘Death and Return’ is a tipsy tirade by Landis (son of Animal House and Blues Brothers director John Landis) about the DC Comics storyline of the same name. Elijah Wood, Ron Howard and other famous guests appear in comedic vignettes that run underneath Landis’s monologue. And it’s spot on. The Chronicle screenwriter skewers DC for stupid plot contrivances and naked commercial avarice and the film makes one thing clear: whatever you think of his films (or the man himself), he understands strong story structure and what makes a script ‘good’.
CLOTHES, though...
Which is why he’s right, at least in principle, about The Force Awakens’ Rey being problematic. Actually, here’s what he said
A ‘mary sue’, for those who don’t know, is:

A Mary Sue or, in case of a male, Gary Stu or Marty Stu is an idealized fictional character, a young or low-rank person who saves the day through extraordinary abilities. Often but not necessarily this character is recognized as an author insert and/or wish-fulfillment. (Wikipedia)
The term has its roots in internet fan fiction, where an author creates a character that is presumably an avatar of themselves. That character then is inserted into a popular setting where they dazzle the native denizens of that reality with their startling capability, their superlative powers and their general cool-dude mien. An example:
“Wow!” said Han Solo. “You defeated the Knights of Ren by yourself!”

“Yes,” replied SparkleBelieber95, her long locks blowing in the solar wind. “But it had to wait until I finished winning an arm wrestling match against Chewie.”

*painful howl*
Another example
This is generally considered to be bad writing and undesirable, a literary power trip for the author with minimal character development for the protagonist. Though the term was originated by a woman, some feel it has sexist overtones, owing to the fact that it was originally directed at presumably pubescent female authors (the masculine ‘Gary Stu’ moniker is often applied to a male character but ‘Mary Sue’ can generally apply to either gender).

To put it more delicately than Landis might, his comments were not received well by much of the online community, prompting calls of sexism and everything else up to and including ‘white man’. Landis isn’t any stranger to controversy and his Twitter account is a daily source of industry criticism and existential frustration for some, but at least he’s being critical of his industry, if not always courteous. The issue with criticism, at least for this author, is that it implies a level of authority which I’m uncomfortable assuming. Max Landis doesn’t share that trepidation. At all. But, digital firebrand or no, I kind of have to go with him (at least partially) on this one.
I really have a lot of these
The Force Awakens is unquestionably a fun movie, possibly one of JJ Abrams’s best. But like many of Abrams’s films, it’s filled with pale character sketching and plot contrivances that keep it from being a solid *film*. Star Wars movies aren’t Dr. Zhivago or Citizen Kane, nor are they meant to be, but they have historically (and infamously) cleaved to the classic path of the hero’s journey, as outlined by Joseph Campbell: a hero is called to adventure (often refusing the call), obtains a mentor, crosses a threshold, meets a goddess, ends up in the belly of the beast, endures trials and eventually returns with a panacea, changed in some profound way. What makes these familiar beats effective is that they require ordeals and the hero must fail repeatedly, often dying (either symbolically or literally) before her goal is reached. In Force Awakens, Rey, a young girl who has spent her entire life in isolation on a distant planet, possesses a laundry list of skills that aid her as an adventurer. The A-list characters of this universe are all impressed by her bravery and acumen. She utilizes Force abilities it took Luke Skywalker half the trilogy to haltingly apply. You don’t have to search your feelings too much to see that Landis might have a valid point. Forget Landis; google any Rey-related story and you’ll eventually hit a paragraph addressing her precociousness, with or without the term ‘Mary Sue’ being introduced. Even well-written, pro-Rey articles like Tasha Robinson’s or Charlie Jane Anders’s have to concede it. We might not all be agreeing on Rey being a Mary Sue, but we’re agreeing on something.

“But, the way of a Jedi *is* precociousness”, you might say. “Jedi are good at everything…look at Luke!”
Wait...just wait for it...
Let’s look at Luke. Speaking of everyone agreeing on something, everyone agrees that before Luke leaves Tatooine, he is whiny, immature (he plays with toys for Sith’s sake), ineffectual, incautious and short-sighted. Oh yeah, he’s a good pilot, which in the Star Wars universe means you can drive anything from a speeder bike to a Star Destroyer, apparently, so that’s a plus but not exactly unique as a skill. He receives the barest minimum of Force training, has a successful adventure on the Death Star and finally, through the sacrifice of an entire wing of Rebel starfighters (save two), he manages to destroy the Death Star with help from Biggs, Wedge, Han and Chewie and the ghost of his dead mentor yelling in his ear. He’s pretty effective while on the Death Star, though it’s in a haphazard way (“Find the controls to extend the bridge!” “…I think I just blasted them…”) and the entire sequence seems to be designed as a comedic/action showcase where our heroes, who are wildly out of their depth, can show courage and pluck in the face of overwhelming odds and unfamiliar locales. And it’s not a victory won without sacrifice, either (thanks for the save, Ben!).

Cutting to the (less pedantic) chase, here’s what Luke does in Empire: gets mauled by a yeti, gets pity-kissed by his sister (twice), crashes a snowspeeder, takes out a single AT-AT with a weapon someone else gave him, crashes an X-Wing, fails to recognize the Buddha, proves he lacks the key qualities of a Jedi, fails at the cave, drops Yoda and R2 on their asses, fails to recover his X-Wing, ignores the advice of BOTH his mentors, fails to rescue his friends, falls into Vader’s trap, challenges Vader before he’s ready, loses his hand, loses his lightsaber and nearly loses his freedom, mind and soul to the Dark Side. Just like Rey!

Cutting even quicker, Luke of ROTJ (especially in the film’s first half) resembles much more conspicuously a “Mary Sue”-type hero, though it should be noted, this is a Luke who’s had time to train, is nearing the end of the trilogy and the height of his powers and, most importantly, has *learned* from his failures that the qualities often attributed to “heroes” (strength of arms, brashness, belligerence) are antithetical to the strength of a Jedi. Well, sort of; he kills quite a few people on Jabba’s sail barge but let’s not forget that this is a film where the titular hero saves the entire galaxy by THROWING A LIGHTSABER FIGHT. I know the circumstances differ, but it’s hard right now to see Rey doing that.
She is gonna look AWESOME (and very Bastila) when she gets her double-bladed lightsaber, tho
And that’s the problem. We don’t know where the story is going yet. The Force Awakens is possibly the most thrilling movie to come out this year (with or without its sentimental trappings [Leia! Han! Chewie!]) and a big part of that is the climactic saber fight on Starkiller Base. When Rey takes up Luke’s lightsaber and starts beating holy hell out of Kylo Ren’s lanky ass, I was on the edge of my seat. Because, like in a good movie, the stakes were set and the tension had been built to its high point. But, unlike a good movie, we just have to accept that she can stand up to Ren (someone who’s not nearly as powerful as he thinks he is but has at least held a lightsaber before this very moment) because she suddenly remembers the Force exists and something something calm something. Yea, Kylo’s been shot, yeah, he’s maybe trying to recruit her to the Dark Side instead of kill her outright, yeah, he’s probably still a little shaken up from what he just did because compassion is his fatal flaw (heroes are supposed to have one of those), yeah, Rey gets pretty angry and may be using a little Dark Side herself…but it all reads like “yeah, the hero kicks ass!”
Like this
If, that’s *if*, this will lead to later character-building complications for Rey because mastery of the Force is more than potential and beginner’s luck (which doesn’t exist, right, Obi-Wan?), then it’s worth it and (as much as my or any doubtful fan’s opinion counts) is acceptable. A scenario that is the reverse of Luke’s story might even be something of a genius stroke. If, instead of a character trying again and again until he succeeds, we have a character who has amazing initial proficiency but is eventually discouraged and tempted to quit as soon as she discovers it’s tougher than she thought…and then she STILL perseveres and triumphs in spite of those trials because, duh, hero…well, then that’s ok then.

This is all tied up in the additional sea change of the modern movie blockbuster; every epic action film worth its salt these days spends at least half of its runtime setting up the inevitable sequels. In the classic trilogy, where (for at least the first film) sequels weren’t guaranteed, we’d have clear character arcs with a few elements thrown in for possible sequels. But we all live in Marvel’s movie universe now and seen from the outside in 2020, this may all look like frippery when we see how well Rey’s arc from scavenger to Jedi mistress (or wherever she ends up) has been drawn throughout the next set of films.
Eh? Eh?
So, I guess I agree, at least provisionally, with Landis’s statement, if not its sentiment. Specifically, he’s calling out lazy writing which the movie is unarguably rife with. I can’t speak to whether he’s being ‘sexist’ or not, though many internet shitbags have definitely tried to jump on that particular bandwagon; I expect a Social Jedi Warrior hashtag to arise shortly. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing over a character or film *or* just flat out criticizing them, but it’s reprehensible (not to mention just bad criticism) when people tie their objections up in their own bigoted agendas, whether consciously or unconsciously. Those folks can take a long walk off a short plank right into the mighty Sarlacc.
Or their local dentata metaphor
But as for the construction of this and future Star Wars films, I think people are right to want an evolution beyond the simplistic characters and dialogue seen partially in the originals and completely in the prequels. Star Wars movies may be for ‘kids’ and may be about ‘fun’ but surely they can be ‘good’ films, too. Rey is a great new character, she’s a great hero for girls who are sick of having to choose between playing Leia and...Mon Mothma(?) on the playground and she’s a great showcase for a vibrant young actress working for the hottest writer/director in Hollywood today and as Meatloaf (and President Dale) said, “That ain’t bad”. As far as being a Mary Sue, she’s clearly not one because if JJ was really writing a self-insertion fic, Rey would have the power to make people actually like the new Star Trek films and maybe do a sequel for Gone Fishin’ as well.
Use the spinner, Luke!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Friday, December 18, 2015

103: Schrodinger's Fett

We're back to cover Return of the Jedi and wow...it's a doozy. We talk Boba's fate, Luke's methods, the treachery of Simon Pegg and basically come apart at the seams in anticipation of The Force Awakens! Huddle with us in the cold just a bit longer as we wait for the JJ era to begin!

Oh, JJ...please be true...

Monday, December 14, 2015

102: This Week on Empire

We've got time for everything this go-round as we try to get you excited about The Empire Strikes Back! Join us for a look back at the 5th worst Yoda film. Plus, news and we hitch up to the X-Men and Independence Day trailers! Mudhole? Slimy? Our show this is!

For the Jedi, it is time to click as well!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

101: An Embarassment of Ritchies

Sweet release! We have finally reached the Gilead balm that is Star Wars: A New Hope and boy, do we have things to say about it. Plus, we're here to talk Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. All that AND a rappin' Chewbacca? JET, you good to me!

*unintelligible, rythymic Shyriiwook*

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Mika Minisode 3: The Modern Faerie Tales Series

On this show, Mikanhana gives you the Seelies and the Unseelies of Holly Black's Modern Faerie Tales seelies! Er...series.

Listen now!

An Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi


Below is one of the interviews we conducted with the fabulous featured guests at Nerdcon: Stories 2015 in Minneapolis, MN. Originally, there was audio for all of our interviews but our engineer (Kal) is a schmuck and some of them didn't turn out very good. So, transcribed here, is the text of our interview with Paolo Bacigalupi, which Kal was forced to type in a snake-filled pit as punishment. You can check out some of the interviews that *did* work elsewhere on the site or on iTunes @ The Just Enough Trope Podcast. Enjoy! (whip cracks) Keep typing, Kal! Asps! Very dangerous!

Mika: We’re here talking to science fiction author Paolo Bacigalupi. He has written books that span from the adult bio-punk The Windup Girl to the young reader book Zombie Baseball Beatdown. Welcome, Paolo.

Paolo Bacigalupi: Glad to be here.

M: You once said in an interview that “YA is where plot and story is celebrated”. Do you think that’s what makes YA stand out as a genre and why it’s had a huge burst of popularity, even with adults?

PB: Yeah, I do think that there are some things going on there, where you see…especially with adult crossover readers where they’re interested in fast-moving stories, they’re interested in characters with big hopes and dreams and big conflicts and all that stuff and so I think those stories provide a lot of genuine escape or the potential for it. Yeah, there’s definitely some core story tools that get used and celebrated in YA in ways that, when you look at something like literary fiction, maybe aren’t.

M: You’ve written for a wide range of readers from middle grade to YA to adult…is there a particular age group that you enjoy writing for most?

PB: I sort of think of all those things as being different facets of my own writing personality. There’s different toolsets that you use, there’s different ways you express yourself and the reality is that I think a lot of times writers will get sort of channeled into one particular zone. You’re supposed to be this kind of brand, you’re supposed to be this kind of voice and it’s really good from a product packaging standpoint but it’s terrible from a creative artist standpoint. You want to be able to play, you want to be able to stretch other muscles, you want to be able to crack jokes at one moment and be serious in another. You want to play with language in ornate usage in one moment and you want to just get to a point where you make things explode in another and all of those things are maybe contained inside of your artistic pleasures, but you don’t always have room to do that. So, for me, by splitting into those different genres, what I have is that opportunity to say “Now I can plot this aspect of myself or that aspect of myself”. A lot of times, it’s not so much that there’s a favorite genre or a favorite age, it’s more like “This is how I feel like being today; this is the kind of story I feel like telling today” or “This particular story will work really well in this particular age bracket” and that’s more what you’re looking at.

M: Do you write more than one book or story at a time?

PB: I have been, actually. A lot of times what I’ll have is a main project and then oftentimes I’ll have either a secret project or have short stories going at the same time. When I was working on The Drowned Cities, there was a point where I really bogged down and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing with it and so I sort of snuck off and wrote Zombie Baseball Beatdown to sort of do something else…and then came back to The Drowned Cities and finally could see it and I was like “Oh! I see what’s wrong; I can fix it now” and it was great. But being able to take that break and go do something else instead of just staying in the groove and focusing on the single book…it was necessary and since then I’ve realized, in the very beginning at least, when I first started out writing, I always thought “If I start a book, I have to finish writing that book before I’m allowed to start another”, because I was so terrified that I wasn’t going to be a finisher. I know people who aren’t finishers and you’re not going to be a writer if you’re not a finisher. But then there was a point where I was like, “No, I *can* finish things. I will finish things! I’m not deluding myself”…

M: (laughs)

PB: …and then there’s this thing where you start thinking is “What I really need to do actually is be creatively alive”, especially when writing becomes your full time job, it’s not an escape anymore: it’s the core of what you do. Than you start thinking, “Ok, I need to have other things in my life for a balance of different projects” and so…I’ve started working on a smorgasbord of models…”I think I’ll take a little bit of that, a little this, maybe I’ll spend some time over here” and then deadlines get in the way and then you *do* have to focus in. When I was writing The Water Knife, I was also writing The Doubt Factory at the same time and that was actually interesting and useful for me to be able to set that one project down and start up another and go back and forth.

M: Your debut novel The Windup Girl won a Hugo in 2010. How do you feel about the recent controversy surrounding the Hugos and how books are nominated? And as a side question: have you ever attended one of George R.R. Martin’s Hugo Loser Parties?

PB: Yes, I’ve attended one of George’s Hugo Loser Parties…he throws lovely parties…

M: (laughs)

PB: You know, this is sort of an interesting thing…awards are really fascinating because they’re arbitrary. I remember that the year that I won, I tied with The City and the City by China MiĆ©ville, but as I recall, Cat Valente’s book Palimpsest was also on the ballot…I’m trying to think…there were other good books on that ballot and I remember thinking at some point, you’ve moved past the question of what’s good and moved into a spot of taste or affection for a writer or affection for a writer’s career or a sense that “Oh, this person is working and we want to recognize them and boost them up”. There are so many other things that go into that awarding process and some of it’s just “I really like ornate language” or “I really like things that explode”. There’s so many arbitrary layers there…you’re sort of grateful when that attention focuses on you and says “Hey, we like what you’re doing; keep going” and you feel really grateful for that. But, you don’t necessarily say “You know what? This makes me the *best*!”

M: (laughs)

PB: “This matters exactly in some larger sense. Thank you so much!” But it’s nothing more than luck in a moment, too. What’s interesting to me is watching…when I was growing up, I knew about the Hugos and it was one of those lifetime dreams to have won a Hugo, so it’s a really powerful thing but it’s really interesting to me that the idea became “Because someone else won a Hugo that takes something away from me”…I’ve been on the Hugo ballot enough times before I won with The Windup Girl…I’d been on it for short stories numerous times…

M: Sure.

PB: …and the interesting thing was at that time, what would happen would be that you’d get nominated and everybody else would take a look at that story and they’d be like “Oh no, we hate this” and you’d get voted to the bottom of the ballot and that’s where you say “It’s an honor to be nominated”. Some people like my work enough to support it and to put it up here and to all agree that this is neat. You’re delighted by that and then it’s interesting to see everyone else get a taste of it and say “It’s not my taste” and you’re like “Ah! Ok…fair enough”. And yet, none of the things where you get nominated or this story gets nominated or that story doesn’t get nominated or it won or it didn’t win…none of those moments had ever made me think “You know what? Someone’s out to get me!”

M: Right.

PB: “You know what? Someone’s trying to keep me out ‘cause they just don’t like my environmental stuff. That’s why I got stuck at the bottom of the ballot!” Never occurred to me. That’s the thing…when I look at the Hugo controversy stuff, it’s a group of people sat around convinced that there is a cabal of dislike that is organized and focused on them and not a bunch of people looking at stuff and saying “Not really my taste. Thanks; I’ll pass” or “Yeah, this is kinda cool but no, it’s not going to be the winner because I think *this* is actually much more hardcore. This is much more interesting; this is much more ambitious”, whatever those things are. Any of those people who decided to game the Hugos, never in their minds, apparently, did they sit down and think “You know what? Maybe I need to write a better story…”

M: (laughs)

PB: “Maybe I need to focus on myself and think about what worked. I got nominated; what worked? I got onto this ballot; that’s a good thing. What didn’t work? Apparently other people don’t like it. Hmm, maybe I should look at myself and think about what else I can do to make people unable to stop themselves from voting for me the next time. How can I be a better writer?” I think the only thing we authors have control over is what we write. We have control over writing the best possible thing we can and I think that there’s a real sickness when you start spending all of your time worrying about how you can get awarded, how many book sales you get, what kind of external rewards are out there because you do not control those things. That’s the thing that stands out the most to me about that whole thing is that these particular writers did not sit there and say “How can I make myself better, how can I do better craft, how can I make my readers more delighted?” That’s astounding to me.

M: Your books cover a wide range of topics from climate change to bioengineering to the meat packing industry and they also possess a lot of political themes. How do you approach starting research for a project and how did your interest or curiosity in environmental issues arise?

PB: I think I’m researching almost all the time, you know…your life is kind of a process of researching. You start seeing news items that are interesting, you start seeing little pieces of data that at some point will coalesce into something relevant. Something like The Water Knife, if I’m looking at that book, there were key moments that built up to me deciding that I was going to write that book. It wasn’t like I was doing research, exactly, but there were moments that would suddenly stick in my head. There’s this moment when I’m down in Texas in 2011, during their drought, and their drought was exactly like what climate models predict is going to be the future of Texas…and then at the same time, the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, was going around and praying for rain. In that moment, you’re thinking “Ah!” I was going down there for Armadillo Con, I didn’t think I was doing research. On some level, you’re like “That is a devastating drought; it looks really bad out here” and then you see Rick Perry telling everybody they should pray for rain…

M: That’s not really what you want from your elected officials…

PB: No, and when you think about the future, you think “That doesn’t lead to a good future, does it?” They’re in reality denial…and that’s the moment when you pause and you realize you’ve been collecting a lot of information in your head for a while, that you’ve seen a pattern. You see the thing that tells you, “That’s worthwhile. That’s interesting; I’m going to work on that.” At that point is when you start doing your actual research. That’s when you start hunting around for information about how the Central Arizona Project works, for maps about how aquifers are getting pumped out of the Phoenix basin, whatever the thing is. “How does the Southern Nevada Water Authority work?” You start with that seed moment where you’re gathering a lot of stuff and then you actually focus in on the details.

M: I read something briefly about how your book The Water Knife came out earlier this year, right before it was well publicized that California was going through a drought, and the article said it was “perfect timing”…

PB: Actually, it wasn’t just perfect timing; Knopf (Doubleday Publishing) put a lot of marketing money into weather control. It was great!

M: (laughs)

PB: I feel like my publisher did great work there. We needed a timely book and they put it all into weather control to make it timely.

M: A lot of your books take place in the near future, where climate change has occurred and resources are scarce. Is there anything you think the general public can do to prevent such a bleak future?

PB: Yes. There’s something really simple we can do: we can tax carbon. We can put consumer carbon tax out there at the corporate level and the consumer level. I think the free market actually can solve a huge amount of problems; I really feel like marketplaces are great problem-solvers but you have to give them the right pricing signals in order for them to function effectively. We run in this idea that a free market in the US should function unfettered and that the wisdom of the markets is there. But instead, you set guidelines and fences around the free market and then it will charge in the direction you want it to go. Right now, Washington State is looking to put a carbon tax on their ballot and I’d really like to see more states that can do direct ballot measures to enact laws. That would be something people can do: start gathering signatures to get carbon tax on the ballot. We don’t have to wait for our politicians to decide, we don’t have to wait for Democrats and Republicans to duke it out one way or the other. This is stuff where there is direct actions and levers we can use and ultimately, the thing that terrifies governments and politicians more than anything is us enacting our own laws. That would start driving actual federal carbon tax policy. I think if we tax and make something like gasoline expensive, then it starts making us think much more seriously about all the other alternatives, because the pricing signals are correct. “This is expensive; this appears to be cheap. Where are we going to put our investments if we know that over the next 10 years, taxes on carbon will increase say, 10 cents a gallon per year?” Once you have a steady, clear, definitive set of price signals in place, we can plan on “in 10 years, gas will be *this* much more expensive.” If you know that, then you can start making different kinds of plans. Right now, we don’t have clear price signals in the marketplace, so you can’t make plans like that. Those are the kind of things I think you can do and have a lot of impact with.

M: Speaking of the drama of scarcity, have you seen Mad Max: Fury Road?

PB: I have.

M: What did you think of the film?

PB: I thought it was a really dumb movie…

M: What?! (laughs)

PB: I mean, this is a complicated thing, because friends of mine love this movie in many ways and I understand the juicy parts about that movie that they enjoy. To me though, it struck me as being another apocalypse with bad people roaming around in their cars with their guns…there’s sort of a stereotypical “apocalypse” trope which involves plucky bands of people being chased by gangs…

M: Right!

PB: …and it shows up again and again. This is the best and most beautiful rendition of this really dumb trope. Because, honestly, I’m fascinated again and again that our assumption about apocalypses is that as soon as an apocalypse happens, we all hunker down and get our guns and we all f*ck each other over. This is not typically how human beings succeed. Human beings typically succeed when we all work together and take care of each other. For me, the problem with something like Mad Max is that it’s working in a wheelhouse that I’m really focused on, the idea of resource scarcities, how that affects things. One of the things that broke it almost immediately was the idea that they have those huge water pumps…he turns on the water that pours down on the people and then he turns it off. If that water is scarce, that would sort of make sense even though his water distribution policy is really weird, because it’s not very efficient…

M: (laughs)

PB: …so already it’s dumb, it’s like “ha ha! I’m using water to abuse you!” Except you’re thinking, “Wait…why would you do that? I don’t understand…” Because he’s already got a monopoly on military power and on violence…if you’ve got a monopoly on violence, why would you use water to control people? You’d use the water as efficiently as you can; violence is what you’d use to control people. You beat the sh*t out of them with your war boys! And then, at the very end of the movie, they open up the water gates and it turns out that there was no scarcity. This was just a guy arbitrarily holding on to the water that he had. He just had control over it and when they opened up the gates at the end, it breaks entirely because for me, the thing that really stood out is that this was a crazy psychopath who is willing to go across the desert chasing beautiful women and that *they* were a scarce resource to him. But it’s like, if he was really obsessed with women that much, he probably would have just let the water flow and let lots of people have babies and then more people would have had beautiful children and then he would have had a chance to have more beautiful women!

M: That’s true!

PB: His resource maximization policies were wrong! They made no sense. Even for a psychopath, it’s just too dumb…

Kaliban: Do you think…I don’t want to get too topical…do you think the religious aspects were a commentary by the filmmakers in that? Because he has a religion in terms of the V8 thing and their religion of violence…do you think it reflects our current political landscape? As you pointed out before with the Rick Perry thing, “Why are we letting these people run things?”, but it’s because we believe they’ve been “chosen” by someone or other…

PB: You know, it’s possible. Honestly, I think that there are certain…someone just recently suggested that I should watch Fury Road again…

M: (laughs)

PB: Fury Road was probably already spoiled for me before I even saw it because I saw Twitter light up and people that I know and love, they *love* that movie so much and I was like “OK!” I was going in looking for a religious experience myself at that point. I think my expectations were already screwed up as I was going into the movie and so I felt really remote from it as I watched it and not really connecting with the characters. I could see everything going on visually but at the same time, I was pulling it apart already intellectually…which isn’t a fair way, honestly, to engage with almost any art. You should be immersing and saying “Here I am; wash over me.” Instead I’m going in like *pick pick pick*…

K: That was my exact experience with Interstellar.

PB: Ok, yeah. What you’re trying to do is see the thing on its terms and do your picking afterwards, but I was so primed to be overwhelmed with love for it that I was too set already in a way to see what was so amazing.

M: You were hyped up…

PB: “Is this amazing? Is that the amazing part? I don’t know…” At some point, I was like “Oh, it’s There and Back Again…it’s the Hobbit. That’s what this is.”

M: (laughs)

PB: I have the wrong brain in my head already as I’m going into the movie…and it breaks my heart because my whole tribe loves this movie SO MUCH and I’m like “Why am I so wrong? The water wasn’t scarce…it’s a terrible dystopic police state but it wouldn’t be this one!” It’s my wheelhouse; I do obsess over “Why does a terrible society get constructed?” and “What is the logic that underlies it?” and that’s not necessarily where cinema focuses. Cinema focuses on visuals and excitement and adrenaline. There are lovely moments but it doesn’t quite hang together for me.

M: If you could only read either William Gibson or JRR Tolkien for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

PB: Oh, it would be Gibson. I feel like every time I read Gibson there’s more there, there’s another layer. Sometimes I’m astonished at the layering he goes through to fill his books; it’s extraordinary. When I read one of his books, I’ll think I’ve got it all and later I’m reading it again and I’m getting new information about design or about technology and there’s something really cool about that.

K: Something that I appreciate about him, which I’m sure you can appreciate being an author, is how he’s remained relevant and I don’t think it’s any particular strategy of his…he’s the guy who invented ‘cyberspace’ or at least divined it as it was happening…that guy could try to write *that* book over and over again and he certainly didn’t do that. Something that I think is crazy about how he writes is that he wrote in the far future initially but, as his books have gone on and our present gets closer to that, he’s gone the other way and is writing in the modern day now and yet still ahead of the curve.

PB: Yeah; you’re looking for those writers who are constantly curious and are constantly looking at the world and I think Gibson is one of a very few number of writers who are actively looking and trying to say “What does this mean? How do I pull all these things together?”

M: Thank you so much, Paolo, for taking time to talk with us today. Where can people find you online?

PB: Online, I’m at windupstories.com. I’m also on Twitter as @paolobacigalupi.

M: Thanks for joining us, Paolo!

PB: Thank you.

Paolo's latest novel, The Water Knife, as well as his previous works, can be found on Amazon and anywhere books are sold.