petermorwood: (Default)
I saw a sketch of Lady Sybil Ramkin-Vimes on Diane's Tumbler account last night, and for once it wasn't (much) influenced by a Paul Kidby drawing. That resurrected a thought I've often had: to what extent do costumers, cosplayers and fan-artists feel constrained by professional visualisations of written characters and regard them as the "official" version, no deviations allowed?

D's Star Trek Next Generation novel Dark Mirror originated from a discussion in Dublin's Gotham Cafe pizzeria (back in 1991 when it was still Independent Pizza South) over, as the book's acknowledgement puts it,
a large with extra cheese, extra sauce, pepperoni and hot chilies, and a medium with extra cheese, double garlic, hot chilies, and onions, along with two bottles of Orvieto Secco and a whole lot of Ballygowan water...
The discussion had nothing to do with pizza, or (originally) a novel, or even STNG; I was speculating over what the Mirror Universe version of the Wrath of Khan-period uniform (the maroon wrapover tunic one) would look like, since no such thing had ever been made "canonical" by appearance on-screen (the ONLY acceptable ST canon is TV and film; novels, comics, games etc. don't count, and as far as we knew, no Mirror uniform of the WoK style had appeared in any of those, either.)

I was holding out for all-black with silver insignia, prompting an inevitable "Black and silver; it's always black and silver with you, isn't it?" response. A couple of sketches on the back of a napkin showed that black WoK Starfleet uniforms would look more than a bit like German WW2 Panzer-crew kit, and it was later clear that I wasn't the only one thinking that way: the flight-crew uniforms in Starship Troopers were deliberately based on German WW2 self-propelled gun crew tunics; same design, grey instead of black.

Once D suggested piratical thigh-high boots instead of the "official" calf-high ones, we had started down the road that led to the Next Generation novel (my English Literature Honours Degree helped write the bit of very nasty Mirror Merchant of Venice, giving Shakespeare the lavish love for gore seen in Jacobean revenge tragedy. Diane re-wrote it, though I think mine was best.) :-) And we still haven't seen my take on the Mirror uniform, because late Classic Trek never went there…

Star Trek, Star Wars, StarGate and many other Star things, as well as Aliens, Pirates of the Caribbean etc. and lots and lots of anime are all visual inspiration came first, so costumers, cosplayers and the rest are in large part restricted, if that's the right word, to representing what's been shown on-screen with painstaking exactitude.

Sometimes it's so painstaking that the fan-made costumes are of infinitely higher quality than "the real thing" (by which I don't mean the imaginative stuff, that's not real at all, but what you'll find hanging up in the studio Wardrobe Department.) Anime and cartoon costumes seem to stretch a bit further: there are few things quite as dopey-looking as the "Clodbuster sword" (it's apparently a metal plank with a handle) taken from its cartoon and made (ahem) real. But there was also a bunch of very fetching young ladies dressed as the humanized (thankfully non-furry) form of the new-version My Little Pony. D, having written for the original series, was Much Amused by my never-seen-before interest. in this aspect of the show.. :-P

However, too often when it comes to costuming or drawing characters which were originally words on paper, there seems to be a lot of the same default-to-professional-visual-source. Discworld characters are based on Paul Kidby art - I can't recall any based on Josh Kirby's chaotic (my opinion) and inaccurate (Word of God aka Terry) covers - though there’s increasing influence from the Sky TV adaptations, even more steampunky and neo-Victorian. German fan "Otto Chriek" has built an incredible, fully-operational iconograph – wood and brass exterior, digicam and mini-printer interior; the only thing that doesn’t work is the imp! But even this looks based at least in part on one of the elaborate Kidby drawings. (Wenn ich falsch bin, Robert, entschuldigen Sie mich!)

The clothing and accessories of Harry Potter characters originate exclusively from the movie series (at least so it seems, because I haven't read any of the books, so must default here myself;) and of course the standard Lord of the Rings image isn't Tolkien but Jackson, despite years of art from other sources, some high-quality, others…not so much. Were there ever costumes based on the ridiculous Bakshi toon? If there were, and I saw them, my memory has purged itself and thankfully so. I'm fairly sure that needles and thread have already been busy on Game of Thrones costumes derived from the recent TV show, even though George R. R. Martin's own descriptions are more than adequate.

Certainly "representing the screen/cover/supplementary portfolio material" properly means that the costumer isn't relying on a masquerade audience (and judging panel) having read the appropriate paragraph from a big novel or long series before deciding if their work is accurate or not. But when it's a hall costume worn for fun rather than formal masquerade (which are often amazingly elaborate and complex) then I wonder why people don’t swing out more.

Is it (a) reticence: no matter how carefully the writer describes characters and clothing, is a costume or drawing that lacks "professional visual imprimatur" somehow incorrect?

Or is it (treading carefully here, masqueraders are my friends) (b) a subtle sort of laziness, skilfully recycling a pre-packaged image to avoid the work of visualising a writer’s words in your own way? (with a sizeable unadmitted dash of (a) lurking at the back as well?)

I have a feeling this will be discussed more thoroughly at the next convention I go to – and if the subject hasn't already been done to death somewhere, it strikes me as a good topic for a panel. Any con organiser who wants to use it can be my guest. I’d be curious to hear the result!
petermorwood: (Default)
While Sharper Image existed, I used to spend too much quite a lot of time with my nose in their catalogues. I can't recall ever buying anything, mind you, and often wondered why anyone would actually want some of the nonsense on offer. A bit like Skymall catalogues, in a way.

The various websites for Manufactum are a bit that way too, although with a lower "who'd want that?" response and a much higher rate of "I'd love that but ouch!", though NB the UK and International ones are very watered-down, a bit like US site ThinkGeek versus UK site I Want One of Those used to be. They've grown more similar, but there's still a caffeine-in-everything section in one and a bar-and-beer section in the other. Guess which? (The B&B features a Thing I have lusted after ever seeing one in the possession of Constable Haddock of the Ankh-Morpork Watch at last Discworld con: a sensibly-sized hip flask.. Tee hee.)

Lots of the stuff Manufactum sells is equally practical and handsomely designed, just very expensive. Anybody want to buy a Morgan 4/4 1600 sports car from an on-line catalogue store? Manufactum can accommodate you. (I thought it was a model at first, but the tag of €43,850.00 corrected this misapprehension.)

That's where I saw this amazing piece of stuff, which looks more like a movie prop than anything real. It could be at the back of a Titanic-era boiler-room set and not look out of place.

There are other variants, one where the burner is built into a cooktop, another which exchanges the upper oven for a stone-filled storage heater. An additional photo for that one shows it built into a wall-unit, but those who delight in rivets would just leave the works on display for all to admire.

I'd say it was cool, except that's hardly the right word for a heater. Don't park the Zeppelin too close...
petermorwood: (Default)
THE SEVEN-SHOT SIX-SHOOTER
In
MEN AT ARMS

A small mystery from the files of
CSI* Ankh-Morpork
SCRVTATIO PLVS DILIGENS
(We Look Harder)

(*Not a Watch department: the Copyedit Slip-up Inspectors work for The Times)

Page numbers from first-edition 1993 Gollancz hardback.


I completely forgot to mention this to anyone during the recent UK Discworld Convention, but it's perhaps the geekiest thing I've ever done. I checked the annotations at AFP just before clicking "Post" and there's no reference to any of what follows. The Gonne's six-shot capacity is mentioned so often that the error described here is an itch I want to scratch.

(If you're interested, there was a real firearm that worked this way, called a "harmonica gun." I showed pictures to Terry at last year's Irish DWCon and he confirmed that this was indeed what he had in mind. Impressively, Josh Kirby did the back-cover illustration - compare it to the real thing - just from text description.)

[p.60] Hammerhock, the soon-to-be-late dwarf weaponsmith, remarks on the six chambers of the thing he's inspecting.

[p.116] Vimes stared at his reflection – something (1) stung his ear and smashed the glass...There was another tinkle and a half bottle of Bearhugger's exploded (2) on the desk...He hit the floor at the same time as a pock coincided with a hole (3) punched through the wall on one side of the window.

[p.117] Pock. Splinters flew up from a point on the floor (4) where it would undoubtedly have severely inconvenienced anyone lying on the boards cautiously raising a decoy helmet on a stick...Something smashed (5) into the doorframe as the door swung to behind him.

[p.122] Vimes finds a metallic object discarded on the roof of the opera house, from which the five described shots at him have been fired.

[p.126] Carrot finds that Lettice Knibbs has been shot from the same place. Though it was probably the first shot fired, I'm counting this as shot (6) to justify the empty clip (or is it a magazine?) found by Vimes.

[p.133] Vimes examines the object: It looked like a short set of Pan pipes, provided Pan was restricted to six notes, all of them the same.

[p.135] Vimes reiterates his thoughts about the six-shot nature of the weapon and recalls how the shooter got off six shots, even though only five were aimed and described as being at him. (He's obviously counting the one that killed Lettice Knibbs.)

[p.138] The distant figure raised what looked like a stick, holding it like a crossbow. And fired. The first shot (1) zinged off Cuddy's helmet... Detritus blinked. Five more shots, (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) one after the other, punctured his breastplate.

[p.251] Lord Vetinari stood up as he saw the Watch running towards him. That was why the first shot (1) went through his thigh, instead of his chest. Then Carrot cleared the door of the carriage and flung himself across the man, which is why the next shot (2) went through Carrot...A third shot (3) knocked a chip out of Detritus, who slammed into the carriage, knocking it on its side and severing the traces...Vimes slid to a halt behind the overturned carriage. Another shot (4) spanged off the cobbles near his arm.

[p.252] A shot (5) hit the carriage wheel above Vimes' head, making it spin... "We wait for one more shot," (Vimes) said. "And then we run for proper cover." Vimes visualises the gonne, once more emphasising its six-shot nature and wondering how fast it can reload.

[p.258] (Colon) didn't even look around, which saved his life. His dive for the floor and the explosion (6) of the gonne behind him happened at exactly the same time. This is the sixth shot, and from Vimes' subsequent actions, he heard it clearly.

There isn't another shot at Colon (because the gonne is empty) and instead Cruces hits him before his escape. But he has clearly reloaded by the time Vimes catches up with him.

[p.264] "Captain Vimes? One thing a good Assassin learns is—" There was a thunderous explosion, (1) and the lamp disintegrated. "—never stand near the light." Vimes hit the floor and rolled. Another shot (2) hit a foot away, and he felt the splash of cold water.

[p.266] The gun jerked and fired (3?) at the same moment as Carrot leapt sideways...The gonne fired four times. (3?, 4, 5, 6) It didn’t miss once. She hit the man heavily, knocking him backwards. Vimes rose in an explosion of spray. "Six shots! That's six shots, you bastard! I’ve got you now!"

(This is one of possibly two very distant references to the first James Bond film, Dr. No. A Bad Guy empties his revolver into a sheet-covered fake Bond. Real Bond then confronts him and orders him to drop the gun, which he does. Bond then seems to allow the Bad Guy (who thinks he's being subtle) to pick up the gun again, but this time he gets nothing but a click. Whereupon Bond says, "That's a Smith & Wesson, and you've had your six," and shoots the Bad Guy. In fact he shoots him twice (though I've seen one TV showing where this is cut) and the second shot is a coldly deliberate 'execution' shot. This made it memorable, because examples of screen Bond being as nasty as his book counterpart are rare (deliberately not saving Bad Guys from the consequences of their own Badness doesn’t count) and I can think of only two: "I never miss" in The World is Not Enough and "Yes, considerably," in the reboot Casino Royale.)

I'm taking shot (3?) apparently at Carrot to also be the first of the four shots at Angua, making Vimes' total a correct one. He pursues Cruces and catches up as

[p.268] Cruces was lying a few feet away, fighting for breath and hammering another rack of pipes into the gonne. Vimes grapples with him and

Now we’ll start to count:

[p.268] The gonne exploded. (1)There was a tongue of red fire, a firework stink and a zing-zing noise from three walls. Something struck Vimes' helmet and zinged away towards the ceiling.

After which, Vimes has possession of the gonne...

[p.269] (Vimes) swore afterwards that he didn't pull the trigger. It moved of its own accord, pulling his finger with it. The gonne slammed into his shoulder (2) and a six-inch hole appeared in the wall by the Assassin's head, spraying him with plaster...He brought the gonne around, not aware of thinking, and let the trigger pull his finger again. (3) A large area of the door and frame became a splinter-bordered hole...Vimes managed to haul the barrel upwards just as it fired, (4) and the shot took away a lot of ceiling...Doors were opening. Doors closed again after the gonne fired again, (5) smashing a chandelier...Vimes shot the lock off, (6) kicked at the door and then fought the gonne long enough to duck.

Note that Vimes doesn't reload and, unlike Cruces after [p.264] he isn't 'off-camera' with an opportunity to do so at any time during the rest of the scene.

[p.272] Vimes drops the gonne. Fourteen lines later, Cruces picks it up. There's still no mention of reloading, but then Carrot runs Cruces through with his sword—

[p.273] And he died. The gonne fell from his hands, and fired at the floor. There was silence. (That makes 7)

Did I miscount somewhere along the line? I don't think so, but if I did – or if indeed this was an error since corrected, let me know!

One other question, and that possible second Dr. No reference: did Carrot hear and count those six shots, then – fully justified by Angua’s death – perform a Bond-style execution on another man with an empty gonne? Which then suggests, was the last shot and consequent miscount added at an editor's request, to prevent Carrot sullying his Nice reputation? (But remember that Good is not the same as Nice, and Personal is not the same as Important.)

There's only one person who can answer that, and I'm not asking, because he's got a sword too!
petermorwood: (Default)
...The Irish one this time, and just as good in its own way as the USDWCon at the beginning of September. One was big, the other was small; one was far away, the other was relatively speaking in our own back yard, one was hot and dry, the other was intermittently but impressively - Hollywood special effects impressively - wet.

And then the sun would come out :-)

D and I had a great time - including one especial benefit, being able to sit and speak to Terry for the first time in too long. We didn't have any opportunity to chat with him at all during the Tempe convention, so really enjoyed being able to just talk: about knightly things like spurs (we gave him a pair, since HM didn't) and swords (he's making one, since HM overlooked that, too) and the leverage being a Sir can give against the more annoyingly petty bureaucracies; about writery things like DragonDictate, which can now be trained to recognise the vocabulary of a complete backlist; and about stuff we weren't allowed to mention till the banquet - the Scottish BAFTA award for Living With Alzheimer's. I'm happy the documentary won, but at the same time I wish it had never needed made.

We had the chance for a natter with Jack Cohen and Bernard Pearson as well. Jack is as wise as ever, and added some interesting comments to our impromptu, five-minutes-warning Folklore panel (the original panellist didn't show) that gave people second thoughts about having furry slippers in their bedrooms, never mind on their feet. Bernard is his usual ebullient self - has anyone ever thought of bottling that man's laugh as an anti-depressant? If an audible dictionary needs to define guffaw, that's what to use.

Much beer was consumed over the weekend (of course) and I'm not the only one to think that Sir T. Pratchett, all in black with a white beard, looked very well matched by the pint of Guinness in his hand. He also seemed very at ease, so much so that he decided to extend his stay at the hotel. And There Was Much Rejoicing.

We weren't the only ones who got plenty of Terry-time beyond the programme items (where there were a few moved or cancelled events, but nothing earthshaking that a glance at the Voodoo Board couldn't fix.) The Falls Hotel and the convention numbers were both cosy enough that he was able to sit in one place and let the con come to him - which it did, with great enthusiasm. As he said at the closing ceremony, IDWCon gave him fond recollections of other early conventions, and he even used the word "relaxacon."

Though fortunately not the word "custard." :-D
petermorwood: (Default)
I almost didn't write a post about the North American Discworld Con in Tempe at all, I was so late in getting around to it; after all (he thought) others will have done it sooner, better, more enthusiastically...

Then, reading someone else's con report, I saw the comment that provides this post's title and did a slow burn. Not that slow, either. In answer to such a question, I had to say, somewhere, "Hell, yeah!"

All right, Diane and I were invited guests - I blogged about that nearly two years ago - but after having to pull out of the 2008 UK Discworld con thanks to a last-minute deadline we couldn't sidestep (and we tried, oh how we tried) I think we'd have done our damnedest to go to the NA one in any case. We're certainly going to the UK 2010 and deadlines be buggered.

This is not to disparage Dragon*Con in any way, and certainly not the snotty way my title poster dissed Discworld (there's some sort of wordplay in there, probably a bad pun.) For one thing there were a lot of friends whom we haven't seen for years - but multiple streams were less attractive than a single-focus con, especially since Terry's Discworld novels are the only fiction I always buy in hardback - the collapse of Mort into a loose-leaf folder proved that paperbacks just weren't sturdy enough for that much repeated reading.

What a sad wanker individual, I can hear Mr Title Poster thinking (not from censorship either, but because as an American he probably wouldn't know how to use "wanker" properly...) Yeah, maybe. But I know what I like, and a con of (checks Dragon*Con's Wikipedia entry) 30,000-plus members is way too big to be fun, at least for me. I'm not enochlophobic by any means and I'd attend a convention of that size as business, but not on my own nickel; I prefer to meet my friends in smaller groups.

The NA Discworld con was what I do go to cons for: big enough to be impressive, small enough to be fun, people I already knew, people I hadn't met until then, a subject I enjoy - and with an extra bonus: sunshine. Lots of sunshine. Diane calculated that by the time we left for the convention at the beginning of September, it had rained in our part of Ireland for some part of every day since mid-June. There were a bunch of American lady tourists on the plane who were wittering on and on about how green Ireland was. Yes, and we knew why. When it goes beyond verdant into verdigris, it stops being so attractive. Even the cats were starting to rust.

I should shut up about rain or lack of it at this point: the next con Diane and I are going to is another DWCon, but this one is in the West of Ireland (Ireland's first DWCon, in fact, just as Tempe was the first in the USA) and if they can lay on sunny weather in November, I for one will be most impressed.

And will wonder, rather nervously, how they did it.
petermorwood: (Default)
That was fun! We've just finished watching Part Two courtesy of a Sky+ recording, and enjoyed it a lot.

The overall look is much improved from Hogfather, with better indoor sets and outdoor location work thanks to a bigger budget. David Jason and Sean Astin played very well off one another (even though Rincewind in the books is much younger, and Twoflower is Auriental, but making him Hammerkin is OK, I suppose: the cliché-tourist version of both is a great taker of snapshots.) Tim Curry showed his teeth a lot and Jeremy Irons made a great Patrician – unnamed, but obviously Vetinari, complete with Wuffles-as-a-puppy.

"What are we going to do with you, you little scamp?" immediately became a favourite soundbite...

...Unlike "wearing a wet copper armour and shouting all gods are--" (at which point the production had second thoughts about Rincewind's line.)

This one's a real niggle, because the word 'bastards' is in the book and it's what was shot; watch David Jason’s mouth. Even this mouth-movement was pixellated out during last week's trailers, but I didn't think the actual broadcast would be censored; I was mistaken. If post-production thought their redub to "idiots" wouldn't be noticed, they were mistaken. It's partly hidden by a sound-effect clatter of rock, which only points up how clumsy it is. Try this: since "bastards" turned out a no-no, then instead of bowdlerising it, drown the entire word with the rock-clatter. Beep it out with convenient local noises. Just as effective, and maybe even funny.

SFX is spotty and needs work to even it out from the highs of the view of Ankh-Morpork to the lows of green-screen horseback closeups (check how people rise in the saddle at a real gallop and bounce faster, guys!) - though I liked the dragons a lot, their appropriate upside-down roosting posture a well-thought-out idea. Action sequences could be a lot better, the swordfights in particular being clang-clish-clang knife-sharpening exercises (swashbuckling isn't what the Discworld is about, but still...)

Pacing overall is much improved on Hogfather, but still sporadically sluggish, especially in dialogue. Some exchanges that should be crisply delivered instead come out Slow And Portentous, (all right if the subject matter warrants it, otherwise not), and even though characters who dot their speech with needless Significant Pauses are mocked in the books, too many such pauses remain on the screen.

The fault here isn't the writing, though there were a number of places where I'd have trimmed hard. (I've done it before: 'deliver this in a leisurely way - if you can.') However the direction still lacks punch. I don't know whether Terry comments about this anywhere, but Vadim Jean remains too fond of admiring the view whether real or CGI, unwilling to cut an over-lengthy close-up, reluctant to alter a good line "taken straight from the book": maybe he's still a bit too respectful of the original material. Nothing wrong there, except that good prose dialogue doesn't invariably become effective screenplay dialogue.

In case you think I'm sticking the boot in, I'm not. Read the first paragraph again, then consider that my few subsequent paragraphs of criticism cover nearly four hours of TV time. The Colour of Magic is definitely fun, stuck much closer to the original material than any Hollywood suit could stomach, and I have a feeling that the next one (Going Postal, apparently) will be better yet.
petermorwood: (Default)
Diane and I will be guests at the first-ever US Discworld Convention in 2009. We've known about it for a while, but had to keep quiet until the Concom got all the details nailed down. It'll be at the Mission Palms Hotel in Tempe, Arizona, a nice hotel in a super location - we were there as guests of CopperCon last year and had a great time both at the con and outside it, since the hotel's conveniently located for various restaurants, a brewpub just across the road, a really excellent used-book store, and since almost all the Coppercon convention venues were in rooms around the hotel courtyard, there was no hiking for miles through the Arizona heat (it was hot - and I loved it!) to get from one panel to another.

The official announcement follows after the cut )

Having a convention in a college town is always a good idea, because students and fans have the same requirements: food and drink at reasonable prices and not so far from the campus or con that there's a risk of missing lectures or panels. This is going to be a lot of fun!

Don't forget, closer both in terms of distance (for European Discworld fans, anyway) and in terms of time is next year's UK Discworld Convention - see its own LJ community [livejournal.com profile] discworld_2008 for more information.

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