1. One thing that struck me, looking back over my fiction logs for 2014, was that if you don't count fanfic (of which more in a moment), I read only two new novels in 2014 that weren't chosen for me by a book club or similar endeavour. I read both of them in April, when I had a holiday with a lot of travel time to fill and only limited contact with the book-clubs-and-similar.
Now, to be fair, I read quite a few new novels for the book-clubs-and-similar, but there was a certain lack of variety. So for 2015, I've made myself a rule that I'm going to read at least one chapter each month of something I've picked for myself.
2. The thing is, I did actually read several more novel-length works of fiction in 2014, but they didn't get into the fiction log because they were fanfic. (I read an enormous quantity of fanfic in 2014, I suspect at least partly as a way of getting some variety from all the book-clubs-and-similar, and although I was reluctant to have too many novels on the go at once, fanfic didn't trigger the reluctance even if it was long enough to otherwise count as a novel.)
Most of the novel-length fics were from the Undone Universe
and Motion Practice
series. They're both based on the Marvel Avengers movies, and mix novel-length works with shorter fillers and side-stories. Undone Universe mixes the Marvel multiverse, mythology, and a threat to the totality of existence; it's interesting and complicated but really, really grim. Motion Practice is an AU in which Nick Fury is a District Attorney, the Avengers are his team, and Loki is that one defense attorney whose reputation is based on being able to get anybody off if they have the money; it's a lot of fun, but also has its serious side - one of the things I like about it is the way the drama arises naturally out of the solid character work. (The character- and world-building has enough solidity that a lot of the stories in the setting arise from those rather than just being echoes of things that have happened to the non-AU Avengers.)
It seemed weird in retrospect to not be logging fiction that I'd spent so much time reading. So this year, I'm logging any fanfic I read that's at least 7500 words long (which I picked arbitrarily because it's the cut-off for novella length in the Hugo Awards).
3. I have, of course, been to see the third of Jackson's Hobbit movies by now, and I'm not at all surprised that the internet already contains at least one fan-edit that attempts to squeeze the trilogy into a single film with most of Jackson's inventions removed. There were parts of the third movie where I was mentally marking it up for edits while I was watching it in the cinema, which I think marks a failure of engagement on the film's part.
The thing that bothers me about The Battle of the Five Armies
is not so much how much time Jackson devotes to depicting the eponymous battle (which Tolkien, in a sign of how important he considered it to the story, pretty much skipped entirely), but the way he chooses to depict it. All the named characters who die during the battle do so in meaningful one-on-one confrontations with named characters from the other side, some of whom have been invented for the purpose, often physically separate from the main mass where the nameless extras are hacking away at each other. I don't think I like that, and not just because it's a big departure from the book (where Thorin and Kili and Fili are in the thick of the fighting the whole time, and Thorin is killed not by a single blow from a Dramatic Archenemy but from the accumulated injuries from all the people he's fought). It's also generally a misleading thing to be suggesting about the way battles work.
4. I finally got around to watching the first episode of Leverage
yesterday. It was fun, but I don't know if I'll be watching any more, because a feature that I suspect is going to be integral to the format going forward turns out to hammer one of my narrative turn-off buttons. I've been known to say that as a kid I spent more time watching I Love Lucy
from behind the sofa than I did Doctor Who
, because alien monsters don't inspire dread in me but what does is the prospect of someone being publicly humiliated because they thought they knew what was going on but they were wrong. And it turns out, apparently, that this happens even if the someone in question is the villain of the episode.
5. I've mentioned before that when the Modesty Blaise
comic strip ended in 2001, our newspaper started running the strip from the beginning, and then in 2012 it started from the beginning again even though it had only got a third of the way through.
I recently realised something else: This time around it's printing the strip off a different set of masters. (The way you can tell is that the strip was first printed with a title block in the top left corner of the first panel, which was removed in reprints and the artwork extrapolated to fill the space left behind. Comparing the strips we're getting now to the ones we got in the 2001 re-run, many of them have differently extrapolated details.)
I have a theory that this means that there are two versions of the strip being made available to newspapers, and the reason our newspaper restarted was that they discovered they were signed up for, according to some definition, the wrong one. (Speaking historically, in the original run the distributors started offering two different versions of the strip to newspapers starting with the story "Cry Wolf" - which, as I noted at the time, is precisely the point at which our newspaper re-started in 2012.)