Man of Steel Lament

Lament of Superman

I am sick to death of the fan boy rage around the recent release of Man of Steel. Sick to death, I tell you. All I hear over the Internet is:

“This isn’t my Superman!”

“Why didn’t Superman protect the people of Metropolis?”

“He had time to kiss Lois Lane but not to look around at the catastrophic damage done by the Kryptonian World Engine. Where was the empathy we associate with the character?”

“These writers didn’t know the character, weren’t aware of the canon. They wasted 75 years of history to make a movie where Superman fails in an epic fashion.”

“Where is the transformative scene in the third act where Superman finds himself and creates a solution to an unsolvable problem?”

“How could they have Superman kill anyone?” “How could they have Superman let anyone die?” “Superman has superspeed, so he can save everyone. That’s what he does!”

“The body count and catastrophic destruction show in Man of Steel is on the order of 100,000+ people and 730 billion dollars worth of damage.”

I have people all over the internet finding images of Superman being super, doing his thing protecting people from threats which do not equal the scale of the problems seen in Man of Steel.

Superman saving people from falling aircraft. Wow. This show Superman at his best.

Superman saves people from burning building. Yes, he can do that. And he can protect people by putting out the fire with his super-cold breath.

“Superman gave people hope in the 50s and 60s in happier and simpler times. This new interpretation is the worst ever.”

Enough!

If we are going to compare stories, then let’s compare stories of equal capacity and challenge.

In terms of destruction, let’s look at Superman vs Doomsday.

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Yeah, baby. Metropolis got completely owned. Entire sections of the city were destroyed and had to be completely rebuilt. Their titanic struggle was more like a bomb going off in the middle of the city. Note Doomsday and Superman were nearly equally matched in power, speed and ferocity. Superman wanted to take the battle out of the city but Doomsday was simply fast enough to make sure that didn’t happen. Oh and for the record, this isn’t the first time Metropolis gets destroyed. Consider the 1994 epic “The Fall of Metropolis.

You know where else this happened? Man of Steel.

Zod’s superior fighting skills, honed by a lifetime of combat meant for most of the fight, he owned Kal-El’s untrained and unskilled ass. What tiny advantage he had was lost as Zod’s mastery of his superpowers increased every second.

Superman saving falling airplanes? We’ve seen it. And we hated it. We complained about Brandon Routh’s Superman Returns, calling it lifeless, dead on arrival, derivative crap, and another appearance of Lex Luthor, public unpowered menace. Hmmm.

Could one of the real reasons we hate Superman Returns is because, in the entire movie, Superman never even throws a punch? That he gets shanked by Lex Luthor and kicked around like he was about to experience a prison rape scene? Huh? Yeah, maybe?

No, don’t turn away. I’ve got more.

Wait, when Superman (Christopher Reeves) failed to save Lois Lane because he had to chase down two cruise missiles heading in different directions, did we complain when he REVERSES the rotation of the Earth and somehow manages to stop the flow of time, which mysteriously allows him to catch both missiles AND saves Lois Lane? No Deus Machina there, huh?

Stop looking at your shoes. You accepted it. You laughed about it. Just like the super-memory wiping kiss. Yeah.

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One more: Superman would never kill anyone. I’ve got a picture for you. (see above)

It’s from a comic series called Miracleman (Marvelman, if you’re old enough to have read it the first time). This used to be London. This image shows what a being with the powers of Superman/Zod could do if he just did what he wanted to do. And there was no one to stop him. Oh yes, I could see Zod having such a good time this way. This scene is what you get when you have a writer willing to portray the destructive capacity someone like Superman or Zod is capable of. Terrifying and bold were the writings of Alan Moore. Read a bit more if you dare.

Just keep it in mind. Now back to the issue.

Except when Superman does kill, he does it for almost the exact same reason he kills in Man of Steel. To protect the entire world’s population. Needs of the many and all that jazz. On Superman’s 50th birthday, he kills the Phantom Zone criminals of a parallel universe because on their world, after they escaped the Phantom Zone, they killed everyone on the planet. Torturously. Cruelly, as only a Kryptonian could. Even after depowering them, Kal-El decides to make the ultimate judgement because their Zod vowed to get their powers back and come to his reality and kill everyone there as well. This was a threat he took seriously. They had already done the deed once. No moral compunction would stop them.

So for his 50th birthday, John Byrne has him do the deed. Happy birthday, Kal-El. Kill some fellow Kryptonians and let’s eat some cake after you get back from your trip into interstellar space to screw your perfect I-never-kill-anyone-ever little head on straight.

If a man is going to break a cardinal rule, something that defines him and his character, let it be for a threat worthy to the cause.

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For his 75th birthday, Kal-El gets a movie and the same damn dilemma.

Renegade Kryptonians arrive, threaten the Earth, plan to build a Kryptonian K-mart on the bones of the human race.

Faora Ul told Kal-El (while she was kicking his ass) that for every one he saved, the Kryptonians would kill a million more. Zod would later reveal his plans for terraforming the Earth and bringing back the Kryptonian races via the Codex over Kal-El’s dead body, preferably.

So. Presented with at least three combat capable Kryptonians, though I remember at least six being sentenced on Krypton, Kal-El is given the choice of killing the Kryptonians or allowing them to destroy the Earth. 3 against 1 odds didn’t go well in Smallville. Things would not have likely gotten better if the rest of Team Zod hit the field.

The writers made a call to allow Superman to dispose of the bulk of Team Zod by sending them to the Phantom Zone, while disposing of all of the remaining Jor-El tech and links to Krypton.

But now we are left with Zod. Lets go over the checklist of things Superman can do given the circumstance he is left to contend with in Man of Steel. Remember this is as the WRITERS DESIGNED IT, not as Superman would have chosen it.

  • He is standing in the rubble after a powerful terraforming device has turned part of Metropolis into a fine and even grey dust.
  • Zod has decided since he has nothing to live for, he will dedicate his life to the destruction of Earth. He is quite capable of doing it. This is not an idle threat.
  • Kal-El does not have a Phantom Zone projector conveniently hidden in his Fortress of Solitude.
  • For that matter, Kal-El has no Fortress of Solitude.
  • No STAR LABS to whip one up out of Kryptonian “stone knives and bear skins”.
  • No Batman or other superheroes to tag team the villain with and subdue him with overwhelming force or cunning.
  • No stray sliver of green or gold Kryptonite hidden until the last moment. (Quick, someone call Brandon Routh, he had an entire island of the stuff!)
  • No Kryptonian artifacts he could use to depower or cripple Zod.
  • Zod is an alpha male, trained for decades in fighting, sufficient skilled without superpowers to take over (even if it was just for a minute) the government of his home planet.
  • Kal-El is a farm hand who has traveled the world and never raised his voice in anger, let alone fought anyone for fear of turning them into a pile of Chunky Monkey. The Karate Kid (pick your era) has more combat training than he does.

What did you expect was going to happen? Zod would somehow come to love humanity while he and Kal-El were duking it out destroying everything they came into contact with and swear undying loyalty and fealty to Earth?

Somehow, farm-hand Kal-El was going to overcome warrior-god Zod and restrain him without long-term injury? Really?

Without a Deus Machina (which we already talked about in the Lois Lane Incident) Kal-El was left with no real options for restraining or stopping Zod. And yet they gave us one anyway. Zod is stronger, faster, better-trained, more skilled and yet he is “overcome” by Kal-El? Or was Zod simply forcing Kal-El to make a choice which Zod himself would have NEVER made?

Fuggedaboutit.

All of you whiners complaining about this Man of Steel have only yourselves to blame. You loved the Avengers, though they barely did anything at all besides show up. Iron Man and Thor did the bulk of the heavy lifting and Hulk gave us a great bit of comic relief. The Chitauri were about as dangerous as baby food products imported from China. (See: Melamine) It was your worship of the potential of catastrophic destruction which led to this monstrosity of a movie desperately seeking your approval. If you are complaining this wasn’t your father’s Superman, YOU ARE CORRECT.

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This is the Superman of Post 9/11. This is the Superman of Vietnam, Korea, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. This is the Superman of the modern age with all of the fear and loathing superheroes like him never had to deal with in the past. This is the Superman of Big Brother and our surveillance society. This isn’t just the paragon of good, he is the spectre of evil as well; the potential for power to be used for evil as well as good.

This Ain’t your father’s Superman. He has way more baggage than those earlier versions of the character EVER did.

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Personally, I liked the real hidden message within Man of Steel.

There are and will be things beyond your control.

There are things which transcend your ability to right.

There will be people whose power may (or certainly) exceed your own.

It does not mean you do not fight.

It does not mean you give up.

It does not mean there will not be casualties. 

It means you do your best with what you have and understand sometimes your best, even with the best of intention, even with great power and great responsibility, will simply not be enough.

Do it anyway.

In today’s world THAT is the real message. Not a message of faux inspiration when there is nothing at risk. Not a message of do-gooderism which does not take into account the reality of loss. 

You don’t like Man of Steel because it paints a picture of the invincible hero who does not manage to protect everyone?

Good. This is the reality of the world we live in. Get over it. It’s not the 1950s anymore. Times change. You might want to as well. Now sit your fanboy ass down and enjoy the view. Superman will more than likely herald a series of DC movies of other heroes who deserve some screen time besides Superman and Batman. I know someone right now who can’t wait to get to the big screen. Here’s a hint:

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Be like Superman and roll with the punches.

Signed:

A Real Superman Fan

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Could Superman die of old age?

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New Earth Superman: Got rid of the bloomers on the outside and now I’m too sexy to get old…

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This question cannot be definitively answered because DC Comics has never definitively answered it.

And this is still one of the greatest shames of the DC Comics franchise. Without a clear quantification of Superman’s powers, it is truly impossible to answer some of the most important questions around the character, including Could Superman die of old age? Granted, given the powers of his enemies and the danger of his lifestyle, the possibility of him living to a ripe old age is probably slim to none but should he find himself growing older and want to consider whether he should sign up for a 401K, the question does need to be asked.

To address the question effectively we have to check a few things before we dive in. The first question is WHICH Superman are we talking about? Since the character has had multiple iterations and multiple continuities, each has possessed varying levels of longevity.

See: How many canon Supermen have existed since his first appearance in Action Comics in 1938? 

The main versions of the character include the Golden Age version, the Silver Age version, the Post-Crisis version and the Modern DC New Earth version. We are going to skip the Post Crisis, John Byrne version because he no longer exists and we will skip over the DCnU version because he is still too new for DC to have revealed enough to know for certain. He has been returned to his youthful age of 25 to 30-something after their recent reboot of their universe.

We will talk about a couple of examples of Supermen who didn’t appear to age and a couple that did.

DC has published the DC One Million storylines where a Superman has retreated into the sun to live (yes, INSIDE the sun is where he places his Fortress of Solitude, and I can bet he gets NO visitors) and has gained powers far beyond any of the versions of the character that has existed to date. His powers were so fantastic, he was able to power his descendants giving them extraordinary abilities as well. Superman Prime (as he was called) appeared to be invulnerable, immortal and completely unaging. This was a Post-Crisis version of Superman.

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DC has also shown signs of Superman aging. The original Golden Age Superman (Kal-L) whose origins on Earth-2 (Pre-Crisis) seemed to age as an ordinary human would. He married his universe’s Lois Lane and the two seemed to age at comparable rates. His powers also diminished as he aged, making him only a fraction as strong as the Earth-1 Superman of the same time period.

Another aging Superman was the Kingdom Come Superman (which counts as an alternative Earth storyline, but it was a very popular version of the character). He aged far slower than humans, and grew more powerful as he aged. He lost his vulnerability to Kryptonite but was still capable of being harmed by the chaotic energies of magic (he tests this by cutting his finger on Wonder Woman’s god-forged  sword). In this iteration, his power were great (not as great as the Silver Age Superman or the Superman Prime character) but quite formidable and he hadn’t appeared to lose a step due to the aging process.

Silver Age Superman

The Silver Age Superman (the second most powerful version of the character, and the version you probably grew up on before his reduction of powers after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC’s first universal reset) had vast powers under a yellow sun and did not appear to age at all. While he could be (theoretically) killed in battle, once he reached an adult age, there was no further sign of aging. This character existed Pre-Crisis as well. This character was so powerful in one of his stories he sneezes and destroys a solar system. I believe this is the real reason the Crisis on Infinite Earths had to happen…

So CAN Superman die of old age?

The question can’t be answered effectively because no one has ever written the definitive treatment on how Kryptonians acquire superpowers on Earth, (or for that matter how metahumans acquire powers in the DC Universe) and there is no ratified documents describing how the Kryptonians (Homo Sapiens Krypton), who resemble (Homo Sapiens Sapiens) in appearance, but vary so far from us in terms of biological processes.

  1. Are the Kryptonians related to Humans and happen to have a convergent evolution?
  2. Are the Kryptonians genetically-modified humans, who use technology to create superhuman abilities when powered by particular wavelengths of energy?
  3. Are the powers of Kryptonians only viable in certain environments or under certain conditions but in all other ways they resemble humans?
  4. Are Kryptonians peak engineered humans whose physiology without powers is simply better, having reduced or eliminated the threat of disease, genetic dysfunction, and slowed or erased the aging process?

These are the questions which are never definitively answered so questions about Superman’s aging (with yellow sun or without) can be answered fully.

Man of Steel

As a thought experiment, let’s look at the recent Man of Steel version of Superman to determine through inference if Superman can die of old age.

The Kryptonians had a population management program where members of the society were born through an in-vitro process of genetic recombination of traits. This may imply:

  1. Kryptonians possess superior genetic recombination science. They were able to selectively mix and match genetic capabilities to ensure genetic dispositions for abilities were passed down.
  2. The Kryptonians had already cleared away genetic imperfections or diseases which shorten lifespans. This may be the reason they were utilizing population controls. A species with very long lifespans may need to keep populations under control lest they overrun and destroy their environment with near-immortals consuming everything.
  3. Since they were mining the core of their planet, this may imply they had already HAD an ecological over-population which precipitated their regulation of their population as a potential counter.
  4. Though we have no indications of how old anyone was, we do see examples of older Kryptonians on the Council, and Jor-El is a bit grey (approximating the age of a man in his mid-fifties) though he appeared hale and hearty enough to hold his own in an unfair fight.

We can assume aging takes place among the Kryptonians while they live in their native environment, though its rate in comparison to Humans is as yet unknown. We can compare Kal-El’s growth rate from child to adult as similar enough to our own, he was able to blend into Human society without incident regarding his physiological growth rate.

Once he was fully an adult does he stop aging?

This is the question that cannot be answered effectively unless we are able to understand how he is able to fly, resist incredible amounts of physical damage and project energy from his body.

If we assume physical capabilities which require a catalyst to activate (in this case, the yellow sun) these abilities would be in addition to his normal Kryptonian genome, perhaps genetic technologies woven into their genome as a survival strategy for conquering other planets or surviving hostile environments.

With such abilities, however, a single Kryptonian could conquer any planet with an environment like Earth’s. And it would make sense for Kryptonians to do so. Unfortunately, only about ten percent of the galaxy’s stars are similar to our sun, so on most planets they would have far less durability or capability.

So if these are genetic patents designed to be a support technology increasing durability, strength and resilience, they would only be most effective on a tiny range of planets overall.

Did the Kryptonians know this? Judging from the speed some of them learned and used their abilities, I can only surmise that indeed, some of them were aware of what they were capable of.

If their genetic technology did not completely stop their aging on Krypton, but were an integral part of their biological structure, it is safe to assume, even under a yellow sun, the Man of Steel Kryptonians require sustenance, water, air and other biological necessities, which can be temporarily reduced or ignored while living under a yellow sun. For Kryptonians to be able to live and utilize energy as a biological organism, even a perfect one, experiences some level of entropy and overall decay.

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SUMMARY

My verdict would indicate the Man of Steel’s Kryptonians were masters of genetic and engineering technologies which give their underlying Humanoid physiology fantastic capabilities under a tiny window of conditions. Given the right solar energy levels, the right gravitational fields, they are prodigious engines of destruction but even they had limits. Note that Faora Ul (who was wiping up Smallville with Big Blue and the US Army) was taken down by a cruise missile which evidently delivered sufficient force to knock her down and out.

That means we still had technology strong enough to kill a Kryptonian, if you didn’t mind the collateral damage required to do the job.

Having 100,000 years of technological evolution to work with makes any Kryptonian advance technology appear as magic to us. They mastered space travel, dimension-crossing, wormhole generation, genetic engineering, recombinant DNA mastery, and energy manipulation abilities we don’t even have names for.

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But their greatest limitation is their desire to maintain a human form.

  1. Is it vanity? Or is there some other societal issue?
  2. Is it an inability to alter their physical capabilities further without a change in their psychology?
  3. Why did they give their bodies such capabilities and then limit them to a tiny subset of environments?

Something in this limitation makes me believe there is an underlying limitation in their genome we are not aware of.

It is this unknown limitation which makes me believe they have mastered their genome sufficiently enough to REDUCE aging but not completely STOP it.

Man of Steel Review (spoiler-free)

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Guest blog by Kenneth Alexander Wright Vazquez

“His name is Kal, Son of El”

For the last 35 years director Richard Donner’s ‘Superman The Movie‘ has been the cinematic representation of the beloved hero for a generation and considered by many to be the best movie of the super hero sub-genre (despite needless camp and holes in its plot). Now, visionary director Zack Snyder and writers David S. Goyer and Chris Nolan have delivered what could very well be the Superman of a new generation with ‘MAN OF STEEL’; in fact it is.

Zack Snyder has achieved, along with Goyer’s and Nolan’s sharp and deeply layered script, nothing short of greatness. This is the Superman film all of us, not just fans of the character, but movie goers in general have been clamoring for since the closing of the last one. Disregard, yet never forget, the Christopher Reeve films, for ‘MAN OF STEEL’ is a spectacular re-imagining and re-telling of the Superman mythos in modern day brought to us by the genius of Zack Snyder.

Every scene of ‘MAN OF STEEL’ belonged to Snyder and that’s evident in everything from the editing and photography to the signature kinetic use of the camera. Goyer and Nolan have written the definitive cinematic Superman with a script that explores the inception and growth of a hero on multiple levels. A smoothly-flowing narrative that moves eloquently from memories to present day beautifully depicting the creation of an icon.

No aspect of Superman is left untouched thanks to Goyer’s respect for the comic book source material and yet, Nolan’s technical and thematic approach is complementary to the mythos. Some were afraid of Nolan’s well known ultra-realism seen in his Dark Knight Trilogy with its unique and gritty vision of Batman, however in ‘MAN OF STEEL’ his sensibilities are faint in the grandeur of it all. It might be Goyer’s and Nolan’s words, and rightfully so, but it is Zack Snyder’s world.

There’s a delicately woven balance of drama, humor (yes there’s humor) and non-stop action in this seriously epic sci-fi experience. Snyder has evolved as a director and ‘MAN OF STEEL’ is the apex of his illustrious career. It’s as if Snyder used comic book panels from 75 years worth of Superman adventures to lay out the course of this film. Trust me, this is virtually ANY Superman comic brought to cinematic life.

Special effects are quite extensive and a sight to behold especially when it comes to the depiction of Superman’s many powers chief among them, flight. Damn, can this Superman fly, and well enough to make the wire pullers from the Chris Reeve films proud. In Snyder I continue to trust.

Superman needs to soar musically and the score, that grandiose music score, was beautiful. Somber, serene, harmonious, thunderous and downright magnificent (it surely reminded me of Vangelis musical renditions for Blade Runner). It lacked that “Superman music” sound that a hero like him invokes but it makes up for it in so many ways. Hans Zimmer re-invented himself as a composer just as ‘MAN OF STEEL’ re-invented Superman as a hero.

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Snyder is known not just for that bold eyeball of his when it comes to capturing amazing imagery but for spotting talent in a cast. And what a solid cast this is. Let me be blunt and straight to the point, Henry Cavill IS Superman. His portrayal of the greatest hero in pulp fiction is on point from shy and humble beginning to stoic, generous and powerful end. His is a Clark Kent on a journey, a life affirming quest of self discovery that will take him from the relative safety of Smallville, Kansas (a Norman Rockwell and homely Plano, Illinois), a re-rendered Krypton, a perilous ocean, a mysterious and cold tundra to a gleaming Metropolis. When Cavill dons the legendary suit (and what a gorgeous suit it is) he becomes heroism incarnate complete with a smile. Yes, this Superman freakin’ smiles!!! Please, don’t even bother to compare Cavill’s Clark Kent/Superman to the amazing late Christopher Reeve, this is a very distinct version of the character.

What’s Superman without his Lois Lane? Incomplete, that’s what he would be. As powerful as he is, Superman needs support and “protection” and that’s what Amy Adams’ Lois Lane provides in threes. She’s ambitious, tenacious, clever, persistent and above all caring. Snyder chose wisely.

Perry White, in MY opinion, is as vital a part of the mythos as Superman’s cape and Laurence Fishburne stepped up to the bullpen portraying a man dedicated to the truth and integrity of his newspaper and that of his reporters. I could not be happier with Mr. Fishburne’s skill.

The foundation of Superman’s heroism is his parental units. Both his Kryptonian and Earth-based parents do a brilliant job at shaping a savior. Russell Crowe embodied Jor-El with plenty of fatherly presence as well as surprising physical ferocity. This is a Jor-El with brawn as well as smarts. Giving birth to Superman requires a heck of a mother and Israeli actress Ayelet Zurher (Angels and Demons, Vantage Point) portrays Lara Lor-Van as a heartfelt matriarch and supportive wife.

He was born in a neo-medieval Krypton but raised in a rural and idyllic Smallville by Mr and Mrs Kent. Kevin Costner was so loving and protective that as a viewer I felt as though he was my father. Jor-El was the father, of course, but Jonathan Kent was the dad. A still attractive Diane Lane (The Outsiders, Streets of Fire) was the sweetest mom, an anchor for Clark to hold on to and quite the tough lady.

A hero is only as good as the villain and in ‘MAN OF STEEL’ our hero has quite a few to face off in order to save the day. The most interesting villains are those who do not think of themselves as such and Michael Shannon (Premium Rush, The Iceman) is exactly that. As General Zod, Shannon portrays, with his notorious intensity, a relentless former war hero that will go to great lengths to save his people’s legacy even if it means genocide. Again, do not make comparisons to past versions of Zod, specially that of the brilliant Terence Stamp for his was a highly operatic and comic book flamboyant Zod, while Shannon is just a complex force of nature.

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Exotic and petite German actress, Antje Traue (Pandorum), plays the fierce and psychotic Kryptonian warrior Faora Ul while the enigmatic Mackenzie Gray (Shooter, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnasus, Smallville) portrays Jax-Ur with cold and calculating finesse. He even reminded me of Superman villain, Brainiac.

Making memorable appearances were Christopher Meloni (12 Monkeys, 42, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit), Richard Schiff (The Lost World: Jurassic Park), Harry Lennix (The Matrix Reloaded) and Dylan Sprayberry.

The only thing that bothered me about the film was the absence of a supporting character to the saga of Superman. In the end it did not keep me from enjoying the overall presentation.

Phenomenal action, stunning visuals, powerful performances and subtle nods to both the comic books and previous films in the franchise make Zack Snyder’s ‘MAN OF STEEL’ quite the film to behold. This is the true return of a superhero who will forever reminds us of the greatness that lies within us all. We may stumble as we follow him but in time, we will join Superman in the sun.

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Man of Steel Publicity Special

 

Old Men Yelling At Clouds: SFWA Sexism

I would like to say I am speechless but I am well past that. I think I will wait awhile before I consider the SFWA membership. Seems this is an issue which needs sorting out.

shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows

Warning: some talk of rape, explosive ranting.

As an Australian who now lives in the UK, I’m used to hearing about publications, conventions, writers’ groups, book giveaways and other SFFnal coolness that I can’t actually buy, attend or participate in on account of their being located in or otherwise restricted to the US of A, a country I tend to envisage as one of those freaky undersea fish with a luminous, prey-attracting barbel that lures you in with the promise of democracy and culture and New York, and then savages you with its monstrous teeth, fascism, bigotry, and New York (a city I’ve never visited, but which I nonetheless feel qualified to make jokes about Because Television). What this means in a practical, everyday sense is that, even when certain American things become accessible online in whatever manner, I tend to forget that fact, and so place them in the…

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