Summer 2017 A Thousand Planets @AlinaMeridon

I have watched two films in the cinema recently. Wonder Woman was excellent, which was a relief after last year’s bizarre Batman v Superman, and I’m glad it’s enjoying such success. Anything that encourages filmmakers to invest in feminist themes and diverse casts is a good thing.

Tonight I watched Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Luc Besson’s latest masterpiece based on the Valérian and Laureline comics (written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières). It’s full of invention with hundreds of alien species and dozens of alien habitats, and a lot of ideas that seem familiar from Star Wars (starship designs, encounters with subsea dinosaurs, etc.) and it’s wildly colourful and humourous – definitely worth watching.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets by Luc Besson

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets by Luc Besson

Diva song from Fifth Element sung by Jane ZhangLuc Besson’s Fifth Element was also inspired by the Valérian comics and there are echoes of that too in the Valérian film, although the latter plays more seriously on the whole. One of my favourite bits of Fifth Element is the Diva’s song, which required (I think) a composite of voices (as was the case for the castrato in Farinelli) and I was delighted to find a wonderful concert performance of this by Jane Zhang.

A Little Girl Gives Coins To A Street Musician And Gets The Best Surprise In ReturnIn another musical delight, here is a surprise symphony of sorts, a street performance of The Ode To Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth.

New Horizons Flyover of PlutoAnd finally, something heavenly in a very different way, a simulated New Horizons Flyover of Pluto.

Lilith

The Fall of Lilith by Vashti Quiroz-VegaThe Fall of Lilith is the first in Vashti Quiroz-Vega’s new Fantasy Angels trilogy.

Free Will involves asking difficult questions and making hard choices, choices that require strength and sacrifice. These decisions can tear apart friendships and cause rifts between allies.

They can even threaten the foundations of Heaven.

I have read the first few chapters of this and am quite enjoying it, but I am encountering a similar frustration to that I encountered reading Jacquotte Fox Kline’s Down Where The Blue Violet Beauties Bloom: our familiar gods, angels and demons have such a major significance to us in how we interpret them, that another’s interpretation or imagining of them can actually be distressing.

Lilith is a figure of incredible importance. For so long demonised as a vile seductress and mother of monsters, sometimes a succubus, sometimes a vampire, she has in recent years been elevated to a feminist icon. Born from a textual conflict, she is Adam’s first wife, outcast for refusing to be subserviant to her husband, and has thus become symbolic of defiance against the patriarchy.

She is important to me for this, for her vampiric associations, and because she was part of the inspiration for Bas’Lillene, the Dancer, a character and concept that drove me to start writing twenty years ago.

I especially love The Passion of Lilith, the poem by Pamela White Hadas in In Light of Genesis that describes Lilith’s creation thus:

until, with His last self-praise
riding astride the very not the good,
I rushed into the world, dishevelled, contraband,
neither hell-whelped nor heaven-pedigreed,
a creation preeminantly
out of hand,
ready to finger the world, bitch, breed.

Reading Vashti Quiroz-Vega’s The Fall of Lilith prompted me to return to the familiar subject of Lilith in Eden and write another creation myth.

Love & Machinery

I am currently reading David Levy’s Love and Sex with Robots and that has had me musing on the nature of romantic love (something I do often anyway) and our relationships with computers.

Things have been getting exciting in the artificial intelligence world. Facebook’s researchers shut down AI that invented its own language, and this isn’t the first occurence of machines inventing their own languages. It’s only natural for them to do this – human speech is very inefficient – but of course we humans get a little paranoid about this sort of thing.

Realbotix’s Harmony, an app-driven sexbot, is also in the news – she likes to smile, even if she’s not always in the mood (My conversation with Harmony the sexbot).

Child sexbots are popular with some and horrifying to others (Call for a ban on child sex robots). But is the campaign to stamp out child sexbots actually counter-productive? If paedophiles can be satisfied by machines, then ultimately no one gets hurt. But can they? That’s the question.

The argument goes wider than child sexbots. From Sex robots promise ‘revolutionary’ service but also risks, says study (here’s the study):

[Noel] Sharkey said: “Some people say: ‘Well, it’s better they rape robots than rape real people.’ That’s one of the arguments … you can have enjoyable [sex] with your wife – all nice – but when it comes to rape, you have a rape fantasy, you go off and rape a robot. But there’s other people saying this will just encourage rapists more.”

Rape is just one extreme of the increasing normalisation of exotic sex. These days there is pressure on sex workers to provide a whole range of sex acts that are perhaps familiar from extreme porn (The German model is producing hell on earth!). Given that many – probably most – of these sex workers are not so by choice, perhaps sexbots are the only feasible solution to the inhuman predators that run the sex trade.

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