Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Anticipating the January 2012 launch of SufferStone, Book 1 of the Dolvia Saga, author Stella Atrium sat down with Marc Roster, a Chicago radio personality from the public access channel. SufferStone

Marc Roster: So, you have an interesting premise here; space travel and women living under the veil.

Stella Atrium: Over the decades, sci-fi fans have seen many cultures depicted in stories about offworld adventures. But I have not seen an alien culture where women struggle against the burka.

Marc: Are the female characters also Muslim?

Stella: Desert garb with flowing robes and headgear pre-dates the birth of Mohammad. In the story, the sisters of Arim live on a savannah with a long dry season.

Marc: But the story is meant to reflect issues of global women's rights?

Stella: The cultures for the four tribes are unique to the story with their own languages, along with standards of dress, local animals, gestures of power for the men.

Marc: Of the four sisters, Kyle Le is the youngest, but she's the leader?

Stella: Kyle Le is troubled with the gift of second sight, like flashes of insight for events in the near future. She's an orphan, and her sisters clings to the land her father owned. They have no status in community, only the service of her gift to a tribal leader.

Marc: So Kyle Le takes work at the mill where she meets the story's hero Brian Miller. They fall in love and live happily ever after?

Stella: Not likely. Brian Miller can only run the mill because he doesn't abuse native women. The differences between their cultures are too great.

Marc: In the story's plot, what is the purpose of the Brittany Mill?

Stella: The savannah on Dolvia has what we call a Third World economy. Corporations from Earth have come adventuring through the wormhole to take advantage of the mineral wealth and the cheap labor market. But the tribes are protective, and their women are mostly illiterate. Brittany Mill is where these disparate groups begin to mingle.

Marc: That premise sounds like what happens in many countries here on Earth.

Stella: The dichotomy is delicious. Inside the fantasy genre, I try to present women who need to solve real problems like having no voice in community, or no right to work; no access to capital to start a business. No reinforcement for talent.

My intent was to pry open the archetypes of alien women in sci-fi who are, shall we say, sexually available to the story's hero. You know the types — warrior, witch, street urchin, unavailable princess who sneaks around, armless mermaid. Let's present a few female characters who drive the story and solve problems using the tools at hand.

Marc: You mentioned unique animals. Any dragons?

Stella: (chuckle) No dragons; no fairies. One sister named Terry befriends a wild ketiwhelp, which is similar to an oversized fox. She's later martyred in prison and a tribal myth about her is told in chants.

Marc: So what are the elements of fantasy in the story?

Stella: The savannah is being settled, unevenly, by offworlders who seek fortunes by mining the mineral wealth. They have a network for supply lines through the worm hole to Earth, and introduce futuristic gadgets to indigenous cultures, changing the balance.

Marc: What kind of gadgets?

Stella: Brian Miller communicates offworld using an EAM, or extra atmosphere modem. He shows Kyle Le how to access the transport's library where they call up an image of Dolvia, a blue and green planet with atmosphere and clouds. Kyle Le is very impressed with seeing the whole face of Dolvia.

Marc: So, the story is about culture shock?

Stella: For several cultures, yes. The reader also meets indentured colonists and military personnel stationed on the orbiting transport. Some characters are from a nearby planet and compete for work with the corporations to get ahead. They even adopt English over their own languages and shorten their names for advancement.

Marc: You mean, like people changed their names when they came to America through Ellis Island?

Stella: Examples from our history are illustrative. The pressure to fit in is universal, such as Jews in Spain in the fourteenth century who pretended to practice Catholicism. Or tribal people in South Africa who lived under Western names. Power structures exist everywhere, and the people from the subservient culture use similar strategies to get by and put food on the table.

Marc: So, what's the story's outcome.? Do Kyle Le and Brian Miller hook up?

Stella: Kyle Le is promised for the warrior Cyrus, even though she doesn't like the idea. She's motivated to resist the future planned for her by others. That's why she's open to new ideas like working for wages, and traveling offworld with soldiers.

Marc: Well, we certainly look forward to reading reviews for this unique story. Our time is up now, but I enjoyed the talk.

Stella: Thank you.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Frame the Debate: a year of mud slinging

by Stella Atrium

Pres. Obama has a jobs plan, a student loan plan, a new mortgage plan, a loan modification plan (but no guest worker plan).  In the true spirit of community organizing, the president brings a targeted proposal to each voting group to solve local issues.Obama

In the meantime, no federal budget has been proposed by the ruling party in the Senate for THREE YEARS. Instead taxpayers get continuing resolutions to open the paymaster's door, and debt ceiling hikes to the $4 billion A DAY increase on the debt.

The voting public can look forward to 12 more months of empty plans that won't move in congress until election day comes, after which we get more of the same. What inspired plan to solve issues will Pres. Obama proposed in his second term that he did not already try?  Is he saving the tough choices for when he feels secure in his job?  Or is he unable to address tough choices, relying on "hope" the the Gang of Six is effective, and "great hope" that the Supercommittee can face the fire.

At a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Milford NH, Candidate Mitt Romney said Pres. Obama's stewardship has created a "'Where's Waldo?' economy," referring to the children's books in which the challenge is to hunt for a small, hard-to-find man on a crowded page. In Romney's analogy, the jobs are Waldo.

RomneyHe also accused Obama of fostering "class warfare" that Romney said demonized groups of people unfairly. "I've been really disappointed -- and, in some respects, a little frightened -- by the president's rhetoric -- this class warfare, trying to find someone to blame," Romney said. (Bloomberg Businessweek 10/11/11)

Each party tries to frame the debate for what issues will drive the election season.  However, just like the last election season, none of the talk includes reality.

Reality has overtaken the European Union, and we chuckle at them for austerity measures, rigid job markets, hat-in-hand begging for better interest rates.  They are facing a "lost decade" similar to what Japan knew when their housing market crashed in the late 1980s. The USA is next, you know.

In the meantime, we play this trivia game to frame the debate. trivia

Elected officials in Washington ignore the need to restructure Social Security, Medicare, a health care mandate, SEC corruption that allowed crooks on Wall Street to dirty the play pen, and more. 

I'm not much for demonstrations (since Kent State in 1968 — go figure), and I'm not a liberal.  But I can understand the anger that prompted the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

OWSThe Hope and Change framework was inspiring, but those who had a warm feeling down their legs on election night in 2008 are feeling a pinch in their wallets now.

The framework of "He's worse than me" to argue issues without addressing Obama's record as president is already in place.  Meanwhile, Rome is burning...

I know I sound cynical today. Get ready for the year of mud slinging.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Henrietta Lacks’ ‘Immortal’ Cells 
Journalist Rebecca Skloot’s new book investigates how a poor black tobacco farmer had a groundbreaking impact on modern medicine
By Sarah Zielinski,, January 22, 2010

Henrietta Lacks was a black tobacco farmer from southern Virginia who got cervical cancer when she was 30. A doctor at Johns Hopkins took a piece of her tumor without telling her and sent it down the hall to scientists there who had been trying to grow tissues in culture for decades without success. No one knows why, but her cells never died.

Henrietta’s cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture. They were essential to developing the polio vaccine. They went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity. Many scientific landmarks since then have used her cells, including cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.

My note:  Here's a story that begs for a bio-pic.  Why another sports movie when these stories beg to be told? 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blogging Changes Writing

11/22/11 by Stella Atrium

I just opened a Twitter account @SAtrium and poked around for what's trending.  TwitterJennifer Hudson attended the music award wearing a short dress made of clinging silver, so her name was trending for an hour or so...

Now I can think only in 140 characters, or less.  

A student asked how she should go about publishing her poetry and early journals. I bit my lip to hold back a giggle.  Join the world; start a blog.

The most popular blogs are about how to write in blogs. 

BogA student recommended blogging because she has no fear online
In her comfort zone she can express ideas about gender preferences, hating her brother, wanting to leave home, and finding a simpatico follower.

Confessions are common on blogs, right after birth announcements.   

We're born, we confess, we follow, we get mentioned.


Popular blogs have made-up personalities.  Many famous bloggers don't blog at all; rather, staff members do all the writing.

A narrative builds when others join into the ideas (read: #OWS), even if the narrative is not productive like the senate Gang of Six or the Super Committee.  In fact, the less truth, the better the popularity. lightbulb

Can you say "Hope and Change"?

The public discourse is no longer about engagement, but entrenchment. I will hold my position and solicit followers. I will not give an inch, no matter the impact on my children or grandchildren.

Criticism is the work of the day.  Opinion trumps the facts in the news.  Don't bother me with the facts; I know what I know.  

I cannot form a sentence that's more than twelve words. blog key

Just ran across a blog titled "How to Write Your Life". I remember when Madonna wanted to live on—camera.  What purpose to actions when the camera was not there? She was ahead of her time.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Appeal of Thelma & Louise; a buddy movie about two women on the run

Stella Atrium 11.11.11

The 20th anniversary of Thelma & Louise was in February 2011.
T&L car
Critics claimed the movie directed by Ridley Scott broke stereotypes and allowed female characters to step out of a corseted past into liberated action.  Never mind the movie presents women acting like men would act.  Never mind that Thelma robs a store only after she receives instruction from a drifter.

Once again, the characters we love don't solve problems the way women solve them, but rather ape the actions of the men. Where are their mothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, best friends, daughters?

T&L gunsMovies about women must appeal to men, even when the male characters are secondary, as with a sympathetic policeman played by Harvey Keitel and ex-boyfriend played by Michael Madsen. The movie audience was mostly men, and they liked the idea of women on a lark with 2% body fat and oversized handguns.  We still have the standard scenes for car chases, gun violence, fiery explosions, and a hero's ending.  The twist is that women get to blow up stuff.

Except are they liberated? Or... are they just acting like a guy would act in similar situation?  Maybe a woman would find other ways to hide by changing her looks and blending in, or entering a brothel where the police never investigate.

In Thelma & Louise a struggling waitress and repressed housewife take off one day while the husband is fishing.  They stop to cat-around at a dance hall, and Thelma (Geena Davis) is pressured by a drunken cowboy who Louise (Susan Sarandon) shoots with her Texas-purchased gun. Adventures on the run after the feminist statement include picking up a drifter, scaring a truck driver, packing a cop into his car trunk, calling home to bring down the police, and sprinting toward the Mexican border.

The 1974 movie Thunderbolt & Lightfoot (Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges) depicted drifters in a similar socio-economic strata. ClintJeff
Lightfoot is beaten by bad guys who pursue them, and the tension between Lightfoot and Thunderbolt is tentative friendship built on a common need to escape jeopardy.  They end badly, too, when Lightfoot dies of injuries from the beating.  We expect less of this movie, though, and treasure it for the performances.

What social wrong was righted in Thelma & Louise?  Besides the eye-candy, what did we learn about ourselves? I'm reminded of the old adage that "she acted like a man because she was treated like a woman".

The scenes are well played, especially when Thelma says, "Something broke inside me," but Thelma & Louise is ultimately unsatisfying.

over cliffI object mostly to the ending when the pair drive over a cliff rather than return to society and face jail time.

Many have claimed this ending shows that there's no place in real life for rogue women; except Thelma and Louise aren't acting like women.  The pair is acting like they think the men would act, all the way to driving off into the sunset.  

Young women today mention Thelma & Louise as a shining example of liberated acts, of improvising, of getting a little of her own back.  I despair for our young girls who have few role models and must fit behavior into unnatural patterns to find acceptance among peers who believe that women should act like the guys.