Wednesday, March 10, 2010

MythOS: An Imaginative, Funny, Entertaining Mash of Fantasy, Mythology, and Computer Technology

Kelly McCullough is an imaginative genius. He has written a series of novels that deftly combine the concepts of magic and computer technology--and mixed them together with elements of mythology, no less. Webmage, Cybermancy, and Codespell are the three previous offerings in this series. I will focus on MythOS, the fourth book, which was the one that attracted my attention.

Get this: Ravirn--aka Raven--is a sorcerer, a computer hacker extraordinaire, and a relative of the gods--specifically, the umpteenth great-grandson of one of the Greek goddesses known as the Fates. He's also a wiseass whose mouth gets him into frequent trouble. Necessity, a goddess/sentient computer that controls and manages the fates of everything in the universe, has a virus. An attempt to fix this problem accidentally sends Ravirn to another universe, which functions on a different operating system. Whereas his home universe is run by the Greek gods, this new universe is presided over by the Norse gods; here, the Greek gods are considered to be only myths. And Norse magic functions on a completely different operating system, which Raven must hack if he's to have any hope of surviving--let alone returning home. In McCullough's universes, spells are codified and digitized, and utilized with the aid of familiars such as webgoblins and webtrolls, some of which can change into laptops and back again, as needed. There are action and humor aplenty, as Raven struggles to acclimate himself, and recall what he had learned about the Norse gods in school (where he came from, the Norse gods were the myths, and he hadn't paid too much attention in class), while trying not to fatally piss off any Asgardian that he happens to run into. McCullough showcases his knowledge of magic, myth, and computer-tech with a sense of humor and irony that make it clear that he is equally at home in all three worlds. For example, he portrays Loki, the Norse god of mischief, as essentially, a rival hacker from an alternate universe, who's not averse to purloining Raven's trade secrets, while Raven attempts to do the same. Ravirn then faces the daunting task of hacking into Asgard's computer, which is presided over by All-Father Odin--from whose notice nothing escapes. For added flavor and sexual tension, there's Raven's colleague/assistant/lover, Tisiphone, a fiery, generally ruthless Fury who, on any given day of the week, could kiss him, mount him, or kill him--depending upon her mood. All the while, he tries to stay in one piece by keeping his mouth shut. It's a little bit like trying to walk and chew gum at the same time--on a tightrope.

For the confirmed science fiction/fantasy fan, mythology buff, and tech aficionado, MythOS is a literary smorgasbord. For the novices in those areas, it's an inspiration to want to know more about them. No matter what your area of experience and expertise, it's a worthwhile journey off the beaten path. Happy Trails!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Didn't You Know? Oscar Doesn't Like Sci-Fi Blockbusters

Before everyone gets in a huff about the fact that a comparatively unseen, small film like "The Hurt Locker" could beat a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut like "Avatar", let me remind everyone of a salient fact that is usually lost on no one, but, somehow, this year, got lost in the shuffle: Oscar, generally and traditionally, does not like blockbusters. Especially sci-fi blockbusters. Remember "Star Wars"? "Spider-Man"? "Harry Potter"? I could go on and on, but the fact is this: If a film is a commercial success, it's likely to be an Oscar failure. "Titanic" and "Lord of the Rings" are notable exceptions. Oh, the Academy may recognize technical achievements like cinematography and special effects, but Best Picture? For a sci-fi, fantasy, action/adventure, or animated movie? There's a better chance of a black man being elected President. Oh, wait--that already happened. Well, you get my point. The bottom line, for all you science fiction/fantasy/action/animation fans--and believe me, I'm right there with you--is that you should consider yourselves lucky that "Avatar"--and "District 9"! (not to mention, "Up")--were even nominated. That's only ever happened twice before ("Star Wars" and "E.T.").