Sunday, June 22, 2008

Another Reason for Me to be Happy

Big news first . . . "A Small Room in Koboldtown" has received the Locus Award. I could not be present, but my good friend Leslie Howle graciously accepted in my place. Although I was strongly tempted to have her read my Nobel Prize acceptance speech, I behaved myself, and so she ended up thanking Sheila Williams, everyone at Asimov's Science Fiction, and of course the good people of Locus itself.

There are a lot of positive things to be said about the other prize winners, but I will content myself with a small anecdote about Terry Pratchett, the winner for Best Fantasy Novel (Making Money):

A Small Anecdote

I won my first Hugo in absentia. The Worldcon was in Australia and my travel funds were tapped out, so I stayed at home. Friday night I went to bed wondering if this would be the year I was awakened by the infamous Drunken Phone Call. Saturday morning I woke up to the sure knowledge that I'd lost yet another rocket.

Sean's D&D buddies had been over the night before, so there were teenage male bodies sprawled all over the floor downstairs, among the empty pizza boxes and Pepsi bottles. So Marianne and I began tidying up. In the process and thinking nothing of it, I picked up the phone, which the lads had knocked over in a fit of joie de gaming, and put it back on the hook.

The phone rang. It was my pal, Jack Dann, calling from Australia, to give me the news.

The gamers were beginning to groggily rise from the floor. "Hey, guys!" I said. "I just won a Hugo."

And, being well brought up young men, they said, "Congratulations, Mr. Swanwick. That's very nice for you."

I listened to Jack some more, and then reported that it was Terry Pratchett who had presented it to me.

Their eyes got huge. "Wow!"

So there's where I stand, relative to the Bard of Discworld. It would be annoying if I didn't admire his stuff as greatly as I do.

Because I'm your friend and I care for you . . .

. . .
I'm urging you to rush right out and see Mongol on the big screen. This is a joint Russian-Mongolian production, the first of a projected three movies on the life of Genghis Khan, and it is flat-out wonderful. The realities of contemporary American cinema being what they are, the movie will probably be gone in a week. So you've got to move fast.

The story is grim, epic, and immersive -- and told entirely from within the worldview of the Mongols. Odnyam Odsuren is a knockout as the young Temudjin. And Khulan Chuluun is not only beyond gorgeous as Borte (known to history as "Borte of the Grey Eyes") but her very hard life in a very sexist society is presented in a surprisingly respectful manner.

And, believe it or not, what we have here is a delicate and moving love story.

But, oh man, you have got to see what Mongolia looks like widescreen and Cinemacolor -- vast, bleak, beautiful, terrifying, heroic. If you wait until you can watch Mongol at home, you'll be missing the best part of the movie.

And . . .

In Saturday's poem du jour, Richard Wilbur gets politicaL



Rebecca said...

Saw it last night. The perfect date movie, judging from the audience, for retired defense contractor employees.

The Mongol women probably had a higher status than the rest of women in most of the world at that time. The women would allow themselves to get raped to save their men; the men would get killed to save their women. The goal of the Pax Mongolia was that a virgin carrying a sack of gold could ride through the empire without coming to harm. Big strong empire looks like it was the mom and the wife's idea.

I thought the movie reflected some of either _300_ or the graphic novel. Don't know if there was time for Mongol to quote 300 considering the production schedules, but it sure looked like it.

Also, the Russians destroyed Genghis Khan's spirit lance in the 1960s to keep it from being used to rally Mongolian nationalism (it had been given to a monastery for safe keeping some hundreds of years earlier and had been around for over 600 years. Destroying the lance didn't seem to have stopped Mongolians from becoming independent, though.

The guy who played Temujin was just amazing. The women, judging from the history I'd read and from meeting a Chinese woman whose grandmother was a Mongol, were a bit colored by contemporary Russian/Euro sexism. Temujin's mom, who was kidnapped by his father, appearently allowed herself to be captured to save her then lover/husband. Before he rode off, she showed him her breasts to have something to remember her by, and distracted Temujin's dad from pursuing the other male.

The Mongols in general were rather much less nasty about the spare children than other cultures at the time or earlier. Think high arctic cultures and there are some parallels (Iceland, Inuit, etc.).

I'd rather be out riding than locked in a convent. While rape is nasty, getting killed is nasty, too, and being killed for getting raped is even nastier.

The really cool thing is that the actor who played Genghis Khan was so tremendously not a European.

Rebecca in Annadale

Michael Swanwick said...

A very thoughtful posting, Rebecca, and I'm sorry to not have the time to respond in a like manner. I'm about to saddle up my car and gallop off to Roanoke.

You're right that the women must have been ballsier than they're portrayed in the movie -- even so, they're a lot more assertive than native women (of whatever ethnicity) are usually allowed to be in movies.