Saturday, January 24, 2015

Nominations for the Urban Fantasy Awards 2015

The Fangs for the Fantasy Urban Fantasy Awards 2015 are gathering up nominations for this year’s Golden Fangs (and Dread Fanpoodles). So far we’ve had several suggestions that we’re compiling but there’s still time for you to nominate the deserving!

To ensure as many people can pass on their ideas as possible, we’re be listening to suggestions emailed to us (, sent to us through Tumblr, Goodreads, Librarything, Booklikes,Twitter, Facebook, the comments section and carrier pigeon.

Nominations for Golden Fangs!

Best New Series of the Year

Best Indie Book

Most Original Monster

Most Original Concept

Best Vampire

Best wereanimal

Best Fae

Best Magic-user

Funniest Series

Most Inclusive Series

Best Protagonist

Best book/series with a Female Protagonist

Best book/series with POC Protagonist

Best Book/series with LGBTQ protagonist

Best Book/Series with Disabled protagonist

Best non-western setting

Best Dystopian Series

Best Steampunk

Best Series that ended

Lifetime Achievement Award

Nominations for Dread Fanpoodles!

Most Blatant Token!

Most Awful Stereotype

Most Convoluted Romance

Most Ridiculous Erasure

Spunkiest Agent

Most Unintentionally Hilarious sex scene

Must Pungently Violet of Purple Prose

Series That Most Reduces Your Faith In the Human Race

Resurrection, Season Two, Episode Twelve: Steal Away

It's dawn in Arcadia and slowly, one by one, the Returned get out of bed and make their way down the street.  They end up gathering in front of  Twain's staring up at Rachel's apartment.  Maggie is the first to notice something is wrong, when she discovers that Bellamy and Jenny are missing.  At the government compound, Randy informs Angela that the Returned are not responsive.  When Angela heads into the common room, she finds that all of the Returned are standing in a group, silent, looking out the window - presumably in the direction of Twain's.

Fred arrives at the scene of the Arcadia Returned gathering and meets with Maggie.  Inside, Rachel is awakes after a restless sleep due to contractions.  Rachel heads to the window and looks at the gathering.  Finally, after being unable to get the attention of the Returned, Fred fires his service weapon in the air and they all come awake.  The Returned are shocked to find themselves in the middle of the street.

Preacher makes his way into the bar and Jacob stops him to ask how the Returned ended up in the middle of the street.  Preacher James promises that he is going to get answers.  Jacob wonders if his grandmother felt the pull in the institution and tells James that Margaret was sent there after she made his aunt Barbara go away.  James is shocked to hear this and Jacob confirms that Barbara was one of the Returned.  Preacher then makes his way upstairs to Rachel's room, where Rachel, Maggie, Fred, and Bellamy are gathered.  When Bellamy opens the door, James notices the flower at Rachel's bedside table. James is invited in and James questions what happened. Rachel explains that she was sleeping and woke up with a contraction, to see everyone standing outside the window.  Rachel adds that this has never happened before.  James puts on the southern charm and Rachel reveals that she Returned already pregnant.  When Rachel experiences another contraction, James tells her to stay strong and leaves.  Maggie tells Rachel that they should head to the clinic.

Downstairs, James points out to Bellamy that the flower in Rachel's room is the same as the one they saw in the field. Bellamy asks what James thinks is going on and James simply says that they are all connected and that everyone has a role to play. Bellamy responds that they need to figure out what Rachel's role is.

When next we see James, he is covered in sweat, praying at Tom's former church.  James begins to see visions in a flash. He  sees the flower again, locusts and Rachel in labour. Once the visions are done, he looks upwards, promising God that he will not fail him, adding that it is going to be difficult.  When James collapses, the tree on his back is clearly visible.

At the Langston's, Lucille and Henry watch and Jenny and Jacob playing on the porch through the window.  When James arrives, Jenny is quick to rush over and embrace the Preacher. Lucille and Fred welcome James into their home, where they talk about the gathering of the Returned.  James asks about Barbara's disappearance and why it happened.  Henry says that in Margaret's mind, she probably thought that she was protecting Fred.  James then suggests that since a son should not be estranged from his mother that he is willing to offer his services as a councilor.   Henry is not at all open to this idea and declares that he is finished with Margaret, before leaving the room.  James apologises for prying.

At the government institution,  Robin approaches Margaret and says that this morning was scary.  Robin reveals that the government is doing tests on the Returned.  Robin starts to break down and cry about her fear of needles.  Margaret tries to comfort Robin, saying that she is sure the government wouldn't hurt them.  Randy enters the room and calls out for Robin and Margaret intervenes to ask why Robin is needed.  Randy demands to be allowed to do his job but Margaret tells Randy that he doesn't have to worry about her but the rest of the Returned.  Margaret points out that the Returned are human beings and have rights.  Randy tries to assure Margaret that this is not what this is about and Margaret turns around and asks the Returned, if she is the only one who wants to know why they are being taken away.  This catches the attention of the Returned and they all mutter in support. Margaret advises Randy to find Angela and have her inform them what the tests are for.  When Margaret says that they Returned have a right to know, the Returned become even more agitated.  Randy turns on his heel and leaves and the room breaks out in applause.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 6, Episode 11: Woke the Monster

Due to the entire cast having the collective intelligence of a particularly stupid slime mold, Kai is now super-powerful. Let us hope he slaughters a considerable amount of the population and increases the collective intelligence of humanity.

Of course, one of the first things super-Kai did was kidnap Elena because everyone’s life must revolve around Elena. Kai babbles a while about how his gushing fonts of magic (not a euphemism) are worrisomely hard to control and may make the merge thing with Jo go all wrong and he needs to learn control using Elena because Elena is the centre of everything. It is known. He also likes cloaking corpses which I admit is a pretty hilarious prank (yes I’m laughing at a brutal murder; don’t try to moral outrage me, this is the Vampire Diaries, absolutely nothing Kai does even approaches Damon or Stefan or Enzo’s body counts).

Stefan wakes up to find that his house has been pretty much colonised. On the plus side, this means half-naked Jeremy in the morning, on the minus side it means Jo and Liv wrecking the place practicing magic. Anyway this is all happening because Damon has the guilt weasels (shit, Damon opens up his house when he feels guilty? That man is going to have to buy a housing estate!). This whole plan is for Liv to train Jo – who hasn’t used magic in decades – to be competent enough to defeat Kai

Damon is camped in Sheriff Liz’s hospital room making happy talk (she has been diagnosed with magical cure proof cancer). Caroline is, naturally, fussing and Liz is refusing vampire blood treatment. Damon agrees with Stefan that if vampire blood worked, they’d have heard of it

Taking Liz home there’s lots of pretty well done angst and emotion form Caroline about Liz and Stefan facing human mortality in a form other than randomly dead broken necked people. Stefan agrees to give Caroline a lift to a super-skilled oncologist and then ditches her so he can finally remember to care about his long lost niece Sarah Nelson (who was once Salvatore). And Enzo has joined him because Enzo literally has absolutely nothing else to do in his entire life other than obsess over Stefan. This also completely invalidates any point in Monique, fake-Sarah, dying.

While Stefan goes to join Caroline, Enzo stays at the gallery to creepily obsess over Sarah.

Caroline sees her expert and compels her to be completely honest… which means the truth she gets back is utterly brutal. She even violates a dying Black man’s privacy for more info. After checking he has no next of kin, she uses vampire blood on him (which Damon had earlier termed “experimental”)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Second Daughter (The Dharian Affairs Trilogy #2) by Susan Kaye Quinn

Aniri is back in Jungali with Prince Malik.  Now that things have settled down a little though the threat of war with Samir looms large, Aniri now has time to wonder if she has rushed into her engagement with the handsome prince.  Aniri has good reason to doubt given that her last affair with the courtesan Deevish ended in betrayal. Aniri barely has a change to deal with her jitters before she is notified that an assassination attempt has been made on her sister, the second daughter of Dahria, Selderi.  Though Malik desperately wants Aniri to marry him first to cement both their relationship and the treaty between their two nations, Aniri is compelled to rush to her sister's side.  Aniri's trip to Samaria will reveal a long standing family mystery but at the same time, push her country closer to war, even as it threatens her marriage to Malik.

The Dharian Affairs Trilogy is rare in that it is a steampunk series based outside of Europe, with a large cast of people of colour.  Quinn takes great care to fill her story with a strong sense of culture and India.  Her descriptive writing is vivid, thus making it easy to picture the surroundings and get swept away with them.  With the potential of war looming in the future it raises the tension in Second Daughter. I must however admit that I am not as enamored with Second Daughter, as I was with Third DaughterThird Daughter is very slow moving at the beginning and it feels very much like it is treading water.  While it is absolutely sensible for Aniri to doubt herself, in terms of her love for Malik, it took up far too much of the story given what was at stake.

Aniri continues to be filled with spunky agency.  She never thinks things through, or has a coherent plan; she simply moves from one bad situation to another, justifying her lack of forethought by the fact that those she loves are in danger.  Some of this can be justified by Aniri's youth but at the same time, I feel as though she should have grown more, given the events of Third Daughter, beyond the notion that rushing into an unbreakable marriage contract without forethought could have consequences. I do however like the fact that Aniri remains intellectually curious and is unafraid to face danger, even if common sense should at least cause her to pause momentarily.

The 100, Season Two, Episode Nine: Remember Me

Clarke cries tries to scrub Finn's blood off of her hands.  Abby enters and tries to comfort Clarke and Clarke says repeatedly that she had to.  Gustus enters the tent and says that the commander is ready to talk and he is quickly followed by Lexa and Indra.  Lexa makes it clear that though blood has answered blood, some on her side feel that this is not enough because Finn didn't suffer as their tradition demands.  Lexa says that she pacified her people by pointing out that Clarke's suffering will be more than enough because Clarke's actions will haunt her for the rest of her life.

The plan is for Finn's body to be delivered to the tribe of the 18 slaughtered.  Marcus feels that the Grounders have done enough and that Finn should be buried by his own people.  Of course, Indra has to jump in and say that the sky people have not done enough and that they deserve justice.  Abby tells Indra that what she wants is not justice but vengeance, causing Indra to snap that the Sky People have not seen what her vengeance looks like.   It's Clarke who stops the argument by agreeing to Lexa and Indra's demands, adding that when it's over, they have to discuss how to get all of their people out of Mt. Weather.  When Lexa and Indra leave, Abby tells Clarke that she doesn't have to do this but Clarke makes it clear that if the truce doesn't hold, then she killed Finn for nothing.

When Clarke leaves, Marcus tells Abby that Clarke is right because this is the only way they will ever achieve peace.  Abby asserts that the Grounders don't know what peace is and are being led by a child.  Marcus points out that they are being led by a child as well.

Outside, Clarke approaches Raven, who is kneeling by Finn's dead body.  Clarke tries to apologise but Raven tells her to go away.  Clarke acknoweldges that this must be hard for Raven but informs Raven that she is leaving with the Grounders and that Raven needs to continue her work on the communications.  While the backs of the two women are turned, the Grounders try to take Finn away, which causes Raven to get more upset.  Clarke explains that Finn is being taken to the village where the massacre took place because it's the only way to get their people out of Mt. Weather.  Raven tells Clarke that she is coming as well and promises to bring her damn radio.  Clarke watches, as Finn's body is picked up but as they take Finn away, he opens his eyes and appears to be staring directly at her.

At Mr. Weather, the Arc people are gathered and are discussing their failure to find Clarke. Nathan is not pleased with Maya's presence and when he objects, Jasper declares that Maya is risking more than any of them.  Nathan questions if Maya is going to end up in a kennel as well, if she gets caught.  Quick question, how does Miller know about the kennels? Monty reveals an antenna that he has found and suggests that if they can access it, they can send a message on the arc wide channel.  Maya tells them that the only radio is on the highly restricted area of level seven.  Monty adds that they don't need the radio but the wires which run into it.  As Monty starts to list what they will need, the task seems insurmountable. 

Clarke is leading people through the woods and she keeps getting visions of Finn.  Bellamy tells Clarke that she did the right thing.  They argue briefly about whether or not the truce is a good idea. Bellamy believes that what they need is an inside man and argues that if Clarke can make it out, he can make it in.  Clarke is adamant that this is not going to happen, so Bellamy tells Clarke that since he doesn't take orders from her, he is going to need a better reason.  Clarke tells Bellamy that she cannot lose him as well.

Gustus and Lexa talk about the alliance they formed with the sky people and Lexa's safety.  Lexa simply tells Gustus to do his job and protect her and that all alliances mean some sort of risk.

At Mt. Weather, Cage is looking at security footage. He learns that the Grounders didn't attack the Arc.  Cage questions if an alliance has been made.  It is suggested that the alliance should be broken, so that the Arc people and the Grounders will kill each other and forgo coming to Mt. Weather to take their people back.  Cage says that no matter how many men they have, no one is getting through their defenses, adding nothing is going to stop them from getting to the ground. 

The Grounders and the Arc people have made camp for the night.  When Clarke lies down near the Grounders, Bellamy suggests that it is safer on the Arc side of the camp, causing Clarke to say that there are no more sides. 

Marcus sits down with Abby saying that they need to talk about Jaha.  Abby snarks about shock lashing him Jaha and Marcus suggests a pardon.  Marcus looks at Clarke and says that she is a survivor.  

Lincoln walks through the camp and as Indra passes near, she calls him a traitor.  Lincoln makes his way to Olivia and tells her that he is being called a traitor and that people are afraid of him.  Olivia suggests that Lincoln can talk to her about what happened but Lincoln believes that he cannot.  The two kiss.

Clarke wakes suddenly from her sleep and we get a vision of Finn lying behind her.

The coalition of Grounders and Arc people have made their way to a Grounder camp.  The Grounders demand that everyone disarm themselves before they enter.  Gutus takes special care to disarm Raven who it seems is loaded for bear. There are cries of welcome back commander and death to the Sky people when they enter the tribe.  When one of the tribesman declares that the sky people killed his son and are not welcome in the village, Lexa nods at Gustus who then attacks the man. Clarke begs Lexa to stop the beating, citing that the sky people will be blamed for this as well.  Lexa calls off Gustus and tells the people that the sky people march with them now and that anyone who tries to stop that will pay with their life. 

The crew has started work on their plan.  Miller is still not impressed with Maya and she tells him that he doesn't have to like her but she is helping them.  When the alarm goes off, Miller hammers  the walls to get at the radio wire.

American Horror Story, Season 4, Episode 13: Curtain Call

The performers aren’t exactly thrilled with Dandy’s take over of the show but, as Paul says, they don’t have many options and Dandy is rich. Dandy is, predictably, awful, entitled and insulting to everyone because he’s Dandy. Which gets him smacked to the floor and a solid dose of reality dropped on him. Paul announces that they quit.

And Dandy gets a gun and massacres the majority of the cast except Desiree (who hides) and Jimmy (who wasn’t there) and Bette and Dot (who he kidnaps). Well that was dramatic and abrupt. Jimmy returns to find all the bodies and does what he’s done the entire season – despair. I can’t even feel sad for him any more, even he must be getting bored of dramatic despair moments.

He and Desiree cry together (she is much better at selling grief).

Bette and Dot marry Dandy and it’s all pretty and twee as the twins tell him everything he wants to hear. Dandy is very very terrible, but that’s ok because his wine is poisonous – Desiree is hiding as the maid (awww c’mon, what is this compulsion to put Black women in maid outfits?). With him all woozy (and shot in the arm). Jimmy joins them as the butler.

They take the drugged Dandy and put him in  big glass box (an escape artists box) while he continues to try and excuse himself and the twins, Desiree and Jimmy say what a terrible person he is. We get the usual unsubtle message that Dandy, for all his prettiness, is the biggest freak of them all. They watch as Dandy drowns

Elsa, meanwhile, is trying to get in to see a big television bigwig and after a week of solidly waiting in the waiting room and not getting past the secretary she ends up being accosted by a security guard and collapsing in tears. An important bigwig, Michael Beck, takes pity on her.

Forward to 1960 and Elsa Mars is now a super star who married Michael Beck. Of course, she’s still very difficult to work with – even when shooting an advert for coffee. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of love between her and hubby either – she has kept one rule from her Freak Show days; she will not perform on Halowe’en.

At home she meets with Massimo who she looks upon with far more affection; he notes she has everything she ever wanted but she says she’s bored and alone. She has no true friends, just sycophants and no love for her husband. She suggests running off with him – even begs – but he is now terminally ill.

Later and after much drinking, Michael brings in uber big-wig Gable who has disturbing news. Firstly, that a paper has the footage of Elsa losing her legs in the attempted snuff film – which causes Michael to pack and leave and Elsa to declare she will be ruined (for being a victim – but absolutely no-one points out the injustice of this). They also traced her back to the Freak Show – and tell her everyone there is dead in a massacre. And their dropping her using the “morals” clause of the contract (again, her victimisation and associating with the “freaks” is considered “immortal” but not challaenged.) Elsa changes her mind – and agrees to do the Halowe’en show.

The Problems with LGBT Characters on American Horror Story: Freak Show

American Horror Story: Freak Show has a large number of LGBT characters, probably more than any show we’re watching at the moment (Lost Girl is the only show that matches it in terms of raw numbers).

And they all die. Pretty much all of them are brutally murdered. Not only were each of these characters killed, but their deaths are nearly always linked or related to their sexuality. In addition, any character who lasts more than a few episodes is so cringe-inducingly awful, so utterly and completely evil beyond any kind of development or redemption that we’re positively cheering their demise. It’s a relief - a celebration even - when each of these gay characters were murdered.

This portrayal is, frankly, awful.

This is usually the point where the history excuse will be trotted out. These were different times, homophobia was more overt, tolerance far lower, etc etc.  Indeed, the press for the show itself has suggested it provided a level of insight into what it was like to be gay in the 1950s and living in this toxic homophobic atmosphere.

I never knew being closeted would force gay men to strangle 2 foot tall Indian women and sell their bodies for display.

Needless to say, I’m not impressed with this excuse. Of course, we shouldn’t gloss over homophobia or any prejudice - both historical and present. It would be insulting and offensive to pretend this period wasn’t even more saturated in toxic homophobia than today and highly disrespectful to discount the persecution of the time period.

But nor should we revel in it or perpetuate it. It is possible to depict homophobia (or any prejudice) harshly, starkly and in all of it’s full awfulness while equally depicting it as wrong. Showing unacceptable injustices of the past is not only understandable, it is desirable - but we must also make it clear that they ARE unacceptable and they ARE injustices. Mere depiction with a hand wave of “history” ignores the toll these prejudices took (and take) on their victims; they rob these atrocities of their horror and add to the depiction of them as acceptable; especially since these prejudices and attitudes are far from dead. Many viewers may think that merely seeing homophobic prejudice is an inherent depiction of how wrong homophobia is - but they have lived charmed lives not to have seen the same attitudes parroted and the same abuse championed around us to this day.

Prejudice cannot be merely depicted, it must be challenged.

Ironically, a good example of how this can be done is shown by American Horror Story: Asylum. The treatment of Lana in the asylum was agonisingly painful to watch - so painful and real that I often couldn’t stand to watch an entire episode at a time. But it was equally clear that the treatment was wrong, that the torturous conversion therapy was a sickening, gross act of abuse and that Lana was being victimised. More, Lana herself was highly sympathetic, developed and clearly someone we were meant to be championing - in many ways she was the protagonist of the season, as much as Kit, or Sister Jude (insofar as this show has protagonists). The depiction wasn’t perfect but it was an excellent presentation of historical homophobia - and an excellent challenge of it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Astounding Antagonists by Rafael Chandler

At the urging of his alien partner in crime, Helen Damnation, Dr. Argon is putting together a supervillain team to pull off the ultimate crime – the destruction of Helen’s space station to keep it out of the hands of super heroes.

If they pull it off, the world will be free – if not, the heroes will have unprecedented power to impose their vision on the world – a vision garnered from their ivory towers that cares little for the people who are disposed of out of their view.

This book hit all the right notes for me and it’s actually taken me a while to try and find the way to explain just how excellent this book was. I’m struggling because I really don’t know how to truly explain this book without spoiling it.

While there are certainly many elements of the Superhero genre that are willing to go dark, to espouse an anti-hero and even flirt with the ideas of oppression and superheroes being on the wrong side, I don’t think any book I’ve come across has gone as far, as dark or as brutally critical as this one

Rather than aiming for typical castings of good and evil, this book is cruelly scathing on what we ACTUALLY consider good and how that would reflect on superheroes in our world. So we have superheroes with their millionaire secret identities (playboy, genius, scientists) and they have vast, multi-national companies… But vast, multinational companies are responsible for all kinds of abuses – employee rights, pollution, raiding developing nations, having vast influence over governments – how much more so would this be if they were headed by beings with super-powers and the unquestionable support of the populace.

Historic heroes from the US’s Cold War past are still around, champions of the American Way – but super hero comics have used heroes to combat all kinds of real world issues – especially during World War 2 and the Cold War. What is the actual implication of super-powerful beings being involved in a lot of proxy cold-wars, regime changes and a myriad of other actions in the name of fighting communism and/or terrorism? There’s even a superhero slaughtering undocumented migrants along the US/Mexico border.

And, of course, in a world with actual super-villains issues like “due process” and “enhanced interrogation” are much more dire – if “terrorism” has us excusing torture and detention without trial, what would be our reaction to super-powered villains?

In short, the superheroes, the paragons of law and order pretty much do exactly what I would cynically expect paragons of “law and order” to actually do. It’s corrupt, it’s brutal and it’s all the abuses that the powerful can inflict to maintain that power and the system writ large. Especially since the most common way of becoming super heroes, the Prisms, are tightly policed by the superheroes and American government themselves furthering their power and control by controlling this vital new resource. Many of these superheroes are obvious excellent parallels with major DC or Marvel characters