Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Vampire Diaries Season Three, Episode Four: Disturbing Behaviour

I really liked this episode, faults and all.  It's been awhile since I could honestly say that about an episode of The Vampire Diaries. After spending an entire summer chasing Stefan, Elena finally decided that it was time to move on with her life.  Of course she didn't make the decision because she realized that is a cold blooded killer but because she finally believed him when he said that their relationship was over.  Her next project it seems is to remake Damon in Stefan's image.   It was clear as they were making chili for the founders day gathering that the chemistry between them was strong.  I think it's worth pointing out that none of these so-called kids have attended school yet; however, they all found time to show up and once again worship the founders.

Liz took Damon to see Caroline's father Bill Forbes.  Damon wants to kill him but Liz tells him that he cannot, because Bill is Caroline's father.  After testing to ensure that Bill is indeed vervain free, Damon compels him to believe that he came to Mystic Falls, to take Caroline back to school shopping, which btw cracked me up cause they don't attend school, and then to leave town.  

Now that it is time for more witchy woo woo, Bonnie finally was pulled out of the plot box.  It only took four episodes for her to make a real appearance on the show this season, showing I suppose just how important she is. Bonnie and Jeremy embrace, but Anna is watching them in the mirror. I know it's not relevant but is it me, or is Jeremy getting hotter and easier to look at every episode? The peeping Ana disturbs Jeremy.

Back in Chicago,  Klaus, his sister, Rebecca and Stefan do a little shopping.  She complains that women of this time dress like prostitutes and asks Stefan if he likes her dress.  When he tells her that he does, she tells him that she can always tell when he is lying.  Stefan says he needs to get some air, and Catherine is across the street waiting to talk to him.  Catherine wants in on whatever Stefan is planning and warns him that he cannot outsmart Klaus. 

They go and see dead witch walking Gloria, to try and find Rebecca's necklace. Gloria puts her hand on Rebecca's hand and sees Elena, Bonnie and Caroline talking about Stefan.  As she is searching the necklace burns Elena's skin and so she hands it over to Bonnie so that she can learn more about it. Gloria tells Klaus that she needs more time to tell him the location of the necklace and Stefan distracts them by saying that he is hungry and needs to feed.

Back in Mystic Falls, Elena and the gang gather for the founders day celebration.  Alaric pulls Damon aside and tells him that he can see what is going on between him and Elena and that he needs to take a step back.  Damon tells him that it is none of his business.  As the meeting comes to and end Bill makes an appearance and asks whether or Damon, Liz and Carol Lockwood whether they believe that the council is simply naive or downright ignorant?

When Caroline spies her father she takes off for Tyler's house. Damon comes rushing out of the meeting and says to Elena and Alaric that Bill "Houston we have a problem...he threatened to out me, don't get me started on the irony of that."  I don't know about you, but I want into instant side eye mode.  Really?  This after having him try to convert Caroline last week.  If that were not enough, earlier in the episode, Liz told Damon that she did not "approve of his lifestyle".  These false analogies to GLBT people need to stop. Nothing about being a vampire is anything compared to the real oppression and marginalization that GLBT people face.  It seems like the writers are trying to take a page out the True Blood playbook, but they are doing it all wrong.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Street Magic by Caitlin Kittredge, Book 1 of the Black London series

When Pete Caldecot was 16 she saw something magical. With her sister's boyfriend, Jack Winter, they conjured something, a man of shadows and smoke, a creature Jack couldn't stop or hold within his circle. And Pete saw it kill him.

She's 28 now and a police inspector with the MET – and investigating a string of child abductions. The children go missing and the return, damaged and blinded, their energies drained. And there to help her is Jack, back from the dead, but driven to the edge by drug addiction and the pressures of his magic.

Pete now faces a whole new world to deal with, the world of Black London with ghosts and fae and monsters and magic and Sorcerers kidnapping children for their own cruel purposes. Pete must rescue the children, stop the predator and confront the memories she has buried for 12 years – not least of which the memories of Jack and his death. Meanwhile she has to work with Jack, the mage and her one guide to this confusing and horrendously dangerous world which means negotiating Jack's addiction and the bitter memories he has.

Abuse as True Love in Paranormal Romance

'Blood Tears' photo (c) 2011, Ban_Estrada - license:
There are a lot of tropes in paranormal romance that consistently raise their ugly heads - many of which we explain in our Lexicon

Many of these destructive tropes are often “justified” by being “explained by the woo-woo”. In other words, the fact that it is magic or some kind of preternatural creature doing these things makes it okay, not problematic or otherwise acceptable. So a possessive or stalking boyfriend is explained by being a werewolf or a vampire - therefore a creature with territorial instincts. This has the additional problematic element of justifying or excusing the problematic behaviour - and these explanations are very reminiscent of the old excuses: “he can’t help it” and “it’s just his way” and “I could smell your desire” sounds very much like “you want it really.”

Regardless of the excuse provided by being a possessive supernatural being, or an aggressive, violent or out of control creature - we’re still looking at relationships that look very abusive and in some cases are outright abusive and they don’t become harmless just because the abuser turns furry or has fangs. It is particularly problematic because these books are largely written by women and the books themselves are quite often targeted at a young female audience.

Stalking as Love trope.

In the Twilight Saga S. Meyer has her vampire Edward watch Bella as she sleeps. Think about that for a moment. A man enters a woman’s room without her permission and watches her. In the real world we call that a peeping tom and that normally leads to a quick trip to the local jail and yet repeatedly this is constructed as romantic. Even Edward’s faults however are far outstripped by Adam Hauptman of the Mercedes Thompson series. Because Adam is a werewolf as is supposedly naturally protective (Read: creepy stalker dude), he installs cameras into Mercy’s garage without her permission. Of course this is only because he is worried about an unsavoury element wanting a damn oil, lube and filter but what it really comes down to is ensuring that he has the ability to monitor every single moment of her day. Patricia Briggs, the author of this series, could have redeemed this by having Mercy demand that the surveillance be removed but of course if that is what the alpha werewolf wants, that’s what the alpha werewolf gets.

Unwanted Touches and “No means I want you More”.

This is one of the more prevalent and problematic tropes we see repeated over and over. The idea that a woman is always reluctant when it comes to romance, relationships and sex - so she has to be won over, her resistance worn down and, basically, she needs to be nagged or coerced into sex.

In Twilight Jacob forces a kiss on Bella because he believes that this will force her to admit her feeling of love for him. At that point she had repeatedly explained that her feelings did not expand beyond friendship but why honour a woman’s feelings about her own body when the woo justifies forcing oneself upon her. If that were not enough, Bella’s father then goes on to congratulate Jacob for assaulting his daughter. I suppose as long as you get daddy’s permission everything is a okay. Woman have, after all, been transferred from father to husband for generations.

In Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series we have this repeated multiple times in at least 8 of her books. The Psy women (Faith, Sascha, Ashaya) are all very reluctant  to engage emotionally or even be touched. Repeatedly their Changeling lovers touch them when told not to, make romantic and sexual advances despite being told repeatedly that it’s unwelcome. This is often “explained by the woo-woo” by their emotionally damaged culture but, ultimately, they are women saying “no” who are repeatedly ignored. And this is exacerbated by the Changeling and human women (Talin and Indigo) who, again, say no but are pursued no matter how often they say they are not interested in a relationship

JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series takes this to the next level. In Lover Eternal Rhage has just met Mary when he pushes her against a wall and presses his body against her. She asks to be let go and he keeps pushing against her in a scene that, frankly, looked like sexual harassment.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lover Awakened, by JR Ward, Book 3 of the Black Dagger Brotherhood

And we have another adventure of the Black Dagger Dudebros in their continued quest to have lots of bar fights, have lots of sex and occasionally killing a lesser if one waves at them. Oh wait, I mean nobly and valourously defending the vampire species from the depredations of the soulless Lessers of the Lessening Society

This time it's Zsadist's turn to find his one true love. After escaping the clutch of the Lessers, Bella seeks refuge with the Brotherhood, especially with Zsadist who she feels safe with and feels compelled to seek his presence.

Zsadist must face these entirely new feelings he has. After years of abuse as a blood and sex slave, he must learn that a woman's touch does not bring pain – and find something within him that isn't hard and cruel and tortured. Bella restores his hope, hope that both he and his twin Phury had forgotten long ago.

But the lesser, O is obsessed with Bella, and refuses to let her go and will fight even his fellow lessers to get to her

There's also a lot of other stuff happening with the lessers, but I don't think you need to pay much attention to that – after all, the Black Dagger Dudebros don't.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review of Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey: Book 2 of the Sandman Slim Novels

Kill the Dead is the second book in the Sandman Slim novels.  You can find the review for the first book, Sandman Slim here.   As with the first book, Kill the Dead involves Angels and Demons but this time the threat the walking dead, otherwise known as various types of zombies.  The problem however is that the reader is not really made aware the the zombies are indeed the "big bad" in this book until Stark suddenly had to deal with them.

Unlike Sandman Slim, Kill the dead, is really quite disorganized. The plot just seems to float around while Stark has interactions with various supernatural beings.  Elements are introduced that really go nowhere and at times the story is really hard to follow. The cast of characters is actually very large, making it difficult to remember the significance of each person.

Even with all of the aforementioned issues, perhaps the greatest downfall is the constant use of ableist language throughout the book.  Kadrey had no problem having his characters call each other retard.  The disabled community has made a concerted effort to get people to recognize that retard used as a pejorative is ableist and wrong and yet here Kadrey is, littering his text with this word.  If this were the only example it would be bad but unfortunately, Kill the Dead is like a primer in how to fit ableism into a text.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fallen by Lauren Kate. Book 1 of the Fallen series

Lucinda Price is a troubled teenager. In her last boarding school there was a fire and the boy she liked died – in very mysterious circumstances. Circumstances for which she was blamed, the shadow of which has hung over her since. Almost as literally as the shadows that follow her wherever she goes, shapes only she can see and hear.

Her past has lead her to Swords and reformatory school where she has to navigate a new place, a new system and friends who aren't what they seem. Right until the moment she finds herself ground zero in a heavenly war and at the heart of a tragic love story that has been repeated every 17 years for centuries on end

Aaand, that's it. I'm good at spin, but I can't really summarise much more. Y'know, usually to summarise plot there actually has to be some plot there.

Lost Girl Season Two, Episode Five: Brotherfae of the Wolves

Dyson has been visited by an old friend and packmate – Kaden. Y'know, I saw this and instantly thought “evil evil! he's so evil”. Because when you get an old blast from the past they're always dodgy and evil. It is known.

In the past Dyson and Kaden were mercenary warriors for the king Aelic – and were feared and lethal warriors. Dyson severed his ties with the king long ago, but now the king is dead after centuries of being involved in warfare and running his own extremely wealthy mercenary company.

We see a lot of flashbacks in this episode to Dyson's time as a warrior, including the last time he dealt with a norn and refused to give his wolf to save a friend's life. His friend ends up being betrayed by the king so the king could make his wife, Kiara, his queen which is why Dyson left the band.

(Also I have to say here because Renee doesn't mention it nearly enough – daaaamn Dyson is smoking. Yes yes he is).

Kaden is here to find a weapon that has been stolen – a Mongolian Death Worm - a massively dangerous weapon. A weapon that has been taken to the docks – Dark Fae territory that Dyson cannot enter. But Bo, as unaligned can! And she does – goes down to the arms dealer and asks for it. No, really, that's her plan. She goes to the arms dealer and asks for it. Well, we already know she's not the brightest spark – someone page Kenzi, I predict someone's going to need a rescue.

Shockingly, Bo is captured (totally didn't see that coming. Bo remains the Superdamsel). Kaden ignores that it's Dark Fae territory and comes in and rescues her (aww, that's normally Kenzi's job). It wouldn't be an episode of Lost Girl if Bo didn't need rescuing. She later sleeps with Kaden to heal

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fangs for the Fantasy podcast, Episode 35

This week we discuss Vampire Diaries, Lost Girl, the Secret Circle, the Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez, Nalini Singh, Caitlin Kittridge's Black London series, JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews, Book 3 of the Kate Daniels series

Derek the werewolf is in over his head, having annoyed Loki's grandson and seeking to free a woman from the grasp of inhuman arena fighters, Kate Daniels finds herself dragged in to help him, save him, avenge him – only to find how much larger things are.

Starting out to save Derek from his love life and aid Saiman with his business dealings, Kate finds herself trying to solve a murder, save her friends life and then having to keep it all from the Beast Lord, Curran himself. The plot only grows deeper and more dangerous as enters the world of shady, underground gladiatorial combat – to the death. She quickly falls from just investigating to having to participate – and win - as the only way to save her friends, the pack and possibly all of Atlanta

As if there weren't enough at stake, her past returns to haunt her as she is driven to reveal more of her abilities and the far reaching plots of Roland, the Master of the Undead, begin to stretch into her territory. She has to chose between revealing her secrets that may cost her her life – or watch her friends and loved ones fall.

I love this book and love this series :). The world is incredible, rich, diverse, strange and unique – and steps outside so many of the standard moulds we have come to expect from urban Fantasy. We saw a lot of non-western cultural traditions in this book, with both the arenas and the primary antagonists – which drew heavily from Indian and far eastern cultural mythology. Both were explained pretty well, with lectures that managed to avoid being boring info dumps but managed to convey background without it just being “ a new magical creature with a foreign sounding name.”

The Secret Circle: Season 1, Episode 3: Loner

After the circle was bound last episode we open with Faye (Mean Girl) discovering she can't use any magic alone at all anymore – and she whines about it, though Diana (Chief Scooby) does remind her of the whole “you nearly murdered someone” thing. The guilt from that seems to have worn off awwwfully quickly. What, 8 hours?

There follows lots of character... not development because they're not developing they're just kind of following the same grooves. The Scoobies follow their stereotypes, Dawn and Charles are creepy and ominous. We're introduced to Luke who is another love interest for Cassie so we can pretend she isn't going to be with Adam. And Sally is increasingly establishing her status of friend and sidekick to Cassie. About the only thing that is developing is Melissa is growing some spine.And, at last, Faye shows some humanity it's nice to see Mean Girl have another side to her – in this case she is very understanding of Nick's (Hot Guy) issues, but also slaps him down for the way he treats Melissa. I'm glad she's not entirely a Mean Girl stereotype – because ye gods that's old.

Adam and Cassie keep making puppy eyes at each other in such a not-fun love triangle. I have a feeling that this plot line is going to get very old very fast. Luke pines after Cassie and then pouts because she isn't all that into him. And Diana has started to notice Cassie and Adam's googy eyes

Diana (Chief Scooby) continues to bring them all together into a friendly lovefest. Which falls apart because Faye is still Mean Girl and Cassie isn't all that keen to be the bestest friends ever with them. We're reminded again that the last Circle ended with death and disaster (just in case we forgot).

And another new character, Zachary, who also knew Cassie's mother and knew about the last Circle – and he instantly takes a triple dose of the creepy and tries to make Cassie admit to being a witch – to stop it all from happening again. He went to school with Cassie's mother and Cassie's friend Heather – who also died in the big old Circle Fire

Zachary later confronts Faye and threatens her – learning that the Circle is bound since Faye has no magic on her own. Charles drops round to see Zachary and silence him – without his magic it doesn't go very well and he gets his arse most soundly kicked. Zachary declares that the only way to stop the new Circle is to kill one of the witches

Zachary goes to the school dance and tries to kill Cassie in an empty part of the school. The whole Circle gathers – facing the full circle he's tossed around like a rag doll pretty easily. Actually I was kind of disappointed, all 6 of them are supposed to be super powered and they say “what can't we do?” and all we get is a little telekinesis? We had storms and fires when they were alone. They could have done something more impressive for the d├ębut of the Circle's power.

On the whole I think this episode was pretty slow. We rewalked the same paths, established characters that have been established – it's the third episode, we need more plot advancement than this, methinks.

Still, the highschool drama has been kept to a minimum which is something I guess :) I still don't hate it. But it's not developing into anything exciting either.