Saturday, December 17, 2011

Being Human U.K. Season One, Episode Five

Oh my goodness, this show keeps getting better and better. This episode opens with George asking what it is about that them, that leads people to drop of jars of jam, by way of apology, for writing pedo on the front door, and Annie announcing her decision to haunt Owen.  George tells Annie that he understands why she wants to haunt Owen, but says that he does not want her to go. Annie replies, "I want to scare him, to make him beg and scream. It's not just about justice; it's more jagged than that." I am glad to see Annie stand up for herself but sad that it is happening after she is already dead.  As we know women die from domestic violence daily but for them death is always the final assault.

At the funeral home, Herrick is holding court and rejoicing over the fact that Mitchell has decided to join them.  Lauren is clearly not impressed by what is going on.  She hints that there is plenty of room for storage and this of course implies their feeding habits.

At the hospital, Mitchell invites Herrick in through what looks to be a back door.  I don't understand why Herrick needs an invite, when the hospital is a public building.  In the elevator, Mitchell tells him about 41 year old Duncan Johnson, who has 5 weeks left to live, because he is dying of AIDS. When Herrick inquires about Duncan's profession, Mitchell tells him that he is an architect. Herrick then proceeds to introduce himself to Duncan, saying that he has a proposition for him.  What dying man is going to turn down that offer?
Back at the house, George calls Owen to complain that the plumbing is on the fritz again, to get him to come over to the house. 

Later, in the hospital cafeteria, Mitchell approaches Josie, a woman who he dated in the 60's.  Though she knows that he is a vampire, she is still shocked to see that he has not aged a day. Mitchell tells her that he shares a house with some friends, and they reminisce about a weekend they spent together. When George interrupts them, Mitchell introduces him to Josie, but when George balks, Mitchell reassures him that she already knows all about them.  George mumbles about talking later and leaves. Josie then tells Mitchell, "that was mean, you just outed him."  Really?  Outing is something that happens to GLBT people with disastrous results, it's not something that happens to imaginary werewolves, and the analogy is absolutely wrong and insensitive. It amounts to yet another example of using the language of the oppressed, to apply to the supernatural. Josie then goes on to tell Mitchell that she is dying of lung cancer, and that there is no hope for her.

Later that day, Owen shows up at the house.  He walks into the kitchen, only to discover that the plumbing is indeed working.  As he leaves the room, Annie is waiting for him. She says, "I am death. I am darkness, vengeance and fury, fire and blood, diamonds and bones, sapphire and steel. Confess Owen, confess." When she walks away from him, Owen taunts her asking , "hey Annie, is that the best you got?"  As Annie stands there absolutely shocked, he laughs dryly. " I should have known that even death would not be a match for even one of your sulks," Owen says.  He dismisses her and walks out of the door. 

Back at the funeral home, Mitchell and Herrick are watching over the body of Duncan.  Mitchell asks Herrick if he would consider talking to Josie.  When Herrick learns that she used to be a dance teacher, he says, "not exactly an essential worker, but come the evolution, we will need to learn how to dance". Lauren overhears the conversation and when Herrick leaves, she tells Mitchell, "You shouldn't do that, let them take someone you care about." When Mitchell asks why not, Lauren replies,"they could become cruel.  It changes you this life."  Mitchell says, "It didn't change me", but Lauren answers, "yes it did, it just took longer." Duncan suddenly sits up, drawing a huge breathe, and as Mitchell rushes to comfort him, Lauren leaves the room.

Back at the house, Annie tells George about Owen's reaction to seeing her. She says, "It makes sense really when you think about it. We were expecting him to react like a sane person, even though this is someone who killed is fiancee, concealed it, and then rented out the crime scene." I feel it necessary to point out that the writers have fallen back on the criminally insane.  We all know that people who are neurologically atypical, are far more likely to hurt themselves before hurting anyone else, and yet in the media, the insane violent person is what is most often depicted.  This is absolutely disableist, because not only does it actively other, it creates unreasonable fear. Annie then decides that she is going to visit Janey, for fear that she will be next.

Mitchell arrives and interrupts the conversation. Annie tries to tell him what has been going on in his absence, but he clearly is not listening to a word she is saying.  George asks Mitchell where he has been and then outright says, "You're back with them."  Mitchell tells him that it is different and that no one is being forced.  He is still angry about what happened with Bernie.  He says humanity is stupid and cruel and that humans are really the monsters. 

The next day, Herrick approaches Josie and says that it's a lot to take in, and that it's about there being another option.  Mitchell tries to tell her that hospitals would be antiquated, and that this would end all famine and all war.  Josie responds, "Being human means being mortal. It means dying. You can't rob people of that.  It's a trick, Christ Mitchell just because they are handing themselves voluntarily it doesn't stop it being a con.  You're offering something you have no right to.  Of course people want eternal life. People want capital punishment, it doesn't make it right. Never a birth, never a death; that's no evolution, that's a full stop." She goes on to ask whether or not Mitchell's friends know about what he is doing, and when he says no, she tells him that this is why he got Herrick to approach her because he knew what she is going to say.

Promo for american horror story’s finale next week: Afterbirth

GBLT people and themes in the Black Dagger Brotherhood

Since I’ve finished this series (so far, until the next book) I’m doing a few posts to analyse various series wide tropes. Previously I’ve looked at how the series treats women, now I’m looking at GBLT issues in the series. I think this is ideal in long series because you can recognise persistent patterns that often make an individual problematic scene far far worse that (for example, one of the women being kidnapped? Not ideal. Nearly every last female love interest being kidnapped, stalked or threatened with such is a whole different level of problematic).

Ok, now buckle in folks, because this is going to be a bumpy ride. Eye protection may be needed.

Let us start with what is probably the most extreme and objectionable element - in fact, it is so extreme that I have difficulty criticising beyond this because it becomes redundant. It’s like complaining that the neighbour’s dog has messed in your garden while it’s busy trying to bite your leg off.

The Omega is the big bad guy. He is the evil god that wishes to destroy all of the vampires out of spite and envy. He is evil, sadistic, genocidal - and literally an animate figure of living darkness. He’s also gay. Yes, animate living shadow is gay. But, it’s far far worse then the simple gay villain trope.

See, the Omega’s weapons in destroying the vampires are the lessers. The lessers are humans (usually rapists, murderers and similar) who are inducted to become undead by having their heart ripped out and the Omega’s blood pumped into them. And he rapes them. In the beginning of the series there was a hint that the Omega was raping his inductees and punishing disobient lessers with the same - but when we reached Lover Mine we’d given up on hinting, there’s definite rape going on. But it gets worse.

See, when the Omega is on the outs with his son (more on that in a moment) he gets a new recruit. And, yes he is raped - but, what’s this? Lash listens in and hears sounds of pleasure - why, the rape victim must be gay! Yes, the animate darkness is raping a man (who is having his blood drained and heart ripped out) and the victim likes it because he’s a gay man. Yes, just pause a moment and let that sink in. now think about how there is a pervasive idea that a gay man cannot be raped because gay men like it. But it gets worse!

Because the Omega is seduced by his rape victim, kicks out his disappointing straight son (hey, see what they did there? The gay man is kicking out his straight offspring for being straight - despite it being the opposite that happens all too often) and sets up his new “boy toy” as the head of the lessers. The rape victim seduces his rapist (that would be the animate living darkness).

Ok, take a deep breath and let that sink in, because we’re going to have to talk some more about rape here in the series - because there’s a lot of it. Including a lot of rape-as-emasculation. The Bloodletter, in his warrior training camp had the fighters spar with each other - and the loser was raped. John Matthew and Zsadist have both been raped - both consider the process emasculation - and in Zsadist’s case, he finds being raped by a man far more shameful and demeaning than being raped by a woman. These victims continue to hold their attacks as something that needs to desperately be kept secret (not being raped by a woman, however) and while many victims may feel that way, it’s never addressed or challenged. There’s never any real attempt to make it anything other than a shameful secret. And between the Omega raping his servants as punishment/to show them whose boss, Zsadist and John Matthew being emasculated by their rapes and the Bloodletter having a rape camp where the big strong men repeatedly rape other men to show how much stronger they are - we have an ongoing theme of male rape victims being seen as lesser men. Not just a theme - it’s writ large and bold and constantly repeated.

Ok, we can move away from the rape now, thank gods and move on to another problem - Blaylock and Saxon, the only 2 gay men in the series and probably the only male vampires in these books who can be considered mild. Polite, restrained. It would probably be less blatant coding if it weren’t for the constant emasculation theme and Blay’s existing to serve without even having the Ahstrux Nohtrum to justify it. Which is something else I have to touch on while I’m on the subject of service - while the rest of the cast are members of the Brotherhood, Blaylock (gay man) and Qhuinn (bisexual man actually seeking a relationship with another man) are not independent members - they’re attached to (and serve as sidekicks for) John Matthew, a straight guy. A definite secondary role.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Review: Heartless by Gail Carriger, Book 4 of the Parasol Protectorate

Our favourite urban fantasy heroine is back. Alexia Maccon, La Diva Tarabotti is back in London and heavily pregnant. But she has a bothersome problem - the vampire hives still want her dead because of the child she carries. The constant murder attempts are really quite tiresome and Alexia is left with a rather dramatic solution - adoption. Having her child adopted by Lord Akeldama, and rather disrupting her own domestic arrangements to be near it. of course, Alexia is a master of disruption - in causing it at least.

Being on rather more polite terms with the Vampire hives, she finds herself pursuing a new mystery. The ghosts of London come to her with a warning - someone is trying to kill the Queen. Naturally, as Muhjah to Queen Victoria, she takes this very seriously indeed.

Her investigation takes many interesting turns, including inducting Ivy Tunstel nee Hisslepenny into the ancient- well, rather new order of the Parasol Protectorate, investigating the attempt on the Queen’s life 15 years ago that involved Lord Maccon’s old pack and finding that absolutely nothing was what it seems

And then she finds herself in the extremely tricky position of playing host to a vampire hive of all things. As you may well imagine, vampires and werewolves do not make happy bedfellows.

As ever, except for some problems we’ll mention later, Alexia Maccon is one of the best protagonists in Urban Fantasy. She’s independent, she’s strong, she’s intelligent and she’s fierce. I adore the stress and and conniptions she causes all around her. I love the thinly veiled wariness the other characters regard her with. I love how she forges through society doing things her way no matter what. I love how, even in the most extreme circumstances, she is calm, collected and snarky - and I love just how screamingly funny she is.

And she doesn’t have to be super woman to be all this, her powers are not extensive or miraculous, certainly not in comparison to her supernatural companions. Often in Urban Fantasy a strong female character is depicted with extreme skills or super powers - Alexia Maccon needs neither to be strong and awesome.

The story is exciting and has many twists in it. I was sure I had figured out the truth before the end and then turned out to be very wrong. We have some wonderful world building and insight into Alexia’s father, the Woolsey pack’s history and so much more of this fascinating and complicated world. I never guessed at some of the revelations, was surprised and fascinated and am left hungry for even more.

I love many of the side-characters - Ivy Tunstel’s acceptance of Alexia’s status and induction into the Parasol Protectorate made me laugh out loud. Lord Maccon’s wasn’t in this book a great deal but I still love his exasperation with the world around him that has been heavily Alexia’d.

And, of course, this series is screamingly funny. Again, I laughed out loud and again I spent most of the book chuckling away. And though it’s a repetition of what we’ve said in past reviews, we’d still be wrong not to praise this book for its excellent impression of time and place. I have never before read a Paranormal Steampunk that has such an evocative sense of Victorian era London. You can believe the setting and it feels real.

It really comes to a point where it’s hard to adequately praise the positive elements of this book without just gushing and repeating superlative adjectives until I get dizzy from the fanpoodling

If this was the end of the review, I’d even now be joyously pasting 5 Fangs at the bottom and rhapsodising some more in conclusion. Alas, it is not the case, because in this beautiful gem of a book, we have a glaring flaw that we cannot ignore.

Lord Akeldama and his crew.

Review of American Horror Story Season One Episode 11: Birth

This episode opens with Tate as a little boy playing in the murder house.  He goes into the basement and is scared by a creature named Thadeus.  Tate is saved by Nora, who tells him that if Thadeus scares him again, he simply has to say no go away. Fast forward to present day, when Tate comes across Nora crying. He says to her, "life is too short for so much sorrow."  Tate tells her that he cannot give her Vivien's baby, because he is in love with Violet, but she says, "I can and I will. That baby is mine."

Vivien is being released from the hospital, and so Ben decides to drag Violet out of the house to pick her up.  He tells Violet that he does not trust her, and that he does not trust Tate. Gee she only missed 17 consecutive days of school bringing a truant officer to the door, but now he cares.  Violet tries to blow him off saying that she is not feeling well, but at this point, Ben is so frustrated, that he does not care.  He tells her that they are going to pick up her mother, and then go straight to the airport. Violet gives up and lies down in he back of the car so that Ben will not see her disappear. Just like all of the other ghosts, Violet cannot leave the house.

Back in her room Violet asks Tate what she is going to do. She is worried that if  her parents find out that she killed herself, that they "will go insane, literally insane this time." Violet worries that she will become like all of the other ghosts, "prisoners in a windowless world," but Tate comforts her saying that everything will be okay because they have each other.

In the nursery, Chad and Patrick are painting when Tate and Violet walk in.  Violet questions who asked them to decorate the nursery, and Chad responds, "Let me break it down for you sweetheart, this is our house and we're having twins."  He goes on to tell her that their surrogate is Vivien.  Tate the rapist and father now suddenly has concerns and steps up to add, "you pathetic homos couldn't steal the shit out of your own ass."  This must be some kind of record.  American Horror Story actually waited until eight minutes into an episode before throwing in some homophobia. Violet does not feel any fear because she knows that Ben and Vivien have plans to leave, but Chad tells her that as long as she is there, her parents aren't going anywhere.  In a shot at Tate, Chad goes on to ask, "were you a c section, is there an existing zipper we might use?"  Tate knows that this is directed at him and so he says, "watch it you damn queen."  Now that Chad and Patrick are dead however, they have no reason to fear Tate anymore. 

In desperation, Violet turns to Constance.  She asks Constance to get in touch with Billy Dean in the hope of getting rid of Chad and Patrick.  Constance decides that she can handle this by herself and so she marches upstairs to the nursery. Constance tells Chad that what he is trying to do is "unnatural."  She even goes as far as saying that, "man shall not lie with man. It is an abomination. Why can't you people content yourself with having pets? Why must you subject an innocent child to your perversions?"  What I loved about this scene, was Chad standing up for himself.  He first points out that studies have shown that children raised by same sex couples grow up just fine.  When Constance continues with her tirade asserting that she gave birth, and that this is something that Chad will never understand.  Chad makes a point of reminding her about the numbers of her dead offspring walking around in the house.  Just because a parent is straight, does not mean that they are a good parent.  It is then that  Constance slips, and tells Chad that he will not put his hands on her grandchild.  When Constance says that he is not fit to raise children, Chad responds that he has no plans to raise the kids, and that he intends to smother them when they reach the age of 1 or 1 1/2.

I love that scene primarily because it involved someone finally pointing out that homophobia is wrong and telling Constance off.  For far to long, Constance as a character has been allowed to say absolutely anything without any repercussions.  The viewing audience is to assume that Constance is simply vile; however, we all know that attitudes like hers exist in society, and are actively tolerated. Isms like homophobia should not be erased from our viewing, because it is part of society; however, unless they are actively called out as Chad did, they remain an acceptable thought process.  It only took American Horror Story eleven episodes to get a clue about this.

GBLT Hollow Characters: Lesbian Shark, Gay Uncle, Gay Maris

One of things we often complain about in this genre is the absolutely absence of GLBT characters. This is especially true when it comes to the trans community who are particularly erased.  It should be noted that erasure is its own form of oppression as we typically deny historically marginalised people the right to take up space and participate in society.

The other sign of the coin are authors who decide to include a GLBT character but then give such ridiculous portrayals, that erasure almost seems like a gift. There are many ways a GBLT portrayal can fail - stereotyping, grossly offensive tropes but today we’re looking at the Lesbian Shark - a trope Christopher Moore introduced us to, the Gay Uncle, brought to us by M.L.N Hanover and the Gay Maris, introduced to us by Teen Wolf.

There are sharks in nature that cannot stop swimming. If they do, oxygenated blood doesn’t pass their gills and they die - literally drown. And so it is with the lesbian (or gay male) shark. If they stop mentioning that they are a lesbian, fail to refer to it every 5 seconds, then they disappear.

So it is with Jane in A Dirty Job. She’s a  lesbian. This is pretty much all she is. Whatever scene she appears in, her sexuality will be mentioned. If she has a conversation, there’s a good chance her being a lesbian will be raised at some point in the discussion. This is the sole reason for this character existing. She is a walking avatar of her sexuality, if she weren’t a lesbian there would be nothing there at all. She’d have nothing to talk about, nothing to do. her sole actions are supporting the main character and making sure there’s no chance we missed her being a lesbian. This feeds the trope that when someone is GBLT that that remains the only defining characteristic of a person - they are nothing but an avatar of GBLT-ness. Any other traits about this character are not worth depicting (which presents being GBLT as excessively weird and overwhelming) or are completely absent. And that absence in turn creates the idea that all GBLT people are the same - homogeneous with only one real feature rather than unique individuals.

There is also no attempt to develop her as an actual character or an actual person - she is simply the lesbian sister, removing her as a person and instead turning her more into an extension of the protagonist.

In Unclean Spirits, M.L.N Hanover introduced us to the Gay Uncle who wasn’t.  From the very beginning of the book we know that Eric is dead and what matters about him is that he has dedicated his life to fighting evil spirits and he is an uncle. His niece Janey knows nothing about him and fixates on his supposed sexuality.  For a large part of the book, every reference that includes Eric comes with the announcement that he was gay. Even the fact that he owned several properties is enough to cause consternation because it is believed that he was gay.  My personal favourite however has to be the gay uniform of the White shirt because that was all Eric had in his closet.  After you have reached the point of being irritated with the continual reference to Eric’s sexuality, it was revealed, ZOMG he was not gay.

As appalling as Hanover’s not-gay Eric was, it represents a typical approach to introducing GLBT characters in a book.  The reader is continually beaten over the head with the reminders that the author is talking about a gay character in case you missed the first 20-30 references.  Their sexuality becomes the most important thing about their identity, obscuring anything else about them as a person.  

Enter to Win The Fangs for Fantasy E-Reader Christmas Giveaway

Hello everyone, when Paul and I first started Fangs for the Fantasy, we saw it as a place to critically discuss a genre that we love very much. Urban Fantasy often gets a pass on its many fails because its nature encourages critics not to look at the under lying messages in the stories. Overtime our little project has become a vibrant community.This is why we decided to hold an extra special giveaway this month to thank everyone for turning our blog into a place with lively discussion and a new online home.

One lucky person will win:
Yes, a 7.0 TFT ereader with earphones for listening to MP3 and MP4, on USB Cable and a Power Adapter.  The ereader itself understand various popular formats.  If you love to read, this is the prize for you.  You will be able to store hundreds of books and take them with you everywhere you go.  That's right, your library will fit in the palm of your hand.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Is True Blood's Rutina Wesley Michonne?

Fans of the comics The Walking Dead have been speculating for some time about when Michonne will enter the series and who will play her.  Fans of HBO's True Blood, know that the season ended with Tara, played by Rutina Wesley with the back of her head shot off.  We know that Wesley is returning to True Blood but I can only believe that it this point her role with be much less reduced. This would of course free up some time for Wesley to pursue other things.

At this time there are several the web is a buzz with the suggestion that Wesley has been cast to play the now iconic role of Michonne.  The most reliable site that I could find reporting this is  How true the rumour is I have no idea, but after her shoddy treatment as Tara on True Blood I would love to see Wesley in a more empowered role.  What do you think Rutina Wesley would make a good Michonne?

The Winner of The Rise of the Governor Giveaway is......

Hello everyone, today is the day when we announce the winner of our latest giveaway.  This month we chose to give away on hardcover copy of:

Without further ado, the winner of this awesome book is.........

Cori Melvin

Cori, you will be contacted by email for your mailing address.  Please note that you have 48 hours to collect your prize or a new winner will be chosen.  Thanks so much for entering everyone and please remember to keep check back for new and exciting giveaways.

Review: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare, book 2 of the Infernal Devices series

After the last book, Clockwork Angel, Mortmain is still at large. He may be only human, but with considerable supernatural contacts Mortmain aims to capture Tessa and destroy the Shadowhunters - and who knows what else - with his army of clockwork automatoms. He is a threat to the Clave and all it stands for.

But things are not so simple - politics in the Clave threaten Charlotte’s position in the institute. Capturing Mortmain becomes not only a matter to protect themselves, but also to hold onto the London Institue. The quest for Mortmain takes them across the country, all the while wary of his agents and subtle, long term schemes.  And, more, Mortmain’s subtle conspiracy continues, with his friends and allies in the most unlikely places.

As if the threat to life as they know it wasn’t enough, Tessa is still ignorant of exactly what she is and what it means, as well as her brother’s betrayal and, of course, her conflicted and powerful feelings about Jem and Will. Made all the more fraught by the grave revelations of Will’s past.

This book felt padded. I’m not saying that’s intention, it could be the author’s writing style (I suspect so given the other books I’ve read). There is an awful lot of excess words here that you have to dredge through, There are specific issues but the basic is that 1 word isn’t used if 10 could possibly fit. It’s long winded, when things are described, they’re described in excessive detail and we have a lot of descriptions that are, frankly, unnecessary. Someone can walk across a room without us knowing how they do it, their surroundings, their gait or anything else. We can have a conversation without internal monologue, a blow-by-blow description of facial expressions or random irrelevant things the speakers are doing at the same time. If a character has been described it’s unnecessary to repeatedly re-describe them in later scenes.

And speaking of long winded - literary quotes. Maybe there are people who enjoy having the characters constantly refer to and quote classic literature and poetry, but to me it got very old - and very pretentious - very fast. In fact, not to be cruel, it felt like the author trying to impress us.

Cover Snark: Disembodied Women

Urban fantasy is one of the few genres in which not only are the authors largely women but the protagonist are as well. In many cases it is clear that the authors try to frame their characters as strong and empowered women and this why the disembodied women that is oft featured on the covers totally conflicts with the text that they are meant to describe.  Disembodied women is a method of dehumanizing women specifically encouraging society view women as a collection of parts, which are often sexualised rather than as whole beings. These images only show enough to titillate and suggest that all that is important about these women are their bodies. It is yet another example of irony that these covers were created specifically to attract the male lens when the readers of these series are largely women. 

 Neither of these images allow us to engage with the characters presented - this is Genevieve Snow, the deadly assassin?  This is Kira, the Shadow Chaser, warrior for the light? Because I don’t see them - I see bodies.

But why settle for something as simple as cutting off the eyes and face of a woman? We can reduce them much more than that! There’s still so much to humanise there - far simpler to just go for just a body part - a back for example. Or a set of artfully posed legs.

These bodies are reduced so much to objects that they’re not even bodies any more - they’re pieces, almost like a disembodied corpse or mannequin. And when I think of the characters in this book - strong, fierce Elena and rebellious, independent Paige, it’s even more ridiculous to see them reduced to a bare back and a set of legs. This is pretty much the antithesis of what these characters are - but there they are - body parts.

Looking at these characters you would think that they save the day by showing a little leg and lots of tits and ass.  It’s like their weapons are there for decoration.  Why did any them learn to fight at all when all they had to do was get some breast and butt implants. cannot defeat the booty.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review, Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward, Book 9 of the Black Dagger Brotherhood

In the last book, Lover Mine, we saw Payne, daughter of the Scribe Virgin, twin of Vishous, be badly injured in her sparring match with Wrath. With a severe spinal injury she needs desperate help and soon – enter Manuel Manello (I was going to say something about the name but then I remembered Vishous, Rhage, Phury and the unpronouceable Xhex and decided against it), a surgeon who used to work with Dr. Jane, Vishous’ partner.
Of course, Manuel meets Payne and and the twu love begins. But Payne needs to adapt to the world after centuries being imprisoned by the Scribe Virgin as well as loving a man for the first time. And then her heritage kicks in – and she has her powers as a child of the Scribe Virgin to also adapt to. To complicate matters, Xcor, son of the Bloodletter, has travelled from Europe to the US – seeking to destabilise Wrath and hunting Payne, the woman who killed the Bloodletter.

Meanwhile Manuel has his world opened up to the existence of the vampires and the lessers and has to deal with the fallout of the Brother’s altering his memory while he does his best to remember Payne. 
On top of that, we have the lessers are continuing the new tactic of mass conversions – for the first time the Brother’s face literal armies of lessers arrayed against them – and with that the injury rate sky rockets.

At the same time Vishous finally comes to terms with his past, how that has affected his relationship with Dr.Jane and the huge issues that have been raised that he has never dealt with or worked through.

In this book we returned to having a large number of side plots running at the same time – but it was pretty well balanced; too much focus on Payne and Manuel would have been rather dull with relatively little plot between them, beyond, of course, either lots of sex or some extra convoluted make-plot. So, the side-plots I was generally happy to see. I look forward to seeing more from Xcor and the lessers, both of which promise for some major plot and world development with 

Ok, I’m not sure why Xcor wants to take down the king or why, given the prejudices of the glymeria, he thinks he could replace him. Nor do I think that the Omega’s new tactic of mass conversion is even remotely sensible given the Dhestroyer prophecy – it doesn’t make a lot of sense. But neither of them are especially world or story breaking – and both can be explained away.

Review: A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

Reading this book is like eating a big rich chocolate cake – that’s attached to the mains supply. It’s tasty and wonderful but you keep getting majorly unpleasant electric shocks that ruin the whole experience.  Charlie Asher is a beta male, unassuming, snarky, wildly amusing second hand shop owner in San Francisco. Burdened with an over-active imagination he fumbles merrily through life in an erratic, silly and endearing fashion.

And he collects souls. He finds souls from the recently deceased imbued in objects and passes them on to new people to learn and grow. And if he doesn’t then the forces of the underworld will rise up and unleash horror on the world.

Or he can drop illegal fireworks on them, or fight them with his ultra-nerdy sword-cane, whatever works :)

And if push comes to shove, you’d be amazed what his daughter can do.

But something isn’t going right, something’s screwing up – and for once it isn’t Charlie Asher – and the underworld is raising its ugly head above ground

I’ve seen books that put mundane people in fantastic abilities and situations, but rarely ones that do it as well as this. The main character feels very real, even though everyone is rather cartoonishly over-done (despite this, there is a strong sense of realism even when the characters are all rather overdone). His constant bemusement and great great silliness comes off as cute, endearing and immensely amusing to me. I can believe Charlie, even when he’s throwing fire works down the drain, threatening people with his stick or rambling away with his ridiculously silly internal monologues.

In some ways it does have a cartoonish feel, in the sense that “yes this isn’t realistic, but it’s not that meant to be, roll with it and giggle”. It manages to make all the exaggeration seem not overdone or break the sense of disbelief.

And the story is good. The story is compelling and draws you in pretty early. It’s intriguing and is revealed at a decent pace, never so slow that you grow tired of it, and never so fast that you find yourself overwhelmed with unnecessary information. It’s mysterious and original and odd enough to keep you reading just to see what’s going to happen next and where the story’s going (as well as to see what antics the characters get up to).

It’s not exactly enthralling stay-up-until-the-sun-rises-because-I-can’t-put-it-down or close, but it’s still immense fun. It never stopped being interesting and enjoyable. 

The characters never stop being people you interested in. You do care about them, you do want to see what happens to them, and you do want to see what antics they get up to. And, above all, it’s screamingly, hilariously funny.

It also has some surprisingly poignant moments of grief and sadness that are beautifully well written, especially mourning. I have to give kudos to the rather extremely wonderful way this book presents death and grieving – but I have to say I’m more than a little uncomfortable that perfectly typical, cleansing, healthy, non-medically dangerous grief is constantly medicated. People can mourn without pills – I can’t imagine time-release morphine as a standard part of the grieving process for all people. I don’t think grief over your parents dying is really something that needs medicating unless it is extreme or prolonged – we’re meant to be sad when a loved one passes. It’s not something that needs to go away.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review of Blood Rights by Kristen Painter Book One of the House of Comarré

I have to say that I was quite impressed by this book despite the absolute absence of  GLBT people and problematic  references to people of colour. Blood rights is essentially the story of what are commonly called dhamphirs.  In this series they are known as comarré.  They have been breed for the potency of their blood and have developed their own form society alongside that of the various forms of vampires.  All vampires must drink human blood to survive, but only the noble vampires who are descended from fallen angels are able to afford to purchase the blood rights to a comarré.

Painter's world was vast and the following list includes the list of supernatural bodied mentioned in the series: Nothos, which are hellhouds, Varcolai, a race of shifters descended from fallen angels and animals, Fae, who are actually another race descended from the fallen angels, fringe vampires, who are descended from Judas Iscariot, Anthema who are vampires who have been cast out of noble society and finally, Castus Sanguis are the fallen angles themselves.

Chyrsabelle is a very special comarré and no other has had a price in the millions paid for the rights to their blood.  On the night of the ceremony which would grant her, her freedom after a hundred years of servitude, her patron is killed.  Chrysabelle must flee into the kine (read: human world)  world in the hope of disappearing and finding safety.  Unfortunately for her, Tatiana is fast on her heels, because she wants the ring of Chrysabelle's former patron in the belief that this will make her ruler of the vampires.

Chrysabelle meets up with Mal  in a human vampire bar where he tries to help her escape because immediately recognizes her for what she is - a comarré.  Chrysabelle, quickly stabs him just inches below his heart and makes her escape.  When next they meet, Mal is less trusting but in the end, determines to help her free her aunt, who has been kidnapped by Tatiana and clear her name.  What is interesting about the relationship between Mal and Chrysabelle, is that he continually attempts to act as her hero and she consistently reminds him that she is capable of taking care of herself.  He has a habit of reminding Chrysabelle that she is a comarré, and therefore no match for a vampire, let alone a vampire of royal blood.  This is of course is a sexist patriarchal streak, but Chrysabelle has little patience for this.  She spends much of the book proving to him that she is more than capable of defending her self.  The comarré are not the helpless supplicants that the vampires have come to believe that they have a right to, instead they are a fierce group of warrior humans awaiting the day when it may become necessary for them to stand against the very monsters they now call master.  

Lost Girl: Season 2, Episode 12: Masks

Lauren has a show down with the Ash – and she’s not happy. Unsurprisingly, imprisonment and indentured servitude doesn’t win you a whole lot of loyalty and happy funsies from your employees. But the new Ash has a bombshell to drop – the curse on Nadia was placed by the old Ash to lure Lauren into service. Of course, the new Ash knows who did the curse – and he can sort it all out. So long as Lauren returns to work…

Meanwhile, Kenzi is organising a not-very-surprising party for Bo – and it turns out that none of these fae are very good at keeping secrets. But that’s ok, we’ve all seen how observant Bo is. Kenzi continues the elaborate planning though everything is going wrong and I’m kind of eye rolling here because the few times we see Kenzi  (and Hale for that matter) doing something independent they end up doing something that revolves around Bo. While planning the party she meets Nate, a man she had a crush on when she was 6 and has apparently obsessed over ever since.

And Dyson is having relationship angst over him and Ciara – or his general emotional angst ever since he came back from the norn when he gave up his love for Bo

Anyway, to actual plot - The Ash tells Bo that he knows who cursed Nadia – a dark fae in the Congo called Chombe but to break the curse she must do so without telling Lauren – proving utter selflessness by not telling them of the amazing thing they’ve done for them. So Bo is off to “Africa.” Yes Africa. They all talk about Africa, even the fae travel agent. Africa’s a big place, you may want to be a trifle more specific. And zing, Bo travels in a blink of an eye to a rough wooden hut in the middle of jungle.

Once Upon a Time, Season 1, Episode 7: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

After the last episode, Emma learned that the Sheriff, Graham, was boffing the mayor. And we have the complicated scene now with the Sheriff explaining himself To Emma, Emma saying he doesn’t need to explain himself to her – why does he care what she thinks of his relationship and him worrying because he feels he’s lost his respect – all with lots of oozing sexual tension until we have a kiss. To which Emma very firmly sets him down (I love Emma, did I mention). Desperate “to feel something” (my mind keeps translating that to “I’m sooo horny!”) he turns to Madam Mayor for some action.

In fairyland we look at the Evil Witch (Madam Mayor) in her evil castle (you can see it’s evil, spikes are totally in among the evil set) is grieving with Snow White over Snow’s dead father – and the Evil Witch’s dead husband (yes, we have an evil step-mother, of course we do). Naturally, among the tears and sobbing it’s clear that Witchy was the one behind the father’s death (of course) and she is plotting merrily to kill Snow as well (in revenge for something apparently – which I’m still curious about). She plots with her magic mirror (the token black character) to find a heartless murderer completely bereft of mercy to take out snow (hey, she’s looking in a mirror – and she can’t see one?) Why! What she needs is a huntsman!

To the woods! And we find a hunter (our Sherriff Graham) killing a deer – and crying over it and promising to feed his puppy (ok wolf). If this is the guy they end up hiring to be the heartless killer, they totally need to sack their Human Resources department.

Yes, the Evil!Witch!Queen decides he’s perfect after seeing him kill a man who insulted his wolf – and we learn he has been raised by wolves. Ok, I take it back, Queen, you need to hire yourself a Human Resources department. See, this is why evil always fails in these shows – no good staff. The Queen thinks he’s heartless and cruel because he was raised by wolves – definitely need to check resumes more carefully. In exchange for outlawing the hunting of wolves, the Huntsman agrees to fetch Snow White’s heart

He’s escorting Snow White along the path, all alone, but no, this is Snow White in fairy land, who is smart and crafty and kicks arse, not the wet lettuce Mary Margaret. She quickly spots what he’s up to and gives him a good belt with a tree branch. Unfortunately rather than flee, Snow stops to write a letter – recognising flight as not helping since she’s being chased by a tracker. The letter is for the Evil!Witch!Queen – the contents of which cause the Weepy Huntsman to cry and let Snow go.

Huntsmen returns to the Evil!Witch!Queen (wearing black leather that really suits him) with a letter that is full of Snow White’s kindness and nobility and compassion (and Wet Lettuceness) and a fake heart. Which the Evil!Witch!Queen sees through – and punishes him by taking his heart and turning him into her slave. And since kisses and bedchambers are involved, this clearly means raped sex slave

Monday, December 12, 2011

Fangs for the Fantasy podcast, episode 45

This week we discuss:

Heartless by Gail Carriger
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
American Horror Story
Once Upon A Time

Game Of Thrones: Season 2 "Cold Winds" Tease

April seems so far away. At least we have teaser videos to tide us over for now.

The Black Dagger Brotherhood: Treatment of women

Having finally finished the Black Dagger Brotherhood series (until the next book comes out, anyway) I feel a profound sense of relief. Not that there weren’t enjoyable elements - the story in the background was amusing and the snark was delicious - but there was also a whole lot of trainwreck going on here. there’s a lot I could talk about here (and already have and no doubt will in the future) but altogether it’s a book in itself. So today I’m going to look at the treatment of women in the series and why it often caused me to roll my eyes so much I think I got friction burns.

Firstly, I have to look at the treatment of women in this series. The Dudebros (as the Brotherhood will now be known because of their eternally awful language and behaviour. And not just -ism based, but also the slightly ridiculous ghetto-wannabe-tough guy speech they use) all have a purpose and reason in their life. They’re warriors driven to defend their race from extinction (even if they do spend more time getting drunk and getting laid in dodgy clubs). This is their reason for being and their passion. Now let’s look at the ladies:

Beth - dead end journalist job that she thinks has no future. Is sad and lonely and pretty hopeless. Mary - dead-end job she doesn’t enjoy, beneath her skill level she’s not happy and has medical worries. Marissa - wanders around the edge of parties being sad and lonely. No, really, this is what she does. Bella - I have no idea what she did, hang around her home trying to escape her brother’s suffocating presence. Ehlena was a nurse with a family - and wealth and position. Cormia - a virgin priestess who didn’t enjoy it very much. Dr. Jane has a job! she’s a surgeon - but she has no advancement prospects and has to leave the town to go any further and is unhappy... Xhex? Exists to be Rehvenge’s gopher and then loses that and is just kind of drifting and Payne lived her entire life as a prisoner, a comatosed one for most of it

And what happens? In swoops their Dudebro and their old life ends, entirely. They quit their jobs, drop any friends they had (assuming they had any. Most of these women had no-one and seemed to be in a holding pattern until their man showed up. Life begins when the Dudebro arrives), everything they had ends and all ties are cut - Dr. Jane even faked her own death (well, sort of since death was involved).

Sure, to some degree the same happens with Butch and Manuel - but, in Butch's case joining the Brotherhood and leaving humanity becomes his story. He’s not Butch, the human hanger on or Marissa’s love interest - he’s turned into a vampire and becomes the Dhestroyer, essential tool in the war against the lessers, mentioned in prophesy, the bringer of the end of the Omega. He’s more integrated and more a part of the Dudebro story and world than Marissa, the vampire, is. He's integral to the series - not her.

Even Manuel – he couldn’t just join the Dudebros, he, alone of all the human love interests, maintains his real world ties. And like Butch, he can claim kinship with Wrath – unlike any of the women, he needs to have his own link to the Dudebros to justify his presence, (even Payne has her place through Vishous) he needs his own links, he can’t have a presence through his lover like Mary or Beth or Cormia or Marissa or Xhex, or Bella, or even Ehlena and Jane

And after they have their Dudebro story and are happily ever after brushed aside. No, really, their stories pretty much end there - we see Beth in passing as an extra appendage for Wrath and Dr. Jane wanders around being the angst receiver for Vishous but that’s about it. Are Mary, Ehlena, Marissa and Bella even still alive? We see the other Dudebro’s drifting in and out but these women have pretty much fallen off the planet. Their own stories end there, they become an extra appendage of the man they’re linked to - and not even a big, useful appendage like a limb. They become toes or little fingers. Once their romance is established their stories are no longer relevant or worthy of our attention.

Ok, now let’s look at this Madonna/whore thing we have going on in the books. All of the heroines are largely not sexually active. Payne, Cormia and Marissa are virgins. Beth, as a pre-trans vampire, was sexually uninterested. Ehlena had had a past relationship that ended badly and was then more consumed with job and family, Xhex had had a bad previous relationship and then didn’t get involved too often because of her Symphath secret, Mary and Jane were either too sad or too busy and Bella, as a “female of worth” in vampire society was not having sex.

Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire, Book 1 of the October Daye series

October Daye, fae Changeling, has a mystery to solve.

Of course, her last time investigating for the fae didn’t end well. In fact it ended with her spending 14 years as a fish. 14 years in which she lost everything, her mortal partner, her daughter, her job, her friends, her life – everything. She’s not eager to jump back in there.

But her friend, Evening Winterrose one of the few, if not only, friends she has managed to keep and the one who helped her put her life back together has been murdered. Horrifically, and brutally murdered with cold iron, the worst possible death of a fae. If that were not enough to inspire her to act, Evening called a curse on October before she died – a curse that demanded she find Evening’s killer or be destroyed by the curse. 

October must make contact with her old liege, her old friends and her enemies, juggle her old issues and handle one of the most powerful magical artefacts of legend all with the limited magic of a Changeling.

October Daye is an interesting character, despite some issues I have with her that I’ll go into later. She’s very much the bottom rung of fae society being a changeling and surrounded by forces that are much more powerful than her and always will be. She has her own place but isn’t comfortable with it and it’s clear throughout this book that she really doesn’t want to be here, doesn’t want to be dragged back into the fae world and isn’t comfortable navigating its murky currents

The world heavily involves the fae – which is always a favourite of mine. And it has an extremely diverse range of fae both shown and referred to, pointing to a lot of knowledge on the author’s part and a dedication to include more than the usual well trodden ground. I’m certainly eager to read more about it and I think I’d be tempted to read the next book simply for greater elaboration on the world.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Grimm, Season 1, Episode 6: The Three Bad Wolves

Like the last episode this episode we start with a fairy tale quote – the 3 little pigs this time. This gives me a vague hope for bacon... hmmmm… bacon.

We begin with a rather mellow guy with a shake weight, peppermint schnapps and an exploding house. Naturally exploding house draws in Nick and Hank to investigate and lo, furriness! Mellow Shake-Weight guy (Hap) is a supernatural being. And his brother’s house exploded the same way last month only his brother was in it at the time. (It certainly beats huffing and puffing one's house down). The only enemies Hap can think of are the large number of creditors he owes (and really, it works the other way. Why blow up the guy who owes you money? Corpses are really bad at making repayments).

Hap’s friend comes to pick him up and let him stay for a few days to let him get on his feet – and it’s Eddie! Moving to Eddie’s house we learn Eddie’s extremely obsessive schedule (to the minute) and obsessive control of his house – this is going to be a comic room-mate from hell situation. Did I mention how much I loved Eddie? Because Eddie makes this show.

And we have biker wolf woman stalking around the ruins – and it’s Angelina - Hap’s sister, Eddie’s ex-girlfriend. Yes, this is becoming more soapy by the minute – 3 Blutbaden. 3 Big Bad Wolves? Not normally the way the story goes. Angelina is a little more… high strong than the other Blutbaden and not very happy working with Nick, a Grimm. This perturbs Eddie because he’s just had his carpet cleaned. Eddie’s reserve is slowly cracked however, by Angelina and her considerably less restrained ways – and pushing him back to his old, wild habits.

The fire investigator points to a weird coincidence – yes it’s suspicious but there’s no suggestion of foul play and both are natural looking fire – oh and there’s insurance to pay out. The older brother had life insurance that Hap inherits – and if Hap dies, Angelina inherits it.

Nick isn’t exactly frilled with Angelina, does some research into Blutbaden and their weak spots and checks up on her.  Finding a copy of a picture he found in the ruins of Hap’s house – with the same face erased – and another supernatural creature.

In the meantime, Eddie and Angelina go running in the forest – and Hap gets shot by said supernatural creature. Of course Eddie and Angelina have to explain why they abandoned Hap – and why there is blood on Angelina’s clothes. Eddie describes himself as lapsed. On the one hand I’m leery in the extreme of appropriating real world issues for fantasy useage – and addiction is certainly one of them. And yes, Eddie, with his carefully controlled life, his carefully controlled instincts, his struggle to control himself, his careful regimen hold his life together – isn’t the worst depiction of carefully controlled addiction or needs I’ve seen especially with the descriptions of his routine earlier in the episode.

Being Human U.K. Season One, Episode Four

This episode begins with Mitchell standing outside, smoking a cigarette and delivering the following soliloquy. It was so powerful, I decided to share it in full.

"Where do I belong? Where do I fit? Who are my people? Where do my loyalties lie?  We all choose our tribe, it's our need to belong, to live within boundaries, 'cause it's scary on the outside, on the fringes. Some labels are forced on us. They mark us, set us apart 'till we're like ghosts, just drifting through other people lives -- but only if we let the labels hold. You can piss your whole life away trying out who you might be.  It's when you have worked out who you are, that you can really start to live|.

The scene shifts to Mitchell attacking Seth, looking for Lauren.  Herrick walks into the room and says that Mitchell is always hurting her. "You just keep hurting her. You recruit her that's fine, then you just leave her. She wakes up with us, she doesn't know where she is, she's still calling for you. So fine, we pick up the pieces best we can. Then, Jesus Christ. Then, you try and take her back". Mitchell tells Herrick that Lauren came to him. Not satisfied with that answer Herrick says, "where else was she going to go? She couldn't exactly go to child find. When I recruited you, I didn't abandon you. I took care of you. Do you know why? 'Cause it was my responsibility." Mitchell protests that he was helping her; however, Herrick is not still not impressed. "What by getting her into your fad? You know what, does this have to do with you and your furry friend, raiding the fairy box, pretending to be human? It's a game. Meeting in hotels like what? Lovers? You rip her mortality away, and then you try and patch it up with this scraps of human behaviour, that is cruel Mitchell. Why can't you just let her be the thing you made her.?  Mitchell points out that Herrick forced her to screw a man and then kill him. Herrick tells him to go and do his thing, and get it out of his system, and that there will always be a place for him there, just like there was for Lauren. 

Back at the house, Annie is sweeping up broken dishes.  George walks into the room all dressed in Black clothes and white running shoes, and asks if he is dressed to flash.  Honestly, he looks incredibly geeky.  When he leaves the room, Mitchell asks Annie, if the mug moved on it's own, but Annie denies that it did. Seconds later, George comes in, wearing an even more hideous shirt.  There are couches from the 70's desperate for the material that went into that shirt. Mitchell asks if he plans to tell Nina that he cross dresses. Okay, why demean him like that?  It's obvious that George has no taste and the times he does dress in women's clothing it's because he has no choice due to the change.  It feels wrong to use naturally gender variant people to shame George.

The drawers start to move on their own, and Mitchell asks when did this start to happen.  Annie responds, "When I found out about Owen. This could be perfectly natural. You find out that your fiancee murdered you, and you become a throwing things about ghost." Mitchell simply says, "poltergeist".  Annie responds, "see you, you know the terms. You understand how this works.  Do you think I can channel it? I have been dying to get behind that freezer and clean it". Mitchell tells her that cleaning the kitchen is not the best way to deal.  George enters the room wearing a simple shirt, which actually is the best so far, but Annie tells him that it looks like he can't be arsed. 
Mitchell goes outside during the day and notices a bunch of boys bullying another.  These kids start to push Mitchell and ask him what he is going to about it.  When his eyes turn all Black, the bullies run away.  Bernie thanks him and says that he could have handled it himself.  When Bernie's mom Fleur shows up, she thanks Mitchell for saving Bernie, and invites him in for a cup of tea.  

In the house, Fleur says that the kids picking on Bernie are little shits. Fleur says that Bernie is different because he is sensitive and kind. Bernie answers, "Mom, you make me sound gay".  I was relieved when Fleur immediately corrected him, saying that she would tell his uncles that he said that. It was absolutely necessary, after the opening scene in which a father and a son, pulled away from George as he was returning home obviously women's clothing. Fleur continues saying, "There is no shame in being sensitive, is there Mitchell? Of course you can't blame the children, not when you consider the parents. You know we're not born assholes."  I love this entire scene, because it recognizes that we actively teach children to hate.

When George gets over to Nina's, she tells him that she has to cover someone's shift.  When Nina notices that he dressed up, socially awkward George says that her commitment to her job is so passionate and attractive. Nina says we may not make the restaurant, but I still have an hour before I have to leave.  He thinks that she is suggesting take away, but she clearly meant sex.  George starts to stumble once again, saying that "you might be expecting", just as she bites his ear. He screams bloody hell and she answers, "I thought you liked it rough".  "I'm not anti the rough stuff", not at all, responds George. "It won't always be like the other night".  Nina says, "thank God," and he answers, "I thought you were impressed".  They both agree to slow things down a bit.  Throwing in a nice dose of ableism Nina adds, "Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting we wear chastity rings, we're not shagging cause we're mentals". She could have made her point about the abstinence movement without descending to ableism.  George lets the comment go by saying that they should rewind to romance and flowers. I am starting to like George less and less. He may be socially awkward but he is more than willing to over look violence against Annie, as well as ableism.  At least when Bernie used the word "retard" earlier, Fleur made a point of calling him out.

Mitchell leaves the house the next day, and runs into Bernie who says that he is on his way into town. Mitchell offers to take him out, and asks if Fleur minds, because she hardly knows him.  When she looks through her mirror, she sees only Bernie walking away, because Mitchell's reflection does not appear in the mirror.  Mitchell takes Bernie bowling and Bernie asks, "what did you want to be when you grow up?"  Mitchell says, "just happy. People really didn't have careers where I come from, mostly they were in the army or in the church".  This has me wondering whether I should revise my estimate that Mitchell was turned in WWI.  He goes on to say, "it was different back then, there was less choice about what happy people do".  Lauren shows up in the bowling hall and Mitchell drags her away.

Mitchell looks at her and says, "You're killing again. I can see it in you, I can smell it".  Lauren responds, "it's all about the blood with you".  Mitchell asks if they can just skip to the part where she makes him feel guilty.  Lauren tells him that they've got the message and that they're leaving him alone. She walks out and he follows her asking, "Is this a trick?"  Lauren says, "It's okay, what you did to me. There's no bitterness, I love it.  Take care of yourself."