Saturday, February 11, 2012

Eternal Law, Season 1, Episode 6

An argument about creating weapons in a factory owned by several brothers quickly escalates – and then one brother is on the floor, hit on the head with a metal bar. And lo they have a case, defending Marcus who is being charged with the murder of his brother.

I dislike Tom attacking Marcus for his atheism, especially since his own growing jadedness, lack of faith in the world and Mr. Mountjoy’s often questionable motives and bizarre actions have been getting him down as well. Still, after being convinced of Marcus’ innocence, Zak is determined to see him acquitted.

But there are other issues as well. The very nature of the armaments factory closing costing many jobs, of a long trial increasing the risk that it will lose its contract and the factory will be forced to close again costing jobs – yet at the same time, it’s a weapons factory that contributes to so much killing. And, of course Richard is using his naughty fallen angel influence to further have the factory closed (putting pressure on the defence as well). And his machinations put Hannah at risk of attack by disgruntled factory workers blaming her as the lawyer shutting them down.

Which cumulates into an epic confrontation between Zak and Richard in the Minster – angel wings! I don’t know this scene was impressive and beautiful with a gorgeous setting but… it could have been so much more! Personally, if I was going to have Zak walk yup the aisle, backlit so epicly then I would have had his wings stretch up and outwards, filling the space, not be so bedraggled and close. I would have had halos and flashes of light and darkness when they struck each other.

It’s still an incredible, powerful great scene and is an almost perfect example of demonic temptation and angelic fall in a beautiful setting (the Minster is a beautiful building and it was used extremely well).

We have relationship angst, of course, with Hannah (walking love interest with no real role or character) having fun with her soldier boy and Hannah seems to sort of remember Zak which is a problem. More of a problem is that she was brought to York by Richard expressly to tempt Zak – she’s another chess piece, a pawn in the battle between heaven and hell. Every now and then Hannah seems to be cast vaguely as their grounding with reality, as the only non-angelic regular cast member she could be the normalising factor, the practical factor, maybe even the factor that shows that miracles can’t always fix things. But we don’t really get there and I think it’s an opportunity lost.

The Vampire Diaries Season Three, Episode Fourteen: Dangerous Liaisons

Now that the Michaelson family is back together, of course the next step is to throw a party for all of the whose who of Mystic Falls.   This of course means no regularly occurring Black people around, but one or two background people for ambiance is acceptable. There is the briefest mention of Bonnie recovering from her injuries from last week, but now that her servitude is temporarily over, there is no need to include her as an invited guest. Back into the plot box with you Bonnie,  the White people do after all have to party.  Even Matt, who has no storyline whatsoever got an invite, but an integral part of the team like Bonnie, hell no.

It turns out that Elena got her prized invitation because the original witch, herein to be referred to as mommy dearest wants to have a chat. This of course sets the Salvatore brothers swarming and fighting. Damon thinks its ridiculous to walk into the lion's den, and Stefan supports Elena's ridiculous acceptance of the invitation -- in part because he still wants to get Klaus somehow.  Elena announces that she is going stag, but of course they both show up to guard over her.

Caroline gets an invite because it turn out that Klaus fancies her.  Awww isn't that sweet.  Isn't one ridiculous love triangle enough for this show?  Caroline is absolutely hostile towards Klaus and demands that he release Tyler from his sire bond.  She tells him that she forces people, but he makes no effort to have a real connection with them, or to try and understand them and storms off, tossing the bracelet on the floor.  For his part, Klaus does his best to woo her with his artwork, attempting to show her that there is a soft vulnerable side to his nature. If they turn Klaus into a good guy, who has just been misunderstood, I swear I am going to scream.  It sends the message to young woman that you can change a man with the magical power of your love, and we all know how this works out in the real world. Duly chastened, Klaus draws a picture of Caroline and the horse that she was admiring and sends it to her with a note, thanking her for her honesty.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: Dream Hunter by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Book 1 of the Dream Hunter Series

Arikos is a Dream Hunter, an Oneroi. A race of beings that police and aid the dreams of humans though labour under a terrible curse that has robbed them of all their emotions. But Arikos is also a Skotos – who enters the vibrant dreams of humans and drains of excess emotions through sexy dreams. Most Skoti drift from human to human, chased and hunted by the other Oneroi for the damage they do, tolerated only so long as they do not stay with one human too long.

But Arikos is enamoured by one woman, Megeara, with her incredibly powerful and wild emotions, repressed in the flesh but running rampant when she sleeps. So enraptured by her, he is driven to make a desperate bargain with Hades to be made human so he can be with her in the flesh.

But his actions are not without consequence. The other Dream Hunters fear he will reveal their secrets and have him hunted, while Megeara’s quest to find Atlantis enrages the gods and risks raising Appolymi, the ancient Atlantean goddess of destruction.

And things only become more complicated when they seek to dodge the price he owes Hades

It is common in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter (and related) series for us to have about 50% of the book dedicated to a romance followed by 50% of plot. This often leads me to be not very happy with the book, then reach 50% and start smiling.

Sadly, this book didn’t quite fit that pattern. I’d say we had about 80% of the romance (or plots around the romance) before actually reaching the main plot which, even then, was romance related. And, as is often the case, I found the romance problematic. I also found it rather dull and the story that supported it weak – as well as just brushing off major elements of the meta-story.

The other plots beyond the romance somewhat fall flat. The Dream Hunter bosses have released the Dolophoni on Arikos because they fear what his actions may reveal is kind of hollow since the Dolophoni only make a couple of lack lustre attempts to bring Arikos down – they’re more like interlude fight scenes between the romance and a way to force Geary to confront the supernatural (and I’m going to add an aside here – normally  so we can short cut to the sex. The second plot, the quest for Atlantis and the possible release of Appolymi – the major super-scary monster of the entire series – and whether the various supernatural beings can stop this happening just… fizzles. Geary gets a cool necklace and… that’s about it, Appolymi decides to wait. Back to the sex. Again, it feels like Geary’s quest and the importance of Atlantis were just used as tools to push her and Arikos together rather than treated as vitally important elements of the plot – and, that’s depressing, because after this many books it’s clear Atlantis, the Atlanteans and Appolymi are Major Big Deals in this universe.

And while talking about plot points that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me – I don’t get why Solin felt obliged to help Arikos even slightly or why he was dragged into their whole mess from day 1. And why introduce the Cthonian ZT with no explanation, not development and not even any role for him? What was the point?

Chekhov's Junkshop

'Antique shop - or junk yeard?' photo (c) 2008, net_efekt - license:

Chekhov’s gun is a theatre and literature term coined by Anton Chekhov saying: "One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it."

Or, in other words, you shouldn’t have something in the plot if it is not relevant. If you mention something, it should add to the plot, the characterisation, the world building - something. Well, reading Urban Fantasy, we have gone beyond mere Chekhov’s gun. We’re lost in Chekhov’s junkshop. We have so many irrelevant things piled on the shelves, stacked under foot  and hanging from the ceiling, that it is an arduous task to battle through it all.

If you are an avid reader of fiction, I am quite certain that you have come across this little trope. For the life of me, I don’t understand why writers have a tendency to tell rather than show.  This of course results in copious amounts information delivered in the most dry fashion possible, that leads a reader to look at their toilet and think that it would far more fun to clean it, than read another ponderous word.

And when showing really needs to be the norm when it comes to emotion. Aside from the fact we really do not need to know every single little emotional nuance a character feels at every given moment (seriously, it’s like having a mood ring attached to the book), please show us. We can usually infer anger, sadness, etc from their actions, we don’t need to be told - and if your telling us takes the better part of 2-3 pages of moping, for you to adequately describe just how very very sad your character is, then I am going to go find something more interesting to do. Like clean tile grout. And if there is anything worse than telling rather than showing - it is showing AND telling. When I see lines like this: Jane collapsed, sobbing piteously. Her heart was like ash, she never imagined she could ever feel happiness again, she sobbed in misery, her grief almost overwhelming I despair. The minute she was prostrate and sobbing piteously, I knew how sad she was. I don’t need 5 more paragraphs to tell me the sad character is sad.

Speaking of telling, not showing. We know your world is fascinating and interesting and we know you want to tell us about it. But World Building should not be a series of info-dumps. If we want long lectures we can go back to university or dig up our text books - show us the world, introduce us to concepts as they become relevant - don’t treat us to essays. And on the subject of essays - if you have a degree in English literature (or any field) your novel is not the place to show off how many books you’ve read and can quote or how much you know. If you’re that desperate to establish your credentials, include your letters in the “about the author” section.

The really inventive writers then of course get into bed with Mr. Thesaurus in an attempt to make their ramblings seem more important.  This means we get the happy marriage of over written prose, combined with words that no one has used since the 1400’s.  Please, please, if you must bore us with over written pretentious nonsense, for heaven’s sakes at least spare poor Mr. Thesaurus such abuse.  What did he ever do to you, to result in such a continuous beating?  If you must continue to thrash Mr. Thesaurus, may I recommend that you have the decency to at the very least introduce him to Ms. Dictionary.  You see, using a word improperly further throws off your useless prose and makes it even more frustrating to have to slog through, in the hope of somehow magically finding a plot.  Sometimes finding a plot behind all of the info dumping and useless world building is like searching for the one grain of salt in the pepper grinder.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Vampire Diaries Vs. True Blood

The stars of The Vampire Diaries recently made the cover Entertainment Weekly. I am sure the show's producers were hoping to cash in on a little sex appeal.  I thought I would put the True Blood Rolling Stone cover next to it ask which you like better?

Review of The Devil's Mercy Homeland by Cheyenne Cartwright

Editors Note: A copy of this book was provided by the author for review.

As we have previously said, Fangs for the Fantasy is extremely interested in promoting works that feature marginalized people.  We also support authors who self publish, because we are very will aware that publishing seems to have very little interest in publishing work which features historically marginalized people in a positive light.  That said, I went into Devil's Mercy Homeland, really hoping for a good story.
I wish I could tell you definitively what the plot of the story is about but unfortunately, after about 137 pages, I was forced to concede that there seemed to be no discernible plot.  Cartwright does work hard to employ a good analysis of colonialism, in that there is a very clear divide between native people of colour and White colonizers.  We learn very early on that these White expats only seek profit and separate themselves from POC otherwise.

A subset of POC have the ability to shift into animals and live in jungles.  The society seems to be matriarchal and elder women have an important role within the tribe.  Kama, the protagonist, while despising the White colonizers, is not very much at home with her own people.  She often comes across as petulant, and at one point, her tribe simply wants rid of her for a break from her incessant pouting. What I don't understand is Kama's fixation on forcing everyone to bend to her will, when she was very recently a victim of rape.  She does seek vengeance for what happened, but does not seem to be suffering emotionally because of it, thus leading to a weird disconnect.

The Devil's Mercy Homeland has all of the elements to be a good book.  It seems to have a really inventive world, and several characters of colour who are essential to the story.  The problem is that the book is unequivocally boring.  I found myself becoming easily distracted, and wanting to do anything but finish the book.  I have certainly read books that were worse, and filled with isms, but at least in that case, it made me angry, or left room for some wonderful snark. The story was at times extremely confusing and drawn out.  I never felt as if The Devil's Mercy Homeland was heading anywhere, and it is for this reason, that I must admit that I could not finish this story.

Review: Spell Bound, by Kelley Armstrong, book 12 of the Otherworld series

Savannah Levine, witch/sorcerer hybrid and mighty spellcaster has lost her powers. They’ve been stripped from her by a poorly worded promise, leaving her with only her mundane abilities to get by

But rarely have her skills been more tested. Not only does she have to get her powers back to where they should be and find who is responsible to take them, but she is also being hunted by Witch Hunters – several factions of them in fact.

And, more than that, the entire supernatural world in turmoil as there is a growing movement to reveal themselves to humanity. The disaffected are gathering in unprecedented numbers, spurred by a mysterious leader and the number of strange occurrences that have been widely publicised across the modern supernatural community. But Savannah and the whole Council must be at their best and most united to face this ever growing threat. And even demon lords are starting to pick sides in this fight.

The plot of this book is an ultimate mystery. We have the witch hunters with 3 or so conflicting stories and it’s a question of who to trust and which version is the correct one. We have the cult that is growing and they don’t’ know who is behind it and why and what they’re doing. We have Savannah’s missing powers and they whys and wherefores of that. On top of that we have both lord demons and apparently deities being involved.

This is a book about questions. Endless questions and discovery but not many answers – just an increasing powerful sense that something epic is brewing and something huge is developing. Reading the book I had a constant sense of not only something big brewing but also a sense of being lost – because so much was happening we didn’t have the answers to – and every time we found something out there was not only more questions but more hugeness was revealed. The problems continued to escalate and grow and connect into something greater and more frightening – but with even more questions attached. And normally just questions and foreshadowing annoys me when it is too prolonged – but this has just created a huge sense of the epic – which could collapse into an anti-climax.

I’m in 2 minds about Savannah being depowered throughout this book. One the one hand, I agree that a strong female character doesn’t mean she has to have 5 super powers, have mastered 8 kinds of martial arts and been able to fire a pistol with her little toe and still hit her enemies in the sinuses. And it is nice to see more of Savannah other than “woman with super powers” and it’s an interesting dynamic to pursue to see how Savannah deals without her powers after so long relying on them to the exclusion of all else. It shows different levels of strength, resilience and maturity from her that, again, makes her stronger, more well rounded and generally a better character. Yet, at the same time, her being robbed of her primary aggressive skill for a whole book – and more – isn’t fun.

But I’m less pleased with how everyone treated her. Adam and Clay both seemed to expect her to adapt to this new situation overnight. And they have a rather excessively strict definition of what counts as “maturity” – which seems to involve being obedient, taking no risks yet at the same time adjusting enough to having your powers stripped to be willing to wrestle with half-demons. And I dislike that Savannah was presented as manipulating Adam into doing what she wanted – when what it seemed she was actually doing was refusing to do what he wanted. Yes, he had a point, but it wasn’t like she was delaying going to Miami for no reason at all either.

Cover Snark: Lurking Danger, Crouching Heroine

Threats abound, menaces around every corner. At any moment you may need to draw your weapon and leap into action. Women of action on combat, prepare yourselves - ASSUME THE CROUCH!  They could even remotely justify these positions if the women in question were crouching to look at something on the ground but instead their eye are focused far off into the distance.  Why exactly does one need to squat down to see something in the distance?

Yes, the crouch. Every action heroine crouches into action. Why? Well that would require logic and I’m not sure this applies. Looking at these poses the only thing I could imagine this pose manages is to create some major leg cramps, similar to those poor aching thigh muscles we’re so used to. I have no idea why she would assume this pose - it neither helps her examine her pretty gems nor would it allow her to leap into action with her sword. Maybe she could stagger at her enemies (assuming her legs don’t fall to sleep) and hope she accidentally stabs them as they fall down.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Being Human Sneak Peek: Episode 05, Season 2- «Addicted to Love»

Review of Autumn The City by David Moody: Book 2 in the Autumn Series

Just as the story suggests, this time Moody takes his Autumn series into a major urban center.  As in Autumn, the first book in the series, 99% of the worlds population is suddenly struck dead through what I assume to be an air born virus.  The survivors must first deal with the grief of knowing that everyone  they know is dead and gone. Most choose to seek comfort in the familiar by staying in their homes, or in their places of business.  Eventually, they are driven out either by a desperation to ascertain that they are not the last humans alive, or because they have become trapped by the newly dead, who have become zombies.

Due to it's location, Autumn The City lends itself to a larger cast, but once again, this does not include  disabled people or GLBT people.  One Asian man is at the shelter, and he does not speak any English. He is referenced once and quickly forgotten.  His pain is told through the lens of a  White survivor named Donna, and this further helps to remove his importance to the story. The absence of  historically marginalized people in a large urban center makes absolutely no sense, and reads as a failure of  imagination, as well as an inability on the part of Moody himself to confront his privilege.  It's a terrible thing when one has the ability to create an entirely new world, and still cannot conceive of a way in which to include historically marginalized people.  As I said in my review of Autumn, this is not unheard of in dystopian fantasy, but that fact does not make it anymore acceptable. 

Being Human U.S. Season Two, Episode Four: (I Loathe You) For Sentimental Reasons

This episode was filled with flashbacks of Aidan and Suren.  Now we know what Suren meant when she said that she knew Aidan would be the one to come for her. During the twenties, Aidan was part of her guard detail and seems is though there was some very heavy chemistry between them.  Suren tells Aidan that she realized that the only way to be free was to give everything and that until meeting him, she had never seen a reason to make that decision.  When he quietly rejects her offer, she moves onto Henry, who clearly only interested in the political gain he garner from being her lover.  When Aidan moves to stake Henry, Suren jumps in the way telling Aidan that he made his choice, and now she has made hers.

In present day, Suren wants to take control of the city and to cull the orphans.  She realizes that Aidan is daily growing weaker because he keeps getting paler and paler.  She suggests turning a mobster who promises to clean up after the vampires and to get them political connections. This appeals to Suren because she believes vampires are better off when they hide in plain sight.  Aidan is not a fan of this plan believing that the mobster will sell them out for the first good opportunity that he gets. In the end, he agrees to turn him after the woman that pays cannot give him blood and he is horrified to be offered a little girl instead.  When he begins to consume the mobster everything is fine at first, until the blood lust begins.  The mobster complains that something is wrong, and Suren smiles and says that Aidan is coming back to him.  The two end up making love covered in the mobsters blood. 

Though Aidan's decisions were exacerbated by his lack of access to blood, Suren very much still reads as the great temptress.  She put that mobster in front of Aidan in the hope that he would drink again.  Though the responsibility for drinking from the mobster was Aidan's, he would not have done so had she not provided the opportunity.  This is yet another example of woman leading a man astray. It was almost biblical in its reading.

Josh is at work when he is approached by Brynn for help getting her brother Connor out of the psych ward.  They invite him out for a drink and tell him that they are pure breds.  Connor takes wolfsbane to calm and soothe him because otherwise he is always on edge and feels like Josh does before the full moon.  Josh tells them that he is attempting to work on a cure and Connor is immediately excited and offers to fund his research but Josh backs off.  After discussing the situation with Aidan, Josh decides to take them to storage lockers her rented to record the changes.  He tells Connor and Bryn that he believes that there is some sort of trigger that causes the change.  They immediately become excited, though they let it slip that their goal is to be in wolf form always. Josh is horrified but Bryn tells him that it is her human body that feels wrong.  Josh only suffers one night a month when he turns, whereas; Bryn and Connor are suffering an entire month being human. 

Wednesday Reboot: Vampiro

Vampiro was released in 2009 and stars, Vida Harlow, Damian Chapa and Leslie Garza.  I was attracted to this movie because the majority of the cast is of colour.  In most vampire movies, the stars are White and it is rare to even see a person of colour as a sidekick. Unfortunately, the change in racial dynamics was not nearly enough to save this film from itself.

The movie begins with the rape of Casanova's Mexican mother by a vampire. This results in Casanova a dhampire who turns human during the day and becomes a vampire at night. When Casanova is ten years old, his mother shoots herself in the head and this is Casanova's first real exposure to a massive quantity of blood.  Though the blood was the result of his mother's death he was still attracted to it.  From there, he is hunted by three vampires that Casanova's fathers send to either kill him or torture him.

Somewhere along the line he meets Alma, a young woman who is dying of a terminal disease.  He offers to save both Alma and her mother but before he can save Alma's mother he is attacked by vampires.  He manages to save Alma and they stay together for over a hundred years, with her providing him blood through a connection she makes at a blood bank.  Something does not go right with Alma's conversion and she remains in the body of a 13 year old girl, though she does get the bonus of being able to see the future.

Casanova's love interest in this movie is Bianca.  It is worth noting that Bianca is the only one referred to as White in the movie. Bianca is beaten and kicked for refusing the advances of a man at a party and so she joins what I can only believe is an all female gang. For some reason Casanova develops a connection with her and watches her surreptitiously at work. Bianca has a lesbian lover named I shit you not, Sexicana.  When Sexicana and Bianca are almost raped by cops, who should show up but Casanova to save the day. Sexicana of course wants her lover back and so she makes a deal with the vampires stalking Casanova, but it turns out that by time Bianca is to enthralled with Casanova to return.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ksenia Solo talks Lost Girl

On the drama series Lost Girl, airing Mondays on Syfy, actress Ksenia Solo plays Kenzi, a con artist and thief, who is extremely street-smart and resourceful. She is the only true confidante of Bo (Anna Silk), a Succubus that feeds off the sexual energy of humans, and her wide array of contacts makes her very useful. Regardless of the darkness in her past, Kenzi’s focus is now on protecting Bo from a world that will never understand her as well as she does.

During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, Ksenia Solo talked about what attracted her to this role and series, that she’s always loved fantasy and sci-fi, the cool wardrobe and looks she has as Kenzi, getting to work little bits of herself into the role (like getting to speak Russian and play the drums), how tight the whole cast has gotten, and promises that you can always expect the unexpected with this show. She also talked about how much she enjoys personally interacting with fans, her thoughts on social media, her shock and disappointment that Locke & Key (in which she played the role of Dodge) never got picked up to series, how proud she is of her involvement with Black Swan, and how amazing the Life Unexpected fans still are (even though the show was canceled awhile ago). Check out what she had to say after the jump

Collider: What initially attracted you to this show and this character?

Ksenia Solo: I think when we all did the pilot, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. What we did know was that this was obviously touching upon a subject that nobody else had touched upon. Everything is about vampires and werewolves, and it’s always the same formula. I think this show is so cool because it has so many different elements. All the best elements of television are put into this one show. To me, it’s very NCIS meets True Blood with a little taste of Secret Diary of a Call Girl. That really attracted me. And for most of my career, I had always played very dramatic roles, so the fact that Kenzi was the comic relief of this show was just really attractive to me because I’d always wanted to do comedy. 

Are you typically a fan of sci-fi and genre stories, or was it the other elements of the story that most appealed to you?

Solo: I’ve always loved fantasy. I’ve always loved sci-fi. It’s not like I can list off my favorite sci-fi shows or movies, but I just love being taken into a different world. I’m a huge fan of Steven Spielberg. I’m a huge fan of George Lucas. I’ve always loved it. For an actor, it’s really fun to be able to be on this show, where you’re surrounded by different creatures, and we get to do all these effects and fight scenes. All of that was definitely part of the attraction.
At what point did you get to bring your Russian heritage to the character?

Solo: I was born in Eastern Europe, in Latvia, and I’m fluent in Russian. I think the people that created this show thought it was really cool that I was fluent in this other language. It definitely was incorporated, once I was cast. I get to show my language skills, every now and again. It’s funny because I’m so used to acting in English that any time I have these moments where I have to speak Russian, it definitely takes a different part of my brain to pull it off, but it’s always nice and fun. 

Does it feel like you’re playing different characters because you get to go through so many different wigs and looks and changes to your appearance?

Solo: Yeah. Kenzi is such a chameleon and she’s always in disguise. It depends on the case, but she always looks like a completely different person, and sometimes acts like a completely different person. For me, in my life and in my career, I really love to play different roles. I never want to play the same role twice. In a way, that’s definitely incorporated in Kenzi, and how she’s just got so many different sides to her. It’s really an actor’s dream to be able to go to work and play. It’s not often, especially in television, that you get to really play. There aren’t boundaries, like there are with other roles. That’s definitely something I love about her. 

Have you had any wigs or looks that you’ve been particularly fond of?

Solo: To be honest with you, I’ve gone through so many different looks, on a daily and weekly basis, that it’s all just one big blur. It’s always fun to have pink hair and purple hair, and crazy hairstyles and clothes. I think my favorite is one of my simpler looks, which we used more in Season 2, where I have a lot of green in my hair. I don’t think I’m cool enough to pull it off, in real life, so I’ll just live vicariously through all Kenzi’s different looks. 

The relationship between Bo and Kenzi is such an interesting part of this show. What was it like to develop that relationship and dynamic between your characters, and how has it been to work with Anna Silk?

Solo: The Bo-Kenzi relationship is really unique. I think every person – me, definitely – wishes that they could have a friendship like this. These are two girls that are bonded together for life. It even goes beyond a sisterhood bond that they have. They both are willing to die for each other, at a moment’s notice, without ever thinking about it. Kenzi, especially, because the way that Bo and Kenzi meet is under a very strange set of circumstances. Kenzi is forever grateful to Bo for saving her life. The fact that these girls would die for each other is just really, truly special.
And, working with Anna [Silk] is a dream. She not only is an extremely talented actress, but she is the sweetest and one of the funniest people I have ever met. We have a great time. We’re gearing up for Season 3 soon, and as the show progresses, our bond progresses as people, and as Bo and Kenzi. We’ve gotten to the point where we just feel like family. Like Anna says, you feel each other’s rhythms, so we already know what the other person is going to say, before they even say it. It’s definitely a dream, especially when you have to spend so many hours with someone. If you guys don’t have that acting chemistry, or that chemistry as people, it makes your job really hard. I definitely feel lucky that it’s her. She always makes it fun. It’s like a marriage. She’s like my husband or wife, in a way. 

Kenzi has some great moments with everyone on the show. Did the relationship between you guys, as an ensemble, really click right away?

Solo: Yeah. Our excitement for the show really brought us together, right away, especially me, Anna [Silk] and Kris [Holden-Ried]. We just really bonded, right off the bat. It just felt like instant family. We all meshed like a perfect puzzle piece, if I can say it so poetically. We’ve spent so much time together. When you work together so much, you really develop this bond. Gearing up for Season 3, we all can feel each other. We can feel each other’s styles and rhythms. It gets easier, as you go. We all just come in and get to have a great time with these people that we really, really love.

Read the rest of the article over here

Review: Fire Baptized by Kenya Wright

Lanore lives in the Santeria compound in Miami. All supernatural beings are forced to live separate from the humans who guard the compounds extremely carefully, ensuring they can never escape into the human population. Inside, all are supernatural of some kind - faerie or vampire, shapeshifter or demon or witch or even stranger creatures, and all marked with a brand on their foreheads that denote their supernatural type.

Lanore wears the cross to mark her as mixed blooded. And as such she is reviled by her fellow supernaturals, a lesser citizen, to be mistrusted and hated and discriminated against. She’s the first mixed blood allowed to attend university (albeit with great difficulty) and she must constantly step warily to try and negotiate a highly prejudiced world.

Which isn’t made any easier by a string of murders, one of which she witnessed and the killer made it clear he is aware of her. Faced with a grossly incompetent (and indifferent) human police force, she is pushed into the role of investigator as people keep dying gruesome deaths and she may be next on the list.

And of course she has 2 men to dodge between. MeShack the were-cheatah, and old ex who she grew up with with his own issues, and Zulu, a fellow mixed-breed leader of the Mixed Breed Rights movement, pushing for equality and justice that is both demanding, requires great political maneuvering and sometimes disturbing allies.

The most amazing part of this book is the world, because wow is it several kinds of shiny. We have a gazillion supernatural creatures, an entire society made up of supernatural creatures, and no humans. We have a history of oppression, we have different laws and cultures and different movements and politics for each of the movements. We have many sided many layered conflicts, a rich and complex society we have so much magic and possibilities. It’s almost impossibly rich and diverse yet at the same time incredibly real and well done that I can envisage this society working this way. I think I’d read this whole series even if it were just a long series of info-dumps.

But it’s not - because not only do we have this wide, wonderful world, we also have it presented appropriately, revealed as and when it becomes relevant without tiresome lecturing or screeds of musings to serve as informing us.

And the story works well within this world. Lanore isn’t a trained investigator and it is a little questionable why she gets herself involved but it’s not entirely unrealistic. And the investigation itself is rather reactive because there’s so little to go on, but though Lanore often seems to be running at the rear of the investigation, it works because she isn't a professional and she engages so well with the world while hurrying to catch up. And, in the end, she does get proactive once she has enough information together. Despite her hurrying to catch up, I wasn’t bored as often happens in murder mysteries when they end up chasing rather than investigating, but the rich world and the way Lanore works with it just runs smoothly and makes the pacing work. There are side plots to keep us going with the main plot of tracking down the murderer including Zulu’s work with the mixed-blood rights movements which I definitely want to see more of.

Unfortunately there is also the romance storyline that I didn’t care for at all. First of all, both Zulu and MeShack cross lines a lot. She is marked as possessed twice against her will. They constantly press her and push past her boundaries and their alpha male posturing over her and against each other is intolerable. MeShack breaks her vibrators to keep her loyal to him and throws out the flowers that Zulu buys her. Zulu virtually starts a war because a vampire is touching her. And while Lanore, as the strong, non-spunky, capable woman that she is turns round and says it’s not ok, she doesn’t make it stick or the men don’t respect her enough to take her objections seriously.

Review: Kitty Raises Hell by Carrie Vaughn, Book 6 of the Kitty Norville Series

Kitty is back home in Denver – but it seems something has followed her from Vegas. After severely hurting and annoying a cult dedicated to Tiamat, a personification of chaos, she finds the deities name burned into her club. Very soon, it’s clear that some kind of fiery, intangible entity is hunting them.
And how do you fight something intangible? Something intangible that can burn anything it touches? Something intangible you can’t even see yet can burn you from the inside out?

And how do you do that before it kills anyone – or before it kills anyone else? How do you keep everyone safe?

And how can you fight it while at the same time reassuring and protecting a wolf pack, one you’ve only just adopted, one you’ve only just become alpha of?

And, when enmeshed in undead politics, how do you know who you can trust to help and whether you’re just digging yourself in deeper.

And how do you do all that and continue to run a successful and fun radio show?

Of course, tracking down what the monster is takes time and investigation – it’s a mystery. The problem with mysteries is it’s very hard to pace it well, and this is certainly an issue with this book. We spend a long time with Kitty and co basically sat around saying “I don’t know.” They follow up leads and get “I don’t know” back. They ask questions – more I don’t know. It’s kind of frustrating to feel it all going round in circles without actually going anywhere. However, I do accept that party of this is a thematic point. I mean, the characters are frustrated and lost and worried. They don’t know what’s happening, they know people are going to die, they know all their lives are at risk. So, yes, this is a realistic thing to happen

Romance Writers, Ink: Showing their Homophobic Arses

'Rainbow Pride' photo (c) 2010, Charlie Nguyen - license:

So, Romance Writers, Ink, an Oklahoma-based chapter of the Romance Writers of America was having a writing competition. It’s called More than Magic and is open to all forms of romance. In fact, so eager where they to include all kinds of romance that they said this:

Our judges are all romance readers. Within that group are RWI chapter members and members of other RWA chapters. We recruit judges nationwide and even worldwide (for e-books) and our only requirement is that they are regular romance readers. They tell us which categories and what “heat” level they prefer to read, so our entrants’ books get into the hands of people who might give them the most favorable rating. Our final round judges are chosen for the diversity of their romance reading interests and enjoyment, sense of fair comparison across all categories, and knowledge of the romance genre.[source]

So, let’s be clear - they will raise mountains to ensure that every and all kinds of romance are accepted and find a receptive audience. No matter how steamy, how explicit, what genre or category they fit in - no matter how out there, they will find a judge to look upon it favorably.

Except any romance with a same-sex couple. No, that’s not allowed and not accepted.

This is something we’ve seen before in speculative fiction. We can expect people to deal with elves and magic and dwarfs, we can expect them to deal with vampires and werewolves and witches, we can expect them to deal with space ships and aliens and phasers with 12078 settings (when all you use is the “kill” option) but gods forbid you include 2 people of the same gender who dare to love each other! That is just going far too far!

In fact, nothing I say could beat the excellent words of Courtney Milan:
Apparently, it’s possible for the MTM contest to get entrants’ books in the hands of diverse judges from multiple RWA chapters who are comfortable with all types of romances and heat levels. You can write M/F erotica. You can write M/M/F. You can write about aliens from another planet who have tentacles, or barbed sexual organs. You can write degrading rapes. None of those things are barred from entry in the More than Magic contest, and if you write them, they’ll try to find judges who are predisposed to like your books. But they won’t do that if you write same sex romance–even if it’s a sweet romance with no sexual contact whatsoever. No–when it comes to same sex romance, the fact that they might be able to identify judges in their chapter or outside of it who would be willing to read same sex entries and judge them fairly somehow becomes irrelevant. In that instance, the majority gets to say that those entries don’t belong.[source]

And why is this discrimination here? Because they’re UNCOMFORTABLE with same-sex romance

Really? You pride yourself on being able to find judges who will look favorably on any romance, no matter how out there or how explicit but you couldn’t find one who could endure the presence of those icky gays no matter how sanitized? Really? What does this say about your membership? And can we say again how gross it is that straight discomfort means that gay people have to be removed and hidden? Because the bigots are uncomfortable our lives get erased from the page? Why, again, does GBLT existence take a second seat to prejudiced straight folk’s discomfort?

The Romance Writers of America has released a statement:
RWA members are served by 145 local and special interest chapters, and those chapters are individually incorporated and governed. So long as chapters fulfill their obligations under state law, as well as RWA and chapter bylaws, and their programs and services support the professional interests of career focused romance writers, policy affords them rather broad latitude in determining which programs and services to offer. Absent policy governing chapter-level contests, RWA's board cannot intervene in the decisions of individual chapters. [source]

So they want to make it clear they don’t want to meddle with their local chapters. Really? This is the weak excuse? Because it’s several kinds of pathetic. Welcome to the 21st century and get yourself a non-discrimination policy for crying out loud! Why isn’t THAT included under the RWA bylaws? You are accepting these people as part of your organization, minimum behavioral standards should really be part of the membership process - otherwise your name gets affiliated with, say, homophobic bigots. This is basic PR, this is basic common sense. Are you really going to give your name and endorsement to people without any controls of their behavior? Do you value your name, your brand, that poorly?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy podcast, episode 51

This week we discuss the latest episodes of Vampire Diaries, Being Human (US), Lost Girl. We also discuss the last episode of True Blood

We also discuss our book of the week, Blood of the Demon by Diana Rowland, who we fanpoodle muchly

Review of Sanctuary Season Four

At this point, I have no idea whether or not Sanctuary is coming back for a fifth season, but if they choose not to, the end of season four actually works quite well for a series finally.  There were no storylines left hanging, and a very strong hint that the Sanctuary would be heading in a very different direction from that which we have become accustomed to.

At the end of season three, Kate left the Sanctuary to work in hollow earth.  Her return did not mean that her character got very much attention this season at all and instead she was little more than a messenger girl, when she wasn't trying to soothe angry abnormals.  I did not expect that the result of this action would mean that she would largely be absent from this season, and I must say that I was gravely disappointed with the result. 

Instead of focusing attention on the awesome Kate, we got far more of Abbey Corrigan, FBI agent and Will's girlfriend.  This for me was a terrible substitution, because Abbey reads as completely Mary Sue.  Could they have written her character to be any more cloyingly sweet and annoying?  When I finally got around to watching Fugue, the horrible musical episode, I could not help but hope that they would simply let the character die off.  Really, what purpose did she serve?  The only good thing to come from Fugue was the tension that developed between Will and Magnus, which would set the stage for what would come later in the episode.

In The Depths, Magnus and Will travel to a cave to prevent the capture of an extremely rare abnormal. When Will consumes ground water, it heals him instantly but causes him to experience a rage.  He tells Magnus some hard truths about how he feels manipulated by her and he figures out the degree to which she has continuously interfered in his life.  Much of his anger is blamed on the side effects of the water and though they do agree to let bygones be bygones, it is clear lasting harm has now been done.  Will has great respect for Magnus and even loves her to some degree, but now there will always be niggling doubts in his mind.  This is then reinforced by Magnus sending him to work with government, and ending his access to the agency is later episodes. She steadfastly tells him to trust her, but she gives him no reason to trust.

Review: Blood of the Demon, by Diana Rowland Book 2 of the Kara Gillian Series

Kara Gillian has a new case - there are more bodies piling up and while they seem to have natural causes (or common murder causes, anyway) there’s something more about the bodies. They’re completely ripped of all their essence, all their life force unnaturally torn away - and its getting worse. She’s again faced with investigating the murders as a police detective, but also using her arcane abilities and somehow passing that under the mortal authorities’ radar.

Worse, she has so few people to turn to, so little sources of information. Her aunt is in a coma and the only one who can tell her what is happening - stop the killer and bring her aunt back - is Lord Rhyzkhal, the sexy and powerful demon lord. Who, in turn, has his own agenda. He wants Kara to be his summoner, to give him a toe-hold in the world. And even a taste of his knowledge gives Kara abilities and knowledge far beyond what she had before.

But even with all these complications it gets harder when other strange demonic creatures push themselves into her reality - and Ryan, her friend, confidant and FBI agent seems to be keeping more secrets than she realised.

To start with something I love about this series - we have more excellent class commentary. While the last book showed us expertly how easily and quickly the poor are neglected and forgotten by law enforcement, here we saw the other side of the coin. The rich expecting kids gloves and gentle treatment. The power of being rich and influential and connected is showed again and again in this book. The power and ease of being a corrupted judge, of looking after one’s own, of protecting your own little clique and circle are repeatedly referenced. At the same time the point is strongly made that the same levels of drug abuse, domestic violence et al all happen in these wealthy subdivisions as in poorer areas, but they’re much better covered up. But, again it is done without lecturing or infodumping.

Kara Gillian is still a fascinating character. She is intelligent, has powerful amounts of common sense. She has a temper but it flares when appropriate and not completely unrealistically and foolishly. She is driven and drives the story, she’s overwhelmed by the sheer amount she has to deal with, but she does deal with it. I don’t think I’ve found many protagonists in this genre who are as human as Kara Gillian. As real - and as lacking in tropes that make me want to throw my e-reader down in disgust. One problem that has creeped in is a continuation of her discomfort over sleeping with Rhyzkhal which is coupled with Ryan’s disgust over her assignation with the demon - and her desperation for his approval. On the one hand I can see why Kara would seek friendship and approval since she has been alone a long time and very few people know about the Arcane - but at the same time her desperation for his approval and his judgment are more than a little skeevy making. Especially when she then decides to get revenge on Ryan’s judgmental attitude - by having sex with Rhyzkhal and feeling bad about it. I also don’t like her condescension and assumption of plastic surgery to most of the attractive women she meets, it’s a little, well, catty and again related to sexual shaming.

To contrast that we have something I’ve hardly ever seen - people referencing a promiscuous woman in neutral tones. Especially in a police drama, the minute a woman, especially a crime victim, is revealed to have sex with lots of different men then you nearly always have people saying “she deserved it” or “she got what’s coming” (or, if you’re reading Aurora Teagarden, everyone doing the “death to the evil hussy!” dance). I actually kept reading waiting for someone to turn round and say something that would make me cringe but they didn’t. The victim had sex with multiple men and while they were relieved that it meant there was a chance that their friend hadn’t killed her, there was no “that terrible hussy, you deserved it” or anything really close to it.

Unfortunately there are problematic elements. Firstly of erasure - there are very few POC and the ones that exist are either very small token parts (a black guard at the courthouse, a Latino law clerk at a funeral) or rather problematic (the undocumented Latina maid with poor English - who seems to love her employer). Both could have been worse but both were far from ideal and this erasure in Louisiana which has a very large POC population. Similarly there are no GBLT characters at all.

Face Off: Hale Vs Bonnie, Battle of the Hollow Tokens

Now, a token black side-kick is vital for any good Urban Fantasy, it’s a great way to get your inclusion cookies going without putting in any effort. And yes, the lack of effort shows and few places more so than Hale in Lost Girl and Bonnie in The Vampire Diaries.

So it is time for a face off. Which token inclusion side-kick is the hollowest? Which is most lacking in history or characterization? Which is the most dragged into situations that do not concern them and they’re not even slightly interested in? Who keeps a pager to hand in case the white folks need something? It’s the battle of the tokens!

Time spent in the plot box

Plot boxes are used to store unnecessary side-kicks when they aren’t serving the protagonist’s needs. For several episodes they will just disappear. Of course we could imagine them living lives and pursuing their own agendas during these disappearances, but that’s just silly since we know they have neither lives nor agendas there’s no way this could be happening.

Hale: Entire episodes of Lost Girl go by without Hale showing up. Maybe we’ll see him lurking over Dyson’s shoulder providing generic backup, but often times he’s not there. When he does show up it’s usually because his siren abilities are needed. But, hey, the crew are flexible, sometimes police powers/contacts are needed and Dyson isn’t available, sometimes someone is needed to cover for Dyson and one time his family connections were needed as well. So he’s not just one trick Siren, there’s plenty of ways he can serve - but he’s only pulled out when he’s needed to serve

Bonnie: Now Bonnie probably spends less time in the plot box than Hale - but that’s because she’s used more. With Elena’s endless incompetence to clean up after as well as Damon and Stefan’s less than brilliant planning, the Swiss Army Witch needs to be called out on a regular basis. Still, it does result in more screen time, but still, even the much needed Bonnie can find entire episodes past with barely a sign of her presence.

We know so much about their family

Hale: Though Hale has been on Lost Girl since episode one, we know virtually nothing about is background.  We do eventually find out that Hale is actually a member of the royal family but only because Bo needs someone to run in the election for the next Ash. This is something that Hale does not want to be and has done much to separate himself from his royal obligations; however, he quickly capitulates to Bo’s need for help, after all what’s a Black sidekick to do when a White woman comes running?   We never actually see any members of Hale’s family, and we only learn that his grandmother is disappointed that he has not achieved more considering his royal heritage.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Grimm, Season 1, Episode 10: Organ Grinder

“We shall see the crumbs of bread… and they shall show us our way home again.”
Yes, it’s time for another Grimm and by that introduction it’s Hansel and Gretel

Well we have gone dark this time – 2 young men fleeing monsters through the woods, one falling into water and then a body in the river having its eyes plucked out by ravens. Definitely going to the dark, as is appropriate given the nature of the original Grimm’s fairy tales before Disney got its fluff and glitter all over them.

And we switch from darkness to angst – Nick is consulting Grimmopedia Eddie about telling Juliette that he’s a Grimm because the monsters have gotten a little too close to home. Eddie doesn’t endorse this silly idea, because he’s awesome and has common sense. And Eddie can’t just show his wolfyness because not all human brains can handle the reality of the supernatural in front of them.

Enough angst, let’s go to a gruesome crime scene where Nick joins Hank and Sergeant Wu in examining the corpse. And it turns out the corpse – 18 year old Stephen, a petty criminal - has lost a lot of blood – and he would have been very weak from loss of blood before landing in the river. Following a trail of unusual necklaces they track him back to a free clinic and a new job he had so they could speak to Dr. Levine who treated him for a spider bite. It looks like his new employers just snatched him off the street

And then they’re called to a car accident driven by monsters transporting human organs. Of course the plates are fake and so is his identity. Very little information – and I do like how Sergeant Wu comes to add to their depression and mock them for it. I really like him whenever he shows up, it’s just a shame that he only shows up for 10 seconds at a time. The driving monster is a Geier, a tree living organ harvester and generally unpleasant creature.

Time to call on the Grimmopedia! Y’know Eddie makes this show. Even as he complains that Nick only talks about monsters – though Eddie fills in the gaps about the Geier’s organ trade; human body parts are used as medicine and enhancement by monsters. Time to get Eddie to do some undercover work buying human gall bladder – yummy! And yes, 2 and 2 is finally put together and the idea of harvesting street kids for organs is raised. I do feel that they were, perhaps, just a little slow coming to this conclusion.

They track down another missing street kid that pretty much confirms the theory. Following their leads they find the processing plant where the organs are being prepared (and for reasons unknown, the Evil!Chief joins them). Points go to Sergeant Wu for the “cannibalism… I think it’s pronounced capitalism” line. See why I want to see more of him? But lo they find evidence that the clinic is involved. Now, personally I’d have suspected the clinic first in organ harvesting since you’ve need some way to verify that the victims are healthy – especially in the homeless population.

Eternal Law, Season 1, Episode 5

And this week we don’t start with a case. We start with Mrs. Sherringham disapproving of Zak’s booze and telling him they should give Tom more responibility (while worrying about him). Mrs. Sherringham watching the endless emotional angst between non-character Hannah and Zak (and worrying about it. In short, we’re set up for some glorious angst. Oh joy, let me fill my glass.

In actual plot, Tom rushes to help a female soldier who has been stabbed in the leg and gets picked up from the military base by Zak who, as is sadly recurring, treats him like a naughty child. Anyway, they end up taking the case to defend Laura (the soldier) from court martial – the allegation that her wound is self-inflicted to prevent her being shipped to Afghanistan. And it’s quickly clear that Zak has issues with soldiers and/or the military – I smells more angst I do. He was a soldier in the first world war – and he’d used his powers to save lives much against Mr. Mountjoy’s wishes. He then was tasked with saving World War 1 soldiers who were accused of cowardice and desertion – and, as any history student knows, the success rate in these cases was very very low and a lot were executed. And there we see Zak’s problem with the military

And for reasons that are completely unfathomable, Zak decides he wants Hannah (Love Interest) to assist him and not Tom. Because they’ve decided that Hannah really needs to get to know a Major who caught his buttons in her hair. Of course, protracted time together is exactly what Zak and Hannah needs. By setting Hannah up with the Major she’ll apparently stop being a distraction and temptation for Zak (because that totally works, right? Seeing the person you love with someone else completely removes them from the picture?) I dislike how this turns the already character-less Hannah into even more of a tool - a chess piece to be moved by Richard and Zak (or Mrs. Sherringham).

Being sidelined and removed from the case, Tom has a rather childish temper tantrum which is treated as such by Zak and Mrs. Sherringham. I’m really getting tired of that dynamic.

But the plot thickens and Sophie, another soldier in the regiment (and, blessedly, a POC who isn’t childlike) tells Tom that the sergeant has been coming on to Laura – and wasn’t taking no for an answer. Confronting the sergeant naturally doesn’t result in a confession but makes it clear he’s a very unpleasant person. At least we get to see a shred of what angels can do when miffed. Unfortunately, Sophie is a coward who won’t come forward to protect her friend.

And while Zak is in court doing the serious business, Tom engages in a rather bemusing bike chase through the army camp. He crashes and then gets himself in trouble laid on an unexploded mortar and needs Zak to rescue him with the help of Sophie to prove how courageous she is and redeeming herself since she was the one who caused Laura to be stabbed.