Friday, March 9, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy podcast, episode 57

This week we discuss the Walking Dead (and the Death of Shane!!!!) and Being Human (US) as well as the American Horror Story

We also discuss the problem of the benefit of the doubt for prejudice portrayals and consuming problematic media.

We also talk about Timeless, the latest and last book of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate Series

Lost Girl Sneak Peek!

A quick look at the next episode of Lost Girl

Review: Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K Hamilton, Book 1 of the Anita Blake Series

Anita Blake is an Animator. She raises zombies for a living – and it pays surprisingly well. You’d be amazed how many people need a zombie. She’s also a vampire executioner – actually, the Executioner, since she has 14 kills under her belt for legally executed vampires. But she also works for the police, since the mortal police force is expected to investigate the supernatural when they know so little about it, it’s good to have an expert like Anita around. Especially one who can use a gun and wield a stake when needed.

Of course, those same skills make her useful to the vampires as well, especially when  something starts killing them. The Executioner finds herself working for the Vampires to investigate the killings and find the killer – and not by choice, with both her own and her friend’s lives at risk should she fail. But as the investigation progresses, the chance of her surviving Nikolaos’s wrath seems slim, especially since she seems to have stepped into a political fight between her and Jean-Claude.

Then there are 2 vicious killer vampires who most certainly want her dead as soon as possible. And, of course, Edward, Death himself, a vampire hunter that makes Anita seem like an amateur. He wants Nikolaos’ hiding place – but dare she risk Nikolaos’ anger if he fails and could she feed Edward to the vampire? And what will Edward do if she refuses to tell him.

I first read this book a long time ago, and I loved it. I still do, despite the direction the story turned. Anita is a strong, independent character, the story is intriguing with a mystery littered with plenty of red herrings to keep me going. Anita isn’t exactly the most brilliant of investigators, that’s certainly true and the villain ends up finding her rather than the other way round – but the journey to the villain isn’t slow or dull. I think, in some ways, mystery is a misnomer. Anita tends to flail around various interesting side-plots, revealing more about the world and the people in it, before the mystery actually catches up with her. I’d generally find this style very frustrating if the world and the side-plots weren’t so interesting – but seeing Anita explore the world and face off the vampires in various defiant fashion, ducking Edward, plotting against Valentine, wondering how to survive Nikolaos and trying her own little ham-handed investigations kept me interested

In terms of world, I love love love this world. I love the diversity of vampire powers, the different shapeshifters, ghouls, different forms and types of magic – and the legal consequences and what that means for the wider world as well. I think this may be the first Urban Fantasy book I came across that blended the modern world and the supernatural world so well – without the supernatural world being a hidden shadowy thing behind the real world – but actually as a part of it, a part of modern society and always having been an open part of society.

And even Anita has such a unique profession – Animator and it being a business, raising zombies in order to interview them and ask them questions – and how that can be used in other professions from the law to therapy and then the questions of ethics of using the dead in such ways.

I actually really like the writing style of this book. Anita’s internal monologue is snark, amusing, adds to the tension and generally is just such a nice way of doing it. I think it adds much more feel and atmosphere to the scene.  I just like the style and think it adds to the depth and feel of the book and really carries me along. Yes, it’s wordy, but I don’t think the words are generally wasted. GENERALLY, there are moments when it’s overdone but that’s more a matter of balance than style

There are, however, 3 flaws in this style that are more down to execution than the style itself. One is that it tends to be over-dramatic in a way that can reach either purple or comic proportions. The second is repetition – we keep re-describing things, visiting the same scenes or having another round of Anita’s feelings when we’ve already covered it. And lastly, there’s a problem with over-description. Sometimes it adds richness and texture to a scene, tension and fear or general atmosphere e- and, really, they’re really well done when it works. But often it adds unnecessary fluff, drags things out – and is at its worse when she’s describing people. Really, when you first meet a person, especially a vampire who is a threat, do you really notice every last detail of their wardrobe? I sometimes feel the whole cast pauses while Anita stands with her mouth open, a little drool escaping, staring at some hot guy’s clothes. And the target worse than the hot guys is POC – because that excessive description normally reserved to clothes can also stretch to non-white skin tones. This is especially noticeable when describing Luther, apparently a very dark skinned black man and fully contains our trope Blackety Black Black in a way that feels exoticising and contrived, almost like we’re supposed to underline the POC in case we miss the inclusion.

Inclusion-wise, there are no overt GBLT people in this book yet (for which I am grateful considering what is to come) I will give points for a fair number of POC in this book. From Luther to Detective Clive to Rafael, to Beverley Chin, to Manuel, to Jamison to others I can’t even remember. Of the animators of Animators Inc, I don’t think there is a white Animator. None of the characters are playing a central role though, or are even particularly large side characters. I think she has made sure to have her “crowd scene” minor characters of colour, but none actually in either Anita’s or the story’s close arc.

Appropriation in Urban Fantasy Should Not be a Plot Point

One of the things I love about urban fantasy, is that it encourages a reader to travel to fantastical imaginary worlds.  Even if the world largely resembles our current society, the addition of vampires, fae, werewolves etc., adds new elements to any story.  A writer must interweave their version of our world into their story, to ensure that there is enough context, to allow the reader to relate with the characters.  Sometimes, this can be achieved with things like having characters go to a specific location, or participate in a very popular cultural activity like checking email.  Some writers however take these connections too far by engaging in revisionist history, and appropriating the experiences of marginalised people.

This can include inserting their protagonist into real historical situations, in an attempt to convey the age of the supernatural in question. Unfortunately, this usually leads to some sort of revisionism as an imaginary character, would have had no role to play for the allies in WWII. Yes, I am looking at you Sanctuary. Kevin Hearne, had his protagonist Atticus play a role in the French resistance.  In Eternal Law, Zak became the Angel of Mons (which is based on a real legend), who guided soldiers to safety in WWI, and was then punished for his action by being forced to defend soldiers accused of going AWOL. Rebbecca Hamilton inserted one of her characters into the Salem witch trials, and in Morgan Rice’s Vampire Journals series, she took it a step further and even used one of the historical people from the trials.  

The worst of this marginalisation is, of course, appropriating marginalised identities and equality movements.  If there were an award for squeezing in the most appropriation in a series, it would have to go to Dan Waters who wrote The Generation Dead Series. Waters has managed to appropriate slurs, appropriate the language of disability, refer to the closet, passing and coming out to describe his zombies revealing their true nature, as well as appropriating the language of the civil rights movement, and appropriating Jim Crow, to apply to the separation of the differently biotic (yes, he actually used that term) and living people.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Alcatraz: Episode 10: Sonny Burnett

In the past we have Sonny Burnett, a new arrival at Alcatraz and a kidnapper for ransom – kidnapper with a shotgun no less. And he apparently has money hidden still, money he offer’s the prison’s big bad in exchange for protection.

Unfortunately, the money wasn’t where he said it would be and the person he hired to protect him stabbed him many times instead. This was a poor investment methinks and he ends up in the infirmary with Dr. Beauregard being both amusing and cynical

Warden James wants to give him more time in solitary before going back but Tiller wants to throw him right back in to force him to “adapt”. Y’know Tiller, you can be evil, heartless and cruel but you’ll still not be a tenth as creepy as Warden James. And Warden James impressively gives him a creeptastic smackdown. Tiller, most displeased, tells Burnett he has to be a predator – or he will be prey.

So begins his training regime while in solitary to become as strong as he can – then he comes out and attacks someone who the protection-giver was protecting. A clear challenge. But Tiller seems determined to get him up to that challenge and encourage him to become stronger and more vicious. Which leads to him putting out his attacker’s eyes – far worse than killing him in Alcatraz – and we seem to have a definite threat from Tiller to Warden James. Oh Tiller, you’re hitting above your weight there, Tiller.

In the present Ray, Rebecca’s uncle and the man who raised her, ex-cop, is having a meeting with Hauser – to get Rebecca out of the Alcatraz programme. Hauser is less than pleased and also points out that he knows Ray has seen Tommy Madsen.  Rebecca’s grandfather. We then cut to Rebecca who is still haunted by nightmares of Tommy Madsen killing her partner. Drama and angst incoming

Ray has a hard time convincing Rebecca that he hasn’t seen Tommy and doesn’t know where he is as well. He really needs to work on those tenses. Rebecca doesn’t use her influence to make Hauser stop watching Ray – she wants to know if Tommy shows as well. Smooth, Ray, smooth.

Speaking of drama, 1 bloke from the extra’s department just got messily shot with a shotgun by Sonny Burnett, one of the 63s. And kidnapped the person driving with him who is worth a lot of money as the husband of a company founder.

In comes Dr. Soto, Rebecca and Hauser to investigate – Hauser playing tough guy over his bullet wound (heh, and Dr. Soto saying he’s not human) and Dr. Soto pointing out that Burnett never murdered people in his kidnappings in the past. Time to interview the wife, Mrs. Hellen Campbell and founder of the company – and it turns out she was kidnapped by Sonny Burnett as well, when she was 14. Nice spooky connection there.

Review: Stolen by Kelley Armstrong, Book 2 of the Otherworld Series

Elena has an important role in the werewolf pack. She hunts down Mutts that would threaten them all – and investigates humans who would expose them. And, if necessary, silence them. Which is what she was doing when she agreed to meet 2 women with proof that werewolves existed.

What would have been routine is surprisingly derailed when the women turn out to be not human themselves – Witches with powers beyond the normal who introduce her to a world of vampires, shamans, sorcerers and half-demons. Suddenly the world isn’t nearly so simple or so easy any more.

She – and her pack – have little time to adapt to this barely suspected new world when they have to deal with a threat that has brought the supernatural community together – an organised and heavily resourced gang of humans is hunting supernatural beings, capturing them and studying them. This goes far beyond a couple of humans risking their exposure.

And it only gets more seriously when the group hunts for a werewolf – and end up capturing Elena. Elena now has to free herself, perhaps rescue her fellow captives, find out who is behind this whole mess and try to end it. A tall order for a werewolf separated from her pack

I do occasionally like a genuine villain – and Ty Winsloe is certainly that. There’s something wonderfully satisfying about seeing a hated, reviled villain built up through the book, page by page and then cut down so completely at the end of the book. It’s nice to see some bad guy vanquishing.

It’s also impressive how ruthless and gritty the book ended. Now, high body counts are not uncommon on in Urban Fantasy (though often fluffier methods like memory wiping are used to cover their secrets) but it’s usually of a “ha-ha, I stand as a conquering hero over a pile of corpses of nameless extras!”. Here, not so much – some of the people killed had names and we’d seen them, some were relatively blameless and even with the nameless guards both Paige and Adam are disturbed by the killing – even Elena and Clay. The deaths are brutal and ruthless – yet at the same time not written off as just an extra-kill.

I think you can definitely see by this book that the series is transitioning. I think Bitten was intended to be a stand alone novel, it took off and Kelley Armstrong had this brilliant, wide, varied world ready for it – but to get from a stand alone novel to the diverse world of the Otherworld series needs a bridge. And this book not only does it very well, but does it while not being boring. It’s an original and clever idea to introduce us to the greater world without resorting to reams and reams of info-dumping, convoluted revelations or dubious coincidences or discoveries. It lacks any kind of contrivance – these different supernatural groups come together naturally and understandably.

The plot itself is interesting and tense. Now it’s hard to build tension for a protagonist because, usually, you’re pretty sure they’re going to survive. You can’t rest your tension on “will she get out of this?” because we know she will. But there is a lot of tension in how she will survive, how she will get out of it and – ultimately – how she will not only rescue everyone but properly extract revenge. This, coupled with the revelation of several very real, interesting characters (Paige, Cassandra and Adam were very real characters with pretty strong personalities) and whole new sections of the world opening up made it a good, well paced and interesting book.

I kind of have a love/hate regard for Elena. There are elements about her I love – she’s unabashedly sexual, she’s confident, she’s strong, she’s up for any challenge in an almost reckless kind of way and she’s genuinely great fun. But those same elements have annoying traits – she makes decisions that pass reckless and become downright Spunky (like driving off alone because they’re racing when she knows they’re being hunted), I’ve lost count of the times she and Clay stop in the middle of escaping or an important mission to have sex.

Cover Snark: She Must Be Freezing

I am repeatedly impressed by how hardy and powerful the female protagonists in Urban Fantasy are. They can take down vampires, werewolves, sorcerers, zombies and all manner of dangerous monsters. And they can do it even in the most ridiculous poses and in the most impractical of armor.

But, I think, more than anything that convinces me these women are superhuman is their ability to endure any weather. Back off, Mother Nature, the Urban Fantasy protagonist will not let your freezing winds or driving snow prevent her from being scantily clad and sexy! This gives new meaning to the phrase, suffering to beautiful.

Good, gods is that ice she’s knelt on? Certain parts of her anatomy must be getting one extremely chill wind with that pose. Maybe this is a new version of Sookie Stackhouse using icepacks to cool her Yahoo Palace? That is one place where frost bite would not only incredibly bad, but painful.  If you must introduce your lady bits to something cold, wouldn’t it make more sense if it were something like this, as macabre as this particular toy is?

And her knee? Kneeling barelegged on ice must freaking hurt. We’re beyond pins and needles here, this is swords and sabres. It makes my bones ache just looking at it.

She is wearing a halter top in the snow. A halter top in the snow. Her arms are bare along with most of her chest In. The. Snow. She is quite literally freezing her breasts off. It almost feels silly to say that her trousers are providing no insulation and her legs. She must be blue with cold, because of this much bare flesh, in the driving snow. I feel an urge to wrap up in a woolly dressing gown and get a big cup of hot chocolate just looking at this picture.

Also, how is it that she thought to wear boots (yes, I’ll be kind and call those ridiculous boots winter ready) and not think about a coat, or for heavens sake a sweater?  I suppose having your boobs hanging out is far more important than protecting yourself from hypothermia.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Alcatraz: Episode 9: The Ames Brothers

This week we follow the Ames brothers – Pinky and Herman Ames. Inmates in the past who are reputed to have tried to escape Alcatraz.  And we get to see the plotting behind it – including picking Warden James’s keys and make impressions of them at church services and some crafty – and gruesome – methods of replicating the keys.

In fact the plot, involving one of the guards, Donovan, is crafty and clever throughout involving not just the gruesome kitchens, but deliberately being taken to the hold.  I’m impressed, yes yes I am. Except Warden James is waaay ahead of them and is as clever as he is creepy as he is ruthless. The plan also fails because his most precious keys don’t lead to the gold – but to something else (the secret rooms where he does his experiments, I assume)

This leads to the new guard entering Warden James’ trust – but this guard is Tommy Madsen’s brother (the grandfather of Rebecca) who is seeking an answer to what they are doing to tommy Madsen and the other men in the medical wing

In the modern world we have Dr. Soto and Rebecca spying on Hauser’s scientists. These two are really starting to bounce off each other well. Unfortunately for the scientist they’re spying on, the power goes out in a storm, the CCTV goes haywire – and Pinky Ames is waiting in one of the cells with a large, heavy weapon – bolt cutters. And Dr. Soto falls into the hands of Herman Ames and becomes the brothers’ hostage. They need him to update their old map of Alcatraz – seeking gold buried under it still.

Dr. Soto is locked in the hole but has amazing cell phone reception that allows him to get a guide on how to open the hold but not to escape.

Review: Ill Wind by Rachel Caine, Book 1 of the Weather Warden Series

Joanne is a Weather Warden. A Warden gifted in the elements of Water and Air, who has the solemn duty to protect humanity from Mother Nature’s devastating wrath. But one mission to dissipate a terrible storm enmeshes her in plots beyond her measure.

She’s now on the run, with a demon mark, no less, and with the entire organisation of the Wardens hunting her for murder. A crime for which they could kill her or strip her of her powers. And if they find the demon within her, then it’s a near certainty that she will have her powers ripped away.

Her only chance is to get rid of the demon – but there are so few ways to do that. The easiest would be to pass it on to a Djinn – and curse the Djinn to live the rest of eternity in torment – not a fate she can contemplate, especially after meeting Djinn. Or there is Lewis, an old friend, a rebel and the most powerful Warden the world has ever seen.

But she has no idea who she can trust, very few friends and she is hunted not just by the Wardens, but also by a vast storm she conjured accidentally while fighting for her life – that now follows her relentlessly. And then there’s someone else, some enemy who continually strikes at her. To say nothing of Djinn that pop in and out – and who knows who they serve or what agenda they follow?

The world is rich and huge and novel. The different Wardens acting to protect humanity from the vagaries of Mother Nature is such an unusual concept. Throw in the Demons and the Djinn and we have something fascinating that actually took an effort of will for me not to reach instantly for book 2 the minute book 1 was finished, I wanted to know much more so soon. Storywise I’m impressed. We have a combination of survival and mystery with an extra side-order of mystery. The main mystery of what Joanne’s doing and how she will save herself and who is to blame – or even if there is someone to blame-  is huge and fascinating and constantly kept me guessing – and I guessed wrong every time. Yet the clues were there – but I never remotely imagined the results. But we have so many other mysteries along the way – who is David, who is Rahel serving and constantly what what what is happening!

We also had what I normally consider a contrived plot line. We start with secondly – Joanne on the run from something. And we don’t know the why and wherefore of that something for a while, adding to the mystery. But it works because it allows the full mystery to be complicated without us having to be infodumped vast amounts of world building so we can understand it. Without this method, I suspect this would be the second book in the series and the first book would be slow, meandering and just full of infodumping to set up this book. So, I’m impressed, a literary trick I normally loathed was used to good, nay, brilliant effect.

The world is doled out in nicely sized chunks through nice little vignettes that give us flash backs into Joanne’s past – and they fit and are interesting rather than a distraction. The various forces arrayed against Joanne happened often enough to keep the book exciting without it being too much of a survival horror that the mystery was lost. And the character interactions were fun, real and very human.

Being Human U.S. Season Two, Episode Eight: I've Got You Under My Skin


When we last left Sally, the reaper had told her that he was coming and that she had to prepare herself.  It's now a week later and the reaper has finally made his appearance.  Sally is not in the least bit impressed that he has kept her waiting all of this time.  It turns out that the reason he didn't return to reap Sally is because he wants her to be his replacement.  He gives her 24 hours to make up her mind.  You would think that after Aidan simply forgot to pop by and help her last week when Danny was threatening her, that she would realize that he really isn't all that invested in her, but no, she runs back to him for advice.

Aidan advises that she attempt to reap the reaper.  Did he forget that just last week she almost died because she could not take on Danny?  How can someone who gives such obviously bad advice be called a friend?  Still unsure, Sally turns to Stevie who warns her that reaping changes who you are because you essentially ends someone's existence.  He tells Sally that all of his friends have abandoned him, and that she needs to be prepared for the changes that will come.  When the reaper shows up Sally attempts to reap him.  At first it appears that she is victorious but then reappears and lets her know that she had no chance of reaping him with her amateur attempt. 

The reaper tells Sally that he chose her for her darkness.  He first assignment is to reap Stevie.  It seems that Stevie has not be honest with he and actually reaped his friends.  He is stalking the man that taunted in high school, waiting for the opportunity to torture him upon the moment of death.  Sally pleads for Stevie and says that she can help him change, but the reaper says that is not who she is anymore.

When Sally catches up with Stevie, she tries to warn him and he denies that he reaped his friends. He doesn't take the warning seriously but the reaper appears and says that he is lying.  In a fit of rage, Stevie admits that he did in reap his friends, and Sally cries, "Oh Stevie, I can't help you anymore"  After Stevie is destroyed,  the reaper tells Sally that it's her turn next.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review: Death Most Definite by Trent Jamieson. Book 1 of the Death Works series

Steven is a Pomp. He acts as a conduit for the souls of the recently dead to pass on to the underworld. Working for Mortmax industries with his fellow Pomps, they work in the Brisbane subsidiary (with other branches across the world) to ensure the ghosts pass on and the evil Stirrers don’t come back the other way

Except things are going badly wrong. Pomps are dying, ghosts are going unpomped and the whole organisation has fallen apart. Worse, the Stirrers are coming through in greater and greater numbers, hunting down more Pomps and increasing the amount of bleakness and death in the world.

Leaving Steven alone except for Lissa – a ghost of a Pomp who won’t pass on, is determined to see Stephen survive and for whom he has developed a disturbing attraction. He’s the only one left to track down what is happening, to stop the Stirrers, to Pomp ghosts into the afterlife and, above all, stop a Regional Apocalypse that could consume all of Australia.

I’ve seen a couple of versions of humans acting as Grim Reapers as it were but nothing like this. It’s an original story with a novel world and concept. For uniqueness alone I’d give it a lot of points simply because it is so very new.

Except for the epic ending, the characters are also rather lacking in woo-woo super powers which also adds an interesting twist. This isn’t a “my new shiny ability will save the day” situation. Pomps have, abilities, certainly, but when being chased by people with guns there’s not a whole lot they can do except run or die.

The nature of the stirrers was also an interesting enemy. Creatures dangerous not because they’re zombies (though it’s a new twist on the idea of zombies) but because they suck in life and hope out of the world, leading people to despair, people to just lay down and die, birds fall from the sky, plants wilt, even the microbes in the soil to die from their presence

It’s also set in Brisbane, Australia, which is pretty unusual for most Urban Fantasy I’ve read. Add in, there was a clear sense that the author clearly knew the city well. I get a very strong sense of place and location from the book, a reality to it that comes from knowledge and experience.

It also manages emotional impact. Even while being funny and downright slapstick and silly at times (perhaps a little too much now and then, but I laughed so I won’t criticise) but we still have emotional impact of how much he’s lost – and the Stirrers in the bodies of his loved ones.

Once Upon a Time, Season 1, Episode 14: Dreamy

So we start in fairytale land – quite literally! With 2 fairies (including the Blue fairy who we have seen before) and a precious precious stash of Fairy Dust. Nova, the clumsy fairy spills some of said precious dust into a cave full of eggs – out of which hatches a dwarf. Grumpy, I think? Wait, dwarfs hatch and come into the world fully clothed? Well that’s a new twist, I have to say. In fact, it seems dwarfs are hatched to work, to mine diamonds that are turned to Fairy Dust. There are no female dwarfs and dwarfs don’t fall in love or have families, though it’s clear Grumpy remembers Nova the Clumsy Fairy. They gather their axes, all 8 dwarfs (if we recall the addition of Stealthy) except Grumpy is named Dreamy.

But he gets to meet Nova, when she is helpless and needs help moving a lever. Then helps her again when she ineptly nearly destroys the Fairy Dust. And yes, he falls in love with Astrid (after saving her repeatedly helpless self) and they plan to run away together on a boat and see the world (awww. Wait, a boat? Nova, on a boat? She’ll drown before you’ve even left the dock). But the Blue Fairy intervenes – their relationship is impossible and in that realisation he becomes Grumpy (awwwww).

In Storybrook we see Leroy (Grumpy) being grumpy to some of his fellow dwarfs (well, Sneezy and Happy at least – that is Walter and Mr. Clark) in time for Mary Margaret entering the cafĂ© to try to encourage people to sign up for some community candle selling. Yes, Mary Margaret is one of those people who organises all the little town fetes, bazaars and other things that make you want to cheerfully strangle them. She wants volunteers (see the cheerful strangling again). Of course said volunteering is hard since Mary Margaret is, as Leroy grossly puts it, the “town harlot”. Yes, they’re still slut shaming Mary Margaret – and she hasn’t even had sex with David yet as far as I can see.

Meanwhile, away from Mary Margaret being shunned, we have Leroy (Grumpy) meeting Sister Astrid, a nun (Nova the clumsy fairy) and he is here to save her ineptitude. Astrid takes a prize for being even SOGGIER and more Twee than Mary Margaret. If the two spend any time together they may explode into saccharine sparkles and sugar plumbs. And yes, Twu Luv is brewing here methinks.

Even more so when Sister Astrid’s further ineptitude spends the rent money on helium and, since Gold is their landlord, risks her being evicted – but Leroy will help her sell all the candles and save the Covent! And if selling candles won’t work, he’ll sell his boat to get the nuns the $5,000 they need. Alas, gold doesn’t want to buy because he wants to evict the nuns – he doesn’t like them much. He fails – and ready to kick while down, Mary Margaret points out that since Astrid is a nun, any relationship between her and Leroy is impossible anyway. Mary, you might want to not take that job with the Samaritans, I’m just saying.

Anyway Leroy has a plan – the best way to sell candles is to take out the whole town’s electricity. Uh-huh there’s a flaw in this plan, methinks.

Review of Lost Girl Season Two, Episode Eighteen: Fae-nted Love

This series continues to underwhelm me.  As much as I detest love triangles, this seems to be the only thing that Lost Girl is capable of doing marginally well.

The episode begins with Bo being hurt and calling Ryan for a bootycall healing. Though he apparently once told her that he was allergic to cuddling, he is not impressed by being shown the door.  I guess this is supposed to represent his love and genuine affection for Bo, though he couldn't be arsed to show the slightest respect for her friends. This is perfectly in character for Bo, who is a succubus and a return to the Bo who actually cares what Kenzi thinks.One of the things that Lost Girl does best is the lack of slut shaming when it comes to Bo.  Far too often on television, a woman must be purer that Caesars wife or be subject to all sorts of abuse.

Tryst, shows up at the apartment in the hope of hiring Kenzi and Bo to investigate why his grandmother has suddenly decided to leave her assets to someone other than him.  The dialogue in this scene was not only extremely dated, it was annoying. I can't blame the actor for giving a bad performance, when he was given such absolute bunk to work with.  This would have been a great story to talk about elder abuse, but instead the big bad in this episode turned out to be an addonc who was using woo woo to run his cult.  Apparently, he does a sort of fake baptism thing using water, which causes victims to lose their memory, and revert to a childlike state of innocence.

Surprise, surprise, it's Bo who is hit with the holy water and Kenzi and Trick are forced to come to her recuse.  Is there ever going to be an episode in which Bo is not being rescued by someone? In this case, not only is Bo in need of rescuing, reverts to a childlike state.  If she is continually so vulnerable, is it really a good thing that the fate of the fae rests on her shoulders?   When she gets dunked with the not holy water, Bo forgets who she is and all about her relationships.  Sure enough, she runs into Ryan who is more than happy to take advantage of this situation. He tells her that they are madly in love and then promptly proposes to her.  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy podcast, episode 56

This week we discussed Being Human (US), Grimm’s dodging of meta and repeatedly appropriating past atrocities as well as excluding all women, Being Human (US), and the Walking Dead which has Shane who is not yet dead (alas) and the Woman Who Has Taken to Her Bed.

And of course, our book of the Week, Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison, the latest in the Hollows series

Review: A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison, Book 10 of the Hollows Series

Rachel Morgan is a Demon. She’s finally accepted it. The problem is that to stay safe from the rest of demonkind after riling them up a tad she has to wear a charmed silver necklace that separates her from her magic.

She’s a Demon, but a magicless Demon. And that’s getting in the way of her doing her job and protecting her friends - especially since she’s never been one to hide in the background. And it couldn’t be a worst time to be magicless, with the anti-Inderlander hate group HAPA now active in Cincinnati and a trail of witch victims being left in their wake. And if she decides to reclaim her magic, exactly how does she placate Algaliarept who has every reason to be rather annoyed with her.

Add in both the IS and the FIB treating her as a very dangerous person, she herself being a prime target for HAPA as well as her changing relationship with Trent and a new bodyguard shipped in by her parents and she has a lot to handle.

We have introduced some brand new concepts and shadow groups into the story now - with both HAPA and The Men Who Did Not Belong. Both are going to be interesting. After all, while HAPA is an outright hate group and certain to be reviled, where do the Men Who Did Not Belong stand? Especially since they’re a large, powerful, dangerous human organisation that seems to lack Inderlanders and feels entitled to police, imprison and even kill Inderlanders at their own discretion. There’s a lot of nuance that needs developing and exploring there - does the IS know? What about the Coven of Ethical Standards? What about the Vampires? I think there are seeds for a lot more plots here with both HAPA and the Men Who Did Not Belong and I’m really curious to see where it goes.

I’m also quite relieved that we had a storyline that revolved around human hatred of Inderlanders, including slurs, attempted genocide and prejudice that, in turn, didn’t invoke actual marginalised groups in the real world or marginalisations at all. Inderlanders were hated, but not oppressed, attacked but not facing a power imbalance. It’s a fine line to draw, but in a genre

However, while these stories are interesting and could have gone somewhere, I also feel they were kind of unnecessary. We have existing plotlines - Ku’sox and Al and her relationship with Trent and her relationship with Ivy and Jenks and her continuing realisation of what it means to be a Demon, trying to find a balance with the Demon World, how other Witches treat her, Rynn Cornel’s wish for her to help vampires keep their soul after death - there was a lot of plot there left hanging and we didn’t really develop any of it - instead we ended up going down these new plot lines instead. And they’re interesting, I’ll look forward to reading them, certainly - but we already had issues pending and I was left with the feeling that not much had happened. I’d just read a 500 page book that can be summed up with “HAPA exists, the Men Who Don’t Belong exist, Rachel took her bracelet off”.

In some ways I feel vaguely frustrated by this book. I knew she’d start with the charmed bracelet but after Pale Demon, when she finally embraced once and for all that she was a Demon, while at the same time laying down the mighty smackdown on all around her, I expected some grade A arsekicking. I expected Rachel Morgan, Demon, laden with a few choice curses (which she would, of course, be in two minds about using) and a whole lot of powerful magic making it clear that, in general, she’s a major power to be reckoned with and respected.

And she didn’t. Trent did a few times, he’s certainly coming into his own. But even when she wanted to impress the Men Who Did Not Belong she wasn’t very impressive. I think the only magic she used was setting up circles. It wasn’t her main response, it was pretty much her only response. Where was her magic? Even Winona and Chris - a human - had better magic in this book than Demonic Rachel did. And generally not being impressive was a recurring theme with Rachel - Chris, Gary and certainly Eloy seemed to be more than a match for her over and over again

Face Off: Andrea vs Andrea - the Walking Dead Comics vs TV Series

Today we’re going to have a bit of an unusual Face off, in that we’re going to set a character against herself. In this case, we’re going to set The Walking Dead’s Andrea vs the Walking Dead Comics’ Andrea. We’ve mentioned many time on our podcasts how this character has changed so much from the comics - time to set them against each other.

Attitude Towards the Group

Comics Andrea: Andrea is a part of the group - not just a part, she is a linchpin of the group. She always has everyone's back. She is relied upon and a fully integrated member of the group wherever they go - through every stop, through every challenge, she is a part of the team. She is always an insider in the group, not only in every plan, but with every person - she is a friend with all members of the group, and she sits and talks to all of them (not argue with them, but actually talks to them as friends). When Rick is close to the edge, she worries about him; she was with Lori during her pregnancy and they both discussed and were worried about Carol’s growing instability (contrast that with her attitude towards Beth - She Who Has Taken To Her Bed - in the TV Series). She is a group member, a friend, she cares about them as one of them - not the tacked on addition who spends all her time apart. Most importantly, Andrea is always looking for a way to help.

Series Andrea: Episodes pass where we barely see her. She often has an antagonistic relationship with Dale, and since the last episode, she has a similar problem with Lori. She has thrown in her lot with Shane of all people, and in doing so virtually sets herself against Rick, as the tension between them grows. The only person in the group that is more of an outsider than her is T-Dog (because he’s never on the screen). In some ways, even Darryl and Shane are more involved. She frequently acts without considering other people in any great detail and sees things through a very narrow lens of her own experience - never more apparent than in 18 Miles Out, when she leaves She Who Has Taken To Her Bed unattended.


Comics Andrea: Andrea is absolutely essential to the safety of the group.  She is often put up into the tower to keep watch because she is a great shot.  Though Rick is still very much the unofficial leader of the group, she is deeply involved in all decision making and no plan ever really happens without her having a role to play, and this is especially true after the death of Dale.  

Series Andrea: Andrea has only just started to learn how to fire a gun - but that had to be carefully taught to her by a man (of course) and even then, Shane abuses her while instructing her. And she even says she’s only learning to shoot because she doesn’t want to do laundry any more, not because it helps the group - but to avoid chores! Add in Dale’s habit of keeping guns from her and it’s almost like a tantrum. She has no particular natural talent that sets her apart, and she’s hardly the backbone of the group’s defense, as she is in the comics. The one time we see her make a shot (except the barn when Shane releases the Walkers), she shoots Darryl. Not exactly a testament to her elite skill

The Walking Dead Season Two, Episode 11: Judge, Jury, Executioner

This episodes opens with Darryl beating Randall.  He wants information on how many are in Randall's group.  Darryl uses his knife on his leg and Randall admits that they have weapons.  He says that the people took him in and he thought that he would have a better chance with him.  Randall then goes on to tell him a story about the men in his group coming across a father and his two daughters and raping them - could this have been Tyrese?  At any rate, Randall tries to assure Darryl that he didn't have anything to do with that and that he is not like that. The very fact that Randall told Darryl this story, tells us that Darryl is not the brightest light bulb in any package.

Darryl comes out saying that Randall has a gang, and then tells them that the men will all be dead and that the women will wish they were dead.  Lori asks what they are going to do, and Rick says that they have to eliminate the threat.  Dale follows Rick and he can't just decide for himself to take someone's life.  Dale says that there's got to be a process and that he is just a kid.  Dale asks for more time to talk this out, but Rick says that they need to be safe. In desperation, Dale tells him to think about Carl and the message that he sending him - to shoot first and ask questions later. Invoking Carl was absolutely the smartest move on Dale's part. 

In the camper, Dale asks Andrea to guard Randall and protect him.  He is worried that Shane will find out, and he believes that killing the boy was Shane's idea.  Dale reminds Andrea that she used to be a civil rights lawyer, and that she used to fight with words for what was right.  "The world we know is gone, but keeping our humanity - that's a choice," Dale says. Andrea agrees to watch the Randall but not because she thinks he's right. I am so glad that Dale brought up what Andrea used to do, because it gave a different side to the whiny self important brat that she has become.  I don't remember any mention of what Andrea used to do in the past but I am sure that in the comics it is Michonne who is the former lawyer.  She hasn't even made an appearance and already things are being stripped from her character.

In the barn Randall is asking for water, and when he sees Andrea through the hole, he asks if they are going to kill him.  Looking out he sees Shane and Carl talking.  Shane tells Carl that this is grown up stuff, and he needs to let them handle it.  When Shane who will be dead soon, sees Andrea at the barn, he asks if Dale put her on death watch and if she is going to stop him.  He is upset that Randall is still there and Shane feels that they are going "pussy out." Okay we need pause for a moment, because of the sexist language in that statement.  So far, The Walking Dead has had terrible female characters and some pretty misogynistic scenes, and so while this line is coming from Shane the would be rapist who should be dead, in the larger concept of the show, it stands as just one more example of the devaluing of women, because he clearly means this term pejoratively.  Shane asks Andrea who she  thinks is behind all of the problems that they have had and Andrea answers that some would say him.  Shane of course feels that the problem, "is the guys that make up the rules" and that they need to change the fact that Rick is the leader of the group.  Andrea believes that things would get out of hand with a change of  leadership.  Shane however counters by saying that he wants to know what it would be like to not have to sleep with one eye open.

Carl is up in the rafters looking at Randall.  He tries sweet talking Carl and tells him that he is lucky that he still has his family.  Randall says that Rick was going to let him go, until Shane started fighting with him.  He promises Carl that if he helps, that he will take him back to his camp, and take good care of him.  Shane bursts into the barn and sends Carl out of the barn.  Shane tells Carl not to go near Randall again, and Carl says that he can handle himself.  Shane says that Randall was trying to make him feel sorry for him and that "if you let your guard down around here people die".  Carl's only real concern is that Shane is going to tell his parents. 

Dale goes to talk to Darryl, and he tells him that he is better off fending for himself.  Dale asked him why he doesn't stand with him to defend Randall.  Darryl responds that his opinion means nothing to the group and Shane and Rick run things.  Dale tires again and says that he sees Darryl cares about what happens to the group, and that he is a decent man.  Darryl says Rick didn't figure out what happened to Otis because he didn't want to while it was obvious to him. 

Lori and Rick start talking about the weather getting cold, and Lori asks if the best way to do this is to hang him. Rick says he knows how she feels about the death penalty, but Lori says she supports the decision if he thinks its best. In a matter like this, would it have been that bad to have Lori disagree with Rick.  It would have been the first time that a disagreement between Rick and Lori made sense, since all she seems to do is snipe at him over nonsense. Why is it that now that it is a matter of great import, she is happy to be the little woman who stands behind her man?  This is yet another example of how narrowly The Walking Dead has drawn its female characters.  Instead of offering an opinion, Lori wants to find out if her manipulation of Rick worked and if he dealt with Shane. Rick doesn't give her any details and simply says that Shane won't be a problem for them anymore.

At Sophia's grave, Carol tells Carl that they wil Sophia again someday.  Carl is angry and responds that  heaven is just another lie, and that if she believes in it, that he is an idiot before he runs off.  Carrol is incensed and storms up to Lori and Rick and tells them they need to get control of Carl.  She says that everyone thinks she lost her mind, but that she lost her daughter. It was nice to see Carol show some real emotion because she has always been meek but I don't know that this was the time to show it.  How is it she can speak up when it comes to Carl - a person who is not threat to her, but stand silent as Darryl waves his finger in her face, and tries to physically intimidate her (episode nine)?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Grimm, Season 1, Episode 13: 3 Coins in a Fuchsbau

“For there are neither locks nor bolts, whatsoever I desire is mine”
So, we begin with an extremely well armed and equipped jewellery robbery with the shop owner running to protect not his jewels  - but 3 coins. The perpetrators are 3 fuzzy Vesen that come from 3 different countries (Ireland, Spain and Austria) and were looking for those 3 coins – and don’t get them which is most frustrating for them. Especially since they don’t like each other very much judging by the constant holding each other at gun point. Certainly it shows when a strange new bird Vesen (a Steinadler) is able to use their paranoia to have the Irishman and the German shoot each other in the darkened room

In come Nick, Hank and Sergeant Wu to find the shop owner’s dead body – Hank knows him as a collector of rare coins (in case we didn’t guess from  the large number of coins, y’see).  Which helps Nick see the Spanish Fuzzy Thief through his Grimmvision when he comes back to try and get the coins they missed (not guessing it would be a crime scene by now, for some reason). This also allows Nick to catch a glance of the car he’s driving which in turn allows Sergeant Wu to use magical science cameras that can read the number plate of a car using the blurriest of blurry images.

The pathologist (one of the 2 token recurring women) has found those 3 coins in the jeweller’s stomach – and swallowing them apparently killed them. The coins seem to have some kind of stylised swastika on the back but seem older than Nazi Germany. Both she and Hank start acting very possessive of the Coins and want to keep them

Anyway Nick and Hank find the car and rush in to the hideout, the surviving Fuzzy Thief (a Schakahl) gets away but the Steinadler who is also looking for the coins gets captures – and roughed up by Hank who seems to have developed anger management issues (or possibly excessive stereotyping issues).

Back to base and the coins end up in the hands of Reaper-Maybe-Evil-We-Don’t-Know-Because-We-Never-Get-Any-Damn-Meta-Plot Police Chief Captain Renard (can you see I’m bitter about the meta? Yes I am) who reports his finding to a mysterious French blokey (French seems to be the Reaper lingua franca. Which we’d know more about IF WE HAD MORE META!)  They are the Coins of Zakynthos.

We must return to Nick’s case of the week where he get the identities of the 3 Fuzzy Thieves from Harley Colt (the Steinadler) where they have a nice off-the-record conversation. The coins were mined a long time ago in Greece passed through history (and the Third Reich) – all the while giving great charisma to the carrier but having bad consequences for them in the long term. They disappeared since the Nazis and then entered the custody of the Grimms, since they were less susceptible to their magical influence. And the last Grimm to be custodian of the coins was Nick’s mother – before she was killed for them. And Harley Colt knew and loved Kick-arse Aunt Marie, the woman who raised Nick.

Meanwhile a lot comes together. Nick & Hank search Harley Colt’s hotel room and find ancient CIA letters about the coins, Nick interviews Colt more and finds out that Soledad Marquesa (Fuzzy Thief) killed Nick’s parents for the coins. Soledad is kidnapping the pathologist, pistol whipping her then killing a policeman in another hotel to steal his uniform so he can go hunt Renard. And the coins are going to Captain Renard’s head.