Saturday, July 14, 2012

Alphas Season One, Episode Three: Anger Management

This episode opens on the subway with a riot.  People start fighting and a cop is shot dead but there is no explanation for this mass hysteria.  The alpha team is brought in and Rachel picks up weird from a teddy bear. After watching the surveillance video, they focus in on a young woman as responsible for the violence. Lee believes that she is releasing pheromones which cause people to lose control and become violent.

They manage to track her to a halfway house but she gets away and instead they capture Matthew Hurley.  When they take him back to the office, he tells them that they are looking for his sister and that he is immune to the effects of her pheromone throwing. Lee believes that his immunity is based in his constant exposure.  Gary discovers that she has brought a ticket for a bus but when he goes to tell Lee, Don Wilson is talking to Lee.  Don is not patient and wants the girl contained and brought to Binghamton immediately. Bill then escalates the situation by announcing that the girl they are looking for is not Hurley's sister.  Lee realizes that they alpha is actually Matthew but before he can warn anyone, Matthew releases another round of pheromones causing everyone to lose control.  A fight breaks out, Rachel who was on the phone at the time ends up screaming at her mother for the first time.  The fight continues to escalate with punches being thrown and Bill is the only one who manages to stay in control.  Don ends up being shot dead by another federal agent.

When they get to the bus terminal, Matthew is already there.  He tells Tracy that everything he did was for her.  I have to say that I was so happy to see Tracy reject this and tell him that he had to stop.  It would have been so easy for her to buy into the myth that her love had the potential to change and save Matthew.  Matthew refuses to turn himself in and releases yet another round of pheromones.  A small riot ensues and he hides on a bus until Bill boards and knocks him unconscious before he can escape.

The Almighty Johnsons Season One, Episode Nine: Hunting Reindeer on Slippery Rocks

This episode opens with Stacey and Michele getting Eva Gundersen ready to meet Axl.  Michele tells her that she is a goddess and that a plan has been laid out for her.  Anders gives Axl a credit card, of course the pin number is 6969.  Anders even hands over the keys to his apartment, not wanting Eva to see his apartment, hoping that Axl and Eva will have sex that very night, thus bestowing on him his full powers as Bragi.

At the restaurant, Eva and Axl clearly do not have much chemistry.  Eva also has daddy issues and considers Axl telling her that she is relatively normal a compliment. At Ty's, Anders wants to know what will happen when they get their powers back. Olaf quickly steers the conversation to Dawn and Ty.  He begins with a series of ever more intrusive conversations about what their sex life is like.  Ty tells him that Dawn believes that he has problems regulating his body temperature and has to wrap up to sleep. Ty says it's not the ideal relationship, but that he cannot tell her truth because she is at the mortal.  What I want to know is why Ty is even answering Olaf's questions to begin with?  I don't care how close you are to someone you don't invade their privacy that way.

Before Axl and Eva can share a kiss Stacey shows up.  Anders is not the least bit content that things did not go further with Eva, but Axl says that he felt sorry for her because her old man is a bastard and that he is angry about the way she has been treated.  This should have been a clue that someting is not right with Eva. If she was really the frigg he wouldn't be feeling pity, but love. When he gets back to the flat, Axl and Gaia both pretend that they don't care that the other is dating.

The next morning Dawn suggests to Ty that they should go somewhere warm on a trip, where he won't need all of the heavy duty sleeping gear.  Axl heads over to Colin's house to talk to him about his daughter. When Colin refuses to let him in, he hops the fence and enters the house. When he confronts Colin, Axl tells him to be nicer to Eva and when he won't listen, Axl pulls out the Odin card.  Colin is not impressed and how could he be, considering those horrible skinny jeans.  Colin chases Axl out of the house with a burning newspaper as Axl screams, "you have been warned."  Okay if Axl really is Odin, I think it's about time they gave him some actual powers because as it is, a concussed penguin could take him on in battle and win.

Axl heads over to Mike's, where Olaf explains that Colin is Loki.  Axl immediately wants to know if Loki is good or bad and Mike responds, "he tried to set fire to you Axl, what do you think?" At this point, I am starting to believe that Axl doesn't have the common sense that God gave cabbage. 

At Eva's, it seems that Stacey/Fulla is taking this handmaiden stuff pretty seriously, as she is vacuuming and cleaning up, while Eva lies on her bed writing what I can only assume is more angst ridden lyrics. When Eva tells Stacey she doesn't have to clean, Stacey says that she has no choice and that she will fit in the handmaiden stuff around her work. Colin shows up at the door to tell Eva not to send Axl back to the house and that he doesn't care if Axl is Odin. 

Gaia has the boys cleaning the house for her birthday.  Eva shows up and announces that she needs to talk to Axl.  She is pissed that Axl attempted to fight he battles for her and because she had Colin exactly where she wanted him - out of her life.  Axl does not agree and claims that Colin is still messing with her head. Axl says that he doesn't care if Colin is Loki, if he messes with her, he messes with him.  This is a surprise for Eva, because she had no idea which God her father actually was up until that point. Eva realizes that together they will be more powerful than Colin and she suggests marriage. Okay, I get that she has daddy issues but getting married to piss your father off is just so damn cliche. It kind of ruins all the strength that she had shown about Axl's ill fated rescue mission.

When they leave the room, Eva announces that they are engaged and though Gaia congratulates Axl, she is clearly shocked and not the least bit happy.  They both arrive at Colin's, where Eva announces their engagement and Colin asks if it is the will of Odin.  Colin simply tells him good luck and that he is going to need it.  The two then head over to Anders house where he wants to know about the wedding.  Eva promises that they will consummate after the wedding.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Taken by Vicki Pettersson Book One of the Celestial Blues Series

Griffin Shaw is a very haunted man.  Fifty years ago, he was murdered along with his wife, whom he loved with everything that he had.  Unable to get over the grief of being unable to protect Evie, instead of passing into paradise, Grif becomes a centurion.  His job is to ferry souls who have died as a result of violence into everlast. 

In what should have been an ordinary take, Grif displays empathy for a murdered woman by allowing her to inhabit her body briefly to change her clothing and fix her hair.  To do this, he has to enter her body briefly.  This means that Grif has participated in the sin of taking on flesh and it is compounded by the fact that his actions end up marking Kit for death.

Grif is told that in order to learn to do his job properly, he must watch as Kit is gang raped and murdered and then bring her over to Everlast.  He waits in her bedroom and watches as the attack begins, but quickly discovers that he cannot watch as an innocent woman is violated and murdered.  Thus begins the search the person who is responsible for the attempt on Kit's life, as well as the person who 50 years ago brought an end to Grif's life. 

The Taken has a very interesting organizational structure for heaven and the angels.  I particularly enjoyed the discussion of the difference between the Pures (those who have always existed as angels) and imperfect humans.  Existential conversations have been popular as of late in the genre and Pettersson managed to pull it off without giving the feeling like a philosophy 101 lecture.

One of the universal themes in this book was challenging gender based violence and misogyny.  Too often in the media, there is much slut shaming, and victim blaming.  Though the story involved sex workers, who clearly would have what many have socially determined to be spoiled identities, we were clearly meant to sympathise with them and to understand the actions which forced them into sex work. Women in this case were strong not because they were badass gun toting vigilantes, but because they refused to turn away from the ugliness of the world and sought truth.   Even when Kit was demeaned for having a mind of her own and for daring to express her opinion, she continued to do so.

Bedlam, Season 2, Episode 6: Reunion

After the hugely dramatic revelations of last week, we’ve arrived at the season finale. Let’s see how they wrap this up (preferably without killing the whole cast again).

After the obligatory ominous scenes we actually start with Max seeing a ghost for once – his father at the foot of his bed who leaves behind a watch. When he goes to tell Ellie, he finds her trying to leave without telling anyone (nice, Ellie, real nice); she knows who Eve is (she is) so she considers all her questions to be answered (Uh… I can think of a few more). But Max begs her to at least try to speak to his dad since he’s started haunting him again, which Ellie grudgingly agrees to. Dad’s quite good with communicating with objects – leaving a photograph this time.

Max wants Ellie to touch the objects, see if she can get a vision; but she refuses, thinking Max wanted it too much and was just seeing things. As far as they know, he’s never been in the asylum, so what’s the point of even trying (really Ellie? Wow, 2 seconds touching the watch, that’s all he asks). She plays sceptic with the pictures and the watch appearing (really, after what they’ve been though, the medium plays sceptic). Finally, grudgingly, Ellie holds the picture, but doesn’t get a vision. He wants her to keep trying but she doesn’t want to see any more ghosts, she just wants to leave.

Max confronts her about leaving, she’ll be going somewhere she can’t tell anyone anything about ghosts, she came looking for answers and didn’t really get any etc etc. It’s not that productive

Meanwhile Dan returns, more than slightly panicked and tells Keria about following Warren, his blackout, and finding a dead body which may be Kate’s. Keira, being sensible, wants to go to the police, but Dan wasn’t to doublecheck what he saw – so goes to confront Warren. And Warren cracks and tells Dan about Joseph Baylor, the evil man who worked in the hospital how he could communicate with the dead and the evil, terrible things he did to the people here. He claims that when he found out Warren stopped him – but it was too late. He blames Joseph for Kate’s death – because killing girls is what he does.

Keira sees that Ellie is leaving and worries that it’s because Warren has said something after Keira told him that Warren and Ellie both had the same simple on their arm. Keira is treated to Ellie blowing up a bit at her as well as Warren - and Ellie deciding she needs to hear what Warren said himself. She drags Max into a search for documents – which gets nowhere. But Ellie is convinced Warren knows something and was involved in the Bedlam circle that abused people. Max points out it can’t just be a symbol for the abusers because they’ve marked Ellie with it as well – she’s being too simplistic.

Their argument is derailed by Max walking into his room and seeing a funeral urn full of ashes dumped on his bed with the word “son” written in them – and a key buried among them. As soon as Ellie touches it, she gets a vision. Through which she sees a place – a passage to a garden with a sundial. Max sets off to search, but Ellie sees Eve and decides she can’t go – that Max has to go alone – until Max gasps at the sheer ridiculousness of this

They find the sundial, Ellie takes a moment to chide Max for being obsessed with his issues (please, join me in gaping at that statement) before the find the door Eve left through – which the key they found fits. They open it – and Eve is inside there as well, time for another vision of Eve down the tunnel.

Back to Dan and Keira, with Dan telling Keira what Warren told her – she is both trauamtised at her friend’s death (Kate and Keira have been friends since they were small children) and duly suspicious that Warren knows Joseph has come back for revenge but doesn’t know what he’s getting revenge for. She thinks Warren has lost his mind and killed Kate – and wants to call the police now. Dan promises he will.

Alphas Season One, Episode Two: Cause and Effect

In this episode we are introduced to Kathy who is the teams department of defense liaison. When she walks in, she is already informed about all of the things that the team can do.  After the attempt on Lee's life in the first episode, they have be relocated to Queens, which Nina is not at all pleased with. Kathy is there to get the team's help to recapture Marcus a former patient of Lee's.  Marcus has the ability to see a chain of events and manipulate them to ensure a specific outcome.  Despite counseling by Lee, Marcus does not understand that not everyone has this ability.

Through a series of flashbacks we see Marcus' psychosis blossom.  It turns out that Lee had him sent to the compound - a place where alphas who are a danger to society or themselves are sent.  This is something that deeply plagues Lee and disturbs Nina.  We learn that Lee is the one who makes the decision about who remains free and who goes to the compound.  Nina worries that there is little difference between her and Marcus and Hicks and Marcus, but Lee assures her that there is a difference.

Watching a tape of an interview between Marcus and Lee, Hicks is similarly concerned.  Lee wanted Hicks to see the tape because he feels that there are similarities between the two but where Marcus blames the world for failures, Hicks has a tendency to blame himself.  As the team investigates, it's clear that there is more going on with the alphas than even Lee knows.  When he finally has a confrontation with Marcus, Marcus asks him to consider why he was being transported.

People of Colour as Extras do not Equal Inclusion

Here’s an interesting phenomenon, I think there’s a population of POC mole people in the world, or at least on TV.

For example, on the Secret Circle there were only 3 POC (including 2 people who managed to make a brief appearance for 2 episodes), who actually spoke. But when they’re at school, when there are crowds of people in the corridors - suddenly there are several POC! Yes, the POC mole people came out from the corners and the shadows to show their face for Essential Inclusivity Crowd Scene and then, when there’s actually speaking lines going around, they fade back into their secret lairs. I actually expect the white cast to look around in shock “where did these guys come from?!”  

One of the most obvious examples was the season three premiere, “Happy Birthday Elena.”  This episode stood out not because something spectacular happened in the plot, but because they managed to scare up so many people of colour for Elena’s birthday party. Where did they come from? I thought Black people were only for the purposes of snacking or to do magic when Elena needs a favour.  

On Falling Skies, the representation of people of colour is well below population demographics, which would lead one to believe that for some reason, the aliens find us to be extra tasty; that is until it’s time to show a crowd scene and all of the people of colour come out of hiding to wave at the camera, before being saved by the ever-so-heroic white knight Tom.

Crowd scenes are a major time for the POC mole-people to show up to hit those essential inclusion moments - and how many times do we see this? An all white cast, but the minute we’ve got a crowd of people going in front of the cameras, the POC mole people emerge! And yea the casting director pats himself on the back, because a face in the crowd with a bit more melanin and lo, inclusion is achieved!

Who do they think is actually falling for that? If the best you can do for inclusion appears in the credits as “man crossing road #3” then you do not have inclusion.

Then you have what we like to call recurring tokens. Members of the protagonist team who are POC, but extremely tertiary (they’re not even side-kicks) to the other cast members. The absolute best example of that is of course T-Dog from The Walking Dead.  First, we have to deal with the fact that though we have been promised Tyrese would make an appearance, the ineffectual T-Dog (could they have chosen a more uncool 90’s name?)  is the only representation of Black masculinity.  We have been given a reason to invest in every other character whereas for T-Dog, we have learned that he is handy to have around as a driver if you are running from zombies, or if you need a big heavy box moved.  More often than not an entire episode can go by without seeing him and when he does appear, chances are he does not have a single line of dialogue.

But he’s hardly the only one. Melissa on The Secret Circle, is virtually an afterthought. On Bedlam season 1 we had Molly floating around everyone else’s life. In Falling Skies, despite being part of the team since the very beginning and one of their most skilled and experienced scouts, Dai still takes a secondary role to the teenaged Hal and the new recruit Maggie. He’s always around in the background, especially on any dangerous scouting missions, but most episodes he doesn’t even have a speaking role. These characters aspire to become side-kicks, they’re hangers on who are occasionally useful, but their main role is to show a face that isn’t white to the cameras.

Another useful POC token to throw in is the external support staff. They probably won’t show up every episode and when they do, it’s only briefly for their expertise - they’re not involved in the main storylines, they won’t have any storylines of their own, they usually won’t have any real character development - but they’re there to assist the main (white) protagonist’s story.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: Don't Call Me Angel by Alicia Wright Brewster, Book 1 of the Forsaken Series

Six is a fallen angel. She was banished from Heaven to Hell, for reasons unknown (she blames the bureaucracy). But centuries of plotting have finally paid off – and she has managed to accumulate the favours and put into action a plan to get her free.

Now on Earth, she has to learn just what this wonderful, incredible and sometimes horrifying place actually is, what the rules are and to find her own place within it while at the same time rejecting god and her old path – she’s no longer an Angel and will not be one.

But what does she do when she finds she is not the first to escape? And worse, that not only are the other escapees engaging in horrific behaviour, but that her friend and ally seems all too willing to join them. And that’s before the old forces she left in Hell decide they want her to return.

This book was a very short read at only 100 pages, but it managed to fit in a lot of depth in a little space. Six has escaped from Hell and is confronted with Earth that makes so little sense to her. The world is beautiful and amazing and stunning – yet it is so full of cruelty and evil. Humanity has so much, yet it still engages in the behaviour she sees down in the pit.

This adds a lot of conflict to her character – as well as her utter rejection for the god that damned her, symbolised by the removal of her wings. But now, when she sees people suffer, she is torn – does she feel compassion for them because of her angelic instincts (which she rejects?) And  when their suffering is just a sliver of Hell – and they get to go to heaven anyway. Even people she considers lacking, who shouldn’t get that, which was denied her. She even gets a sense of anger about it. Yet at the same time there’s her outrage that this suffering, this predation isn’t confined to Hell, that it happens in this wonderful Earth as well – she is angry because they are despoiling this amazing world
Then there’s her fellow Angel Aldren; he’s also an interesting source of conflict. He was, for so long, the only friend and ally she had, especially in the dangerous times in Hell. And yet, now he is out and she can’t agree with what he’s doing – his cruelty, is callous evil, his casual abuse of humanity around him. But to turn on hr only friend is a major step – especially when she thinks that it is Hell that has done this to him; and can she judge him on that if she truly got an easier time in Hell?

Diversitywise, we don’t have a huge cast of characters and most of them are supernatural – but Six is a woman of colour.

Blood Ties: Season 2, Episode 2 Wild Blood

In an interesting beginning, Vicki and Henry are discussing the pros and cons of vampirism – the power it gives, the amazing senses; things Vicki would love to experience. But it comes with costs – sunlight, loss of friends and family and, of course, loss of Henry since vampire territorial nature prevents them from coexisting in the same city.

And the case of the week a woman, a cat burglar, robs a man’s house. The man is clearly a hunter with a like of taxidermy given the many many heads stuffed on the walls – including head of a black panther of some kind which attracts her attention. But not nearly so much as him coming home, grabbing a gun – then being mauled to death by, what sounds like, a big cat. She fills her bags and then leaves. The dots seem pretty clear so far.

Since Melville, the dead man, was a friend of the mayor’s there’s rather a lot of pressure for the police to solve this case – in particular there is a lot of pressure on Celluci put there by Crowley, his boss (and she who dislikes Vicki because, of course, a strong female character must be universally hated by at least 75% of all other women in the world, and 100% of other strong female characters). And they have a suspect – Felicia, the thief, who was seen in the area at the time of death and ran from police. The problem is that Melville was mauled by claws, consistent with a big cat and it’s unlikely Felicia would have been able to rip off his head and place it on the table (nice touch, I have to say). Celluci excellently points out how concerned his boss is because the victim was prominent – it’s all about placating the press, not justice.

Of course, a lot of this is undermined when Celluci declares to the doubting Kate that he knows Felicia is guilty (that would be those magical gut reactions).  Time for some questioning of Felicia and her story is not so much full of holes as one big hole. During Celluci’s menacing little interrogation (where are the lawyers?) Felicia’s eyes glow.

Celluci, of course, knows who to call with spooky stuff – Vicki and Henry. Except he’s been playing awkward sceptic for the last season so both of them get to poke and needle him about him finally asking them for help – which is truly glorious to watch. Oh yes yes it is.

Celluci and Kate’s questioning doesn’t get much further except Felicia has pulled out some extra levels of creepy – and dropped hints about how very wrong and inhuman it is to take someone’s head. Lots of verbal back and forth, including references to keeping a big cat as a pet – which brings a tear to Felicia’s eye – but no clues from her.

Alphas, Season One, Episode One: Pilot

Each Alpha is so named because they are able to perform a special skill set. Gary Bell is a neurologically atypical young man with the ability to pick up radio signals.  Nina Theroux has the ability to manipulate the will of others.  Bill Harken has super strength that is a response to the fight of flight instinct.  Rachel Pirzad had the ability the heighten any one of her senses, which means that she can potentially read the a newspaper from ten blocks away.  Finally, there is Cameron Hicks who has perfect aim and great reflexes.  The Alpha team is led by Dr. Lee Rosen.

At this time, the alpha team's liaison is Don Wilson, but we don't know much about him. When he approaches Lee with the story of a man being shot inside a locked room with no windows and two police officers present, Lee is hesitant to get involved.  When the team does investigate, they discover that the shot could only have been made by an Alpha.  After some research they discover Cameron Hicks who tests scores as a sniper were through the rough.  They also found a tape in which he pitched two perfect games back to back and the footage included an impossible shot. They quickly apprehend Hicks and tell him what he is. Hicks is a resistant at first but when Lee tells him to focus on his successes rather than realizing the times that he is successful just defy explanation. 

After some examination, it is discovered that not only is Hicks an Alpha, he was brainwashed into the murder.  They wait for The Ghost to contact Hicks again and track back his signal to his hotel room.  Unfortunately, the ghost manages to escape and manages to use Bill as his next weapon.  It seems that the ghosts real target is the alpha team itself.  In the end, Hicks shoots the ghost who tells him before he dies that he is on the wrong team.  Hicks thinks that this is the end and that he can go back to his life, but Lee reminds him that he is still guilty of killing a man.  Lee informs him that the only way for him to stay safe is to join their alpha organization.

Review of The Walking Dead Issue 100

I know that we haven’t been talking a lot about the comics because we have been focusing on the show, but as a fan of the series, we couldn’t very well ignore yesterday’s release of comic 100.


As we approached issue 100, there was no doubt that it was going to be epic.  Though Rick et al had settled into a community, they were very short of food and the opportunity to share with the Hill Top - another group of survivors, was absolutely vital to their survival.  Unfortunately, a group of vigilantes led by Negan, (who really is The Governor 2.0 in many respects) is not happy that Rick thwarted his power in the area by killing a few of his men.  

In some ways, I feel that Rick brought on the struggle with Negan himself because he did not bother to find out how many people Negan has at his disposal and simply declared himself king badass.  Zombies are deadly but unlike humans, they are not calculating and cold.  There is being proactive and then there’s being short sighted. In many ways, Rick's leadership has been blessed more by luck than rational thought out actions.  I know it is difficult to see the luck when you count the number of casualties, but honestly, it really could have been much worse. 

This comic begins with Rick and Michonne realizing that they are not going to make it to the Hilltop before dark and therefore will have to find a place to camp for the night.  Maggie wants to keep driving but Rick deems this too dangerous, though he doesn’t know for sure if anything human is waiting to ambush them.  I suppose his declaration in issue 99 that Negan’s group would need to lick their wounds means that it’s an absolute fact. Why everyone around him just accepted this as fact because Rick (read: The great and powerful Oz) declared it so I don't quite know.

Rich and Michonne have a chat, in which he finally gets around to thanking her for always having his back.  I was actually quite surprised by this because it has been a long time since we have seen Rick do anything even remotely humble.  When they exchange watch for the night, Rick falls asleep and is overtaken by Negan and his men.  Gee, who would ever have seen that coming?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review: The Darkest Gate by SM Reine, book 2 of The Descent Series

Elise, demon hunting Kopis, is struggling to hold her life together. After her last adventure revealed her presence to the world, her quite life as an accountant is under threat. The magic she used to resurrect James has woken up vast forces in the city – and attracted old enemies who have been hunting her. She is attacked on all sides – but for every giant spider trying to kill her, there are other, more insidious attacks. Her demonic clientel switch to other accountants, her office burned, her bank account emptied – the foundations of her normal life are being undermined, leaving her penniless, homeless and everything she fought for going up in flames.

Which is all the more poignant when we see back into her past and how little she had, how much she has fought to create this life and what she endured before. Ever more desperate, she is forced to make dubious deals and reckless acts to try and stay afloat. How much must she compromise to try and keep herself and her friends alive?

But beyond mundane horrors, if she doesn’t stop the rogue kopis, Mr. Black, then far greater and more dangerous foes could be unleashed including her oldest and most powerful enemy. One she would literally rather die than face

This world continues to be fascinating. It’s one of the few series out there that has a genuinely unique world that is completely different from any I’ve read before. The different kinds of demons, the Warrens, the Angels and, of course, Him are so hugely different from what I’ve seen elsewhere. The magic, the Angel city, the relationship between kopides and aspides and how do they relate to the demon world?

Of course, it’s all the more compelling because we’re given innumerable hints – we know that kopides deal with demon overlords to enter their territory, but not why or how that matches with their demon hunts – or whether kopides do habitually demon hunt. We know that He (who we presume is… god? Maybe?) is Elise’s enemy, but not why. We know she and Angels have a hostile history, but again, not why. Even making portals and seeking the Angelic city – we do not know why they’re doing it. But because it all fits in with the theme of mystery in this book, it doesn’t feel like poor writing (characters doing things without motive) but it hints of a complex and fascinating world that we’ve only seen slivers of. It’s compelling, it’s intriguing and it leaves me hungry for more. I will say, though, that if I don’t get more in the third book I will be frustrated – there’s only so many appetisers you can eat before you want your entrĂ©e to arrive.

Being Human U.K. Season Four, Episode Four: A Spectre Calls

This episode begins with a flashback to 1970 and Kirby, the ghost we saw at the end of the last episode crosses the street to retrieve a ball and is struck by a car, killing him instantly.

In present day, Hal is holding the baby who is crying and he calls out for help. Tom tells him that Annie has made a schedule for every hour for the baby.  Hal says that they must destroy the schedule. Annie walks in saying that someone is watching them.  Kirby rings the door and Hal and Tom search him roughly and Kirby claims that Nina sent him.  Kirby says that he was a nursery teacher before he died and that Nina didn't come because werewolves can't be ghosts. 

Annie invites Kirby in saying that she is not going to pretend that she doesn't need the help.  Annie marches into Tom's room without knocking and then complains that his room is messy.  I don't think I could live with Annie, as she seems to have no sense of boundaries. When Annie shows him Eve's room, Kirby makes a face when he sees all of the crucifixes hanging over the crib.  Kirby suggests that they paint the room a bright colour and add some toys. 

Annie marches downstairs and orders Tom to get some nice things for the nursery. When Eve starts to cry, Annie leaves and Kirby is quick to mention to Tom that Annie has him all trained and that Annie says jump and Tom asks how high.  Clearly this ghost is a shit distruber. 

Hal is doing his push ups shirtless (a beautiful sight I might add)  when Annie says that it is time for him to do the baby massage and stimulating story time. Really? He says that he cannot because on his schedule it says noon push ups and then a program on radio 4. For Hal this is important because this is how he focuses, but Annie says that they are meant to be a team. She hands him the baby telling him not to forget to use lavender oil and leaves the room.

Upstairs, Annie finds Kirby in Tom's room cleaning up.  When she tells him that he doesn't have to do that, he responds, 'Tom says that you can get a bit twisted if things don't go your way."  When Annie asks him to repeat it, he says to forget that he said that.  Yep, Kirby is a shit disturber. Of course, Kirby wants Annie to know that he doesn't mean to cause any trouble between them and Annie assures him that he can't because thanks to her schedule, they're "a well oiled machine." Kirby takes the opportunity to ask about Hal because Eve is the war child, but Annie says that she trusts him.

Downstairs, Tom is dragging a container that he found on a skid and when Annie gets upset, he says that it will be easy to fix up. As Tom drags it outside, Kirby tells Annie that Tom is young and that perhaps it will be good to have another man around the house.  Upstairs, Kirby knocks on Tom's door to tell him that he thought the container just needed a good clean and Tom responds "but Annie said" and again Kirby cuts him off.  Kirby then notices that all of the pictures on Tom's wall are of families and he centers in on the one with the birthday cake, causing Tom to admit that he has never so much as had a birthday card. It turns out that the next day is Tom's 21st birthday and Kirby says that it's a massive day and points out that of course Hal and Annie know. Kirby says that Hal and Annie are organizing him a surprise birthday party and that he cannot say anything, or else he will ruin the surprise. 

Hal pops in saying that Annie is getting hysterical downstairs and that he is not enjoying it.  Downstairs Annie is walking the baby and yells, "she has a temperature, a bloody temperature."  Kirby calmly says to call a GP and get him to do a home visit. He suggests that they say that Tom is the father, and when Hal asks where's the mother, Kirby responds at work. Tom sets up a fantasy in which his pretend wife is a barrister and they are a power couple.

The doctor shows up and Tom let's him in, reciting exactly what Annie told him to say.  When things start to go wrong, Annie screams for Hal, who tells the doctor that he is Tom's boyfriend reluctantly. Hal asks what the doctor meant by saying that Tom was weird and the doctor says that Tom is a half wit.  Hal responds saying, "no you weren't. You were saying that he is gay and being prejudiced."  The doctor starts to deny this and Hal tells him to just check on the baby. It turns out Eve has a simple ear infection.  Tom walks over and puts his arm around Hal and the doctor says, "I had not idea you were gay.  Most gay couples have taste (referring to the decor) and there was no mention of an adoption. I couldn't find anything about her on our entire system." Hal tells him to go away, and the doctor says "fine, there are things I need to check."  Annie starts to worry because he cannot check on Eve's background. As he walks out Tom says, "Oh great mistrust queens, well that's how we're used to it mate, I'm gay and I'm straight. That's not how it is, I'm queer and I'm here."

Before continuing on with the recap, I have to pause to talk about this exchange. In four seasons, there has only been one gay character and he killed his lover. Having Tom and Hal pretend to be lovers so they could charge discrimination to avoid the doctor's questions is deeply offensive.  If Being Human wants to erase GLBT characters then erase them, don't use their marginalization as a tool; it's simply offensive.

The doctor goes out to his car and Kirby pops in.  Kirby places his hand on his chest and tells him that his heart is starting to race. Then he tells the doctor that his heart starts to flutter.  As Kirby is causing a disruption with the doctor's heartbeat, he confesses how much loves this and misses this.  He says, "in the old days I would have used a knife but this is so much better."  The doctor then dies, but we don't see his ghost appear and I find this weird because thus far, every time someone has died, we have seen their ghost. 

In the house, Hal watches as the GP is loaded into an ambulance, as Kirby hide around a corner. Hal asks Kirby if he knows what happened to the GP and Kirby responds, "Heart attack I suspect.  As soon as he came in I thought, now there's someone who shouldn't start any long books."  Hal is not sold and says it's peculiar that this happened on the day Kirby arrived. Kirby tells him that he is the expert on death and then starts to bring up the people that Hal killed. He suggests that Annie wouldn't recognize Hal from his past, but Hall says Annie knows what he was like, to which Kirby asks, "all the gory details?"  Kirby points out that Hall might be used to what he has done but someone hearing all the details for the first time might find it quite disturbing.  At this point, I really want Hal to find a way to just eat Kirby. It seems that Kirby's goal is to get Annie to like him and help with the baby and he expects Hal to help him achieve that goal. He claims to just want to be part of the family and suggests that if he is going to keep quiet about the details of Hal's past, then he deserves the same courtesy. 

Teen Wolf, Season 2, Episode 7: Restraint

The weregecko’s master is setting him on poor people in a trailer – killing the man, but sparing his pregnant wife (more hints adding to Allison’s conclusion that the weregecko does have some moral compunctions about its murder spree)

The Scooby Gang – Allison, Stiles and Scott, have a recap on what it must be like to be Jackson the weregecko – how he must be completely forgetting not just being the weregecko, but also shifting, cleaning up afterwards, everything – though his master must be helping him edit the video.

Of course, talking to Jackson is somewhat difficult because the of the restraining order that has now been put out on them against Jackson (though I admire Stiles his ability for causing every adult in the room to cross their arms in exasperation at the same time). And the parents are also Not Pleased with the whole kidnapping and restraining order thing. Scott’s mother in particular has grounded Scott from Stiles – and wants to know what’s going on with him, alas, at Stiles’s urging, he doesn’t tell her.

Derek and the Wolfies (except Boyd who is never ever around) want to find the identity of the weregecko from Scott and Stiles – and it seems Erica and Isaac still have to be chained up (for kinky reasons… wait, no, because of full moon) and Derek hasn’t been teaching them while worrying about the Argents (which was the whole point of having them) and Jackson the weregecko. Derek also notices that Granddaddy Argent wasn’t afraid of the weregecko – that would be a weregecko that needs a boss, the killing machine that is being controlled. Now I wonder I wonder why Granddaddy Argent isn’t afraid? Oh what a mystery. Here, let me beat you to death the clues a little more.

Meanwhile Allison is sneaking around the CCTV and passing on Lydia’s confused translations – under the excuse that they’re part of an online gaming community that battles mythical creatures. This a) allows Stiles to be geekily adorable and b) confirms Allison as the worst friend ever since, last episode, Allison refused to talk about Lydia’s trauma and hallucinations and insisted they do the translation instead. If my friend said “sorry, no time for your major real life trauma – but can you translate the Monster Manual for me?” I’d slap them. And they learn that the weregecko is an agent of vengeance – it kills murderers until the Master gets full control then it kills whoever the Master (Granddaddy Argent) wants. Also, the weregecko will become a fullfledged werewolf when he finally resolves his issues, whatever they may be. They put 2 and 2 together of his story and wonder about Jackson’s biological parents (we’ve already learned he has issues with his adoptive parents).

Stop the GR Bullies: Stalking, Tantrums and Bullying

'No Tantrums' photo (c) 2012, Lena - license:

It seems a new site has been started called Stop the GR Bullies, aimed at book reviewers at Goodreads. It seems to be author driven in response to the many many trainwrecks we have see all too often; you know the kind, an author sees a less-than-shining review and unwisely decides to respond - frequently leading to cringeworthy temper tantrums and shocking behaviour.

There is a lesson these authors seem to be sorely missing. They are producing a product and they are producing a work of art. The first means that people will review and critique the product they bought (as is their right), the second means that, given the subjective nature of artwork, some people will not like it - in fact some will loathe it and they will say so. They will never please everyone all of the time and it is no-one’s duty to lavish praise when it is not deserved. The book is not their baby, it is not something precious and special that needs to be treated gently - it is a product that is being sold and, like any other product we buy, if it’s awful - be that new furniture or a takeaway pizza - then we will say so, quite possibly in intemperate and scathing terms. Books are not a special category that makes them somehow untouchable.

That is not bullying. This is critiquing. This is reviewing. This has been going on, not just with artwork, but with every and all products since the beginning of time. It is actually insulting and offensive to call this bullying, especially at a time when we are seeing so much more attention to the bullying rates among schools and the horrendous rate of teen suicide it causes. To try and invoke this imagery because people are criticising your book? No, really, that’s not on.

On to the drama reports - which is one of the things they’ve accused Cuddlebuggery of. Now, I actually read
Cuddlebuggery, partly because it’s amusing, partly to keep my eye out for decent books and, yes, partly because I want to have a heads up if an author is going to explode into chunks of messy outrage should I review one of their books and find it less than utterly perfect. And, yes, I will be avoiding that author, why would I seek them out? And I will say that, yes, they’re snarky, yes they can be (justly) harsh but they are never anything but honest - and every single one of those drama posts they’ve written have been a direct, honest report of actual poor author behaviour (which is considerably more honest than the highly skewed and dubious accounts Stop the GR Bullies has written, to be honest) and they include links back for you to see the authors in all their failing glory.

You are not being bullied if someone honestly reports your actions. If you show your arse to the world and people point out that your butt cheeks are on display, it’s not their fault that everyone is commenting on it, criticising it and disapprove of your arse bare to the wind. You are facing the consequences of your actions and your utter lack of professionalism; not being bullied.

Also, let us add that you’re not being “driven off goodreads” by these mean critics. If someone criticises your book, even harshly, that is not driving you off. If you respond to a negative review (which is already foolish) and people continue to criticise and, yes, even mock, that is not driving you off. If your dubious, unprofessional and unacceptable behaviour is reported and people mock you for it, that is not driving you off. If you leave in these conditions you are not being driven off - you are flouncing.

But, you know what? Even if these reviewers were tearing up your precious, even if they said some truly hurtful, mean and even personal things. Even then this site would still be beyond the pale. At Stop the GR Bulllies, they go to extreme lengths to attack their critics. I actually would run out of space trying to list their terrible behaviour - and I am in two minds of linking to their site because of what they’ve written there:

They post the real name (and if they don’t have it, they keep looking), home city and, if they can find one, photograph (again, if they can’t find one, they keep looking) of the people they’re attacking. This is already frightening and, frankly, dangerous; but they then compound that by listing their place of work and their schedule.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: Dark Dates, Book One of the Cassandra Bick Chronicles, by Tracey Sinclair

Cassandra is a human sensitive who knows when someone around her is not human.  She can sense the evil in them and the power.  At first her parents saw her as a precocious child but in her teenage years, when the sense became debilitating, she was approached by an earth bound angel named Cain, who tells her that what she has is truly a gift. He disappears from her life for years, only to reappear the night that her two best friends are killed, to drag her from a burning house.  Cain seeks vengeance in Cassandra's name and this separates them again for a few years.

Cassandra could have chosen to hate anything that wasn't human or otherwordly after suffering such a loss, but instead decides to view each person as an individual and so she sets up dark dates - a service which introduces humans and vampires.  Cassandra is happy and comfortable in her life, though she has been unable to re-create any friendships since the horrible day that her best friends died.  The closest she has come is Madea, her Indian and Scottish Wiccan assistant. Though they spend everyday together, once it's quitting time, they go their separate ways.

When Cain blows back into town telling her that something bad is happening and mysterious deaths are appearing in the newspaper, she refuses to leave town because she cannot afford to allow her business to flounder and has to live on a tight budget to make her mortgage payments. A mysterious vampire visits her place of business and threatens her but Cassandra still won't leave.  When her office is broken into and her files stolen, Laclos the head vampire in London demands that she find out who is doing this because all of the young vampires are now being killed thanks to the information in her files.  Demons begin attacking and though the mysterious Cain has promised to help, he never seems to be around when she needs saving.  To make matters worse, when she finally uses her sense on Cain, she learns that not only is he not human but that he is an angel.  Can Cassandra find who is killing off the vampires in London before they kill her or ruin her way of life forever?

Okay, I have to say that Sinclair has turned me into an out and out fanpoodle.  I stayed up late reading this book because I simply could not put it down.  Even as I write this, my heart is screaming don't critcise the precious, must protect the precious.  One of the things that I loved about this book was the inclusion.  Too often in urban fantasy, having a diverse supernatural world is used to cover the fact that there is little real inclusion going on but in Dark Dates, Sinclair managed to have a diverse supernatural and human cast that read as largely authentic.  

Madea and her shifter girlfriend Kate clearly have a loving relationship.  Though they help Cassandra fight evil, they make it clear that they are doing so only because they have a stake in what is going on, rather than a need to have Cassandra's back. It would have been so easy to have them become sidekicks and servants but Sinclair skillfully avoids this.  Even when Kate examines Cassandra for physical damage, she does it clinically without becoming overwrought.

In terms of GLBT inclusion there is also the bisexual Laclos.  Unlike the relationship between Kate and Madea, when this is revealed it is in a predatory manner.  When Laclos meets Cain for the first time, he is overcome with attraction and forces himself on Cain. He suggests that because Cain is centuries old that he should be open to sex between the two of them, though Cain is obviously not interested.  Laclos touches Cain sexually without permission. 
Laclos leaned in and kissed Cain full on the mouth, his eyes closing as his lips touched Cain's, his hand closing into a fist, Cain's t-shirt clenched within it.  The kiss only went on for seconds, but it felt like a very very long tme, and when Laclos pulled back his expression was transformed.  He looked almost stunned - sated and starving all at the same time, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open. (page 195)
Cain has to physically threaten Laclos to get him to stop assaulting him. Cassandra of course is sexually turned on watching this, making this passage read like a cheap m/m slasher book.  If that were not enough, her jealousy kicks in because Laclos is no longer devoting his sexual desires to her and is instead fixated on Cain.  How dare he forget that she is in the room for even a single moment. This scene is a problem because it plays upon the mythos of the sexually predatory male who is attracted to the same sex, though Cain's power is used as justification for Lycalos' actions.

Continuum Season One, Episode Six: Time's Up

The concept behind Continuum is interesting, but each week I find myself asking, why am I watching this?  I cannot identify whatsoever with the protagonist and find myself rooting for the so-called terrorists.

As always, this episode begins with a flash forward to the year 2077.  Kiera is called in to help put down a riot. At first she is absolutely disgusted with violence until she learns that the people are rioting over food.  It seems that the corporations withheld food from the population in order to drive up the prices.  When Kiera expresses concern she is told that someone else will look in it.  When she takes the issue to her husband, he silences her by saying that she sounds like a member of Liber8.  Now all of this happened before Kiera went back in time and she still cannot admit that while their methods might be problematic and violent that they have a point.

In the present day, Keira comes across an anti-corporation protest and immediately assumes the worst of the protestors. Liber8 kidnaps the CEO of a corporation and holds her ransom for twenty million dollars. When the money is assembled, they demand that it is handed out to the protestors. 

In the meantime, Alec step brother Justin is no longer happy with sitting in on meetings.  He takes his father's truck and attends the protest.  Alec decides to rat him out to his step dad which leads to little shoving match in the living room.  Suddenly, Alec is worried about what Justin is doing, when in fact he gave him the idea to get more involved in the first place.

Falling Skies, Season 2, Episode 5: Love and Other Acts of Courage

We have an ominous beginning – with lots of Skitters (including red-eye) all yodelling to the setting sun – and Ben joining in with his spikes glowing. Whether it’s a flash forward or a dream we don’t know, because we move from there to Hal and Maggie flirting and totally not being a couple honest. Which is interrupted by explosions in the city; everybody rushes to defensive positions. Weaver thinks of defence but tom points out if there’s Mech fire that suggests more human resistance under fire and they should send someone to help – that would be Tom and his berserkers of course (which he now leads instead of Pope. Who is gone and NEVER coming back, yes yes he is). And Ben is missing, but no-one has time to look.

Tom and the berserkers arrive at the battle zone and it’s chaos – but it’s all destroyed Mechs and dead Skitters – the 2nd Massachusetts has never done that well against the aliens. But on examining the scene they find no human weapons, no human bullets, just Mech hits – it looks like the aliens are fighting each other. But under one Skitter body, revealed by his glowing blue spikes, they find Rick and take him to the medical bay.

Dr. Ann patches him up but is very defensive when Weaver brings up the last time Rick gave all their information to the aliens – pointing out that he was controlled by the harness and it wasn’t him; I’m glad to see the defence of him. Any further debate is interrupted by Weaver’s groan of pain and Ann pulling Doctor rank on him. His leg, which was bitten by a harness last episode, is gunky and possibly infected.

Ben is still missing and Hal can’t find him – in more worry, Hal tells Tom about Ben’s glowing spines. That’s when Rick wakes up, telling them that Ben was with him, he’s in danger and he’s hurt – and that Rick can find him. Waver’s extremely worried – Rick has betrayed them before and he doesn’t want to trust his word but Tom, obviously is willing to take the risk for Ben.

Naturally, Tom gets his way (doesn’t he always? Shall we stop pretending Weaver’s in charge?) and it’s time to follow Rick (and his glowing spikes) into the city, past a blood trail and into a building – where Ben is hiding. Ben is confused and wants them to leave – and he’s protecting someone; not letting them “hurt him” (his spikes are glowing again). Rick seems also to support “him”, saying that he needs their help – the 2nd Massachusetts’s help. Who is “He”? He is the red-eye Skitter and through Rick he talks to Tom – saying he saved his life on the ship (have I mentioned yet this recap what a monumentally ridiculous decision that was? No?) and that they need to talk. He needs their help to defeat the Overlords – both of their enemies. Then he collapses, wounded and Rick collapses with him.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy Episode 75

This week we discuss our usual TV programmes, True Blood, Continuum and Teen Wolf. We discuss the effects of marginalised writers on TV programmes as well as the limits and controls they work under and how a marginalised writer is not a panacea for a problematic series or portrayal. We also discuss the “matriarchy” on Teen Wolf and our problem with being on the sides of the enemies in so many of our programmes. And our book of the week: Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland

9/7-16/7: Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner 16/7-23/7: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor  
23/7-30/7: Grave Witch by Kalayna Price
23/7-30/7: God Save the Queen by Kate Locke

Sneak Peak of the Walking Dead's Michonne

It's a long tiem until Walking Dead starts again - but to tide us over we have this clip of our favourite character - Michonne

Review: Even White Trash Zombies Get The Blues, by Diana Rowland, Book 2 of the White Trash Zombie Series

Angel is settling into her life as a zombie now, working in the morgue, eating her brains and dating her fellow zombie, Marcus. They’re a little wary from the threat of zombie hunters after the deaths in the last book and she’s still working to get her dad sorted out, but on the whole things are looking good.

But then things get more complicated – a body appears that makes no sense at all to the police – and is connected not only to the zombies but also to the zombies that were murdered by Ed the zombie-hunter in the last book. Worse, the body is stolen at gunpoint from Angel and no-one believes her story – finding it easier to blame her, with her criminal record than to actually listen to her. Her job and her easy access to brains are under threat – and the clue trail points towards experiments and projects funded by zombies and possible conflict between them.

As if that weren’t enough, her parole officer reminds her that she needs to get her GED or she’ll violate her parole, which just highlights her lack of education and the massive class gulf between her and Marcus who is studying for his Masters. To make matters worse, his friends and his uncle, an old and powerful zombie, are all vastly more educated and more wealthy than she and they look down on her from the vantage point of their extravagant mansions.

And all of this is before they find they’ve stumbled into zombie politics and insidious conspiracies at the highest possible levels…

The plot and the mystery was complex and pretty well done. I did get close to lost a few times because of the weight of different people, different themes and different edges of the same platform. But part of that is because the mystery was held really well through most of the book and while I’m confused, so too is Angel. I honestly didn’t see the ending coming, not even close to it – there were multiple hints and, yes, in hindsight, clues that could have lead me there (I should have known to be alert for all the clever hints reading a Diana Rowland book! Where’s my flipchart?) but I was completely surprised when it all came together. There were plenty of twists, what I assumed was going to happened several times, didn’t – and the answers I was oh-so-sure I had were completely wrong.

I actually felt we were dealing with several subplots all running together and through that it was, perhaps, too much, but at the end they all came together into one, solid, interwoven story that also drew in the last book as well. Nothing was simple and nothing was what was assumed – and even when it draws on some very old tropes and very old story elements, it still surprised me because the journey to them was so unique.

Fangs for the Fantasy Book of the Week

Every week on the Fangs for the Fantasy podcast (archives here) we read a book and discuss it on the show. The review for the book of the week always goes up on 3:00pm (EST) on a Monday (Monday’s book review).

To give people a chance to read along with us, every Monday we’re also going to include a list of our planned books of the week for the next few shows, so people can get the books, read them and join in the conversation.

3/7-9/7: Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues: Diana Rowland
9/7-16/7: Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner
16/7-23/7: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
23/7-30/7: God Save the Queen by Kate Locke

We will discuss each book on the latter date – so on the 16th July, we will discuss Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner

We will post a new list every Monday with any changes or new books.

Face Off: What Vampire Legend Should Not Be Messed With?

Urban Fantasy Vampires have evolved a lot over the years, as the old horror stories and myths they were based on slowly changed to be the genre we now know and love. But along the way, a lot has changed - that’s not necessarily a bad thing, after all changing them from evil villainous monsters to potential protagonists is a major leap in and of itself.

Still, there are some changes from the roots that we’re not pleased with, which always make us frown whenever they appear. There are some parts of the vampire legend that shouldn’t be messed with: so this week’s Face Off, which change of the supernatural legend bothers you the most?

Vampires in Daylight
I don’t mind how you do it - maybe they have to sleep during the day, maybe they burn during the day, maybe they’re weakened by daylight, maybe their eyes are sensitive to bright lights - whatever the reason, vampires should not be sunbathing. Vampires and sunlight shouldn’t mix, this is one of my inviolate rules. At some point, a vampire should stare up at the day star with fear. Enough of these vampires dancing around at noon!

And, above all, they should not sparkle. No, no they should not.

Vampires Eating Food.
I can’t even say why this bothers me so much, but it does. I can handle a vampire drinking (to a degree) but the idea of a vampire getting a Big Mac and Fries just kind of ruins the whole mystique. Quite apart from the whole issue of what goes in must come out at some point - c’mon, can you maintain the supernatural mystery imagining a vampire buying toilet paper?

Eating is just too human, too mundane, too mortal for my undead lords of the night to be doing

Self Loathing Vampire
The self loathing vampire has become extremely commonplace in urban fantasy.  From Louis de Pointe du Lac, to Edward Cullen, to Bill Compton, they are absolutely everywhere.  They spend their time moping in a constant depressive state while elevating everything human.  The worst part about it is that these vampires are boring and make me want to send them into some sort of group therapy.