Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Magicians, Season 3, Episode 8 Six Short Stories About Magic

This is an odd episode in that is takes stories of several characters telling the same story from different viewpoints all with a mixing time line… and it works.

Yes I’m shocked too. Honestly I hate shenanigans with narrative. Take a story, tell it in chronological order, try to be consistent with viewpoints in any one scene and generally don’t leap around and throw in random camera angles and whatever else some newly-art-school-minted director decides to throw into a show for whatever random reason

But this worked - we got to see some less usual POVs and allowed us to see a very complicated multi-sided plot from different angles because one POV simply could not adequately cover it.

So, Penny is heading to the Underworld to try and get the key from there - only he finds that the Underworld is Broken. I’m guessing this is because there’s no magic anymore and the Underworld probably runs a lot on magic. So we have “temporary” housing where numerous dead are now living in tents. Finding one person among them would be difficult so he needs to bribe an official

With the plot line of Game of Thrones. Hey if you died mid-series you’d want to know what happened! Of course, Penny has never watched an episode of Game of Thrones in his life and has to bullshit some nonsense instead, but it works and he finds Benedict

Who doesn’t have the key…. And is super sad that Penny, who he considered a friend (despite Penny hardly knowing him) has not actually come for him. He’s sad and pitiable and rather huggy and clingy in a slightly more than a little stalkerish way. Benedict claims the Librarians took the key and he totally wants to go with Penny on a buddy adventure to get it back.

Penny ditches him. And I understand that - I mean I get that Benedict is super sad and vulnerable and I kind of want to hug him and ask him about maps; but at the same time his clinginess kind of makes Penny obviously uncomfortable and one’s need for companionship does not mean others are required to provide it.

The Library does still work, which implies some level of magic. He tries to break in and runs into Sylvia - his former supervisor at the Library is super dead. Penny feels kinda guilty about this since he kind of left her in the poison room to die. But Sylvia is both cool and sensible and quickly tells him she isn’t mad because of course he ditched her - all he could have done would be to die next to her. And she’s here to help him find the key

They follow a trail of white powder to a room containing a woman who looks exactly like Alice. She’s actually Cassandra. Yes, that Cassandra, the prophet who was cursed with magical Sight. The Library has used her for a long time to use her magical vision to write the biographies of all living people: managing it with magic. Now, without magic, Cassandra can only write one book at a time - which also explains the Blank Spot - the terrible apocalyptic future that the Librarians were so worried about. All the biographies stop because Cassandra can’t write them any more.

Cassandra isn’t exactly coherent, but her writing is what led Sylvia to Penny.

And now she passes crumpled pages to Penny to help guide him. Page 1 is Poppy and Quentin having sex which Penny quickly puts down because he really really really doesn’t want to read that

Quentin is still all fretting about Harriet’s plan and doesn’t want to risk Poppy’s life on the plan because he’s become post-sex clingy rather than remembering she’s not a friend. She points out that bringing magic back is kind of something every magician has a stake in; and he totally misses this point to instead talk about quests. This is his quest and the whole point of a quest is to change the questor and make him something he’s not: specifically making the not!hero Quentin into a hero

Terry Goodkind, Cover Art, Criticism and Purpose. And Being a Dick

Popular (for some reason) don’t-you-call-me-a-fantasy-author fantasy author Terry Goodkind has caused something a kafuffle for deciding to be rather an unprofessional arse and openly mock the art of the cover of his latest book. Which, as the artist of said cover has expressed, is kind of not cool and a bit of a dick move.

I am kind of bemused at the criticism of the cover in any event - as far as a Fantasy cover goes it looks pretty good. Certainly better than most - the only reason I could think to criticise this cover is because, maybe, the characters don’t look like this? The cover isn’t an accurate portrayal of the characters

One conversational thread I did see came from the author team Ilona Andrews (who I have fanpoodled many many many times before) about the nature of covers and what their purpose is which I honestly hadn’t even considered (as a reader of ebooks, I rarely, if ever, even look at covers any more):

Covers artists work for the publisher, not the author. Their job is to produce a cover that markets a book, not, necessarily accurately depicts the characters as the author envisages them.

And though I hadn’t considered this before, I think this is exactly right, especially in relation to genre markers.

Woman, weapon, supernatural elements, brooding colours, inexplicable squatting? A definite Urban Fantasy. This cover is better than a blurb for telling me what this book is about

Cogs, iron, dirigible, fashion - we have a steampunk!

MANTITTEH! It’s a romance.

These are excellent genre signifiers, even when your book is super unique or different, reflecting theme, genre and tone is probably far far far more important to advertise the book than whether the clothing is accurate, whether the hero is too tall, etc. I certainly think they’re more important at pulling in new readers - especially since people who KNOW what your character looks like are already invested and the cover doesn’t need to pull them in

Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying covers are above criticism. We’ve done it many many many times ourselves obviously and we also firmly stand on the idea that EVERYTHING is open to criticism. A book cover can definitely fail to accurately portray the nature of the book, can push prejudiced tropes or erase minorities or can be just plain artistically awful. These are definitely issues and fair game for criticism (hence why we HAVE).

But failing to direct the criticism properly (the artist creates a cover as directed - it’s not their fault) and by failing to actually explain his criticism in a reasonable manner (including a detailed discussion of how, for example, the cover failed to represent the characters and why he disapproved of it. Also, of course, doing this to your own cover artist is an ultra dick move. Even if you are going to criticise your own cover there are much better ways to do it - as Justine Larbalestier did in objecting to the whitewashing of Liar both clearly criticising the publisher and expressing why it was a problem.

Seeing the backlash, Goodkind decide to backtrack and claim that he objected to the cover because it was Sexist.

Um… really?

I mean, for the Fantasy Genre? THIS cover is sexist?

We don’t have gratuitous exposed skin. She’s not in a provocative pose. She’s not wearing boobplate. Sure the heels are a bit silly but compared to many it’s pretty mild.

As for sexist - well, ulterior motive: I once had the very great misfortune of reading the Sword of Truth Series back in 2010 before we started Fangs for the Fantasy and wrote about my… opinions… on that book which I am going to take the opportunity to repost now. Because 1) if I had to suffer my way through this series I’m going to get maximum traction from it and 2) I think it’s vitally important to look at the work of Terry Goodkind when he decides to clutch his pearls about the “sexism” of this cover.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Mane Attraction (Pride #3) by Shelly Laurenston

Mitch has a price on his head - he’s due to testify and the very bad man who he’s testifying against would rather he didn’t. This didn’t stop Mitch, a werelion, attending a wedding full of shapeshifters with his best friend Sassy; but the evening was rather ruined when he was shot

Sassy decided the best way to keep him safe was to take him home to Tennessee to heal where none of his enemies should suspect him being. Of course with her brother, pack politics and an upcoming football game this definitely isn’t a quiet life, especially when friendship creeps into more

I do quite like how the animals that each person turns into informs their culture and personalities. Like the werewild dogs are playful and completely lacking in any kind of shame, extremely communal and convivial and have all kinds of fun while being super, ridiculously over-enthusiastic. I can see these people virtually wagging their tails as they hit the dance flaw with their terrible moves or sing karaoke, all the while the werewolves look on with embarrassment and the werecats are utterly horrified.

Even when this skirts close to reinforcing dubious tropes - like the male lions eating a ridiculous amount and expecting the lionesses to serve them (while at the same time it’s clear the lionesses only tolerate a certain number of lions in the pride) but at the same time it being very clear that there’s a whole lot of veiled tolerance going on and the lionesses in general considering them nigh useless because of this. It’s a nice subversion of having animal traits translate over to their were equivalent without upholding it as good and proper or justified or something to be happy about.

I like the idea of shapeshifter villages and towns in rural America with their own customs, shops and hobbies, linked with how different they are from urban shifters because, in their own towns, they can be so much more openly themselves and develop these practices without humans watching. At the same time I also like that they’re clearly affected by human culture as well, not necessarily unified as one shapeshifter unit or by breed (like a werelion who feels more alignment with southern shapeshifters than she does a yankee werelion)

This book may be one of the very few romances out there that I was actually invested in - because it was one of the very few romances where I could truly believe Sassy and Mitch as a couple long before they had sex. Because they’re fun - they’re so much fun together. They’re friends, and it shows. They can actually have a conversation beyond their relationship or the mission. They can spend time together and laugh and joke and generally enjoy each other’s company without having to be constantly having sex. I never realised just how rare it is to see a couple actually laugh together, a couple willing to make jokes, spend time together and genuinely enjoy each others’ company. They’re both silly, (especially him), enjoy humour, fun and yanking people’s chains for the sake of it.

In some ways them having sex actually dragged the story down because that’s it, that’s what they do. The minute they start having sex that’s all they do and their relationship suddenly feels so much less powerful: the connection between them fades under a wave of endless sex (though I do like Sassy’s horror in realising how much sex her parents are having)

One of the main flaws with this book, especially in the beginning, is the sheer number of characters (of course it turns out my google-fu fails and this is book 3 in a series damn it). There’s a wedding with everyone from very very large families all come together and there are names after names after names and I have no damn idea who half of these people are. Half way through the book I just have so many names in my head I have no idea whose Sassy’s friends whose Mitch’s relatives which of Sassy’s gazillion brothers I’m supposed to like, which are the enemy and… gods alone know who all these people are! It makes it very very hard to follow and recognise what is happening. It made things frustrating until the number of characters were pared down.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Lucifer, Season 3, Episode 15: Highschool Poppycock

Lucifer is having ominous dreams about Chloe and his dreams which he puts down to needing to defeat daddy dearest. He explains this to Linda who tries, yet again, to explain that maybe maybe maybe it could be about his issues with Chloe

Of course, like always, Lucifer ignores this and instead focuses on needing to defy dad, again. Linda is getting a habitual tired but unsurprised expression on her face from his shenanigans. Of course to defy dad he needs to kill Caine and he is all out of ideas on that front

This is this episode’s Lucifer obsession - him getting inspiration.

Chloe has her own theme this episode - starting with her avoiding a party invite from Ella. Through the episode we learn that Chloe, as a child actor, never really did the fun partying thing when young, never went to prom, never really even went to high school and part of her wondering whether she missed out on something.

So to the murder - the death of a famous YA author who has finally released her latest book after several years of writer’s block. Of course Lucifer seizes on this, along with taking advice from everyone he can for various levels of shenanigans which, frankly, I’m getting a little annoyed by his irritating behaviour

Ella is super geeky of course and no-one questions the sheer weirdness of a 21st century author writing an entire book on a typewriter and keeping no copies at all and that book is missing. Which annoys Lucifer because the book contains the afterward where the author describes how she defeated writer’s block and gained inspiration.

Lucifer does read the other books she wrote and has some rather scathing put downs for YA which he finds boring and dull and lacking in requisite adult shenanigans. This is somewhat averted when we reach suspect/red herring #1 who is both an adult man (I get that this is an idea of countering the stereotype of YA - but I honestly really hate the creeping “justification” for YA with the idea that more than young adults - specifically young women - read it. Being primarily - or even entirely - liked by women and/or young women specifically does not reduce it’s value, nor is it more valuable because a man liked it) and has a huge passionate defence for the quality of writing. And though he had a social media spat with the author over how long the next book was coming out. But he claimed they made up and he even sent fanfic to her.

I am sure every author everywhere totally supports this validation of how to connect to them and are not in any way inventing new, creative curses for the writers of this episode.

Chloe also reads these books - and spends all night reading - becoming extremely, incredibly invested and enthused about them

So time for some brainstorming and they realise that said YA author actually based all her characters on real life classmates, not even changing their first name and apparently having some kind of magical spell preventing her being sued by, just about, ALL THE LAWYERS EVER. There’s a reason why “resemblance to people, living or dead blah blah” boiler plate exists. Instead they think that these people who had all of their highschool dramas turned into best-selling books that maybe they’d want to murder her.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

iZombie, Season 4, Episode 1: Are you Ready for Some Zombies?

So last season we saw the city of Seattle have a huge amount of their populace turned into zombies, and zombies now being revealed to the world.

The US responded by building a huge wall around Seattle, declaring it a quarantine zone and threatening to shoot anyone who tries to cross. They do seem to be sending brains though - there’s a huge factory run by Fillmore Graves (who basically run everything) grinding up brains into tubes. And Fillmore Graves does run everything - much to Blaine’s annoyance that he has to play spymaster to Chase Graves in order to keep his businesses going

They have also designed a guillotine to work on zombies - it smushes heads. And scratching humans and turning them is a death penalty offence. Peyton - having dinner with the mayor - disapproves a lot but her fellow lawyer (and date?) Derreck thinks it’s just being used for gesture politics to reassure the humans

There are still plenty of humans in Seattle; though there was an exodus before the wall went up. And the Mayor puts their continued presence as the reason why the US hasn’t just nuked Seattle by now: too many innocent humans

We have standard tropes of prejudice against monsters: the homes of zombies are being vandalised with giant “Z”, zombie children being kicked out into the street by hating parents and Major’s night time military patrol was attacked by humans with molotov cocktails. On top of this, society does not seem to be super happy: there’s a curfew and Blaine more than implies a little corruption in how Fillmore Graves soldiers are treated

Despite all this radically changed setting, we’re still a crime show which has Clive, one of the human workers in the brain factory being killed (all the workers are human. Including one who is really concerned that his random statements may be offensive to zombie Liv).

Clive has two defining features: he’s a rabid Seahawks fan (apparently a sport of sportiness) and he hates zombies. Since Liv eats his brain in one of those very disturbingly tasty looking meals, she then gets both of these traits. Mainly the rabid sportsfan thing in which she talks a lot about sports.

Which leads to classic red herring suspect who is a rival sports fan who likes another sports team who does sporty things. This leads to lots of arguing of what is better, Seattle vs San Francisco, comparing landmarks et al (and no third party comes in to say “earthquakes vs constant rain” which is just kind of depressing. There’s no sarcastic New Yorker about?)

While they both hate each other for their sporty stuff, he’s clearly a distraction. Distraction no. 2 is the reveal that Clive caught a Fillmore Graves soldier selling brains on the black market. While he’s definitely doing this and spending lots and lots and lots of money at Blaine’s bar on women (who are treated like ornaments), blue enhanced brains for hyper visions (a Shakespearean actor which is honestly kind of hilarious to see this angry soldier go all Elizabethan) and top shelf booze -but he isn’t a murderer. He also appears to be at least a little untouchable as a soldier.

The real killer, aided by visions (and the very very awkward moment of telling the dead man’s widow and son about zombie visions and how Liv ate hubby/daddy’s brain), Liv sees Clive violently rejecting his zombie son - they arrest him and despite his protests, his mother confesses. She killed her husband because he forced her to pick between him and her son.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Walking Dead, Season 8, Episode 9: Honour

Image result for the walking dead season 8

It feels fitting to use Carl's image for this post, given that the one thing we all thought we knew is that though The Walking Dead creators have always maintained that anyone could die, we all really believed Rick and Carl to be the exception to that rule.  The mid season finale ended with the big reveal that in attempting to save Siddiq - a man Rick had denied sanctuary to, Carl was bitten by a walker. Much of the mid season premier was dedicated to Carl's tearful goodbye. 

When a character becomes the moral center on The Walking Dead, that's usually an indication that the end is nigh. We've seen this trend with Hershel, Dale and Tyreese. It's an attempt by the authors to humanise the character and make the death more meaningful.  This is becoming more and more difficult to do with each cast member that dies because in canabalising its cast, the writers have given us less reason to invest in the characters and their various story lines.  Who is going to die at the season finale and mid season finale has become a standard question leading to some speculation, but very little real investment. 

The other ongoing surety, is the juxtaposition between Rick and Morgan.  Rick and Morgan have been teachers to each other, as well as friends, rarely in the same place at the same time.  In this case, Rick and Morgan must deal with the result of their influence on the young men that they care about and how this will shape the war with the Saviours and Alexandria itself. I do think it's worth noting that in this case, Rick was clearly painted into the white knight role, while Morgan who is Black, in the negative and I find that to be extremely troubling.  

Throughout the season, we've been seeing little flashes into future of an older and wiser Rick. It turns out that these are visions of what Carl hopes the future will be.  Carl wants a world where there is no more war and people are refocused on rebuilding society. Carl's vision sees people like Eugene and Negan gardening and working in Alexandria, right alongside people from the Kingdom and the Hilltop; it's his personal utopia. Carl is careful to impress upon his father that this what could be if Rick returned to the man he used to be and when Carl in turn thanks Rick for making him who he is, Rick has little choice but to commit to Carl's vision of the future.  Even as Carl is dying, he's becoming the moral compass of the show and giving Rick reason not to give into his grief and fall apart, or commit even worse crimes in the name of revenge or keeping Judith safe. The problem is that unlike Dale or Hershel, we have no idea where this sudden spurt of morality came from and so can only assume that the writers have become overly committed to framing death the same way repeatedly. 

Unlike many of the other characters who have died, in the case of Carl, there was a enough time for him to actually say goodbye.  Carl took a picture with Judith, used paint to capture their handprints, and wrote letters to all the citizens of Alexandria, lest he run out of time to tell everyone how he felt. Carl stayed alive long enough to receive accolades from the normally silent Darryl about the people he saved and to call Michonne his best friend. Carl and Michonne's relationship is something that we've had to assume because we really haven't seen much evidence of the closeness he implied. Carl, the only born son of Rick Grimes, got the send off that few have ever had and he did it with a grace that doesn't remotely fit his character. 

Stargate Origins, Season 1, Episode 4 & 5

Time for more impossibly pretty people to keep investigating the desert land beyond the Stargate (I’m assuming this is Abydos because it looks a lot like it).

The pretty Wasif, pretty Catherine and impossibly pretty James go through the Stargate, arrive in Abydos and begin to set up their theme for the next two episodes: Catherine and James argue constantly while Wasif provides the odd word and the odd comic relief. I won’t say he’s cast as the comic relief because that would be like saying one of the three stooges is the comic relief.

They see the alien skies and realise they’re not in Egypt any more, more they can’t figure out how to use the remote to get back to Earth because Earth’s symbol isn’t on the remote. They may also be entering the code wrong.

Lots of bickering, James being in favour of being cautious, Catherine in favour of charging in. Catherine making it abundantly clear she’s not going to obey James and pretty much setting the tone of her doing her own thing. They find the dead Nazi… and a Goa’uld. And Catherine smacks James for suggesting that maaaaaybe her elderly father is dead

(He’s not, he’s imprisoned by other Nazis who are busy taking pictures and occasionally talking in mix of German and English. So that was a useful segment. Writers, each episode is only 10 minutes long, you need to not waste time. We have more bickering)

She’s female, and what seems to be inevitable, the female Goa’uld is wearing what appear to be daisy dukes and some wisps of gold cloth. They fight her and though she’s decided to dispense with Goa’uld technology in favour of a big stick, she easily fights them all, knocking them escape. Luckily for them Catherine manages to accidentally hit a bracelet button activating a teleporter and removing the Goa’uld from the fight. Oh and James has a semi-freak out in the middle of it because he accidentally touches Catherine’s breasts

To which our intrepid explorers think they’ve found a magic stick.

They also run into a young human who is clearly afraid of them (as James proves by yelling “boo” of course) but trying to lead them somewhere. Which they duly ignore and decide to go somewhere else. Oh and they don’t understand a word he says and when Wasif starts to mention he may recognise the language, James and Catherine silence him. Because sensible like that

After managing to exchange names, they follow Kasuf to some tents and are quickly taken prisoner and tied up with lots and lots and lots of bickering. Poor Wasif, stuck with the pretty bickering people.

Wasif manages to free them so they can bicker some more and bicker some more and then accidentally stab Wasif.

Oh Wasif, these pretty people are dangerous for you.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Magicians, Season 3, Episode 7: Poached Eggs

In Fillory things are still all kind of falling apart - the Floaters seem to think that marriage to the Fillorians means they can now loot and pillage as they choose. Something Margot and Elliot have to tell Tick to handle while they focus on their main mission - get rid of the fairies. Once they’re done then they can address the other problems addressing the kingdom.

They return to Brakebills with Quentin and Poppy to find Alice passed out and Penny desperately using the very annoying fish to try and call for help

Thankfully Alice isn’t dead but she isn’t well. There are a few theories as to why: Alice downplays it all as magical surges. While Henry thinks it’s more likely the magical equivalent of organ rejection. He’s dissing everything and the gang is all down on him for being negative but he just asks why should he lie to them, they’ll do what they do regardless

Since Brakebills was sold, Henry has reached new epic levels of not giving a fuck.

While Quentin wants to hover, his unresolved issues with Alice aren’t helping and Julia sends him and the rest back to questing for the keys. We also have Fen and Fray return after their little trip round New York and the Square of Time with Todd. Fray still hates everything and is terrible

Margot recruits Todd to guard the fairy eggs. Which he instantly fails at since Fray finds them ans is all fairy loyalist and thinks it’s a terrible evil thing humans do (completely ignoring that the fairies used sneaky means to steal her as well). They try to convince Fray that the fairies will never see them as one of them - they did name her “Fragile Human” after all. They try to impress her the values of family and loyalty. This will backfire exactly as badly as you think it will.

In Fillory, and around a whole lot of feathers due to Tick’s convoluted plan to convince everyone they had plague, Elliot and Margot find bodies of floaters have been impaled by the side of the road. Things are getting… fraught.

But it’s time to confront the fairy queen and make a deal - she gets her babies back and in exchange she gives Fillory her bathtub. She thinks this is odd but Margot archly points out the fae collect toes and eyeballs and think this is weird? Honestly negotiating with Margot when she’s Fucking Done is never going to end well. Oh and the deal is with all of Fillory. Which means everyone in Fillory will be able to see the fae and see what bullshit they’re trying to pull.

She has a day to decide to Margot’s going to “boil and dye them like it’s motherfucking Easter”

Because Margot is everything.

Elliot is still fretting over all of this, the stakes, what can go wrong and considers just abandoning Fillory. Margot is not accepting this. Elliot got his crown simply by blood, but Margot fought for hers and has done way more to keep that throne -including sacrificing her eye. With respect, Elliot has no idea what she has done for the kingdom and has no understanding of how much she’s fought. She has earned this crown and it’s her’s

Predictably, when they go for the big confrontation, Fray has betrayed them. Of course she didn’t really have much useful to reveal to the fairy queen, but what she does is take Fray captive - she’s captured Elliot and Fen’s child in exchange for her children. Fray is shocked that, yes, she is viewed as a disposable human by the fae (and the fairy queen is equally unimpressed that she will betray her parents) and Elliot wavers. Margot does not -one child vs the entire kingdom. There’s no choice

But the betrayed Fray reacts and reveals that she isn’t actually Elliot and Fen’s child (because they believed that one waaay too easily), their real child died in childbirth. As Margot puts it “that is the sound of your leverage dying”.

This leaves Elliot to comfort Fenn as she is utterly devastated that she isn’t a mother and he confesses he hasn’t been the greatest father or husband - while she says she needs time out of Fillory

Of course, with the fairies, there’s a catch. First she says something ominous about having deeper plans, but then she reveals, no exposed to all Fillorians, the fae are leaving. And they’re leaving the king and queen exposed to the wrath of their people - because with all the chaos the fairies wrought coupled with magic failing, the kings and queens are NOT popular