So far, I've had some terrific reviews and ratings on Goodreads.com, and two excellent reviews on Amazon.com. And then I got these: ( Cut for length and O.o )
So far, I've had some terrific reviews and ratings on Goodreads.com, and two excellent reviews on Amazon.com. And then I got these: ( Cut for length and O.o )
So, yeah. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., guys. Last night was episode three of the new season, and while I wasn't exactly surprised at yet more murky morality, three episodes in and it's already murky enough that it's hard to see. Like when you're in a vault.
Such as this one:
Check it, O, best-beloveds--this is the door leading down the dark, narrow staircase that goes to the dark, dark, basement, where our remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. are now keeping their prisoners like fetishists in a Tarantino movie. Coulson even refers to them as 'Assets', which is in no way creepy or dehumanizing. (Though to be fair, I guess he can't use 'consultant' since it's probably not a volunteer position.)
The prisoners do get a bed, which is nice. But as far as I can tell, if they're not being interrogated the room is kept soundless and dark, and it's about three and a half meters wide and maybe five meters long. Larger than my kid's bedroom for sure, but he has a nightlight and a window. And he can also, you know, leave.
Naturally, I couldn't help but be reminded of this:
The Winter Soldier, in all of his shirtless, woobie glory, being kept in a vault like a particularly important document. Now he's in a bank vault, because Hydra is classy like that. But it's still, y'know, a vault. Like S.H.I.E.L.D.'s, only with actual overhead lighting. And it's used pretty much for the same purpose as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s vault. Oops.
I'm assuming S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't going for the horrifically painful memory-wiping. Yet. But I have a feeling that being treated like a hamster in an aquarium (but without the adorable plastic wheel) would count as torture too.
These are not comfortable similarities, my darlings. They're especially uncomfortable when coupled with S.H.I.E.L.D.'s new willingness to go for culling rather than trap and tag, so to speak. This ep, they went after someone ostensibly to rescue them from Hydra, but it became evident very early on that the 'rescue' part wasn't the priority. The actual priority was, 'if we can't have 'em, no one can,' like a psychotic ex-boyfriend. Or like Hydra, which had the exact same agenda.
And yet, it's not even either of these things--the hamster cages or the culling--which make me go, O.o, so much as the seeming casualness with which it's done. Yes, I'd like to see a little remorse among my heroes, beyond the expected 'gee, I just killed someone' moment. I'd like to see some reluctance, some unhappiness with the way things go down, even if there was truly no other option besides vaults and bloodshed. Hell, I'd really like other options to be overtly considered.
Nick Fury himself said that S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded to save people, because everyone is worth saving. But S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't seem to be doing much saving anymore. This isn't the S.H.I.E.L.D. who talked Mike Peterson down from literally going ballistic when it would've been far safer and easier to kill him; this S.H.I.E.L.D. would've put him down to make sure Hydra didn't get their hands on him first. And that's a bit too much like what Hydra itself would do. And when the good guys are just the same as the bad guys, then what's the point?
If I had to choose, I'd of course take the hamster cage over the agonizing mind-wipe, but I shouldn't have to choose the lesser of two evils. There shouldn't be two evils--just one evil, with many heads.
And sure, sometimes it takes a monster to defeat a monster. Except S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn't supposed to be about monsters; it was supposed to be about heroes. But I've watched three episodes of the new season so far, and I'm still waiting to find them.
Holding out, if you will, for the heroes. Or at least I'll hold out for a few more episodes. But when you're in a vault, it's hard to know it's the end of the night.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. screen capture from screencapped.net
Now, I readily admit that the basis for my hypothesis is pretty thin (compelling argument though it is, the loss of NASA's Mars Orbiter due to engineers using imperial units instead of metric happened way back in 1999). But when I come across conversion errors, they tend to be kind of mind-boggling.
Like the sci-fi book I read some years ago, where the narrator was describing that 18 degrees Celsius was cold enough for his breath to mist. That's around 64 Fahrenheit, which is definitely too warm for ice crystals. Unless the author actually meant 18 degrees kelvin, which is -255 C or -427 F, in which case, yes. Definitely breath misting. And a much shorter novel due to the protagonist instantly freezing to death.
Admittedly, that novel was also published in the 90s, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and you couldn't just type '18 degrees C in F' and get an instant answer. But in 2012, there was no excuse for messing up the metric versus imperial thing. And yet, the sci-fi novel I'm currently reading was first published in 2012, and messed it up within the first few pages.
Overall, I've been enjoying Gravitational Attraction by Angel Martinez immensely. Unlike loads of other M/M novels, there are very cool female characters in it, and the main character isn't white. And so far the plot's compelling with H/C in spades (which, you may remember, I love like kittens).
But--and you knew there was one--the love interest is described at being "well over" two meters tall. Well over two meters, people. And yet, somehow, the crew of the space courier that rescues the guy can find pants long enough for him. Though really, as a reader that was the least of my concerns.
Here's the thing: Two meters is 6 feet, 7 inches. "Well over" that is getting into Shaquille O'Neal territory (He's 7' 1", which is 2.16 meters).
Unfortunately, so far the novel hasn't said how tall the protagonist is, but he's clearly of Japanese descent and described as slender and obviously smaller than his giant boyfriend. So I'm going to guess not much over 5' 10" or 1.78 m (As of 2004, the average height in Japan was 5' 6" or 1.59 meters, so I'm being generous).
This is close to what it would look like, as demonstrated by Peter Meyhew, who is 7' 2" (2.19 m) and Harrison Ford, who is a mere 6' 1" (1.85 m):
I'm not sure if that discrepancy is what the author intended, especially if his or her slender, small protagonist is shorter than Harrison Ford. Which he probably is. Especially as I'm fairly certain the size difference wouldn't end at height, so to speak.
Because, if the apparently seven-foot tall love interest is, shall we say, proportionate everywhere (and there was specific mention made of him being lucky to find a pair of boots that fit. And you know what they say about men's foot sizes), then, well. I just hope he goes for a lot of preparation, that's all I'm saying. I mean, sure, Shaq is obviously not pulling a Vlad the Impaler on Nicole every time they knock boots (which they can't, because he's too tall). But, you know, babies come out of there; there's a certain amount of leeway.
Not quite so much with the menfolk, I'm thinking. And ass-babies only exist in fanfic.
So, either the author is going with the reverse meaning of 'size doesn't matter' (that's a myth, for all my SGA homies), or 'two meters' doesn't mean what he or she thinks it means. Either way, like a hapless NASA orbiter in the hands of Lockheed Martin engineers, there's going to be a lot of crashing and burning. Or at least burning.
Definitely a lot of burning.
So even though I'd copied all the songs from Barenaked Ladies' Gordon album to my phone a good while ago, it was just this week when I actually listened to it again.
Funny how I'd remembered the songs but forgotten how excellent most of them were. This song is one of my absolute favorites:
Not the most awesome video, but Steven Page could sure rock a 90s haircut and frilly shirt.
I bought Gordon (way) back when it came out in 1992, and heard "What a Good Boy", and basically had my personal angst theme-song for the next ten years. Just the lines: I wake up scared; I wake up strange; I wake up wondering if anything in my life is ever going to change encapsulated the gormless anxiety I seemed to carry with me all the time, and singing the song at the top of my lungs offered an aggressive pathos that made me feel both connected to every other miserable twenty-something on the planet and smugly isolated at the same time.
My 90s were kind of terribly awesome.
That decade was an astonishingly long time ago, but I still have the Gordon album, and the songs are still amazing. The others I've been listening the hell out of are "The Flag" (an achingly beautiful song about domestic abuse), and "Wrap Your Arms Around Me" (the line, Do you believe we are all innately good? in that gorgeous harmony gets me every single time).
I really should listen to it more often. And my other CDs as well.
Well, maybe not all of them.
But before I go, I wanted to write about something interesting I saw in a TV show last night. And by 'interesting', I of course mean 'jaw-droppingly out-of-character and violent.' I won't name the show because I don't want to spoil anyone, and also because I'm not even sure the particular show matters. Here are the particulars:
1) Character A is very, very badly hurt by Reoccurring Bad Person
2) Reoccurring Bad Person is captured
3) Character B beats captured RBP to within an inch of xir life in retaliation
4) Character C refuses to turn RBP over to The Authorities, apparently only so C can threaten RBP with the 'If xie dies, you die' trope.
5) All of this is supposed to be a) perfectly acceptable, and b) to show how awesome characters B and C are.
Now, because TV Tropes is my new internet boyfriend, after I had my few moments of O.o and assorted exclamations along the lines of, are they really keeping that bad guy just for the if/then murdering? and, If Character A bites the oatmeal, how will killing RBG bring xir back?, I went to the TV Tropes site to see if the "If X dies; you die" trope had an article.
I couldn't find one, alas. But I did find Knight Templar Big Brother/Parent. It's not quite as specific as I hoped for, but it's close enough.
The Knight Templar Big Brother/Parent basically refers to going apeshit on anyone who hurt your sib/kid, and I think the trope fits even if the characters aren't related. Like beating the snot out of the Reoccurring Bad Person who hurt your buddy, for example.
Okay, sure. Makes sense. I'd be pretty peeved too, if my adorable protege of adorableness was gutted like a prize-winning salmon. And the Character B who did the beat-down is, shall we say, not entirely unknown for such things. But, Character C is definitely not known for the apeshit beat-downs. In fact, C tells B to back off on the curb-kicking, which is somewhat odd considering Character C's intention in doing so is, apparently, to keep RBP alive in order to chuck xir out an airlock if Character A kaks it.
That's not very nice.
It's also not very moral, and considering Characters A, B, and C are all very much supposed to be the GOOD GUYS, the idea of Character C especially refusing to give up RBP while calmly anticipating spacing xir in the near future is not what I signed on for when I started watching the show. I mean, this is basic cable--I like to know which end of the spectrum my heroes are supposed to belong to. And murder for revenge is a little too far in the red for me.
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, as they say, and killing someone because they killed someone is way more Judge Dredd than My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, if you know what I mean. Not that I'm talking about either Judge Dredd or MLP:FIM (though I'm sure Rainbow Dash would go apeshit if Discord killed Fluttershy). But you get the point.
Which is, I want my heroes to be, well, heroic, thank you very much. That doesn't just mean being badass, it means knowing when not to be as well. And sure, fallibility and conflict and drama and all that. But honestly, this show offers plenty of that anyway. If I wanted antiheroes, dark themes and gratuitous violence I'd watch The Walking Dead, which I don't. Because I don't really like antiheroes, dark themes or gratuitous violence. What's the point of escapism if you can't go anywhere?
I might as well watch the news, except for how it's way more depressing.
Picture is from The DVD cover for this Knights Templar movie, available from Amazon.co.uk. Coincidentally, it has Norman Reedus in it. Unfortunately the film seems to be very, very bad.
I may have written fanfiction on that very premise. I admit nothing.
As you can imagine, with my love of human-like robots, I was looking forward to Almost Human the way my son is looking forward to Christmas. The show's set in the near-future, where cops are issued robots like handguns. Karl Urban plays John Kennex (not to be confused with John Sheppard or any of the thousands of other fictional characters called 'John'), who is an embittered, physically and emotionally scarred, cynical and guilt-ridden detective.
Naturally, Kennex's go-to problem solving method is violence, including killing incapacitated bad guys (because due process is for pussies, amirite?) and getting rid of things that bug him by throwing them out. Of his car. On the freeway. (Because safety and private property are also for pussies.)
Start at .22 for the full impact. Heh.
He is reluctantly paired with Dorian, a sweet, thoughtful, kind and
What's not to love, right? It promised to be a mash-up of Blade Runner, RoboCop and Due South, except where the Mountie's a robot and the Cop would be played by a New Zealander instead of a Canadian.
And then it finally aired, and four episodes later the show just makes me sad.
I've been trying to put my finger on exactly why a show that's ostensibly exactly what I could ever want has disappointed me so much. I think it's because, for something set up to be more about human/android relations than crime solving, it's turned out to be pretty much Law and Order: Everyone Has a Robot. I have no idea what rights Dorian may or may not have; I have no idea how he may feel about those rights; I don't even know what he does in his off-hours or where he does it. Does he go into standby mode? Does he borrow Kennex's desk and play spider solitaire? Does he have a designated wall-socket? Does he dream of electric sheep? All I know for sure after four episodes is that he doesn't want to die (not exactly a shock) and that he's way more useful than an iPhone.
What really gets my synthetic goat, though, is how the production of the show itself conforms so much to the status quo that you can paint the lack of inclusion by number. Of six regular cast members, only two are women, and the only female androids have been sex-bots.
Even worse, So far in the series the only people of color have been extras or have played bit parts. And yes, that includes Michael Ealy.
Why? Because he plays an android. His role in the show is as an other, not as a human. Dorian isn't a person of color because he isn't a person at all. I might feel differently if Dorian was more than an ingenious cipher, but until we find out how he feels about, well, anything, he isn't. And unfortunately, the show seems to be in no hurry to change that, either.
So instead of watching the beautiful men bantering, looking at each other longingly and saving each others' lives, I keep waiting for the show I wanted to actually begin. The body may be shiny and very nice to look at, but I'm still searching for a heart of gold.
But, there is one major aspect of it (leaving aside the general crazyness) that bugs the hell out of me, and I'm not the only one.
Ichabod never changes his clothes. The same clothes he was buried in.
Now, the show's writers and producers are obviously aware of this. Entertainment Weekly even quotes the Executive Producer as saying that "It’s like his security blanket... He can never feel comfortable in our world. The minute he gets comfortable, the show is over." (Because jeans and a fresh shirt = instant acclimatization.)
On the costume-design blog Hello, Tailor, the blogger says:
The show needs to keep him in the 18th century costume for more than a couple of episodes, purely to remind the audience that he’s from the 18th century. It’s a visual cue.
Which makes me glad the SH producers didn't also make The Avengers.
Do I buy that? Well, sort-of. I mean, yeah: anyone newly tuning-in will need a bigger clue that Ichabod pulled a
Captain America Lazarus than a ponytail and sexy accent. But how many people will start watching the show without knowing what it's about? And sure, while I can buy both that Ichabod is used to wearing the same stuff for weeks on end as well as that he's clinging to the security of his outfit, this is an outfit that he was buried in. In an underground cave, which he then dug himself out of after 200 years. Now, I don't know about you, but I might forgo a bit of familiarity to not smell like a swamp.
It's gotten to the point where Ichabod's outfit is distracting attention from the plot, and I can only imagine how much Lieutenant Abby Mills wants to stand downwind of him. Maybe in a future episode the fungus doubtlessly growing behind his lapels will help repel a demon. Because that outfit's gotta be repelling everyone else.
( All screencaps from Screencapped.Net.)
Let me say this immediately, lest anyone think this is a bad film: It is not, by any means, a bad film. I really, really enjoyed it. Guillermo del Toro obviously loves giant monsters and giant robots, and he is exceptional at world-building and visual details. Considering this was basically a live-action Anime, it packed an emotional punch that had me almost in tears at one point and actually crying at another. It was also scary as all hell in some places. Not because of the violence or gore (there's surprisingly little, considering it's giant robots fighting giant monsters), but because the survival of the robots and thus their pilots is so precarious. The Mary Sue has a very nice review of the movie here, if you're interested (beware some minor spoilers). It was a great movie and I'm sure I'll be seeing it again.
But (and there always is one, alas) for a movie that was so wonderfully surprising (I never expected to cry during a movie about giant monsters fighting giant robots), it was also surprisingly predictable. I mean, how many of you awesome flisties haven't guessed who's going to kak it from the trailer alone? And if you've seen the trailers, then the first death is pretty obvious too.
A hell of a lot is pretty obvious, actually, but that's just narrative stuff, and it was kind of fun being able to point out to my less movie-savvy son what was likely going to happen next because that's what happens in these kind of movies. A little less fun was how the young hothead was Australian, the twitchy, over-excited scientist was American, and the twitchy, uptight mathematician was of course a Brit. Or how the Russians were large, taciturn and smirkily aloof, and piloted a Jaeger (the giant robots) that looked like something out of Bladerunner as envisioned by Stalin. And that death we all saw coming in the trailer, which was the worst. Can't filmmakers ever think of using anyone other than stereotypes?
Though it was pretty cool that one of the two Russians was female. Considering that in the movie the whole world has been fighting the Kaiju for years and populations have been decimated, one might think that the sibling or parent/child teams chosen to pilot the Jaegers might include at least one pair of sisters, or a father and daughter (or, hey, a mother and daughter) instead of yet another pair of brothers or father and son. Don't get me wrong--Mako Mori is an awesome female character. But I really wish she wasn't one of only two. Charlie Hunnam is nice to look at, and Raleigh Becket, the character he played, was sweetly heroic. But 'Raleigh' is a perfectly acceptable girl's name, and the wonderful 'chosen family' relationship between the two main characters wouldn't have been diminished in the least if Raleigh actually had been a woman. Hell, I think it would've made the movie even better.
Less predictable, too, in the best way possible. And wow, would I ever love that.
But--and there always is one--watching the movies reminded me of some of the things that had confused me the first time.
( I still think the eagles should have given Frodo a lift to Mordor. Just saying. )
Last week I announced the winners of my Joke contest, but some of you lovely FListies haven't contacted me yet. So please click on the link and let me know if you won. :D
The other thing I posted that LJ erased (sigh) is that as of today Black Hawk Tattoo has been out for an entire month, and it's still in the Amazon.com Kindle top 100 for its genre, which is just awesome. :D It's number 9 on the Dreamspinner.com bestseller list, too.
The novel has also received some excellent reviews from Goodreads (and some not-so excellent reviews, but such is life).
So, I'm a happy camper! But I'd be an even happier camper if I could give all the contest winners their prizes. :D So please let me know if one of the winners is you!
Thank you, kind reviewer! :D You totally made my day.
ETA: Didn't this have a full title when I posted it yesterday?
Yes, that Battleship.
The movie's based on the board game by Milton Bradley, which is currently owned by Hasbro.
(It will probably come as a surprise to no one that Hasbro also owns the Transformers, or that there are already movies in the works for the board games Risk and Candy Land, also owned by the same company. I can't wait until we see the trailer for the Play-Doh movie, or Hungry, Hungry Hippos:
"What is that?"
"It appears to be a giant alien...DEAR GOD, THOSE TEETH!"
"Their necks can elongate! Run! RUN!")
I do feel I should give props to the writer, who must have sweated little plastic bullets that looked like submarines in order to give an actual plot to this movie. Apparently our hero is a terribly original golden boy (white, naturally, because there are no PoC in the American military)/never-do-well, in love with his CO's daughter (as blonde, blonde, blonde, skimpily clad and generally useless to the plot as anyone could hope for). But he won't get
In fact, he's about to be kicked out of the Navy! He has one last set of military exercises before his career will come to a swift and inglorious end.
Or not! Because naturally the instant they get out into international waters, his chance for Redemption and Heroics literally surfaces in the form of SPACE ALIENS! Yes! And then some big loud effect happens and someone yells that THEIR RADAR HAS GONE DOWN OMG and that's pretty much when I started laughing.
I've watched the trailer twice (it's made of win! How could I not?) and so far I really can't tell if the Japanese, with whom the US was doing the exercise, actually stay present in the movie let alone do anything. There is one female military person in the trailer who may or may not have lines; I expect she dies. And the hero is so generic looking that I honestly can't tell when he's doing stuff or if it's some other guy.
James Cameron thinks the movie will suck, but I think that's just because he's too shallow and narrow-minded to understand it. Real art will always have its haters.
And Liam Neeson! Who is obviously following the Nicolas Cage method of rounding out his career. Maybe he'll also be in Hungry, Hungry Hippos.
Now, in the V of the 1980s, the evil aliens were hellbent on turning humans into an all-you-can-eat buffet. Why humans particularly when the lizard people could also eat animals was never adequately explained, especially as animals presumably wouldn't have gotten so pissy about it.
But this is a brave new world, my friends, and evidently the ABC network didn't think lizard people chowing down on your neighbors was edgy enough. So now the evil aliens want to use humans as breeding stock. Women of Earth: guard your ovaries!
The newer version of the show has also unfortunately gone to the Jack Bauer School of interrogation techniques.
That's upsetting on its own, but now the show has waded into the deep end without the water wings because Anna the Evil Queen Dictator has decided that the thing that makes humans so feisty and annoyingly intractable is the soul.
Yep, the soul. Apparently the Visitor aliens don't have souls, so the way to conquer humanity is to remove ours.
Leaving aside the unintentional hilarity of the grotesque ways the aliens try to perform the souldectomies on their helpless human victims, this soul thing is a real letdown. It's not the concept of the soul that bothers me but the idea that, yet again, we humans have some super-special quality that no other being possesses in the entire universe. It just seems like so much self-glorifying vanity, this conviction that there is always some aspect of our species that is unique and precious and must never, ever be threatened.
The irony here is that we're only unique and precious to ourselves. After all, as far as we know we're the only creatures on this planet that can even think about ourselves in the abstract, let alone form opinions from it. And when you're dancing with yourself, of course you're going to be the most awesome date at the prom.
Shows like V just feed into this fantasy of our uniqueness, setting up villains who are superior in every way except for how they lack that certain something we don't. And that lack is of course why the humans always win. In The War of the Worlds, it was our connection to Earth that saved us. In Independance Day, it was our ingenuity (and that everyone in the galaxy uses Windows). In the orignal Stargate movie, it was our strength of will against powerful oppressors. When Jean-Luc Picard fought the Borg in the 1980s, it was the fierceness with which we cling to individuality. And in the new V series it's our soul.
Writing this, I was reminded of this line from the Desiderata poem my dad had for years up on his wall:
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.
And certainly no less than lizard-like aliens, but no more than them, either.
It would be nice if we could remember that, because one day the aliens will come, and chauvinists don't make good neighbors. Though they might make good eating.
( Not to mention that dolphins eat squid; they don't make friends with them. )
While I'm here shilling my anthology stories, I also wanted to mention that both anthologies have already been given favourable reviews. I was really happy to see that the review of the Myths and Magic anthology mentioned the story I wrote with Corinna Silver (squeakyoflight). I won't lie--I would've enjoyed a brief summary as some of the other stories in the anthology got, but considering how many stories there are in Myths and Magic, the reviewer specifically adding, "I could go on about more stories like the one about the fairy..." (which Corinna and I wrote) was pretty darn cool. The complete review for the anthology is here.
I also want to tell you about two really excellent promotions going on at Dreamspinner Press right now. Not only can you get 20% off all purchases between now and the end of the year by using the code HolidayDreams at checkout, but they also have a wonderful contest going on:
This year let Dreamspinner make your eBook dreams come true. Each day from Dec. 26- Dec. 31, we will draw one name from the customers that purchased during the month of December to win every eBook on their wish list.
You'll need to register to make a wish list, but it's easy to register and making a wish list is fun. :D
The review for Tesseracts 14 didn't say more than, 'recommended', but for a first review anywhere that's pretty darn cool too, I'd say. :) My story in this anthology is "The Pickup". The review, which includes a nice plot summary for each of the stories in the anthology, can be found here.
Come over and enter the contest! Time's running out!