Thursday, June 21, 2018

2018 Hugo nominees: Movies

This year, I had actually seen all the Hugo nominees for longform dramatic presentation on the big screen. (Why don't they just call this categories movies, you may ask? Because one could nominate other longform presentations here, such as miniseries or audio dramas. But it's almost always movies.)

Best Dramatic Presentaton - Long Form
Blade Runner 2049, written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Alcon Entertainment / Bud Yorkin Productions / Torridon Films / Columbia Pictures)
Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele (Blumhouse Productions / Monkeypaw Productions / QC Entertainment)
The Shape of Water, written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, directed by Guillermo del Toro (TSG Entertainment / Double Dare You / Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Lucasfilm, Ltd.)
Thor: Ragnarok, written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost; directed by Taika Waititi (Marvel Studios)
Wonder Woman, screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, directed by Patty Jenkins (DC Films / Warner Brothers)

Blade Runner 2049 was an amazing movie, continuing, extending, and sometimes subverting the conversations from the original movie. For details, please take a look at the review I wrote for Skiffy and Fanty. I think my own best sentence from 2017 is the conclusion of that review:
You can keep refining the tests and moving the goalposts for who gets to matter or make decisions or be seen as one of you, but only at the risk of losing your own humanity.
However, as breathtaking as it was, it's at the bottom of my Hugo voting list. It was brilliantly executed, but it's not original. You can see it without knowing the first movie (let alone Philip K. Dick's book), but the movie would lose a lot of its resonance. All the other movies were amazing on their own.

The Shape of Water was a lovely movie, and I spent at least half an hour afterward discussing it with my friends in the lobby. And then I discussed it again on a Skiffy and Fanty podcast. I was really impressed by it, yet I don't feel much of an urge to see it again. I know other people who'll enjoy re-seeing it and reanalyzing it, but I feel like I pretty much got what I wanted to out of it. So it's fifth on the list for me.

The Last Jedi adds some original storylines to the Star Wars saga, and there were quite a few moments I really adored, and I'll happily watch it again when it comes my way. However, there were some eye-rolling moments too, and it really didn't hang together too well for me. I understand some of the meta reasoning and character development behind the "side quest," and I think those were good choices, but the movie just didn't quite cohere for me. So it's just fourth.

I'm having a really time with my third and second rankings. I've already gone back and changed my ballot once, and I may do so again. But for the moment...

Thor: Ragnarok is another movie that doesn't really stand on its own. Anyone who hasn't seen a significant number of Thor and Avengers movies already is going to miss a lot of callbacks and punchlines. But for someone like me who has seen them, it is SO SO good! I was laughing really hard through a whole lot of this movie, from the arena reunion to the classic "Get help!" maneuver. And yet, this movie also has great action, moving moments, and layers upon layers, literally, as Thor and Loki find out the covered-up truth about previously heroic-seeming Asgard's colonialist, conquering past. I'll definitely be watching it again when I get the chance. Ranked third, currently, for me.

Wonder Woman forever crushed the myth that an action movie starring a woman can't succeed. It broke the box-office ceiling in a major way, and it deserved all its accolades. It wasn't a perfect movie, but it got so much right, and moved me so much. I saw it twice, wrote a pretty glowing review for Skiffy and Fanty, and also discussed it in a podcast.

There was never any question about my first choice for the Hugo. Get Out absolutely blew me away, and it astounded a whole lot of other people, too. It proved that writer-director Jordan Peele is a master at drama and horror in addition to the comedy for which I first knew him. It very much deserved the Oscar it won for best original screenplay, and I'd have been happy to see it win Best Picture. I think it's a perfect movie, and I wouldn't change a frame. Here's a Skiffy and Fanty podcast where three crewmates, including me, and two guests all talk about the many reasons we all love this movie. Winner!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

2018 Hugo Nominees: graphic stories

For a really thoughtful look at the 2018 Hugo Award nominees for Best Graphic Story, I highly recommend my Skiffy and Fanty crewmate Stephen Geigen-Miller's analysis.  He didn't name his top picks, though. So I'll give my quick reactions here.

Best Graphic Story nominees
Black Bolt, Volume 1: Hard Time, written by Saladin Ahmed, illustrated by Christian Ward, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Marvel)Bitch Planet, Volume 2: President Bitch, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro and Taki Soma, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Image Comics)Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood, written by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)My Favorite Thing is Monsters, written and illustrated by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)Paper Girls, Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image Comics)Saga, Volume 7, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
I really loved the first few volumes of Saga. But nothing moved me in this one; it just felt like echoes of what started out as big, fresh ideas. Moreover, in no way does Volume 7 stand on its own. The graphics are great, as always, but there's just not enough story for me. I'm not putting No Award above this on my ballot, but I'd be happier with any other entrant winning.

The 2017 entrants for both Paper Girls and Monstress were big improvements on their previous years, for me. The stories were much more coherent than in the first volumes, and that gave me room to feel more empathy for the protagonists.

Bitch Planet, Vol. 2 was a huge improvement over last year's entry, in my eyes. Vol. 1 just kept hitting me again and again with the horrors of a female-oppressing dystopia, but it didn't seem to be going anywhere. Vol. 2 weaves together disparate threads and gives considerable forward momentum to the story. This is one of my top three picks, and I'd be fine with it winning.

However, choosing my winner between Black Bolt and My Favorite Thing is Monsters is really difficult.

BB,V1 tells the story of a sometime king, imprisoned and learning about and from the other prisoners, and resisting torture with them. It tells a complete story, and a very satisfying one at that. The art is bold and striking. I'm thrilled that Black Bolt's success has led to other Marvel projects for writer Saladin Ahmed, and presumably Christian Ward too, although I don't follow his career (or Twitter) like I do Ahmed's.

MFTIM is something really unusual, told as the diary/art journals of Karen Reyes, a girl who pretends to be a werewolf so she can try to avoid being afraid and sad so much of the time. She tries to investigate the mysterious death of her upstairs neighbor, but she also writes and draws about other things in her life, and sprawls across the pages with asides and insets instead of filling them with panel-panel-panel like so many comic books do.  I don't feel quite right with where the story stops, but I'm enchanted to have had this chance to go through part of Karen's life with her. I'm very glad that my lovely local library has this graphic novel, and I hope a lot of people read it. That's why I'm giving My Favorite Thing Is Monsters my top vote for the Hugo Award, to try to boost awareness for this amazing debut work by writer/artist Emil Ferris.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Hugo podcast nominees, and other favorites of mine

The 2018 Hugo Awards finalists for best fancast (podcast by fans) are
The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
Fangirl Happy Hour, presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts; produced by Andrew Finch
Sword and Laser, presented by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt
Verity!, presented by Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

I'll admit I didn't nominate any of these, because I only nominated the two podcasts in which I frequently participate: The Skiffy and Fanty Show, which reviews books and movies, interviews creators and editors, and occasionally comments on fan issues, and the Supergirl Supercast, a part of The Incomparable's family of podcasts, which reviews episodes of the CW's TV show. I didn't think the Supercast had much of a chance, but Skiffy and Fanty came close to being a finalist once, according to that year's Hugos longlist.

Most of this year's finalists have been on the list before, but I listened to at least three 2017 episodes from each show. That was a lot harder for some nominees than others, but I tried to ignore that and judge them on the basis of the podcasts as one would normally listen, not the faultiness of the links they submitted for the Hugo packets.

The Coode Street Podcast, however, once again had technical issues (echoes, reverb) with one of their suggested episodes. It features some very interesting interviews and discussions, but I'm not voting for it to win until they can submit at least three trouble-free episodes in one year's packet.

Ditch Diggers provides fascinating discussions about the craft and business of writing and other forms of creation.

Fangirl Happy Hour is a very pleasant listening experience. I really enjoyed their discussions about fandom and about books/media.

Galactic Suburbia has some very interesting discussions about books/media and fandom, but all the stuff about the hosts' personal lives and careers is only interesting if you're interested in those personal lives and careers.

If I were a regular watcher of Dr. Who, I would have voted for Verity. It's a great discussion of the show with deep analyses of the episodes and their implications, and the fandom, interesting even to an infrequent watcher like me.

Sword and Laser is my favorite this year. It starts out with "Quick Burns," news about new/upcoming releases, and then the hosts talk about a book. The discussions are thoroughly engaging. This is the one podcast on the list that I'm adding to my regular listening.

In case you're interested, here are the podcasts I've already been following:
Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me: The NPR quiz show, one of the few I'm compelled to listen to as soon as it comes out, because it's highly topical and highly amusing.
Cryptic Canticles Dracula RadioPlay Experience: A full-cast narration of Dracula by Bram Stoker, which releases an episode every day that the book has a diary entry, letter, telegram etc. Another I listen to every day it's released.
Coastline, a regional topic-focused newsmagazine produced by my local public radio station, WHQR.
Ken Rudin's Political Junkie: Topical politics with a lot of historical context. I usually either listen that day or skip it.

Revolutions, because Mike Duncan does a great job of bringing history alive.
In Our Time from BBC has great scholarly discussions about a variety of historical and sometimes scientific topic.
Ask Me Another has fun pop-culture quizzes.
Storium Arc has great discussions about Storium, a collaborative storytelling site, sort of like roleplaying games by bulletin board.
The Incomparable has great discussions about books, media, and culture, plus game shows, roleplaying games, radio plays, etc.
Tea and Jeopardy has interviews by Emma Newman of various writers and other creators, set in a very entertaining framework with an evil butler.

Finally, what brought me to start listening to podcasts in the first place: audio fiction!
There are a great many fiction podcasts out there. Many are magazines with self-contained stories:
The Escape Artist family is what I started listening to long ago. I'd be hard-pressed to choose between Escape Pod (science fiction) and Podcastle (fantasy), but I also listen to Pseudopod (horror -- it has great, thoughtful intros and outros by the host, although I can't always bear to listen all the way through) and Cast of Wonders (children's/YA speculative fiction).
Uncanny Magazine has great stories and poems, although there's quite a lot of chatter from the co-editors about their personal/professional lives chatter before the fiction starts. But they're very enthusiastic!
I also listen to Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Apex, although I tend to get backlogged on all of them. I used to have a long commute and don't now, so I tend to catch up while doing housework, exercising or going on long trips.

I also listen to some serial fiction podcasts.
Welcome to Night Vale is sort of like listening to public/underground radio in a very weird town. Many episodes are self-contained, but there are long ongoing arcs.
SAYER (I am Sayer) is sort of like a cross between Night Vale and a game of Paranoia, narrated by the computer. It's nearly always creepy, always interesting, and occasionally heartbreaking. I nearly had to pull over my car and cry at the finale ... but after a break, the show resumed with Kickstartered seasons, which I am enthusiastically supporting.
Metamor City (well, actually, it's The Raven and the Writing Desk now, but I'm old-school) is secondary-world urban fantasy with magic, vampires, shapeshifters, telepaths, cops... some short stories and some book narrations. Fantastic worldbuilding and characterizations.
This Kaiju Life: What's it like to work in a kaiju containment facility? Funny and wry.

Done but not forgotten:
The Drabblecast: Extremely interesting weird stories with a great host/narrator. Please check out the archive! This contains my favorite two-part podcast ever, Mongoose, by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear, about a guy and his cheshire, hunting toves and raths on a space station, trying to prevent a bandersnatch incursion.
We're Alive: Incredibly well-done full-cast zombie apocalypse tale. The story is over, although the creator has done/is doing a few supplemental projects, so if you're a completionist, try this.
The Mask of Inanna: Won the 2012 Parsec award. Combines a fictional old radio drama with modern intrigue. Amazing 10-part story!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Hugo/Nebula Shorts

I've started devouring the Hugo Awards packet for this year (voting in 2018, written in 2017). I'm going to try to write a post each time I finish and vote for a category, although work and life are likely to interfere with that goal.

I had already read all but two of the Hugo short stories for the Skiffy and Fanty podcast about the Nebula finalists, so that put me ahead. And since all these stories are free to read (or hear) online, I thought this category would be the best starting point.

The stories on both lists are
"Carnival Nine" by Caroline M. Yoachim, text and podcast (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, May 2017)
"Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand" by Fran Wilde, text and podcast (Uncanny, September 2017)
"Fandom for Robots" by Vina Jie-Min Prasad, text and podcast (Uncanny, September/October 2017)
"Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™" by Rebecca Roanhorse, text and podcast (Apex, August 2017)

The stories on the Hugo list but not Nebulas are
"The Martian Obelisk" by Linda Nagata, text only (, July 19, 2017)
"Sun, Moon, Dust" by Ursula Vernon, text and podcast (Uncanny, May/June 2017)

And the stories on the Nebula list but not Hugos are
The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)” by Matthew Kressel, text only (, March 15, 2017)
Utopia, LOL?” by Jamie Wahls, text and podcast (Strange Horizons, June 5, 2017)

The Nebulas-only stories had points of interest, but neither of them felt to me like award winners, so I'll focus on the others.

"The Martian Obelisk" is an interesting character study of a woman amid an apocalypse, trying to build a monument so that something will remain after humanity is gone. It left me a little hopeful at the end, but that didn't feel quite earned to me.

"Sun, Moon, Dust" was a very warm-hearted story about someone who inherits a magic sword, which hosts spirits of great warriors, but he just wants to be a farmer. It's a fairly simple story, but deep, and if you want to read or hear something to make you feel good, try it.

"Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™" is unlikely to make any reader/listener feel good. First off, it's told in second person, and I always resist any story that tells me that "you" do this or "you" feel that,  but it turns out that this is a very good choice for this kind of story. It's about an Indian who works for Vision Quest, providing an "authentic" experience for the virtual tourists. Was he displaced, or did he ever belong in the first place? It's very meta, and interesting, and heart-wrenching.

"Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand" is also in second person, and also uncomfortable, by design. "You" are being taken through an increasingly disturbing museum, being confronted with hurtful things that have happened, and being transformed by the experience. It hints of horror in which "you" are somewhat complicit. It's creepy and very interesting.

"Carnival Nine" had the best worldbuilding among the nominees, in my opinion. It's set in a world where all the people run on clockwork, with a mainspring that the "maker" winds up in a limited number of turns each night when they're asleep, and everyone is keenly aware of how much energy they have to make it through each day. They can reconstruct themselves, and their children, to an extent, but only the "maker" determines how strong or weak your mainspring is. The protagonist, Zee, has a good mainspring, but she's faced with constant choices about what to do and who else to help. I really felt for her in those choices and situations, and was fascinated by the world. The story also made me and other readers think of Spoon Theory, in which real-life people with disabilities have limited, often random-seeming, numbers of things that they can accomplish in a day; this fictional world appeared to express that very well.

"Fandom for Robots" was an incredibly sweet little story about a sentient robot who becomes a fan of an anime show that features a robot and a human, and starts writing collaborative fanfiction set in that world. The readers believe that the robot is just a human writing AS a robot, who never breaks character. This is the kind of story that makes me want to hug it.

Voting for these stories was hard, because they're all good. But the two that I wanted to reread/rehear were "Carnival Nine" and "Fandom for Robots." I ended up making "Carnival Nine" my top pick because the worldbuilding is so interesting and Zee is such a sympathetic and interesting character. 

However, my actual favorite story from 2017 didn't make it onto either of these lists. I nominated it for the Hugos, and I'll be interested to see where it falls on the long list, when that's released in August. That story is "Texts from the Ghost War" by Alex Yuschik, podcast and text (Escape Pod, June 9, 2017). I adore this story; I've read it once and listened to it at least five times. It's a sort of epistolary tale, since it consists of texts back and forth between two people, and I enjoy that sort of story when it's done well. (In the text, the two texters are right-justified and left-justified, respectively; in the podcast, two narrators read them.) Despite that format, Yuschik provides a lot of worldbuilding, but as subtleties within the conversation, not as infodump. I heard enough to make me really interested in this world, with its ghosts that eat the present, and the mech-suit soldiers who fight them, and sharp class/money divisions, and other things. But as much as I love that subtle worldbuilding, I love even more the dialogue and interplay between the two characters, sometimes snarky,  sometimes silly, sometimes terribly serious, and sometimes, as their relationship develops ... well, I won't spoil it, but it's ADORABLE. Please read it or listen if you haven't yet!  

Note: "Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™" by Rebecca Roanhorse won the Nebula Award.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Roundup of My Podcasts: 2018

I decided it's time to create a new podcast roundup for 2018 instead of making people scroll down to my post from early 2017, that I just kept updating. I'll probably do this one the same way, though.

For posts from before, please see my original podcast roundup at 

Also, I did an individual post for The Child of the Moat, the Librivox book for which I read four chapters, in January at

For this year's roundup, I will include one post that didn't make it into the original roundup, which ended with the Supercast's review CW's 2017 crossover four-parter, "Crisis on Earth-X." The Supergirl Supercast, part of the Incomparable family of podcasts, did have one episode after that in 2017, although some of us felt it would have made more sense to end that part of the season after the crossover. The review of S3E9 "Reign" by Brianna Taeuber, Dan Drusch and me is here:

My first podcast appearance in 2018 was on the Skiffy and Fanty Show's 2017 wrap-up and 2018 forecast, "LOOKING BACK, MOVING FORWARD: THE 2018 EDITION" at -- which had a bunch of reviewers and creators talking mostly about high points in what they'd read and seen and what they were looking forward to seeing in the coming year.

Scheduling didn't permit me to join the S3E10 Supercast, but I was there on the S3E11 "Fort Rozz" review at with Michael Gabriel and David Schaub.

My next podcast appearance was on Skiffy and Fanty, reviewing "The Shape of Water" with Julia Rios, David Annandale and Caitlyn Paxson. Listen here:

Next on Skiffy and Fanty, Jen and I discussed "Black Southern SpecFic" with Eden Royce and Troy L. Wiggins, "including how the speculative is part of the Black Southern experience, whether or not standard genre labels fail speculative fiction written by black people from the South, what gatekeepers can do to promote Black Southern voices, and so much more."  I'll admit I said something dumb during the recording (misattributed a story to Eden), but lovely audio editor Jen edited that out, so although I didn't get to say a lot during this episode, at least I don't sound stupid.  And the discussion itself is really interesting.

Back to the Supercast, I couldn't make S3E12 "For Good" but returned for S3E13 "Both Sides Now" with David Schaub and Jess Viator:

In March on Skiffy and Fanty, I greatly enjoyed discussing "The Black Panther" with Jen; Brandon O'Brien, who has joined the crew; Justina Ireland; and Faridah Gbadamosi, who was last on S&F in our "Get Out" review. Here's the show:

In April, Skiffy and Fanty launched its new "Reading Rangers: Shorts" show, in which we discuss short stories. The main Reading Rangers show is still making its way through the Vorkosigan saga. For the initial Shorts episode, Brandon O'Brien, Elizabeth Fitzgerald and I discussed the six finalists for this year's Nebula Awards:

The Supercast did not return until the end of April, due to the CW's hiatus. In the interval, CW aired the 13-episode first season of "Black Lightning" -- it was really good and interesting, and explored how a black superhero would see a lot of different perspectives than CW's mostly whitebread heroes would (although Supergirl at least has lately moved beyond alien metaphors to reflect real-world racism problems), and I was blown away by the revelatory final episodes. I recommend it!
Supercast's S3E14 "Schott Through the Heart" was a duo with David Schaub and me:

I missed S3E15 of the Supercast but returned for S3E16 "Of Two Minds" with David Schaub, Brianna Taeuber and Michael Gabriel. Side note: At the beginning of the recording, I had called the show "Both Sides Now" -- but luckily, our wonderful audio editor Seth Heasley caught that, and I was able to record the real title and send the clip for her to insert. Here's the show:

David Schaub and I discussed S3E17 "Trinity" here:

I missed S3E18 but returned for S3E19 "The Fanatical" with Brianna Taeuber (and a recorded recap from David Schaub):

Updates will follow!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Month of Joy: The Order of the Air by Jo Graham and Melissa Scott

I'm actually cross-posting this in June but back-dating to January because that's when the post I'm talking about here actually went up on Skiffy and Fanty. The science fiction and fantasy fan site that I co-edit had a "Month of Joy" in January, when creators from all over the blogosphere were invited to write an essay about something that provides joy to them.

My essay was about The Order of the Air series by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham. I said these are "some of my favorite comfort reads. Parts of these period adventure-fantasies are very cozy, but aside from the wonderful characters’ mutual support, love, and humor, there are also some tense and exciting action sequences, with almost ordinary people teaming up to resist evil and try to make the world better."

Check out the rest of my review here:

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Audiobook: The Child of the Moat

I'm pleased to announce that LibriVox has released the second audiobook in which I've participated: The Child of the Moat by Ian Bernard Stoughton Holborn. I haven't had time to listen to it all yet, but I very much enjoyed reading the book.

The Child of the Moat was published in 1916 but the setting is 1557 England. A little Catholic girl and her cousin rescue a Protestant fugitive and hide him, and adventures ensue, ranging from secret messages to swordplay, plus some side missions to help other people. Aline, the protagonist, is almost too saintly to believe, but she is an *active* saint, not a languishing one, and often disobedient for a good cause. The supporting cast includes a number of interesting characters.

This is a children's book, or more specifically, subtitled A Story for Girls. The backstory behind this book is perhaps even more fascinating than the book itself. From the Librivox description:
Ian Holborn (professor of archaeology and a writer) was on board the RMS Lusitania when it was torpedoed, and as it sank he rescued a 12 year old girl named Avis Dolphin. She later complained that books for girls were not very interesting, so he decided to write one for her "as thrilling as any book written for boys!" 
So although it's a slightly old-fashioned book in terms of style, there are some quite progressive elements: empowerment for girls and religious freedom. I recommend it.

If you're not an audiobook fan, you can check out the text at Project Gutenberg:

And here's the audiobook link again:

Both LibriVox and Project Gutenberg are free, done by volunteers.

Technical notes:

The book is 30 chapters long, and I read four of them: 3, 14, 18, and 21. Mine ranged from 14 to 48 minutes long; if I recall correctly, the longest was about 7,000 words.

The hardest thing was trying to keep reasonably consistent voices for characters when I was doing the recordings months apart, between Jan. 5, 2017, and Jan. 9, 2018, although of course I would listen to my previous chapters as a refresher. One voice that I changed quite a bit was Eleanor Mowbray, because I changed my mind on how to characterize her. However, I think I was pretty consistent for Aline.

I did my best to check out pronunciations before reading, but I found out later that I mispronounced Edinburgh, which I now know should be said edinbrugh instead of like burger. At least I pronounced edin correctly, like editor instead of Eden.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Movie Review: BladeRunner 2049 ('As Clear As Dreaming')

I reviewed BladeRunner 2049 on the Skiffy and Fanty website soon after the movie premiered. It was not a perfect movie, but I did think it was great in many ways.

I think this, the conclusion of my review, is probably the best single sentence I wrote in 2017:
You can keep refining the tests and moving the goalposts for who gets to matter or make decisions or be seen as one of you, but only at the risk of losing your own humanity.

*I'm really posting this on Jan. 10, 2018, but back-dating it to when the post went live on Skiffy and Fanty. Remember, the best way to keep current with my creations is to follow me on Twitter.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Wonder Woman review

I wrote this review of Wonder Woman on the Monday of opening weekend, but I'm cross-posting here to keep it with my other creative endeavours:

I grew up reading Marvel comics, not DC, so most of what I know about the lore of Wonder Woman is what I absorbed from the 1970s Lynda Carter TV showplus vague memories of the Super Friends. I’m aware that the character has had many reboots and reinterpretations, but my perspective is that of many viewers who come to the movie with only a small amount of background knowledge. I think most of them, like me, will love it. (Spoilers, with a warning, appear about halfway through this review.)
“Wonder Woman” is a very satisfying film, even if it isn’t perfect. I have some logical quibbles with some of its elements in the beginning, and it is not exactly subtle; however, the notes it hits ring true all the way through. By the end, tears of both sorrow and joy were trickling down my cheeks.
There’s a lot of building up and following through, from the quiet, simple, opening narrative to the firm statement of purpose at the end. It doesn’t have the snappy patter of many Marvel movies, but the emotional payoffs are pretty great.

Follow the link for the full review.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Roundup of my podcasts

I've been a big fan of podcasts as a medium since I discovered them about eight years ago. There's a huge variety of them, from fact to fiction, single narrator to full casts, and many of them are free (with advertisements and/or requests for support). Unlike TV or reading, you can listen to a podcast while driving or walking around and doing chores. This is also true of audiobooks, of course, but most podcasts have an episodic or even standalone nature that allows you to listen for a limited amount of time and then go on to do other things.

I started volunteering for the Skiffy and Fanty speculative fiction fan website back in 2014, first as an occasional reviewer, then as a review editor. In 2015, I started appearing on occasional podcasts, too, as my schedule allowed. Half of those so far have been "Torture Cinema" episodes, when we take a bad movie and have fun dissecting it; another was a discussion of a good, or at least really interesting, movie; I also co-interviewed an author, and participated in the 2016/17 roundup episode. In 2016, I even did the audio editing for one of those episodes.

Also in 2016, Librivox released an audiobook for which I had narrated a couple of chapters (and did my own audio editing). "The Secret Power" by Marie Corelli is a 1924 novel, featuring a female protagonist in a steampunkish science fiction setting. The writing is a bit old-fashioned, but it's worth checking out, for anyone who is interested in the history of the literary genre.

Toward the end of 2016 and into 2017, I also started appearing fairly frequently in the Supergirl Supercast, part of The Incomparable's network of podcasts. I've even been the host a couple of times. I don't claim that Supergirl is great television, but it is fun to watch and discuss its features and flaws with other fans.

I've been tweeting out links to projects as they've been released, but I've never gathered them in one spot before. By popular request (two people just last week, and other people previously), here's a list of podcasts and other audio projects in which I've participated:

Crimson Peak movie discussion

Barbarella Torture Cinema

Sarah Kuhn author interview

Aeon Flux Torture Cinema

2016/17 roundup

Fantastic Four (2005) Torture Cinema

The Secret Power, via Librivox (Chapters 14 and 15)

Supergirl S2 E1-2

Supergirl S2 E7-8

Supergirl S2 E9-10

Supergirl S2 E11-12

Warnings: The Torture Cinema episodes definitely contain lots of NSFW language, and some of the other episodes may contain some too. The Crimson Peak discussion includes references to horror and sexual situations. The 2016/17 roundup starts off with a few minutes of unhappy political discussion, although we quickly move on to talking about movies/books/etc. that we enjoyed in 2016 and are looking forward to in 2017. The Supergirl Supercast is unabashedly pro-feminist and pro-diversity, and the 0217 Skiffy and Fanty podcasts are occasionally angry or bitter about real-world politics.

Supergirl S2 E15: Alan Yu and I have an in-depth discussion of "Exodus," particularly in regards to ICE raids, aliens, and journalism.

Get Out discussion: Skiffy and Fanty regulars Michael R. Underwood, David Annandale, and I discuss the movie "Get Out" with guests Faridah Gbadamosi and Andrew Hackley, in general terms for 20-30 minutes or so and then, after a warning, with spoilers. Instant spoiler: We thought it was great.

Signal Boost: Two short Skiffy and Fanty interviews, Jen's of Feliza Casano and mine of Sarah Gailey. Sarah and I start talking about 18 minutes into this show, mainly about her upcoming novella, "River of Teeth."

Betsy Dornbusch interview: Jen and I double-team the author, mainly about her new-ish book Enemy, the last in her Seven Eyes trilogy. Probably mainly for fans who have already read the books.

Supergirl S2 E16-18: Michael Gabriel, David Schaub and I discuss Star-Crossed, Distant Sun, and the so-called "Ace Reporter" and have fun doing it.

Supergirl S2 E19: Michael Gabriel, David Schaub, Dan Drusch and I discuss "Alex" who is a badass and the rest of the episode, which has logic problems.

Supergirl S2 E21: David Schaub and I discuss the penultimate episode of Season 2, "Resist."

By the way, all the Supergirl episodes can be found here:

Torture Cinema: Fiend Without a Face:  David Annandale, Shaun Duke and I had a great deal of fun discussing this 1958 B-movie (I gave it a C minus). Too bad we weren't recording yet when we discussed King Kong and fake memories, but enjoy the Tesla-Edison digression and others!

Reading Rangers #2: Barrayar: I discuss the second book (by internal chronology, if you don't count Falling Free) in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosiverse with some other members of the Skiffy and Fanty crew: Paul Weimer, Stina Leicht, and Kate Sherrod.

Torture Cinema: Judge Dredd: Paul Weimer, Julia Rios, Daniel Haeusser and I discuss the 1995 Stallone movie. I've seen worse, but there are better things to do with your time.

Supergirl S3E1: Girl of Steel: The Supercast is back! David Schaub and I discuss the season premiere.

Supergirl S3E2: Triggers: David Schaub, Jess Viator, Scott Grizzle, Alan Yu and I discuss it. Our biggest Supercast yet, and we promise not to do that to wonderful sound editor Seth Heasley again.

Supergirl S3E4: The Faithful: I missed episode 3 but returned here with Mandy Self and Brianna Taeuber to discuss one of the most interesting episodes this season.

Supergirl S3E5: Damage: Probably the most mature story about a breakup that Brianna Taeuber, Jess Viator, David Schaub and I have ever seen on a CW show.

Supergirl S3E6: Midvale: Alan Yu, Brianna Taeuber, Scott Grizzle and I discuss the flashback episode and its framing.

Reading Rangers #4: The Vor Game:  Paul Weimer, Kate Sherrod, Anne Lyle and I discuss the first book I read in the series, the fourth in the internal chronology of the Vorkosiverse (not counting Falling Free). Later, I went back and added several paragraphs of commentary to the podcast page about how sexual exploitation is addressed in the book.

Supergirl S3E7: Wake Up: David Schaub and I talk about some good plot stuff, plus the beginning of the reifying of the long-awaited Reign plotline.

CW's Crossover: Crisis on Earth-X: We break our promise to Seth Heasley and have 5 people discussing the four-part miniseries for about 90 minutes. Poor sound editor! Consensus: We all loved it. Taped Dec. 3, with Michael Gabriel, David Schaub, Brianna Taeuber, and Jess Viator.