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Author of queer, quirky sci fi/fantasy books. On Amazon.
Editor of all fiction genres.

Friday, 13 December 2013

On Nerds, Geeks, and Cultural Paradigm Shifts

Hello, hello.

So John Cheese of Cracked wrote this article on ‘the death of nerds’.
http://www.cracked.com/blog/4-reasons-2013-officially-marked-death-nerd/

I generally try to be objective and balanced on my blog. This time, objectivity and balance are getting defenestrated.

I will spare you the descriptions of my sad childhood as an overweight girl in a small and conservative Bible Belt town. I will not go into being physically inept and being picked on for my vocabulary and being intensely lonely. I will skim over the pressure to be a doctor from my parents and the fact that I counted the balance of years until I could go to university.

Instead, I will tell you about feeling like a hero when I learned to play D&D. I will tell you about goofy girls in fandoms and sonic screwdrivers and discovering that other people like mythology and folklore. I will tell you about social justice blogs and my friends across the world and the way it feels when I can talk to someone about something we both like without apology or explanation.

Being a geek or nerd is about community and connection. Self esteem issues and body hate and isolationism are not the boundaries of nerddom. And as a statistically above-average student who played cello, I know enough about the differences between nerds and geeks to say they do not matter.

So you know nothing, John Cheese. You wrote a poem about the No True Scotsman fallacy and your own self-esteem issues.  If you feel the need to be picked on to certify your geekdom as genuine, fine. But the girls who got picked on as a result of the boys getting picked on, the people of colour who got squeezed out of everything,  and everyone else who did not fit into the Victimized Dude Club—we are glad the walls are coming down. Mainstream geekdom is one of the best things that has happened in the course of my life.

Having a social life and being attractive and fit do not make one less of a geek. And you can imbibe my micturations,  you oort cloud of oananistic, coprophagic Ptolemaic logic.

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Book of Paul Trailer

Hello hello!

This one's a bit of a fluffy post--insofar as a post can be fluffy. Check out the trailer for The Book of Paul by Richard Long. It made my top ten list last year, and it's definitely a recommended read. 


Welcome to The Book of Paul Amazing, Astounding Video Blast.

With production values matching that of a movie, the Book of Paul trailer is as epic as the book!

Spine_key_cross.1.1 
 

"Everything you've ever believed about yourself...about the description of reality you've clung to so stubbornly all your life...all of it...every bit of it...is an illusion."


About-the-Book

In the rubble-strewn wasteland of Alphabet City, a squalid tenement conceals a treasure "beyond all imagining"-- an immaculately preserved, fifth century codex. The sole repository of ancient Hermetic lore, it contains the alchemical rituals for transforming thought into substance, transmuting matter at will...and attaining eternal life.
When Rose, a sex and pain addicted East Village tattoo artist has a torrid encounter with Martin, a battle-hardened loner, they discover they are unwitting pawns on opposing sides of a battle that has shaped the course of human history. At the center of the conflict is Paul, the villainous overlord of an underground feudal society, who guards the book's occult secrets in preparation for the fulfillment of an apocalyptic prophecy.
The action is relentless as Rose and Martin fight to escape Paul's clutches and Martin's destiny as the chosen recipient of Paul's sinister legacy. Science and magic, mythology and technology converge in a monumental battle where the stakes couldn't be higher: control of the ultimate power in the universe--the Maelstrom.
The Book of Paul is the first of seven volumes in a sweeping mythological narrative tracing the mystical connections between Hermes Trismegistus in ancient Egypt, Sophia, the female counterpart of Christ, and the Celtic druids of Clan Kelly.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway Meet Richard Paul
Richard-author

Richard Long writes to exorcise the demons of his past and manifest the dreams of his future.
His debut novel, The Book of Paul, is a dark, thrilling, and psychologically rich supernatural horror/thriller that blends mythology, science and mystery into a page-turning addiction.
Richard is also writing a YA novel, The Dream Palace, primarily so that his children can read his books.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife, two amazing children and their wicked black cat, Merlin.
Find and Follow Richard:

Twitter | Facebook | Website | Pinterest | Tumblr

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Spine_key_cross.1.1 Also make sure to check out the other projects Richard Long is taking part in this week!
The Book of Paul
Promotion of The Book of Paul Trailer Blast brought to you by:Finishing-Fairies-small-banner


*****

Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr. More interviews and witty commentaries are coming. Keep checking back to see those surprise posts, too. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out! 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Completely Snowed; How 'Frozen' Fixed The Princess Franchises (Girlcember Part 3)

Hello hello!

So, we've finally gotten to Frozen. I've kept you waiting long enough; for the cap on this series about Disney, let's talk about the one that fixed them all. Now, if you haven't seen Frozen yet, there will be 

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS 


With that out of the way, let's do a really fast run-down!


I would love to gush on about the plot, the brilliant twist of having a prince as a villain, the well-designed alternate love interest that actually avoided a triangle, the nod to the importance of consent in a kiss, the establishment of it being possible to save the day without a man, the relationship between the two sisters, the exploration of being an introvert vs an extrovert and how coiling into yourself is bad, the depiction of love developing through conversation organically, the idea that parents can mean well and screw up, and the fact that we now have a powerful female queen who is not evil but is a bitchin' ass mage of the first water. I could mention the gorgeous visual design, the proper use of 3D, and the nice historical flavour details (though there were some anachronisms). I don't have to to gush about every detail, but I'm going to hit on the big ones. 





Source.  I promise the annoying snowman isn't as bad as you'd think.

Real girls: We can has them?


The biggest thing that was fixed is that the princesses are based on an updated understanding of femininity. Anna has no self-doubt about her ability to rescue her sister. When we first see her as an adult, she is drooling on her pillow and her hair is an enormous floofy mess. She likes chocolate! She elbows people in the face, yet can scale rooftops when necessary! (And the clumsiness comes about when she's self-conscious or not paying attention--well done, Disney!) She even makes a bad decision over a boy and is too trusting! I love the fact that she's a bit dumb, too--doesn't always clue into things that are obvious. Finally, she has no doubt about whether she can club a wolf, scare it off with a flaming blanket, or talk sense into her sister. When she finds out her prince isn't so charming after all, she punches him off the side of a boat. She's genuinely brave, warm-hearted, and kind. There are consequences for her actions, but she never gives up on people. She's not just a princess, she's a hero--and somehow, she's not excessively perfect or annoying. And as for her sister...


That One Time Disney had a non-evil queen with magic powers


Let's talk about Elsa as well, the charming and powerful introvert. She's reserved, has been taught a bad habit of keeping her emotions to herself, and isn't forced to marry anyone. Her sister's princessly duties are dealt with, and so are Elsa's. It tears her up that she's hurting her kingdom and her people, but she doesn't know how to stop it. In order to deal with the story, though, she has to not only accept herself and her gift, she has to embrace it publicly and be okay with who she is. This is an awesome self-discovery story, very inspiring for anyone trying to 'come out' as an artist, a person who fits in the QUILTBAG categories, or anyone who has a gift that they don't know how to live with. There are naysayers and people who call her 'monster', but the whole thing is handled with a lot of grace and subtlety. That's good, because the two sisters actually get enough screen time for us to see how their personal stories progress without one of the two being sidelined.

Oh, and HOLY SHIT AWESOME MAGICAL POWERS THAT ARE ACTUALLY DEADLY. I don't need to say anything else about that.



Source. Sure, she looks cute, but fucking ice spikes, man. 

Jane Austen would be proud: how Frozen references Sense and Sensibility


I am a noted Jane Austen fan, and while S&S is not my favorite, I squeed when I realised that Frozen had lifted some of its plot from this excellent novel. The older, restrained, introvert sister Elinor? Sounds like Elsa. The young, impetuous sister who falls in love too fast, to her detriment? Marianne and Anna--that can't be a coincidence. If it is, I'll eat my hat (and my hat collection is fantastic, I'll have you know). There's also the fact that thematically, Elsa's introversion and emotional restraint backfire, while Anna's impetuosity and romantic nature also lead her into trouble. It was a nice dichotomy and a great reference. 

Oh yeah, the plot and the other things


I could spend this entire post talking about the fact that they used the 3D subtly and properly. It felt like it was really snowing, I caught myself wiping away water when it splashed, and I could have sworn the theatre got cold a few times. They used colour themes properly. Since the setting involved white people, Disney relaxed and went all out with the design. They almost never drop the ball on design, but this was still exceptionally beautiful. 

The music was better than it has been in any Disney movie for a long-ass time, with Idina Menzel's chops shown off to full advantage. (There was onion-cutting, as I said.) And oh god, they remembered how musicals work; the songs didn't feel forced, unlike in TPaTF. 

There were also references to my childhood favorite from Fox and Don Bluth, Anastasia. At one point, I looked at the tousle-haired, grumpy blond Kristoff and said to Andrey, "they made a Disney prince version of you!" Both male love interests and the bait-and-switch villain were sympathetic--subtly, they made the grumpy old British guy with the mustache both sympathetic and a villain--and they didn't fuck up the trolls too badly. There were satires on marriage, some important lessons about believing in yourself and not falling for love at first sight, and a really solid lesson on family that built on Brave's foundation. I don't even need to say that it passed the Bechdel, but hell, I'll give it points for that. Oh, and they worked in imperfection with the parents! 



Source.  I like to believe this guy actually gored those annoying fucking moose from Brother Bear to death in a cut scene, because this reindeer actually makes sense.

Okay, so 'perfect' might be a strong word...


I can't really ignore the whole cultural appropriation thing or the fact that Disney once again played it safe. While it has been confirmed that Kristoff is Saami, the portrayal of one of the indigenous peoples of the Scandinavian countries has been met with ire from both Tumblr and people of Saami descent. I can understand and sympathize with that--Disney does, after all, have a long and storied record of culture-mangling.

However, I think a lot of the angry Tumblrites missed something--Disney is making an honest effort in this case. A Saami composer was involved with the film, and Kristoff is an incredibly normal character. He is a reindeer herder, but there was nothing about him that--to my admittedly North American mind--flagged him as a horribly offensive stereotype. Not only that, he plays a love interest, not just a side-kick, and as noted above, he was an excellent character. So really, Disney mucked it up, but they're trying. They're actually trying now, you guys. Not to mention that they're implying a princess will be marrying this minority character from a population met with discrimination. Oh, and the actor? Yes, he's white, but he's the first openly gay voice actor to play a Disney prince.


Final Verdict?


If you haven't clued in that I honestly give this movie a perfect 10/10, let me make that explicit. I listed off the things that worked in a rushed paragraph at the start, but let me make it clear--this was pretty much a perfect movie. Half an hour of discussion with my fellow history-geek boyfriend, and the only real nitpicks were historical niceties like the incorrect (?) lack of guns for the approximately 19th century setting and some possible anachronisms with the paintings. And yes, they're both perfectly beautiful, but do we really need to go over the 'Disney makes girls look perfect' thing again? Extra points for the minimal showing of cleavage, though. I will also mention that the thing about Elsa remembering was sort of...cut, I guess, but enh, I can forgive them a dropped plot thread when everything else was so tight. 

So, is this a good holiday movie? Definitely. You can even watch it in summer, and you don't have to be in the mood for Christmas to watch it, either! 


*****

Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr. More interviews and witty commentaries are coming. Keep checking back to see those surprise posts, too. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out! 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Princess Movies, TNG: Disney's Continuation of Its Princess Franchise (Girlcember Part 2)

Hello hello!

Well, let's continue with Girlcember. Now, you might want to refer to this post if you're not sure why I'm mentioning really old Disney Princess movies, but in order to explain why Frozen is a significant achievement, I felt the need to go through the past. So, here's a quick rundown of other recent princess movies! Do note, for those of you who are sticklers, that this list has a proper count of which movies are 'official' princess movies and which ones 'don't count'. So, if you haven't watched some of these, be aware of


SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS 


Now, with that out of the way, let's do a really fast run-down! Then, finally, on Sunday, we'll get to Frozen. 

Precursors, Part 3: Not Brave Enough


Oh, Brave. My Celtic heritage--Scottish, Irish, and French blood are all in my lineage--is something I'm proud of. I was pretty excited about a bow-wielding Scots princess. What I got was a box of tropes. While her relationship with her mother is excellent and well done, and Merida herself is pretty charming, the rebellious princess cliche kept slapping the audience in the face. It was handled well, including the beauty standards issues and the humanity of her parents, but that awkward ending where we're reassured that Merida will marry when she's ready kind of spoiled the whole thing for me. I loved her father's character, and her little brothers were actually done really well, but enh. 

I guess it comes down to that tropes thing and the lack of courage thing. Merida has her bow, sure, but basically it's love that saves the day. I don't even think she hurt the bear with her bow. Add in a Tarzan-level lackluster sound-track, and you have an awkward step down in quality from Pixar's usual faire. I know Merida is beloved on the internets, and I do like her, but there was so much more they could have done with this movie. 


Source. And that's even BEFORE we get to that damn Merida prettification fiasco.

Precursors, Part 4: Tangled--a bit too smooth, actually


I'm probably going to get hell for this one, too, but Tangled was another near miss. It's like Disney got drunk at the Xmas party and did its best Dreamworks impression. I mean, really. They had a strong Anastasia dynamic with Flynn--come on, tell me you can't see some Dmitri in there, and yes I know Anastasia is from Fox--and he comes off as the inferior male-pregnancy fanfic lovechild of Miguel and Tulio from Road to El Dorado (which is a much smarter movie than people think). I liked Rapunzel, especially when her hair was cut, but she's still...enh. She invented astronomy in her spare time and named her chameleon after a famous scientist and philosopher. Her superpower is hair parkour and wielding a frying pan as it was not meant to be...weld? I think it might be a sneaky reference to The Frying-Pan of Doom by Patricia Wrede. It's literally in TV Tropes, but I'm okay with the frying pan. Anyway--movie completely ignored that Rapunzel is a natural-born scientist. She got the crown and started experimenting with its purpose. She figured out that it could be used to heal and produce light. Someone get this woman a lab! But, of course, along comes a decidedly annoying dude and her dream becomes...him. 

And let's not talk about the embarassment of Mother Goethel. Shame on you, Disney, you can do better with villains, and you came so close. The music was wedged in, there were references to Shrek and The Little Mermaid shoehorned in (the boat scene), and over all...it was okay, even good in some places, but it felt forced. Like Hercules and other parody-toned movies, Disney is just no good at satirizing itself in a cynical way, and that really comes across here.

Fortunately, on Sunday we'll learn how Disney managed to learn from these mistakes for Frozen. And oh, thank goodness it did. We finally have an heir to the 90s Disney renaissance, and I'm pretty sure that Frozen might be able to bring a new one in. Why? You'll have to find out this weekend!


*****

Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr. More interviews and witty commentaries are coming. Keep checking back to see those surprise posts, too. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out! 



Sunday, 1 December 2013

A Princess and a Problem: Disney's Next-Gen Princess Movies (Girlcember Part 1)

Hello hello!

Sorry for the intermittent posts. You do not want to know how many manuscripts I have edited in the last couple of months. No, really, you DON'T.

Tonight, I got the chance to see Frozen with my boyfriend Andrey and his brilliant little sister. I was expecting it to be okay. Probably about Brave good, or Princess and the Frog good--that is, mediocre for Disney but not childhood-shatteringly bad.

What I got was a masterpiece that made my inner feminist jump up and down in glee, made my inner twelve-year-old jump up and down in glee, and my almost twenty-four-year-old outer self curse the bastard who had been cutting onions in the theatre.

Now, this is an analysis, so it goes without saying that there will be


SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS 


...so turn back before it's too late if you haven't seen the movies yet! 

Right. Good? Good. 

I would love to gush about the movie, its design, and everything amazing, but in order to make sense of why it's so special, we need context. Serious context. Are you ready? Then let's kick off Girlcember with an analysis of why Frozen is so solid, and why its predecessors just didn't work. We're doing this in stages, and let's flash back to 2009.



Source.  So close, and yet so far.

Precursors, Part 1: The Princess and the Fail 


In addition to the numerous equality issues (link) regarding the portrayal of the African American MC--who spent most of the movie as a frog--TPaTF suffers from a mixture of both too much effort and too little. Disney's history with PoC--Princesses of Colour as well as People of Colour, in this case--is noticeably spotty. This movie, for me, had 'try-hard' written all over it. I was nervous but excited for the setting. I love jazz, equality issues, and Disney, so what could go wrong?

Well...everything, I guess. While Naveen was a noticeably excellent and well-developed hero, Tiana was kinda thin. She works her butt off, but the movie's endorsement of workaholic behavior, skirting around equality issues, and her excessively perfect personality just didn't make it gel. As with Ariel, she doesn't really grow or experience a serious challenge that requires her to change. Again, it's not bad, and it's worth marathoning, but the company was so scared of doing something offensive that it managed to be offensively bland instead. I appreciate that she was a hard-working and intelligent young woman, and that she earned everything she got, with the prince basically being a nice bonus. I liked that they had time and fantastic reasons to fall in love, and although it was inaccurate and a bit...ah, how do we put this?...stereotypical in the way it portrayed voodoun, I thought the various kinds of magic were pretty neat. That was a nice change, at least. That's a good description of the movie, though; 'nice'. But that's about it. 



 Source. Again, so close, but so far.

Precursors, Part 2: I Know It's Cheating, but Let's Mention Enchanted Anyway 


Enchanted came out in that really awkward period where Disney was trying to...I don't know, pretend its princess movies weren't a thing, I guess. There were piles and heaps of criticism of the princesses, particularly by White Women's Issues Weekly, but even I've done a post on issues with them.

I admit that I liked Enchanted, especially in the vicious bits of satire--I howl every time the rats and cockroaches and pigeons come up in that animal friend singing scene. I love the fairy tale prince. However, the queen, Nancy, and the single father love interest--I can't even be arsed to look up his name--were bland. The movie makes fun of Disney's heritage, but Giselle never does anything violent or really that subversive. Sure, she holds a sword and sort of accidentally knocks the bad CGI dragon off, but her purity is never questioned. I like the reversals and the satire and the whole-hearted goofiness of its parts, but it leans on tropes, and that injures the whole. I do like that it dealt with divorce, actual work, and differing ideas of beauty--Giselle, for example, sees the beauty in 'ordinary' women and manages to make the 'looking at the world with naive eyes' thing work. However, it plays the whole game too safe and yet manages to be too cynical in the same stroke. So, I like the movie, but like TPaTF, it's uncomfortable with itself.


So, I don't want to cram in too many ideas and mess up the length; let's tackle Brave and Tangled in the next post, and then, finally, we'll talk about Frozen and why I think it's the crowning achievement. 

See you soon!

*****

Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr. More interviews and witty commentaries are coming. Keep checking back to see those surprise posts, too. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out! 


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