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

Friday, 16 May 2014

Missed It Reviews: Aeon Flux


Hello hello!

Oh, man, the things I missed. I was about two when Aeon Flux aired, but a friend lent me her discs and I just finished watching it. I am so glad I did. I ordered the box set from Amazon shortly after, so that should tell you what I think already, but I still need to talk about this.

Now, major

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS 

...follow, so don't say I didn't warn you. Without further ado, Aeon Flux.

Summary


Aeon's an agent of destruction and chaos. Trevor's an agent of order. Both of them have strengths and weaknesses as people, and I can't really classify either of them as being bad or good--though I suppose Lawful Neutral and Chaotic Neutral would do. The plot as a whole for the ten-ep series is a little hard to summarize, but I guess it's about Aeon screwing with Trevor, really, and Trevor trying to capture Aeon--but in the context of a chaotic society fighting against a totalitarian utopia. There's also a tendency to examine hte macabre, weird, and kinky through a balanced lens, and a sort of examination of love, and its inherently destructive nature. (Well, for selfish love, anyway.) Various episodes where Trevor does weird shit and Aeon either aids and abets or tries to screw it up in a very Roadrunner/Wile E. Coyote dichotomy fill out the season, but not a single one wastes its screentime or fails to entertain and provoke. The alien episodes are particularly provocative and confusing.

Aeon herself has a very male-gazey costume, but she owns her sexuality in a really nice way that makes her far more than fantasy fuel or someone's dream puppet. She's a femme fatale, but she's genuinely dangerous, not just a sort of toy. Trevor himself is a perfectly good match, and that's pretty impressive--if he was any less dangerous or responsive, the show would have failed.

The plot is really based on philosophical concepts, and I love the way the episodes explore the meaning of freedom and constraint and fighting against one's essential nature. Peter Cheung, the creator, says that Aristophane's idea of two people separated and forming each other's perfect compliments (you might recognize this from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which is also awesome) underly Trevor and Aeon's relationship. It's definitely the case, and I love it.  There's also a hell of a lot of fetishy...stuff...going on, so if very tidy body horror and BDSM aren't your leather cup of tea, you might have trouble stomaching it. And, again, it's got a loose timeline, so if you're easily confused, this show could piss you off. I quite like the ending, though I won't spoil it.

Pros


 Holy shit, is this series gorgeous. It's one of the best-animated things I've ever seen in my life, and the way it pushes the boundaries of what you can do with animation is something that holds up even to this day. The voice-acting is great, the characters are compelling, and it's still both erotic and scary. It's like what Rocky Horror Picture Show was hinting at, but it goes a few steps further. And of course, it's genre-bending and transgressive, so I can't not love it. You can really see its influence on shows like The Venture Bros (which is also excellent), but there's much less wasting of screen time in this series than in anything else I've ever seen. There's no need for a warmup episode or two; it's good from moment one.

Cons


Well...can you even say there are cons? You have to watch this closely, and there's only a few shorts and the pilot and one season. That's it, to our collective eternal sorrow. I did mention the body horror and BDSM, but if you're not a fan of moral grey areas or possibly less-than-happy endings or uncertainty, you'll probably hate this. My partner-in-crime, Andrey, found the aesthetic really hard to watch, so there's that element as well. Also, it might be a bad choice for those prone to vertigo or religious extremism.

Final verdict


Holy shit, why aren't you watching this right now? A rare 10 out of 10. It hits all the right notes, it has as much substance as it has style, it's elegant, it's smart, and it catches humour, horror, and plenty of rich emotions along the way. Definitely a must-see, especially if you didn't watch MTV in the early 90s.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Missed It: The Farscape Review

Hello hello!

I've been meaning to do this for a while, especially since I mentioned Farscape a while back. I've since then been rewatching it from Season 1, and it's reminded me why I love the show so very much.

Normally, I would analyse this sort of thing to death, but I've noticed that Farscape--in spite of a decently-sized fanbase back in the day--is surprisingly unknown. So, I'll save some of the analysis I'd like to do in favour of just telling you why you need to watch it.

Summary


An astronaut, John Chriton, gets shot through a wormhole and across space (possibly into an alternate dimension. It's never quite clear). He falls in with a bunch of criminals and renegades, and ends up falling in love, going insane, running away from a black leather BDSM-suited alien, and trying to get back home. His rag-tag, dysfunctional little crew is made up of Muppets, truly amazing actors, and about as many personal secrets as you can store. Oh, and it's a living ship. And people get cloned. And transhuman questions. And actual diversity. And some of the funniest lines and scenes ever written for science fiction.

Pros 


Absolutely phenomenal writing and acting. Excellent characters. Jim Henson. One of the best villains of all time.

The chemistry between Ben Browder (Chriton) and Claudia Black (my hero, Aeryn Sun) is sizzling but compellingly rich. Chriton is a 'real man' who actually has lots of romantic daydreams and squishy feels, and it's Aeryn he has to warm up and break down communication barriers with, rather than the stereotypically reversed roles. Aeryn likes guns and taking the piss out of Chriton, and her role is played with subtlety and wit by the gorgeous and clever Black. And that's just the two leads. I haven't mentioned D'Argo, Zhaan, Rygel, or the others. I'm not even going to tell you about two of the villains and their transformations or excellent writing. I won't allude to the other wonderful characters, either, and the layers they quickly build up. The series does a great job of showing rather than telling, and I'm going to be faithful to that.

I will mention that the show passes the hell out of the Beschdel, that the female characters avoid being wank-bait but aren't too desexualized, that the humour in the show is wonderful, that the designs/aesthetics are every bit as wonderful as you'd hope Jim Henson's studio could devise, and that both the emotional and the military plots generally make excellent sense. Plus, every single fail or stumble gets improved on--this is a show that learns from itself, and the seasons that start off on a back foot eventually become the best ones of all.



Moya. She is not only the setting, she's given personhood and an awesome art. Yes, I'm talking about the ship.


Cons


Really? Well, I guess the first season does get a bit random. I'd suggest watching around ep. 18 if you just can't get through it. Once in a while a couple of characters go backwards in their arc, and there were a few bits here and there that almost lost me because I had no idea where they were going. There were a couple death fake-outs that were annoying too. However, 95% of the show pays off, and every hard moment becomes worth it with some fantastic developments later. I will admit that there's some serious back-and-forth in the main love plot that kinda drove me crazy, but everything else, especially their chemistry, is solid gold. It's a great space opera that made me cry and made me laugh, and it really pushed the boundaries of my understanding of what a plot and characters can do. 

Final Verdict 


This is completely biased to heck, but whatever--it's a rare 10 out of 10, and I highly recommend it. There are basically only a handful of things that I will defend with ardent love and devotion, and Farscape is one of them. It's on Netflix, but not enough people know about it, so give it a shot next time you need a new series for sure.


*****
Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr, and find her work on Amazon. Check back on the blog to see when one of the irregular posts has careened onto your feed. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out! 

Friday, 2 May 2014

The Shoes: A Short Tale of Triumph

Hello hello!

I wrote this last year, in August, but it still rings true. Consumer culture is a hard thing to navigate, and where the limits between personal beliefs and mainstream likings for things lie can be hard to distinguish. The story speaks for itself, so without further ado, I give you: shoes.

***

This is a story of shoes. Specifically, of the knee-high periwinkle and black Converse boots, black and white high-tops, and black short shoes I bought today. I am not a 'shoe person'; I am a scarf and jewelry person. I rarely get excited about shoes. This is different.

We were walking down the street and discussing Converse boots. I had finally decided I would buy myself a pair when Andrey pointed to a sign that beckoned to a (literally) underground vintage and fashion store on 17th, Divine. Divine is a hipster and alt place, of course, complete with piercings on site and a Suicide Girl behind the counter.

They had a sale on Converse; $15 on specific sizes; and the regular high top ones at the normal price. I chose a set of each. In the middle of the display, there was a single pair of Converse boots. They just barely fit over my plump, muscular calves, but they did fit. The only ones left in any size. $63. I had just been paid. I gave into fate. "Sold," I said, and we walked out.

Andrey grinned ear to ear. "Worth it?"

"Worth it," I said.

For years, I have wanted a pair of Converse shoes. When I was in high school, they were worn by emo kids, the goofily dramatic and stigmatized neoGoth twerps who were the punchline of the year. Before that, they were the domain of cool kids. After, they were quickly nabbed as a symbol of hipsterdom. Chuck Taylors have been very good at being 'the cool shoe'.

I avoid visible brands; even T-shirts with slogans and pictures have been anathema to me since I was in grade school. I learned quickly that the brand game was stupid and avoided slogans because I did not want anyone speaking for me. Long before I was aware of 'no logo', I wanted to eschew the utterly stupid pop culture label-as-divinity attitude. I still avoid that, and even struggled at first with getting jewelry related to things I love--like Gaiman's work, or Farscape, or Doctor Who--because it meant associating myself with a brand and identity other than 'my own'.

No Chuck Taylors, I said firmly to myself. They're for sell-outs and emo kids and people trying to be cool. I didn't want to like something other people liked, a rare enough occasion as it was. That scared me, liking a popular thing.

Deep down, I also knew I couldn't pull off the shoes. And, as a fat kid, the ordeal of buying clothing for 'normal' girls was agonizing and embarassing enough. Better to stay away from the incredibly stupid kids who saw me as a quaint, weird creature. Truthfully, that decision paid off; the crap I went through gave me insight that I still use today, though it has taken me a bit of time to catch up in social development.

That changed today. I bought the Converse because I stopped giving a damn. I will still avoid most brands and I will still dress in my signature style. I will still coo with excitement over orchids and jump up and down when I am excited and enjoy synaesthetic trip-outs when I listen to music. Buying the shoes did not make me less of myself or less of a person, or mean that my ethics are horribly tarnished. I gave myself permission to like something in spite of its intimidating and offputting status. The self conscious voice I lived with for years is fading into static.

I am me, and I did something today that I avoided for insufficiently wise reasons. My ethics matter, but avoiding something I liked, regardless of its association, was stupid. Sometimes, you have to grow up enough to be a teenager.


*****
Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don’t miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr, and find her work on Amazon. Check back on the blog to see when one of the irregular posts has careened onto your feed. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out! 
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