wealhtheow: sepia close-up of Medusa (medusa)
There are some great entries for the Chesley Awards this year.  I'm not an artist, but I have seen a lot of sf/f cover art, so I figure I get to pronounce judgement!


Hardcover illustrations: I really like the covers by Kekai Kotaki and Allen Williams--they each really set a scene and a feel to the novel.  Maurizio Manzieri's art is good, but the woman on the cover seems completely divorced from the rest of the background.  Jason Chan's figures are terrible--the woman's breasts are completely different sizes, she has no expression on her face, and their clothes are both generic and deeply unlikely (who goes adventuring in a bare midriff?) .  My least favorite is Michael Whelan's for A Memory of Light--maybe it's just that I've seen way too much Whelan art in my life, but it's pretty boring.  The caves are very well rendered, but the figures seem added afterward, not like they're really part of the scene, their bodies are (as ever) truncated oddly, and where is the light coming from?  The one book I would pick up on the basis of the cover alone is Todd Lockwood's for a A Natural History of Dragons.

Paperback cover illustrations: My favorite is, no question, Julie Dillon's for Crossed Genres Magazine 2.0.  There's a whole story in just one image, with a unique-looking (robot leg! clothed!) girl with lots of expression in her face.  And I love the tilted perspective on this one!  Jason Chan's work for Harbringer isn't bad, but there's no sense of movement or space in it, and each of the characters is so generic.  Justin Gerard's cover is fairly generic too--I mean, I like the robot in the background, but there isn't much in the way of scenery and the woman in the foreground looks like a generic pretty face. Kerem Beyit and Dehong He's covers piss me off with the unclothed hot ladies.

Magazine cover illustrations:   Oh man, I couldn't pick a favorite among these.  They've all got a story behind them, not just attractive humans in generic medieval fantasy garb.  I like them all!

Interior illustrations: These are fantastic as well!  Great use of color, too. Any of these would pull me further into a story.

Three Dimensional Art: I like the emotion in Vincent Villafranca's "Star Smith," and the poise in Devon Dorrity's "Cecaelia, Queen of the Ocean." Michael Parkes's is too classical for me, and Kuebler and Meng's work seems a little clunky or unfinished in comparison to the others.

Unpublished Color: Annie Stegg's fantasy take on the Pre-Raphaelite's is nice, and Donato Giancola's "Huor and Hurin Approaching Gondolin" seems very technically accomplished.  My favorite is the delicate swirls of Stephanie Pui-Mun Law's  "Ships Passing in the Night."

Unpublished Monochrome
: All fine, none really jump out at me.  I like the delicacy of line in Justin Gerard's "The Fox Princess" and the heavy contrast and perspective in Ruth Sanderson's "Descent of Persephone" best, I think.

Product Illustration: Lotta naked or near-naked ladies in this one.  And not very well done, at that!  Like, wtf is up with the breasts in Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo's "Jeannie's Kitten"? (Her face is kinda messed up too, and the light seems to hit her body oddly.)  I like the combination of adorable lizard and scary dragon in Justin Gerard's “Morzag! Lord of Destruction.”  The colors and composition of Julie Dillon - 2014 Llewellyn's Astrology Calendar are good, but the kids' faces are off.

Gaming-Related Illustration: My favorite pieces are easily Steve Prescott's beautiful colors and imaginative idea in "Prognostic Sphinx" for WOTC and the bombastic energy in Chris Rahn's "Ashen Rider" for WotC. Ruric Jacobsen's "Thar the Unbowed" is just silly, the anatomy is so nonsensical, and there's nothing going on around Thar.  Todd Lockwood's "Observant Alseid" is pretty until you look at the details, like Alseid's poor messed up face.  David Palumbo's is boring, and I've seen too many other works like Lucas Graciano's.
wealhtheow: cartoon of old-timey lady saying, "this debate lacks any sexual intrigue so I am not even paying attention" (sexualintrigue)
The 2014 Hugo Award finalist list is up. 

I haven't read anything from the best novel category. I assume the Wheel of Time series will win, given the decades worth of fans and good will it's built up. 

In the novella category, one is a gaming tie-in, one is apparently trite, and Valente's "Six-Gun Snow White" is apparently a witty and complex adaptation of a fairy tale"Equiod" by Charles Stross charmed me early on with this line "it’s probably safe to tell you that my name’s Bob Howard—at least, for operational purposes; true names have power, and we don’t like to give extradimensional identity thieves the keys to our souls—and I work for a secret government agency known to its inmates as the Laundry."  I expected a wordy, mildly amusing tale, and instead got a creepy (yet still amusing!) mixture of HP Lovecraft and Cold Comfort Farm.  I found “Wakulla Springs” by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages frustrating.  It follows several generations of a family living near a spring, from a bookish black girl in the 1930s to her granddaughter, a zoologist in the present day.  In the entire novella, only the last two lines are fantastical. The plot and characters are utterly mundane, and although the first two are well drawn, the last half didn't keep my interest.  I wish the taloned spring creature had been woven in more into the rest of the story, because just having it pop up at the very last moment (and not even interacting with any character, or changing anything) was very dissatisfying.  I hope "Six-Gun Snow White" or "Equiod" win.

The Novellete category has some great stories in it this year. I really loved The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal.  Once an astronaut, an aging woman has to decide whether she'll take one more chance at the stars, or stay with her dying husband for his last few months. The relationships and emotions felt so real and familiar to me, while the crux of the story is one that will resonate.  But I also think The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feelingby Ted Chiang is excellent. It features a writer who first decries the use of a new memory-enhancing technology, then revises his views. It's thoughtful and insightful, both about the uses of technology and the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves.  And then The Waiting Starsby Aliette de Bodard is fascinating. I love the way my understanding of the characters and the empires changed as the story progressed.  Both facets of the story are so richly detailed that I could almost picture it. I don't know that I could vote for just one of these.

I'm also torn about the short story category. I really liked, If You Were a Dinosaur, My Loveby Rachel SwirskyAt first it seems like a flight of fancy, and then turns sadder. Very well written.  The other one I would vote for is Selkie Stories Are for Losersby Sofia Samatar is about those who get left behind by magic.  I loved the main character, a girl who can't let go. I didn't like The Ink Readers of Doi Saketby Thomas Olde Heuvelt, which seemed to try hard for whimsy and non attachment but actually just read like an unbelievable set of random stuff happening to people I didn't care about.  The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu is stilted with a conceit (water appears when people lie, and disappears when they tell unequivocal truths) that isn't really explored; that said, I did like the characters.
wealhtheow: sepia close-up of Medusa (Default)
I was enthralled by the first season of Bletchley Circle.  Four women who had worked at Bletchley Park (the codebreaking org that employed Turing and broke Enigma) have since tried to live ordinary lives.  They can tell no one of their war time efforts, but the experience gave them the tools needed to solve a string of terrible murders.  I loved watching the team come together, each with their own set of skills: Millie's audacity, Lucy's perfect memory, Susan's logic, and Jean's contacts and organization.  Millie, Lucy and Susan were close during the war, but they've drifted apart since, and there's additional tension as they butt up against the compromises each of them have made.  I particularly adored seeing the beginnings of tools and ways of thinking that procedurals today use as a matter of course. 

The second season satisfied me less than the first, and I'm not sure why.  Light spoilers for The Bletchley Circle Season 2 )
wealhtheow: cartoon of old-timey lady saying, "this debate lacks any sexual intrigue so I am not even paying attention" (sexualintrigue)
I liked the first episode of Sherlock's season three although now that I think about, I can hardly remember the plot. Spoilers for the third season of Sherlock )

wealhtheow: Sam Winchester making an odd face (samface)
I've had a hard time watching Supernatural for the last few seasons.  In fact, I even stopped watching Supernatural for a while, but I was recently stuck at home and mainlined most of the 8th season in a week.  I'm glad I did!  Vague spoilers for Season 8 of Supernatural, though episode 22 )
wealhtheow: River Song fluffs her hair smugly (river-fluffs-hair-smugly)
I really enjoyed the first season of Young Justice.  The characterization was well done, staying consistent from episode to episode and arc to arc. Character flaws revealed in one episode would become plot-relevant a few episodes later.  Relationships grew and changed over time, always feeling like natural progressions.  And although the A-plots were villain-of-the-week, there was a consistent B-plot about the Light's machinations that was delightfully twisty and underhanded. 

Then the second season began.  I wasn't initially thrilled about the jump in time from one season to the next; abruptly, the team had lost original members and gained  new ones, and I wasn't sure who all the new people were.  Beast Boy had been foreshadowed in season 1, and we got a lot of chances to get to know Blue Beetle and Lagoon Boy.  The other new members (Batgirl, Tim Drake's Robin, Wondergirl, Bumblebee, and Mal Duncan) got less screentime, and I was left feeling that the team was too big for me to feel like a single cohesive family/friends unit, as the first season Young Justice crew had.  Instead, the 2nd season team felt like a bunch of teenagers who worked together.  Even though I felt the cast of characters got a little too big, I liked seeing so many familiar costumes, or cool new twists on old ones (like Apache Chief, El Dorado, and Samurai, who were icky stereotypes in earlier canon but given more dimension and realism in YJ). 

And I loved, loved, LOVED the plots.  vague spoilers for Season 2 of Young Justice )  I cannot wait to see the season and series finale next week!  My only regret is that it will be the last I get of these great characters and wonderful team.
wealhtheow: sepia close-up of Medusa (Default)
I wasn't impressed by the nominees for the 2012 Nebula novel award, but the short stories were all great!  They can be found here.  I'd be happy if any of them won, but I think my favorites were “Immersion“ by Aliette de Bodard (cultural imperialism in a galactic setting) and “Fragmentation, or Ten Thousand Goodbyes“ by Tom Crosshill (a man comes to terms with his mother's declining health, and realizes that one's conception of oneself never matches how other people read one).  Leah Cypess's “Nanny’s Day“ feels very emotionally true, although it has more to do with shifting social mores than sf.  Helena Ball's “Robot“ is the super creepy (but also somehow comforting and inspiring) tale of an explorer dealing with old age, being both slowly eaten and sustained by an alien robot.  Cat Rambo's “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain“ presents a world whose inhabitants are made of porcelain; trouble ensues when a member of the tourist bureau falls in love with a human tourist.  “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species“ by Ken Liu is a list of imaginative and fantastical alien methods of conveying information and stories.  The only story I wasn't enthused by was “Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream“ by Maria Dahvana Headley, I think simply because it felt experimental in a dated sort of way.

Overall, a great bunch!

wealhtheow: Garth Meninge under text "I know writers who use subtext, and they're all cowards" (subtext is for cowards)
The Nebula Award Nominees have been posted, and I'm not excited by the novel list.  I thought Throne of the Crescent Moon was boring and clunky.  A lot of other people seemed to find Ironskin unsatisfying, particularly the ending.  And Glamour in Glass is the sequel to Shades of Milk and Honey, whose first chapter I found so amateurishly written

(sample dialog: "He slashed at the grass with his walking stick and turned to his elder daughter as they walked through the maze comprising the heart of the shrubbery on the south side of the house. “Had you heard that Lady FitzCameron’s nephew is to be stationed in our town?”

“No.” Jane adjusted the shawl about her shoulders. “They must be pleased to see him.”

“Indeed, I believe that Lady FitzCameron will extend her stay rather than returning to London as she had planned.” He tugged at his waistcoat and attempted to speak idly.")

that I never read the rest of it, despite loving Regencies AND fantasy.

The inclusion of books I didn't like is one thing; the exclusion of books I loved is another.  People who liked Throne of the Crescent Moon or Glamour in Glass should have loved Kari Sperring's The Grass King's Concubine, as it combines both an innovative non-European backdrop of Crescent Moon and the manners and interesting magic systems of Glamour...but is far better written, with characters I adored and a plot that kept me breathless.  And Rachel Hartman's Seraphina was excellent as well, positing a kingdom where a half-dragon girl must foil a xenophobic plot.  (It's up for the Andre Norton YA award, but it's less YA than Ironskin.)  Or what about Nick Harkaway's excellent Angelmaker, which combined a fast-paced thriller with philosophy?  And if sequels get to be included, why not Bitterblue (that insightful fantasy of a kingdom trying to recover after tyranny) or Minority Council (in which a basically homeless undead magician must fight for the indigent of London)? 

 I'm further amused that John Carter got nominated for anything at all, ever.

Ah well.  At least the list gives me some new short stories to check out.

wealhtheow: sepia close-up of Medusa (Default)
I just watched the first two episodes of season 4 of Misfits (the season that's airing now, I mean). 

Misfits is a UK show about a band of disaffected young people charged with community service for commiting various offenses.  On their first day, a storm gives them all super powers.  Some of them are traditional powers, like turning invisble or reading minds, and others are less so (like the power to do telekinesis with all dairy products!).  The characters are mostly self-absorbed slackers with quick come-backs and few moral qualms.   I liked the turn on traditional superhero stories, and particularly loved Kelly, who was low-class, quick to throw a punch (in fact, she was the bruiser/defender of the group--even the physically fit guys jump out of the way and call for her to do the dirty fighting), and underneath it all, a really good and empathic person.  In the third season, she traded her power in for the power of being a rocket scientist, and then spend the rest of the season saying things like "Duh. I'm a fucking rocket scientist" in the most chav-tastic accent possible.  It was a thing of beauty.

Sadly, the actress who played Kelly was charged with a racist assault and dropped from the show, and a bunch of the other actors skived off to other jobs, so only one of the original cast is still on the show.  Instead there are all these foul mouthed ugly white dudes making faces and trying to out-do each other in terms of how tasteless and borderline sexual assault-y they can get.  I just don't care about their bullshit "adventures" any longer, so I'm dropping the show from my rotation. 

Sinbad

Sep. 14th, 2012 10:39 am
wealhtheow: sepia close-up of Medusa (Default)
As a kid, I loved The Adventures of Sinbad.  It was low-key, cheesy fun, and the main characters were pretty.  It doesn't hold up well--even my memories tell me that.  But I like swashbuckling adventures that don't get too dark, and so leapt at the chance to watch another lightweight retelling.  Alas, Sinbad hasn't impressed me thus far.  "Queen of the Water Thieves" had the acting of Sophie Okonedo, aka Liz 10, to recommend it, and some bits have been entertaining. It feels reminiscent of Firefly: ragtag crew with some very competant and some kinda incompentant members, often running out of supplies, on the run from the authorities, living in a small and intimate space.  But there are just too many plot holes, unexplained jumps in logic, and changes in characterization for me to really like it.  And though there are the seeds of stories and worldbuilding that has more depth and solidity to it, I don't trust that any of it will get developed.  I'll give it a few more episodes, but I think this might be the end of my adventures with Sinbad.

Alphas

Sep. 12th, 2012 10:47 am
wealhtheow: sepia close-up of Medusa (medusa)
A few months ago I discovered "Alphas," a SyFy show that's rather like a cross between X-men and Heroes.  The first few episodes are not that memorable: a rag tag bunch of people with superhuman abilities working together to foil various plots and investigate odd phenomena.  Then I watched "Rosetta."* The team flushes out a terrorist cell and discovers that they had a captive, a silent autistic girl named Anna who can translate any language.  Spoilers for episode 1x04 )  I loved it! 

"Alphas" takes the disadvantages of Alpha abilities as seriously as the special ability aspect. For example, Rachel's senses are incredibly developed, which makes her a gifted investigator. But it also means that she can't bear to be touched and is perpetually disgusted by the skin flakes, microbes, etc she can see all around her.  Bill can make himself incredibly strong and fast for short bursts of time, but his muscles bear the burden, leading to early heart problems.  The theme continued in this week's episode, "Gods and Monsters."*  Spoilers for episode 2x07 )

This episode also ramped up the conflict between Dr.Lee Rosen, the leader of the government team of Alphas, and Stanton Parish, the immortal leader of the terrorist Alphas.  When we first meet Lee, he seems like a cliched absent-minded professor.  Although he himself doesn't have an Alpha ability, he has dedicated his life to studying and counselling those who do.  He seems slightly manipulative but also often out of his depth, and as a viewer I thought of him with mingled affection and contempt.  As the series continues, Lee is repeatedly forced to compromise between the militant stance of the government and his sense that Alphas deserve the same civil rights (like the right to due process) as non-powered humans.  He is not always successful; several Alphas end up in the government's holding facilities for having powers too usable as weapons, despite their innocence.  So it's hard to whole-heartedly cheer for the governmental Alpha team.  But then Lee and the rest of the team lead a raid on an Alpha terrorist cell, and the experience leads many of them to a crisis of conscience.  Lee goes from pencil-pushing quibbler to completely uncompromising, and he fights for his vision in a way so sneaky, underhanded, and manipulative that I applauded.  He's finally becoming able to forsee and point out some of Parish's manuevers, which are always 8 steps ahead of everyone else, and I love watching it.

I prefer my Professor X/Magneto relationship to have affection and  friendship mixed with their staunch disagreement.  And sadly, there is no love lost between the "Alphas" correlates.  But what they lack in emotional complexity, the "Alphas" characters make up for in schemes.  So many wonderful schemes!


*I think there might be a contract tv sf writers have to sign in regards to episode titles. Every single series must have a "Rosetta", etc.  Surprisingly, there hasn't been a "Tabula Rasa" episode yet, but I know it's just a matter of time.
wealhtheow: sepia close-up of Medusa (Default)
This film is very conservative, in the way that a lot of fantasy turns out to be.  spoilers for the movie Snow White and the Huntsman )
wealhtheow: sepia close-up of Medusa (Default)
Think Galacticon 3 was this weekend! It's a leftist sf/f con held in Chicago every other year, and it's one of my very favorite cons. It's significantly smaller than most other cons I go to (100-150 attendees, maybe?) which means it's far more intimate. The panel format is an obvious example of this--instead of having panelists, who speak for the majority of the time slot and then take questions/comments from the audience, all the panels I went to were modded by a facilitator. I loved having the chance to participate in actual discussions and feeling like my voice had equal weight to it--as well as the chance to hear a multitude of different voices coming from a wide array of experiences.

Think Galacticon is also the only con I've ever been to where the opening and closing ceremonies were almost *better* than the rest of the con, as opposed to being the boring bits. Plus! The consuite! So delicious whilst so healthy and friendly to dietary choices and needs and ecological considerations. But mostly I cared about the deliciousness. Feeling gutsy I tried the pumpkin-seed-and-chai cookies instead of the familiar chocolate chip, and holy god they were good. Heather Galaxy is like a god among bakers.

I didn't actually spend all my time stuffing cookies in my face. The first panel I went to was "Octavia E Butler and Emergent Strategies," led by Adrienne Maree Brown (the Activist Notable Guest) and it blew my mind. Details herein. )


I didn't take notes during Nora K Jemisin's (SFF Notable Guest) leading of "In Fantasy, Servitude," but we mostly talked about class, not servitude itself. The idea of The Chosen One being a servant to the prophecy got brought up, but I don't really buy that interpretation. We had a hard time thinking of sff works that focused on servants, particularly servants who stayed servants. Servants are generally in the background, or are revealed to be a wizard/future king/whatever. The only sff I can think of wherein the main character starts out in servitude and is still in servitude by the end of the work is Sarah Micklem's Firethorn and Wildfire, both of which I highly recommend.


Next I went to "How Can We Do an Industrial Revolution Right?" How to imagine an industrical revolution with ethical choices for labor, food, and fuel? )


Andrea Hairson (Wiscon's Guest of Honor next year!) and Pan Morigan put on an electrifying performance of selections from Andrea's book Redwood and Wildfire and Pan's songs, which were inspired by it. I'd never heard banjo live before--I had no idea it could be so loud or sound so beautiful!


Andrea led a discussion of "New Tales for the 21st Century" the next morning. How to tell new stories and get audiences engaged? )

At the end of the con, the notable guests spoke for an hour about what fiction shaped them, the powers and pitfalls of activism and sff, and what they hope congoers take away from Think Galacticon. I was too busy listening to take many notes, but basically, Adrienne said Butler's Wildseed helped her jailbreak her mind. She said (I'm paraphrasing, of course) that we get told we have to make all these choices between binaries, but what we need to do instead is give everyone the space/freedom/permission/inspiration to try on all aspects of themselves, find the people they want to be, without getting boxed in.
Nora said that sff helped her to understand that this set of inequalities and isms is only our latest iteration, and the current prejudices and dominance can change. It's not immutable, it's not eternal.


In sum, I left the con feeling tired but energized. I can't wait for the next one!

wealhtheow: The slashdragon says: "I did it for the Lulz" (dagron lulz)
Spoilers for Where There's a Will, There's a Fae and Oh Kappa, My Kappa ) Hopefully this is one of those shows, like Buffy or TNG, that spends the first season doing silly, obvious MOTW type plots and then develops into something rich and interesting over time.

wealhtheow: River Song fluffs her hair smugly (river-fluffs-hair-smugly)
I am too overcome to properly know what to think!

Spoilers for A Good Man Goes to War )

I am so excited about the next episode!

wealhtheow: Picture of Gwen from Merlin with the words "Future HQIC" (GwenFromMerlin)
Wiscon rules!  Thanks to it I got to go to the vid party, and thanks to the vid party I saw imaginarycircus's Meow Meow, and thanks to Meow Meow I was reminded that I'd always meant to check out Lost Girl.  I watched the first episode here.  (The audio is a little muffled and the video a little fuzzy--does anyone have ideas where to find a better version of the show?)

Thus far, it seems to be about a (bisexual, tough, female who wears sensible shoes and uses sexy clothes like a mask instead of her default clothing choice) fae, her decision not to ally herself with the "two party system" currently controlling the fae, and her friendship with Kenzi, an adorable goth thief.  Years of Supernatural had me sure one of the numerous men of color was sure to end up dead, evil or both, but thus far--nope!  Years of US tv in general has me tensing up, waiting for a female character to be present just so she can be victimized and provide ~suffering~ for men but thus far--nope!  No one is stupid so a plot could work, and I didn't even notice any plot holes.  And I love that Kenzi says precisely what I've always wanted someone to say to a superpowered individual--enjoy it!  Get what you can out of it!  Having magic isn't all moping and rainy days, after all.

I can't wait to watch the next episode! 

Wiscon 35

May. 30th, 2011 05:15 pm
wealhtheow: sepia close-up of Medusa (medusa)
Just got back from Wiscon, where I had, as ever, a wonderful time.  At this point the con is mostly an excuse to see far-flung friends, eat decadent desserts, and listen to smart people talk about topics ranging from forced sterilization to 90s cartoons.  (The 90s cartoon panel, "Animated Revolutions," was both the last event of the con for me and one of the best panels I went to.  I definitely have to watch She-Ra after the discussion it prompted!  Judging from the talk at "Sibling to the Revenge of Not Another Fucking Race Panel," the new My Little Pony cartoon is also a lot of fun, but I'm a little more leery of it...)  This year there were tributes to Joanna Russ,  all beautiful and insightful.  I never seek information on the personal lives of artists I love, but I was glad to have it in this case.  

I think the only caveat I have about Wiscon is that after 4 days of panels, I leave feeling a bit lectured-at.  I don't like the idea of sitting in front of people and trying to be clever/insightful/experienced in a field.  It just doesn't appeal.  And so by the end of the con I've spent something like twenty hours just listening to other people's opinions.  Generally they're all opinions I'm very glad to have heard, but still. 

The upside to all this sitting and listening is that I found a good number of new people whose brains I like.  I've gone on a bit of a friending spree on dreamwidth, actually, so I look forward to having an even more fascinating dreamwidth reading list.