December 30, 2013
When I’m brain-fried and don’t want to think about anything, I often watch the History Channel, or H2, or some other “documentary” channel. H2 has been running a new show, “Big History,” that I like mostly because it runs in direct opposition to “Ancient Aliens,” which is so outrageously ridiculous I can’t even articulate. Here’s an example:
“Ancient Aliens:” Why did ancient people all over the world build pyramids? It was aliens! They all had help from Ancient Aliens who came and showed them all about pyramids because ancient humans were too stupid to do anything on their own but drool!
“Big History:” Actually, it was gravity. It turns out pyramids are really stable and don’t fall down, which ancient peoples would have known by looking at…hills.
Another conspiracy-minded “aliens did everything, if it wasn’t the Masons who did it first” show is “America Unearthed,” which is, much like “Ancient Aliens,” ridiculous from front to back. (Ancient Egyptians settled in the Grand Canyon!) But they did do an episode on the secret underground tunnels and secret messages in the artwork of Denver International Airport. It turned out to be fabulous, because the sensationalist host got a nice woman from the PR department at DIA to give him a tour of the airport, including the tunnels, and explain the symbolism in the artwork and all that. “There’s a Masonic capstone here because the Masons place capstones at thousands of public buildings all over the US. You know that, right?” she patiently explained.
By the end the sensationalist host flat-out said, “Yeah, there’s nothing at DIA. The tunnels are just tunnels and the artwork is just artwork.” No equivocation at all. First time I’ve ever seen that on a show like this. It was awesome.
November 27, 2013
I’m watching more TV right now than I have in a long while. Some interesting stuff going on.
Doctor Who, “Day of the Doctor.” The 50th anniversary special was…nice. I cried once (“This time you don’t have to do it alone.”). But Moffat’s gotten so wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey he just can’t resist retconning the whole damn universe, can he? And now we get to argue about the Doctor numbering we’ve been using since 2005. It just makes me so tired.
I still haven’t caught up on most of last season, and I don’t really care. Clara seems to be even more Amy Pond than Amy Pond, and I just can’t do it. You know what I want to see? An alien companion, or a companion from a different time period. Something new. I’m actually really looking forward to seeing what the new doctor will do with the whole thing, and if they build at all on what happened in the special.
Sleepy Hollow: I adore the characters, the secret history, the setting. But this “must have a shocking revelation every episode ” is starting to wear thin. The back story is about to collapse under its own weight.
Agents of SHIELD is growing on me. The episodes are starting to come together, and the characters are starting to gel. I still have some WTF moments: they don’t believe in telekenesis? Inter dimensional portals and Asgardians are fine, but they draw the line at believing in teke? Paging Dr. Grey…
Arrow is still my favorite show. I’m enjoying it so darned much. It’s managing its off-the-rails storylines, shocking revelations, and continuity very well indeed. And I still love that these characters all really love each other and look out for each other. Moire and Thea and their relationship are fantastic this season.
Castle: Still good! I keep waiting for it to jump the shark and it gets close but then doesn’t!
Almost Human: I caught the first couple of episodes, and oh dear, it’s trying so hard, isn’t it? Dorian is great. But the science word salad expository bits are driving me bonkers. Also, why didn’t anyone tell me Lili Taylor was in it? Yay, Lili Taylor! And maybe someday, we’ll get a near future something that doesn’t try so hard to be Blade Runner. In light of all the other good shows I can be watching, I may not stick with it.
Atlantis: This is a thing that BBC American was pushing hard, that premiered after “Day of the Doctor.” At first I was really excited because it looked like it was going to be Farscape but with Greek mythology (supersquee!). But it was all very meh. Full of Gen Y hotties and not much else. I’d rather watch Tom Mison, Karl Urban, and Nathan Fillion, thanks.
October 25, 2013
How about that Captain America: The Winter Soldier trailer? Yeah, I’ll just be watching that a couple more times today.
Agents of SHIELD is still stumbling along. I really liked that bionic eye episode — good story there. My favorite thing is the relationship between May and Coulson and how she’s trying to protect him without looking like she’s protecting him, because she knows something’s wrong. But gosh, the rest of the cast, the rest of everything — still entirely milquetoast. So much potential, but the show can’t seem to bring itself to push beyond adequate.
Then I watched Sleepy Hollow because of all the buzz it was getting. And I was shocked, because I really like it. Interesting characters, different characters, Clancy Brown, cute scruffy men in period clothing, clever secret histories, actual horror (I think it was the second episode with the witch? Actually scary!). It’s another urban fantasy TV series and it’s doing things right. I’m engaged. Did I mention cute men in period clothing — speaking Middle English? (A for effort on including spoken Middle English in a prime-time TV show — especially not calling it “Old English,” which is actually Anglo Saxon. B minus for accuracy, since there were multiple distinct dialects of Middle English — none of which were spoken in 1590, when the community ostensibly existed, and which was well into the Early Modern period and would have been mostly understandable to modern English speakers. But hey, Middle English on prime time TV!) iO9 talks about how to make ridiculous stories great, in reference to Sleepy Hollow.
The time traveler episode of Castle was about my favorite episode in a long time. Arrow has also started up again, and I’m loving it as much as ever. Favorite quote so far: “Mom, will they shoot us if I try to hug you?”
I’ve finally started mainlining the third season of Lexx. Still loving it, especially because the “Fire and Water” storyline is so very steampunk. Actual airship pirates!
What I’m reading: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. Of all the YA books I read last year when I was on the Norton Award jury, many were “Book 1″ in a new series. The only “Book 1″ I read where I had any inclination to pick up the sequel was Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys, which is one of the best examples of a multiple p.o.v. ensemble cast of characters I’ve ever read. I could learn, reading that book. After reading a bunch of non-fiction and slogging my way through several problematic novels, I really wanted to read something I could dive into and swim around in and play. The Dream Thieves is it. This time, I’m loving the language. She can really put a sentence together. Deep happy sigh.
I’m saving Iain M. Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata for my vacation in a couple of weeks.
And that’s what’s on my mind lately.
October 2, 2013
Update! Forgot to mention: my friend EM Tippetts is giving away a signed copy of After the Golden Age. Woot!
A couple of anthologies are out now with stories of mine, that may be of interest:
Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre ed. by Paula Guran has a brand-new story by me, “Unternehmen Werwolf.” If you’re a long-time fan of the Kitty series, you might recognize the main character.
Super Stories of Heroes and Villains ed. by Claude Lalumiere reprints my Wild Cards story “Just Cause.”
What else? Oh, Castle. I really really like that we have a story about two grown-up professional people working on a relationship and no one has to give up their job for the other, as if that’s some kind of virtue. I really really wish the show would give up on these multi-part thriller conspiracy stories, because they’re not very good. You know, TV land, not every poison automatically comes with an antidote. Really, I felt like I was watching NCIS, not Castle.
Agents of SHIELD. Much better on the banter this week. Didn’t feel as forced. (Setting the coaster under the broken glass? Awesome.) I sort of like that they’re borrowing gadgets from Serenity (That thumper sonic knocker-outer thing? Oh yeah.) Right on the edge of being annoyingly predictable. (I called the life raft.) It’s started to really really bug me that the Bus has two sets of wings. WHY!!!!! But hey, Nick Fury FTW.
September 27, 2013
Possibly the most anticipated new show of the year. Two Marvel movies a year just isn’t enough for us, is it? So they gave us a TV series. Isn’t that nice of them? Given how much I love the Avengers sequence of movies, I’m sure you’re all wondering what I thought of the show. Well. Here it goes.
WHAT I LIKED:
My hypothesis re: Pacific Rim that a duo of crazy scientists can include a woman scientist and be totally awesome is confirmed. Huzzah!
Easter eggs. So many easter eggs. I regretted not watching this with my comics guru friend because I’m sure I missed a ton of references.
I like that the show is dealing with the existential questions raised by The Avengers. The whole world knows there are aliens, and that they have it in for us, and where do we go from here?
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:
The banter and patented Joss Whedon one-liners felt awfully forced. Not every conversation has to have a joke in it.
That’s a pretty, pretty cast. A generically Hollywood pretty cast. I’m not sure I could pick any of them out of a lineup. Kind of blah, actually.
WAIT A MINUTE, ARE YOU SURE THIS ISN’T PLANETARY?
Weird world? Don’t you mean strange world? And a team that goes around trying to keep it that way while opposing a secret power-hungry organization determined to use this alien power for its own nefarious purposes?
I AM VERY CONFLICTED NOW.
So, I liked the show but didn’t love it. I want to watch a few more episodes and hope they hit their stride. But I admit I’m quite looking forward to seeing where the overall story is going and how they tie it into the movies. And is Agent Coulson really a life model decoy but he doesn’t know it? Or is that a red herring?
Man, they totally have my number, don’t they?
September 11, 2013
I’m finishing up the revision of LOW MIDNIGHT today, I hope. This one’s been a slog. I added an extra step — outlining the whole thing after the initial revision and reading through it yet again, which was necessary to double check some of the pacing/structure issues. It also feels like this has taken a long time because I had to stop in the middle for all that traveling. I’ll be happy getting to work on something else.
Europa Report. This is an indie SF move that’s been getting great buzz because of its mostly-realistic depiction of space exploration, creative “found footage” approach, and mostly good acting/story. I finally saw it. It frustrated me. (Me, three minutes in: “It’s the f*cking Blair Witch Project? Are you kidding me?”) It frustrated me the same way Moon and Sunshine frustrated me. (“Hydrazine? Seriously?”) They all have the breathless self-importance of a literary novel about a science fictional topic by someone who’s never actually read any science fiction. The plot and angst and difficulties mostly happen because the characters are dumb. And yet, we are so desperate for this kind of near-future solar system science fiction that we will put up with it. It looks good. Now I want this kind of thing to be competent and interesting. (Please, Gravity, be good, please please please…) And now I really want to see 2010 again. (Me, halfway through Europa Report: “Europa: attempt no landings there, bitches!”)
And this week’s Heroes of Cosplay WTF moment: “I’m not too good at building things like this so I’m going to ask my dad for help.” (Dad is John Dykstra.) Me: “Oh good God, we are so done here.”
August 21, 2013
Face Off: I don’t think I talked much about Season 4 because I was mostly disappointed in it. It was pretty clear that the show was running out of talent to recruit, and Anthony was so clearly the best artist right from the start. And nobody did anything pretty. There was a sameness to the big, gooey, ugly, gross monsters that everyone did week after week. So, I’m deeply happy with this season, because Laura is back and we’ll get to see some really beautiful work, because that’s what she does. The show seemed to realize they needed to get some real diversity in talent back in the lab. So I’m liking the vets v. rookies format. Though the maturity of the vets v. the noobiness of the rookies is kind of painful some moments.
Heroes of Cosplay: Digging the costumes, but the depiction of cosplay culture doesn’t really jive with my experience of cosplay culture (which is admittedly limited, but still), which is annoying. Then I remembered something my friend Zoo told me. We were at DragonCon, and I noticed something: the very best costumes were not in the Masquerade. You want to see the very best costumes at DragonCon, you go to the hotel lobby Friday and Saturday nights. When I asked her why these fantastic, amazing costumes weren’t in the Masquerade, Zoo said something along the lines of, “The Masquerade is mostly for the attention whores.” And that’s what’s bugging me about Heroes of Cosplay. I don’t think we’re actually getting a good look at cosplay here, which is a shame.
August 5, 2013
Red 2: What it says on the tin. I have to say, it’s really nice being able to laugh all the way through a mainstream comedy. I don’t know what it is about me, but I find machine guns so much more hilarious than, like, your typical scatological humor.
Justified, season 4: Still loving the writing — mostly. Still love that Raylan Givens is actually kind of an idiot, but he’s so damned charming everyone puts up with it. I love that he’s such a bad influence on Tim and Rachel and that drives Art nuts. It got to where I just busted out crying every time Arlo appeared on screen. But the show and the story took a serious misstep that has me intensely cranky, and that’s the Ava story.
Serious Spoilers Ahoy!
So. For four seasons now, we’ve had all kinds of horrible lowlifes blowing each other away with impunity, not worrying about witnesses or snitches or cops or anything. They just seem able to make the bodies vanish, and the authorities rarely get involved. This is just what happens in the nasty criminal underworld of Harlan County, the show tells us. And then Ava blows somebody away, for what was actually a good reason if I recall. Ellen May — another woman — sees it, and suddenly we spend an entire season worrying about cops, and Ellen May snitching, and Ava getting found out and going to jail, in a way that no other character has worried about any of these things during the entire run of the show. And yes, I think there’s a gendered attitude going on here. This leads to previously smart and savvy characters like Boyd doing all kinds of ridiculous, stupid, out-of-character things. I’m like, “So what if they find the body in the mineshaft? She used a freaking shotgun and there’s no physical evidence connecting Ava to the body! And any competent defense attorney is going to completely destroy Ellen May’s credibility as a witness in, oh, thirty seconds of testimony. What are they worried about?“
Well, it turns out the story wanted to hurt Boyd. Because it’s very clear by the end of the episode that the story is less interested in how all this affects Ava than it is in how Ava getting arrested is going to affect Boyd. The story here isn’t Ava getting arrested — it’s Boyd failing to protect Ava. Which means the show up and fridged Ava without actually killing her. Yeah, I’m kind of pissed off about that.
Doctor Who: So, how about that new Doctor? Very safe choice, isn’t it? (grumble)
April 17, 2013
It’s been kind of a rough few days, watching too much of the news and feeling wobbly and heartsick over it. Monday is my regular dinner and Castle watching party, and I was intensely grateful for the company, good food (fettuccini quattro formaggi, with homemade fettucini), and lots of wine. Lots of wine. And a foot of snow. A good few days to stay in and get some work done.
Last night, I caught Defiance, SyFy’s latest highly anticipated original series. The short version: 1 part Star Trek, 1 part Mad Max, and 1 part Firefly, right down to the scruffy rogue who was a veteran in the war but would rather not talk about it. I loved a couple of things about it: the setup; the worldbuilding, which has a pretty hardcore SF feel and I don’t get that very often from TV SF; and the characters of Amanda and Kenya, two very different community leaders and sisters who love each other. More of them, please, but only if it doesn’t turn into a ridiculous love triangle with the scruffy rogue, which I’m deeply afraid the show is setting up. Ugh. Also, appearances by Captain Power alums Peter MacNeil and Graham Greene. I always love seeing them.
Unfortunately, a lot of the show frustrated me. They spent all this time and energy on the world and background, then threw the most familiar, predictable story on top of it. They’re going to have to come up with some better stories and characters, far less cliche ridden than what they gave us. Every trope in the thing, front to back, was exhaustingly predictable. (Kind elderly sheriff gets killed? Check. The Rogue with a Heart of Gold gets offered the badge at the end? Check. ”I ain’t in it for you, sweetheart, and I ain’t in it for your rebellion…” Check. The Battle of Helms Deep? Check.) Deftly using classic tropes is one thing. But this show never gets past the top drawer. Very tiresome.
I could wish for the aliens to be a bit more alien. So, the goth alien nightclub? (Yes, there’s an alien race I’m just going to call the Goth aliens.) I think the dancing was supposed to be alien-looking, but I’ve actually seen people at goth clubs dancing like that. So that was hilarious to me. Also, there is apparently a race of Steampunk aliens — no lie, one of them was wearing a top hat with goggles on it. All I can think is, Holy crap guys, really? You couldn’t come up with something better than that? Because aliens arrived and immediately thought, “Hey steampunk, that’s cool!” I mean, I can’t blame them. But really? That’s not thoughtful SF, that’s designing your show based on what the Wall Street Journal says is the next big thing.
So yeah. I’m not sold yet. I’ll give it a couple more chances, but it’s going to have to work superhard to win me over.
(By contrast, I recently re-watched the rebooted Battlestar Galactica miniseries. It’s absolutely riveting. The two opening scenes — the first on the meeting station, with the lone official waiting for…something, and the second that has the long cut of Starbuck jogging on the decks while a million things are going on around her — are so brilliant, so original, so good and delivering information while staying interesting, introducing every character, so full of life…yeah, that’s what I want. That’s the bar these shows have to clear. No wonder so few of them do.)
I’ve only seen one episode of the new season of Doctor Who. ”The people, they’re trapped in the WiFi!” Is that supposed to be a metaphor?
March 18, 2013
This weekend I had the very fine time of visiting with friends, on two different occasions, whom I haven’t seen in years. They moved away, and e-mail and social media only go so far. Sitting down for drinks or gathering around a table full of friends and food and fine conversation really don’t have an online substitute.
Started the third season of Justified. Still loving it. The dialog still pops like firecrackers, and I’ve just now noticed how many scenes are blocked like it’s a stage play — i.e. there’s a powerful awareness of where the audience is sitting, where the audience’s gaze is, and the action is engaged with that gaze. Love it.
And Neal McDonough is the big baddy this season! Yay!