Hamilton

July 9, 2020

I have finally experienced the phenomenon that is Hamilton in its current accessible form.

Much like with The Book of Mormon, I went on lockdown on this one.  I love musicals and feel strongly that the music ought to be experienced in context, so I never listened to the soundtrack, even when tickets were impossible to get. (With the exception, of course, of Weird Al’s glorious Hamilton Polka. Weird Al is an early god of mine and continues to be so.) I wanted to see the characters sing the music first. I wanted the staging to go with it.

My take:  It’s great, it’s powerful. It’s not quite what I expected — the first act is almost entirely exposition, an operetta that breathlessly slides through a huge chunk of Revolutionary history. It’s really great seeing this take on the founding fathers. And then, the last quarter gets incredibly personal and I cried a lot and maybe it’s just as well I was on the sofa with a box of tissues for this and not in a public theater.

A lot’s been made of the musical’s use of rap and hip hop. But it’s also very much rooted in traditional musical theater. It’s a true fusion, which is why I think audiences respond so much to the energy. I really, really want to get my hands on an annotated version, because there are a ton of allusions from both worlds. I get the musical theater ones (“You have to be carefully taught…”) but I’m not so up on the hip hop, and the cuts and samples and so forth that Miranda makes use of. This is a collage, and I can’t always see the seams, which is great.

I will see this live someday. While seeing the movie is great, film versions of musicals always leave things out — there’s always something going on elsewhere on stage, and the big picture gets reduced. I really want to see more of the choreography and ensemble work, which the film necessarily leaves out sometimes because it’s in the background. (In my high school theater days, I was a ubiquitous member of the chorus. I would have killed to be in the chorus of Hamilton.)

We will have live theater again someday, somehow.

 

runaway weekend

July 6, 2020

In a normal year, this past weekend I would have been at Battlemoor, a regional SCA event held at a beautiful mountain site, in a meadow along a a rushing creek, near the town of Buena Vista (where we discovered Deerhammer whiskey last year, but never mind that).

This year, all SCA events have been cancelled, along with everything else (I see DragonCon just went down. Gah.). But some (trusted, responsible, socially distanced) friends and I threw up our hands and rented a house in the mountains for the weekend. Mostly to get away from the massive amateur fireworks, which as has been pointed out elsewhere, have been ridiculous and upsetting for those of us not participating. And Independence Day felt sad this year, given how epic a failure the collective response to covid has been. It didn’t have to be like this. It really didn’t.

Anyway, four days in the mountains was… great. I didn’t do much but knit and read books and take in the air. (And watch Hamilton, finally, but more on that later.) I didn’t even take any pictures.

I did feed the hummingbirds, and when I went to take down the feeder to bring it home, one angry hummer wasn’t quite finished. So I stood and held the feeder up. And he came in to drink. For a couple of minutes I got to watch him, literally my arm’s length away. Close enough to see his little tongue flicking at the end of his bill.

And that was my weekend.

 

Happy July, everybody! Year’s halfway over! Brace for incoming second half of 2020!

A couple of things to tell you about:

A new series of anthologies:  THE DYSTOPIAN TRIPTYCH is now available! Three anthologies, with each author writing three different stories. The first, the slide into dystopia. The second, in the middle of dystopia. The third, the crawl out of dystopia. It’s a cool idea and a challenging writing project.

My trio of stories are collectively titled “We Take Care of Everything.” And I think they’re good. I think they’re horrifying. . . because they are barely, barely science fiction at all. I’m really excited to hear what people think of them.

(I swear to you, when we planned these anthologies out over a year ago we had no idea the current events situation would be so…. *waves arms wildly*. Timing is a hell of a thing.)

And next thing to tell you about:

The ebook of Kitty and The Midnight Hour is on sale right now! And it’s doing really well! So well, in fact, that on June 30, it made it to the top of one of Amazon’s Bestseller lists:  #1 in “American Horror.” This is 15 years after the novel’s original release. This makes me chortle. As we say in the bookselling business. . . this one’s got legs!

 

bird feeder adventures

June 29, 2020

I think there must have been a chickadee nest in my yard somewhere, and I think the chicks must have fledged recently, because I’ve suddenly got like 5-6 chickadees absolutely swarming my feeders. They’re loud, busy, aggressive, and not totally coordinated.

Teenage chickadees, if you will.

I like them.

 

update + latest TV

June 22, 2020

I had a really busy couple of weeks there — because of course the ten-day stretch during which I have a book release and two online workshops is also the week I get a set of copyedits and a set of page proofs to review. Because of course. I also sold a car in there. No wonder I had a bit of a meltdown at the end of it. I’m tired.

I’m hoping to get away for 4th of July weekend, both to avoid the local amateur fireworks brigade which has already started in earnest, and to just… rest.

Oh, I also finished writing a short story this week. That felt good.

Meanwhile, TV watching continues apace.

Upload on Amazon Prime is really really good. Really good science fiction, interesting story with interesting characters. A cyberpunk romantic comedy which are two great tastes I would not have thought of putting together but it totally works.

The Great on Hulu. A lush costume drama about the early days of Catherine the Great. It’s by the writer of The Favourite, so it’s got the same irreverent sensibilities, weird post-modern touches and surrealness, and raunchy sexuality. And Nicholas Hoult.  It’s beautiful and well written and phenomenally well acted and very very sad in a lot of places. At least it made me sad.

What We Do in the Shadows. I have now finished season 2 so people can stop asking. My friends and I call this The Guillermo Show, because he’s basically the reason to keep watching. Best last line in a season finale.

 

Onward

June 19, 2020

Pixar’s latest film Onward was released to streaming almost immediately, when its theatrical release was cut short by covid-19 shutdowns. There’s a lot for genre folks to like in this story of two brothers processing grief over their father’s passing, before the younger Ian was born. Elder brother Barley is a classic heavy-metal gaming nerd, complete with a van with airbrushed fantasy art on the side. Ian is shy and awkward and longs for a connection to the father he never knew. The twist here is that they are themselves part of a fantasy world, with elves and centaurs and pixies and so on. But it’s one where magic has been pushed out by technology – technology is easier than magic, so now the elf brothers live in a suburb and the centaur is a cop who’d rather drive and pixies don’t fly, etcetera and so on. On Ian’s sixteenth birthday, they inherit a magical staff from their dead father and a spell that promises to bring him back for one day so they can meet him. And also bring magic back to their world. The film is their quest to make the spell go right.

It’s a sweet story, albeit a bit rote. “Magic has left the world” is an old, old trope in written science fiction and fantasy. I think we’re meant to be startled and amused by the juxtaposition of fantasy and modernity – the adventuring tavern run by a manticore is now a kiddie birthday pizza joint. But even that’s an old familiar trope. (I most recently encountered it  in Patricia McKillip’s wonderful novel Kingfisher, which gives us an Arthurian retelling in which the knights use cell phones and hop in their cars to head out on their quests.)

There is a gelatinous cube joke, the film giving itself D&D cred. Then, there’s a second gelatinous cube joke, in which the concept of the gelatinous cube is explained to those in the audience who don’t know what one is. Barley explaining to Ian, actually. Barley is the gamer, Ian is not, which means Barley can explain gaming and magic tropes to Ian – and the audience – throughout the film. It’s a little obvious. At that point, I know we’re going to encounter a gelatinous cube – rule of threes, there. And we do. That’s what I mean by rote. It’s okay. But I’m kind of glad I didn’t go to the effort of seeing this in the theater.

Dead dad instead of dead mom, so I guess that’s a switch, and their mom is really pretty awesome, so there’s that.

 

Have I mentioned that “The Ghosts of Sherwood” is available on audio? Well now I have.

I’m a bit quiet at the moment because I did that thing where I scheduled everything for the same week. I taught a (virtual) workshop on Saturday, and I spent yesterday afternoon at the (virtual) Odyssey Writing Workshop. Tomorrow, I’ll be doing an AMA at the r/books subreddit. And book release!

I know I do this because it just looks better all clustered on the calendar, like I can get all these things done at once. But I always forget that it means I spend the week being exhausted and don’t get anything else done. I just want to. . .not make any decisions for a couple of days, you know?

Anyway.

Hope you all are staying safe. Please continue to do so.

 

I don’t remember now how I discovered Princess of Thieves, a 2001 Disney TV movie starring a teenage Keira Knightly as Robin Hood’s daughter, Gwyn. An offhand comment on an offhand post somewhere. But I did, and having just now released my own story about Robin Hood’s daughter, I was intensely interested in this one.

A friend found it on DVD, and I finally watched it. Purely out of professional interest of course.

It’s fun, it’s sweet. It’s a “girl disguises herself as a boy so she can go have adventures” story. The main of the plot involves protecting King Richard’s illegitimate son Philip so he can inherit the throne instead of John, and this is so alt-history it’s a little breathtaking. Like, the entire point of THE GHOSTS OF SHERWOOD is John, Robin Hood’s worst enemy, really actually becomes king of England and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.  Princess of Thieves is just like, nope, we do not accept that, off we go.  I spent most of the movie thinking, Waaaahhhh????

I have perhaps over saturated on the research into this particular era.

Malcolm McDowell is a surprisingly understated Sheriff of Nottingham. Will Scarlet is on hand but not Little John for some reason. And I swear Keira Knightly has barely aged at all in 20 years. Gwyn and Philip fall for each other, Gwyn and Robin reconcile, all is well.

My biggest complaint is that this is yet another example of the Disney dead mother thing. Marian is dead. Why is Marian dead? We don’t know. It’s just really important that the main character’s mother be dead. It’s like these people can’t even comprehend what it might be like to have a story with a mother in it. This is a very tiresome trope.

Marian is very alive in THE GHOSTS OF SHERWOOD. She’s one of the viewpoint characters. She’s the only person who is able to tell Robin, Stop it, you’re being unreasonable. And he actually listens. It was very important to me, having both Robin and Marian in the story.

My second biggest complaint with Princess of Thieves is that it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, not even a little, which goes back to my usual ongoing bit of commentary where if you’re going to do such a good job writing a strong woman protagonist, it would support your argument a little better if she were not the only woman in the entire story. (To be fair, there’s one other named woman character, a French matron in league with the Sheriff. But that’s it. To think, all they had to do was have Marian not be dead.)

Shockingly, this isn’t on Disney+. It seems like a natural for Disney+. Maybe at some point? Because it is worth seeing, even with all its late 90’s early 00’s storytelling conventions.

 

The Ghosts of Sherwood has been racking up some pretty cool accolades:

PW has it as a Pick of the Week for June 8

On Amazon, it’s a Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Book of the Month

And it’s an Apple Books Best Book for June, including this really excellent review:  “Carrie Vaughn’s swashbuckling novella is an absolute delight. She takes time to flesh out each character even as she keeps the adventures coming. We particularly adored 10-year-old Eleanor Locksley, a quiet but endlessly resourceful heroine—a righteous antidote to the damsel in distress. Robin Hood has been depicted as everything from a mustachioed archer to a cartoon fox, but there’s something endearing about seeing him as a devoted fortysomething husband and father.”

I’m fanning myself, this is so encouraging. I seriously didn’t know if anyone would like my lighthearted adventuring medieval family sitcom, but maybe that was a niche that needed filling.

And based on reviews, Eleanor is clearly going to need to star in her own story. I have some ideas…

 

First off, here’s a link to the Colorado Freedom Fund, which works to provide bail money so that people aren’t wrongfully incarcerated just because they can’t afford bail. I’ve donated, and maybe you would like to. Your state probably has a Freedom Fund, too.

Actually, now that I think about it, Freedom Funds are *entirely absolutely 100%* in keeping with the spirit of Robin Hood.

And now, this:

As you can see, I was destined to write a Robin Hood story from an early age. Whatever Prince John is selling here, I don’t think Tiny Carrie is buying. This was at Disneyworld in late 1976, which would make me just shy of 4 years old here. I think I still make that exact face when someone says something dodgy.

The Ghosts of Sherwood is out next week, and a thing I’d like you to know about it:  it’s fun. It’s light. Robin and Marian get to keep their happy ending, they love and support their children. It’s about friends and family and standing together against the world.

If you need a distraction, this might be it.  I’ve realized over the last little while that I could never write anything as dark as what’s in the world, so I’ve embraced the full escapist potential of fiction. One of the reasons The Adventures of Robin Hood is still considered the best Robin Hood is because of its joy. No matter how dark things get, Robin still has hope and still fights.

I hope I can bring some of that back to the character.