Guess what Star Wars fan decided to finally binge-watch The Clone Wars the same month there’s an actual armed insurrection and ongoing coup against her country’s government, incited by the lame-duck president? If you guessed “This one!” you’re right!

I’ve been going through a lot of boxed wine, y’all.

Anyway, here we are. Long post ahead.

Why I Didn’t Watch The Clone Wars Before This

  • I tried, when it first aired. Made it I think two or three episodes? But it was all droids and clones blowing each other up, and it was really boring. Basically, the worst bits of the prequel trilogy on repeat. (I have since learned that the first couple of seasons’ episodes are not in chronological order. This was likely a contributing factor.)
  • I really dislike that animation style. It lacks nuance and expression. It’s kind of ugly. (Now that I’m halfway through, I don’t hate it. I don’t know if the animation has smoothed out over the seasons or if I’m just getting used to it.)
  • Even fans of the show are qualified in their praise. I’ve been told to skip the first season. Or the first and second season. Or, like, everything until season four, which puts us 2/3 of the way through the series and… no one has ever told me I must watch The Clone Wars. Not like they told me I must watch Rebels.
  • I remember and loved the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars series. It was beautiful and intense and why does no one talk about this anymore? Anyway, part of not watching the new series is pure petulance that the previous one seems to have been largely forgotten.

How I’m Watching 

I’m giving myself permission to skip as much as I want. I’m not using any of the online lists of best episodes or most necessary episodes. I just…skip. If there’s a bunch of people standing around talking about trade blockades, I skip. If there’s a big droid battle, I skip. Basically, if it resembles the most boring bits of the prequel trilogy, I skip. If Anakin and Padme are being particularly toxic, I skip. (After the mutual respect and support and pure joy that is Kanan and Hera’s relationship, Anakin and Padme are tough to watch.) Jar Jar Binks appears? Oh yes, I skip.

It’s nice. If you judge me on this or tell me I’m missing some kind of nuance by not watching every single minute, I will ignore you.

My Thoughts So Far

The last years of the Old Republic are a nihilistic and dystopian hellscape, the Jedi Order is moribund and useless, and deep down the show knows this but doesn’t quite know what to do with that knowledge and so trundles on as if the Jedi are heroes who can actually make a difference when we all know they can’t and that most of these characters are destined to die horribly, and soon. Darth Sidious/Palpatine is manipulating everything. We know this. Which means that nothing anyone does is ultimately going to make any difference. It’s an existential nightmare.

But it thinks it’s a Star Wars heroic adventure and that’s… odd.  There’s a point where Obi Wan and the rest just can’t seem to figure anything out. Like, they’re just dumb. They simply aren’t allowed to solve what’s really happening. It’s so frustrating.

This is Greek tragedy. I felt this during the prequel trilogy – it’s Greek tragedy full of hubris and blindness. But it keeps acting like a Star Wars heroic adventure story. I think this cognitive dissonance does find its way into the show in various ways, but that only serves to highlight that this cognitive dissonance exists.

And this is why Ahsoka and Rex and the Clones are the best characters, and so very necessary. I’m happily following them to the point of skipping everything else, because they’re the only characters who are questioning anything. They’re the only characters whose arcs aren’t pre-ordained by what happens in the movies. The clones, who are giving themselves names and differentiating tattoos, and experimenting with independence and questioning their own motivation and existence. Ahsoka, who loves the Jedi, loves Anakin, loves fighting for justice, and you can just see how that’s all going to come crashing down around her, even as early as season 3. (Meeting Ahsoka in The Mandalorian, after she has matured and survived and learned a ton and has scars, was inspired. That episode is the main reason I finally decided to give The Clone Wars a shot. I want to see where she came from.)

More Thoughts

  • It’s really dark. So much torture. Lots of graphic on-screen deaths. Way more than in the live-action films. Remember in Empire, the torture of Han happens off-screen, except for the screaming, which somehow made it worse, right?  Well, Clone Wars just shows it. Frequently. It’s really disturbing. See discussion of dystopian hellscape above.
  • The Republic, which is anti-slavery, also utilizes an army of manufactured sentient beings with no freedom. The Jedi Order uses child soldiers. (The Padawans, early Ahsoka and Caleb Dume let’s say, are what? 15, 16 tops?)
  • It’s so weird when these villains pop up, terrorists and agitators aligned with the Separatists, and every time they get cornered they have a rant about how the Jedi and Republic and out of touch and corrupt and unable to stop the conflict and…they’re not wrong? They’re actually kind of sort of right? But they’re the bad guys?
  • I hate Obi Wan Kenobi. I really do, and the thing that clinched it is the way he’s always grabbing Duchess Satine’s arm and pulling her back and telling her she’s wrong. No, just no, he’s a jerk, he’s terrible. Let her alone. I’m starting to think that man died still believing he was right and not realizing what an absolute hash the Jedi Order made of everything there at the end. Also, there’s an episode where he basically saddles Ahsoka with the responsibility of keeping Anakin in check, and I’m shouting at the TV, no, you don’t do that to a young person lower in the chain of command. That’s terrible leadership. Obi Wan is an abusive menace.
  • Super weird watching it after Rebels instead of before. I can see now there’s all kinds of things that would have been big reveals and shocks had I seen Clone Wars first:  the appearance of Rex, Hondo, the Syndulla family, etc. I guess I’m getting those big reveals in reverse. Speaking of which, creepy evil Hondo of Clone Wars is a little disconcerting after bumbling comic relief Hondo of Rebels.
  • The most interesting thing of all:  There are ways in which Rebels is purposefully deconstructing all the squicky disturbing stuff about Clone Wars. Like, Ezra Bridger insisting that the Geonoshan, who has a name, be treated as a person deserving of respect and not cannon fodder. The episode where the gang encounters an enclave of battle droids who don’t know the war is over, and the droids get to be actual characters coming to grips with what has happened to them. In The Clone Wars, everyone is trapped in this existential nightmare. In Rebels, the characters achieve agency on their journeys. Rebels asks you to question everything that came before and find your own path.
  • That Hutt mummy. There’s a Hutt mummy. The Hutt mummify their dead. WTF. It’s in the episode where Sly Snootles is conducting a torrid affair with a Hutt who talks like Truman Capote and WTF is even happening.

I was telling a friend about the increasing levels of WTF in this show. She said I ain’t seen nothing yet.

I’m scared, y’all.

 

reading 2020

January 11, 2021

According to my record I read 48 books in 2020. This includes novellas and graphic novels, of which there were quite a few. This didn’t include a lot of books I started and didn’t finish. Twelve of those were non-fiction. I’m feeling fortunate that my reading brain didn’t shut off last year like it did for many people I know. I will say that a lot of my reading was comfort reading: I think I re-read most of the Vorkosigan Saga, some Jane Austen, and some Star Wars stuff.

A lot of specifics I already talked about throughout the year, but here are my favorites:

Novels: Network Effect, the latest Murderbot book by Martha Wells, which I thought really moved the whole idea forward and took it to the next level. I can’t wait for the next book.

A Brightness Long Ago, by Guy Gavriel Kay. Re-discovering Kay through his latest couple of novels, in his re-imagined Renaissance Italy, has been so lovely. I read his books avidly through the 90’s and just kind of stopped. Glad to start up again.

The Wolf Hall trilogy by Hilary Mantel. Just masterful. Some of the best fiction I’ve ever read, full stop. It also gave me so much insight into the culture of the Tudor court, which I’ve been reading about academically for 25 years, but it’s never really come alive for me until these novels.

Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller tells the story of how Kanan and Hera from Rebels met. It’s adorable and it made me happy.

And in non-fiction, I’ve been recommending Jack Epps Jr.’s Screenwriting is Rewriting to every writer I know and we’re all still raving about it.

 

nothing to say

January 8, 2021

Nothing I can say that hasn’t been said already.

The reason so many of us were so upset after the 2016 election is because we saw something like this, an actual insurrection against the U.S. government, coming. Radical right elements who’ve been agitating for that shit for 30 years now saw Trump as their guy. And Trump egged them all on from the start. He needs to go, now. He needs to be held accountable.

I’m just so tired.

Happy New Year! My holiday decorations came down yesterday. I usually try to stretch the holidays out, but this year, I hit the new year and immediately put the music away and wanted to get the decorations down (though I waited for Twelfth Night, as usual). Still have lots of cookies and desserts to finish up. That’ll take awhile. But it’s January now for sure.

I think I’m just ready to move forward. Race forward. Get to the next thing. I’m tired of Trump and his sycophants. I’m tired of the pandemic. As has been said by others — I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re still in the tunnel.

It’s a very long tunnel.

So I gotta keep on keeping on.

Here’s a thing: the anthology Some of the Best of Tor.com for 2020 is now available and it includes my story “Sinew and Steel and What They Told.”

I’ve already got a couple of stories lined up for 2021. My next novel, QUESTLAND, will be out in June. Maybe I’ll even get to do some live events for it.

There’s lots to look forward to.

Let’s do it.

 

light

December 31, 2020

“Grief in the galaxy, is there? Oh, yes. Oceans of it. Worlds. And darkness? There you see darkness, darkness everywhere, and a few stars. A few points of light. If no plan there is, no fate, no destiny, no providence, no Force: then what is left? Nothing but our choices, hmm?

To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle, or the night, Padawan: but choose!”

–Yoda, in “Yoda: Dark Rendevous” by Sean Stewart

 

Miscellany

December 29, 2020

I’m debating about doing a year-in-review post, which is always so popular right about now. But after this year… yeah. It’s a year. And it’s not over. We still have a sitting president and not-insignificant number of elected representatives actively violating their oaths to uphold the Constitution every single day and that’s not magically going to go away January 1. I’m bracing for the jump scare.

It’s been a hard year. My year hasn’t been as hard as some and despite everything I’m grateful every single day for my roof and my job and my family and friends. For birds. I’ve had a hairy woodpecker at my suet feeder for a couple of weeks now and that makes me really happy.

I’ve posted a story up at Curious Fictions: “Sidekick” originally appeared in Unfettered III, and now it’s here for all to read. It’s a superhero story. Sort of. If you feel inclined to donate to my whiskey and comic book fund, there’s a tip jar.

In other news: I’ve started watching Star Wars Clone Wars, which I’ve avoided for years but my current Star Wars immersion phase is starving and must be satisfied. I have many, many thoughts about this show. Before I post them I have to decide how much I really want to argue with people on the internet…

 

holiday

December 24, 2020

 

Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

 

goose

December 22, 2020

Here’s a Christmas Goose for you.

Yesterday I went out to Barr Lake State Park for a Solstice walk and birding expedition, because it was a really nice day and I need to soak up all the sun I can this time of year. I had a great walk — and saw more Canada Geese than I think I ever have in one place. They just kept coming, hundreds of them, all hanging out at the edge of the water. So much noise.

A good lesson to learn in birding: always take a second look at that gigantic flock of what seems like one species. Especially waterfowl, because there might be something mixed in with all that brown.

This is a really bad phone picture. Photography is one thing that I just can’t get worked up about practicing to get good at, so you’ll have to put up with my crap images. But I still kind of love this one, because in that sea of drab brown Canada geese — a flash of white. Something odd, something different, a bird species I’d never seen at Barr Lake before. It’s a snow goose. This is only the second time I’ve seen a snow goose.

I’m not sure how this one lone snow goose ended up hanging out with a giant flock of an entirely different species, but there it is. (There were actually two, but they weren’t together, I’m sure there’s a story there.)

Always take that second look. Don’t make assumptions about what you’re looking at.

 

Wild Cards: Deuces Down

December 18, 2020

There’s a new Wild Cards book due out in January 2021!

Deuces Down

Well, sort of new. This is a re-release of an earlier anthology, but it didn’t get a lot of attention the first time around so I’m happy to see it get another chance.

Plus, it has a bunch of new material. Originally, this was an anthology of unrelated stories about deuces, those in the Wild Cards world who have powers — but not great ones. Like Father Henry, who can turn water into cheap merlot.

I was tasked with writing a new interstitial that ties all the stories together. So you’ll meet my character Raleigh, a journalist tracking down stories from the archives of Aces! Magazine. Mary Anne Mohanraj and Caroline Spector also contributed new stories.

And that’ll be my first thing out in 2021. Here’s hoping it’s the start of a great year.

 

2020 in review

December 15, 2020

So, let’s talk about 2020. Hahahahaha no.

I’m just going to talk about what I published in 2020. It was a pretty busy year, as far as new publications. It’s also kind of hard to think way back to January, which seems like another planet now.

Anyway. It’s a tradition, so here it goes:

Collections:

The Immortal Conquistador, March 2020, Tachyon Publications. This is mostly reprints of stories about Rick the vampire, but it also includes a novella, “El Conquistador del Tiempo,” which tells about that one time Rick was the Master of Santa Fe and met the Devil on the crossroads.

Kitty’s Mix-Tape, October 2020, Tachyon Publications. Again, mostly reprints of stories from the Kitty series, but it also includes four new stories: “Kitty Walks on By, Calls Your Name,” “Kitty and Cormac’s Excellent Adventure,” “What Happened to Ben in Vegas,” and “Kitty Busts the Feds.”

These two collect most of the Kitty stories post-2010 or so, and I had a lot of fun revisiting that world. They also mean Kitty is eligible for the Best Series Hugo in 2020, if you’re so inclined to nominate.

Novellas:

The Ghosts of Sherwood, June 2020, Tor.com (Received a starred review in Publishers Weekly!)

The Heirs of Locksley, August 2020, Tor.com

Needless to say, I’m really proud of these two. The idea had been cooking for almost twenty years, I did a bunch of research to make them work, and they were a lot of fun to write when it finally all came together. Will there be more about the Locksley clan? Maybe, if I can find time to write them. So many ideas…

Short Stories:

“Sinew and Steel and What They Told.” February 2020, Tor.com. This is one of my favorite things I’ve ever written. I wrote the first draft in one sitting and I love Graff dearly. Heads up: There will be a new story about Graff coming out next year.

“We Take Care of Everything: The Department of Talent Resources.” The Dystopian Triptych 1: Ignorance is Strength, June 2020.

“We Take Care of Everything: Keep Your Streak Going!” The Dystopian Triptych 2: Burn the Ashes, June 2020.

“We Take Care of Everything: You Have Been Crowdfunded.” The Dystopian Triptych 3: Or Else the Light, June 2020.

“Dirt and Destiny: A Regency Tale.” August 2020, Curious Fictions.

And those are my 2020 credits. I think I got everything.