The Week in Review: October 4th, 2015

Battery Park: New Statuary//

New York City just took a hard left into fall, so it is cold and I am sick, apparently with whatever Fran Walsh had when she put down the track for the Nazgul scream. On the plus side, I have a review backlog to power through and caught up on Sailor Moon Super S. How did these animals absorb so much toxic masculinity so quickly?

Renay and I continue our Adventures in Xena with “A Fistful of Dinars.

Lady Business also posted its long in the making Gender Discrimination in SFF Awards post by Ira, Renay, and owlmoose, so go check that out.

Continue reading

Page to Screen: Sailor Moon S (1994-1995)


Sailor Moon S
based on the manga by Naoko Takeuchi


1994-1995 • 38 episodes • Toei Animation/Viz Media

Sailor Moon S had an odd journey to North America. You see, after the first two seasons of DiC’s dub performed so poorly in syndication, DiC just kind of dropped it. In fact, it kind of dropped it towards the end of Sailor Moon R, never finishing the season. But after Cartoon Network made Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon R a key part of Toonami, the show became more and more popular. DiC eventually bought and released the remaining episodes of Sailor Moon R, but it was Cloverway, the then American branch of the show’s production company Toei Animation, that produced the dubs of Sailor Moon S and Sailor Moon Super S, which ran on Cartoon Network. Sailor Moon Sailor Stars was never picked up for North American distribution, largely because of that season’s gender trouble.

I tend to think of Sailor Moon as a very cohesive whole, like a lot of manga and anime franchises, so it’s a little jarring to realize just how it trickled into North America, where it had such a sizable impact. As much as I’m mildly playing at revisiting my childhood by watching Sailor Moon at god awful in the morning while I get ready for work, I’m experiencing Sailor Moon in a way most English-speaking fans did not; I mean, I’ll actually get to watch an official subtitled version of Sailor Moon Sailor Stars.

Continue reading

Review: Ms. Marvel — No Normal (Vol. 1)


Ms. Marvel: No Normal
G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jacob Wyatt


2014 • 120 pages • Marvel

I have a Ms. Marvel poster in my kitchen.

I got it while making the comic book store/dead mall rounds while I was living in Denver. I wandered into a comic book store in a pretty dead strip mall, where I found both a Xena: Warrior Princess doll (which I did not buy, shame on me) and, on the freebies table, a Ms. Marvel poster to promote the then brand new title. I snatched it up and left it in the back of my car for weeks before I packed it up. It traveled with me all the way to New York, where it now graces my fridge.

Since then, Kamala Khan has blown up like few comic book characters. She’s gone from writing real person fanfic about the Avengers to being an Avenger. Both her and her self-titled series are seemingly adored by millions, if I can extrapolate out from my queer lady geek-centric Twitter feed. And seeing as she has been watching me eat breakfast for a year (shepherding me through my tragic abandonment of morning dairy), so I supposed it was time I finally sat down and read the first trade collection of her wildly successful title.

It will be no surprise to you that I adored Ms. Marvel: No Normal. Continue reading

The Iron Anniversary

I’ve become obsessed with turning picture frames into dry erase boards. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and you can put anything you want in the frame to “write” on. Above my desk at home, I have two: a big one that functions as my blogging and writing calendar and a smaller one listing outstanding reviews and projects. It’s been very successful; I even have a posting buffer for the first time in years (she said, immediately jinxing it).

Above my bed, though, I just have one, where I write down inspirational quotes. (I also have a framed photo of Billy Idol, because everybody should have a dream punk over their bed.) Until a few days ago, it read “Don’t look back: you’re not going that way.” It’s the kind of pat aphorism you see on shirts at Forever 21. (Which is exactly where I saw it.) Nonetheless, I’ve been finding it very useful. My anxiety likes to trick me into obsessing over and fixating on the past; specifically, on past mistakes I’ve made, real and imagined, and what those mistakes really mean about my character. But the past is a country we cannot visit again; all we can do is acknowledge what we’ve done and move on. Having a written reminder to look forward instead of succumb to the occasional bout of self-pitying self-reflection was good and useful for me.

In that context, feels weird to stop and look back purposefully and positively, even though Chani Nichola’s horoscope for Aries extols us rams to do exactly that this week; to let the sediment settle, in her beautiful words. I didn’t even realize it was my blogging anniversary until this morning, which is less a function of how much I value this blog and more a function of how under the weather I am. Sinus funk (I believe that’s the scientific term) always manages to significantly disable my anxiety—by pretty effectively disabling a majority of my mental processing power. I’m perfectly capable of writing, of course, but I’m not as perfectly capable of stringing two thoughts together as I usually am.

So, for those two reasons, this anniversary post isn’t the usual look back for me. Instead, I’m looking ahead. I’m excited about joining Lady Business. I’m excited about the holiday season and themed media consumption. In fact, I’m excited about my reading and viewing in a way I haven’t been for some time; I watched a movie the day it was recommended to me on Saturday. And that was nice.

I’m headed this way any which way, so thanks for taking the time to join me, kittens. I’d be honored if you continued.

Page to Screen: Teenage (2013)


based on the book by Jon Savage


2013 • 77 minutes • Oscilloscope Laboratories

How many ways can you actually make a documentary?

I mean, in that most perfect world, one would assume the genre variations are practically infinite. IFC’s loving parody Documentary Now! has found six ways to riff on the genre, with more to come in its second season. (I haven’t seen a frame of that series and I want to see it so bad.) And yet, most mainstream documentaries tend to stick to the talking heads (be it interviews or readings from primary sources) and footage (be it a primary source or a reconstruction) model.

Teenage sticks to that model as well, but just barely. The readings from primary sources are thrown into a blender and poured into a handful of vaguely distinct archetypes—a white American girl, a white British boy, an African-American boy, and a white German girl—all voiced by professional and, in the cases of Jena Malone and Ben Whishaw, high-profile actors. These archtypes end up functioning as a pack of royal teen wes, staying the same age from the 1900s to the 1950s (the eras Matt Wolf and company have contemporary footage of). Their words are paraphrased from primary sources in a script meant to hit the high points of Jon Savage’s original book, except when they’re taken from the autobiographies of contemporary teenagers. Those segments are illustrated not with the original footage dug up for the film, but recreations that are only distinguishable as such by their well-fed actors and slightly too high quality.

Continue reading

Review: Kushiel’s Chosen


Kushiel’s Chosen
by Jacqueline Carey
2015 (originally published 2002) • 496 pages • Tor Books

Can Jacqueline Carey structure a trilogy or what?

I have a lot of opinions on how book series should be structured. I don’t think it’s beyond the pale to ask that a novel in a series be a novel unto itself—not that it needs to completely standalone, just that it needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end while setting up the board for the next installment. And yet, this seems to be a tall order, especially when it comes to speculative fiction. I have encountered plenty of trilogies whose structure seem based on The Lord of the Rings—which is a terrible idea, because The Lord of the Rings is a single novel, not a series.

But, mercifully, Carey understands this and avoids it by both structuring her books enjoyably and cramming them so full of incident that you cannot help but be satisfied by the time you’re finished. It’s astonishing to me that The Sundering is a very successful duet, despite duets being harder to pull off than trilogies, which at least can have the traditional three act structure mapped onto them. Reading a Carey novel is knowing you are in good hands.

Continue reading

The Week in Review: September 20th, 2015

Farmer's Market: Octopus Cookie//

I was over at Lady Business this week for another episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, “Athens City Academy of the Performing Bards.” I JUST GOT THAT PUN.

Also, Strange Horizons, for whom I am a first reader, is having their 2015 Fund Drive! You can donate through PayPal, Network for Good, or our fancy new Patreon. Support diverse sf!

Continue reading

Page to Screen: A Royal Affair (2012)


A Royal Affair
based on
Prinsesse af blodet by Bodil Steensen-Leth


2012 • 137 minutes • Nordisk Film Distribution

I think about cultural context a lot, especially when strange men try to talk to me and I respond in Monster French, which is when you shriek French through your nose at someone. (If you do it loud enough, nobody will notice you have the vocabulary of a six year old! If you can quack “quoi,” you’re halfway there.) The effectiveness of Monster French is predicated on the assumption that my white bread self speaks English (as well as the assumption that I will parlez cette langue avec vous), and I think it’s healthy for everybody to have cultural assumptions like that destabilized once in a while.

Mads Mikkelsen’s cultural context is a particularly curious one. In Anglophone cinema, he’s largely perceived as a character actor dealing almost exclusively in villains, to the point that he actually had to protest that he wasn’t playing a villain in Star Wars: Rogue One by virtue of simply being cast. (I am personally hoping for “weird Jedi.” All the best Jedi are weirdos, like Luke Skywalker and Qui-Gon Jinn, the Bad Idea Jedi himself.) In Danish cinema, however, his cache cannot be overstated—he can do no wrong, because he, in a sense, is Danish cinema, especially as a metonym for that industry on the global stage.

I was quite looking forward to A Royal Affair destabilizing my perception of Mikkelsen as an actor, especially after mainlining Hannibal. (WAIL!) I was also hoping to get an angle on European history that I’ve rarely had a chance to experience—Scandinavian history tends to fall by the wayside in American history classes. A Royal Affair succeeds in the former and, strangely, fails in the latter.

Continue reading

Review: The Shadow Hero


The Shadow Hero
by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by Sonny Liew
2014 • 176 pages • First Second

On Monday, The Mary Sue republished Lilian-Ann Bonaparte’s Black Girl Nerds essay on the importance of racebent fanart, “For Black Girls who considered Esmerelda Black when Cinderella wasn’t enuf: The Importance of Race-Bending Fan-Art.” It is well worth a read—Bonaparte specifically fixes on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the greatest of the Disney Renaissance films—but Bonaparte makes herself very, very clear at the end of it: “Race-bending is radical, progressive and imperative for the WOC who are starved for more positive representation in media.”

Gene Luen Yang, I think, would undoubtedly agree with Bonaparte. Given his measured but angry response to the atrociously whitewashed Avatar: The Last Airbender film (could have had it all, rolling in the deep, etc.), it’s very tempting and, I think, rewarding to think of The Shadow Hero as Yang’s opportunity to avenge the scores of Asian characters who have been whitewashed over the years for the sake of appealing to a “wider” (which is a very odd way to spell “whiter”) audience.

Continue reading